It felt like long lances of pain were withdrawn from his head, there was a moment of confusion, then Tanfardi recognized where he was and remembered what he was doing. He scooped the small boat out of the water and looked it over. Its race downriver had not caused any harm to the small craft. He smiled, pleased that his little creation had successfully traversed the rough waters.
He looked around for his father and did not see him. Across the retaining pool he did see his Aunt Geshenni, though he had troubles remembering who she was or why she seemed so fascinated with him. There was an oddity there that his mind shied away from. He returned his attention to the boat.
His father came up behind him and rested a hand on his shoulder, “Well done Tanfardi. Now, let’s try it again. This time though, I want you to shape the water so that the boat does not hit any of the rocks coming down to the pool. Do you think you can do that?”
Tanfardi nodded, “Yes, father. That’s easy.”
His father laughed, “Is it now? Alright, let’s go.”
Tanfardi took his father’s hand as they walked up the edge of the river. Aunt Geshenni followed along on the opposite bank, keeping and eye on them. He really wished she was not here, he did not like his aunt. She seemed out of place. Why had she come with them?
Father stopped where is was easy to access the river and Tanfardi carefully stepped down into the shallows, he placed the small boat into the water. Before letting go, he stilled his mind and concentrated on the keys of the water element. Once he had laid the key on the boat he released the tiny vessel, stepping back. The small craft scooted downriver. He kept an eye on it, using the water under the craft he shifted it away from the rocks, guiding it towards the retaining pool. When the voyage was done and the craft had made the voyage without touching any of the protruding rocks he beamed with pride, looking up to his father.
“Good, son. Your key was simple and your control was excellent.” Together they walked back down to the pool, the little boat bobbed in the water. Across the river his aunt kept pace with them, even though that bank was much steeper.
“Why is Aunt Geshenni here?”
His father looked over to where the woman moved along the bank. His brow furrowed ever so briefly, though he said nothing. He took Tanfardi’s hand and when they arrived at the pool he scooped the small craft from the water. After inspecting the boat his father crouched down by him, brushed his hair from his face and passed him the toy.
“Tanfardi? Do you remember what I told you about the Denzi Vulture?”
“Yes, I believe so, father.”
“Good. I think you should review that lesson.”
He was surprised by his father’s suggestion, though he knew such a request would only be made of him if the situation was dire. He thought about the maze of the Denzi and became aware that something was wrong. He looked up at his aunt, she stood across the pool from them, quietly watching. As he continued the maze exercise he realized that his aunt was not who she pretended to be.
In that moment a pair of scaly wings snapped wide from behind her back and his aunt leapt into the air, with a powerful flap of the those wings she bore down on them. “Enough with the tricks!”
Tanfardi came to his senses with a terrible shock. He was pinned to the ground, laying face down, there was a great weight on his back. A large clawed hand grabbed his head and forced his face into the ash covered ground. Sharp lances of pain drove deep into his brain. “You think you can outwit me? Show me where you’ve been hiding. Were there others with you?”
Darkness whorled around him, he shuddered, tried to resist, then his mind fell through a thousand memories.
He looked up from the maze pattern that he had been drawing. He was confused to see his sister come into the common room. She was flushed with excitement, “I’ve passed!”
“The Crucible of Inclusion?”
“What else would I be talking about?” He saw Aunt Geshenni follow her into the room, she moved around the perimeter, watching the siblings interact.
“I don’t know, maybe you had some bad gas.”
“Hardly. Why do you always have to be so glib?”
“Why are you always so serious?”
“Life’s a test little brother, if you succeed then you keep living. If you fail the test you are done, returned to the Infinite Horizon.”
Tanfardi scoffed, “So serious. What will you do now? Are you going to be moving out? Can I have your room?” He drew a few more lines of the maze.
“No. You can not have my room.”
“So you’re staying then?”
“For now. I’m going to be training so I can go down to the colonies.”
“The colonies? Why? I hear the air is barely breathable.”
