Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 5: Kevla’s Dreamworld

Had to fire a construction crew today. They made the testing tubes too small. Our projections show the growth rate of the test subjects shall well exceed the normal limits for artificial lifeforms.

Boulders and red flames smashed into each other like some kind of strange storm. At one point, the fire condensed into a single giant jet of flame, and the boulders converged to become a stream of compacted earth, meeting the fires head-on. As the two forces of nature collided, it seemed unclear which side would attain victory. Then suddenly, the boulders lost their intensity, and the flames easily disintegrated every stone in its path. There was a bright flash of light and a clap like thunder. Then all went quiet. The only thing visible was black smoke and burning hills of dust.

Ryan walked calmly through the churning clouds of smoke to find a groaning Grafael kneeling on the ground. They were in a large chamber with silver metal walls. However, the floor was comprised of mounds of brown and gray stones.

Grafael shivered from the exertion, and Ryan put a careful hand on his huge shoulder.

“Hey, big guy. You okay, or am I going to have to chop your head off today?”

Grafael coughed a little before giving a raspy chuckle. “You enjoy these sessions of ours, little brother. You still can’t beat me with the sword or with your fists, but a battle of the elements is in your favor. It doesn’t seem fair. You possess the power of the flame, the most famous blessing of our winged brothers like Tork. And all I can do is throw pebbles.”

Ryan grinned. “Well, you’re not wrong.”

He then turned around, cupped a hand to his mouth, and called in a loud voice, “Don’t worry, fellas! It was just gas! No rage mode today!”

The dozens of Elementals who watched from small windows in the walls withdrew their various Psionic Swords and Spears already alight with orange flames. Every single weapon in the room had been pointed at Grafael. The Elementals then vanished back into the holes, and metal panels slid over the windows making it appear that they were just a part of the walls.

Grafael growled slightly as Ryan pulled him to his feet, his tail beating the ground in frustration. “I can still feel it, Ryan. In the edge of my consciousness. It’s still there ... I know it is. I can feel it every time I use Earth Elemency. I’m still not free of the Berserker curse.”

Ryan hesitated, but knew that he had to come clean. That was the point of his pact with Grafael. They were there to keep each other in check. “It happened to me too just yesterday ... like that other time I told you about.”

Grafael looked down at Ryan grimly. “Was it as strong as that first time?”

Ryan shook his head. “No, but it was still there. That’s why I couldn’t risk sparring with Leon then. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stop myself once we got started.”

Grafael nodded in acknowledgement. “I thought as much. You are not one to shy away from battle. There’s too much of our people in you. But still, I am grateful. You showed remarkable self-control. I am proud of you, little brother.”

Grafael put a scaly hand on Ryan’s shoulder, but Ryan growled and shook the hand off, feeling too ashamed for the kind gesture. “Well, that makes one of us! What kind of sick asshole am I, Grafy? Berserker Strain or not, I still wanted to kill him! I actually wanted to kill a friend just because he kissed a girl that I’ve never even dated before! What the hell is wrong with me?”

Grafael chuckled. “You were raised as a human, so you do not understand such things, but what you are feeling now is quite common among Saurians, especially for males during our years of adolescence.”

Ryan gawked at Grafael. “You mean ... you mean you actually kill each other for ... for...”

“For mates,” finished Grafael casually. “Of course. Our females will only settle for the strongest of males. Oftentimes, they will have many suitors display their strength in Voruck duels. Sometimes, death occurs during these duels. And other times, our females will even kill the males themselves if they prove too weak for their liking. Saurians have extremely powerful instincts when it comes to matters of love. Our instincts and traditions have kept us alive and allowed us to maintain our status as one of the most feared warrior races in the universe.”

A flabbergasted Ryan stumbled over his words as he said, “So ... so you’re saying that I ... that I should what? Let nature take its course and beat Leon within an inch of his life to win Éclair?! Somehow, I don’t think she’d go for that!”

Grafael frowned down at Ryan as if the answer was obvious. “Of course, she wouldn’t. And of course, you shouldn’t. I’m not sure if it is indeed the Berserker Strain you’re feeling, or merely the instincts of your Dragon blood rising up, but you should not act on these feelings in either case.”

