Name: Edited at July 14, 2019 10:22 PM by Black Swan
Quirk: Ceylana was born from the union of two dragon species that rarely meet: an ice dragon and a fire dragon. Instead of reverting to either species, Ceylana and her brother were born as a sort of hybrid, or a wildcard. They inherited traits from both her parents: she can breathe fire, but she can also breathe ice and create blizzards with a flap of her wings at the same time. As a result of the two conflicting sides within her, Ceylana's personality has suffered. She can jump from calm and collected to rash and aggressive in an instant when she is not in control of herself. To prevent this, Ceylana has been forced to choose a side to protect the balance inside her. She chose ice, while her brother, Gartheldur, chose fire, to hone and practice.
Description: Large white dragon with two long dark-blue-almost-black horns sweeping back and up from her head. The edges of her wings are ragged, and have two sharp claws at the mid bend. Ceylana has a light frill lining the sides of her face, and her whole body is always glittering with ice crystals that never melt, as well as many battle scars. Her eyes are green, with a scar over one of them. Both are in working condition.
Other: Ceylana has had somewhat of a brutal past. Constantly clashing with her more powerful older brother for reign over territory, Ceylana has been hardened to a razor sharp point. Only through acting as a protector of a small village has she managed to find herself again, as well as meeting her mate, for the short time that lasted.
Appearance: Sanctus has deep blue scales and a slightly lighter underbelly. His wings are lighter still. His horns have a slight upwards curve, and his claws are black.
Quirk: Concentrating allows him to read the emotions of any creature. Their most important feelings usually arise first. However, it's not mind-reading - he directly experiences their emotions. Sanctus has found that while he can do this many times in a short timespan, if he overextends himself he gets a wicked headache.
Pain. That was the first thing Ceylana felt as she slipped in and out of consciousness. Weeping lacerations covered Ceylana's body from head to toe. She could not see them, but she could feel them, the red blood oozing down her snow-white hide and dripping onto the dark shale, slickening it. They stung like a thousand needles entering her flesh at the same time as Ceylana drew her wings closer to her, too weak to generate any fire to warm herself.
It wasn't the wounds that made Ceylana throw back her head and moan. It wasn't the physical wounds that made Ceylana squeeze her eyes shut even harder, pushing a blood-tinted tear out to roll down her neck. Those were nothing, compared to her inner turmoil inside. At what she had done, what she had let be done. That pain, that mental, soulful pain, far swept her physical pain away, in a raging, spitting river of sorrow, out to the sea.
And as yesterday's events bobbed to the surface of her inky black memories like poison apples, Ceylana thrashed and loosed a mournful bellow, a howl of anguish. It ripped through her throat and echoed around the decrypt and derelict cavern, bouncing off the walls and deafening her.
Ceylana's talons gripped the black rock as the images rushed past, her eyelids helpless to shut them out. A black silhouette of a dragon against a grey sky. Fire, consuming and burning all Ceylana had worked for, had sworn her life to protect. The charred corpses of the villagers, and the smaller ones of the children.
Ceylana shook her head, unable to block out the sounds. The screams as villages burned alive. The distant delighted roar of a raiding dragon. The sharp cracking as the wooden pews in the houses snapped in the heat.
Ceylana coughed and gagged as the stench of burning flesh and fear filled her nose, and she writhed against the cool floor, the grit grinding against her scales, covering her in filth. But she didn't care. She was filth. She had failed to keep her people safe. Hundreds had died because she had been too weak to fend off her brother. Her brother, Gartheldur, who had always envied and wanted what Ceylana had ever since they were clutchmates. He had seen how much the village had meant to Ceylana, so he took it.
It was her fault. It was all her fault.
Ceylana let out another roar, the cry cutting out in a whimper as the melancholy swallowed her whole. All of a sudden, the cave she was lying in felt too small, and Ceylana scrambled to her feet. She slammed and scrabbled against the wet walls, screeching in panic, trying to find a way out.
Ceylana's elemental balance, one she had worked all her life to maintain, went haywire, and the cave temperature fluctuated from hot to cold, reflecting her inner conflict. One moment, the cave was frigid as the blackest night in the South Pole. The walls covered themselves in ice, the shards growing razor-sharp. The longest ones were smashed to smithereens as Ceylana's tail lashed viciously against them, and as the air turned as scorching as the Death Valley Canyon the shards melted and evaporated into steam before they could hit the ground.
She ran in tight circles in the enclosed claustrophobic place, like a dog chasing its tail. Her eyes flew open, blazing with emerald madness as Ceylana snorted and snarled, at her wit's end. Smoke began to curl out of her flared nostrils as Ceylana's spinning wheel of fortune slowed to a stop, the pointer sliding to rest over the stronger of her two elements. The one she had desperately tried to resist.
