Chapter 5
A Duel with the Exile

AT 1083 (AZ 1455) - Midsummer
The Lake of Fire, The Darklands

His warriors were coming for him. He could not allow them to see him struggling against this female. How could she have possibly broken the seals on her power? How could she have found him here?
It did not matter. He had her in his jaws and soon he would tear out her throat and throw her carcass to the ground. Her foolish rebellion would be at an end. Perhaps he would take her head back to the Valley to show the others of her wretched kind what happens to those who oppose him.
His thoughts of victory were cut short when a searing pain cut through him. He could not but howl in pain, even if it did mean releasing the female before he could finish her off. The pain was so great that he could scarcely continue to flap his wings. He quickly made his way to the ground before he fell out of the sky. He landed roughly. His foreleg buckled, causing him to fall onto his shoulder.
His chest burned, but he forced himself back on his feet. He could not dare show weakness. If he did, his throne and most likely his life would be forfeit.
As his warriors came within sight of him, he angrily howled, "After her! Bring me her head!"
This was all the command that was needed for his warriors to go forth in pursuit of the exile. One did not go, however. It was old Alsasun, son of Alhatun, a cousin of Xordun on his father's side and the head of the rearguard. He was one of the mere four Black Dragons in the flight to remain alive. He alighted on the ground close to where Xorgoth stood.
The King of Dragons coughed, gagged and spat out some blood before he could say anything.
"What are you doing?" he demanded. "Did you not hear my command?"
Alsasun did not not answer him directly. Instead he observed the King's wounds and said, "These are new injuries, O King." He then drew in a long breath through his nostrils and said, "I would not have thought you were the sort to have a taste for Whites."
"What are you talking about, you old fool?" Xorgoth asked irritably. The pain and his anger made it difficult to think clearly. Now was not the time to be testing his patience.
"Do not play the fool with me," Alsasun said, more boldly than any ought to address the King. "The air is thick with her smell. Strange that we would find a female in her season out here."
It was only then that Xorgoth even noticed the female's scent that still lingered. He felt an involuntary flush upon realizing that she was indeed in her season. Strange that he did not notice it sooner, but now was not the time to be concerned with such things.
"I do not care whether she is in her season or out of it," he said. "I want her dead."
"How is it that the King of Dragons could not kill a single female?"
The question burned worse than wound in his breast. He was shamed beyond measure for having allowed a mere female to not only lay a claw on him but to wound him sorely and then escape his clutches. Any excuse he might make would only serve to make him look all the weaker, all the more pathetic, all the more unworthy to sit upon the throne.
The only answer was not to answer at all. Ignoring the pain, he drew himself up and stretched out his wings in a threatening display.
With a rattling hiss in his voice, he snapped, "Do you wish to challenge me!?"
Alsasun, who was older and suffering from his own wounds, did meet the King's display. Instead, he dipped his wings low and bowed his head to show his submission, saying, "Not I, O King, but you will be called to account for this, all of this."
Incensed, neither thinking nor caring about the consequences, Xorgoth hooked his claws under the scales of Alsasun's neck and dug into his throat. Bright red blood spurted out as Alsasun made a torture screech, quickly drowned out as he gurgled his own blood. Alsasun made a clumsy swipe to defend himself, only to lose his balance and topple onto his side. Xorgoth's claws were torn loose, taking a neck plate and some ragged chunks of meat with them.
Xorgoth stepped down on Alsasun's neck, then buried the claws of his free forelimb into the open wound and proceeded to tear off the head entirely. However, his body remembered its pain and he was forced to stop before he could break the spine in two. It would be enough, though. Alsasun would die for his insolence.
It was only as he watched Alsasun lie there dying that Xorgoth realized what a problem this would cause. He could not deny that he was the one who killed Alsasun and even if he claimed his right as King to mete out swift justice and rule over life and death, many would oppose what he had done and there would be a price to pay for it.
He clawed at his cursed wound. Who would have imagined that damnable female would have so strong a grudge? Perhaps he should have all the White Dragon hatchlings killed, make them wait a hundred years or two before they could be allowed to spawn again. That would be a fitting punishment and perhaps sating his own grudge would weaken the power of the female's curse. Yes, that would do nicely. For a time at least, he was content to think about nothing else than the suffering he would inflict on the White Dragons and the sound of their wailing echoing through the Valley.