The Last Journey
by Tempe O'Kun
This story was inspired by VampirePrincess007's pic of the same name and is used with her kind permission.
Tarrit awoke on the end of days.
From his roost in the Ebon Spire he could see the serene gardens, their trees vibrant pink with spring blooms, the fields golden, and the lake shimmering with crystalline light. His eyes told him all was well, but it was his bones that said otherwise.
The dragon stretched his young wings and made a running leap from the balcony. He circled the Spire, desperate to catch some glimpse that would allay his fears. The wind buffeted along his wing membranes, the sweet air of life and growth filled his lungs, but neither could dislodge the horror that had crept to his very being. With a building desperation, he beat his wings harder, clawing for altitude in a fashion his tutors would have chided him for. He reached the very top of the Spire out of breath, the sun and cool wind playing along his scales.
The great Aviary lay empty before him. His claws rang against the black stone floor. Sunlight glinted off every surface, reflecting his slender golden form in muted tones. He tried to console himself. If the world were actually ending, they would be having a meeting or something. Wouldn't they?
His heart tightened. He called out: "Majesty?"
The Queen stirred, her great bed of quartz shards grinding against her scales. The stones polished her scales as she moved in her sleep, their glimmering cores storing the magic her body could no longer contain. Easily three times his size, she towered over him, though her eyes were gentle. "Yes, my dear Tarrit?"
An amused and wholly inappropriate thought flickered through Tarrit's head: she called every male "my son" except her actual son.
He attempted to keep a regal bearing as he trotted over. The wide space of the Aviary loomed around him, its familiar arches like black talons against the sky. He saw no one else, which meant that only Varoth, whose soul was shadowed, waited for the Queen's bidding. Tarrit had consulted a few ghosts in his time, but none of them had put a chill from nose to tail like Varoth. His inky gaze pulled at your spirit in cloying ways.
Tarrit reached his mother and bowed, chin dipping almost to the floor. She nodded and he sat before her, like a whelp at studies. Compared to her, he was. Her life had spanned more centuries than most dragon's did decades, and the wisdom of those ages resonated in her voice. Her claws set against the floor, she moved with purpose and serenity. Her body had infinite composure, though her dreams were always fitful and prophetic. She leaned in and softly brushed his snout with her own. Their scales scraped together and he could feel the fine tracing of quartz dust she left behind. It hummed softly; his blood was close enough to hers for the magic to seep forth from them.
Queen Radiance, Ruler of Dragonkind, regarded him with a soft smile. "You feel the world's end."
Tarrit swallowed. Overwhelmed, he simply nodded.
The Dragon Queen clapped her wings in one well-practiced motion, the dust of a night's sleep curling off her body like phoenix smoke. Under it, her scales gleamed gold, fiery as the morning sun. The sun that would never rise again. "The world has seen life flourish across it in a blur, geologically speaking. Now there are creatures that control magic. This means our destructive potential has increased incredibly. We could threaten the entire planet if we became reckless enough."
"But this has been going on for aeons!"
"Yes. But to the Core Being, this has happened in the blink of an eye." Her eyes closed slowly. "I have dreamed the dreams. It has determined the Sphere must be cleansed of us."
Tarrit gasped. The whispers in his soul could be ignored, though they sometimes nagged like guilt or pricked like a bone between the teeth. But hearing the Queen Dragon announce the death of all things in her quiet, wise tone gave it an undeniable finality. "What are we to do?"
Spiraling runes glinted faintly over the Queen's scales as she stepped into the light, channeling the flow of magic over her body in patterns she had honed for all her long life. "There is nothing to do but meditate on their fate and prepare to transcend this plane of reality."
He glance down at the lake, where tiny boats drifted on shimmering water, where a fox, who hated fish, caught a cat's love in her nets. And now they would all perish. Anger burned deep in the young dragon's stomach, threatening to sear up his throat. "But everything else will die!"
"Yes." A deep regret weighted her tone. "Among them your friends in the town below."
Tarrit curled his tail around his body, like a whelp caught with his snout in the cookie jar. He had always been so careful in his transformations, hiding his trips there not only from the townsfolk but from the other dragons. He had even started to enjoy being a mouse now and then, at least until a cat tried to teach him the meaning of the food chain. But having the Queen know of his little forays was just another raindrop in the deluge.
