Aside from the runes and stone-carved aesthetic, Korvale was just like any other town. That and, of course, the assortment multicolored dragons flying in and out of buildings. “Good goddess, they’re everywhere!” whisper-yelled Kayah. Sidling up to her was Zeke, who was equally impressed. “Wow. That’s… awesome. There’s so many of them….” he said, eyes as wide as he could make them. “There’s no time for gawking! Stay close to the wall and out of the light,” she demanded. The otter nodded and shimmied on along the wall with her. As the two infiltrated the dragon-infested town, they saw all the daily activities dragons did. Some sold potions or groceries in the stony square, others flew in and out, delivering mail, and still others patrolled the perimeter, armed with enormous weapons. The colorful cast of lizards walked, talked and were clothed like any other person. Kayah and Zeke crawled and climbed through the edge of the town in the rainy night, scouting out houses they could quickly slide in and slide out of. “Are you sure you want to do this, Kayah?” asked the otter. “Yes, I’m sure! How could you even ask that?” she exclaimed, with a glare. Zeke looked down at the town below, his paw brushing up against his loved one’s damp shoulder. “I don’t want you to do something you regret,” he said. Kayah growled. “You didn’t have your entire life destroyed. If they can take my parents, I can take whoever the hell I want!” she screeched. Sighing, Zeke trudged on ahead. Kayah had hit a nerve. She still remembered the feeling of waiting. Waiting for days on end for her parents to come back. The only thing that came was a letter notifying her that they wouldn’t be returning. The thought would remain in the back of her mind. House after house passed by without selection. Some had no one in them, and even more were surrounded by pesky onlookers. There couldn’t have been more than fifty in view, the town perhaps having a couple hundred total, given how long dragons lived, but it was enough to be a nuisance to the furs crawling in the periphery. By the time they had made it to the central square, Kayah saw something out of the corner of her eye that worried her. “One of them’s coming, get down!” she whispered. Zeke knew what to do, rapidly dropping on his belly as Kayah did. A lone, green dragon flew overhead, carrying hunk of crumbling rock, luckily failing to notice the two furs panicking on the ground below him. “Whew. That was pretty close…” muttered Zeke, wiping a bit of sweat from his forehead as they continued. Below them was the market they had seen from the entrance. It was as busy as Andea’s was, only this time, goods were airborne instead of cartborne. Past that were a few more no-go’s, and the shining beacon of hope for Kayah. It wasn’t a particularly lonely house, as it was surrounded on both sides, but the cave had just the right signs. A torchlit window near the top above the wooden door, nobody around to see the deed take place, but most importantly, two figures talking rather loudly inside. “That’s it! Let’s go, Zeke,” she exclaimed, ready to pounce. This was her chance! She could see it now, her siblings and her living in a nice apartment in the upper city, free of worry and grief. It was time to take action. It was time to take back what she had lost.
“It’s not my fault! Even Elora and Talys agreed that Professor Hexyl hated me!” shouted a female voice. “Whether or not your teachers disliked you says nothing about your ability to succeed,” responded an older, male voice. The lynx and otter had intruded on a conversation, hiding in the rafters above, planning their point of attack. “I can’t get a good view of them, what about you?” asked Kayah. Zeke ducked a little lower and squinted, trying to see what was going on. “I can’t do it, Gaelen! I’ve tried and tried and tried, and all I seem to do is end up back at square one!” exclaimed the female voice, which Zeke saw belonged to a slim, crimson red dragon. “Your parents believe that you are perfectly able. They wouldn’t have paid as much as they did for you to go to school if they didn’t,” assured the other voice, belonging to a taller, mossy green dragon. The female dragon put her head down on the table she was sitting at. “My parents don’t know what they’re talking about! I don’t want to learn about alchemy, I want to be an illusionist! None of it even matters… school is no place for girls like me. The guys made sure to drill that into me...” she whined, face buried in her arms. As the two dragons argued, Kayah bumped Zeke’s arm with her own. “It looks like they’re pretty distracted right now. Wait for one of them to move to the other side of the room, and take the short one. I’ll deal with the other one,” she explained, unravelling a strand of rope from her pack. The otter was uneasy, his tail tucked away in the rafters and seashell necklace dangling into the sketchy scene below. “You want me to tie her up?” he questioned. The look in Kayah’s eyes said that she meant business. They flared with anger, fury, determination and hope. “If you truly love me, you’ll help me out here,” she said, without a hint of humor. Zeke closed his eyes and nodded, accepting his duty. “It’s impossible… I just can’t handle it, Gaelen,” said the female dragon. “Then we’ll take care of you. Your parents love you very much, that is for certain. As for me, I hope to see you happy, Ayli,” said Gaelen. The red dragon brought her head up and smiled. “Thanks. I might be a dropout, but at least I have you all at my side,” she said. Ayli wiped her tears and stood up, her servant moving to the other side of the room to continue his duties. “If you need me, I’ll be cleaning the dining room,” said Gaelen. Then Kayah leaped into action.
