'What in the world did the spirits have in mind?' Iexolud's mind rumbled, a tempest trespassing it while checking in despair Shervan's body. He could have ended everything that day in Deldras, at the price of some enemy's blood. He had been so foolish. Foolish!
'Speak, you spirits! Did you seriously think I could change the mind of a slayer? Am I going to pay this with a young life? I SAID SPEAK!'
He put a paw on where Shervan's heart resided, praying the spirits – nevertheless - to give him, at least, proof that his mission had not been in vain. As the elder dragons palm rested on the black chest, a rhythmic beating sensation pervaded it.
"He's alive!" he shouted, happily thankful, but still deeply covered in fear. "But he's wounded...badly wounded..."
"Where?" Erifor arrived next to him, examining the motionless dragon who lay on the grass.
"The biggest one seems to be on the chest...they were close to getting to the heart...it doesn't look too deep, though, so we may be able to take care of it...some on the hips...an arrow on the right wing...take care of his chest, I will take care of his wings!"
He then turned back to Axor. The human looked incapable of moving as much as the black dragon.
"And you...do not dare to escape" he growled to him in Gyrader.
"N...no sir" the human blabbed, shaking uncontrollably. The same who had proclaimed himself the greatest dragon slayer...he snorted and turned back.
He gave a closer look to the wound on Shervan's wing. The arrow was no more present. The young dragon had been very lucky: it had not hit his muscles. But it would certainly cause pain when attempting to move the wings. It wasn't life threatening, but required medication.
Without hesitating, Iexolud took out his long tongue and cleaned the wound, while smelling the environment around, to be sure that the human had not fled.
You can do it, young one...
"Iexolud!" Erifor yelled. "His eyes are opening!"
The old dragon's heart started beating faster. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I saw it!"
"Keep your nose on the human. I will greet him."
Without further hesitation, he abandoned the wing and walked towards the black dragon's head, which still lay on the ground, but slowly started to move. In few seconds, the black dragon's eyes were fully opened.
"Hello, Shervan" Iexolud greeted him, friendly.
"Hel_" the dragon's words came tired "_hello? Am...am I dead?" He paused. "Are you a spirit? One of my ancestors?"
"Actually, not," the old dragon answered, unsure if revealing himself immediately was a good idea, "you're still alive. We are healing your wounds."
"And...the humans?" Shervan replied, with feeble voice, his eyes still half-open. "Are they...dead?"
"Well...one of them is dead...the other one is..."
"Wait" Shervan's eyes fully opened. His tone had suddenly acquired energy. His pupils were firmly pointed at Iexolud. "Let me guess. You have saved his life." Any trace of tiredness had disappeared. "You saved that bloody slayer's life again, old demented?"
Iexolud got his muzzle closer to him, eager to retort against that arrogant youngster's insults. "I have saved your life again, young reckless."
Both dragons showed their teeth to each other, in disdain.
"This time, I was ready to kill him, believe me or not" Iexolud spoke "my inner fire was ready for him. Then he did something unexpected. Did you see it?"
"I..." Shervan hesitated, his arrogance fading away. "...no, I...didn't."
"Can you turn your head on the right? Would it hurt if you do it?"
"I can try..." with great fatigue, he rotated his head to the right side. "Yes, I c_" he stopped himself at the sight of the headless corpse of the second slayer. He quickly turned his head back, leaving a small roar of pain. Iexolud chuckled.
"Did you kill him? Or was it that blue companion of yours?"
"Truly, it was the slayer who did it."
"Wha..." Shervan's mouth remained half-open, while his eyes looked at rapid intervals at Iexolud and the slayer.
"If you don't mind, I will go talking to the slayer, so we clarify some things" Iexolud informed him.
"Clarirfy? With a slayer?" Shervan found again some of his cockiness. "If my wing didn't hurt, I would be flying away like last time..."
"Just rest, for now. I and Erifor took care of your wounds a bit, but it's not done yet. You'll heal faster if you rest." He turned to the blue dragon. "Erifor, can you take care of him?"
He walked away, in the direction of the slayer. The human's front was a puddle of sweat, and sweat was most of what he smelled of, although he also perceived a strange sweet scent. He should have taken care of his weapon immediately like the other time, he realized. However, it did not look necessary: the human seemed to be trembling too much to be able to even lift it up. Stupid inept, Iexolud scorned him mentally, before talking to him with his deep, yet now cold, voice.
"He's alive," he announced, "so you don't have to fear for your life."
