A Changed Land

AZ 1459 - Late Spring
Outside the Golden Basilica, Zephyr

It had been too long. When she was forced to flee from Xorgoth's minions, Corona would have returned to Ionathas in Karas, but it was not to be. She felt the changes come over her body and knew that she had to get clear of the Darklands' curse as soon as possible. It was not for her own sake but for the child within her.
Taking refuge on a deserted island, she laid her egg and tended to it until it hatched. The hatchling was unlike anything she had ever seen, neither human nor Dragon, a creature somewhere in between. As a mix of two races, it only seemed right to give the child a mix of two names and so she named the hatchling Corothas.
It took two years for the hatchling to grow strong enough for travel. A full-blooded Dragon hatchling would have needed years more. The hatchling was too delicate to take to the Darklands and Corona hoped the war was over anyway, so first she went to Notos to learn what she could.
The former rebels were now the masters of their own land, but not everyone agreed with their new rulers. Corona discovered some survivors of the Hawks of Maranthe led by Dabidos living as outlaws in the Thermodas Forest. From Dabidos Corona learned that Ionathas remained with the main force returning to Zephyr until a replacement could be named as legate of the Third Legion. That was three years ago.
Corona had never set foot in Zephyr before, but when she arrived in the capital, she knew she had arrived in a changed land. Those who called themselves the Church of Holy Light now reigned and so it was to the Church she went to seek out Ionathas.
The great edifice known as the Golden Basilica was a sight to behold. Corona never understood it, but Dragons had a curious attraction to gold and this place had gold in plenty. She did not let that distract her from her purpose, though.
After observing the humans coming in and out of the Basilica for a couple days, Corona disguised herself and Corothas in pilgrims' white robes to move about less conspicuously. Both wore hooded mantles over their robes. Though she had cast a spell of illusion to mask Corothas' true appearance, she sensed magic about that might dispel the illusion. She could not be too careful, after all. These were, after all, the very people who vanquished Xorgoth's flight in the Darklands and she had heard tales enough to be wary of these people.
As they were walking through the plaza, young Corothas muttered in a low voice, "Blood..."
Corona looked around her, but she could see nothing. Corothas was sort of child to speak idly. He pointed to the ground and said, "Favver blood..."
Corona knelt down and drew in a long breath through her nostrils. It was faint, but blood had been spilt here. It was not so much the physical matter of the blood long since washed away but rather the unique touch of magic enlivening the blood. Carrying that same blood in his veins, young Corothas was more attuned to it than she was.
The thought of Ionathas' blood being spilled in this place filled her with dread. Not thinking entirely rationally, she seized the nearest pilgrim walking by.
"You there! There was a young knight, Ionathas, son of Salemon, a Notian in the King's service. He came to this place, perhaps years ago. Do you know this? Were you there when it happened? What became of him? I must know!"
The man recoiled.
"What are you going on about, you madwoman? I don't know what you're talking about!"
Corona did not waste another moment on him. She went to another.
"You! Do you know of a knight named Ionathas?"
Again she was rebuffed, but she kept on asking, growing more and more desperate each time she asked and her desperation driving people farther and farther away. Before she knew it, people were giving her wide berth on all sides and she realized only too late that her efforts to remain inconspicuous had failed.
Several men with iron-headed clubs hanging from their belts approach her.
The leader among them demanded, "What is the meaning of all this commotion, woman?"
Still not appreciating her growing peril, she asked the men, "Do you know of a knight named Ionathas? He was here! I know it! Tell me what happened to him!"
"I'm placing you under arrest," the leader of the men said.
He stepped forward and took hold of Corona's arm. She shook him off reflexively.
"Unhand me!" she snapped, pushing the man back into his companions.
The display of her strength alarmed the men, who drew out their clubs as they scrambled back to their feet. Finally realizing her danger, she pulled Corothas close to her as the men began to encircle her.
"Stand back, Centurion," a voice said. A robed man with a staff in his hand and a large golden emblem on his chest approached, flanked by a good two dozen soldiers. "This is no ordinary woman," he continued. "It would seem that one of the beasts of Hades dares to defile our holy sanctuary."
Corona identified the robed man as a priest. He had magic about him, a goodly measure by human reckoning. She also did not fail to notice that the soldiers wore armor woven from dragonscale gilded over to hide its true nature.
Undeterred, Corona asked the priest, "Do you know of a knight named Ionathas? Tell me!"
"I will not be commanded by the likes of you, fiend!" the priest barked. Holding up the emblem on his chest with one hand and pointing his staff toward her with the other, he shouted, "I abjure you in the name of the Lucifer!"
If that was meant to be a spell, it did not have any effect. Corona asked again, softer this time.
"Do you know of a knight named Ionathas? Tell me, please. I must know."
Another robed man, seemingly a priest of lesser rank, stepped forward and said, "Perhaps this creature is bound by that son of the Noctifer."
"Perhaps so," the elder priest mused. To Corona, he then said, "Listen well, Cacodæmon. If you are looking for the heathen Ionathas who served the Apostate King, you must quit this earth and return to Hades where you came from. He will be waiting for you there."
Ever since she heard from Dabidos that it had been three years since Ionathas left for Zephyr, she feared the worst. The faint signs of his blood here in the plaza all but confirmed it and yet she hoped against hope that he might still be alive.
The elder priest saw her dismay and grinned cruelly.
"I remember it well. Two years ago this day, that heathen stood in the very same spot as you roaring at the gates of our holy sanctuary with the voice of a lion. He dared to blaspheme God and His Holiness the Archbishop and so the faithful, in their zeal for God and His vicar, tore the wretch limb from limb."
Corona fell to her knees. It was bad enough that he was dead, but to die so horribly...
"Favver blood..." Corothas repeated.
Clinging to his mother, the child's hood slipped loose, exposing his head. The spell of illusion was gone and nothing was hidden from their eyes. His horns, his eyes...
"Another one!" the centurion from before exclaimed.
With greater urgency this time, the elder priest stretched out his staff again and commanded, "By the power of the Lucifer, I abjure thee, Cacodæmon! Back to the lake of fire from whence you came!"
Corona felt the numbness spread through her body, but it had nothing to do with the priest's attempts to exorcise her. Ionathas had survived the nightmare of the Darklands and all the foul creatures therein only to murdered by his own kind upon his return. And now the very people responsible were boasting of their crime to her face.
Corona began to chant in a low voice. The pavestones at their feet split and the ground opened up to swallow Corothas. He would be safe there until she finished her work.
The priest was still shouting and the soldiers beset her on all sides with their heavy spears at the ready. When they tried to thrust at her, the points deflected off the shining barrier that formed around her. She slowly rose to her feet and cast off her mantle. She glared at the priest, who had dispensed with his abjurations and was trying to bring down her barrier. He would be the first, but by no means the last.
"The lake of fire..." she growled, her voice already changing. "I will show you the lake of fire!"