"Xiel, he's beautiful. My precious baby boy.
Those were the first words that Anshag remembered and the kindness and love behind them would help shape every decision made throughout his life.
Anshag was born of a human mother and a dragon father. He was imbued with a divinity and elegance only known in the dragon race, but his human mother gave him a curiosity for life and a stubbornness that refused to let him accept failure.
His father, Xielrudaeg, cared little for his offspring, but cherished his mother above anything in any of the known realms of existence. It was this love that prompted him to agree to have a child with her.
While his mother, Emmelie of the noble House of Rembert, cared deeply for both Xielrudaeg and Anshag, she also carried with her a love for all the people and races of Athium, constantly choosing peace and self-sacrifice over violence and greed. Peace and non-violence simply were her nature ever since she was born and it was this ability to put others above herself that shattered the iron will of Xielrudaeg.
Xielrudaeg, known as the Devourer, was a powerful dragon that ruled the ancient temple and city of Soria in the northern provinces of Athium before they had come under human rule. In times long since forgotten by the mortals of the land Xielrudaeg destroyed any who chose to oppose his strength, taking regular sacrifices from the surrounding human settlements in exchange for the right to live in peace alongside the dragon lord.
Xielrudaeg was a monstrous dragon, both beautiful and terrifying to behold. His scales were crimson red with flecks of gold scattered throughout. His wing span blocked out the sky upon his approach. His teeth were like the hanging stalactites and stalagmites of some enormous cavern and the weight of his feet shook the ground when he walked. While each of these parts describe an almost unfathomably powerful force, it was his magic that ended any resistance against his rule.
The Devourer breathed fire like most of dragon kind, but each flame was imbued with his own immortal lifeforce, giving it the power to either destroy nearly everything it touched or heal even the gravest of wounds so long as the spirit remained attached to its physical being. It appeared as a white flame, moving with the will of its master against the natural laws of the land. With this power, Xielrudaeg built the temple of Soria and accepted worship from the northern clans.
He watched as they grew into civilized societies and built larger and larger cities to house their expanding populations. When they split from one people working towards a common goal of survival into ruling class and work force, the dragon lord watched with amusement. Brother claimed superiority over brother. Entire families came to believe their blood held more worth than those they had settled this land with mere generations ago. Wars were fought between the cities, vying for control of an area that was more than plentiful for all who lived there.
Xielrudaeg accepted all of their human folly without changing his nature towards them. He held to the agreement of their ancestors, accepting one sacrifice from each city every year. It mattered little to the dragon lord which human was delivered to him, but as the gap between the nobles and the peasants grew there was a growing voice that demanded a noble sacrifice.
It was during this uprising that the House of Rembert chose to offer up their youngest daughter to appease both the dragon lord and the bloodlust of the peasant class. At just 16 years of age, Emmelie was dressed in the most beautiful gown available to the House of Rembert. Wherever the light touched on her dress the fabric of the gown shone a dancing red and gold resembling the scales of the dragon lord. She enjoyed a final feast with all the gathered noble families in honor of her sacrifice before being escorted to Soria by an armed guard ahead of all other sacrifices being sent that year.
Upon spotting the caravan heading towards Soria, Xielrudaeg flew overhead casting a debilitating darkness over the humans below. He chuckled to himself as the guards struggled to keep control over their horses and the bound sacrifices. He turned to go in for a closer sweep when he noticed that there was a single human who did not cower or attempt to flee.
Emmelie drank in the magnificence of the dragon lord as he passed over their caravan. She heard the screams and wails of the others, and witnessed the fear and panic of the horses, but nothing like that came over her. Instead, she felt only a deep sense of purpose flow through her.
Emmelie called out to him, “Xielrudaeg, my lord. Please join us on our journey to your temple.”
Though her voice barely carried amidst the chaos of the terrified caravan, Xielrudaeg dropped to the ground. The weight of his body was such that the wagon carrying the other sacrifices was toppled onto its side. The impact shattered the wooden bars and the sacrifices fled from the presence of the dragon lord. The guards struggled to coordinate the recovery of the sacrifices, but a terrible voice rang out to them, freezing them in place.
“Enough! You, guardsmen, leave us!”
