The Midnight Prophecy Part 2 By Kittyluvver aka Kitten the RainWing.
The events of Part 1 and Part 2 of the Midnight Prophecy story arc occur simultaneously in Pyrrhia. You do not have to read Part 1 in order to start Part 2.
Link to the The Midnight Prophecy Main Page
Link to Part 1
The story of the Midnight Prophecy continues with the adventures of Faithless, a venom-born SandWing and the fourth dragon of the terrible Midnight Prophecy.
Faithless is a young dragon with blood on her scales and shadows on her soul. Trapped in the SkyWing Palace and serving as Queen Ruby's deadly right claw, Faithless dreams of freedom and open sky. But her past is bloody and filled with pain, and nightmares chase her wherever she flees. In order to face the dark reality of the Prophecy, Faithless must first overcome the darkness in her own heart.
Midnight falls across these lands
From the eastern sea to the western sands
There is one who will great power wield
As the fate of six others is surely sealed
The first is one whose path is dark as night
Yet her eyes shine with wisdom’s light
Love and kindness vanquish fear
In your darkest hour, seek the Seer
The second is one who does not doubt'
Rage and sorrow she lives without
She cannot be touched by flame or fire
Blood-Egg born, she will never tire
The third one’s scales shine golden-bright
As she charges forth to join the fight'
She will always see the battle won
As only then may her work be done
The fourth one hails from the plains of sand
Her faithless names feared throughout the land
From the life that she once knew, she is torn
So seek the one who is venom-born
The fifth one, from her past tries to run
A fire-born fighter, she rivals the sun
But on a long and winding path she will start
For behind fiery scales lies the gentlest heart
The sixth is one whom nightmares chase
In the world, he has not yet found his place
He was born in the ocean’s ebb and flood
Go seek the SeaWing of royal blood
The destinies of six must be fulfilled
And on Jade Mountain their blood be spilled
The one who succeeds is with power blest
As six more souls seek their final rest
Chapter 1: Promise
The roar of the crowd swept over the arena like the rumble of thunder, the harbinger of the fury of a summer storm – ominous dark clouds pregnant with rain, lit from the inside with flashes of lightning. The ground shook, the air was heavy, the very flagstones seemed to vibrate with the mob’s single-minded intent. Countless tiny gemstones, rubies and garnets, fell like a rain of blood upon the ground of the SkyWing arena. Bloody gems, old dried blood in the arena sand, the crowd’s furious lust for blood. Blood. It was everywhere, it was all that mattered in this place of slaughter.
Faithless closed her eyes. This was her punishment.
For contemplating escape from the Sky Place. For seeks of a life other than that of a prisoner, an executioner. For daring to dream of hope, of freedom, of the touch of misty clouds so high that nothing, not wind, not gravity, not even the sky itself could hold her.
The crowd began to stamp upon the stones of the amphitheater seats, striking a rolling, rhythmic thump that throbbed in unison with the endless beating of her aching heart, pumping hot, poisonous blood throughout her body.
For Faithless was a venom-born SandWing. Poison flowed in her veins, in her tears, in her mouth, in her tail, poison so strong and so deadly that it could drive Faithless herself to madness. One touch from her venom-coated skin would burn another dragon, a bite would mean paralysis, a sting would bring instant death. Everything about her was made to hurt, to kill, to murder and slaughter.
Yes, Faithless was death itself.
She glanced down at her wrists and forearms, lined with slashes that slowly wept droplets of thick, venomous blood. Some were very fresh, some were days or weeks old, some were barely more than silvery scars.
So many scars, countless to any other dragon, but Faithless knew their number by heart for she had made them herself. One hundred and thirty three scars. One for every dragon she had ever killed.
“Welcome, SkyWings!” boomed Vermilion’s voice from the corner of the arena. The crowd renewed its roar at his words, screaming for blood, individual voices mixing and melding to become the baying of a furious beast. Faithless saw the crimson SkyWing standing on his announcer’s mound, arms and wings raised, expertly working the mob into a frenzy.
“In this corner,” Vermilion shouted, gesturing towards Faithless, “we have one of the Queen’s own champions! Our very own venom-born SandWing, she deals pain with one claw and death with the other! Dragons and dragonesses, stamp your feet for… Faithless!”
The crowd’s howl hummed in her ears like the buzzing of a nest of angered wasps, moving with one mind, speaking with a single roar.
