Chapter 3
Apex Predator

AT 1082 (AZ 1454) - Early Autumn
The Mountains of Tartarus, The Darklands

The Dragons' sport in the West was an entertaining diversion, but they could not forget their purpose. It was a long flight from the lands in the West to the Darklands. It was much more arduous a journey with so many, but they arrived all the same.
Before seeking out the seed of the Dark Race's bidding, they first rested themselves at the fire-mountains in the southwest. In the fire-mountains, brimstone was easy to find and it was believed that eating brimstone increased the potency of a Dragon's fire breath. The breeds who could not breathe fire thought that if they consumed enough of it, they too would gain the ability. Xorgoth doubted the truth to such old dams' tales, but this like the raids on the human settlements raised the spirits of the Dragons in his flight, so he permitted this indulgence so that they would not show any weakness in battle, not that it was likely a Dragon could show weakness enough for any humans to pose any appreciable threat.
Xorgoth reclined on one of the peaks with twenty or so guards and attendants. He would give the Dragons of his flight a day or two before they continued their journey.
A Black Dragon alighted on a nearby ridge. It was his cousin Prince Xordun, the son of old Queen Xoratha, third in line to the throne and commander of the van. He was the only one in all the flight who could approach the King freely, but he observed due respect to Xorgoth's station and set himself down a distance away that all would see his approach.
"Greetings, O King," he said as he drew near. He held up a chunk of brimstone in his claws and waved it before Xorgoth's face. "A rather keen-nosed Green stumbled upon a vein of uncommon purity. For so rare a gift, it is only fitting that the King of Dragons would sample the first taste."
Xorgoth sneered at the offering.
"It is not my custom to eat brimstone," he said. "I mislike the taste."
Xordun cackled and said, "You mewl like a hatchling, cousin. No wonder the hearts of our people are far from you."
The King disliked the sound of dissent even more than the taste of brimstone.
"The hearts of the people far from me?" he asked, unbelieving. "I am their King."
"To be King in name is one thing; to be King in truth is another," Xordun replied. "For over a hundred years you have been called King and yet you have done little to make yourself loved."
"A King has no need of the people's love," Xorgoth sneered. "Their fear is sufficient."
"A taste of sweet delights the tongue more than the bitter, dear cousin. I pray you do not learn this to your grief all too late."
Annoyed, Xorgoth drew himself up to make a display of his dominance.
"You presume to lecture me, Xordun?" he asked sharply. "Or should I take your words to be a threat?"
Xordun did not match Xorgoth's display with one of his own, but he did not shrink in submission either.
"I am your elder and I learned how to rule at my mother's side, she who reigned over our people for a thousand years."
Xorgoth scoffed, "I follow in the example of a mere female? You mock me, Xordun... at your peril."
He flared his wings to emphasize the threat, but Xordun was not cowed.
"You speak lightly of my honored mother and our late Queen to give shield to your foolishness," he growled. "Your words and actions are unseemly and do shame to the hallowed kingship. We are in a foreign land for the sake of an ill-advised league you forged. We cannot afford any divisions in our ranks. For my part, I will overlook your insults and you will eat this damned rock to please your people."
Xordun held up the chunk of brimstone. He would not yield and what was the King if he could not show uncontested dominance over all the Children of Tiamat? Then again, two bearers of King's blood coming to blows over a trifle would likely do even more damage.
Grudgingly, Xorgoth accepted the brimstone and crushed it in his jaws. The taste truly was wretched.
As he continued to chew, he grumbled, "May this satisfy them, but I am not satisfied."
Still unbowed, Xordun replied, "If it is satisfaction you seek, I will answer your challenge upon our return to the Valley. Now I must take my leave. Surely the others are eager to harvest that brimstone vein."
He gave only the slightest hint of a bow before taking to the skies. Suppressing the temptation to simply spit out what remained of the brimstone he had been given, eyeing those around him for any impertinent looks. Whatever he might suffer from a Dragon of rank like Xordun, no others would be suffered to be so bold. Fortunately for their sakes, his guards and attendants were the very picture of perfect obedience and submission.
The day would come soon. When the expedition's work was through and the relics of Xargos were his, Xorgoth would see Xordun and any other challenger to his authority answer for their crimes. He would remind his people who was the King of Dragons and why.