Virxi Dragon contest entry Picture

April 19th, 2008
Photoshop and drawingtablet

Carefully Aerian lifted her head and peeked out of the underbrush, under which she was taking shelter. The sound of the thunderstorm in the distant mountain range had not decreased. In fact, it was gaining ground and would probably arrive at Fawrwynn Forest soon. Aerian sighed. Her small, angular head pivoted on her long neck to look down at the small figure sleeping at her side.
"Soon." She whispered. "Soon the storm will pass, my love. And then I shall show you the wonders of this world."
The wonders of this world. It is not right that a youngling like this should only know its horrors.
Aerian shuddered at the sudden and unwanted recollection, but soon regained control over her body's reflexes. The sleeping figure did not respond to the movement. He was vast asleep. She would not wake the little one now. He so desperately needed to rest if he was to survive.
Gently, the Virxi Dragon stroked her newborn with her feathered wing - a rarity among her kind. The Avian Virxi generally had leathery wings. Aerian laid her head on the floor to rest, her neck curling protectively around the youngling.
The entire world may be against you. Fear you. Because it does not understand what you are, but I will not let them harm you.
No. She had already sacrificed her most valuable possession, short of her own life - her home - in order to protect her firstborn son. Aerian would certainly not let anyone take him from her now.
If anyone comes for him, Aerian suddenly thought fiercely, I will KILL them. Or die trying. I won't let anyone take him, not even Garrin.
Her bright blue eyes filled with sadness as her thoughts flew to her mate. The father of their son. Yes, he had done this. But she could not blame him...
After all... He had only acted to protect the Clan.
Oh, how I miss the Clan already!

A sudden crack of thunder interrupted her train of thoughts. The lighting pierced the sky ever more frequently. Each flash violently lit the sky as bright as the sun did during the day. If not brighter.
And every flash was accompanied by a roaring, rolling thunder clap, which seemed to make the Earth itself shake like a leaf. Each bang made Aerian flinch involuntarily and she was afraid her son would be woken. She already mentally prepared herself to calm the frightened newborn. However, he did now wake up. He seemed to sleep straight through each flash and each bang as if they were not even there. His mother, relieved as she was, could not help but feel a little troubled.
Surely, he wasn't deaf? When a particularly loud explosion of sound roared overhead, the little creature did flinch briefly, but continued to sleep. Over the noise, Aerian could barely hear herself releasing the breath she had been holding.

After what seemed like an eternity, but which probably did not last over 10 minutes, the storm seemed to pass over, moving on to the west to terrorize some other part of the land. With the parting of the storm came the arrival of a cold wind, which Aerian knew would soon be followed by rain. Here her feathered wings would once again prove their worth. As the first heavy drops started to fall, the Virxi mother covered her youngling with her strong wings. The down on the inside of her wings would surely keep him warm and comfortable.
The rain intensified and became louder. In the distance Aerian could still hear the last thundering sounds of the storm, but she was no longer concerned by it. It had passed and as such was no longer worth noting.
Now that the storm was gone, the forest was starting to stir. All manner of creatures carefully started leaving their shelters, preparing to go about their daily business of finding food, while trying to avoid getting eaten. Aerian let her tongue slide against the rows sharp teeth in her small mouth. Soon she would have to hunt too. She hadn't eaten in days and her child...
Actually, he probably hadn't eaten anything since he was born four days ago. The Virxi Dragon suddenly felt very hollow inside when she realized this. To go this long unfed was not good, especially for a newborn!
"Ah, four days and already I am a terrible mother!" she murmured.
Of course, it was not entirely her fault, but as his mother she was responsible for his wellbeing. Even if nobody wanted to see him left alive. Especially if nobody wants to see him alive, because no one will care for him. All they see is a monster! Anger flared up in her again. How could they not have seen it! Nox was not a monster! He was just a newborn.

A very unusual newborn.

