The full moon shone down on the darkened camp as three people wandered around the corpses, finishing their search of it.
“Find anything?” Asked Mordred as he walked up to Bast and Set.
“A bit of gold. Some spices and gems. Food. Doesn’t look like they’ve been out here long enough to rob any caravans.” Said Set, indicating the twenty or so bandits scattered around the camp.
“I’m surprised that you wanted to do this, Mordred.” Bast said.
“You heard the owner of the caravan. Anything happens, and we die first. The easiest thing to do is head off any trouble, and avoid the awkward scene that comes from them trying to kill us.” Mordred replied.
It had only been a couple weeks since the caravan had left Pelusla, and they were due to enter a small oasis city within the next week when Mordred and the two gods had noticed the bandits planning to ambush them later that night. They decided to remove the bandits while they were sleeping, knowing that the ambush was likely scheduled for closer to dawn than the middle of the night.
“Let’s bury them and get back before the guards notice our absence,” said Set. Waving his hand, the sands seemed to come alive, swallowing the bodies and items that the three didn’t claim. As they left, there was nothing to suggest that anything was ever there.
A few weeks had passed. The three had made their way across the old Persian lands, they were currently traveling with a different caravan. The decided path took them around the northern coast of the sea, and then southeast. They were going through the southern mountains into India.
The head of the guards approached Grisson. “Make sure you keep an eye on the edges of those cliffs, Grisson.”
“Worried that earthquake yesterday might’ve made them dangerous?” Grisson asked, eyeing them.
“Can never be too careful,” the man said.
Grisson nodded, only to stop halfway through and suddenly start looking around. “You alright, Grisson?” The guard asked with concern.
“Did you just hear something?” Grisson continued looking around.
“I see. Maybe I’m not getting enough sleep. Don’t worry about it.”
As the guard moved off, Hes moved next to him. “What’d you hear?” She asked in a whisper.
“It was faint, but I’m certain I heard a woman crying. She was saying something, but I couldn’t understand the language. Whatever it was, she sounded desperate.” Grisson replied, continuing to glance around.
“Aww, is the noble knight’s sense of honor telling him where people in need are?” Hes said with a smirk on her face.
“I will throw you off this cliff, you know.” Grisson shot back.
With a laugh, Hes walked off towards Sa, leaving Grisson shaking his head.
Not long afterwards, Grisson suddenly looked out towards the sea, his complexion noticeably paling. “Everyone! Get away from the cliffs now!” Right after his voice rang out, a roar sounded, and a purple colored dragon flew up over the cliff face.
Its smooth violet scales glittered in the sunlight. It had a 10 meter wingspan, and its length was at most 7 meters. On its head was a pair of horns an off-white ivory color, with luminous green cat eyes blazing above its narrow jaws filled with fangs. It’s four limbs possessed five talons each, all the same ivory color as the horns.
It swooped over the caravan, roaring again, causing the caravan’s animals to panic.
“Damned wench! I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know who your family is!” Grisson yelled out at the dragon overhead.
“Grisson! What’s going on?!” Sa yelled as he ran up.
“This is the one I heard earlier! She thinks that I did something to her family!”
“Why would she think that?!”
“How am I supposed to know?!”
“Uh, boys. I hate to interrupt, but in case you didn’t notice, that’s a Divine Dragon. There’s only one god who’s managed to make dragons even resembling the Chaos Dragon that you are, Grisson, and we aren’t even close to recovered enough to fight one of her children.” Hes said as she joined them.
At that moment, the dragon turned and started another pass, only this time, she started charging magic to release on them.
“Damnit all. Fine, Bast, Set, you two get the caravan away from the cliffs. I’m the one she’s after, so I’ll deal with her.” Mordred said, dropping the Grisson persona and allowing his true form to be revealed, his red eyes showing his annoyance. He immediately turned and began running towards the cliffs. The dragon saw this, and immediately turned to pursue.
When he reached the cliff, he showed no hesitation in jumping off. As the dragon was about to fly over the edge, a black blur raced upwards, bowling her over and causing her to crash onto the ground. As she landed, the ground shook, causing most of the mortals around to stumble.
The dragon that crashed into her then leisurely landed some distance from her. At 10 meters in length, with a 15 meter wingspan, it was larger than the female. Its black scales seemed to absorb the light, while its two red horns shone like a crown of fire in the sunlight. The white ivory color of its talons and the fangs in its narrow jaws were the only sign of white upon it. Mordred let out a rumbling growl as he pointed his red eyes towards the female dragon before him.
Undeterred by Mordred’s size, the female roared again and slammed the ground with her forelegs, the ground shook again and electricity discharged from her. In return, Mordred shook his head and snorted, causing flames to shoot from his nostrils.