The majority of the guards immediately turned and ran leaving only a few men standing alongside Emmelie. The enormous dragon took a single step towards her sending trees, rocks, and other debris flying through the air. One young man was struck dead by a rock the size of his head, while another had the top of his torso ripped off by the impact of an airborne tree that narrowly avoided hitting Emmelie as it flew past. The remaining guards fled back towards the cities leaving Emmelie alone with Xielrudaeg.
“Hello, my lord,” Emmelie said, curtseying to Xielrudaeg, “I thank you for joining me.”
“You do not fear me, young one?”
Emmelie took a moment looking over his hulking body before answering. “I recognize your strength, ferocity, and intellect, my lord. I acknowledge your far-reaching power and wisdom. I see and feel the sheer magnificence of your being, but no, I do not fear you, my lord.”
Xielrudaeg was taken aback by this response. This girl, she stirred something in him that he had long held as lost. He realized in that moment that surprise and curiosity had crept back into his world in the guise of this young girl.
“Will you accompany me to my temple, young one?”
Emmelie smiled and said, “Of course, my lord. That is my purpose here upon this plain.”
Xielrudaeg smiled and though the intended emotion was dampened by the baring of his teeth Emmelie recognized the amusement in his eyes.
“If it pleases you, my lord, you may call me Emmelie for the duration of our time together.”
In mere seconds a smoky cloud rose up from the ground to conceal Xielrudaeg’s entire body. When it had cleared a handsome man with long white hair and dark, piercing crimson eyes stood in his place. The man walked toward Emmelie taking in the beauty of her ivory skin, deep grey eyes, lips the colour of blood, and hair the color of the sun. She truly embodied the best of this mortal race.
The man took her hand and spoke in Xielrudaeg’s voice, “Come, Emmelie, let us go home.”
She looked up at his strong, yet kind face. The monster that had consumed millions of lives seemed like a tale made up to scare small children. She saw only a passionate man with a will made of steel. He possessed the capacity to destroy the world and yet had seen fit to sit in his temple alone for thousands of years. This man who would not be moved by any voice save his own. In that moment, held by his gaze, Emmelie saw her future and it was tied to Xielrudaeg’s own.
Squeezing his hand gently, Emmelie said, “I am yours, my lord. If you will have me, I will be yours forever.”
Shock crossed Xielrudaeg’s face for a brief instant before it was replaced by a wide, jovial smile.
“My dear Emmelie, let us at least reach my doorstep before we consider such eternal things. However, I make you this promise: So long as you are mine, and remain mine alone, you shall want for nothing. My power will be yours, and you shall live for as long as I am capable of warding off the reaper.”
“I will want for nothing? That sounds like a boring life. Is it not the goal of every man to struggle against the tides of this world in order to carve out his own destiny? My lord, I wish nothing more than to face and overcome adversity by your side. There are so many avenues down which our paths may lead and I wish to explore as many as possible.”
Xielrudaeg looked down at her as he said, “Emmelie, I feel that with you by my side we will change this stagnant world for the better.”
As they walked smoke began to swirl around them. Emmelie was lifted from the ground so gently that she was reminded of being a child once again. As the smoke cleared, she saw the world from Xielrudaeg’s view and gasped at the beauty. The land passed by beneath her.
Lakes and rives looked like no more than puddles, while entire cities appeared to be a child’s plaything. Sitting lightly in his left claw, wind swept over her at a remarkable rate, but the warm touch of his scales kept away the chill in the air. The comfort and warmth she felt in that moment washed away the exhaustion of her journey and she was soon sleeping soundly with the knowledge that she was with him.
Though his flight could have reached Soria in moments, Xielrudaeg lofted lazily into the sky, enjoying every moment of Emmelie’s wonderment. He noticed when she closed her eyes and took care to protect her from the elements as he descended into Soria.
The brief jostle caused by Xielrudaeg landing in Soria woke Emmelie from her sleep. She rubbed her eyes a few times before looking around. The sight before her was unlike anything she had seen before.
The temple itself was beautifully crafted from what appeared to be white marble, with large pillars that both supported the weight of the architecture and emphasized the subtle artistry that was cut into each building. Emmelie noted many similarities between her home and the streets of Soria, including a blacksmith, stall vendors, a small bookstore, and even a school.
