The Story continues.
| High in the blue skies sit floating landmasses a few miles apart from each other. Each of them totaling up to six are often blanketed by thick puffy white clouds and organized in a circular pattern with five islands encircling the sixth and largest island. The large land mass at the center had an outer wall at the edge of the island that enclosed the island itself with a large mountain towering at its center. There was also a lake of pure crystal water that sat between the large stone wall on the edge of the island and the mountain at the center. The island is considered sacred by both the Alterneans and the Avions and both agreed to leave it alone. The other five islands around the center most islands are divided amongst two primary races. The feathered Harpies and Tengus controlled the three eastern islands while the Dragon controlled only two of the western islands. Struggles between the two races have been sporadic but bloody. Most of which were over of the powerful wind currents keeping the islands afloat.
On the Eastern island of Whistle Top forest, Drake wakes up in a field of lowers, He rolls on his back to look at the sky aa a cool breeze brush over him. The fresh aroma of the colorful pedals filled his nose as he touch his face to see if he was dreaming. As he lay there, he feels something poking him in the side. Drake realizes what had happen earlier and springs up from his prone position startling a harpy nearby. The harpy gasped as she covers her mouth with the corners of her colorful feathered wings. Her dark green hair rested on her shoulders and her radiant smooth skin shined in the sunlight. Her colorful blend of yellow and pink feathers blew in the wind as her curious dark green eyes gazed at Drake. Drake gazes at the strange female creature without saying a word long enough that the harpies face turns red in bashfulness.
Then, he hears men shouting in the distance.
“Princes Jasmine!! Are you ok!?”
Drake looks up and sees flying warriors with their brown wings on their back and talons for feet. They wore light armor and carried swords and shields in their hands. Scurrying to his feet, Drake takes off running in the opposite direction towards the giant trees but feathered man drops in front of him and points his metal spear at his nose. Three more warriors land side by side aiming their weapons at him as they rescind their wings into their backs. Drake pants as he raises his hands to give a non-threatening greeting.
“Look.” Drake says. “I was a prisoner that escaped, and I ended up here after riding the strong winds. I mean you no harm and I apologize for any damage done.”
“Do you now?” A haughty voice says behind the three tengu warriors. The centermost guard lowred his sword and stepped aside to make way for a black feathered warrior with black silky hair down to his shoulders. Carrying a rapier at his side, he squares off against Drake.
“How a land dweller such as yourself managed to make it all the way up here on our sacred lands.” He says as he points his sword at Drake’s throat.
“Speak! Intruder or I’ll end your life right where you stand.”
Drake stands silent looking to his left and his right trying to find the words to speak. However, a deep groan erupts from the pit of his stomach and his legs tremble in weakness.
"Look," Drake says keeping his hands up. “I need help. I was captured and detained by the dragons for a month and I haven’t had any food or water.”
Then a hard backhand fist to the face knocks Drake to the flowery ground. The tengu stomps on Drakes back digging in its talons.
“You don’t fool me!” The tengu says as it presses its talons into Drakes back. “I know you’ve been sent by King Radius to kidnap the princess.”
“That’s not what I’m trying to do.” Drake says clenching his teeth in pain. “Please…stop. You’re hurting me.”
“That’s not our problem.” The feathered tengu says pressing his claws deeper into his back.
Blood ooze from Drakes back and his heart burns as the white glyph shines on his chest. He feels an electric charge surge through his body and his hands clasps tight into fists.
What’s happening to me?
With uncanny speed, Drake shifts his body, elbows the tengus talon off his back and sweep kicks the warrior off his feet. Drake spins to his feet, grabs the Avion by the neck and slams him onto the flowery grass. Eyes glowing white along with the glyph on his chest Drake casts a cold stare at the surprised tengu as he tries to wrestle away Drakes grasp on his neck.
“Don’t just stand there gawking! Do something!” The tengu orders.
“Stay where you are!” The princess shouts. The two tengus halt at her orders and stay their spears.
Then a hickory smell breaks Drake from his trance as his white glowing eyes vanish in a blink. Drake turns around and sees the princess holding out a large turkey leg on both of her multicolored feathered arms.
“Food.” Drake says releasing his grasp on the prone tengu and stumbles towards the princess and takes the large meat and bites into its hot moist flesh.
“Forgive my men’s rudeness outsiders aren’t common here on these lands. The princess says. And things have grown tense since the Alternean king has returned. Tell me, where are you from?”
