The Horse from the Woods – Grains of Life

Reminicing over his life as he stared Death in the face, Sacariss let the excruciating pain sweep over his scaled body, releasing the immense amount of pride that had swelled within him. He quietly accepted his fate, knowing that he was coming to his end. He knew that he must rely his trust upon Nadia and the others. He knew that he was no longer going to be there to lead them. He had used all of his strength, but he was unable to defeat Antracius. Sacariss was still the younger brother. He was not as strong as Antracius, just as no one else was. This was the end…this was his end. Antracius had won…

For a moment, Sacariss stared into the leering, golden eyes of his nefarious brother and was greeted with a wicked smile from the malevolent killer. As the strength slowly drained from his dying muscles, Sacariss felt his monstrous, webbed wings constrict and his arms and legs fall limp at his side. He was unable to grasp his brother’s clawed hand as it was struck through his chest and was helplessly held within the air, hundreds of feet above the Amantus Mountains. Antracius held his brother up, his murderous claws piercing through the thick, silver chest scales while he let the warm crimson blood spill across his hand, falling in drops as it ran over his wrist. The hateful smile still lay twisted upon his face as he enjoyed his moment of triumph. Mocking Sacariss, he freely flapped his large black wings and brought his left hand up to his own face. For a moment, he stared upon his fingers just before giving them a little wiggle and placing them upon the silver scales that armored his brother. He slowly let the dark claws slide down from plate to plate, each time making a small clacking sound. Sacariss was helpless, unable to react, as his muscles lay limp and his spirit broken. The pain of his chest continued to sear through his body, causing him to grit his teeth and close his eyes tightly.

“How does it feel Sacariss?” Antracius hissed, withdrawing his left hand and staring directly into his brother’s clenched eyes. “How does it feel to have your chest ripped open, the skin pulled apart, the scales pierced? Do you remember?” He paused to give a slight chuckle and shook his head before continuing. “Of course you do. Of course you remember. You were there. You were there when it happened to me. Weren’t you? Do you remember now? Do you remember this?!” With a yell, he struck his left hand to his chest, the horrid scar still resting upon the uncovered skin. “Look! Look at this!” Antracius commanded, forcing Sacariss to slowly open his eyes. “Look at what that…that thing did to me! You were there! You watched it happen, yet you did nothing! Nothing! You have always been against me, haven’t you? You stopped me then and you tried to stop me now.” Antracius paused as he stared below. “You could have had power Sacariss. You could have…I gave you the opportunity, but you turned it down. Why is that? Why do you not want power?” His harsh voice lowered to a whisper. “You have always been the younger brother, Sacariss. You cannot stop me and you know that. You know that, so why do you try? Antracius paused to give a mocking laugh before he returned the menacing glare to his weakening brother. “You are too weak.” Pausing again, Antracius took a moment to recollect his thoughts. “Oh and that girl! You expect to stop me with that girl! Wizards, elves…all of them! They are all useless, powerless…weak. All of them…except for her. She has power. She has power and you know that. You tried to use it against me, didn’t you. Well, your brilliant plan doesn’t seem to have worked. It looks like you have brought her straight to me. I will now have her power and will take my revenge upon her. Four years of searching…I never expected you to bring her to me. I thought you were against me…” Antracius gave a small smirk to Sacariss as he watched his brother suffer. “You have fallen…just as all the others will.” With his last remark, Antracius violently pulled his right hand from Sacariss’ chest, spewing more of the dragon’s blood and ripping the scales from the vulnerable skin before flying off, leaving his brother to fall.

