Tales of the Driss, Krystal Dragons
Copyright © 2017 Shara Maude
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Cover design by Emma Rider at Moonstruck Cover Designs and Photography
For my friends and family.
Jerrick wondered where his younger brother was. He had sent the lad, Kerrick, out into the world to gather their people, the Driss. They’d been scattered by the Trow, who hunted them. After this father’s death, Jerrick remained in the north, the country of Lunaris, where he served as king. But the High Laudriss, the ruling body of his people, decided they wanted to gather their wandering brethren and fortify here in the north. The leaders chose Kerrick as the envoy. Obligated to comply, Jerrick remained to protect the new kingdom from the constant threat by the Trow and Tresser, dark elves and their cousins who wanted nothing more than to destroy Jerrick’s people. He also guarded against people who mistrusted the Driss which was anyone who wasn’t one of them.
He and Kerrick lived through everything together; from the wanderings of their youth to their finally having found a homeland in Lunaris. Born on the road, the two witnessed many things and suffered through countless hardships from being hunted to being denied shelter before arriving here. They built their Father a palace from stone and wood. A simple fortress, but it was home to them.
Jerrick sat at his desk late one night. Random thoughts of his brother distracted him from looking over his father’s books and papers, searching for any word of the Krystal Dragons. The four crystalline dragon statues were made of ruby, jade, opal, and sapphire. When brought together at the southern Krystal Fortress, they created a shield to protect the Driss from any enemy thus allowing all his people to return to their own land.
This was Jerrick’s task. His burden. His people needed to be restored to their home. He put his head in his hands as he strained his eyes to see the words on the parchments in the dim candlelight. Jerrick never expected his role as king to be easy. In fact, he expected the opposite. His Father certainly had a hard time of it. Why should his time be any better?
He sighed as he thumbed through one of his Father’s journals. He scanned the old pages for any helpful clue. The dim candlelight made concentrating on the pages even harder. His mind wandered back to Kerrick. He remembered that night in the kitchen when he told Kerrick that he’d been chosen to go. The two brothers shared a brotherly moment while celebrating with victorious drinking after battling the Trow. The Trow always came for them. Any small victory against them was worth celebrating.
The brothers were the only ones left awake in the fortress. The room was lit with dimly flickering candles that were nearly spent in a puddle of melting wax. The two sat on the long wooden table that was usually where the servants prepared food. Tonight, there were two happily drunk Driss lads, enjoying a night of song and drink. Jerrick knew that the cheerful mood wouldn’t last. Not when he informed Kerrick of the High Laudriss’s decision.
“Kerrick,” Jerrick said, “the Council of the High Laudriss wishes to re-assemble our people.”
“Splendid,” Kerrick said, “and how do they propose we do that?”
“They wish to send an ambassador to gather them. They asked me to choose someone to send.”
“And have you made a decision?”
“Yes,” Jerrick replied. He looked into his brother’s dark eyes, “I have chosen you, brother.”
“What?” Kerrick said the color drained from his face. He nearly dropped the mug he’d been trying so hard not to drop. “You want to send me?”
“Yes, I think it would be good for you to go out into the world.”
“Did you ever think for one moment that I wouldn’t want to?” Kerrick asked.
Jerrick thought about it. Then he realized that he hadn’t really thought about it. He just assumed that Kerrick would accept the assignment. “No, I didn’t think of that. Are you saying you don’t wish to go?”
Kerrick gave a nervous laugh and said, “I don’t know. It’s a heavy decision to make. And you’re just kind of springing it on me. Have you told anyone else?”
“Have you considered anyone else?”
He slapped his brother’s shoulder. “No.”
“And you think I’m the best man for the job?”
“I think you’re the only man for the job. You’re a Driss prince, one of the last of the royal line. Our people will trust you, Kerrick.”
“Is this what you want?” Kerrick said.
“Yes. I need you to do this for me, Kerrick. For our people.”
It was a bit unfair, Jerrick knew. He had given Kerrick no other choice. His brother nodded. “If this is what you want, then I will go.”
“You have my thanks, brother,” Jerrick said. “You have my thanks.”
Kerrick left soon after. They said goodbye to each other down by the gates to the city. There was a reluctant look on Kerrick’s face. Jerrick put his hands on his brother’s shoulders. He knew his brother was scared, though he would never say it.
“You will be fine, brother,” Jerrick said. “I will see you again in a few months. Be careful when you’re crossing through the lands of men. They cannot be trusted.”
“I will be a careful brother.”
Jerrick looked up through the trees. He could see the blue sky and could feel the warmth of the sun filtering down through the branches. “It’s a beautiful day to start out,” Jerrick said. He embraced his brother in a fierce hug. “Take care of yourself, Kerrick. Come back to me. What would I do without you?”
“Who knows?” Kerrick chuckled. He turned from his brother and walked away into the wilds.
Several months passed and Jerrick began to worry. He shuffled through the journal pages. There was nothing. Why did his father leave him no clues? Did the old king not want him to reinstate their people in the fortress? It made no sense. His father was a complex Driss. Merrick never spoke about anything that happened before the Fortress fell. As far as the king was concerned, his life started anew upon arriving in the north. He and his wife lived happily here, in the fortress built for him by his sons. When the queen died, there was no consoling the king. Merrick, like other Driss, suffered a common malady and died soon after the queen.
