The world lay quiet under the long shadows of the night.
But Thæon, laid out on his bedroll, could not sleep. He stared up at the star-filled sky, colourless and as never-ending as the thoughts that crowded within his mind, each vying for attention, and keeping him dreams.
Curled around him, the dragon snores peacefully, his mind free from dark designs, dreams painted in the place of shadows and a fear conquered to carry him through it all.
Thæon wished he knew more about dragons. He wished that there were more to the tales than that which was carved into the stone of the great halls; that there was more than the stories that had been passed down, father to daughter, mother to son; lessons in songs and tales; histories recorded that tell of what happened thousands of years ago, and yet none of what Thæon knows is useful to him.
He has questions—of course he has questions—but he has no one to answer them.
There’s an ease in knowing that the dragon seems to understand what Thæon says to him, but how far that actually goes, he isn’t sure.
Far enough for the dragon to grumble and croon back at him, as if he should know how to speak Thæon’s language, but has simply forgotten how.
“This isn’t going to be easy, is it?” Thæon asks, more to himself than the sleeping dragon; reaching out to trail his fingers along the length of his neck, feeling the nodes and bumps underneath his fingertips; a heat buried deep beneath them from the dragon’s heartfire.
Somehow, he had forgotten he possessed it, and held a fear of fire, having reared back in fright when Thæon first lit the campfire with his spark. It had taken every measure of patience he possessed to coax the timid dragon from where it had cowered on the far side of the river, wary of the fire but trusting enough of the human that was barely able to grasp the situation to understand.
That in itself gives rise to more questions, and Thæon can feel it echo on his face; the furrow of his brow and narrow eyes that roam the dragon’s face in the lambent fire light.
When Thæon had watched him this afternoon, the dragonling had been clumsy, almost as if regaining his strength from an illness, or healing from an injury of some kind. But the only one Thæon had been able to find is a small cut just above the dragon’s right eye. Nothing to indicate that the dragon had been struck with weakness.
It was too late in the year to consider that he was shaking off the lingering ache of hibernation; Thaw and Rising Star having long since been and gone with Young Summer warming the skies.
If his lack of gracefulness had been due to something else, Thæon had no answer. He didn’t know enough about dragons. He didn’t know if they even hibernated in the colder winter months; or the exact years their lives spanned; whether they got sick; whether a broken wing could heal over time or one fatal crash would ground a dragon for the rest of its days; not knowing how long a wound would take to heal if it was to heal at all….
In his answerless-frustration, Thæon snatched his hand away from the dragon’s neck and buried himself beneath the furs, rolling over so that he was staring instead at the mountain slope of its body; scaled, stone-shale and protective.
The thought makes Thæon’s stomach twist, poisoned by pride; vaunted, almost, by his own achievements from such a young age, and the desperation to be strong, to not need anyone to rely on enough that it was a natural reaction to turn a cold shoulder to anyone offering help or aid.
Thæon had come to see the offering of assistance like an insult, and seeing it now given from a beast makes his hackles rise and his magic flare—
The dragon heaves a stuttered breath in his sleep, turning with a whimper, curling; and Thæon is struck by ice when the beast’s head presses into his back.
His breath is hot, pleasant in a way that was unexpected, as much as the sigh of relief that rolls through him; what remaining tension fading in chorus to a purr as he nuzzles the boy that lays beside him, and Thæon feels himself stiffen at the sought-out comfort. It reminds him of how Bröder shows fear in a thunderstorm—brave and headstrong against the greatest of threats, but when the gods argue in the skies above, he shows the truth of being a meek and timid calf only a year from his mother’s side.
This dragon has been separated too; now without his family, and young enough that he hadn’t learnt the horrors of what humans were capable of: young and innocent in this world where many would rather see him dead, if not out of fear then for their own greed; the Naurn, Ouran and Laeg all responsible for the massacre of his kind and would certainly be just as eager to see something they considered a mindless beast to be slain.
Unless, maybe this creature knew who he could trust, and those he couldn’t; maybe having recognised Thæon was of Medellin—the northern clans having been born of the dragon’s kindness to the Evis Anaïyr and have thus since revered and honoured them—and the dragon knew that it was safe to reveal himself to a descendant of the first clans.
But there were so many questions that rose with every new maybe, every might—because how could the dragon know to trust Thæon if he was as young as he thought him to be, with no one to teach him otherwise; unless he wasn’t young, unless he hadn’t always been alone—
Thæon scrubbed at his face, his head beginning to hurt with the torrent of thoughts as he tried to think up an explanation to this auspicious, albeit near impossible meeting.
The gods had their reasons, and maybe it wasn’t something mortals were meant to understand, or to question, but Thæon couldn’t help by want for answers. There was a reason for their meeting. There was a reason the gods had entwined their threads.
Thæon simply wanted to understand why.
It was the earth moving that woke him; Thæon reacting to his dreams of crumbling mountains turned reality; earthquake tremors like lightning in his limbs; magma heat eroding peace for the tumultuous confusion of waking.
His hand is curled around the handle of his sword before he’s fully woken; hands warm with sparks as they cling to the familiar wrap of leather that he had tucked underneath the numnah that doubled as a substitute bedroll on nights the ground was too rough to bare; his eyes wide and searching in a rush of adrenaline that came from being woken suddenly.
It all came collapsing down when Thæon’s mind caught up to the world around them and he realised that the crumbling mountain was none other than the dragon that had appeared as if from a dream all itself, and had curled around him like a doting puppy soothed by the hearth-fire.
Not a dream, he thinks groggily, releasing the white-knuckle grip on his sword, blinking tiredly to where the risen sun should be. Yet he is greeted instead with a dull violet of before-dawn.
It sparks anger beneath the tiredness.
“What in the nine realms—?”
But the words barely get past his lips before he is silence by the thunderous voice of the dragon when he lets loose a growl that echoes across the meadow with the strength of lightning.
It was so jarring to the visage of a playful, timid hatchling that he had shared company with the day before that has Thæon stilling instantly, eyes searching to see the flash of teeth that are borne in threat.
The dragon isn’t looking at him but towards something else; his body shifting, wings lifting to make itself bigger as he defends his territory from a predator that prowls the pre-dawn for a sleeping meal.
It won’t find one here, but Thæon considers that maybe he can take this opportunity to claim himself his own food—having run out of deer meat that he had hunted back near the floodplains of the Bodeive River, and now—
There is a voice.
Thæon can hear it like a hum beneath the wind—too soft to discern spoken words, but he knows the difference between a warning growl and a human voice—to which the dragon snarls viciously.