“Come, NightWind. Let us enter before it returns,” Kaito urged in a hushed voice
The dark, grey unicorn refused to move forward. The man flicked the reins and dug his heels into her side. She snorted and only took a step backward. Kaito scanned the black skies overhead nervously.
The portal before them glowed softly with a blue hue. The edges of the opening looked as if they had been created from ancient technology that his people had once used to create boards for the purpose of storing information. Something they had called computers. Kaito had seen them once in a museum in his hometown of Yugahama.
But that had been a long time ago, and he was a very long way from home. He hadn’t been back in over twenty years. A long, arduous journey as he scoured the earth on this seemingly impossible mission.
Finding the portal hadn’t been that difficult. Kaito had located it within the first five years. In the end, all he had to do was follow the Eastern star Slax into the Desolate Hinterlands.
The hard part, though, had been locating the artifacts that he needed to face these firey creatures that guarded and dwelt within these portals.
First, he had located FlameWard, his shield hidden deep within the firey caves of the Fergborg volcano.
Then he had tracked down Fire Casque, the helmet he had taken from the head of a troll at the summit of Basroy Mountains. It was said to protect its wearer from the most influential forms of mind control, including that of a dragon.
Along the way, he had captured NightWind in Eleychester. Well, more like stolen her from a farmer who had been raising her. But, Kaito didn’t think of himself as a thief. He simply freed it to live an adventurous life on the road with him.
And of course, she made his life more comfortable since he could get around faster. He reckoned that she had shaved at least three years off his journey while he searched for Blood Venom, the legendary spear that Shirō Shin Matsushita had used a few centuries earlier to kill Acidtooth, Destroyer Of Men.
What a story that was, Kaito thought to himself. And now to think that I will soon join the ranks of such legendary men. My people will sing names about me. When I return with a dragon’s egg and the king gives me the princess’ hand in marriage. I shall be the happiest man alive.
“I’ll show them all,” Kaito whispered through clenched teeth. “Then they’ll have to make me knight. I will prove that I am an honorable warrior.”
“Silly human,” the unicorn chuckled. “You don’t even know if there is a dragon’s egg. I bet you can’t even tell if that dragon is male or female.”
“Then, I’ll kill the dragon and take its head. I’ll prove that I am a valiant warrior.”
“Please,” the unicorn whinnied. “You haven’t trained or fought at all these years. You stole the things you have, betrayed those you took them from and killed anyone who stood in your way at night while they were fast asleep. Where is the honor in that?”
“Shut up, you stupid horse with a silly horn,” Kaito said has slammed the side of his fist into the back of her head. “Remember why you let me ride you.”
“Yes, I wish you would just complete your curse and kill me. Sometimes I’d rather be dead than to have to listen to all the baloney you spout off day and night.”
“I really do hate you too, stupid unicorn. I should have just left you back on that farm to plow that farmer’s fields instead of bringing you on the adventure of a lifetime. But we can’t undo the past, so let’s just keep moving forward.”
Night Wind threw her head down and took another step backward. Kaito angrily grabbed onto her mane with both hands and prepared for her to trying bucking him off as she usually did at least once a week. But she didn’t attempt to throw him this time.
Kaito sighed in silent frustration and slid down. He couldn’t wait till he was back in the city. A famous dragon egg hunter who had won the princess’ hand in marriage. Heir to the throne. And then he could own and ride normal horses that couldn’t argue with him nor talk back.
“Stay here then, but be ready to run if that dragon returns,” he growled.
The man tip-toed quietly forward to the portal, still scanning the skies for any sign of the giant, winged creatures return. He had been watching it for several weeks now.
The giant, black dragon typically stayed out for several hours before returning from its hunts. So, he wasn’t too worried yet. He should have another couple of hours to search for the eggs and make his escape. Kaito hoped to be long gone before it returned.
The glowing blue portal hummed softly as he walked toward it, but it began to pulse softly at a higher frequency when he passed through the entrance. The sound made him nervous, but he wasn’t about to turn back now.
Kaito found himself in a large, dark cave. The glow from the portal behind him reflected eerily on the walls surrounding him. As his eyes adjusted to the low light, he could see where a cave tunnel led upward out of this main hall.