Aerian felt the wind patterns shift. The crystals in her body, which were aligned to the wind element, gave her this ability. The storm in the distance was shifting its course. The Virxi stared out in its direction for a while. After determining that it was not coming back their way, she relaxed and focused her attention on the sleeping Nox.
Tomorrow I will hunt, she thought, trying to train her mind on mundane thoughts. She did not want to think of that terrible event of four days ago.
Maybe I'll catch a deer. A nice plump one. We will feast like the elders!
Fawrwynn Forest was an excellent hunting ground and, most importantly, it had been left untouched by the Void. The ancient wood lay on the most south-western borders of the Farranhill Virxi Clan, of which they were now both exiles. It was one of their most bountiful hunting grounds. Soon the other Virxi would come to this place. Aerian knew they were still too busy regrouping. They needed to reorganize themselves after the utter chaos of the Void. But after that, with over half of their territory wiped off the map, they would surely come here to hunt. By then she and her child needed to be far from this place. Far in the Outlands, beyond the borders of her birth grounds, the homeland of the once mighty Farranhill Clan.
Aerian did not want to think of leaving the territory she had once called her home. She was still relatively young for a Virxi, having only seen 67 summers. She had never strayed beyond the borders of the clan. She had never even gotten close to these borders. Now she would have no choice but to cross. And under the most unfavourable of circumstances, no less.
Normally she would not have dreamt of leaving the territory without the company of other adult Virxi Dragons, but none of them would help her now. She was also carrying a mutilated newborn and she was about to cross over into the dreaded Outlands. Judging by the stories she had heard the elders tell of this place, the Outlands were vast, prey animals were few and there were an unimaginable number of beastly predators ready to take down any unwary fool who crossed their paths. Even the unpredictable 'Um-ans, those strange two legged creatures, would surely not be stupid enough to go there. Well, there might of course always be some exceptions - 'Um-ans were known for their foolishness. No sane creature would venture into the Outlands, though. But Aerian knew she had no choice. She had chosen this path herself, now she had to see it through.
But not now. They were safe for now. The Farranhill Virxi would not come tonight. Or even tomorrow. They could both rest in this peaceful forest for now. And perhaps the other Virxi would not even come after them at all. Any encounter with them would most likely be a chance encounter, one Aerian would make sure to avoid, since they were still too busy looking for one another, taking care of the wounded and mourning the dead. With so many of them gone, perhaps their ranks would be permanently weakened. This weakness. Aerian knew the northern and eastern Virxi clans would pick up on this without fail. They would most likely attempt to invade and claim the territory as their own, even if this charred land was hardly worth the effort. For the foreign Virxi it would still be a significant step up from their own situation. Aerian thought about this for a while. This is my fault. It was my son, who caused this loss. And now Farranhill itself might be vulnerable. Atalus All-Mother help me!

Farranhill, its name was a ridiculous understatement. It was a vast mountain, surrounded by other huge mountains. Their massive shapes dominated the skyline of Gaswondiir pass. Below the great river Rinn had carved out a massive gorge which led to the mountain valley Dwensan. This valley was green almost throughout the year and was home to many creatures, most of which had been the natural prey for the Farranhill Clan for countless generations. It was the perfect habitat for both Earthbound and Avian Virxi Dragons. But is was all gone now. Wasted. The Void had annihilated all animal and plant life. It had blasted the rocks bare of their snow covering and had somehow blackened them completely, even though there had been no fire. Even the mighty river Rinn was gone. No one knew what happened to the water or the creatures that had lived in it - it was all just gone. All that remained was an empty gorge and an immense mud pool stinking of death.
As her thoughts went to that place, her home, Aerian felt the tears swell in her eyes. How she loved living in Farranhill! Now it was all gone. And Nox had caused it all. He had generated the Void, the very instant he was born. As she glanced over at the peacefully sleeping newborn, she couldn't help but feel the doubt rise in her heart. Had the elders been right? Even Garrin, the clan leader who had sired Nox, had said the youngster needed to be destroyed. They were all afraid he would one day unwittingly or otherwise, release the Void into the world again.
In the silence of the night, Nox stirred and stretched his limbs, but still did not wake up. The muscles in his back arched. The wounds, where his wings had once been were still fresh - and probably painful. As his moved, the newborn's facial expression changed a little, contorted in grimace as the wounds slowly started bleeding a little. Aerian lifted her wing and bent over. Her head hovered over his small body and her tongue cleaned the red blood from the wounds. Red! Aerian still could not believe it, but blood was blood. Nox, still sleeping let out a deep sigh and settled down to pass into his deep sleep state once again. His mother watched him and her doubts disappeared. There was no evil in him. He just couldn't help being what he was. He was born unlucky. She could hear him sigh again. For now all was well with the youngling.
How could he have been born with the Void element? Why did it have to happen?
Aerian knew it made no difference to ask these questions. It was as the elders always said, no one controls their destiny fully. The Earthbound Virxi do not complain that they cannot fly and the Avian Virxi do not complain that they cannot swim - although in reality they probably did complain. Every Virxi was born with their own specific element. Aerian was born with the wind element, just like her father. Garrin belonged to the fire element. And Nox... Nox was unlucky enough to have been born with the Forbidden element. The Void element. An element so rare, that most had thought it did not exist. Almost as rare as the One unique element, only sported by the legendary All-Mother - the Life element.

