OFF: Here is the second chapter of the Prologue story. It has been a while since I've been able to update quickly and although I had great fun writing that chapter in particular, I admit that I am a bit worried wheter I am moving too quickly or not.
I hope you will enjoy the second chapter!
SEEKING THE LIGHT
-Prologue ~ A World without Light-
"Fascinating... just... fascinating..."
His eyes were almost glowing as he watched the fragment. It was so small, so fragile-looking and yet, it had a kind of beauty that mesmerized him. He couldn't tire of looking at it and as he did, he could feel the warmth washing all over his body even through his robe, relaxing muscles that had felt stiff for weeks, chasing away the cold feeling that had paralyzed half of his body for just as long. He had read about the Light in the tomes but seeing it and feeling it all over his body was another experience altogether.
Well, not really that he could feel it on his body considering that it was stuck in such a small, cramped space but it was still incredible.
He turned back to face the pink dragoness. "How did you find it?"
"We searched for a home and hid here during a storm. Then we found this small fragment and we decided to make it our home."
He nodded and then looked back at it. The fragment was somewhat like a sheet of glass but it was warped, as if it had either been twisted or had once been part of a larger, spherical object. The wizard figured that it must have been the later case. He was still surprised that such a large fragment still existed. Most fragments that still existed were no larger than a golf ball and could be held in the palm of a normal sized humanoid but this fragment was gigantic, about the size of a small window. It was also in a relatively good state as well. The edges were jagged and broken but the actual structure was holding strong and the entire fragment's Light was incredibly bright and sustained compared to the fragments he had seen in the past. This was an exceptional discovery and one he knew that almost anyone in the Drunk guild would kill to make.
Still, although he was hoping to study it, he knew the chances were slim. The bubble dragon family had tried their best but the old skyscraper was too soundly destroyed and all they could have done was reinforce the openings in the rubbles, smoothing out the ceiling and building support columns. It was already cramped for the tiny bubble dragons but for someone as large as he was, doing any work would prove impossible.
He had briefly contemplated just filling one of his empty liquor flasks with an explosive cocktail and killing the family but the black kid had obvious talent for magic and if he killed his family, his grudge would remain until the day he died. Likewise, the place was small enough that the explosive would likely destroy the lair and burry the fragment in such a way that it would never be found again.
How about simply grabbing their necks and snapping them? Apart from the fact that the Devilen teen kid would hate him like in the last situation, there was the fact that the place was just too cramped to his liking and removing the fragment from the opening in the rubble in which it is stuck might prove difficult.
No, acquiring the fragment was out of question. And besides, the Drunk guild are the last and only semblance of an organized government left in the world. If he kill this bubble dragon family, it will tarnish the guild's reputation and makes it much harder to convince people to do as he says. Not that he cares much for those old farts but still, the influence is nice.
He turned back to the dragoness, the black kid's mother. She seemed like a common bubble dragon enough but as a trained magician, he could feel the warmth of magic within her. Although it did not manifest like in her son, it was obvious that this bloodline had the power of the true dragons flowing in their veins. This explained why Devilen had been able to blow such a strange bubble when he had been attacked by the Skel Monstas and why he looked so different from most bubble dragons.
"You and your mate are skilled with the forgotten arts of architecture and engineering?"
The dragoness seemed surprised and then smiled proudly. "Yes, our ancestors were architects and engineers when the Impact happened. Since then, the knowledge has been transmitted through generations. How did you know?"
Slowly, Dreg crawled out of the cramped room where the fragment was. The ceiling was still too low for him to stand but it was already more comfortable as he rose slightly.
"Repairing such a ruin is quite a feat and require much technology and knowledge. Most souls don't have the mathematical knowledge needed to build support columns and the engineering skills needed to build the tools to make it happen."
This was truly a most wondrous find. There weren't many people left who knew how to design and build things as well as why most of the things still worked. It was a sad stereotype that everything that couldn't be understood was magic, a fact that most Drunks enjoyed but one that deeply annoyed Dreg. Sure, ignorance allow the guild to keep a solid monopoly over knowledge and power but although most of the guild was happy ruling over ruins forever, Dreg was more than disturbed at the prospect of it.