“Only at sea level, most of our cities are in the mountains. Far from the other races.”
He drew a few more lines, completing the first key of Denzi Vulture and was startled by the thought he had. Distracted he looked up to his sister, “It sounds pretty barbaric down there. Why not train for the Citadel?”
“No, I want to see this world for myself. Mother says it was the first of the living planets.”
“Yeah, yeah. Everyone knows that. But why would you want to go down there and muck around with the primitives who now live there?”
“We’re the ones that caused the fall of the goblin civilization. We were forced to bring our moon here or we would have perished in the sun. When we did that, we destroyed an advanced and refined people, leaving their world to storms that lasted a thousand years. I think we owe it to them to help them regain what they had lost.”
“Strange, I don’t remember you being so altruistic. Are you sure you are not just going down there to be closer to your love?”
She blushed, looked like she was considering punching him and then shrugged, “I’ve grown up. I’m now part of our society. I choose to rectify the damage we caused when we arrived.”
“Hard to do that when you’ll be dead in a few dozen years.”
She frowned and looked down at the paper he was drawing the Denzi pattern on, “Why are you doing that?”
“If I don’t, then I too will die on this moon. A drake has entered my head and I can not let it have me.”
His sister lay down on the floor and became a skeleton, much as she had been for the last few millennia. Aunt Geshenni shrieked from across the room and rushed forward, knocking the table aside. He snatched up the paper he had been drawing on and held the maze before her enraged gaze.
Tanfardi came to his senses as he was hurled into the air. The drake who had captured him roared in rage and fury as he was slammed into a pile of stony debris. He lay stunned.
The dragon came down from above with a snap of its wings. Tanfardi tried to crawl away from between its forelegs but the creature of chaos flipped him over and pinned him in place again, “Your resistance is formidable little one, but tricks on imaginary paper will not fool me. Now. I care not who has died, I want to know who still lives. Show me!”
Swirling darkness dragged at his mind and spikes of pain shocked him.
“Come in for a while, there is something I’d like to teach you.”
“Yes mother.” He rose to his feet and looked down at the pattern he had been drawing on the walkway. He recognized it and then knew why he was here. The lesson his mother had given him. The name.
He turned from the Denzi maze and rushed into the house, “Mother! Are you going to teach me the names of the great drakes?”
A surprised expression crossed her face, “I am. How did you know that?”
“The Denzi Vulture told me.”
She looked a bit shocked, then sat with him at the table, she picked up some papers and showed one to him, “Did you draw this?”
“Yes mother. I’m in grave danger.”
“Well, it is good that you have come in for your lesson then.”
The lesson was long, of the great drakes over one hundred names were known. There was the description of each creature of chaos that went with its name. As she went through the list he listened carefully. Sometimes, from outside of the house he could hear the scratching of large talons against the stone of the building. As his mother neared the end of the long list he became concerned, none of the dragons she had described were like the one that he now faced.
Then she started describing the second to last of the great drakes, the Queen of Drakes, mother of dragons, destroyer of worlds. Her description of the golden scaled, four legged, winged creature was pretty close to what he had seen looming above him. Outside there was a defiant roar, his mother leaned in and whispered the name of the Queen of Dragons. Something crashed into the house, his mother was gone.
Tanfardi opened his eyes, smiled at the creature that assaulted his mind, tapped his depleted reserves of energy and compelled the creature, “Avno Nie Geshenni Naut Taharm, unhand me.”
The dragon was forced from his mind and he was quick to activate the enchantments on his cloak and ring. She reared up on her hind legs and he took that moment to fly away. As he did so he dropped one of the figurines he had collected earlier and activated it.
Had he not squandered so much of his power during the tantrum he had indulged in earlier, he may have been able to strike a lethal blow. However, he had drained his crystals, stones and most of the energy that was within him, he counted himself lucky to have slipped loose of her hold.
A quick glance behind showed that the devourer he had unleashed grappled with the drake. It would not last long, but it had bought him the time to escape. What now?