Chapter 4 — Destined Theft
“I feel silly for insisting to bring you here,” Ulm sheepishly told Jakyra, walking beside her in the gloomy halls. “Could’ve just sent a captain from Wynn’s guards over and call it a day.”
“Mhm,” Fumnaya muttered, craning her neck over Ulm with a cold look.
Despite this being a waste of time — not that she should complain, she wasted plenty of that in her everyday life — Jakyra felt urged to put on a straight face for Ulm’s sake. “No big deal. Nice to have my status as the fiercest dragon around cemented, as if that wasn’t already cleared up.”
As usual, Ulm sputtered out his grainy laughter, his mischievous appearance magnified as Fumnaya rolled her eyes, stepping ahead of them. Jakyra etched a smile onto her face as she looked back to Brimir and the iron metallik dragon, striding right behind them. Behind them, the dark yellow and green wyirms finally came out of Ismat’s holding room.
They took their time, Jakyra thought to herself, before her eyes dilated. The yellow one was walking rather crudely, even for a typical four-legged dragon holding something in his foreclaw.
A flicker of dim pink and glowing red came from that claw.
Brimir turned around as Jakyra halted, the iron-hued metallik doing likewise as the wyirm recognized the uncanny attention. “What happened?” he said, avoiding his green companion’s taut gaze.
Not even a second passed when the metallik snarled, suddenly ramming both wyirms. High-pitched screams came out their mouths as their bodies flew back an unusually large distance. Even more bizarre, their bodies seemed to shatter before Jakyra’s eyes, leaving behind two gray, wolf-like creatures sprawled on the ground as Ismat’s gem rolled away. On their wrists were strange bracelets with a variety of patterns and colors, a few charms hung onto them.
“Intruders!” Ulm yelled.
Lupines? Jakyra thought when Fumnaya had her move aside, standing a short distance from Brimir. Ulm instinctively came beside her, leaving Jakyra all the way in the back without much room to see the thieving pair of myiths. Many voices yelled throughout the halls, along with the stamping of feet.
With some difficulty, Jakyra found an angle from which she could gape at the prone, grinning lupines. “Who sent you here?” Brimir said.
“Good day to you too,” a lupus said, a charm glowing on his bracelet. No one had time to react as he and his comrade disappeared along with Ismat, their afterimages jumping past the barricade of dragons.
Jakyra flinched as a breeze chilled the already cold corridors, her head locking onto the blurs of the two lupines. Their impossible burst of speed ending as they reached a corner, one lupus turned around with that carefree grin plastered to his face, a paw wielding the gemstone and another paw thrust out as flames soared from it. Jakyra’s thick forearms darted to intercept them, protecting her face.
Hot! her arms shouted at her as she batted the flames away, the Dragon Crown members running past her as the lupines turned around the corner.
The shaken coairse went after them, trying to make sense of it all. The two ‘wyirms’ were imposters that wanted to steal Ismat? And from the looks of things, they had planned this heist out for a while. To substitute for two actual members of the Crown and almost get away with it!
Jakyra shook her head as she rounded the corner, squinting when a flash of light snatched at her eyesight, accompanied by the buzz of electricity and a few dragons roaring in pain. Ulm and a dragon guard appeared first once she recovered, both spasming from the lightning. The others were better off, though being stunned was nothing to scoff at.
And there were the lupines, tiny daggers in hand — where on their bodies did they keep those? — as they expertly weaved around approaching guards, stabbing a few on the way and firing more flames and lightning bolts with maniacal laughter. Jakyra glided over the dazed Crown dragons to reach them, overhearing Brimir say a single, oddly familiar word: “Blodoggs.”
The lupines ignored her, more focused on the battalion of palace guards that congested the way out of the looming underground halls. Inferior as they appeared compared to the much larger and fearsome dragons all around, their grins only grew wider. They turned to their left, where a metal gate lied.
