Chapter Two

Avian stopped by the tavern for a drink while he waited for his train to arrive. The airfield and army barracks were positioned outside of the city on the western side. This area was commonly referred to as “The Mess”. This is because the people going out there were probably going to join the fight and get in some sort of a mess, as it were.  The train ran from the mess to the center of the city providing multiple stops along the way.

The city was built on top of a large hill with evenly sloping sides. Great walls surrounded the entire city. Deep tunnels and caves were dug into the sides of the hill. From the rock of the hill came beautifully carved halls and statues at every level. At the center of the city stood a mighty castle for this was the capital of the kingdom of Balfore. The castle was home to king Rowan and his daughter, princess Celeste. Celeste was a pilot and the commander of the king’s squadrons. She and Avian had trained together. They learned how to fly by those who invented flight. Including Avian’s father, Roark.

Avian was sitting at the bar, trying to enjoy his drink. He had been successful at not being noticed and that made him happy. Every time he looked up from his drink he made eye contact with the man in the mural. The mural was new and it was painted behind the bar. Even when Avian wasn’t looking at it he could smell the fresh paint. It was taunting him and only him. To everyone else the mural depicted victory and even hope. The scene was beautifully painted. A dragon, black scaled and lifeless, sprawled on top of a rolling green landscape. The bright sky filled with a squadron of biplanes reflecting the sun’s rays. The man, whose sword was plunged into the dragon, stood victorious next to his kill and looked straight at you with eyes filled with fiery life.

The only problem with the mural was that the scene depicted was much different in real life. It happened only a few months ago and yet people seemed to forget what actually happened. Avian was there when the dragon was brought down. The sky was gray, the earth was scourged and the city was under siege. He was defending the city from a host of drakes. They were spewing flames at the city’s battlements as the armies clashed below. In the midst of the fight there came a thundering sound and the drakes suddenly broke off.  It was the cry of a dragon. Not just one dragon, but two dragons came.

The squadrons maneuvered to face the incoming dragons. Fire met them like none had ever seen. Knights were leaping from their burning planes choosing to fall to their death rather than burn alive. The commander of the squadrons broke the knights into two groups, one for each dragon. The commander was the best pilot in the kingdom and Avian was in his group. Avian was honored to fly with him. The commander was his hero, his mentor and his father.

The dragon’s skin was turning into pulp from all lead it was blasted with. Even so the dragon managed to cut down Balfore’s flying force to a third of its original strength. The drakes returned to aid their dragon brothers. Commander Roark saw an opening to finish the dragon and nothing was going to get in his way. He swooped down from above and fired at the dragon’s neck. Avian had just gunned down a drake and was able to watch the scene, the true scene unfold before him. As Roark unloaded his rounds into the dragon, the dragon’s brother swooped in from behind and breathed a stream of fire at him. Although the flames had reached their target, the dragon was too late to save his brother. The commander would not be deterred, and the dragon was brought down to breath its fire no more.

Avian watched as his father’s plane caught fire. The engulfing flames growing closer and closer to Roark’s cockpit until finally the flames consumed him and any hope that Avian had of ever seeing his father again. Tears filled Avian’s eyes and the pain quickly turned to anger. He wanted to see the rest of the winged beasts fall. He chased after the remaining dragon not even realizing that the enemy was in retreat. They were out of range, but He flew towards them shooting his guns aimlessly into the sky until there were no bullets left. Once he got ahold of himself he saw Seraph and Celeste flying at his side. His friends were with him, and they followed him home.

The tavern broke out in song.

“Roark the brave! Roark the true!” They sang.

At last Avian was spotted. He was hoisted out of his seat and into the drunken celebration. Men would always point to the mural and cheers.

“To the son of a hero, and a hero himself! Cheers!”

Everyone shouted and they sang and they danced. Avian was tired of the songs. The pain he felt inside left no room for song and dance. He managed to slip outside undetected. The train was coming soon anyway, so he headed towards the station. He was going to meet Celeste and they were going to see his mother. Avian’s mother needed him. She was grieving the loss of her husband. He had died fighting a war that her son was still fighting in. It was almost too much for her to bear. Celeste was coming along for support. He was thankful for his friends, but especially for Celeste. She understood how he felt having lost her mother years ago.

The train’s whistle blew and the steam billowed as it pulled into the station. Avian got on and slid into a booth taking a window seat. Even though it was dark outside it wasn’t too late in the evening. The sun just set earlier this time of year. The train started moving towards the city, and the conductor began announcing the stops. Trains always made Avian feel sleepy. Horses and planes required control and an active mind, but not trains. It was the only time he could be moving and not have to pay constant attention. Avian had a while before his stop, so he leaned his head against the cold window and drifted off to sleep.

 

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