Sarah was right about being a dragon; it felt amazing. I felt supremely confident; it’s kind of hard to describe, really, except that there was this constant undercurrent of yeah, I’m a dragon; what are you gonna do about it? underlying every thought and feeling. I set the lute down beside me as I flew, just because I could, and it obediently floated along at my side like a good little piece of will-less matter.
The first time touching Sarah had transformed me, it had lasted about 15 minutes before the Twist overcame the magic and I turned back to full human. But Ryell had done something to change me, specifically to make me “more compatible” with Sarah’s power. That made the transformation not be painful–at least I assume that’s why–and it apparently also made it last longer, because we flew for a few hours and I wasn’t changing back. Not that I particularly wanted to, mind you; that was part of it, I guess. Why would someone want to let go of all that awesomeness? (And come to think of it, that might have been why my form stayed stable for so long: the will of the dragon didn’t want to change back!)
I idly wondered if Ryell had had any idea, back when she did that, what the first form I’d end up taking would be.
Sarah was also right about air travel by plane being boring. I’ve flown a few times, and it was always a huge mass of tedium and inconvenience. If it wasn’t so fast, I don’t think anyone would find it worthwhile. But flying as a dragon… that was something altogether different! There was a certain thrill to it, feeling the wind under my wings, my tail curving subtly left or right to make minor course adjustments, instinctively seeking out warm updrafts for a bit of easy lift.
And the speed! I wasn’t about to win any races with an airplane, but I could have given my car a run for its money!
As the miles flew by below me, I grew curious about one thing. I’d never really believed that Ryell could see into the future, but having the dragon’s power at my command presented a golden opportunity. Let’s see if it actually works.
What does tomorrow hold for me? I thought, focusing on a sincere desire, no, a command for my will to be done. I am dragon, the lute bends to my will, and so will time.
I regretted it immediately as my head exploded in blinding agony. It felt like my brain had crashed straight into a wall of solid golden scales. I’ve never understood the term “splitting headache” before, bit I did now.
The lute began to fall. Sarah noticed somehow (how? she was ahead of me with her back turned!) and used her own will to hold it up, slowing to pull alongside me. “What happened? Are you all right?”
My head was starting to clear already. It took a few moments, but whatever it was didn’t last too long. “Nnnngh,” I groaned. “I think I just did something stupid.”
“Flap too hard and pull a muscle in your wing?”
“Worse. I tried to find out if it’s true what Ryell claims, about being able to see into the future. I think she noticed somehow, and she didn’t like it; I had this sudden impression of a wall of golden scales being slammed into my mind, with a–” Woah. I hadn’t even noticed that at first.
“With a what?”
I shook my head hard back and forth to clear it. “With a whole lot of pain to go with it,” I said. I didn’t want to mention what I had seen: a creepy image of a man’s face, in front of the wall of scales, with no eyes. Just a horizontal strip of blackness between nose and forehead.
Was this what had been responsible for the mental smacking? Ryell’s “conduits” always looked sort of wrong, but this guy took it to a whole new level of disturbingness.
She nodded. “It must be true, then.”
I glanced over at her. “No reason to guard something worthless?”
Sarah nodded again. “Exactly.”
“Wrong,” I said. “Misdirection is a very good reason. Keeping your adversary uncertain as to what you can do is incredibly useful; why do you think I spread around so many ridiculous Paul Twister rumors?”
Sarah hmmmmed a bit at that. “You think Ryell would do something like that?”
“I think until such time as I know she wouldn’t, it’s a bad idea to assume it’s something she wouldn’t do.”
“Then by the same logic, isn’t it a bad idea to assume that she can’t see into the future until you have proof to the contrary?”
“Maybe. But I have pretty good evidence: dragons have been slain before. If they could see into the future, wouldn’t they be able to see it coming, and prevent it?”
She just looked at me in silence for a few wing-beats
before finally asking, “should I even try to take that line of reasoning seriously? How would you respond to that claim if you wanted to disagree with it?”
I let out a deep, rumbly sigh. She was right. “That if an enemy can thwart my design if they can see me, that doesn’t mean I can’t hide, or sneak up on them, or find some way to disguise myself and appear harmless or not worth noticing. I know, that’s not a perfect example, but… Ryell claims that she can look into the future, see possible events, and use that knowledge to influence the course of events. If I could do that, I can think of a few dozen things I could do to improve my lot in life, and the dragons don’t seem to be doing any of it.”
Sarah laughed. “No, they’ve been too busy positioning themselves, over the course of thousands of years, such that no one dares act against their interests directly, even the Circle of Magi or the Celestial Paladins. To the point where, the last time someone tried to thwart their will, wizards, angels, bards and Royal Engineers felt they had no choice but to put a stop to it and further the dragons’ agenda. How much better can your lot in life get than that, where even your enemies are forced to defend your interests? What would you do differently?”
“Plenty of things,” I grumbled. “I don’t have thousands of years.”
“And that has nothing to do with being able to divine the future,” she pointed out smugly. “Besides, if you’re like my mom, you’ll have long enough.”
Ugh, don’t remind me. “I really hope I’m not like her! Her magic cancer treatments won’t work on me, and I really don’t want to go like that.” I’d lost two grandparents that way, both of whom I had loved deeply, and it really hurt to see what they went through. No way I wanted that for myself!
“I’m hungry,” Sarah said, changing the subject abruptly. Then she banked and began to dive. I glanced down and groaned to myself as I realized what she was up to. There was a stream not too far ahead of us, with a good-sized doe standing at the edge, her head down, having a drink. Sarah’s dragon instincts were guiding her straight towards Bambi’s mom.
