Third Place Winner in Fiction Archive Contest #1


Amulet of Power

By Bree Zastrow

 
 

Drayk woke from another stream of bad dreams. It seemed that these dreams were a frequent thing for him lately, all of them having something similar to the previous one, but enough different to make it harder to remember what happened in them. Each time he dreamt, he felt as if he were really living the experience, and when he awoke each morning he was exhausted from the previous night’s dreams. One thing that did seem certain about these dreams was that they were trying to tell him something of importance, he just needed to figure it out.

After an unsuccessful attempt to fall back asleep, Drayk decided to get up and go about his daily tasks a little earlier than normal. His days were redundant,  always seeming to him that something important was missing from his life, always giving him an achy feeling of melancholy. Today he thought about it a lot more. Drayk was determined to figure out why it was that he felt this way. It seemed that nothing made sense to him anymore, especially since the incident.

About a month ago, someone he thought was his friend, Ralden Brunswen, had poisoned Drayk. It had come out that Ralden had befriended Drayk for no other reason than to get Drayk’s amulet. Drayk didn’t even remember how he had come by it, but he knew that it was important and that he needed to have it. Actually Drayk didn’t remember much about his past, so when he thought that he had had a friend to help him, he was really angry to have Ralden turn on him. Everything after that was hazy to Drayk. He had no clue how he survived, but he had, and the people of Carlon took him and nursed him back to health. Not really feeling well enough to go out and find Ralden to retrieve his amulet and find out why, Drayk made a home for himself on a quiet end of the village, doing remedial work to help out as much as he could.

Most of the day flew by rather uneventful while Drayk went about his work. It was near dusk while he was in the orchard picking fruit, when he felt a presence behind him. Cautiously Drayk turned around, ready to throw his basket of fruit at the intruder and run if need be. He peered through the break in the bushes trying to catch a glimpse without giving himself away, though he assumed that whoever it was already knew he was there. Standing before him was a hauntingly beautiful woman, tall with long golden hair, and sapphire eyes. He could have sworn that he had seen her before, but with what he remembered, this was not someone that he had met. Raising her hands to show that she wasn’t going holding a weapon, Drayk set down the basket of fruit and moved slowly out from behind the bushes towards her. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he knew her. Maybe she was one of the people he had dreamt of.

“May I help you with something,” he asked with a hint of fear in his voice. He has had a guard up ever since he was poisoned, and didn’t want to trust anyone he didn’t know.

“I am Andraia Silverfynn,” She paused, as if expecting Drayk to react. When he didn’t, she said, “There is a lot that we need to talk about. Perhaps we should go inside where it is more comfortable.” And she began moving towards his small home.

“Perhaps,” he said hesitantly. Drayk was pretty much done for the evening anyway, and was rather eager to get some dinner, so he picked up his basket and led Andraia back to his small home.

He led her into his sitting area while he went about making something to eat, all the while remaining silent. She didn’t seem in a hurry to talk just yet anyway. He set the table and served the food, motioning for her to join him.

 “Have you had any strange dreams lately?” she asked interrupting what seemed like an endless silence.

Drayk looked at Andraia rather surprised, brushing his dark hair out of his eyes. How could she know that he had been experiencing strange dreams. He just remained silent, waiting to see if she would give him any more information.

For Andraia, Drayk’s silence was answer enough. “I can help explain to you what they mean.”

Now this caused Drayk to react visually. “How would you know if I was or wasn’t having unusual dreams, and then how would you know what they were about enough for you to explain them to me?”

Andraia took no notice in his apparent annoyance. She merely looked at him, causing him to feel uncomfortable. “The dreams you are having are about what happened to you. You need to start remembering what happened, because time is running out.”

“What do you mean time is running out? And again how would you know what sort of dreams I am having? I think you need to do some explaining,” His face took on a chiseled look while he waited for her to explain.