What set this sight apart from that of her home were the citizens. Emmelie didn’t see many, but those that she did see commanded her attention. Dragons of various sizes and shapes walked or sometimes flew through the streets of Soria. With them there appeared to be a few humans and an even fewer number of creatures that looked to be a mix between the dragon and human races.
Upon their landing, every face was turned towards Xielrudaeg. He waited for just a few breathes before casually dismissing the citizens of Soria. Smoke ebbed up from his body and as it covered the dragon’s scales completely, Xielrudaeg’s human form emerged to stand beside Emmelie.
“It is so beautiful, my lord,” Emmelie exclaimed.
“I am glad that you like my home. I was slightly concerned that the sight of the Dragonkin,” he said, motioning to one of the creatures Emmelie had noted as a mix between dragon and human, “would crumble your previous enthusiasm.”
“Of course not, my lord. Every one of your citizens carries with them a certain magnificence and strength that calls to me.”
Xielrudaeg narrowed his eyes just enough to indicate that he did not fully agree, but decided against a verbal protest to Emmelie’s statement. Instead he reached down and took her hand in his and led her towards the largest building on the temple grounds.
It was built to house Xielrudaeg in all his glory, but modifications had been made to allow for humans and smaller dragons to utilize the space with ease. As they walked through the massive doors Emmelie had to pause for a moment to take in the grandeur of the temple hall.
The floor had been cast from pure gold and the walls were lavishly decorated with luxurious treasures from the breadth of history. Each pillar separated the dragon lord’s treasure by value and historical significance, with the least valuable in position near the entrance of the hall, and the most mounted behind the dragon lord’s dais.
As Emmelie struggled to take in everything that she was seeing she noted a dark passageway that seemed to emanate a great, yet terrible, presence.
“What is down there?”
Xielrudaeg barely glanced in the direction that Emmelie indicated before answering, “That is the past. Turn your eyes away from that darkness, Emmelie. Come with me into our bright future.”
Holding out his hand for her to take, Xielrudaeg smiled down at the girl.
Emmelie smiled back and took his hand. Together they walked to the dais and sat down.
“Emmelie, I have something important that I must ask you.”
“Of course, my lord. I will do my best to answer you.”
“You spoke of staying with me, becoming mine?”
“Yes. I knew from the moment I saw your magnificence unfurled above us on the road to Soria that I wanted to be with you until the end of my days.”
Xielrudaeg watched her carefully, but saw only her ingenuous nature. “I also wish this to be so, but I want to ensure that you are given time to fully accept your covenant. In this way I wish to pledge myself to you, but I will wait two years before I ask for the same. During this time, you will have the freedom to do anything that you wish, so long as it is within my power. If after two years you still desire to pledge yourself to me, we will be wed here in Soria following the ancient dragon customs.”
Emmelie listened patiently as Xielrudaeg laid out his conditions. She suspected that the reason for the two-year period was as much to protect Xielrudaeg from her as it was to protect her from him.
“I agree to these terms. I will spend this time helping you change Soria and the surrounding cities for the better, and once two years have passed, I will agree to be your wife.”
“No, young one, you will not be my wife. That is a human title of possession and control. You will be my mate and will rule over these lands as an equal.”
“Will your people see me as such?”
Laying a hand upon Emmelie’s head, a soft glow began to pass from Xielrudaeg to Emmelie.
“They will acknowledge you when they sense my power running through you. One of my kind may gift a portion of their power and lifeforce to any that they choose. Many use this ability to bolster the talents of their offspring, but I believe our young need to earn their power. This ability can be used only once by most of dragon kind, though a few especially powerful dragons may gift their very lives as sacrifice to resurrect one recently fallen. You will be the first and the last that will share my power. Together we can change the state of this land.”
Emmelie looked up into his crimson eyes and smiled. Xielrudaeg watched as her hair and eye color slowly changed to mimic his own as his power intertwined with her lifeforce. She was the most beautiful human he had ever seen, and despite his own insistence on waiting two years, Xielrudaeg knew that this human already possessed all that he could give.