The Dragon Between

A Nightmare

Smoke filled the air, making her every breath burn in her lungs. The din of battle rang in her ears – the clash of weapons, the screams of enraged warriors, the moans and cries of the dying. And then there was no time for thought, as three of house Cannith’s Warforged slipped past the front line of Dragonborn mercenaries she commanded. She slammed into one of them with her shoulder, swinging her axe down hard and catching him off guard, cutting a deep gash in his heavy plate.

Khyber curse these Cannith machines, they don’t even bleed or cry out when you wound them.

She felt a rush of air breeze past and quickly ducked a blow from behind, as the second one moved into flank her, but as she moved, she took a hard slash to the arm, from the third. This one was more lightly armored, but quick, and dashed back behind the first. And then she heard a familiar roar, as her brother, her second-in-command, charged in beside her and shoved the flanker back a pace, leaving her to take care of the quick one and the large one.

The battle blurred into a whir of blades and the clash of armor, Xandril fighting side-by-side and back-to-back with her brother for hours. They moved together like a well-oiled machine, the rest of the fighters flowing around them, as Xandril shouted orders and Xentril led the charges. The Cyrans fell before their fury, even the Warforged, and it seemed for a time that the mercenaries would push them into retreat, but then the Juggernauts came.

Two huge living machines, easily twice as tall as even the tallest Dragonborn, they swung massive spiked clubs and began pushing her fighters back and rallying the Cyrans. She cleaved the Cyran in front of her almost in twain, his blood spraying her face and fueling her battle fury, then met her brother’s eyes. They didn’t need to speak, but moved as one toward one of the colossal creatures. It turned and met their approach with a swing of its giant club, but Xandril dodged the clumsy swing and leapt toward the giant, his great sword ringing as it sliced through the creature’s armor and into its mechanical thigh. Xentril slipped around behind it, taking advantage of her brother’s distraction, and hammering the giant with a solid trio of blows to its backside.

After that, the fight shifted into a furious haze. She was knocked down; bleeding from a dozen wounds, but Xandril’s quick sword work stopped the creature from finishing her off with one two-handed swing of its huge club. She leapt to her feet, red filming over her eyes, and tore into the giant with her axe, not even feeling the multiple wounds all over her body.

And then someone was screaming. Was it her? Was it the enemy? Doesn’t matter. She kept swinging her axe; she was going to destroy the giant and break it into a thousand thousand bolts. Blood sprayed across her face, hot and ferric. That was wrong. Warforged don’t bleed. But it barely registered, until it was too late. Her fighters were surrounding her, holding her back. Someone was screaming. It was her. No… No.

“Nooooooo~” She howled, beating her fists against his bloody chest, willing him to stand up, willing it not to have happened. What happened, how did it get past her? Wasn’t I there protecting him the whole time?

As five Dragonborn dragged her back from Xandril’s corpse, she saw a shape in the smoke. A half-remembered figure from a dream; a half-elven woman with a shining dragonmark climbing up her neck and down her shoulder. She called out to her, reaching through warriors surrounding her and taking her hand, pulling her to her feet. The world grew misty around her and a voice sounded in her head, “wake up! You’re dreaming! WAKE!”

~~~

The haze cleared and she was alone in a room filled with broken furniture. A bedroom. Not a battlefield. In an inn. Sharn. It was over. There was no changing it. Nothing to be done. Xandril was dead, and a hundred of her men had seen the juggernaut fall under their attack, seen her turn and attack him, seen him dodge her blows, frantically calling out to her. They had seen her blade break through his defense, slicing through his armor and into his flesh. They had seen him fall and her continue to hack at him until she was sprayed with her kin’s blood. They had—-
A pounding on the door pulled her out of her haunted memories. Cuinas’ voice called through the heavy door.

“Xentril! Wake up! Open the thrice-forsaken door!” She grunted and stepped over the rubble that had once been well-crafted furniture to open the door. Cuinas stood in the doorway, looking exhausted and disheveled.

“Well?” Xentril demanded, trying to shift her bulk to block the half-elf’s view of the room, but Cuinas slipped under her arm and pushed her way in. “What do you mean, ‘well’?” She scolded. “You were having a nigh—-Oh. Ohhh.” She stopped, staring around the room at the destruction. “A nightmare.” She finished quietly.

“Yeah, well, er. It’s over. Uh. I’ll clean it up. I…” Xentril stammered to a halt, and then sank down onto the cracked bedframe. “You saw?” she asked with quiet shame.

Cuinas nodded and sat down gingerly next to her huge friend. “I saw. I was there with you – I pulled you out of it. And I saw something else too, a vision of the future. You will learn to control your demons. You will redeem yourself and bring honor to your people again.”

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