“I know that this will all seem outrageous to you,” Andraia said in a calm, sympathetic tone. “But I need you to listen and try and believe what I say,” She paused, sighing deeply. “You are really Draykenyxious, a black dragon. I am your friend and rider. Lachlan Maga, a really powerful mage came after us because we had an ancient artifact that he wanted, so we began to run. His allies were too much for us to handle by ourselves. Because of your massive form, we had a hard time hiding effectively, so you used your powers and made yourself into human form, which made it a lot easier for us to stay out of sight. The amulet that was taken from you was the very thing that would let you return to your former self, and also the ancient artifact that we were being chased after for. Ralden was under some sort of mind control by Lachlan, thus he was able to steal the artifact from you and get away without anyone suspecting him for anything.”

Drayk stared at Andraia in disbelief. Just from what she was saying to him, he was starting to remember and piece together what vague memories that he had, and parts of his dreams were starting to come back to him. All of it felt true to make sense—despite the fantastic nature of her tale, every word made sense to him—but he didn’t want to believe her. How could he not be human? Drayk started to feel anger well up inside of him.

As if reading his thoughts, Andraia continued: “When you put yourself in human form, your powers were locked inside the amulet, only to be released by you, or someone at least your equal in magical might. With your powers added to those already in the amulet, it only made the amulet a more powerful, and more valuable, artifact. The reason you don’t remember anything is that with the amulet out of your possession, you have nothing to remind you fully of who and what you are. Without it, you will remain in human form forever, without access to your real powers or even your memories.”

After another long silence, Drayk said. “If what you are saying it true, what kept you from being here to stop Ralden from taking the amulet from me?”

“He attacked me and handed me over to slavers in a northern city. It was my own fault, really; I should have realized something was wrong by the way he was behaving. By the time I escaped, you and Ralden were both long gone. I followed your path and heard a rumor that Ralden had already killed you. I didn’t want to believe it, so I kept on the trail. Eventually, I heard that the citizens of a small village had found a dark stranger dying of poison and nursed him back to health. I sought out this village, hoping to find you. And I did.”

 “What was all this stuff about not having much time left? Does it have something to do with the poison still?”

“No. If Lachlan gets his hands on the amulet, he will use it to further his evil goals. He wants to rule the world, and will stop at nothing to do so, thus he has been collecting all the ancient artifacts so that he can use them to create an ultimate weapon which will destroy anything that gets in his way. As it is now, he already has all but two, both of which are supposedly on their way to him now. One of those is the amulet.” Andraia paused, fixing her gaze on Drayk. “Also, should Lachlan use the amulet, there is no hope of you ever getting to return to your former self.”

Drayk sat quietly for a while, thinking over everything he had just learned and trying to decide what he should do about it. He knew what must be done, but he couldn’t help how vulnerable that he felt, and was reluctant to go after Ralden because of it. He needed to be strong. Andraia, Andraia appeared to have so much courage, ready to take on the world if she had to, while he sat there afraid of every little thing. He couldn’t let her see him so weak, if she knew him the way she said she did. He had to prove that he still had the heart of a dragon in him. If he was even going to accept her tale as truth…

Finally, Drayk rose and started to go about his home packing up things that he would need. Andraia watched him work, a quiet smile on her face. Neither of them spoke, but his actions were enough to tell Andraia what he was planning to do.

Drayk and Andraia left early the next day to look for Ralden. As they traveled, Andraia told Drayak more about their shared past. He felt the truth of her words deep within, but to his conscious mind they still seemed to describe a life that couldn’t possibly have been his. Ralden had also clearly been a good friend of both of them, despite his treachery. Neither of them doubted that he had been under Lachlan’s control. They agreed that Ralden was probably resisting the domination that is why he hadn’t simply murdered Drayk when the shape-changed dragon was at his weakest. They hoped that this resistance would perhaps even give them a chance to find Ralden him before he got to Lachlan with the amulet. If their friend was as strong as he had been in the past, then his getting to Lachlan would take a lot longer than it should, due to his attempt to try and do the right thing when not under Lachlan’s spell.

They really didn’t know where to start to find him. He could be on the other side of the world by now. Drayk had suggested going to the site where he was poisoned and see if they could at least try and follow his trail. Wondering why they didn’t think of that to begin with, they went that direction. Once at the clearing, it was relatively easy to tell which way that Ralden had gone. He left no mystery as to where he was headed, thus was making it easy to follow along for quite a while. With Lachlan controlling him, his caution and ability to hide his tracks were all but gone.

