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Morgan Introduction

There are none alive who remember The Dragon King as anything other than a monster – as a man, a boy.  Little was known of him before The Destruction, and few had ever seen his true form.  I was one of the lucky ones to know him before his death, who truly knew him as the brilliant, naive, always smiling person he was.  His name was Zacharian, and he was my son.
It was dark on the night of his birth; I remember screaming in the dark, the pain of childbirth unlike anything I had felt before.  I think men were simply not created to bear children, no matter what shape they were in.
I suppose I should start at the beginning, with King Evandel.  Evan.  My lover and best friend.  I am Morgan, his loyal servant.  King Evandel was one of the few true royals remaining in the House of Ganger; most of their bloodlines were diminished over time as they bred with lesser houses or, to a lesser extent, non-shapechangers.  Evan and his wife Diabella both had the steel-gray eyes of a pureblood Ganger, and the strength to match.
Evan had never been bested in battle, though had been outsmarted a time or two by Lord of the Four Mountains, Joss.  They were friends once, and the evidence of their friendship was implanted firmly in the chest of Evan.  Joss had been a great scientist before he became Lord, and he created a clockwork device to correct Evan’s failing heart.  Evan feigned insult at Voss saving his life, as he prided himself on his ability to stalk prey but could no longer with the incessant ticking.  They joked about it for many years.  They spent every summer together, foregoing the ruling of their kingdoms and taking off with their wives in search of adventure.
It was like this for decades until one midsummer, Evan returned, clutching an unconcious Diabella, Joss not far behind.  His wife was not present.  Joss retrofitted one of his time-altering machines to freeze Diabella in stasis while she healed, then left for the Four Mountains.  Evandel wouldn’t speak of the death of Joss’s wife, nor of Diabella’s injuries, even to me.  In their distance and quiet grew discontent, then hatred.  Joss blamed Evandel for his wife’s death, and Evandel remained as stony silent as ever.
Diabella’s body remained in stasis for years.  During this time, Evandel asked a favor of me unlike any he ever had.  He requested that I drink the blood of his wife.  I was to remain shapeshifted to be her for as long as she was asleep, for the unity of the kingdom.  During this time, Evandel took me to his bed and kept me.  I grew to love him, and I birthed for him a son.  Until his birth, Evandel worried Zacharian would not have the pure blood of the House of Ganger; we were both relieved to see his beautiful steel gray eyes in the sunlight the next morning.  You couldn’t be certain by candlelight.
It was not more than a few weeks after this that Diabella woke.  But she had been broken; though present in body she wandered, lost.  I feared for her life.  On more than one occasion, I found her weeping, alone in a corner, unable to find her way back to her bedroom and incapable of speaking.  I believe whatever happened haunted her waking life.
Evandel became distant, torn between his wife whom he had lost and the memory of her mind being destroyed and his affection that had grown for me, even back in my male form.  We spent many nights away from the castle, hunting.  For him, it seemed easier not to speak; he tore apart many animals with gusto, turning living, breathing creatures into puddles of blood and bone.  In a way, it was sickening, but the sight of Evandel half-naked covered in blood also turned me on.  We made love in the wilderness.
Diabella’s suffering only had to continue for a few weeks.  After Lord Joss had gotten word that Diabella had woken, he left his fortress of mountain with a full fleet of airships, intending to destroy Evandel’s castle.  In Joss’ grief, he had succumbed to vengeance and hatred, wanting to hurt Evandel in any way possible.
The battle was bloody and swift, Lord Joss’ fleet taking the brunt of the damage.  Evandel had time to muster only a small contingent of shapeshifters, but 3 of them were Royals; each was worth ten warships.  He asked me to stay out of it, so I watched from the top of a towering pine alongside a quivering Diabella.  She had transformed into an enormous golden eagle and managed to maintain her composure to observe the destruction.  I had never seen such skill, King Evandel had morphed into an enormous brown dragon once named Vikerram.  I watched him tear the ships from hull to stern, raking them with his claws.  He would land on deck and the ship would fall from the sky.  It was a beautiful sight.
Still, the bombs rained from the sky onto the castle, leaving little but rubble behind.  Evandel returned triumphant, but I could see in his eyes the defeat.  Lord Joss had taken his castle from him, and would certainly return for Evandel and Diabella’s lives.  But next time would be more subtle, a dagger in the dark instead of a full-scale assault.
It wasn’t long.  Not more than a fortnight had passed before we woke in the night.  Well, if truth be told, the baby woke us all.  Zacharian was more bothered by the low humming than the rest of us.  The stones in the shattered castle thrummed with energy.  It didn’t take us long to walk outside and hear the enormous engine of the airship, but by that time it was much too late to mount a counter-assault.  Evandel rushed inside, grabbing Diabella and taking her to the basement.  I heard the high-pitched whine of her stasis machine and I assumed he turned it on for its original purpose.  From what I understand, it created pockets of time, turning a room into a void, preserving everything inside exactly as it entered.  Science far beyond my understanding, but it should have kept her safe.
In mere moments, Evandel was pushing Zacharian into my arms, telling me to go.  I moved quicker than I ever had, transforming into a large mountain cat.  I remember Evandel calling out behind me, “I left my blood in the void.  I left it in the void!”  At the time, I thought him mad.  Gripping the baby’s blanket gently in my teeth I ran until I could run no more.  The castle was nestled in a crevass near the top of a mountain.  I stood on the summit, watching, as bombs rained down, more than I had ever seen.  Evandel flew to meet the ship, but as a kestrel, his favorite bird.  I watched as he swept back and away from the ship, his form silhouetted against the faint starlight, then he plunged into the ship, the sound of screams and shattering glass audible from even this distance.
I set Zacharian down, and he had quieted.  I transformed again into an owl, taking off swiftly and heading for the ship.  Nothing could keep me away from him this time.
It glinted in the night, and at first I didn’t understand what I was looking at.  Evandel’s golden heart fell down, down, into the forest.  I watched it and my heart sunk.  Moments later a body flew from the side of the airship.
A trap.  Lord Joss had killed my King through sheer treachery.  In my youth, my anger would have driven me to stupidity, likely gotten myself killed.  But I had a responsibility, now, to Zacharian.  And I knew that, in time, he would be the one person who could single-handedly take on an entire airship fleet, just like his father.  But to do so, he would require the strength of a thousand men, the blood of dragons, beasts, and of the great leviathans of the sea.  If he were to grow up to avenge Evan, he would need to drink the blood of the onyx pheonix.  For this reason, I left.
I went to the town that evening, on the far side of the village, and stole a child.  I took his blood, fed it to Zacharian, and traced the heartblood of the dying child across Zacharian’s forehead, locking him in his transformation.  I placed Zacharian in the child’s cradel and vowed to return once I had acquired enough blood to buy my vengeance.
It was time to hunt.