He had read the tomes, he had read about how it used to be so long ago. Was this the best that could be achieved? Ruling over a few tiny ruins? They were fools, they didn't rule over anything. They just survived like everyone else. And they weren't even in control. Most importantly, they were missing the important point of it all.
But that would be for another day, perhaps. This is a road that he is not willing to take. Right now, his thirst of knowledge demands he know more and he might be staring at a new Drunk in the making.
"You're teaching your sons?" he asked the dragoness.
"Yes, Devilen and Demolen are both learning very quickly. You might have noticed how our lair has electricity instead of candles. Devilen repaired the Old World electric systems in the walls."
She said it with much pride and he understood. That was a very impressive feat for a teen to do on its own, one that told him of the dragon's potential. It also meant that he could learn quickly, which was another point in his favor.
The female bubble dragon glanced around her and set her gaze upon a strange device on a nearby wall, an ancient device known as a clock.
"Oh but will you look at the hour! It's nearly time for dinner! Will you be with us this evening, mister Dreg?"
"Sure. Although if you don't have enough food for a guest, I will undestand."
Not all places starved but food remained a rarity globally and well, having a larger stronger body did have the drawback of having to eat more. Still, he was used to find food in the wilds so if the family didn't have enough, it wouldn't bother him. Still, dining with them might be an opportunity to think over all of his discoveries for the day. It was crazy how a random act of kindness snowballed into making such fascinating discoveries. A teen with both magical aptitudes and technological skills, a family of engineers and architects, the largest fragment of Light since the discovery of the Atlas's ruins... Dreg could almost not believe he had made all of those discoveries. Half of the Drunk guild will be seeing green and the other will hand him promotions like candies!
As he followed the bubble dragon to the makeshift living room, he could not help but remain fascinated the whole way. The air was very clean thanks to the electrical lighting and despite the many tons of collapsed rubble above them, the family's modifications made this one of the safest buildings he had seen since the Cave of Monsters. There were also a few of those ancient artifacts that they kept, like that clock near the fragment's room and that oven he saw in the kitchen on the way here. He guessed that in ancient times, before the Impact, this must have been an apartment building and that the family's lair had been built where the parking lot once was.
Dinner was quite uneventful to Dreg's knowledge although it could have been due to the fact that he had been busy thinking. He did get notice that Devilen's parents seemed happy about something and both Devilen and his brother had been whispering about something. But that was of little concern to the mage.
This was too big an opportunity to pass up but on another hand, he couldn't bring them to the guild's headquarters. Leaving the fragment here without anyone to watch over it would be ill-advised and with so many artifacts in there, it was probable that looters would probable ransack the place and collapse it in their stupidity. Then, there was Devilen... he obviously had talent and he would need to speak to him in detail. He would need to know about the world, to know about magic, to learn more...
"So, where do you plan to go next, mister Dreg?"
The speaker was a dark blue bubble dragon, taller than Devilen and Demolen. Their father, he guessed.
"I was on my way to the lair of a cell of Drunk wizards to the north of here. You are familiar with the guild?"
"Yes." the dragon's face hardened and he could feel the bitterness and cold in his tone. It didn't surprised the Drunk one bit. The guild was better off by a truly spectacular margin by comparison to the world and even benefitted from a basic civilization structure but their ressources were by no mean unlimited and with the world in such a pitiful state, most Drunks didn't even bother helping their bethren. Why bother when the world is one giant crumbled ruin anyway? Still, hogging all of the knowledge and best stuff to themselves had caused most sentients to resent the Drunks and, Dreg reflected, it was not without reason.
Still, it was also a foolish thing to do. The Drunks are the last of civilization, what's left of the world after the Impact. They're the only ones who can support any kind of project for any real amount of time and if those dragons have any kind of real intelligence in their brains, they'll realize that their bloodline alone won't be able to protect the fragment and their knowledge forever.
