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El'ias The Merciless

“Out!” he roared at the sprite. The little creature grabbed his papers and darted back, heading for the mouth of the cave. 

El’ias The Merciless flexed his scaly wings in frustration as the sprite exited. This creature was only the third to enter his cave and suggest ideas for his dilemma. El’ias had ruled over the lands of the East for eons. Three incompetent souls had paraded their plans before him and expected to earn his word of honor. The least these creatures he watched over could do was provide him with an adequate solution. 

The next creature pokes his head around the corner, making instant eye contact with El’ias. He narrowed his eyes and could hear the dry swallow from his next guest. The goblin inched his way in and stood before the great dragon, a slight tremor overtaking his inky flesh. 

“Eve of peace, noble dragon,” the goblin touched his forehead and lowered his hand to El’ias in a show of respect. “I am Clarvahlan, and I bring you a great plan.” He stepped closer and unfolded a vast piece of parchment. The lands of Ulfin stretched across the tanned surface with small markings made along the Eastern region. 

“As you know, there are fields of meeting in these locations, between this realm and the faerie one. I believe you can make a deal; I have already begun the draft to the High Faerie for protection. Whatever you find claim to, you pile there, in the faerie realm,” the goblin made another respectful gesture as the smirk spread across his raised chin. 

El’ias raised his tail with a sneer and slammed it against the uneven ground. The goblin squeezed his parchment to himself in the sudden breeze. His greyish coloring began to pale against the growing glare of the dragon. 

“Have you ever heard of a dragon ascending the Faerie realm, little boggart?” El’ias questioned, his forked tongue tasting the cool air. An overwhelming flavor of terror was swallowed as he waited for the goblin's reply. 

“N-No, I have not noble dr-”

“In the age of Kione, we thought to help the mighty faerie with their wars. We offered our allegiance and assisted in their battles against the tarasque invasions. Without us, the faerie would be no more. There would be no High one. And, little boggart, do you know what we received in return for our great devotion?”

The goblin took a few steps back, a tremor overtaking him. “I do not know.”

“They forced the ones that were weak or healing to carry them. Great dragons that fought a war that was not theirs were reduced to no more than mules. When we decided to fight against their enslavement, they decided to start killing us off. Tell me, boggart, does your plan seem viable now?” El’ias stood at his full height. The massive cave began to feel much too small for Clarvahlan’s comfort. 

“Leave,” the dragon bellowed. He was alone soon enough. A small pen rolled its way to a roughened boulder at the edge of his cave. El’ias moved, took a scaled limb from underneath his winged body, and touched a claw to the pen. There was a slight noise as the pen darted through the air and disappeared. He smiled to himself at his newest addition to his hoard. The toothy grin soon dropped as he again remembered why he was in this predicament. He just couldn’t quite help himself. Dragons are supposed to amass hoards. Although, he could admit that over the last few centuries, the quality of his hoard fluctuated a little more often than before. 

Soon, the smell of the ocean settled around him as if he was inside the belly of a whale instead of the mouth of a dignified cave. 

A Scylla slithered its way in with a large wooden chest in one of the snake-like mouths. Rows of sharpened teeth let go as she reached El’ias. There were six protruding serpentine necks from the base of the Scylla’s hips that spat and sniffed along as she moved. 

“Eve of peace. I am Milasa. I expect your word of honor is still the prize for this deal?” Her seafoam skin flexed under her moving body as she shoved the chest forward, bending to open it. 

El’ias cringed at the smells and sounds coming from her slithering form. “Yes. If chosen, you will have my word that I will come to your aid no matter the situation.”

“Good. You may use my trenches closest to your Eastern residence,” she slurred as the chest opened with a barely audible crack. Diverse marine life plunged to his cave floor as the seal broke. The chest remained covered in flows of seaweed greens and sunset pinks of coral and fungi that clung to the darkened surface. 

El’ias clicked his claws on the stony ground as he considered her offer. The idea of the deepest points of the earth concealing his hoard appeared to be one of the more compelling options. 

“No. Now, leave,” El’ias stretched out his long neck and massaged just behind his horns. This was proving to be a challenging endeavor. The Scylla looked as if she had been slapped and quickly recovered her expression. 

“Excuse me? How is this not the best offer you have?” Her tone was sharp as the scaled heads hissed in his direction. She stepped forward as water began to gather in front of her in menacing splashes of energy. 

