Book 10 - The Shattered Axe - Chapter 13: Connecting the Dots - Parts 1 and 2

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httyyd
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Joined: 10/12/2013

While I had gotten the first part done a couple of weeks ago, I really wanted to keep these two parts together.  In the beginning, I wanted this to be the same chapter, but after getting halfway through with what I wanted to write, I knew it was going to be a long one...

Try over 12,000 words combined for these 2 parts.

 

Between my work schedule, other activities, and a bit of writer's block here and there...  This is why I have taken so long to post another chapter.

 

But knowing that is the other reason why I waited to post the 1st part of this chapter.  I wanted to combine the post to make it all worth your wait!

Hope you guys enjoy the chapter!

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Book 10 - The Shattered Axe

Chapter 17 - Back on Track

 

The Jarl Mollerson Mystery Series

All Chapter Links
 

 

Destiny in the Dark

Chapter 3 - Friends and Enemies

 

Proud Leader and fellow member of:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are links to the chapters of my fan-fic series.  The books go in chronological order.

 

The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

Chapters 12 and 13                     Chapters 14, 15, and 16             Chapter 17

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26 - There is a hidden surprise.  Can you find it?

Chapter 27                                   Chapter 28, Part 1                         Chapter 28, Part 2

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

Chapter 1         Chapter 2         Chapter 3         Chapter 4         Chapter 5         Chapter 6

Chapter 7         Chapter 8         Chapter 9         Chapter 10       Chapter 11       Chapter 12

Chapter 13       Chapter 14       Chapter 15        Chapter 16       Chapter 17       Chapter 18  

Chapter 19       Chapter 20      Chapter 21        Chapter 22, Part 1       Chapter 22, Part 2 

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Thoughts of Guilt

Chapters 1 and 2          Chapters 3 and 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7

Chapter 8          Chapter 9          Chapter 10          Chapter 11          Chapter 12, Part 1

Chapter 12, Part 2          Chapter 13         Chapter 14         Chapter 15         Chapter 16

Chapter 17 and 18         Chapter 19         Chapter 20         Chapter 21         Chapter 22

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

Chapter 38, Part 1         Chapter 39, Part 2         Chapter 40, Part 3         Chapter 41

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

Chapter 1          Chapter 2         Chapter 3        Chapters 4 & 5    Chapter 6, Parts 1 and 2   

Chapter 7          Chapter 8         Chapter 9            Chapter 10       Chapter 11        Chapter 12

Chapter 13        Chapter 14       Chapter 15          Chapter 16        Chapter 17       Chapter 18

Chapter 19        Chapter 20       Chapter 21          Chapter 22       Chapter 23      Chapter 24

Chapter 25        Chapter 26       Chapter 27         Chapter 28        Chapter 29 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 30       Chapter 31       Chapter 32 and 33                         Chapter 34 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 35 Part 1         Chapter 35 Part 2        Chapter 35 Part 3        Chapter 36

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

Chapter 40 and 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43, 44, 45, and 46

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

Chapter 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43    Chapter 44    Chapter 45 & 46

Chapter 47    Chapter 48    Chapter 49    Chapter 50    Chapter 51

 

Teaser "Trailer" for Book 8 - Conquest of the Truth

 

The Crimson Storm

Chapters 1 and 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5    Chapter 6

Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapters 10 and 11    Chapter 12

Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15    Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18

Chapter 19    Chapter 20    Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23

Chapter 24    Chapter 25 and 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29

Chapter 30    Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34

Chapter 35 and Epilogue

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Here is the epic music for the whole chapter: "CTHULHU IS COMING" Pure Darkness | Most Epic Dark Dramatic Orchestral Action Battle Mix

 

The Shattered Axe

 

Chapter 13, Part 1

Connecting the Dots

 

Valkarik's Point of View

 

         Comparing this to the size of Scuttleclaw Island, this island is rather small with its frosty pine forest canopy protecting the grass underneath whenever a snowstorm crosses this patch of dirt in the sea.  Even in this nearing blizzard like conditions, the trees keep the grass so well hidden that the forest is a nice break from the constant wind and hair in my face.

         The grass itself is tall too being long underneath the boughs.  The forest roughly covers half the island.  As might and tough the trees are to keep out the wind and the snow, the trees are not that tall.  Aspen trees are known to reach one hundred feet tall, but these are fifty or under.  Most of these might be forty and under.  This island sees its fair share of storms much like this snowstorm, but throughout the cold and warmer seasons.  So, the weather hinders the trees from growing upward, which in turn cases the trees to grow more outward.  Some of the branches on these trees could be trees of their own they are so big.  The branches are just thicc, with two c’s.  They are like an interwoven web of leaves and sticks.  This is why they could shield three vikings from the pelting snow of a blizzard.  The forest covers the southeastern side of the island.  But towards the middle of the island is an increasing hill climb into a raised area of plateaus and columns reminiscent of Gronckle Island, the other side of the island is rather baren as an ice island.

         There is a cliff face on said western side.  This raised elevation caused a cavern of sorts inside the island itself, most likely from the sliding and condensing of snow which the blizzard we are experiencing creates a fuel for the island to grow its rock formations as well as continuing carving the island from the inside out.  These variety of elements and weather may not be inviting to most animals, but in the subject of dragons, Groncicles, Woolly Howls, and the likes of Snow Wraiths have been long documented to have called this island home at some point.  The cavern I expect to find would even serve to be a meeting place…  Out of sight, out of mind, as some would say.

         The Fifth Fleet had a base of operations here on this island, as this was a prime checkpoint for resting, trading, and sailing to nearby islands, which had plenty of dragons.  That is, until a trade went wrong many years ago and one of the dragons fired a powerful blast into the roof of the cavern, causing a cave-in, collapsing the fort, and burying anything inside of it which met a suffocating and freezing death.  One of the medical supervisors was among those tallied in the casualties, promoting Albin to step in and be Medical Supervisor – who still is currently.

         It seems like after that day even the dragons did not come back, at least in the numbers I used to see in this area.  This island as well as the surrounding ones.  Dragons still come here, my trio have seen them during a search for this island.  But they all seemed scared of something because the moment they saw us, they flew away.  And now that I am here on the island, it is a wonder why I could not find this island sooner.  I guess I did a good job of wiping this place from my memory.  Walking through this forest, a flood of memories grasp for my thoughts making it hard to maintain focus.  Though Michia trying to swing a branch of snow in my face is something I almost did not expect but helped me get my focus back.

         As I stopped to avoid it, I look up to see the snow already setting a layer of compact snow on the nettle leaves of the trees.  The snowstorm is indeed getting worse.  We approach the crest of the hill in the center of the island and from here, we can see visibility is even now down to thirty feet or less.  Everything else is become a white, translucent blur.  It took the guide of our dragons to help us trudge through the blast.  I turned to my Flame Whipper, Alpinny.  Ali instinctively kept close to Michia’s side.  I did not even know it, but he had left to check the pine trees on the upper northeast side of the island.  The fort could have collapsed further under the island and there are some cove outlets along the cliff faces to enter the caverns.  Yet, most of them all were caved in or unpassable the last time I was here.

         Seeing Michia return to Ali, who again felt the change of the air of a large dragon and a viking walking beside her.  She again instinctively leaned towards Michia’s Stormcutter, Albatross with her own Thunderdrum in tow behind her.  With Undyn’s large wings, she could block some of the snow from hitting Ali.  Yet, in a blizzard, the snow always finds away to be annoying.

         Random thing I just realized.  Though blind, Ali still had to shield her eyes from the snow.  While she may not be able to see the snow flying at her, the impact on her face still hurts.

         While the tree line is now behind us, we are approaching one of the plateaus.  So, we do not walk off the side of the cliff, I motion Alpinny to skim across the ground in front of us to be our guide on the side of the plateau.  On the southeastern side of the plateau, there was an area that sloped a little longer than the rest, a noticeable difference that was comparable to the difference in the waves for a rip current:  The slope had jags of ice and rock sticking out of the base.  This allowed snow to start to drift around it.  Most of the ground was still visible, for the blizzard conditions was not allowing the snow to collect.  Unless the snow had something to pelt, it would just be wisked away by the wind until it either hit something else or landed in the sea.

