It took them three days to reach the Ternorian side of the sea, after enduring the same storm that challenged them on the way to Main. It wasn’t that bad the second time around, with the shield around the ship providing the needed protection against the waves battering the ship. Rain still washed the top deck, but the waves were kept away from the ship, giving a relatively smooth sailing through the raging seas.
It also helped cut down the travel time. Hans remembered they took at least 5 days to finally meet a dragon several distance away from Pol Hain. This time, they got into Ternor in just three days. An island on the horizon was the indication they needed to tell that they had finally reached Ternor.
Keeshar walked to the deck and saw the island. He let out a chirp of excitement. He knew the island was home.
It was Raptor Island.
And better yet, the island seemed to be less contentious when it came to the Ternorians, mostly because there weren’t many who settled on that island. The Raptors, being tribal-looking and not at all a mammalian race, caused many of the less open-minded refugees to feel rather uneasy. Being given the Gift of Tongues made communications easier, but the island’s relatively hostile environment and many of the refugees’ reluctance to live among the Raptors did not help make Raptor Island a good place to live, even temporarily.
The Blackjack used the eastern port of the island, which opened to the Ocean, as their home port. Despite their initial plans to establish a port on the continent-facing part of the island, they decided to upgrade the ones on the east due to the fishing village the Raptors already had, along with the mutual need for better fishing equipment and facilities. So far, the Blackjack was the only modern, steel steamship that docked there. The shortage of ships due to coast guard needs, along with sabotage and hijack, eroded the surface dwellers’ chance to fight back. Many of these attempts failed either due to being ambushed, or simply because they underestimated their enemies.
But that would hopefully change as the Blackjack approached the land.
The existence of dragons were already common knowledge, helped not by the first crew’s journal, but by subsequent travelers who were interested in seeing the new land by themselves. On a more negative note, many people already feared the presence of dragons due to the hell dragons that scoured the sky.
However, the presence of not only a less menacing dragon, but also the former guardian of Raptor Island, arriving ahead of the steamship, proved to stir up more than fear, but curiosity. The Ternorians who stayed on the island were confused with the reaction of the Raptors upon noticing a big, blue figure flying towards them. They rarely made such welcoming reactions, which was usually reserved for parties. Clearly, the dragon gave quite an optimistic reaction to them.
The arrival of the Blackjack had been reported earlier, but the mention of Azureath excited the Raptors, especially Hrashiran, one of her oldest friends. While his eyes had failed in the two years since Keeshar’s departure, he had burned the dragon’s appearance in his memories.
“So, the guardian returns,” he said with a chuckle.
Thus, the old Raptor shaman was one of many Raptors who went to the beach to see the steamship sailing closer to port, before the Raptors reacted when they saw a blue figure flying towards them alongside a different, white-scaled dragon. Hrashiran’s ears caught the reactions of the bystanders before he calmly said, “I suggest you make room for them.”
And the bystanders did. Azureath and Zenithia were considerate enough to let them make room before they landed, with Azureath lowering her wings to let Hans and Keeshar to jump down and Zenithia transforming back into her smaller form, perched on Adeline’s shoulder like a bird, only with four legs and a pair of wings.
Everyone was astonished, with Hrashiran given the description by his guide. The Raptor shaman chuckled and said, “Ah, you two never cease to amaze this old Raptor. And Keeshar is among you, it seems.”
“I have returned, shaman,” said Keeshar while kneeling. Hrashiran, while being guided, put his hand over the younger, green-scaled Raptor.
“And I welcome you home,” said Hrashiran. “And I know you have things to say, so let’s talk about it over tonight’s feast. Good thing I kept the guardian in mind, so this beach will do. Do you want to return to your lair first, Azureath?”
The azure dragon shook her head. “I might return to properly turn it into a more welcoming lair, but not now. And to be fair, it is the symbol of my old, seclusive self.”
Hrashiran let out a toothy smile. He could sense that Azureath had already moved on from her painful past.
The team from Main was met with interested reaction due to their uniqueness. Only three of them came from familiar races. The rest were the first time most of them had seen their kind, except some who had met with kobolds and satyrs in Pol Hain. Only the dragonborn, Richie, was the center of attention. Not only was he a dragon with human size and proportions, but he was also an Eastern dragon. His hybrid appearance stood out, especially since there were canine and cervid features apparent on his head. Fortunately, Richie took the attention well, already aware of his rather unique appearance.
