Chapter 1: Beyond Blood by Shadewrecker

The vast world of Fir provides life to countless peoples, from the wide and windy plains to the barren and frozen tundra. For thousands of years, the Furs and Dragons have been at war, an unrelenting and bloody battle between races. The tale of how this war finally ended begins in a shadowy cave in the Granval Range belonging to a water dragon named Iris. Sitting in front of her was a grey and green egg, laden with scratches and cracks. From the egg came her hatchling son, a similarly colored dragon, which Iris promptly scooped up and cradled. “What should we name him?” she asked her mate, a grey and red scaled flame dragon. “He will be a strong, righteous dragon. Let’s call him.. Arkaeus,” he said. “That’s awful! Can’t you give him a shorter name?” exclaimed the white dragon, frowning. “Hmm… what about ‘Ark,’ for short?” he responded. “Ark? You mean... a vessel?” “Indeed. A vessel of immense power. Your blood mixed with mine... Make sure to take good care of him.” the flame dragon told his wife, entering another room of the cave to retrieve something. “You’re not leaving, are you, Igneus?” asked the water dragon, dividing her attention between her husband and her son. “I am. I can’t stand by idly while more and more of our kind are killed every week... Those furs see us as nothing more than beasts! The dragons out on the field depend on smiths like me. Blacksmiths are the lifeblood of the battlefield, and I am no different, ” The grey dragon gripped his claw in anger, eyes blazing with fury and hatred. “I love you and Ark, more than anything else... There won’t be a day that passes by where I don’t think about you both. Don’t forget that, Iris,” he said, solemnly. “You can’t! You’ll be leaving your son without a father!” she cried, placing her claws on Igneus’ broad shoulders. “I have to do this. I want a safer, happier world for him to grow up in. Leaving Ark without a father is better than leaving him without a future.” The male dragon then handed her a glorious greatsword, one that had been forged by his own claws. “One of my finest pieces. Don’t let it go to waste,” he told her. The only other reminder Ark had of his father was a large, dusty book: a spell tome filled with runic dragon writings. Igneus then took wing and flew out, beyond their home in the Granval Range, and into the black sky. He looked back and reminisced for a moment, before returning to his mission. The water dragon only shed yet more tears, before hugging her hatchling child and coddling him like the only thing she had left.

As the years passed, Ark grew to be an intelligent young boy. He was quick to his studies, even as a toddler, and was always eager to learn something new. Every day, his mother gave him lessons: in math, in reading, and in the dragons’ ancient art of magic. Once Ark’s lesson for the day was complete, Iris went out to hunt for food. On one fateful day, one that seemed to be like any other, she discovered a small creature at the foot of the mountain. Before she could snatch it in her claws, however, Iris found that it wasn’t a beast as she had previously thought, but a dirty, crying fur pup. “A fur…?” she muttered, putting a claw up to her chin. The bloodlust that flowed through her draconic veins surged but was quickly overwhelmed by motherly instinct. “Shh, shh, cease your crying, young one. Everything will be alright,” Iris reassured the young fur. In a startling act of kindness, the water dragon took the pup in, not to eat him, but to take care of him as one of her own. Ark’s face filled with curiosity when his mother returned with the alien creature. “Mama?” he asked, innocently. “What is it, dear?” she responded, smiling proudly. “What’s that?” asked the hatchling, pointing at the pup. Given a closer look, the fur was a folf, half fox and half wolf. His fur was a vibrant orange, matching his bright blue eyes. “I found him on the base of the mountain, alone. I’d like you to treat him like a brother.” “Brother?” questioned Ark, confused at the foreign notion. “Please take care of him, I know he may be different.... but…. I have a feeling that you will come to share a special bond with him.” The fledgling dragon stopped for a moment, the gears in his little mind turning as he processed his mother’s wishes. “Okay, mama!” he exclaimed, hugging his new folf brother with an innocence only a child could have. “Heh he! He’s fluffy!” he continued. “Fluffy! Fluffy!” cheered the folf, delighted with his new ‘name.’ “Why don’t we call him... Pyren,” said Iris, naming him after his fiery orange fur. “Pyren! Pyren!” he repeated adorably, prompting Iris and Ark to giggle at the silly little folf’s mirroring, before the water dragon began to prepare a bath for the dirty Fur. “Waaah!” he cried, as she lifted him up to clean the dirt off of him. “I’m sorry, my dear… Is the water too cold?” she asked the poor thing as he squirmed around, trying to escape the bath. The truth was, the water was just right. It seemed that Pyren just wasn’t too fond of water. Either way, Iris wanted to make sure he was nice and clean before he and her son began to play together, and soon enough, his orange fur was as soft and pristine as could be.

