Yulduk’s forces held their position in the trench. Arsha smelled a rat. “We weren’t even fighting at our best,” she remarked to Erodeth, Mordek, and Quenthem as they met. “They fought harder than that in previous battles.”
“Perhaps Mordek’s presence intimidated them,” suggested Quenthem.
“No, Dr. Borg’s forces faced even my Black, Gray, and White siblings,” replied Mordek. “They are not so easily cowed by someone slightly weaker than them.”
“The Robots ARE supposed to be invulnerable,” mused Erodeth. “Maybe destroying them was inconceivable.”
“Not likely,” muttered Quenthem. “They fought harder and killed a lot of my Squad-mates. That’s not it.”
“There’s a tactical reason why they’re just holding position and I wanna know what,” remarked Arsha.
“Maybe they were testing us,” offered Erodeth. “It’s more than likely Yulduk is gonna try again.”
“Normally, I would agree with you,” answered Arsha, “but this didn’t feel like a test. Their numbers are still the same, according to intel. Yulduk’s craftier than he lets on.”
“Like you when a chocolate cake’s involved, Pinky?” snarked Quenthem.
“Screw you, Tiny,” replied Arsha as she held up her middle, ring, and pinky fingers. Quenthem snorted with a smirk on his face.
“7-2 now,” he teased.
“We must press the attack!” urged Mordek. “Destroy them and Realmgate City is safe!”
“We don’t have the numbers for a counter-attack,” replied Quenthem.
“If we don’t, they’ll simply siege us again! It will be a worthwhile sacrifice!”
“There IS a thing called sacrificing too much,” countered Erodeth. “My people are not natural warriors. This war is testing them enough as it is.”
“Arsha, surely you see the logic in a counter-attack!”
“Lord Mordek, one of Dr. Borg’s victories was because a 100 strong army she sent out took over an Empire-class destroyer, the biggest and most advanced we had to date! That’s impossible for a normal 100 strong force, but we’ve all seen that her followers AREN’T normal. They’ll likely take the Endeavor to the scrap heap in a quicker time frame and I’m not gonna waste the crew’s lives like that.”
“So, what, we stay here?”
“Until we get more intel, yes.”
The decision was made and Arsha returned to the Endeavor. She headed to Dalengor’s quarters to check up on her old friend as she reported having a “feeling”. She saw her sitting in the center of the room, holding a purple object. “Dally?” asked Arsha. Dalengor then looked up surprised.
“Little One, I didn’t hear you come in,” she replied. “What can I do for you?”
“Just making sure you’re okay.” Arsha then pointed to the purple object. “What’s that?”
“It’s part of my eggshell.”
“Oh. Did the ones who raised you find it and adopt you?”
“Er, somewhat. You see…” Dalengor then sighed. “Arsha, have you ever wondered why I act like I was there during the Savage Age? Or why Mordek and I are usually on tenterhooks around each other?”
“…I will admit, the question DID form in my head a few times.”
“It’s because I WAS there during the Savage Age. You see, us Shadow Dragons don’t lay eggs when we give birth, we go the mammal route.”
“…So, why do you call that part of your eggshell?”
“It’s not so much an egg, but rather, a hibernation capsule.”
“Hibernation? You mean…?!”
“Like I said, I was there during the Savage Age.” Arsha got a look of awe and excitement.
“Tell me EVERYTHING!”
“…I’d rather not, but you need to know. You see, we’re one of Mordek’s creations, but…well, socially speaking, we kind of…abandoned him like a petulant child. He never forgave us for that.”
“Abandoned him? How?”
“We tried to slay him in Oyed’s name.”
“Yeah, we felt stifled and wanted to try our darker passions without any guidance. Because of that, Mordek’s got a bit of regret in making us.”
“So, what, he feels as if Shadow Dragons are a failure?”
“I wouldn’t put it like that.”
“Sure feels like it.”
“You don’t know how warlike we were. We once believed ourselves superior to everyone. Our leader, General Lak-tu, was too bloodthirsty. His last-ditch effort was to place us in hibernation eggs across the Under-realm, but only mine survived. He led us to extinction.”
“If your hibernation egg survived, then others may have!”
“Arsha, that’s not something the Under-realm needs! We served Oyed once! I won’t let myself make that mistake again!” The silence between the two friends hung in the air.
“You’re…content…with being the last Shadow Dragon?”
