The Black Dracis: A Tale of Fulai
by Jason Andrew Brown, AKA "VeryGnawty"
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This is my world. I want to share it with you.
For my sister.
For Black Drakken.
And for all those who are true of heart.
So it had come to this: a raging storm. A swirling tornado kicking dust with futile efforts. A meaningless torrent of wind circling endlessly, like a snake eating its own tail. Indeed, like some twisted cannibal devouring itself.
Sokia watched the wondrous storm from a distance, pondering its existence. Truly it was a marvel, but what did it mean? What purpose did it serve? Is our amazement wasted on a meaningless cycle of wind? The storm could only destroy, not create. In all our power, were we still at the mercy of some random surge of nature?
She was a Dracis. Like all Dracis, she resembled a large lizard. Black scales reflected the sun, like moonlight shimmering on a midnight pond. Bony knobs protruded off a triangular head, above green slit eyes. Lidless, sleepless eyes. Her teeth were as razors: glinting ivory spikes. It was no secret that the Dracis were carnivores. From sharp fangs to deadly claws, every inch of her frame spoke death. Her heavy tail could render a grown man unconscious. Thick scaly skin protected the Dracis from any natural predators, assuming any were foolish enough to see them as prey. Upon a rock she stood, as a sentinel, peering at the storm in the distance.
The winds carried the foul smell across the Wasteland. The smell of ape-creatures. What did they call themselves? Hu-men, or some such. It did not matter. Sokia didn't know or care how they came to the desert. They were in Dracis territory now. They were uninvited.
She draped herself across the rock, savoring the heat and harsh winds. Word had spread quickly about the creatures. The others of her tribe had laughed. Nobody expected the ape-creatures to last long in this climate. Nobody except Sokia. She knew that strength is not governed by appearances. These creatures had captured a big lizard, a Dragon. That means they had traveled a long distance avoiding dragoons. They must be strong. Dragoons were feared, almost legendary in their devotion to protecting the Dragons. Anyone who can evade dragoons garnered respect from Sokia. She was not one to underestimate opponents. Only fools and dead beasts accepted a facade.
Judging the sun's position, she headed out away from the storm. It was time to move. She crawled on all fours across the Wastelands. The sands were as hot coals, but her thick skin protected her. Dracis were made for the desert. Placing one curved claw in front of the other, she slithered across the scorching sands. Over one dune and down another, she trudged on like a boulder rolling down a mountain. She wondered what she would find in this ape-men encampment.
Elsewhere in the desert, a human violently yanked the chains around a green Dragon's neck, burying its nose in the sand. Standing over the beast, the man sneered, "You'll behave yourself, won't you Dragon?" The man's tone indicated that he was not one to be taken lightly. The young Dragon nodded dumbly.
"Good." The man left, leaving his cohorts to watch the beast.
Even though the Dragon was as long as two men were high, the man knew the power of intimidation. Large lizards didn't phase him. Stillhelm was not one to brook any nonsense. He was also not a fool. He knew that there were three ringleaders in this gig, and only one captive Dragon. With the descending sun at his back, he headed for the front of the line. His draping white robes and clad feet protected him from the deadly heat, but only his wits and his spear would protect him from what lie ahead. As he pushed through his fellows, he could hear an angry roar up front. "What's the hold up? Whoever's slacking can forget their supper tonight."
Stillhelm rushed to the front where Renk and Rufus were glaring angrily at him. Pretending to be fatigued, Stillhelm panted, "It's the Dragon...he won't...budge...overworked."
Renk laughed. "Overworked? More like yerself is overworked, you lousy excuse for a raider. What'd ye do? Kill 'em with yer spear?"
Rufus halted him with a wave of his hand. "Enough of that. Let's see."
The three headed back through the line. The easily manipulated line, Stillhelm thought. A dozen buffoons. The only thing holding him back were these two. But that little impediment would soon be remedied.
As they neared the beast, Rufus examined it, confused. "This thing ain't overworked. It's fitter than us in this blasted heat. What's this about?"