The human relaxed visibly, his trembles fading out quickly . "Oh, thank the gods..." Somehow, he managed to look Iexolud in the eyes. "Please, please, I have thought about our conversation, I swear..." he yelled, his knees lowering down. "I just...well...there was the Kron Kavan...and..."
"You mean" Iexolud interrupted him "that ritual you performed yesterday night? The one with the dragon skull in the fire?"
Axor's eyes opened wide, his mouth half-open. How useful would have been Talork in that moment, he was the best at talking to humans...
"Listen...I understand," he attempted to approach him again, adopting a gentler approach, "this is all you have done for your life...and this seemed to be an important moment for you...I understand whatever you choose next." He paused. "But maybe...this could be an important moment, for you, to look into your heart. After all...you could have attacked me to save your life...instead you chose to save us from your human opponent." He got closer. "What will you do?"
"I...I don't...know" Axor scratched his head, a gesture Iexolud has seen many times from humans when they were unsure or confused. "I can safely say the life I used to have...has ended today." He suddenly looked around in all directions, like searching for some bigger, scarier dragon behind the mountains. "The Winged Ghost is looking at me, I'm sure of it..."
"The Winged Ghost!" Axor yelled, like if he had seen an actual spectre wandering through the valley. "No matter where you hide, the Winged Ghost will see you, and report you to the governor." He was trembling again. "Once I had a rogue friend who was preparing himself to sell out a bunch of precious stolen things. I tried to discourage him, but he said he knew a perfect place in the wilderness where he could make his business...the next day he was in jail. And another time a whole rebel conspiracy from the Caurrust nation, our greatest enemy, was discovered because of the Winged Ghost. Nobody ever suspected that was happening until the next day the news of their arrest came out..."
"But what is this Winged Ghost?"
"Nobody has ever seen it...nobody knows what it is, if it's only one or an entire organization, or whatever! But everyone knows he's there, wandering around the whole island, looking for criminals!" He swallowed, his voice getting louder. "Just what I have just become! I murdered a human! I killed a human and saved a dragon! I'm marked! I'm ruined! I'm a traitor! A bloody tr_"
"Calm down!" Iexolud yelled. "Don't give this...you call him Winged Ghost, right?...more opportunities to find you." He suddenly thought of something...a great opportunity. "So, not even slayers are authorized to kill a human? Not even in case of danger?"
"In case of danger, yes" Axor explained, a little more pacific "but he was not attacking me. No, I cannot go back...ever...my life is going to be the one of a fugitive!" He howled. "My house, my honor, everything is lost!"
It was now the right moment to propose him what he had in mind. But should he do it? Put this human, this dragon slayer, on the way to find the secret position of the Gyraders, of his family, a secret kept in custody for two hundred seasons?
'Yes', suddenly the voice of his father replied to him in his mind – just like when he suggested him to converse with Axor the first time.
He had doubted the dragon spirits after Shervan fainted, but after seeing he had not died his trust on them was fully restored.
"Axor" he called him by his name, got closer to his head and talked to him in a whisper "it looks then like you and I are both fugitives from the Krisar state. What if I tell you, I know of a safe place where you won't be hunted at all, where you will get full protection?"
"What?" Axor asked.
"It is where I live. A place where everyone is safe from the Krisaders' rule, where the last members of Gyr'end royal family, and their last followers, have hidden since the fall of the kingdom. That's right," he nodded again, at the sight of Axor's disbelief, "there was once a kingdom here as well. There are so many things that are not told about this island nowadays, either because they've been forgotten or, likely, because they prefer to ignore them."
"And...you live there? You help them because you were allies, you said, right?"
"I live close to them" he confirmed "and make sure what we used to share is not lost."
"So is it totally true you weren't gods?"
"Totally true. They do not venerate me. I help them."
"Well, then..." Axor scratched his head more vigorously. "So...huh..."
"Axor, if you are a fugitive now, this could be your only possibility of finding a new life...and not only that," the dragon encouraged him, "it's your opportunity to find the truth – the full truth, which has been lost among dozens of battles and slayers."
"Can't you just tell it to me now?" the human said, slightly annoyed.
Iexolud curved his neck, taking, in his intentions, a more intimidating pose. "This is not a truth I give away so easily. You may have showed allegiance to me, but your past demands me to ask you to show you are worthy of discovering it. Besides, if this Winged Ghost you talked about is true_"
"It is!" Axor cried.
"_and since you seem pretty sure about it, telling you everything right now and bringing you with me would show them where we reside."
The dragon paused and watched around. Erifor and Shervan seemed to have a private conversation on their own. Axor was talking within himself, like gripped by an internal conflict.
