The Dragon Prince: Reflections
“All Storms End”
Written by Kris James
Illustrated by Caleb Thomas & Emily Marzonie
The black storm raged, stretching to the ends of the sky.
Zubeia flew through its torrents until her wings ached, but she could not find the tempest’s edge nor the quiet heart at its center. She soared over dying forests, empty plains, deserted villages and found herself entirely alone. When she could no longer fly, she landed on grey grass and trod determinedly eastward. Still, clear sky eluded her.
Her heart had grown as weary as her wings. Something hurt deep in her chest—like a shard of glass, a thorn, the tip of a blade – and she could not carry it forever. When she came to a pool of dark water and the rain-tossed cascade of a waterfall, Zubeia lay down beside it, tucking her nose beneath her tail as shelter from the torrent.
She would rest—just for a while.
Just for a little while.
“You’ve already done this part, Zubeia,” came a rumbling, familiar voice. Rex Igneous bubbled to the surface of the water and lounged across the pool from her, a jagged tumble of scales and scorn. “Don’t you remember, mighty Queen of the Dragons?”
“I remember,” she said.
The hurt in her chest deepened. “But I am so tired. I’ve walked so far alone.”
“You are stronger than this. All storms end!” Rex rumbled a snort through flared nostrils. “What lies at its heart?”
Zubeia curled tight against the sharp teeth of the Archdragon of Earth’s voice. The pain within her swelled and burst with a deafening clap of thunder—
“What lies at its heart, Zubeia?”
The Dragon Queen jolted awake and the nightmare fell away.
A real storm rumbled and crackled outside the Storm Spire, echoing into her flower-dotted bower. She dug her foreclaws into its moss and shifted her weight back, seeking the comfort of warm scales and slow, thrumming breath of—
—but Avizandum was not there.
She’d woken up alone.
But no. She wasn’t alone. Not anymore. Zubeia looked to Zym’s cozy hollow, lined with clover and a single pillow in the shape of a jelly tart he’d brought from Katolis—and her breath left her throat when she found it empty.
Her voice cracked with familiar panic. “Zym? Zym!”
A roll of thunder answered her, louder and closer than the first. It roared and shook, and the air prickled with primal power. Zubeia pushed aside her fear. He could not have gone far. She focused on him—on Azymondias—and the unique imprint of his magic. Zym’s arcanum shone with vivid, dancing color. She had known it since Zym was only an egg. She would know it anywhere.
He was near.
But he was also outside, in the storm itself.
Zubeia crouched and unfurled her wings, and then she was away, airborne in the dark summer storm. Rain slicked her scales, soaked her mane, and shook free from her wingtips. The skies flashed with lightning. Zubeia flew downwards, deeper and deeper into the windswept valley, until she spotted him.
Her son was color and clamor, as vibrant as the storm itself. Zym leapt through puddles and fog, darting in and out of the shadow of a battered stone silhouette upon the plains below the Spire. A blue bolt of lightning struck the massive shape upon its outstretched, reaching claw.
Azymondias had chosen what remained of Avizandum as his playground.
Swerving, Zubeia landed nearby on a cliff overlooking the torn valley beneath the Storm Spire.
“Zym!” she called. “Azymondias!”
Zym spread his wings and looked back at her. His eyes gleamed and he let out a proud howl. Lightning burst around him as he sped towards her, and as he came closer and closer he seemed as big and as powerful as—
—as his father.
Zym landed beside her and folded his wings. Seeing her, the light in his eyes faded and turned to concern, and he looked back to the silhouette in the distance. Together they gazed upon what remained of the King of the Dragons.
Once, he’d lived and breathed. He’d radiated power, strength, and belief. The storm he’d left in his wake loomed endlessly in Zubeia’s mind, even as time wore away at his stone remains. She had never dared go near it—that thing down below her home. It had been too much to bear.
It was still too much to bear.
Zubeia turned away. “Come, Azymondias,” she said. “Back to the Storm Spire, now.”
But her dragonling barked an objection. Zym spread his little wings, crouching to leap back into flight. Sparks danced along his mane.
“No,” she told him. The storm fed her voice, booming like thunder. “I said no!”
Zym yelped and threw a wing over his face. His eyes peered out, wide and blue as the morning sky. Clear eyes; innocent eyes. Eyes that did not—could not—understand her grief.
Zubeia dug her claws into the wet earth. “I am sorry,” she said. “This place… it is painful to me.”
