Into The Bright Sky — Act I: Thunderborn
Act I: Thunderborn
Act I: Thunderborn
The gold is a trap.
The vivid words flashed inside the young man’s mind, providing a silent warning as he slowly scanned the enormous cavern.
Ancient artifacts, rare paintings, glittering jewels, and stacks of gold littered the floor in all directions. A single swipe of a greedy dragon talon would be worth more than a king’s ransom.
For the young man, there was nothing left to do but contemplate and then make his choice. So that was what James did.
Raising the hook of his thumb to cup his chin, James gently sat down cross-legged and probed the recesses of his mind for what could guide him through this ordeal.
Few on Lilephar knew of the Drakvend Sacrament, a test of endurance, cunning, and loyalty. Those who proved themselves worthy would be honored, uniquely rewarded, and accepted among all dragon-kin. And James was sure what awaited him would surprise even his father.
As often was the case, his inner search for wisdom eventually led him to pore over the lessons he’d learned from his adopted father: Eigyys.
His father… Most would not assume Eigyys served such a role in his life. James was a slender young man, with long limbs and nimble steps. Eigyys was also slender among his kin, but was a towering dragon with emerald green scales, golden eyes and white whiskers surrounding his maw of dagger sharp teeth.
As he recalled his father’s countless lectures, the first morning of this Drakvend Sacrament echoed in his mind’s eye.
“What if I’m not ready?”
“None are ever ready. If you were ready, you would be better off dead. Life without challenge or struggle is found only in the heavens, where those above await the few who come to terms with this cruel reality. The wise, who dwell in both heaven and on earth, simply get back to work. You shall do fine, my son.” Eigyys replied in a deep gravelly voice, with a tenderness that only those who knew him could sense.
“Always remember: There is only one thing to fear — “
“-and that is not being true to myself. Fearing anything other than the inevitable war you wage upon your own self each day, is a waste of time and energy.” James recited by heart, closing his eyes in frustration. There would be no way around the hardships to come.
His eyes flashed open, snapping his mind back to the present. There was a new energy pulsing from within the cavern, tugging at his very being.
Out of the corner of his eye, a glimmering light invited his full attention. The pattern of its energies was like a blade of verdant grass swaying over a lake of shimmering silver and gold ice. As he made his way towards it, his mind began to race.
Fear not. From this day, no soul shall judge you as not dragon. That you were not Thunderborn.
James’ cloudy vision grew dimmer as he made his way towards the mysterious light. He had not eaten or slept for two days in the Sacrament Cave, surviving solely on the Jatoba Tree dew he’d brought with him.
Keep going Jahréim… For Eigyys… For the Bright Sky… he thought to himself, searching for every last drop of strength he had.
Wading through heaps of priceless artifacts he briefly stumbled, almost knocking over the altar from which the light resonated. Forcing his weary eyes to focus, he stared squarely at the treasure before him.
On the altar lay a dragonscale round-shield about the size of a toxophily boss. The stain of it perfectly matched his emerald cap that slung snugly over his thin sandy hair. This was surely the boon meant for him. Whatever his dragon-attunement was to be, this artifact would guide him straight to it. Of that he was now sure.
Suddenly, the room spun and darkness threatened to overtake him. He had to act quickly or risk spending another half-sleepless night of terror within the Sacrament Cave.
A strange voice filled his head in warning.
I am Alluin, the Emerald Protector. Take me up. Wield my power! But do not tarry. Only twelve hours remain and you do not wish to be the last of your new kin to take their liberation dive! Rise and soar as you’ve been trained, Thunderborn!
In an instant, James instinctively scooped up the shield and slung it across his back. It tingled to the touch, clearing his vision and filling him with newfound vigor and energy.
Closing his eyes, he focused his mind to seek out the path. The path that would lead him out of this hellish test. The path to his new life.
Alluin responded immediately to his call. A green bolt of energy exploded from the shield, shooting through his chest and down to the heels of his boots.
A green bolt of energy skittered madly across the stone floor, with each skip setting off a sharp crackling hiss that echoed throughout the cavern. The course shown from this guiding light zigged then zagged, rapidly climbing and illuminating one of the hundreds of basalt staircases.
Not wasting a moment to breathe, James sprang to action, sprinting full speed across the bolt-lit path. His newfound surge of energy from Alluin continued to pulse through him and sore muscles were forgotten. Step by step, sometimes two at a time, he surged higher and higher. His eyes fixed forward, focused intently on reaching the summit.
Keep going, keep climbing.
He could now make out lush trees peeking out from under frosted snow in a distant opening ahead. Wispy fog curled around branches, dancing in a mesmerizing swirl above the tree tops. Reaching the last step, he leapt onto the plateau.
The sky flashed and crackled. Six strikes of lightning in rapid succession welcomed his arrival. He was the seventh of ten riders to reach the top of Mount Terrarmoor.
He had done it.
Abruptly, a chorus of deafening roars filled the sky, buffeting him from all angles and dropping him to his knees. Terror and agony racked his body as he lifted up Alluin above his head in a futile attempt to dull the ceaseless waves of unseen forces, pelting him from all directions.
As if in answer to his suffering, a recognizable voice flooded his ears, snapping him out of his torment. A roar he’d heard countless times throughout his life rang louder than all the others. Eigyys was there.
Feeling the passion from his adopted father, James rose to his feet defiantly. Slowly lifting his head, he glared intensely at the final step of this trial. One hundred paces ahead lay a plank of obsidian stone, extending a good ten feet off the mountain’s edge.
Ignoring the raucous cries from above and the anguish built up over two days in darkness, James rushed forward, leaping off the plank with all his might. Tumbling into the deep ravine he closed his eyes, channeling all his focus and will into Alluin.
The call has been made. Fol Drakvrend Jihra!
Fear no longer gripped him.
Floods of dragons dashed towards his falling form, each ready to welcome their new rider. The race to intercept him and become one with his liberation dive had begun.
James was certain that Eigyys would not be among them. His days of serving as a Drakvrend had ended centuries ago.
Just before his plummeting silhouette met the treeline of verdescent pines, his dragon-mount reached him. A bevy of muffled high-pitched growls pierced the cold air, as all of dragonkind in attendance looked on in shock.
Glistening scales reflected their stunned gazes: James’ mount was golden.
It had been centuries since a first-time dragonrider was blessed with a golden mount. But this momentous event was exactly what James had known would happen. In fact, he did not even need to ask the name of his new Drakvrend, though he would anyway for the pretenses of ceremony.
His name was Heimlock.
BK’s responses will be delayed from November 18th-30th. He is roaming around Japan on vacation.
BK's Inner Sanctum is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.