Dragon of Twilight

 

Prologue

 

From 'A History in Sorcery': Year 000, The Division

In the ages before time began as we know it, the world rested in a state of balance. The Lands of Light and Dark, and the Land of Twilight which separated them, were at peace, for the two great Towers and the holy Temple which stood in the three regions did stand as equal and friendly places of magic. The Temple in the Land of Twilight, most particularly, drew many users of the mystic arts. For, while the Black and the White Towers were purposed to instruct and guide sorcerers of the two types, the Temple was home to the blood crystals, whose power it was to call up the wondrous Dragon of Twilight.

However, this power was not without great danger, for the Dragon was ever of a capricious nature, and would on occasion consume those who made requests which pleased it not.

The event which men have come to call the Division of the Dragon came about by cause of a white sorcerer, Balin Pir by name, a man whose mind sought fame and power above all else. It was his desire to gain recognition for some great deed, for though it pained him to make admission of it, his power was mediocre at best and he did not rise high in the rankings of the White Tower. With these thoughts burning in his mind did he journey to the Temple to seek out the descendents of the long-dead woman who had used her rare talent of red sorcery to establish the protection of the blood crystals. In truth, it was the task of these descendents to prevent such men as Balin from being given access to the precious crystals, but they were deceived by smooth talk, and so did he obtain that which had been his intent. With the crystals did he summon the Dragon of Twilight, and to it he posed only the one request:

"I beguile you, great Dragon," said he, "with your mighty power, erase the ability of any man to practice black sorcery - for with this loss will the white sorcerers become the paramount power in all the world."

But to this, the Great Dragon responded with a shriek of anger, and it swelled into immensity, huge with the force of its rage. "Know this," it spoke, and its voice echoed across the entire length of the world. "One has asked for that which would tip the balance, and this I will not do directly, for it would tear apart the foundations of this world and lay all to waste."

And there it paused. "But I will not ignore the request entirely, for that too would disrupt the order of things by breach of contract. Therefore, from this point onward, I declare that there shall be two Great Dragons, and they will be called the Dragon of Light and the Dragon of Dark. Know now that if a black mage were to call me, I would represent the Dark, and all of black sorcery would be gone from this world. But were a white mage to do the summoning, I would be the Light, and white sorcery would be lost forever."

And with those words, the form of the Dragon split into two great entities, its force laying the Temple to ruin and killing all within it. Then it was gone, leaving only the nine blood crystals on the broken earth.

It was at that moment in time when the great sorcerers of white and of black magic gathered together, in order to discuss the event and make a decision of what manner in which they must respond. And, after much discussion, it was decided that the blood crystals would be hidden, their secret lost, and the Great Dragon was never to be summoned again.

And so the Dragon of Twilight descended into legend, and the Temple in the Land of Twilight became a forgotten ruin, which now holds none of the wonder it once proudly displayed.

But to this day, sorcerers of both black and white magics do not forget. And the blood crystals with their deadly power exist even now, scattered and hidden, a danger forever to this world's fragile balance.

 

Year 732, at the Dragon Temple

"Oi! Krylancelo!"

It was almost morning. Ignoring his friend's call, a dark-haired black sorcerer of barely thirteen years reached into the cut in the rock beside him. There were large chunks of an ugly red crystal that had been shaken loose by the blow he'd dealt the fixture; with a slight grimace of triumph, Krylancelo was able to pull one of them out, and hold it up.

The footsteps behind him slowed to a walk. "What are you doing?"

He turned. The boy now crouching beside him had red hair and a freckled face, stuck atop a gangly form that had stretched up two inches over the summer. It gave him a good deal of extra height over his friend, despite their closeness in age. "Azalie wanted some of the local red," Krylancelo explained, pushing himself to his feet. "What are you doing out here, Hartia?"

The redhead shrugged. "Just bored, I guess." He rose as well. "What do you think Azalie wants with that, anyway?"

"Probably to study it." A cocky grin was trying to push itself onto Krylancelo's face. Azalie was seventeen, beautiful, and one of the most promising sorcerers studying at the Black Tower. And it was he she had grown up with… he that she trusted with her secrets. It was hard to count the number of people who were jealous of the close bonds between them. "It's the same type of rock as the blood crystal; it might have the same kind of power."

Hartia gave the dirty rock in Krylancelo's hand a dubious glance. "What did Sensei say?" he asked, referring to their teacher, Childman.

"He and Azalie are working together." Krylancelo smiled. Azalie had advanced more rapidly than any other had at the Black Tower for over a century. "They both decide on the tests."