Ark and Pyren grew up together, closer than any true brothers could ever imagine. They laughed, played, and even fought together. As children, they fought with sticks like they were swords, snuck out after dark to play, caught small beasts and experimented with them, and every other thing curious little kids did together. Iris’ homeschooling for Ark carried over to Pyren, and soon enough, they were classmates. By the time they had become preteens, the young folf and dragon had become best of friends. One notable day, they had escaped the gaze of their mother once night had fallen, like they always did. The two perched themselves on a gentle hill, laughing and chasing each other, when Ark had an idea. “See you when you hit the bottom!” he yelled, pushing Pyren down the hill. “AHHHH!” he cried, as Ark laughed. Soon, he too was tumbling down the hill, and now they were both laughing. When Ark and Pyren stopped rolling, they were flat on their backs, gazing at the stars. “The stars are so pretty tonight...” muttered Ark, holding his claw up to the sky, palm spread. “You know, Ark, I hope every day can be like this, always,” said Pyren. Ark smirked, exhaling out his nose with a small chuckle. “What? Can’t I dream? Being out here with my brother is the best thing in the whole world!” exclaimed the folf. The dragon reached his arm around his brother’s neck to comfort him. “I’m with you. Here’s to more days like this,” he said, as they lay and relaxed under the soothing, sparkling sky.

Seeing Pyren and Ark playing together provided Iris with a solemn, yet worried happiness. While she did expect their friendship, even going so far as to encourage it, a bitter notion in her heart reminded her it was a forbidden one. “You two were not meant to be together,” she told them, a sad look on her face. “What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Ark, confused and a little upset. “I suppose I should tell you a story,” she said, grabbing a book off of a shelf she kept in the cave corridor. “Cool!” exclaimed Pyren, obviously excited. “Long ago, before everything you and I know existed, there was nothing but blackness and two radiant entities, ones we would today come to know as deities: the Fur Azalea, and Dragon Razak,” explained Iris, opening the book to a page that showed two divine figures. The illustration painted these gods as colorful and cosmological. Azalea was slim, vulpine, and furred in an array of blues and whites. Razak was bulky and powerful, giving off an air of supremacy, even from the pages of a picture book. “The two gods were opposed in every way they could be. Razak embodied strength, passion, and motivation to take action. Azalea embodied kindness, compassion, and the willingness to act on others’ behalf. Like all of us, they were not without their flaws. Azalea was opinionated and overprotective, while Razak was arrogant and assertive. Their endless bickering led them to create our world in a bid to see whose way was superior,” continued the motherly dragon. “Wow! Is it really all true, mom?” asked an eager young Pyren. Ark rolled his eyes. “Come on, Pyren, you’re really gonna believe in fairy tales?” he chuckled. “Now, now, Ark, this story has been passed down between our peoples for centuries. Who’s to say it isn’t all true? Now, let me continue,” said Iris, breaking up the teasing. “Razak’s children, the dragons, were given extraordinary strength and knowledge over the arcane. Azalea saw this as unfair, and to even the odds, she gifted her children, the furs, each a special power,” she explained, showing the two a page with a fantastical spiral of chaos that represented the creation of the world and the two species. “Do I have a special power?” asked Pyren, curious. Iris smiled. “That’s for you to find yourself, Pyren,” she said. Bringing her claw back to the book, she continued. “The furs and dragons have long been at odds with each other, just as their patron gods were. It’s a miracle you two have grown so close,” the white dragon said. Pyren wrapped an arm around his brother. “I dunno why we have to fight. If dragons are so nice like you and Ark, why don’t we just get along?” he asked. Iris shook her head. “I wish it were only that simple...” she sighed, closing the book.

