Actions

Work Header

Raya and the Last Dragon - Rewrite

Chapter Text

A lone rider.

A dystopian world.

That's who she was now.

This is where she lives.

 

On days like this riding on top of Tuk Tuk, rolling across the endless deserted sands of Tail, sun unforgiving and radiating upon her shoulders, she asks herself one question.

 

"How did this world get so broken?"

 

And her mind responds with one answer.

 

"The dragon gem."

Chapter Text

She knows that her world was not always like this.

 

Five hundred years ago, the land was whole. The ancestors of Heart, Fang, Spine, Tail, and Talon lived together harmoniously, in a world called Kumandra. With them lived the ancient dragons. Magical serpentine-like beings that brought forth the water that makes up their rivers, lakes, and oceans. But they did not just bring magic to the world, they went further. They brought everyone who lived in that ancient world peace. 

It was paradise, a Golden Age that seemed like it would never have ended.

 

Then, the Druun came. 

A mindless plague that spread like wildfire, untamed and uncontrollable. Everything they touched turned to stone, and with every life they took they only multiplied in numbers. Fear spread throughout the lands, it was everyone for themselves. You wouldn't know who would be next, you wouldn't know if you'd live on to see the next day. People became desperate, and with desperation comes hatred. Families were torn apart, friendships were shattered, and alliances crumbled. Empires fell, ruins began to pile up, and the Druun were only getting stronger by the day.

The dragons fought for them the best they could, but it wasn't enough. Hope seemed like a foreign concept, now. Barely anyone was alive, and if you were still standing on two feet you didn't know how long you had left to live. Meanwhile the Druun reigned like fire, burning away everything that it touched until there was nothing but the scars and ashes of what was once a beautiful land.

 

And then, like the rain pouring down after a long drought, the Mighty Sisudatu came.

The last of her kind, she concentrated all her magic into a gem, and with a great roar, blasted the wretched Druun away. Everyone who was turned to stone came back. Families were reunited, friends found each other, and all was supposed to be good. Everything should have turned out okay.

 

Except, the dragons hadn't come back.

All that was left of them was the gem that Sisudatu had created to revoke the Druun from the lands they had once roamed freely.

 

It should have been this big, inspirational moment.

Humanity should have united over the sacrifice that she made in honor of them. Kumandra should have been remade once more, after the despair and grief that the Druun had instilled upon them. You'd think that that was what happened. You'd think that their ancestors would realize the situation at hand and try to make the best of it.

Instead, people being people, all fought to posses the last remnant of dragon magic. The last hope in a world filled with dread.

 

Borders were drawn, trade routes were closed, territories were fought over, and Kumandra divided.

They all became enemies of each other, and for the sake of the dragons' great sacrifice, the gem had to be hidden and protected from the world: lest their sacrifices were to be made in vain.

 

 

But that's not how the world broke.

No, somehow the tribes lived on without ever getting into major conflicts with each other for five hundred years. That truly didn't happen until she came into the picture, five hundred years after the Druun had passed.

Chapter Text

The routine was repetitive now: take her weapon, run up the mountain, break in. Tightening her ponytail, Raya slammed the weaponry’s door open.

"Alright, attempt number one hundred and... something. Let's go."

Grabbing her twin arnis, Raya dashed across the roofs of the houses. She skidded over the roof's tiles, rain starting to pour above her. A loose tile tripped her up, and she slipped as she ran forward. Hitting her head hard off the roof, she scrambled blindly, getting up just before she dropped to the hard ground below. Struggling to balance on the slippery surface, she lunged toward the top of the roof, shouting when she lost her footing once more.

She winced, bracing herself for a long tumble toward the ground. But the warmth of her blood pooling around her never came. By sheer luck, she had managed to cling on when she reached for the top of the roof. Laughing nervously more than anything, she heaved herself up before she lost her grip and actually fell down. She knew that her knees would be scraped, and that her head probably had a massive bruise on it, but she was infinitely grateful that she hadn't fallen to the ground.

Panting heavily, she thanked the dragons that she was able to get back into a relatively safe position on the roof. She let the rain wash over her, watching Heart have a moment's rest as the rain kept everyone from doing daily activities. Raya let herself catch her breath, still shaking from the adrenaline that slip had given her. Taking out Tuk Tuk, he whined in annoyance, probably from the recent turbulence he had to endure moments ago.

“Sorry, Tuk Tuk. I didn’t think I’d slip.”

He trilled angrily in response. She rolled her eyes, but still smiled.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ll be more careful.”