“Gaelen!” cried Ayli, as her friend was jumped by the lynx. Kayah had him by the neck, her blade coyly positioned under his neck. Before she could move, her mouth and arms were restrained by Zeke. “Mmmph!” she screamed, muffled by the otter. “Sorry about this,” he said, wrapping the first length of rope around her arms and wings. The dragon screamed and squirmed while Zeke reluctantly tied her up. In the meantime, her servant wasn’t nearly as lucky. “Any last words, you scaly scum?” asked Kayah, her forearm twitching with bloodlust. “Ayli…. I’m sorry... I couldn’t protect you…” muttered Gaelen. He sighed slowly and calmly before stopping. All the strength in the world wouldn’t stop a slit throat, and that’s what the lynx did. With a swift, smooth slash, Kayah ended the green dragon’s life in a single stroke. “Noooooo!” screamed Ayli, trying in vain to pull herself from Zeke’s grasp as her friend’s body hit the floor. The otter could only wince and exhale as his love drove him to continue his black deed. Kayah stepped over the bleeding carcass before her and took the job from her beloved. “Why… why..?” sobbed Ayli, scared and confused. The cave floor was soaked with blood as Kayah finished gagging her victim. “Alright, she’s restrained. Let’s blow this place,” she said, throwing the hostage up and climbing back into the rafters.
Korvale was still in the midst of a moonlit deluge when Kayah and Zeke exited the home, with rain covering their tracks as they made their escape. As they went past the market, past the homes, and came up on the entrance, it seemed like Kayah was home free. With the dragon girl tied up and hung over her back, and Zeke following close behind, this was the final stretch. All of the signs pointed to this being it. All but her perked up tail and the shine of whitesteel. “Whoa!” shouted the lynx, her hostage dragon slipping out of her paws when she was nearly sliced in two by an unknown sword. “I hope you haven’t forgotten about our little trifle,” said a cold voice coming from behind the two. Approaching the three was Syn, soaked from the storm and grinning menacingly. The rain painted the battlefield a watery grey, but the arctic fox was still as white and graceful as ever. “Tch, back for more, huh?” said Kayah, leaving her captive near the entrance. “So kind of you to go through the trouble of finding a dragon yourself. She’ll be fine enough compensation for the embarrassment you dealt me in our last encounter,” taunted Syn. He began to close in on the lynx, all but ignoring the otter behind her. “I assume you won’t be assisting her, otter?” suggested the assassin, holding his arms up cockily. He had hit the nail on the head. Zeke stared down at his paws, then at Kayah. She… didn’t really do that, did she? Killing someone’s close friend before their very eyes? These dragons… they didn’t seem evil, not at all. What Kayah did…. What Kayah did… What did she do? “I… I can’t. I’m sorry, Kayah,” admitted Zeke. The rain beat down onto his sorrowful back as Syn dove for Kayah, clashing blades with her. “What? What are you talking about, Zeke?” she exclaimed, breaking clash and parrying another strike. The fox was fast, and with her attention divided, he had the upper hand. “I… can’t help you do this anymore. That girl doesn’t deserve this,” said the otter. Kayah gasped, sliding out of the way of a quick cut from her attacker. “I thought we had something!” she shouted. Syn struck her axe on the handle, giving her the opportunity to knock his sword away and slicing him across the shoulder. “The Kayah I loved… isn’t a murderer,” muttered Zeke, slipping away in the rain. “Zeke!” shouted Kayah, as Syn’s sword slid across the ground. Kayah dropped everything and chased after the otter, but he was already too far gone. “What the hell, Zeke…?” she mumbled, gasping for breath in the rain. A sobbing Ayli spit out her gag and desperately tried crawling away, only to be met with a blade of wind centimeters from her face. “Don’t even think about it,” spat Syn, generating another wind-sword to replace his lost blade. Kayah spun around, keen to not let him get away with her prize. “Oh, damn it all…” she muttered, flustered with the loss of her lover. She swung and slashed her blacksteel axe with fury, her anger increasing with each attack. Syn wasn’t impressed, effortlessly parrying and reforming his sword of gusts as it was destroyed. “Like I need that coward to beat you!” shouted the lynx, alternating her swings, up, down, left, and right. When she thought she had the upper paw, Syn threw a curveball. His injured arm drew a fist, then a second sword. The arctic fox’s shoulder bled, but through the pain, he blocked Kayah’s axe in between his own swords. “You and I were cut from the same cloth, lynx,” he told her, drawing her attention away from his attack. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” she cried, grunting as Syn began to push her backwards. “Once upon a time, I too called that miserable underworld my home. I kicked and clawed my way to the top, killing anyone who stood in my way. My resolve was valued by the Guild that I came to know as my true home. But you… you’re unwilling. Ineffectual. I am not so weak as to be defeated by someone as effete as yourself!” he shouted, sliding his two windblades away from Kayah’s axe and sending her towards her demise. “S-shit!” cried the lynx, as she slid off of the cliff. Kayah hung on by the blade of her axe, wedged into the wet rock like a climbing tool. “Perhaps in another world you might have made a good assassin,” said a condescending Syn. Lightning then struck behind the assassin, illuminating his ivory fur and the squirming dragon hung over his shoulder in the rainy moonlight. Kayah could only scowl, her life hanging by a thread. “Eat a dick!” she screamed, watching her one way to save her siblings being snatched by the arctic fox.
Here she was, cold, wet, alone, and hanging off of a cliff with nothing but her axe. “Damn it, damn it, damn it!” she yelled. Kayah was furious. “I need to calm down… I won’t get anywhere if I just keep screaming…” muttered the lynx. Her breathing steadied, her heart rate slowed, but the action wasn’t over yet. Kayah’s axe began to loosen. “Crap… Axe, don’t fail me now…” she said, digging her weapon in further as she slowly slid down the cliff. Korvale wasn’t built on one of Granval’s steeper cliffs, but the fall was still quite a few meters down. With her axe and paws firmly planted in the rocky slope, Kayah slid her way down the mountain. She was safe, but the assassin still had Ayli. “Like hell I’m letting him get away with her!” exclaimed the lynx, cracking her knuckles. The advantage of falling down so far was that she could cut him off. He was heading her way, and she would make sure this was the last night that silver bastard would ever see.
Above her was what looked like a search party. Several dragons were flying up and down the mountains, scanning each nook and cranny. “They must have caught on. Great, just what I needed,” groaned Kayah. The path down lead to a northeastern exit to the mountains, and she figured that’s where the assassin was heading. No one in their right mind would go back into the desert with a hostage. It was only a matter of time before she could ambush him. That was, if she wasn’t caught by the searching dragons. Nearby was a cave, and precariously perched above was a shaky pile of rocks. It was risky, but it was her best hiding place. After entering the cave, it was time to wait. Before long, she spotted Syn, hopping from spire to spire, and sliding in and out of view. “Time to shine,” mumbled Kayah, before sneaking out of the cave. Syn was her prey, and she was ready to pounce. When the lynx jumped, however, she found that it was her who got pounced on. “I found the bastards! Come quick!” shouted a burly yellow dragon who now had Kayah pinned. “Get off of me, you filthy serpent!” she responded, slipping her arms out of his grasp and slashing him across the face. His green and red friends were not too far behind, so she had to act quick. Now she was face to face with Syn once again. “You’ve attracted some unwanted attention, tramp,” he told her in his signature chilling tone. The fox stepped forward and pierced the recoiling yellow dragon through the neck with his reclaimed sword, killing him instantly. Syn’s bloody fury then turned to Kayah. “I don’t give a damn about your Guild, I have two children living in my home, and I’m not about to let them starve!” she exclaimed. “You aren’t a hero, lynx. Nobody is. We all have our own selfish desires. Will is the sole catalyst for progress, and I assure you, mine is stronger than yours,” responded the assassin, making the first slash. His words cut into her, only making Kayah angrier. The twin-signed furs battled through the wind and rain, matching each strike and blow. Sword hit axe, axe hit sword, and both bled all across their bodies. The one armed fox moved like the wind, his sword vibrating with an intense ferocity as it sliced through the air. “You’re too slow. Even with a single arm, I’m able to parry your every move,” he stated, slashing Kayah across the forearm. She had to think of something, or she was dead meat. Suddenly, a rogue idea passed her mind, and a grin spread across her muzzle. Jumping