Tian was already of the Cormorant's deck when they caught sight of the maelstrom.
As weird as it was, the ship went straight into the vortex, for it was its destination. The maelstrom wasn't a natural occurrence — it was the lair of Morgus Lethe, the champion of the Elder Dragon Zhaitan.
It all comes back to the dragons, in the end. Zhaitan had awoken a century ago, using his power to raise a sunken peninsula that was once the beautiful nation of Orr. This event alone changed the face of Tyria forever, flooding the southern coasts of the continent, including the humans' major city, Lion's Arch. But it didn't stop there — the dragon's powers raised he dead, be it the former denizens of Orr or anyone foolish enough to die anywhere near the Sea of Sorrows. These undead had been the reason Tian's parents had died, the young man knew. That was the only thing he could remember about his parents, no matter what Sael told him about them.
Not like Zhaitan had been the only one, though. Primordus lurked beneath the surface of Tyria for much longer than that, and the ice dragon Jormag had been the reason the Norn had moved south. Tian and Sael had also heard of talks of another dragon, deep within the seas, but had never been able to be sure that one actually existed.
The Norn had been the builders of the Cormorant, and it had obviously been built for Norn. That meant most everything in the ship was too large for Tian to use properly — but the ship had needed fighters, and here he was. The ship had been lent to the already famous group, Destiny's Edge, to help them face Zhaitan's champion. And Tian had just followed.
"You ready, little brother ?" a voice called from behind.
Tian turned to face his reflection. His twin brother, Sael. Already in armor — not plate, thank Kormir, Tian had managed to force studded leather on his brother. On a ship, you didn't want to be slowed down by what you wear.
"I am, Sael." Tian still felt nervous about this battle, though. Their target was an Elder Dragon's champion, no less. Only three such creatures had ever been defeated in the past two centuries and a half — two of them at the hands of the heroes of old, and one at the hands of Destiny's Edge themselves. Was the group going to be as lucky with this champion ?
They would soon find out. Ahead of the boat, a maelstrom formed — and from it emerged the minions of Zhaitan. Undead creatures, rotten bodies of various races — though most were humans and norn. Within the maelstrom, a boat also appeared — Morgus Lethe's own ship. The Cormorant sailed for it, and part of the crew threw grappling hooks and boarded the other ship. Among those, Tian glimpsed several members of Destiny's Edge. Where are the others ?
No time to wonder. He and Sael, along with other soldiers that had joined the crew, had another task — to defend the ship. And indeed, it needed defending. Undead soon climbed from the sea onto the deck, and they fought them back. Tian focused, and formed illusions on the boat — reflections of the defenders to confuse their foes, invisible walls and visible obstacles that weren't real. Once that was done — and once he had made sure the illusions were steady enough to last without his monitoring — he formed one more illusion : a huge, burning scythe. He'd always loved using illusory scythes in battle — they reminded him of his mother's farm.
Tian looked around and watched Sael swinging his greatsword, punctuating each slash with a flash of light coming from his left hand. But as usual, Sael didn't pay attention to his back, and two undead noticed that fact, creeping behind him to try and strike. Sighing, — it was sort of his fault if Sael was that careless — he ran to his brother, hacking the first undead and killing the second with invisible flames.
The fight went on, more undead replacing those that were slain, until too many of them surrounded the brothers. Tian dismissed his scythe, preparing to form more fire instead — at the risk of damaging the boat — but he was interrupted by a blue sphere forming around him and his brother. The undead were thrown out of it, and it became apparent to Tian they couldn't come inside anymore.
Half-turning, Tian glared at Sael. "You always surprise me with this one. Couldn't you use it earlier ?"
Sael shrugged. "I told you five times before : I could, but it would be pointless, and I'm not sure I can do that twice in a row."
Tian frowned. Five times, really ? He couldn't remember it. Was his memory getting even worse ? "Okay, then. What do we do now ?"
Sael gripped his greatsword tightly. "We prepare to fight. Each one could be the murderer of our parents, remember ? So give it all you've got !"
Tian nodded, and prepared a few illusions already. His plan to burn them all down would have been foolish, he realized — if he sank their own boat, they were all doomed anyway. Instead, he formed many large invisible blades and readied them. "Whenever you want, Sael."
He felt his brother tighten behind him. "Now !"
The sphere vanished, and Tian ordered the blades to fly through the undead ranks, hacking them into lifeless bits. Behind him came a blinding light — Sael was visibly doing just as good as he was.
Soon enough, the boat was empty of the undead. What, is it over ? That easily ? Tian found it hard to believe.
He was proven right when people started to shout and point at a shadow in the water. "What is it ?" someone said.
"It's huge !"
"It's coming for us !"
And it came indeed. It emerged from the water near the Cormorant, making the boat shake so hard Tian had trouble holding on. A shadow passed over them but Tian couldn't see what it was, busy as he was not falling.
He heard the men's shouts. "A dragon ! An undead dragon !"
"Zhaitan ! Zhaitan is here !"
Zhaitan ? If Zhaitan is here, we're doomed. But Sael was shaking his head. "I'ts not Zhaitan. I remember this one. How did the hyleks call it ?" He pondered for a second, then remembered. "Tequatl. Tequatl the Sunless."
Tian nodded. He remembered Tequatl — they had faced it not long before joining the Cormorant's crew. Another champion of Zhaitan, they had barely managed to keep him from taking over the coasts of Sparkfly Fen, not far east from where they were now. Of course Tequatl would show up and help its fellow champion.
"So what do we —" he tried to ask Sael, but his brother was walking towards the other men.
"That, soldiers, is not Zhaitan. It's only another champion of his' Tequatl. I know it well — I fought against it once. He can be chased away, and that's what we're going to do !"
The men seemed comforted by Sael's words, and it at least stopped their shouting about what the creature was. Tequatl was coming back, and Tian recognized it — a dragon of rotten flesh and bones, with wings made of decaying flesh and full of holes, but it still flew and swam very swiftly. And it was flying back toward the boat — and this time, Tian guessed, it would attack. He conjured invisible flames — it wouldn't be a problem against a flying foe — and cast them at the dragon, aside with other spells and arrows shot by the rest of the crew.
Tian was surprised when a blow came from behind, knocking him down. Distracted by Tequatl, the crew had not noticed that a few undead had climbed on the boat. Sael immediately threw himself between them and Tian, but a giant undead — probably a norn or a jotun — rammed its hammer into Sael, sending him flying right into the water.
"No !" Tian shouted. Not caring for the defense of the boat anymore, he ran and jumped straight into the water. Immediately, he pulled out his aqua breather and put it over his mouth before conjuring an ethereal light and forming an illusion protecting him from the underwater currents. He glimpsed Sael, who was sinking into the depths, half conscious. Tian swam to him and searched his brother's pockets, looking for his own breather. After an awfully long moment, he found it and applied it on Sael's mouth. His brother finally opened his eyes, blinking as he was trying to shake off his shock.
Suddenly, from below, Tian felt an unnaturally strong current, although he was still protected from it. The dragon, Tequatl, was swimming under the boat and away from it for some reason. Maybe he had been wounded and was fleeing ?
Tian's thoughts were interrupted when Sael was caught in the current. He tried to grab him, but he was already out of reach. As he swam his way to his brother, he saw Sael's eyes growing wide. Tian tried to turn around, but was stopped as a blade rammed through his chest from behind. As his brother was still drifting away from Tian, everything went black.