A scream split the night. Two small SandWings flew quickly away, wincing at the sound.
"Coyote!" The smaller one shouted. "Who was that?"
The older one, named Coyote, sighed. "Father," he said softly. At this, the younger dragon's eyes watered up. "Shhh... We don't want her finding us," he tucked him under his claws and flew higher.
The younger one was breathing softly, his eyes spilling over. "Father..." He said quietly.
"It will be alright. We can survive out there." Coyote forced a smile, knowing that he should make the effort to make his younger brother's life as well as his early childhood was. Mother.. She was strange... But she cared for them. Then when she got involved in the war, she left them. Father stayed with them, and he was a constant memory in his head. He was almost four years old.. Viper was only one. He never met his mother, but when he did it was at her worst.
He heard the lingering screams of his father, quickly followed by a harsh cackle. It was mother who was killing him. Of course, he wouldn't tell his brother that. It was better that way.
"Coyote? Where are we going?" He suddenly spoke up. Coyote grimaced.
"I don't know, little snake. Somewhere," he murmured.
The warm sunlight streamed through the sands, hitting an unfortunate SandWing trying to sleep. He turned over, trying to continue his dream he had, but to no avail. He was forced to wake when his brother landed outside.
Viper got up grumpily.
Coyote was waiting there, a couple of rabbits and a snake laying at his feet. Viper's bad mood vanished instantaneously at the sign of his brother. "Hello again," Coyote twined his tail with Viper's. Viper felt the morning sun and his brother beside him.
Maybe this won't be as bad of a day as I thought.
The two flew through the day, not minding the blistering sun on their backs. They reached the nearest town within an hour. Coyote and Viper walked through the streets and went into a small bar.
They ate there quickly and continued on their way. Viper enjoyed town. It always had a nicer feeling than being out and alone on the dunes. They went into a store, where they browsed, but did not buy any of the large sparkly scavenger objects.
Viper wasn't even looking at them. He was staring at the wall, which was completely covered in pieces of paper with drawings or letters on them. He could read, but only basic letters. His name, a few words, that was about it. Then, as Coyote was behind a wall perusing the items with mild interest, Viper overheard a few dust-covered SandWings in a corner talking in hushed tones.
"Are you sure he's out here?"
"I'm sure of it, we need to be extra careful now,"
"But Cactus, they say that dragon is large enough to eat a SandWing dragonet in one bite?"
"Yes, Dust, and it is enough to swallow it, barb and all. We better make sure it does not get near us. I don't want to run into a fight."
Coyote was back, and the dragons had walked away anyway. Viper joined his bigger brother and they stepped outside. The two SandWing dragonets flew into the hot, red sky of the sunset. Viper worried about what they said. They might have been filled up on rotten cactus water, which was known to muddle thought. They might have been joking, but their faces and tone were serious. Viper could not know what, but better safe than sorry. They reached home quickly on a high night breeze, and he volunteered for the guard position while Coyote slept in.
No dragon would get his brother. Ever.
The sun was high in the air. Viper was prowling the dunes, partway buried. He searched around the barren land, probing his claws in the smooth sand. Prey was hung over his shoulder, and his hunt was thankfully plentiful. He did not worry about going hungry or getting lost since he always knew the way back.
Viper sensed prey over the next hill and sank completely into the ground. A large camel or horse of some kind was grazing on a small shrub. The SandWing carefully shifted forward, just as Coyote said. He was just underneath the creature's feet when he finally struck.
Viper lugged the huge animal partway through the desert. He stopped to rest for a minute. Viper looked in the way of the setting sun. Home was that way. He continued pulling the heavy prey along. It was night by the time he made it there. Coyote welcomed him with open arms and helped his brother properly butcher the animals. They had quite a feast that night.
The next day he went for guard duty. He stayed, digging out more in the two's cramped hole. They were getting bigger, so excavations needed to be done daily. Coyote came back with a few rabbits and a large snake. It didn't matter. They had plenty from yesterday.
It was perfect, really, for any SandWing.
Then it all went wrong.
It started a few days after the previous events. Viper was out late catching an especially stubborn bull that was roaming the desert. He had dragged it for a long time for this creature was even heavier than the camel. When the sun had set and the stars shown bright in the clear night sky, their small cave house appeared. Viper was relieved. He had spent too long out the area.
Viper got inside in a hurry. "Finally," he breathed. "That seemed like forever!"
"Come on, brother, let's eat," Coyote smiled. They both were famished, and quickly finished the bull. Oh, how it tasted so good.
After their meal, Viper had a clinging feeling to go back out again. Something called him. So he did.
When he finished playing in the relaxing sand. The warm touch made it very soothing indeed. Then Viper got back up again to explore. He might as well map out the south-eastern section of their unofficial territory.
He walked for a while, when suddenly he tripped over a rough piece of rock. When he looked back, he noticed that the cause of his trip was a tail of some sort. Not any tail, but a Sandwing's.
This was strange. A SandWing this far out of civilization? He assumed that he and his brother were the only dragons to dare stay this far from an oasis. Maybe he was just feeling a bit of rock or something.
Then suddenly the sand erupted and a dragon lept at him. His eyes gleamed and his teeth glowed with the promise of fire. Viper yelped and ran for it, but the dragon was on top of him. His claws slashed at the dragonet's shoulders and he shouted something that he couldn't understand.
The SandWing's neck lunged for his throat until Coyote barreled into him. "What do you think you're doing with my brother?" he yelled at the dragon, anger positively burning on his scales.
"I was trying to sleep and this not-very-smart pest scratched his dirty talons on me!" He roared right back at him, black eyes gleaming.
"Well that's no reason to scar Viper!" He growled, and began to push Viper away from him. He was glad Coyote was a caring brother. But something clung on to him. A deep tug of what he would later realize was fury. He didn't like this dragon at all for hating him so quickly.
A purpose. He had something within him that wouldn't dissipate the next day. He needed to make sure that this dragon got what he deserved. The dragon's voice snapped him back to reality.
"Take him to Crust," the SandWing said. "Then Crust'll show him some true skills. I can tell he is special."
Coyote hissed at him, anger burning below his scales and muscles bunched up to fight. "Never. You cannot take away my only brother."