Realizing that whatever conversation the two were having wasn’t going well, Bast and Set quickly resumed getting their employers and their belongings as far away as possible.
“Do you think he can convince her to back down?” Set asked Bast as he used magic to heal a horse that had sprained its leg and got it headed in the right direction.
Bast glanced back at the dragons, and visibly paled. “No. No I don’t think he can.”
Looking back, Set saw what had her so scared. The two dragons had their bodies crouched down, heads lowered, as they circled one another. Their eyes were locked on one another, and there was a deep rumbling in the ground that signaled the growls they were directing at one another.
“Shit, they’re actually going to brawl like that here?!” Set exclaimed.
“We need to hurry!” Said Bast. But it turned out to be to late.
The two dragons leapt at each other, the sound of them slamming into each other caused the mortals and animals to run faster. Then the tremors caused by their landing made them all slow down to maintain their balance upon the shaking ground.
Mordred and the smaller female were vicious in their fighting. Snapping at each other’s throats and clawing at each other as they rolled around caused broken and shattered scales to fall to the ground. Violet lightning and crimson flames brought screams of pain and rage every time they struck one of the two combatants. When one managed to kick the other away, they’d quickly follow the kick by ramming into the one sent flying.
Then, the two dragons rolled off of the cliff and fell out of the mortals sight for a moment, until they flew up, firing magic at one another. They raced to establish the height advantage in the now aerial fight, continuing to shoot lightning and fire at each other.
Mordred then managed to get above the female, suddenly folding his wings and dropping onto her before she could react. They fell, continuing to bite and claw at one another as the female attempted to separate herself from him, or at least not be the one underneath when they landed. But Mordred had no intention of making it to the ground.
As the ground raced towards them, and the cliff was once more beside them, Mordred kicked her away into the stone wall and spread his wings to stop his fall. The female dragon had been slammed into the cliff itself, and as she tried to regain control of her dazed thoughts, Mordred pressed his advantage, slamming into her at the highest speed he could achieve. He then continued slamming her head into the stone repeatedly, causing the cliff face to begin crumbling.
As she saw the top of the cliff begin to crumble, Bast yelled, “What in the name of Order are they doing?! Don’t those lunatics know that they’ll bring the whole cliff down on their heads if they keep doing that?!”
“I don’t think they care, Bast!” Yelled Set over the sounds of the fight. The entire area shook every time the cliff was slammed into, and Set, while not having as much trouble as the mortals, was having slight difficulty maintaining his balance. A problem Bast didn’t seem to have.
Then, the slamming stopped, and everything became quiet. A moment later, the sounds of leather wings flapping filled the air, and Mordred rose above the edge of the cliff.
Gliding towards Bast and Set, he touched down awkwardly carrying something. He gently opened his claws and rolled a young woman onto the ground. She was unconscious, beautiful with a face expected of Persian royalty, and completely naked. Seeing the looks on the faces of the mortals, Bast quickly covered the woman with a blanket she found nearby.
By then, Mordred had returned to his true form he looked to the owner of the caravan, who was approaching surrounded by his guards, all of whom had their blades drawn and pointed at the four immortals.
Mordred then said, “We should get moving soon. That was bound to attract attention, and we don’t want to be anywhere near here when the ones who’re going to be attracted arrive.”
When he spoke, the mortals all jumped, and the caravan owner shouted out, “What are you?!”
Mordred calmly replied, “I’m someone that you hired to protect your caravan. I’d say I’ve done a good job so far, so it might be a good idea to heed my advice.” He said that last part as he indicated the unconscious woman.
Looking at her, Mordred’s employer nervously licked his lips. “You didn’t kill it.”
“She was panicking due to not knowing where her family is.” Mordred replied, sharply emphasizing her gender. “I don’t kill children throwing tantrums. I can assure you that she will be under control. If you have a problem with how I handled the situation, then you’re free to challenge her to a duel once she wakes up.”
The mortal blanched at Mordred’s words. After glancing around, he quickly began ordering his men to start moving. The immortals gathered up the unconscious dragon and began looking for their horses.
Bast was the first to speak, “He’s going to be trouble.”
“Probably,” agreed Mordred, “but that’s a problem to deal with later.”
Later, the caravan had stopped. Grisson, Sa, and Hes were gathered in their tent, with the dragon that hadn’t awakened yet laying in the nest of blankets they had made for her. The caravan hadn’t moved nearly as fast as the three immortals would have liked, but they knew they couldn’t do anything about that. Just like they knew they couldn’t do anything about the fearful looks they were receiving.
