Kyha was looking at another dragon damned by the rot. It took its life in a matter of days, just like it did for the others. There were now sixteen of them in the giant hole they dug for all of them.

They made the mass grave hole in a clearing, away from the forest trees. Fire was the plant lifes own rot, consuming them without end.

And fire was needed to burn the bodies, since burying them under the ground was nearly not enough. The disease that appeared only a few fortnights ago was spreading fast. The dragons of the Poison Realm had no idea where it came from. But their queen, Kyha was desperate to find answers, or even a cure.

As of now, that seemed impossible.

Nothing could cure the rot of living things. It slowly consumed everything, including grass, trees, prey and dragons. It was a dark discoloration, that was slowly rotting meat and leaves. Whatever it touched, it made them irreversibly dead. Dragons lost their limbs, wings or tails at first. It stopped them from being able to hunt properly. Then their whole body came. All they could do is lie in one place and endure the pain of their rotting flesh. Other dragons tried to help them by bringing them food, but nothing helped.

Then they just died.

And if they buried the dead, the rot could infect the plants, and therefore the dragons again who lived on the trees.

Kyha was standing in front of the mass grave, filled with the dead bodies of her dear friends. They were all consumed by the black curse.

The dragons of the rainforest were gathered around the grave too. They were crying, mourning their lost family members. Kyhas heart broke into millions of pieces at every burial. But it had to be done.

”My dragon, hear me! We have lost out friends, families, beloved ones to this unknown illness, ” she started the speech. ”This curse is consuming us every single day. But remember, hope is not gone! Our poison experts are working relentlessly on a cure against this. We will defend our homeland and our dragons, whatever it takes. I will fight until the end to make this stop. ”

Some dragons looked at their queen with compassion, but some of them looked at her with anger.

”You failed to protect us, queen! ” one of the dragons from the crowd yelled. ”I lost my sister to this disease, and you haven done anything to prevent this! ”

Some dragons visibly agreed with him. Kyha tried to keep her calm. She had to keep the image of a caring monarch.

”This is something we have never encountered before. I hope you understand that we are working hard not to lose anybody else. Our rainforests will thrive again as soon as we fund a cure. ”

Thats everything she could say. Promises about a perhaps better future, if they find a cure for the rot.

”We are one big family. We help each other in challenging times. And will not sleep until we are back to our peaceful time, ” Kyha added with as much compassion and empathy in her voice as she could force. That seemed to convince most dragons.

”May the Elders give them their final peace. ”

She said the usual burial sentence, and then let a large blaze of fire out of her mouth. The fire caught the bodies, and they were all burning in seconds. The smell of the rotten dragon flesh was horrible – but Kyha had to force herself not to turn away. She was their queen, after all.

The great smoke of the dead was flying away into the clouds. It was a final goodbye.

After the bodies burned and only ashes remained, a few dragons covered the grave hole with dirt.

”A new life, a new rainforest shall grow from them in the circle of life, ” Kyha said, and the ritual was over. All the dragons headed back to their homes.

Kyha did not leave the burial place. She was staring into the direction of the rainforest and its tall trees.

The speech about them being a big family was not just a metaphor.

The dragons of the Poison Realm really was a community where everyone was close to other dragons. Families exceeded the usual parents and dragonets structure, and many smaller families were usually living together. That was why losing others was a great pain for this Realm.

This also included the Queen. She was not above the other dragons of the realm. She was more of just a managing force, making political decisions about other realms and within the community. In contrast to the other Realms, the royalty of the Poison Realm was not one clear bloodline. Kyha was elected by the Realms dragons when she was declared the most fitting for the role.

She always kept the security of her dragons in front of herself. Or at least, that was the general image they all knew of her. She was always trying to do her best while keeping political power.

And now, the dragons were losing faith in her.

She needed new plans to rule. She did not want to give up on her title after a few years of ruling. Her journey to become queen was cunning and dangerous, her risks were higher than anyones. And thats why she is the Queen of the Poison Realm today.

A dragon ran to her from the woods. It was a young messenger.

”My Queen! Ive received important messages from the Woodland Realm! ” the dragon messenger said.

”Tell me everything. ”

The young dragon told her about the Woodland Realm Councils decision. They were ready to see the rulers of the other Realms. Kyha could not have asked for a better opportunity.

It was her time again to plan something behind the back of the other realms. A plan that would save her Realm and keep her in the position she loved so much.

A brown python was gliding next to her on the leaves of a small bush. Kyha usually wouldve eaten such a delicious snack, but now she decided to let it live. She grabbed the snake with her talons and lifted it into the air. The messenger was confused.

The snake was waggling itself to be freed, but Kyha was holding it tight. She examined the animal up close while smiling. The snakes scales, much like hers, were full of circular dark shapes. A beautiful pattern that was similar to Kyhas skin.

Dragons who knew her, also her political enemies, have usually referred to her as this snake. Cunning, fearless and smart.

The Snake Queen of the Poison Realm, who was ready to save her queendom at any cost.

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