But as the cave turned into a sweltering convection oven, the walls glowing red as the temperature climbed higher and higher, it was fire that overtook Ceylana's body, wrenching all control from her as a crackling ball of it swelled in her throat.
With a scream, Ceylana launched herself at the brightest wall of the cave, and she felt the stone give under her weight with an almighty crack. Shale rained down on Ceylana, and sizzled on her hide as she lunged again, shoving her shoulder against the spiderwebbing wall.
Ceylana awoke with a startled cry, and leapt to her feet, wings flaring open and pupils narrowing into fearful slits. She growled, baring her canines in the darkness of her cave before slumping back down onto her haunches. Ceylana had been having the same nightmare every night for two centuries, yet she had never gotten used to it: the memory stayed vivid as blood on the fresh autumn snow. She shook her head, and sighed. There was no way she was going back to sleep anymore.
The first rays of sunlight were visible through the opening in her modest cave, and Ceylana padded towards them. Standing on the ledge of her mountain-side cave, Ceylana shut her eyes and breathed in the cool morning air, letting it caress the membranes of her wings, brushing against her shimmering white scales and washing away the last traces of her nightmare. The breeze brought with it a wisp of a prey's scent, and Ceylana's stomach grumbled. She was still peckish, despite her previous distressed state.
Still with her eyes shut, Ceylana shuffled to edge of her cave ledge, until her talons dangled into nothingness. Slowly, she leaned forwards, her grip on the rock slipping, and just before she lost it altogether Ceylana's eyes flew open, and she launched herself into the air.
Down, down she plummeted from her high hide-out. The wind whistled past her ears, climbing in volume until it became a deafening roar. Ceylana's nictitating membrane tightened as she fell faster and faster, like a white bullet from the sky, her eyes remaining sharp and watchful. She clutched her wings tight against her sides, allowing for maximum aero-dynamicy as the distant treetops became less and less distant with every passing second.
Just before Ceylana crashed into the evergreens that grew tall and made up majority of the forest, Ceylana thrust out her wings. Jagged and frayed at the edges, they caught her weight and Ceylana's descent abruptly stopped, leaving her to glide onwards. Her pupils dilated and contracted as she surveyed the forest from bird's-eye view, searching for an unlucky animal to serve as her breakfast.
She found a small deer herd visiting a nearby lake for their morning drink, small brown potato-shaped lumps bustling around and grazing on the green grasses that grew around the water. As her dark shadow circled the herd in the reflection of the lake water, the deer looked up one by one and began to scatter. Ceylana selected the nearest doe, and dove down.
The rest of the deer bounded away as Ceylana's talons slammed into the doe's hide and snatched it off the ground and into the air. It was still struggling in her grasp when she let it fall again once she had regained some altitude, and it went still as it landed with a thump back onto the earth.
Ceylana landed beside it, and dug in.
Sanctus prowled along the thick bough, careful in his footing, too aware that one misstep would send him plummeting past unforgiving branches.
The elk herd was on the move. It had taken him all morning to get this close - it was slow work. Finding them was easy, but approaching them without notice was not. But now, here he was, poised almost directly over the entire herd.
Of course, right now his intention was not to kill them. Not yet. That would be quite a waste of a fantastic opportunity. No, right now it was much more rewarding to investigate the herd's status.
He silently leapt to another tree, pacing himself to keep each step noiseless. Below, the elk followed one another, occasionally glancing to the side. Perhaps this was a new herd passing through. Typically, they preferred staying closer to the edges of the mountains. The river, too.
Thankfully, it was not their mating season. Sanctus found their high-pitched call grating. None of that today, though. This herd was fourteen cows strong. Sanctus had learned to avoid going after the male elk, as he'd had his fair share of close calls when it came to those massive antlers of those. If his with one, he'd survive, but it wouldn't be pretty. They could be forceful if you were unlucky.
At the same time, he worried his preference on the antler-less cows would be a problem for the amount of elk in the area. After going back and forth with himself over the problem, he had decided it would be best to simply keep his diet varied. Deer, far-out bison, and the occasional moose. And even if dragons didn't like to admit it, they were omnivores, and so Sanctus sometimes found himself snacking on the wild, greenish fruit in the trees. He didn't know the name of it.
Well, anyway. Sanctus refocused on the elk under him and grasped out with his mind. Within a few seconds, he had stolen into the mind of a randomly-chosen elk.
As always, there was no way to prepare for the emotions. A wary suspicion welled up in Sanctus' mind, making him jerk his head to the side, certain he was going to be ambushed. Nothing there but a squirrel. Not his emotions. Gotta remember that.
He dug deeper, remembering his initial purpose for this. He wanted to know the state of this herd, how they were doing on food, what they wanted. It was valuable information, and allowed him to more carefully choose his targets. The difficult part was trying to figure that all out through the feelings of the elk, which were already too fuzzy and ill-defined.
