Beware of Propheci
Word takes on the Prophets crew in this action/adventure story, which takes place some time after the events in "Pride of the Hero."
Chapters 1-4 - on this page
Chapters 9-12 - updated 11/5
It was late on a moonless night. The city was silent and still except for Cain and his dragon Coershun who was running along the otherwise deserted dragway. Cain was concerned and in a hurry to get where they were going. He pushed forward slightly on the handlebars to gently urge his dragon to go a little faster. Coershun, sensing his rider's concern, obliged by picking up the pace. As they rounded a corner, they came upon another dragon and rider waiting in the street. It was Moordryd and Decepshun who both turned their heads to view the approaching pair.
"You made it. Good," said Moordryd with his usual serious and emphatic tone as Coershun pulled up along side.
"What's this about, Moordryd?"
"I don't know. But it must be something important for my father to summon us at this late hour."
They both glanced at the Paynn citadel which loomed menacingly in the distance ahead of them.
"Come'on, let's go. Father doesn't like to be kept waiting."
Without further urging, the dragons headed off at a gallop taking their riders down the dragway leading to the main entrance of the citadel.
In a dark alleyway a short distance behind where they were, something stirred in the shadows. A shape moved forward. A large, two-legged orange dragon with blue and red markings stepped carefully across the threshold of the alleyway to peer out into the lighted street. It was one of the Prophets and its rider. The dragon watched as Moordryd and Cain receded into the distance. Its eyes narrowed to a sinister glare and it bared its teeth slightly as the pair disappeared beneath the mass of the citadel. The dragon cast a silent glance back to its motionless rider for a few seconds as if considering something. The dragon looked back at the citadel briefly, then slowly turned and disappeared quietly back into the shadows of the alley.
Word sat impatiently at the conference table in his main control chamber with the usual scowl on his face and drummed his fingers as he waited. Moordryd entered alone and made his way to table but remained standing with his arms behind his back.
"You sent for me, Father?" he said respectfully knowing that showing any attitude wasn't going to help things at this late hour.
"It's about time you got here," Word responded, somewhat irritated as usual.
Moordryd waited for his father, who had yet to make eye contact with him, to continue. Word, obviously displeased with Moordryd, allowed the silence between them to continue for a few more long seconds.
"Moordryd. Is there something you're not telling me?" he finally said with a sigh, still not looking at his son.
"What do you mean, Father?" said Moordryd without emotion so as not to antagonize his father any further.
There were in fact many things that Moordryd had not told his father, such as when he kept the bone mark of the Furox for himself. Word of course expected Moordryd to do such things and he found out about Moordryd's "oversights" on numerous occasions. This, apparently, was one of them.
"Several months ago, I sent you out during the All-City Marathon race to investigate the legend of the Lost Track of Doom and to see if there was any truth to the existence of the ancient Prophets crew. Do you remember?" said Word with a bit of sarcasm towards the end.
"You said you found no evidence of their existence." Word now turned his frowning gaze toward Moordryd for the first time and said with some anger creeping into his voice, "But that wasn't exactly true, was it?"
Moordryd cast his eyes downward to avoid his father's glare and remained silent. Moordryd's silence confirmed Word's suspicions.
His father grinned slightly at having caught Moordryd in one of his lies. "So tell me, Moordryd. What did you find?"
Moordryd hesitated a few seconds in order to compose himself before beginning. "Cain and I were making a survey of the old abandoned tracks where the marathon used to be run before the new track was built. We came upon a particularly isolated section of track shrouded in mist. When we reached the mid point of the span, the section we were standing on suddenly gave way. Coershun was able to jump back with Cain to the part of the track still left standing. Decepshun leapt forward and safely made it to the opposite side, but I fell off. Luckily, I was able to grab hold of a cable and pull myself back up." Moordryd decided that his father was mad enough at him and there was no need to make it worse by telling him he had in fact been rescued by the Penn brat.
"Go on," said Word.
"I re-grouped with Cain and once we found another track, Coershun brought us around to the other side of the break in the track so I could pick up Decepshun."
Word sighed and stood up with his back to his son. "Moordryd, why didn't you tell me this before?"
"I... didn't think there was anything to tell," said Moordryd, being less than honest as usual. He tried to cover it up by adding, "The old track was falling apart. That's all."
"Really? Did you see any dragons?"
Moordryd hesitated and said haltingly, "Nothing we could clearly make out."
Moordryd was lying again and Word clearly sensed it. Moordryd and Cain had in fact both caught momentary glimpses of what might have been orange dragons when the track collapsed. Not wanting to be sent back to investigate a dangerous area like this further after nearly falling to their deaths, they both decided not to report what had actually happened to Word.