Jerrick had been fifty when his father died. Even though he’d just come of age, he was ready to take on the reins of the kingdom. However, he wished he had someone to share the burden.
A knock at the door distracted him. He had no idea who would visit him this late at night. “Come in.”
Wolfnoth opened the heavy wooden door and stepped into the study. Younger than Jerrick, he was meek for a member of the High Laudriss but a good friend and often sided with Jerrick. He carried a candle with him and was on his way to bed. Wolfnoth put his hand over his mouth and yawned. He came and stood across the desk from Jerrick. “It’s very late, your Majesty.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Do you have something on your mind?” The younger Driss yawned again.
“I miss my brother, I did not think I would miss him so much, but I do.”
“That is understandable, your Majesty,” Wolfnoth said. “I am sure he misses you as well.”
“Should I have sent him?” Jerrick mused.
“There was really no one else, your Majesty. The Driss will trust him. They will trust in his lineage.”
Jerrick smiled. “You’re right. I shouldn’t worry so much. And it is well past time to go to bed. I will find no Krystal Dragons tonight.”
Jerrick closed the journal he had been looking through and blew out the candle on his desk. It was time for bed.
Kerrick traveled the wilds for many months. He passed through the lands of gnomes, the lands of men, and came at last, to the edge of the Broken Forest. He had heard rumors while in the man Kingdom, the Driss would pass this way. He decided to see if it was true. What he found there amazed him.
A Driss caravan full of men, women, and children camped there for a while. Their wagons were old but they still serviceable and offered shelter. They acted well and happy. Still, it was Kerrick’s job to find out who they were and to try and get them to come back with him.
Kerrick approached a Driss man who lounged on a high seat near the lead wagon. The man acted like he was in charge of the group. He was taller than the others with long dark hair and a roguish grin.
“Excuse me, sir. Are you the leader here?”
The leader looked down at him with a smile. “Yes, I suppose you could say that,” He said. “My name is Anders. What can I do for you?”
“I am Kerrick, son of Merrick. I have been sent by the King to find our people and bring them north.”
“You’re the son of the King?”
“I am son to King Merrick, who is no longer with us. My orders have come from my brother, Jerrick. He is the current king.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, your Highness. However, I don’t know if my people would want to go with you. We like our wanderer’s ways.”
“Where have you traveled?”
“Ah, we’d planned eventually to come to the north, but mostly we stay south of the Broken Forest. This is the first time we’ve been north of it for some time.”
“But why would you wish to keep wandering? We have a palace and a Kingdom in the north. What would keep you out here when you could come with me and be with others like yourself?”
The Driss pointed off into the forest. “On the other side of those tattered brambles is a place. The place that Driss are meant to belong. The Krystal Fortress. Our home before the Trow drove us away.”
Kerrick said, “the Krystal Fortress?”
The Driss nodded solemnly. He smiled at Kerrick again. “Would you like to see it? We can take you there.”
“That wouldn’t interfere with your plans?”
Anders shrugged. “What plans? We’ll go tomorrow. For now, you may sleep in our wagon, you look as though you would take any roof over your head.”
Kerrick laughed, “It has been a while. Thank you for your hospitality.”
“No worries,” Anders said.
Anders wandered away. Kerrick looked around and noticed several women sitting around a fire helping to cook the evening meal. He saw her and he knew that he had to know her. She was the woman with the long red-gold locks and the sapphire eyes. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. There was nothing Kerrick wanted to know more than her name.
That night, when everyone who was going to sleep got ready to do so. She came and sat next to the fire near Kerrick. The woman had a perplexed look on her face as if there was something about him that she did not quite understand.
“Is there a problem?” He asked.
“It is your hair,” She said as she reached her hand out and touched it. “It is golden, like a woman’s.”
Kerrick frowned. “So, people have told me.” He pushed her hand away. “Was there something else that you wanted?”
“You really live in one place?” She asked, “you don’t move around as we do?”
“I have not wandered for many years. My brother and I helped our father build his kingdom in the north. We lived with him there until he died. Now my brother Jerrick is King and I am his ambassador. He has sent me to gather our people.”
“Gather your people?”
“The Driss. All of us. We will be stronger if we fortify in the north, and then maybe, when we are truly strong, we can take back our lands in the south.”
“And what if we don’t wish to come?” She asked, fiddling with a strand of her own hair.
“If you don’t want to come? Don’t you wish for a home, a place where you can stay and won’t have to move from? Roots?”
“Trees need roots. People do not. They can carry their roots with them.”
“So, I assume what you’re saying is that your people will not come with me?” He gave a long sigh.
“You can ask the others when we meet with them at the crossroads. Some might, but my brother may not find it a good idea to join you in your fortification.”
“There are others?” Kerrick asked.
“Yes. We should catch up to them in a few days at the crossroads.”
“Then I will ask them if they will come.”