And if they, and their fragment, won't go to the guild... then the guild will come to them.
"I will continue my way there. Once I met with them, I will inform them of what we learnt and we will move and establish ourselves near your lair."
Both adult dragons' gazes had hardened now. They were staring at him intently... It was now time to see if they were fools.
"And why would the Drunks take interest in us?" asked the male.
"We have nothing that could interest you." continued the female.
"You may not realize it but that fragment of Light in your lair is the largest recorded to date. Furthermore, although I am not a specialist, it is very obvious that you all have an incredible amount of lost knowledge at your disposal."
"And what's keeping you from just slaughtering us all and cart off the fragment?" the male's tone was mocking and sour.
"Apart from the fact that the fragment is too deeply embedded in the rubbles to be extracted, you and your family wield extensive knowledge obviously, knowledge that could benefit us. I understand that you might not like us but this is the largest fragment discovered to date and although it might just be me and my curiosity, your family is just as big a knowledge. In fact..."
He glanced at Devilen. Would it be worth it to chance it? Well, what did he have to lose? It would probably inspire them to be more cooperative if they were giving him a chance and if they were deaf, it wouldn't make a difference. He decided to go ahead.
"... I have also noticed that Devilen, one of your two sons, has a talent for magic. I saw him blow a bubble made of energy and I can feel his potential. I am not asking you to let him go, I plan to install myself nearby and research from here but if you could, I'd like to teach him."
They had heard the story from their son and it was why they had accepted him in their home. He had saved their son's life. He saw their expressions, total shock it was. And slowly, hatred was overcome by rational thinking and hope rose in their minds. What was being offered here was exceptional and Dreg begun to realize it indeed was. The guild usually took, it did not give but this was a different situation. Ironically, what was motivated by benefits for him and the guild turned out to be a second act of kindness. Effectively, he was giving this family a future and Devilen an opportunity to gain a life that few outside of the Drunks could hope to experience.
Truly, fate was being kind for once. And it seemed that things were looking up for more than one soul.
"So... how has it been, old friend?"
His gaze had sharpened, focused. How long had it been since the fateful decision? For a moment, he had almost expected it to have taken years yet as he watched the calendar inside of his room, he realized that it had barely been a single year.
Merely one year... and yet, a random act of kindness had grown into a chain reaction that caused a revolution. The large tower that now stood on Dark Island was the greatest proof of it all. It had taken months to build but Devilen's family were geniuses and their plans and techniques had allowed the skyscraper-like structure to be built in record time. It was an achievement that filled the family with pride and he could understand why, the structure was the first building since the Impact to rise out of the rubbles. The whole experience had likewise confirmed that the knowledge of the family was genuine and now, for the first time in centuries, the knowledge of how to build modern structures was once more in the hands of the living.
Technological breakthroughs were not the only thing gained though as study of the fragment of Light had allowed to understand magic on a much better scale. Before, the Drunks had used a very rough, innefficient method of casting spells that required them to ingest massive amounts of magical liquor, making themselves drunk in the process. This was where the name came from. But with the study of the fragment of Light, new, more efficient methods of casting spells as well as new, more powerful spells had been discovered.
But the most important discoveries of them all had ironically caused fear in the guild. They were fools, all of them. Too busy clinging to a meaningless power, ruling over a bunch of ruins. They didn't realize what the Dark Tower represented.
He turned to face the speaker, the one who understood what the tower meant the least. The Shadow Boss, an old bubble dragon of a size as improbable as his own. Once, Devilen's wings had reminded him of Shadow Boss but after a whole year with the black bubble dragon as his pupil, all awe and respect he once had for the official leader of the Drunk guild was now gone.
He now saw Shadow Boss for what he is, an ignorant, intolerant bully whose primary and only real skill is clinging to power. Although he had much true dragon blood like his pupil, the hulking green monstrosity had mostly only size to his name. His dull, unfocused eyes, constantly expressive a dull, unfocused feeling of annoyance and hatred, were a spectacle just as far removed from Devilen's focused, calculating, deeply intelligent eyes as was Shadow Boss's almost ridiculous, tiny wings compared to the graceful, long wings that Devilen had.