He smiled brightly in response, letting himself be pet. They stayed up there for a few minutes, until she insisted that they got back to the task at hand, and carefully put him back into the pocket he was resting in.

 

Aside from losing her balance two more times during her journey to the vault: once from slipping down another rooftop, the other time slipping up the mountain where the dragon gem was held – accompanied by an angered Tuk Tuk each time –, she made it with relative ease. Squeezing the excess water from her hair and clothes, she made her way in.

Raya knew the entrance like the back of her hand, although the long corridor stretched out before her felt too... empty, and abandoned as well, to not be hiding something. Tentatively placing a foot forward, she yelped and leapt back just in time before a net came down from the ceiling, and almost ensnared her. Looking to the cobblestone ground, she could see the floor had hidden tiles that triggered once weight was placed upon them. She sighed in relief, thankful that at least some of her training had kicked in.

“Looks like someone’s trying to be clever,” she mumbled under her breath, smirking just a little. Reaching into that little pocket under her shirt, she carefully brought out Tuk Tuk again and whispered, “Alright Tuk Tuk, let’s show ‘em what clever really looks like.”

He trilled in pure delight as she gently placed him down onto the ground. Immediately, he started rolling forward, setting off the remaining traps and rendering them harmless. It was days like these when she would miss his tiny stature, though she knew he’d grow big soon enough, whether she liked it or not. Nearing the last the last trap, Tuk Tuk decided that a small bug around the size of his paw would be much more interesting than helping Raya to not get ensnared. She would have found it funny, were she not in a bit of a rush today.

Rolling her eyes while crawling underneath the nets, she hissed, “Tuk Tuk! Come on, focus!”

Sulking quietly to himself, he begrudgingly slid his attention to focus back on the task at hand. Rolling a lot slower than he had moments ago, he nonetheless released the last trap and made the area completely safe for Raya. “Thank you,” she beamed at Tuk Tuk, who in turn squealed in delight.

Resting her head on her arms, still lying on her stomach, she added, “Hey, bud, that was awesome. Give me some shell.” Holding her hand out low to the ground, clenched into a fist, he rolled into it enthusiastically. The force of the impact had knocked him off balance, and now he was on his hard-shell back, struggling to upright himself.

She giggled at his currently helpless state, and he pouted in return. “I got ya.” She murmured, before rolling him back on all four legs. He smiled, curling up into a ball and letting her pick him up. Carefully, she put him back into her pocket, feeling him squirm around until he was comfortable. Once he went completely still, she heaved herself up and stood before the ancient stone door.

Dusting herself off, it was time to get what she came for.

 

Walking closer to the stone door, she examined it carefully. The engravings had been worn down over the years, and moss crept into the crevasses. The architect must have been ingenious, no visible entrance into the vault was in sight. That is, to those unfamiliar with Heart. She knew better, however. Taking out her arnis and feeling the markings around the outer rim of the stone, she eventually placed them into the hidden keyholes and grunted as she turned the heavy door open.

Sighing in relief and wiping a drop of sweat from her face, the door slowly swung open, beckoning her to go in. Taking off her shoes, she entered the vault. As she walked up the stairs, she noticed how the water on the eroded surface was trickling up, not down. It was fascinating, and she had almost stopped to admire it, the way the light reflected off the surface and how the bits of debris was carried with it. She knew she could not afford to be distracted after she had gotten this far though, especially not now.

After reaching the top of the outer ring, her eyes narrowed in on the prize. She gasped in awe as she saw the dragon gem once more, pulsing with magic and radiating a soft, blue glow around it. No matter how many times she slipped into the vault, it never ceased to continuously amaze her. The thought of the last remnants of dragon magic and their kind being housed here, in this small alcove in a mountain, was baffling to her. But for something so seemingly valuable, there was no one in sight left to guard it.

“Wait a second, this feels too… easy…”

Drawing her arnis, she held them up defensively while looking around for any sign of traps or guards. The darkness of the early morning, mixed with the plants hanging over the ceiling, made it difficult to see much of the room. Her only source of light was the dragon gem, and even then its light wasn't much. However hard she looked, she couldn’t see or identify anything that would pose as a potential threat. Not even a slightly raised tile, or the light shine that would give away tripwire.

Turning behind her, she expected to see a small group of elite soldiers, lying in wait to ambush her. Instead, she saw only the hanging nets that Tuk Tuk had set off for her. Squinting in the dark, she tried to see if any of them gave away someone moving. Once she was sure she hadn’t missed anything, she turned herself back forward. Instead of the dragon gem straight ahead however, was a masked figure with a sheathed kris standing defiant between her and it.

