Fiction logo

The Scaleless

Once Upon A Burning Village

By David BrandyPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 17 min read
Like

Is that the glow of another village burning? The end of so many lives, for what? Greed? Religion? Or the most atrocious, because of the tones of their skin. I will never understand these horrible beasts. The scaleless. What cruel god made them? What cruel god could have left them to their own devices? They deserve to be abandoned, maybe that is what their god did. Who would blame them? I sure wouldn't.

ONE

My eyes are refreshed by the plume of smoke that is rising from the thatched roofs as I swoop through it. Nothing quite compares to the dry air from a fire. I climb up high then curve down and out of the column of smoke before turning back into it. What fun this is.

At first I wouldn't have noticed the young-ling if it wasn't letting out a siren call. I was inclined to abandon my fun when I heard the awful screech. The scaleless' voices are so high-pitched and grading, especially when they are young. It is a wonder that they communicate at all.

The little bastard was cowering on the outskirt of the burning town. It just stood there, yelling. Much to my dismay, my ears tuned into the sound. They picked up that it wasn't just emotion filled wailing, but it seemed to be emotionally wailing for its parents. Its parent's that had presumably been consumed by the fire.

How long will it wail for? Who cares, I have this billowing cloud of burning to enjoy. Maybe I will warm my scales by getting a little closer. My heaving wings carry me to where I want to go, faithful as ever. I drift down in a happy spiral and wish that Genod would have come with me. He truly loves a good smoke dive.

I make it to the bottom of the smoke column to the real fiery fun. The word "frolic" will not be one I will be describing my movements with, but some might use it. There is honestly nothing more relaxing than a giant fire. Distant wailing. I sigh heavily. Why can't this sad excuse for a beast just leave? Or die? Or at least be quiet?!

Snarling I add to the fire around me, damn our custom, maybe I should just eat the thing! With a running start I leap into the air with a massive flap of my meaty wings. I emerge from the fire with what I hope is horrifying grace, then plummet to the ground with earth shaking force. The child looks up at me with awe and fear.

"Why don't you flee?" I growl to the miniature beast.

The child sniffs and wipes its face on its sleeve, "Mama."

"Filthy scaleless, this land is destroyed and surely your parents have been destroyed too." I say letting a little fire escape my nostrils.

It seems to think for a moment before speaking, "Dragon do this?"

I laugh, "Our kind has no reason to interfere with your kind. Why would we pollute ourselves?"

"Dragon make fire?"

"Not this fire."

"Why..." The awful thing takes a moment to sob again, "Why here?"

"To enjoy the flames!" I shout realizing that I am still talking with this awful creature.

This seems to startle the little one, it sobs hard for a little while. I wonder why I haven't left yet.

"Can you stop fire?"

I am about to answer with a negative sneer when something loud and explosive happens behind me. Maybe a lamp oil reservoir? Or perhaps a weapon of some kind. That isn't the strange part. When the scaleless child heard the pop, it got scared and ran to me. It ran right up to my leg and hugged it. That is when the strange part happened... That's when we both started to faintly glow.

TWO

The glow came and went and for a moment nothing happened, then we heard rustling in the trees. A grunt leaves my maw as I identify the creature making the sound, "Scaleless." I should take off, whatever these foul beasts want, it isn't good.

Two awful and compelling things keep me here for a moment. The child's eyes were staring up at me full of pain and fear. The second thing is a surprising one, I wonder how I could carry this tiny scaleless in flight. About thirty five arrows are loosed.

Before I knew it, I had shielded both me and the little beast with my wing. The primitive chunks of metal and lengths of wood had no hope of piercing and now it is my turn to attack. In one fluid motion I pull my wing back and fill the space with fire breath. Crackling screams fill the air.

I carefully grab the child with my foreleg and place it on my back. "Hold on," I say as I poise myself for flight and take off. I only make it a few yards off the ground before I hit something head on. It is as invisible as the air around me but solid as winter's ice.

The world goes fuzzy and I feel gravity take me to the left as I crash back down to the ground. I hear another scaleless approaching, it sounds like they are alone. I struggle to get a few of my feet beneath me and look around.

"Are you alive?" I quietly ask the child.

At the same time I hear two scaleless respond. I hear the little one say, "Yes," and the newcomer say, "Unfortunately, she is."

I spot him. He isn't in a soldiers or combat uniform, unlike the scaleless that I had just torched, "What did you do to the air?" I command.

It laughs, "You dragons must know of magic."

This is when I noticed the staff, I would have expected a wizard's staff to have been bigger. "We are aware of it," I say, getting my bearings back.

"You know it requires power?"

