Accipiter G. Goshawk
Another old re-edited story. The style is quite different (I had originally intended it to be part of a collection of legends).
In the beginning, there where dragons. Of course, in the before times, they hadn’t really chosen a proper shape yet. That’s why you see all sorts of dragons in paintings; they came in all shapes, shades and sizes. There where dragons so reptilian and gigantic that they were often confused with mountains. Others looked like snakes, with shaggy lion heads; others were small, no bigger than lizards and could spit for flames so fierce, that they could pierce Reality itself.
If you could imagine a dragon, it probably existed. They were the children of Earth and Sun, and they had all hatched from the same egg, or so the legends would have it.
For many eons, dragonkind lived wild and unfettered. They roamed the lands, the seas and the skies; they were masters of the Earth long before the dinosaurs. They explored every corner of the planet, thus becoming the keepers of its lore and its secrets.
Then one day, something new emerged from the Great Mother. Out of an odd combination of water, mud and lightning, humanity slowly dragged itself into creation. At first, the dragons were curious of this new creature, but they kept their distance; the humans appeared fragile and weak. Gradually, they began interacting with these oddly intelligent creatures. The humans were curious of the dragons as well. But behind their open smiles and intent eyes, lurked a dark hunger that grew with each passing year.
For some centuries, the two races lived peaceably side by side, sometimes cooperating but never quite mingling. The dragons sensed something was amiss among their neighbors and were reluctant to share much of their knowledge. Humanity was forever lusting after power and as they grew stronger and smarter, they began to assert their dominion over all the other species that inhabited Earth. The dragons saw this and greatly disapproved and soon they built a great wall to keep humanity caged in a small portion of the world.
For years, humanity brought violence on the wall, but to no avail.
Sometime later -during the reign of a peaceful king- there were born two brothers, sons of a mighty warlord. They lived by the wall in a large estate with their father; their names were Delthas and Dirios. Although their father had much influence at court and was very rich, he longed for even more power. In his darkest dreams, he saw himself sitting on a golden throne, emperor of the world, with dragon lords squashed under his boot. This was of course absurd; it was common knowledge that humanity was no match against dragon-kind, so long as the latter held the secret to celestial fire.
The two brothers were all that their father was not. They grew to be kind, noble and gentle. They went to great pains to better the world they lived in, much to their fathers’ disinterest.
One day Delthas was out riding along the wall, when suddenly his horse threw him off its back. It fled, leaving the young man alone, some miles from home. As he began to make his way back on foot, he chanced upon a small circle of water in a forest that skirted the wall.
By the pool was a maiden unlike any he had ever seen.
She was beyond beautiful and her voice drew him to her like a siren’s song. Her eyes were the starry night and her smile could have shattered the sky. Being the gallant man he was, he bowed low and enquired as to her name and household. Laughing softly, she told him that she lived nearby and had gone out for a morning stroll. Her name was Celestria. They talked for many hours, until the sun began to fade in the west and Delthas was forced to leave for home. He was, however, able to secure a promise from the fair maiden to meet her in the same spot in two days.
The next day it was Dirios’ turn to ride out and by a curious coincidence, the same accident befell him. Walking along the path that led back to the estate, he noticed an old ruined house, with a large fire burning in front of it. As he made his way towards it, he was surprised by the appearance of a most wondrous woman. She had hair as red as the flames that now gently crackled behind her, and her eyes were gold. Being as courteous as his brother, he also bowed low and asked of her. She told him her name, Fiammdia. She had come to the old house for she loved to explore; it was a regular haunt of hers. He was so taken with the girl that he proposed to accompany her, to which she readily agreed. They spent many hours going through every room of the house and the more time they spent together, the closer they grew. They agreed to meet again the next day in the same place.
That evening at dinner, both young men talked about their wondrous encounters. Their father listened intently and although he said nothing, he seemed to be deep in thought. The two brothers rejoiced at good fortunes and although the coincidence seemed odd, they paid it little heed.