At that moment, Stillhelm hefted his spear, aiming for the exposed back of his comrade before anyone could guess his intention. It was a good throw, but fate was not on his side.
Rufus saw the Dragon coil back in defense. Instinctively, he ducked his head as the spear whizzed by his ear, only to fall harmlessly into the sand. Turning around, he saw Stillhelm grappling with Renk, as the mutineer desperately tried to prevent the other from grabbing his scimitar. Rufus drew a hefty throwing axe from under his robe. With a deft flick of the wrist, he hurled it across the short space. The metal blade struck its target with a sickening thud. The lifeless form of Stillhelm fell to the dust, the axe protruding from it like some awkward mutant limb.
Rufus drew himself up, calling out to the crowd. "Stillhelm was a greedy bastard who got what he deserved. He wanted the beast for himself. But I say to you right now: when we are far away from this place, we shall have the greatest pet in all of Fulai. We shall have a Dragon."
A chorus of cheers greeted the announcement. Rufus surveyed the ragtag group: each man willing to do what it took for fame and glory...and power. But only one could have the most power. He hid a satisfied smile behind voluminous robes as he snatched his axe from Stillhelm's corpse.
It was later that night when Sokia came across the corpse. It was little more than a crumpled heap. Pulling away the white robe, she could see that it was one of the ape-men. Interesting. So they killed each other as well. What strange creatures these were to kill their own and leave them in the dust.
She took a good look at it. The thing had brownish skin, and hair so sparse that it was a wonder that it could serve any use at all. It was covered in a thick white gown made of the same material that swathed the feet. When it was alive, this must have protected it from the heat, since it had no apparent natural resistance to the elements. She had heard that these creatures walked on two legs. What a curiosity! Wouldn't they fall over? What a cruel trick of nature to only have two legs. She had never seen anything more ridiculous.
Good fortune to her for finding it. It was only a few hours old. She was catching up. It also meant that the ape-men had been travelling during the day. So they weren't as smart as they seemed. Soon she would have her chance to tangle with them, but not just yet. After all, food was scarce in the Wastelands. And she wasn't about to pass up a free meal...
The young Dragon, Aganon, trudged grudgingly on as his captors poked and prodded him with spears, the spearpoints glancing off hardened green scales. Where were they taking him? Why were they doing this? He didn't understand. The man behind him held the spear of the one called Stillhelm. But Stillhelm had been killed. Why was he killed? The Dragons always killed for food. But the man hadn't been killed for food.
The one named Rufus called a halt. The company of white-robes halted with a sigh. Now was the resting time. They always take the resting time after moving a long distance. Aganon liked the resting time, because he would not be prodded by spears or drug about with chains.
The men bickered and fought for the best spots: the spots which had cooled down from the day's sun. Aganon didn't understand the bickering. The desert was a vast expanse with room for all. Why did they push each other around for a bit of sand? It must be a game. Aganon wanted to join the game. But he didn't understand the rules. Every time he tried to join a game, the men used mean words. Aganon didn't like mean words. He looked around at the men, but they all looked the same to him: white robes and brown faces. Aganon was lonely.
He stared at the full moon, wondering who had placed it there. What was it? It was a lamp. Yes, a lamp. Some clever person, maybe one of the elder Dragons, had fashioned a lamp and placed it in the sky. It must be a large lamp to light up the whole world. It must take some powerful creatures to move it around in the sky. Like a giant. There must be giants pushing the lamp in the sky. But it is not burning right now. In the daytime the giants will light the lamp, and the moon will become the sun. And then later they extinguish it again. But what about the moon that sometimes appears at sundown? It must be a different moon. There are two moons. One is lit up bright, and the other is shaded, and giants push them around in the sky chasing each other. Maybe it is a game. A game of lamps and giants.
