Dragons. What do you envision when you hear that word? Ruthless, bloodthirsty beasts? That is what people in Trillathes village thought, the reason theyd hidden their village from the creatures, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the icy mountains. To hide from these legends.
But legends were all they were. Dragons in fact were gentle creatures, and, contrary to what many thought, did not only have one form. When they wished, they could melt and twist their flesh, become human in shape with the palest skin, ice-blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, yet with their own individual beauty. But this wasnt unlike any other human - living in perpetual winter had given them all these features, making the very idea of spotting them an indefinite challenge. But it also meant a dragon could walk amongst humans, and they wouldnt even know it.
Footprints scarred the crisp snow, the tiniest damage in this world of fragility, as Trillathe traipsed home. He was the only one in his village, other than his father, that did trust the dragons, would willing fly with them, as he had done this day. But then it was only natural for him, himself being half dragon. Hed inherited the dragon genes from his mother, who he regularly visited in the dragons village, but of course no one in his hometown knew. The only physical feature he had was the line of pale blue scales that ran down his spine and the sides of his legs, and whilst he couldnt shape-shift like his mothers people, he could however grow wings when he chose.
He tugged the furs he was wearing tighter to him as his village came into sight. The moon had already risen, full and pale like a glowing jewel, lighting his path as the looming shadows of threatening crags engulfed him. Not far now.
About half an hour later, he pushed open the heavy wooden door, entering his home.
Trillathe? his father called from the living room, Is that you?
Yeah, he replied, walking into the room to see his father leaning over the fireplace, cursing at the flint in his hands.
Son, could you help with this please?
Rolling his eyes, Trillathe knelt down next to his father. Not before checking over his shoulder, to make sure they were alone, he spat a small fireball about the size of a pea, onto the dry wood. Almost immediately the logs burst into flame, spreading heat around the room. Hed always been able to do that, but those tiny balls of fire were the best he could produce - he could not breath powerful pillars of flame like his mother and her people.
Oh, you got it going! a voice cooed from the door.
Trillathe turned to see his stepmother, Relsta, in the doorway, cradling a young baby. She didnt know her stepson was half dragon, and he hoped shed never find out. Shed never liked Trillathe. Although his mother and father had never been married, she always resented the fact that she wasnt the first woman his father had been with, and the teenager was, to her, just a reminder of this. He didnt need another reason for her to hate him.
But it wasnt just this. If anyone in the village found out what he was, both he and his father would most likely be driven out. Although dragons were not beasts, not another species, just another race, these people were so stuck in their old ways that they would see it as no more than bestiality. Even if they knew the truth, they would only ever see the dragons as beasts that could turn into people, not people that could turn into beasts.
Relstas eyes drifted to him as he stood up. She tried to avoid conflict for the sake of her husband, but she always made it clear to Trillathe what she thought of him.
Oh, she said, her shoulders drooping in disappointment. youre back.
Yes. It looks like I am, he retorted.
Well weve all already eaten. If you want dinner youll have to make it yourself.
I ate with my mother.
Sparks of anger shot out of her eyes at the mention of this. If there was one person she loathed more than Trillathe it was his mother. It was almost as though she was afraid that she would come back.
Satisfied at her reaction, he turned to his father.
Actually, Im really tired. I think Im gonna go to bed.
His father nodded in acknowledgment and he bounded up the stairs. He could hear his thirteen year old half sister snoring through the thin walls as he entered his own box-room. Instead of going straight to sleep, he sat on the edge of his bed, staring blankly out of the window. Humans flitted past the house, back to their lives, uncomplicated and easy. They were not like him, they were whole. They did not know what it was like to be a half-breed, not wholly one thing. Even each of his parents were whole.
Sighing, he allowed himself to fall onto his bed. He may be two halves, but he would never be whole, never be one. Hed known this all his life, and he had gotten used to the idea - it didnt bother him as much as it used to, but still he always wondered what it was like to be completely one thing.
His eyes drooped as he let himself slip into the oblivion of sleep. A place where his fears and all the negativity couldnt follow.
Trillathes eyes snapped open as a crash and a roar could be heard in the distance. No one else stirred, clearly not having heard it, and he wondered how they couldnt have. Until he looked out of the window and the stars winked back at him. Everyone else was probably still asleep, too deeply gone to have noticed.
He turned over, desperately trying to get back to sleep, but soon enough his curiosity got the better of him, and he dragged himself out of bed, rubbing his eyes. He crept downstairs, careful not to make any noise - if his father caught him sneaking out at this time of night he would most definitely be sent back to his room. His father was way too protective of him - he was always worried that Trillathe would somehow reveal his dragon heritage and cause himself harm, but he forgot that his son was nineteen. He wanted to make his own decisions, his own mistakes.
