First, sorry about the delay! This entry took longer than anticipated to get right.
Next, we have approached the end of the Tale. But, this isn’t all of it. Part of the problem was that I split this into two parts. The final entry will be ready in a week or two. There is no more voting, so please enjoy the story.
Calel’sinfas had to be protected. If he battled Calyn, it would be too late. Bardulf moved to strike, but was driven back by a slice from Calyn’s tail spike. “You havesss me to deal withsss,” he said while he moved to block Bardulf.
As a quetzal, Calyn was larger and faster. He had grown into the body over time. Bardulf could only hope to win through tactics. He glanced to Leonard, gauging the distance between them. The man stood with his eyes closed while the runes on the staff pulsed with ruby light.
A crazy plan took shape in his mind. You can’t catch me every time, Bardulf taunted. He coiled, and sprung into the air to get to Leonard.
Like lightning, Calyn caught Bardulf by wrapping his tail around Bardulf near his head, and slamming him to the ground. The momentum carried the rest of Bardulf’s body over his head, stunning him for a moment. “I only need to onsse,” Calyn hissed as he wrapped around Bardulf.
Even with his vision blurred for a moment, Bardulf was able to note that his head was near Calel’sinfas. That meant his tail was close to Leonard. He started to wriggle to see better, but Calyn stopped him, and maneuvered so he could see better. “Leonard wantsss you to ssee thisss.”
The glow of the staff now filled the cavern with a bloody hue. Calel’sinfas groaned and her head twitched. Bardulf wasn’t sure if she was in pain or fighting against Leonard. He had one chance to stop this.
Before he could second guess his idea, Bardulf whipped his tail at the staff. The spike whistled, and bit into the staff. There was a bright flash and a deafening crack as the staff snapped in half.
Leonard’s eyes snapped open, briefly wreathed in wisps of red light, like dying flames. He was still holding the top half of the staff, as the bottom piece to the ground. “You…” Leonard’s eyes glowed brighter, and his face contorted in rage. He grabbed the piece from the ground, and with one in each and, rushed forward and stabbed down into the mass of coils. Bardulf and Calyn both hissed in pain as a piece sank into each of them. “You had one job, Calyn,” Leonard roared.
Calyn constricted further, and then released Bardulf. “I am tiredsss of thiss! You can’tss blamess me for everything. Thisss wasss your ideass, and it diess with youss!” He struck at Leonard. The man’s eyes widened with surprise, as Calyn threw him across the cavern. Leonard crashed into a wall and fell to the ground like a limp rag doll.
The piece of staff sticking out of Calyn pulsed with azure light. He twitched, eyes bulging as he opened his mouth with a soundless cry. Tendrils of light snaked around his body, and with a flash, Calyn was suddenly human again. The staff clattered to the ground, no longer stuck in Calyn’s body.
Bardulf yanked out the staff with his mouth and discarded it before shifting. He limped over to Calyn, who looked up at him with dull eyes. “You win, my lord.” He coughed, and was still. Bardulf closed Calyn’s eyes as a service to his old companion.
The sound of something rolling on the ground made Bardulf spin around. The pieces of staff were moving towards each other. With a cry of alarm, Bardulf grabbed the closest piece. The runes glowed with a golden light. The piece on the ground lifted into the air a short distance in an attempt to reach the other.
Take the pieces and let them join together.
Bardulf looked at Calel’sinfas with a frown. “Shouldn’t it be destroyed? You would be safer.”
The sound that came out of the dragon mother was guttural, but Bardulf could tell she was laughing. No. That staff is made from a spike from my body, and is not easily destroyed. Maybe broken for a time, but not destroyed. Like an axe or a hammer, it can be used in many ways. It can heal poisons or grant rapid healing. But it can also control my children, or siphon power from myself. That is what he was trying to do. She nodded towards the body of Leonard. Please, put the staff back together.
Bardulf picked up the other piece and he held the two halves loose in his hands. They jumped together with a flash of golden light, and Bardulf found a solid staff resting in his hands. He took a moment to study it, and then looked at Calyn. “What happened to him? Why didn’t it happen to me?”
When I am awake, I can exert some control over the staff. He was dying, and no longer needed my power. I used the staff piece to retrieve what was mine. You will keep my gift and protect the staff.
It was a moment before Bardulf understood what was being asked of him. “Why me?”
You did not seek this power, and you have helped my children. And me. You are the obvious choice. The dragon mother moved her head. Now, it is time for me to sleep. I need your blood.
Bardulf stepped forward, then stopped. “What about the Yul’aric? They need help still.”
I already have. The dragon mother’s forked tongue flickered. Come now.
Bardulf walked up to her awaiting mouth, and Calel’sinfas licked the blood off of his body and the staff.
She settled back down, closed her eyes and mouth. Stone began forming over her body again. I will only be awakened by the staff in the future. I cannot be awoken before the proper time again. I will be able to speak with you through the staff at times. It may be in your life, it may not. Time is different while I sleep. Thank you, Bardulf. Then there was silence. The Dragon mother slept again.
There was a groan from across the cavern. “Thom?” Bardulf had forgotten about him and hobbled over to check on him. “How do you feel?”
“I hurt all over. Calyn didn’t hold back. But he didn’t bite me, so I don’t think I am poisoned.” The young man cracked open his eyes. “Bardulf? You are human again. And naked. What happened?”
Bardulf gave a quick summary of the events. “With the death of Leonard and Calyn, we can return home.”
“Good.” Thom winced with pain. “I will need some help getting there, though.”
“Let me get my clothes and equipment, my lord.”