The self-proclaimed god of war already hated his trip from the arid and searing lands to the furthest of the south-east. Because his hide was black with dark grey chestplates, he would absorb much of the heat from the sun’s rays. That was an advantage of his in cold climates, but being the one to represent darkness he was never tolerant of sunlight. Even worse, this part of the world was to be hot, whilst his homeland was preparing for the winter. Finding the right currents was no problem for Ares, but he was worried that he would pass out from heat exhaustion before he was to reach the nation where the most obscure dragon among the elementals. This was to be the hardest one to convince to help resolve the plights caused by the Light Dragon. If she really was as dangerous as most claim, Ares needed to watch for her sensitive spots.
The travel toward the country was getting easier, for the heat dropped significantly. Then again, he was near Central Africa where he found the Earth Dragon. He could feel himself ease up on the heat. He still had his doubts on whether he would make it to land without using up all his energy. Ares thought further on the negative factors. He knew nothing on how British settlement affected the Poison Dragon’s home country. For all he knew she could’ve thought about as much of Ares’s misdeeds as much as others heard and claimed about her being merely an ill omen. With him, cold rain was a sign of his presence. He knew perfectly well how to feel about being feared only because of his element, which was considered evil. The Poison Dragon must have been as outraged about the possible rumours as he was offended by the common judgment.
The black dragon was far away from whatever country it was that the Earth Dragon settled in, when he started detecting an energy signature very faint. He could not make it out yet, but he kept going straight, seeing as the energy would be easier to track. There was only the sea below him, and his shadow was more angled when he did look down. By going farther, his shadow was to become longer and slimmer. He was nowhere near surprised as he regularly travelled from England to Russia by the time he befriended the Ice Dragon. The surprises were yet to come by the time he was to land in the territory new to him. By the time he thought that he could find land just ahead, relief came over him. He just needed to go a few hundred more kilometres, that distance being easy. It really did become that. It was hard to see, but there was land in the distance, becoming easier to see as the black dragon proceeded farther and farther. The once fallen beast had made it to the land mysterious to him, called Australia.
Ares let the drained energy get to him once he landed upon stone and slowly tumbled to the ground. It was early morning as the sun was rising. It wasn’t as hot as the deserts the savannah of Africa, but the land was still warm for the start of December. That was because he was in the southern world now. Still, the climate was no problem. From the weariness that grew from all that flying about, the black dragon gave in to the sleep and fell into mind’s void.
It was midday by the time the red eyes opened, but it was enough for the black dragon to regain his energy. He could go without eating for the moment. He had business to attend to. It just had to happen that the first site for him, was a man standing right in front of him, curious. The man had a beard and wore a collar shirt and slacks. He commented, “Don’t see one a’ you ‘round ‘ere.”
“And where would I find someone of my kind?” Ares asked, wanting to get straight to the point.
The man chuckled, “Ya ain’t from ‘ere, which is”-
Ares swiftly stood up and hissed, “Just tell me!”
That wiped the smirk off of the human’s visage. He defended, “Don’t be cranky.”
“’Tis urgent, human. So, answer my question.”
“You are farthest west. Ya lookin’ fer a certain dragon, go to Northern Territory. Yer kind lives only among each other. The pollies deliberately look away.”
Ares answered calmly, “Thank you.” He bowed his head before taking flight. He needed no further detail. Most dragons loved living among nature. He only hated his time in Scotland because of the pressure that put on him. He liked the challenge that the snow-covered island inhabited by his Russian friend offered. If he was correct, there was at least grassland among the stones. Wherever there was wildlife, there were always animals. Dragons were no exception to this logic. He could really tell a significant difference between his English accent and that man’s Australian accent, thinking about it. He also wondered if the dragon that he was seeking, would be hard to understand with the expressions that these people had.
The Dark Dragon could not believe his eyes as he hovered above more than just undergrowth. He saw an immeasurable area of trees. As he glided more, maintaining his altitude, he watched in awe, a riverbed making its way across and falling from the edge of a very high cliff. Now, finding even a dragon in what could have passed for an animal’s paradise was difficult for another dragon, whether the seeker was familiar with the lands or not. Then again, he knew of the energy signature foreign to him. It had become louder and clearer since he found this territory ruled only by animals. He remained airborne as he had his eyes closed and slowly shifted to find the point when the detection would be weaker. After what felt like an hour of doing so, he opened his blood-red eyes again and made his way toward the foam-like waterfall. Suddenly, the black dragon’s curiosity grew on how the Poison Dragon lived. He lowered his altitude as he made his way to the bottom of the waterfall.