A vague longing. Yes, this was normal for female elk. Sanctus had puzzled over this faint yearning that every male and female seemed to have. When their mating season came around and he had tried to figure it out again, it was easy to recognize it as their hardwired mating drive. He should have guessed.
What else? There was no desire, no fierce determination, no exhaustion. Good. The lack of those things meant the herds were doing well and finding plenty to eat. On the flip side, it was going to be harder to score a kill. Sanctus severed the mental link.
Ah, well. Sanctus bounded to the next tree, preparing himself. As soon as he came down, they were going to scatter. The goal was to trap one and scare the rest away. The latter came with the package, while the former was a bit more complicated. If Sanctus didn't get a grip on the elk quick enough, it would become a foot-chase through the forest.
Tensing his muscles, he waited until the front of the unorganized herd passed by him. When the last of them was directly at the base of the tree he occupied, Sanctus launched himself off the tree, briefly touching each branch on the way down to aid in his controlled fall.
Sanctus landed with a soft thump and immediately jumped into action. The elk had enough time to change direction before Sanctus was on her, snarling and snapping. In the background, Sanctus barely registered the pounding sound of the other elk scattering.
Too late, the elk realized her best move was to stand and fight. She took one wobbling step away, then furiously flailed her hooves. Sanctus danced away, and she nicked his shoulder. It stung where it was hit.
Snarling, he circled the elk. She wasn't giving in, and kept her hooves always pointing at Sanctus. There wasn't a way in. Sanctus feinted a few times, trying to throw her off. No dice.
Unable to think of another option, he breathed in and sent a jet of flame hissing past the elk. Not close enough to hurt her - burned meat was worse than no meat.
Trumpeting in fear, the elk sprinted away into the forest. She limped badly from a gash in her hind leg, and catching up to her presented no challenge. Now with the advantage, the elk was dispatched quickly.
Sanctus panted, standing over his kill, triumphant.
(Oh wow, basically her WHOLE history is here. Well, almost all of it. Be prepared to do some intense reading)
Ceylana's white scales were soon stained red with the blood of her kill. She was a fairly clean eater, but the blood still ended up coating her muzzle and front paws. The crimson liquid splattered on her chest as she tore a strip of flesh from the doe's side, and Ceylana left it there to wash away naturally like a wolf in a snowed in valley.
Death from above. Ceylana's signature move, one that scored her many kills. As her colony's, Thyestrel's, former aerial ace some six hundred fifty years ago, Ceylana had many tricks up her metaphorical sleeve when it came to the art of flight. She had loved to fly ever since she saw the hunting squad return back home holding a giant moose between their talons, and tried every day to take to the air with her tiny wings. Her determination payed off: Ceylana soon was able to out-maneuver even the more experienced adults in the colony, despite only being a fledgeling.
The only dragon she had ever met that had matched her skill in the air was her brother. Up until their one hundredth year, Ceylana and Gartheldur had been locked in a fierce competition. And they had a relationship even more so tight. They had lived, slept, hunted, and fought battles against other colonies side by side. They were inseparable. Cliché, but it was true.
Ceylana finally began to surpass her brother only when he became infatuated with becoming a warrior. Gartheldur wanted to get stronger, more powerful, instead of "wasting his time doing stupid flying tricks". His hunger for power was rewarded: Gartheldur quickly rose in skill and prowess in the art of combat, and was taken under the chief drake's wing as his apprentice. Battle training was mandatory for all, but Ceylana never liked it. She still preferred to soar high above in the cerulean blue skies, imagining one day she could even touch the sun.
And, one day, the two siblings had had an argument. Sans the details and skip to the outcome: it ended up being the final straw for the duo. Their relationship split in two, and their careers went separate ways. After his mentor's death, Gartheldur ascended to the chief's position. He led Thyestrel to many victories, and under his command they expanded their territories far and wide. Ceylana ended up the head of the hunting party. After all, that's what she had wanted ever since she was a hatchling. Lacking the greed of her brother, Ceylana was quite content with the little she had. She needed nothing more.
However, this wasn't the case for Gartheldur. He could never get enough. Gartheldur kept pushing the edges of the colony territory and waging wars on their neighbors. They won battle after battle, the colony treasury growing larger and larger until the gold overflowed out the cave entrance and spilled onto the main hall floor. Not after long, Gartheldur had conquered all of the land, except for one: the colony of Myranos. For thousands of years, Myranos had been a peaceful colony. Their territory was small, and they stayed within it, even when the goings got tough. And it wasn't like their territory was a gold mine---rather the opposite. They lived in the crater of a long inactive volcano, Myranos, hence the colony name, where not much grew or lived. Their territory was hard to get into unnoticed, as a wall of jagged rock lined the crater.