"Really?" The SandWing asked, unconvinced, and then lunged at the older dragonet. He struck him and sliced his face open with his barb. Coyote screamed, clutched his face, and fell. The scratch was stained with poison, which bubbled slightly and ate away at the Sandwing's scales. Viper ran to him in anguish.
"Coyote!" He cried and nudged his brother's head. He opened his eyes, and looked at him kindly. One of them was severely damaged, and it closed up again.
"Good bye... Little snake.." Coyote whispered and closed his eyes. He did not open them. Viper howled and clutched his brother's claws, trying to keep the dragon with him, in this world.
"Well then... That's that." the SandWing smiled. Viper looked at him throuh a film of tears.
"How could you do that? Without caring? How can you.." He stumbled. "How can you kill with such lack of remorse?" Viper collapsed in the sand beside his brother.
"That is what he is here for," the dragon muttered, and picked the little dragonet up by the neck. The dragonet hung there like a pice of dead prey.
His life was to be nothing without Coyote. On top of that, he was going to be taught to kill.
He was going to Crust now.
Crust looked up at him, his dark eyes glittering. "Welcome, SandWing..." He hissed.
The other SandWing bowed respectfully and flew off. The cavern that Viper had been dumped in was dark and cold... Strange for a desert.
The SandWing, Crust, paced back and front in front of the little dragonet. "I knew you before you came to me... Yes.. I knew there was something different about you." He put a long claw on Viper's shoulder and traced one of the stripes. "These are the marks of standing out.. You have a gift." Crust looked at Viper hard. "Now tell me, Viper. What is your gift?"
Viper struggled from his claws. "I know nothing! Leave me alone!" He shouted at him. Crust looked at him with amusement in his cold, black eyes.
"I guess that if you won't do it the easy way, you're going to have to do it the hard way." He suddenly took off, and left Viper alone. He stood on the sand, panting slightly.
Then a large rumbling noise from the shadows of the cavern alerted him. He stood, looking towards the noise, when suddenly a MudWing burst from the depths. It was fully grown, and it hissed a bolt of fire at him. Viper went into overdrive, using everything Coyote had taught him. Dodge, strike, hit with the barb, fire. But the large, well armored MudWing overcame him and knocked him to the ground.
Viper whimpered slightly, knowing he was done for. nothing can beat the strength of a Mudwing. Then, the same tug of fury hit his gut and he roared. A column of flame erupted from his mouth, but it didn't look like normal fire. A green tinge at the end flickered dangerously and baked the MudWing's face.
It smirked, knowing it was fireproof and therefor invulnerable, but suddenly convulsed. Viper scurried away, feeling hollow about the amount of emotion he just let loose in a single moment. The MudWing scratched it's face wildly, trying to get something off.
The scales were steadily turning a sick green.
It roared at Viper one more time, and fell over. The burn that had strangely formed on it's face pulsed slightly. The MudWing's eyes closed. It's breathing was getting lighter until it completely ceased. Viper looked at the dead dragon for a while before feeling talons on his shoulder. He didn't bother to turn around.
"So that's it. Welcome to the party, Viper." Crust growled with a pleased look on his face.
"What do you want with me?" Viper hissed. "Oh, please, Viper, your name says it all. You're a viper. The deadly snake." "Am not!" Viper cried. Crust thought he was vengeful! But then... he started feeling something. Like he had jumped into a fire. He looked back at the MudWing. I'm a monster, he thought. No! I can't be! I wasn't meant to be! When Viper looked at the MudWing, Crust had smiled. Oh, it was an evil smile alright. His obsidian black eyes suddenly turned a bit red in the center. Viper looked back. It was creepy. But that was before he turned again and saw red flames scarring the room. Then he noticed a SkyWing.
"Is this the dragon you were talking about, Crust?" The SkyWing hissed. It flicked his tail to Viper. "I don't want to be a part of anything!" Viper yelped and shrank into the corner. The SkyWing smirked at him. "Pathetic."
"Yeah, he's the one."
Viper looked around for an opening. The dark, cold place he was in had no escape route. The SkyWing lashed at Viper, striking a leg. He yelped in pain. "Please don't kill me!" he cried. The SkyWing seized his chin, and held him close to his head. "Show me your fire, you little rascal." He stroked a claw on his neck. Viper whimpered. He didn't want to kill this dragon, but the taste of venom was too strong in his mouth. The SkyWing held him away just as a burst of fire shot from his mouth. It hit a small desert rat that was scampering across the wall, and it yelped as it quickly died. "Heh. So he does have potential." The SkyWing pulled out a small bag. "He better be ready for her when I come back, Crust." He held out a few diamonds and a nugget of gold. Crust accepted them, and shook talons. "Don't worry, he will be."
The SkyWing took off quickly, and Viper curled in the sand. He shuddered uncontrollably from what he did. The putrid smell of the MudWing's rotting poisoned skin hit him hard, causing his snout to curl. He almost wanted to run from the cave. But if he did, then he might kill someone. His fire was dangerous, and no doubt someone might anger him enough. He didn't want to be forced in a situation. In the back of Viper's mind, he remembered what the dragon said. He better be ready for her, echoed inside his head. The dragon they were talking about better not be nice if he was to be a killer for her.
"Attack me!" Crust howled. Viper clumsily shook himself out of a daydream and tried to hit him with his claws or his tail. In the end, he completely missed his mentor, and tripped on his claws into the sand. Crust growled menacingly. "We are done here, for now. Come on." He swung his barbed tail, jolting Viper awake. He scrambled to his claws and followed his mentor.