He found a large rock that was just big enough for him to perch upon. The energy signature in his senses, was strong, but the one for whom he searched, was nowhere around the lake. He felt stupid, seeing that no one would want to be around a source of noise. So, his next guess was to go up to the top of the cliff. The black dragon felt refreshed as he rose in the air and deliberately having the mists from the waterfall caress his long, scaled, beak-like muzzle and face. That was enough to give him more energy. Ares didn’t let the pressure of the waterfall delay, for he flapped his wings madly.
When Ares made it to the top and alighted on the rock ground at the peak, he found the first surprise that was offered by the country. A very green dragon was perched on the rock on the other side of the stream. The snout was much like that of a snake, the flat head had a long line of spikes like thorns, which went down the neck and the back, and there were two lines of horns, each horn shorter than the previous as the rows went down the back of the head. The wings, green like grass, were folded. The claws were of a faded yellow, and curved like hooks. The spike at the end of the tail, looked like a snake fang, but larger. This had to be the one. Ares knew not whether other dragons than this one, actually lived around here, let alone in Australia at all. The green dragon sat still as if being a statue, but the consistent pattern of the scales said that the dragon was real. Ares listened carefully, and could then hear very low breathing. The creature before him, breathed so slowly that it could have passed for dead. Ares could not hear the heart beating, and refrained from checking for a pulse, finding that it would have been a disturbance. Now the black dragon knew for certain that this dragon was meditating and appeared in a dream state. Ares looked up at the sky, and then quickly looked back at the side of the green dragon’s face. He thought, “Why would one meditate near a place full of noise in midday?” He had to be very close to the creature to know all this, and chose now to back away.
By the time Ares did retreat, the green reptile let light in the eyes, and slowly. The sun’s light flared against the eyes as if they were gleaming jewels. The reptilian eyes that were seen, were emerald green. The head turned so that the gaze would meet Ares’s blood-red eyes. Ares narrowed his eyes, not trusting the dragon that he had just come across. The green dragon then extended the hind legs to stand and slowly approached the Dark Dragon. The emerald eyes narrowed to slits of light. Being a total stranger to Ares, this dragon was unpredictable. The maw finally opened, to speak, “Ssso… the fearsssome bassstard of the dark, comes back a Bourke, and for me of all creaturesss. Why are you here, Demon? To claim more of my country’s territory for that of your ‘ome?”
The word to address him, was what made Ares angry. He lunged forward and tackled the green dragon, and managed to pin her down. He hissed, “I do not take kindly to that word! I flew so far from my home to parley with the dragon to represent the element of Poison!”
“You stand upon her, you dill!” Her voice was very rich, even when she snapped like that.
Ares backed away so she could get back up. As the dragoness rolled over and then turned around, she said, “Even I know what has happened to you an ‘undred years ago, Darkness. I was not all gobsmacked that the Light Dragon refrained from challenging me. I know that other clans have been avoiding seeking me or my predecessors out for centuries.”
Ares asked curiously, “You are offended by the rumours, no? Those about you?”
“Damn fair dinkum, Darkness. There were those who came here in the past, only to never leave. That was in the time before… well, it was a few millennia ago. Since then, it was believed that a feral beast or a murderer resided. In about the sixth century, it became that a dragoness, carrying a poison strong as that of a serpent, killed anyone without pity or regret. What they fail to comprehend, is the natural instinct of us animals. We feel threatened around humans carrying long, slender, and gleaming claws, and we strike out of self-defence.”
Ares nodded. “Only a select few regard such. That was how the dragons in the northern world managed to build their clans. I am really the third generation in the clan that is called the Dark Kingsmen.”
“Why is it called that?” The dragoness asked curiously.
