Evil Dragon on Paper

by

Fool

36. Ruth and the Women of Under Arch

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“Dragons are, at their core, an invasive species. My learned colleagues will point out any number of sub-species of dragon that co-exist just fine in their natural habitat. Large serpentine creatures that eat rocks or ingest plants for sustenance and are widely found in what is considered their ‘native’ habitats, for instance.

To them I say, you are quibbling. Take any one of those rock or plant eating ‘dragons’ of yours and put them in a different habitat and the result is the same as if you’d put a carnivorous one in there.

One of two things will happen. The local indigenous wild-life will respond violently and expel the dragon or the local indigenous wild-life will not realize the danger it is in until the dragon has led a wide swath of destruction through the wilderness. Co-existence, in the case of dragons, is when the local ecology finds a way to safely ignore the new apex pain in the neck.

Excerpt from “The Danger of Draconology - Shattering Romanticism” by Archivist Sikes

↢↦

“So, tell me about this person before I talk to him,” Ruth said. Truth be told he was a little eager to be conversing with other creatures.

So many things had happened, so much had changed, so few things were as they were that he was a bit eager to be inserted into a place where he could gather information. He had a lot to do! He had to figure out how to get back to his world, find out what a Tamara was and how to kill it, discover a way to remove the creature eating clothing that was attached to him -- and, oh yeah, figure out how to be a dragon again?

Moment of silence for the new sassy tail. It would be missed when he was a dragon again. He looked over his shoulder and found that the tip of the tail flicked in a dismissive manner.

Ruth nodded back to the tail relieved that it was so understanding.

“I don’t think there’s much point, boy. I don’t think you’ve thought this out. At all.” Sikes sighed from behind him. “Just go up to the gate ahead and knock on the door. The main sentry will let us in.”

“They’ll just let us in without asking anything?” Ruth was a bit surprised, that seemed pretty lax to him. Well, he supposed there was no need to keep valuables at the gate so there wasn’t a need to keep any useful virgin minions guarding it.

“Aye, they’ll let us into a smaller square of space with a real gate on the other side. We will be challenged at that gate,” Sikes explained tiredly.

“Why?” Ruth was truly baffled as to why this wall in front of them existed if it was easily defeated.

“Lad, this wall is to thin numbers and prevent escape. The real gate has a number of wide slots for crossbow bolts. It’s a staging area where they decide whether to let us through or kill us. If we were here in larger numbers the bottleneck would be useful for thinning us, don’t you think?” Sikes said gently.

“I would just knock the wall down then if I had more numbers?” Ruth was growing increasingly agitated by the nonsensical construction. What a waste.

“While you were doing that the city would be roused and men at arms would head from the other gates to this one,” Sikes replied reasonably.

Ruth approached the wall and found that instead of the original stone wall he had envisioned it was more of a large stacked pile. It was held together by some sort of melted stone. It looked like it had been melted and poured into all the cracks, binding the loose pile of rubble into a solid piece.

“What is this? How is this done?” Ruth pointed at the smoother parts of the wall.

“Mortar,” Sikes almost wept when he said the word.

“Is it that impressive?” Ruth was slightly taken aback by the emotion he heard in the Durvgar’s voice.

“Aye, I am envisioning ten years of toil ahead of me. Explaining mortar, food, and the concept of currency. My every waking day filled with endless questions. A never-ending, ten-year torture where I ridicule myself for making a bargain without truly thinking through the consequences…” Sikes nodded sagely at Ruth, his orange eyes filled with obvious heart-ache.

“Wow,” Ruth looked at the mortar with renewed respect.

The mortar deserved his awe, but it was only melted rock. He had melted quite a bit of rock himself. Despite how Sikes seemed to worship it, Ruth had other business to attend. No reason to make Sikes feel foolish though.

Ruth nodded politely to the mortar and stepped up to the large door knocker. He considered it for a long moment and nodded his head. He had no idea what that was.

Ruth turned back and pointed to the iron ring on the door.

“What do I do with this?”

↢↦

The darkness was comforting and the amount of mana that Wilkeena was receiving was acceptably high. She struggled to retain as much of it as she could, pushing it through her mana passageways and trying to expand them, if even a little.

Flynn’s children were prodigious monsters, but there was always a price for any sort of power in the universe. Wilkeena had chosen the slower and surer path. She cultivated the creatures around him, promising them safety, rewards, and her favor. She was not a demi-god yet but she soon would be. Even if she was not a demi-god she was more than capable of laying waste to the entirety of Under Arch with relative impunity.