He was worried about getting lost in here before finding any dragon eggs. Kaito knew he needed to hurry because he definitely didn’t want to have to come back here a second time.
A glitter of light caught his eye. He looked closer and caught his breath. Piles of gold and silver that the dragon had stolen from his people. Even he didn’t find any eggs, he could still fill his backpack with treasure and live like a king for the rest of his life.
Kaito had had enough adventure and traveling for a lifetime. And besides, it had been years since he had seen the princess. She had probably grown old and fat and ugly by now. He wouldn’t need to be heir to the throne if he had his own wealth.
He slid his backpack down and emptied the contents on the cave floor. Then began to stuff it full of gold and silver treasure. When it was full, he closed the bag carefully and tried to lift it. But it was too heavy. He could barely get it off the ground, and part of the seam started to pull away. It was an old bag that he had been using for years.
The man emptied about half of it and tried again. But it was still too heavy. So, he angrily pulled out more of the golden goodies. He would definitely be coming back with a better bag for carrying more of these riches out of here.
Kaito stood back up and struggled to get the backpack over his shoulders. He considered pulling out a bit more, just in case he had to make a run for it. But greed spoke louder than prudence and convinced him to keep what he had.
As he turned to leave, he caught sight of something else in a far corner of the cave. His eyes had adjusted better to the darkness, and even though he wasn’t a hundred percent sure, the forms he saw looked like eggs.
Kaito stepped forward and almost tripped over a pile of large bones. He had to pick his way through larger and higher piles until he made it back to the corner. He sucked in his breath with delight.
Four large dragon eggs lay before him on a soft pile of grass and leaves. He stepped forward and took just one.
It’s all I need to be rich and happy, he thought to himself. No need to be greedy. Leave the rest for the mother. Maybe the dumb, flying lizard won’t even notice one is missing. He bounced around in a gleeful dance. Then stepped on a bone and tripped.
Kaito almost dropped the egg but managed to keep his hold on it. He breathed a sigh of relief and quickly made his way to the portal door. When he stepped outside, Kaito had to blink several times for his eyes to adjust again to the light.
He looked around for Night Wind but didn’t see her. He looked behind him and saw her running for the forest.
“Hey, you stupid horse. Get back here!” Kaito yelled.
If he hadn’t been so angry, he would have laughed. He took great delight in humiliating the unicorn by comparing the creature to distant, dumber cousins.
He sighed and began to walk after her. Eventually, she would stop, and he would catch up to her. It was true that he had cursed her, but not in the way she thought. He wouldn’t ever do anything to kill or harm her.
It only caused her to feel more disoriented and nauseous the farther she got from him. But if she persisted far enough, that bond would be broken, and she really would be free. But since she didn’t know that, she always gave up and came back to him.
A loud roar erupted behind him, breaking through his thoughts. Kaito turned to see a dark speck in the sky, flying in his direction. His heart froze. He held on to the egg with one hand and slid the backpack off with the other. He tossed it to the ground and broke into a dead run.
The dragon roared again louder this time. Rapidly gaining on him. He turned for another look, and she was closing in on him with jaws wide open.
He swung Blood Venom from his shoulder and spun around to face her. She was close. Coming fast. She almost impaled herself on it but flung her massive body away at the last second.
Dakiderth, the Lady of Fire, was her name. At least that was what Night Wind had told him. But in the midst of this chaos, a strange thought crossed his mind. How did the unicorn know the dragon’s name? But he had no time to think of these things now. He would ask her later when the beast’s head was hanging on the wall of his royal bedroom back at the castle.
The dragon landed close, but just out of reach. She reared her head and hissed loudly. Kaito struck out at her with Blood Venom, his dragon-slaying spear. But it was a clumsy attempt with only one hand. He refused to set the egg down. It was his, and he wasn’t going to set it down.
She blocked it with her wing and knocked it to the side. Kaito pulled back and struck again. This time, the dragon blocked it and grabbed it away from him. She tried to snap it, but it was too well made. The giant, slithering reptile threw it to the ground and stepped over it.