"I guess that's true." Hartia shrugged. The redhead was there as Childman's assistant, just as Krylancelo was for Azalie. He was still in awe of their teacher, a feeling the shorter boy was just starting to get over.

Especially since it had been Azalie who had led them to the discovery of one of the blood crystals.

"Sensei's worried." That was unexpected. Krylancelo glanced at his friend for an explanation. "He hasn't actually said so," Hartia said hastily. "At least not to me. But I know he thinks this is a bad omen - finding the crystal."

"Why?" Krylancelo frowned. "It's just one. You can't do anything with them unless you have all nine. And the Tower wouldn't let us try to use them even if we could. Even the novices know that," he added, scornfully.

Hartia shook his head. "I don't know. I still think he's worried."

The dark-haired boy made a dismissive noise. Hartia was usually the easiest boy in his year to get along with. Out of those Krylancelo knew well, the only other two were Rai, who could be downright cryptic, and Stephan, who often seemed to be more of a girl than a boy. But when he got moody like this, Hartia was just as bad.

"I'm going back," Krylancelo said abruptly, and turned to start moving in the direction Hartia had just come from. "Are you coming?"

"Wait a minute, I'm going to get one, too." Hartia was already peering into the cut in the crystal. "Wait for me, okay…? Hey! I said wait! Krylancelo!"

The shorter boy smirked a little and kept walking.

The sun was just starting to come up, and the weed-choked remains of the Dragon Temple seemed bathed in soft reds and oranges. Krylancelo moved around one side to avoid the lazy sloping hill between the town they were staying at and the rock face. That way, he passed by the lake, and could see the colors reflected back as if they fell on flickering sheets of pure silver. There was a small cliff that dropped right into the water at that point, and the boy was willing to linger there while he waited for Hartia to catch up.

Apparently, though, he wasn't the only one with that idea.

And right in the best spot, too… Krylancelo frowned, but kept walking forward. From the size of the figure, whoever it was couldn't be more than six or seven years old. He was twice that age and a sorcerer; maybe he could intimidate the kid into leaving.

It was hard to get a good look; as he came toward the outward jutting of the cliff, the rising sun was directly in his eyes, forcing him to squint. All he could see of the kid was a dark silhouette against the blood-red sky. The ground rose up noticeably to meet that slight peek, and Krylancelo had the sudden irrational feeling that he was looking at someone from another world, highlighted by the sky and above him, out of his reach.

Stupid. He scowled. If I were standing there, I'd look like that too, wouldn't I? Shrugging aside the feeling, he stepped forward. "Hey. You."

The kid started a little, and turned. Krylancelo could see the barest outline of a fine-boned face set off by huge, almost luminous-seeming eyes, but the sun in the back was so bright he couldn't even tell if he was facing a boy or a girl. Whoever it was, they didn't seem intimidated at all. A smile spread on the shadowy face. "Hi."

For a moment, he couldn't think of anything to say. Krylancelo stared in baffled frustration, aware of the crystal warming from the heat of his hand clenched around it. Something… there was something about this kid…

"What are you doing!?"

Abruptly, the trance was broken. Krylancelo glanced up sharply. A woman was running toward them, but her attention was not on him. He could see her eyes, large and blue and just slightly wild, as if she were being pursued by something not so nice. "If they find us before we get you away…" She grabbed the kid's hand, tugging sharply. There was a large bag in her other hand, like a travelling case.

"Mama…" The kid didn't have a chance to say anything else; with a fearful glance in Krylancelo's direction, the woman hurried them both away.

The dark-haired sorcerer watched them go, feeling like he had just witnessed something important that he couldn't quite grasp. Maybe I should tell Azalie; she might know something about it.

But somehow… it didn't seem quite right to share the encounter with anyone. It had almost seemed personal, and he wanted to keep it to himself.

Weird…

"Hey!" Hartia jogged up behind him. "Didn't I say to wait? Why did you keep going like that?" He stopped, noticing that he didn't have his friend's attention. "What are you staring at?"

Krylancelo shook his head, and turned his eyes on Hartia. "I did wait. What did you think I was standing here for?" He grinned, noting the scowl on the redhead's face. "Come on, we'd better hurry."

Hartia complied, this time moving beside the shorter boy. "I wish you'd make up your mind," he complained. "You've got to be the hardest person in the world to get along with."

Krylancelo smirked, more to himself than at the other boy. "That's part of my charm." He held up the crystal again, staring at the dull red color. It didn't seem so warm any more.

No, he decided, shoving into a pocket on his robe. He wouldn't tell Azalie about the strange meeting. But one day, he'd look back at the image of a dark figure outlined in red, and he'd know exactly why it meant as much as he thought it did.

One day soon.

 

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