Daughter - Tome of Chaos Story
The White Cliffs of Khymeria passed beneath them, and before he knew it, Joaken was amongst the jagged teeth of the Tower Mountains. The bright light of Kiara Lightbringer stabbed at Joaken’s mind, piercing through the heavy curtain of fog that had obscured her from him for so long. Now Fogclaw had reached the coast of the Khymerian land, their journey was nearly done.
She is at Cloudgard Castle, he spoke to the mind of his mount, urging the giant Roc on.
Then I shall take you there as quickly as the winds allow it, Fogclaw replied in earnest.
I know you will old friend, Joaken patted the creature’s neck.
An eagle spotted the enormous Roc passing overhead and gave out a warning cry as it circled lazily upon a thermal column. Joaken looked down and saw the mountain tops. The peaks were capped with the whitest snow he had ever seen. There was no smear of falling ash or dirty snowmelt from the warmth of the volcanic rock like in his homeland. Here was the purest touch of winter’s perfection.
He could just about make out the Crystalline Harbor to his west, the blue waters sparkling in the sun. Hundreds of ships were crammed into the wide bay and thick columns of smoke choked the sky above. The Chaos Army had arrived in Khymeria. The harbor town wouldn’t have stood a chance against such numbers.
As the final mountain peak passed beneath them, Fogclaw, sensing his master’s urgency, surged on and once again, Joaken found himself holding on for dear life as they cut through the winter’s chill.
Approaching Cloudgard, Joaken could see the armies of the Chaos Legion. Like termites swarming about their nest, thousands of warriors had surrounded the tall stonewalls of the great castle. Enormous siege engines flung boulders at the impassable walls, whilst tall towers and long ladders attempted to scale the castle from other sides. Every so often, spiked bolts of energy would flare from the Chaos ranks towards the castle, only to fizzle out into nothing as they were met by the magical defenses of the city. From what he could see, the defenders were doing a fine job of weathering the onslaught, but with such overwhelming numbers in play, Joaken doubted they could last indefinitely. If the Order of the Silver Shield was to survive, then they would need aid.
As they neared the battlements, Jaoken felt Fogclaw falter, slowing before suddenly rolling to the side. He gripped the Roc’s feathers and pulled his body low to its back.
What is it? He asked.
Something is near, though I cannot see it, Fogclaw replied with an edge of fear in his voice.
Joaken was about to ask what the Roc could sense when there was a flash of purple light, followed by a dull crack that sucked the air from around them. Suddenly the sleek form of a dragon appeared at their side, its vicious maw gnashing at Fogclaw’s flank. The giant Roc screeched, a mixture of anger and shock, as it folded its wings against its body and plummeted down towards the ground trying to evade this new threat. But the dragon followed, keeping pace and flailing with its claws, raking a bloody wound across Fogclaw’s belly. This time the Roc’s cry was one of pure fury as he retaliated with his own talons, catching the dragon’s long tail as it sped by them and gifting his own wound in return.
Joaken was thankful as Fogclaw opened his wings, stopping their fall and leaving the dragon to continue its dive towards the ground. His relief didn’t last for long, though, and there came another crack as the dragon phased out of existence, disappearing before his very eyes.
“What foul trickery is this?” Joaken cried, his voice rising above the wind.
Fogclaw beat his wings, making toward the battlement nearest to them. Joaken didn’t have to speak with him to know his friend was hurting and eager to reach the safety of the castle. Before they could land, though, they were harried once again by this deadly monster. It came from out of nowhere, phasing into existence in their wake. Joaken looked over his shoulder and could see the sleek, almost feline body snaking through the sky, matching their speed with ease. Its head had multiple eyes, and a bat-like snout contained vicious teeth, with a purple-green hue manifesting within its mouth. It was a dragon unlike any he had ever seen before, and it was preparing to blast them with its breath.
Fly high my friend, towards the sun, Joaken commanded.
Fogclaw obeyed, and as they rose steeply into the sky, Joaken gripped the feathers with one hand, reaching back with the other. The dragon followed them, offering up a challenging shriek. Seeing their hunter narrow its eyes as it flew into the sun’s warmth, Joaken called upon the flame and an orange ball of fire burst to life in his outstretched hand. Without hesitation he flung it back at their pursuer. The dragon twisted, cavorting away from the fireball and losing some of its speed.
