Chapter 8

Ghaleon paced back and forth in the ruined room. He could not help but recall how it had once been. How all the city had once been. Elegant in its simplicity, opulent in its riches, Vane had truly been a city worthy of the skies.

Now, it was ruins. The fineries had long since been carried away by looters, the soaring architecture had been shattered and lay yet unrepaired.

He had already begun his search for Althena. For all that it lacked, Vane had no shortage of soil which he could form into simulacrums. Those tiny winged creatures had soared far.

Ghaleon did not like what they saw.

All of Lunar was in ruins. Without Althena’s guidance, the people had turned upon each other. The cities and towns had fallen into disrepair, the populace driven to banditry or made victims of it. Only Meribia remained - commerce of all sorts passed through there, protected by the great merchants. But only so long as they were strong enough to protect.

If only Dyne and Althena had understood! How could they not have seen what he did?

But there was no question now. When Ghaleon next met Althena, he would surely have no difficulty convincing her. Surely what this world had become was proof enough.

But how to find Althena?

One thing which had not changed on Lunar was the prevalence of magic. If anything, it was more common now than ever before. Ghaleon’s simulacrums could not penetrate the barriers which abounded all over the world. With no way to know which had been placed to ward Althena and which were the work of mortal mages, he could not rely on such means.

Scrying was of no more use. He had no focus to use, and even as clear as his memories of Althena were, they were inadequate for the task.

All his hopes now waited on the arrival of Nall.

It irked Ghaleon that he had to rely on the dragon’s aid. Old enmities died hard, particularly among the immortals. If the young white dragon were to realize the position in which he could place Ghaleon...

No.

That must not be allowed to come to pass.

He looked up.

One of the watchers he had posted around the ruins - he hesitated to even think of this place as Vane - had found its quarry.

Ghaleon smiled.

A few passes of his hand, and he stood at the entrance to the ruins.

The first thing which struck him was that Nall had not elected to alter his form in the intervening years. “I see you have yet to assume your proper draconic dignity,” Ghaleon said.

Nall, still in the form of a small, winged feline, spun in the air. “Ghaleon?” he whispered.

Ghaleon smiled. “Yes, Nall. It is I.”

“But you’re dead!” Nall said. “I saw you die myself!”

“It would seem that you were mistaken, as I am most certainly alive.” Ghaleon held up his hand. “This is most fortuitous... not only, for obvious reasons, for myself, but also for you. Or rather... for the one you protect.”

Nall came to rest upon one of the ruined walls across the plaza from Ghaleon. His small red eyes blazed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

“You have no reason to lie to me, Nall. I mean you no harm.” That, Ghaleon thought, was not entirely correct. Although he would not object to doing harm to Nall, it simply wasn’t an option, and was unlikely to become one in the future.

“Yeah, right.” Nall glared at Ghaleon, which would have been rather more intimidating from a different visage. “Like you meant the last four dragons no harm?”

Ghaleon lowered his eyes. “That was... unfortunate. I must offer you my condolences and apology. I have reflected on my past actions and... I cannot justify those actions.”

“That’s for sure,” Nall said. “But I don’t believe you for a second.”

Then why aren’t you leaving, little dragon, Ghaleon thought. There was just the slightest hint of doubt in Nall’s voice. But the slightest doubt could be expanded. And would be. “I must make reparations to Althena for what I have done,” Ghaleon said.

“Althena?” Nall laughed. “So that’s what you want. You won’t get far there, Ghaleon. Althena isn’t going to see you.”

Ghaleon took a step forward. “You must take me to see her!”

For just an instant, Nall allowed Ghaleon a glimpse of his full draconic form. He had grown considerably in sixty years, and his white-scaled body filled most of the plaza. “Be careful with that must, Ghaleon,” Nall said, returning to his normal feline shape. “You won’t catch me by surprise, and I’ve fought a lot more recently than Quark had.”

Ghaleon wasn’t afraid of Nall. Regardless of what he said, the white dragon was far weaker than Ghaleon, even without taking into account the five True Runes which Ghaleon bore. But a confrontation of that sort would be wasteful. “I do not wish to fight you, Nall.”

“I don’t want to fight you, either, but you’d better believe that I will.” The white dragon lifted into the air again. “As for seeing Althena - you’re not the first one whose asked, and you probably won’t be the last. I don’t care if you’ve reformed or not. You, and everybody else, had better figure out that Althena isn’t coming back this time.”

“What do you mean by that?” Ghaleon demanded. He raised his hand, but pulled it back at the last moment. He could not afford to frighten away his former foe.

It was too late. Nall had already taken wing.

“Answer me!” Ghaleon shouted.

But there was no answer.

Despite that, Ghaleon smiled. He would soon have the information he needed, one way or another.

Perhaps he would not be told where Althena was.

But he would be led there.