They’re breaking into the mana pool?! Now Jakyra couldn’t hold back her confusion. Did Ismat plan to regain his magic and escape with these lupines? What was even happening?
Two more guards got a taste of the lupines’ dagger skills before the lupus who wasn’t holding Ismat pushed a huge stone lever up with all his might. The gate rose, and in a flash, they rolled underneath. If it wasn’t already stupendous for a lupine to hold Ismat’s gem single-handedly, getting past the gate like that was a feat, even with magic.
Brimir’s head popped into the corner of Jakyra’s vision as the guards hurried to enter the pool. “Get those tricksters!” he told Jakyra, trying to keep his legs steady. Jakyra nodded as she joined the guards.
Beyond the gate was a carved out cavern large enough for two dragons to walk side by side, leading into an expansive hollow. A rocky beach adorned with stalagmites circled around a radiant pool of rippling bright-red liquid and giving off a fiery yet calm halo. The serenity of it all gave the impression that this was something magical — which, Jakyra reminded herself, it was — and a place not to be disturbed.
The lupines clearly didn’t care, miraculously hovering beside the stalactites above the pool and blowing raspberries while giggling to each other. So much for a place that wasn’t to be disturbed.
Jakyra noticed how the guards refrained from flying up to remove the myiths, waiting with their backs arched. It was as if they were seeking an opportunity, or were being wary of a trap. Then the glimmer of a charm dangling from a lupus’s paw caught her attention. Though she couldn’t tell what it was, an anarchic itch was tingling in her muscles just by its sheer presence.
“Oh goody, you overgrown lizards have the brain cells needed for formal education!” the lupus said, his sneer widening when Brimir stumbled into the room with a blank look. “And there’s the reptilian honcho everyone’s been expecting! Welcome, welcome! We’ve already prepared a ransom in your honor, so take a seat. Or a boulder, pretty sure there’s no difference between the two for you folk.”
“My, this construct has some anger issues,” the other lupus said as he smacked the jewel in his paw, making Jakyra’s belief that Ismat intended to be stolen fall apart. “Speaking of honor and all, you care to tell them what they’re dealing with?”
The lupus dangling the charm gave a shrill chuckle. “Now that’s an honor I can’t turn down.”
Jakyra snorted. If that charm wasn’t setting off warning messages, she’d have those lupines shut up and their plans shut down on the spot.
The lupus pointed to himself and his partner, mouthing his words slowly. “Blodoggs.” He gestured to the charm loosely hanging in his palm. “Matchstick.” He rested his free hand on his head, gazing at the great mana pool of fire below like it was yet another river or lake for him to admire his reflection. “Ha, giant potential bomb!” He pulled up the charm, jangling it precariously as a madman’s laughter rose from within him. “EXPLOOOOSION!”
“You don’t want an explosion created by a pool of raw mana,” the other Blodogg said. “Why, pity that even with your second rate security, you can’t stop us from incinerating an entire mountaintop and the glamorous city thriving atop of it. We may have shielding wards to protect us from such a tragic destruction, but what of your people, Brimir? No, what about you yourself?”
Jakyra was at a loss. This was a problem.
Even at the prospect of having the capital of dragonkind blown to smithereens, Brimir betrayed no terror. “I get it, you can use the accumulated raw mana and unstable charm to kill my people, and you want me to give you safe passage with the construct or else. Do you think such a powerful explosion would not break through whatever silly shields you can conjure?”
“‘My people,’ eh? Not sure you’re conveying your concern for your people well, since you’re still here yapping and not agreeing. Even a king must lower his head once in his life.”
The charm-wielding lupus shook his head. “We’re not suicidal, but we’re prepared for the worst. You either vow to evacuate everyone here and let us sneak out of Wynn, or we’ll just blow a crater here. For us Blodoggs, the resulting infamy is nothing, and even if we do die, we’ll have friends who can clean up for us, maybe make use of any surviving artifacts I’m sure you’ve stashed around here.