“So, what’s the story behind her?” Grisson asked, indicating the unconscious woman.
Sa and Hes raised an eyebrow each, Sa responding with, “I’m surprised that you don’t know.”
Shrugging, Grisson said, “I know about the gods and beings of Europe and the Mediterranean because Morgan taught me, but I don’t know about anything beyond that area.”
Hes looked at him. “Really? You’ve never heard of Tiamat or her children?”
A thoughtful look crossed his face, “There might’ve been a Greek sea serpent by the name of Tiamat.”
“Not that Tiamat,” Sa said. “We’re talking about the Babylonian Goddess of the Sea. A Primordial Goddess, like Gaea and Ouranus. She was known as the Mother of Dragons. Although this girl isn’t what I would’ve expected of them, plus, I had heard that all eight sea dragons she had birthed were killed by their older siblings.”
“Oh? If she was like Gaea, I can guess how her story went.”
Hes shook her head, “No, actually she didn’t have any part in her husband’s murder. That was all their oldest children. Tiamat was so enraged that her body supposedly turned into something monstrous, and she gave birth to eight dragons, all embodiments of her rage. Their blood was akin to poison, and their flesh inedible to every creature that tried to eat them. She and her eight dragons all died at the hands of her first children.”
“That’s why I’m confused.” Sa sighed. “Her blood didn’t have any effect on you, and you said she isn’t a mindless beast as well?”
Grisson shook his head. “No. She sounded quite lucid. Panicking and desperate, to be sure, but well within her right mind.”
The sound of crying interrupted them, and they all looked to the young woman lying on the blankets as she cried. “So that’s what happened? That is the fate of my mother and brothers?” Her accent was thick, and proved how unfamiliar she was with the language, but she was understandable.
“We’re sorry,” Hes said, crouching down next to her. “I am Bast, of Egypt, but I’m calling myself Hes. The muscular man is Set, also of Egypt, he’s calling himself Sa. And the dragon that knocked you unconscious is Mordred, of Brittany, who is currently going by Grisson.”
Sniffling, the woman said, “I am Arezou, ninth dragon born of Tiamat, and her youngest daughter.”
Sa spoke up, “Can you explain how you came to be here, Arezou?”
Nodding, Arezou said, “The last I remember was Mother taking me to a cave far beneath the surface, then she cast a magic of sleep on me, and that’s it. I started to awaken after the earth shifted, and I only came fully awake a few hours before I fought you.”
“Why did you attack me?” There was no accusation in Grisson’s voice, merely curiosity.
“I am sorry. I caught your scent, and thought that I found one of my brothers. When I saw that it wasn’t, I became angry. I am very sorry.” Arezou said, quickly bowing with her forehead to the floor.
Waving her apology off, Grisson said, “It’s fine. I hold no grudges over the incident. It was fun, actually. Hadn’t actually had a chance to see what that form could do in a fight. Sa, Hes, I’d imagine that she wants to know the fate of her half-siblings?”
Shrugging, Hes responded, “Not much to say, really. The Babylonian gods didn’t last long after Persia became a true empire. They’re long dead.”
Arezou nodded. “I see. So there’s no way to avenge them. What do I do now?”
Grisson looked at her, softness coming into his gaze. “I don’t believe that your mother wanted you involved in that fight, which is why she hid you. You can come with us, for now. We have no goal or purpose other than getting away from the west.”
Arezou looked gratefully at Grisson, missing the looks that Sa and Hes exchanged. “Thank you.”
Nodding, Grisson stood up. “Dinner is ready. Let’s go.”
They had to wait for Hes to get Arezou a dress ready, but the four immortals were soon receiving food from the camp’s cooks. While Hes started a conversation with Arezou, Sa whispered to Grisson, “So what’s the real reason for bringing her?”
“Besides her knowing who we are, thanks to the cat? She’s vulnerable, and easily exploited. Any of the pantheons get ahold of her, and it’d be almost too easy for them to manipulate her. I’d rather she avoid that bit of politics and the pain that comes with it. She might be a goddess herself, but I can’t help but see her as a child.” Grisson muttered back, watching the uneasy and fearful expressions the surrounding mortals sent at them.
As the four immortals sat with their stew, Arezou noticed an odd scent from the food. “Wait, this-”
Hes interrupted, “Arezou. They went through the trouble to cook this. We shouldn’t turn down a meal, especially when you haven’t eaten in thousands of years.”
Arezou just stared dumbly at the three immortals calmly eating, and the many mortals watching them. Slowly, she started eating the drugged stew.
The four men slipped through the darkness of the late night. Entering the tent containing the monsters and witches, they quickly found the four creatures. Moving into position, the sword strikes were perfectly placed to behead them all at the same time.