At first, Gartheldur left Myranos alone. It was an ancient code among dragons that they leave the colony disturbed, as Myranos was the oldest existing colony in the land. It was said all dragons originated from the mountain of Myranos, and to attack it would be sacrilege. But the success he brought to the colony of Thyestrel earned him recognition and respect, and Gartheldur became nearly equal in rank to the colony alpha. He had become bold and brazen over his many victories, and, after many nights of tossing and turning, the one last piece of land haunting his mind and aching for completion, Gartheldur finally asked the alpha for permission to attack the colony of Myranos.
The elder declined immediately. No matter how Gartheldur reasoned and begged, the alpha would not let up. Rejected, Gartheldur stormed out of the alpha's hall in anger. But he would not give up so easily. The next morning, Gartheldur rallied a small group of dragons that were faithful to him, and he marched over to the alpha's hall and issued a challenge. A challenge for the alpha's position: a battle to the death.
The reigning alpha was old, and Gartheldur wrestled the elder to the ground easily. As the elder's blood spread out in a ruby pool around his motionless body, Gartheldur's army, all the able bodied dragons in Thyestrel, was already on their way to Myranos. They reached the mountain as the sun was nearing its highest point in the sky, the rays of light glinting off bared teeth and talons.
Gartheldur had grossly underestimated the power of his opponent. Myranos was peaceful, but that didn't mean they were weak. The alpha of Myranos had heard of a rising power of Thyestrel, and so they had prepared. Gartheldur's army was met by hundreds of steel-clad dragons, all as skilled warriors as any other colony. Even with the added help from dragons of the conquered colonies, Gartheldur's army was overwhelmed. No one could have predicted the immense population of the colony of Myranos. Soon, it became apparent that this was a battle Gartheldur could not win. With the few dragons he had left, Gartheldur ordered a retreat, and fled from Myranos, his winning streak shattered, and with it, his pride.
The remenants of the colony returned home, bloodied and defeated. Their loss was significant, but not significant: after all, they still did have the rest of the land to live on. The elder alpha was old and frail, but with age comes wisdom and knowledge, which Gartheldur did not have. If he had asked the right questions instead of acting out rashly, Gartheldur might not have wanted to move on Myranos at all. For it was not only defiling it when impinging on such sacred grounds, but in the act of doing so unleashed a curse. This the elder knew, but was not able to tell Gartheldur in time. The curse entailed that the colony that brought war and violence to the peaceful lands of Myranos would suffer eternal barrenness. And it started as soon as the first dragon's talon touched down on the mountain with ill intent.
The colony did not feel the effects of the curse until a few weeks later. They noticed that prey had become more scarce and more scarce, before a dragon on the hunting party discovered a dying elk lying on its side in the grass. Its ailment was unknown, and as more and more of the same pattern appeared in the other prey animals in the land, Ceylana took the problem to Gartheldur.
Of course, he had no idea what was going on. But the older dragons, the few that had been alive as long as the elder alpha had, did. They had stayed behind when Gartheldur took Thyestrel to battle Myranos, refusing to take part in the bloodshed. And when they told Gartheldur about the curse, what could he do? He was powerless to do anything, as the land drained of life right before his eyes. For the first time, Gartheldur's victories worked against him. Now that the other colonies land was now Thyestrel's, it suffered too from the curse. Gartheldur sent the hunting party further and further out for food. Sometimes it took days for the hunting party to return, Thyestrel starving back home.
Eventually, there was not a single thing to eat left. Over that time, Thyestrel discovered an even more horrible part of the curse: like the land, all the females in the colony had become barren. Thyestrel would not see another hatchling for the rest of eternity. Mothers sobbed over their clutches of cold eggs that would never possess life in them. Young drakes left the colony to strike out and find their own mates, only to find out their seed was poison that rendered the delphine's as fruitless as the ones they had left. The delphines that had been too young to reproduce, including Ceylana, were robbed of an opportunity they didn't fully understand, but yearned for.
Too weak from hunger to go on, the dragons of Thyestrel started to die off, one by one. And as winter came around, the harsh cold drove the remaining dragons to insanity. Desperate to preserve the last of his colony, Gartheldur turned to his last resort: cannibalism. Initially, most refused. Gartheldur let those dragons die, and then the more compliant parts of the colony ate the bodies of the dead, stripping them down to bare bones. The massive skeletons of the dragons littered the camp, the alive ones too lazy to bury them properly.
After a while, some dragons had enough. Among them was Ceylana. She saw a way out of the famine: the very cause of it. In secret, she gathered a group of dragons, and together they plotted their escape. On the night of the Winter Solstice, they would spread their wings, and silently slip away to Myranos. Their only hope was relying on the benevolence of Myranos, that they would accept them into their colony without a word.