back and spreading her arms out, Kayah focused her energy into her free paw. The wind and rain coalesced around her paw and a second axe, made of nothing but the storm, formed inside of it. “W-what? My own technique?” shouted Syn, flabbergasted. With her newfound power, Kayah took back the fight, overwhelming the silver-haired assassin with nothing but her speed and fury. Her axe of wind crashed into his sword with a staggering power, throwing him back towards the search party. “I’m not losing. Not today. Lyle and Liza need me,” she said, snatching the fallen Ayli’s wing and making a break for the cave. Syn growled and started to pursue, but the search party had caught up to him. The red and green dragons, keen for revenge for their fallen partner, seized the arctic fox. “Unhand me, you lizards!” he shouted, livid with the turn of events. Kayah thought quickly and thrusted her wind-axe towards the precarious rock pile, tipping it over the edge. With a dive and a drag, Kayah threw Ayli and herself into the cave before the boulders fell and the entrance caved in, trapping the two.
“Haaah… haaah… We’re safe…” sputtered the lynx, pulling up her flask to take a swig of water. It was dim, but Kayah could see that she had succeeded at reclaiming her captive. The damp, dark cave they were in was lit only by the cracks in the collapsed rocks. “We’re safe? I’m not safe!” cried Ayli, whose back was thrown up against the rocky wall. The young dragon buried her face in her cherry-colored claws with anguish. “Is this my punishment for dropping out? It is, isn’t it?” she told herself, continuing to sob. Ayli had been dragged through the mountains, away from her home, and thrown through a fight between her kidnapper and another party. By now, she was crippled emotionally. “Hey, how did you get out of your gag?” shouted Kayah. She dashed over to her hostage, paranoid she’d catch the attention of the dragons outside. “N-no, please! I can’t breath with that in my mouth!” exclaimed Ayli, waving her claws as best she could with them tied to her chest. The lynx stopped, skidding on her paws a slight bit in her panic. The red dragon’s turquoise eyes exhumed worry. “Fine. You had better keep quiet, then,” muttered Kayah, crossing her arms and sitting across from her captive. Now that they were trapped together, both girls had a little time to think. Thoughts of Zeke, and what she had done to disappoint him passed the mind of Kayah. He had always been head over heels for her…. and she had just started to fall for him. What right did he have, calling her a murderer? They took everything from her! Why wouldn’t she do whatever it takes to get her life and her family back? Kayah sighed. She missed him. Zeke was a little pushy, but he was warm. He had been her guidance. Across the damp floor of the cave, Ayli also contemplated her situation. This had to have been Razak’s way of punishing her. She had been weak, poorly motivated, and a pushover. The red dragon sighed. She didn’t know what to think anymore. Was her getting kidnapped her fault? Probably not. Did she feel like a failure? Surely. She’d have to figure out something, but with her hands and wings tied, and the bloodthirsty fur on her guard at all times, it didn’t seem likely. The lynx was steadfast and vengeant. “Why are you doing this to me?” Ayli asked her. Kayah glared at the dragon, but said nothing. “I… I haven’t done anything to you! What did I do to deserve this?.” cried Ayli. Looking back towards the light-scattered ceiling, Kayah only scowled. “Why do you care? What does it even matter why you’re here?” she exclaimed, facing the other way. The dragon’s face drooped and she fell silent. Outside, the rain had stopped. Kayah brushed her hair to the side and took a deep breath. What Ayli had said struck a nerve. That, combined with Zeke leaving and what Syn had told her put the lynx on edge. “You aren’t a hero, lynx,” his cold voice told her, rippling through her headspace. “Your parents paid for you to go to school?” she asked Ayli, still looking down. “Y-yeah, but it doesn’t matter…. I dropped out...” muttered the dragon. Kayah spit a wad of saliva across the cave. “I hate people like you. Everything set down in your lap, never having to work for anything… It’s pathetic,” she responded, gritting her teeth. Ayli only sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said. Kayah was taken by surprise. “What?” she exclaimed. “I’m sorry for whatever made you this vengeful. It must have been traumatising,” continued the red dragon. Speechless, Kayah’s muzzle fell open as she was unable to respond. Neither of the girls wanted to break the silence.
