Ultimas Drake | Verso.ink

Ultimas Drake

By MIchael Young

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Meckule fidgeted in his ceremonial attire, wondering whose name he needed to curse for coming up with such fickle clothing. Not for the first time, he wished he had been born in the Dorian Clan instead of the Scarlatti. Then, he would have been brought up as a master of disguise, and there would be no need for so much fuss about actual clothing.
He closed his eyes and breathed out, releasing a bit of Essence into the air. Working quickly before it dissipated, he exerted his will upon it, casting a subtle spell that would straighten his clothing. The high collar stiffened, the brightly embroidered gold and scarlet jacket smoothed, and his knickers and tights lost every blemish. Even his obscenely expensive wig managed to reclaim all its stray hairs.
Now, he was ready to face the public.
With a white-gloved hand, he pushed away the heavy blue drape in front of him and stepped out into the open. The flash of a dozen recording crystals nearly blinded him as he put on his best benevolent-benefactor-of-the-public face. He left one hand close to the deep pocket that contained the blackmail note, a mere scrap of parchment he had found last night affixed to his desk with a bloody dagger.
Behind him, several of his servants waited with their hands on an enormous black cloth, waiting to unveil at a moment’s notice. Meckule did not like holding public announcements in the mine, though in this case, there had been no choice. He had to let them see for themselves.
Still playing the part, he basked in the adulation from the assembled crowd for a few moments longer, before waving a hand for silence. “Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,” he began, infusing his voice with officious enthusiasm. “It is with great personal satisfaction and delight that I have assembled all of you here today. I promised a revelation of staggering proportions, and I’m not just talking about the impressive spread my chefs have prepared for you all afterwards. Do not fear, my friends, for I have compensated for Lord Hampton’s presence by doubling the usual order. Rest assured, there shall be enough for all.”
A ripple of laughter passed through the crowd, Lord Hampton himself joining in and patting his ample stomach.
Meckule cleared his throat, wondering if he should not cast the straightening spell again. Any sort of movement, no matter how small, seemed to introduce wrinkles into this fabric. If only he had a spell to suspend his need for breath while he spoke.
“And so, without further pontification on my part, I wish to present, the largest fossil discovery in the history of our realm!”
He gestured to his employees, who pulled back the black cloth to reveal an enormous vein of transparent stone stretching into the bowels of the earth. Embedded deep below, lay the corpse of an Ultimas Drake, the largest of all known dragons. The crystal had preserved it in remarkable fashion, keeping all of the scales, skin, horns, teeth, wings, and even eyes intact, as though the creature might spring to life again at any moment and rain fiery retribution on its captors.
The crowd gasped and cheered as Meckule spread his arms wide in triumph and endured another furious round of crystal flashes. It took much longer this time to quiet the crowd, and Meckule could feel a headache threatening its way into the base of his skull.
“As you know, our company mostly deals with bones and processing their magical power. With such a find as this, however, we will be able to process every part of the drake, with the scales and the membranes of the wings providing a level of unprocessed Essence hitherto unknown. We shall begin right away with the excavation and hope to have it complete before year’s end.”
He posed and preened, answered dozens of questions, and finally gracefully bowed out, anxious for his senses to be free.
Back in concealment, Meckule sat in the darkness for moment, collecting his thoughts. With his Reserve dry, he felt the emptiness, sort of a hollow pain that most called the Hunger. The spell had drawn even more than he thought, making the Hunger more severe than usual. He would truly have to visit the dispensary soon.
He had stepped out of the chamber to do just that when a lithe figure crossed in front of him, moving gracefully in the dark. In the low light, he could see she wore only a silky shift that left her arms bare and granted a full view of her slender, sculpted legs. Torrents of bright red hair fell around her head, curling and twisting so that the entire thing looked more like a waterfall that had been frozen in an instant. The cloying scent of fruit and spices wrapped around him even as slender arms wrapped around his neck.
“So, how is the soon-to-be richest man in all the realm?” she whispered close to his ear.
Normally, such a display from his mistress would have him more intoxicated than the most potent magical diversion. Sarhah was not his first mistress, but was by far the most alluring. She was the type who only used enough magic to sustain her body, but still she wove a different kind of spell around him, one that did not require a trip to the dispensary.
But today, he felt colder than the dead dragon enclosed in the mine. He would be no good with her when he felt so wretched and preoccupied. Especially because he had used up all of his Reserve. He was no longer the young man he had once been and usually required spells that enhanced this realm of his life. He never told Sarhah, and, thankfully, she never asked.
She pressed close, gently kissing his neck.
He grunted, the sensation uncomfortable instead alluring as usual. He gently pushed her away. “Not now, Sarhah. It’s not you.”
As she pulled away, he noticed a strange pattern on her neck, imprinted in her skin in light brown ink, made up of geometric shapes. It appeared too faint to be new, and he wondered briefly why he hadn’t noticed it before.
He pushed past her in the darkness feeling his way down the hall. The magical lights that lined the hallway would require more power than he had. And, with his headache, he preferred the darkness anyway. He could hear Sarhah’s quiet pursuit as he reached the door to his office.
“Is it?” she asked, not completely masking the hurt in her voice. “Do you truly feel nothing for me now? I might as well be your wife.”
At that, Meckule turned and drew a deep breath, letting it out slowly before responding. “I said, it’s not you. I am not well. Had I my full faculties, I would no more be able to resist you then the moons can resist the pull of our planet.”
“Now that is a relief,” Sarhah said. “Though I’m sure that being the actual wife of the richest man in the realm would have its advantages.”
Meckule sighed, thinking how many times they had discussed this very subject. “Oh, as much as you think you want that, you truly don’t. There are many responsibilities that come with being an actual Scarlatti. The business of the clan would occupy your time almost entirely.”
Meckule reached out and brushed back a stray lock of fiery hair from her face, gently caressing it back over her ear. “And neither of us want that, do we?”
Sarhah shook her head. “Is there anything I can do?” She asked after a moment.
“Perhaps,” Meckule said, searching his mind. He needed to do something to take his mind off things, whether or not it was good for business. “See if you can get the box seats at the opera. I hear Carvanni is debuting his first new piece since Twilight for Marinello. I suppose Carvanni will do.”
Sarhah chuckled slightly. “Yes, it is called The Red Sword of the Mal King. Perhaps something with a few more swords clashing will draw your interest better than his last work.”
“Perhaps,” Meckule said. “But it will have to have more swordfights and fewer were cadenzas. It just isn’t practical to sing for two minutes straight before delivering the fatal blow in a duel.”
She laughed again, the sound stirring a spark of their usual attraction. “Go, my dear,” Meckule said. “Perhaps the opera will calm my nerves and we can resume the activities you had planned for this afternoon later this evening.”
She reached out and let her hands slowly trail the back of his neck and vanished into the darkness.
He waited for a few moments and then turned to open the door to his office.
He made his way to the plush chair behind the massive desk made of wood and stone, and jumped back as he saw the slender blade sticking out from the desk, pinning a scrap of parchment to the center of it. With trembling fingers, he ripped the parchment free and leaned close so he could see the scrawled writing.

A good first step-but do not drag your feet.
When next Azure shines, you must be complete.

Meckule lowered the note, sinking into his chair, clutching its sides to keep from trembling. The Azure Moon had shone full just the night before, and would do so again in only thirty days after the other two moons had taken center stage in the sky. Thirty days, for a job that should take months. Something told him that not even the opera tonight would be enough to lighten his mood.

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