Grafael then picked up a stone from the ground and held it up to Ryan as if to show an illustration. “Leon is an ally and a powerful asset for Éclair’s protection. Losing him would be a detrimental blow to our standing forces. Even among our own kind, there are rules for engaging fellow clansmen. In those cases, we do everything we can to avoid Voruck by displaying other feats of strength for the females, such as slaying great beasts, or braving the wilderness without food or water. If Voruck is unavoidable, the combatants are strongly encouraged to avoid inflicting fatal wounds. The integrity of the clan takes precedence over any petty squabble. The moment we forget that...”

Grafael then crushed the large stone in his hand, creating a cloud of dust as the pieces fell to the ground.

Ryan watched the stone crumble to pebbles and land to the dirt floor before saying, “So ... so what happens if Voruck is unavoidable among fellow clansmen?”

“Usually, the combatants will simply engage in Vok’Gar without the use of weapons. They will take great care to avoid vital organs, turning the battle into one of attrition. Under such conditions, the duel can last for days until one of the fighters finally loses stamina and is forced to admit defeat. If this occurs, there is no shame to the fallen party. The female will choose the winner as her mate, and the loser will move on to another female with no loss of honor. In fact, if the defeated warrior shows himself strong enough in the battle despite losing, females will often flock to him in droves. Many times, such occasions result in lifelong friendships between the rival males. My own father’s honored second for his wedding with my mother was a young male he defeated in Vok’Gar to win her hand. My father himself lost a few Vok’Gar duels in his younger days, but felt no need for revenge on those that had beaten him. This is not always the case. Killing and feuds still occur between fellow clansmen. But what happened with my father occurs more often than not so as to maintain stability among the clans and avoid infighting as much as possible.”

Ryan laughed, feeling a little encouraged, but not by much. “So everyone can still stay friends even after all the fighting. That’s a nice thought. But I don’t think that’s the case with me, Leon, and Éclair.”

Grafael put his hands on his hips and shook his head in agreement. “No. You are right to be wary. Éclair is human. She has the heart of a Saurian in many ways, but she is not of Sauria like you and I. She would not take kindly to your affections displayed in such a way. And in any case, you are still too young and immature to allow these strong feelings to take root. Even if this is no more than adolescent exuberance and not the Berserker Strain, there is no guarantee that you would be able to control your instincts should you allow yourself to engage Leon in battle. We Saurians must train ourselves for years to reign in our intense bloodlust. Otherwise, we’d be fighting and killing all the time without distinction between friend or foe. In such a world, there would be no need for honor ... our society would simply be one of mindless slaughter. That is why the Berserker Strain is so abhorrent to us.”

Ryan felt himself blushing slightly as another question came to mind, turning his cheeks a light shade of purple very briefly. “So ... so if this is just puberty like you said, why is it that I’m only feeling this way now? Éclair’s always been affectionate towards Leon. I never went all beast mode those other times. I’ve been a teenager for a while now. I’m almost eighteen now for crying out loud ... a legal adult! I shouldn’t be dealing with this kind of stuff, right?”

Grafael then patted Ryan on the back in a friendly manner. “You still think too much in terms as a human, little brother. The coming of age is different for the Wingless. Our lifespans are much, much longer than that of primates even though most of us do not possess Elemency like immortal humans such as Eramar. We experience what you call puberty much later in life, and for a longer period of time.”

Ryan’s eyes widened in horror. “How long?”

Grafael scratched his chin in thought. “Usually until we turn forty. But with you being part human, I’m not sure if that is-”

“Son of a biscuit!” cursed Ryan, his jaw tightening and fists clenched. “So I’m going to be feeling like this until I’m a freakin’ old man! Damn it all to hell!”

Ryan smashed his fist into the ground, creating an explosion and throwing up a large dust cloud around him and Grafael, blocking his view. When the dust settled, Ryan remained kneeling in the dirt panting in anger.

Grafael was smiling down at him gently. “Tis nothing more than the natural cycle of life, little brother. You should not dread it. Every warrior must face this trial regardless of race. How you face it determines your merits as a man. You usually relish a challenge, simply think of this as such if that helps.”