And now we dive, to the battlements and to safety, Joaken prompted.
For the second time in as many minutes, Fogclaw dove for his life. The wind screamed in Joaken’s ears, adamant it was going to tear his hold from the Roc and carry him away. He held on, though, unwilling to let this enemy harm his faithful mount again. But as relentless as their attempts were to escape, so too was the dragon’s determination to catch them. Gaining on Fogclaw with every second that passed, it soared with such ease that Joaken knew it must have been birthed in the skies themselves. He could see the light grow in its maw again and waited patiently for the attack he knew was coming, preparing his own defenses. Joaken prayed to the one flame that they would soon find the safety of the castle.
When the attack came, it was not what he expected. Purple and green flame erupted from the dragon’s mouth, hissing at the frigid air as it coalesced and burst towards them. Joaken gave a shout in the ancient tongue of his people and pushed his open hand back at the attack. A surge of fire sprayed from his palm. It quickly consumed the dragon’s breath, like an insatiable beast, eating the alien vapors from the sky.
Joaken chanced a glance down at the castle. Archers were gathering upon the ramparts of a round tower, near to a group of men struggling with a giant ballista. They were desperately trying to turn it towards the incoming threat from above. Sending one last blast of fire behind him, Joaken gripped his mount’s feathers and pressed his body against its back.
My life is in your hands. Take us to the castle and away from this menace, he said gently.
He could feel Fogclaw tense, holding their deadly dive until the last moment before he opened his wings to slow their descent. As they came in to land, arrows sped past them, aimed at the dragon, followed by an enormous bolt, thrown by the ballista. Joaken heard the now familiar crack and knew then that the dragon had given up its chase, realizing it would be certain death to pursue them any further.
As soon as Fogclaw landed, Joaken hurried to dismount and check on the Roc’s injuries. Thankfully, from what he could see, there was nothing serious and the dragon’s claws had only grazed his mount’s belly.
Standing, he patted Fogclaw’s wing. You have saved my life again old friend. I am losing count of the debts I owe you.
Fogclaw clucked quietly. I wouldn’t have survived without you today either my master.
A disturbance from behind them drew Joaken’s attention away. He turned to see a young woman standing before him in plate armor, her golden hair shining in the sun. It was Kiara Lightbringer.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” Kiara asked in passing, moving to the ballista, and helping the men redirect it to bear on the ground forces.
Joaken watched as she fought with the great machine – she was not what he expected. The armor she wore bore the marks of battle, dents and scrapes including a large gouge in the pauldron on her right shoulder. The mark lined up perfectly with the long scar that continued up and along her cheek. Grime covered her forehead and she looked like she hadn’t slept for days. Her eyes though, were bright and alive. When he looked into them, he could see the strength and wisdom deep inside her.
Joaken wondered how much of her father’s power she had inherited. He was reminded briefly of Kindra, the greatest female Efreet to have ever lived. She had been his partner once, centuries ago, before she was burned by the one true flame, a fate that had broken Joaken’s heart. Kiara shared that same hypnotic twist of beauty and danger.
“I am hunting for someone, and my search is desperate indeed,” Joaken started as she released the ballista and walked back towards him. “I am hoping…”
“I’ll not tell you where he is,” Kiara spared him the briefest of glances as she moved past.
He followed her across the tower roof and stepped down onto the parapet, making his way towards the next tower further along the wall. “You do not know who I seek?” he breathed, struggling to keep pace with her long stride.
“You are searching for the same person everyone else has been looking for ever since this accursed Chaos purge fell upon our lands. I’ve not told any of them, and I won’t tell you.”
Joaken hadn’t been expecting such a cold reception and it aggrieved him. “Are all your welcomes as frosty as the frigid winter air that has hounded me since I arrived?”
Kiara paused. “I’m sorry, but I’m a little busy trying to organize the defense of Cloudgard right now. I can see you are someone of importance and considerable power; maybe you could help us? The strength of your Roc would be most welcome.”