"It is a dangerous thing to meddle with." My mind goes to Genod.

"Undoubtedly, but it has its benefits as well." It says as it looks at its glowing staff. It has the same faint glow that the scaleless and I had just emitted.

"What are you doing here?" I ask, warming the air around me with angry breath.

"Gathering power."

Just then, there was a new sound from the trees, something fast, something small... Something headed straight for the wizard.

THREE

The scaleless child was faster and quieter than I thought it was. It also was braver than I thought any scaleless could be. Although it was fierce and forceful for its size, the grown wizard had no trouble stopping the young-ling.

"Little girl," The wizard says, holding the child back with a spell, "Did you really think that would work?"

"You did this?" Sobs the tear streamed girl.

"Like I said, I am gathering power." Smiles the wizard with a nod to his staff. As he does this, it glows a brighter blue and so do I and the little girl. "I marked your whole town so that when you died, your life-force would be collected right here, in my staff. Only, what is this? I didn't mark this dragon."

I remember when I glowed for the first time, it was when the child girl embraced me. " I think it was because she came to me for help."

"You?" Asked the wizard to the little girl. He seemed to admire her bravery for a moment himself. "You transferred the mark," The wizard considered this for a moment, "I suppose that there is only one thing to do."

With those words the wizard raised his staff to me and the ground around me started to move. It was like the grass was hungry and needed to swallow me whole. Before I knew it the soil had blotted out all light from my eyes and all motion from my body. It was like I was buried alive, only above ground.

My mind raced, what sort of power is this? There isn't any magic that any dragon or scaleless could do that can come close to this. What do I do? My mind goes to a familiar place. Heat. The flame that comes out of my open jaws is the biggest one I have ever breathed.

The scent of melting earth fills my nostrils and the sound of crackling grass reaches my ears. This wizard doesn't know what he is up against, this scaleless fool will soon meet his match. That is when I hear another sound, the little one's scream. She thinks I am dying? Then water begins to pour over and through the soil... for a moment I wonder if she is right.

FOUR

It is strange how quiet it becomes. I am not accustomed to being underwater. It is unfitting for my species. We have hearts and lungs made mostly of heat. Most water I know is steam because that is what it becomes when I am near it.

This water is different. It is relentless, unending. It just keeps flowing, like the ocean's drain plug had been pulled and I was placed underneath it. The child's scream plays through my mind again and I make my decision. If this is going to be the end, this scaleless will know all of my power.

I clench my eyes shut and focus on raising my core temperature. A dragon's heart is flame but it can't get too hot or it will damage itself. The thing is, when it does get too hot, it becomes the hottest thing known. In moment's I can feel the water around me boiling off of my scales.

I shout with a massive ball of fire and I can see out of the burial chamber. I can see the wizard. He has a shocked look on his face and if I could smile I would have. I take aim and with the worst pain I have ever felt, a pillar of fire pours out of my chest and engulfs the wizard.

Dirt crumbles, water pools, I collapse. Little hands touch my leg and then quickly pull back in pain, "Ouch!"

"Child, we must go." I say looking at the charred wizard robe laying on the ground. The horrifying part was that there was no wizard inside it.

"You are too hot."

"Not for long." I say looking down at my chest. My flaming hear is visible through the massive hole, "I am cooling rapidly, my core is conserving. Just climb on before the wizard returns."

"He isn't dead?"

"Do you see a body?!" I yell, then regret it as my heart's flame grows brighter with pain.

FIVE

Flight is a foreign thing to the scaleless. Dragons and scaleless don't live among each other so they don't fly on us. Also since they aren't born with wings, I doubt they will ever fly on their own.

This flight is foreign to me as well. Not because of the scaleless on my back, we dragons carry our young and lame in this exact way. It is foreign to me because I can feel the wind on my heart. I am dying. Not only from the massive hole in my flesh, but because I used my heart's heat. I am cooling. Death by entropy.

"Can you hear me?" Whispers a small voice in my ear.

"Yes scaleless, I can hear you." I say loud enough that the child can hear me between my shoulder blades.

"What is your name?" It asks.

I think about this question for a moment, it is out of place. If I were this small beast I would want to know where we were going, or if the flying dragon with a hole in its chest will make it to the destination.

"I'm Bee." The child says eventually when I don't respond.

"Greetings Bee." I say flatly.

"What is your name dragon?" She asks again wondering if I didn't understand the question the first time.

"I don't have a name, I am not a criminal or a saint."

"Dragons do not name their kind?" Asks the scaleless perplexed.

"Not until they are needed to be distinguished."

"Distinguished?"

"If a dragon does something incredibly good or bad, that is when they get a name. Before that, we are all part of the collective."

