The Final Chapter: Grampa’s vision had done little justice to the presence before him, Elysian was a mammoth sized dragon. Wali had to strain his eyes to capture his spread but couldn’t get past his torso which rested on a throne built of obsidian. Elysian’s bloody form glistened in contrast to the black stone with his tail nowhere in sight; his body extended to the end of the hall like an endless entity of its own. Wali was mesmerised by the liquidity of Elysian’s body, he thought that if he reached out to touch him, his hands would meet with a sticky texture, almost like a blood infused version of caramel glaze. Wali observed Elysian as modestly as an eleven year old with an unhealthy obsession with magical creatures and dragons possibly could. That is, he gawked at Elysian shamelessly. When the dragon’s mouth opened, it revealed his oxblood tongue, fat and ripe with the venom of prophecies that he dripped onto the child before him. Wali felt a raging fire course through his veins, which ebbed and splashed in him although visibly, nothing changed about his manner. The directions were clear; he knew what he had to do in order to save Aqeeq, the Blue Dragon from the Wazir of Gnydillin’s stronghold. ******* When Wali returned to the cave, he resurfaced from the water and flung himself onto dry land with the help of the same chain that he had been prodding when he got dragged underwater. Wali didn’t have to conduct a search for Bawnie, he found him moping at the edge of the water body where he had last left him. He gave him a little tap on the shoulder and Bawnie shrieked as soon as he saw him. ‘The plan, son, is to ride the storm.’ Grampa winked at Wali before nodding to the dragon “B-b-but Wali Saheb, where were you? How did you survive under the water this long? I have already sent for help, Grampa must be so worried!” Bawnie stammered in confusion. He was more disheveled than Wali thought him capable of being. “You stay here and wait for Grampa and Turaha, Bawnie. Tell them I am under orders from Elysian, the Mighty. I know what I have to do. Meet me at the Wazir’s Fort.” “What fort?” Bawnie inquired but Wali had already started to rush towards the exit of the cave, leaving Bawnie behind with his trail of thought. ******* Wali knew he had to take the route to the right; he ran past the gargoyle stationed outside the other turn, choosing to ignore its hostile demeanour this time around. He knew that there was a lot resting on him but he had been guided by Elysian as to the way he had to take and the obstacles that he had to endure. The journey ahead was not one that he could ever be prepared for but at least he knew what to expect. He was aware that there was an army of Goblins waiting for him as he went deeper into the dungeon. As he proceeded further, he could tell they were near from the odd scratching sound in the air, it was as if something or someone was trailing sharp nails along a steel surface. This was undoubtedly Goblin speech, Elysian had shown him these things in the vision that they had shared in the temple. The sound was a distressful one and when added with the prospect of facing Goblin warriors, it made him utterly anxious. As he stepped forward, he saw the voracious creatures advancing towards him. They had a skittish manner about them as they approached Wali from the corners of the dungeon. Their gnarly smiles, and grotesque appearances were protected by ancient gear and the stench of rotting flesh rose from them. Wali also noticed that their deformed bodies were armed with shields and spears, ready to wage war against him. They closed in on him in groups of threes and fours; their pattern was not a random one, it was organised and disciplined. They began to inch towards him and as they closed in on him, their spears brushed against his skin, sending the creatures in fits of laughter. It seemed that they had been deprived of their savage instincts for too long and wanted to derive as much pleasure as possible from their prey before they devoured it. Wali recognised the leader from amongst them from the belt that he had fashioned with trophies seemingly collected from previous victims; a cluster of human hair and a few teeth that were placed in its centre for aesthetic effect. Wali had been informed by Elysian to wait till the Goblin King was within reach before pulling out his own weapon of defence. It was then that Wali removed the little device made of dragon scales that Elysian had given him and flung it in the air where it stayed for a few seconds, turning heads before it dispelled dragon venom at the enemy. The effect was instantaneous; they fell to the ground, their high pitched screams ricocheting off the walls of the dungeon. ******* It had been a few hours since Wali had seen Bawnie and fought off the Goblins, he was starting to give up on his quest. He had been marching through the dark halls of the dungeon on his own with no end in sight. It felt like he was walking in circles because it all looked the same. He huddled into a corner, put his head in between his legs and began to sob uncontrollably; he was tired and exhausted and eventually cried himself to sleep. It was by no means a peaceful sleep, his subconscious was troubled. As he slipped further into it, he dreamt of the blue scales he so longed to see. The ones that hadn’t quite surfaced as yet but were slightly raised along the expanse of Aqeeq’s body. As his vision cleared, he saw his face, slumped on the floor. Aqeeq, the Blue Dragon wore a look of defeat and his glassy eyes caused a stir in Wali’s soul. He was chained to the floor in a chamber deep within the Wazir’s Fort after being captured. The witch that had helped cloak his tribe had been the one to betray them in the end, she helped the Wazir lead an attack on the dragons of the Isbay’khta Tribe. Their entire clan had been drowned by her, they were trapped at the bottom of the lake that Wali had been dragged under. Only the Mighty Elysian survived owing to the sacrifice of the other members of his tribe. Elysian had explained all of this to him and made it clear that he had