"What are you, a Rainwing?" Crust hissed. Viper personally didn't know what a Rainwing would do if a quarter of a ton of muscle, venom, and anger leaped at it. Maybe they had special powers, and could do what he dreaded doing. Crust threw a frightened, still alive fox at his face and Viper barely had time to catch it. "Why is it still alive?" He asked his mentor. Crust growled at him. "So you can kill it, you moron!" He flicked his barbed tail at the fox, which was wriggling desperately in his claws. I'm sorry... There is no other way. It's better than being eaten alive or burning with my fire... He slashed his claws on the fox and it died quickly. Viper gagged as blood pooled around his talons. He dropped it. "You know what, I'm not hungry." Crust looked at him, annoyed. "You really want to be difficult, don't you?" He leaped on Viper's chest and splayed his claws. They flushed black suddenly, and the Sandwing smiled. "Do you know what this is?" He held up a claw and a single drop of greenish liquid oozed out. It landed on Viper's scales and hissed, shriveling up one scale before disappearing. "Venom..." Crust nodded. "Exactly. And unless you want this in your neck," he held up the claw again. "You will do exactly what I tell you to do." Viper gulped, and nodded.
Viper slashed out at Crust, again missing. The Sandwing was studying his claws, moving every so often so he wouldn't be hit. Three moons, can't I hit him once? He bunched up his legs and launched himself. He noticed that Crust looked up before he jumped, and moved out of the way when he saw which way he was going. Then I'll have to outsmart him. He prepared himself, and pointed straight at Crust. Then, while he knew he was watching, he shifted himself to the left a little to make it appear that he was going from that direction. When he sprang, as he expected, Crust leaped to the right. Viper opened his wings and dove towards the right, intercepting the large dragon in his tracks. He whipped his tail around above him and stared at Crust threateningly. The larger Sandwing chuckled. "Finally. You are actually of some use now." He laughed and knocked Viper off. Now the Sandwing was paying attention. "We have a few... Guests... To help you with your fire today." He whipped his tail to a blotch in the sky. It looked like a large group of dragons, some restraining others. "Go inside," Crust barked and pushed him towards the sand cave.
Viper sent out a small burst of flame, which melted the sand into glass and hardened quickly. Viper picked it up, and studied the clear surface. He dropped it into the sand and looked back to the entrance. It has been almost fifteen minutes since Crust had sent him in. "Can I come out now?" He asked, walking towards the hole. "Almost," was the reply.
He shrank back to the shadows, waiting for them to come back down with some new horror.
They did. Another SandWing, thick with chains, was dragged down to the cave. He looked at Viper, and a spark of hope came back to his eyes.
He knows I am small, and weak, and doesn't want to fight. He realized, knowing all of that is true. He could feel his fire hiss slightly in his throat, not wanting to be forced.
"Kill him, and you go free," Crust directed to the opposing dragon.
"Claws up, teeth ready, fight!" The Skywing that had helped hold the Sandwing down called and let go of the chains.
The Sandwing barreled towards him, claws out and tail up. Viper rolled out of the way, diving into the sand to hide himself. The enemy stopped for a second, looking around, before being attacked from behind by a small dragonet.
He struck his tail into the base of the other dragon's neck, pulling it out quickly. He rolled to the ground and quickly scurried into the shadows while he awaited the counter-attack.
It never came.
The dragon fell to the ground, blood gurgling from his mouth. He clawed at it and shrieked for a minute before ceasing all breathing. His chest stopped heaving, and his eyes stopped blinking.
The Mudwing that had accompanied them nodded to Crust, who looked at Viper proudly. "He will do."
A large, muscular Sandwing stood on the horizon. He stared into the sun, absorbing it's early morning rays.
Another one, even larger than the first, came up and narrowed his eyes.
"What are you doing?" He growled. The first one looked at him.
"Does it matter? I'm enjoying the daylight." He flicked his barbed tail and turned back to the sunrise. The larger one muttered something and disappeared back in the sand den, stained by blood and battered by many fights.
It has been almost three years since his first fights. He has grown strong, his fire burning with that of anger and fear, his claws caked over with the blood of his enemies. And still the Skywing hasn't come yet. He had a feeling that one of these days... One of these days very soon he would be sent to her.
Crust came back. "You have someone to talk to," he murmured. Viper looked over his shoulder, to see an orange shape emerging from their den.
Speak of the devil, he thought and walked slowly towards the dragon waiting.
"Hello," she said smoothly, nodding to him. The Sandwing shifted uncertainly on his claws.
"Umm... Hi..." He didn't meet her eye. The dragon smirked, and started laughing.
"I thought you were serious, Crust! Don't tell me this is some sort of joke! I came half way across Pyrrhia to see this baby again?"
Crust batted Viper harshly with his claws, sending a shock through his body. Over the years he had built up an immunity to the toxin, but it still caused some sort of reaction. "Go on," he growled. "Show her."
All the sudden, a dragon was dragged out into the open. A Rainwing, and a small one at that.
When it saw Viper, the little dragon turned frightened colors of white, red, and pale green.
Colors aren't going to save you now, little buddy, Viper thought sadly. He looked back at Crust. "He's innocent. I have nothing against him."
The dragon growled menacingly. "You better do it right now, or I swear Viper..."
His head dropped, and he looked back at the Rainwing. By this point the dragon was desperately trying to calm it's nerves and turn a solid pale yellow, like the sand beneath him. It wasn't working.
The Sandwing laid his claws on the Rainwing, not enough to actually hurt him, but enough to get his attention. It was a strange texture, warm yet glossy, smooth yet soft. Viper could almost feel the colors, vibrant and pulsing, under the scales.
"Listen, I know this will hurt, but don't fight it unless you want to talk to him," he nodded sharply to Crust, who was sharpening his claws on a stone.
The Rainwing's scales blanked a solid green. "No... Please...." It tried to wriggle out of his grasp, but he held tightly.
Good bye, Rainwing. You were never meant to be in the desert anyway, and with that, he sent out a jet of fire and the small dragon died in his claws.
He dropped the crumpled figure with disgust, and looked back at the Skywing. He hated every kill he made, every time that Crust demanded Viper to finish fights that he had started.
She nodded slightly, and flicked her tail. "We can go and talk with her, she will be impressed by his poison. Who knows, he actually might be recruited." She looked at Crust. "You always manage to get the right ones, it's hard to find ones like him in the Sky Kingdom." She waved her wings, and lifted off.
Crust nodded to Viper. "We will go tonight. Go and get ready."
The Sandwing was dazed. But where? He was shooed into the sandstone cave, and began gathering his few belongings he had managed to find along the years.