The days, weeks, and even years flew by, and Ark and Pyren had grown just as much in the passing time. One day in their early teens, they decided to have a little fun. Pyren had dared Ark to infiltrate their mother’s room to see what kind of treasure she kept in there. As they tiptoed through the rocky, claustrophobic hallway, Pyren followed close behind his brother into the forbidden room. There, they saw an enormous sword propped up against the cave wall, one certainly not meant for anyone like them to wield it. Ark noticed a book lying on a table, in front of several gemstones. Its spines were ornately decorated, and its cover was beautifully designed with golden spirals, complete with an emerald fitted in the middle. “What IS this?” he said, with Pyren following close behind, paws on his brother’s shoulder. Ark picked up the tome and opened it. The page lit up with a strange magic, revealing a circle with six glowing points, as well as some writing Ark could not understand. “Whoa…” he mumbled, unable to fathom the power laying in front of his claws. Just as he said that, Iris entered the room, yawning before she got ready for bed. When she opened her eyes, she was greeted by a very embarrassed looking folf and a very guilty looking dragon. “Ark? Pyren?” she said, confused.

After a stern scolding, Ark was gifted the tome and Pyren the sword. Their mother had deemed the time to be right and explained their father’s ownership of them and that he had long since left. “But where did our dad go? And why would he leave us?” asked Ark, curious as to what he had been missing. Iris sighed as faded memories filled her mind. “Your father… wanted to protect you in his own way. He left not long after you hatched to fight for what he believed in…” she explained, holding back tears. Ark frowned, tapping his claw as he thought before being saddled with the massive book. “I know not where your father obtained this tome, but it is a wealth of untold magical knowledge. He and I hoped you would one day master all that was in it,” she told the young dragon, holding her claw out for a demonstration Iris said a few words Ark couldn’t even hope to spell let alone pronounce, and in a flash of lilac light, conjured a beautiful, intricate, purple crystalline staff. “W-wow!” exclaimed Ark. “With practice, your mastery of magic could become far greater than mine and your father’s. I was only a simple healer for most of my life.” Turning the page for Ark, she told him to give the spell a try. Ark attempted to conjure a finely crafted weapon like his mother, orating the same words, albeit with a few mispronunciations. What came out was something that looked more like a stick than a sword. Pyren chuckled, but when Ark gave it a few more tries, he managed to create a simple sword. Ready to spar with Ark, Pyren tried raising his new sword. Even with two paws, he was unable to get any control over his weapon. It fell to the ground with a thud, pulling Pyren with it. “Ngh! This thing is too… heavy!” grunted the folf, dragging the blade through the hard rock floor. Ark turned through the tome and grinned when he reached a certain page. ‘How is this pronounced? Sehree? Sehray? Oh! Sehrey!” Raising the book and stretching out his hand, Ark cast another spell. “Sehrey sigmatum…. plusari timana!” Pyren’s body then suddenly shrunk and became limp, reduced to nothing more than an inanimate plush toy. Iris’s eyes widened. “Incredible! That was quite an advanced spell for someone of your practice, to be able to make your target as helpless as a toy on your first try! You seem to be a natural at transfiguration!” Ark chuckled with embarrassment from the compliment. “D-do you think you think you could change him back?” she asked, once more unsure of her son’s ability. “Umm…” muttered the young dragon, face riddled with newfound worry. Just then, the folf plush popped back to normal, movement and all. He looked around in panic, with Ark and Iris giving a sigh of relief.