He lay down dejectedly. Moving around would only anger the men with spears. He tried to sleep, but couldn't. He didn't know how long he lay there, but it was well into the night when he sensed something. He was scared. He wanted to wake the men, but they would use mean words on him. He sat still, hoping that whatever was out there would pass them by. But it didn't. He could sense a powerful presence over the next dune. He stared, his eyes riveted at the dunetop. A black mass ambled down the duneface with surprising agility, moving ever closer to him. It was now close enough that he could get a look at it. It was a Dragon! No, wait. It was like a Dragon. Maybe it was a small Dragon. But why didn't it have wings? All Dragons have wings.
The creature silently trod around the sleeping men. It held a claw to its snout, indicating silence. Aganon understood. Noise would cause the men to wake up and use their mean words. The two men with the spears were supposed to be guarding him during resting time, and they would use many mean words when they awoke. Aganon sat still as the creature slowly removed the chains from around his neck. Carefully, he followed it back to the dune. When they were far enough away, the creature broke into a run. Aganon followed. This was fun! It must be a game. Like a race. He raced the dragon-like creature across the dunes. Even though his stride was twice as large, the smaller creature was fast. They ran through the desert, leaving the men with spears behind.
Sokia ran for as long as she could with the Dragon. The further they were away from the ape-men, the better. The careless winds would wash away their footprints from the endless sea of sand. The Dragon bumped into her as she slowed to a stop. The force of the blow bowled her over onto her snout. The Dragon quickly apologized. "Sorry, sorry. Did I win?"
Sokia stood up, checking to see if her scales were scratched. "Win what?"
"The race." The Dragon replied smugly.
"Race?" Sokia scratched her chin, wondering whether the creature was mad.
"The RACE! You know. You should say GO when you start a race."
"Uh huh." Sokia sat down in the sand, unimpressed. "Well, if there were a race, it is far from over."
The Dragon perked his head up, "So we are going to play another game?"
Sokia swung her head in an arc, indicating their surroundings. "Look where you are. You are in a desert, chased by bad creatures. Furthermore, you probably haven't had anything to eat for a while. Does this look like the place for games?"
The Dragon glanced down apologetically. "I'm sorry, I don't know what I'm doing here. But I could use something to eat."
Sokia sighed, "What's your name?"
"Well, Aganon. I'm Sokia. Our first task is to get over there." She pointed a claw into the distance at a rising cloud of dust.
"What's that?" Aganon asked curiously.
"That is a sandworm, or several sandworms by the look of it. The large worms surface for fresh air. They will then tunnel back into the ground. When they leave, Preybirds will gather to eat the slime that the worm leaves behind. Do you understand?"
Aganon distorted his face into a look of disgust. "Birds eat SLIME? Those birds aren't very smart, if you ask me."
A grim smile escaped Sokia's taut features. "Neither will we be when we get there."
The Dragon recoiled, a shocked expression on his face. "I'm not eating SLIME!"
"You are if you don't want to go thirsty."
Aganon thought about this for a second. "I don't like being thirsty. Isn't there any water around here?"
Sokia pointed a claw to their right. "That way. Twenty miles."
Aganon glanced forlornly at the expanse of sand. "Is that a long way?"
"Longer than I plan to travel for it. Let's go."
"Wait here." Sokia crawled on tired limbs to where the dust had gathered. Nearing the scene, she could see that her predictions were accurate. Several large Preybirds circled in the air, with others already on the ground. Dragging herself through the sand, she pretended to be weak and feeble. One venturesome bird separated from the pack. It hopped towards her, its fat body bobbing up and down as it hobbled closer. It was now only a claw's length from her. It pecked at her with its lethal curved beak, scratching against her tough hide. She moaned in response. This gave the bird a sense of bravery. It went in for the kill before its fellows could steal the prize. Jumping on Sokia's back, the Preybird sought the back of the neck: what it mistakenly thought to be a weak point.
With lightning speed Sokia twisted around and grabbed the bird in her jaws. It gave a squawk of fright, squirming feebly. But it was no use. Sokia jerked her head quickly, using the creature's own weight to snap its neck. It fell to the ground in a heap. Head still spinning from the rush of the chase, Sokia called for Aganon to come closer. As she tore into the carcass, she knew: this was what she was made for.