Kaito held the egg in front of him like a hostage. FlameWard, his shield, had fallen off his back when he removed the backpack.
“Breathe fire at the peril of your own young, foul creature of darkness,” he screamed in anger and terror.
So, close and yet so far. Twenty years of searching. Here it was, right in front of him. Kaito couldn’t give up or quit now.
“Stand back, or else I’ll throw the egg to the ground. I’ll smash it to smithereens,” he screamed.
The dragon sat back on its haunches and watched him.
“That’s right, Mama! You better be scared. I’ll kill this little creep and make scrambled eggs for breakfast.”
The dragon hissed, and sparks flew out of its mouth and nostrils. Kaito jumped back and smashed into something. He stumbled and almost fell. When he caught himself and turned around, Night Wind was standing there.
“Yes! That’s what I’m talking about. When you’re on the winning team, everyone wants to be with you. Even your horse.” Kaito yelled gleefully.
“Where are you taking my egg?” the dragon asked softly.
“Like I’m really going to tell you, dummy. Do you think I’m that stupid.” Kaito screamed mockingly.
“We’re taking the egg back to the Reya Kingdom. King Gorō Yuuta has promised the princess’ hand in marriage to the human brave enough or stupid enough to bring him a dragon egg.”
The giant, black dragon hissed again as sparks mixed with flames flared with each breath.
“What?” Kaito asked dumbly, turning to look at the unicorn.
Her eyes were blank. She stared at Kaito unblinkingly. His heart sank. Night Wind wasn’t wearing a FireCasque like himself. She had no protection for her mind. The dragon was controlling her.
“Fine, I’ll give you the egg. You let us go.” Kaito whined.
The dragon didn’t say a word. He didn’t like the look in her eye. He didn’t have much hope of getting away. He needed to distract her.
Kaito wound up and threw the egg as far as he could off to the side. Then he turned and made a run for it across the field.
The egg was heavy and didn’t go far. The dragon caught it easily with her wings in midflight. It didn’t even break her mind control over the unicorn.
Night Wind turned around and wound up herself. Her back legs lashed out as Kaito ran past her. The unicorns sharp hooves caught him in the side. Cracking ribs that punctured his lungs. The man fell to the ground screaming in pain and misery. Coughing blood that filled his airways.
Dakiderth dragged Kaito back into her cave with one clawed hand while clutching her precious egg with the other.
“Sorry, to hurt your human, cousin,” the dragon growled to the unicorn.
Kaito leaned his head back for a final look at the unicorn as the dragon pulled him through the portal.
“Cousin? What? Was that why he had seen small scales on the unicorn’s body. Were dragons and unicorns somehow related?”
The Fire Casque slipped off his head as he went through the portal. Numbness and darkness soon overtook his mind.
Night Wind shook her head as the sense of sickness and nausea slipped away. She felt great for the first time in years. Not attached to this sick human. The unicorn was finally free. Well, for now anyway. At least until someone else tried to catch her.
She considered sticking around the Desolate Hinterlands where humans rarely came. But then decided against it. Who knew when a hungry mother dragon or young dragonling might pop out looking for a fat and sassy unicorn meal.
Nope. An elegant unicorn like herself could find another desolate place to live without creepy, mind-controlling dragons around.
Night Wind galloped off into the Forest of Hypnotic Flowers. She wondered if such flowers existed, or if humans under the dragon’s mind control had blamed some strange flower. She wished she had such power. It would be fun to play around with them when they were being cruel.
She stopped at the edge of the woods to get her bearings, then headed off to the West to get as far away from old King Gorō Yuuta and the Lyonhall Fortress. The unicorn didn’t want to be anywhere in that direction when Dakiderth flew out again to exact his revenge against the human who threatened her life and the life of her children.
It would be a long and bitter war between the dragon and humans. They would hunt her and her young ones down. She would attack their cities and plunder their treasures. But eventually, they would find her and win. It was just what humans did.
Nightwind finally came to a peaceful valley that teamed with life. She would settle down here. In time, she might eventually head out to find others of her kind. But for now, she just wanted to be alone and enjoy her freedom.