Unfortunately, there was a mole in the group. That dragon went to Gartheldur, who immediately ordered that all the defectors be put to death on the spot. Every defector, except Ceylana. He doomed her to a much worse fate: Gartheldur held her down and forced her to watch as each dragon was slain, and then feasted upon. Then, when there were only scraps left, Gartheldur made Ceylana suck each bone dry of meat, threatening to take more of the lives of the dragons of she didn't. At that point, Ceylana wanted to die, so killing her would have been a small mercy.
<texta Edited at August 17, 2018 02:59 PM by Black Swan
Gartheldur didn't expect Ceylana to try and escape after that. Or anyone after that. But Ceylana bided her time, practicing her flight in the shadows of the night, making herself stronger under the moonlight. The dragons of Thyestrel no longer needed to be in shape---they didn't need to hunt when the food was right there. Gartheldur thought nothing of it. Ceylana was notorious for flying a lot anyways.
On the night of the Winter Solstice, Ceylana snuck out of her cave. She padded silently as far as she could, then launched into a full sprint. The scraping of her talons on the earth awoke Gartheldur, or perhaps it was the tugging of the last of their sibling bond, and with an enraged roar he leapt after her. He was stronger and faster on the ground, but Ceylana knew she was faster in the air. As Gartheldur caught up to her with frightening speed, Ceylana had kicked off the ground, flapping her wings frantically and trying to get away. She soared up and away, and Gartheldur, knowing going after her would be a losing battle, left her with one last parting gift. He inhaled deeply, and breathed a powerful cone of fire.
The fire scorched and burned the membranes of Ceylana's wings, and her screams filled the night as the agony consumed her. Yet Ceylana's wings did not falter, she did not let them falter, for she had come too far to fail. They only let up once Ceylana was right over the crater of Myranos, and then her vision faded to black as she fell, fell down, down.
Ceylana was accepted into the colony of Myranos just as she had hopes. There, she spent the next three hundred years of her life learning the ways of the dragons. Ceylana cleansed herself from her heavy past, and found peace. Only when she began to feel the restless tug on her wings to fly again, did she leave the draconic Eden of a paradise. With a farewell, Ceylana left Myranos to seek out a place where she could spread the peaceful teachings of the colony, so other dragons could be enlightened the way she was.
However, Ceylana ended up not enlightening any dragons. On her journey across the lands, she found a village that was having trouble staying alive. They too had been suffering from the curse of Myranos. By then, the curse was already lifting: it would only last as long as the last dragon of Thyestrel blood stayed alive. Neither Ceylana or Gartheldur were actually related to the colony, as they were both found as eggs from an abandoned nest and brought in. So the last must have died.
Ceylana began to help, as this was what she had been taught. She could at least repair some of the damage her colony had done. With her vast knowledge and skills as an ex-head of the hunting party, Ceylana brought in body after body of elk, deer, and moose. Even fish sometimes. When the villagers first saw the gargantuan white delphine, they were frightened out of their minds. But with every bit of food Ceylana brought them, she began to earn their trust.
Almost singlehandedly, Ceylana brought the village of Stratham out of their poverty loop. Overjoyed, the people gifted Ceylana with jewels and gold of all kinds, and the mayor offered Ceylana the title of the village guardian, which she took proudly. She accepted the riches, but what made her the most happy was watching the village thrive, the children grow up. Seeing life.
Ceylana stayed there for the next century. She participated in battles between the human kingdoms, and with a dragon on their side Ceylana led them to many victories as her brother had done for Thyestrel. Not for her own benefit, but for her people's. She watched as the villagers came and went, were born and died. Ceylana was content to stay there for the rest of her life.
Gartheldur discovered the village before she could do that. The smell of gold and whispers of a white dragon in the king's army he had heard when he was ransacking other villages had drawn him to Stratham. He saw how happy Ceylana was, wasting her days away protecting such petty lives as a human, and it angered him. This should have been him. Ceylana had taken his happiness away.
Gartheldur destroyed the village, leaving nothing left but a smouldering pile of ash and rubble. Ceylana tried her best to stop him, but after all these years, Gartheldur was still stronger. Weeping and shaken with grief, Ceylana fled to the mountains, where she resided for the next two centuries.
Ceylana stared down at the glistening doe corpse in front of her. This was her life now. Eating, sleeping, flying, and waiting to die. Sometimes, after a particularly bad nightmare, Ceylana called out in the night, begging for whatever otherworldly force out there to take her away. There was nothing left for her here.
Ceylana swallowed, her appetite lost. She left the half-eaten doe to the scavengers and maggots, and flew over to the waterfall she visited whenever the nostalgia was too much. Ceylana slipped into the rushing water, closing her eyes and letting the river wash it all away.
Sanctus gripped the elk's neck in his jaws and laboriously clawed his way back up the tree. Taking off from down on the forest floor would be nearly impossible, not to mention he'd have to break through the canopy of leaves and branches.