“I do not have time to fight your battles, my mission is of the utmost importance,” Joaken snapped, unable to hold his tongue.
“Then you should continue your search and waste my time no further,” she glared at him, before turning and continuing along the battlements.
Joaken hurried after her, wincing as he made his way up the narrow stone steps leading to the next tower. The thunder of rock striking the stone curtain wall filled the air, and he could feel a tremor run beneath his feet, the ground trembling with the fury of the siege machines. Kiara was already halfway across the tower when he made it to the top of the stairs.
“Stop!” he shouted, walking as quickly as his knees would allow. Kiara turned and waited for him, impatiently folding her arms. As he neared, he reached out and grabbed her wrist. “You will wait and listen to what I have to say.”
She pulled away from him and reached for her sword. Soldiers that had been peering over the fortifications at their enemy turned and touched their own weapons.
“He laid a hand upon the Lightbringer!” a stout soldier with a fresh bandage covering one of his eye’s yelled.
“Take him and place him in irons,” a tall Sergeant nearby commanded. The soldiers started moving towards Joaken.
Kiara held up a hand, and they stopped. “Before I have you taken to the dungeon, I will give you opportunity to tell me whatever it is that you feel is so urgent that it is more important than this assault upon Cloudgard and my people. But I warn you Efreet, I have little patience for the troubles of others right now.”
Joaken felt his anger melt away. He couldn’t help but smile, although there was no happiness in it. “You are very much like she was,” he murmured. “Oh Kindra, how I miss you.”
“I don’t have time for your befuddled ruminations old one, get on with it,” Kiara shook her head in annoyance.
“It is true, I search for your father, Aggroedius,” Joaken began, “but not for my own ends. My people have sought counsel from the one flame itself, and they sent me in search of answers. The journey has been long indeed, and I have spoken with others along the way. Have you heard of Berlius the Strong, he was a good friend to your father?”
“Recount whoever’s name you will, it doesn’t impress me,” Kiara tapped her steel-booted foot on the stone flags.
“He was a wizard on the council, before he was banished and his power taken from him. I have spoken with him, Kiara. The council was betrayed by one of their own and is now in league with the very forces you fight against here. Your father must learn of this, so that he might reunite those that were exiled and rekindle the magic that was taken from them.”
Kiara stood motionless, absorbing the words Joaken had shared. When she eventually spoke, she waved the soldiers away, back to their posts. “If what you say is true, then we are in more dire need of a miracle than I first thought.”
Joaken nodded slowly. “If a miracle was ever to be found, then it would be now that we need it.”
“And if I was to reveal to you where my father is, what would you have him do?”
“He is the only person I can think of that could turn this tide of Chaos. The only one that could save our world from what has befallen us, and from what is to come in the dark days ahead,” Joaken held his hands together in supplication. “Your father is our redemption.”
Screams of the dying shattered the quiet between them, a great boulder evading the castle’s defenses and landing upon the top of the next tower along the wall, decimating the soldiers and ballistae positioned there. A shadow passed overhead, and the air shifted. A white shape landed behind where Joaken stood.
“The north wall will fall if we don’t reinforce it soon, lady,” a voice growled.
A tall, tiger-like creature walked alongside Joaken, standing at least two heads above him, with large wings and a long sweeping tail. The white fur was striped black and bloodied claws retracted into its paws, leaving only the sharp tips showing. The creature smelt like smoke and burnt hair.
“Did you complete your mission?” Kiara asked.
“The trebuchets have been destroyed, there will be no more firebrands,” the beast said.
“You are injured, Kralus,” Kiara’s voice wavered and for the first time since Joaken had arrived, he saw doubt in her eyes.
“It is nothing but a scratch. What else would you have me do?” Kralus waited for her command.
“Kiara, I still await your answer,” Joaken bowed his head in deference, aware he was interrupting their discourse.
Her eyes danced back and forth between them. One moment staring at the cut that slowly bled on Kralus’ forearm, the next flitting back to Joaken. It took the sudden appearance of another dragon in the sky before she found her voice, the sharp crack as it appeared above them snapping her to attention.