After several days of travel, Drayk spotted a town and headed in that direction. They were in need of some supplies, and he thought that it wouldn’t hurt to question people to find out anything.

The town itself was rather small. It consisted of a general store, a blacksmith, who had his shop connected to the general store, a tiny inn, and a handful of homes; basically just enough to serve the needs of the surrounding farms. Drayk and Andraia went there first. They got some really strange looks from the few townsfolk that were out as they passed, whether it was his dark appearance, or the way she carried herself. Drayk was a bit conscious of it, but Andraia didn’t seem to notice at all. She seemed so confident, sure of herself, and everything around her. Drayk on the other hand felt so weak and vulnerable. He knew that a lot of this had to do with his loss of power, but nonetheless he was still embarrassed about it. He did try to make it appear that he didn’t care though, if anything to give himself a false sense of security.

Upon entering the General Store, the shopkeeper immediately came about to greet them. He was a stout balding man, who must have been in his middle ages. But he was a friendly face, something that Drayk welcomed.

“Has a stranger come through in the last month or so?” Andraia asked, getting right to the point. “The man we seek is about 6 foot, powerfully built, and probably has shoulder length brown hair.”

The shopkeeper looked at her thoughtfully. “I am not sure. With the harvest almost here, I haven’t paid much attention to the people who come through here.”

Andraia stepped forward and without warning placed her fingers on the shopkeeper’s head, and closed her eyes. He stood motionless, as if transfixed. After a moment she lowered her hands and looked at him sternly. “I saw in your mind his face, he was here, about a fortnight past.”

The shopkeeper trembled, his eyes widening. “Are you—? Did you just—?”

Then he remembered.

“Of course the fellow you speak of was here! He bought a few supplies. He was an odd sort, constantly mumbling to himself about having to get to Doonsville, but not wanting to go.”

“Thank you kindly for your assistance sir,” said Andraia. She tossed him some coins and left, nearly dragging Drayk along with her.

“Hang on a second Andraia, we still need some supplies,” Drayk said.

Andraia stopped and gestured impatiently back toward the store. He hurried back inside and swiftly made their purchases, got their supplies, and hurried back to Andraia. He could tell her patience was wearing thin.

 As they traveled west toward Doonsville, days went by without so much as two words spoken between them. They didn’t seem necessary, for Andraia seemed to anticipate any thought that Drayk would have and reacted accordingly. Those days in silence gave him a lot of time to think about everything, and about what to do once they had found Ralden, assuming that he hadn’t already reached Lachlan. Eventually he started to form some sort of plan in his mind. Once they found Ralden, they would retrieve the amulet, without harming him if possible, and then Drayk would return to the glorious wyrm that Andraia said he once was. Once that was done, he would destroy the amulet, thus causing Lachlan to be lacking a piece to his little puzzle. Hopefully that will be enough, but if it wasn’t enough, then Drayk would just have to see to it that the other artifacts were destroyed as well, even if it meant giving his life. Drayk knew the chances of taking on Lachlan himself, and the chances of succeeding in defeating him were next to none, so he had to take the next best route. He had heard a lot of rumors about who and what Lachlan was, but he didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t. He even heard that Lachlan had a brother Vladimir, who didn’t agree with Lachlan’s ways, and got turned into a cow.  He had also heard that Lachlan was a vampire, and was at least 200 years old now. He and his brother were quickened right after their parents died in a raid of their home. They had later found out that it was a set up because Lachlan was to be the chosen one to rule, foreseen by the prophecies. Vladimir was not supposed to be made into a vampire also, but he and Lachlan were close, and there was no way that Lachlan would have been cooperative without his brother. Actually Lachlan really hadn’t known what was going on, until the ceremony. Drayk didn’t know much more about the history of what had made Lachlan the way he was, but he did know that he wasn’t always evil.