"Atalus Coeilia Six Wings, Virxi mother to us all" Aerian whispered the All-Mother's full name, unsure whether she was praying or simply rambling.
"Would you have agreed with them? Would you have thought my child a monster as well? Or would you have seen what I see? Since we are both mothers." She sharply inhaled in shock of her own words. To compare oneself to the All-Mother was an unimaginable act of blasphemy. And I may even have spoken the words out loud! Instinctively she looked around to see if anyone had heard her careless words. Of course no one could have heard. It was practically unthinkable anyone would be here right now. Surely they were all at Farranhill. She relaxed a little when she made sure she was alone with her newborn.

The Void element was actually not a true element. It was essentially the absence of elements. In fact, it was the absence of ALL things. The very nature of the Void, its nihilism, made it an abomination. No one knew how the Void had been able to become part of the Virxi Dragon race. Some suspected that it was a mutation, caused in some way by their new home, this alien world their ancestors had chosen for themselves. Before, when the Virxi had belonged to a different world, the Void element had not existed. Or at least the stories did not mention it. Their current home world was thought to have caused a change, a strange evolutionary twist.
Some believed that the Void was in fact the counterpart of the One element, possessed by Atalus Six Wings. They believed that the Void was actually Death. However, Aerian knew this could not be true. She could not believe this was true, not after what she had seen. The One element, Life, was a natural element. It contained the essence of all elements. She had always been taught that the Life element gave its wielder the power to control life. Atalus did not just give Life, she also took it. Death was the natural conclusion of Life and thus the two belonged together, complemented each other. Most chose to only accept the life giving side of the All-Mother, but Aerian always thought this was misguided. No, the Void was not Death, it simply caused it. Eventually. It was far worse than Death. It was precisely what its name implied.
It was empty. What was more, it sucked in all other elements, all other matter, all life. It absorbed them, negated them. In short, it caused them to disappear. Rendered them as if they had never existed. It was this terrifying aspect of the Void, which made it so dangerous. Nobody knew what happened to those who were trapped by the Void, but everyone agreed that it must be a fate worse than death.
And yet... Aerian knew it could have been far worse. Nox, he had saved them. She knew it was true.

Nox, like his mother, was born on Farranhill. Life had been so good until that day he was born. Aerian had been so happy when Garrin, the clan leader and an unusually large male had chosen her as his mate. Back then, there had been love, even though Garrin was bad at showing it. Their first child came soon after the mate choosing ritual. The egg had seemed perfect, the right shape, the right size, the right color. Absolutely perfect. It incubated as it was supposed to and when it started to hatch on that fateful day, it was precisely on time.
As the shell of the egg cracked, the young Virxi inside struggled to work its way out of the hard, confining space. Aerian had been so excited. She was going to be a mother! The newborn continued to wriggle its way out of the egg, moving in an uncoordinated manner as all younglings did. When its upper body was outside the eggshell, it stopped and rested in the sun. Aerian examined her new hatchling. Its skin was unusually dark, with wavy markings and fine, shiny scales covering its entire body. The skin seemed to shift colors, depending on the light. Where the light was bright, the hatchling seemed dark blue in color, but in the shade of her body hovering overhead it turned ashen, almost black. The crystals, the defining characteristic of all Virxi were also dark, slightly greenish in color. Aerian knew they would soon start to glow and take on their assigned element. Each hatchling acquired its element only moments after birth, even though this element was already predetermined long before birth. This event usually manifested itself in a short burst of energy taking on the appearance of the appropriate element. Aerian's mother always told her that when she was born herself, her elemental manifestation had caused a brief gale storm, causing some unwary Avian Virxi to be blown from the sky. It had caused quite an upheaval.
The hatchling moved once again, seemed to take a moment to take in the sunlight and bask in its warmth. A tingling sensation in her own crystals told Aerian that the newborn's elemental manifestation was close at hand. Soon the crystals in its body would start to glow. Aerian eagerly bent over her child and took in his scent. But then she saw the youngling's crystals. They were not glowing. No, they were becoming darker. In fact, it seemed as if they were taking IN light. "This isn't right" she whispered. "This can't be right."
Surprised at first, then shocked and terrified she watched as the hatchling seemed to become enveloped in darkness. This dark, swirling cloud grew, seemed to swallow the hatchling completely. She could barely distinguish it as it squirmed and seemed to writhe in pain. It opened its small mouth and let out a shrieking sound of alarm and pain.
"Garrin! GARRIN!!" Aerian's voice was so distorted by fear, she barely recognized it herself. She was helpless as she watched the Void expand. A great black hole appeared where the child had once been, slowly lifting itself off the ground. The air around her turned frigid and even though it was midday, the light seemed to quickly fade away. The manifestation of the Void continued to grow, Aerian now realized what it was, having heard the stories - the 'fairytales' - when she was young. And she knew she was powerless to stop it. Incapable of any action, she froze and could only watch as the dark cloud, or hole or whatever it was started to tower over the peak of Farranhill, countless leagues up in the air. Had it happened in any other Virxi Clan's territory, this manifestation of the Void would have wiped out a huge portion of the continent before collapsing in on itself. But this was the Farranhill Clan, an unusually powerful clan. Generations of Virxi had ensured that their territory would be safe and suitable to sustain many Virxi Dragons. Unlike the neighbouring Virxi territories, Farranhill was a true safe haven. This had allowed the clan to expand. Hundreds of Virxi called Farranhill their home, an unheard of number and a force to be reckoned with.
The initial state of confusion was quickly replaced by a swift call to arms. Virxi came flocking in from all directions to fight this unexpected foe.

Aerian had no precise recollections of the battle that followed, but she knew it had been terrible. Many of her Clan came and unleashed all of their might upon the Void. The Void, although powerful and capable of absorbing elemental attacks, was not completely impervious to their attacks. The Farranhill Virxi channelled energy through their crystals to attack the Void with the combined powers of wind, earth, fire, water, ice, thunder, light, darkness, sand and all other imaginable elements. The power unleashed had been truly spectacular. But the Void seemed unstoppable, it absorbed many of their attacks and retaliated by expanding rapidly and in unpredictable ways. Many Virxi became entangled. The death toll had been horrendous.