Ares explained, “It was in the time of the Crusades. My predecessor dispatched a squad of wizards and elves to aid the king of England and his knights out to defend the Christians in Jerusalem. As a sign of the loyalty that held out among the brave fighters of the clan, the chieftain named his clan Dark Kingsmen. I wonder why it should be called such, since at this point, England is ruled by a woman. I know no stories of the dark wizards or elves fighting in the Crusades.” His tone changed to bitter as he continued, “The Crusssades are but a dissstant memory. Of all the wars that the countries have set upon each other, we have no reason to be used by, let alone loyal to, non-magic humans in its process. Wizards are only loyal to wizards, and elves to elves.”
The dragoness looked down and to the side, now having a sad look. She then asked, “Why do we fight?”
“Some of us hunger for power. Some of us disagree. Some of us only find amusement in destruction. I expect a war to ensue, and I am the one to start it.” The dragoness then looked at him, curious. Ares continued, “I need you, Poison. You are among the elemental dragons, just like I and my opposite. The elements are out of balance. The Light Dragon’s so-called domain has been suffering and his ego blinds him to the conditions of the residents. However, ‘tis not the non-magic humans among the living that has my concern. We know not whether the effects upon his residents will reach England or any of the other countries. I can assure you, none of us dragons will be able to survive the change in nature. Whether you have a clan is unclear to me. You, if alone, must join my new clan, and the others in the siege upon the foundation controlled by the Light Dragon.”
“My name is Jade”, the dragoness stated. “That is a name easy to remember.”
Ares asked, “What is your decision, Jade?”
Jade sighed. “I cannot help you… I have lived my life in solitude for so long, seeing no other dragon foreign to me until now, and fighting no one at all because of the various beliefs about me. I know not how to fight. You only pinned me because I was not fast enough to act. I will be useless in your war.”
The self-proclaimed god of war leaned forward, saying, “Look at me, Jade.” She reluctantly did so. Ares went on, “I believe that one really can learn from their mistakes.” Without any kind of warning, he pounced toward her, but Jade rolled to the side in time. She swiftly turned around to meet the black dragon’s gaze again. “My point exactly”, Ares stated maintaining a fighting stance. He then slid, scraping against the ground, and tripped Jade. He swiftly got up on his paws and prepared to swing his good paw, but Jade rolled back before the claws impacted into the stone ground.
“Why are you doing thisss?!” Jade snapped.
“If you can best someone of your own kind, you can best anyone smaller.” Ares was perfectly calm. However, with his guard down, Ares couldn’t defend himself in time, for Jade tackled him to the ground and pinned him by his wings as he did to her.
Jade hissed, “How is thisss to help me?”
Ares clawed at her leg, which was enough to disorient her for him to shake her off swiftly and regain his footing. Ares spoke, “My intentions remain honourable. You cannot deny that you have a role in what approaches, representing poison. That is why I want you to be able to fight. Maybe I am judged as evil by all others, but I am a necessary evil now. You know I am right.”
Jade sighed, “Then do what you choose. I shall spar if it is part of restoring the balance of the elements. You were not the only one to sense a disturbance in energies.”
The Dark Dragon played mentor again, and it was toward someone he would have never associated with. The only reason that these two were not allies in the past, was that Ares never thought of flying all the way to Australia to propose a truce. He did make friends with the two dragons that could have been sworn enemies, his motivation being that he found that he could bond with them. He was right about that. Teaching Jade about combat, reminded the Dark Dragon of the times he sparred with his dear comrade. He loved the challenge that the Ice Dragon made, whilst Ares was easy to detect. Things were different. He was in a place that could have been the exact opposite of Russia. Colours flourished on this land at this time of year, which made him concerned of how his home country was to be affected by another absence of his.
Jade needed to be careful on what she would do to her opponent. It was all practice, but Ares had her fight as if her life depended on it, like he always did with his best friend. There was to be no second chance in a fight. The enemy would show no mercy. Ares was given very rough lessons, which he was to learn with next to no rest. That was why he was being rough with Jade as he taught her all that he knew. When the time came, the sparring was to truly begin.
With the training idea dropped, Jade took the contest very seriously. Ares could see the irony in his action, but he may have been desperate about having her consider the role in the upcoming war. Ares chose to pass on the idea to discard the thought of exercise and engage in real mortal combat. The black dragon couldn’t help but feel a little proud that he was being given a challenge by someone who never had a skirmish with another dragon before in her life. She had much to learn with time that she was pinned down, ending every round.