Sacariss let out a terrible moan of pain from the release of his brother’s claws. He was falling to his death, yet he was too powerless to do anything. The silver-blue webbings of his wings wildly flapped behind him while the blood was ripped from his wounds and the fresh gash upon his chest burned from the violent winds. As all sound seemed to leave him, Sacariss heard his dying heart echoing through his head along with the faint yells of his Elven rider, Lunetta. He could picture the pale-skinned young woman upon his back only in his mind as his sight began to fail him, the world growing darker and darker. He could feel nothing. He could see nothing. He was nothing. A sense of relief fell upon Sacariss with the knowledge that it would all be over soon, yet the want for revenge quickly set in his heart. He knew that his brother was right. He knew that Antracius was too powerful and that no one would be able to stop him. He was foolish to have brought Nadia here along with the others. He knew that he had to help them and that he had to be there to lead them, but he was not able to. He was dying and he knew it.

Just then, Antracius rushed by and lashed out at Lunetta. The sharp claws ripped across the elf’s body, pulling her from her mount before thrusting her through the air. Sacariss heard the shrill cries of his frightened rider. He watched and tried to spread his wings to soar after her, yet he could not move. He tried to reach out for her. He tried to call out for her, but all he could do was watch her fall. “Sacariss!” Lunetta cried out with her long, braided blonde hair streaming upwards in the wind and her silver, hourglass necklace flailing about her neck. “Sacariss, help me!” she frantically called with tears breaking through the barrier of her eyes.

“Watch them all fall, Sacariss,” Antracius whispered into his brother’s ears as he flew by. “Watch them all fall and die…” There was nothing that Sacariss could do but accept his fate. Weak from the loss of blood, he felt himself lost control of his body. He unconciously dropped his head and let his body fall limp as he fell, closing his eyes away from the sight of the world he let down.

All of a sudden, there was a blinding flash that surrounded the dragon and his rider. Pure white light pierced through Sacariss’ eyelids as he felt an unusual feeling sweep over him. Tingles crept over his entire body, slightly burning his wounds, and he felt as though he was no longer falling, but floating. Lunetta realized that she too began to float and glanced about only to see the colorless glare that enveloped over them. Within this sense of tranquility, Sacariss felt his body gradually dying and knew that he could not go on much longer. “Sacariss!” Lunetta cried out as she realized her weakened friend. “Sacariss, wh-” Just then, Lunetta felt an overbearing sense of tiredness overcome her as she instantly brought her hand to her forehead. The world seemed to spin around her and an unusual feeling kept grasp of her mind. With a sigh, Lunetta’s eyes closed, stealing the only sense she had of what was happening. Their home, Septia, was gone from them both, or were they gone from it?

– – –

A familiar sight greeted Sacariss as he opened his bright, golden eyes, giving him a slight sense of comfort. The ancient, looming trees of Lunetta’s homeland, the Ebudae Wood, stretched over him, giving him shelter from the dim, night sky overhead and telling him that he had not left the world just yet. He found himself to be lying upon the forest floor with his head resting in the grass and tried to lift himself up only to have a piercing pain strike through his body, reminding him of the war. He had lost and he was still weakened. Unable to move any part of his body, Sacariss rested, taking his last few breaths, the only sound that met with him within the woods. There were no birds, no wind, nothing. He was alone.

Just then, Lunetta awoke and instinctively surveyed her surroundings. “Sacariss?” she managed to choke, grasping her aching head. Sacariss felt his heart lighten upon hearing his friend’s voice and tried to answer, but found himself to be unable. “Sacariss?” she asked again, trying to gain her footing. She stumbled with dizziness before fumbling to where Sacariss lay helplessly. “Sacariss!” she cried out, seeing his battle wounds for the first time. Scratches and slashes were spread all over his body and his gleaming wings were torn and ripped from battle. The large, silver scales had been pulled from his chest and the skin peeled away allowing his blood to continue to seep from the monstrous gash, spilling over the grass around him. “Sacariss, you are hurt,” she finally said, unable to think straight from astonishment. “You are…this cannot be! This can’t happen!”

“Lunetta,” Sacariss muttered, using his last, precious breaths to communicate with his beloved rider. “You are so kind and strong-”

“Shh…” Lunetta soothed as she placed her hand upon his immense shoulder. “Don’t speak. Save your breaths.” A tear rolled down her pale cheek causing her to turn her head away from embarrassment. She could not bear to see her friend die before her.