Came night, there was a feast. The Raptors always invited the Ternorians, who came from several different regions, not just Tragoria. They all gathered in the eastern beach, enjoying Raptorian music and dance along with food, which mostly consisted of roasted dinosaur meats served with fresh berries, edible leaves and freshly-squeezed juice from the wild fruits harvested in the jungle. Other meats included fish and seafood, along with wine and liquors from Main.
Once again, everyone was baffled by yet another oddity that was so unusual to their eyes. First, it was the light dragon, second, it was the Eastern dragonborn, and finally, it was Elyse.
The satyrs of Main continent had no human-like appearance on them, despite their upright, humanoid proportions. Their heads were caprine-like and they identified themselves as goat people. However, that’s where the similarities ended.
Her long tail, clawed hands, horns typically associated with males, and finally, sharp, canine teeth, made it clear that calling them ‘goat people’ was inappropriate. Then finally, all that culminated on the fact that she ate the roasted meat while continuing her conversation with Hans like normal. To see a person with an undeniable head of a goat eating meat surprised the rest of those sitting with her, except Hans, who seemed to think that it was normal.
“W-wait a sec,” said Richie, pointing out the discrepancy. “Elle, is it okay for you to eat that?”
“What?” asked Elyse, before she realized what Richie meant and said, “Oh, didn’t I tell you before? Satyrs have similar diet to humans.”
“Yeah, but only if you happen to only have the lower body of a goat!”
“Lower body? Do satyrs in your world looked elven?”
“Look, Elle…ah, never mind. I was just going to tell that you’re closer to a Krampus than a satyr at this point.”
Everyone looked at him in confusion, but disregarded it, already familiar with Richie’s peculiarity. Richie, on the other hand, only looked on as Elyse continued devouring her meat and said, “Damn. Now that makes me think.”
The feast continued on until nighttime, to which most of the Raptors and the Ternorians went to take a rest. Some talked with Jamie about securing a passage to Main, with the werewolf captain understanding their plights. Adeline watched as he invited them to the ship, hoping that Jamie knew what to expect.
“He knows more about the trade than you, Adeline,” said Zenithia. “I know you have your words, but you have not been part of this world for two years.”
“I know,” said Adeline.
“So…will you be alright?”
“Two years doesn’t mean anything if nothing has changed much,” said Adeline. “In fact, I am grateful that it isn’t ten years or even 15 years. Knowing your kind, it might end up be that way.”
“Or we might end up in the past. Remember, time is relative for us, especially within an Altered Reality.”
“Will you miss that part of you?”
“I might.” After a brief pause, Zenithia then said, “Well, actually, I already missed that part of me. You don’t just accept your new existence that easily, especially if you happen to be an immortal, reality-altering being for as long as I can remember it. Nothing can change that. However, I do not regret my decision. I truly believe that light dragons have lost their ways. It is time for them to realize that a finite life can be more colorful than a black, endless Void between realities.”
Adeline smiled. “You know, before Shawar’s attack, I thought you are just a lost youngling. After our last fight together, I can tell that you were just a child. An immortal child, specifically.”
“That doesn’t sound very flattering, but you have a point.”
“And now that you accept that your have a relatively short life, you know how to make the best of it responsibly. This is your childhood’s end, Zen.”
“And you have guided me to this point, Adeline de Rochefort. I am glad that you are the first mortal I’ve met.”
“Then, why don’t we go once more, unto the breach?”
Zenithia nodded as Adeline turned around and joined her friends. The others had started making a plan on how they would attack Angla and retake it, discussing it with a former Anglan guard who helped the evacuation. Hans met him during the feast and found out about his previous role. He then offered to help liberate Angla to at least give them a good base in the mainland. The human guard wanted to laugh, but he knew better to laugh at a werewolf with a serious expression on his face, or even laughing off a group who claimed to have disappeared into the void and returned to tell the tales.
“If you are really going to get to Angla,” said the human, whose name was Harold. “You either need to be able to go past their defenses, or you find a way to sneak into Angla. Either way, you will be met with an opposition that can easily push back an army armed with automatic weapons. They have infernal powers, and they had aerial attackers. The Demon Hunters are also preoccupied with their own territories, so they are not much of a help.”
“I’m sorry, Demon Hunters?” asked Hans.
“A secret organization that has recently become the foremost authority against the demonic invasion,” said Harold. He then turned towards a man looking longingly towards Ternor. “You see him? Name’s Paras. If it wasn’t for him, there won’t even be any humans or Lycans here. Unfortunately, he admits that hellhounds aren’t demons, and that’s where his rituals failed.”
