Another flash from Fain's life. This is a follow up to my previous friday flash, Alhena.
A rut was beginning to form on the soft summer ground as the shapeshifter in drake form stomped back and forth. The form was tough to achieve even with decades of practise; only a dragon form was stronger.
“I am Ragh, head of the Guardians of the Red Dragons,” the drake snorted, it’s threading slowly coming to a halt. “I’m the one responsible for whipping you weaklings into shape.”
Fain swallowed hard. This had been Alhena’s idea; he suspected the red dragon and his partner Nuria had plotted this together. It would keep him busy for two summers, but he would return home for the winters.
“You are not one of the Ruby Scales.” Ragh had stopped in front of him. Coal-black eyes stared at him from atop a blunt scaly snout. “Name and tribe?”
“I am Fain of the Leather Wing tribe. We guard the black dragons.” His fingers twitched as he fought the change. Whenever upset, his fingers would change into cold blue claws. In an animal form the change wouldn’t be formidable, but his ‘true form’ was human.
“Not the Shadows upon the Sun?” A black forked tongue slid from the maw, tasting the air for sings of lying. “Good. They should be hunted down for aiding the evil God in his war.”
Anger flared in Fain’s heart. He quenched it too late; Ragh had spotted the outrage on his face. A smooth, cold hand grabbed his hand and lifted the icy blue talons into view. Ragh studied the hand for a moment before speaking. “You feel strongly about the blacks. Most of them aren’t evil, I can give you that.”
He let Fain’s hand fall, looking into the young shapeshifter’s light brown eyes before continuing. “The children of dragons have four enemies: each other, giant ants, vampbirds and poachers, although you don’t see much of the latter nowadays. Some cruel single-form decided it’d be easier to capture our young and force them into the shape of dragon, and— Get up! You’ll face crueller things while protecting the dragons!” The old warrior grabbed a dark green panther by the scruff of the neck. He stared into the lidded eyes until they opened. “Are you cut out for this, boy?”
“Yes,” the panther spoke in a hiss. They stared at each other for a moment. Abruptly Ragh released his grip and the panther fell to the ground with a loud thud.
“Remember, when facing a human do not think of their wife and children.” A sharp talon drew a line across the dirty green throat. “Think of the dragons, or your kin if the lizards do not evoke loyalty. The dragons protect us during the Long Night. Without their aid, the creatures of the dark will slip into your homes, kill and eat your family. Some of them walk on two legs. Remember what they did to the—”
Ragh cast a look at Fain, shaking his head as he swallowed the words. Others were looking at him; pity mixed with apprehension. He opened his mouth to speak, but Ragh spoke first.
“Watch.” The arrow-shaped head came down to touch the scaly chest. Arms extended before him, two black claws reaching for each other until they touched. Power sparked in the air as the drake form shapeshifter drew the claws apart. Two shapes, one golden, the other black, formed in between. Wings grew from the backs, necks extended reaching for each other. Two legless dragons squirmed in the air for a moment before Ragh banished them.
“We shapeshifters cannot control the elements around us, our magic comes from the inside. But we can use the innate magic of the form we’ve taken: dragons can belch fire and sea serpents breathe water. We can also extend our magic outside of ourselves to create barriers and illusions. You are going to attempt the hardest illusion. It’s old Dragon Guard magic, used to scare off… pretty much anything.”
“Light and Dark?” The panther asked.
“Yes, you are going to create two dragons. Not real ones, were not reaching for divinity. Only illusions. But because of what we’re doing they’ll look and feel real. You are going to reach down inside of yourself and use what’s good, pure and such to create the dragon Light. Then comes the hard part: you have to fight down your revulsion and use the darker side of yourself to create Dark. Fain, you try first.”
Fain fell inside of himself with ease, he swam in the sweet memories of Nuria’s lips upon his, their first night together and her promise to be his.
From somewhere outside of himself he heard a faint raspy voice: “Remember the darkness.”
Regretfully he drew back. Elation still flowed through his veins; nothing was dark enough to drag him down. Without fear he plunged into the dark memories, thinking Nuria’s love could shield him from anything.
He was wrong.
Pain and fear struck him. There was a time when one always followed the other. He found a deep-rooted hatred for the humans who did this to him. He remembered demons, burning buildings and evil.
Opening his eyes for a second, he saw two dragons, both the size of a war steed standing before him. The other emanated a light from deep beneath its golden scales; a swanlike neck craned above, warm eyes stared down at him. Light. The dragon next to it seemed to suck any light into the blackness of its skin. It was the embodiment of all the pain he’d suppressed. Dark.
I want to forget! The loss of his memory had been a blessing. Something horrid had happened during those years he did not remember. I will forget!
“Are you alright?” A myriad of faces stared down at him, foremost Ragh’s ugly visage. His carrion breath made Fain choke on the words, but he managed to spit them out.
“I am not using that spell ever again!”
Yet he knew he might have to. At the end of training he would vow to die for the dragons. Facing a few suppressed memories should have been easy, but he would rather face death than the horrors he’d seen.