(Added this quick sketch for the sake of visual orientation, but I may update it with a more relevant one in the upcoming days!)
I write in hopes that this message reaches you one way or another. It has been ages since I have left my chambers, longer still since I’ve seen or spoken to a soul. A wise man once said, that the path to wisdom is a long and lonesome one, a thing I acknowledged to be true but only now am I starting to feel it on my own hide and, surprisingly enough, I don’t dislike it.
I welcome the solitude and the peace that comes with it.
Fortunately for me, I have not kept in touch with my other siblings. Last time I heard of Titus, he was well off training with that dragon order, trying his luck, however far that will take him. Of Tyron I know even less, we did not part on quite the amicable terms but if you meet him, know that I wish him well.
As for me, Mother, I have found my own small place, hidden away from the world, or so I thought. After my departure I have skimmed the continents high and low and in my struggle to find that which was missing I have found nothing to interest me among the mortalkin. I have experienced treachery and deceit at their hands, lost my pride to their sly tricks, almost my life, too.
And so I settled myself between slabs of molten rock, high in the mountains where volcanoes sleep and where I know they would not dare look. The Father and his Sons, as I came to call the mountain range before I even reached it for the first time. It was the thick smoke, days from my goal, that drew me from skirting the borders of mortal kingdoms. A grey column that reached miles into the sky, mountain high and higher still, as if some Dark Gods were trying to smoke the Titans out of the Cosmos.
Days later I could smell the sulphur in the air. In places a fine black dust laid on the new leaves
even as they unfurled, and stands of trees stood dead, acre after acre bare and brown, waiting for a summer fire which never came. The whole place had a deserted look to it. The black dust coated everything with a fine film. It tickled the throat like a feather, always made one cough. It took days to get used to it.
There is no taming a volcano, as I came to learn after my first week of sheltering in one of its fetid caves. It is like summer-burning in a dry forest. Stamp out the flames and they spring back up from the hot ground. Surprisingly enough, there were many cave mouths excavated into the slopes as if by a giant’s claws, some small some as wide as a tree is tall. They were almost harder to see as I drew closer. Black caves in a black cliff with black interiors. I spotted three entrances, one big enough to grow an oak in. Further in the tunnels I had found signs of the previous inhabitants, runes etched into the very stone, remnants of some sick experiments, no doubt belonging to some overzealous mortal, a fire-mage perhaps, trying to tame the flames. I have built a reclusive study room in the ancient vaults hidden deep underground and placed strong enchantments to ward off the flames. The vast array of missives I’ve collected thus far in my library would make Tyron turn red of envy.
I have read that some volcanoes sleep for centuries. The Father was such a volcano, not so tall as its Sons, but it is tall. Its lower slopes are softened by the years, black grit in the main, crunching under foot, the rocks rotten with bubbles so that you can crumble them in your paws, the fire so long gone that no sniff of it remains. Through the ash and broken rock, fireweed grows in profusion, Widow’s Roseherb as they had it in Tutor Apostrasz’s books. The first to spring up where the fire has been. Even after probably hundreds of years nothing much else seemed to dare push its way through the black dirt. But His Sons, on the other hand… had the faintest wisps of smoke or steam rising from their western flanks, wisps that would erupt suddenly and without preamble, making the ground rumble. More than once I heard hissing, like a thousand snakes in the darkness… or perhaps it was just the steam escaping the trees, unlucky enough to be in the way of the molten blood, as their sap started to boil. I have tried on several occasions to stop the advance of the flame but volcanoes are not people, they are not enemies, they cannot be stopped, and I do no longer want to for they keep the real enemies at bay. Friend and foe alike.
Do not ask me where I am, Mother, for I do not wish to be found. I kept the details to my whereabouts vague should this letter fall onto wrong hands… What is a volcano to anyone who reads this? A place where the earth bleeds, where its blood bubbles up. Molten rock, like lead melted for the siege, poured red and runny from the depths. Do not bother to track me, or send my brothers after me, I will not hail them as blood siblings. I will come to you when I am ready and only then. That is not now, when there is so much to do still…
I write to ask you for forgiveness, Mother, for even now as I write this letter my fingers tremble holding the ashen quill, strangers to me, and I have soiled too many parchments with another’s life in writing this letter, than my restless mind can count. The trinket around my neck stands to remind me of it for the rest of my existence, even now I can still smell the burnt wood, the blood in its fibers makes it hang all the heavier over my heart, like a miniature anvil bearing my shame, my burden.