Kayah didn’t know what to think. This girl was just kidnapped and she was offering her compassion? “W-why? What does my life matter to you?” she asked. Ayli hesitated to answer. “I don’t know… I’m stuck in this cave, with nowhere to go,” responded the dragon, with a sigh. The drips of water from the rocky cracks slowed, and more light began to pass through. “I just want to know why this is happening to me,” she finished. Kayah turned her head to look at her captive. “My siblings and I live in the slums. I… I just want them to be happy, and bringing back a dragon seemed like a pretty good plan. I’m doing it for them. It’s nothing personal,” she reluctantly explained. Kayah didn’t know why she told Ayli. She hated her kind…. right? Maybe her conscience told her the dragon deserved to know. Whatever. It wasn’t stopping her from getting her reward. Ayli sighed disappointedly. “It sure sounds personal,” she said. Kayah groaned. “Your kind killed my parents and left us to fend for ourselves!” she exclaimed bitterly.. “I didn’t kill your parents! Gaelen didn’t kill your parents…. Nobody I know would even think about doing such a thing,” rebutted Ayli. Her voice and enthusiasm slowed. “Whatever... You might as well take me anyway. At least then, I’ll serve some purpose…” she muttered. Kayah hesitated. She… felt a twinge of remorse. “Alright… let’s get moving…” mumbled the lynx, picking herself up from her rocky perch.
Landalsta’s upper city was a bustling metropolis. The decrepit slums paled in comparison to the majestic capital of the Magistral Empire. Such was to be expected of the largest city in Fir. For children like Lyle and Liza, it was a maze of buildings and people, with openings in all directions, and no clear way out. “Stay close to me, sis,” whispered Lyle, as the two lynxes huddled together in the midst of the crowd. The jingling bag of coins their older sister had left them hung out of the eight-year-old’s paw. “Lyle… it’s scary here… can’t we go home?” whined the younger of the two. Lyle shook his head. “We gotta find the store so we can have dinner tonight!” he exclaimed. Liza sighed. “I miss Kayah….” she mumbled, following her brother through the crowd into the open streets. The plaza was filled with buildings taller than the kids could see, but no sign of a simple store. Lyle held Liza in his arms as they walked, until they suddenly bumped into a stranger when Lyle was looking around. “Oof… I’m sorry, sir, we didn’t mean to run into you,” he apologised. The stranger was a robed fennec fox, who seemed to be on edge. “Oh, my apologies, little ones. I was thinking about something and didn’t think about where I was,” responded the stranger. The fox was Solan, who had left Sunny with a babysitter and came to Landalsta to find out what was going on with his specimen. “I must be going now, take care,” he said, turning his back on the two. “Wait, mister! Could you tell us where the store is around here, pretty please?” asked Liza. Solan turned back and knelt down to her level. “Well, there’s quite a lot of stores around here,” he stated. The fox had been to Landalsta many times, occasionally for business, and occasionally to take Sunny to the annual Bloom Festival. “If it’s groceries you’re looking for, Renais’ is down the street to the left and around the corner,” finished Solan. Liza smiled ecstatically and thanked the robed fennec fox. “Thank you, mister!” she exclaimed. “My pleasure. Be safe, you two,” said Solan, waving. The two lynxes continued on their way to the grocery store, less wary than before, but Solan’s path diverged from there. He was on his way to the Magistral Palace to get to the bottom of this Altyris Project.
Chapter 6 of Chosen of Fir Gaiden: Blood, Bonds, and a Bittersweet Promise.