Erosc—no, Khatien—looked wearily to the sea. He could just spot the island in the distance, and the large grey building on it that must be the containment center. He hated traveling on water, but he had no choice if he wanted to get to Akhnar Island. Many, many Kayaiin years ago, when the island was first discovered, they thought of it as a lost continent. Now, however, they knew better. The ship heaved again, nearly sending Khatien with it. Imagine, the commander of an entire alliance, seasick. He'd never liked boats and ships, etc. He couldn't exactly say why. Thank the gods they were nearing the island. He didn't think he could stand another thirty minutes on the dreaded thing.

After what seemed an age, they pulled into the harbor. Akhnar Island was very isolated, and very small, which made it a perfect choice for a containment center. Nobody except prisoners or authorities were allowed on the island. He didn't care. He'd been keeping his prosthetics completely hidden from view by a long, silver cloak. He didn't want to arouse any suspicion…not yet. Two guards ran up to him as he got off the ship and immediately began interrogating him. "What d'you think you're doing here?!" one said.

"I am merely visiting a friend," he said coolly. It wasn't the entire truth, but was part of it. The Master (as he'd been told to call her) warned him to only tell them the truth, but it didn't mean he couldn't dodge questions.

The guards looked uneasily at each other. "D'you have a permit?" the other asked.


"Where is it?"


"Can we see it?"

"I am not to show you."

"Oh, really?" The guards exchanged glances at each other, then grabbed Khatien by is right arm and started shoving him toward the center. "All right then, maybe you'll wanna show us later."

"I will."

He could feel the other guard's hand slip onto his steel arm. "Hey, whoa, what's that?!"

"A prosthetic. I recently had a terrible accident involving a Bladier. I'll spare you the details."

"Well, I guess you'll wanna tell the entire story to all the new buddies you're gonna make here."

He smiled grimly as the two began to laugh. "Yes…I suppose so."

The other immediately stopped laughing. "All right, now you're starting to freak me out."

"That doesn't happen often, then, does it?"

"Shut up already!" They'd reached the center and were walking through the doors. The place looked miserable. Well, he'd accomplished his first task: getting into the center without alarming anyone…or had he? He cursed to himself as he saw a metal detector. "All right, come on…"

Oh well. If he killed both of them quickly and silently, they wouldn't have time to sound the alarm. He stepped through the detector, and instantly, a shrill alarm sounded throughout the entire center. Damn!

"All right, let's see what ya got…" One of the guards stepped towards him slowly.

"That would be my permit."

"Oh, really? So you're gonna show it to us?"

"Most certainly." He immediately threw the cloak open and speared the guard on the end of his claws, then whipped around and made mincemeat of the other. Then he wrenched apart the detector, cutting the alarm short. Finally. That thing would've made him deaf. Now he needed to find the 429th cell, because that was where the future commander would be. He looked up and saw endless floors. He guessed there were 100 cells on each floor, so he needed to get to the fourth one. He looked around for a lift, but only saw stairs. Oh well. He needed the exercise anyway.

However, he noticed that, as he was going up the floors, not every one of the prisoners were human. In fact, he saw more beasts and horrible mutants than anything he recognized as belonging to one solitary species. He wondered whether or not this commander was going to be human…and if not, was it dangerous? Of course, it would have to be, you just had to take one look at Khatien to answer that question. But it had to be something he could handle…the Master had trusted him with it, and she wouldn't send any other mortal to do the job. But what if—he reached the fourth floor. He'd also noticed that with each floor, there was a different security level. 417, 418…humans. Things were beginning to look up…424, 425…suddenly, he saw what seemed to be a maximum-security cell. He looked inside and saw darkness. Was there anything in there?

"Well, hello there," said a deep voice from the darkness. "What is your name?"

"I want to know yours, first," he replied.

"I am known as 429. Not a very nice name, is it? Now, what is yours?"

"Ero—no, I mean, Khatien, commander of No Mercy Alliance."

"Want to hear a story?"

"You are to co—what?"

"D'you want to hear a story?"

"Listen, the guards are going to come any second, and—"

"You need to hear this story."

"Can't you just tell me on the ship?"


He groaned softly. "Sure. Go ahead."

"Once, a long time ago, some scientists discovered the skeleton of an ancient reptile, and they weren't about to sell it to the museum."

"Why would they do that?"

