What happened just prior to this extract: During their strategising on how to rescue the scouts and baby Blade Dragons held captive on the mountain by the banloghs, Mægéma discovered that the mountain was, in fact, a volcano and contacted Lavarne, the resident laval lifeform, for assistance. All life carries within it memories of the area within which it exists. The banloghs would know that a volcano, even one which has been dormant for aeons, can erupt at any time. They decide that Lavarne will fake an eruption but in such a manner that the banloghs will believe it to be the real thing. That's exactly what happens and the banloghs begin to flee for their lives – down the mountainside and away from the captives held in a cave at the top of the mountain, allowing the rescuers the access they need. We start where the Blade Dragons are carrying Weda’Sel, Urus and Ninusa to the cave at the top of the volcano.
The attacking Blade Dragons spread out into an arrowhead and, with Blade Fire spurting in continuous streams; they flew out over the convoys of banloghs. The banloghs stumbled and fell over one another in their desperation to flee, now not so much from the lava as from what they knew to be the far greater danger, that of the Blade Dragons’ wrath.
Banlogh bodies by the thousand plummeted into the roiling mass of lava in their frantic attempt to escape; as they fell into the lava, their disintegrating bodies formed into additional fuel against the bog. Other banloghs, in their thousands, fell to the ground and turned to cinders as the avenging Blade Dragons’ Blade Fire ripped through them mercilessly.
Around and around the mountain flew the Blade Dragon formation, piercing yellow eyes searching for and seeking out banloghs.
The Blade Dragons’ mission was unambiguous. Not one banlogh would survive; each murdered baby Blade Dragon, going back over all the aeons, would be avenged this day; each wound inflicted against the Blade Dragons by these agents of The Darke would be punished.
Weda’Sel was the first to land on the wide jutting ledge outside what like looked a relatively small cave. He waited until Urus and Ninusa also arrived and then the three made their way cautiously into the cave. They had no idea what would confront them and they couldn’t see any more than a few feet in any direction.
Their caution was warranted.
As Weda’Sel stepped past the entrance he felt, rather than saw, the presence of a banlogh. All his hatred for The Darke curdled within him until he felt as if he would burst. It was only Mægéma’s reassuring presence which calmed him as he turned to face the lone banlogh who stood in the entrance of the cave, daring whoever would try, to enter.
Mægéma silently communicated with Urus who stopped within the shadows and he laid his hand on Ninusa’s arm to do the same. They were close enough to intervene if necessary but, as long as their presence remained unnoticed because the banlogh was so intent on concentrating on Weda’Sel, they held the advantage.
“You! Stop! You, who are of us but not of us. What do you here?” shouted the banlogh in consternation at this banlogh who was not a banlogh who stood before him.
Weda’Sel had never been up close to any banlogh who was not of his own colony and he quickly summed up the differences between the two of them. He could see that their physical similarities were negligible. His own body was rake thin where the mountain banlogh’s body, although it was too long for the short wide-spread legs, was hefty and stocky; the hands, with fingers protruding like bulbous growths, and the thickset feet were all small; ridiculously small when compared with Weda’Sel’s long, slender hands and fingers.
Weda’Sel had always thought that his lean, long feet were a vexation; he silently thanked The Lighte for his feet now. Weda’Sel made a cursory inspection of the head of his foe. The skull was high and looked as if it had outgrown the body on which it sat. The banlogh in front of him had coarse straight, black hair which contrasted directly with Weda’Sel’s soft silky pale, now almost completely white hair. Even before his hypothermia turned his hair snow white, the texture of his shock of black hair had been silky soft.
“Appropriate” thought Weda’Sel “The Lighte and The Darke meet face to face.”
The most noticeable difference was in their facial features. Weda’Sel had two too large, pale blue eyes and a face which he hated to admit, but Caliginor was right, made him look somewhat like an elongated weasel. What stared across the cave at him was a pair of black button eyes, cheeks which looked as if they didn’t contain bones, and a broad nose “and on those ridiculously short legs, he looks just like a Squat” thought Weda’Sel. Weda’Sel turned his impromptu description around in his head once or twice. “Yes, definitely a Squat” said Weda’Sel aloud, liking the sound of the name.
“What you say you banlogh not banlogh? You no talk good.”
Weda’Sel walked closer.
“Hey! I tell you Stop! You Stop!”
“Why are you speaking in that ridiculous way?” asked Weda’Sel as he took two more deliberate steps towards the Squat. “Surely your parents taught you how to speak properly?”
“Huh? What you talk now? You not right! You not banlogh talk right! You not smell banlogh right!” said the banlogh as he rose to his full height which brought him just about to the height of Weda’Sel’s chest.
“It’s You who doesn’t smell right my Squat friend! In fact you stink” said Weda’Sel as he slowly continued his advance.
