Fire ran fiercely through the forest. Thick bogs of smoke eradicated fresh air, suffocating any and all unlucky souls caught in its arm. Fleeing screams were gobbled up by the splitting sounds of trees cracking, breaking with heavy woes, and forced surrender.
If a tree falls in a forest will it make a sound if no one is around to hear it?
They do. They hear it all. Their scaled ears wrought backward as they drink in the heat. Fiery licks trail its underbellies as they fly over the trees. Flickers of red and orange reflected off their scales casting glaring light as protection for their presence.
“Higher, Daize. I cannot see its end.” The young woman clutched the nape of the beast. Half her face was hidden behind a scarf. Her body was clothed from head to toe but for her eyes and fingers. She had not yet mastered the art of deflection and had long since resigned to covering her scarred flesh with man-made linens.
The beast wretched its back down and twisted its body like a snake until they climbed higher above the fire.
The woman’s eyes searched deep into the flames. Unlike her companion, she had yet to grow into her eyes and ears. Where Daize could see the crippled bodies of nature’s finest on the floor, she could only see the shape of flame and smoke and her ears could only muster the sounds of a cackling savage. Though she has spent the better part of her years in lessons learning their history and training with their masters, she had never been accepted. Pitied for her stale mate with her gifts. Ridiculed for her inability to harness a true Draconian’s gifts. Mocked for her small stature and orphaned past.
But she had other gifts kept hidden from the others. Hidden away by the bonds of Master Yaigon and Daize and the Gods.
Still, Mo glared into the fire with the hope that the Gods will suddenly come through for her. Instead, she stared until the colors turned into illusions and her eyes began playing tricks on her.
“Mo,” Daize said, their minds linked. “It’s nearing the valley’s edge.”
“There must be a way to stop it before it wreaks havoc.” Mo considered her options. She needed a quick way to eliminate the fire. The quickest way possible. But how to snuff out a flame so big it eats hundreds of trees at once?
To feed a fire you gave it air. A constant source of food.
To tame a fire you need a cage. Often fireproof. Though Daize was swift, it was beyond her ability to contain an entire forest on fire.
Yet to kill a fire, she need only to deprive it of air. Or, she felt for the staff on her back.
Her eyes brightened. “Daize, we need to find its core. Can you see where it originated?”
The dragon peered into the flames. Searching ahead and below and circling once to do the same. Mo knew what she looked for. The hottest point of the fire. Its beating heart. She knew the moment Daize found it when she was nearly thrown from her back. Daize said nothing, though; Mo didn’t expect her to.
“I need you to circle above me. As fast as you can. Create a constant flow of air for me. Do not land until it is done.” Daize nodded. Pulling her staff from her back, Mo leaped from her back and fell fifty feet to the forest floor.
Her landing was hard yet she was not fazed. She coughed once from the smoke that wedged its way under her scarf and pulled it tighter. Under her clothes, her skin began to burn. The hems of her clothes frayed. Singed. She snuffed out the tiny flames with her fingers. Patted the embers that fell on her body before they could spread.
Recalling her lessons from Master Yaigon, she moved the staff in circles. Flipping her hands in a smooth motion. She summoned it. The smoke billowed. Loose threads of fire reached for her and were smothered by her movements. Thick grey air trapped her as she willed it to bend and curl. The closest fire petered out. Its remains joined the rest.
Mo looked up to Daize. The dragon's body blurred in a ring above her. Blending the wind from Daize’s speed to her funnel she felt the power build.
Neither clean nor dirty, the air swirled vehemently. Its groan grew trill until Mo felt herself reach her peak. She pushed for more. Manipulating her environment until she was near certain her release would end it all.
She didn’t bother shouting at Daize knowing her voice would be mute under the wind despite Daize’s exceptional hearing. Rather, she counted.
One. Pulling more air into her fold.
Two. Her lungs swelled against her chest.
Three. She pounded the ground with her staff. The force sent a shudder through her tornado. The force rippled and burst. Every particle of wind and smoke erupted in every direction.
Mo watched in shock as the flames flickered to ash and the sound of cracking eased to a sizzle. Slowly, she took it in. Turning to examine the results.
