Welcome to another draft episode of A Psalm of Dawns and Dragons. I hope you enjoy1 Don’t forget to leave your comments!
Vendors lined the road leading to the Keep. Bright reds, yellows, blues, and oranges represent multiple Houses within Zaylen and outer realms. Their accents drowning all other tones as they push their trinkets as the best.
The Bereft of Life Festival brought the much-needed coin to the working class of Zaylen as it was the only festival open to outer realms free of charge. This was King Ager’s way of mounting a rift between the working class and the servants who served Zaylen’s noble families for a term. Once their term was up, they were free to join the working class, unlike slaves.
The rift mattered because the working could earn while servants could not so naturally they believed they were better. Many refusing to put former servants to work instead of offering them more servitude. Sadly, the workers appreciated this way of life, though four moons after the festival end the king would send increase tax decrees.
Jessup rounds a corner squeezing through the crowds with a smile on his pale face.
“I assume you entered your place without incident,” Kalera said.
“Of course I did. The Enforcers love it when a Dred or two enters. They hate us like everyone else. They place bets on who will die first.” He said.
“So the king’s assassins hate Dreds. Men who kill infants and younglings when Ager calls for it, hate your kind.”
“They consider us unnatural. An abomination of the Gods.”
“And the Shellions are not?”
“The Crown accepts them as pure, intelligent humans who are able to shape the realm without special gifts.”
“You believe that. Shellions, Blood Shellions at least share a direct linage to the Goddess Rose. What they possess is not simple intelligence as many believe.”
“I’m enjoying my Morph lesson this light,” Jessup says and then smiles as a youngling approached.
The youngling neared Kalera, stopped in front of her, and dropped the purest flower in all the realms at her feet. Kalera bends and retrieved the flower. She looked at the male youngling who refused to look her in the eyes. She gently grabs his face and turns his head so that his eyes could meet hers.
“It’s forbidden for me to look upon such beauty my Lady,” He said.
Kalera was taken back because humans with her tone and features are slaves in the realm.
“Thank you,” She replied.
He removed a shiny blue trinket from his pocket when Jessup interrupts.
“You look familiar. Didn’t I buy a so-called dragon’s claw from you last cycle? I have you know it wasn’t a dragon’s claw and my mother. Well, let’s just say she was angry.”
“I bet you can use this, my Lady,” He said to Kalera ignoring Jessup.
Kalera took a closer look at the cloth and noticed scales. She removed it from his hands. Kalera gazed at it as if she was peering inside it.
“Where did you get this?” She asked without turning her eyes away from it.
“My master,” He replied.
“It’s beautiful, but I’m afraid I don’t have any coin,” She said.
“The way I see it he owes me so it should cost nothing,” Jessups said.
The youngling looks up at him and frowns.
“My lady this belongs to you so it yours.” He said to Kalera when a tall brute walked up and struck the boy to the ground.
“You’re worthless. You had one job today. Now get up before I shred you.” He screamed.
The youngling’s eyes swelled as he tried to stand and apologize. Clutching his fist, the man moves in to strike him again, but this time his hand met Kalera’s wrist.
“You will not touch him again,” She commanded.
“You black besa! I dare you to touch me,” He said then spat near her boot.
Kalera’s core begins to warm and her eyes glowed. Tiny bumps raised on his skin and he began to quiver.
“You’re a spec beneath him,” She said as her hands began to glow.
“Kalera,” Jessup interrupted.
The man screamed and ran away.
Jessup helped the youngling from the ground.
“You are okay now. He won’t hurt you ever again. Go, find your family.” Kalera said.
“I have no family,” The boy said as his tears met Kalera’s hand.
The youngling takes off screaming after his master.
“Hey! You forgot this,” She said of the blue dragon scale.
“It all he knows. He was probably taken as an infant from his mother. Thank you.” Jessup said.
“For?” Kalera asked.
“I thought you Morphs hated us,”
Kalera takes another look at the scale and placed it inside of her cloak.
“I should’ve ended the master’s life. With my full strength, I would’ve.”
Jessup moves closer asking her what she knows about the festival ignoring her last statement. Instead of divulging information, she pressed him about how he planned to get them inside before the blue moon because the line into the Keep was ever-extending.
He removed himself from her then approached his mother and kinsmen wishing them a farewell.
Kalera rushed over to him. A part of her wanted to show gratitude, but she decided not to. Instead, she turns to Jessup.
“So you have no plan or stuck no deal with the Enforcers to get us inside faster,” Kalera said.
“I figured you didn’t need suspicion.”
“Just go. Continue to farewell your people. I’m going to my dragon.”
They both turned and ran in the opposite direction.
Kalera approached Cruor who hisses.
“I’m tired of waiting. Hunger rumbles inside me.”
“On the other side of the towering gates, you may feast on their sheep. You know of Ta’l’s sheep land. So you will fly me and the Dred into the Keep. My powers are returning so your cloak will hold.”
Cruor nodded as Jessup approached. It was as she suspected, he needed her to get inside.