El’ias rose to his full height and stretched out, curving his spiked spine. As a deep yawn overtook him, a force of water spiraled toward him, forming a torrent of a whirlpool. He breathed out, the force of his breath dashing the spell right before it got to him. The Scylla vibrated with fury as her cantrip was reduced to flicks of energy on the cave floor. 

"You truly believe I would like my coveted possessions to be drowned and waterlogged? Foolish,” El’ias scoffed as he settled back on his lengthened limbs. 

The Scylla lifted the chest to show him the contents. It was full of jewelry that appeared to be entirely dry. 

“If you swear two moments of aid under your word of honor instead of just the one, I could provide many chests for your convenience. You shall have the ocean's mercy,” she purred before him. 

“My answer has come. Leave,’ El’ias spat with growing irritation. The slithering creature slammed her chest closed and turned on her tentacle. She was gone in moments, the smell of fish lingering behind. 

El’ias groaned and picked at a stone nearby, shoving it along with his massive ivory claws. Soon, another creature happened to walk into his cave. 

El’ias’ toothy jaw dropped as his next guest filled the entryway with his formidable presence. Another dragon stepped closer, his golden skin glimmering against the sun's rays behind him. He looked up at his comrade and smiled politely. Galmavrax The Wrathful was before him. Only a few in this world could identify the legend from a mere glance. El’ias knew the stories of his kind, though. He grew up with the knowledge close to his heart. He had lost his entire family to the war with the Faerie. 

The dragon before him reflected his own golden flesh, but there were discernable differences. Galmavrax had scars along his torso and back from the beatings for riding too slow or veering too off course from the Faerie. He was missing several claws from his back legs. They had been taken as expected prizes for killing the almighty dragon. None lived to claim his head. The eyes of Galmavrax were the most telling for El’ias. Unlike his own, which had the usual white overlay with a slice of golden and green hues, Galmavrax had entirely black eyes—the eyes of someone that has absorbed more experience, knowledge, and pain than any other. 

El’ias could not speak. He dared not. His guest lifted his chin and forced a breath of green flame out. El’ias hesitated but soon followed in the same manner, albeit with a reddened flame. He sucked in a breath and commanded control over his nerves.

“Jiktal Uh’fa jol Galmavrax Rah Druikiln,” he belted out. El’ias knew that his accent had been a little rough with each ancient syllable. 

“You do not have to speak in our old tongue, little hatchling. I accept the honor of your attempt. Please, in your native tongue, you may speak,” Malavrax’s voice was guttural and ground into the stone around him. 

“Your presence is quite unexpected," El'ias let his unasked question hang in the air. The older dragon understood immediately. 

"I heard your request for extended space. It is my time to join our brothers and sisters over the sky bridge. I am leaving all I have to you, one of the final golden dragons. Continue our legacy as this realm's protector," Malavrax sighed softly. El'ias could hear a slight wheeze with every breath from his revered guest. The thought of Malavrax no longer walking the earth beside him caused a growing emptiness in his heart. Although, knowing that he would fly over the sky bridge to a land full of all that had already left this plane was equally comforting. 

El’ias nodded slowly, in complete awe of the beast before him. “I will not allow us to fall to another. All those that reside in my lands will know who their protector is for as long as my body is on this side of the sky bridge,” he declares. 

Malavrax nods and tells El’ias where he may go for his second home. He makes El’ias swear to look after those in his lands as well. Wisps of purple expand over the horizon as the sun disappears from view. Malavrax could still be seen in the distance amongst the darkening clouds. 

El’ias took some time to spread word across the East that he no longer needed assistance. After the sun rose on the fifth day, he surveyed his new lands and opened areas for more of his fast-growing collection. 

He arrived promptly and entered the cavern system Malavrax told him of. He took a few turns and twists to reach a massive area full of riches. His excitement grew as he found cavern upon cavern with more possessions to add to his hoard. He continued deeper into the expansive tunnel system. Soon, his excitement grew to a minor concern. After the fifty-ninth chamber, he began to have a sinking feeling in his belly. 

As the sun set on the eleventh day, El’ias was sure of it. There was not a single empty chamber in Malavrax’s cave. There was no room for further collecting. He now possessed two full caves of an immense hoard, with nowhere to put anything new. Malavrax had misunderstood. 

El’ias sat atop his newest home, looking out amongst the treetops and crashing waves in the distance. 

“Perhaps,” he mused aloud. “I could, in fact, allow my valuables to be in magic chests under the watery depths.”

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