Song of Dragons The Complete Trilogy Page 0,1

in battle. They breathed fire and roared. Spears and arrows plucked the young from the skies. Their scales were too soft, their wings too small. They hit the ground, screaming, soon overcome with swordsmen who hacked them. Blood splashed. In death they resumed human forms; battered, bloodied, butchered children.

They take our youth first, Benedictus thought. He slammed into soldiers below, biting, clawing, lashing his tail, ignoring the pain of swordbites. They let us, the old, see the death of our future before they fell us too from the skies.

These older Vir Requis—the warriors—fought with fire, claw, and fang. These ones had seen much war, had killed too many, bore too many scars. Soon mounds of bodies covered the battlefield. The Vir Requis howled as they killed and died.

Our race will fall here today, Benedictus thought as spears flew and shattered against his scales. But we will make a last stand for poets to sing of.

And then shrieks tore the air, and the griffins were upon him.

They were cruel beasts, as large as dragons, their bodies like great lions, their heads the heads of eagles, their beaks and talons sharp. In the books of men they were noble, warriors of light and righteousness, sent by the Sun God to fight the curse of Requiem, the wickedness of scales and leathery wings. To Requiem they were monsters.

Today Benedictus saw thousands of them, swooping beasts of feathers and talons. Two crashed into him, scratching and biting. One talon slashed his front leg, and Benedictus roared. He swung his tail, hit one's head, and cracked its skull. It tumbled. Benedictus blew fire onto the second. Its fur and feathers burst into flame. Its shrieks nearly deafened him, and it too fell, blazing, to crash into men below.

Panting and grunting with pain, sluggish with poison, Benedictus glanced around. The griffins were swarming; they outnumbered the Vir Requis five to one. Most Vir Requis lay dead upon the bloody field, pierced with arrows and spears and talons. And then more griffins were upon Benedictus, and he could see only their shrieking beaks, their flashing talons. Flaming arrows filled the air.

Has it truly been only five years? Benedictus thought as talons tore into him, shedding blood. Haze covered his thoughts, and the battle almost seemed silent around him. Five years since my father banished my brother, since a million of us filled the sky? Yes, only five years. Look at us now. Dragons fell around him like rain, maws open, tears in their eyes.

"No!" Benedictus howled, voice thundering. He blew fire, forcing the haze of death off him. He was not dead yet. He still had some killing in him, some blood to shed, some fire to breathe. Not until I've killed more. Not until I find the man who destroyed us. Dies Irae. My brother.

He clawed, bit, and burned as his comrades fell around him, as the tears and blood of Requiem filled the air and earth.

He fought all night, a night of fire, and all next day, fought until the sun again began to set. Its dying rays painted the world red.

Pierced by a hundred arrows, weary and bloody, Benedictus looked around and knew: The others were gone.

He, Benedictus, was the last.

He flew between griffins and spears and arrows. His brethren lay slain all around. In death, they lay as humans. Men. Women. Children. All those he had led to battle; all lay cut and broken, mouths open, limbs strewn, eyes haunted and still.

Benedictus raised his eyes. He stared at the army ahead, the army he now faced alone. Thousands of soldiers and griffins faced him under the roiling clouds. The army of Dies Irae.

He saw his brother there, not a mile away, clad in white and gold. Victorious.

Bleeding, tears in his eyes, Benedictus flew toward him.

Spears clanged against Benedictus. Arrows pierced him. Griffins clawed him. Still he swooped toward Dies Irae. Fire and screams flowed around him, and Benedictus shot like an arrow, roaring, wreathed in flame.

Dies Irae rose from the battlefield upon a griffin, bearing a lance of silver and steel. Gold glistened upon his armor and samite robes. He appeared to Benedictus like a seraph, a figure of light, ablaze like a sun.

Benedictus, of black scales and blood and fire, and Dies Irae, of gold and white upon his griffin. They flew toward each other over the mounds of dead.

Benedictus was hurt and weary. The world blurred. He could barely fly. He was too hurt, too torn, too haunted. Dies Irae crashed