“And our challenger today is…” Vermillion unfurled a sheaf of paper in his claw and read, “Willow the SandWing!”
A gate on the other side of the arena rolled up, and even over the noise of the crowd Faithless heard the clanking and groan of chains and gears. She kept her eyes fixed on the narrow, dark opening, waiting for the smallest sign of movement.
Many emotions churned in her heart, bitter and hot like her own toxic blood. Anger, sorrow, resignation. But not fear. Faithless did not know fear, even while grief and loneliness were like old friends to her. There was not a dragon in the Seven Kingdoms who could even touch her without the threat of horrific acid burns, let alone kill her.
So, who would this Willow be? Perhaps a fierce SandWing warrior? Faithless frowned, trying to second-guess the twisted mind of the SkyWing Queen. Yes, Ruby was angry, vindictive, and cruel. She would be eager to hurt Faithless, punish her for her transgression, make her suffer. But how, when no dragon, not even a fellow SandWing, could even raise a claw against her?
A flash of movement within the arch of the challenger’s tunnel. Faithless saw it at once, and focused in with the eyes of a predator. Then before all of their eyes, a SandWing dragonet stepped out into the arena.
Willow the SandWing was not more than two or three years old.
Faithless watched in horror as the tiny dragonet edged slowly into the arena, her body flattened against the ground, her eyes wide with fear.
The crowd hushed, and the silence was sharp as a blade. Even a SkyWing arena audience, riled up and thirsty for bloodshed, couldn’t look upon the scene without recognizing, for the briefest of moments, the horror of it all.
“Claws up!” Vermilion announced, breaking the tense quiet, shattering the moment. Yet even his voice was subdued. The dragonet looked frantically around the arena, and finally her eyes locked on Faithless.
This was no fair fight. This was murder, plain and simple.
“Mama!” screamed the dragonet. “Mama, help! Save me!”
Out of the corner of her eye, Faithless saw an adult female SandWing, her wings, limbs, and stinging tail wrapped in iron wires, screaming and struggling desperately against the dozen SkyWing guards holding her down, forcing her to watch.
The order came almost as a surprise to Faithless. She had been aware of nothing but the rasp of air in her lungs, the steady beating of her worthless, poison-laced heart. She cast her eyes upwards towards the stands, where Queen Ruby sat barely twenty feet away in the first row.
“Please don’t make me do this,” she pleaded softly. “Please. Do whatever you want with me, but not this. I won’t kill this dragonet.”
“You will fight,” Queen Ruby snarled back, her voice equally quiet but as venomous as the stinger on Faithless’s tail. “You will kill her. Because you have no choice.”
Faithless gazed at her queen, the light of desperation shining in eyes suddenly filled with tears.
“If you don’t do as I say now,” hissed the queen. “I will make this dragonet suffer. I will hang her from the highest palace turret without food or water. I will skin her alive, and I know how to make a death last for days. I will make her last hours agony.”
Horror. Faithless looked at her with horror.
“But you, you can give her mercy, Faithless,” Ruby crooned, her voice so soft as to almost be gentle. “Give her freedom. Kill her, and save her.”
There was no way out.
If Faithless cooperated, the dragonet would die a terrible death. If Faithless resisted, the dragonet would die a far more horrible death at Ruby’s claws. Faithless looked into Ruby’s eyes, and saw the depths of the queen’s depravity. Oh yes, Ruby, in her madness and her cruelty, could not have planned a better punishment for Faithless.
There was only one thing she could do.
This is mercy, she told herself. This is kindness.
Faithless hated the world, in all its cruelty and sorrow. All its agony and pain, all its blood, all of its hidden darkness in dragons’ souls. She hated Ruby, she hated herself, she hated the world for guiding her paw, forcing her to end an innocent life too soon.
Faithless turned, and saw the little dragonet standing cowed in the middle of the arena. She was looking back and forth, terrified by the SkyWing crowd calling for her blood.
“Come here, little one,” she said softly, holding out her paws. “Come here. I won’t hurt you. I can help.”
She watched as the dragonet turned and and crept closer, mistrust warring with the desire for a kind face in her eyes.
“Come here,” she coaxed. “I’m a friend. I’ll help you get out of here. I can set you free."
The little SandWing crept closer, and Faithless saw the gratitude in her eyes. Gratitude that she didn’t deserve.