The other Preybirds had flown off in fright long before Aganon reached the scene. "Food now?" He asked.
Sokia nodded, as she explained the finer points of eating Preybirds. "See this? This tough part is the muscle. You don't want to eat that. It is too difficult to digest, and we will need all of our energy for travel. What you want is this watery part here. This is the fat. It is good to eat."
Aganon stared at the corpse in wonder. "You mean, you don't eat the whole thing? The elder Dragons always say not to waste food."
Sokia again indicated their surroundings. "You're not at Dragon's Kip anymore. Things work differently here. The muscle is no use for us. I wouldn't worry too much about it being wasted if I were you. After we leave, the other Preybirds will be back for the rest."
Aganon swallowed hard. "You mean...the other birds will eat their friend?"
Sokia shrugged, "As much as any creatures around here are friends. Now EAT."
Aganon could see that his friend was impatient. But he still had many questions. He bolted out the questions through mouthfuls of Preybird.
"Are you a Dragon?"
"No, I'm a Dracis. But we do look similar, don't we?
"Will you be as big as a Dragon?"
"No, I'm fully grown. I'll never be as big as you."
"Why don't you have wings?"
"Because I don't."
"Can you teach me how to fly?"
"You aren't old enough to fly yet."
"Why did those men want to take me away?
"I don't know."
"Where are we going?"
"Anywhere but here."
"Why aren't you eating?"
"I ate earlier."
"What did you eat?"
"It's not important."
"But what was it?"
"Nothing. Are you done yet?"
"How can you eat nothing?"
"Are you done yet?"
"OK, let's go. It'll be light soon, and I need some rest."
Sokia led her companion into one of the sandworm tunnels. It was a large thing. The sturdy compacted sand left a cylindrical opening which was big enough for both her and the Dragon to fit into. She pushed loose sand around the top so it wouldn't be seen easily. From the surface, it would appear to be a large depression in the sand. But underneath they would be safe from any lurking predators. The slime-coated walls would also keep moisture in, making this the perfect place to rest. Sokia found a flat ledge to lie down on. "Good night."
"It's almost morning."
"Good morning, now get some sleep."
Aganon had blissful dreams of home: Dragon's Kip. The age-old mountain stood tall as always, as if the earth bared fangs at the heavens. He could see the elder Dragons fishing in the lake. Dragoons of all races chatted amid the splendor. He wondered when he would be old enough to have a dragoon. He was preparing to swim in the shimmering waters of the dreamscape, when he was rudely awakened. "Ahhh! Get it off me!" A cold sticky substance clung to his wings. He jumped up trying to shake it off, only to hit his head against the tunnel.
Sokia looked on in amusement. "Cramped?"
Aganon continued to ruffle his wings, as the icky goo refused to let go. "What is it?"
Sokia said one word. "Sildry."
"What is sill dree?"
Sokia pointed to the walls of the cavern. "Sildry is the mucus left by the sandworms. It helps them slide through their underground tunnels. It grows cold after awhile, making sandworm tunnels the perfect place to hide from the desert heat."
"You could have told me about all of this before we slept in it."
Sokia shrugged, "I was tired."
Aganon snorted. "Fine. So we are ready to go?"
"Not yet. We haven't had breakfast."
Aganon knew what was coming. He couldn't bear to think about it. But he had to ask, "What breakfast?"
Sokia pointed towards the cave wall with exaggerated enthusiasm, "Sildry."
Aganon complained loudly, "I was hoping we weren't going to have to do that." Gathering his courage, he asked, "How exactly do you...you know...do it."
She demonstrated. "It's thick, so you don't have to worry about getting much sand. You can just lick it off the wall, like this."
Aganon watched as his friend slurped the sildry from the sandy tunnel. He averted his eyes from the scene. "That is the most DISGUSTING thing I have ever seen."
Sokia shrugged nonchalantly, "Nothing is disgusting in nature. Only beautiful."