Unfortunately, each loss made her a little more reckless, which Ares could determine by her sounds, and that disappointed him. He refrained from mentioning anything about the ego, hoping that Jade would figure it out by herself. Over the two days that passed, Ares expected Jade to be more of a skilled fighter. She did have skill. There was something that she lacked, but he could not place it, until it came with another round that she lost. It was her aura. He could always sense a dragon’s aura, and Jade’s was dim from his perspective.
The blood-red eyes becoming dull, was his sign of disappointment, and Jade could see that. On that evening when Ares found the root of the problem, Jade decided that she was not up to another skirmish, and wanted to be alone so she could meditate. Much ran through her mind whenever she meditated. She now had the time to go over the two days of the serious game. She could learn from her mistakes. What she tried, was thinking of a strategy, for Jade knew for a fact that Ares had participated in many fights. It was by the time the last of the sunlight was about to depart the land, when she knew for certain. She found that she was holding back. She didn’t believe that she was fighting with her life on the line. That was something that needed to change.
It was on the following day when the sun was at its highest when Jade challenged Ares to another fight. He was about to inform her that he had given up on her and insult her. That was why Jade challenging the self-proclaimed god of war to a fight, surprised him. He reluctantly, but gladly, accepted the challenge. To start, Ares sent a black beam straight up to the sky, and almost instantly, a cloud was created, and it slowly expanded until there was shade over the rich plant growth where Jade had been when Ares found her. He stalled her long enough to make it happen. Jade was playing by her rules, and Ares was playing by his. The Dark Dragon fired another beam from his mouth, which disoriented Jade long enough for him to seem to vanish. She knew that he wasn’t being cowardly. He wanted to play a game of cat and mouse. The question was: who had which role? The Poison Dragon knew that her opponent in the serious game was a stealth master. He could use anything as cover, and he was quite fast. There was no light to determine where he was. Suddenly, Jade felt herself being shoved to the ground. Finding that move very obvious now, the green dragoness quickly rolled over and thrust herself out of her opponent’s grasp. By the time she looked back again, he was away. She was nowhere near scared, and kept her guard up. The green dragoness waited as she stood in one spot, and then quickly jumped up to make a half-flip while rolling. She was out of the way of Ares’s pounce attack. She swiftly spun around once her paws were on the ground, and then spat her poison toward her opponent. Ares managed to evade the blot of fluid and let it touch the ground. That was merely a distraction, for Jade lunged toward him. He leapt up. He knew that with the right timing, he could have their claws lock, which they did. Both dragons stood on their hind legs, with their forepaws in each other’s grips. Ares breathed deep and shoved Jade down, but he didn’t pin her. He didn’t have enough time. So, he leapt with his wings flapping and flipped in the air. He spun around, just when he had his good paw digging into the dirt. Jade was stunned by this maneuver of his, but she had to wait to give her admiration. The two dragons then circled one another, contemplating on what their next moves were to be.
Ares leapt toward Jade, and spun on his hind legs as he swung his wings as a stun, and pushed her head against the ground and held one of her paws down as well. She couldn’t reach with her claws or her wings. So, she tried opening her maw. She only needed it ajar. She only succeeded in growling and baring her teeth. She then started to screech as she furiously struggled free. She was flapping her wings, whipping her tail, and flailing her legs like mad, until she dug deep enough into the soil for her restrained paw to slip under Ares’s paw. She gave Ares a scratch, which weakened his grip, and gave her the chance to pull herself up.
Jade didn’t hesitate to strike back. She gave another scratch with her paw and flipped forward so she could whip his head with her tail. She brought him to the ground with one paw on his shoulder, and the other on his head. She then dove her head down with her open maw, her snake-like fangs ready to bite him and poison him.
The black dragon gave what he could see of the green dragoness, a toothy grin. He was finally pleased that they now made progress. Jade got off him so he could get up. Now he could sense that her aura was radiant and rich. He assumed at first that Jade wasn’t up to this, and was instead a hindrance. Still, Ares wanted to know that Jade could at least fight like a true warrior. So, within minutes, he regained his strength and challenged Jade again. Despite each of the green dragoness’s consecutive wins to follow, Ares wanted to make her use more energy.