Ryan sat back on the ground, groaning as he rubbed his eyes. “I can’t stand it when you sound all wise and shit. I like it better when you just punch me. Now I really feel guilty for being such an ass lately. Especially to Tork. He didn’t deserve that. He’s probably gone through enough crap of his own. I just hope he and Torsha won’t stay mad at me for much longer. I’d like to at least make up with them before I...”

Ryan stopped. He hadn’t yet told Grafael of his plans. Grafael would’ve probably understood more than anyone considering that he once planned to do the same. Ryan should tell him ... He should...

Grafael then sat down next to Ryan and matted his hair. “Your method of confrontation with Tork was poorly timed, but not necessarily unneeded. What others call ‘lack of tact’ we Saurians call ‘getting the fire back’. Tork has his own battles to face, and you reminded him of those inner demons which he has been running away from. A Dragon’s heart calling out to his kin.”

Grafael then looked up at the ceiling, his face contemplative. “Ryan, our history with our winged brothers is a complicated one, more ancient than the Empire itself. Tork is here despite the practices of his people who largely discourage the warrior’s way of the Elementals. Much like you, he is a lonely soul with no family to call his own.”

“So, Tork’s people, the Space Dragons ... they really hate fighting that much? That’s so ... that’s so different from the Wingless Dragons. Are you sure we’re related?”

“You should ask him about it when you make amends,” Grafael said with a mysterious expression. His bearing seemed as ancient and vast as the stars themselves. “Perhaps he can convince you not to leave. After all, your feelings are not the only ones that matter here ... as you once reminded me.”

Ryan, slightly stunned, went tense as he said, “So, you knew?”

“We are kin, little brother,” Grafael said quietly. “I’ve revealed my soul to you many times. Do you think yours remains hidden from me?”

“Do you think ... do you think I should stay despite everything, despite what I did to Tork and Torsha, what I almost did to Leon ... and to Éclair?”

“You did once argue for me to do the same when I myself had doubts,” Grafael answered gently without any condemnation.

“Grafy ... I ... I understand a little better how you felt back then. But I don’t know if I’m as strong as you are. I don’t know how long I can endure feeling like this. Feeling like the smallest misstep could destroy everyone I love.”

Grafael gave a small laugh, clapped Ryan on the shoulder one last time, and rose to his full imposing height. “I trust you, little brother. I know you’ll find the answer. Now, I think you told me that someone else has business with you.”

Ryan took in a deep breath and nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been practicing telepathy with Kormal. Well, telepathic defenses at least. I can’t use telepathy myself, but he’s been teaching me to protect myself against Mental Types like Leon.”

Ryan had a slightly sad smile as he thought of the two Sages. “He seems a lot happier now ... with his daughter. They even found a way to let her explore some of the holoprojections. I just wish I could give her a body of her own. I know Kormal does, too.”

Grafael snorted in wry amusement. “My brother, the gentle Dragonborn with the heart of a warrior and the soul of a saint. You wish to cure the universe itself of all sadness, do you? Very ambitious, even for a Saurian.”

Ryan dusted himself off and came to his feet as well. “Don’t say stuff like that. You make it sound like I’m some bleeding heart hippie.”

“In any case, your mind is in need of sharpening too, especially since you failed so spectacularly with your ‘little sword’ yesterday. Perhaps it’s for the best that Éclair found a different mate for herself before she realized just how small your sword really is.”

Ryan started laughing, but then stopped and stared at Grafael with wide eyes. He whispered dramatically, “You did know. All this time you’ve been playing innocent, but you knew exactly what you were doing.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Grafael in a serious tone. But then he grinned like a little kid and held up his pinky, wiggling it in front of Ryan’s face. “‘Little’ brother.”

Grafael then ran away laughing as Ryan chased after him throwing red fireballs from his hands while yelling, “GET BACK HERE SO I CAN KILL YA, YOU BIG JERK ... AND YOUR ‘NOT-SO-BIG’ HAMMER TOO!”

“Kevla,” Kormal called out as he searched the strange holoprojection for his daughter. “Beloved. I brought a present for you. Where are...”

The Sage found himself in a most strange place indeed. His intricate mind had created many mental constructs over the years, but he had to say that his daughter’s bizarre creativity was on a whole different level. He supposed she got that from her mother.