"Well, THAT is disgusting." He settled himself down, trying to calm his nerves and prepare for his "breakfast" that he so dreaded. He prodded the tunnel wall, the slimy mucus sticking to his claw. "It's now or never." Throwing caution to the winds, he snaked his tongue out for an experimental lick. It was strangely chewy, with a sweet taste. It wasn't bad, for worm slime. Not that Aganon would know this. He hadn't had worm slime before. Nope. Not a chance.
He thought about home. Nobody ever did anything like THIS back at Dragon's Kip. Adjusting to the desert would be hard. But he could do it. He knew he could do it. And he had Sokia to help him. He just wanted not to upset her. She seemed impatient most of the time. Oh, but he wanted so much just to please her. If only he knew more about the desert, then he wouldn't get in her way. He promised himself that he would try his best.
When they had had their fill, the duo left the sandworm tunnel. Back on the surface, the desert sun hit them like a hammer. The heat distorted vision, the horizon undulating in a haze. Aganon pointed towards a batch off eggs half-hidden in the sand. "More breakfast?"
Confused by Sokia's taut reply, he insisted, "But it looks like it would make good breakfast."
"No it wouldn't."
"But why not?"
"Because those are Dracis eggs."
It took a minute for it to sink in. The look of recognition which dawned on Aganon's features was quickly replaced with a visage of horror. "Oh...I'm..."
She turned on him. "No, DON'T be sorry. For the love of the Wastelands, don't be sorry. You had no way of knowing. We are going to bury them from any potential scavengers. Whoever left them ran from the sandworms, but she will be back."
As they buried the eggs in silence, Aganon mentally chided himself. How could he have been so stupid? Yeah, let's eat some DRACIS EGGS. Nice work. She probably hates me now. She is going to leave me. That's it. She is going to leave me, when I am asleep. I will be all alone in this desert, and all because of a few eggs. Maybe she won't leave me. Maybe I should say something. "Look, I'm sorry."
Sokia let go a heavy sigh, "Don't be. It's just that..."
"Just what?" Aganon could see that she was troubled.
Further talk was cut short as Rufus and Renk snuck up behind them. The ape-men were still swathed in white robes, and carrying spears. Renk caressed his weapon, "Well now, Rufe, what have we here? It looks like our lost Dragon with a lizard, and more lizards on the way. You're a pretty thing, aren't you, black drakken?"
Sokia shook with such anger that she could hear her teeth rattling. "Get lost, scum. There is nothing here for you."
Just then, Renk rushed her with the spear. The spearpoint caught between her scales. She tried to shrug the spear off as Renk levered it further into her skin.
Aganon watched in confusion. He didn't know what was going on. Everything had happened so fast. At one point they were burying eggs, and then there was a man with a spear. He watched as the one who called himself Rufus drew an object from under the white robe. Aganon remembered it as the same object that was used on the ape-man called Stillhelm. It had killed Stillhelm. It would kill Sokia! A sudden rush of emotion welled within Aganon that he didn't recognize. This wasn't right. They had no right to kill Sokia. Sokia was a friend. He had to stop this man. Coiling his muscles, Aganon dashed headlong towards the man called Rufus. Rufus saw the Dragon charge too late. Before he could jump out of the way, the Dragon hit him like a battering ram. Aganon could feel the man's bones give in as his headbutt carried the body into the air. The ape-man flew away, landing with a dull thud.
Aganon turned towards the one called Renk. The Dragon could feel the rush now. He was breathing heavy through his nostrils. His massive frame heaved up and down with every breath, while cold eyes menaced his foe. The ape-man dropped his spear, running away in a panic. Aganon ran to his friend.
"I'm okay." Sokia sputtered in the sand. "But that guy was stronger than he looked."
Aganon still breathed hard. He wanted to hunt down the other one. That creature should not have done this to Sokia.
"Hey, look at me." Sokia grabbed his leg.
Slowly, he calmed down, his breath returning to normal. Looking down into the sand, he cried, "What have I done? I've killed..."
"You've done exactly what you needed to do. Nothing more, nothing less."
He rested his head on her. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."