Gripping her arnis with more force, she snarled under her breath, “Chief Benja,” then added in a louder voice, “I know it’s your job to try and stop me, but you won’t.”

“Don’t mistake spirit for skill, young one,” he chided, calculating eyes behind an elaborately carved mask. “I promise you will not set foot on the Dragon Gem’s inner circle, not even a toe.” His voice echoed across the cave, assertive and unmoved.

Her heart was pounding under her chest, she could not, would not, lose another fight with him. Not now, not ever. Masking her fear, she tilted her head toward his sheathed kris and sneered, “You might wanna take out that blade, you’re gonna need it.”

Shaking his head and chuckling softly, he responded in a low voice, “Not today.”

Chapter Text

She swerved to the left of the chief, dashing toward the inner circle. There was no time to lose, she could not risk wasting a second. With unrivalled speed he blocked her path with his sword, and she cursed under her breath. Now forced to confront the chief she parried the quick but deadly blows, already feeling the adrenaline rush through her veins. She effortlessly dodged the lunge made toward her, the flow of battle coming back to her easily. Stepping back, she spun on her heel and ran.

She didn’t get far, however, as she narrowly managed to avoid a stab to her side that required her to turn around. The two of them exchanged blows in rapid succession, occasionally getting hits in on the other. She felt a bead of sweat trickle down her face and fought the urge to wipe it off. She couldn’t afford to be distracted, not now.

“You’ve gotten stronger, I will admit!”

She scowled, which almost cost her an arnis stick as he aimed to disarm her. She barely managed to catch it, before she felt the impact of his sheathed kris on her shoulder.

Rolling her hurt shoulder, she pushed down the pain and hissed, “Yeah, you best beware now.”

 

Minutes had gone by, but it felt like hours in Raya’s mind. She knew that soon, her energy would start to drain, and Chief Benja’s attacks weren’t getting any lighter, nor was she getting any closer to the gem. Changing her footing, she aimed for his neck, hoping to deal a fatal blow that would buy her more time. He knew her too well, though, and the blow was rendered useless as he blocked it. She kicked him in the gut as hard as she could, she wouldn’t waste more of her energy keeping this up. The chief bent over, clutching his stomach in mild pain, eyes glazed with shock.

She seized her opportunity and bolted for the Inner Circle, turning her back on her opponent and making a lethal mistake. Right as she was about to cross the line, she yelled in pain as the blunt of the kris made impact just below her nape. Tumbling to the ground, she heaved herself and backflipped to get back up. She was just in time; the chief would have pinned her to the ground and rendered the fight over had she not moved.

Stowed away safely under her shirt, she could hear Tuk Tuk whimper in concern. Unable to ignore him, she made yet another mistake which cost her.

“I’m okay! Don’t worry about–”

She didn’t even have time to finish her sentence, before all she could feel was the searing pain in her stomach and how her body ached everywhere as she tumbled across the various stepping stones. She shook the drowsiness from her head inches away from the water's surface, and attempted to get back up again before coughing up blood.

She decided that it was better to just lay down for now. The smell of iron hit her nose, and immediately she wanted to throw up. Instead, she hacked up more blood, which definitely helped her feel better.

 

Through her slowly darkening vision, she saw Chief Benja slowly making his way over to her, confidence radiating from him with every step. She tried getting up again, but the pain in her stomach swelled so much that her vision went a blinding white. 

"'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.' Apparently, young one, you do not know that proverb."

She felt herself scowl at his muffled words, and attempted to snap back at him with a snarky comment. However, more blood choked her throat and she found her mouth spilling a pool of blood on the rough stones beneath her. The amount of effort it took to keep herself propped up made her ponder if it was worth it to just admit defeat.

 

The chief had, by now, stopped in front of her prone form. She heard him shift position, and saw his masked face a few feet away from her own. Underneath that carved mask she saw concern in his dark brown eyes, and felt a small surge of power rush through her. Now was her chance, she would not waste it.

"Come on now, I think it's time to call it o-" He spoke softly, but she made sure he never finished his sentence. Raya had whacked him as hard as she could with her arnis, and scrambled to right herself, ignoring the bark of protest her stomach made. She heard him shriek in pain, unpleasant surprise turning into a cold rage.