Shadow Boss argued that his size proved his blood ties to dragons. He found thet Devilen had a much closer relation, wielding the dragons' fabled intelligence and ease of flight. Shadow Boss was but a bumbling idiot in comparison.
But as ignorant as Shadow Boss was, he had used his strength and cunning to gain ranks in the guild and his relative paranoia had kept him on top. The bubble dragon had been through a lot and knew from experience that Dreg was not interested in such petty things as ruling the world but he felt threatened by his pupil, Devilen. He was too smart, too ambitious, too quick to learn. It was obvious that Shadow Boss wished for Devilen to disappear. It was not going to happen, not on Dreg's watch.
"What is your wish, master?"
Dreg was gigantic even compared to the people of the true dragons. But Shadow Boss's size was just ludicrous. In a way, it made him wonder if Shadow Boss truly was as powerful as he was but used most of his magic to keep his own immense weight from crushing his frame. The creature was so humongous that he intimidated even the savage, nearly invulnerable Skel Monstas but virtue of his apparent invincibiliy. And although his newly revealed ignorant caused the feeling to be diminished, he was still awed slightly as he looked up to the bubble dragon.
"Please, relax old friend. I'm just here to talk about your top student, Devilen."
"I am listening."
He had a feeling he would not like this. No matter, Shadow Boss's reign is coming to an end. For years, the idiot kept a sway over the guild but with the achievements at Dark Island and the constant breakthroughs, Shadow Boss's power base was shrinking. The Drunks streamed away from the Castle of Truth, coming to the Dark Tower to observe the wonder of rediscovered technology that it was and study the Light fragment from there. Although Dreg still refused to challenge Shadow Boss's power, he knew that Shadow Boss no longer looked like the ideal leader he used to be. And although he would indeed not usurp Shadow Boss's power, there was the distinct possibility of using a pupil to take command for him instead... and Devilen was just talented and smart enough to grasp such a possibility. He was young, unexperienced and would need his help should he be named new leader but he was also smart enough that he wouldn't need to be manipulated into doing what he wanted.
Of course, he had not considered this before, research of the Light fragment and training a worthy soul had been his motivation but now that he thought about it, getting that ignorant Shadow Boss off the seat of power might benefit everyone actually.
"As you know, the promotion ceremony is due soon, I will award promotions to the most worthy among us. I believe you knew this, right?"
If he knew about it? He had been thinking about the promotions ever since he helped Devilen when he had been attacked.
"Yes, I do."
"Well..." continued the dragon, a smirk forming on his face. Dreg had never realized before how dishonest and deeply retarded Shadow Boss looked when smiling. "... I have heard about that you have made some rather peculiar discoveries on Dark Island, ones that intrigued many Drunks. Likewise, I have heard of your pupil Devilen and of how he might have the most potential seen in any soul, including fellow Drunks, in centuries. However..."
He faked sighing, faking it badly at that. "I am afraid that your potential is being wasted. You are but one Drunk on a tiny island, far away from the guild. And your pupil has not yet been named an official member yet. So I have thought that it would be best if I didn't mention your names during the ceremony. I will transfer you to another, larger island where you might perfect your research. Likewise, you are but one Drunk and I am sure that Devilen would benefit from a variety of teachers with a vast amount of experience to help him hone his skills. Truly, it would be for the best. What do you say, old friend?"
It was ridiculous and they both knew it. Shadow Boss wanted to exclude them solely so that he could take credit for his discoveries while being exiled to a place where there would be nothing to research, dooming his chances. Likewise, he knew what kind of teacher Shadow Boss was talking about. The kind that was convinced that magic was only possible when too drunk to see clearly and who would cripple him as effectively as if those Skel Monstas had torn off his limbs.
"I am sorry but I will take my chances, sir. Thank you for the proposition."
The humongous bubble dragon's eyes squinted as he leaned, his muzzle touching the Drunk's.