Shaken by the close call, they embraced each other, as the careless winds blew forlorn sand into a misty haze.
Sokia wished that she could just hold the Dragon forever. But she couldn't. It was dangerous here. The ape-man could bring others. She pushed Aganon to his feet...a considerable feat considering that he was twice her size. "Come. Let's go."
Double-checking to make sure the eggs would be invisible from the casual eye, they headed back out into the desert. Behind them lay the wormholes, and the broken body of an ape-man. Ahead of them lay uncertainties, and endless possibilities. The going was rough as the wind increased in velocity. Sokia knew that they had to get to their destination. They crawled across the sand at the best pace they could. Time was against them. But they couldn't move too fast. They needed to conserve their energy.
The silty surface shifted endlessly under their feet as they crawled ever further. Now and again, dust twisters could be seen in the distance: small pockets of wind dancing across the dunes. Vegetation was sparse, and inedible. Preybirds circled overhead, ever watchful. These scavengers were the greed of the Wastelands. They would eat most things that moved...and everything that didn't. Riding high on the thermals, they would wait for their prey to tire. And then they would strike, fighting with each other for the chance of a meal.
But Sokia had no intention of being anyone's lunch. She knew that the hard part was almost over. The sun was well in the sky, and they had covered a great distance. Panting, and parched of throat, she rounded the next dune to be greeted by a welcoming sight. The oasis.
The oasis was a true wonder of the desert. This particular oasis was the result of a nearby mountain range. Water had become trapped here where it collected in a pool, physically marking this fringe from the arid bulk of the Wastelands. Bushes, shrubs, and the odd tree surrounded the small pond, each plant fighting for its chance to survive. The clear water was as the surface of a mirror. As the two companions drew closer, Sokia hid a mischievous smile. "Be careful around that water. It can be ugly."
She watched as Aganon painstakingly crept to the center of the oasis. Poking his head through the bushes, he called back, "I don't see anything. Are you sure it's dangerous?"
She crawled up beside him. "I never said it was dangerous. I just said it was ugly. Look there!" She pointed at his reflection in the water.
"Hey, you cheated!" He tackled her to the ground, and they rolled about in the sand. Dust flew in a flurry as they tumbled head over tail.
"Ahahah. Whew! Enough. I've had enough. Let me up. I've been travelling all morning. I'm too tired to be wrestling Dragons."
The two friends waded into the small pond, hydrating themselves. Aganon began asking questions again.
"What's that rock that's been growing in the distance?"
"That's not just a rock. That's many rocks. It is a mountain range. We call it Azure Rock."
"I'm from Azure Rock! Are we going there?"
"Can we go to Dragon's Kip?"
"You're taking me home?"
"But don't you live in the desert?"
"But won't...oh nevermind."
Aganon played with the water, pretending to find interest in creating small whirlpools with his claw.
Sokia eyed the bewildered Dragon. She felt bad. How could she tell him that they wouldn't always be together? That she wouldn't stay with him on Azure Rock? That she only rescued him so that she could feel a sense of purpose, to escape the daily grind of survival? That she would return to the desert, only she will have rescued one Dragon? And she would wear the rescue like a badge. She would wear it like some stupid badge and she would hate herself for it. Because all of this would mean nothing. All of the danger, all of the adventure, all of the friendship would mean nothing because she would wear it like some stupid badge, and she would return to the daily grind of the desert. No, there is nothing she could say. He wouldn't understand. She would say nothing and they would sit in silence. They would sit in silence because she had been hardened by the desert, and she was afraid of herself. She was afraid of what she had become.
She watched him make whirlpools in the water. For a youngster, he was doing well. He didn't complain about the wind or heat. He had great endurance. She couldn't have asked for a better companion. But what was she doing? She was analyzing him. She was sitting here analyzing him, like she would size up some Sandrat for breakfast.
The oasis was comforting, but not even the soothing water could calm her raging thoughts.
