flASH fiction: Volume 5: Master Red (18)

Master Red
Jason Pere

The Red Sanctuary was a pleasing enigma during the nighttime moments. A brooding eeriness wafted in the halls and large chambers of the great fortress as low torchlight burned and cast shadows on the stone walls. To many the place would have seemed like it were some sort of morbid crypt. The greatest culprit for the air of foreboding that filled the Red Sanctuary was the fact that the structure was built with a greater number of inhabitants in mind. The dwindling number of living dragoon gave the fortress the appearance of a mausoleum more than a war keep. Even though the ambiance of the dragoon’s last refuge was haunting and possessed of a sorrowful emptiness, it maintained an open warmth and inviting feel in the air. While the halls were barren to the eyes, it often felt like the very stones of the Red Sanctuary wanted to reach out and embrace any who walked within its ever vigilant protection.

Donakis felt as though she were stranded between two worlds as she maneuvered the familiar path towards the grand audience chamber. This was a course she had walked many times before and receiving a summons from Sia of Red was not at all uncommon. The young veteran warrior rather enjoyed her time spent within the company of the legendary dragon matriarch. In fact for most of the dragoon that remained, it was the presence of the great red scaled creature inside of the walls that allowed the Red Sanctuary to live up to its name rather than the size of the structure and its deep well of formidable defenses.

What put Donakis ill at ease this night was the specific nature of how she had been called to the grand audience chamber. Every time that Sia of Red had ever wished to see Donakis before, the red dragon had utilized more conventional means. It was a knock on the dragoon warrior’s chamber door and the gruff words of a guardsman conveying the wishes of Sia of Red that usually called the yellow scaled warrior to meet with her matriarch. Tonight was a much different affair.

Nobody had come to summon Donakis to the grand audience chamber. She had been alone with the final bites of her evening meal and her thoughts when she felt a change in all of existence. It caught her by surprise at first but it had only taken a moment before Donakis knew what was happening. It was a slight building of pressure in the back of her skull and then a rush of powerful energy that started at the crown of her head and jolted down to the bottoms of her feet. It all felt much like standing beneath a waterfall when Sia of Red pushed her way into the dragoon’s thoughts. Sia of Red had used her mindspeak with Donakis before though it was a sensation that the dragoon warrior would never fully become comfortable with despite the fact that it was a pleasing physical experience on more than one count. The elder red dragon had pulsed one single command to Donakis, she had been ordered to come at once to the grand audience chamber. Though it was a command, it felt like no obligation. Donakis willingly went into the darkened halls of the Red Sanctuary at the behest of her leader and mother.

Donakis walked the halls with a wary eye and cautions step. Nothing seemed to be out of place until she reached the grand audience chamber. It was only after she stepped inside of the cavernous room that she realized something was amiss. There were hardly any torches lit within the chamber at all. What little light that radiated form the modest flames was enough to show that the usual host of guards lining the walls was not in attendance. Were it not for the unmistakable low growl of Sia of Red’s rhythmic breathing, Donakis would have sworn that she was alone in the room.

“Welcome my daughter. Come forward,” said Sia of Red from the far end of the room. Light flooded the darkened space as fire trailed from the dragon’s mouth when she spoke. It was a warm glow that illuminated the length of her entire winged reptilian form laid out on her dais.

Dutifully, Donakis walked forward and presented herself in front of the large red scaled creature. She knelt and held her gaze on the floor below the dais, not daring to meet Sia of Red’s majestic gaze until she was given permission. She did allow herself a couple of sidewise glances just to quash any lingering curiosity about the presence of spectators in the room. As the yellow scaled dragoon had suspected, she and Sia of Red were truly without anyone else in the grand audience chamber.

“My brave daughter, I have called you here because I must ask you something. It is something that I have feared asking you even though I knew I would have to do it one day,” said the towering red dragon with a mournful lilt.

“Great Mother, you may ask anything you wish of me. I will do it without reservation. My life is yours,” Donakis said as she stood. The disturbing solitude and forlorn that had crept into Sia of Red’s manor was highly disconcerting to the young warrior. She softened her voice in an attempt to offer what solaced she could to her matriarch.

“Grek’ull Master Red has been slain by the humans. I know this the same way I knew when they killed Stef’han of Black or when any of my blood have been ended for that matter,” said Sia of Red.

“He was a strong warrior. Grek’ull Master Red must have died well,” responded Donais.

“He fought and died honorably as did all the dragoon he commanded on our southern border. He gave me just enough time…” trailed the dragon as her words were lost amid a troubled mind.

“What can I do for you, Great Mother? Ask and it is yours,” Donakis said, hoping that a change in the subject might lift the spirits of her master and protector.

“I would like you to be the new Master Red. You are brave and seasoned,” Sia of Red stated with maternal admiration.

“Great Mother…” Donakis said as she staggered like she had been struck in the hip by a war hammer. “I am honored of course but surely there must be some more worthy of your children, Dan’hull Tak or Aluran’bran for instance,” she continued as she humbly spread her arms and opened her chest in a show of vulnerability

“They are brave and honorable warriors as well but they do not have your heart. What my children need most now is not another military mind. What battles we have left to fight are simple things. The dragoon need someone with your compassion and your ability to hope,” Sia of Red stated with a gentle inviting smile that would have been calming were it not so painfully bittersweet. “Just know that you are not required to accept this role. If it is not in you to do this for me, you are free to refuse.”

“Great Mother, I am honored. Of course I will accept if that is your desire. I will do anything to be worthy of this station,” said Donakis with wide dark sparkling eyes.

“Oh, I know you will my daughter and that is exactly why I am so deeply sorry for asking this of you,” said Sia of Red.

“I do not understand, Great Mother,” responded Donakis with a perplexed squint of her eyes and nervous bite of her lip.

“You will understand when the time comes. Now please go and get some sleep, Donakis Master Red,” said the regal red scaled dragon.