         Because another random thought hit me, “One of the billion snowflakes hitting my face, how far did it have to travel through the sheer speed and force of the wind only to meet its demise against my face?”

         After thinking that, I come to the conclusion:  I have been hanging around Jarl too long.  Puns are one thing, but the guy can spit out the most random of facts at any given point.  He may not ever mention them in his books from what I can tell reading them.  There might be a few here and there in his writings, but by golly, he tells the rest of us when they come out of that brain of his.

         Once we got the bearings of where the edge of the plateau is and the drop off of the cliff, I let out my dragon call for Alpinny to return to me.  I usually would just motion with my arm, but there is not any motion that a dragon is going to see in these conditions.  Having my Flame Whipper come over to the jags of rock sticking up, on her own she lifted her wings to shield me from the snow, knowing I would want to investigate the jags of rock.  The other two dragons did the same as I made my way through the snow drift just to get to the rocks.

         I thought maybe the rocks were just some natural boulders sticking up, upon closer inspection, they were not smooth like the cliff edge is.  They look more like the top of a rockslide.

         “Now, if I remember from the maps back on the fleet…,” I murmur to myself, which with the noise of the wind is essentially thinking to myself.

         From my dragon’s saddle, I draw my weapon:  A Gronckle Iron double edge staff.  In this situation, I use it as a tool by forcefully jamming it into the crevices of the ice on the slope, jiggling it around a moment before pulling it out of the ice and trying again.  I did this a few times before a chunk of ice came loose to show…  More ice.  I sighed.

         I am sure the other two thought I was crazy, but there is a method to my madness, I think.  I hope.

         Once I did more of the same movements with the same results, I then chipped away enough to find a more acceptable result:  Hidden behind the second stone of ice was still more ice, but in front of said ice was a sigil stuck into the ground with a stake, with another layer of ice over the stake.

         The other two seemed to be talking, but I could not make out what they were saying.  Probably voicing their concern for my sanity as to why I would be ice mining in a full-fledged blizzard.

         The sigil was the same sign as The Fleet’s flag.  This symbol signifies that this island was Fifth Fleet territory, also neutral ground for their deals.

         Satisfied, I walked back over to Alpinny and got on one knee, giving pets to the Flame Whipper on the crown in between her eyes.  She always liked that.  I did so in thanking her for the coverage from the snow.

         “Okay, for the third time, will you please listen to us?” Michia’s voice finally rang through my ears.

         “Val,” Ali adds, fiddling with the stirrup on Undyn’s saddle.  “I may not be able to see the snow, but I know the storm is getting worse.  We need to find some shelter, if not for us, for our dragons too.”

         Michia picks back up, “While you were doing whoever knows what, I double checked what I saw before when you two were going through the forest.  I then just now pointed it out Ali too.”

         Ali continues, “He pointed out the tunnels he saw which led underground.  Well, ‘saw,’ of course.”

         It was impressive how strong she was through her disability, making jokes about her sight and the incredible self-control that she has when it is talked about and it puts something fuzzy and warm inside my heart.

         Michia informs, “I couldn’t really discern what lived in them, but Albatross was not very happy with the scent that he picked up.  Could be an underground dragon nest.  While I was actually trying to get us out of this snow globe, what did you find?”

         “Pff…  While you were gawking at my assumed madness,” I walk back to the pocket I dug out of the ice and pointed to the sigil inside.  “I confirmed my suspicions:  This was a Fifth Fleet Outpost.”

         Michia sighs, conceding the madness of braving the madness of flying into a blizzard for this search was finally worth it, “Well, at least we know this trip was not for nothing.  From circling around the plateau, I saw a few cave entrances, but the on stood out for me.”

         I bring my fists together and bump them with Michia’s; a puff from our leather gloves hitting each other softly sounds out, tells me how much three dragons can block out with their wings, “That might be our way in.”

         We mount our dragons and walk our dragons over to the edge of the northern side of the plateau.  Walking would be quicker than lifting off from the top, we would be pushed back ten or twenty yards from the sheer force of the wind right now.  From the edge, we mount our dragons, lift up, take the twenty-yard loss, and then fight over the edge of the plateau.  Our dragons working just enough to cancel out the force of the blizzard winds to allow us to glide down to the cave entrance which Michia had scouted before.  The entrance itself did not reveal itself until we were nearly on top of it.  The direction Michia pointed out is spot on.

         The cave entrance was large enough for a dragon to fly through and one by one we did.  Our dragons still had to counter act the effects of the wind as we flew in.  Us as riders could not see where we were going, so we put our trust in our dragons.  As we feel the effects of the wind lessen, we leveled off and landed.  Dismounting, we feel we are in the space of a larger cavern.  Each armed with a torch lit with Monstrous Nightmare gel, we begin to continue scouting.

         I observe from behind me Ali is having trouble with her left stirrup.  She kept fiddling with it as it was wrapped around her boot.  Thinking she had succeeded, in her attempt to dismount her left foot slipped from the stirrup as she swung her other leg over.  This caused her to fall flat on her back.  Thankfully, a nice drift of snow softened the impact, until I realized the entirety of the cavern floor has a few inches of snow on it.  Back to Ali, she merely picked herself up and followed suit in lighting a similar torch as me and Michia.  That fuzzy, warm feeling inside returns.

         Sure, I could help, and Ali knows both Michia and I would be right by her side, but Ali is still a viking and still stubborn.  She would like to at least do it once on her own.  But if the problem persists to a second time, then she welcomes the help.

         Ali takes out her “seeing-eye” stick – or as Ali will say, her “seeing-eye” staff – to assist in her walking forward.  Since she fell once, she knows I will now stay close to her side.  There are still some things that could blindside her even with her heightened senses, after all.

         To go from outside with a visibility progressively getting worse faster than a Scauldron sucking up a fish-filled water container, to a near pitch black cavern is a nice change of pace.  Even in this cavern, there is still a formidable amount of snow to trudge through.  The wind still howls from the entrance of the cavern through the cave, so snow is still making its way into the cavern.

         “Hey Michia,” I chuckle as I quip.  “You are finally in a literal snow globe.”

         He ignored my comment.

         As we trudge through the snow, we realize the cavern we are in is only a portion of the main base.  Once we pass upwards through another tunnel, we see the actual entrance to the right and the main part of the cavern to the left.  I remember now how to reach this from the outside.  It would be on the same plane as the sigil, I just could not see.  Peaking out of this massive entrance there is a ton of snow building up which covers any distinguishing landmarks.  Around the giant drift forming in front of the entry, I could see the sigil.  No wonder I did not spot the entrance, the drift as well as the blizzard blocking visibility was camouflaging it with the rest of the white flakes.

         The size of the entrance is bigger than the heart of the Shadow Dragon cavern we encountered in Jarl’s last mystery which he dubbed “The Mist in the Darkness.”  Fitting for what he had to go through in the latter half of said mystery.

         From the non-snowy side, the cavern entrance looked natural enough at a glance, but with a trained eye – and a brain that remembers where in the heck she is that she could have gone the straightforward, easy way instead of making her life more difficult for herself – or with a hand to the surface, someone could see the nicks and grooves that marked it is man-made.  Fearlessly, Ali runs her hand across the wall nodding as she walks back into the cavern.  Michia and I follow behind a bit through the excavated tunnel which opens up into the high and broad cavern.

         Now walking in through the “front door” things are quickly coming back to me and I remember how things look.  Well, how they used to look.  What, has it been ten…?  Fifteen years since I have been here?  I think Jarl forgets I am actually older than him by about three or four years, so technically I have more life experience than he does.