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Tyrael Introduction

Three quick knocks sounded at the door.  I waited, hearing shuffling steps inside.  First, the sound of the peephole flipping back, then a gasp, then a moment of decision ensued.  Should she open the door, or should she not?
I had heard it a million times before.
The inevitable fumbling with the chain, the latch snapping back – despite quivering fingers – and the simple turn of the knob.  And then I was inside.
Her clothes bordered on boredom- the simplicity of her robe, the frayed ends of her gritty hair, the sweat left from the day, possibly two, before.  She stank of shame; it showed in her smile.
“Lord Tyrael, to what do I owe this honor?”  Her eyes would not meet mine.
I held my tongue, but for a moment, between my teeth; drinking in the scene; tasting the decay hanging thick in the air.  A cloying odor penetrated my nostrils, almost to the point of inducing a gag.  Many years of training led me to tolerate filth of many levels, yet no filth stuck in my craw the way the living did when they had already decided to die.
“It is not honor, but duty, that brings me here this evening.  And I assure you that you should not feel the least bit honored.  You have been sentenced, I am here to carry out that sentence.”
I sniffed, reaching the pouch out of my front pocket and unrolling it onto the table.  I grabbed a syringe and a small vial of poison, draining the vial by drawing it out with the needle.
I tapped the needle, squirting out the tiniest bit of liquid- more out of habit than anything else.  I raised my eyes from my needle to her face.
She nodded, looking down at her feet.  “I meant no offense.”
All fight had left this woman weeks ago, only a husk remained.  I pitied her, but for all the pity, I was simply disappointed.  Killing what was already dead held no joy for me.  True beauty lay in snuffing out the last spark of someone’s life; wrapping sex, pain, loss, yearning, and fear into a final package that only I could deliver.
I came around her, brushing her hair back, exposing her neck.  I pressed the tip of the needle to her throat, injecting, quick and painless.  I took her hand, led her back to her room, and wrapped her in blankets as she lay down.
Not another word was said, she simply closed her eyes and died.
I walked outside of her apartment and nodded to the three boys outside.  Brand, a scrawny red-head, was the only one of the three with any potential.  Why, oh why, they continued sending me ragamuffins instead of killers was beyond me.  They went inside of the apartment to begin the cleaning; disposing of the body and whatnot.  I lit a cigarette.
Pulling a pad of paper out of my pocket, I looked at the next on the list.  A girl, young too.  16 years old, her parents had been killed, her name was Satorae.  Twin sister, Parduae, had run off and hadn’t been heard from.
Odd, as they usually didn’t cater to the younger crowd; there must have been something particularly disturbing about the girl.  I set off down the street, the ever-present sound of my boots clacking on the cobblestone.


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