“I’m frwom sawlatia.” Drake says with mouth full of meat.
“I’m sorry?” The princess inquires.
“Hol on.” Drake says as he swallows the savory meat down his throat and wipes the grease from his mouth.
“I’m from Salatia.”
“Salatia?” I see, well that explains it then. Radius must’ve brought you to his lair seeing that he left for salatia years ago. Why did he take just you?”
Drake finishes the meat and tosses the bare bone to the side.
“It’s a long story.” Drake says in a long sigh. “One that I don’t understand yet.”
“Princess!” The black-feathered Tengu says as he stands to his feet. “This man is an outsider and a land-dweller he is not to be trusted. We should kill him before he-”
“Not every situation requires your violent touch Uzok.” Jasmine says scowling at her captain. “This man says he escaped the dragon’s clutches and I believe him.”
“What is your name foreigner?” Jasmine asks blinking her dark green eyes gazing into Drakes.
“Well then,” she says with a smile. “My name is Jasmine Zeqen Princess of the Avions she opens her bright wings and gives a slight but elegant bow before standing erect.”
“Please to meet you.” Drake replies with a slight bow.
“It’s nice to meet someone from the outside for once. She says with a sigh of relief. With all the tension of war with the dragons looming over us, it’s been hard to embellish in a little kindness. Please come with me and we can have an audience with my father in the palace.”
“Princess!” The tengu shouts in protest. “Please don’t do this”
“I will hear none of it…captain.” The princess says sharply reminding him of his place. “You will escort young drake and I to my father post haste.”
Then Jasmine turns her back to the captain and holds out her wing towards Drake.
Drake stares at her well-groomed wing confused at her gesture.
“Oh, sorry I forgot.” She says. She opens her wings and the feathers sink into her limbs slowly morphing into tanned arms and her bird feet morphs into human legs. The result was a woman wearing a feathered sleeveless coat with her exposed tanned legs in full view.
“Wow. “Drake says gazing at the beauty flicking her green hair.
“Now we can go.” She says. “And welcome to Whistle Top Palace. Captain can you do the honors.”
Uzok walks up behind the princess and grabs her by the waist.
“Hurry up and grab the foreigner!” He shouts in an irritable tone. The other two tengus both burgundy feathered men walk up beside Drake and grabs his arms. Their wings open wide and with one leap flies into the air. The flowered grass beneath Drake’s feet becomes more distant as his feet dangle in the air. His eyes trail the enormous trees towering high into the sky. His stomach sinks from the sheer height as the tengus carrying him past large leafy branches.
If these goons drop me I’m as good as dead.
“Is it too high for you?” Uzoz teases with a chuckle. “Try not to panic we have a habit of… dropping things when they move around too much.”
Drake didn’t respond. He was too concerned about falling than the captain’s jeers as his eyes widen in fear.
As he is carried up, the leafy branches become thicker and thicker until Drake could no longer see the ground beneath him. Looking up he sees a roof of thick spikey leaves and a square section lifts up allowing for passage. Emerging from the opening, Drake is aghast when he sees a large wooden palace built within the tree canopy. Made of mostly wood, a red jewel sit near the triangular roof with the carving of two feathered harpies with their wings held out to the red jewel. The Tengus carrying Drake land on a circular oak-wood platform leading into the palace where other Avions fly to and from carrying out their duties. Drake shakes feeling into his arms and gazes up at the towering palace. Dark blue drapes hung from both wings of the palace as openings in the canopy casts rays of sunlight onto wooden harpy statues holding mirrors reflecting rays of light onto two oak Tengu statues carrying spears on both sides of the entrance. A myriad of colorful birds ranging from humming birds to doves populate the area collecting nuts and bugs as they dance around the palace.
“How are they able to build something like this all the way up here?” Drake says.
“It’s our pride as Avions” One tengu soldier boasts. “Only those who live in the skies are capable of these wonders.”
“I see that.” Drake says with a slight nod.
Then he hears trumpets boom in the area.
"Princess Jasmine has returned," A Tengu shouts.
Then all the busy tengus and harpies all gather near the platform’s edge and kneel as Uzoz lands Jasmine in front of her feathery subjects. Uzoz quickly darts in front of the princess and kneels before her with his hand over his chest.
“Welcome back your highness.”
“It’s good to be back, thank you.” She says looking down. “Thank you all.” She says addressing the rest of her subjects. “I know things has been tense for all of you but I promise we shall see better years. Do not fret, I and my father will work tirelessly to ensure the safety of the Avions and our homes. You have my word.”
