1.4. The High Council Of Magic

At the end of the Great War, 3 centuries ago, the societies and civilizations on Earth which still existed were in total chaos. Milennia of warfare for survival against the Forces of Darkness had taken their toll. The enemy was defeated and driven back into their own territories behind the Great Barrier, a gigantic wall of magical energies no dark magic can penetrate, not even the Lord Daemons were able to break this seal and use their magical powers to cause destruction on the other side. But victory came at a price, and while the dark forces were effectively sealed behind the barrier, only able to send their weaker troops through whenever they managed to conjure enough creatures again, the Forces of Light suffered from much greater losses.

Just like the enemy they were almost completely defeated. No fortresses remained intact, countless cities and settlements were destroyed, the noblest of the noble have fallen in battle and there were only little trails of order and leadership left. The mystical Order of Light, which was leading the last forces of Earth’s civilizations allied into battle and finally achieved to end this seemingly-endless period of total war, had disappeared throughout the last and deciding battles. Whether it was due to them having lost almost all their soldiers and fortifications in battle or a potential unknown strike against their highest leaders in an attempt to stop mankind’s surprising advances in combat, nobody knew why suddenly all contact to the order was lost. All that remained of them were their temples and monasteries, burned to the ground, their fortresses and fortifications, every single one in ruins, and the last survivors of their elite order of fighters for peace and justice, the once-glorified Guardian Order, now left without any guidance by their suddenly-disappeared leaders.

Three of the mightiest sorcerers on the side of the light, high-ranking commanders of parts of the allied forces, realized, while the rest of the world would be occupied with rebuilding of what was lost and regaining order and control over what was left of their realms and civilizations, the enemy would have time to regroup without their knowledge and far beyond their ability to intervene another time. So they decided to stay close to this unnatural border the Great Barrier was with the remaining troops still loyal to them and do their best to defend this last line of defense with their own magic and, if necessary, with their life. They created the Realm of Magic, soon to be a welcoming home for all magical creatures left on Earth, their troops became the Council’s Guard, they themselves the first High Council of Magic, and in less than 20 years the realm fortified the whole area along the magical barrier with the strongest fortresses one could imagine, using both technology from all remaining races and powerful magic combined to oppose this always-present threat the Realm of Darkness still was.

What was left of the Guardian Order, now on its own, decided to stay with the Realm of Magic and continue protecting Earth from this worst of all evil they fought for milennia. Soon they became the High Council’s elite fighters and helped maintaining peace and order amongst all the different species now living together in this last refuge for magical beings the realm soon had become.

“Guardian Drake? The High Council’s waiting for you, Sir. I can’t remember having heard of you ever being late for a scheduled report.” a heavily armed guard in front of a huge ornamented metal door leading into the Council Chambers, the place the High Council’s always meeting in, asked, a slightly concerned look on his face. At least that’s what Drake thought he saw behind the closed helmet the guard was wearing. From all the beautiful artisticly ornamented armors members of the Council’s Guard were wearing the ones of the High Council’s Honor Guard were the most sophisticated and impressive in this young dragon’s eyes. He was an admirer of beautiful artwork and sophisticated ornaments, mostly because he was a dragon and those, in their thriving for perfection, did always put an enormous amount of design and artwork as well as function into their craftings. But now he was late and didn’t have time to adore the designs as much as he wanted to. He didn’t even have to slow down his pace, as the door was quickly swung open by the guard to his left, standing aside to let him pass, while the guard to his right stepped inside, raising the High Councilors’ attention by calling: “Your Highnesses, Guardian Drake arrived for his scheduled report!”

“Ah, Guardian Drake, it’s good to see you back and in good shape. You were away for quite long this time. Been busy hunting down these criminals?” a bearded man in his mid-50s said while standing up from his seat and walking towards the young Guardian quickly entering. A few feet away Drake stopped and saluted, the way it is common for members of his order. The bearded man stopped as well, accepted the salute and signaled the guard to leave and close the door behind him.
“It’s a pleasure, Your Highness, as always. Guardian Drake reporting in.” Drake answered, still standing at attention, “I apologize for the delay.”
“Don’t worry, Guardian Drake. We are already informed about the incident at the tavern. How’s the wound doing? Healing as quickly as usual I hope? How did that happen anyways? I know you’re sometimes getting injured, but not in such a simple bar fight.” the man asked concerned while notioning Drake to follow him back to the others.
“It’s doing fine, Sir, no need to be worried. Dragons won’t stay injured for long. It was all my fault. I wasn’t… focused for a moment during the fight, that’s all. It won’t happen again, My Lord.” the dragon answered.