Viper landed softly along a cliff side, looking for the dragon he was supposed to meet. It was stormy out, and he couldn't see much in front of him. He shivered profusely from the rain and the cold, biting into his scales and making him sick to his stomach.
"Ummm... Hello?" He called out, his voice thin and shrill from seasickness, exhaustion, and fear.
All the sudden, a Mudwing melted out of the shadows. How such a bulky dragon could manage to do this, he didn't know.
"From Crust, eh?" He growled, inspecting the Sandwing that was half his size.
Viper nodded, shrinking under his gaze. The Mudwing shrugged, and stepped aside. A large hole was behind him, and Viper took a tentative step forward.
"Move!" The Mudwing barked, and he ran into the darkness.
A large boulder was rolled over the entrance as soon as he was in, and the room fell into shadows. Viper blew out a little burst of flame, casting a haunting green glow over the interior of the cave.
I don't know where I am, and who I am going to, he thought, and darted forward a little more. He ran into rock, and crumpled against the ground. When he got up again, he noticed that there was a notch in the boulder that he had slammed into, and pulled against it.
It swung open, silently and smoothly.
And inside, two dozen dragons stared at him. Viper stopped, his eyes widening. There were Skywings, Mudwings, Sandwings, and Icewings, all mingling, talking, eating.
What was this? Two sides of the war, together? Was there something going on with Burn and Blaze? An alliance?
A Sandwing came up, looking at him. "Are you from Crust? Are you the newbie he has been boasting about?"
Viper nodded slightly, noticing the long scars along his wings and the hints of blood on his claws.
"What is this place? Who are you? Why is there both Blaze's side and Burn's side here?" He looked around desperately for a friendly face. None of them looked very nice.
Then the Sandwing burst into laughter. "Welcome to the club!" He shouted, and the dragons went back to whatever they were doing before. Viper deflated.
The Sandwing smiled at him. "I'm Ray. I was once Crust's apprentice. Don't worry, we know his training."
He held up his tail, which was ridged along the side. "Can cut through like claws and inject poison. They once thought I was an Icewing with this thing," he laughed again. Viper could feel the tension snap with the laugh. It reminded him... It reminded him of Coyote.
"So, what's your gift?" He asked. "Everyone that goes under Crust's training has some sort of gift, which makes us stand out to him."
Viper hesitantly opened his mouth and shot out a little fire. Ray's eyes widened, and the reflection of the green light was in them.
"Wow, that's really something. What does it do?" This dragon had to be twice his age, yet his curiosity made him sound like a two year old dragonet wondering about where the sun goes in the nighttime.
"Poisons," he muttered, looking up at Ray. "Where am I? Why am I here?"
Ray nods a little. "Yeah, Crust has a tendency to leave out important things, like where he would be dropping us off or even what territory we are in. I personally think he is really forgetful, and that is why he doesn't even tell us.
"Alright. We are in the Sky kingdom. This was set up by the Queen herself, both Burn and Scarlet. Blaze agreed to send in Icewings, and it's a sort of mini alliance. We are here to get rid of Blister. And while we are at it, maybe Coral as well. All of the dragons here were set up for this job, to get rid of her once and for all. Both of the other sisters never trusted her anyway.
I'll introduce you around. There are a few ones around here nearer to your age. Maybe you could get to know them better, as sometime you might team up with them on a mission."
Ray waved his serrated tail. "Come on."
Viper followed, looking around at the other dragons. He didn't see them as random strangers anymore, but rather teammates, those to look up to and hope that someday you would work with.
Was this his true destiny? Was he born with this poison ability to stop the war? To finish it before someone else messes it up?
"And this is Dust! He is practically my brother, since he was the apprentice to Crust after us. He has this sort of problem with his scales, that makes them warmer than normal. He can live with Flamewings if he wanted to!" Ray's lemon yellow eyes lit up and he waved to a dusty yellow Sandwing. "Come on, there are two more that I want to show you to."
Over the last hour or so, he had been introduced to everyone in the room. They all seemed friendly, but underneath he could tell that they had some kind of darkness beneath the scales.
They suddenly bumped into a large, white shape. An Icewing looked over her shoulder, her eyes darting from Ray to Viper. She nodded. "Who is this?"
"His name's Viper. Comes from Crust," Ray nodded. Viper noticed a smaller blue shape that was chatting with a Skywing.
"Introduce yourself, he doesn't know anyone here."
The Icewing took a deep breath, then shook Viper's claws. "My name is Cyro, master of the tundra." She smiled, a sinister looking smile. "This is my apprentice."
She nudged the blue dragon, who turned around sharply. "Oh... Hey.." He put up a claw. Viper saw a slightly cruel light dance in his eyes. "I'm Chill." He nodded to Viper, and turned back to his friends.
"He is a very talented fighter," Cyro nodded. "He has a brother, named Hail, but sadly we couldn't recruit him as well as his brother."
Ray tapped a claw on the table, and faced Cyro. The two dragons began chatting, and Viper slipped into the crowd.
He had his suspicions of Chill, but he was the closest dragon to his age. He had to find out more of him.
The Sandwing perked up his ears, droned out the rest of the chatter, and tried to pick up the high tones of an Icewing talking casually to a Skywing more than twice his age.
"...I heard I'm going in a few days! I wonder who my partner will be... Obviously I would be best candidate for leader..."
"How so? Where will you be going?" The low, raspy voice of the Skywing reached his ears as well.
"Seawings. They have managed to pinpoint a location that seems off. Like it's.... Wrong.. Or something. We are going to check it out. Who knows, we might have just found the palace beneath our claws!"
"Who's going with you? Will it be just another one, or a full crew?"
"Oh, it'll be just a two-dragon operation. Nothing drastic."
Their loud chatter faded to a softer whisper as the details were exchanged.
Wait... They would go to the Seawings? He shuddered at that. His scales would completely over hydrate, and he would be sent into some kind of shock if he were to be around the moisture for so long. Other Sandwings are a bit better at handling this, but he seemed to overreact.
He tugged on Ray's wing. He decided that he would be the first one to go to when he had questions. The Sandwing turned around, and noticed him. "Yes?"
"Can you explain better? What are we doing here?"