“Do not cry, Lunetta,” Sacariss replied. “Do not cry and be strong. You are strong…”

“Sacariss, there must be something that I can do…I have to stop this! You cannot die!” Fury began to rise within the elf as her frustration overcame her words. “You cannot die! You will not die!” With her blonde hair matted to her face with tears, she suddenly realized what she was saying. “But there is nothing that I can do. I have no magical abilities, we all know that. I am useless…I cannot help you.”

“Do not say that, Lunetta,” Sacariss remarked. “You are helping. You are here with me…” Using all of his strength, he gave a weak smile before releasing it and gasping for air. The blood continued to run from his unhealable wound and his life was coming to an end. “You will lead them. You will lead them for me.”

Lunetta glanced to Sacariss with tears still streaming from her blue eyes. Thinking over what to say, she broke her glance from him to her hands resting in her lap. “Sacariss,” she paused, still contemplating how to put her words together. “Sacariss, I don’t know-I can’t lead them without you. I cannot let you go.”

“But you must…I have failed, I was too weak, but you are not. You can-” Deep gasps overcame the dragon, interrupting his speech.

“But we have lost!” Lunetta lashed out, irritation overcoming her again. “Antracius has defeated us and he will defeat them too! We cannot win. We have lost our chance, we have lost the war, we have lost…” She trailed off as the sadness enveloped her and a tightness developed in her throat, making it difficult to speak. Sacariss felt that he agreed with Lunetta, although he didn’t want to admit it, and rested in quietude as he waited for her to continue. “Oh, Sacariss,” she said, her voice more relaxed and her words more confident. “You are my dearest friend. You cannot leave me…” Her voice trailed off into a whisper as she hugged her companion and rested a while in silence. Sacariss and Lunetta both lay beneath the many leaves of the grand trees without speaking a word, only listening to the dragon’s last breaths. As he took each breath, his side slowly raised, soothing Lunetta as she rested upon it.

Suddenly, another beam of luster began to steadily grow before the two. Lunetta briskly sat up and quickly shielded her face with her hand, finding the luminescence to be coming from herself. “Sacariss!” she cried out. “Sacariss, look!” Pulling her hand away from her squinting eyes, Lunetta grasped the small hourglass that dangled from her neck and brought it closer to her face to examine it. She noticed that the grains of sand within the small, glass figure were gleaming with a bright glimmer, pouring golden light across her features. The phospherance twinkled in the reflection of her eyes and sparkled on each of Sacariss’s scales. The glow began to increase until the entire thicket was filled with the shimmering, golden aurora, forcing Lunetta’s eyes to clench shut. “Sacariss!” she called out, “What’s happening?” Turning away from her hourglass necklace, she faced her dragon and found that his eyes were calmly closed and his chest was no longer soothing her with its quiet breaths. “Sacariss?” she asked in confoundment, “Sacariss?” Her whispers died through the trees as the light continued to sweep over. Knowing that her friend was gone, Lunetta dropped her head, letting her long, blonde hair hang loosely, glittering in the sparkling light. “I wish that there was something I could do,” she stated, not controlling the tears reappearing over her cheeks. She unclasped the jewelry from her neck and placed it in the pool of blood that surrounded Sacariss’ chest while whispering, “I will try to lead them…I will try as you have told me to.”

Just then, golden light began to radiate from Sacariss’ wounds, causing Lunetta to turn her head up in confusion. She watched as each scratch upon his hide was gradually healed with the peculiar device hovering over its crimson pool. Unsure of what was happening, she watched in silence as every wound disappeared before her eyes just before the hourglass floated towards the immense gash in his chest. Soon, the skin began to come together slowly, with the hourglass drawing nearer until it had been lodged into the monster’s chest, the wound gone from sight.

