Tal’on landed on his feet without Graf’tal beneath him. That in itself was surprising enough, for he had just been astride the elder dragon seconds ago. Even more upsetting though was the fact that he was not anywhere he had ever seen in his lifetime of over one hundred years, and surrounded by beings totally alien to him. He recognized only those three facts before the intense vertigo he felt from the aborted Jump brought him down on all fours to steady himself on the unusually patterned rock surface below his feet.
The beings were screaming and shouting. They were small, two legged creatures with pale, non-scaled skin from the neck up and on the hands. However, the rest of their bodies were all different colors. As many colors as Tal’on had seen in all his life and then some. No two appeared the same. On their heads they had fur like the beasts his kin hunted and ate at home. Some ran away from him, while others charged forward with metal sticks. When he raised his clawed paw to fend them off, they struck at him with the sticks. The weapons were charged with something which made the muscles in the area hit contract violently, causing great pain.
With claws extended he stuck out defending himself. He growled down deep in his throat hoping the beings would retreat. They only began to shout at him as they struck harder. This time when the sticks contacted his scaly body the pain was triple strength. He fell to his side and curled up with his tail wrapped up and over his body trying to protect his vital areas from the attack. The beings were relentless. They struck and struck until the dark cloud of unconsciousness enveloped Tal’on.
Tal’on awoke to find himself chained hand and foot. At first he struggled to free himself. He tugged and pulled until his wrists and ankles were bruised. He pulled at the linked chain which attached his leg to a huge ring secured in the middle of the floor. It would not budge.
He stopped struggling and started to study his surroundings for a way out. He was trapped in a cave. Tal’on stretched out his mind trying to locate Graf’tal. He probed the space around him for the gentle pictured thoughts of the old dragon, but found nothing. The young dragon’s mind was empty. Graf’tal was gone.
Tal’on rolled to his feet and moved to investigate his prison. His chains rattled and clinked against the stone of the floor which appeared to be large slabs laid together in a pattern. When his eyes rose to the walls of the cave he noticed those too appeared to be constructed of blocks rather than solid rock. The stone was basically the same, although on occasion Tal’on would see a familiar stone of the azure blue shade found in the mountains at home.
His chain would only let him go far enough to glimpse around a corner at another sort of wall. This one had round lengths of some material which appear about the diameter of Graf’tal’s horns, but much, much longer. These ran from the floor to the ceiling and were spaced a small distance apart. Tal’on could see through them. He felt certain that if he could reach them he could pull them apart and slip through. He tugged on his chained foot so hard he made his ankle bleed before he gave up and sat down again on the floor beside the ring that held him captive.
Tal’on had drifted off into a troubled sleep where the beings on this planet hit and probed him with their fiery sticks. He was brought back to reality by the sound of something grating against the stone floor. He bolted to his feet and yanked his chain to its full length in order to follow the sound to the see-through wall. He was surprised to see part of the wall was open now. One of the beings, blue from neck to feet, except for his hands, was standing there flanked by six other red beings, equipped with the pain sticks Tal’on encountered before. Several other beings of multiple colors stood behind them. Tal’on could see at least four more before the cave curved to conceal where others of their kind might have been hiding.
He wondered if the color of the beings designated their rank in their society as the color of his skin gave others an idea of his lineage, age and status. Perhaps the blue was a ruler…a leader of some type.
Tal’on projected his thoughts to the being, something he had not thought to do when they took him prisoner. He saw no recognition from the being. Perhaps they did not communicate like his kin. Verbal might be better. Tal’on cleared his parched throat and spoke.
“Where am I?” was his question.
The man in blue responded by taking a step back and turning to his collages for counsel, or to instruct. Tal’on could not tell. Their language was as alien to him as his must have been to them.
Tal’on decided sign language might be a way to communicate. He wanted out of these chains, out of the cave, and out of here. He hoped that being in this strange cave was what was blocking his communication with Graf’tal. He had not been out of range of the old dragon since becoming his companion. It was unsettling, indeed frightening, with these alien beings in such close proximity.
Tal’on stepped forward with his hands out prepared to go down on one knee. However, before he could complete his bow of submission the red beings moved into a protective shield around the blue one and struck him with their sticks. Tal’on was brought to his knees and eventually thrust back down into unconsciousness.
The young dragon awoke in a pool of his own vomit. The beings had beat him until he had heaved and passed out. They were gone now thank the stars and planets. He rolled to his feet and found to his dismay he could not rise. A collar had been added to his neck and it was attached with a very short chain to the ring in the floor where his foot had previously been chained. They obviously thought he was dangerous and violent. He had to prove to them that he did not, and would not, hurt them if they just let him go.
His mouth tasted foul and he ached all over. A whimper escaped his lips. He snorted to think he sounded like a hatchling crying for its mother. He was a youngling. Almost ready to fledge. An Early Graf’tal had said.
He heard a noise from the direction of the see-through wall. Tal’on found himself cringing before he could stop himself. He snorted again. He was a pitiful example of his kin. He wished he could rise to his feet in order to feel more in power and less like a beaten prey.
A being advanced tentatively into the cell. It was green from neck to feet. Tal’on couldn’t remember seeing this color in previous encounters. The being had a bucket and Tal’on could smell water. He came to life. He was unable to rise any further than a sitting position, but he did make it to his knees and rocked back to sit on his heels with his tail extended behind him. He placed his chained hands on his knees, laid back his ears and lowered his head in a submissive posture. He made no move toward the being.
The green made sure to stay out of Tal’on’s reach. It said something softly, in what sounded to Tal’on’s ears as thought it were soothing. He had a moment to think that the being sounded female as opposed to the other louder voices he’d heard from the beings with sticks, but then the bucket of water was splashed on him and the floor around him.
The water was icy cold. Tal’on’s head shot up in surprise. He gasped at the shock. The green looked contrite, but turned and left immediately.
Tal’on shook to free himself of the water. He was running his hands over his body to disburse the rest when the green returned with a broom. She, for Tal’on was sure it was a female now that he had a closer look, gave him a wide birth and put her broom to use sweeping the vomit lying in the pool of bucket water to the open drain behind Tal’on. She was cleaning up. Tal’on scooted around on his knees and cocked his wedged head in her direction. He smiled a toothy grin trying to look friendly. She looked as frightened as he felt. She scurried around him and back out the open wall only to return with another bucket. This time Tal’on was prepared when she flung the water. He rose to his feet though still in a squatted position because he could not rise any further, but he lifted his tail and let the water run past. She swept the rest of the refuse down the drain. Off she scurried again and returned with a third bucket. Tal’on felt she had accomplished her task and was about to attempt some sign language when she put the bucket down and with the broom pushed it within his reach.
He grabbed at it thankfully and buried his muzzle in the cold water almost up to his eyes, sucking and lapping away until it was empty. How long had he been without something to drink? In fact, how long had he been here? There were no openings in the walls, no indication of passage of time. He wanted to go home. When he looked up the green was still standing there, leaning on her broom, with a smile on her face.
“Delevy turned out to be Tal’on’s only friend on Valdare,” Rudd’ard explained. “She was the only one to take the time to try and communicate with him and eventually assist him in getting home.”
“With the way the rest of her kind acted, I am surprised she tired,” I said. I stood up to stretch my legs.
“The Valdare’s are a people at war. They are constantly fighting among themselves. They were sure Tal’on was just another weapon against them sent by their enemy,” Mul’drak snorted in derision. “They had been at war so long they do not even know how or why it started and yet they are so insane they continue to fight.”
It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but when did war ever make sense? It was an interesting story and I wanted to hear the end. I sat back down to listen to Rudd’ard’s gentle baritone as he continued.