Andraia stopped all of a sudden, and looked around carefully. She appeared to see or hear something that Drayk couldn’t. After minutes she motioned towards the woods and quietly moved towards them. Drayk followed her quietly, with his hand near the hilt of his sword. She paused, standing behind a large tree. Drayk tried to see what she was looking at, but from where he was there didn’t appear to be anything. He looked at Andraia in question, but all she did was raise her hand indicating for him to wait. Then she slowly moved forward from behind the tree, concentrating on something. Drayk remained for the time being, he sensed that his following her at that precise moment would hinder her. But he did finally see what she was looking at. He saw a small campfire with what appeared to be a human male. This person’s back was to him but instinct told Drayk that this male was Ralden, and fear told him not to move at all, even if Andraia was in trouble. Ashamed of his own cowardice, Drayk buried all thoughts of fear, and watched the person with readiness to jump out and help if he was needed. Andraia stopped within sight of this man, but he didn’t notice her, and she didn’t make herself noticed. She continued to concentrate. This man fell over, as if he was fell asleep. Andraia looked back at Drayk and motioned for him to come out and help her.

As Drayk approached, he finally saw the man’s face. It was Ralden. He had a vague memory of the man who had poisoned him, and this matched what he could remember.

“Tie him up,” Andraia said, breaking the long silence.

Drayk did as he was told. “What did you do to him?”

“I made him fall asleep,” she replied.  She grabbed his pack and emptied its content onto the ground. “We haven’t much time. His mind was really resistant, so I don’t know how long he will be out.”

Andraia rummaged through the entire campsite, her frustration growing. Drayk poked through the scattered items in her wake. Neither of them found what they were looking for, not even on Ralden’s person.

“Maybe we should wait till he wakes and ask him about it,” Drayk suggested.

“We could, but if he no longer has the amulet, there is a chance he won’t have any recollection of it either.” She sighed with frustration. “It seems that whenever the amulet leaves one’s possession, the person who had it no longer remembers ever having it, and often will forget the amulet completely existed.”

“Is there anything that we can do?” he asked almost despairingly. “And would Ralden even speak to us if we tried to question him?”

Andraia looked at him for a while before responding. “I could look into his mind to see what happened,” Andraia said thoughtfully, “but being that he had already been under some sort of mind control, there might be some blocks for me to work through. I already know that it will be a difficult task for me, simply from trying to put him to sleep. I will need to rest before I try because I believe that I will be exhausting myself in the attempt.”

So they waited. After what seemed like hours, Ralden began to stir. Once he realized that he was bound, he started to struggle. Then, Ralden noticed Drayk and Andraia staring down at him. He face went pale. Drayk could almost sense the fear and guilt radiating from him.

“Tell me what you did with the amulet Ralden,” Andraia said firmly.

“I don’t have anymore,” he stated simply. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll remember, though. The memory of it is already starting to fade.”

“What happened to it?”

“I don’t really know. I was attacked I think.”

Andraia sighed heavily. She knew that something like this would happen, but she was relieved that Ralden remembered as much as that he had had it and that it was taken from him. She guessed that it couldn’t have been too long ago that it was taken from him. Feeling a little hopeful now she prepared to try and look into Ralden’s mind and see what happened. She also had renewed hope on the task being easier since he no longer had the amulet in his possession; he would most likely not be under Lachlan’s control any longer.
“Would you mind if I took a look in your mind to see what happened?” she inquired, knowing that Ralden had a strong will and would make it easier for her with his permission.

Ralden nodded, understanding what she hoped to gain. He relaxed himself as she placed her hands gently on his forehead. She closed her eyes and began to probe Ralden’s memory. She winced as she started to see things. Going deeper she saw that late last night a couple of really pale humans had approached Ralden to negotiate the amulet. Torn between what to do, he refused to hand it over. He was so close to Doonsville, yet so far away with all the resistance with being controlled. Lachlan was getting impatient and so he sent a couple of his trusted minions to retrieve the amulet. Andraia could see the struggle, but it hadn’t lasted very long. Ralden was knocked unconscious and that was that. When he had come to, there was no sign of the amulet, or the two who had taken it. He felt extremely weak, so he had spent the day resting at the camp. This brought them to now. Andraia backed up once she was finished. She looked at his neck, and saw that he had been bitten. The question she had now was why would they bite him, and not kill him. And if they didn’t kill him, then why didn’t they make him one of them. Maybe they were just seeing to it that Ralden wouldn’t be able to follow them. That seemed to make sense to her.