Aganon continued making small whirlpools with his claw while watching his companion. What was she thinking? Maybe he should say something. But he couldn't say anything. Every time he said something he upset her. They had just been playing around earlier, but he said something and he upset her. Maybe he shouldn't say anything.
"Let's go." She waded out of the water, not even looking back.
He struggled to keep up with her, as they entered the fringe of the desert. They left the oasis behind, abandoning the water which shimmered like lightning, the albedo reflecting the whiteness of the sun back into space, sharing the awesome power of luminescence. The desert dissipated as they neared its end. Large boulders dotted the landscape, having been cast off from the mountain in some distant past. Small bushes increased in frequency. Grass even tried to sprout, clinging to cracks in the stones. Some of these boulders were large enough to house a tree or two, which could be seen poking their leaves above the top: triumphant arbors which owned these stone monoliths. Azure Rock lay ahead of them. As it grew larger in their view, they could see the trademark that gave it its name: the sky above was brightly colored. Even the clouds carried a blue tinge, proudly displaying their heritage: this was Azure Rock. And then, they were there.
Aganon let his gaze drift upward, as an endless expanse of stone filled his vision.
"Ahem." Sokia cleared her throat. "So, I am assuming you came down this way, when the ape-men took you?"
"And how did you get down?"
"They had a rope."
"You wouldn't be able to find this rope, if it were still there?"
"Then get ready to climb."
As they prepared to climb, Aganon heard a sound that was music to his ears. A Dragon's call. The piercing sound reverberated off the rocks surrounding them. Aganon returned the call, arching his back and shrieking his cry to the sky.
And then it came. The Dragon hurtled from the sky like lightning. It barreled down out of the heavens, buffeting the clouds like a child with a new toy. It spread its wings like a parachute, the filmy membranes casting a great shadow over the ground. It landed with expertise, and stealth. A sound did not arise from its contact with the earth. Not a single grain of sand was disturbed. Settling down, the great colossus said but one thing. "By what name are you known?"
Sokia was speechless. The Dragon had come from nowhere. It was massive, and majestic...and intimidating. She swallowed the nervous lump building in her throat. "Sokia."
The Dragon bowed low, touching his snout to the ground. "I honor your courage, Dracis Sokia. I am Bean."
Sokia wanted to laugh. And she would have, had she been able. But she held too much awe (and fear) to show her humor. But...did he just say Bean? Of all the names she could have imagined for such a creature, Bean didn't even make it on her list. Surely he was joking. Yes, that was it. A jest. He was testing her to see how she would react. It had to be.
Bean continued, oblivious. "You have done well. Will you continue to protect Aganon?"
Sokia couldn't believe her ears. The Dragon knew why she was here. Had he been watching her? And he wanted her to continue to protect. She knew what that meant. But could she really? Could she continue after all? She would be giving up her home, her life. But this was all happening so fast! Could she become a dragoon?
She looked to the sand for inspiration. Like a mirror of earth, the ground reflected the bright light back at her. And she knew. She knew that she couldn't do it. As much as she wanted to, she couldn't stay with the young dragon. It was not her calling. The desert was her home. She wasn't fit to be a guardian. It was not her destiny.
She said but one word, just that one word. There were no speeches, no deliberation. There was no melodrama in that word. Just the word. The one word. And then she walked away, not looking back.
"Very well, then." The great dragon, Bean, grabbed young Aganon in his massive talons. With a great leap, Bean launched himself back into the blue heavens from which he came. Only this time, he returned holding a young Dragon: a Dragon hurt with grief. A Dragon who didn't understand why he was losing a friend. Why couldn't they be together? He must have said something wrong. He must have. If he could only turn back time and make things right. If he could only make her happy. But it was too late. They were already gone.
Sokia glanced above at the retreating figures. She watched as the dust swirled in circles from their flight: an endless cycle of dust, circling over itself, back onto itself, infinitely. She wondered about that cycle of dust. It might have meant something to her once. But not anymore. Now it was just a meaningless cycle of wind.
She draped herself across a rock, absorbing the heat. She lie there like a sentinel, as the wind churned the dust into a careless haze.