Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language, violence, and mature content.
For Tenyo's LMS contest. Enjoy. Word Count: 1,161, approx.
The courtyard was deserted when Arjana and Rindal entered it. Sunlight turned the baked earth and stone into a furnace, and the few sections of grass and trees did little to relieve visitors to the courtyard of the heat. He caught a glimpse of Rindal wiping sweat off his brow, and had to smile. Which probably wasn't an appropriate expression for someone who had just lost his father--and his Emperor. Arjana was going to enjoy dismantling his father's legacy of terror.
"Hot today, isn't it?" he said, drawing Rindal's attention back to him. The man had been scanning the courtyard--which was quite obviously empty. Rindal nodded. "We'll have to ease the restriction from my father's water regulations. That was simply ridiculous."
Rindal grunted, and it was hardly a reply. Arjana sighed and went quite. He was also glad Kaisar was awake now. He'd thought the man would be unconscious for much longer. It was remarkable timing that Kaisar would awaken the morning after his mother had smothered his father--and that was an odd thing to be thinking. He was shocked, yes, but the old man had deserved it. He'd been a downright bastard to not just Arjana or his mother, but to everything. Arjana didn't blame his mother for smothered the old bastard in his sleep. Given half the chance, he probably would have done the same thing.
He blinked, glancing up from where he'd been staring at the ground. "Yes?"
The guard gestured in front of him. A small, oval rock sat in the middle of the heat-baked courtyard. They both halted. Arjana frowned at it, taking a moment to study it closer. It was simple, dull grey river stone. He crouched to take a much closer look.
"What is that?" he asked, reaching out to touch it. Just as he was about to make contact with the stone, there was a flare of bright white light. Arjana raised his arm to shield his eyes just as he felt Rindal grab his collar, and then jerk him backwards. He tumbled to the ground, the guard stepping in front of him.
Something roared, and Arjana blinked furiously to clear his vision, suddenly fearful. It cleared remarkably quickly, and he found Rindal standing between him and what appeared to be a furious beast. He watched in awe as large leathery wings spread wide on either side of the guard. They were a slate blue and rather dull. It roared again, shaking Arjana right down to his core. The beast had an elegant head, and the dull slate blue continued everywhere. It shook its head, and Arjana saw a few head-sized scales fall to the ground. It couldn't be....but it was.
"Is that...what I think it is?" Arjana shouted to Rindal. The guard didn't take his eyes off the clearly angry beast.
"If you mean is it a dragon?" Rindal called back, "then yes."
"Holy shit," he muttered and scrambled backwards, but the dragon only had eyes for the guard. Angry, red eyes.
Arjana swore and scrambled faster while Rindal stepped to the side, circling around it and yelling to try and keep the beast's attention. He stopped shorted when he saw its eyes drifted his way. Rindal yelled again and waved his arms so it wouldn't look towards Arjana. The noise and movement worked; the dragon's eyes darted back to Rinal. Arjana saw the beast breath in, and then it breathed out. A plume of fire gushed out its mouth. It hit Rindal full in the face. Arjana cringed back when the man screamed. It was a dreadful, piercing scream full of pain. Rindal hadn't even drawn his sword.
The dragon lunged forward and took a large bite out of the burning man's torso. Rindal fell, suddenly silenced and eerily still. Arjana saw it swallow--and then it turned towards him. He watched with huge eyes as those angry red eyes narrowed, and then it breathed in. Arjana was sure he was facing his death. Suddenly, Kaisar was there, between him and the beast. He was holding out one hand, the other clutching his side. Arjana could see fresh, bright blood dripping onto the dark grey stone of the courtyard.
"Stop," Kaisar said, his voice loud and clear. The dragon paused, eyes still narrowed in his direction, but now it was focused more on Kaisar, on his beloved. It seemed to consider him for the longest moment, and then it turned its head to the side and breathed out. The plume of fire hit a nearby tree and it burst into flame, spitting sparks and sending smoke pouring up into the sky. The dragon's head swung back to them, and Kaisar went down on one knee. "Thank you."
"Kaisar?" Arjana queried, concern flooding his voice. He didn't move, just in case the dragon attacked again, but Kaisar was bleeding and obviously in pain. Arjana could hear guards yelling for healers and more men somewhere behind them. "Kaisar?"
"I'm alright, Arjana," his beloved said, quieter than before. He glanced back at him and offered him a tight smile. Arjana inclined his head and then peered up at the dragon warily. Its eyes were slowly bleeding back to something that was more purple than red. He wondered if that was the dragon's true eye colour. "So is he."
Arjana's gaze darted back to Kaiar. "Who?"
"The dragon," Kaisar explained, swaying a little. Arjana grabbed the other man before he could fall over. "He was angry. Someone sent him into a magic-fuelled rage and then locked him into a very small space."
He suddenly remembered the river stone and looked for it. "The stone," Arjana murmured, running his fingers through Kaisar's hair. "It was just sitting there. Rindal seemed to think it was odd, which is why we stopped." He sighed and leaned in to rest his forehead against the side of Kaisar's head. "I think someone was trying to kill me."
"No shit," Kaisar said, laughing. The dragon let out a roar, startling them both. Arjana lifted his head and glanced back to see Hassun and about three dozen guards warily lingering some ten feet behind them. "It's safe... I think."
Arjana nodded and Hassun approached without fear. Behind him, they dragon snorted and then was a loud thud. He figured the beast had laid down. "It's safe," he called loudly, and turned back to Kaisar. "Are you safe?"
Kaisar offered him a suddenly tired smile. "Think I moved too fast."
"Well, that'll serve you as a reminder," Hassun said sternly, kneeling beside them and moving Kaisar's hand out of the way. "I told you to take it easy, and then you just had to rush off out here to save your prince again." He flicked a glance up to Arjana's face. "Nice dragon you discovered, sir."
The dragon chuffed, sounding smug. Arjana chuckled. "It's not my dragon."
Kaisar offered the healer a smug, satisfied look. "It's mine."