This is the beginnings of a story I'm working on. I just joined the community and was hoping to get some feedback. It is far from finished but I would love to know what people think. If you have a piece you would like me to read for feedback I'd love to!
What the rest of the world has forgotten about the Skayl is that they were once humans. When the dragons first arose from their slumber to burn the world there was a small group of scientists and researchers who recognized the threat and our inability to defend against it. After a time, they became an official organization and began working under the name Calamity. I never could quite tell if that was just their idea of dark humor during what many thought was humanity’s last stand on Earth.
When the time came that Calamity asked for volunteers, my father was one of the first to step forward. I never saw him as a man again and I hated him for it for a long time, but, much later in my life, I would realize he had only been doing what he had always done. Pledge his life to protect his family with everything he had.
Our goodbyes were said quickly and without much emotion. I had grown accustomed to him leaving for prolonged periods of time during his service in the military, and more especially afterwards when he became an advisor to a particularly prominent ambassador. This time was different though because he didn’t just hug me, tell me he’d call when he arrived, get in the cab and drive off. This time, he stood at arms length and gave me a stern gaze I had only seen when he was dealing with a difficult situation and he needed to ensure the person receiving instruction understood him fully and completely.
“Well kiddo,” damn it, kiddo, always meant he was about to tell me something I distinctly did not want to hear, “I may finally found myself in a little over my head. I need to you promise me something.”
“What?” hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep the slight waver from my voice.
“No matter what happens, you must absolutely not come try and find me,” he stared at me levelly but patiently, waiting for me to process his request and come to a decision on my own, “what I have volunteered to do is more dangerous than anything I have ever done before.”
I went from nervous to full blown scared on the verge of panic, “What have you volunteered for dad?”
“I am to be one of the first to have dragons blood introduced into my veins. The scientists in calamity claim to have found a way to do it that makes a man faster and stronger. My participation will allow them to study the effects and refine the process so we can have a fighting chance against them.”
I knew the look my father had in his eyes then; he was reliving old battles and dreaming of new ones. The saddest day in his life had been his retirement ceremony. It meant he could be a soldier anymore, couldn’t share in the hardship and horror that was war and would no longer be a part of the bond of brotherhood that had given him purpose for almost thirty years.
The golden dragon huffed, What an amusing memory is there more?
There is much more this one has to offer us, the white female said wearily, his defenses are quite good though and I will need to rest a while before continuing.
No, they have almost worked up enough courage to venture into the Forge, the black dragon said testily, You may borrow from my strength.
The white dragon shuddered as she drew upon her partner’s power, Is this what the battle-rage feels like, she asked, how do you control this power, it is… intoxicating.
I was fifteen when my father left and my sister was twelve. She never forgave him and when the word came that Calamity wanted to see us, she flat out refused to go.
“Sis, you have to go. We don’t have the ability to say no,” I said for what felt like the thousandth time that morning.
My sister looked at me petulantly, very nearly pouting. She had become prettier as she grew older but I knew she was going to be a beautiful woman and a mountain of trouble for me.
“I’m not going and there is nothing you can say to change my mind. If father wanted to see us, why did he wait three years to send for us?”
“We’re not going to see father,” I immediately regretted the words as I watched the emotions flit across her young face. First shock, then anger, then sadness, and finally back to anger.
“And just why aren’t we going to see him? Doesn’t he want to see us after all this time? Doesn’t he love us?”
I felt like the world’s worst big brother as I watched her dark blue eyes overflow with tears and storm off.
By the end of the night we had finished packing and my sister was sleeping soundly in her bed. No matter what I did though, I couldn’t sleep at all. Unlike my sister, I knew who we were going to meet tomorrow and to say I was nervous was like calling the ocean a pond.
In the morning, a car would arrive to take us to Calamity Headquarters in Tahoe. Once there we would meet with the leader of Calamity herself, Sennica Zale. I didn’t know what she wanted with us but I had a suspicion it had something to do with my father. It was not like him to not have sent for us at all and stranger even than that was the letters had stopped arriving after one year.
In the morning, two men came to the door and grabbed our bags and led us to the car. They packed everything without saying a word and gestured for us to get in the car. There was something not quite right about the men. They were clothed in black robes from head to toe and their faces were covered in grey veils which completely obscured their features.
The weirdest thing by far was the way they moved. Their movements were so fluid it was almost primal - and it terrified me. Just before we left one of them turned to us and asked if either of us got motion sick, and if so, would we like some anti-nausea medicine. I said I would and he produced a small pill from somewhere in the folds of his robes. I note he took pains to avoid touching my hand in any way even though he wore black gloves.
“If you need it, there is water inside the car,” he said in a voice surprisingly high pitched for a man of his size. With a start I realized he was in fact a she and after a quickly mumbled ‘thanks’ I ducked in the car before she could see the color rising in my cheeks.
