Chapter 4
The Parting of Lovers

AZ 1455 - Late Summer
The Ruins of Karas, The Darklands

Typically, Dragons mated for life, but the orders of Nature and society were disrupted by the cruel spite of the Black Dragons who ruled over Corona's race. The males and females of the White Dragons were kept separate. The females were made to mate within their season but never guaranteed the same mate more than once. The eggs were taken from the mothers and handed over to matrons loyal to the King who would then hatch and raise the young Dragons. As such, Corona never knew her parents and had already born three children whose faces she would not recognize.
This experience left her ill-equipped for the change in her relationship with Ionathas. It took a human word to describe this very human concept. 'Lovers'. The humans had their poems and their songs about love, but Corona never thought she would experience it herself, never this deeply, this fully.
Dragon mates would nest together, the father would usually help raise the young, but this was little different than what you would see among bird or beast. You did not have the same sort of constant giving and receiving of both heart and body. Corona struggled to understand it but relished it all the same.
Even in this cursed land, she and Ionathas were able to enjoy precious, brief moments of pure bliss. However, all that was coming to an end.
For months the Third Legion was besieged in the ruins of Karas, the same city were Duke Cronos lost his life. The Knight of Chaos and his army of the dead were being held at bay. For the time, at least, neither side could prevail over the other and Corona played no small role in tipping the scales.
The battle would have continued like this were it not for a great disturbance in the æther currents. A great flight of Dragons had descended on the Darklands, no doubt as part of a league formed between Xorgoth and the Dominion, just as Queen Xanthe suspected. These Dragons did not strike at the Zephyrian forces in the north but rather moved southward to attack the the breakaway forces known as the Army of Light. For so many Dragons, even an army 100,000 strong ought to stand little chance, but beggaring all belief, the great flight of Dragons was decimated.
Servants of her hated foe though they were, Corona still mourned the slaughter of so many fellow children of Tiamat. Terrible as it was, though, the brutal rout presented a rare opportunity. A coward at his core, the King of Dragons fled from battle. Now separated from his servants, there were none to come to his aid, but only if Corona struck quickly.
Her blood burned at the chance to strike down her enemy, but Corona could not simply leave like a thief in the night. She owed it to Ionathas to tell him first, even though she knew he would try to stop her. Though time grew short, she waited for him to return to his tent once he had finished his review of the perimeter defenses.
She rose to greet him when he entered the tent and the two embraced. Kissing was a strange practice, but it seemed to come naturally to her human form. However, much could be read from a kiss and they were well-practiced enough that Ionathas could quickly tell something was amiss.
"What is it?" he asked.
Hesitant at first, Corona replied, "I am sorry, Ionathas, but I cannot stay with you any longer."
Ionathas looked at her blankly at first, disbelieving her, but when she made no move pass it off as a jest, he appeared lost, stricken.
"What? Why?"
"He is out there," she said, "my greatest enemy. Xorgoth the King of Dragons. And I must go."
"How do you know?"
"I can sense his presence. He is vulnerable now like he has never been before. I must take this opportunity to strike. It is the best chance I will ever have at killing him."
Ionathas studied her face for a moment before asking, "You mean to go alone?"
"I must."
"Let me go with you," Ionathas said. He held the hilt of sword at his waist. "I know you lightly esteem the strength of humans, but this is no common blade. Surely it will have some effect, even against a Dragon."
"I cannot put your life at risk."
"And I can't just let you go alone."
Gently, Corona pushed the free knight away from her and said, "Ionathas, I must do this. There is nothing you can do to stop me. I hereby release you from service, my knight."
She walked out of the tent, seeking enough open ground to transform. Ionathas was right at her heels.
"You can't just end it like this. I'm not just your knight, am I? We're more than that, Corona! I, I love you! Don't go!"
Corona did not say anything in reply. There was nothing she could say. She did not turn back to look at him either. If she did, she knew her resolve would melt within her.
As soon as she reached a ruined plaza on the south side of the city, she began her incantation. If Ionathas was standing too close, the blast of magical energy would knock him out of the way of danger. It was a peculiar thing. After all this time, now it was her true form that felt strange to her. She could not dwell on it, though. She had to stay focused on her mission.
She took to the sky the moment her transformation was complete. The beat of her wings were not enough to drown out Ionathas' cry, though.
Her heart felt like a leaden weight within her chest, but she had to bury all sorrow and longing. She would avenge her race and if she lived through the battle to come, perhaps she could return to Ionathas' side. If only he could forgive her for choosing vengeance first.