So two choices: the construct, or a boom so powerful it’ll take you all to the heavens.” The lupus pulled up five fingers as he said this, lowering them one at a time. “And don’t allow me the honor of choosing for you, your honor.”
If not for the imminent possibility of being barbecued and then some, Jakyra would’ve taken offense with the fact that these guys also were into annoying wordplay. She wanted to leap out in a bid to catch the charm if and when the Blodogg threw it down, but that might only guarantee instant destruction with her to blame. Ismat seemed dangerous, but surely the Crown could afford to lose the construct to the Blodoggs, whoever those were. Some skilled band of thieves?
“Ismat’s yours,” Brimir said.
The lupus pulled up another charm that flashed a weathered brown, illusionary parchment and a quill appearing in front of it. “Swear it.”
Jakyra heard Brimir grumble something about raised magic when the lupus holding Ismat screeched as he touched his forehead, the gem slipping through his grip and falling. A few dragons nearly took action when both lupines flashed, reappearing a foot away from the pool. “Don’t even think of it,” the charm-wielding Blodogg commanded while his teammate grabbed Ismat with both hands, pummeling his heart a few times with his left fist before tightly holding him.
Jakyra’s heart jumped at Ismat nearly plunging into the mana pool, only to sigh (in relief or disappointment?) when he was instantly retrieved. Sure, the revered magic artifact could be a match against the heavily buffed Blodoggs with his own magic restored, but if Ismat was as problematic as Brimir feared, that could cause other complications. Then again, I’d rather have Ismat than the possibility of us all getting blown up without knowing it, she thought.
Then her heart leapt out again. Was it her, or was the tranquil mana pool squirming?
“Brimir, tick tock,” said the Blodogg armed with the explosive-inducing charm, swinging it back and forth before noticing something off in the atmosphere. His eyes strayed to his comrade before seeing the stirs in the pool, growling in disgust. He dropped the unstable charm.
Panic didn’t envelop Jakyra, only astonishment. She saw the fire mana leap up, enveloping Ismat momentarily before a roar yanked at her horns. A glimmering claw drenched in fire mana extended out of Ismat’s heart and grabbed the charm, the frame of a shield-like bubble covering it as a BOOM went off, while another claw struck at the two startled lupines. The blow sent them crashing against a wall, where the two blacked out on the spot. The oath-enforcing charm landed elsewhere.
The claws kept stretching out of the construct’s heart as they settled onto the surface of the mana pool, another set and tail coming out along with a pair of wings. A head popped into view, its face with sharp, cunning eyes and a toothy grin. As his sleek, gleem-styled body of bright pink and red colors developed, encasing his gemstone, he directed his focus to a grimacing Brimir.
Ismat chortled. “I’d like to think I wouldn’t have any words either if we swapped roles. What say you, my liege?”
Jakyra gulped, noticing Ulm, Fumnaya, and that one iron metallik of the Dragon Crown appearing behind Brimir. At least the Blodoggs have been foiled, she thought, wondering how Ismat wasn’t sinking into the pool. More importantly, what was next?
Ismat strode forward, his graceful form leaving the pool with drips of mana flaking the ground as the guards warily moved away. Jakyra couldn’t help but notice how much larger his body was — with average-sized female dragons like her being bigger than males, his massiveness seemed overexaggerated.
Brimir and Ismat’s eyes burned into each other. “I’m starting to wonder the full extent of your abilities while you were still thirsty for magic,” the former probed.
“Slightly greater than I let on,” the construct said in his deep voice, watching his tail flick back and forth. “It feels good seeing you at last with proper eyes. I assume I ought to be resuming my duties to the current kingdom?”
“You noticed the Blodoggs.”
“Why are your guards so flustered with my presence? Soldiers, at ease, I’m incapable of harming dragons.” He clicked his nails upon the stone for emphasis, and the guards lowered their weapons. A couple of them refocused on capturing the fallen Blodoggs, disarming and sending them out of the hollow.