Bee takes a moment to digest this, then asks, "Where are we going?"

"To see a friend."

"Not the collective?"

"No."

"Your friend has a name?"

"Yes, Genod."

Bee thinks for another long moment, "Does he have this name because he was good or bad?"

"He is an outcast criminal."

"I don't like this idea."

"He is my friend, and his crime was practicing magic. He will know what to do with the wizard."

SIX

Genod's home is a stone structure that resides outside of the dragon's domain, but not outside their property. This is where all of the criminals reside, outside of society, but not out of reach. If they attempt to leave the dragon's land, that is when they will be tracked and sentenced. When I landed I let out a small fire ball towards Genod's stone door which heated it, letting Genod know that I had arrived.

"Dragons knock with fire?" Bee asks.

"Knock?" I say confused.

The stone door grinds open and Genod sticks his head out, "I thought I recognized that wretched breath," He says when he sees me. "What is that?" He says when he sees the child.

"Genod, I am sorry to bring this to your door, but I need your help."

He seems to ponder this for a moment as he looks from me to the child. After seeing the hole in my chest he relents.

Once we are inside Genod finds some salve and places it on my wound. It is boiling hot, the best thing. I take my usual spot to relax, then I notice the child. She is mesmerized. The space is massive and it seems even more so because of her tiny stature.

She seems to take everything in but in an unfamiliar way. There is nothing flammable in a dragon's abode, but judging by the way that the scaleless' houses go up in flames, there is nothing but chaff in them. She walks around a little bit then asks,

"Is everything stone here?"

"And metal." Genod says with pride.

"So rough..." She says rubbing her hand on the slab of stone I lay on.

"It is the best material for our species' internal climate." I say stretching.

Genod puts his hand on my head, "You have a kryer."

"Kryer?" Bee asks.

"When a dragon is very sick, their temperature drops. It can be very dangerous." Genod says as he blows fire onto a set of smooth rocks.

"When we get really sick we have the opposite." Bee says.

"Your temperature rises?" I ask as Genod places the smoking stones on my head and what is left of my chest.

"Yes, papa says its to fight off the demons that make us sick." She says cheerily, then her face drops when she remembers what happened to her parents.

Genod looked at me with something like sadness, "What happened?"

It was then that I realized that he hadn't asked that question before. Why wasn't he more wary of the child, has he been spending time with the scaleless? My mind took a step back when I realized that I had been spending time with this exact scaleless that I had just brought into his abode.

"Fire." Was all that the child could choke out before dissolving into tears.

"Your fire?" Genod asked me.

"No, it was a wizard. That is why I came to you, to ask you what we should do."

"I think you should stay here." He said a bit too quickly.

"We both know I only have so many hours left," I say to Genod quietly, "I think I may have until sunrise. Can you help us fight the wizard? I don't want to bring this to the collective, I want to spend my last night among the living as part of the collective... not with a name."

Genod looks as if he understands, he knows that with such little time to live, I will end up being charged with the use of magic. The collective doesn't show mercy and being as close to a wizard as I was is enough to sentence me if they don't have time to investigate. He nods carefully.

"Protect the girl?" I ask.

"I swear it." He says putting a fist to his heart.

SEVEN

The child had been looking around the massive space for about a half hour now, and I was feeling ready to mobilize, "Genod, is it time to go?"

"Maybe a little longer." He says.

"Genod, I don't have much time left."

"I fear that your time might be shortened if you don't rest longer."

"Why do you want me to stay?" I ask as I feel my fading strength return for a second wind.

Dragons can't smile, but somehow, Genod did.

"What is happening?" Asks Bee, but then she trails off at the end when she notices the little stick on Genod's right wing. It looked like a little stick at first but then the dragon began to shrink and morph. His scales retracted into a smooth pale skin. The forelegs shrank and the claws morphed into long fingers. When his head miniaturized into that of a scaleless, that is when his wings closed around him and became his clothes and robes.

"Genod?"

He just laughs.

"You are working with the scaleless?"

"My own kind abandoned me, what should I do?" He says walking on his two legs.

"We have customs." I growl.

"And I have power!" Genod said as he slams his staff on the ground causing a shock-wave of frigid air to fill the room.

I fall to my rear knees as my heart's flame dims, "So you have betrayed us?"

"It isn't that simple, maybe I should just show you."

With those words he rose his staff into the air and the entire world changed. First it was like being in the center of a tornado, then everything came slowly into focus, only it was a different world. A crazy world full of metal beasts rolling on black wheels and buildings larger than should be possible.

I look around at all of the scaleless milling about, "Can... can they see us?" I ask.