Cruor’s long tongue escaped his mouth as he looked upon Jessup.
“There’s something seriously wrong with your dragon.”
“He’s a Morph dragon. He never hatched but was made for his only, my father. So yes there’s something wrong with him.”
“You brought a Morph dragon into the realm.”
“That wasn’t my intention.”
“Your powers are returning and you are blocking my sight,”
“Maybe you shouldn’t dive into the inner thoughts of others. That’s called invasion.”
Jessup silenced himself and stared at Cruor.
“I’m sure you’ve never ridden a dragon before. Don’t be afraid. I won’t let you fall.”
A ringing began in her ears. The inner ear’s high pitch quickly moved deep inside her head. Flashes of light flickered when the pitch became a voice.
“Can she hear you?” The voice asked.
“I don’t know,” Another voice answers.
“Are you sure about this?” The previous voice asked.
“I’m sure of nothing,” The second voice replied.
Then Kalera hears ascend as the voices fade and the pitch returned.
“Are you alright?” He asked.
“Yes,” She replied.
Cruor moved closer, lowered his head, and sniffed her.
“Does he wish to eat me?”
“Don’t fear him. To fear Him is to wish for death.”
Cruor lowered his left-wing while Kalera instructed Jessup to grab and step on each horn that she does. Halfway up he loses his grift and falls to the ground. Kalera turned and looked down upon him.
“Dreds. Still just humans.” She thinks to herself before sliding down.
“Look, I don’t want to be here until the light. Pay close attention Dred.” Kalera commands.
Up again she climbed. Only this time, she took slower calculated steps. Before long she reached Cruor”s back and reached her hand out to help Jessup plant himself behind her.
“You may want to hold on. You’re not immortal. If you fall, you die unless you can fly Seer.” Kalera said before she removed the Seer Stone and grabbed on to Cruor’s horns. With a whisper, the giant beast rockets straight into the sky.
With every twist and turn, Jessup gripped Kalera as tight as he could.
As they flew over the gate of the Keep, Cruor spotted Ta’ls sheep land. He took an unexpected hard right turn just as Jessup loosened his grip and then …
Jessup disappeared into the clouds. As he plummeted below Kalera could hear his screams.
“Cruor, descend now!”
“No. I’m starved!”
“I need him. Descend!”
Cruor ignored Kalera’s demand so he did what he would not expect. Without her full power, she leaped from the back of the Morph beast. With closed eyes, Kalera pulled what she could from her core. Before long she caught up to Jessup. Bolts from her attached her to him like a magnet as they continued to dive.
Jessup calmed himself as the wind beat his body. He focused on nothing but her. A Morph who risked herself to save his life and then smack.
Their bodies hit the back of Cruor. The dragon retrieved them just before their splatter. Still cloaked, he flew them down into the Keep near the dark side of Ta’l.
Kalera had blacked out and was unresponsive. Jessup had no way to communicate with the dragon who snarled at him, nudge her, and then flew off.
Cruor had managed to land them inside the most cutthroat area of Ta’l. The Dark side was riddled with some of the worst the realm could offer.
As a Seer, he was previewed to their thoughts and desires some of which made him gage. In Upar he spoke to drown them out as he focused on toting Kalera on his back.
He made his way through the crowd hoping the cloak would last, but his hopes would fade. Soon, he noticed the men and women hissing at him and glaring into his soul. He was unknown in these parts so he had to do something quickly.
“Jessup. Is that you?” He heard in the distance.
“Move aside rats. Let my man through.” The voice said.
Catching the tune, Jessup realized he was saved.
“Vinecard!” Jessup shouted.
“Hey. What’s a Dred like you doing in a sorry-ass place like this? And who is she? What the f**k have you gotten yourself into as of late?”
“It’s a long tale, my friend. But I need refuge.”
“You’ve come to the right place for refuge.”
Vinecard led Jessup down an even darker alley and then through a decrepit wooden door.
Jubilant sounds erupted as House handmaids danced in nothing but their skin atop counters. Visibility was poor from the various pipes in the mouths of almost every man and some women.
“Through here!” Vinecard yells.
They enter another door. This time to a room that choked Jessup.
“I know it’s not the best…” Vinecard said.
“It will do,” Jessup interrupts.
“Enjoy.” Vinecard said and then smiled before exiting.
Jessup walked over to the bed and carefully laid Kalera down. He straightened his back and rolled his shoulders forward and then backward all while he kept his eyes fixed on her. He leaned down into her face and whispered, “You’re beautiful. Thank you.”
Just then she opened her eyes to find herself glaring into his. For a moment, she looked upon him and then sprang forward.
“I don’t know. After we landed, he took off.”
“I’m running out of time. Why are we here?”
“You needed a place to rest. This place belongs to a friend.”
“Did you tell your friend about me?”
“No. I wouldn’t betray your trust and thank you for saving my life.”
Silence filled the air for a few moments.
“I must get to the Keep. The challenge will begin soon. You are still coming?”
“I will catch up to you. I need to make a detour first.”
Kalera closed her eyes then vanished from Jessup’s sight.