Taifa’s vision, sense of self, and purpose split. She could see the battlefield from the air. The men and women, dying by the scores, looked small and insignificant.
Taifa could see the two and a half thousand ships of her people, most of them cannibalized for parts, laying on the beach like the half-eaten quarry of some greater predator. She could see Omehi men and women scurrying from ship to sand to battle. She could see the ocean behind them all, endless, stretching beyond the horizon.
But it was not endless. She had crossed it with what was left of the Chosen of the Goddess. She had saved her people from eradication and it was not their fate, having found this distant land, to die on its sands. Her people’s sacrifice, Tsiory’s sacrifice, would have purpose and the savages would learn what it meant to oppose her.
The merging completed and the Dragon’s power, its fury, flowed into Taifa. Quickly, she coiled these thick tendrils of consciousness and fashioned them into the ropes that would hold her tight to it.
The savages on the beach had seen the creature now. Through its eyes she saw them turn and point. She could see their fear, could smell it. Taifa tapped the Dragon’s anger and multiplied it.
It dove, spiraling towards the beach. It used its Gift, drawing more from Isihogo than any human ever could. The Dragon took its power from there, from the Goddess, and it brought this power into the world, using it to ignite its blood. The beast burned and, when the heat threatened to overwhelm it, it blew fire, lighting the world ablaze.
Two dozen savages erupted in flame beneath the blast of Taifa’s first attack. She could hear their screams as their life was snuffed out. Her Dragon, twice the size of her warship, with scales harder and sharper than bronze and blacker than tar, dove down and snatched two savages from the beach, slicing them to pieces in its massive claws, before landing on the sand. The Dragon blew fire again, arcing the inferno across the gathered enemy horde.
Those hit by the blast were incinerated, and that was a mercy. The men and women on the attack’s edges were seared by the heat, their flesh bubbling and sloughing off their bones. The ones this didn’t kill choked to death on the fumes of the creature’s acrid blood.
The savages, so fearless in battle, mounted no counter attack. They fell back in terror, scrambling to flee and, in retreat, they faced the rest of the Rage.
Taifa’s Entreaters, the most powerful of her Gifted, had merged with the three other Dragons that had answered their call. Together, the Rage blew fire so hot that Taifa, only half in her own body, felt the heat back on the beached Targon.
The remaining savages tried to escape, running for the safety of the trees. Taifa pushed her Dragon to fly, and it rose into the air. It followed those who fled, burning down the tangled foliage that hid her enemies from her. The heat of its fires melted white sand to black glass and where the flames fell they left nothing but ash.
As her Dragon scorched the earth, Taifa prayed. She prayed to Ananthi, the Goddess. She asked to be able to make these heathens suffer. She prayed, as Queen of all the Omehi, for the power to destroy.
“My Queen,” Taifa heard the KaEid say, through the fugue of her merging. “It’s done. They’re retreating. We’ve won.”
But Tsiory was dead and Taifa would honor him with a funeral pyre built from the corpses of her enemies. She urged her Dragon on. She killed and killed, until vengeance cost the lives of too many in her Hex, until there was no one left for her to burn.
Exhausted, and with the shroud that masked her soul’s light collapsing, Queen Taifa Omehia released her Dragon, retreated from Isihogo, and folded back into herself. The beach was a smoldering ruin and, with a remnant of the creature’s senses, she could smell the death, charred flesh, and stink of fear that suffused the sand.
She looked skyward. Her Dragon beat its way higher into the cloudless sky, making for its nest. It belched a twisting column of flame, bright as the sun, and let out a mournful keen that almost started her crying. She refused to shed a single tear, not yet. The day was won. Their enemies crushed.
Taifa turned her back on the new home of her people, striding past the four dead Gifted women of her Hex, and the horrified faces of her Ruling Council. She quit the Targon’s deck, descending its stairs, moving from light to dark, and she placed a hand to her stomach. She had so little of Tsiory left, but what she had she would protect.
“Let them think me a monster,” the Dragon Queen thought. “I will be a monster, if it means we survive.”Get the Book or Continue to Part 5