         Inside the cavern, it would roughly be about fifty yards and another fifty yards or so reaching up to the height of ten Gronckles stacked on top of each other.  Lining most of the inside are wood walls with interlacing stone supports that reached up to just a Gronckle’s length under the height of the ceiling.  And the side furthest from us was buried with the chaos of crushed wood and stone.  A wooden building is partially crushed under the cave-in as well, half the structure’s wood being splintered and gone under the weight of ice and rock.  The rest of the fort held brittle dragon cages and boxes of items, seemingly forgotten about in the rush to leave the collapsing cavern, along with the cold ashes of a campfire.

         “I know it is cold,” Michia remarks as he wraps his arms around his chest.  “But the quietness of this fort is sending shivers down my spine.”

         “Bro,” Ali retorts.  “It is way below freezing and the constant howl of the blizzard is whipping itself through the cavern echoing off the walls.  This is far from quiet.”

         The echo of Michia’s voice across the fort added the extra touches of this forgotten place, and Ali practically “oo’ed” at said echo, for it was a clear-cut reverb that was not easily replicable.

         Ali turned to Michia, “Clear-cut!!  Lemme try-.”  After turning back around, bouncing on her feet, she yells into the air, “JARL EVERSON, MYSTER CONQUEROR!”

         The reverb was palpable, and Ali loved it.  It practically made her jump in place in her boots, while me and Michia watch her in her giddy glory.  Very few moments like this happen after…  The blinding incident.  I gain a renewed appreciation each time.

         The echo was cool to hear, but for Ali it is special.  She can hear every little change each time the sound bounces off a surface.  She is even getting better and better at deciphering where an echo originates from if it did not come from herself or the group, she is in.

         The moment is interrupted by my nose catching hold of something, forcing my mouth open and expelling a, “Choo!”  A cold sneeze no doubt combining with the years of dust being stirred up by the wind and snow.

         The sneeze also reverberated in the cavern.

         “Hehehe,” Michia chuckles, and Ali tries to suppress her laughter but fails.”

         “Alright, alright,” I wave the two off with an embarrassed huff yet intrigued at how a reverberated sneeze sounds like.  “We got work to do let’s find what we can and get out of here before something happens.”

         “Like another cave-in?” Ali quips.

         “If that happened, that would have been your doing with the Thunderdrum right beside you,” I return the quip with my own volley, pointing to Undyn, who just gave a rumbly, but light growl in acknowledgement.

         But Ali parries and aims at…, “Michia, did you hear?  She did not poke fun at your big mouth.”

         Ali giggles as Michia begrudgingly accepts the backhanded compliment.

         With that, we split off.  I take the first building, Michia deals with the open areas and left out supplies, and Ali stations herself on lookout along with Alpinny.

         You might be thinking, “But Val, why would you put a blind girl on guard duty?”

         Glad you asked that question.  Her hearing has improved so much she can consistently hear something quicker than most dragons, and even know where it is coming from when some dragons only then sense something is wrong.  It is amazing to think in Ali’s perspective:  All the visual distractions no longer hinder her.

         Let me counter and ask this, “Would you put her in the position of looking through the fort for items associated with The Fifth Fleet?  She has no physical means of recognizing anything relating to them on her own.”

         “Hmm?”

         “That is what I thought.”

         I then stop as a random thought comes to mind, “Is this what Anna means when Jarl has conversations with himself?  I guess there are other things that are contagious from this guy.  Sure, there is talking to yourself in thoughts, but then there is referring to yourself in the third person as if there was someone else around.  I guess that is what you get when you write about your adventures, you will try to narrate what you are doing to help you figure out your current situation.”

         I shiver to think I might be becoming Jarl.  Do not get me wrong.  He is a great viking, but I think the world can only handle one Jarl and the power he wields with his puns.  The world has yet to see the true awesomeness of one Valkarik Logen Shinfira the III.  To the world, that better be a terrifying thought.

         In typical Ali fashion, though she is a help to us by standing still and watching for trouble – by being safe from unexpected harm – she starts to search the walls.  Before either Michia or I noticed, Ali had found a wooden box.  Michia and Albatross open it to inspect it then Ali runs her hands across the rough wood for any cubby holes.  Nothing was in the box, yet there is always some obvious anxiety when we open one.  The siblings work in tandem while I try to figure out a way into a building, which half of it is crushed.

         I stand before the door, give a sigh, and push slightly on the door.  Expecting resistance, I give a bit of a shove.  The door instead snaps completely from the brittle hinges.

         “Wha-?!” I jump back as the door falls into the structure before careening to the floor.  A light poof of snow mixed with dust expels from under the door as it slams on the ground.

         Yep, the inside certainly looked worse than the outside, with a table broken under the weight of the ice and scattered wood planks across the floor.  Everything had been pushed around and scattered into a disorganized mess.

         Looks like Michia’s room.

         I hung my head a bit, giving a sigh before stepping around and across objects to scour the room.  Memories try to creep in, but I do my best to keep them at bay and remain focused.

         The papers pinned to the wall are fragile, but they show lists of species that were tagged and transferred through the fort; The Fleet knew that word alone was not sufficient in confirming what went where.  A flaying map close to the icy chaos listed The Fleet’s allies at the time…  A name rigorously circled at the top:

         Dragon Bludvist and his dragon army.

         “Who knows how that possible alliance could have gone,” I muse to myself, giving a chuckle at the memory of thinking Dargo Bloody-Fist was a good candidate for an ally.

         Seeing all these things is like stepping physically back into my memories, to a time before The Fall of the Red Death.  It does not seem that long ago hearing about how a young, scrawny, red haired viking boy trained the legend, the “Prince of Dragons, born of lighting and death itself” as The Fifth Fleet used to call a Night Fury.  Interesting how similar different clans, tribes, or vikings called Toothless, yet never really thought others knew about a Night Fury.  Only they did and it was their job to find it and put an end to it.  Night Furies were so rare that we never saw one but heard plenty of vikings tell stories about it.  It got to the point we thought a Night Fury was just that.  A story, a legend.  Which a Night Fury became the Legend, the “Prince of Dragons” bcame a prime target since it was so rare.  But the more we tried to find one let alone catch one, the dragon was regarded more as the second part of the phrase: “Born of lightning and death itself.”  Many thought the “Prince of Dragons” was no dragon at all, but the sure power and might of lightning and the overwhelming power of death on a viking.  Any time one would go out on their own to find it, to prove it existed and return in glory for The Fleet…  They never returned.

         Now knowing the true history, I come to think that the vikings learned the truth about dragons and did not want to return to the life they led in The Fleet.  Or maybe I am just thinking of myself and why I never went back.

         Clap!

         I look to my left and see a window shutter catch enough of the breeze blowing through the cavern to clap against the wall.  The jolt snapped me out of my past and back into the present.

         Though because I looked over, I see a broken table with more papers on it and on the floor.  Seeing an ink bottle near one of the table legs, I bend down to pick it up.  But something catches my eye, something sticking out from underneath a pile of papers that slid off the broken table.  A book.  I pick up the hardened leather-bound book, rough and flaky from the preserving cold.

         I gently take hold of the book, lightly bending it a bit before flipping the cover open.  Inside said book are notes on various cold-dwelling dragons, with an account of venoms as well.  There are sketches for each dragon going with what the notes spoke about.  Flipping through it a bit more, one account caught my eye.  It has a sketch of a detailed Speed Stinger and a question mark next to each other, with writing beneath:

 

         Account of Severin Ottoson, Lead Medical Supervisor.

         This island has been used as a fort for five-some years now, and with it changes to the land.  We’ve noticed an increase in activity on the east side.  When scouts were sent to investigate, as the local population of Speed Stingers originally nested under the trees, multiple prisoners and workers got stung from the dragons in the attempts to capture the Speed Stingers.

         However, something new has popped up:  An unknown dragon that keeps firing at our scouts whenever a snowstorm rolls in, which has caused more than a few casualties, and the numbers are starting to rise.  Possible measure to keep workers inside when a snowstorm hits?

         In the meanwhile, we’ll keep using diluted Slithering venom generously given from an unknown source to keep the dragons in our care calm and docile; I’ll be able to figure out how the diluted venom is made and composed of within the next month.

