Joqout's Story: Chapter Eight
::Wait for my signal....::
For once, Joqout is in complete agreement with his bond. After tracking this scum for over three weeks, he is angry enough to want a fight. He lays flat in the foliage, human-formed and small enough to be easily overlooked against the dark ground, eyes fixed on the small valley below and its laughing, bragging, thieving occupants. Tracking them hasn't been difficult: they leave a blantent path of destruction wherever they go. And Joqout and Timande have finally caught up with them.
Four weeks ago, Joqout would never have imagined himself waiting impatiently for the signal to attack anything, not even another pack of Ignius. Perhaps especially not a pack of Ignius. Timande's not-so-subtle suggestions that they return to his homeworld a week after his Trial had originally been met with resistance-- obviously so, given Joqout had, and still has, no illusions about the yautjadragon's real reasons for returning there. There are, after all, real dangers on Temesu-riel. In particular, and pertaining specifically to Joqout's past, are the Ignius clan dragons: little more than bandits, rarely less than murderers, and, according to Timande once pressured into revealing his true motives, a threat that needs to be dealt with. Pointing out to Timande that he was bred for fighting xenodragons, not Fantasan dragons, hadn't even shaken his conviction that they go there, and only there.
::I have plenty of siblings to hunt them,:: he had replied. ::I want to go to Temesu-riel, where your enemies are, and where none of my kin are likely to go.::
He finally gave in, which was not a surprise, anyway, and Timande packed up-- that is to say, donned-- all of the new weaponry and equipment gifted to him after passing his Trial, said what few goodbyes he had to say, and took the image from his mind of the great desert on Temesu-riel to teleport them there. Joqout had a couple more goodbyes to say, a little more to pack up, and less enthusiasm about going. Showing a sensitivity Joqout had not expected, however, Timande didn't take him to the canyon where he'd grown up, not forcing him to see the ruins of his village-- or what another group of Solistien might have turned it into. Instead, they appeared on the edge of one of the nomadic tribes' lands, the one which had rescued him two and a half years ago.
They had also appeared to a scene of long-past massacre.
It has now taken them a day over three weeks to track and finally catch up with the Ignius who had destroyed the tribe, and after all the destruction that led them to this spot, Joqout has no qualms awaiting Timande's order to strike. The madness is stirring in him, and for once he is angry enough to even consider letting it loose.
::Some of them aren't back yet,:: Timande explains his hesitation. There are four below, setting up a macabre camp from the belongings of others, laughing amongst themselves, at each other or the supposed conquests of the rest of their party or their own past conquests. Joqout smothers a growl, remembering the remains of dragons he knew-- the laundress who had scorned him and her kinder cousin Jamima, among others-- which had greeted him upon his return to tribe territory. These are the kinds of things which are "conquests" to an Ignius: sneak attacks, sudden swarms, blasts of fire, pillaging, rapine, and death.
Better, then, to wait until the entire band is together. Just to make sure they do not miss any of them.
Listen to yourself! a small voice protests in the back of his mind. You're starting to sound like him! Like Timande! Like a killer!
Shut up, he thinks uncomfortably at that voice of conscience. Sometimes Timan might be right. I think he is, with this crew... they're worse than--
Than what? his conscience replies slyly.
Than the ones I killed those two and a half years ago, he finishes the thought, even more uncomfortably, but then he resolutely blocks that little voice from his thoughts. It's too late to turn back, now. Timande would never forgive him.
::They're coming!:: Timande, presumably oblivious to his bond's briefly wavering resolve, calls from the other side of the valley, invisible in his Shift-Suit and crouched out of the way of the much larger Ignius' path. His voice is excited, but tense. Joqout squints through the trees, trying to see what Timande sees, without success.
The tension multiplies, and even though their weak bond, Joqout can sense the shock Timande suddenly feels. ::Oh God, they're not alone....::
::What do you mean, not alone?::
There is a pause, and then Joqout cannot help but understand what his bond just said. The remaining four Ignius of the pack come pacing through the trees, noisy and obviously pleased with themselves, and tripping and stumbling within the cage the four make with their bodies are a pair of Solistien dragons, adolescent and decked out in the remains of fine jewelry and cloth, both female and both obviously terrified.
"We have a prize tonight!" one of the returning dragons booms cheerfully. Joqout is frozen with horror at the sight-- and the knowledge of what the "prize" is. The two Solistiens know, as well, but when one attempts to break free, all she manages is to get clubbed over the head with a much larger Ignius fist and knocked dizzily against her fellow prisoner.
Timande's voice crackles with fury, drowning out the appreciative yells of the rest of the Ignius pack. ::Ready yourself, Joqout. On my mark--::
This time, Joqout is very ready. No little voice of conscience is stirring, now, even that silenced with horror and disgust. The two groups of Ignius bandits merge, milling about with much rowdy laughter and ribald comments, sorting loot, doling out dinner, and eying the girls appreciatively. Joqout digs his clawed fingers into the earth impatiently. How much longer is Timande going to wait?
::Get ready!:: the yautjadragon calls across the valley, this time with an eagerness in his voice rather than anger. ::Three, two, one-- mark!::
The signal is Timande sending off the first shot from his plasma cannon, mounted on his back and also invisible under the Shift Suit. Joqout, who knows where his bond is, catches the ripple of recoil in the Suit's chameleon affect, and then the superheated plasma is roaring down into the valley below. More than ready, Joqout surges up into full Solistien form, roaring loud enough to drown out the plasma, and charges.
And, quite suddenly, everything falls to pieces, because their quarry simply isn't there anymore.
Fantasa and Legend dragons are the intellectual property of Silver Midnight.