He whimpered and tilted his head, looking back out over the valley. Zubeia forced herself to turn back too, following his gaze. Avizandum stood in the murky dark below, drenched with rain, unmoving. Gone, but still there. To Zubeia, it was a grave. But that grave—that grim stone monument—was as close as her son would ever come to his father. Zym looked down upon the stone sentinel with curiosity, with longing. He would never know him, not without his mother’s voice and guidance.
With a deep breath, she stood beside him. “Tell me what you see, Zym.”
Zym glanced from Avizandum to Zubeia and puffed out his chest. He fluffed his mane, spread his wings as far as they would go, and barked a jolt of lightning.
Power, Zubeia thought.
“Yes, Zym,” she said. “Your father was the most powerful among us. A guardian of Xadia. He made certain that you and I, and the other dragons, and the elves, were safe.”
Encouraged, Zym yipped and hopped in a muddy circle, flapping his wings.
It surprised her how quickly the memories came to her. “Your father once dragged a great thunderstorm across half of Xadia to end a drought in the Far Reaches,” she told Zym. “And when a shadow-eater haunted the southern Moonshadow tribes, he forced it into daylight and destroyed it himself. He struck down invaders at the Border for centuries—”
Zym let out a little roar of triumph. He caught sight of a zaphopper hunkering down under a leaf and leapt at it. The tiny bedraggled creature rolled onto its back, rubbed its zappy legs in alarm, and scrambled away in search of safer shelter. Zym crouched to pounce, ready to give chase.
“No, Zym,” Zubeia said gently before gathering him to her, away from the zaphopper. “Let it be.”
She sighed, remembering. Rex had once accused Avizandum of tormenting humans as if they were ants—and she could not deny that he had enjoyed his work at times, reveled in his victories, and left the battered remains of human armies in his wake as tribute to his triumphs.
“The humans hated your father for what he did at the Border,” Zubeia finally said aloud. “And that hatred only festered, until it became as sharp as a spear. It was that hatred that took him from me. Nearly took you both.”
Quieted, Zym let the zaphopper disappear down the slope and gazed outward at Avizandum’s rain-shrouded form.
At his father.
The ache in Zubeia’s chest returned, no longer blunted by the haze of her dream. She wanted to tuck her boy beneath her wing and fly him home safely to the Storm Spire far above. She wanted to shelter him forever—but Zubeia’s protective instinct felt futile, even dangerous. Once, she’d let that instinct consume her, corrupt her, festering inside her as though the spear in Avizandum’s heart had struck hers, too. It had nearly killed her—but Zym had emerged miraculously unscathed. Innocent, but for only so long. The best she could do was let him see the world as it was: all its storms and all its calm.
Summoning all her own bravery, Zubeia spread her wings. “Come with me.”
She glided down from the cliff. Soft grass and a late bloom of flowers cushioned her landing, little red blossoms with bright green leaves all dappled with rain. She had not noticed them from so far away. Zubeia sat, curling her tail around her front paws, and steeled herself to look directly at what had become of him.
Years had weathered his face, but it was still him: Avizandum, her mate. His greyed eyes could not see her, locked eternally on the Storm Spire’s peak. “All storms end,” she whispered. “But I miss you, so much.”
Zym landed beside her. He took one curious step toward his father, and then he glanced back, lingering in uncertainty.
Zubeia lifted her chin. “What do you see now?”
Mirroring her, Zym tilted his head up, and up, and up, toward his father’s face. Rain pattered across his little cheeks and ran among the grooves in his scales. Beneath Avizandum’s towering figure, he was so, so small. He stretched out a tiny claw towards his father.
Regret, Zubeia thought. Perhaps simply pain.
“Avizandum was many things,” Zubeia said, keeping her voice strong. “But he loved us both. Your father died reaching to protect you, Zym. Remember that.”
Thunder crashed overhead, ripping across the sky from horizon to horizon, and Zubeia breathed in the scent of fresh lightning. Zym lowered his soft paw and pressed it atop hers. She leaned down to nuzzle him.
“The best of him lives in you, my precious boy. His bravery. His loyalty. But you will be your own many things. And, just like your father, I will always love you, too.”
A heavy gust of wind tore through the valley, driving rain into the both of them. Zubeia flung open one great wing in the space where her mate’s had broken, sheltering her son from the storm in the shadow of the fallen dragon. Zym pressed against her, warm and brilliant—his magic a thousand colors. Zubeia let it comfort her.
Lightning struck again.
For a moment, its sharp light gave the Dragon King’s form a gentle smile.
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