Atop Hell's Heights

Note: The basic concept for the first three chapters of this story were given to me a by a friend of mine. I just added the meat to the bare boned skeleton, a very bare one indeed. Also, the original "Half poem" was contributed by the same friend. If you read, you may as well review... It was over a year ago when I said I'd put this up in a couple days. I greatly apologize, but the file got lost in the archives of my computer. I dug it out and polished it and here it is today. What happened was, I was going to write an epilogue to follow this chapter and so I didn't post it immediately. But now that I see it again, I see that an epilogue is unnecessary. So now, without further adieu (ooh a French word) the conclusion of Hell's Heights, the longest thing I've ever written (4-9-06).

Part 8: The End

The dragon stood at least thirty feet above me. And when he released a brutal roar I couldn't help but convulse in terror. He was nothing like Kaia, nothing at all. When his teeth were bared, they were as wide as I was tall and inside a humongous mouth—a bloodcurdling mouth, spewing terrible dragon breath and at any given moment, fire. He was scaled in olive green, and his glossy coat of armor provided complete protection excluding one area: an exposed neck where a sword blow could, essentially, "slay the dragon".

Kaia stood beside me, and a convenient shield stood in front of me, presumably from a fallen warrior. The shield had obviously been covered in rust before, since it had no luster, but it appeared as though all of the rust had been melted off. The fact that the shield could still be solid after such a scorching suggested that it might come in handy. So, I snatched up the shield in my left hand (the sword was in my right) and lunged into the battle, Kaia, as always, striding alongside me. The dragon roared, little wisps of smoke wiggling out of his nostrils. His fire would be strong enough to burn me immediately, and even Kaia's dragon scales would not be able to resist it in the long run.

In size, Kaia and I were also no match; we only reached up to the dragon's ankles when we approached; his head was high above. The dragon glanced downwards and the same way I'd disinterestedly swat a fly, shot out a stream of fire. It was too quick to dodge, so I swung up the shield, hoping it would endure the flame. Miraculously, it deflected the fire onto the dragon's leg.

The dragon shook his leg, annoyed, and swung a claw at us. I'm not sure how the shield had saved us, but since it had worked once, it would work again. So, I swerved the shield just in time to block the blow. Although I was untouched, the resulting shock threw me backwards, and I was flung into a tree. My back cracked several times too many, aching pains forming as it bent, but Kiana's words hung in my head: "I'm not important." She had known how important this was. She had told me. She had given me the strength I should need to survive. I could not let the death of someone like her be in vain.

I ran forward to fight alongside Kaia, but it was already too late. The huge dragon effortlessly swept her aside, far across the horizon. Startled and anguished, I held back my tears—using them as a fuel instead of a source of sorrow—and charged furiously at the dragon. The dragon spurted flames down at me, but I used the shield like an umbrella, blocking the aerial assault; then I stabbed at the dragon's dangling, meaty tail and struck, drawing blood.

Meaningless, useless blood it was; the seal would not be broken until the dragon was properly slain, and the dragon didn't even stop to mourn his lost appendage; he struck me again, knocking me back into another tree.

This time, however, his strike had a much larger effect, for the solid pillar of ash I flew into fell over and pinned down my right side—arm, wing, leg, and chest. I struggled to escape, and although the tree was ridiculously heavy, I kept trying.

I thought of the demons. I thought of the world. I thought of everyone I would save. But it was no use; I was stuck, and the dragon was coming in to make the kill.

I kept trying, however, even as the dragon lunged. His mouth was completely open diving forward to engulf me, when a flaming arrow rescued me. The arrow was Kaia, streaming through the air and spewing fire from her mouth. With a furious gleam burning in her eyes, she attacked. Her flame had no effect on the gargantuan dragon's thick armor, however. Kaia was no match for him. He jabbed his claws at her, and a sudden throw of my shield was the only thing that stopped his claws from reaching Kaia.

The ploy worked for a second, but now the shield was completely out of reach, and Kaia and I were helpless. As I once again struggled to free myself, the larger dragon vaporized her.

I smelled the burning flesh of a friend—she had been trying to save me—the second friend I'd lost that day and saw her ashen bones drop to the ground. I screamed at the clunk of her empty bones. I could not stand the smell of burning anymore.

I summoned up impossible adrenal strength I should not have had and sprawled out from underneath the giant tree burdening my body. My wing, caught under the tree, ripped out of my shoulder and was left behind. Now I had no wings left, no means to fly. I shrieked in physical pain temporarily, managing to withstand the sense of hopelessness clouding my head. I stopped screaming abruptly as the dragon swooped down to devour me—giving me the perfect moment to strike.