Lunetta was too overwhelmed to speak and remained before her friend with her mouth open in awe. The glittering tears continued to splatter across her face and her hair gently swayed in the breeze. Finally, the bright illumination slowly retreated, leaving the moon to reign over the darkness. Lunetta studied the hourglass buried in her friend’s chest and noticed a stream of sand pouring from the top chamber into the bottom. A sharp glint caught her eye and she glanced down to find the silver chain that once restrained the time-keeping device to her neck lying within the grass at her knees. She gently picked the silver chain up and moved it within her hands, closely studying it.

“Lunetta?” she heard. “Lunetta, what has happened?”

Sacariss sounded confused, but his words instantly comforted his rider as her eyes sparkled with delight. “Sacariss!” she cried out before grasping his neck in her arms. “Sacariss! You’re alive!”

With the strength returning to his weakened muscles, Sacariss raised his hand to his head. “My thoughts are all a blur…I just remember-” All of a sudden, is words came to an abrupt stop as his memories began to return. “Antracius, he…” Moving his hand from his delirious head to the strange hourglass embedded into his chest, Sacariss found the strength to lie up against his shoulder before staring into Lunetta’s blue eyes with a confused look. “How is this possible? I-I died…Didn’t I?”

Lunetta returned the bewildered glance to the mystifying hourglass that continued to pour sand, still unable to explain what had happened either. “I don’t how…It just,” Unable to find the correct words, the elf rose the chain clasped within her hand.

Just then, the seriousness of the war returned to Sacariss as he picked himself up from the ground and gave his wings a stretch. “It doesn’t matter…We have no time to waste here. We have to return to the mountains and end this war. They need us. They need their leader.”

“I was never their leader,” Lunetta muttered in response, also standing. “They have turned to you…They need you.”

“That is not true, Lunetta. You are stronger than you think and you can lead. You will lead someday…You have your village, your people. You will take care of them. I know you will.” A smile appeared on Sacariss’ face as his usual optimism appeared.

“They have never needed me,” Lunetta said quietly. “That is why I have left my village.”

All of a sudden, screams echoed throughout the woods, filling the night with terror. “What is that?” Lunetta cried out, her eyes widened with fear.

“It sounded as if it was coming from your village!” Sacariss responded as he turned to the direction of the yells and kneeled to allow his rider to climb onto his saddle. Lunetta grasped the horn and swung herself into position just before the winged beast blasted through the trees. Sacariss quickly glided over the treetops towards the hidden elven village that was nestled within the center of the Ebudae Wood, remembering the way from their last visit.

“What do you think it could be, Sacariss?” Lunetta called out over the winds that blew past her. “You don’t think that the dragons have attacked my village, do you?”

“I’m not sure, but it can’t be good!” Sacariss replied. Soon, the settlement was in view and he hovered skillfully through the trees to a landing that slightly shook the ground around him. Standing besides the enormous oak tree that marked the center of the village, Sacariss allowed Lunetta to swing off from his neck and reveal the hidden passageway into the trunk.

“Come on, Sacariss!” she desperately cried out after an opening had appeared in the side of the tree. Running through the grand halls of her hometown’s secret palace, Lunetta felt that something was terribly wrong, with Sacariss following closely behind her inside the cramped corridors. Dismay arose within the two as they passed a few elves that were sprawled against the floor, their staffs strewn across the hallways.

“What do you think happened?” Sacariss asked.

“I’m not sure. Not many know of this palace, or even this village…This couldn’t be under Antracius’ control, could it?” Lunetta thought aloud as the realization came to her. Soon, the young elf and her dragon appeared in the throne room’s doorway, bewildered by what they found. “No…” Lunetta whispered. There were Elven guards thrown about the room, speckling the walls with blood as an elder man grasped the Elven King by his neck, dangling his feet above the ground. The man’s wrinkled face was buried with resentment and carried the want for revenge, with thick lines bordering his mouth. His deep-set eyes leered upon the King as he gritted his teeth in an angry snarl.