Still with his back to his son, Word said, "You disappoint me, Moordryd," in an almost casual fashion as if he had said it a hundred times before, which of course, he had.
Word surmised what must have actually happened: the Prophets had ambushed Moordryd and Cain because they had gotten too close to their stronghold.
Word moved to the control console before him and keyed a switch. The display above came to life. "Look here. One of my wraith dragons that was on surveillance patrol nearby came upon this earlier tonight."
Moordryd watched the video playback from the camera mounted on the wraith dragon control gear. It showed an indistinct shape moving in the shadows on one of the lesser used streets and quickly disappearing into the darkness. Word flipped a few switches and the image zoomed in on the shape. The zoomed image was pixelated at first, but the computer quickly enhanced it. The blocky pixels disappeared and the image came into focus. It showed an orange dragon and a rider.
"If I'm not mistaken, that dragon seems to match the description of the Prophets in the legend, wouldn't you say, Moordryd?" said Word with some sarcasm in his voice.
"Yes, Father," Moordryd replied somewhat sheepishly.
"The Prophets haven't been seen in Dragon City for many centuries. So long in fact that their existence has passed into legend."
Moordyrd failed to see the significance of this and started to get a little impatient, “So what if there are a few more dragons in the city?"
"The Prophets believe dragons are best suited to rule and seek to subjugate humans. If the legend is true, and the Prophets have returned to Dragon City, it can only mean one thing." Word finally turned to face Moordryd and said with some anger, "They must be planning to take control of the city for themselves."
Moordryd showed concern for a moment, then crossed his arms and said somewhat defiantly, "So let Dragon City Security deal with it. Why is it our problem?"
"Dragon City Security can't even stop you from stealing dragons. How do you expect them to fight the Prophets when they can't even handle a petty thief?"
His son was a bit taken aback by that, but realized it was true. Dragon City Security was not at all prepared for something like this.
"Besides," Word continued, "I have more to lose than anyone else in Dragon City. And their timing interferes with my own plans to control the city."
"What should we do?" Moordryd said with more seriousness now as the thought of being controlled by a dragon sunk in.
"If you had confirmed the existence of the Prophets back when I sent you out to look for them, things would be different. Now, we must accelerate our plans. I do not yet have enough wraith dragons to control the city and fight a war with the Prophets at the same time. We must fix that. You and your crew must immediately set out and steal more dragons to become part of my wraith dragon army."
Putting his hands together and arching his fingers, Word continued more optimistically, "This may yet work to my advantage. If my wraith dragons can defeat the Prophets, the people of Dragon City will see the value in controlling dragons and there will be less resistance to my plans in the future."
Speaking urgently now and pointing a clawed finger at his son, "But time is short, Moordryd. The presence of the Prophets means they are preparing to strike. Go now and get started. And don't fail me again."
Word turned his back on his son, indicating that he was dismissed.
Moordryd left the chamber. Cain was waiting in the hall outside. As the
door closed behind Moordryd, he said in a serious and determined tone,
"Come'on Cain. We've got work to do."
A subterranean chamber was the hub of activity for many orange dragons. Some dragons had riders, but many did not. One of the Prophets with a rider approached Propheci, the dragon leader of the Prophets crew.
Propheci, speaking through his rider Reepyr, began the conversation, "What do you have to report?"
The other dragon, also speaking through his rider, responded, "One of our scouts near the citadel reports that she believes the human has become aware of our presence in the city."
"Yes. We knew it was only a matter of time until he discovered us," said Propheci with no sign of disappointment or concern in his face, nor in his rider's voice. "He will most likely be trying to reinforce his position. No matter. Instruct the scouts to continue their work."
Changing the subject, Propheci continued, "What is the status of the new control gear? Will we have enough additional units ready in time?"
"Yes, I believe so," the other dragon responded. "All the humans we can spare are working on the gear modifications now."
"Good. We will begin moving as soon as it is ready."
A few days later it was race day. The weather was warm and pleasant as usual in Dragon City; a perfect day for a race. The start time was approaching and the racers were getting in position. Beau carried Artha in the saddle and casually made his way to the starting gates. Beau felt the usual anticipation and excitement he always did before a race, and the smile on his face and slight swagger in his step let it show. As they passed the grandstand, Wyldfyr trotted up to walk alongside.
"Hi, Artha. Ready for the Maze Challenge?" Kitt asked. The enthusiasm in her voice made it clear she was charged up for the race as well.
"Not only are we ready, but we're going win!" Artha said in a happy and confident way.
"Oh, really?" responded Kitt with mocking sarcasm. "Perhaps you've forgotten that Wyldfyr and I are three-time winners of this event?" To which Wyldfyr turned her head slightly to Artha and Beau and gave them a proud smile to emphasize the point.