“Well it appears that Lachlan sent some of his minions to retrieve the amulet from you,” she said at last. “It also appears that they were vampires, because you have been bitten.”

Ralden smiled weakly, “That would explain why my neck hurts.”

Finally Drayk spoke, “I think we need to get going, find these minions, it is nearly dusk, and if we have any hope of catching up to them, our best bet is before they get moving again.” He pointedly avoided looking at Ralden. Though he knew that it wasn’t totally his fault, he was still hurt by what had happened, and didn’t know whether to trust him enough to unbind him. Drayk knew that Ralden’s assistance in retrieving the amulet would help, but he couldn’t bring himself to accept the possibility that Ralden was no longer under control. While he was going through this thought process, Andraia had already moved to untie Ralden’s wrist. Drayk was about to stop her, but one look from her told him not to push.

“We will need to go now,” she said, glancing at Ralden. “I hope you are okay to go with us,”

He simply nodded.

They cleared up the camp, and left. They assumed that Lachlan’s minions were headed towards Doonsville, thus the three of them headed in that direction. They were making good time with the distance that they were travelling. Of course there was a renewed determination knowing that Lachlan most likely didn’t have the amulet yet. There was also a rather thick silence between Ralden and Drayk. Neither of them knew what to say to the other, and there was a lot of guilt on Ralden’s behalf. For the moment the silence was much preferred.

Eventually Andraia was able to pick on some faint tracks. Lachlan’s minions had been fairly careful about covering up their tracks, but once they thought that they were safe from Ralden trying to follow them, they grew careless. For this they were relieved. They could almost feel the anticipation building as they thought that they grew closer to catching these vampires and getting the amulet back. Drayk was looking forward to going back to his former form. He knew that as a wyrm that his chances of destroying some of these ancient artifacts were a lot greater. With the powerful magick’s in them, he didn’t know how to do it as a human.

It was almost completely dark now. There was no doubt in their minds that Lachlan’s minions were on the road again. This only caused them to pick up on their pace a bit hoping that it would be soon that they found them. Doonsville was only about a day and a half away, but if the vampires were lucky, they would be able to get there before sunrise.

For once Drayk was the one to stop in his tracks and listen carefully so something he thought that he heard. Immediately Andraia and Ralden stopped and began to look around. It didn’t take long before they found what Drayk heard. It was a traveler who lay there dying near his camp. Drayk quickly moved to go and help him.

“How long ago did this happen,” Andraia asked, a sympathetic tone in her voice.

The traveler looked at her blankly, and then the last life fled his body. Drayk lay his head down, and looked around the camp for any sign of where those minions headed. Andraia cursed and muttered to herself about the fact that again she missed getting a solid lead on where the amulet was.

“I think that they went this way,” Drayk pointed through the woods. Andraia glanced to where Drayk was pointing, nodded and started off. Ralden and Drayk practically had to run to catch up. Drayk wondered how she got to be so good at following one’s tracks. He didn’t put too much thought into it, he figured that once he was once again himself that he would remember everything.

Not too far away from where the dead traveler lay; they found another traveler that had met the same fate.

“He just expired,” Andraia stated, after briefly examining body. “They have to be close.”

 She was right, not long after the last dead traveler they were able to see ahead of them what appeared to be two people, human sized. Knowing full well who they must be, the trio went off the path and tried their best to conceal themselves. For the moment the two vampires took no notice in the fact that they were being followed, they were too engrossed in a debate about who had the best bite. Had this not been such a serious situation, Drayk might have chuckled at this. Especially knowing that as the wyrm that he was, his was a better bite.

“How can you say that your bite is better,” cried the first vampire. “You should have to take lessons to learn how to bite.”

“Oh and you think you are so much better, huh Rolph,” the second one retorted. “I would guess that you would only know that the lessons existed because you took them and failed!”
Rolph was near furious now. “IF I had taken lessons I would have been at the top of my class. I have been told that my bite was to die for. I think that you, Bine, suck!”

“To die for,” Bine questioned, “more like die from the shame of what it was like to be bitten from you.”