With both him and the elk weighing down on the tree, he had to be careful with his footing. Much of Sanctus' climb relied on the hope that this was a healthy tree.
He at last broke through and saw the brilliant sky, dead elk swaying in his jaws. It was going to be a pain to carry this thing all the way back, so Sanctus grimly prepared himself. After a pause of a few seconds, he lurched off the tree and took flight shakily at first, gaining altitude. Soon, though, he was sailing through the skies, thoroughly worn out from the hunt.
The birds-eye-view provided him with many things, not all of them wonderful. Up ahead was the river's splitting point, a few miles forward. To the right of that and below was Stratham.. or at least, what was left of it.
Sanctus had never visited that village himself. He'd glimsped it from time to time, but had never bothered to investigate. Especially not after he had caught wind of another dragon holding territory there. Wasn't his concern. But the site had become impossible to ignore when the next Sanctus had seen it, it was a charred remains of a village. A mar on the beauty of this land. Sanctus didn't know what had happened to it, and honestly didn't want to.
Not like the land had always been beautiful. That only happened in the past century or so... It was so long ago that the details were fuzzy, but the problem was easy to remember. The land here had withered to almost nothing. Plants died. Prey vanished. Dragons starved. Humans disappeared. It was the strangest event that had occurred in Sanctus' life.
He'd been forced to go further to look for food. At one point, he'd searched so far for food, he'd picked up the scent of Thyestrel, and almost immediately turned around for two reasons. The first and most important was that the place stank of death and reeked of agony, so much that he wouldn't enter the territory even if prey had been bountiful within the borders. The second was that even loners had heard of Gartheldur, the savage dragon who ruled the lands. Dragons like him tended to stay clear of anyone like that.
And so Sanctus had flown away, far, far away from this place. He had found a new land after days of flight... one with no trees and tall grasses. It had puzzled him, but he accepted the new land, because there was prey. Strange animals, they were - spotted, long-necked beasts that roamed this new land. Stout and thick-skinned gray animals that rivalled the size of small dragons. Elk-like bounding creatures with swirling horns, deer-like black and white beasts with vicious hooves.
He had stayed in this new land for a long time, for fear that his old home would be in its same crippled state. His need to know had pushed him to return. What joy he had felt when he saw the old lands restored to their former glory!
If only he knew what had caused the dark hush to fall across the region... he had constantly worried in the weeks following his arrival home that the disaster would come again.
But that was in the past and here he was in the present, a freshly killed elk in his jaws, and the air sweet and forests lush. Sanctus had claimed a small portion of the mountains as his home, and had so far not been bothered. Sometimes other dragons passed by, rarely did they stop.
Only problem? He was bored.
Ugh, back to this again. He'd wrestled with the same issue for years - though it sometimes quieted, there was always a small part of him that wanted to explore. That knew there was more out there. And maybe there was, so what? This life was good. He had no friends, but nor did he have enemies. Prey was rarely scarce, and the water was cold and clear. What more could he ask for?
Love? No. He had never experienced himself the call for a mate. His life had always been solitary, and for now he had no intention to change that.
Sanctus alighted on the mountaintop and settled himself next to his kill. The blood had dulled to a dark, brick-like color. He hungrily tore into the elk, wings drooping. Several minutes later, he pulled away, satisfied. A decent portion of the elk was still left, one or two meal's worth.
Now with the time and energy to decide on what to do next, Sanctus laid down and gazed out at the horizon.
Leaving. Something he'd always wanted to do. Oh, he'd reasoned with himself - you can always return, Sanctus, always come back - and it's not like you can stay here together. The latter act alone would render him a disgrace of a dragon. No, he could not tether himself to this one place, like a hatchling refusing to leave the nest. Eventually, he must go. It was his choice on whether that was to come sooner or later.
Tomorrow , Sanctus suddenly thought. Tomorrow I will go. Later he would remember this decision, as it had been such a sudden and unwavering choice.
Secure in the knowledge that tomorrow would be the end of his inner turmoil, he laid down his head and drifted into unconsciousness.
Ceylana let the river swaddle her in its icy, watery embrace. She made a small noise of pleasure as she spread her wings, the exposed membrane catching the water and buffeting it like a sail in the wind. She turned her wings sideways so the river would not sweep her away on its current, and laid back in the water.
The rushing sound of the water dulled to a muted roar as Ceylana's head slipped under the surface. It was nice and quiet under there, and Ceylana floated in the darkness. She felt the slight push of the current, stronger now she was fully submerged, save for the tip of her nose which she kept above to breathe, and instead of putting a taloned foot onto the river bed gravel to stop it, Ceylana let the current gradually take her away, lifting her tail so it would not drag uncomfortably on the ground.
