The Last of the Dragon Riders
As far as I know, nothing has ever been written about my people. The words I write here may be the only record of us. No one else is to blame; we brought it on ourselves, and I - more than anyone - am responsible for what came to pass.
Long ago, we lived on a world with no stars in the sky. It was a simple, beautiful world, and we had no reason to war each other. There were no enemies, threats or lies, and we were at peace with all creatures, including the great gurhs - huge creatures that roamed the marshes. We helped them to find food and - in turn - they allowed us to ride them, to plough our fields. We looked after their eggs, which was hard on many of us; while we longed to have children, our bodies had become infertile. No child has been born for decades, and soon the youngest of our people would be past childbearing age.
One night, when all three moons were clear in the sky, a shadowy figure appeared on the outskirts of our settlement. When we approached him he would disappear; when we called to him he would not answer. After a time we grew accustomed to his watching. We returned to tending the gurhs, riding them as we ploughed our fields.
Eventually, the shadowy man approached us. He spoke as if several voices were speaking at the same time: 'I have an offer for your people: I can cure your infertility. You must stop playing nanny to these beasts and have children of your own. Come away from this world and receive my gift.
Another world? A chance to have children? It was so much to comprehend. He only gave us a night to decide. We, the tribe's riders met on our gurhs, away from the stranger. We talked and called for a vote. Each was required to step their gurh forward if they wished to follow this man; those who wished to remain must step back. I was the only one to remain still as the others moved forward. Making decisions had never come easily to me.
So, we followed the man through the portal to another world. It was nothing like our own; full of mountains, great oceans and a huge variety of creatures. Having left our world to the gurhs, we soon developed an affinity with dragons. These great lizards were not unlike the gurhs, except they breathed fire and were not so gentle. Yet, in our hands they became tame enough to ride. The one who brought us here - the one they called the 'Empty Lord' - told us that we were the first to accomplish the feat, and he seemed pleased with us.
The new world was complex, and much happened we didn't understand. We had to quickly learn about concepts like combat, war, betrayal, loyalty and lies. Of that list, loyalty came easiest to us, and we did as the Empty Lord commanded, hoping that he would reward us with offspring.
We learned about war next, and we took to it with great skill. It awoke something in us. The Empty Lord's enemies began to fear us. I rode a magnificent black beast with three heads. Word spread of us: the 'Dragon Riders'.
For years we rained fire on our opponents, and many of us forgot about our infertility, even as our numbers fell. The finest warrior will still fall, and age took our elders. I called for a meet, and we agreed to petition the Empty Lord, and he asked us to wait until the war was over. The Empty Lord told us this day would come soon. But, after one vicious, terrible battle, only five of us remained. We had gone from dozens to a handful.
It was at our lowest ebb that one of the Empty Lord's Generals - Zamorak - approached us. He had been growing in power and influence, and he had a reputation for making promises that the Empty Lord could not hear. That day he offered us the one thing that the Empty Lord has never delivered, in exchange for two of our number to become his personal bodyguard. We agreed that Morvannon and Apropos would join him. If the Empty Lord did not make good on his word, perhaps Zamorak would.
A week later, Morvannon and Apropos returned to us. They had flown all evening to give us the news: Zamorak had retrieved a weapon that had enough power to kill the Empty Lord, and there would be a confrontation that night.
Apropos said 'We must ride with Zamorak. The Empty Lord is never going to honour his deal with us. if Zamorak becomes a god tonight, we'll be rewarded for siding with him.' Morvannon had already mounted her dragon, ready to fly.
'No. We can't risk our lives allying with Zamorak,' said Ablenkian. 'The Empty Lord has promised us offspring after the war. If we warn him, he will reward our loyalty. Besides, how do you know Zamorak has the power to give us anything? Balustan nodded in agreement.
Like the gurh-meets of old, we voted on our steeds. Ablenkian and Balustans dragons belched fire into the air; Morvannon and Aproposs dragons streamed fire to the ground. My dragon stood: sullen, unmoving, undecided.
'We cannot risk the fate of our race. If we gamble on either side, we could lose everything. We must hold on to what we have and do nothing. The victor will want us on his side. We can control dragons, and he will forgive us for not intervening.' I said.
We argued, we fought, we voted countless times that night, but none of us would change our stance. We argued until the sun rose, but I was confident that the victor would welcome us back to him and cure us of our sickness.
But that night, both Zamorak and the Empty Lord disappeared from the world - we have never learned of what happened. More importantly, their armies did not disband. There was chaos, and many fought among themselves, but others looked afield for revenge. Zamorak's allies claimed that Morvannon and Apropos had abandoned Zamorak, and branded them traitors. Those loyal to the Empty Lord believed Ablenkian, Balustan and I were traitors too, and came for us.
Apropos died first, hunted down by Zamorak's vampyres once they bled her dry, they tied her to a great stake for all to see. It wasn't long before Ablenkian and Balustan followed her. They tried to flee but were torn apart by the Empty Lord's ripper demons. Morvannon was able to outride Zamorak's helldogs for a week or so, before a lone arrow knocked her from her dragon. She was devoured by the pack and I, for the first time, was alone.
I have returned to the cave where we entered this forsaken world. My dragon is by my side, which gives me some small comfort. Looking at him reminds me of the gurhs on my home world. I wonder whether they have survived without us.