Ray sighed, and waved off Cyro. "As I said before, this is a semi-alliance between Burn and Blaze. Only the best of the tribes come here. The ones with the best fighting skills, the ones that are the most intelligent, that sort of stuff. We desire to find and assassinate Blister, the second sister. That way, the war will end easier, and the Seawings will be spared of any more casualties. It's a win-win. That way, Blaze can co-rule with Burn, since together they would be better than Blister anyway.
"Every so often, we send out scouts to see the situation and the location of Blister. If we find the Seawing palace, we find her." He finished.
Viper let this sink in. "When will I be sent out?"
Ray shrugged. "Who knows? A few weeks, a month, tomorrow... Never mind about the last one. Someone else is going that day."
He nodded, and ventured another question. "How will I know when I'm going?"
"Oh, one of the leaders will send you. And believe me, you will know when this is happening. Why don't you head off? The caverns are very extensive. I'm sure you will find an empty cavern. If you don't, I can help you with that."
Viper turned, and squeezed his way through the crowd. Once he made it out of the main hall, he saw that the tunnels off to the sides went on for miles, going down and down, twisting around. It was as if an army of Geodewings made this, from the intricacy of it.
When he managed to find an empty, unoccupied chamber, he crashed on the grassy floor, lit a small fire in the log pile in the corner, and fell off to sleep. He didn't wake till morning, opening his eyes to see a red Skywing, staring at him.
Viper yelled and shot towards the wall. When his fright calmed down, he dropped back down and looked at the Skywing.
She was young, maybe a few years older than him, but she held an air of authority. Her piercing orange eyes drilled into his, as if she was scanning him.
"Hello, Viper. I heard you were new?" She asked, a tinge of Skywing accent in her voice. It made her sound like every word whistled.
"Umm... Yeah. What are you doing here?" He asked, still on edge from his earlier scare.
The red Skywing laughed a little. "Oh, I was just here to summon you. A few dragons want to talk with you." She smiled again. "The name's Ruby. Eldest daughter of the queen Scarlet herself. She wants to talk with you."
In a small whisper, she added on: "just be glad she didn't send Vermillion, the show off."
Viper nodded slowly, getting to his claws. "Where are we going?"
"The deepest caverns. Don't worry, the dragons that go down there usually come back..." She burst into laughter, and flicked her tail. Ruby disappeared down the tunnel.
Viper followed her slowly, reluctant to leave his warm cave.
A lithe Skywing waited in the darkness, her yellow eyes shining in the almost complete darkness. She watched a young Sandwing come in, being led by her daughter Ruby. Then she saw Vermillion, her oldest son, leading in another dragon.
"Hello!" She bellowed to the four dragons.
The Sandwing raised a claw tentatively, while the Icewing stayed in the darkness. He stared out, cold and calculated, at the Sandwing.
She raised her wings. "I have called you two here today to offer you something. A job, of sorts. Choose to accept it, and you will be rewarded handsomely."
She raised a large ingot of solid platinum. Both of the dragon's eyes widened, and the dragon knew she had won them over.
"Chill of the Icewings, do you accept?"
Chill? Viper recognized that name. He had met that dragon earlier, and had eaves-dropped on him and his friend while they talked of a mission. Was this the mission?
The Icewing shot a good, long look at Viper, and stepped forward into the light. His light blue scales sparkled marvelously in the light.
"I do," he said proudly, his eyes following the ingot.
"Viper of the Sandwings, do you accept?"
He hesitated. The Sandwing didn't like the look on Chill's face, the one that said that he would go any measures for the reward, even if it meant knocking out the competition. However, he had to know what it was like here.
"I.... I do." He said finally.
The Skywing clapped her claws together. "Then you shall go later tonight. Be ready by then."
Ruby came back towards Viper. "You will have a bag supplied to you so that you won't lose anything you find. It will have medications in case you run into enemy dragons, food, water, and a map. Until then, you will have to clean up your sleeping area and get ready to move out. Do you understand?"
She talked rather fast, and Viper was amazed he was able to remember all the details she just told him. "Yes."
"Alright. You will leave as soon as the third moon touches the horizon. If you are not out there by then, you will have been assumed to have dropped out from the mission, and thus the operation will be considered a failure. Do you understand?"
"Alright. You better pray to the three moons above that you make it back alive. This war is active, and it's hungry for more death."
"... I...I understand."
Viper waited on a steep cliff edge, staring at the two moons rising and the ivory blur just below the surface.
He had been waiting for over half an hour now, and Chill had still not made an appearance. Did he give up?
Just in time to answer this question, a blue dragon walked out of the tunnel, and the Mudwing closes it again. He looked right to left, and saw Viper. "Well look who's here! Determined, aren't you?"
Viper just sighed. "Yes. This is my first one, so I want it to go perfectly. Lets check the map now."
He unfurled a large piece of paper, checking it. It showed the location of the hideout, of the tribes in Pyrrhia, and most importantly where they were supposed to go."
It was southeast of here, just below the Mudwing kingdom and a little ways away from the Seawing kingdom. Probably along the border, if he were to guess. Viper let it snap closed again, and turned to the direction of the distant Mudwings. "Alright, lets go."
"Now?" Chill whined a little. He shut up when a curl of fire came from Viper's snout.
"Why not?" He asked, and took to the air.
Chill joined him shortly after, muttering about death threats.
"So it says that the place we are supposed to find is on a little island along the border of the Seawings and the Mudwings. I'd have to guess that we will get to it by tomorrow evening."
Chill rolled his eyes. "Can't we go faster?"
Viper shot a look at him. "Unless you are a Skywing, then no."
They flew on through the darkness in silence. He could hear activity on the ground, the wind rustling through the hills. When Viper looked around him, he saw how much trees, how much life there was.
So much different from the sand kingdom! he thought. The Sandwing wondered about what the Ice kingdom looked like.
"Where did you grow up?" He asked Chill finally.
The larger dragon was silent for a while. "The tip of the Icewing kingdom, where it meets the sea. It was very nice there.. Except the fact that I lived in a war zone. Both my mother and father were taken by war, and I only had my younger brother."
Viper perked up an ear. This sounded a lot like his childhood.
