The Last Flame

If he had been a human, he would be drenched in sweat. However, he was not a human; instead of soft, supple skin, he had hard scales, instead of fingernails and square teeth, he had claws and fangs. His bodily armour had two tailored holes at its back, to let his scaly wings through; they themselves were also covered in hard leathers and hides for protection. He had a large tail behind him, strong enough to push or pull a heavy man, and no boots covered his feet, for he needed no protection from the hard ground. His right hand grasped his battleaxe firmly as he slashed and hacked at his enemies, while his left parried their attacks with his heavy shield. His name was Hizir, and he was a dragonborn. In fact, he was the last of his kind… With a roar of released fury, Hizir split open the skull of the last human standing against him. He was alone in the battlefield, bathed in blood and gore, panting and sagging with exhaustion, but he was victorious once more. He had always been victorious. For the last dragonborn, the choice was always victory or death.

Wiping the blood from his axe-blade, to prevent it rusting, Hizir looked around him. There were five bodies sprayed around him; that meant one of the human scouts had managed to escape and flee the hills, and would soon be back with a stronger force. Hizir clasped the axe to his belt and turned to walk further into the hills, to the cave where he had hid his supplies. He regretted having to leave such a good position, but he would not be able to hold a dedicated group of soldiers trying to kill him. Walking into the cave, he sneered at the woman there, looking at him with such disapproving eyes.

“Do not condemn me for killing your kin, Princess. They were the ones who exterminated mine in the first place.” There was no response, but there seldom was. He had been on the run for three weeks now, after having captured Her Royal Highness, Princess Kadria. This was as low as he had to become: playing mercenary for the outside influences that surrounded the human kingdom. No matter; if this was the only way for him to get his revenge, so be it, and honour be damned. Honour had lost all meaning to him in the moment where he had become the last of his kind, three hundred years past. Now, where before there had been honour in his heart, only hatred remained.

“On your feet, Princess. We have many leagues to cover yet, before resting, if we are to keep ahead of your faithful men.” The dragonborn said as he gathered their meagre supplies in a battered bag and rested it on his massive shoulder, “We have many hours of walking ahead of us, and I do not want to carry you, not again. You’re smart enough to have learned that lesson already, yes?”

All defiance washed out from Princess Kadria’s eyes, and she gave a frightened nod, hurrying to her feet. Hizir was easily half again her size, and almost three times as large… the first few days, she had tried to resist him, even tried to escape. He had not hurt her, not really, but he had not been gentle either, and he had made it clear that he was doing this only as paid work, and as soon as she was too great a nuisance, he would simply get rid of her and leave. She believed him. “Good.” Hizir said, showing his pointy teeth in a mockery of a smile. “You learn. Humans are not so dumb as they seem, after all. Well, let’s get going then.”

The paths the pair wove through the hills were hard and uneven, not really paths made for walking around; more often than not, they had to cut their way through dense shrubbery or leap through small chasms, something only possible because of Hizir’s gliding abilities. At least that also made sure that they would not be followed, at least not so easily; any scrap of time they gained was a bonus. Hizir had been aware that there would be heavy pursuit after the Princess, but not that it would be so relentless and fierce. Either she was much loved by her people, or they knew what was at stake here.

“Why are you doing this?” The Princess asked once they had stopped once more to rest, now in a small cave on the other side of the hills. It was going to be a short rest, only to catch their breath before they continued on through the forest and into the shoreline, where they would get onto a pirate ship that would get them to their destination. “What do you have to gain by capturing me? Where are you taking me to?”

“Why did your people slaughter my kin? What did they have to gain? I could ask the same questions, Princess, though asking questions would not change anything. Yours are likewise irrelevant. This is all part of my revenge on your people, no matter how small or how feeble it is, or that I had to wait for three hundred years to see it begin.”

“But… It was not us who hunted your kind! The people who did it are long dead and buried… Why do you take your revenge on us?”

“Someone has to pay!”

“But… but…”

“Silence! Let’s move out.”

The trek through the woods was silent and slow. Hizir had the endurance of a horse, but the Princess was just human, and a feeble human girl, at that. She could not keep up with his large footsteps, especially not in difficult terrain such as the untamed forest, and the dragonborn found himself having to wait for the Princess to catch up more often than not. There was no fear of her trying to escape; there were no settlements in miles around them, and she would surely perish if left to fend for herself on the forest. The soldiers had been left behind on the hills – a big army such as the one that had them on the run would have trouble passing through the dangerous paths they had taken -, but Hizir disliked the slowness of their pace. No matter what he said to others or to himself, he still disliked having to do what he had done, kidnapping a young and defenceless girl, and he wanted to be rid of her as soon as possible. He didn’t dwell on what her fate would be, after he handed her to his employer, either.