While both were walking towards the end of the huge hall, along a broad red carpet, passing large artistically ornamented pillars like trees in an alley, up a small flight of stairs towards three majestic thrones standing side-by-side, the vacant one in the center being a little larger and bearing more of the golden ornaments resembling certain magical symbols than its occupied neighbours, Drake remembered the many other times he did exactly the same, walking behind Lord Councilor Dakon, head of the High Council of Magic, Lord of the last remaining Gargoyles and the mightiest known sorceror of this time, back to his throne in the middle of the 3 High Councilors after a rather informal, personal greeting on half of the way. Well, “remembered” didn’t quite catch it. Due to the photographic memory his kind possessed it was rather like “living through it again”, witnessing everything exactly as if it was happening this very moment again. It was always a warm feeling, wandering through these honorable halls from times long past, already existing for longer than he was living. Ever since he did this walk for the first time, shortly before giving the oath of unlimited loyalty and dutyful service to the High Council and the Realm of Magic, the new protectors against the Realm of Darkness after the end of the Great War and at the beginning of the restoration of peace and order, Drake was always reminded of this time in his life, when he made the most important decision the little dragon ever made. How would his life have been like when he just returned to his kind then, living amongst the little that was left of what he could call his “family”, hiding below the mountains, deep inside the huge endless cave systems like the one he hatched in, never even thinking anymore on what’s going on in the outer world, a world no longer their’s? But these thoughts were always quickly subsided by remembering it would have been treason to all the little dragon knew, all he ever fought for, all his comrades and friends fallen in battle during the last years of the Great War, they would have died in vain. It would have been giving up his dreams of a peaceful and orderly future, another Golden Age. It would have been denying what he is, what he always wanted to be since he was but a hatchling, since he learned of the great dragons of the past, and wanted to one day be like them, a real dragon. Abandoning mankind and the outer world was never an option for Drake, but still he never got rid of the thoughts “what, if”.

It was Lord Dakon, 300 years ago, who attempted to take up what was left of the Forces Of Light and reunited them to protect Earth from the dormant yet still present threat that was the Realm of Darkness. He created the High Council and declared himself the first Lord Councilor and founded the Realm of Magic right next to the ever-lasting border to Darkness. By this time he was quite young and ambitious but very knowledgeable and his magic was powerful. Together with the 2 other Councilors, all mighty battle mages themselves, and the combat-proven soldiers and fighters on his side this gargoyle managed to keep Darkness at bay until the border was finally fortified enough to ensure a long-lasting period of inactivity from both sides, a stale mate. Over the years Drake witnessed initiation and passing of several other High Councilors, but Lord Dakon, the person he had sworn ever-lasting loyalty to, was always there.

The dragon admired this gargoyle, fueling the little flame of hope burning so lightly in his soul after the battles finally ended, world lay in ruins, almost everybody he ever knew and cared for… dead. He was sure this was the end of his dreams, no hope for Earth to survive, too much to rebuilt, too much lost forever. The Order of Light, he put all his hopes in and gladly would have given his life for, destroyed, most races of magical origin he knew of, extinct, mankind returning to what was left of their homes, already starting battles with their neighbours, they once went into battle with side-by-side, for land and resources, all while the real enemy was just licking his wounds and preparing for another strike, the final one. But then out of nowhere this gargoyle sorceror, this high-ranking commander of the Alliance he was so proud of, stood up and called all remaining troops loyal to him to stay at his side, to rebuilt what was destroyed and to fortify the most vital border in the history of Earth to keep this stale mate situation for as long as possible, for mankind to regain its strength, to once return for battle, allied again, to finally drive these evil Forces of Darkness from the face of its homeworld, Earth, once and for all. Yes, he admired this gargoyle, for believing in a safe and peaceful future more than the little dragon did, and he promised to the Ancients never to loose faith anymore.