The sky was not monochromatic, but a gigantic rainbow instead filled with shifting colors of blue, green, yellow, red, purple, and pink. In the rainbow sky floated five-pointed star-shaped lights that flew lazily around like fireflies, some even close enough to the ground for him to touch. The ground was strange as well. The grass was bright pink, and the trees were made of white clouds of mist. Also, the trees had faces, arms, and hands. They actually spoke to him, greeting him politely and offering him tea, though they didn’t seem to have any tea. In the center of the projection was a tall hill of pink grass. At the top of the hill was a giant red and white mushroom surrounded by a gray brick castle with green towers made of glass and blue flags.

Kormal reasoned that his daughter was at the castle. Though he had commissioned these holoprojections to be used for her history lessons, he did say that she could play a little if she finished her studies. Still, fantasy on this scale was not quite what he had in mind. He couldn’t help but wonder if it was partially due to Ryan’s influence. His daughter had been bonded with the boy for a while, and picked up a few human-like habits that left Kormal completely baffled at times. She also picked up some Dragon-like habits that reminded Kormal of one of his old tutors. Still, she was Kevla. She was whole now, at least in mind. That was a blessing that Kormal still had trouble believing at times, and one which never ceased to warm his heart.

Kormal made his way through the pink field, ignoring the cloud trees that waved at him and asked him to join them for tea. As Kormal drew closer to the mushroom castle, he saw it was surrounded by a moat filled with ... orange jello. The drawbridge was down and made of bright blue wood held up by red chains. On the bridge slept a large four-legged Dragon with red eyes.

Kormal came to a halt and gasped. That Dragon! It looks just like...

The Dragon’s large ears perked up and it raised its long neck to look at him. It had a mane of bright red fur going down the back of its neck, and long white horns. Its bright golden scales shined like the sun, and the large bat-like wings on its shoulders rose and shrouded it like a canopy. Its large snout reminded Kormal of a T-Rex, and the fur under its strong chin almost looked like a short goatee. Its template seemed to be based on the ancient elders of the Space Dragon people who were larger and walked on all fours. There were still Dragons that grew that big, some even bigger, but most resembled the more man-sized Dragons like Tork. The larger Dragons were known as Primordials, and they rarely bothered themselves with politics as they were so ancient that day-to-day minutia didn’t really matter to them anymore.

The Dragon illusion lounged on the ground like a lazy cat as it studied Kormal. It stretched out talons as long as his body as it pawed the bridge lightly. It didn’t seem aggressive, but Kormal still feared it. Illusion or not, he feared this Dragon, for he had seen it many times in his dreams, and he knew what its coming represented.

Then Kormal caught sight of his daughter. She was sleeping on the Dragon’s belly and smiling contentedly as the golden scales rose and fell gently with the Dragon’s breathing. The Dragon’s long tail was wrapped around her like a blanket. She wore a bright pink dress and a long purple pointy hat with a translucent white ribbon tied to the top. Her long, black hair was done in a single braid. Small, circular tattoos glowing white dotted her cheeks, the symbol of Kormal’s house as a noble family of high-level telepaths. She would earn more intricate tattoos after mastering her abilities. Despite her gray skin and flattened nose, she appeared very similar to a little human girl of eleven or twelve.

Kormal couldn’t help but feel a tad startled as the Dragon lowered its huge head towards Kevla’s sleeping form. Its jaws were large enough to swallow her whole. It opened its maw, revealing rows upon rows of razor-sharp fangs as large as daggers. Then the Dragon licked his daughter gently with a bright pink tongue, and her large, black pupilless eyes fluttered open and focused on Kormal.

Kevla beamed at her father, and said excitedly, “You’re back!”

Kevla unraveled herself from the Golden Dragon’s tail and ran to her father. The Dragon didn’t seem to mind, and lazily lowered its head to go back to sleep.

Kevla threw herself in her father’s arms, and he held her to him tenderly. Though he knew this holographic body he made for her was only a temporary artifice, it was nice to pretend for a while. For the moment, she felt real enough. And she was indeed alive. That was the most important thing.

Kevla giggled as her father swung her around joyfully. But he still kept a wary eye on the sleeping Dragon that looked far too similar to a certain Celestial Beast to suit his liking.

