Solomon Rhodes sits upon a mountainside. His legs are crossed beneath him and his hood has been pulled up to cloak his face. Under his white beard, his face carries a picture of disappointment.
“In the face of destiny, men forget their nature.”
Looking to the sky, Rhodes seems to fall into a different place. A different time.
“I remember a mighty kingdom. They knew the Dragon was coming, for the warning signs flooded the air. They could have taken flight, yet their prince, Bird sigil upon his crown, demanded that his people face the threat. For he believed that slaying a Dragon was his destiny.”
A barely perceptible snort echoes from his throat before he continues, the sadness still lingering in his voice.
“Five thousand men stood together at the foot of his mountain. They faced death as the Bird Prince clutched the reigns of his horse at the head of the vanguard, pride outweighing the armor adorning his frame. The ground trembled as the Bird Prince boastfully called for his sword. This was his destiny. Men would fall to their knees before him once it was come.”
Solomon looks down into the valley below him, where a fire burns in the center.
“Thick black smoke rose from restless peaks in the distance. The prince looked down in that moment and realized that his sword was blunt, dulled from disuse. For he had spent his time manipulating the undercurrents of his court, ruling through betrayal and bargaining. His battle prowess had slowly degenerated, even as his power grew. Yet mighty words will not win mighty battles.”
His voice breaking in memory, Rhodes seems like a different person as he recounts dark memories.
“A sound like the death cries of a thousand cattle split the air, fire and ash filling the sky. Rising from the depths of the world, an infernal leviathan of incomprehensible size, spewing flames, wings unfurling like the shadows of clouds before the sun. As the Dragon takes flight, its wings beat the air as the drums of the god of war. Its serpentine body uncoils in the air, and from its jaws the punishment blooms. How arrogant of the Bird Prince to believe he could slay the Dragon.”
The memory of the Bird Prince returning, Rhodes stands to his feet, walking away from the valley.
“He dropped his blunt sword and fell to his knees, a piteous chorus of desperation on his lips. Pointless. There can be no victory here. His people died like grass withering in the desert, hundreds on the first pass. Mighty warriors, burned to a crisp inside of their armor, twisted metal and ruined flesh staining the once green field.”
Reaching his small camp, Solomon looks down at his open hand. His voice reaches a dark tone of melancholy.
“Shrieks of agony cloaked the Bird Prince as his world crumbled around him. And as the shadow fell over him, the prince knew the truth of the matter. When the Dragon flies, the world of men comes crashing down. The betrayals, the intrigue, none of it mattered when faced with the inferno.”
His eyes rising, Rhodes manifests a fire before him. Yet his words are for one who is not present.
“Ethan Bird, you have lived your life cloaked in those devices. You have hidden behind greater men, made bargains to escape your fate. Yet you placed your dagger in my back. You climbed to the highest peaks to find the answer to the Dragon, yet all you have found is death. You looked inside your heart for power, but all you found was dust. Your life has been a sad song, meandering from one place to another, before settling on a funeral dirge. For you are a sadder man, destined to live a wretched life of destitution, a god of nothing and heir to ash. You believed you could slay the Dragon, but when it rises before you, Ethan Bird, then you will realize what the world already knew.”
The small flames have risen to tower over the cloaked Dragon.
“It ends in fire. Fire and blood.”
It rises to the sky to obscure our vision.
Darkness takes us.