An endless sea of grey as far as the eye could see. Faint white leaves fell limply to the forest floor, their small and slow descent to the made the forest feel melancholic. Like the life had been sapped from them long ago leaving behind dull, lifeless dust. Moras reached out to touch one of the leaves and it fell apart in an instant. It was warm and dry, almost smokey with black spots and as it fell apart, it sighed, its last breath stolen by a simple touch. This wasn’t snow, this was ash. The burnt remains of the dead left tailored to the trees and grass. The faint wind blowing through gave whispers of screams and the shaking of the branches made the ashes gathered at the top slowly fall to the ground. Every step Moras took threw dust into the air, rising higher and higher until it was trapped by the overhanging branches and piled up on the leaves once more, the cycle repeating. Moras wiped the dust off his hand and continued deeper into the forest, the ash leaves falling more and more and coating the pathway in white. The air was as lifeless as a corpse, the stale and husk like nature of the environment was almost mythical, otherworldly. He heard a crow cawing and wings flapping but no birds were anywhere to be seen. It began to drive him a little crazy. He shook his head and moved further down the path before being met with a dead end, a small little expanse with a dead garden in the center and an opened book. Moras walked up to it and blew away the dust only to find it was in a language he only partially understood.
“Tomb 57: Here lies Nithal, One of the oldest Dragonkin…” He couldn’t read the next few sentences but the whole book ended with “our greatest and worst experiment”. There were small symbols written in Merian around the paragraphs and the pedestal holding the book, cruel slurs and phrases directed at the writer of the book. Moras read some as “Monsters” and “Inhuman” but one also said “Protector”. Moras closed the book and walked up to the mountain side, the massive door was detailed with one heck of a beautiful mural dedicated to humans wrestling down a dragon. Moras was unlike many of the people native to the country of Meria. He was a member of the Kron race, humanoid race of people who looked like a mixture of humans and lions. They were once plentiful but now, as far as anyone new anyway, Moras was the only one alive. He didn’t believe it even if everyone did but if he was going to be the last of his kind, he was going to go out as the best one in history. And with his amazing strength, that wouldn’t be a problem.
This was a rather high paying mission by the King of the area. People knew that there was something inside the mountain. Faint rumbling underground, groans of pain and the sound of screeching metal could all be heard from behind the doors but no one knew how to get in. Mages dared not come here because in their own words “The ashes around haunt us magic users”. Moras scoffed at that. They were just weak. Using magic to worm your way through life. Either take on life's troubles directly or go hide in a hole somewhere. Magic was for the weak.
Moras touched the door gently and felt the material. Bronze. Easy. He cracked his knuckles and dug his claws into the crease of the door and took a deep breath. His muscles tensed and he adjusted his grip on the doors before forcing the doors open almost effortlessly. The doors creaked from years of inactivity, loud screeching echoing throughout the woods. It felt as if the doors were fighting Moras as they tried to shut themselves again but the Kron would not be bested. He forced the doors far enough apart so he could inch himself in between them, his back holding one door open while his arms held open the other. He took three quick breaths before jumping through to the other side and falling down a large set of stairs, the door slamming shut behind him. Moras sighed and pushed himself up, grabbing one of the unlit torches on the walls. He scratched his claws together and lit the torch which burned a bright blue. He heard a bird’s tweet echo in the halls and looked up to see one resting on another of the unlit torches. The bird was a beautiful blue and white and it stared at Moras for a solid minute before briefly flashing a bright color and flying down the stairs. Moras followed it closely and at the bottom of the stairs came up to a massive chamber filled with ripped tapestry and still running machinery. The floor of the room was covered in the debris of shattered pillars and all kinds of dirt kicked up by an auger. The room was clearly centuries old yet the machines worked without a hitch with not a human in sight to keep them working. How long had these been working?
He walked further into the temple and found himself in a construction room, the corpses of destroyed automatons littered across the floor. It looked almost sad seeing them to pieces like that, some creations only half finished and one of the machines seemed to be twitching as if barely clinging to life. Moras walked up and touched the automaton before it sprung up and grabbed at his wrist. The creature had a massive hole in its chest and a blue shining crystal pulsating as it clung to Moras. The hardened mask-like face of the incomplete being gave no expression but his actions didn’t exactly give off a peaceful vibe. He grabbed at Moras’ neck but was punched down to the floor. The automaton had no bottom half so it fell to the floor and pathetically grabbed at Moras’ leg. The lion kicked his hand away and stepped on the automatons head, pressuring it against the granite floor before pressing all of his weight on it and breaking the machines head to pieces. The strength it had slowly began to fade and Moras began to walk away before the machine came back to life and grabbed at his leg again. He growled as he looked back at it and saw that it used its claws to try and dig into his leg. It shockingly managed to do so and Moras roared before grabbing the machine by its arm and tearing it out of its socket. If the machine could scream, it probably would but it was still moving. The crystal in its chest seemed to be humming and went red, almost burning inside the machine’s chest. Moras grabbed at it, his claws tearing past the wires and framework holding the glowing gem in place and brutally ripped it out of its socket. With this the machine was finally dead and Moras tossed it to the ground without a care, squeezing the crystal in his hand until it shattered into pieces.
“Magic. I hate magic.” He dusted his hand off and kicked the robot away from him, cracking his knuckles as he left the room yet kept his eye on the automaton, just in case it decided to move again. Moras continued to wander around the temple before coming to massive hallway that led down to a spiraling staircase. Every room Moras walked by, he saw the room completely destroyed and one of the robots standing over the bed. Not wanting to start another fight with anything, he continued onward coming to the staircase and looking over the railing.
“More steps. Fantastic.” He said dryly as he vaulted over the edge and fell like a bullet all the way to the bottom of the steps, a crater in the ground formed when he landed but he felt nothing. Moras dusted himself off and looked up to see a rather large door held shut by a massive lock. This door was heavier than the last but nothing was too much for someone like Moras as he pried open the door. He heard the old gears screeching as they were forced open and could feel the rust fall from the doors and sink into his fur. The blue bird he followed in had flown overheard into the room before him. This place wasn’t as well kept as the others. Once he walked in, he let out a powerful sneeze as dust filled his nostrils since the room was crawling with cobwebs, dust and dirt. The room was spacious. Incredibly spacious. There were various gears aligned on the walls, all of which covered in dust and cobwebs showing their true age. There was a pedestal right in the center with a book on it, similar to the one outside of the temple. The bird sat on the pedestal and tweeted at Moras to do something. He ran to the pedestal and after closer expectation he saw the book was burned and the pages ripped out, cut to pieces and struggling to stay whole. The only thing that was still at least somewhat intact was the cover which read “The Next Evolution of Life”.
Moras pushed the book off the pedestal. There was a mana stone in the pedestal and the bird chirped happily before flying into the stone, filling it with some amazing blue energy and he removed it. It hummed in his hand and then turned red as the pedestal it was once a part of began to split open. It crumbled into dust and the floor began to split apart, the entire temple shaking and bits of the ceiling fell down to the ground. Moras had nowhere to hide and had a massive chunk of the ceiling fall onto him. The floor began to peel open as chains could be heard rattling and the brief grinding and scraping of rusted and old gears bringing something up from a lower level. The temple continued to shake until finally, once the rumbling stopped and the dust settled, Moras crawled out from under the rubble and stared in awe at what he saw.
He was surprised beyond belief at the sight of a dragon, seemingly hibernating, but it was different than what you might expect. The dragon was mechanical in every way, shape and form. His body was made of metal and his claws and tail tip looked like elongated swords. The chest of the beast was reinforced with a thicker sheet of metal, almost as if it was given a chest plate. It was strange to see but interesting nonetheless. The dragon’s hide was scratched and dented, left unrepaired by whoever made him. Possibly a rebellious beast. The stomach region however was pretty unprotected, a thin and stretchy material that really looked like a fleshy stomach. Moras touched it and it felt like a sort of leather but looked nothing like it, smooth and stretching as the dragon took its slow breaths. There was a faint blue glow barely shining through its stomach and chest with every breath as well. If that was the beast’s heart, it’s very noticeable.
Massive spikes ran along its spine and its metal hide was as gold as the sun. Moras ran up to the beast's face and touched it. The metal was warm as a furnace and a brief bit of smoke escaped from its nose as it took a deep breath. The beast was very heavily enchained, its wrists, hind legs and tail nailed down to the ground. There was a massive collar wrapped around its neck that kept its head from turning if it ever wanted to and a second collar was placed around the body of the beast to keep it pinned down. Massive chains connected all of these locks in place and were all wound up tight to limit movement but despite the fact that they were carrying such a massive and important figure, they were terribly old and rusting which was unacceptable considering the rest of the temple was still well made with no age showing at all. Moras walked around and examined the beast in as much detail as he could. He opened its eye and there was a faint pale blue glow inside. He touched the beasts head and it was somehow still warm. He climbed onto the beasts back and saw a small hole placed in the overhead bond that kept the dragon's neck down. It was marked with Merian letters all standing for “Stop” and “Retreat”. Moras ignored them and placed the gem in the bond, the color changing to a deep red and causing the brace to hiss and glow red in color as well. It spread across the bond and broke in half, falling off the beasts’ neck and landing on the already cracked floor. The several bonds that held the beast down all followed suit and split open, freeing much of his body. Moras heard the creature take a breath and a puff of black smoke escaped his nostrils, clouding the room with a poisonous air. It was the foulest stench Moras had ever smelled and he jumped off the dragons’ nose and covered his nose. When it dissipated, The dragon’s bonds shook and Moras heard the sound of gears turning and a low growling. Nithal’s eyes opened and he looked down at his bonds, a clear look of disdain on his face as he bit at them and at this moment, he saw Moras standing only a few feet from him.
The dragon roared and tried to move but was still bound to the floor and so bit at the bonds at its hands. He bit through the chains with ease and struggled to push himself up. Nithal roared and hunched his back over, extending the spikes along his spine and breaking free his tail. He roared as he stood tall and whacked Moras away as he began to climb to mountain walls his claws digging deep into the sides of the mountain as he struggled to pull himself up. Moras got up and had grabbed onto the beasts’ tail and pulled hard. Shockingly the dragon’s climb was halted and when it looked back, it saw Moras tugging tightly on its tail and then pull it back down to the floor. The entire floor shook as Nithal turned onto his stomach and tried to squash the lion under his hand. Moras jumped out of the way and jumped onto the dragon’s hand, digging his claws through the metal and peeling off the upper layer. Nithal screamed and shook him off, tossing him into the air. Moras laughed as he fell back down and latched onto the dragon’s nose, pulling its body back down to the ground and forced his maw open. He grabbed one of the dragon’s teeth and almost effortlessly pulled it free, violently stabbing Nithal’s tongue with it. He screamed in pain and tried to chomp down on him but Moras forced his maw to stay open. He just kept stabbing his tongue until he cut it in half and jumped out. Nithal covered his mouth as he tried to swat at Moras who jumped out of the way and tossed one of the boulders at his face. The loud clang of the rock against metal echoed in the mountain, the rock actually managed to hit his eye and damaged it but not enough to blind him for too long. Nithal roared and his mouth opened wide, the several gears heard shifting and changing, screeching against each other from years of inactivity as he bellowed a massive cloud of black smoke from its mouth. Moras laughed, pinching his nose.
“Old beast. Not everything is working like it should huh?”
The dragon coughed and he felt his body ache, his tail began to seizure out of control and by complete accident he managed to hit Moras but the Lion instead dug his claws in deep and grabbed the dragon’s tail as Nithal began to climb up the mountain. You could hear the wires and machinery that composed his body creak and pop from years of inactivity. The dragon cried out in foreign language, barely able to even open his mouth as he simply groaned and mumbled to himself. Every claw into the mountain was shaky and painful, every dig into the dirt made him ache and groan, every groan made him take pause before he continued his ascent up the mountain. His tail violently lashed around to keep balance and banged Moras against the walls of the mountain but he held on through it all and when the tail stopped moving, he began to climb up the dragons’ body. Nithal had finally reached the ceiling but began to claw at it, slowly digging a hole into the mountain as he pulled himself through, dirt and rubble trickling down his body as he wormed his way through. Once he got free, he took pause, savoring the fresh, crisp, cold air that brushed against his metal face made him exhale as if he could actually feel the rain hit him. The light tapping of the drops of rain hitting his hide as he stretched his wings and gave a massive roar.
Moras had climbed up Nithal’s back and looked out to see that they were very high up. The clouds blocked the view of any forest or city nearby so he was just looking out at a sea of white. It was actually quite serene and would have been a perfect place to relax. Not now though. Nithal launched into the air, a massive cloud of snow exploding from under him as he took off higher and higher into the sky. Moras had successfully climbed up the back of the dragon’s neck and jumped to its right wing, digging his claws into the translucent material and tearing a massive gash into it. Almost instantly Nithal had begun to lose leverage in the sky and he quickly began to fall. He turned around and flew back to the mountain as fast as he could but couldn’t make it as his body crashed against the side of it, desperately clawing at the top of the mountain to try and stay upright but all of the snow came crashing down onto him and Moras as they slid down the mountain. Moras could be heard laughing like a mad man as the dragon’s practically limp body tumbled down the mountain, repeatedly trying to gain proper footing but failing every time. He slid underneath the creatures tumbling body and down the freezing cold mountain as they slowly began to find themselves falling beneath the overbearing clouds. For several seconds, Moras’ vision was hidden behind a field of white, any and all direction was impossible to discern as his ears only ever heard the crunch of the snow and only ever saw the endless white. The further down Moras tumbled, the more snow bundled around him, the heavier he felt as he slowly tumbled further and further down to the mountaintop slowly turning into a giant snowball and Nithal followed suit, a massive ball of snow rolling downhill alongside Moras. Nithal reached the bottom of the forest before Moras did, knocking down multiple trees as he barreled his way through before stopping at one particularly stubborn oak.
Nithal growled and shook his horned head, eyes flickering dimly with their blue light as he saw a giant snowball coming at him. The snowball collided with his face and bounced perfectly off of him, the ball exploding into multiple little fluffs of softness while Moras flipped through the air, laughing up a storm with his red colored hair contrasting against the soft white in the air. He landed with a heavy thud on the cold grass and extended his claws, growling in anticipation as Nithal swung his massive paw at him. Moras ducked under the attack as the dragon's claws whizzed by and tore a nearby tree with ease. The side of the tree was nearly obliterated and slowly fell to the forest floor with a loud CRUNCH. Moras leaped off the fallen tree and slammed his fists down on the mecha’s muzzle before wrapping his arms around its head and shouting something in his native tongue before lifting Nithal off his feet by his head and slamming him back onto the snow-covered ground. Moras laughed boisterously and swung the snowy oak like a bat into the dragon’s face, knocking him back onto his back. The tree splintered off into even smaller pieces and he grabbed some of them, throwing them like spears into the dented metal head of the mecha dragon. They bounced off but the constant assault kept Nithal on the defensive. When Moras ran out of branches, he rushed forward and grabbed Nithal’s nostrils, dragging him across the ground and bashing his body into the surrounding trees. Nithal got to his feet and dug his feet into the ground, his claws tearing underneath the soil each of which anchoring his body down and opened his mouth, an enormous stream of fire bursting forth. Moras jumped out of the way and hid behind one of the fallen trees. The fire swirled around the forest, colliding with the snow and rather than simply melting it, the two mixed together and produced a blue flame that caught onto the trees and branches with ease. The entire forest was soon swathed with blue fires and it made it harder and harder to breathe.
Nithal crawled his way through the burning forest, the light of the flames bouncing off of his metal hide as he scanned the area for Moras. The ashes of the forest soon began to fill the air and made it difficult to see. The steps he took made the ground shake and the few leaves stuck to the trees to fall closer to the ground, disappearing into smoke before they touched the ground. Moras leapt from under the ashes and grabbed Nithal’s tail. The dragon looked back at him and Moras waved hello before Nithal brought his tail up and slammed him against the floor repeatedly. Moras held on tightly to the beasts’ tail and was laughing the entire time as he was slammed over and over against the ground, Nithal getting more and more frustrated with this animal assaulting him. He swung his tail against the trees, doing his damndest to get rid of Moras but he remained nonetheless. Moras could be heard laughing with every collision against a tree and finally let go, flying through the dead forest and tumbling against the ground, buried under the snow. He popped back up and shook the ashes off of him, spitting out bits that snuck into his mouth.
“Ech. Disgusting.” Nithal glared at the lion and let out a stream of fire, the flame turning blue once again and Moras jumped out of the way and hid behind a tree. The tree withstood the flame, just barely but still enough, and Moras roared as he pushed it over, the bulk of the tree crashing down on Nithal’s head. Moras climbed up the tree and broke off one of the branches and quickly carved the end akin to a spear before jumping off the tree and stabbing it into the crux of the dragons left wing, damaging the gears used to keep it attached and breaking off his wing. Nithal roared and tried to buck Moras off who held on tightly before quickly pounding the back of the dragon’s head and grabbing his massive tail. Mora brought the tail down hard on the center of his spine and stabbed through all of the armor that was supposed to keep the mecha beast protected. Nithal began moving erratically, his body convulsing and beginning to fall apart as he tried to crawl to safety with what limited movement he had left. Moras pushed the tail further through the dragon until it tore through to the other side of his stomach. Nithal cried out in anguish and reached back to grab at Moras who quickly vaulted off of the back of the beast and landed right in from of his face. Nithal pulled his tail out of is stomach and tried to squash Moras under his forepaw but Moras rolled out of the way and grabbed the beast by his muzzle and turned him over onto his back.
“You have something I need. And I’m going to get it.” Moras told the beast as he climbed up to Nithal’s chest and dug his hands in, using his amazing strength to tear past his armored midsection and open the creature’s chest, digging into the gash for something important: The dragon’s heart. Nithal did his best to fight against it but it was getting harder and harder to stay conscious during this gruesome thievery. Moras dug his hand through the incision and grabbed at the first thing he felt. His hand gripped onto the heart of the beast, the vessel pulsating like an actual heart and crackling with an insane amount of ghost like energy, the very touch made Moras felt like his soul was being sucked from his body, faint voices prying their way into his head and crying for death. They wanted to die, they wanted their life to end, they begged for freedom, one voice louder than the others demanding that Moras finish the job.
“Do it mortal! Kill me already! Free me from this prison of iron and steel!” The rest of his cries were in some dragon tongue and Moras did his best to appease these voices and rip free the heart deep inside. The framework holding the heart in place was tough to pull free, the sparks and lightning inside shocking Moras’ hand and actually managing to hurt him, singeing his fur and burning his palm. He finally managed to tear free the bulging heart and quickly dropped it, holding his hand in pain. The faint ghostly smoke emanating from the organ and collective screams coming from it. The burns on his hand looking rather severe but it’s nothing he hadn’t felt before. He leaned in close to the heart and saw as it shake in place before exploding into pieces, the energy inside flying into the air and all through the forest before all of them separated and flew off to wherever they desired. These were all souls. The souls of so many… dragons? They looked like dragons. One of the spirits remained and looked down on Moras, a clear look of disdain on his face and his wings spread out so wide he looked like he had the entire forest beneath him. His eyes were a bright red color and the faint colors that showed on his ghostly visage were yellow red. He leaned down close to the lion by his feet and smiled ever so slightly.
“Thank you.” With that he launched into the air, the massive puff of wind killing any and all embers that remained in the dried and dead woods. Moras smirked and grabbed the empty heart and saw as it changed from the glowing blue gem it was to an almost diamond looking orb, the light shining through the naked trees above giving the orb a beautiful look and feel. Moras smiled and began to walk away before looking back at the corpse of Nithal, his lifeless husk as still and unmoving as any man. He could easily drag the corpse back to the city, obvious proof of his accomplishment. The heart, even though its power vacated could also fetch him a fair bit of coin. Plus, he just took down a freaking Dragon! This whole mission was going to make him a very popular person back home.