"So, Axor, now will you swear to me and the sp...the gods" Iexolud asked with important voice "will you now dedicate your new life to searching for the truth about Gyr'end and its inhabitants, and switch to our side?"
A long time passed between his demand and Axor's final answer, but what came from the human did not let him down.
Filled with satisfaction, Iexolud gave him his deepest and more intense look. "That is good. There is a last thing I would like you to show me, now."
Erifor and Shervan were still talking. The black dragon was trying to move his wings, showing little pain as he opened and closed them. "I would like you to talk to those other two dragons. I won't tell you what to say...just tell them what comes from your soul. I won't intervene."
The human remained for some moments with his mouth half-open, before saying: "that...is fine." He had a last moment of hesitation. "But can they understand what I say as much as you can?"
"The blue one has learned from me. The black one...I don't think so, but let your peaceful intentions speak to him."
This would have been the last test of trust before letting the slayer take his new life path. Still the sword was in his hand, but it wouldn't be a challenge stopping him, if he decided to attack. He had not to worry...at least, that was what his rational mind was trying to repeat.
But few moments later, Axor's benevolent intentions couldn't be clearer. He spoke to the younger dragons, who were highly interested and full of doubt, in a calm and repentful tone, whose sound expressed remorse, and some way hope.
"I am sorry...for what I have done...to your kind. And I am sorry...for attacking you, black one."
That would suffice, Iexolud decided. Maybe he was still not truly sincere in his words, and he was moved more by fear and his ineptitude, but some way, the sprout of good intentions was present in what he said. The human came back to him, while the two younger dragons looked confused - Shervan much more than Erifor.
"Very well, Axor. You are giving me proof of being worthy. Now listen me carefully, for I will give you the clues for how to find where you will find the truth" he spoke "look into the depths of the mountains, until you will find a series of peaks, distributed like a ring, impossible to be trespassed by any human. There, with time, you may find a dragon flying around for hunting. Make yourself noticed and call for help: they will understand you. Then ask to be brought to me."
"I have forgotten your name, though."
"Iexolud. Iexolud." Axor repeated among himself. "Yes, sir. I will go back to my horse then and start my journey."
The human started to run away, but after two steps, he suddenly stopped. He looked at the dragon in silence, until he finally said two simple words that warmed Iexolud inside his soul.
As his figure got farther away from him, the elder felt the happiness of the dragon spirits descending on him. He had possibly done something extraordinary. Unique. Maybe, after all, there was still hope for his race in Gyr'end.
"What was that human doing?" Came the anxious voice of Shervan, now erect on his paws.
"Try to think about it" Iexolud invited him "what do you suppose?"
"I...do you think I talk human like you?" the black dragon snorted. "I did not have the opportunity of befriending those things like you did. How can I possibly_"
"Think about how it looked like" Iexolud explained "and how it sounded like. Humans communicate many things through their sense of sight as much as their sense of sound. How was it?"
"Uh..." the young dragon fell into a short deep reflection. "Well...he had his metal claw...but he didn't use it...and he sounded quite...well...not threatening. Quite shy, actually. Strange, since he attacked me twice..."
"I understood it" Erifor intervened, and he translated the human's speech for Shervan.
"No way" the black dragon denied "no way..."
"I'm not lying, I swear" Erifor added, timorous.
"Well, I've seen it also" Shervan reasoned "so my only choice is to believe you...for now. I..."
Iexolud walked in front of him once again.
"Thank you for saving me, then," the black dragon lowered his head in front of him, "now if you don't mind, I need to rest..."
"Shervan," Erifor implored him, "there are dozens of slayers wandering the mountains."
"You think I cannot defend myself?"
"Doesn't matter! I've done it before!"
"Shervan, listen to me," Iexolud spoke, silencing both with his profound yet strong voice, "how bad does your wing hurt?"
"For your information, I can fly perfectly while bearing some pain!"
"That's good," the old dragon nodded, "but it's still very dangerous. The previous times you were probably in your native land...and you knew the territory. Think about it. You're in a place you don't know, and aware there are much more slayers than usual around. You have just had a battle and got injured." He put his muzzle close to him. "My place is not distant, and there you can rest safely. If you don't like it there, you can just leave. How about that?"
Shervan did not answer.
"I will tell you about this territory, so at least you won't be unprepared."
"Uh..." Shervan snorted, "Fine, then. I will go with you, rest a while and then we'll see." The young dragon gave a snort. "But don't expect me to remain. Nothing can replace my original family."
"Understandable. Anyway, you'll be very welcome. Let's get prepared before other slayers arrive."