“Thank you, your highness” A few shout as they erupt in applause.
Jasmine gives a graceful nod and she holds out her hand towards Drake.
“Having said that,” she continues. “I’d like to introduce you to this one named Drake Ryft.”
Drake tenses up as he stands erect being addressed in front of an audience. His face flushes red as he felt slightly uncomfortable from the eyes peering at him.
“He’s from salatia and was captured by the Alterneans. He managed to escape their grasps and rode Gale Queen’s wind here.”
Multiple murmurs erupt from the crowd concerned about the news.
“Gale Queen’s wind?” A few say.
“Impossible for a featherless to ride the queen’s wind.”
“I understand your skepticism.” Jasmine says but I know he speaks truth.
The murmurs die down and all were silent at her words as they glance at each other. A warm breeze rustles the leaves around them as the smell of oak-wood fill the air.
“Let us welcome him and offer our hospitality in an celebration,” she says with an elated smile on her face.
“A celebration?” Drake thinks to himself. “Why?”
“You heard her didn’t you?” Fane speaks in Drake’s mind. “Prospects of war has put everyone on edge here. You noticed it with the captain you met earlier. She’s just trying to ease tensions and help boost morale. Pay attention to her Drake you may learn something important.”
Then the dark oak-wood doors fling open and a squad of ten grey armored, spear wielding tengus march out in an organized fashion. The event caused the people to separate leaving an open path to Drake and Jasmine. Drake glance at Jasmine noticing her perturbed face as if she knew what was about to happen.
The Tengus beat their chests and stomped their iron spears into the wood creating a war like noise as they march in a straight line side by side. They turn to face each other, march backwards creating a space and thrust their spears over the space where the metal tips meet. There was a silence throughout the area. Even the birds ceased their chirping and flying as only the wind swayed the leaves of the canopy.
Bootsteps echo from the palace entrance and a aged red feathered tengu saunters from the entrance. Dawning a grey and black beard and an elongated nose the bulky individual struts underneath the meeting spears above.
Drake takes a few steps back noticing a lacerated eye on the Tengu lord as he folds his bulky arms.
“Jasmine, what is the meaning of this? I told you to be careful while on the surface. Why have you brought a land dweller here knowing full well of our laws and customs.”
“Forgive me father” Jasmine says gracing her chest with the palms of her hands. I was merely helping someone lost on our lands. You see-”
The Tengu lord raises his hand silencing her abruptly.
“The man has a mouth does he not? Tell me land dweller, why are you here?”
“Drake swallows a lump in his throat as he never stood in a royal audience before. However, he sucks in a deep breath and takes a few steps forward.
“I was a slave on the land of Salatia until a force freed me and told me to find Estoria.” Drake says aloud.
Gasps and mumbles erupt from the crowd.
“The Ancient City?” The Tengu says with a widened eye then narrows in suspicion. “That place is but a myth.”
“I don’t expect you to believe me. Drake says. But I’m telling the truth that the city is just as real as this place. And Radius knows it to.”
The mention of the Dragon King’s name silences the Tengu lord as he glares at Drake.
“Is that why he captured you? What connection do you serve towards Estoria?”
Drake hesitates to answer.
I don’t want too many people know about me. Might cause trouble.
“I don’t know.” Drake says with a straight face. “But they were torturing me to find out.”
“And you say he captured you, did he?” The Tengu lord says folding his arms holding his bearded chin with his finger and thumb pensively. “How he managed to do that. Did he attack your village?”
“No.” Drake says shaking his head. We fought and I collapsed from exhaustion.
Jasmine snaps her head towards Drake with a shocked look on her face.
“Impossible.” The Tengu lord says Radius is said to be one of the strongest amongst the Alterneans next to Raina and the All Dragon.
All dragon? Drake ponders.
“It’s all true,” Drake says lowering his head in disappointment. Thinking of his Griselda. “A lot has happened since I’ve escaped the quarry and most of what happened is hard for me to comprehend. I understand if you don’t believe me.”
“Well that’s quite the tale young man.” The Tengu says lowering his bulky arms to his side. “I don’t believe you but it’s quite the tale.”
Drake sighs in frustration hearing the Tengu’s rebuttal.
“Then what do you want me to do?”
“You say you fought King Radius hmm?”
Drake nodded his head as he knew what was going to happen next.