"Don't be a fool. We are like spirits to them, not a one has ever even noticed me."

"What is this?" I ask.

"This is what comes next," Genod says with raised hands, "You now see the future. What do you not see? Dragons. At some point these scaleless rule the world. I have been all over this sphere and I can't find a single one of us anywhere." With another tap of his staff on the ground they were back in Genod's house.

"This doesn't justify killing everyone in a village." I say shivering.

"So small minded, I plan on slaughtering all of the scaleless, and the best part is that with this disguise, the are helping me gather the power to do it!"

I look at who I thought was my friend. How can he wear that form, parlay with the scaleless, and plot to end their race? When did he become so manipulative? How could I have been so stupid? How do we get out of this?

That is when I understand what must be done. I am not going to live much longer and when I die, my life-force will be added to Genod's power. Once I am gone, he will have no problem killing the scaleless for her life-force. That is why he has been stalling, it is so that he can wait out my shortened life.

No, I only have one choice here. I have to make sure that Genod dies...

EIGHT

I take a deep breath as I formulate my awful plan, then stand as tall as I can. I take a step towards Genod and he raises his staff, creating another solid wall of air that I walk into. I puff out smoke before lifting my front claws and striking the wall of air as hard as I can.

I swing and swing, each time letting out more and more of a pained cry. I almost don't notice that I am in such pain but it is the sobs of the scaleless that tell of her fear for my life. How does she know? She is not a normal scaleless.

Every time my claws collide with the air wall, I can see the glow of Genod's staff glow fainter and fainter. I watch as his face goes from smug to worried. He knows his fate is sealed because he can see in my eyes that I am willing to die to kill him.

It is then that he lets the shield down and takes aim at my heart. With gritted teeth he sends a blue energy ball into my open chest and I wail in pain. I can hear Genod laugh in front of me and Bee screaming behind me. This is it, I can feel my heart's flame going out...

My final thought was that of death, not of mine, but Genod's. I begin to fall towards him, but as my jaws comes closest to the traitor I open them and bite. Suddenly there is searing hot liquid spewing all over my face, I didn't know that death would be this sweet.

NINE

Bee watched me fall and then watched me bite Genod in half. She watched as the bottom half of Genod stayed in scaleless form but the top half oddly morphed and grew back into his dragon form. She watched as his dragon bisected heart erupted lava... Then she watched me die.

She wailed and ran to my body. Bee cried for what felt like hours, but it had only been moments. The little girl mourned her family and her village along with me. Then she noticed that the lava was spreading. Fear kicked in.

She crawled away from the lava quickly taking over all of the floor-space. Her mind raced, she didn't want to leave me, but she knew that if she didn't get out of here she would join me and Genod in dying. It was the time for action.

With all of her strength she pushed on the massive stone door but it wouldn't budge. What is easy for a creature the size of a dragon is impossible for a scaleless, let alone a scaleless child. She turned around to face her molten death with tear streaked cheeks and saw something that terrified her. Genod was still alive.

"Don't be afraid." Genod said weakly, "I won't hurt you... If you can believe that. My friend here," He coughed and more lava came out, "He sacrificed himself for you... He is a better dragon than I. I don't deserve to use his strength."

That is when Bee noticed that the staff was glowing again. She remembered that I was marked as well and now that I have died, my life-force is now in the staff. My soul was nothing but raw power in that glorified stick.

"That is why you must use the power," Genod said to Bee, "I will mark myself so that you have my life-force as well. Just," He sputtered as he marked himself, "Just put the staff to him and... will what you want..."

With Genod's final breath he tossed the staff from his dragon hand to her scaleless feet. Bee picked it up and as he died, the staff glowed brighter in her hands. She knew what she had to do, she put the staff to my still body and whispered, "Please bring back my friend."

TEN

We sat next to each other on a hill as the sunset over what was left of Bee's village. I have a large bandage around my chest and a new cough, but I am among the living.

"Are you going home?" Bee asks without looking at me.

"I don't think that they will accept me," I say breathing out a small puff of smoke.

Bee looked over her ruined home, realizing that I can't ask her the same question she closes her eyes and changes the subject, "Do you really not have a name?"

I look at her, "Not unless I am a saint or a criminal."

She thinks about this, "Would it be okay if I name you?"

It is a moment before I answer, "Yes."

"It is nice to meet you, Ally."

COVER PHOTO CREDIT

FableFantasyShort StoryYoung Adult
Like

About the Creator

David Brandy

My very first story crafting was an imaginary game that me and my two younger brothers would play when I was 12. My love of storytelling manifested itself quickly. Today I am a husband, father, and business owner.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.