Behind her, Daize’s feet landed softly.
“Well done, Mo. I see you have improved some since last time.”
Mo accepted the compliment from her teacher with a nod. “These fires have given me many reasons to train harder.” Mo looked out to the burnt forest. Her heart dropped as the smoke lifted enough for her to see the skeletons that remained. “Do you think it’s over?”
“The fire was not dragon-made. It’s fire too dim to have come from us.”
“How can you be sure?”
“I am a dragon. It is my job to know.”
Mo tried not to take the remark to heart. She was not a full dragon yet, though not for lack of trying. The scars that covered her body were proof of her desperation to earn her status among her people. Until then, fire was fire. It gave life and delivered death and she was not the wiser for what fires were born by whose hands.
“What do I do? I cannot fly. I cannot walk through burning flames unscathed. How can I protect our home when I have not received our God’s blessing?” All this loss is because the humans believe the dragons to be their demise. Mo’s gaze flittered to the sky. It looked beaten and frail behind a blanket of grey. Mo slipped onto Daize’s back with her offer and they took to the sky, finding the blue beyond the charcoal.
As if she could read her mind, Daize said, “What the humans do not know will be their destruction. Not us.”
“What I do not understand is why. Why do they continue to hate us? They’ve all but run us underground. Forcing us to walk in our human form when in their presence. Should they ever discover what color our blood truly runs, though, then it shall be our scales lining their armor.”
Daize sighed. “Humans have many reasons to hate us. As we certainly have our own. Our feud is as old as The Timeless Ones. Yet it isn’t our future that is threatened by prophecies time and time again.”
Mo rolled her eyes. She’s heard the prophecies before. Each and everyone depicted the downfall of one species or another. Though, most were of humans and not of dragons. And not all at the ends of a dragon’s breath. But some do. Most likely written by a false prophet with a quill and a mind for mischief. Yet as Master Yaigon recounts, some prophecies have rung true.
Struck by the hands of time, and time again, humans have succumbed to wars of their own creation and failed miserably. Armies rose and fell as did the cities wrought around them in defense. Nonetheless, death greeted them with grim hellos and faint goodbyes.
Prophecies were like reading imaginative stories written on halved papers or painted onto stone walls, not real but entertaining. Mo remembered enjoying the Storyteller’s tales upon their return from the cities. Always filled with laughter and jest and riddled with lessons to remember if ever in a dire situation.
“Do you remember your lessons about The First Flame?”
Mo looked at Daize. “The flame burned hotter than the sun. The Gods needed to contain it in something that would neither burn nor suffocate it. Thus, the first dragon was born.”
“Not born, created. Miron The First took to the skies on wings made from clouds and coats carved from stone. He was the beginning of our kind. The first Timeless One. Our first king.”
“What does Miron The First have to do with stopping the humans from eradicating us?”
“There is a prophecy. Some say Miron saw it himself. Others deny Miron’s prophetical abilities altogether claiming the Gods did not make him so. Regardless of its origins, many believe in its foretelling of the New Age.”
“And you believe it, too?”
Daize nodded and turned their path toward home. The Wild Mountains rose steeply in the distance, its peak disappearing into a mist.
“Humans perceive time in twos. Day and night. Past and future. Life and death. It was never like that with us for time was insignificant. We could live for hundreds or thousands of years without a single wrinkle to mark us. But Miron’s death tore our world apart. With his flame extinguished, we aged. We died quicker. Our powers weakened and the humans knew it, too. Without the first flame, the fire could not be controlled. And humans fear the uncontrollable.
“The prophecy depicts the rebirth of the first flame. Born into the age between time a child marked by dragon’s blood will have the power to rule our kind and bring about a new age. An age of redemption.”
“I know this story, Daize. What I don’t know is how it will help us.”
“When we get home, we will find Master Yaigon and we will take you to the Waters of Aestaire. Hopefully, the answers you seek will be there.”
About the Creator
From crafting second-world fantasies to scheming crime novels to novice poetry; magic, mystery, music. I've dreamed of it all.
Now all I want to do is write it.
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