More than that, her father was a god. Such existences were far beyond the comprehension abilities of most. The only thing they really needed to understand was something that Wilkeena herself understood about gods; one did not anger them unless one was prepared to be erased.

With that being said, Wilkeena felt the disturbance from her Garden disappear.

At first, Wilkeena was elated.

The Cannibal Pixies had obviously dealt with the intruder! Wilkeena herself had some small expectations toward the quantity and quality of mana that was sure to run through the ground and into her lair.

Expectations that were not met.

Puzzling over this undesirable but acceptable outcome, Wilkeena almost closed her eyes and folded her arms to go back to her low-energy slumber.

The Arachne felt something coming closer toward her domain the moment she relaxed her guard. Wilkeena had been focusing on the garden, after all. When she relaxed her guard she had found the source of her agitation to be not only alive and well, but much closer than she had believed possible.

Disbelief caused all of her eyes to rapidly open in succession. Her sharpened legs ground into the soil uneasily as she stood completely upright for the first time in years.

Her eyes narrowed.

The creature chosen lives! It is at the gates! How can this be?!

Indecision.

For the first time in many years, she did not know what to do. She knew it was a bad idea to take direct action against an enemy chosen without knowing anything about them. Even worse idea since it belonged to Tamara. As one of her father’s favorites, she knew a great deal about the reputations of some of the other gods.

“Wilda,” the simple word from her mouth caused dust to blow outward. It had been a long time since she had moved or spoken and the small puff of dust earned a thin-lipped smile from the Arachne.

A small red spider the size of her eye slowly spun down from where it had been resting on the ceiling. It lowered itself lazily, hard to make out against the backdrop of golden thread.

What do you wish, my lovely?

“Please open a window to my father.”

For the briefest of moments, the small spider hesitated. I obey.

A window opened up. Wilkeena had expected to see nothing and was rewarded with just that -- darkness clouded the window. Despite the fact the window showed nothing, she waited patiently. Her father would turn his attention toward her in due time. It might take a day or two but it would be wor--

“Speak.”

Wilkeena startled and tried to clear her throat gently. Still, she couldn’t help but betray the excitement she felt whenever she talked to her father. “Father. I wouldn’t bother you except that I have need of your counsel.”

“Speak,” the voice said again, and then it paused. “How is your advancement?”

“Going well, for the most part. It may be that I will be ready for the demi-god challenges by the time the ritual is underway.”

“Well done.” Pleasant surprise covered the voice. Wilkeena tried not to let it bother her that he did, in fact, sound surprised. Like this was news to him and he had expected it to take longer.

“Still, there is another chosen approaching me and I wish for your guidance.”

“A chosen?” The slightest bit of curiosity bloomed for the first time during the conversation. “Oh, one of Tamara’s…”

Wilkeena waited patiently. Then she waited some more.

After what seemed like an eternity a chuckle sounded from the darkness. “Oh, it’s that chosen.”

“Should I kill it?”

“Mm. If you kill it you will provoke Tamara. She is looking for reasons to pick fights lately.”

“So, I shouldn’t kill it?”

“Mm. If you don’t kill it, it will be a danger to you.”

“A danger to me?” Wilkeena blinked rapidly, trying to school her expression before her father saw it. Pointless.

“Your features explain to me you doubt this to be so. On your path to godhood, you should treat every thorn in front of you as a thorn in your side. Every thorn in your side should be handled with gloves and a method of disinfection.”

Wilkeena hung her head in acknowledgment of her failing. “Then what do you advise?”

“Do you remember when you were very young and you went to the Garden with your sister, Arina?”

Wilkeena froze slightly and forced an awkward smile. “My big sister, of course, how could I forget?”

“Do you remember what you told me?”

“Yes,” Wilkeena felt cold dread start to spread from the nape of her neck down her spine and traveling through her abdomen and thorax.

“You said to me,” Flynn’s voice changed into a younger approximation of Wilkeena’s, truly terrifying her with the accuracy of how she had sounded when she was young and much stupider. “Father, Sister Arina died due to unforeseen circumstances. She was trying to play with the House Hunters. I told her not to, but she didn’t listen to me.”

Wilkeena said nothing. It was apparent to her now, years later, that such a lie was easily seen through. Nothing she could say would do anything to help her now.

“I was so very proud of you. Murdering your own sister, blaming it on something that couldn’t be tied to you, expressing remorse.”

