GGCE 24.3 – The Blight Spreads

With unrestrained fury, a snowy white dragon tail smashed across the granite flagstones as the first rays of dawn poured through the open archways overhead. The dragon’s tail was marred with cuts as its blood streaked the floor beneath it. The bloodied flagstones had been a beautiful pure white, as pure as the dragon that stood on them until both were drenched with blood. Hundreds of undead were pouring through the large archway of the temple, packing themselves into every nook and cranny in a bid to siege the Holy Dragon with their numbers.

The angry roars of her fellow dragons echoed from outside the temple as they fought against the rest of the undead invaders. Their presence tainted the sacred ground they walked upon with their skeleton bodies and black armor.

The battle had been dragged out for more than an hour and she had been protecting the sole entrance into the Inner sanctum without fail… However, she was growing tired as there seemed to be no end in sight to their numbers. She wondered if their sole intention was to break into the inner sanctum, but that would have meant they knew what was placed inside… She pushed her thoughts away as she reeled her long slender neck back and spewed a gusher of white holy flames that spilled over the horde – decimating all within its path.

Even the remains of their killed brethren were turned to ash.

“How dare you trespass within this holy temple!” The dragon howled with frustration as more Dark Knights poured into the temple to push the front line back within minutes. Her mana was dangerously low and she could only launch another one of those before she would collapse. She had been too liberal in the beginning and used it on every horde until it became apparent she would not last the battle. It was something she should have accounted for when she saw the amount of undead that suddenly appeared within the Sky Gardens.

She used those minutes to look over her injuries. Blood covered her entire chest and forearms as was her tail. Anything she used to attack physically had been marred, but she was a dragon that stood nearly thirty meters tall and fifty meters long. It would have been outrageous is these lowly creatures wouldn’t have been able to touch her. Scales were peeling here and there around the cuts where it had taken so many hits just to injure her.

She huffed at the sight, not sparing a glance to all her blood that dripped on the pure white floor that had been spread around from her movements. The stone pillars around her had already been destroyed with the rumble pushed out of the way to funnel the enemies towards her. It worked for the most part, but it also limited her range of movement to just backward and forward. It took to much time to turn around and it was far more dangerous so she had to use her tail on any undead that chose to clamor over the tall piles of rubble.

Soon the horde renewed its siege, but soon the ink black armor faded into rusty iron and the snowy white bones yellowed – becoming brittle. Their movement became sluggish and their mighty swords that caused her so much grief became hard for them to wield. To her delight, it seemed like their intelligence had faded with their color and all of them began to funnel down towards her without a thought to mantle the piles of rubble. She released one last breath down the temple, incinerating most of the undead. With that one attack, only a hundred or so undead were left standing in the temple with no more new foes joining the fray again.

Soon, Lesser Dragons such as Wyverns, Basilisks, and Forktails poured in through the high windows while a Sullied One charged through the front entrance. With their combined attack, the remaining undead was quickly wiped from the face of the earth. The Sullied One quickly approached the bloodied white dragon. “Lady Athena! We have killed the Undead commander! It was a Lich!” The fallen one was a Greater Dragon whos bloodline had been diluted to the point their bodies had regressed. They were small and slender, three-quarters of the size of an elephant. They almost resembled large leathery cougars with wings.

In comparison, Greater Dragons were the size of elephants and longer. They had the intelligence of a grown human and often were smarter as they grew older. Sadly, the Draconic Races grew more prideful with the rise of their intelligence. They even rivaled elves in pride. Lesser dragons were comparable to small children and could even be kept as pets by humans.

 Athena looked at this regressed dragon with restrained disgust. Even Athena was a prideful dragon. She was the largest dragon, thanks to her master who nurtured her into the greatest dragon to have ever lived. Even the other Gods who kept dragons could not compare to her. So she frowned upon this Sullied one, but only told him to lead the way. The lesser dragons parted in reverence of Athena while the small dragon that lead her out the temple hall held his head up with the pride of showing her to the fallen enemy.

Once they passed out of the temple and into the large garden outside, the destruction pained her heart. Hundreds of dead Lesser dragons littered the grounds while iron armor and yellow bones nearly covered the floor itself. It had been a fierce battle indeed. If not for their apparent objective, Athena thought they may have lost even more dragons if the undead had fought their way to the nests. She made note to increase the guards this time.

No greater dragons were to be seen dead, though most sustained considerable injuries – they would live. They went about clearing the wreckage and dead while the lesser dragons mourned over their fallen dead. A few greater dragons tried to order them around but were quickly humbled by a glare from the Holy Dragon. “Friends and lovers should be allowed to mourn their dead.” This was something she had heard in her travels with Lady Avery, but it was not something she took to heart until she had lost her Master. Thus, those who lost someone should always be allowed to mourn if time permits. Like now.