Weda’Sel wasn’t simply insulting the squat banlogh. The Squat was enshrouded by a nauseating acrid stench of stale sweat which clung to him; a murk-rich miasma.
Weda’Sel’s attention was broken for an instant when he heard a faint cry from with the depths of the cave. He was now near enough to the Squat and he lunged forward and broke the thick neck of the banlogh with one quick scissor movement of his arms. The banlogh didn’t stand a chance.
“He won’t worry us anymore. Let’s go! I heard a cry so watch out, there may be more of those repulsive Squats running around here.” Weda’Sel was already running into the interior of the cave. As difficult as it was to see in the entrance to the cave; it was almost impossible to see within the murky depths of the interior and Weda’Sel felt a twinge of despair. How were they going to find and free everyone?
“Hold me in your hand, Weda’Sel” said Mægéma.
As Weda’Sel placed Mægéma on the palm of his hand, the entire cave shone with a diffused pearly light as Mægéma’s iridescent colours bounced and ricocheted off the walls. If the scene they stumbled into was not so horrific, they may even have noticed and appreciated Mægéma’s handiwork.
Despite the initial illusion of being small, the cave was absolutely enormous, running almost the whole width of the mountain. To one side, bundled together in a heap on the floor was a pile of bodies; their skin and flesh raw and bleeding. Weda’Sel, Urus and Ninusa ran over to the pile and immediately started to gently and carefully disentangle and separate bodies.
“They’re all still alive, Weda’Sel” said Mægéma “although Womor’s life hangs by a thin thread. It was his essence I couldn’t detect at first.”
“Separate them as quickly as you can so that they can breathe more easily, even if that’s all we can do at the moment, at least we can help them to breathe” said Weda’Sel frantically as he started towards the far corner of the cave. “I have to find the babies.”
“Give us one minute, Weda’Sel. You don’t want to go further by yourself. Besides, if you take Mægéma’s light with you, you will leave us without enough light to finish here.” Urus was gently laying the comatose Womor on his side so that he could breathe more easily. It looked as if every bone in his body was broken.
“Sorry, Urus. I didn’t think of that.” Weda’Sel stood to one side scanning the interior of the cave for any other entrances. There were no Blade Dragon’s in the main cave but that faint cry had alerted them. The babies were definitely here somewhere. As he searched, Weda’Sel noticed a regular-shaped indentation in one of the far walls. He had found the entrance. Ninusa finished disentangling Nemun’s unmoving, broken body from Rarth who also lay deathly still. All his companion’s bodies were broken and torn. He sighed at the extent of their injuries and quickly made his way over to Weda’Sel and Urus.
Together the three entered what they saw was an inner cavern and, as Mægéma’s light illuminated the area, a shrill keening wail filled the air. Mægéma immediately muted her light and they saw eight or nine baby Blade Dragons penned so tightly together in a cage that they couldn’t move if they wanted to. They showed no sign of life except for the terror in their bright still blue-green eyes. Disgust welled up in Weda’Sel.
“We’ve found them. Thank the Lighte. We’ll protect you, Young Ones and you’ll soon be back with your family” said Weda’Sel softly. A scraping sound from deeper within the cavern made him turn even as Mægéma said quietly “there are more of them, Weda’Sel. By The Lighte, what terrible atrocities are performed here?”
Mægéma slowly illuminated the area from which the sound had emanated and they all felt bile rise into their throats. By supreme effort no one threw up.
Lined up along the far wall of the inner cavern were sixteen emaciated adolescent Blade Dragons. Each one was heavily shackled and chained to the floor by both feet and, because the cavern wasn’t large enough to accommodate their height, their heads were all bowed at unnatural angles inwards almost down to their legs. Their wings were furled in such a way that it was obvious that they’d been in that position for so long that their wings were now almost useless to them.
Weda’Sel’s anger was palpable. He could feel his heart beating as if it were about to burst out of his chest. It was only with supreme effort that he managed to control his voice.
“Mægéma, please will you communicate to the Blade Dragons outside that we’ve found the babies and we’re here with them right now to free them? Tell them about the adolescents as well. Please will you also let these adolescent Blade Dragons know that that’s what we’re doing. I’d hate to end up impaled on the sharp point of one of those talons. These young Blade Dragons will all be freed or I will die trying. ”
“I already have, Weda’Sel. I’ve spoken to all the young ones individually, although they are terrified and they don’t understand what’s going on. I told them that Senthe and the other Blade Dragons are waiting to take them to safety. They didn’t even react to that news, poor young things” answered Mægéma sadly.
This is an appropriate poem in celebration of the death of the banloghs who terrorised so many for so long.
The shadow of a Wasteland
It throws up an arm
Thinking it’s in command
It causes confusion
To create a diversion
It tears at its mane
This progeny of disdain
One glance up
One glance out
One glance ahead
And it’s dead
To feed the wasteland
From which it fed
To pay for the lives
Of those it bled