“Rituals?” asked Ritik. “Does it involve magic?”
“Why don’t you ask him?” Harold apparently sensed Ritik’s apprehension (even though the kobold wasn’t apprehensive) and said, “It’s fine. Just between us, Demon Hunters are very diverse. He told me a secret about the irony of hellhounds being able to exorcise demons. Dusdolf has many hellhounds intermingling among the Lycan population there, and they don’t mind. In their eyes, anything that can’t be hurt by their ritual is not a demon.”
“A very specific offensive magic, huh? Might as well learn a bit about it from the man himself.”
Without hesitating, Ritik started walking towards Paras, to which Richie stood up and said, “I’ll go with him so he won’t embarrass himself. Tell me what to do, ‘kay?”
Hans nodded, with Richie following Ritik to meet with the Demon Hunter. Harold turned to the werewolf and said, “I know what you’re doing is basically suicide. Believe me when I said no one here is going to let you do such a thing. The Tragorian coastline has all been overtaken by the enemy, so the best way to start the attack would be from the Adaline region up north and through land. I must say that there is a merit for attacking Angla. It’s not a particularly big town and there isn’t any strategic importance in taking over that town for the enemies since the greatest value is the steamship. You might be able to get a jump on them.
“That being said, the aerial danger still exists. Seeing that you have dragons capable of flight, you might be able to give them an edge. At this point, I cannot contact the rebels or our allies for help until we can get to Angla. We must have one strategic forward base in the mainland proper.”
“Jamie told us that we might expect dragons the size of Azureath,” said Hans. “Multiple, in fact. I’m sure you’ve seen them in action. What can you tell about them?”
“Only that they breathe fire, and they are one of several reasons why Tragoria became what it is: a hellish, fiery wasteland.”
“Ah. I see,” said Azureath. “And I must assume that their fire is not like regular fire?”
“What are you getting at, dragon?”
“A little challenge for me, little one,” said Azureath as one of her front claws slowly covered in ice. “Something to prove that I am what I am.”
“Well, good luck on that.” Harold sighed. “I must be honest with you. The reason this whole endeavor is not working is because we don’t know what we are up against. We are severely undermanned, severely devastated by their surprise attack, and severely fragmented. Even the hellhound rebels that help us are based too far north in the An’ah Region. They do have soldiers, but they are there to help stop the hellhounds from getting past the border to the other regions, not mount a counterattack. The only fortunate thing we got was due to an internal conflict that stopped their advance, but let’s not rely on that.”
“You don’t sound all that excited,” said Azureath.
“Haven’t had a decent sleep ever since…ever since I lost everything,” said Harold, trying to stop himself from breaking down. “Ah, forgive me. People told me not to be overwhelmed by a traumatic past, but you just can’t help it. If you have anything you can do, then do it, but know your limits. I will not see yet another brave group of people dying in vain. You may have a better chance, but don’t push your luck. There is no shame in running away from hell.”
Harold then stood up just as Ritik returned with a lot of knowledge to share. He passed the dejected human, noticing his depressed look. Wondering if the conversation went to the wrong direction, he asked, “Struck a wrong chord, didn’t you?”
“More like knowing that they need something to believe in,” said Adeline. “Now…what outrageous plan shall we make? Richie?”
“Me?” asked the dragonborn.
“Well, you have a certain…sense of theatrics that might be different from what we have in mind. It may be worth listening to.”
Richie did not like the way Adeline considered his reference dropping ‘sense of theatrics’, but he had no choice but to understand that Adeline, and everyone else, not only lived in a world of fantasy (in his eyes), but also in a world of the past. Clearly, his tastes might not be a thing for at least a century.
But he did have something in mind. Something very cool that not only intimidate their enemies, but also make others believed that there were more to a war than just strategy, especially if everyone in his team happened to be overpowered in their own ways. He had a dire werewolf, a lightsaber-wielding werewolf, a light dragon, a dragon demi-goddess with primal magic, a Raptor with saw blade weapon, and a kobold mage.
It was the most unusual group, and Richie let out a smile, knowing just what to do.
Bio: I like to write stories, predominantly fantasy and science fiction stories. Many of them features non-human and feral characters as protagonists and antagonists. I strive to train myself to be a better writer every time I can. Some of the stories I write can be a bit unconventional and outright confusing, so don't be afraid to ask for context!