Chapter 4
A Worthy Adversary

AT 1083 (AZ 1455) - Early Spring
Outside the Ruins of Karas, The Darklands

The life is in the blood and so too are powers and memories. Whenever Caligo would drink the blood of intelligent creatures, he would gain a part of who and what they were. Though there was more power in the blood of the more advanced races, he would avoid it when he could because in taking on others, his own substance was diminished. It would be easy to lose himself entirely.
Only rarely did he make the exception. Telemachos, son of Meleagros, Master of the Sword of the Zephyrian Third Legion. Were Caligo an ordinary human, he may well have been defeated by this man. Telemachos did not stand a chance against Caligo and yet he fought with great skill and courage. He was worthy of the honor of being added to Caligo's being.
With Telemachos' memories, there was little about the Zephyrians that was not laid bare. Knowing his enemy so fully, Caligo did not pursue the broken Third Legion after they retreated from Karas. His orders were to wipe them out completely and then strike at the remaining legions in Delphos, but instead he chose to wait. He wanted to see what the Zephyrians would do next. There was something in particular he wanted to confirm.
Five months had passed since the Third Legion was routed. With so many of their number dead and wounded, the most reasonable solution would be to disband the unit and absorb the survivors into the other two legions. There was no merit in keeping a formation at less than half strength, but much to Caligo's surprise, not only was the Third Legion preserved as a separate unit but was marching alone back to Karas. What did they expect to accomplish with three thousand that they could not do with eight?
Rather than give them the chance to take shelter in the ruins of the city, Caligo marched his forces to meet them on the way. Perhaps there was nothing to expect from them after all. Perhaps they were being sacrificed as a diversion while the remaining legions pushed forward toward the capital. If so, it was a wasted effort. Caligo would wipe out the tattered Third Legion and then smash the others from the rear while they contended with the troops under the Monarch Lich's direct command. A classic hammer and anvil maneuver. So easy. So predictable.
First things first. His troops would crush the main formation, grinding them down under an unstoppable wall of shield and spear. The survivors could then be picked off at his leisure, quicker still if they were mad enough to regroup and attempt a counterattack.
Before the two sides could meet, the Dragon appeared, flying through the air, screeching and bathing the ranks of the dead in her golden flames. Caligo allowed her interference before when she covered the Third Legion's retreat because her presence among the Zephyrians piqued his curiosity. He was not going to allow her to interfere any longer, though.
When she swept low for another pass, Caligo dashed forward, springing into the air and slashing his sword in a wide arc. For all his strength, though, he could not take the head of a full-grown Dragon in a single stroke. Indeed, if he had any ordinary blade, it would have simply smashed to pieces on her scales. Now that the cut had been opened, he would either continue to hack away or simply tear her head off with his bare hands. He wondered what would happen if he drank Dragon blood. Surely there was great power in the blood of such a creature.
The wounded Dragon retreated, disappearing in a flash of light. Though he could not see her, he could still smell her blood. She had not gotten far. Caligo raced along the ground in pursuit. When he found her, he was surprised to see that she had taken the form of a human. This would make taking her head all the easier.
With his prey in sight, there was no need to rush. Caligo slowed his pace, tightening the grip on his sword. The Dragon stretched out her hand and loosed a beam of light at him. Anticipating the attack, Caligo dodged it easily. He dodged two more in quick succession, but she managed to strike him on the third. Even for a hasty attack with waning power, Caligo felt it. At full strength, she could pose a threat. All the more reason to finish her off quickly.
As Caligo continued his approach, a young knight burst through the lines and put himself between Caligo and the Dragon.
Struggling to stand, holding her bleeding neck, the Dragon said weakly, "Ionathas, no... He is too strong... Run... I will buy you what time I can."
"I'm not leaving you, Corona," the knight said, steadying his blade against Caligo.
It was such a strange sight that Caligo could not help but comment.
"A knight defending a Dragon? How curious. What is your name, boy?"
"I am Ionathas, son of Salemon," the knight replied, "captain of the Hawks of Maranthe."
Prompted by Telemachos' memories stirring within him, Caligo said, "Ah, yes, so you are the one."
Young Ionathas leveled his blade at Caligo. It had weak enchantments on it, more formidable than any common sword but no match for Soul Drinker. Of course, even the most potent of enchanted swords would not be enough for an ordinary human to stand against him.
Sheathing his sword, Caligo turned away, saying, "Killing you here would be too easy. Let us see what you are capable of. How long can you withstand my army of the dead?"
No doubt Ubu would complain, but Caligo would take his time testing this boy. He would have his amusement.