Despite what Isabelle had said the night before, I had known she would come. She needed answers to the questions surrounding our father’s disappearance more than I did and this was the only chance of getting them. I glanced at her face and she clambered in behind me and noticed a far off look in her eyes.
“Did you sleep okay?”
“Not too bad, you?”
“Horribly,” I smiled at her through the gritty sand feeling in my eyes and the exhaustion clawing at my bones.
I reached for the bottle of water in the cup holder next to me and took the medicine the woman had given me. After a few moments I felt a different kind of tiredness sweep through my body and I allowed the gentle rocking of the car to send me into the blissful sleep of the exhausted.
When I awoke a few hours later we were high in the mountains. Isabelle had rolled down the window and I took a deep breath of the fresh mountain air. I had loved the smell of evergreen trees since my childhood and the smell brought a slew of pleasant memories.
I leaned forward and asked how close we were.
“About ten more minutes and you will be able to see the lake and the for- mansion,” the woman who had given me the medicine replied. She had a pleasant voice that reminded me of a teacher from my high school who never seemed to run out of patience for of her students no matter how difficult they were. “Once we arrive I will escort you to your rooms and you can take an hour to freshen up and get settled in. After that Ms. Zale wants to meet you two personally.”
“I don’t know why,” her partner huffed. His voice, for he was indeed male, was deep and unfriendly but had a quality that made me think he might have a nice singing voice. “It isn’t like their father is anything to be proud of these days.”
“That is not your place!” The woman hissed, “And you will keep silent for the rest of the drive unless you want me to inform Saffrin of your insubordination!”
The man seemed ready with an angry response but just as I thought he was about to speak he huffed again and said nothing more. Isabelle and I spent of the rest of the ride attempting to ignore the now awkward silence and the mild irritation at being treated like children.
As the woman had said, we soon came around a corner and the lake came into view. It was a beautiful sight in the midday sunlight. The sun was glinting off the waves making the deep blue water sparkle as if encrusted with so many diamonds. The mansion was almost as impressive and looked more like a castle than a house. It was easily five stories tall and made entirely out of stone. It even had a curtain wall complete with a cullis gate, archer towers, and sentries roaming the perimeter.
The gate was open when we arrived and closed with barely a sound after we had passed. The man parked the car in the front and proceeded to exit and unload our bags. Unlike when he picked us up though, he didn’t immediately begin to carry them inside which was just fine by me.
“I’m sorry for the comment I made about your father,” the man grated with his eyes lowered, “I hope you will understand and be able to forgive me after speaking with Ms. Zale. Your father is not a very liked right now.”
Without another word he returned to the vehicle and drove out of sight. I turned to the woman and a thought occurred to me.
“Ma’am, I apologize for not doing this before, but my name is Collin and this is my sister Isabelle. I don’t believe you mentioned your name,” I smiled in what I hoped was something passing for charming and to my surprise the woman laughed. It was not an unpleasant sound.
“I know of both of you. Your father spoke of you constantly during our training and I remember his staying up late slaving over his letters to you. My name is Sahna and the mannerless ogre who drove is Suhlin,” she looked at both of us and I got the distinct impression she was smiling, though it was impossible to tell under the veil.
She gestured for us to follow her and grabbed a couple bags. Isabelle and I grabbed the remaining bags and did our best to catch up with her long stride. She noticed us struggling to keep up after about fifty feet or so and slowed down.
As we ascended the stairs leading up to the house I noticed how simple everything was. There was not expensive looking marble or precious stones anywhere that I could see. The doors were large enough two buses could have driven through side by side and had room to spare. Inside was no more ornate. It seemed the decorator hadn’t been by yet or perhaps the owner of the mansion just preferred functionality over glamour.
We followed Sahna up two flights of stairs and took a left down the hallway. After about fifteen doors she stopped and turned to Isabelle, “this is your room darling. I will come to get you in one hour.”
Isabelle didn’t even look at me as she went into her assigned room. Despite what Sahna had said about us seeing Ms. Zale, I had the distinct impression I wasn’t going to see Isabelle for some time.
Sahna turned around and went back down the hallway to the stairs. We ascended one more flight and turned right on the third floor landing. This time we only went about five or six doors before stopping.
She turned and stood staring down at me for a moment before speaking and I could tell she was doing her best to choose her words very carefully.
“You will be given a choice by Ms. Zane and on the surface it will seem simple and exciting,” she took a deep breath, “whether you decide to stay or not, your life and your sister’s life are going to change forever tonight.”
The tone of her voice was even more serious than when she had chastised Suhlin in the car.
“I’m going to show you something because I don’t want your meeting to be the first time you have seen it. Let’s step inside,” she moved past me and stepped into my room. Funny how I was already thinking of it as my room, I think I had already made the decision to stay. There was nothing for me in my old life and I thought I was ready for a new one.