         In the meanwhile, we need to figure out what this unknown dragon is…

 

         Crash!

         A noise from outside the building brought me out of scanning the account.  Quickly shutting the book, I step outside the building to find Michia holding his hands up and walking away mumbling from the open box with Albatross acting like a cat.  The dragon fervently shakes his head and sneezes while backing up from the smell.

         Ali began to say, “What’s-?” but the dragon hit her.  She kept her balance and threw up her hands for a moment, turning to Michia, “Hey, quick note for the future:  Don’t open a box of dragon root!”

         “It wasn’t my fault!  I didn’t know it had dragon root!  You’re the one who can smell, why didn’t you smell it before I opened it?”

         “Just get it out of here, the smell is agitating Undyn!”

         While this went down, I silently walked over to Alpinny, stuffing the book into her saddlebag while she watched Albatross push the dragon root box outside into the snowstorm, sneezing the whole time.  Al the while Undyn decided to flap her wrings to get the smell permanently out.

         “So,” Ali listened to the Stormcutter’s sneezes before turning to the sound of Alpinny chirping and cuddling up next to me, “Did you find anything?  I didn’t find any cubby holes nor secret spots and Michia broke open boxes to find the aforementioned dragon root and metal supplies, plus meat and other not-rotting food, which all of it was frozen.”

         I nod, patting Alpinny’s saddle while the Flame Whipper licked her eyes, “I found a book.  It seems to be the diary of the previous Medical Supervisor of The Fleet, Severin Ottoson.  One part mentions Speed Stingers and an unknown snow dragon on this island, plus the usage of Slitherwing venom, which I didn’t know could be done.  They got the venom from an unknown source.”

         Ali nods, doing a quick whistle to get Undyn’s attention, and spoke while she got onto the Thunderdrum’s saddle, “Never really heard of the Slitherwing, but I might bring the book up to Jarl once we get back.  Seems like you’ve heard of this dragon.”

         “Yeah, incredibly poisonous and dangerous.  Remember, it is the one dragon which took Garff and Astrid risked her life to save the Deathsong,” I say, also getting onto my own dragon’s saddle.  “The Fleet was told to never engage the dragon or its pack, because their poison and venom could kill you within a day.  Whoever this unknown source is, is rather stupid, or-.”

         Ali finishes with a giggle, “-or knows how to outsmart a Slitherwing.”

         I just roll my eyes, giving an endearing smile to her, knowing she is probably right yet I always tend to think people are stupid or dumb to go out after a dangerous dragon.  But then I am one to speak when I trained a Flame Whipper to be my dragon.

         So, whoever this unknown source is must be smart to make such a stupid yet calculated decision to do such a thing with the venom.

         This book is what we came here for.  Kam had previously stated in another letter she was pretty sure it was a notebook, but knew it was safe to look for anything relating to The Fifth Fleet.  Yet, Michia and Ali did not find out anything and my knowledge of the fort and what happened, this was probably going to be all we found that would be of use to us.

 

Chapter 13, Part 2

Connecting the Dots

 

Valkarik's Point of View

 

         The snowstorm had broken visibility and almost made it unflyable, key word almost.  Flying in this type of weather is possible, if you have a dragon that can see clearly through a blizzard.  If you do not have one, navigation would be difficult if not near impossible.  Oh, and it is in the dead of night with no light source to see.  A dragon’s flame can only help so much.  Instead of a black wall of snow, with a dragon’s flame we can see a glow-y orange wall of snow.  We all go back and forth on weather we should attempt to travel, but we end up deciding to wait it out.  Because no one in our trio has a thermal or heat sighted dragon.  It would just be too treacherous to fly let alone fly in the correct direction.  Getting lost in a blizzard over the ocean would allow for no rest and eventually crashing into said ocean and freezing to death.

         The more we discussed it, the more we were like, “Yeah, it would be better to stay.”

         As I said before there is not much left to search the fort for, although, we do it anyway just in case we missed something.  Continuing to take turns on look out, Michia takes the next watch.

         No sooner did it seem like he started when he came for Ali and me later.

         “Guys,” he jokingly gets our attention.  “I’ll give you three guesses on what found us.”

         Unanimously, Ali and I answered, “Trouble.”

         “Albatross sensed something out in the snow and in a few small shifts of the wind, I was barely able to make out through the difficult visibility…”

         Ali interrupts, “Come on, man!  Spit it out.”

         Our dragons did not wait for Michia to finish and trotted off while he was halfway through his thought.  Ali is first to realize this and starts to go after them.

         I go to as Michia finally says, “I’m pretty sure they were dragons.”

         Ali counters, “Either they are, or they aren’t.”

         We three are poised outside the entrance of the tunnel, watching…  And waiting.

         The agitation of the three dragons is palpable as they sensed something out in the snow, we try to keep them calm.  What is out there…  Are Speed Stingers.  Five of them, to be exact, are barely visible in the blowing snow.  Even though at the Edge of Mystery with the Speed Stingers we have as guards, Speed Stingers are still Speed Stingers.  Some of the most complex of dragons, let alone to train them, they are also some of the most dangerous with what they can do with their paralyzing stings.  However, I do feel better knowing they are Speed Stingers and not what I thought might be out there as a dragon.

         One of the Speed Stingers got closer and sensed our presence then let out a roar as a warning.  Undyn responds in kind, letting loose a roar of her own.

         Ali grips tighter on her saddle straps; the Thunderdrum reacts by sinking lower into the snow, readying her stance.  Undyn rumbles out a low growl, and with it, Michia and I tense up to prepare for what comes next.

         We first hear the quick repetition of thunderous feet from the Speed Stinger pack.  Not until they were nearly upon us did we see them.  The two leading the small pack rush at us.  Undyn hops up and lets out a sonic blast, knocking the front two back, while the rest of them run at us all.

         “Now!” Ali yells, both me and Michia take to the air.

         We begin to herd the Stingers by staying close to the ground but out of range of any sting slashes.  To keep the group enclosed, Albatross’s circular cone of fire cuts off the pack from going their own direction, Alpinny’s potshot-like fire keeps any would be lone wolves from breaking ranks, and Undyn maintains crowd control at the rear, pushing the pack where we want.

         Being able to see them more clearly, these Speed Stingers are a darker shade of green than normal.  Their red stingers and claws are a more purple color, and their eyes are still the signature red of typical Speed Stingers.  These drakes are incredibly skinny, most likely from the scarcity of prey on this island; potentially another reason why this island is lacking in the wildlife department.  The Speed Stingers will take what they can get, which obviously includes my trio and our dragons.

         Though I said before we are “herding” the Speed Stingers, we are fortunate to keep them in a group.  Otherwise, we are merely going in circles and not making any progress towards anywhere else besides the clearing directly in front of the cavern.  This pack is extremely tenacious and are not letting up.  At the very least the Speed Stingers do not want to go into the cavern.  A good theory would be to use this to our advantage, yet that is just it – Only a good idea, trying to get them to go where we want is a completely different story.  We only have a few directions we can go as we are still under the overhang of the cavern.

         Once the Speed Stingers knew that our dragons have blocked their escape, they raise their stingers above their heads to protect themselves and hiss.  Now, the Speed Stingers, being the pack animal they are, went on the offensive.  Each time we move to herd them, they run under our dragons to try and slice us.  Therefore, we could not land.  If we tried, the drakes would easily overpower one of us before we could even react to help each other.  And if we let off our pressure, then they will escape and possibly mount a counterattack taking us from another direction and use the visibility – and lack thereof – against us.

         And then, I zone out, listening to the sounds around me.  Alpinny caught on too and sent out a warning chirp to Undyn and Albatross.

         The sounds…  There is something else out there.  It is…  A dragon.  It calls out…  It…  A distinct hiss!

         It is the hiss of a Grim Gnasher that is about to attack!

         My thoughts scream in my head, “NO!”  And then my eyes widen in fear.

         I scream to the others, “Get back!”