After a little light tickling, Kormal brought his daughter around and smiled down at her. “I brought a present for you, beloved.”

Kevla grinned in anticipation as she closed her eyes expectantly. So many of her mannerisms were so ... so very human now.

Kormal reached into his robes and brought out a fluffy stuffed animal. It was a bright purple teddy bear with a pink unicorn horn on its head. When Kevla opened her eyes, she gasped with the biggest smile on her face. Her joy made Kormal’s heart soar as she took hold of the childhood heirloom and hugged it tenderly.

“Boombi! I haven’t seen him since I was a little girl!”

“You will always be a little girl to me, beloved. All fathers regard their daughters as such,” Kormal said gently as he cupped Kevla’s chin.

Kevla giggled again as she held the doll out in front of her and rubbed its button nose against her cheeks. “Where did you find him, father? Did you...”

Kevla’s eyes grew wide as she considered certain implications. “Did you go home? Did you go see mother?”

Kormal’s heart grew heavy with regret. He said gently, “It will ... it will still be some time before we can see your mother. The traditions of our people are not broken easily. Zand will have to prepare them before they can accept...”

Kormal couldn’t bring himself to finish, but Kevla did it for him, her voice growing somber. “Before they can accept us back.”

Kormal nodded slowly.

Kevla gave a sad smile as she studied the bear. “I understand. What we’ve done ... it’s never happened before. It has no precedence. No child has ever returned from the Mind Plague, especially not like this. They will be afraid at first. They will fear infection. We must be patient with them ... and with mother too perhaps.”

Kormal gave a small, contented laugh as he caressed his daughter’s cheek. “You are wise beyond your years, beloved.”

Kevla grinned up at Kormal. “I only look like a little girl now because I want to, but technically, I am almost an adult, father ... at least as our people measure such things.”

“Still, I yearn for a way to return you to your former self so that you could experience those years in person instead of as a disembodied soul. We are telepaths, yes. But not all realms reside in the mind. Some things in life need to be ... felt and touched to understand their meaning. I wish to give that back to you one day, beloved ... that which was stolen from you by fate.”

Kevla then reached out and took hold of her father’s hand. “In this temporary form, I can hold Boombi, and I can still touch your hand, father. Until we can return to our people and see mother, that is enough for me.”

Kevla caressed his daughter’s fingers. “My beloved. The strength I beheld in your mother, I behold in you now.”

“Strength from both of you, father,” Kevla said as she pulled him along gently to walk along the jello moat while cradling the toy like a babe. “Tell me how you found Boombi?”

“I did not find him. I ... I used my memories to create a replica using a synthesizer. I apologize for the deception, but you seemed so happy when you saw him.”

“I am still happy. I can’t tell the difference. Do we all have photographic memories like that?”

Kormal nodded. “Our gifts have always been of the mind. I will teach you to focus your own thoughts so that you forget nothing. Your mind will be like a library with all the information you learn accessible at a moment’s notice. You can even recreate what you remember here if you wish.”

Kevla giggled, sounding like a little girl yet again. “I would like that. I would like that a lot.”

“Beloved,” said Kormal with a touch of concern. “About this world, and that ... that Dragon you created. Where did you...”

“Do you like it?” asked Kevla excitedly.

“It is ... festive,” Kormal said uncertainly.

“It’s a game I created while you were gone. I worked hard to make it just the way I wanted. It’s a lot like the mental constructs I’ve seen you make.”

“Beloved,” Kormal said a little firmly. “I arranged all this for you mostly for your history lessons. Being in this place is too taxing on you. I only agreed so that you could learn as a proper Sage and not be stuck in my subconscious all the time. But fantasies of this scale seem too indulgent for your development.”

Kevla pouted in a very girl-like fashion, belying her earlier bouts of adult wisdom. “You said I could play when I finished my studies. I’m all caught up so far. You can check the records if you like.”

Kormal sighed and smiled fondly. “Tell me of this game of yours, and especially of that Golden-”

Kevla pulled her father along with such force that he couldn’t get a word out. Her ribbon whooshed through the air as she padded along on bare feet. She was excited again as she ran along the pink grass, hauling Kormal behind her. Kevla dashed past the sleeping dragon, and Kormal experienced the briefest flash of fear as he heard it snoring while he passed it.