They finally reached an area on the far side of the large garden where tens of craters were strewn about with even more dead dragons. “How many did we lose today?” Athena asked in a dangerously low voice. “H-Half our fighting forces…” The sullied one answered as he felt the bloodthirsty aura that began to radiant. They lost most of their lesser dragons. This was easily fixed given a few years, but it angered her that they lost so many. “What were the great ones doing…?” She growled as she made her way to the largest crater. Inside was the torn icy body of the lich. Its body was nearly pulverized, but it remained true to their tenacity that their body withstood the attack of dragons.

“M-Most stood back to give orders and only a few joined into the fray.” The sullied pressed its entire body into the charred dirt below. “I-I fought in the fray with them.” Athena noted how the dragon was torn about by large claws. Greater dragons killed it. She nodded with some satisfaction “Gather the dragons who fought in the thick of the battle. Have them wait inside the Temple’s outer hall. You as well.” Athena turned while she left these orders with the sullied one. She had to admit if this sullied one did fight while others held back, this meant this dragon had more honor.

It was worth overlooking its sullied bloodline.

She left the dumbfounded dragon and stalked back into the temple, leaving a gaggle of greater dragons in her wake. None of them were wounded and she would not waste her time on a dragon that would not even defend its own home. She barked at them to clean the gardens before she left them.

She walked through the temple without sparing a glance at the dragons who burned away the bones to purify the temple and passed into the inner temple where most dragons could never step foot in. The only dragons that could freely come and go were the Greater Dragons who cleaned the inner rooms and garden. They were female dragons who were the most loyal and had the ability to transform into humans. From there, the halls shrank to human standards. As she passed a few turns, she slowly morphed into a beautiful young woman. Her bare body still coated in wounds and blood, but she ignored it as she had done in the past.

It wasn’t until the scent of berries wafted past her did she notice that the outer temple had reeked of dead and disease. She was thankful that they had not tainted the inner rooms, the most sacred grounds within the entire floating islands. The crude stonework slowly turned into ornate stone halls with depictions of her master. They were slightly dusty, notable that the maids had long moved onto another part of the inner temple to clean. It wasn’t until she turned the last corner that gave way to the corridor to the Forbidden garden that she encountered the maids.

They were dressed in Orichalcum armor with spears and shields. “Lady Athena!” They all cried out in unison when they saw their bloodied leader. “What happened!?” One of them cried as they quickly opened their shield formation they had formed just before the first room. “The battle is over, I had defended the entrance and the others defeated the enemy.” Athena retold the story to the girls as they stripped themselves of their armaments and tended to Athena. They quickly pulled her down the corridor until they reached the medicine room.

In there were a collection of rare herbs and potions. They brought over a clean bucket of water and washed away the myriads of cuts. Very few dragons had the ability to use healing magic as she did. Either one used inborn skills or they relied on faith-driven spells. Athena was both, given the ability to use most holy magic while she derived more power with her belief in her mistress. Unfortunately, these dragons did not view her master in the same light. While they recognized her ability from Athena’s retelling of her feats, it was still hard to grasp that there was a human that could rule over the largest dragon in history.

Soon, she had been patched up and forced to down a blood restoration potion before she got lectured about protecting herself during battle. She smiled as the maids reprimanded her before they started to complain about the trail of blood she had left through the halls. She apologized while she laughed. These girls were the only ones who dared to talk to her this way. While she liked it, it was through the bonds they shared before they became the dragon nation they were now. They didn’t mind as they were tired of the nomadic life and enjoyed the house chores.

After she had been thoroughly lectured, the girls sent her on her way into the Forbidden Garden. A place no one was allowed to step foot in beside her. It was the heart of the Sky Gardens with the source of all the rivers that ran throughout its gardens. A large stream flowed through the garden before it disappeared into a large drainage arch with thick iron pipes. The water then spilt into different channels before they made their way to the many gardens throughout the floating islands. Each island had a heart like this, but none were so large that it was its own underground garden with tall oaks and grass.

The underground had its own artificial night and day cycle that synced with the real world. It was vastly complex and she could never understand it without tearing it apart. She never did as she turned this into a garden for her master. Trees lined the large granite block walls as a large clearing sat in the middle. A large two-story brick house sat against the far wall with six windows on each floor. A wooden porch rested against the front door with three wooden supports that held a balcony. It had a nicely thatched roof that Athena tended to. It took a small group of human and Gnome slaves to build it. To keep it secret, she had thrown them off the island with the promise of setting them free from their bonds. She kept her promise in the end, just not how they thought she meant it.