Aerian herself did not fight. She could not. She never left her place once she had seen the Void envelop her newborn, too shocked to move. The Void was all around her, barely missing her, or she too would have been taken. She was literally standing in the eye of a storm, one unlike any other. She looked up and only saw darkness. There was no light, no sound, no movement, no life. It felt as if all hope, all joy had been sucked out of her and all she could do was whimper. In despair Aerian called for her child. The high pitched shriek, used to call younglings, seemed to be sucked away into the void, just like everything else. She knew she was calling, felt the air rush out with every scream, but there was no sound. It was as if she had gone deaf. Deaf and blind. Desperately she looked into the darkness, peering, trying to force her eyes to see something in the utter blackness of the Void. It was maddening to have her senses blocked out, and yet she knew she was not actually taken by the Void, but merely surrounded by it. But it was not the Void that frightened her, it was the fear for the fate of her hatchling. Panic-stricken, she was about to dash into the Void to look for it, when a shimmer caught the her eye. It was very faint, very far away. At first it seemed to just be an illusion, created by her own brain's desire to see something. Anything. But the closer she looked, the clearer it seemed. It did not grow bigger, did not move and did not actually become any brighter. It almost seemed to be swallowed by the Void. First Aerian thought it was the sun, which somehow managed to struggle its way through the Void. But then she realized it had to be the newborn, her newborn. Aerian locked on to it and called, never stopped calling for her child to come back. Trying to pierce the silence with her voice.

The battle had subsided and somehow the Void had been beaten. Aerian looked out over a desolate landscape, it was alien and yet familiar. It was her home, Farranhill, but it had been blasted and mutilated. All plants and animals were gone. The sun, now setting, shone a bright red light on the area, making it seem even more surreal. The surface of the mountain was strewn with bodies of Virxi and animals alike. There were countless bodies, either dead or dying, the light of their eyes and their crystals gone for good.
And Aerian knew there were many more dead, their bodies absorbed by the Void, never to be found again. The Virxi mother could not bear to breathe deeply, the air reeked so badly of death and decay. It was also filled with the pitiful cries of the dying. The few surviving Virxi, were gathering atop the mountain. There could be no more than two dozen of them now. Aerian could not see who they were. Who was dead and who was alive? At her feet lay a small blue-black lump. She bent her head and examined it, but she already knew what it was. The hatchling, deathly pale, was barely clinging on to life. The crystals on its body were still spewing small puffs of dark fume, but were slowly regaining their originals greenish color. However, the large crystal on its tail glowed brightly yellow, pulsing almost white.

In Fawrwynn Forest, new day's light was braking through the canopy. Aerian lifted her head and stretched as much as she could without waking Nox. Soon he would have to be woken, but not right now. Just a little bit longer.
She inspected Nox's sleeping form for what seemed like the thousandth time - she couldn't help it. The green crystals on his body, now cracked by Garrin to avoid a repetition of the Void manifestation, did not show any signs of turning dark again. How could they? Cracked crystals could not manifest any elemental power. Their damaged surface rendered them useless for everything but the most basic of life supporting functions. It was a punishment, reserved only for the most loathed of criminals, but Nox had committed no crime. He was a victim, as much as everybody else, but none of the Farranhill Virxi had wanted to see it. That day they were screaming for his blood, had wanted to rip him apart where he had fallen from the sky. Aerian had thrown herself in front of them, had physically fought them off with tooth and claw. Only when Garrin intervened, had the other Virxi backed down. At first Aerian thought Garrin would protect them, would protect their son, but she had been wrong. On hindsight she realized he had acted only to protect the Clan, or what remained of it, but at the time she could not contain her astonishment and rage when he ordered her to stand back and let him dispose of their child. She raged, lashed out, pleaded, cried and begged. Aerian tried to explain what she thought to be the truth about Nox. That he could not help what had happened, because he had been a victim of his own Void element. But they did not want to listen to her. It got even worse when Fettith, a nosy little bastard, examined the hatchling and discovered something else about it. Nox was a male. All Virxi were initially born as females. Some later became males as they matured, but Nox had been born as a male, which was completely unheard of. After this, they were even more adamant to kill him, but Garrin had something else in mind. Garrin, the fearless clan leader, had always found it difficult to show his emotions. Most thought he was simply cold and anti-social, but Aerian knew him better than that.
He was the only one that day to make her an offer, which would allow her to save her son. Exile. They cracked the hatchling's crystals, leaving only the bright tail crystal intact, not because they intended to, but because they had been unable to break its surface. It was too hard for them to breach and this made them even more frightened. Even if only one crystal remained intact, so they argued, there would be a chance the newborn would summon the Void again. But Garrin overruled them and completed his task as leader. With his own jagged teeth he tore off the young one's leathery wings, causing red blood to stream down his back. Virxi didn't have red blood, they had blue blood, but the Farranhill Virxi were already well beyond being surprised. With his wings gone, Nox would never be able to reach Farranhill again. Its slopes were simply too steep for anyone to scale on foot. The youngling had only squirmed a little during the amputation, already too severely weakened by the Void manifestation to protest loudly.
Aerian, as his mother, had chosen to take her son and go into exile, swearing to never take him back to Farranhill. Nox would be her responsibility and hers alone. With the shivering youngling in her talons she flew away from her devastated home, towards an uncertain future. When she looked back, she saw only Garrin was left watching her go. She clenched her teeth together and could not prevent a tear from rolling down her bony left cheek. Resolutely she turned her head and flew on.

