"I, the left hand, the sinister, say unto you to look to the Mother. She who sets our path and guides our claws. Let her love fester beneath your skin and her breath bubble in your lungs. In all things honour her, in all ways fear her, and let your bodies be the vector for her Plague."
To Earn a Place Edit
Necromancy runs in my blood. Ever since I took my first breath in this world, inhaling the pathogens that so marred my homeland, I knew, in my soul, then and there that this would be my calling.
But my ambition meant nothing, the magic of the plaguelands is volatile and unforgiving; it obeys only the worthy. To truly receive Mother's gifts, I must undertake the trials. The trials of the Wyrmwound will decide my fate. It will separate out the weak, the typical, and the exceptional. It will determine who I am.
My family honours the Mother above all else; she guides our ways, through all our lives. Her word is law. We, as prophets of her cause, need only to spread this gospel. And I needed only to allow her infection unto my skin, to accept, to endure, to surpass, to survive. This is the resilience that Mother demands from her children.
From the day I was old enough to understand what that meant, I had dreamed of my trial, playing out scene after scene of triumph, where everyone from elder to hatchling would behold me in reverence. But nothing could prepare me for the gruelling truth, the crucible that drove me to the very edge of my endurance... and off it.
From the first day, a particularly virulent strain of the Wyrmwound plague had taken to my body. I burned as any mortal creature would burn in its clutches; a lifetime of plague was not enough to prepare me for the savage and gripping power of Mother. I was in awe, I was consumed until I knew nothing but the contagion.
"Kill the boy," my father had prayed when I first fell under her fetid touch, "kill the boy and let the man be born."
The air was gravel, hard and burning, and it was all I could do to breathe, and pray. For her blessing, for her strength, for her favour, and for it to all be over soon. Days and nights blurred together into a single static picture, and the world was both bitter and warm. For days I just laid there, enveloped in the sickly orange glow of the Wyrmwound crater. I could feel the pestilence ravaging my body, feel its path beneath my skin. It was carving out festering blisters, splitting my flesh until it was red and weeping in the wide open air.
This was the Mother's power, a power that could one day be mine, should I survive her blessing. So I gritted my teeth and endured like a good little plagueling.
On the eve my fever broke, weeks later, it seemed to me like a lifetime had passed. Suffering under the gripping plague, I had no notion of time, there was only the heat, and the crippling pain. When I cracked open my eyes, I learned to breathe again. The air was crisp and painless. I had died and was reborn. The world seemed brighter. More saturated, more alive than it ever was before. The sores on my back had started to close, with the rotting tissues replaced by new, healthy cells. Beneath my skin the virus still thrummed, I was surrounded by it, but it did not harm me. I had it accepted it and survived it, I am immune. This power now mine to control.
The first time I wielded the infectious magic of the plaguelands, I did not hunt nor fish for the slight bodies of animals, but turned my sights to the towering forest of alien trees; life as resilient as it was old. With a brush of my hand, the twisted and gaunt branches of a great tree groaned under their own weight and fell with a mighty crash. The bark flaked away as though mere feathers in the wind. The once mighty bowers withered and paled before my eyes, lifeless and dull. I was overcome by that sense of power, tingling from my claws to my tail-tip. What can stand in my way now, with the power of life and death at my beck and call?
I had proven myself an infectionist, capable of wielding the great viral magics that so defined my kind. Now, I must prove myself a real Necromancer, to infect and to heal. The blight of the plaguelands are not so merciful as to kill quickly, the cankered trees will suffer a long, slow death. A fate that I could change, if I were a true disciple of Mother. Focusing, I found some deep, untapped well within myself, still and bottomless. I felt as though I could see every virus, every dying cell, and reaching out, I commanded with a silent will. The blight faded from the tree, trails of black replaced by smooth brown bark, oozing secretions evaporated into thin vapours, leaving the tree with a small puff. The tree that was dead moments ago is now cleansed of disease, parasites, and the years it had endured. It was young, vibrant, and healthy once more.
Was there ever any doubt I would succeed? Both my parents had undertaken this same path and walked away victorious. This great line from which I claim my blood, there is no failure in our genes. We know only survival, and the plague.
Finally, I have come into my own.
The bright red of my eyes proclaims my lineage for all to see. The scars upon my back remain as vestiges of the trials I had endured. The plague sings in my palm, waiting all around me. The plaguelands seems to be a single living being, extending as far as the eyes can see. All that lives within this promised land pulses to a singular purpose.
You may think Mother is cruel, but she has given us the greatest blessing of all. The contagion. Who dares challenge us when the land itself fights with us? This glorious power has found us worthy of preservation. Of evolution.
It is the taint of the plaguelands, and it is the taint that runs in my veins.
Ye, look what havoc we have wreaked across these lands, that which pulses with life primaeval. This, this is what it means to be a dragon. This is what it is to be alive. I am a hunter, I am a warrior, I am a mage, but most of all, I am a survivor, a child of Plague.