When they reached the stairs to the thrones, Drake stopped while High Councilor Dakon moved on to his seat. It was the man to the left, an elderly human in his mid-seventies, dressed in an artistically ornamented red mages’ robe with golden embroidery, who was the first to speak up: “Ah, Guardian Drake, you finally decided to return to report what damage you’ve caused this time. Tell me, how many civilians were harmed during your last missions?”
“Greetings to You either, High Councilor Zingon, always an honor to meet You. And none, Your Highness, I would never endanger a living being intentionally. If anybody gets injured during my missions, it’s myself, for this I apologize.” the young dragon answered, respectfully as always.
When Councilor Zingon opened his mouth to respond to the dragon apparently ignoring his insult, he was quickly interrupted by the person to the right, the last of the three High Councilors: “Ssilencce, dear colleague. Your sseemingly never-ending perssonal quarrel with Guardian Drake iss not ssubject of thiss meeting. Greetingss, honorable dragon, I’m glad to ssee you back alive and in one piecce. I’m very interessted in hearing your report now. Four more of the mosst wanted criminalss from our ssearch-and-arresst list were brought to jussticce I’ve heard?”

“Ss’ishrass, High Councilor Arumin. It’s always a pleasure to meet You.” Drake responded bowing down towards the majestic Kaiser Cobra, upper half scaled human body with the head of a cobra, lower half a long muscular snake tail, towering quite some heads above them all but seemingly having trouble to stay on the seat, which was obviously designed for a more humanoid body and didn’t provide enough place for a large long snake to coil up on. It was hard to hold back a chuckle by this sight, but the respectful dragon he was, Drake did his best not to be amused by it. He would never show such disrespect towards an honorable member of the High Council, especially knowing it was probably the last of its kind, a sad but undeniable truth.
“And it’ss alwayss a pleasure being greeted by you in my mothher tongue, and withhout any acccent, old friend. Some time you musst tell me how you manage to sspeak all thesse languagess sso fluently.” the High Councilor answered, seemingly enjoying the dragon’s presence.

Once Lord Dakon was seated again he signaled the others to silence and officially opened the meeting by speaking up: “Guardian Drake, your report please. We’re a bit short on time today so you can leave out the unimportant parts we’re getting to read in your written report anyways and immediately start with a status update about your search for Rizlaff Chingorn, number two on the list… Yes, dear Arumin, I’m sorry, but there will be no story telling this time.”
“I’m sorry, Your Highness, but I think it’s important to inform You about something I confiscated a few days ago first.” the Guardian responded, taking a piece of golden jewellery out of his pocket, “I believe it’s a part of the mythic Medallion Of Loss.” he said, holding it up for everyone to see.

“Imposssible!” High Councilor Arumin called out, “Thosse pieccess were hidden for sso long we already sstarted to believe it’ss only a mythh! Where did you find it?”
“‘A myth’, that’s what most people think about us dragons as well, yet here I stay to prove them all wrong.” Drake responded, stepping up closer, “I confiscated it from Warlord Aron Perkins, number 12 on the list, last month and immediately recognized its dangerous magic. I didn’t quite know what it was by then, but the uneasy feeling I got from touching it told me to keep it safe myself until I know what it was.”
“Well, well, and what are you going to do with it now, dragon?” High Councilor Zingon interrupted.
The Guardian stepped up closer and handed it towards High Councilor Dakon, responding: “Why of course I’m giving it into Your safe keeping, Your Highnesses. Even as only a part it is way too dangerous to remain unprotected. But I’m afraid I also have some bad news about it.”
Lord Dakon carefully took the piece from Drake’s hands and investigated it, speaking: “Indeed it is a part of the Medallion Of Loss. The magical flow inside of this piece is impossible to be mistaken. You must have sensed it yourself, my dear dragon friend. This is a great find. Having this part of the Medallion under our protection will prevent its reassembly and assure the safety of our world from its destructive powers. But what is the bad news you were talking about?”
“I’m afraid I know nothing about magic, Your Highness, apart from having it flowing through my whole body that is… and an odd sensation when getting in contact with other types of magic now and then. Anyways, I fear we are not the only one in possession of a piece of this artifact. When I arrested the warlord I also interrogated him about this piece with a magical flow about it and managed to gather the information that he was unearthing it for his superior, a commander of the Forces Of Darkness, who is said to be in possession of one, if not more, part like this already. I’m afraid the Realm Of Darkness is trying to collect all parts of it to reassemble the medallion and use it for their plans to destroy this world.” the dragon answered, shaking his head in concern.
“Thiss iss bad newss indeed, Guardian Drake.” Master Arumin responded with a stern look in his face. “When Darknesss managess to get hold of thiss dangerouss artifact, our world iss in great danger, I’m afraid. We have to keep thiss piecce ssafe by all meanss.” the Kaiser Cobra said, looking at his fellow colleagues.