“Alright,” she said.
She made ready to get up, but Kerrick stopped her. “May I know your name?” He asked.
She looked at him, and her sapphire eyes meeting his black eyes in the firelight. “I am Lusa.”
“Lusa?” He repeated, “well, it’s good to meet you.”
“It’s good to meet you too, Kerrick, son of Merrick. Goodnight to you.” She left him and went to the trailer where the unmarried women slept. Kerrick slept in the wagon with Anders and his young friends. It was a decent roof, but a little too close for comfort. They had readily accepted him. They certainly didn’t have to. He was an outsider, even among them. They had just chosen to do so. Kerrick was happy that they had. He had to convince them to come or this whole journey will have been for nothing.
As the caravan made its way south, Kerrick spent most of his nights wrapped in his blanket on the wagon seat. Nights were still warm this late in the summer.
They reached the crossroads and found no one there. Perhaps when they returned, Anders suggested. They moved on to the south. Going around the forest was not the most expedient way to travel, but it was the safest. Only the elves knew the hidden paths through the forest. The road was not well maintained. The Driss caravans had passed this way often, but they didn’t do anything for the road which was now bumpy and grassy. The closer they got to the fortress, the bumpier things got. This place had been abandoned for far too long.
The fortress loomed; a tall jagged tower of stone. It was not fancy or extravagant, but it was a symbol of power. It was the Krystal Fortress, created thousands of years ago by Driss who knew the secrets of the Krystal Dragons. The fortress stood empty. The Trow and Tresser had followed the Driss to the north, leaving their conquered territory to decay.
Still, Kerrick couldn’t help but go into that place. Search the empty stone halls, look at the items that had been left behind when the Driss had abandoned this place. See the skeletons of the ones that were unable to escape. This had been home to his Father and his Father before that. But Jerrick and Kerrick had never known this place. They were born as their parents traveled to the north. It seemed the halls were filled with angry ghosts. Ghosts that would stay there until their deaths and people were avenged. None of the others joined him in that place. They camped outside. Kerrick knew that they felt it was best to leave the past in the past. At least for now.
That night, he made the royal suite his bedchamber. He had cleared off what had been the bed and put his own blanket there, the old bedding was moth-eaten. Everything was filthy. He still felt like making the effort, though. He hoped that someday this place would be his home. Or at least he could dream. Since the bedchamber was on the top floor, it was easy to see everything through the glassless windows. From the bed, he could see the stars in the clear night sky and feel the breeze as it wafted through the dusty room.
Someone came and lay down next to him in the dark. At first, Kerrick was scared, but then he realized it was Lusa and knew it was safe. “What are you doing here?” He asked.
“I wanted to get out of that wagon. I’ve slept in that wagon for most of my life, and I just wanted to sleep somewhere else tonight.”
“Alright, but why with me?”
“Would you like me to leave?” She asked. She sounded a bit miffed at him as if she really didn’t want to leave. Then part of him wondered if he really wanted her to. “None of the others will come in and I would like to be close to somebody. I just wanted to see this place for myself. Just like you. But I can leave if you like.”
“No,” He said. “Stay.”
She said nothing more. She lay by his side quietly and was soon asleep. Something about her being there with him perplexed him. What was it that she wanted? He curled up next to her and went to sleep.
They camped in that place for a week, and each night she slept with him. He was becoming used to having her there. They spent their days together, wandering the halls of the fortress and taking care of the people together. Kerrick did what he could to try and make himself a part of their group, living with the caravaneers, eating with them, making them part of his day. Lusa was very much a part of that. She brought him closer to the group. She was there to support all of them. Soon enough, he expected her there. And finally, he was ready for her to do more than just sleep by his side. The night before they would journey back to the crossroads, they made love for the first time. It was that night that he realized that he loved Lusa. And it was clear to him that she loved him back.
On the journey back to the crossroads, they slept in different wagons again. As far as Kerrick knew, no one knew about what they had done. When they finally reached the crossroads again, Kerrick was amazed to find that there was indeed a gathering of Driss there. And not a small gathering either. There were probably a thousand Driss there altogether. Men, women, children. All of them with their wagons and whatever they had to sell or trade. This was more than Kerrick could have ever hoped for.
As the Driss from Anders’s caravan dispersed within the larger group to trade and conduct other business, Anders took Kerrick aside for a moment. “I assume this is what you were hoping for,” Anders said.
“Yes,” Kerrick said. “I am surprised by how many there are.”
“There may be more still. We have not heard from our brethren who lay further to the southwest and east. There may be even more than this.”
“I see,” Kerrick said.
Anders slapped him on the back. “Very good. Tonight, we celebrate, for tomorrow is a most joyous occasion!”
“What occasion is that?” Kerrick asked.
Anders gave a laugh. “Tomorrow, you marry my sister,” he said. “What, did you actually think we didn’t know?”
“It’s alright. She loves you. Or so she’s said. But just know, if you hurt my sister, I will kill you myself.”
“Duly noted,” Kerrick said, taken aback by the threat.
“Come, brother. We celebrate,” Anders said as he pulled Kerrick into the gathering.