“And that’s why we ate the drugged stew.” Mordred said as he drove his sword into the back of the man who attacked his illusionary body. At the same time, almost seeming to be a mockery of what the would-be assassins did, the other three moved to kill their attackers, causing all four mortals to die at the same time without a sound.
“I see.” Arezou nodded as she continued, “It was to draw in the ones who were going to attack us.”
Bast shrugged, “It’s laughable to think that we can be brought low by poisons devised by mortals.”
“So what now? Was this just these, or more?” Arezou asked.
“Give us a moment,” said Set, “me and Mordred will have the caravan under an enchanted sleep in a bit.”
“There’s a group of bandits in the area. I’ve already spoken with them and arranged to have them slaughter the caravan after we’ve taken the coin owed to us and left,” Mordred said. “Everything else in the caravan is theirs.”
Arezou stared at Mordred. “We don’t know if the rest of them are apart of this. We don’t even know if we can trust those bandits.”
“These men won’t move without their employer’s word, especially to kill beings as dangerous as us. Trust me, they’re under orders.” Mordred said with a matter of fact tone of voice. “As for the bandits, you’re right. We can’t trust their word, but we can trust their fear and survival instincts. Their leader dabbles in magic. I allowed him a glimpse of my talent, and specified that everyone in the caravan will be under an enchanted sleep. Combine that with the fact that the four of us are delivering them an entire caravan, without a fight, on a silver platter? Only madmen and fools too stupid to live would go back on their words with people like us.”
Arezou looked to Bast. The goddess chuckled and flicked her ears. “Trust him, he knows what he’s doing. Spent most of his life serving a small kingdom as one of their cheif warriors. He knows how sellswords and bandits think.”
Arezou raised her eyebrows at that, and followed the two gods and the dragon out of the tent.
Lilith and Asmodeus observed the four immortals pass beside the group of bandits undetected from the sky, Asmodeus with his leathery wings supporting him, and Lilith with the black feathered wings gifted to her by Lucifer. They heard the man Lucifer was interested in speak to the bandit leader. “Remember, everyone except the owner is enchanted. You don’t need to, but I’d appreciate if you would wake him and drag him out so he can witness you killing everyone else. If you do, make sure you tell him ‘This is the reward for betraying the black dragon.’ He’ll know what you mean. I want fear of me carved into his soul, but I’ll accept this much instead.”
The bandit replied almost jovially, “Of course, my friend. This is easily done. I just have one question. If the owner of this caravan hadn’t betrayed you, we would be the ones dying this night, wouldn’t we?”
“That goes without saying. I still would’ve been in his employ if none of this happened. Well, we should get on. The spell will lift within the hour.”
“Yes, yes. Safe travels my friend,” the bandit said as the four immortals rode away.
One of the younger bandits who had grown indignant at the flippant way the other man had spoken said, “Boss, why allow them to leave. We could’ve taken them.”
The leader shook his head. “Ah, youth. You should be grateful to me, you know.” At the young man’s confused expression, the leader continued. “This is your first encounter with the creatures that inhabit the shadows of the world, and because of me, it won’t be your last. I don’t know what those four are, or why they’re pretending to be human, but they would’ve slaughtered us. Thankfully, they don’t seem to suspect that I know more than what they want me to, otherwise we’d have already had our heads removed. Creatures like that are always preferable as friends than enemies.” With that, he turned and headed into the camp.
Asmodeus only spoke after the bandits started their killings. “So that was the one Lucifer is interested in. Mordred Drake, born of the Celts. Favored of Anand, eldest of the Morrigan, and fiancé of her late daughter, Morgan La Fey. He’s quite vicious.”
“Come now, Asmodeus,” replied Lilith, “he merely lacks the patience to suffer fools. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Asmodeus chuckled, his sensual voice enough to make any mortal to become little more than beasts in heat. “I never said that it’s a bad thing. I was just remarking on how decisive he is. Should we approach him, you think?”
Lilith raised an elegant eyebrow and glanced sidelong at her companion. “After all the trouble he went through to ensure none know of his being here? Do you really think he’d believe that we were just passing through conveniently on the very day that he came to blows with the secret daughter of Tiamat? It is the truth, but he doesn’t trust anyone with a connection to the Children of Israel.”
Lilith’s comment on Mordred’s opinion of everyone connected to their pantheon caused Asmodeus’s face to twist. “True, plus, he has Bast and Set with him. They would be about as happy as him to see us. So, just go about our business, and inform Lucifer once we return?”
Nodding in agreement, Lilith and Asmodeus flew northwest.