Eyes – Fear

It is fear that stays my hand. It is out of fear that my blade, longing for dragon blood, but going unsated. rests on the neck of this pitiful creature.  But the fear is not my own. It is the fear of the wyvern before me which I cannot overcome. I cannot even understand this fear; wyverns, homunculi of draconic alchemy which take the likeness of both human and dragon alike, are said to be without emotions. They are a slave race, created only to unquestioningly serve their masters. What use would a tool created for such a purpose have for fear? Yet the look I see in its eyes is unmistakable. It is the same look I saw in my sister’s, the same look I see every night, never able to save her, over and over. But I can save the creature before me. So I do.

 

What the hell am I doing? I am compromising my mission. The creature before me is not deserving of mercy. It is not human. It is a monster. A dragon. My enemy. It is my duty to eradicate it. And I carry out my duty, without question. Yet here I am, questioning myself. Am I even myself anymore? I know that I’m panicking, that that is exactly what I cannot be doing right now, but- “Who are you?” It would seem that the wyvern can talk. “Shut up. It doesn’t matter who I am,” I say. It says nothing. Suddenly I have an idea. “Sit on the ground,” I command. It does as I say. “Now stand up,” I command. It does as I say. “Raise your arms in the air,” I command. It does as I say. This might just work. It has to. “You have to do whatever I tell you to, don’t you?” I ask. “Yes,” it says. “Then meet me outside this castle, in two hours,” I say. I give it directions to the cave at which I am currently stationed. “And you are not to speak of this to anyone else, human, dragon, or wyvern,” I say, “am I understood?” “Yes,” it says. “Good,” I say, “And, just so we’re clear, if you do not do exactly as I have ordered, I will find you, and I will kill you. And I don’t know if your kind can feel pain, but I will make you suffer. That is a promise. Am I understood?” “Yes,” it says.

 

I sneak out of the dragon’s stronghold, taking care not to get noticed again, and make my way to camp. When I arrive, I report directly to Archibald. “You’re back early,” he says, “What did you find?” I hesitate. I practiced my report all throughout my trip back, but my words fail me. “Were you spotted?” he demands. “By a wyvern,” I admit. His eyes widen. “And you killed it?” He asks. “No,” I say, “I… told it to meet us here.” “You WHAT?” he explodes, “Are you serious? You compromised our location? For what possible reason?” “The wyvern could have valuable information,” I say. “That doesn’t matter, Amelia,” he says, “What matters is that you were ordered to sneak in, determine the location of the mission objective, and return, undetected. You failed.” “Look, sir, I know I fucked up, but we don’t have time for you to tell me that. Even if the wyvern does betray us, we can set up an ambush.” Archibald sighs. He knows I’m right. He begins barking orders. “Geoffrey! Whip up an illusion to hide the entrance to the base, and get to scrying for anyone approaching our position. Amelia! Hide somewhere outside, where you can get the drop on the enemy and draw their attention from the entrance. Only initiate combat if you have been spotted, or you are confident that we can emerge victorious. Eleanor! You and I will wait by the entrance, hidden by the illusion. We will only strike once Amelia has diverted their attention. Am I understood?” “Sir, yes, sir!” we all shout. We do as he says.

 

Fortunately, Achibald’s plan was unnecessary. At the appointed time, a lone figure approaches. The wyvern. I emerge from my hiding spot. “Were you followed?” I demand. “No,” it says, “Who are you, really?” “Like I said, that doesn’t matter,” I say. “I disagree,” it says, “You saved my life. I’d like to know your name.” What? I don’t have time for this. “What do you know about the duke of this fortress? Where is he? How many does he command?” I ask. “I’ll tell you everything you need to know,” the wyvern says, “once you tell me who you are, and what you hope to do.” This is getting frustrating. “I don’t think you understand,” I say, “ I order you to-” “I don’t think you understand,” the wyvern says, “I’m not magically compelled to do whatever you say. That was a lie. I escaped because I wanted to. I chose to, for the first time in my life. And now, I want to know who you are.” I don’t understand what it’s getting at, but it doesn’t seem dangerous. “Fine. My name is Amelia. I’m-” Archibald bursts from the hidden entrance to the cave. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” he demands, “Don’t tell it a damn thing!” “Her,” the wyvern says. “What?” we ask in unison. “Calling me ‘it’ is disrespectful, is it not? I came here to escape that. But if you’re no better than my old masters, I guess I’ll be on my way,” she says. “Like hell you will!” Archibald shouts, “we can do this the easy way, or the hard way. Now talk, or we’ll torture the information out of you.” “Do your worst,” the wyvern says, defiantly, “You don’t even know if I can feel pain, do you?” “Of course you can,” I say, “That’s why you came here, isn’t it? Why would it matter how you were treated if you couldn’t feel pain?” It… or rather, she, says nothing. I address Archibald. “Sir, I believe it would be in everyone’s best interest if we treated her less hostilely.” “’Her’? What’s gotten into you?” Archibald shouts, “Why’ve you gone soft on me all of a sudden? The Amelia I knew would never let feelings get in the way of a mission. Does this have to do with your-” “Of course it does, sir!” I explode, “Everything I’ve ever done in this army, it was all for her!” I need to calm down. “But, my feelings aside, I think that she has information which could be valuable to the mission, and that torture is neither the easiest nor the quickest way to make her talk.” “And what do you suggest we do instead?” Archibald asks. “Just be nice to her, I guess.” I say. Archibald sighs. He acts all tough, but I know he doesn’t want to torture anyone.