Ceylana let her mind go blank, so that she felt nothing but the gentle push of the current, and heard nothing but the white noise of the waterfall lulling her into the calm.
Ceylana awoke with a gasp. Instead of replenishing her oxygen supply, her lungs filled with heavy liquid cold, and, choking, Ceylana thrashed in the river water, limbs creating fine webs of bubbles and whorls like galaxies in the darkness. She scrabbled for purchase on the bottom of the river, and at last her talons scraped against the gravel. Ceylana kicked with all her might off the ground, and she rocketted to the surface.
Ceylana's white scaled head broke the surface, coughing and sputtering. On instinct, her wings attempted to flap to regain her balance, but sent her bobbing backwards like an overturned turtle instead in her aquatic environment. Her legs flailed briefly in the air, pawing at nothing, before Ceylana went under again.
Tumbling like a barrel, Ceylana lost sense of which way was up and down in the absence of gravity, until she forced her eyes open and saw through the murk of the water the faint grey bottom of the river. Ceylana coughed, and a great big balloon of air floated from her mouth and rose to the surface. It was a mistake. Ceylana needed that air, and before she could stop herself Ceylana sucked in a deep breath, swallowing even more of the water. She gasped, making no sound, and shut her mouth.
Focus now, girl, said a voice in her head. Who it came from, Ceylana didn't know. You've come too far to die now.
Ceylana gritted her teeth, stifling the urge to take another breath, but some water ended up leaking through her enamelled wall anyways. She craned her neck up towards the light, and used her paws to slowly, but carefully, tip herself right side up again.
Above the surface again, Ceylana tried to breathe, but choked on the water that filled her chest now. She coughed, and ejected as much liquid from her lungs as she could. Then, with as much control as she could muster, paddled towards the river bank. The current was weak relative to Ceylana's size, so it was fairly easy.
Ceylana dragged herself onto the land. Once the first half of her torso was out of the water, Ceylana gagged and vomited. There was so much water in her, and it splashed on the pebbles of river bank and dribbled past her chest to rejoin its main body. Ceylana's body bucked with the force she was using to expell water, and at last, gasped in a fresh breath of air, then let her head collapse on the ground.
She laid there for a while before her wits started to come back to her. Ceylana must have fallen asleep while floating in the river. What had been a leisure bath had turned into a horrible nightmare. She mentally reprimanded herself: number one rule of swimming in moving bodies of water, never let your guard down. And she had, alright. Could've died because of it.
Thoroughly exhausted from a brief but frantic struggle, Ceylana managed to crawl, dripping and miserable, up to the bank and onto the grass. She shook herself like a dog, sending water droplets flying, and sat down under the branches of a sycamore. Ceylana shivered, and she coaxed the fire inside her chest before sending a blast of warmth through her. She increased the heat, and the remaining water on her scales began to hiss, evaporating into a thin steam.
Ceylana slumped down onto her belly, and rested her chin on her forelegs. That was enough action for one day. It was still the morning, but Ceylana was tired. She lay under the shade of the sycamore tree, watching the sun make its lazy snail trail across the sky, and as it settled between the peaks of the mountains in the west, Ceylana looked over her shoulder at her hideout. It wasn't visible from afar, one of the reasons Ceylana had picked it for her home. But she knew generally where it was.
Ceylana supposed she should find something else to eat, as she had emptied the contents of her stomach along with the water. But she was too tired for that. And, as she curled her tail around her, too tired to make the flight back home.
Ceylana sighed, her ancient body coming to rest, and let herself slip into the clutches of slumber. Edited at August 17, 2018 10:42 PM by Black Swan
Sanctus awakened gradually, slowly. It began with a perfect feeling of contentment, of warmth, spreading through his whole body and making his limbs tingle. The hard rock he slept on was the softest thing he'd ever touched. For how long Sanctus stayed in this dreamlike half-sleep he could not tell. His rest was undisturbed and whole, contributing to the feeling that everything was right with the world. He had not slept this well in years.
As the sun peeked over the horizon, Sanctus awoke fully. Now conscious, he was quite aware that he was feeling so good that he thought maybe his chest would burst.
It's a sign, thought Sanctus. This is a sign. That I was right. Today is the day I must go. And indeed, he was more refreshed than ever. Without having to think too hard for the answer, he knew that it was because he'd at last chosen a path.
The elk he'd killed was still lying where he'd left it. Sanctus didn't feel too hungry, really, but it would be a shame to waste the rest of it. He paced himself, taking his time. By the time he was done, the sun had fully risen off the ground, illuminating the sky in its fiery glow. He stretched, yawned, and shook his wings to loosen them. He was ready.
Without hesitation (for fear that with it, his paws would never leave the ground) he took to the skies, happiness keeping him warm even when the wind attempted to steal it away. Up here, he was truly the ruler of the heavens. Craning his head up, he opened his maw and out roared a pillar of fire, a physical testimony to his freedom.