At last, after two more days of trekking through the woods, the pair emerged from the untamed forest into the wild shoreline. The ship was easily spotted; there were no other vessels anywhere the eye could see, even to Hizir’s sharp eyesight. He sighed, watching the human pirates aboard the ship. He wondered again if he was doing the right thing; what the Princess had said was true, after all, and she could hardly be blamed for what people several generations before had done. At least his employer had promised him that she would not be harmed, and that, in the end, it would be painless. Small comfort that was, but Hizir had to take what was given him, not what he wanted.

The pirates recognized the dragonborn mercenary on sight, of course, and began lowering a small boat to get them at the shore. Hizir laughed to himself, simply grabbing the Princess and flying straight to the ship, landing in the middle of the startled pirates. He let go of the Princess then, who was trembling; with fear from the flight or the pirates, he did not know. He gently pushed her away, towards the waiting pirates, and she shot him a pleading look.

“Well, well, you have done as you were asked, dragonborn, surprisingly enough, and you’ll be handsomely paid. Your part in this is done, however. Take your gold and leave.” He tossed him a weighty bag, presumably filled with gold, which Hizir snatched from the air and tied to his belt. He turned to go, choosing to ignore the pirate’s taunt, and heard him talk to his men, “But look here… what a fine piece of flesh this princess is, eh boys? We’ll have a really fun time before we are done with her, won’t we?” Hizir stopped, clutching his hands. It was not his business, he shouldn’t care; all humans were supposed to be his enemies. Things were never simple, though; life always paints reality in shades of grey, never in black and white.

“What did you say, pirate scum?” Hizir rumbled, turning back to see a few of the pirates already groping the Princess. He quivered with barely contained rage, “This was not the deal. The Princess was to be unharmed and untouched until you reach our employer.”

“What? I made no such deal, mercenary. Your part in this is gone, go away. We’ll have our due fun, of course.”

Hizir’s roar shook the very foundations of the wooden ship, making it rock unsteadily from one side to another. In a flash,  he had his battleaxe in hand, and cut off the hands of two of the pirates trying to grope the Princess. Swooping her behind him with his free hand, he inhaled deeply and spewed forth his dragonflames, burning half of the pirate crew to a crisp in a swift movement. He looked at the Princess, “Find one of the boats, Princess, and try to get out of here. I’m sorry.”

Red flashed through Hizir’s vision as he felt the sword cutting through his leather armour and the softer scales of his belly, drawing blood from the wound and making him spit some of it on the deck. He had no time to see if the Princess got to safety; he turned around and decapitated the pirate that had run him through, just in time to raise his shield and parry another pirate’s swing. The next few moments were frantic; the pirates were sloppy and untrained, but they had the advantage of numbers. As the battle raged, the fire from his dragonflames increased and burned away at the ship, hungrily eating the wood away. Hizir had no time to notice any single detail, as the frantic battle for his life continued, now parrying a sword thrust, now deflecting a bolt from a pirate’s crossbow. His wounds began to increase in number, as slowly the pirates withered away his defences and resolve. It was a race to see who would break first, now.

With a roar of pain and defiance, Hizir spewed more of his dragonflame around him, dispersing the closest pirates and finally making the rest of them see the futility of fighting an enraged, well-trained dragonborn elite in close quarters. They routed, jumping over the railings into the ocean, just as the main mast broke out from the fire and feel upon the deck, causing the ship to crack and split in half. Everything rocked out from beneath Hizir’s feet, but despite his wounds he extended his wings and took flight, praying to the Mother that the Princess had managed to escape. His vision wavered as he flew, even the meagre weight of his equipment now making him falter. He made a beeline for the shore, but exhaustion was faster and took him before he could land; he plunged into the cold sea.

As he fell deeper into the water, Hizir could not help but smile at the paradox of his life. Three hundred years spent hating all humans, just to die trying to save one. However, at least he felt at peace; his last act had regained a small bit of honour for him. Perhaps he would not feel so ashamed to confront his ancestors, now, when he ascended to the stars to join them. With the smile of those who know to welcome death, the last dragonblooded flame fell deeper into the ocean, winking out amidst the darkness and the cold.

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