This is so insufferable!Boru leaned back against the city wall, the stares of passersby eating at him. Some of the humans they called Blades would occasionally stop to look at him warily as they patrolled the ramparts above. More of them would circle around on the streets, their eyes watchful, expressions full of disdain.
Eirik had promised a fight, a chance to rage against the frustration. The waiting, however, was excruciating.
Yrim had been so foolish.
To allow oneself to be enchanted so easily and worse, enslaved to a human. It was beyond shameful. If the other tribes knew of this they would unite in outrage and descend on this place like an ominous storm.
Boru scanned the humans busing themselves about the streets. It was easy to see by their faces what kind of chief ruled them. They were like sheep being herded aimlessly.
How is it we have not cleaned this land of you?
He pulled his warhammer from the metal loop attached to his belt. The humans nearby gave an even wider berth in response. To them it was like a gigantic sledge. Brou smiled, the fear in their eyes warming his heart.
“Such a long face.” he heard over the din of the people around him. The speaker’s tone was venomous and full of contempt. “I have never seen such a pitiable sight, nor such a young giant so far from home.”
Boru tightened his grip on the warhammer and shifted his attention to the speaker. The human was different from the others, his ears were pointed and his skin pale. His eyes matched his skin tone as well, but there were hints of a bluish tinge to them. His hair was white as were his eyebrows.
He wore no furs for warmth, just a long flowing robe. It seemed heavy enough with its layered design. Perhaps that was all he needed.
“Only a fool antagonizes a giant,” Boru sneered. “Or the dead.”
The human smiled wickedly and bowed in a grandiose manner. “Well then I am fortunate,” he replied. “For I see no giants, fools or undead nearby.”
Boru nearly choked. The cold grip of anger rose in his chest. The urge to swing Srinte and flatten the human into a bloody smear was compelling, but his oath prevented it. Eirik had made him promise not to harm anyone in the city.
“See, now that is the expression I’m used to seeing,” he continued. “All that hate and murderous intent. That’s who you people are.”
Boru opened his mouth to speak, but words failed. Anger made it impossible.
“Oh, we haven’t been introduced forgive me,” the human said. “My name is Issfang. Your people killed my mother and my entire clan.”
Icefang…I have heard that name before…
“Well this is a surprise,” he said. “Your face tells that you know if me. This is good. It has been perhaps a century or more since I raided the Northern Isles and slaughtered the lot of you.”
“I know those stories, they speak of one who comes on the wind, like the darkest of storms. In this creature’s wake, blood and death follow.”
The wide demonic grin on the human’s face was enough to make anger give way to fear. The human’s skin shifted ever so slightly, sharing the appearance to scales.
“Then bear witness, young giant,” he said. “Before this day ends, you will have your blood and death. Be thankful that there is One who prevents me from having you join the others.”
It was madness, Boru understood it, but pride forced him to stand. He took his Srintyr, tightening his hold on the warhammer’s grip and pointed it at Issfang. It didn’t matter if The Blades or the townsfolk were watching or heard him. In his heart, Boru was done being overpowered by others.
“You think your yourself so strong,” he said. “You think you have power, dragon. But you behave as nothing more than a petulant child. You are pining over the dead, though they cannot hear you. If they could, I imagine they would weep for you.”
The rage on his face his satisfying. More scales had begun to show across his skin. Boru cracked a smile. I win.
“You think yourself brave, boy?” Issfang replied. “You think because I cannot hurt you, that I cannot cause harm in other ways?”
Boru sneered. “What can you take from me that I have not already lost? You who have spent a life in pursuit of an endless quest. One of vengeance and blood. Yet, killing doesn’t make you strong. Nor does it make powerful.”
“Bold words, from a child who sees this place as something to be conquered,” Issfang replied. “You are just as eager to kill.”
“I am eager to take back what my people lost. To rebuild. This land was ours before it belonged to humans.”
The dragon curled his lip. “Brutes, nothing more and nothing less.”
Boru shook his head, contempt filling his heart. “And you are a soulless monster. You will die alone and unloved by anyone.”
Iffang glared, his lip drawn taught, jaw locked before turned away. The dragon vanished a moment later. It was an unsettling sight.