Bounty of the Elements: First nest Edit
Kobari paused at the threshold of the inner sanctum, mindful of propriety despite the urgency of his errand. There was no smell of smoke, no panting cries or other signs of Kishna at work, and so he entered with fins down and heat pits shuttered. Inside, two mirrors lay facing one another, feet curled inward like the halves of a broken circle. Their conversation was an ebbing murmur, Juyn’s silken laughter rippling over the quiet tread of Kobari’s footfalls. He hissed a quiet announcement of his presence.
Immediately Kishna’s head snapped around, her fins splayed in outraged affront, but on seeing her mate she relaxed back into complacency. Juyn stared him down with a smile in her eyes, the look of a friend and foe rolled into one.
“The eggs have hatched,” he announced without preamble. “The pups have opened their eyes.”
Kishna cocked her head, tongue flicking in bemusement. “All three?” She asked. Kobari nodded. “And they are strong? Healthy?” A short pause, but again Kobari inclined his head. “Then you hardly needed to make a special procession down from the hatching grounds just to tell me that. Bless them and feed them. I will see to them this evening.”
It was a clear dismissal, but Kobari held his ground, heat pits shuttered again in apology. “They are healthy, but there is something,” he paused, obviously picking and choosing his words, “—different. About their eyes.”
“Different,” Kishna repeated. “Different how?”
“I will show you.” Kobari took two careful steps backwards before turning and disappearing through the entrance. A moment later he returned, dragging three mirror pups in on a rough, hemp blanket, their tiny feet splayed to keep from tumbling backwards into its folds. He dragged them before Kishna and then stepped back, allowing the Necromancer queen to study her newest offspring.
The day-old hatchlings huddled together in the middle of the blanket, their feet overlapping and tails tangled together. The smallest chirped anxiously after his father but quickly fell silent as Kishna loomed over them. As one they stared up at this sudden presence, their mother just one more unknown in a frightening new world.
Three pairs of eyes, all Plague red, but … different, as Kobari had said. The eldest had eyes dark as clotted blood, the red so deep as to almost disappear into the shadows of her eye sockets. The male’s eyes were of several hues, the greenish yellow at their centres swirling out into crimson; the whole glowing like the heart of the Wyrmwound. The youngest most closely resembled a typical plague dragon, but her eyes still shone a shade or two darker than was expected. Kishna studied each in turn, and when she spoke she didn’t look away.
“Fetch me an offering. Quickly.”
Juyn stretched and climbed to her feet, knowing better than to presume Kishna was talking to her Necromancer mate. “Tygaru won’t be pleased. That’s the third one this week.”
“Viei has been hunting in the Kelp Beds.” Kobari offered. “The beast clan pens are overflowing with mammertees and depins. Ask for one of them.”
When Juyn returned it was with a squirming abyss striker in hand. Turquoise spots flashed along the creature’s hide as it thrashed back in forth, mouth gaping as it drowned in air. “Tygaru says it won’t last more than an hour out of water. I assume you’ll be done with it by then.”
Kobari frowned at the insolence lacing Juyn’s tone, but the spotted mirror was his mate’s favourite and often got away with things that would see another dragon struck down. Kishna took the eel without comment, paralyzing it with a touch. It lay prone on the altar before her, flanks twitching with each thwarted breath.
“Bring me fire, light, and shadow,” Kishna intoned, her words taking on the cadence of ritual. Juyn set an ivory bowl on the corner of the altar, a black twist of wick floating in a single drop of oil at its centre. When the wick was lit it flared to life and then dimmed immediately as the oil was consumed. Juyn fed it more from a metal pitcher, drop by drop, so that the flame guttered and flickered, but never went out. The room danced with the shadows it threw. Smoke slowly filled the air.
“Mother, bringer of eternal struggle and eternal triumph, show me your will.”
Kishna reached out with her left hand and caressed the abyss striker with the tip of a polished claw. The beast went rigid, a single violet scale blackening beneath the touch. Rot crawled outward from the point of contact, slow and inexorable as an encroaching tide. The tendrils of plague fractured and fractured again in an increasingly complex pattern across its side and Kishna followed each line as if it were script inked straight from Mother’s hand.
Over her shoulder, Kobari also followed the branching path of sickness, though the jumping candlelight made him squint uncertainly.
“They will be Necromancers,” he said, hesitantly.
“Of course they will.” Kishna snapped. “They are our children. That was never in question. Now be quiet.”
Kobari bowed and backed away. Sensing his nearness, the hatchlings squeaked and tumbled toward him. He silenced them with a gentle touch of his nose to theirs, and they curled up on his feet.
“The elements are raging,” Kishna said, her eyes taking on the same feverish tint of the abyss striker’s hide. “Mother brings us something new.”