I have taken the life of a mortal child.
I first encountered this being in the woods, not older than ten life cycles she seemed; it was a surprise to us both that our paths crossed, call it fate; hunger has a way of sending all manners of creatures out on a scavenge for nourishments. Later did I learn that her people were barely just settling in at the base of the mountain. What sane mortal would make a home near a volcano, is beyond me. I spared the girl then, our brief meeting having been briskly interrupted by the howls of four-legged beasts, barrel-chested and slobbery just like the demon Titus owned.
I retreated to my cave and remained forever watchful of my new neighbours, nomads from the South it seemed, but they never left the shadow of the mountain. Their presence only grew deeper roots into the bedrock, at an alarming rate. Now, they were a few tents huddled together, then a few houses, then more and a wall snaking around it, labor animals strapped to cruel torture contraption that made them carry ten times their weight across the same muddied road into vanishing horizons, every day, to and fro, until one of the scales in the snake’s hide opened and swallowed the animal and its load whole.
The snake people grew more daring as their influence did, often I spotted their scouts combing the forests even at night, getting closer and closer to the edges. Reminiscent to some sort of parasitic activity, searching for what? A host? Had the girl told them of my existence? Were they looking for me? Were they afraid of something? Even to this day, I do not know.
I decided to stay in hiding for a while, hunt only when necessary and in other territories, fly longer for a fresh water source, as far away from where I knew these creatures roamed. I thought we could live in peace this way, avoiding each other as a specie. It was a sound solution to both our problems.
But the girl had something else in mind.
I found her snooping around the mouth of my caves one day as I came back from a long and arduous flight. She was alone, with only a smoking torchlight for company, and I took my chance. Her neck was easy enough to break alone but I didn’t stop at that. The ANGER I brought with me ignited, becoming too large for my body, detaching from the mortals who tricked me, who wronged me, invading the privacy of my domain, my lair with such impudence, such arrogance… IT became an end in and of itself, all-consuming, a glorious manifestation of ecstasy, of rage. I let it all rain down on her. That growing power I kept reined in for so long, was like a narcotic. A fiercer joy than fire-kettle, and more sure to hollow you out.
I left her smoking there, in the cooler air. I didn’t care, I felt good, I felt… cleansed.
I was forced to retreat inside the caves, her people burst out of the treeline, enraged perhaps at seeing me standing over her charred corpse, but they didn’t get far. The Father rumbled.
Back in the forest the first of the trees exploded, its fragments bursting into incandescent flame as they found air. Fire lifted around the intact trunks, rising through the spring foliage, making each leaf a momentary shadow. More trees exploded, then more, until the blasts became a continuous rumble of brilliant detonation. The cattleshed ignited though it stood twenty yards back from the closest flame, one side of it just snapping into liquid orange fire. I saw a lone archer running from the edge of the forest, clothes alight. Farther back human torches staggered and fell. It was the fury of the volcano, demanding retribution from the people who dared to try steal its lands and tame its flame. Part of me still thinks I had a hand in it, also. Part of me denies it, but the other knows it’s true.
The snake people from the village never came back after that and I was left alone at last. Peace is a thing you never realize you have, until you lose it. Peace of mind, that is. Even now, as I write this for a hundredth time, I think of the girl.
I touch the half-burnt dragon figurine around my neck that I pried from her charred fist back then, a creature of only ten life cycles… and think…
… Please forgive me.
She only wanted to be my friend.
My thanks to TheNamelessMoffe who's characters, Adiastrasza (the Mother), Titus and Tyron are mentioned in the letter. The story of the Three T's is that of a Red Broodmother and her three precious embersparks, Titustrasz Teralistrasz (from who's PoV the epistle was written) and Tyronstrasz who were chosen for their unique skillsets as representatives of their brood in the struggle against Deathwing. After the war ended, the three brothers went separate ways to blaze their own trail in the world. Props given to their Tutor, Apostrasz, for training them during their stay in Heartwing.