Sitting in his cave, Ark flipped through the pages of his tome. He skimmed through complex spells, none of which he could comprehend. Holy destruction, hellfire conjuration, and inanimate transfiguration were all skipped over, until his claw reached the most incredible page he had yet seen. An entire page decorated with an elaborate dance of draconic text. Ark instantly knew what he laid his eyes upon. “Necromancy....” he muttered under his breath. Images of rising corpses caused his stomach to lurch and encouraged him to quickly turn the page. The next page was the map he saw when he first opened the book two years earlier. Since then, he had matured. Ark mastered very basic forms of transfiguration, destruction, conjuration, and even healing, but never could he decipher this page. Suddenly it dawned on him. He dragged his claw from one point to the next. “These glowing points….. They form a pattern!” he exclaimed, excited. His eyes drifted over to a point that was dimmer than the others. He turned the book sideways, trying to understand why this one was different. Ark walked outside and looked at his surroundings. Pyren got up and caught up to his brother. “Whatcha doing?” he asked, curiously. Ark looked down at the page and back up again. His eyes widened. “It’s some sort of map! Our dad…. He must have left us some kind of clue to where he went!” said an ecstatic Ark. “What are you talking about? Something about our dad?” said Pyren, confused. “Pyren, you and I are gonna go out on an adventure together!” said Ark. “A-adventure? Where are we gonna go?” said Pyren. “We’re gonna go find our father,” explained the dragon, placing his claw on his brother’s shoulder stoically.

The two brothers confronted their mother, expressing their desire. “You two.. wish to leave?” muttered Iris, not knowing what to say. “I never got to know him… I just wanna find out who my father really is,” said Ark, gripping his claw passionately. “W-what about you, Pyren?” asked his mother, beginning to tear up. “I made a promise… I’m gonna follow my big brother to the end of the world, no matter what gets in our way!” exclaimed the folf, rubbing up to Ark with brotherly love. “Oh… what is a mother to say? You two… truly want to leave?” asked Iris, tears streaming down her scaly muzzle. Ark and Pyren both knew that their mother still desired their company, but gave quiet nods affirming their wishes. Iris closed her eyes through the tears and wrapped her arms around her children. “If it is what you truly want… then you are free to go where you like. I… I believe that you are strong enough.” Letting go of her two sons, the white-scaled water dragon reached towards her back. Her claw came back with a beautiful sparkling blue gemstone, nothing short of a treasure. “I want you to take this. It’s my prized possession, but a small price to pay to ensure your safety on your journey,” she told them. The dragon and folf nodded once more, with Ark accepting the gem with gratitude. “Be safe. Not all dragons will be as kind to you as your brother and I, Pyren, and the same with furs to you, Arkaeus. The world is a dangerous place. Some will try to harm you, and others will welcome you with open arms. Keep your friends close, and I know you’ll find your father, my children,” Iris said, tearing up again. Pyren looked at Ark and smiled, and the two hugged their mother one last time.

Ark and Pyren bid their goodbyes to their mother, filled with many tears and laughs alike, then they set off, using a map of Fir she had given them as their guide. The two brothers had stopped at a small cliff to plan out their journey. “Okay, if we’re right here, that means the closest one to us is here,” noted Ark, pointing to one of the glowing circles, corresponding to a relatively wooded area called the Neven Forest. “What about this one?” responded Pyren, pointing to another. “To get there, we’d have to cross the rest of the Granval Range,” said Ark. “Couldn’t you just fly us over? You’ve got wings, after all,” suggested Pyren. Ark snickered at the comment. “You really think I want to haul you all the way over those mountains? We’re gonna have to go around them. My plan is that we start from down here and hit each place in order,” stated Ark, pointing to the bottom circle on the map. “We still don’t even know what's at these circles, though! It could be death traps, for all we know!” exclaimed Pyren, cynically. “I highly doubt our father would lead us to these locations only to try and have us killed…” mutteredArk, rolling his eyes. “Hey, I’m only sayin,’ responded Pyren, smiling, and starting to walk. “Oh brother,” Ark mumbled with a soft smile, beginning to follow his brother while scratching his head.

Chapter 1: Beyond Blood

Shadewrecker

26 May 2019 at 10:57:19 MDT

Chapter 1 of Chosen of Fir: Mementos From a Distant Father.

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