"Though, he was a pain. Too curious, yet didn't want to go with me to do the things I wanted to do. Finally, I disowned him and met Cyro. She was the greatest teacher anyone could ever have." At this he stared fondly into the distance.
Viper nodded slowly. "Do you still see your brother?"
"No, and I don't want to anyway," he growled.
Again, the Sandwing nodded. "I once had a brother as well. He is dead now, but I miss him every day."
Suddenly, he was knocked out of the air. Viper landed hard on a tree branch, with Chill holding him down.
"You're soft! Why did I have to be assigned with you?" He pressed down on Viper's neck. "You're going to get us both killed if you don't change the attitude! This is our life, don't go thinking about the past!"
All the sudden, the claws were gone, and Chill had flown into the air again. After catching his breath, Viper quietly followed.
For several hours there was nothing but dead silence. Viper watched the sun come up slowly, shining his face with it's golden rays.
He saw the Mud kingdom passing beneath him, and was surprised no one had come to attach them. Surely a Sandwing and an Icewing together clearly said that they were on Blaze's side!
They flew on.
Viper landed heavily on the wet ground. Sand clung to his claws, making him feel uncomfortably wet.
"I guess we are here," he said to Chill. The Icewing said nothing, instead beginning to search around for anything suspicious.
He stopped sharply in front of a tree. "Something's wrong," he muttered.
Viper ran quickly over, and the same feeling began burning inside him. "I feel it too..."
The Icewing looked around, but there was nothing to be found. Shadows from the trees above played patterns on the two dragons.
He sighed, and looked to the sky. It was almost night, the first moon appearing from the horizon. "We will have to investigate it in better light. If I use fire, the entire forest would get caught ablaze, and whatever lead we have might be lost."
Chill sighed. "Fine, but you are taking first watch."
It was the middle of night. There was no sound except the wind. Viper looked out into the breeze, thinking.
He had a sinking suspicion that whatever was wrong was near, or even in the trees they had passed. The Sandwing opened his wings, and flew out towards the small grove.
He landed softly into some leaves, and looked around again. Despite what he had said before, he blew a bit of fire.
It illuminated the shadows, and he saw something that without the flame they would have never found.
A small tree stump, inconspicuous among the foliage, had a large hole underneath it. When he got near it, his uneasiness spiked.
This was not supposed to be here. It's... Unnatural.... Too uniformly hidden to be real.
He investigated, and saw that if he were to push the leaves out of the way, and nudge aside some of the dirt, he could fit rather easily into it.
Was it made for something bigger?
He walked forward slowly, every step trembling and seeming to carry a thousand pounds with them.
When he reached the end, he was met with water. Water droplets fell on his snout, tapping away a constant rhythm.
He looked into the gloom. It was glowing blue green and water pooled at the bottom of this small cave-like room.
Then he saw it. At the end of the tunnel, there was a lone Seawing. It wasn't looking at him, thankfully, but it perked up when it heard his breathing. By the time it had turned around, Viper was already long gone, back down the tunnel and out the other side.
I have to tell Chill... I found a tunnel to the Seawing Palace!
"What?!?" Chill exclaimed for perhaps the third time. He couldn't believe what Viper was saying.
"I know! We can go back and tell them all that we found an entrance! That we can go and get them right where they live!" Viper smiled.
"No, you Rainwing. It means that we can go and find all the Seawings ourselves!" Chill laughed, and looked down the tunnel.
Bad idea. There are hundreds of them, and only two of us. He didn't say anything out loud though, as he didn't want him attacking him again.
"Come on! Let's go!" He dove into the tunnel, his light blue scales quickly swallowed up by the darkness. The Sandwing rolled his eyes, and walked in after him. The Icewing needed backup, after all.
When he emerged on the other side, Chill was staring around. "Amazing.." He muttered.
The room, while small, was absolutely startling. It had pearl lining the walls, and the stone was smoothed and soft.
The roof was made of stained glass, and showed a beautiful scene of the ocean. It shown through, illuminating the room with reds, blues, and greens.
"Where is this, do you think?" He asked.
"Who knows? This might just be a regular room or something.." He pointed to the woven kelp in the corner that could function well as a bed. There were a few scrolls lining the walls, and they were reasonably tidy. Viper picked up one laying on the ground. "What if we just take these? They could have tons of information!"
"Orrr... They could be dragonet's story tales. We need a map or something," Chill growled.
They searched through the room, and eventually gave up.
"Why don't we search some more?" He asked. Chill nodded, and pushed on the door in the front of the room.
They emerged at a balcony, overlooking a main hallway.
Seawings of all shades of blue and green bustled around, carrying things or chatting. Viper was amazing how orderly and chaotic this was. If all palaces were like this, then no wonder the queens were so powerful.
"Should we wait for night?" Viper whispered to Chill, though the general rustle was enough to keep them under radar.
"Yeah. They won't be out by then. Though, the fact that we would be in a dragon's room, while they sleep, might be a problem..."
"We can be quiet. Don't worry." Viper was almost sure that he was saying the truth.
"Alright. Tonight. We better go back then, maybe clean up that room so that they don't know we were there."
Two dragons flew out from a balcony, in pitch black, and landed softly on the pearlescent ground. Viper waved a wing, and they ran silently through the hallways.
He pushed a door open, and they saw a room with many pools in it, and letters on the ground. The Sandwing didn't know how to read, but he was pretty sure that the largest one said 'queen'.
They continued on, searching the rooms for anything potentially useful.
"I don't think there is anything here," he said quietly to Chill. Then the Icewing slapped his spiked tail over his snout, and pointed to a door that they didn't look in.
"Wonder what's in there," he said quietly, and pushed it open.
A room filled with scrolls, hanging in bags or perched on shelves, stood before them.
"Wow, interesting." Chill picked up one, and inspected the ink. It was strange, unlike the ink that other tribes make to color their maps. It was slightly green-tinged, and when he rubbed his claws on it, the words didn't smudge like the that of the writings of a sandwing's for examples.
"Well then, I guess we take these and run," Chill nodded.
"Yeah, and then take back the rest of the alliance to conquer the Seawings."