 

So we’re nice to her. “My name is Amelia,” I say, “And the shouty man is Archibald.” He rolls his eyes. “Is it just you two out here?” she asks. “No,” I say, “Eleanor, come out and introduce yourself.” Eleanor cautiously emerges from behind the illusory rock wall, sword and shield in hand. “H-hello,” She says, “I’m Eleanor.” “It’s nice to meet you,” The wyvern says. Geoffrey comes out next, and begins speaking a bit too enthusiastically. “My name is Geoffrey. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Wow, you’re even cuter in person.” “Goddamnit, Geoffrey,” I say, “could you please stop being like that for just five seconds?” “Like what?” he asks. “Like yourself,” I say. The wyvern laughs. “ANYWAY,” Archibald says, “we’ve all introduced ourselves. Are you happy now?” “Not quite,” she says, “You still haven’t told me why you’re here.” Geoffrey pipes up. “Well! We’re here to slay the dragon, obviously. We’re the Dragon Corps’ most elite team. The Dragon Corps Fearsome Four, they call us.” “He’s the only one who calls us that.” I say. Archibald tells Geoffrey to shut the hell up and explains everything from the top. “Intel suggests that the owner of this fortress is in possession of an artifact which is of great importance to higher-ups in the dragons’ chain of command. It is unknown what they plan to do with it, but it is suspected that if their plans were to come to fruition, it could be devastating for humankind. Our primary objective is to retrieve, or, if necessary, destroy this artifact. Our secondary objective is to assassinate its keeper, if at all possible.” “I see,” the wyvern says, “How much do you know about this artifact?” “Unfortunately, almost nothing,” Archibald says, “It’s probably something magical, given how important it is, but other than that, it could be anything. Do you know of anything that could fit the description?” The wyvern thinks for a few seconds. “It sounds like what you’re looking for is the Firebrand Crystal. A ruby, about the size of a human fist, which contains an incredible amount of elemental energy. “Is it dangerous?” Archibald asks. “Very,” the wyvern says. “Then from now on, this Firebrand Crystal is to be considered our primary objective,” Archibald says, “Do you know where it’s located?” “Yes,” the wyvern says, “I can even show you a secret entrance that leads into the castle, not too far from where it is held.” “Excellent. Then we’ll head out as soon as Geoffrey notifies High Command of what we’ve learned. Geoffrey! Work your magic!”

 

“N-no, you can’t!” The wyvern pleads. “And why’s that?” Archibald demands. “Er, w-well, you see,” the wyvern stutters, “The castle as a sort of… enchantment on it, which intercepts any outgoing magical messages. If you do that, it’ll alert them to our location.” “Is that possible?” Archibald asks Geoffrey. “Well, I’ve never heard of such a thing being possible,” Geoffrey says, “But I’ve certainly heard of dragons doing things that were thought impossible, so I wouldn’t put it past them.” “It probably isn’t worth the risk, then.” Archibald says, “In that case, we’ll just have to head out immediately.” “Actually, I was thinking it might be a better idea to wait until tomorrow,” the wyvern says. “And why’s that?” Archibald asks, skeptically. “W-well, night will fall soon, and the dragons guarding the crystal, night dragons, actually see better in the dark than they do in the light, so it’d be easier to sneak up on them.” “Is that so?” Archibald asks. He seems unconvinced. “Also,” they wyvern says, “also, the guards change at the same time every morning, which would make it easier for us to take the crystal undetected.” “What happens if they notice that you’re gone?” Archibald asks. “They won’t,” the wyvern says, “They see us as vermin, a necessary evil required to overcome humanity’s numbers. Would you notice if a bee no longer pollinated the flowers in your garden?” Archibald doesn’t answer. “Regardless of your decision,” the wyvern says, “I’m not going anywhere until tomorrow morning.” Archibald draws his axe. “You’ll do whatever I say, whenever I say. Perhaps you’ve forgotten, but you’re a prisoner of war. Failure to comply with my orders will be met with swift execution. Amelia may have hesitated to cut you down, but I can assure you that I will do no such thing.” He’s talking about committing a war crime. He must be bluffing. Right? In any case, She wouldn’t know that. I have to say something. “Gods, Archibald, calm down,” I say, “She’s just trying to help us. What’s the point of interrogating her if we don’t use the information she’s given us?” “She’s right,” Geoffrey interjects, “I think we should do as the maiden says.” “That makes it two against one,” I say. “This isn’t a democracy!” Archibald shouts, “As squad captain, I take your suggestions, but I have the final say.” A tense moment passes. Eleanor speaks up. “I… I think we should be careful and wait.” Archibald sighs loudly. “Fine. We’ll wait.”

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Author: havocmantis

I am Havoc Mantis, Skullmaster (like a headmaster but spookier) of The School of Havoc. I am a scholar of mathematics, mysticism, and memes, as well as the intersection of all three.

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