"Because this type of reptile had been discovered before, and they needed it." [A/N: I guess I should mention NOW that dinosaurs existed on Malkar, too, and 429 is talking about a Velociraptor.]

"Why did they need it?"

"To clone it."


"Hush. The guards are nearing. When they attempted to clone it, they didn't realize that they also had the DNA of a dragon in the skeleton. Then, one of the scientists made a mistake, and accidentally mixed the DNA with that of a Venosu. Thus, the creature they created was very, very dangerous, and aggressive. When a containment crew was dispatched, however, the creature was calm and allowed himself to be captured, because he knew he could find more peace in a center than in the wild. However, he resisted every attempt of euthanasia, because he also knew that his purpose in the world was not yet fulfilled."

Whatever it was stepped into the light, and Khatien suddenly realized he was talking about himself. He was a bit taller than Khatien, and had dark, blackish-green skin. His face definitely resembled that of the ancient reptile he was talking about earlier (he'd seen it in various museums as a child), except the eye ridges were a bit bigger and he had blades running down his head to the back of his neck, which reminded him uncomfortably of the Bladier. His arms almost resembled those of a human; the hands, though reptilian with long dagger-like claws, had opposable thumbs. On his wrists, though, he saw long green tentacle-looking things that seemed to be attached to his arms, but there were tiny slits in the skin where they seemingly disappeared into his arms. It was the same way on his legs. Khatien glanced over 429's shoulder and saw that the room was pure steel. Not a single crack anywhere. For the first time, he noticed the entire area around the cell was the same way.

"I have a feeling you are going to bring about that purpose."

He was speechless.

"Well, are you going to let me out, or what?"

Khatien nodded, and closed his claws over the diamond-hard bars of the cell. For a while, he thought his arm was going to be ripped off altogether. But then they loosened, and he wrenched them out. "Come on, we're running out of time…"

"Are you sure we haven't run out already?"

"Gee, you're just a little ray of sunshine."

429 lithely stepped out of the cell and placed his hands on the walls, closing his eyes. After a few moments, he opened them. "They're coming. Find a crack somewhere in the floor. Hurry."

"Shouldn't we be concentrating on our efforts to get out?" Khatien protested, but obeyed at the glare he received. It wouldn't be too hard to find a crack in the floor… "Does grouting count?"

"More than you could imagine." 429 stepped over to the block of concrete and the tentacles on his legs slid out and started to rip the block out. Were they vines? Must be; he was part Venosu, and they did seem a bit greener than the rest of him. The block finally popped out, revealing the ground beneath. Khatien looked down the hall and saw even more guards. Great, just great. What was he going to do? Try and tunnel out? They didn't have enough time! The vines slid into the earth and 429 closed his eyes again. He held his hands out, as if weaving a spell, and he could hear the surrounding air crackle with energy. Suddenly, a glowing, white sphere of pure, destructive energy materialized and shot off straight at the guards, instantly killing them without an outcry. Was this his draconic heritage? Must be. Then the vines pulsed and lashed suddenly, and it seemed as though the gesture fired a shockwave throughout the building. Ceiling panels collapsed, flooring jerked loose, and Khatien almost collapsed. 429 retracted his vines and beckoned Khatien to follow. It seemed as though he knew his way around the center better than Khatien. Well, of course he did, he'd been imprisoned here for who knows how long. It seemed as though the other guards had gotten the gist and decided to leave them alone, for they weren't interrupted from then on. Then they could finally see the ship in the distance—but it was leaving!

"Damn then!" he cursed out loud as he gave pursuit, which was rather pointless. 429, however, slid out his vines again, then plunged them into the earth near the shore. A few moments later, the ship was jerked to a halt. Khatien froze; did 429 do that? How could he? That ship must've weighed at least a ton! Then it started inching slowly back to shore. The crew on board were yelling out orders and curses, but nothing could stop it. Khatien looked in awe back at 429. He didn't seem to be making any effort at all. Then he could see guards on board. Ah, but of course. Thos bastards had gotten on the ship and taken control. The ship was dragged up onto shore. One of the guards leaped off the ship and stormed over to them, khisoran rifle in hand. He raised it to fire, but then suddenly the vines slid out of 429's arms, and he could see razor-sharp edges on them. The edges were embedded into the guard's chest, and, sickeningly, Khatien could see the rest of the vines worming around in it. Then the vines were suddenly pulled apart, ripping the guard's chest open, making him scream out in pain and fear. The vines retracted and 429 turned to glare at the other guards on board. There was a moment's silence, then the rest of them immediately jumped off, running back to the center.