“Agreed. We will take care of this now.” Dakon replied, putting the piece away into his robe, “Now back to your report, Guardian Drake. What’s the status of your search for Master Chingorn?”
Drake was stepping backwards to where he initially stood, answering: “I tracked him down to the old fortress ruins of the Order Of Light near Goron, Your Highness. He is said to be hiding there, away from curious eyes, to continue his studies of Black Magic. I should be able to take care of him within a week from now.”
“Goron? There is a fortress of the Council’s Guard nearby, if I’m not mistaken. They could be of help to you. Chingorn is not a foe to be taken lightly as far as I’m informed.” the High Councilor replied.
“Sssay, Guardian Drake, issn’t it true that the Order of Light never had ‘fortresssess’ itsself?” Master Arumin asked towards the dragon.
“That’s correct, Your Highness.” Drake replied, “The Order of Light was rather a religious order, maintaining monasteries and temples, libraries and schools of sorts. Only their executive department, the Guardian Order, maintained fortresses and everything military. But why are you asking?”
“Becausse You were working for the Guardianss already ccenturiess ago, even before the Realm of Magic and our High Counccil exissted, issn’t it? Don’t you know thiss placce ‘like your pocket’ ass they ssay?” Arumin answered with a smirk.
The Guardian shook his head and replied: “I’m sorry, Your Highness. It is correct that I was a member of the Order already before we became Your elite soldiers, but I wasn’t at all our fortresses or monasteries myself, yet, of course. There were way too many of them, and I had… well, other things to do at this time. I apologize.”
“Heh, now what could that have been, you filthy little reptile?” Master Zingon asked patronizingly.
The dragon became more and more uneasy by the obvious attacks from the human High Councilor. Of course it wasn’t the first time, Zingon was always that offensive towards him whenever they were talking to each other, but he couldn’t by the life of him make any sense of why the human was still that distrusting towards him. Drake was serving him, since his initiation as a High Councilor, for over 12 years now and really wished Zingon would have realized he’s not his ‘enemy’ over this time, but of course he was aware not all humans were able to befriend with a creature they didn’t know. Many were afraid of him when they first saw him in his real shape, and while he ‘knew’ why that was, the little dragon in his naive, still a little childish, mind just couldn’t ‘understand’ it,
“Your Highness, I apologize for this disrespectful behavior in speaking to You in this way, but I really don’t know why you’re always so offensive towards me. I am in no way of any danger to You. I am loyally serving You. I’ve sworn an oath to follow your every command, and a dragon’s oath will ‘never’ be broken while he’s alive. I would rather ‘die’ than deny any of your commands, Sir. And to answer Your question, by this time I was defending towns, monasteries and temples against the Forces Of Darkness together with the other Guardians, of course. We were in the middle of the Great War after all and mankind and the whole Forces Of Light were loosing.”
“Is that so?” Zingon asked, “For this we only have your word, of course, but if you’re telling the truth, which is what you want to make us believe always is the case with your kind, why don’t you prove it to me by taking your sword there and thrusting it through your heart right here and now? I ‘command’ you, dragon!”, he yelled towards him.
“Well, if this is the only way to convince You” Drake replied, “and a command of the High Council, then of course…”
“Stop it!” Lord Dakon shouted, jumping up from his seat, “Guardian Drake, put that sword back into its sheath, now! Have you lost your mind? I know, as a dragon, you were about to thrust it right through your heart just as commanded, at the same time keeping and breaking your oath to us. But I’m asking you, are you really that eager to end your still very young life compared to what’s usual for your kind, just because you can’t deny following an order of one of us? And You, human, fellow colleague, Master Sorceror, High Councilor, are You really that suspicious of one of our most valuable servants, that You’re about to risk never being able to have him serving us anymore like he did serve Me for more than 300 years now?!”

Drake sheathed his sword, bowing down and stepping back in shame about what he almost did, “I apologize, My Lord. Of course I’d rather stay living, serving You, protecting the realm and mankind just like I always did. But You know I… I didn’t have any choice. I’ve sworn to follow His orders as well as Your’s. And I ‘really’ can’t break my oath… I have to admit, we dragons are somewhat ‘extreme’ in this regard.”
“No need to apologize, little dragon.” Lord Dakon replied in a calm voice, shaking his head, “I know you couldn’t simply disobey him. Then you wouldn’t be a dragon after all. But I have to admit, sometimes I just can’t understand your kind… Oh well, you can leave now, I think. We’re done with your report. Good luck in your upcoming task, Guardian Drake!… And We, Master Zingon, have to talk!”

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