Our dragons cannot do that.
One thing was clear though. Issfang was consumed by his own loss. Being face to face with the actual monster from the stories was sobering. Boru thought about how hasty he had been. How dismissive of humanity he was. It was common among the tribes to regard them so.
Perhaps it was because of arrogance that they had never managed to gain much against the Sokorans. Infighting being another reason. Eirik said that change needed to happen, that something terrible was coming.
Boru leaned against the wall and slid down onto the snow-covered cobblestone. If Sokoras became a nation, reclaiming the land would be impossible. Few dragons were born every year and with Isffang here, the six here would probably die.
“Perhaps it’s time my people changed too.”
Embittered, Issfang stalked through the streets, weaving his way through the crowd, and avoiding all contact. Some ventured a bit too close for his liking. It would be annoying to suddenly appear in front of some human if they were to bump into one another.
He ground his teeth. His heart beating madly. He could still see the pity in Boru’s eyes. The contempt on his face.
Petulant child…Me!? The runt knows nothing! He paused, flattening himself, gliding by a pair humans he had nearly bumped into. You should thank Eadra I haven’t killed you!
He came close to the wall, a soft wind blowing carrying the familiar scent of dragon dung with it. Just a little longer…
He flexed his hands, transforming them into claws and gripping the wall, began scaling it with ease. One at the top, Issfang hefted himself over the sill and onto the ramparts. He turned toward the city, his attention focused on the keep at its interior.
Best laid plans Viktor. You and yours took her daughter, so she will take your life. Your world will burn this day and my pact with her will be complete.
He turned his sharp eyes toward the nearby streets, scanning each to pass the time. They were oblivious, the humans, but he saw how miserable they seemed. It wasn’t hard to see that certain freedoms were enjoyed by some but not others.
One of The Blades, for example, was harassing a young woman as she walked with two others. The man with her had murder in his eyes, while her child clung to her fearfully. It was clear the man was powerless to stop them if he wanted to live.
He continued to watch, biding his time when something peculiar caught his eye. A pack of goblins was moving discreetly through the street. They were spread out among the crowd as if to avoid attention. It was humorous to watch the effort they were invested in trying to remain unnoticed. The humans around them didn’t seem to give them much notice. It was like watching the way they often ignored rats, preferring not to see them rather than acknowledge them.
He shifted his gaze to another street, the view was limited, but he caught sight of another small group of the creatures. They seemed to be looking for something as they vanished from sight down an adjoining street.
What are you planning, Goblin King?
He moved along the wall, his attention fixated. From his vantage, Issfang caught a glimpse of another group skulking in the shadows. They were also searching for something but this time appeared to have found their quarry.
They were staring at a group of soldiers wearing red cloths on their right arms. One of them drew a knife and was rewarded with a sharp backhand from the goblin beside him. That goblin glared angrily at him, his finger wagging, as if dishing out a reprimand.
“How many of you are there?” Issfang whispered softly.
It was tempting to investigate, but more important matters were at hand. Boru’s words were like carpenter’s paper rubbing against his skin. Issfang shuddered, grinding his teeth as he thought about it.
Oh to vent my rage. To bring down such terror that it would echo into eternity…
He stepped toward the opposite side of the ramparts. The frost giant camp lay just a few yards from the wall. The dragons were much closer. Each was tied to stakes the size of a small tree.
Their saddles were still strapped to them along with their rider’s gear. They were sitting on all fours in the snow. Three were asleep, with the remainder awake. She was larger than the others, the ridges on her snout and spines on her head signifying her as female.
Issfang winced. They looked so pathetic. So docile and submissive. Like the horses that humans often ride. Even Henrik’s dire wolves displayed more dignity.
He felt something give under his fingers and looked down. The lip of the ramparts had cracked apart under the weight of his grip. He cast the broken bits over the wall turning his attention back toward the dragons.
Today, your slavery ends. In death, you will be free.
He closed his eyes, feeling the wind on his skin. It was a strange sensation, to know the cold but not feel its sting. He absorbed it, finding it oddly soothing. He could feel his heartbeat slowing and opened his eyes.
At sunset, it begins…