"You do not understand me. You do not have a choice. It is for your own good... old friend."
If intelligence fails, use intimidation. A technique as ancient as the world, used long before the Impact and that will be used by mediocre minds until the sun goes cold and even beyond, most likely. Fortunately, he had seen this move coming by a mile away and countered it flawlessly.
"Master..." he said, stepping back to put some distance between them and allow the words to sink in. "I am extremely sorry but I must refuse. There is that tiny tidbit of information about your predecessor that needs to be kept quiet. I am afraid that if I am forced off of this tiny, isolated island, people will start asking questions. Then there is the matter of my pupil being awfully curious..."
The effect was instantaneous. The green monster turned snow white.
"It... it is alright. It is indeed best if you stay where you are in order to maintain those secrets. I... I will be on my way. Keep up the good work. For the guild, old friend."
Dreg smirked to himself smugly as the old idiot walked away. He had absolutely no idea. Of course, he wasn't actually behind the former leader's disappearance, Shadow Boss had only been a mediocre opportunist that had jumped on the title of leader at the drop of a hat. The former leader had been every bit as paranoid and stupid as Shadow Boss, even actually a bit more considering how violent and insane he had been. Sorcerer Drank had been immensely powerful and the largest Drunk ever to live, even larger than Dreg himself. Supposely, he had found a way to pierce the magical barrier that protected the Rainbow Island and had went inside with an army to conquer it. He had never returned and Shadow Boss had been quick to unite those who had not followed Drank under his own rule.
Shadow Boss had nothing to do with it ; Drank had decided to leave on his own and regardless of what happened, his disappearance had been his own fault, not Shadow Boss's. But fact remained that if Shadow Boss decided to get a bit too stupid to Dreg's liking, all he needed to do was reveal what happened to Drank under a... different light... and Shadow Boss's credibility would be killed.
Dreg thought on the discoveries. Sorcerer Drank, in his arrogance, had kept the knowledge of how the barrier worked to himself and as such, the guild had been unable to rescue him when he and his army had met their match on Rainbow Island, however it happened. But now, thanks to the Light fragment, that knowledge was being discovered again and unlike Drank, Dreg would not make the mistake of keeping it to himself.
But this was only part of the important point. The Light fragment was huge but it was nothing but a fragment, a tiny piece of leftover Light. The real power, the real Light was within Rainbow Island. Sorcerer Drank had left only to conquer one more island, because his insanity demanded he ruled the entire world... but Dreg realized that he overseen the obvious. This tiny fragment of Light found in a bubble dragon home had allowed for breakthroughs unpreceded in centuries. But if they could get their hands on the actual Light power... he could barely start to imagine what he would learn. It would make everything he had learned obsolete! It would be absolutely glorious!
But then, Sorcerer Drank was insanely huge, powerful, and ruthless and he somehow lost despite his strength and his army. Which meant that Rainbow Island was well-defended, somehow.
And it was then that Dreg thought of his young pup l again. Charismatic, intelligent, quick to learn, and wielding lost technology knowledge. He had seen his talent with electrical systems and it already made him think of another, more ambitious project...
... the ancient weapons.
Great machines of war made of steel. Already, Devilen had begun to design plans for a machine that could protect his family and the Drunks from Skel Monstas, a small automaton that he called "Zen-chan". The ancient weapons of technology are terrible, horrible weapons, the fragments of history gathered by the guild stressed the destructive potential of technology.
With strong magic and the fabled war machines of the past, they would be able to secure the Light power... probably.
But this was all thoughts, projects to think about. They still have yet to even be able to look through the barrier, Devilen is not ready, he have his promotions to think about, the "Zen-chan" project must be completed, and Shadow Boss must be dealt with. Truly, a lot to think about it. Still, it will be for the future... maybe.
Coming back to his senses, Dreg realized that Shadow Boss had not closed the door to his room on the way out. How inconvenient! He closed the door and then went back to his tomes. Time to see what kind of lesson to teach Devilen next...
TO BE CONTINUED IN...
-Prologue ~ A World without Light-