“Promise?” the dragonet asked.
Faithless hated herself with every fiber of her mind and soul.
“I promise,” she whispered.
Could she do it? Could she kill this dragonet? Did she have the strength? Could she go on afterwards, or would this break her forever?
<A moment frozen in time, filled with fear, with indecision, with cruelty, with venom, with helpless sorrow. Faithless knew that this moment would be forever cut into her mind like the scars on her wrists, but flowing with a dragonet’s blood. Willow’s face would never leave her. The dragonet would haunt her at nights, would torment her waking hours.
Faithless closed her eyes, and lashed her tail out at the dragonet. She heard the crowd’s gasp of delight, the mother’s shriek of anguish gouging into her mind like the stroke of a knife. Her stinger grazed the little SandWing’s shoulder, barely making even the slightest mark.
And yet it was enough.
It was instant. It was quick. It was painless. This was mercy. This was freedom. This was the only choice. She repeated the words over and over again like a mantra, as if it would make things right, as if somehow she could make herself believe it.
One more life. One more light, gone dark forever.
One hundred and thirty-four scars.
As gems glistening like blood fell into the sand all around her, Faithless cradled the dead dragonet’s head in her arms, and wept.
Chapter 2: Alone
Wildfire screamed and flailed in the darkness.
The cell was tiny - she couldn’t open her wings, could barely turn around. The ceiling was so low that the top of her neck was crushed against it; she could not straighten up to her fullest height.
But the worst of it was the darkness.
Wildfire’s cell was pitch black, without even the tiniest glimmer of light to pierce the pooling shadows. She could tell if her eyes were open or shut. She was completely, utterly, helplessly blind.
To any other dragon such incarceration would have been unbearable. But SkyWings were creatures of the mountains and open sky, their enormous wings made to fly free on the four winds. To be trapped, buried under the earth, hemmed in and blinded, was a living nightmare. To Wildfire, the darkness and the confinement were nothing less than torture.
Which was likely why Queen Ruby had chosen this punishment for her, for daring to try to escape.
Wildfire pounded against the walls, clawing desperately for a latch, a handle, a door, any exit to this torment. Her claws began to bleed as she thrashed and struck the walls. Her scales seared scorching hot with her inner fire as her panic grew, but even her fire-born power could not help her escape the press of the cold stones.
Wildfire’s throat was raw from screaming, and for a brief moment she held still and silent and thought of the sky so far above, so vast and so empty, where a dragon could fly from horizon to horizon without so much as a cloud to hinder his way. She thought of the Sky Palace high above, perched on the brink of an endless cliff on the highest peak of the Claws of the Clouds. She thought of the dawn and the dusk, the sky over the sand of the arena, the moon and the stars.
For a few minutes again her fear faded, her heartbeat slowed, and she imagined herself soaring high above the clouds, climbing towards the sun, chasing the horizon with nothing in her path but open sky.
Then she thought of Faithless, and wondered how Ruby was, even now, punishing her venom-born SandWing friend for trying to break out from the SkyWing palace alongside Wildfire, trying to escape their lives as unwilling arena champions.
Reality came crashing back into the forefront of her mind, and she remembered the choking blackness, the night pressing her sightless eyes, the walls that entombed a living, breathing body. The darkness surrounded her and pressed against her, so close and so thick that Wildfire could not draw breath.
Hot tears trickled down her snout.
So this was it.
Ruby had won.
She shrieked in fury, breaking her paws against the walls in the vain hope that someone, anyone, would hear her. She pleaded for mercy. She threatened, she begged, she prayed that someone would come, and lead her out of this nightmare.
No one came.
She would die down here, cold and alone, with no one to hear her screams.
Wildfire pressed her head against the cold stone wall of her tomb, and began to sob, as the last ashes of hope finally deserted her broken soul.
Chapter 3: Faith
The night was quiet.
A soft breeze circled the high peaks of the SkyWing prisoner complex, lifting and rustling helpless wings entrapped and wound with lengths of glistening wire. The wind beckoned them, invited them to soar through on the joyful breeze, become one with the silent night. But the sky was empty.
