“I was one of the first to hear its call,” Mul’drak told us. As we continued to sit in the cavern listening to the dragon's story. “Tal’on was my father’s Great. When I was a youngling I listened to his tale of Tal’on over and over again.”
“So it was at least three generations between Tal’on’s capture and the Sollen sounding again?” Jake asked.
“Yes, and for your humankind, many, many more generation,” Mul’drak said. “You live such short lives.”
“When the call came five of us answered. We mistakenly thought five was enough,” the old dragon said and shrugged his shoulders making his wings rise in the process. “We found out later that the Prime passed on the story of the Sollen and its location through his family and political associates as Tal’on and my father had passed it on to us. In fact, the ruling of the Valdare had been retained in the Prime’s family line. When we arrived we found the Valdare had developed into an advanced technological society with no pity for their own kind, much less ours.
“The current Prime sent a small army to wipe out the village where Delevy’s progeny lived and retrieve the Sollen. When we arrived, the village was nothing but an ash heap with troops stationed around it on all sides,” Mul’drak explained.
There were tears in the old dragon’s eyes as he started to describe the scene. I noticed Arr was tearing up. I thought he was probably seeing it firsthand from the ‘picture talk’ the dragons used. The young Henu reached over and took my hand. I squeezed it in a comforting way. It must be so overwhelming to have a photographic memory, where you recall each little incident in perfect detail. I often wondered about that, because Jake and Arr fought mission after mission as mercenaries. That was their job. Jake could eventually file away the acts of violence they had to commit, but Arr, where did he tuck those tough pictures away? How did these dragons with so much age manage to handle the burden of their memories?
“It was a trap,” Mul’drak snorted. “We should have known. The leader of the human’s stood holding the Sollen and when we appeared they were ready. Their flying machines had advanced. Their weapons were stronger. I, and my friend Alm’mar, were the only ones who escaped, and we found out later that was only because they let us. Alm’mar roasted the leader and grabbed the Sollen. We jumped!”
“And the Valdare followed,” Jake said with a note of realization in his voice. He had been a mercenary all his life. His father was a mercenary before him. He knew how these scenarios played out.
“Yes,” Mul’drak confessed. “The Valdare had made listening devices in the higher skies of their planets. They tracked the call of the Sollen as Alm’mar held it in his paw. They pen pointed our home word and followed us here.”
“They had very advanced flying machines, much faster than your…”
“Pod,” I supplied.
“It’s just a transporter,” Jake supplied. “They probably had fighters.”
“They were very quick and small, with a much tighter ability to turn. They hid in the rocky cliffs of our mountains and struck, and struck again.” Mul’drak went on to explain. “They carried weapons that burned and killed our kin. Our scales were no longer protection for us.”
“Lasers,” Arr said through his tears.
I was now sure he could see what the old dragon was remembering.
“The adults fell from the sky like leaves,” Mul’drak said with a shake of his head. “We were able to keep the troops at bay. Even though they possessed battle armor, it was still not match for tooth, claw and fire. We captured one of their leaders. Under duress, he told us of the new Prime’s plan. They were to kill off all the adult dragons and then capture the younglings. The one’s this size.” He nudged Rudd’ard in the thigh with his muzzle. “They intended to take them home and match them with riders during their stasis in order to form an army which could finally overwhelm their Sandcor enemies.”
“Why didn’t they just overtake them with their own advanced weapons?” I asked. It didn’t make any sense to use dragons against lasers.
“The Sandcor were no longer an organized army. They were pockets of resistance with less advanced technology,” Rudd’ard started to explain.
“Resistance fighters,” Jake supplied. “Guerillas, dug in and hard to root out.”
“Terrorists,” Arr added.
“Indeed,” Mul’drak agreed. “The Valdare soldier said the stories of Tal’on’s fighting skills with claw, tooth and fire were the nightmares of the Sandcor. Tal’on’s name was used to scare children into submission and made grown men shake their head, even these hundreds of years later.
“We could not let our youngling become slaves, yet there was nowhere on this planet to escape from the Valdare,” Mul’drak went on. “Each adult was paired with a hatchling or youngling, or two. Some of the young ones had never been on a ‘jump’ before and many would not make it, but we had to try.”
The old dragon took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. “Our best and strongest stayed behind to keep the Valdare at bay. The enemy had determined where the nursery was, here in these caves.” He waved a wing. “The rest of us ‘jumped’ with our charges.” A tear rolled down his cheek. “Many did not make it. Who knows what world they landed in, helpless like Tal’on - probably without the proper stone to fashion a Sollen to call us to their rescue.”
Jake and my eyes met. I could tell he had the same thought. Had some of them landed on Earth? Was that where our dragon legends came from?
“The Valdare were so angry they left the planet as you see now,” Rudd’ard said, as he stroked his Great’s neck in mutual comfort.
“It looks like they nuked it,” Jake offered. “Radiation levels are low now, but it’s been a long time since it happened.”
“And the Sollen was left behind?” I asked. It seemed like a very illogical thing to do when they knew they were drawn to it as a species.
“Alm’mar hid it as soon as we realized the Valdare followed us. He told one other dragon and they were both killed during the initial fighting with the invaders,” Rudd’ard explained.
It seemed that Mul’drak was too lost in his memories to go on. I also noticed Arr was purring again. Trying to calm himself.
“No one knew where it was, so we couldn’t take it with us. We thought it destroyed until we heard its call when your parent’s unearthed it.” Rudd’ard continued to stroke Mul’drak. The old dragon’s wings drooped and he laid his large wedge shaped head in the younger dragon’s lap. “It only sings when you handle it, so the call was short. By the time we arrived. Your parents were gone. We didn’t hear the call again until Arr of the Henu began to play it.”
“What will you do with it?” Arr asked. He pulled the Sollen from it place in the pouch at his waist.
“We will destroy it.” Graf’tal said with finality. “The Valdare may still have the means to track it when it sings. No more of our kin must die because of its song.”
“That’s how they knew we had it on the Opus II,” I said. “When it was given to me, I handled it off and on for a couple of days before I headed out here.”
“Destroying it will be the only thing that will finally release our kin from the Valdare,” Rudd’ard said.
Jake drew his blaster. “Put it on that stone over there, Arr.” He pointed to one of the large boulders scattered around the cavern floor.
Arr, Mul’drak and Rudd’ard’s heads all shot up at one time, turning to face the entrance.
“It’s too late,” Arr gasp.