The roof was painted light blue with fake clouds as a large light beamed light down onto the garden along with heat. This was done by the Gnomes she had brought. The light was there before and mimicked the day and night cycles. However, it was boorish so she had them make a fake day and night that changed with the light. Now. it was its own little paradise.

Athena stepped onto the wooden porch where swing bench rested to the right of the door. She walked past it and pushed the door open. Spell lights light up once she stepped onto the fur rug and shut the door. Light poured from the light pearls that rested on shelves around the living room. A few chairs and tables greeted her, paintings and small nicknacks rested on the walls all around her. She glanced over the mementos from her travels before she lightly stepped up the staircase. She turned on the second-floor landing and made her way down a cozy corridor that was painted white with flowers until she reached the last door.

Her mind ran different ideas of what could provoke the undead to raid their city. How were they even able to enter the Sky Gardens? She would have to look deeper into how they managed to surprise them within their own land. As for the why… She believed any of the items would be enough to warrant any power to attack them, she thought. With a twist of the doorknob, she opened the door and a bedroom greeted her. Not just any bedroom. It was the bedroom she made for her master for when she came to her.

A king size bed rested against the far wall in between two windows. Large red fluffy pillows fit for a god rested on the bed, neatly lined up. A thick red cotton blanket laid over the bed without a single wrinkle. The dark oak bed frame was simple and without decorations. Her eyes were caught by the sight of a lone worn stuffed dragon toy that rested on a large wooden trunk. The truck rested at the foot of the bed and spanned its entire width. It was the first gift Lady Avery had ever given her. With the sudden urge, she gently picked it up and embraced it. Savoring the seemingly endless scent of her master, but the smell had long faded and it was only in her memories that she smelled her.

Her stoic face had slowly morphed into a smile before she laid the toy back in its place. A lone sentinel of this shrine.  She cleared her thoughts of the past before she turned to her original objective in coming here. To figure out what was the most likely item they could have been so desperate to obtain. She started from the left side of the room where two dressers and a single desk rested. The dresser was filled with clothing her master owned that had been left in her inventory and unlike her master, she did not have the power to create an infinite item box. Thus when she had to leave them somewhere where the unworthy would never find them.

She crossed the clothing off her mental list as they were neither magical nor important. She turned her attention to the desk that sat inbetween the two dressers. Old parchment with a long ago dried up ink well rested. The desk remained empty for future use. With a click of her tongue, she cleared away the withering writing items and placed them into her item box to be disposed of later.

She turned her attention to the wall where a few wall long shelves rested at her eye level where the several awards and medals rested. A few were from the BAM Competitions, or Big Ass Monsters as her master called them. A few were awards from the long forgotten countries for where she had been knights or granted honorary titles. Her master had so many that she had only put up the ones from her favorite countries in her home and had left the rest in her inventory. Fenrir may have gotten a few, but she knew Ta’vie had never received any.

They weren’t of any importance anymore since the last country that had knighted her had turned into an Empire. They may have kept the records, but since they were thousands of years old, the documents may have long since turned to dust in the secular world.

She crossed this wall off and turned to the wall beside the door. A few weapons were mounted along with pressed flowers preserved hung. She could never figure out why they had not turned to dust after so long, but her master had held onto them for a long time so they must have been important. The weapons were just several low-tier weapons her master had grown fond of so she had hung them here. She made her way to the other side where similar items rested. The weapons were artifact grade, but they were holy weapons such as a large Warhammer, a Holy Scepter, and a Holy Bow. Her master could use all of them but preferred the sword as it was easier to deal with.

The undead could never use them and unless they were of the Boss tier, they wouldn’t be able to corrupt them. She crossed them off her list.

She turned to the final wall where several tens of gems were neatly lined up. Every gem from a fist-sized diamond to a similar sized Topaz had been placed upon shelves. A few were from her master, a few were from her to complete the collection. She scanned further down the collection to where the monster stones were. Several of the older boss monster stones were in her collection whereas the more powerful ones rested at Fable’s End’s summit. Her eyes scanned the stones until she found there was one missing.

She sucked in a cold breathe when she saw it! She looked over the stones again to figure out which one was missing, but she couldn’t remember any of them by name. She had a list downstairs to which she hurried out the door and down the stairs. She quickly found the desk in the living room where she kept her lists of the house’s inventory. She rustled through the neat draws, throwing the papers out frantically looking for the thick item list.

“Looking for this?” A cold deep voice rumbled from behind her.

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