         Seeing the others’ confusion with still trying to stave off the Stingers, I fly Alpinny into Undyn who then shoves Albatross.  The dragons got the memo, but both Dragon Riders are completely caught off guard.  The dragons chaotically back-up, everyone still not fully understanding the severity of the situation, even the Stingers stop and are puzzled as they lower their tails for a moment.

         While my dragon and I back the trio into the shadow of the cavern, looking behind, two purple blurs rush out from the white storm, shooting needle teeth at the Speed Stingers to catch them.  With my trio at a safe position, I look on at the scene.

         One Stinger fell after being struck by the Grim Gnasher’s teeth darts which sunk into its legs.  The other Stingers scattered a bit and rush to escape.  At the commotion of the purple blurs shooting at and rounding up the dark green drakes, I had my Flame Whipper outstretch her wings to make all three in the trio back up even more.  I dismount and pull the rest of them back inside the cavern still more, just to be sure.

         “Wha- Stop pushing me!” Ali yells, only giving a glare once I stop backing the both of them up.

         I did not wait for a rebuke for I am stressed and almost distraught at this new development.  Keeping one hand tight on Alpinny’s saddle straps before letting go, I watch and see if the situation will get out of hand.  Completely ignoring Ali is not something I normally do, so it piqued Michia’s sense of worry.  Ali still irritated but realizes the same thing.

         Outside in the clearing, I could see that most of the Speed Stingers escaped…  Save for one, who is bleeding from a pierced leg and tail.  It is smaller, most likely a shortwing, and had multiple sharp teeth piercing said leg.  The Grim Gnashers circle the injured dragon before a familiar red-winged Gnasher lands a bit away from the injured drake, lowering itself to let the rider dismount.

         A male voice speaks with a genuine yet disgusting tone, “You poor thing…”

         The very situation I absolutely did not want to have happen, yet feared would, has.

         This man is…  Theodor Shinfira, who has been missing since the War of Izar!

         The sight of Theo…  The sight of my brother again…  It makes my blood boil.  Everyone tried to say it was someone else, but when Jarl read that letter, I knew.  I know how my brother works.

         Family is the biggest part of his life…  He aims to rip it apart any way and every possible chance he gets.  Seeing him makes me want to spit on the same ground he walks, but I could not give away my trio’s cover while the element of surprise is in play.

         Theo knelt in front of the Speed Stinger, who was crying out for its pack to come back.  With one sharp growl from Arken, the red-winged Gnasher, it shut up the drake.

         “Shh…  You’ll be fine.  You’ll be of us.”

         And with that, the Speed Stinger’s life is abruptly ended with a swift blade to its throat.  Not a struggle is heard.  The pure fury coursing through my frame had to be visible as I watch, and said fury is keeping me grounded in place as I shook.

         In contrast, Theo is neither gloating nor bragging to his dragon about the kill.  He is…  Unnaturally quiet, comber even.  He gave a sigh before bringing Arken over to help skin the poor thing, of the best parts of its scales no doubt.

         By this point, I could not take watching him anymore.  And because of this, I start to rush forwards.

         Michia graps my arm, “Valk, stop, you’re.”

         “Shut up!” I snap and yank my arm away before rushing onto the field, the fury primed to boil over.  I did not care.  “Hey, BUTT-FACE!”

         The cavern acts like a giant dragon horn, amplifying my voice, creating a sudden and clear-cut voice freezing Theo from touching the shortwing again with his blade.  Arken got on the defensive by placing himself between the two riders and lets out a warning blast.

         I simply…  Do.  Not.  Care!

         Theo quickly stood up and realized I am about to clock his lights out and so immediately starts to back up as fast as possible.  Only walking a few feet into the snowstorm, I do notice that Theo and I are suddenly alone.

         “You had the gall to show up here?  Now come and fight me like a man!”

         Theo would not protect himself.  So, if Theo will not protect himself, then I will throw my own punches.  In all of my anger I chase Theo like a disemboweled victim with Arken now desperately trying to keep itself between me and my target.

         “You are as good as gone and you will be as dead as that Speed Stinger that you murdered, you scum of the earth!  Come back here!!”

         I see through the waves of snow, Michia watching and Ali “watching” as well, both clearly afraid of what I might do if I fully unleash on poor Theodor.

         “H- Hold on, sister!” Theo tries to calm me down.  “I didn’t do anything wrong-.”

         “YES, YOU DID!” I call him out, then as Theo slowed, I get close enough to throw a left cross.  I barely miss by a hair’s length.  “You ran the family into the ground!  You almost sold The Fleet out for that other scum, Einar!  And worse…!”

         Theo pleads, “Clearly, you are furious over something more than just a dragon.”

         I stop in my tracks, mostly from trying to move around in these elements with these layers, breathing heavy after chasing my brother for so long.  My pause lasts for a few seconds, but it is enough for Theo to let his guard down a little bit.

         I pounce, striking a hard right cross into Theo’s face and nose, “You killed my father!  Our father!  What had he done?  Through his tough love and affair experience, for you to KILL him, huh?!!”

         An audible gasp of what I had said was heard from Ali, and Theo had heard it too.  His nose starts to bleed from my punch, he touches the line of blood going down his lips before giving a glance up to me.

         “I don’t need to explain myself.  You caused me enough grief as is while we were growing up.”

         “……Have you no remorse?”

         “I do, actually.”

         That completely halts my emotions, I take a moment to process what my brother had said…  Giving me the answer I always wanted to hear but never in a million years thought I would get.

         “Wait…  What?”

         “You don’t think I have feelings too?”  Theo scoffs.  “Well, I’m also a viking, and we’re imperfect-.”

         “Jarl would fight you on that,” I interrupt, looking for anything to not hear my brother.  “Jarl says we are not flawless – some things we are born with, others happen to us like me having to talk with you – Jarl says we are complete or perfect in who we are.  And the actions we take continue to perfect us in who we are.  We have ‘perfect’ opportunities to do what is right, but to complete who we are, we have to take advantage of them.”  I pause for a second, “Man, I am starting to sound more like Jarl.”

         Theo sighs, ignoring what I said, probably annoyed at me too, “We all have flaws or make mistakes or whatever.  My point is, some are more flawed than others- But we’re not completely one-sided.  Every story has two sides to it, a part of the same gold coin.  And for you-.”  Theo gives a sharp whistle.  “-I would pay more attention to your teammates before you try to settle any personal grudge.”

         I instinctively whip my head around, as he talked, to look to where Ali and Michia are.

         “But thanks for helping me stall for time.”

         Both Ali and Michia were knocked off their dragons, teeth lodged in their arms, and hissing Grim Gnashers keeping Undyn and Albatross from reaching their riders!

         And Alpinny was pinned by the wings by Arken, I scream, “MICHIA!  ALI!”

         “Valkarik,” Theo’s smooth voice snaps my attention back to my brother.  “My dear sister.  It was an eventful night, meeting you again, but I must get going.  Whatever you gained from this island, hand it over to me, and I’ll let you go without injury.”

         “We both know that’s a lie, Theo,” I subtly reach behind me to take out my Gronckle Iron staff and set myself in a defensive stance position in case Theo takes the first strike.

         “Hmph…,” he shrugs, unsheathing the dagger blade he used earlier.  “…Figured I might try to ask since you fell for everything else.”

         I stand ready for Theo to go, he also stands poised to rush at me…  Until the wind picks up and a howl sounds through the air…

         A dragon call…  And it was not a Grim Gnasher!

         As soon as the howl ended, a shot is fired:  A shot of hail hit one of the Grim Gnashers, freaking out the others in the group to the point they back off in confusion.  Two more fired shots – One hits the surrounding area to further scattering the flock, and the other hit directly between Arken’s wings, the victim letting out a shrill cry and jumping off in pain as the icy hail blast starts to condense ice on where it hit.

         “What the-.” Theo is confused, but I am already rushing ahead to assist with helping my teammates.