429 turned to look at Khatien. "All in a day's work, right?"

"Well…uh…if you say so…let's just get out of here…"

Back on the ship, Khatien wasn't faring much better than he was before. 429, though, seemed to be doing just fine. Had he ever been on a ship before? Probably, since that was the only way to get to the island. He noticed, however, that the vines were reaching overboard. "What're you doing?"

"You can't expect a half-Venosu to survive for long without water, now, do you?"

"Well…no…wait, do you even eat?!"

"I don't have a need to." He looked away. "That is why I am superior to most other species. My only weakness is Sæyaka's wrath."


"The goddess of flame. Didn't you pay attention in mythology class?"

"You've never attended one."

"Maybe not a formal one."

"I've never heard of Sæyaka before, though…"

"What about Marise? Or Jolas, for that matter?"

"Er…no, never. I've only heard of Sarun, Nekro, and Llanos…"

"Of course. That's because they're the only 'important' ones. Sarun and Nekro because they were the most powerful, and Llanos because she took Nekro's place. The minor gods have supposedly been long forgotten."

"Yes, but…" Something was nagging him. He remembered that 'sæyaka' was archaic Malkarian for something, but he couldn't remember what…it was the same for 'marise'. What was it?

"But what?"

"Nothing." Now he remembered. 'Sæyaka' meant 'desire'; 'marise' was 'destiny'. Strange names for gods and goddesses; what did desire have to do with flame? Unless it was a metaphor, of course. 'Jolas' was 'short'. That was obvious. Then he thought he could remember something from the dream…then it slipped away again, elusive as ever. "By the way…do you…er…plan on keeping the name 429?"

"No. I never have. I trust that you've never planned on keeping the name Erosc, either…"

He was alarmed. "How…how d'you know about that?!"

"Simple. It was all over the news. 'Dying soldier mysteriously disappears from hospital, lost both legs and arm'. It doesn't take a genius to put two and two together."

"Oh…" He suddenly remembered his father, and wondered how he was…whether or not he was still alive… "Well…uh…if you don't plan on being called a number for the rest of your life, what is your new name?"


"I see you've had a lot of time to think about this."

"No. It is one of the few draconic words that can also be said by the human tongue, as well as the reptilian."

"What does it mean, 'death'?"

"No. It means 'omen'."

"Uh…interesting. So, you're fluent in the reptilian languages?"

"As well as the Venosu and Bladier. It doesn't take an idiot to figure out Venosu, but it takes a master to say it. Bladier is a bit more complicated, but not by much. Now, as for the draconic language…it only sounds like a few grunts, growls, and roars to the simplest of minds, but upon closer listening, it is one of the few Malkar has that defines beauty and intelligence."

"Well, I can't really say anything about that. I've never heard it."

Daenos chuckled and said a few sentences in what he assumed to be the dragons' language. Khatien could see his point, then; it didn't sound like he was just making some noise for the hell of it, it sounded like he was actually saying something. And yet, it seemed impossible…

"It is, to be honest, the most complicated language stemming from Erosciin roots. And it is also a dead one. Number one, because only the reptilian can speak and understand it. Number two, it is too complicated for even those capable of speaking it to speak it. And number three…"

"The dragons themselves have been dead for centuries," muttered Khatien.

"No. Not dead. In hiding."

"In hiding…? But that's impossible! Eventually someone would notice one."

"True. But that is why they are coming out and finding Riders. They sense a great war coming." Daenos narrowed his eyes at him. "One I think that both of us will be hugely involved in. One of the dragons, however, has been long driven insane since the death of his Rider…and thus, has been abducted by our new employer."

Khatien suddenly remembered something else from that weird dream…a large, black dragon taking over Serro Tyme. Was that the dragon Daenos was talking about…? "What happened?"

"He was weak. An immediate target for the Night Spirit to strike."


"The most deadly living entity to have ever existed."

"So…wait, what you're saying is that she's our new boss?"


"Yeah, she. She told me to go get you."

He paused. "Well…the Night Spirit is male."

"Oh…good. So that means that the Night Spirit didn't get the dragon?"

"I don't know…"