All was quiet for a handful of seconds, with only the intake of breaths to be heard. “You set us up,” the iron metallik uncomfortably pressed.
Ismat’s frame shook, his laugh reverberating throughout the hollow. “Brimir and company, learn your lesson! Why wouldn’t I anticipate the possibility of being turned into a husk that only follows orders without thought? As a weapon tailored to the art of defense, I warn you, I am gifted in outsmarting those who try to outsmart me.”
Overwhelmed to the point that her usual wordplay failed her, Jakyra needed a moment to organize everything. Ismat had planned this. He likely suspected Brimir’s interest in purging his personality and used the thieves to his advantage. No, he might have even manipulated them!
“Intermediary, you’re thinking too hard,” Ismat told her, making the coairse jump. “Those thieves and their explosive charm simply provoked my still-lackluster skill of sensing threats to dragonkind, and I could tell some Crown members didn’t like me as I was, thus I chose to take advantage of the theft. I may be unable to read minds, but experience tells me how people tend to think.”
Ismat’s snout came close to Jakyra, inches short from invading her personal space. “Being honest, if I wasn’t saving my mental energies to blast that lupus’s mind, I’d have given you a headache to remember for your amusing impudence,” he whispered, setting her on edge. What else could Ismat do in just his weakened state?
The construct returned to a silent Brimir. “Fortunately, my king, my scheming, rebellious nature serves to bolster my role as a top-notch artifact of protection, one that is loyal to you for the most part. Since my fire magic’s back, I owe you those questions of yours, but first things first: we have dwarves to assist. And I think it appropriate for my intermediary to come along.”
The Crown members’ faces converged on Jakyra. Great, she thought in annoyance. So this was how her inevitable plummet from her old life would begin. It was one thing when danger sought her out, but to now chase after it?
But I don’t think I have a choice, and I doubt I can resist an artifact like Ismat for long. He seems too strong. No way I could get him to swap for another intermediary since my reputation would make him firmly stick with me, but maybe I can haggle with him later. With that in mind, Jakyra accepted Ismat’s will.
“Fine, fine,” Brimir finally said, gesturing to the soldiers on standby. “Interrogate those lupines and find out anything about what they did to replace Dragon Crown members Yushu and Litan, their roles as Blodoggs, and whatever they know about their group along with other vile orders and societies. Also check for other members hiding within Wynn, disguised or obvious.”
With the soldiers leaving, he heaved out a sigh reminding Jakyra of her pity for leaders and their complicated affairs. “We have the time to accompany you,” the metallik said, knowing what Brimir was going to ask.
“Good to hear.” Brimir looked back at Ismat with an expression of acceptance. “I’ll hope you aren’t as troublesome as I feared.”
“For the most part.” Ismat flashed his gaze upon Jakyra again, his tight, knowing face making her queasy. “Something bothers you, Jakyra.”
“Er,” Jakyra blurted, finding burning questions leaping out of her subconsciousness.
Ismat held up his claw. “If you’re wondering, I intend to see if you’re really the intermediary I expected through our encounter with the dwarves. And again, I’m not using telepathy. Save other questions for later.” He swept his head around, raising an eyebrow. “Is it just me, or are all of you exhausted?”
“I was struck with lightning,” Ulm muttered.
Ismat held back his chuckle. “Mortal pains. All of you, thirty minutes for fresh air and resting. We’ll meet back afterward before setting off. Now excuse me, I need to test my body out.”
The moment Jakyra heard that, she thanked that creep of a thought-reading construct before exiting. With so much happening, talking to someone would be good for her right now.
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Peace be upon you.
You've met a madman with a fondness for ducks, striving to write high-quality stories.
Currently writing a Pokemon Mystery Dungeon fanfic on fanfiction.net and AO3 (not posting it on Royal Road just yet). Needs to write more original work sooner or later.