“Father!” Lunetta cried out with her arms outstretched before her as she ran into the room. All of a sudden, the man clutching the King turned and held up his free hand, throwing Lunetta against a wall, slamming her back into the wood.

“Lunetta!” Seeing his rider crumple to the ground, Sacariss instantly ran to her.

“What do we have here?” spoke the man with a smile and a slight chuckle. “A princess? You never spoke of a princess, old Telran…”

Ignoring the pain that throbbed through her back, Lunetta rose to her feet and yelled at the man. “Who are you to be speaking to the King in such a manner?”

“Me? You haven’t heard of me?” grinned the man with a disappointed voice. “I am but the only wizard that was strong enough to have escaped Antracius’ wrath. I am Veranthus, the most powerful magic user to live.” The wrinkles curled in a sickening smile that reached from ear to ear upon the man’s face.

“You are not the only wizard to have escaped Antracius!” Lunetta spat back, her eyes glaring into her enemy’s. “There is another!”

“Hmm…I doubt that,” replied the man, his voice hushed in a quiet tone. “So, Telran,” the man started, ignoring the girl and her dragon. “Will you do as I say this time?” There was no reply from the King as Lunetta wondered what Veranthus had already done to him. “Girl,” the man called out, his eyes still leering into the King’s. “Do you want to know something?” He waited for a moment, although Lunetta did not reply. “I am going to kill your father…right here, right now, and then I am going to kill you.” There was a chuckle as Lunetta’s face lit with rage. “I might even kill your dragon too!” Veranthus cried out before bursting into a wicked laugh. Sacariss gave an intimidating roar at the comment, flashing his many teeth at the man, before quieting to a low growl.

Just then, a spear from the ground hovered into the air and plunged into the King’s chest. “No!” Lunetta cried out as she ran forward once more. Sacariss instantly sensed that something wasn’t right and dashed before Lunetta, whipping his spiked tail into the malevolent wizard in front of him. Just as his spikes pierced into the man’s body, three more spears were sent flying through the air and broke through Sacariss’ chest, shattering the eternal hourglass. Screams filled the room as three beings collapsed to the floor.

In a flash, Veranthus had disappeared leaving Lunetta with Sacariss to her left and her father to her right. The King was lying halfway over his throne with the spear still protruding from his chest. Blood soaked into his clothing and ran along the seat of his chair, before dripping to the floor. Sacariss was spread across the ground with three spears lodged into the immense gash upon his chest. Broken glass and sand were spread over his navy scales, spilling across the pale white and green tile. Letting her tears run down her face, Lunetta ran to her dearest friend with an immense feeling of guilt within her. “Sacariss,” she managed to choke. “You-you, he was aiming for me. I was supposed to die, not you…” bowing her head in sorrow, she let her blonde hair cover her face from the dragon’s view.

“You were not supposed to die, Lunetta,” Sacariss gasped, unable to move once more as his battle wounds began to reappear. “You are to live and to lead your people.” The elf glanced up from her friend’s words with a worried look upon her face. “You are Queen now, Lunetta.”

There was a long pause of silence as Lunetta thought over what Sacariss had said. He was right. She was Queen now and she would have to lead her people. Deep inside herself, she knew that she was able, but she still had her doubts. “I cannot go on without you,” she whispered. She kept her eyes to the floor, averting the blood that continued to flow from his wounds.

“I will not leave you…I will be with you, Lunetta.” Sacariss felt the terrible pain bite into his chest as his life drained away. He felt Death coming and knew that he didn’t have much time. This time, he would be gone forever. “I will always be with you…” Sacariss said his final words to his rider, leaving his trust with her and her responsibilities, believing that she was capable. Lunetta glanced up to see Sacariss close his eyes and cease his breathing as she sifted the hourglass sands between her fingers. She was now Queen…and she was ready to lead her people.