Part Ten: The Rallying Call
THE RALLYING CALL
The cavern was very much similar to the one in which Drake had previously fought his first dragon. The mouth was wide and spacious, the far wall was too far back to be visible. A weapon rack stood to one side, a few feet in; it was laden with two shields and twice the usual variety of weaponry, including – Drake noted grimly – a drop-point short-sword. A smooth crystal ball the size of Drake’s head was embedded in a corner of the mouth of the cave. Illusory-Krish glared at it intently for a while, and it gradually clouded up from the inside. ‘He can no longer see nor hear us’, spoke the image in Layle’s voice. ‘We are free to continue as planned.’
Drake took a deep breath. What they were doing was pure madness, the entire plan relying on whether the term ‘dragon-speaker’ was to be taken literally. But they didn’t have much time, he and Krish would have died eventually, and anyway the first dragon had seemed to recognize Drake as whom he appeared to be…
Drakendrar steadily walked into the cavern, his arms open and slightly spread in a gesture of peace. He took another deep breath, and closed his eyes. Yes, there was a dragon in this cave – there was the same sulphuric smell, though not as sickly strong as in the previous cavern. This smell left a metallic taste in his mouth. He could also hear the gentle purr of the scales chafing against each-other, and the lower, rhythmic purr of suppressed breathing. It’s hiding, thought Drake. It wants to see what I’ll do next.
He took a third deep breath, and opened his eyes. He readied his strongest, most carrying voice. ‘Great wyrm-child of the mountain’, he called. It just seemed like the right thing to say. ‘I am Dragon-Speaker, of the line of Gellcomar.’ Something stirred in the shadowy recesses of the cavern: he’d caught something’s attention. ‘I have seen the suffering of your kin. I have seen the chains that bind your ilk. I am bound by the same chains. Now I call upon you, and all of your kind, to rise up with me, to shatter these chains, and cast down he who seeks to bind you with them. I call upon all of dragon-kind who are imprisoned by that dark master, to follow me, to rise up, to break free of his grasp and fight back! Heed my call, my brothers! Will you fight? Will you rise? Will you rise to the red sun-down?’
The words echoed away into the cavern, rebounding, fading into the deep. Silence fell over the cavern mouth as if blown in by a stray breeze. Drake stood still, breathing heavily, not daring to look away from the dark of the cavern, not daring to close his eyes. He stood still, and waited.
Slowly, gradually, as if fading into the foreground, a great red head loomed into sight. It was attached to a body, red as blood on a rose-petal, great leathery wings folded at its flank. The scales rippled like slivers of fire. Two long horns of yellowed bone ran beneath the dragon’s skin, along the snout, and protruded above the brow in two smooth, ivory curves. Its eyes, of piercing gold and flickering with an internal fire, gazed down upon the unflinching boy before them. The dragon lowered its head so it was level with the boy’s, and spoke: