The Staff of Sakatha
by Tom Liberman
Copyright 2012 by Tom Liberman
The long staff appeared to be a white crocodile on the point of its tail in the hands of the gaunt child of the dragon who glanced back and forth between the precipice at his back and the approaching horsemen to his front. He wore what once were gaudy robes, but the silver and gold stitch-work was ripped away, leaving long rents in the fabric, and the collar was torn to reveal a heavy coat of chain mail underneath. At his feet two other children of the dragon were on their knees, their hands pressed together, eyes closed, and heads tilted up towards the sky.
The smaller of the two, who wore a heavy silver necklace with a brilliant green snake carved of jade, coiled and ready to strike, looked up to the standing dragonchild and gazed at him for a moment, “Lord Sakatha,” it hissed through front fangs as its long narrow tongue slithered out of its mouth, “the Emperor’s men are coming. We must pray for salvation.”
“There is no salvation,” said Sakatha and tapped the end of his staff on the ground. “The Black Horseman is at their head and he will not negotiate, he will not take prisoners, he will not be corrupted; he and his companions will slay us and take the staff for their own.”
“How can this be?” asked the other dragonchild. “You promised that the emperor would be defeated that you would rule the world, that the children of the dragons would rule at your side.”
Sakatha moved his eyes to take in the second of his companions and stared at him for a long moment, an instant that seemed to draw out immeasurably considering that the extent of their lifespan equaled the time it would take the horsemen to arrive at the cliff. “I was wrong,” he finally said. “Is it that difficult to fathom that I underestimated the power of the emperor?”