         And soon enough, the shadow of a snow dragon starts to be seen through the storm as it fires blast after blast at the surroundings and sometimes onto the dragons themselves.  Albatross and Undyn use the newfound chaos to be able to shield the two injured dragon riders as I rush over to Ali, wrapping her arm around my neck to help carry her.

         “Valkarik,” Ali sputters out.  “You shouldn’t have rushed out there.”

         “I know, I know,” I reply.  From her shoulders I see blood seeping through her sleeves.  “I’m sorry.  Once we’re out of here, I’ll make it up to you both.”

         Michia is able to walk on his own so I could focus on Ali and finding cover in a nearby tunnel.  We have gone out far enough that the cavern is not in sight, this is a secondary tunnel that is actually a natural outlet tunnel from the cavern by the looks of it.  Once there, an inspect of the wounds on my teammates are thankfully only grazes.  Another good thing about wearing two layers, it slowed the teeth down instead of them completely lodging in their arms, sides, and legs.  My friends are alright.

         The biting cold and the unknown assailant, plus the fact that both Stormcutter and Thunderdrum are hale and whole, is enough to make Arken’s pack back off and rush to Theodor’s side…  Before a hard poof of snow flies up after a hit alerts the pack to something landing behind them.  The pack shot into the air.  What is there?

         A rose red and beige white, accented with lighter blue hues…  Woolly Howl!

         It pounces onto the area next to the almost-skinned Speed Stinger.  The wild dragon is clearly not happy as its teeth are pulled back and an audible growl is heard.

         Ggggrrr…  GGGRROOOAAAHHH!

         The loud roar of the Woolly Howl scatters what remains of Arken’s pack from Theo, save for Arken herself.  The rest of the Grim Gnashers fly up and away from the conflict-filled air.  They are smart enough not to mess with a Titan dragon.  Judging by the sheer size compared to Dawn’s Hybrid Sand Wraith and Deadly Nadder, this new dragon is a Titan since the Sand Wraith is a close cousin of the Woolly Howl.  This Titan’s horns are a ginger color and while some would be staring at the mass of colors on the Woolly Howl, others know not to mess with a Titan Dragon.  They are harder, better, faster, stronger, and no less ferocious – not to mention furrier.

         Theo is stunned at the roar and before he could react to the furry, the Woolly Howl is charging at him with a snarling jump.  A fire blast shot past Theo and hit the Woolly Howl dead in the mouth which changes the Titan’s course of direction.  This causes the Titan to face-dive into some an accumulating snow drift with a yelp.

         “THEO!”

         At the sound of my voice, Arken is the first to rush back in my direction.  My brother turns around to find me with Alpinny.  Seeing he was in trouble, I go out far enough for him to spot us.  Close behind me, Alpinny shoots a shot for both rider and dragon to clearly see where we are.

         Alpinny is panting from all the action.  I totally have gotten used to the blizzard that I realize I am in need of more air too.  Besides the wind completely taking your breath away at any angle, the sheer amount of snow is hard to navigate in.

         Theo immediately starts to run in my direction, no hesitation.  No argument, no questions.

         The Woolly Howl is quick to recover, letting out a low and thunderous roar as it saw its “intruder” running off.  Speedily it takes to the air.  The Titan shooting out blasts of ice and hail close behind Theo.  He catches up to me, and we high tail it back to the tunnel.  A close dance, dodging shot after shot ensues as he and I rush towards and then into the opening of the tunnel.  And with one final ice condensed shot from the Titan, the shot nips at our heels.  Theo has to dive to not get hit as ice blast spreads out into a wide sculpture.

         The entrance is now partially blocked.

         A roar of challenge from the Woolly Howl, daring us to come out, reverberates in the tunnel.  But this time, the reverb is in a small tunnel, not a massive cavern.  This small environment makes the echo much louder to the point we all have to cover our ears to lessen the pain.

         Two seconds…  Four seconds…

         And then it stops.  The flap of wings are heard as the Titan Woolly Howl takes off, satisfied with the result of driving the intruders into a corner.  What once I considered was an outlet tunnel for the cavern turns out to be a nook in the side of the rolling hills.  This is why the reverb echo was so much more unbearable than before.  The sound had no where to go but bounce off the enclosed walls and the icy blast in front of us.

         Ali is badly shaking, Michia is breathing heavily, trying to catch his breath and calm down.  I too am out of breath from the…  Tactical regroup…  And Theo is lying face down on the floor from the lunge he had to take to get out of the way of the hail shot.

         All in all, a very close call.  A very…  Very close call!

 

         While the night settles in and the realization of waiting out the blizzard until morning – one to be able to see where the Titan Woolly Howl would be – A fire got started and us four vikings sit around the campfire.  The seating arrangement is very specific.

         Ali is the closest to Theo and she spoke rarely, even though the rest of us had on occasion talked about the storm.  Ali’s arms are bandaged up from the Grim Gnasher teeth, which must be why she has been quiet.  Micha’s arms are bandaged up as well, and while he certainly is more talkative, he sat between Theo and me to make sure nothing broke out between us, if it came to that.  While Theo has his arms tied thanks to some inventive rope knots from Theo’s own rope in Arken’s saddlebags, I am the one poking the fire making tonight’s meal:  Three servings of air-dried, and frozen, boar and fish, plus one more serving for the unexpected guest.  It is not much but it is enough to last the night.  While Ali, Michia, and I knew we would be searching well into the night, none of us expected to get grounded by this snowstorm, which is why a viking always packs more food than they should for times like this.  The archipelago is an unpredictable place.

         While everyone waits for the food, there is much to think about concerning what happened.  A Titan Woolly Howl?  That…  That could not just be said, and people would believe you on the spot, proof would be needed.  Titans are rare to come around but can be seen if you know where to look.  However, a viking is still surprised to see a Titan.  I mean, Anna was completely surprised when Star Scream – A dragon she raised since birth – Turned out to be a Titan Stormcutter.  It is hard to believe a Titan sighting in any breed, let alone a Woolly Howl.  This might be the first sighting one.  Titans are that rare.  No one would believe a random sighting of one no matter how much our world in the archipelago is growing, seeing more dragons, lands, and vikings.

         I think to myself, “Not even Jarl would believe me.  Maybe the fact that we met Theodor again, but not the Titan.  On the other hand, Jarl trusts me as much as the next guy in the crew, but none of us got a completely clear look at the dragon even with the conglomerate of colors.  And said look was distorted with the visibility of the storm.  Whereas with Theo, I can clearly see his ugly mug.

         Overall, the silence is a little more than just unnerving, especially since the sounds of the wind outside were picking up.  One would think the worst of the wind would be over by now, but it keeps growing quickly.

         Theo is the first to speak up through the silence, “So, what now, Dragon Riders?”

         I simply give a deadpan stare at him, Michia being the next to speak, “Not to point out, but weren’t you riding on your own dragon when you came here?”

         “Of course, though I have no bond with the dragon.  The Shinfira family doesn’t bond with dragons, we trap and sell them…  Save for my sister,” Theo gave a glare back, he and I staring down each other for a few seconds.”

         “You still think you’re funny?”

         Michia bounces his gaze between my brother and I as we practically bore holes into each other with our glares.  Tension is starting to build, and it practically permeated the air that the riders were breathing.

         So, Michia broke said tension, “Alright, that’s enough you two.  Don’t start fighting, you’re going to upset Ali even more so.”

         I give a softened glance to the curled-in Ali, and backed off glaring at Theodor for a moment.

         “She means a lot to you, doesn’t she?”

         “Wh- What?”

         Theo refines, “You softened your gaze.”

         I walk over to him, he stands up, so I put a finger on his chest, “You have no right to put your nose into our business.”

         “All I’m saying is, you two have a close bond.  That kind of bond is rare to find.”

         Staring him directly in the eyes, “How would you know anything about bonds.  Our own family bond meant nothing to you.”

         “There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my family.  You of all vikings should know that,” Theo says as a smile starts to come to his face.

         Before I could retaliate anything regarding how he should stay away from Ali – or else – Michia steps in, demanding, “Drop it.”