Faithless looked up at the moon and the stars, their silvery light reflecting deep and cool in her dark eyes. She felt the wind plucking at her wing membrane, urging her to open tethered wings and take flight. The sun had long since set over the distant moutaintops, and violet-gray twilight wreathed the Claws of the Clouds. Faithless looked to the east, where the last pink and orange flares of sunset dappled the darkling sky. Beyond the mountains was the Diamond Spray river and sea, endless and perpetually moving. To the south were the MudWing flats, filled with grasses and reeds and dark, mossy tussocks, and even further were the RainWing forests, filled with mist and colorful flowers and even more radiant dragons with scales like rainbows.
Faithless remembered nothing outside of the Sky Palace and the mountians; Queen Ruby never let her out far, even with an escort of guards armed to the teeth. But still, she was a SandWing. Her heart belonged to the plains and the sands stretching as far as the eye could see, so vast and so empty that a dragon could fly, chasing the horizon, for days on end.
Faithless thought of open sky and open plains, and the wires binding her wings tightened cruelly.
Queen Ruby had ordered her put out with the arena prisoners for the night, and at first Faithless had been perplexed as to why. If a storm had been coming, she and the other prisoners would have had to bear the fury of the elements. But the night was calm.
At first she hadn't minded too much; being a prisoner tied out here on the mountaintops wasn't much worse than being locked in her Champion's Quarters back in the Sky Palace. A prison was a prison, no matter if it held you with chains, or gilded walls and marble floors.
But now, Faithless knew why Ruby had placed her out here.
Out here were the families and friends of dragons she had killed in the past. Out here were dragons that she would kill in the future.
Oh yes, hers was a cruel queen indeed.
The prisoners behind her were mostly quiet, but Faithless imagined that she heard whispers in the night, whispers and murmurs filled with sorrow and rage and hurt. She had turned her back away from the others, disinviting conversation, mantling her wings to shield herself from their sorrowful eyes.
She thought of Willow, and all the other victims that had come before her, quivering with fear, in the arena. A turquoise SeaWing, who was mute but whose stripes flickered and flashed wildly until the very moment of his death. A RainWing with a crippled leg, who had spit his poison at Faithless only to discover that her venom-born nature rendered her immune. A SkyWing guard who had turned traitor and tried to flee some of the prisoners, sentenced to execution via Faithless. Countless, nameless others, their faces and final breaths engraved upon her memory, etched in blood.
The way all dragons faced death was different. Some whimpered and wailed, fear stealing their voices away. Some begged for mercy, from Faithless, then from Ruby, pleading for something that they would never receive. Some stood tall and insolent, their final words filled with righteous rage and hate. But rarest of all, Faithless sometimes saw a moment of peace in the eyes of some - a moment of acceptance as they looked upon their own death, looked at the world one last time, knowing hat they were about to leave it forever.
No, sleep would not come tonight.
Twilight faded, and the last rays of sun slipped behind the silhouettes of the dark gray mountains. Night had fallen in earnest. Faithless rested her head upon her forelimbs and shut her eyes, seeking the solace of dreams. At least in sleep, pain and misery could not touch her. At least in dreams, she could be free.
The gentle night lulled her, but true to her own prediction sleep evaded her all the same. Behind her, Faithless was conscious of the murmurs of the other prisoners dying down, to be replaced by gentle snores and deep breathing. For a moment, Faithless's heart was glad; she hoped their dreams were filled with soft winds and starlight.
An hour passed, maybe two. There was no way of knowing. The torches burning in the guards' watchtower, a series of dim red artificial stars, had all died out. The darkness was unbroken and absolute.
The word pierced Faithless's reverie. She startled awake, looking around, and saw a SandWing female perched on the ledge beside hers. The two of them were connected by several spools of thin, spindly wire, glistening like spiderwebs by the light of the pale moon.
"Faith?" the SandWing repeated uncertainly. She said it softly, almost as if she was calling a name.
"Who is that?" Faithless whispered back.
The SandWing's eyes were luminous in the gathering shadows. "I'm Gazelle," she murmured. "I am... I was Willow's mother."
Faithless stared at her in speechless horror.
Something coalesced in Gazelle's eyes. "I... I need to know," she said, her eyes uncertain, yet determined. "Who are you?"
"What do you mean? My name is Faithless," Faithless whispered. Something lurched in her stomach, something filled with dread and bile.
"I had twin dragonets a few years ago," Gazelle said. "One, Lioness, had no venom. The other had too much."
The night was quiet. So quiet, that Faithless could hear the panicked thumping of her own heart.
"Her name was Faith."