As yummy as that might be, it was also very messy work that would probably be quite embarrassing to her tomorrow, even if it wasn’t today. So I roared, projecting my voice downward, willing it to carry a strong sense of “hungry predator” to the ears of whoever heard.
The doe looked up, saw Sarah swooping down upon her, and froze like a deer in… umm, anyway. I guess now I know where that expression comes from. But then she turned and bolted, running for the cover of some distant trees as swift as a… wow. I really suck at similes when I’m a dragon. Who knew?
Sarah turned her head, snarling at me over her shoulder, then gave chase, flapping her wings furiously. So I did the only thing I could: I turned and moved to intercept her, flapping my own as strongly as I could.
My dragon instincts told me that the best way to catch her would be not to aim at her, but at where she was heading, at where the prey below was heading. So I did, diving for the poor, dumb prey animal who thought it could outrun a pair of dragons. It would learn the truth soon enough!
That’s not right, an annoying piece of my mind objected. I ignored it. I’m pretty good at that, aren’t I? Right now, all that mattered was the chase, and the race. That other dragon may have a head start, but that just made my blood pump harder.
My vision narrowed and seemed to “zoom in,” like an effect in a movie. All that I could see was the prey. I was catching up, but she was close to the treeline as I closed in. I couldn’t fly in there… but I was going to make it.
I sensed something, then relaxed my focus just in time to see the other dragon swoop in from an angle and tear a fatal gouge in the prey’s neck with her talons. The rich, warm scent of blood filled the air as it erupted from the wound, getting all over the other dragon and that ridiculous fabric she had adorned herself with. My human side noticed that I bore something similar. Ah well. I was new to being a dragon. It was still ridiculous.
I growled at being denied the kill. The prey-beast’s body took several more stumbling strides, refusing to acknowledge that it was dead yet, so I decided to finish the job. I dove in while the other dragon was busy pulling up and coming around, opening my mouth as if to roar, but what came out was not sound… or at least not primarily sound.
Dense, searing flames sprang forth, washing over the prey-beast and finishing the work that the other dragon had failed to complete on her own. By rights, that should entitle me to a stake in the kill… I thought. I was still new to being a dragon, afterall. But it felt right. The flames scorched the beast’s hide and cooked the muscles within until they were useless for running. A lesser, will-less fire might have taken root in the grass, spread to the nearby trees, and caused a massive conflagration, but such problems were for primitive fire-wielders. My fire cooked what I wanted it to cook, and nothing more!
My human memories knew that roast venison was very tasty, so I moved to alight by the kill and give it some more cooking. But then the female dragon set down in front of me, standing over the kill, tail held high in warning.
I raised my tail as well, meeting her challenge, looking straight into her eyes and letting a stream of smoke trickle from my nostrils. My human memories noted that she was strong-willed, but that she preferred to rely on magic, which I could use my connection to the Void to nullify or even twist back on itself, should she be so foolish as to strike at me with it.
They also noted that–ah, how fascinating. This female viewed me as a desirable mate? Well, perhaps the half-human status I found myself afflicted with was not entirely worthless. Afterall, she was a very attractive dragon.
The human side of me revolted at the thought, and tried to assert its will against me. Ha! It threw an image at me, a memory of a very different female. Ugh, how repulsive! Her hide was all soft and squishy, like a human’s, but she was something even worse: she bore the false wings of the primal enemy! Truly my human instincts were mad if they found that preferable to the loveliness before me! So I shut them out, and advanced slowly on the other dragon.
She growled at me, her claws digging into the carcass, claiming it as her own. But I was focused on her, not on the prey. It was dead; it could wait.
I leapt at her, tackling her to the ground. She growled and struggled, and we wrestled for dominance, her might against mine, my will against hers, until I finally managed to get her long neck at least partially in my mouth. I barely had to apply any pressure before she went limp, surrendering to me.
She was mine. I tore away the silly and inconvenient fabric, then took her as my mate, and she responded enthusiastically. We spent the next few hours sating ourselves with each other, and when we were well and truly tired out, we feasted on the almost-forgotten carcass of our prey. Then, when we had our strength back, she pounced on me and we mated again.
It was delightful, and it made the nagging human instincts go silent, which just made it that much better. Ha! It seems the human mind is not capable of coping with the intense heights of a dragon’s passion!
When we finished, we took to the skies, frolicking and dancing about one another, reveling in the joy of simply being a pair of dragons. For some reason, we both felt impelled to move towards the northwest, so we did, flying for hours until the sun set.
My mate and I could both sense that there was a place of great power nearby, but the entire region was thick with humans and other lesser races. They would not pose any great problem for us at our full strength, but we were both weary after a long day of flying and other exertions. So we waited, finding a secluded spot in the forest to rest for the night. On the morrow, we would claim the power that this place held for our own. How curious it was that no other dragon had marked it with their own will! But if they had never noticed it, it was ours for the taking.
The human instinct felt relieved by this somehow. It seemed to think that it would have control again the next day. Ha! Does it not know that dragons are immortal?
My mate did something very odd. When I lay down on a nice, hard stone to sleep, instead of finding a rock of her own, she lay down across me, pressing her body to mine and her arms around me. She even wrapped her tail around mine!
It felt strange; that as a very un-dragonlike thing to do. But I permitted it. Afterall, she was very new to being a dragon too.