If I could. Blood and sweat were dripping from me; I was exhausted; how could I prevail? But Kaia and Kiana had sacrificed themselves for me. What could I do to overcome these impossible odds?

Their sacrifices were not in vain; I swept up Kaia's skeleton with a motion of my sword and pitched it at the dragon's face, throwing him off guard for a second—it was enough. With all of my strength, along with that of Kiana and Kaia, I was able to leap up and stick my sword through the dragon's neck. The sword slid upwards until I knew it had found the dragon's brain. I knew he was finally dead.

His blood poured onto the ground, steaming. The blood was hot from all the fire in his throat, and I couldn't stand the scorched smell the blood emitted. I collapsed, tears and exhaustion completely taking control of me. I sobbed into the ground. "Kiana. Kaia. Why?"

Before me, light swirled out of the ruptured point in the dragon's neck. The angelic light formed a giant circle, a heavenly portal for this Heavenly Oasis. An angel, celestial wings spread behind him came out and smiled at me, lifting me up and heaving me through the portal. I had lost a lot of blood and was exhausted; I needed medical treatment. Fortunately, the angels were there to save me after my almost sacrificial quest.

Quest; how tragic a word, its definition now so clear to me that I shudder at the thought. There are, as before, three things, that by definition a quest must have. The first is a damsel (Kiana!) in distress, requiring some sort of aid. I'd learned that the damsel may die in the end even in a successful quest. The necessary aid is usually in the form of a mystical item. But, any sword (or shield) will do. The second is a magical beast, such as dragons, griffins, hydras, and llamas. However large or small, the most fearsome of all is, without a doubt, the fire-breathing dragon. And the final questing element is the tragic hero who, truthfully, should not be able to overcome the obstacles ahead of him. How I'd done it, I'm still not sure.

The angels carried me into their medical facilities where they immediately treated my wounds. Onto me, they poured countless substances, most of which smelled like an elephant's bathwater. The medicine they gave me to ingest, on the other hand, smelled like roses; it tasted, however, like an elephant's bathwater. On the positive side, the wing wound on my back soon closed up, scarring over and matching the one I'd inflicted on myself.

I was in their care for several months, recovering slowly, as I had acquired numerous severe wounds. A dragon is definitely dangerous. Soon, I was able to function normally again, and, before the angels could stop me, I ran out of that angelic hospital, returning to the Heavenly Oasis.

Now, it was beautiful. Green luscious trees were all around, no longer a forest of ash. The dragon's spring was clear and looked fresh. I couldn't help myself I ran over and jumped in. Overcome by joy, I barely felt that something was missing. But the feeling was still there. And soon, it resurfaced fully and ferociously. So many things were missing: my wings, Kaia, Kiana. How could I live without my two lifelong friends (and as a wingless human as well)?

My misery, now a foolish depression, devastated me, and I could stand it no longer. It didn't matter to me that I was surrounded by clear, exquisite water. It didn't matter to me that I'd saved the world. It didn't matter to me that I was alive. All I could think about was Kiana.

"Kiana. Without you, I'm nothing," I thought miserably, and once again found myself humming.

"Not hoping, not hearted,

"Not flying, I'm down,

"Not happy, I'm deadened,

"Not living, I've drowned." And with a final breath, I plunged my head underwater, planning to never remove it again. The pure water pleased my face but suffocated my lungs. I felt my life slowly drifting out of me and smelled blood. But I was stopped, before my suicide was complete. I felt a strong, familiar hand pulling me out of the water. Kiana saved me from making the biggest mistake of my life. It was impossible. Kiana. She was still alive. I was overjoyed, yet confused.

"Kiana," I said, wrapping my arms around her. I could feel rough, raised scars where her wings had been.

"Kaio," she replied, returning the calm embrace. "I'm sorry." I wanted so much to question her, to understand how it was possible, why she was sorry, how she had stayed alive. But I knew that I should wait until after we'd properly reunited.

This time, there were no distractions to stop me from kissing her, nothing to ruin the perfect moment. So I kissed her. I broke our embrace momentarily, then pulled her right back in. She didn't resist; I could tell she'd been wanting this for a long while. Finally, we were back together again. We'd saved the world and everything was all right.

Note: Don't you love happy endings? It's kinda boring actually. Oh well.