“Even a fresh young vampire has ravaged a neck much better than you have,” Rolph retorted.
This debate got so heated that they stopped moving to try and prove that one was better at it than the other. Rolph bit Bine. Bine winced briefly and laughed. It was obvious that he wasn’t impressed, so he bit Rolph in return. Rolph flinched trying to act macho about it. He didn’t seem impressed either. It was only a matter of time before push came to shove and they in a wrestling match.

Andraia, Drayk, and Ralden took this opportunity to step out of hiding and attack them. For the first time since they have been travelling together, Andraia pulled out a dagger. Drayk was beginning to think she didn’t carry any weapons with her. When she brought it out into the moonlight, Drayk noticed that it wasn’t a standard dagger, it appeared to be carved out of wood. Because of the fact Rolph and Bine’s were fighting, the others had the advantage.

As the trio was about to attack, the fighting two became aware of what was about to happen, and managed to regain themselves in light of the new situation. Before the vampires could react any more, Ralden had kicked Rolph, taking on his fighting stance, spinning half way around to hit with a low kick from behind him. This threw Rolph back a bit, but didn’t knock him down. Rolph was drawing his sword when he caught Drayk coming at him from the corner of his eye. Drayk swung at Rolph with his sword, but Rolph was able to parry the attack. Bine hadn’t even noticed Andraia come up behind him, so when she stabbed him with her wooden dagger, he had no time to respond before turning into dust.

Seeing his friend fall so quickly, Rolph decided he best run from the battle, but just as he was making that decision, Ralden knocked him over with a high round kick. Andraia took no hesitation about going in for the final blow. She could see the look of absolute fear on Rolph’s face as she put her dagger through his heart. No sooner than he turned to dust, all three of them were looking through the stuff that the vampires had on them to find this amulet. Ralden was the one who found it. He stood up looking at it intently, and handed it over to Drayk.

Drayk gingerly took the amulet, and almost immediately fell over from flood of memories that came to him. He was overwhelmed with emotions, both good and bad. By now Drayk was literally in tears from all of this. If it hadn’t been for Andraia he would have never remembered who he really was, and would have never been able to have the power that he had. He would have always wondered about the dreams that he was having, and he would have always questioned the past that he couldn’t remember. He could feel the power of the amulet surge through him as he donned it.

“We need to move to a large clearing,” Drayk said at last. “If I am to change back that is,” he couldn’t help but smile as he spoke.

Andraia nodded, and led the three to a large clearing in the woods. It was more than large enough to fit Drayk in his true form. Ralden and Andraia stood off to the side to give Drayk the space he needed.

Drayk went the center of the clearing, mumbled something arcane, and became to change. He could feel so much power and magic surge through him. He was being reborn. Drayk did get a little dizzy as the change happened, but he barely noticed as he grew and his surroundings appeared to be so much smaller. Drayk was ecstatic about the fact that he finally was himself again. Every feeling of doubt and vulnerability appeared to be like a bad dream now.

Andraia and Ralden watched in awe. Both were crying tears of happiness to have their friend back. In watching this, Ralden was even able to let up on some of the guilt that he had felt, knowing that in the end he had helped to get Drayk back to his true form.

Once he was completely changed back, Drayk took the amulet off. He looked at the others and they nodded knowing what had to be done. If only they had known that this amulet was the cause of all their problems before, they would have seen to it’s destruction long before going through all that they had.

Drayk set the amulet on the ground. He motioned for Andraia and Ralden to move further away. Once that was done, he used his destructive, magical breath to destroy it. It caused the amulet to explode. There was a bright light as all the magic that was stored in the amulet was released. Drayk felt a surge of power and magic go through him, but none more than what was already his remained, for he had though ahead and cast a spell on it that would prevent him from absorbing it. He only hoped that Ralden and Andraia were far enough away to not catch any of it.

After all was done, Drayk lowered his massive body and assisted Ralden and Andraia in climbing onto his back. With their task complete, they were fairly confident that they had successfully thwarted Lachlan’s plans. But if not then they would see to it that they were, but if anything they at least bought themselves some time to rest and prepare themselves for what was to come. With a look towards Doonsville, Drayk launched himself into the air, thinking out loud, “We will stop you Lachlan Maga,” soaring majestically towards the nearest town that isn’t Doonsville.

To Be Continued?

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