“Well if what you say is true, then…”
The Tengu lord dash in a burst of speed straight towards Drake leaving read feathers float to the ground. Drake bends his knees and shifts his bare feet into position. He feels the dry wood soot beneath his feet as his eyes catch the tengu lord flinginig his royal robe into the air and open his red wings. Drake raises his arms to cover his face and the Tengu lord slams head first into his guard knocking him off his feet. . Drake slams on his back as the Tengu flaps his wings flying into the air with a slightly bent knee.
Drake sits up rubbing the throbbing in his arms. He looks up at the Tengu glowering down at him.
“Father, this is pointless. Stop!” Jasmine shouts stomping her feet in protest.
“Stand aside Jasmine.” The King Tengu says. “As princess and heir to the throne you cannot afford to be gullible. One must do anything to find the truth even if it means destroying someone.”
“But” she says but Drake holds out her hand, silencing her.
“It’s fine,” Drake says standing to his feet glaring up at his opponent. If this is what he wants then I’ll show it to him.
Drake walks forward looking up at the flying Tengu squeezing his fists from the throbbing pain.
“If I prove myself to be truthful, what will you do then?” Drake asks, halting just a few feet away from the flying foe.
“I’ll bring you into my palace and we can discuss the matter in private. But if you fail, I’ll toss you off the island personally.”
“That works for me,” Drake says with a confident nod.
“Very well then. Clear the Platform,” The Tengu shouts thrusting out his palm addressing his subjects, this place has now become a battle ground.
All the Tengus and Harpies standing on the spruce platform leap from where they stand and fly off the platform leaving Drake and Jasmine alone.
Jasmine glowers up at her father shaking her head in deep disapproval then she looks at Drake standing firm.
“Forgive us, young Drake.” Jasmine says with a slight bow.
“Don’t worry about it.” Drake says. “This happens to me a lot.”
Jasmine smiles at Drake’s confidence, takes a few steps back, morphs into her harpy form and flies into the air.
The platform now clear, Drake takes in a deep oak scented breath and releases it out of his mouth.
“Drake,” Fane informs, “This is a flying opponent and he will use his strengths to his advantage. Prepare yourself.”
“Can I use verses without the sword?” Drake asks.
‘Yes, you can but they’ll be slightly weaker.”
With a strong wing beat the Tengu King jets towards Drake. The tengu balls his fist for anticipating a swift and precise win but Drake spins aside avoiding the flying fist. The tengu stops in mid-flight turns around and charges again.
Drake side steps another pass and ducks beneath another as the Tengu’s flight became quicker and more accurate.
At this point he’ll hit me, He thinks as a swift pass delivered a blow to his shoulder. Drake shrugs off the pain and takes off in a jog with his feet tapping the wood as his eyes track the flying foe.
“Gotta keep moving.” Drake says huffing.
The Tengu charges towards the young warrior flapping his wings as he spins through the air.
Drake feels hardened feathers scratch his back as he zooms past him in a gust of wind. stumbling forward, he ignores the noisome pain on his back and continues his run. The winged warrior turns his body in full motion facing Drake opens his wings and swings them in rapid succession, unleashing dozens of razor sharp feathers towards Drake.
Drake, looking at the hissing feathers, leaps back as the projectiles thud into the ground. Drake circles the platform feeling the sweat pouring down his face as his heart raced faster than his feet. However, several pinch-like pains in his leg made him look down to see red feathers burrowed in his legs. The tengu cease hurling projectiles, leaving scores of feathers driven in the platform. Drake drops to a knee panting as beads of sweat drips off the tip of his nose.
Glancing at his leg, Drake tenses, clenching his teeth, as he grips one of the hard feathers. Wincing in pain, he yanks it out from his flesh and holds it in front of his eyes noticing the sharp edges and the pointed tip. Drake tosses the feather aside and glares up at the Tengu flapping his wings hovering in the air.
“Hardening.” The tengu shouts. “Can make the most delicate objects deadly.”
Drake’s legs tremble as he stands to his feet. Pain resonates in his torso remembering the heavy blows it endured from the interrogation.
I won’t last if I don’t do something. Drake says to himself. Most of the verses I have are close range. Except one.
Drake holds out his arm and scribble BLASTVOLLY in the air. Then, seven embers burst into existence arcing over Drake’s head and morph into arrows. The arrows point upward towards the Tengu King in unison and with a swing of Drake’s arm, dart towards him. The arrows rotate around each other as they sizzle through the air.