Crunching through the snow, he made his way towards where he thought the sound had come from. It took him to the centre of town, snow-topped houses forming a loving wall, and fountain frozen in the centre. It was quiet - everyone was asleep. He was alone.
As he walked further in he saw two silhouettes in front of him, and as their features became more distinct he realised he recognised the middle-aged man, though his companion, he didnt. She was young, probably around his own age, give or take a year, and wrapped only in a white fur blanket. The man talking to her was well-known around the village, but not very well-liked. He had a terrible reputation as a lecher, even owned the brothel. He didnt know this young woman, but he couldnt let her fall into his hands.
As he approached he caught snippets of their conversation.
Come on, love, he tried to convince her, Ill look after you.
Hey! Trillathe interrupted. Leave her alone.
Stay out of this, I saw her first. Clear off!
Well why dont we ask her? he turned to the girl. Do you want to go with this pervert?
Blushing red, she shook her head. Turning his back on the man, he put a protective arm around the stranger and led her away, all the time aware of the eyes boring into his back.
He looked at the girl, who was staring straight ahead, clearly feeling uncomfortable, and caught a glimpse of a mark behind her ear. Three small dots in a line, one hed seen many times when he visited his mother, the mark of a dragon. His hand crept up to his own mark, only two dots being only half, and he scratched it self-consciously.
Sure that there was no one around to hear them, but still not confident enough to speak too loudly, he whispered;
Why are you here?
she stammered. I
am part of a family of travellers, but I got separated.
No youre not.
I know you are not human. You are a dragon. Now why are you here?
How do you know that?
Ill explain later.
In that case, I will explain later, what happened.
He waited outside his bedroom door for the girl to be ready. It may not be the best, but hed lent her some of his clothes, and although they may not be a perfect fit they were better than nothing.
He was careful, still, not to make any noise. He was sure no one in the house would be happy that hed brought a stranger home, and nor would they understand. In the case of Relsta, she probably wouldnt even try.
The door opened slightly, and he went in just as she sat on the edge of his bed.
So, she whispered, shaking slightly, though from cold or from nerves he didnt know. How do you know what I am?
Smiling weakly, he sat down next to her.
This, he said, placing a tender finger on her mark. Automatically, her hand shot behind her ear, and his fell away.
How do you know about that?
Nervously, he looked to the floor as he reached up to his own ear. Hed never shown anyone his mark before, and although he knew she, herself, was a dragon, it didnt make it any less nerve-wracking. Turning his head, he twisted his head and folded his ear back, exposing the two dots.
she gasped, half dragon?
He nodded, looking at her. She seemed to have relaxed a bit, knowing what he was, a small smile even being allowed to play on her lips.
You know, she continued, that somehow makes me feel better. Like Im not alone in this place.
They sat in silence for a few moments, not knowing what to say, a silence that was only broken by the young man.
My name is Trillathe, by the way. Whats yours?
They call me Vaun.
Vaun, he repeated. It suits you.
I dont understand. You mustve come to the village at least once, so why havent I seen you before? Or are you simply not interested in your heritage?
No, I am. Ive been to the village to see my mother many times. But she lives on the very edge, so Ive never really been into the village itself.
So your mother is the only dragon youve met?
Oh no, there are others living nearby that Ive met. But theyre very few.
Listen Tril, I can call you Tril cant I?
Yeah, go ahead.
Well, I know Ive only just met you, but youre really the only person I think I can trust in this place. We share a common heritage, and you saved me from that guy. Thank you.
Youre welcome, I couldnt just leave you with him. You know, though, you never did tell me why you were here.
Oh, of course! Sorry. You see, I was flying over but I got caught by a particularly strong wind and crashed. The impact broke my wing, and even though I had enough strength to transform if I change to fly back, it would still be broken. The pain wont even stop, its like a constant throbbing in my back. I dont think Ill survive if I attempt the journey alone.
You dont have to be alone. If you like, I could come with you. Ive made the journey many times, I can help.
Really? Thank you!
Grinning from ear to ear, she flung her arms around his neck in gratitude. His father probably wouldnt be happy about this, but he couldnt let her go on her own, especially on foot. There was just too much danger, too much guilt that would swamp him, regardless of what happened. This way, she wouldnt have to be constantly wondering what was going to happen.
The sun was just beginning to rise, a golden sliver on the horizon, as Trillathe closed the door, as quietly and gently as he could. His family wouldnt be up for another few hours, so if he could get away now, he would have a significant lead, if they decided to even pursue him at all.