All the sudden, Cill's tail was back over his mouth, and he put up a claw. "Hear that?"
Viper stopped, listening carefully.
Claws. Talons. Speaking.
The Seawings have found them.
The door slammed open, and several green and blue Seawings stomped in. They immediately noticed a Sandwing and an Icewing, sitting in a pile of scrolls. Viper recovered from shock first, dragging Chill with him into the darkness of the library.
No good... This won't do anything... Seawings can see in the dark! He set a scroll aflame to distract them, throwing it behind him. It quickly spread, until a wall of fire separated the two dragons from the Seawings.
They thought they were safe, until the scrolls around them began floating.
A sapphire blue Seawing emerged from the shadows, grinning menacingly. She didn't look any older than Viper, but she was much bigger.
"Don't move, or you will die." A spear from behind began floating, mysteriously, without anything to hold it up. Then another one came, and both were held under their chin's.
Chill backed away quickly, and Viper looked behind him. The flames were dying down, and the Seawings were making their way over.
As soon as they saw the Seawing with the two dragons, the narwhal spears fell, and she caught them deftly in her claws.
"Madame Orca! Why are you here?" A pea green one asked. Orca waved a claw away.
"I was doing some late night reading when these two crashed in here. Can you help me escort them to mother?" She held the spears closer. The Seawings nodded, and grabbed the two invaders.
Well, we are screwed.
"For the last time, who are you?" Queen Coral growled. She glared sharply at the two dragons. If they didn't talk now, she could hand them over to Blister. She had a way to get the answers out of dragons, though she never told her what it was.
"We already told you! I'm Wind, and this is Arid! We didn't mean to end up here!" Chill lied through his teeth.
Wow he is convincing, Viper thought, impressed by his skills.
Coral flicked her tail. "Fine. I'll give these two to Blister," she muttered to Orca, who stood dutifully at the doorway. She nodded, and began untying the chains tying them to the ground.
Once they were up again, Coral pulled them out of the empty room and down the hall to a room full of cells.
"I'll get her. Until then, wait here. If you decide to tell the truth, I might think of letting you free," she said darkly as she shut the thick iron door.
When she left, Chill looked at Viper. "Well then, this day can't officially get any worse."
"Don't say that. That just jinxes us. We will have worse, I can tell," Viper picked at the rust on the door, staring out into space.
He couldn't have been more right.
Blister came a few hours later. "Are these the two?" She stopped at the doorway.
"Yes," Coral muttered, opening it slowly. A large, sleek Sandwing stepped in, looking at Chill, then Viper. When her eyes locked with the other sandwing's, they widened slightly.
"Very interesting. I can all same they are on Blaze's side?"
"Just take them, I need the answers to why they were sneaking around my library in the middle of the night." Coral latched chains quickly to the two dragons, who grimaced a little.
Blister waved a talon. "Alright. I'll see if I can break them." Her obsidian black eyes, similar to Viper's, danced with malice and intelligence.
She pulled the chains, and left with the two dragons.
"Where are we?" Viper muttered quietly, stumbling around. He had a thick blindfold over his eyes, and many chains over his legs. A claw slapped him, perking him up.
"Stop it," Blister's voice growled in his ear. They have been going downhill for a few minutes now, and it was starting to get slippery. Viper struggled to get a grip on the ice under him. From the bumping next to him, he could tell Chill couldn't get traction either.
When he breathed, he thought he could faintly smell smoke and ash. For a second he thought he might have accidentally lit a fire, but then he realized it wasn't the case.
Finally, they reached an opening in the tunnel. Thank goodness, he thought.
Then he inhaled and immediately collapsed, choking.
When the Sandwing awoke again, the blind fold was removed, and the room wasn't as dusty and smoky as before. He also noticed that there were thick cuffs binding his wings and his feet and not allowing him to open his mouth sufficiently enough to blow fire.
Shapes in the shadows muttered things, and Blister suddenly was in his line of sight. She smiled menacingly.
"What was your name? Arid she said?" She asked innocently.
Viper slowly nodded. He couldn't reveal anything to her, because anything could be used against him.
"I don't believe you." All the sudden her tail was on his neck. Even though Sandwings were mostly immune to their own poison, putting it to the neck could be fatal or worse.
"Now tell me the truth. I don't believe you are Arid, and I definitely don't believe you are on Blaze's side."
"I-if you kill me... You don't get any answers.." He whimpered quietly. At this, the older Sandwing lifted her tail, and waved to one of the figures in the darkness.
A black dragon walked forward slowly. A Nightwing! He realized.
The Nightwing looked at the Sandwing. "Of course he is lying, but I can't make out details.." He muttered. Blister narrowed her eyes.
"Are you sure?" She asked. The black dragon nodded.
"At least we got cooperation from the Icewing... He is free now." Blister stared at Viper closely. We turned to the Nightwing, and the other dragons. "Can you leave us alone for a second? I want to see if I can.. Influence.. Him into giving me answers. After that, fire away. You are welcome to do whatever you want to him."
They filed out silently, leaving the two Sandwings in the room. Blister studied Viper, taking in every detail. "Do you know your mother?" She asked finally.
Viper was startled by the question. "N-no.. Not really.." He stopped, thinking about the day that Coyote took him away, so long ago.
"I knew her. She is still alive. And well too, I might add." She looked off into the distance for a second, then shook her head.
"In fact, would you like to know why I know you we not in Blaze's army? Would you like to know how I knew your mother especially?"
Viper was scared to ask. "Why?" He eventually said.
"Because you look just like my sister. And not the loopy one." All the sudden, a sharp pain came from his side. Viper yelped, and looked over to the stab. A sharp needle was in his side. His head began feeling fuzzy, and he lost feeling in all his talons.
"Just think about that, nephew." Blister took out the needle and walked out of the room, leaving Viper.
He didn't stay awake long, and soon he hit the pillar he was tied to, out cold.
Who are you?
A voice echoed in the young SandWing's dreams.
Who are you? Viper wanted to shut it out, but it was everywhere, whispering insessivly.
"Go away.." His somewhat peaceful dreams began shattering, and he saw shadows, arching up above him. He saw the peeks through his self made reality, seeing oily darkness and blood red.