Nox stirred, warmed by the sun and opened his bright green eyes. He yawned and squeaked, revealing his perfect rows of sharp, white teeth. Expectantly he looked up at his mother. Aerian looked into his questioning eyes and wondered if he even remembered what had transpired just a few days earlier. Did he even know they had spent the last four days flying towards the western border of their home land? Probably not.
But then again. How could he have forgotten about the Void? Still, he was just a newborn. It was unlikely he would ever recall that day. However, Aerian knew and would always know. And she knew what Nox had done. She knew, even though no one had wanted to believe her. The Void manifestation of Farranhill had not been unique in history. There were several stories of similar events, of younglings manifesting the Void as soon as they were born. A few days ago, many Virxi, including herself had considered these stories to be fairytales. However, all of these stories had one thing in common. Each Void Virxi lasted only a few minutes, before they themselves had been consumed by the Void they generated. Each one had succumbed to it in an extremely short period of time and the Void had collapsed in on itself. However, during this brief moment the stories claimed each Void manifestation had utterly destroyed entire nations. This Void, the one generated by Nox, had lasted for several hours, he had survived it and 'only' half of the territory of the Farranhill Clan had been obliterated. Aerian knew it had to have been Nox's doing. She knew he must have fought the Void, tried to resist it from the inside. He fought to survive and he fought to contain it. As young as he was, he had fought like a rock lion. She just knew it. This is what had kept the Void contained to a relatively small area, probably saving countless lives.
Nox squeaked again and shook his head. He was obviously hungry. He rose to his feet awkwardly, stumbled and fell flat on his little face. For a short moment he sat, dazed and shook his head again. Then he rolled on his back and kicked his four remaining limbs up in the air, kicking and grabbing at an invisible object. Feet in mid-air he stopped and stared at her again. "Sshh-qeaah?"
Aerian smiled and watched him stick his left hind paw in his mouth. No, Nox was not evil. He had a kind heart and he was a little hero.
"Nox." She said. The youngling looked up at her again and answered. "Sssh-qeh?"
He had yet to learn the language and probably did not even understand her. At least not her spoken words.
"Nox", Aerian repeated the name, which Garrin had given their son. It was time to complete the naming ritual of Farranhill. Each Vixri received their first name from their father and their last two names from their mother. Garrin had named Nox right before she had taken the hatchling away from Farranhill.

"Nox Esperean Tail Light". Aerian nodded. That would be it. The shining crystal on his tail, that was what she had seen in the Void. She was certain it would not summon the Void. "Son of Aerian Eoran White Wing and Garrin Fandor Fire Leaper, of Farranhill. May you grow to be strong, brave, wise, kind and…" She paused her ritual wish "… and forgiving."
Nox rolled over on his belly again, having gotten bored. He started darting, turning in circles and playfully chasing his tail with its shiny crystal tip. Aerian could not help but laugh. It seemed so long ago when she had know laughter.
"Let's hunt then, shall we?"

Nox is my entry for the Virxi Dragon contest organized by