         “Drop it” is a Shinfira’s universal code of simply saying, “Don’t speak about this.”

         “I see your family has extended to even him,” Theo said under his breath.

         This time I had to grab Michia’s shoulder before he could get close to Theo.  Though Theo had to get the last remark in, he did have some respect to drop the conversation.  This is exactly what Theo wants to do.  Plant seeds of resentment in our ranks.  He has definitely done that in me, but because the wretch is my family.  Michia and definitely Ali do not need to put themselves in this fight.

         After a few seconds of silence and us returning to our seats, Theo moves on to the next conversation, “Why did you save me?”

         That simple question made me pause from prodding the fire.  I lean back but answer the question as soon as it is was asked, “Because you’re my brother.  Leaving you to hidedoesn’t give me a chance to kick your butt later.”

         While Theo gave an irritated sigh, I simply chuckle at my comment.  And through the silence, Ali gave a laugh too.  This moment brought a bit of lightheartedness to the table, and Michia relaxes as well.  It was a calm moment amid the chaos.

         The food was soon warmed and served.  Theo having to awkwardly bring the boar meat and fish to his lips with his tied hands is somewhat hilarious to watch.  Ali, while bringing herself back to a quiet and closed self, is more outgoing after I had retorted to my brother.

         But otherwise, there is still this air of tension, “So,” Theo slowly started to speak, articulating his words carefully, “About this girl sitting next to me- Ali, was it?”

         All three Dragon Riders stopped, the selfsame blind woman tensing up and speaking, “Yeah.  Didn’t figure you to be someone who remembers names if the person doesn’t benefit you.”

         Theo just rolls his eyes, “Yeah, but I’m curious about…”  He motions to her face, which Ali could clearly hear with the ruffles of his clothes, and she shot him a cold, dead stare.  “This.  Your Blindness.”  Theo turns to me, “I genuinely don’t get how Jarl is able to keep her on the front lines-.”

         “And you don’t understand common courtesy,” Ali is swift to bring a knife to his throat, addressing him with an even colder glare.  Though blind, her glare can sometimes piece deeper than your soul and it is a glorious sight to see Theo feel that.  Arken is quick to react, growling instinctively to warn the blind Dragon Rider not to injure her rider.  “You could’ve just asked me directly why I’m on the front lines, instead of beating around the yak.  I can hear you louder and clearer.  Your breathing shortening as my knife is inches away from spilling your thick blood as I feel it coursing through your veins.”

         Theo went silent, his cheeks flushing in embarrassment, before the blind gal lowered the knife and gave a huff.

         Though I think he was more fearful than embarrassed, he adds, “I just…  Don’t get it.”

         Michia is the first to pipe in, leaning forward a bit, “Don’t get what?”

         “How so many vikings of different backgrounds are able to move together under one banner.  That banner…  Being Jarl Mollerson, of course.  ‘Mystery Conqueror’, and other such titles, able to bring any viking to reason.”

         “Not just any viking, and he is married now so it is ‘Everson,” I immediately answer, having finished my food and setting it aside, with Alpinny crawling over and slowly licking up the scraps of what is left.  “Einar wasn’t amicable to reason.  You groveled at his feet to make sure The Fleet didn’t get wiped out, didn’t you?”

         “It didn’t go like that…,” Theo mumbled before snapping up.  “But that’s beside the point!  I didn’t want what was left of my family to hidefor some pointless cause!”

         “And what of me?!”  I am on the verge of shouting, gripping my chest to keep the anger simmering but the hiss in my voice is there.  “When you saw me on the side of the enemy, what did you think?  What did you feel?  Because I sure as heck felt you were nothing!

         A silence gripped the air at that moment, Theo’s widened eyes and agape mouth showing everything that he thought.  My curled lip and hissing words having filled the air showing my thoughts.

         Two siblings in a standoff that keeps boiling over and over – And my two riders on the sidelines, seeing it all.

         Theo took a moment to shake his head, keeping his composure for as long as possible, “…I just want what’s on this island.”

         I get in my brother’s face as the hiss in my voice completely takes over letting out a daring whisper, “Then take it from my cold, dead hands.”

         “BOTH OF YOU!”  Michia shot up, standing, who rarely ever raises his voice.  It shook Theo and Valk out of their anger, staring at the male for a moment.

         A few seconds pass and the tension dies down bit by bit.

         Theo rubs his restraints together for a few moments before walking over to his Grim Gnasher and kneeling to a sitting position, “I’ll be back for what was here.”

         Looking at the fire, I kick a bit of snow on it, slowly letting it burn out, “And if you do come back, I’ll fight you for it.  You don’t deserve to know what it is.”

         “All because we’re on different sides, sister?”

         I give no reply.

         “That’s what I thought.”

         With that, Theo made a bed for himself to fall asleep to, the rest of us slowly bed down for the night.  We keep turns at watch to make sure that Theodor does not wake up to try and search our stuff, which might be overly cautious, but you could not know.

         You would never know with him…

 

         “Val!  Val!”  I had woken to the shaking of my body, and I groggily speak.  “What the- Michia, what-.”

         “It’s gone.”

         “Wh…  What?”

         “The Book’s gone.”

         “What bo…,” It then hit me.

         The leather diary.

         I immediately shoot up, the grogginess from earlier subsiding in an instant, which almost woke my Flame Whipper lying beside me, “Who was on watch?”

         “…You were.”

         It hit me again.

         I cover my face with my hands, groaning at the consequences, “I only closed my eyes for a second…”

         “And Theo is gone too.  Great idea to sleep on watch, Valk,” Michia sends a glare to me and flicks me on the head.

         This just makes me groan louder.

         “Well,” Ali, rubs her eyes as she just woke up too.  “We can’t do anything about the past, we must move forward.”

         Michia was the next to take watch, so he must have started to wake us all up.  We arouse the dragons from their sleep and quickly pack up.  Then we notice the entrance to the tunnel.

         The ice sculpture is no longer blocking the entrance!  It has been pushed to the side enough for both Arken and Theo to get through.

         Once we walk outside, we are greeted with a clear night sky, zero wind, with the stars and moon lighting our way, making the ground shine under our boots.  The moon, though a couple of hours from its trip behind the eastern horizon, shows us a clue of hope.

         Tracks leading from the tunnel.

         I take a deep breath, “Well, at least we have tracks to follow.”

         Eager to get that book back, we all follow the tracks.

         No sooner did we start following them back around towards the main cavern, did we start to see several other tracks.  Not dragon prints, but viking footprints.

         Michia quips, “The idiot actually let himself get ambushed.”

         “We’re going after him,” I firmly decide.

         “Why?” Ali protests.

         I remind, “He has the book.”

         Ali sighs, “True.”

         Tracking the footprints to the northern part of the island, we find a large camp of vikings.  But not just any vikings…  Dragon Trappers!  No doubt here for the Titan Woolly Howl.

         Sticking to the tree line, we scan the camp and find that they have indeed captured the Titan.  My blood boils as much seeing that as it did to see Theo and the Speed Stinger.

         After explaining what we see, Ali remarks, “We have to go after the dragon.”

         Michia gives a dry chuckle, “You mean the dragon that just tried to kill us?”

         “Michia,” Ali does not need to say anything more.

         “I know, I just wanted my protest to be heard and noted.”

         “Well,” I reply.  “It is noted.  Come on.”

         Dismounting our dragons, we tell as well as signal our them to stay here.  Continuing to stick to the tree line we meet up with a near intersection of the tree line and the camp at the northern most point of the trees.  There are a group of larger tents here.  Swiftly moving over to them, we peek under neath the tent material and see it is where they are stocking their tools and stuff.  So, we crawl under the edge and stand up, listening to any sounds around us.

         I walk up to the entrance of the tent and barely lift the edge of the flap.  The Titan is indeed captured but is putting up one whale of a fight to not get stuck in a cage.  Several ropes and chains have it pinned as well as its face muzzled, but it is taking nearly the entire camp just to keep the Titan from getting free.  They must have just captured it.