A subtle flame began burning in her breast. She was strangely touched by the care she heard in the voice from the dark box. Part of her knew that it was all a manipulation, but she was touched just the same. She would make that sort of craftiness her own one day.

“If you kill the creature, Tamara will surely come for you. She will kill you. This is an absolute certainty. I can’t guard you all the time and Tamara is persistent. If you don’t kill the creature, it will surely become a thorn that presents itself in front of you. While I applaud your courageous actions when you were young to remove your sister from your path toward ascension, I had hoped that the years would teach you a bit of subtlety. If the creature dies? Who cares? As long as it is not traced back to you. If you can manage that, then fine.”

“I see…” Wilkeena pondered what her father was saying to her, and for the first time asked him directly. “What would you do?”

“Ah,” Flynn’s voice sounded a bit more animated now. “Such a good girl.”

Wilkeena lifted her head, surprise filling her features.

“Sometimes the best way to please me isn’t by giving me what you think is the best answer. Sometimes the best way to please me is to rely upon my experience. What you should do is simple. You should do nothing.”

“Nothing?” Wilkeena felt the joy in her heart strongly now. The words of praise from her father lifting her high in spirit. Still, his suggestion seemed contradictory.

“You are going to be a very old thing someday, so let me tell you what your little plaything the garden and your coveted Under Arch truly are. Nothing.” The voice paused for a moment and then continued. “Simply ignore the creature until it leaves or until you do. Do not reveal yourself or antagonize it. In the grand scheme of eternity, ten years is nothing. Make yourself strong, make yourself worthy of the demi-god candidacy ritual, and leave that place. If Tamara wishes to provoke us with that thing then she has sorely over-estimated the value of this world. Pride is nothing child. There is only power. Hold this grudge close to your breast and remember it. When everyone but you has forgotten, then you may consider your revenge.”

“Thank you, father.” Wilkeena felt the wisdom of the words she had heard. She was pained in the knowledge that he thought her lair, her underlings, and her prided garden were nothing. Pain in knowing that he was right. Compared to a god, everything she had was nothing.

“Don’t be upset. Someday, you will be a god. Set yourself as higher and leave everything else below you. You too will look down from above and tell those below you that they have nothing.”

“I look forward to it.”

“I shall remember to tell your mother you are doing fine.”

“Goodbye, father.”

The screen disappeared and the Arachne considered for a long time. She slowly closed her eyes and the dirt, rock, and soil began to close around her from the walls, the floor, and the ceiling. High above Under Arch, beyond the castle on the lake, Wilkeena slumbered once more, putting Ruth and the concerns of her retainers far from her mind.

The flow of mana seemed to increase.

She smiled, dreaming the darkest of dreams.

↢↦

“...so you see, the creature that is responsible for the death of your sister has been devoured by the clothing I am wearing. Your vengeance sated.” Ruth held up his arm and tugged on a bit of the scaled fabric, pulling it away.

The guard was staring dully at him, quietly holding a small axe across his chest with his arms crossed. The guard had been patiently listening to everything he said and for this whole time hadn’t interrupted. The tale had taken a bit of telling but Ruth was fairly confident that he got his point across.

“Well done, boy,” Sikes was clapping his hands together slowly behind him. The sound made Rush open his eyes slightly from his vantage point atop his head. Then the small creature closed his eyes again.

Dumb dumb.

Ruth nodded to Sikes, appreciating the support. It was nice that the Durvgar was being so supportive even under the obvious pressure being near the ‘mortar’ was putting him through.

The guard stirred slightly and let his hand axe hang freely from his hand now, tilting his hips slightly. He turned to Sikes and said something.

Ruth frowned, realizing for the first time that there might be a problem.

“Ah,” Ruth waved his hands in front of the guard for a moment, regaining the dim creatures attention. “Do you speak draconic?”

The guard nodded at him with wide eyes and then turned to Sikes once more, making a half-gesture toward the Durvgar with the edge of his ax. There was a clear angry note in his voice, even if Ruth couldn’t quite make out what it was.

“What’d he say?” Ruth asked.

“He wants to know if my Mongeese is done chattering or not. He also wants to know where his sister is.” Sikes replied.

“Oh.” Ruth deflated. “Would you mind telling him what I said?”

“Kid, I really don’t think he cares…” Sikes nodded his head slightly, bringing up his knife in front of him warily.

Ruth turned around and noticed that the guard was tapping his fingers against the flat of the blade and two more guards were starting to walk from their leaning positions near the gate.