The King’s narrowed look turns to a sneer as he zips over the soaring arrows with a wingbeat. The arrows circle around for another pass and jet towards the Tengu as Drake keeps his eyes fixed on his opponent.
“Its no use, The tengu shouts. That verse can’t-"
The approaching arrows split in all directions zipping around him like hornets. The king’s head turns he spins trying to keep his eyes on each verse. He turns avoiding one and spins around avoiding another.
"Tch! Trifling” The tengu curses as a flap of his wings propels him forward. Zooming through the air, explosive arrows hone in He dives towards the platform with arrows tailing him and propels forward in a gust of wind barely avoiding collision with the ground. Variable booms shoot through the forest as arrows collide into the floor. Flying to the left and right only a few feet above ground the Tengu speeds towards Drake for a final blow.
“You shouldn’t depend so heavily on one verse young one.” The Tengu says as he beats his wing for a final burst of speed.
“Its all in how you use it.” Drake says with a sneer plastered across his face. He leaps away revealing one final arrow suspended in the air directly behind.
The tengu’s eyes widen in panic as the arrow launches towards him. Flying at a very high speed, the tengu couldn’t evade in time. He straightens himself in mid air and dug his talons into the ground. The arrow zips through the air directly towards and the Tengu cover’s his face with his arms bracing himself for impact.
However, Drake snaps his fingers and the arrow vanishes in a burst of embers that the Tengu skids through to a halt. He drops to a knee contemplating his recent blunder.
Drake grips his blood-soaked leg as he winces from his wounds.
“Well play young lad,” The tengu says as he stands and saunters towards Drake with his clawed feet clapping the floor. As he walks his wings recede into his back and the visible feathers vanish until all that was left was a muscular older man with a red beard. He walks up to drake and squares off with him.
“Placing his hands on his shoulders,’ The tengu king gives a firm reassuring squeeze.
“You speak the truth.” The tengu says nodding at Drake. “The way you move shows that you’ve handled King Radius. Forgive my rude trial. I know my daughter favors your presence but I had to be sure you weren’t deceiving her.”
“I understand.” Drake nods before wincing in pain at the stings in his leg.
“Forgive me for that as well,’ The tengu laughs. “Looking at you, I could tell you faced many battles yourself. I figured you can handle it.”
“I understand that a little less.” Drake says in a laughing sigh.
The King throws his head back in boisterous laughter.
“Ah yes, I love a man with a sense of humor. He shouts. Come, I welcome you to my palace. Ladies please prepare Drake for our banquet.”
“Everyone!" The king shouts to all of his people, "Let’s celebrate our newcomer.” Then everyone erupts in cheers and birdcalls as all of the subjects descend around Drake and the King.
A blue light shines inside the throne room as the sun peers through the waterfall behind Radius’s throne. Built inside of a mountain, the sun beaming through the waterfall lit the rocky walls with a faint blue color as fresh water scent permeate the air. Bubbling water flows down a built-in crevice near the corners of the wall exiting through a small opening near the double doors.
Radius sits on his granite stone throne with a black mask covering half his face as his hands clench the arms in kindled rage. Herria sits next to him with her auburn hair wrapped neatly under her tiara while holding a blue scaled baby dragon on her lap. Mahogany in all her white scales and wings folded behind her back, kneels at the base of the stone steps head lowered in shame.
“Do you know the amount of pain I endure each day from this wound inflicted upon me?” He asks placing his hand on his face as it trembles in agony. “It feels like hundreds of sickles stabbing me in the face. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible for me to sleep at night.”
“But” he continues raising a finger. “It wasn’t for nothing, no. I found the one thing that can bring our people back to glory, cure the plague that nearly brought us to ruin and avenge all those who dared to stand against us! And now you show up to my throne and tell me…that he escaped?”
“Forgive me your highness,” Mahogany says lowering her head trembling.
Radius yanks off his black mask revealing his marred face with his white pupil-less eye and hurls it towards the woman as it clunks off the stone floor.
“I want him back!" His voice booms in the throne room. “Without him, all that I’ve been through would’ve been for nothing! Do you understand, Mahogany!” Take two dragons from my elite guard, go over to that rat nest of a people calling themselves Avians and bring him back to me”
“It will be done sire” Mahogany says as she stands to her feet.
Mahogany turns waving her scaly white tail in the air as her feet clapped the floor.