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Fallen Kingdoms, Conquered Hearts

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The moon was high in the night sky when a great, keening cry wracked through village, the animalistic sound twisted with fury and anguish. The few villagers brave enough to hazard a peek from their windows were met by a sight that they were sure had to be a dream.

A massive scaly beast, crimson in color and bound in chains, was being drug though the street by iron clad soldiers. Scales and sinew rippling as it strained against it’s bonds, wounds obvious by the blood that caked it’s sides, still dripping wet in places were the chains rubbed against it’s battered and broken flesh.

The soldiers laughed among themselves as they dragged the beast along, obviously enjoying it’s torment as they prodded and poked at it, eliciting another cry of fury from it, it’s razor sharp teeth on display, even through the muzzle they’d bound around it’s snout, as it cried out it’s agony.

The handful of villagers still watching closed their eyes to the sad sight before them, knowing better than to get involved. Many had been the target of the soldiers’ wrath in the past, unlucky as they were to live under the rule of a corrupt king who let his ranks find their revelry where they pleased and none of the villagers wanted to draw undue attention to themselves. There was none among them who had believed dragons were real anyway and if they closed their curtains, as well as their eyes, ears, and hearts tight enough maybe they could go back to believing it.

“King’s gonna be pleased with this catch, eh?” one of the soldiers called out to his comrades as they neared the edge of the town.

“He better fuckin’ be considering what a bitch it was to take down,” another responded as he gave a sharp whack to one of the dragon’s worst wounds.

“He’s gonna make a fortune when he sells it,” a sandy haired soldier tossed over his shoulder from where he flanked the front of their line.

“Sell it? King haft’d be crazy tah get rid of it. A dragon this size could led any kingdom tah victory. Not tah mention the enjoyment our dear, kindhearted ruler’s gonna get outta breaking this fucker’s spirit.”

“Ah well, whether it’s fortune or the beast’s hide, either way the King had better let us get a piece of it,” the sandy haired soldier spoke again.  

“Aye!” the rest of the soldiers had heartily agreed, continuing to talk and laugh amongst themselves as they continued to the castle. None of them noticing, or perhaps just not caring about, the large, wet tears that trailed from the dragon’s eyes. It was, after all, just a dumb beast.

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The King strolled out to the courtyard, his way illuminated by the torch his young page held as he led the way. As they neared the center, they came upon a thick circle of soldiers gathered around whatever it was, the king assumed, that had been deemed important enough to pull him from his bed at this late hour. He held up a hand as he came to the edge of his men and a path cut through them as they moved to make way for their king. As he come to the middle of the circle the king’s eyes widened only slightly as his young page let out an audible gasp at the sight before them.”

“A dragon?” the king questioned, turning his attention to his knight commander.

“Yes, my king.”

The king, with his hands clasped behind his back, circled the beast. His eyes cold and calculating as he took in the sight before him. “Dragons were thought to be extinct. How is it you came to acquire one?”

“We found it near the mountains to the east of the River Tatsu. We heard talk of a barbarian tribe that had been spotted in the area recently and went to scout it out. We found the beast slumbering near the river and were able to overtake it before it was able to fully wake up.,” the knight commander explained.

“I see,” the king said coming to a stop at the head of the dragon. “Do you think it was traveling with the barbarian tribe?”

“We’re not sure, my king.”

“I wouldn’t put it past them, uncouth swine that they are. They probably came across it in one of those filthy caves they seem to favor so much.”

The knight commander nodded in agreement as a few of the soldiers chuckled quietly even though the King’s words hadn’t been an attempt at humor.  “What are your plans for the beast, your highness?” the commander prodded.

“The possibilities are endless really. I imagine more than a few kingdoms would be willing to bankrupt themselves just to get their hands on the beast,” the king mused, crossing his arms and bringing a hand up to rub at his chin. “But that would be quite the waste. My coffers are already overflowing thanks to our latest conquests at Toreta and Yakedo.”

The soldiers let up a short shout of victory at the mention of the two latest kingdoms they had invaded and conquered, many of them grinning at the memories of the blood they had spilled.

“But,” the king continued, his troops quieting at the sound of his voice. “Land, we can never have too much of, nor the slaves and resources that would come with it. I imagine with this beast at our head we could have endless supplies of all.”

“So, we’ll expand the Empire then?”

“Mercilessly and with haste,” the king grinned the malicious smile his soldiers had some to know so well. “I expect most of our surrounding enemies will fall just at the sight of such a hulking behemoth but I want you men to know that no matter how easily their kingdoms may fall, the spoils of war will still be yours for the taking. Just make sure to dispose of the possibility of any brats that may be bore as a result.”

The soldiers let up another great cry, their excitement at their king’s words bleeding through. The noise drowned out the dragon’s growling, no one noticing it’s agitation at the kings words. As his men continued to cheer around him, the king knelt down so that he was face to face with the crimson beast, the chains that held it giving the king a false sense of security.

“You’re going to lead my country to victory,” he said avariciously as he stared into the dragon’s fury-red eyes. “Your blood red scales will be our symbol of triumph as we paint the countryside with the blood of our enemies.”

There was no warning as the dragon lurched forward, the chains giving just enough for it to knock it’s head full force into the king, sending him sprawling backwards to the ground. The king clutched at his nose as blood gushed forth, it’s crooked appearance leaving no doubt that it’d been broken. The dragon’s growls were no longer drowned out as the men fell silent as they stared in shock at their downed king.

The knight commander rushed to his king’s side to help him up but the king wisely brushed him away as he got back to his feet on his own. He stared at the dragon, who was once again straining at it’s bonds, with cold and determined hatred in his eyes.

“Looks like my new pet needs to learn it’s place, eh?” The kings voice was dripping with venom as he wiped the blood from his nose. “Commander, take the beast down to dungeon and make sure it’s properly restrained this time. No food and no water, unless I give the order. Maybe next time I decide to pay it a visit it will have learned it’s place.”

The king watched as his men subdued the dragon and dragged it away. He wiped at his nose again, a cruel smile stretching across his face as he stared at the blood that stained his hand. Perhaps, he thought, conquering the dragon would be the best fun of all.