“I don’t have time for this, Joaken,” she looked up as the dragon shrieked above them.
“Then give me my answer, and I shall leave.” Joaken stepped forward and placed his hands upon her shoulders. “Your father would be proud of you, Kiara. I believe this city can survive with you here leading the people. Tell me, where is he?”
“They are kind words, Joaken of the Efreet,” she gave a sad smile. “Alas, kind words don’t win wars. Kralus, take him.”
Joaken quickly moved away as the tiger reached for him. “What is the meaning of this? You cannot stop my mission!”
The tiger took hold of him, the strength in the creature prodigious compared to Joaken. Not only that, Joaken could feel his magic retreating within him, unable to take it and use it against the great beast who carried a power of his own.
“I cannot let you interrupt whatever it is my father is doing. It is more important, now than ever, that he is left in peace to work,” as she spoke, he could sense the conflict in her voice.
“More important than stopping this?!” Joaken urged, unwilling to give up, resisting Kralus’ attempts to escort him away. “Tell me, why hasn’t your father come to save you, to save the great city of Cloudgard in its darkest hour?”
Kiara’s struggle shifted to her face. “I don’t know. I have called upon him but have heard nothing. My father is brilliant. Whatever he is doing, it must be more important.”
“Remember what I told you, I have seen Berlius, stripped of his magic by Portia the Betrayer. Who knows what she might have done to your father? Maybe that is why he does not come.”
“She could not harm my father, there is no-one more powerful,” the pride burnt fiercely in Kiara’s eyes.
“She banished the entire council and somehow managed to hide it from your father, who knows what else she has done to him.”
Kralus could see the pain that Joaken’s words caused. The tiger tugged at him, dragging him away from the woman, towards the steps that led down into the bailey.
“I will go to him for you, Kiara. Make sure he is safe. And if there is anything I can do to help him, I will. I swear it, on the one true flame!” Joaken shouted back at her, still struggling in vain against the tiger.
“Hold!” her voice called out and Kralus stopped as Kiara walked to join them. “You will find my father and help him if he is in need?”
“I have sworn it, and so it will be,” Joaken breathed a sigh of relief as Kralus released him.
“Then you may go, with my blessing. And if he is able to give it, tell him we need his aid here,” Kiara said. “He is in Draykh-Nahka. There is a cave within the Timber Lunta forest, it has a great lake within, fed by the Naga River. That is where you will find him.”
Joaken nodded, looking up as the dragon circled, screeching overhead. “Fear not, young Lightbringer, this quest will be fulfilled, have no doubt of that.”
She pursed her lips, toiling with one last fragment of doubt, before returning Joaken’s nod. “Kralus, ensure our friend here isn’t harried by that dragon when he leaves.”
“Your will be done, lady,” Kralus unfurled his wings and bared his fangs, leaping into the air with a ferocious roar.
Joaken made his way back to Fogclaw, leaving the defenders to their work. It had been a meeting like no other and Kiara was a great woman indeed, worthy of the tales told about her. But without her father, Aggroedius, this castle would fall, there was no doubt of that.
Climbing onto the back of his Roc, Joaken spared a glance at the aerial battle that now raged between the mighty Kralus and a handful of dragons that had descended upon him. The tiger cut through them, tearing their numbers from the sky with reckless abandon.
Joaken stroked the crown of white feathers on Fogclaw’s head. Fly, my friend, we need tarry here no longer. Make haste to the Timber Lunta of Draykh-Nahka, and our journey’s end.
Fogclaw spread his wings and with a lonesome cry, took to the air.
Collect special Limited NFTs related to this story at https://www.splintertalk.io/nfts/
Story: Daniel Beazley
Editor: Sean Ryan
Narrative Lead: Joey Shimerdla
Character Art (cover): Candycal
Illustrations: Alex Shiga
Graphic Design: Tamer "Defolt" Oukour
Voice Acting: David Dahdah
Ending credits song: AfterSound
Creative Director: Nate Aguila
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Love this so much! This is amazing.
¡Whao esto esta brutal!
Yo hago fanart, me gustaría participar en un proyecto como este.
acá puedes ver mi nivel de dibujo y coloreado.