Stumbling and limping, she made a break for the inner circle. She didn't dare risk a glance behind her, as a dazed Chief Benja struggled to catch up behind her. 

Right before she could step inside the circle and finally claim her hard-earned victory, she felt something shove her harshly to the side. She managed to right herself before she plummeted toward the ground. She straightened her posture, and glared defiantly at the chief, holding his mask together with one hand. She readied herself into a fighting stance, and he himself mirrored her.

 

The two were at a standstill, before he sneered, "That was quite a bold move of yours, well played."

She noticed pieces of that beautiful mask falling to the floor, and drew her attention back to him as he added, venom lacing his words, "But you will not get any farther than this."

Coughing the remnants of the blood in her throat right at the chief's feet, she snarled, "That's quite a bold statement of yours. Let's see how well that matches up in a few minutes."

 

Twin sticks against sheathed blade, they traded blows, both heavily injured and both equally tired. Another well-placed kick to his gut, and she edged her way closer to the Dragon Gem, victory so close in sight.

Once again readying her arnis in her hands, she increased her swinging, forcing the chief to retreat farther and farther back until he was standing right on the inner circle. Desperate to end this, she swung without thought, sweat pouring down her face and stomach screaming in suppressed pain. Noticing her distracted mind, the chief disarmed her with two quick, clean swings.

The tip of his sheathed blade was centimeters from her nose, and she was forced to the ground once more. The two stared at each other for awhile, neither daring to move, both heaving breaths of air.

 

"Boop."

Chapter Text

“Like I said, not one foot on the inner circle.”

She felt the tip of the sword gently tap her nose, and she scrunched up her face into a smile as the chief took off the damaged mask with his unoccupied hand. She was sure he had seen better days, no thanks to her, but his face was still painted with a gentle smirk, the knowing look of a victor.

Still holding the sword to her face, the tension from the fight completely gone now, he spoke confidently, “You lost, Raya.”

“Did I?”

The chief looked behind him and saw that she had, indeed, by some miracle of the great Sisudatu, managed to place a single toe at the edge of the inner circle. When he turned back, the biggest grin was plastered over Raya’s face, a hint of guilt in brown eyes that had startling resemblance to his own.

“Raya…”

 

She immediately started giggling, but momentarily stopped as a minor coughing fit wracked her lungs, pain returning to her stomach after being blocked out by that adrenaline rush. She saw him lower his sword and sigh, slightly amused, slightly exasperated. He wiped the small bead of blood trickling down his forehead, and rolled his shoulders that were most likely tense.

“I probably should have said two feet.” He muttered, but his tone was anything but resentful.

Underneath her shirt she heard Tuk Tuk trill in agreement, but she doubted that he heard him. Taking his outstretched hand toward her, he hauled her up without much effort and helped her inside the inner circle. When both of them were seated down at a comfortable distance away from the ancient beacon of magic, and after they had shown respect by raising their arms over their head to form a circle with their hands, she lightly shoved his arm with her elbow.

Still giggling, she spoke, “Hey, don’t beat yourself up too much, Chief Benja,” then added jokingly, “You gave it your best.”

He rolled his eyes and chuckled, “I won’t, and it’s either ‘Father’ or ‘Ba’ to you.”

She saw him cup his hands and place them gently into the small stream beside them, before taking them back out again. He beamed with love and pride, “You did good, dewdrop. You passed the test.”

 

Dipping her head, she felt the water from his hands pour over her, before trickling back to the stream from where it was picked up. She couldn’t help but gasp as the droplets slid off her head with ease and back into the stream, as if they had a mind of their own.

“Wow.”

She didn’t think that she would ever get over the mystery of dragon magic. If this was only a remnant of their magic, she couldn’t imagine how awe-inspiring the dragons themselves must have been in their prime. For her Ba’s sake, she shoved down that dragon nerd part of herself and forced herself to sit still.

Looking up at the dragon gem, she whispered in admiration, “The spirit of Sisu.”

“For generations, our family has sworn to protect the gem,” he turned his head toward her, pride evident in his gaze, “Today, you will join that legacy.”

Her eyes widened in excitement; this was what she had been working toward for her entire life. Years of being beaten and battered around like a training dummy had paid off after all, she was finally going to become a Guardian of the Dragon Gem, like her Ba. She would be continuing the legacy of her ancestors, and honor them by joining their ranks. Pride swelled in her heart, all those hours spent training had led her to this, and she could not have been more pleased.

“Raya, Princess of Heart, my daughter, you are now a Guardian of the Dragon Gem.”