         Michia suggests, “We need to get the trappers attention off the Titan, then the Woolly Howl could take over and create a distraction for us to find Theo.”

         I step back, thinking of what we could do, my eyes wander through the items in this armory.  As my gaze goes, I find something interesting.  Spotting a bunch of crates, I suddenly recognize the curly looking, triangle shaped symbol.

         Stormheart!

         Looking in the contents of crates, there are several vials of liquid reading…

         “I don’t believe it,” I nearly say out loud instead of a whisper.

         Ali impatient to know what I found, “What?  What is it?  What did you find?”

         I do not know how else to put it but just saying what it says, “Siltherwing Venom!”

         Michia is astonished as well, “Are you kidding me?”

         I connect the dots, “Severin Ottoson, Lead Medical Supervisor got his venom from Stormheart, unbeknownst to him.  And Jarl went to see Stormheart yesterday.  I wonder how that went.”

         “We have our clue now, so can we please go rescue the Titan before they fully capture it?” Ali prompts.

         Forcing my thoughts back on the situation at hand instead of thinking about this surprising connection between The Fifth Fleet and Stormheart, I say under my breath, “We need a distraction.”

         Right on cue, we start to hear dragon fire from outside, landing quite close to us.  Running back over to the front of the tent, we see that…

         “The rest of the Grim Gnashers pack have returned!” I announce.  “They have come for Theo!”

         But then some of the shots start to hit really close to us.  Out of instinct we run out of the tent just before a few fire blasts land on the tent.  The Grim Gnashers have no regard with who or what they are firing at and when they spot us, a couple fly after us.

         Chaos had already started with the Dragon Trappers scrambling to regain what little control they had over the Titan Woolly Howl.  While we ran from the Grim Gnashers we run into the Trappers who realize who we are not – One of them!

         Throwing a right cross at one and sliding past another all while running away from a Grim Gnasher dive bombing us, I round the corner of a tent and run into…

         “Theo!” I declare.

         In the moment I see him and beside him the leather book, I try to reach for it.  But in the same moment, the Grim Gnasher grabs Theo while he picked up the book just out of my grasp.

         And then a group of Dragon Trappers see us and start to close in on us.  Without needing to call for help, our dragons swoop down and fire, scattering the Trappers trying to corner us.  Our dragons reveal sent the Woolly Howl over the edge and summons an unworldly amount of rage and completely overpowers the Trappers trying to wrangle it.

         But I see Theo escaping and I want to go after him!

         Before I could take a step in that direction, Michia grabs my arm, “Leave him!”

         “But he’s getting away!”

         “And so,” Michia tugs at my arm with each word.  “Should…  We…  Or we’ll be history like the rest of this place.”

         Ali adds, “Remember the last time you rushed off to chase him.”

         I sigh, seeing Ali and Michia’s bandages, “Alright.”

         Our dragons had been protecting us while I tried to make up my stubborn mind.  Waving to and sending out my dragon call, Alpinny flies by and picks me up as do Undyn and Albatross with their riders.

         The Trappers clamoring to their ships to escape while the Titan Woolly Howl chases off its intruders.  It can take care of itself.  Seeing Theo and his Grim Gnashers flying west, even if we were to tail them, it would be six against three.  While I would take those odds against Theo any day of the week, I will not put Ali and Michia through that.  Not now.  And…  Not without some back-up, Jarl’s words ringing through my brain, now regretting I came here without him or the crew.

         Reluctantly yet with reason, I retreat with Ali and Michia back in the direction of Berk.

         With all the abrupt action we received, I run my hands over my face, beating myself up over my one mistake.

         “If I had only stayed awake.”

         Ali quick to correct, “You can’t blame yourself.  None of us knew we were going to run into such a dragon let alone your brother who was previously missing.  Sure, we had reason to suspect he may be in this area, matching the description and idea you got from the letter Jarl found, but we had no reason to suspect we would have to go through all that we did tonight and this morning.  Knowing Theo – And I hate saying that – But he is not done with us nor with you.  He will be back.  But this time, we will be ready for him and then we can fight him, together.”

         I take a deep breath, accepting Ali’s comforting remarks before moving on to the next development, “I wonder what Stormheart wants with Siltherwing Venom.  Furthermore, I cannot help but wonder if the formula in the vials is the same as the one Severin Ottoson created.  The timing of this clue and Nikora Stormheart’s summon of Jarl is just too coincidental not to be on purpose and connected to these Trappers having crates from her stock.”

         “I wonder how the meeting went and if they ran into the same unexpected action we saw.”

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httyyd
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Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

I don't know how I could forget the most important thing of all for this chapter:

 

This chapter is directly inspired by a short story written by Winged Warden - creator of Valkarik, Ali, Michia, and The Fifth Fleet.  With their permission, i took a lot of what they had written and formatted it to the first person point of view I write from as well as where the story is at this point, adding details to enhance this, but it stayed true to the Valkarik-fied point of view the stort story is written from.

 

So, if you like this chapter at all, Winged Warden gets all the credit first before I get any.

Winged Warden
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WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA THAT WAS SO GOOD AAAAAWAWAWWAWAAA *shakes and cries from the excitement*

In all seriousness, this chapter was my favorite one out of all of the chapters that were Valkarik and her trio-centric in this series. Then again, it might be a bit biast since i kinda...made the characters...BUT! You write them really well, and have me craving more chapters with the Jarl Mollerson Mystery Gang as a whole!!

To answer your questions that you asked me;

1. I've said it before, but having Valk point out that she's turning into Jarl is really funny, plus her little mannarisms and attitude that she has-so yes, you've kept the chapter (from short story to an actual chapter within the series) Valkarik-fied. Though reading this line, and I quote, "And... Not without some back-up, Jarl’s words ringing through my brain, now regretting I came here without him or the crew." that chatharsis of Valk realising her mistake makes me feel some type of way. It's like...relief? Sorta? Basicly, you did great.

2. I actually really like the details that were added for the mystery! The trio finding the slitherwing venom in the dragon trapper's tent was a nice suprise, as was the ending portion as a whole. And the little details of when Theo was the trio's temporary "prisoner" and that whole dialouge portion? I LOVE IT!

and 3. ... It was most definetly worth the wait. Even with all the spelling errors, lol.

__________________

Hello! Welcome to my (contructing) signature! This siggy is protected by Arrow, please procied with caution!

 

 

~Fan-Dragons Warden Adopted~

Name: Starslip

Species: Muddicry (Made by chameishida)

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Name: Kaito

Species: Solarflare Skrill (made by Wutend Bonfire)

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Name: Arrow

Species: Sinistrous Woodreaper(Made by chameishida)

httyyd's picture
httyyd
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I am super glad you like and

I am super glad you like and are excited for the chapters coming up.

 

I changed how I wrote not to mention how I formatted using the ... and the - more to keep the flavor of the short story in that aspect too.

 

As I have said before, if any one is around Jarl, his puns start to get to everyone.

And realization of Valkarik at the end I thought of at the last second before I ended the chapter.  And as you point out, it is a great way to develop her character from how she has also realized she needs to stop rushing off, as pointed out by Ali.  She wanted to do it again, but then stops when reminded of what happened last time.  Had she heeded this sooner, she feels a lot of this could have gone drastically different, but to Ali's point, none of them expected to run into any of the action they saw.  They were simply on a scavenger mission.

 

When you wrote from the short story that the Venom was from "an unknown source" my writing brain was like *imagine Emperor Palpatine's voice* "Good, good.   All is falling into place according to plan."

This is what I love about using what you and others write about.  Unintentional details you add turn out to be great connections to the mystery...  It is like we are "Connecting the Dots"  ;)

The majority of the second part was written on several pieces of notebook paper that I could get my hands on at work during down time, plus a little bit when I realized I could bring my actual writing notebook with me.  But then some days forgetting to bring it with me.

 

At some point, I will go back through and correct the mistakes.  But I really just wanted to get this chapter posted when it was done.