Kevla then brought the two of them to a stop as they crossed the bridge, the white stalk of the giant mushroom at the center of the castle rising up before them. There were pictures on the stalk. Very childlike doodles of Dragons, knights, princesses, and old-fashioned wizards from Ancient Earth.

“Now, I haven’t designed all the characters yet except for the Dragon, but I do have the basic story that I want.”

Kevla waved her hands in front of Kormal as she illustrated her game, gesturing to the doodles on the stalk. “It goes like this. Once upon a time, there was an evil knight who kidnapped a beautiful princess. He locked her away in a tower to force her to marry him, but the princess refused. Then her father, a kindly wizard king, sent a mighty Dragon to save the princess. The wizard king taught the Dragon how to control his flames so he wouldn’t burn the princess.”

She pointed at various illustrations of the Dragon, a knight in black armor, an old man with a long white beard and a pointy hat, as well as Unicorns and winged bird-like creatures that Kormal did not recognize.

“After a vicious battle, the Dragon defeated the evil knight. The princess kissed him as thanks, and he transformed into a handsome prince. And then they got married! The wizard king conducted the ceremony himself, and they all lived happily ever after ... at least until the sequel. I haven’t worked out the details for that one yet, but I want it to involve Vampires and Werewolves somehow. Oh, and the prince can transform back into a Dragon at will. He does it for the princess because she loved riding on his back so much. Even after they get married, they can fly through the air whenever they want. And there’ll be Unicorns too. Lots of Unicorns! The Dragon and the princess will command an army of Unicorns, and the evil knight will have an army of Griffins. And then...”

“Slow down, beloved. Slow down a moment,” said a somewhat bewildered Kormal. “You are talking so fast I cannot keep up.”

Kormal couldn’t help a chuckle at his daughter’s enthusiasm as he took all the images to heart. “I wanted to ask about ... Wait. This story. It is from one of the ballads of Ancient Earth, is it not? A human fairy tale I believe they called it, inspired by Demihuman visitors to their world before they discovered interstellar travel. But isn’t the knight supposed to be the hero, and the Dragon the villain?”

Kevla crossed her arms and frowned. “Not in my story. I’m going for originality ... and realism. The thought of primitive human knights armed with nothing but steel weapons killing a Dragon. That’s just dumb! Dragons can travel through the stars without a spacecraft, and their scales are practically invulnerable to all but the most advanced of weaponry.”

Then Kevla started twiddling her fingers nervously and looked away from her father. “Besides. Ryan’s kind of a Dragon. Can you think of any knight more heroic than him?”

Now that is a disturbing development, thought Kormal guardedly.

He had to remind himself that his daughter was a young woman technically, at least in terms of years. Still, there were more important things that required his attention. Kormal knew he needed to ask her. He’d been putting it off for too long. He needed to know where she got the image for that specific Dragon.

“Beloved,” Kormal said gently as he put his arms on her shoulders. “The Dragon you designed for your story. I need you to tell me where you first saw that-”

Kormal heard a familiar yelp. He looked behind him to see the Golden Dragon standing on all fours and growling at a cringing figure lying on his back on the bridge. The figure was Richard’s son, Ryan Uruks.

Ryan stared up into the red eyes of a gigantic Dragon with golden scales. He had seen a few get that big, but only among the Black Dragons that attacked his village. Some were even bigger. For a brief moment, Ryan felt like he did the day his family was accosted by a horde of unstoppable flying monsters. Then the Dragon stopped growling, cocking its head to the side in a strange manner as it stared down at him. There was something ... something familiar of this golden-scaled Dragon. It felt like...

“Ryan, no!” cried out a young girl’s voice.

Ryan saw the young, child version of Kevla and her father coming out on the blue wooden bridge. Kormal wore his familiar blue hooded robe and black trousers. His chest was bare, showing his gray skin and many white glowing images tattooed on his flesh which curved in circular patterns. His head was a little larger than a normal man, and he was bald with big, pupilless black eyes. In place of a nose were slits, and small holes on the sides of his head served as his ears. Ryan once heard that Ancient Earthlings once called his people Martians, but the Sages only had a few colonies on Mars at the time of the human’s occupation of Earth.

The source of this story is Finestories

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