The next day and for many after, the two sons met with their beautiful maidens and spent much time in their company, growing ever more in love. One day, they asked their father for his blessing to marry. During this time, the warlord had made discreet inquiries in the city, but had failed to find any trace of either the girls or their families. He decided however to give his blessing, on the condition that he a meeting be arranged with the parents of his soon-to-b daughters-in-law. Both maidens –who were in fact sisters-, seemed a little hesitant, but as they also wanted to marry, they agreed to arrange a meeting.
It was thus that the high warlord of the armies of humanity first met his mysterious in-laws. As the staff and masters of the estate awaited the arrival of their honored guests, there was a great clamor. The horses reared and whinnied in terror and the sky grew dark. Then from out of the clouds, four dragons descended, their great scaly bodies shining with inner radiance, as many-colored flames escaped from their fiery mouths. Even as the warlord was about to call for the guards, the four creatures landed and took on the forms of the two beautiful maidens, an older and distinguished gentleman and an equally impressive lady.
Initially, the sons were taken aback on discovering the exulted nature of their brides-to-be; they soon recovered however, and there was much joy and merriment. Their father was a perfect host and treated his in-laws most amicably. The marriage was soon arranged and a few weeks from the day, celebrated grandiosely.
On their wedding night, the new brides trusted their husbands with their greatest secret: they each possessed a ring, which they could use to command fire itself, rendering it tame in the hands of whoever should wear it.
Unfortunately, their father had arranged to have them spied and shortly after, he stole the rings for himself. With them, he ascended to the human throne and soon after forged new weapons for his army. With the magic of the Dragon-fire rings, he broke down the great wall and began to wage a terrible war on all of dragon-kind. It wasn’t long before most of the dragons had been either killed or forced to retreat into a great underground cavern. The two brothers had fled to this cave in the hope of keeping their brides safe; they were accompanied by a unique group of humans that believed in the peaceful coexistence of the two races.
Nevertheless, as the time of reckoning approached, the survivors of dragonkind decided to resort to their last, most desperate defense.
Asking a favor of their husbands and the many people that had rallied to their side, the dragons performed a great magic. They used their secret knowledge of fire to shed their physical body and turn into souls of flame, which were then to unite forever with the hearts of their loved ones.
“However,” warned Fiammdia, “you must always keep your hearts open, or risk being destroyed by the very flames which burn within them”.
Having said this, she embraced Dirios and entered his heart like a spark of light, safe forever from the evil without.
Upon returning to the surface, the two brothers decided to fight back against their father, each in their own way. Delthas took a portion of the dragon-souled far away and started a new community of peace lovers. Forever after they sought to aid others, always letting the fire they held in their hearts shine out to the souls had strayed into darkness.
Much different was the path of Dirios, who with many men and women took up arms against his father. During the battle to end all battles, he sought out his father and aided by the burning fire in his chest, he struck him down. Afterwards, he took the old warlord’s domains for himself and strove to be a good and just leader. Ultimately, however, the fire in his chest -which he never let out-, grew hotter and stronger; soon his benevolence turned to hate, rage, and paranoia.
Many years later, he sought out his brother, for he had begun to fear him. In his delirious dreams wreathed in fear and smoke, he saw his twin standing over him victorious. Countless nightmare-filled nights bent his mind and finally he surrendered to madness. After much searching, he found his brother, and sought to destroy him and his people.
In the end, he was easily vanquished. Drawing on secret magics, his brother drew the dark dragon-fire out of him and sent it high into the heavens, where it would forever burn free of human corruption.
There are very few humans left nowadays with dragon-fire in their hearts. Some use it freely to help others and are thus destined to be great in the minds and souls of all good folk. Others also achieve greatness, but it is the greatness of dark and moonless nights, whispered tales and creaking shadows.
Where did the dragons go, you ask?
Find a person and look deep into their eyes. Watch them for a while and maybe, as they move about life, you will see the dragon within, its fiery spirit leaping out through words, thought and actions; an invincible tongue of flame.-