He walked with Vaun, side by side, to the edge of the village in complete silence, not seeing anyone else at this time of morning until the forest and the icy plains were in view. One of the many farmers of the village led a mule down the street, as it pulled a cart of crops behind it.
Mornin Trillathe! he greeted them as he spotted them.
Good morning Farmer Uldre. What are you doing up so early?
Oh, Im always up at the crack o dawn, me. Gotta get twork as soon as possible aint I? But wha bout you? Wha you doin up this time o day laddo? An whos your pretty little lady friend?
This is Vaun, shes a friend. Were just out for a brisk morning stroll.
Ah, I gotcha, he winked. Sbout time you took a wife laddy. Good on ya!
They both threw up a hand in goodbye, and Trillathe and Vaun left the village, the edge obvious as the buildings suddenly gave way to frosty countryside.
What was that about? Vaun asked him.
What was what about?
That man. What was he talking about?
Oh that. It was just friendly banter.
Oh. How long is this journey going to take?
Im honestly not sure. It takes at least a day, for me anyway, by flight, but on foot well have a lot more ground to cover, especially when we reach the mountain. So I reckon at least a week.
A week?! And a day by flight? It only took five minutes for me to get here in the first place.
But you have stronger wings than I do. I dont think you really appreciate the distance.
I guess not. It just seems like forever away. I just want to get home.
Seeing the tears welling up in her eyes, he pulled her into a friendly hug. He knew what it was like to be away from home, and just want to get back. After all, he made this journey at least once a fortnight, and was more often alone than not. It wasnt something you could ever get used to.
The fire crackled in front of the pair, producing the warmth that the light of the moon could not. Vaun was staring out over the land, a distant look in her eyes, making Trillathe reluctant to speak for fear of interrupting her thoughts. But he couldnt stand the silence, and instead, he placed a tender hand on her shoulder. Her head snapped around, but there was no anger in her eyes.
Are you okay? he asked.
Yeah, Im fine. I was just thinking. I always wanted to travel, to see the world, see whats out there. Visit the other dragons. But if I cant even handle this little journey without wanting to go home, how would I ever handle that?
Im sure it would be different. This wasnt planned, and youre injured. Its only natural that you want to go home.
She smiled at him gratefully, and he grinned back in support, before what she had said really sunk in.
Wait, he frowned, did you say other dragons?
Yes. Seeing his confusion, she looked into the fire as she explained. The world is made up of four plains, each with their own, I guess you could call it, element. Obviously, this mountainous region is the ice plain, so we dragons are pale, for camouflage. But there are also dragons from the desert, dark skinned in human form, and blood red scales when not. There is a forest region, where their scales are emerald, and their hair is deep brown. The ocean dragons, oh Id love to see them. They are so
different. Living in water, they are just so streamlined, everything about them is suited for swimming, and they are the only dragons that cannot change into humans - instead the shift into mer. When I was little, I always dreamed of swimming with them. But I guess Ill never do that.
Wow. I never imagined that there were others out there. Maybe there are even more half-breeds, like me.
You shouldnt put yourself down, Tril. You are half dragon, but that does not make you any less of a person. You arent a half-breed as you put it. You are not an animal.
I guess. But its hard when only your father, out of everyone you live with, knows who you really are.
Why did you not stay with your mother then? Surely you are accepted there.
Yes, and had my father agreed to leave the village, I would probably have a family there. But my mother thought it would be easier for me to be strong amongst the weak, as opposed to weak amongst the strong. Not that its ever made much of a difference. But, had I the choice, I would stay with her. There are always the few that mock me, but mostly they accept me. If I ever told those where I live now I know I would be shunned.
As these thoughts flooded his mind, he looked to the floor to prevent her seeing the tears that threatened to scar his face. A warm arm wrapped around his shoulders and he was pulled into another hug. He hugged her back, tightly, grateful that someone was so understanding of him. Not even his father understood, and he was so glad to have found someone he could talk to. He had always felt so alone, regardless of the amount of people that surrounded him, but now he finally felt that someone was there.
They broke apart and he saw that she was turning red, though he couldnt fathom why.
We should, er
she stammered. We should get to bed. Need to conserve our energy.
He nodded, and they retreated to their respective tents. As he lay down on the thin, scratchy blanket he reflected on what had just happened. He had never opened up to anyone like that before. It wasnt much, and there was still so much he was bottling up inside of him, but he knew that in time he probably would tell her everything. There was just something about her that made him spill his emotions.
From across their makeshift camp, he heard her breathing through the silence. It was somehow calming, like a midnight lullaby, cradling his soul, forcing his eyes to droop, his spirit to rest as the darkness became darker, and reality slipped into the realm of dreams.