There were only short breaks between each round, making all of them take only the rest of the day and most of the evening. By the time night fell, the end of the final skirmish between the two dragons, ended. They were then perched upon the stone by the stream that led to the waterfall. Ares obviously liked the night view from the stone ledge much more than the day view. With the dark energy to influence the weather, the night was greeted by rain.
“Where will you go from here, Darkness?” The Poison Dragon asked after a moment of feeling the rain.
Ares replied, “I shall return to London. My new clan mussst have something to report on.”
Steering onto the subject of clans, Jade asked, “Think you would rename it?” She remembered perfectly well how bitter Ares was about the name for the reason it was such.
“I did consider for a while”, the black dragon said lowly. “But I could never find sssomething as meaningful.”
Jade chose not to press further. Instead she shared a thought: “How will I know when the time comes for me to join you in your siege?”
Ares looked at her very intently. She did have a point. Not all dragons could locate one another so easily. He thought about this. How would Jade and the others know when he was to even declare siege? He sighed, “Hopefully, that is not a priority at the moment?” He changed his tone as he looked to the dark sky, feeling the rain touch his snout and run along his muzzle. “There is another problem. I know not the layout of the Light Dragon’s domain. I want to know if what I am told is true. I also want to know of the condition of the citizens, both the magic and the non-magic.” Lowering his head and looking back at the green dragoness, he finished, “Someone has to know his land as well as he does.”
Jade protested, “But he knows your energy signature, no? When he detects it, he will anticipate your plan, whatever it is.”
Ares narrowed his blood-red eyes to slits, as if what he heard offended him. However, Jade triggered something else in him, for he said calmly despite his expression, “Poison, I was in love with someone before, and she is long dead. Furthermore, the elemental law dictates that two dragons, each one representing a different element, cannot be mates.”
Still, the Poison Dragon could not comprehend what prompted this. However, she did get steered onto the subject, for she replied, “I never said anything about love. This is strictly business. You still make a point. You should not worry about such a thing. Maybe you will find another mate. There is nothing to prevent love.”
“You envy me, do you not?”
Jade looked down and sighed, “I do.” Looking up again with glassy eyes, she went on, “The dragons that live in Australia are very solitary. The mothers raise their chicks alone. There are no wizards born here. The humans that do find us without weapons, requested to have our poison as a weapon against their enemies. We would always deny that request, for we cannot trust them or believe why they say that they want our poison. It is also to keep other animals from being killed so cruelly.”
“What makes it so cruel?” Ares interjected.
“My poison is the kind that goes to the brain and nerves. It damaged the nervous system and makes the subject lose sanity before being tortured from the inside until the heart permanently stops.” She sounded ashamed of what she was for what she possessed.
The black dragon offered his sympathy once again. He placed his good paw on her shoulder. He spoke, “I have been judged for being evil just because of how I look and what I represent. I always took offense when the humans called me “Devil”, “Satan”, or worst of all, “Lucifer”. Those that joined my clan so long ago, knew what I truly am: a being of honour.”
Jade hissed lowly, “I shall honour you. I promise to take on the Light Dragon’s forces. I intend to keep that promise.”
Ares gave a toothy grin, pleased by this. Though it was only words, he knew that she meant them. He responded, “That is all I ask.” The two unlikely allies, though temporary at that, curled up under the dark sky, sharing the comfort that the rain offered. They enjoyed each other’s company, knowing that they both felt like outcasts all their lives. A big day awaited what the humans viewed as the embodiment of evil. Despite the turn of the tables, Ares didn’t even think about gloating.
When the Dark Dragon woke from his sleep, he was pleased to see that the clouds were in the sky, even after hours. He couldn’t see Jade by his side at all when he was minding his plantation surroundings. He had an assumption on where he would be. So, after stretching the sleep out of him, he went to the stone ledge to the waterfall, finding her perched, positioned just like she was when he found her. Jade was in meditation. Judging by the angles of the shade that could be spotted, she preferred to meditate in the sunrise. Looking at her from behind, Ares thought, “I will return here, someday. Maybe you will not be so lonely…” He knew not his bearings, but he was to recognise something when he was travelling. He leapt into the air and flapped his swings as swiftly and silently as possible, not wanting to disturb Jade. There was still something on his mind, which had to be dismissed as he was mentally bidding the amazing land farewell.