pinned his hopes on Wali, explaining how Grampa had been a devout worshipper of Dragon power but he was never the one for whom the prophecy was intended. It was Wali’s prophecy to complete. When Wali woke he did so abruptly with renewed vigour, he couldn’t forget the look in Aqeeq’s eyes. He squinted his eyes in the darkness, stood up and continued his journey. He hadn’t gone much further when he saw a light at the far end of the dungeon, it looked like an opening. Wali wondered if it was a mirage and like a thirst maddened man of the desert, he ran towards it with his arms stretched out and disappeared. ******* Wali stood in a different part of the world, the sky stretched out above him. It was a purple concoction brim with clouds that had the quality of freshly plucked cotton. They were free from the industrial air of his own and the Fort stood sublime next to them. He could see the spread of the forest canopy behind the structure; Gnydillin was a place of magic, the air was saturated with it. Wali couldn’t help it, he stuck his tongue out to catch some and took a few deep breaths. He wanted to fill his lungs with the wonder of this place. Along the sides of the Fort were statues of white stone, these were of decorated warriors armed with spears and daggers, riding atop dragons of all shapes and sizes. The Wazir’s pride at having defeated the last line of Dragons and having captured their youngest had crept into every detail of this elaborate structure that he had erected. Wali had to proceed now and that too with caution, the way forward was his own. Elysian’s vision had only taken him this far. He slid along the wall of the left wing of the Fort, keeping an eye out for the guards who marched along the main doors of its entrance. Wali felt a strange pull and it seemed to only grow stronger as he edged nearer to the door that led down into the chambers. He observed the door in front of him, it was identical to the one that Grampa had shown him in his house. He strained to remember the incantation that Grampa had bellowed to unlock it but couldn’t summon the spell. He was caught in his own spiral of thoughts when he felt something sharp against his back. “WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?” a voice behind him shouted. Wali turned around to face a stout looking man. He was one of the guards and had a spear directed at him. Wali squirmed as the guard pushed it into his skin; he sank to the ground from blinding pain and eventually blanked out. ******* When Wali started regaining consciousness, he felt an ache in his lower abdomen where the spear had twisted its way into his body. He couldn’t open his eyes, but he moved his hand to check his wound and felt a scratch where he imagined it to be. There was a sticky, gooey mess and something with the roughness of carpets was brushing against his torso. When he finally opened his eyes, he saw the ochre iris of Aqeeq’s eye and the rich blue texture of his skin. The Blue Dragon of the Isbay’khta Tribe was licking what remained of his wound. Wali was both frightened and relieved to find the dragon at such proximity to himself. It seemed that its saliva had a healing property which was why Wali felt his pain disappearing. Wali moved his hand towards its face and caressed the contours of it. He didn’t know how to pet a dragon but he felt a connection to this creature in his blood. Aqeeq, bowed his head and nudged Wali with his head in an attempt to stand him up. Wali stumbled on his feet and immediately searched for something to break Aqeeq free from his chains. There was nothing in view that could be of assistance. He looked towards the dragon for help but Aqeeq only coughed out a weak cloud of smoke. “Why can’t you use your fire to burn the chains off?” Wali inquired. “The witch,” Aqeeq croaked. His voice was weak and frail. It was then that Wali heard footsteps rushing down the stairs of the Chamber, and Grampa’s voice calling out to him. Grampa appeared a few seconds later followed by Turaha, her fireflies and Bawnie. Wali ran to embrace him. He had longed the warmth of his Grampa’s protection all this time. “Stand back, Wali.” Grampa ushered him to the side as he pulled up his walking stick and yelled “Ibayha!” The chains fell off of Aqeeq’s ankles, and the blue creature struggled to get up on his feet. “Turaha, would you be kind enough to bring us a crushing storm?” Grampa instructed. It didn’t take long for the wind to start howling and beating against the walls of the Fort as Turaha and her fireflies worked their magic. Grampa faced the dragon and bowed to Aqeeq out of respect before mounting him, the others followed after him. The all held onto one another and clutched at the sides of the dragon’s wings. “What’s the plan?” Wali asked dumbfounded. “The Plan, son, is to ride the storm.” Grampa winked at Wali before nodding to the dragon. Grampa made an opening at the side of the chamber and the dragon charged towards it with the passengers holding on for dear life. The storm outside was raging; the eye of the storm whirled towards the fort, breaking it and sending it up in pieces. Aqeeq and his army of admirers hurled through it, the storm was no challenge for the dragon’s might. Aqeeq slowed down and paused at the entrance of the dungeon to drop off his saviours, he let them all slide off one by one. This time Aqeeq kneeled in front of them before letting out a roar and taking off. They looked at his form in awe as it fled towards the canopy of the forest where it had always belonged. Grampa led everyone inside the dungeon, they were all in a daze after witnessing the events of the day. He looked up at Wali with a weak smile, “You are a worthy one, aren’t you?” He ruffled Wali’s hair lovingly before adding “This stays between us, not a word to your parents.” ******* This is the sixth and last part of the story, ‘Aqeeq, the Blue Dragon’ The author is a law graduate and an aspiring novelist who enjoys her coffee a little too much. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and blogs at instagram.com/nayyab.writes Published in Daily Times, July 6th 2018.