“Will you follow us to a more pleasant place where we can speak?” Rudd’ard asked. “This unsettles us.” He motioned with a hand toward the bones scattered around peeking up out of the low ground hugging fog.
Mul’drak swished his tail as though agitated, his scales clattered across the ground kicking up dust and tossing bones in the air.
“It is not far,” Rudd’ard added. “Mul’drak will fly slowly and keep in the visual range of your…” He pointed toward the pod.
“Our pod,” I offered.
“Where are we going?” Jake, being the seasoned mercenary he was, he didn’t just traipse off following a dragon to an unknown destination.
“There is a cave up there,” Rudd’ard pointed to the mountains in the distance. “Some of us sheltered there during the Fall and escaped the fate of our kin.” His eyes fell to the bones we were all standing among.
The mountains appeared azure blue in the haze and I guessed they were about fifty miles away.
“Are there more of you up there?” Jake asked, fingering the blaster at his hip. He was cautious. It was what kept him alive all these years as a mercenary for hire.
“We are the only ones currently on the planet,” Rudd’ard assured us. “And unless you handle the Sollen again, hopefully, it will stay that way.”
Jake nodded and started off to the pod. I guess he had the feeling of the situation and decided it was safe to follow the two at least as far as the cave.
“Isn’t he incredible?” I asked the guys as we followed along behind the flying dragon. The land below us was now obscured by the fog. We were racing along behind a red and black dragon over the tops of the clouds. His wings pumped seemingly effortlessly and yet we were at full throttle on Jake’s pod.
“They are both fascinating,” Arr said from his place in the back.
He had given up his co-pilot’s seat to me. Luckily, Jake chose to leave Kay-o onboard his ship thinking it was best the beast was kept safely away from the high pitched noise. The Dar-dolf would have taken up both the seats in the back.
“They talk to us, but at the same time they communicate with each other on a different level. Like having a com-link tuned to two frequencies at once.” Arr rubbed his temples.
Jake saw the movement in his mirror. “You okay?” He asked his partner.
“It is very strong at this range.”
“Are we okay?” Jake asked. “We’re not walking into some kind of a trap? They said they wanted that Sollen thing.”
“No, not a trap,” Arr assured Jake. “They’re arguing. Rudd’ard seems to think they should have approached us differently. He is inclined to trust us to do what is right. Mul’drak is more cautious.”
“Do they know you can hear them?” Jake asked, as we came within sight of a huge cave in the side of the mountain.
This part of the planet was not red, nor dusty. The rock was azure colored with veins of crystal which flowed over it making it look like white icing drizzled over a bluehazelberry cake. There was a large landing area outside the mouth of the cave which Mul’drak gladded down upon, gripping it with claws that looked deadly even from even from our perspective in the pod. The dragon folded his wings and moved to one side to clear an area for Jake to land. Rudd’ard slid from his back. I could see his clawed feet bite into the rock for purchase. It was windy at this elevation.
“I don’t think they are aware I am listening in,” Arr said, as he unfastened his seatbelt. “They know I can manipulate the Sollen for a type of communication, but I don’t have any indication they are filtering the high pitched language I hear or the pictures I keep seeing in my head.”
I unfastened my belt, swiveled the seat around and crawled out to the back. The idea of pictures in Arr’s head made me ask; “Pictures of what?”
“It’s like I can see their subconscious as they speak to me. Mul’drak’s mind is full of death and destruction. This planet burning. Dragons fighting humanoid creatures. Rudd’ard’s are more muted, like I am seeing them through the fog on this planet. Maybe they are not as strong.”
Jake hauled himself up out of his seat and patted me on the back as he passed headed for the hatch at the back.
“Keep your eyes open and your blasters ready,” he instructed.
“This way,” Rudd’ard motioned with a hand as we stepped out of the pod.
Mul’drak sat on his haunches to one side, his tail curled around his feet like a large black cat. His intention was to obviously bring up the rear until Jake motioned for him to proceed. His unusual speckled eyes squinted, but he rose, turned and entered the cave ahead of Jake flicking his tail from side to side.
The interior of the cave was breathtaking. It was like walking into a massive geode. The ceiling and walls were covered with crystals that ranged in color from clear, through pale blue, to deep azure like the rock of the mountain outside. Jake walked to the nearest wall and laid his hand on one of the crystals thrusting out.
“Galnon,” he said in awe, “gem quality.”
Mul’drak growled deep in his throat. The growl echoed off the walls making it louder and more ominous. He ruffled his wings in agitation and then settled them back into place at his sides. As Arr had told them, he obviously did not trust humanoids.
Jake dropped his hand and moved back to join Arr and me following in Rudd’ard’s wake deeper into the cave.
Galnon was a crystal used in just about everything in the known verse. It was worth a lot of money. The stone was used much like diamonds were used on earth centuries ago. There were crystals from industrial to precious gem grade. Usually a galnon planet developed between two suns. The extreme heat of the two suns was what caused the formation of the crystals. When a planet was found it was often mined until nothing but a shell was left before the mining company moved on to another. I hadn’t seen two suns for this solar system.
The cave curved to the right. Following Rudd’ard I came to such an abrupt halt that Jake bumped into me. The entrance was just a tunnel, the crystal lined tunnel spilled out into a gigantic domed room with niches carved in the crystal that must have once been sleeping areas for the dragons. The opening of each niche was hollowed out above a large crystal which stuck out from the wall making a convenient landing perch for the dragon.
“No one lives here any longer?” I asked. It seemed such a sad sight, a breathtakingly beautiful place totally devoid of life. It must have been incredible with black and red spotted dragons perched on each crystal, like huge birds in a glass cage.
“No,” Mul’drak surprised us by speaking up. He clawed with irritation at the ground below his feet with a large black paw. “The ones that survived left after the Fall. The planet could no longer sustain us.”
Rudd’ard sat down on a chunk of crystal, his tail trailing out behind him. He motioned for us to take seats. The crystals scattered across the floor looked as though they were seats. They seemed orderly and there appeared to be smaller ones that might have been used as tables close at hand.
“This was the rookery,” Arr said, as his gaze circled the dome.
“It was,” Rudd’ard affirmed. “I wanted to bring you here so you would understand how important it is that you give us the Sollen. We must prevent the Valdare from ever killing our kind again.
“This is where our story starts and hopefully with your help ends.” Rudd’ard said. “This cave used to be full of our kind, newly hatched, young and adult. The handful which took shelter here, when the Valdare attacked, were the only ones to survive. But the story of the Sollen starts long before the day of the Fall. Long before the Valdare even knew we existed. It started here with a young one named Tal’on and his great one named Graf’tal. It was their adventure that brought the Valdare down upon us, destroyed our planet, and almost killed off our kind - a kind that has lived for millennia under many names with many histories.”