"Not this time, Kitt. Beau and I have been practicing," assured Artha as they reached the starting gates.
Kitt sighed and shrugged off Artha's usual bravado. She looked over and noticed one of the gates was empty. "Hey, where's Moordyrd? He was supposed to be entered in this race."
"Who cares. He wasn't going to win anyway," said Artha egotistically.
"Strange for him to miss a race, though."
The signal was given that the countdown was about to commence. The dragons adjusted their footing and their riders leaned forward and hugged the saddle to cut wind resistance to a minimum. The track flashed red as the countdown started. The dragons crouched and prepared for the starting rush. Yellow. Beau gritted his teeth and dug in his claws to get a good push-off. Green! As the gates dropped, the entire row of dragons lunged forward, running as fast as they could for the initial segment of the race.
The first half mile of the race was a sprint to the maze portion of the event. The dragons covered this distance effortlessly. As they approached the maze, each dragon and rider pair had their own entrance into it that lead to an identical maze layout within. Beau shot through his assigned entrance and continued down the straight passageway at full speed. The passage had a line of lights embedded in the floor down the center. They were lit and spaced a yard apart. As Beau passed over each light, it winked out and the scoreboard by grandstand recorded a point for their team for each light crossed. The object of the Maze Challenge was to pass over as many lights as possible and then get back to the finish line within the allotted time period. The team with the highest score would be the winner.
Artha and Beau were coming up on the first intersection in the maze. The corridor they were in was wide enough for a dragon, but the corridor branching to the left ahead was only wide enough for a human.
As they approached the intersection Artha said, "Get ready, Beau!" as he concentrated to gauge the distance. Beau focused his energy and began to glow as he continued to run at full speed. As the distance to the approaching intersection shrank to less than a few strides, Artha gave the signal, "Now, Beau!"
Beau magged Artha, picking him up out of the saddle and pushing him in the direction of the other corridor. Artha completed the mag-jump and hit the ground running. As he passed over the lights in the floor of this narrow corridor, they winked out as well, and with the two of them working separately, the rate at which their score increased doubled. Beau took a hard right turn, continuing down another one of the wide corridors. The other riders and their dragons were all doing the same thing and had similarly split up in order to cover as much of the maze as possible.
Artha and Beau each followed a carefully planned and rehearsed path through the maze, making turns at precise locations. Artha took another left and was back in one of the wide corridors running headlong towards Beau coming from the opposite direction. Neither slowed down and they continued full speed towards one another. As they were about to collide, Beau magged Artha, picking him up and sending him in a mag-jump up and over his back to land behind him. Artha hit the ground running again and took the first right turn down another narrow passage in the maze. Beau took the next right, following his own planned path.
Time was running out on the clock. Anyone not crossing the finish line before the time expired would automatically lose. Beau made a final turn and was in the passage leading towards the exit of the maze. As they had planned, Artha emerged from a side passage ahead and ran for the exit as well. The dragon quickly converged on Artha, and as he approached within two strides, he magged Artha, pulling him back into the saddle. Artha clung to the saddle as Beau burst out of the exit of the maze.
The exit put them heading back the way they had come. It was a half mile sprint back to where they had started which was now the finish line. The clock was ticking down and Artha and Beau found themselves in the lead. They were close enough now to hear the cheering crowd. The excitement showed on their faces.
"Woo-hoo, Beau! We're almost there!" yelled Artha enthusiastically.
"Guess again, stable boy!" challenged Kitt from behind them. Kitt flipped open the safety covers on the triggers on both hand grips, hit the switches within and braced herself. The level 5 thruster gear on her dragon sprang to life, running on maximum burn. Wyldfyr leaned forward with the thrust and surged towards the finish line, easily breezing past Artha and Beau. Beau poured on all the additional speed he could muster to close the final distance, but it wasn't enough. Wyldfyr shot across the finish line first with Beau in second place. The additional bonus points for finishing first put Kitt and Wyldfyr well over the top with the highest score, making them the winners to the cheers of the crowd.
Beau caught up to where Wyldfyr had stopped to catch her breath. Heat waves from the exhaust ports on the thruster gear could still be seen shimmering in the air.
"Nice race, you two," said Kitt with the confidence and pride of a winner. "You gave me a run for the money back there."
"Yeah," said a subdued Artha, finding it difficult to hide his disappointment. Half-heartedly, he managed to say, "Good race, Kitt." He didn't like losing of course, but at least he wasn't beaten by Moordryd this time. That would have been worse.
Artha's com-link started beeping just then. He hit the switch on his saddle and the holographic screen sprang up showing an image of Lance.
"Hey, Artha!" Lance said urgently.
"What's up, bro?" answered Artha, picking up on the serious tone in Lance's voice.
"Mortis wants to see us all right away. He says it's important."
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