Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 4c

Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 4c

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Tanfardi had never felt terrified before, not true terror. As he fled the drake he was surprised to find that he seemed to enjoy the sensation. He believed this to be the first time he had ever been in danger of dying, at least as an active participant. His near death so many millennia in the past hardly counted, he had been taken out of that fight before he had even known there was a fight.

He flew through the air at his best speed, once he had passed beyond the area he had blasted with elemental forces he stayed under the canopy of the trees. The drake had already destroyed the devourer he had unleashed and now pursued with incredible swiftness. He had barely made it under the trees ahead of the creature. While the ancient dragon could not do likewise due to its wingspan, it stayed slightly behind him at a higher elevation. Periodically a bolt of energy would crash down from above, shattering trees.

His ring protected him from the blasted debris, though he knew a direct hit would vaporize him in an instant. He flew generally towards home, the trees and periodic attacks often forcing him to veer off a direct course. He still did not have a plan, his only hope was that he would be able to stay ahead of the creature and get into the mountain. Even at that, he was not sure the drake could not just follow him. He suspected that the keys and enchantments that would have prevented such an egress were spent or had been destroyed in the attack that had taken place so many thousands of years ago.

He thought of the two humans that had found and revived him. They would have already awoken, fed themselves, gathered some supplies and should be eagerly awaiting his return, or so his message had instructed them. Sometimes humans did not do the logical thing though, often they were ruled by their baser instincts, a rather unrefined species in his opinion. He wondered if they would be of any use in a confrontation with the dragon. Though he had been unable to identify the sources of her power, the female human had revived him, calling out to her false god as she did so. However that worked, he hoped she could do something more than healing, some meaningful attack or defensive key. That seemed unlikely.

He knew that he would be extremely vulnerable once he left the concealment of the trees, the ascent to his home would leave him exposed. He also knew he could shield himself for a short period from the monster’s elemental attacks. He had another figurine that could be used under the present circumstances, though it would only slow his foe momentarily. He could briefly boost his speed by using a key of haste. His elemental staff was presently his only effective weapon, though only a point blank shot, with all the item’s power, would have much effect. His mind circled back around to the option of trying to contact one of the humans, to give them notice of the closing danger. Perhaps they would flee. Maybe they could actually help. There were other less useful options as well. He doubted that he could marshal any significant amount of energy under the circumstances, and if he were to cast powerful keys he would be burning his own life-force to do so.

He wove through the trees, many moments had passed since the drake’s last elemental blast. It seemed unlikely she would be short of energy. Not only did drakes have vast reserves of power, they were particularly cunning when it came to crafting items of power. If this creature had been lurking on this small world for ages upon ages, waiting for any of his people to show themselves, surely she had tricks and traps aplenty. He had to assume, in his present state, that she outmatched him in every way.

The ground begun to buckle, trees swayed wildly and much of the way ahead became exposed as the trees were dragged into the roiling terrain. He veered towards the nearest forested area, a blast of blue energy slammed into the ground below, where he would have been, had he not turned aside the blast would have consumed him. He took two more ninety degree turns, left, then right. Multiple blasts slammed into the ground or the trees ahead. The dragon roared its fury.

Tanfardi made it back under the cover of the canopy. He chose a more erratic course, it would take him longer to reach the dubious safety of his home but it would make it more difficult for the drake to take away his cover. He wondered if she was herding him and realized belatedly that there could be other drakes. In an act of desperation he lay a key upon himself that should conceal his true location, then sent an illusion, in his guise, racing forward and stopped in midair under the trees. The dragon soared over his position. Under concealment he raced directly towards home. His efforts earned him a splitting headache and blood dribbled from his nose. He was tapping into his essential reserves and was now burning through his life force.

His options were now more limited. He would send a message to one of the humans when he was closer. The one who had revived him seemed the better option of the two. It would only be a short message, he desperately hoped they could be of some assistance. Tanfardi was unused to relying on hope, he rolled over onto his back, while still heading towards home. He spotted the dragon chasing the apparition he had projected. Pleased that his deception had worked beyond his expectations, he rolled back over and focused his will and intent on the message he would send.

Thankfully his enchanted cloak allowed him to fly without expending power, it had been a gift from his mother, she had always been a cunning enchanter. He wondered what trickery the Queen of Drakes had used to catch his people so unawares. How had they been so quickly and easily overwhelmed?

He realized that his deception was at its end when the apparition was destroyed. The drake would now be seeking him out, he did not have much time left. After his third glance around he spotted her, streaking towards him, rising to his altitude, still a safe distance away. He took the precaution of a more erratic final approach to his mountain enclave, hoping she would not be able to blast him out of the sky. He also increased the rate at which he was climbing.

He sent the key of communication, a simple one way message. He choked up gobs of blood and noticed with a detached curiosity that his hands now appeared aged beyond his years. He considered the likelihood of his death. Perhaps he should just turn and expend himself in one final attempt to blast his enemy. His mind shied away from such an act, though his death was now seemingly inescapable. The dragon was using a key of haste, closing quickly.

It seemed like an eternity passed as the drake chased him. He came closer and closer to his home. A bolt of energy exploded off to his right side, searing him. He could see his house now, the fallen towers and the two humans. They were out in the open, along the edge of the falls, likely moments from death. He dropped rapidly, still speeding forward. He drew forth the figurine of a great winged serpent, tossed it over his shoulder and activated the key within.

Behind him the drake roared and fought the great serpent, that battle lasting only a few brief moments.

Once more he rolled over, drew his elemental staff from the dimensional pouch and activated all the stored energy within. A white hot ball of fire burnt him as he unleashed the power the staff contained. His target tried to drop underneath the attack, however the drake was burnt across its tail and back quarters. This time, when it roared Tanfardi thought it was a roar of pain. The drake had been shielded and with mighty flaps of its wings it attempted to raise up to bite him, he plunged towards the falls and turned over again.

He briefly saw the two humans below him, pointing at the closing drake. He was sorry they were going to die. It had truly been an unusually emotional day; anger, fear, despair, hope and compassion. Obviously his ordeal had compromised his usual mental discipline.

He passed over the falls and heard multiple banging reports. He dropped down behind one of the ruined towers and slowed in preparation to land. A blast of energy erupted just ahead of him, seared, he was thrown backwards. He spun through the air, glanced off the shattered remains of the tower and then collided into the side of a building. As he fell to the ground darkness took him.


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