As his journey continued, his outpouring of joy and conviction subsided. In its place was now a grim determination. The sharp whistle of the wind became easier to ignore, now a low buzzing in the background. Soon the black spot of Stratham was out of his view. He found it easier to gain altitude in one big rush, then slowly lose it by gliding back down. His shadow fell on the trees, but from up here it looked smaller, like it was just an eagle's shadow.
For hours, he travelled, the land slowly changing. The forest thinned, revealing spots where a dragon could land or take off. Convenient. Sanctus was tired, and so he decided on resting soon.
A strange scent cut through the air, sending a jolt through his body. He tried to catch it again, but it was gone. Sanctus frowned, trying to recall the nature of the brief whiff he'd had. It was remarkably familiar... but he couldn't quite place it. Something he hadn't smelled in a long time.
Curiousity aroused, Sanctus shifted his wings and increased his speed. The smell quickly returned, and he slowed down again. There was no doubt what this was. The last time he'd scented anything like this was decades ago.
And not just any dragon - this was their territory. He worked on figuring out the sex of it, but was not close enough to determine it exactly.
Sanctus circled, knowing he was at the edge of this dragon's land. Going in further was a clear intrusion, and any respectable dragon would consider him hostile. Which he might very well be. He wanted to investigate, but didn't know why.
Oh, that conversation would go well. Why are you in my territory? I don't know.
Well, maybe he could at least get a handle on the situation. And, a giddy part of him thought, maybe chase the other dragon out. If there was a dragon here, then the land was bound to be suitable.
Couldn't stay undecided forever. Sanctus tilted his wings, turning towards the heart of the territory. He would check things out, and if he thought the fight was in his favor, he'd attack. Yes, that was what he would do. Of course, turning tail and running when he was outmatched wasn't very dragonly, but neither was dying.
Sanctus still needed to take a break, though. He slowed to a stop and chose a random tree. His wings were exhausted from flying, but hopefully if it came to a fight he wouldn't be using them much.
While strength trickled back into his gut, he sniffed the air more deeply. It was definitely a female, now that he was closer. Alright. No other dragons in the area but her. That was good, he didn't especially feel like being ganged up on.
When he felt much more vigorous, he rose into the air again and sped closer, the first hints of adrenaline fueling the flaps of his wings.
Ceylana awoke gently, like a feather landing on a dusty surface. She sighed in contentment, then frowned. Gentle? For the past centuries, her mornings had been anything but. So why now did Ceylana's nightmares finally let up, of all times?
Ceylana propped herself up on her front legs, the last tendrils of sleep falling from her head, and a resounding crack echoed from a point in her back.
"Oooh," Ceylana groaned, wincing in pain. She must have slept funny last night, because several joints in her body ached like a mother. She rolled onto her back, spreading her wings so they would not be flattened, and exhaled as the new position took the pressure of the hot spots.
Ceylana lay there, the warm sunlight tickling her exposed stomach. She smiled lazily up at the bits of blue sky visible between the leaves and branches of the sycamore tree. Another day, another dawn, she thought. And once upon a time, another day full of opportunity.
Ceylana curled her tail up between her legs, and caressed the flat spot just below where a belly button on a human would be. Unlike the other females in her colony, Ceylana hadn't really been bothered by the fact she would never carry offspring of her own when the curse took hold. To Ceylana, as long as she had her wings and the wind she would be happy for the rest of her life.
But that had changed when she found Stratham to protect. Ceylana couldn'tve imagined life without watching the way children's faces glowed when they played together, or how during the snow season families snuggled up together in their homes around a decadent tree and sang carols.
Now, Ceylana wasn't quite sure what she wanted anymore.
Absentmindedly, she continued to stroke the flat spot, and gazed up at the black shape of a bird, an eagle perhaps, fly overhead. She thought nothing of it as it grew larger, and larger, too lost in her memories to care.
But as it became clear that this bird did not have feathers, but webbed wings, and two long horns growing up from the crown of its head, Ceylana's senses flared up, screaming bloody murder, and she flipped onto her feet. Ceylana trotted out from under the shade of the tree, and into the open. Her back bristled and her stomach knotted as her acute eyes confirmed what she had most dreaded: another dragon had finally come to take her territory.
Ceylana bared her teeth, and unleased a rumbling growl. She had worked too much to find this place, and had stayed here too long to even think of abandoning it. There were too many things that had been taken from her before, and Ceylana wasn't going to let this bit of land become one of them. She spread her wings, adding to the illusion of a larger size, and dug her talons into the grassy earth to prepare herself for an almost probable battle, standing her ground.
If this was how Ceylana was to go out, she would fight against the dying of the light for all she was worth.