The great golden dragon continued, indifferent to his discomfort. "This world has nurtured us, given us life. It has even given us magic. Is it really just for us to oppose its Core Being? Perhaps this is fate, as the two-leggers call it?"
The younger dragon flexed his claws, scratching the black stone in frustration. "But there has to be something we can do!"
The Queen Dragon's expression remained impassive. After a moment, she intoned Varoth's true name. Behind them, a willowy male form coalesced out of the shadows. His scales grew gray as death and a deep chill rolled off him, rippling the air, a byproduct of his unique diet. Being a mage among dragons meant eating more than just the flesh of your food, it meant eating the souls. He bowed, his ashen form unnaturally supple. "You called, my dear Queen? What with the world ending and all, I am terribly busy."
"What experiments of yours could possibly matter now?" Tarrit spun around, frill raised, wanting to throttle the frail dragon. "The world is dying today!"
"I have until the second moon rises. Plenty of time to get gather some final results."
How alarmingly typical of him. "You should be finding a way to stop the world's ending!"
"Time is too short to be wasted on the impossible, hatchling."
The Queen's muscled tail ground against the polished stone floor. "Get to the point, Varoth, or I will transform you into a sea cucumber. It would be a shame, but who could blame me if my memory faltered and I neglected to change you back in time."
Varoth looked at her with actual fear. Tarrit smiled briefly. I'd always wondered if there were whites to his eyes. Guess that part of him is still dragon at least.
The Queen's gaze hung steady as the constellations. Her eyes darkened like the night sky.
Bone-white horns tipped back, the gray dragon ducked his head, submitting with only minor resentment. "Ah, yes... well... as I have said there is very little we can do to save the lower creatures. Not even a dragon has the power to overcome the Earth itself."
Tarrit's ridge spines rose. "What about all of them?"
Varoth looked at him as if he could possibly have made the situation any more outrageous. "That's insane." He waved a claw dismissively. "We'd have to draw out the Core Being first, which would be almost impossible. Then we'd have to somehow defeat it, which is beyond even my understanding."
Tarrit arched an eyebrow. "Then the process by which to dig up this Core Being is not?"
Varoth scowled, his gray scales shivered at such idiocy and hubris. "Do you have any idea what that would do to the world?"
Tarrit pondered that for a few seconds, before finally answering: "No."
"No one does." The Queen Dragon strode over to Tarrit's side, looking down at the little town of blissful bipeds. His sharp eyes caught hints of movement as they prepared for a day like any other. "Is it not better for their lives to continue in simple peace until they are extinguished like candles?" The Queen steepled her claws. "We don't know what destroying the Core Being would do to them. Or us."
Varoth crossed his paws. "If we can."
The Queen Dragon did not acknowledge him. She instead studied her son. Her immense age and wisdom rolled over him like wind, invisible but undeniable. "What would you do in this situation, Tarrit?"
The younger dragon shivered. Why is she even bothering to ask me? It isn't as if I'll be taking the throne now, so why is she still grooming me for it? He thought for a long moment, watching as the pink petals swirled from the cherry trees over the little brown roofs of the town. Finally, he spoke: "I know it's not my place to decide how the two-leggers live. At the same time, I know they want to live. They aren't powerful like us, but their every act is to keep living, to enjoy life, to shine brilliantly like the small stars they are. They aren't so very different from us. Is that how you would have me live my life? In easy ignorance?" He looked up at the queen, at the creature older than the mountains, older than Ebon Spire itself, and said something he hadn't since he was a whelp: "Mother?"
She regarded him for a moment; a tear glimmered in one eye.
Very slowly, she smiled. "And to think Varoth thought your past insight was a fluke." With tender care, her great muzzle brushed his cheek. Pride rumbling in her deep voice, she spoke so only he could hear. "You are my son in every sense."
Tarrit's armored scaled scintillated with pride. He wasn't sure what form this battle would take, or if he could succeed. What he did know was that he would sacrifice his long centuries of life, his very chance at other planes or even existence, to save this world.
The Queen Dragon rose to her full, towering height, her voice booming through the Aviary, resounding through the Ebon Spire like peals of thunder. The brightest crystals of her bed rose to hover above her crested head. "Call forth the dragons from every corner of the Sphere." Her runic scales crackled with power. "We have a world to fight for."