Ruth felt his shoulders slumping and the rage starting to build in his chest.

What was wrong with all of these beings? Why was it that wherever he went everything tried to hurt him?! The familiar burn began to spread throughout his body. His hands were trembling and he felt sassy tail begin to sway.

“Sikes?”

“Yes?”

“Tell him that his sister tasted delicious.”

Sikes began to laugh.

↢↦

 

Lightning flashed from the windows of the great hall of the castle beyond the lake, startling several people who had been seated at a table eating.

On one side of the table was a woman that could only be described as otherworldly in appearance and beauty. Ample breasts, full hips, skin that appeared to be without blemish, and luxurious and pouting lips. There was a dangerous gleam in her emerald eyes as she considered the window and casually brushed her red hair over a shoulder, sending it spiraling down. The hair did more to cover her chest than the low-cut red gown that she wore. Her porcelain skin lit up brightly as the lightning displayed once more through the window.

The other side of the table sat another woman that was otherworldly in appearance, though for many different reasons. While the woman that sat across from her might have counted as one of the most gorgeous and voluptuous women that Under Arch had ever seen, she herself was perhaps the most exotic.

Two short curving horns flared gently from her head above her ears and pushed through a plain and simple brown hair that was cut short, only falling barely to her shoulders. While the beautiful woman across from her wore something that barely covered her person and promised nothing but simple straightforward pleasure, this lady wore armor that seemed to cling to her body from the tip of her toes all the way to her neck. The armor was seamless, breaking up the curves of her body and giving her a ferocious and martial appearance. Her lips were thin and her face cut from what seemed like red granite, small white scars peeking here and there under her eyes and across her nose and lips. Her skin near the hairline was marred by the appearance of red and golden scales that fought through flesh, leaving one with the strange feeling that parts of her flesh resembled fish skin.

One gave off the feeling of beauty and fragility, promising to reward desire.

One gave off the feeling of strength and power, promising only swift retribution.

They turned their faces to the woman at the front of the table.

The Arachne looked very similar to Wilkeena but gave off none of the pressure the old monster herself possessed. She was much younger with pink flesh and only four eyes. Her sharp legs tapped the cobblestone below her and her human hands thrummed fingers on the table as she also considered the display of mana and power through the windows.

“Has mistress spoken to you?” The red head smiled.

“I don’t see how that is any of your business, Solace.” The horned woman declared calmly. Her eyes, which appeared to be a soft glowing blue solid, turned to regard the expensively ‘dressed’ woman.

“I am her ladyship’s eyes and ears, her spymaster? How is it not my business my dear Merriweather?” Solace retorted.

“She says nothing. It is an unimportant occurrence.” The Arachne interrupted their bickering and turned toward the window. “Sikes has returned with some creature that is powerful.”

“So it is Archivist Sikes. I should like to see what he has found from the Garden that throws such a vibrant tantrum!” Solace smiled, laughing low in her throat.

“Seeing lightning in Under Arch is a rare occurrence, but not indicative of any real power.” Merriweather closed her eyes and shook her head.

“It is indeed, something unworthy of your attention Merriweather. I suppose if you can’t chop it up it isn’t important?”

“You have something to say, bitch?” Merriweather asked pleasantly, the tiniest corner of her lips curling upward in an approximation of a smile.

“Please mind your tongue!” Solace let her eyes turn into slits as she looked at Merri through half-closed eyes. “Your vulgarity makes you seem low-class.”

Merriweather let her eyes drop down to the cut of Solace’s dress. She looked like she was going to say something but, instead, let a smile drift lazily across her face as she looked away without comment.

Solace’s eyes widened and she stood up--

“Silence. Both of you, go see what this disturbance is. If it is something from the Garden figure out whether or not it is useful. If it is unimportant return.” The Arachne thundered.

Solace made a small ‘hmmph’ noise and turned from the room. She made a skirt swishing gesture but really there wasn’t enough cloth to make it girlish.

Merriweather turned to the Arachne and put an armored hand over her chest, closing her eyes and bowing briefly before turning and striding out.

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About the author

Fool

Bio: I'm not by nature a very courageous person. If you have been around enough you might have surmised as much on your own. I started writing these gaming books because I was frustrated, and in desperate need of a way to give voice to the ideas and concepts that I hope to see in a game some day. I'm also trying to write a book about a former dragon without making him into too much of a murder hobo. I hope you enjoy them. If you don't, that's alright too. :)

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