Who are you? The voice whispered again. He looked for it's source, but it seemed as if it came from all around him.
"I don't know.." He truly didn't. Ever since that day, he didn't know what his true fate was. Now this voice was asking him the one thing he didn't know, what he didn't understand.
Tell me, it murmured. Grey to purple shapes all around him whispered things, staring at him.
"I-I don't know.." He whimpered again.
A dragon slammed down on him. "Tell us! We need to know!" It screeched. Viper shrank down, not speaking.
The dragon backed away, and a new one replaced it. "If you don't tell us, we will have to kill you.." It looked almost identical to Orca, the SeaWing, except it was a dark purple. When he didn't respond, she disappeared as well, to be replaced by a grey IceWing. Chill.
"Get up!" He slashed him with his claws, which cut through his scales. Viper winced, his eyes tearing up. A pressure in his head was growing in strength. He could feel it. The IceWing was only making it worse.
"Tell me. I want to know why you aren't speaking," Chill commanded. The SandWing withered under his gaze, but didn't open his mouth. Chill slashed him again, this time over his wings. They ripped, causing an awful shriek to emit from Viper.
All the dragons flickered, and Chill fell. He disappeared.
A pair of SandWings came forward, looking at him forlornly. It was a shadow of Crust and Coyote.
"Get up," Crust's tail whacked him in the leg, and he attempted to get to his claws. He fell twice before getting up.
The voices were still whispering. Tell us about yourself... Please... The pressure in Viper's head was getting stronger. But he couldn't give up.
"Get up!" Crust's voice shouted again. Coyote looked at him, but didn't say anything.
Crust slapped him again, and Viper stared up at his brother. "W-why don't you do something?" He asked, tears beginning to come into his eyes from the pain.
"I don't know you..." Coyote growled, and pulled away.
Crust narrowed his eyes. "Even now, you still persist." He waved his tail to Coyote, in a similar fashion to when he commanded Viper to kill someone he didn't like.
"Go ahead on him," he muttered to him, and stepped away.
Coyote immediately leaped, hitting Viper. He fell under the older dragon's weight, not bothering to fight back. His brother's claws slashed across his face, and he shouted at him.
"You are not one of us! I don't know you! Stop thinking I'm your brother!" He yelled.
Viper felt his eyesight growing light, and his pains stopping. He didn't have much strength left, as the dragon he thought he knew was shaking it out of him.
Coyote stared hard at him. "Do you have anything to say, before I kill you?"
Viper took a deep breath. "No," he said.
The voices were growing more panicked, and the pressure was almost crushing his skull.
Then Coyote raised his tail, and slammed it against his neck.
Before his vision disappeared, he heard two snaps.
Simultaneously, and deadly.
And with that, Viper was gone.
The NightWing was angry. This dragon was harder to break than he thought. If he pushed any harder... He could literally cause him to lose his mind.
Then, when he decided to use the mention of 'Coyote' and 'Crust' from Chill's memories, he knew this would either break him, or lose him.
It had to be one of them, he supposed. It was the latter.
At the exact time that he lost him, Viper woke up, and the chain on his snout snapped. How it could, he didn't know, as it was extremely strong and fireproof as well. Though, he didn't have the time to think about that.
His fire came out in a column, not only straight in his face but infused with toxins and screams as well. The dragon backed away, yelling. Viper pulled his claws out of the bonds easily, and the SandWing was immediately on him.
The NightWing didn't stand a chance. His throat was torn viciously out, and his blood was stained on his pale scales. The last dying struggles quickly faded as his head was ripped off as well.
The dragon sat there in the dragon's remains, the sticky blood on his talons and underbelly. He breathed in the toxin from the air, and another lick of flame came from his mouth.
Another NightWing crashed in, probably hearing the noise, and his fate was the same.
The SandWing heaved and stared down the corridor. Blood had stained his face and talons now, making them a frightening maroon.
He didn't think, for he was in a rage. He didn't speak, for he didn't have to. But he knew who he was.
He was Viper, and he was out for revenge.
A SandWing stood on a cliff edge. Tonight was the night. He would finally get his revenge on everything. On Crust, on the dragon who killed Coyote, on the SeaWings, on his mother... Now he would wreck havoc on the NightWings, the final tribe.
He looked into the wind. He remembered, dimly, in another life, when he had found a hole to the NightWings. Or more like when he was dragged down it before the blindfold was put on him.
Now he had retraced his steps, and he was here. The very same hole, more than fifteen years later.
Viper breathed a breath of fire, lighting the way. This is it. Finally, I can rest peacefully.
He stepped into the tunnel. It's shadows haunted him, but he drove it away with another burst of flame.
Immediately, black eyes fixed on him. The dragons were killed with a swing of his spiked tail.
He looked down the path, seeing more dragons to kill. Insanity and bloodlust danced in his eyes as another dragon fell.
This is all for revenge.. He thought. The smell of death was sweet, and he enjoyed it.
When he finally reached the end of the path, many bodies were behind him. Perfect.. He began searching for the tunnels that lead to the Queen. He wanted her dead before he would be content.
All the sudden, everything turned. Tens of guards spilt into the tight hallway, and he was quickly gagged and chained up before he could think.
The NightWings were dead silent, but he could feel the unease and fear in the air. They knew about the ones I killed, he thought.
At this, they went stiffer. Viper almost laughed. They were reading his mind, so anything he thought, they immediately knew.
Hey, NightWings. Like what I did to your buddies back there? He thought, before closing his mental barriers.
At least they couldn't break him twice. They couldn't do anything to him.
He was marched down to a room with a large door, and a label across it.
It was opened, and he was met with pleasantly warm air. A large black NightWing sat in there, staring at Viper as he entered.
"Who is this?" She asked.
Wouldn't we all like to know? The SandWing thought. He looked around the room, at the different dragons. A purple one with green eyes, the indigo-black one, the black one with the same look as the adult, all staring at him.
Instinctively, he knew he hated them. Either he was going to kill them, or they were going to him. He didn't care which.
He would get his revenge, some way or another, over all the NightWings. And finally, he would die.
(Thinking of better endings... This) might be a temporary epilogue.