“Arsha, understand that I miss my birth parents. I would give anything to see them again. …But there’s more to this than my desires. I’m sorry, but I lived with being the last for this long, I can last until the day I die.”
“…I think, if there ARE survivors, then they should be given the same chance you got. You deserve seeing your parents as much as I do.” Arsha then left the room, giving Dalengor some time to think.
The dig in the trench continued. More eggs and coffins were being uncovered as the work continued. Dr. Borg herself came to see the progress. “Oyed was under the belief that there weren’t any left,” she muttered.
“Well, I hope he doesn’t mind being proven wrong,” replied Yulduk.
“Believe me, when he heard the news, he was dancing for joy.”
“…You never expect a destroyer to do something happy like that.”
“No, you really don’t. How many have been uncovered so far?”
“102 eggs and 37 coffins.”
“Only 37? I thought they were buried with their mounts.”
“We’re gonna have to dig a little deeper for that to find out.”
“How deep and how far out?”
“About a por, according to estimates.”
“SIR! MA’AM! OVER HERE!” called a Golem. Dr. Borg and Yulduk then followed the voice and arrived by the Golem. He pointed excitedly at the recent discovery. It was a whole cavern of coffins. “We’ve counted thousands!” reported the Golem. “They have more eggs!”
“A Drow Hibernation Tomb!” breathed Yulduk.
“What makes it specifically Drow?” asked the Golem.
“The architecture’s highly distinctive. Old Elf architecture was one of my hobbies back when I was a normal Elf.”
“I will ask Oyed for the specific number that was lost,” declared Dr. Borg. “When I obtain it, we’ll count what we’ve got and check them against that number. Meanwhile, we must work on waking them up. We need the Shadow Dragons and Drows to fill our numbers. Their powers over darkness will be the tipping point in this war.”
Mordek retired to his own quarters to meditate. He had a few candles lit and a mirror sat in front of him. He breathed deeply, in…out…in…out…in…out…the door chime then sounded. He sighed. “Enter.” Arsha came in. “Captain. What can I do for you?”
“I’m gonna get straight to the point,” replied Arsha. “You abandoned the Shadow Dragons as they were going through teenage angst.” Mordek then whirled around to fix Arsha with a glare.
“THEY abandoned ME, Young One!”
“Daddy’s people went through a period of using darker passions without using proper sense. Did Galampa abandon humans because of it?”
“Humans are different that Shadow Dragons!”
“Dalengor’s living proof that they would be the same if they got the same chances as the other races!”
“That will do! Arsha Royana, you may be in command in military matters, but do NOT presume to tell me how to govern Divine Affairs!” The two growled at each other for a good minute until Arsha released her breath.
“Very well. Just know this; often, a breach of faith with Gods is because the Gods broke faith with their creations.” Arsha left the room, leaving Mordek to snarl alone.
“You presume much, Arsha.”
Arsha released her breath as she returned to the bridge. She turned to Shalvey. “Anything from Realmfleet?” she asked.
“No, but a company from the Haldebor Drider Caves is approaching on the southern shores,” reported Shalvey. “Falnimam Lundalii is leading it and is requesting permission to join us. They’re carrying supplies and soldiers.”
“Has Erodeth been notified?”
“He’s at the port right now, awaiting their arrival.”
“Then we may have a solution to a second siege.”
Arsha, Erodeth, and Melandra awaited the Haldebor ships as they sailed into port. When they arrived, Driders swooped down as the anchors dropped. They then tied the ships off and then the ramps came down. Falnimam departed from the flagship as soldiers carrying food followed her. “Priestess Falnimam Lundalii, you honor and please us with your presence.”
“Happy to help where I can,” replied Falnimam. “I trust we’re still in a holding pattern?”
“Yulduk’s forces have been in that trench for at least two days. It’s rather unnerving.”
“Sounds like you’re going through a hair-raising siege yourself.”
“My family, my Priestess,” interjected Melandra. “Are they safe?” Falnimam winced.
“The non-combatants are in the Deep Caves. Venothal…she…”
“I heard about Venothal’s death. She was the best fighter of my sisters. The mission was a success?”
“Her sacrifice saved our home and your remaining sisters and mother.”
“Then it wasn’t in vain.”
“She received full rites when she was interred.”
“She’d have liked that.”
“Now, we need to prepare for any new attacks.”
“Agreed,” interjected Erodeth. “If you would come with us, we will plan our defense.” He led everyone into the city.