Your Current Location is Chaos Keep : Stories : Miscellaneous : Objects: Chapter 7: The Shared Loss
Chapter 7: The Shared Loss
By: Fox Cutter
They flew along the side of the towering structure, circling around it as they gained more and more height. The statue on the top was growing larger, illuminated by the starlight above.
Frances stood at the edge of the abyss and watched the population of DragonHome fill the air. The day was in full swing, and dragons were everywhere he could see in the large cavern, filling the dull gray place with every color he had ever imagined. With just a glance around he saw a blue, gold, sliver, red, orange and even a black dragon, all going on about their day.
He particularly liked to watch the green dragons as they flew past, but none of them were as brilliant in color as Surenian.
It was everything he had wanted. The very thing he had craved with so much of his self that it nearly consumed him, and now it was here. Not just one dragon, but thousands of them, all of them as real as he was.
And it should have been enough, but it wasn't. The longing, the emptiness, it was still there. If anything, it had grown that much stronger. The only thing that kept him from throwing himself off the edge and into the abyss was his promise to Surenian. One that he would never break.
"I guess everything I wanted isn't what I wanted," he mused, watching a dragon fly close enough to where he stood to shoot him a displeased look. He wanted to join them, to cast off his human form and become one of them, but that could never be.
Without thinking, he moved closer to the edge, the very tips of his toes peeking over the cliff.
Closing his eyes, he felt the cool air swirl about him, teasing over his face and fluttering his clothing. There was a smell to it. A mix of the cold earth and the warm scent of dragons.
He wanted to fly with them, to reach out wings he didn't own and soar among them. To dance in the air at Surenian's side, a part of the same world she was hiding from.
Opening his eyes, he let out a long breath, looked down at the air below him and realized just how close to the edge he was. He carefully took a large step back until the sudden knot in his belly started to relax.
Maybe being a gryphon wouldn't be that bad. He could still stay with Surenian, with all the dragons, and be a part of their world. A gryphon could fly with them, join in the dance. The thought of it filled some of the longing inside of him, in the same way that the thought of dragons once did.
Frances shook his head, trying to clear it. He admitted to himself that he didn't know what he wanted, and was starting to wonder if he would ever find out what that was. Still, he had six more days with Surenian to try and find something.
Strangely, some part of him was hoping that he would be successful.
Letting out a sigh, he started to turn away, only to have the light around him start to blur and streak. It mixed and shifted before settling down, giving everything odd and misplaced shades. He was seeing auras again.
He turned back around and looked at the dragons, bracing himself for the headache, hoping it wouldn't be as bad this time.
The auras were everywhere, trailing and weaving around in the sky, mixing together into so many colors. Every shade of the rainbow was around him, from the brightest blues to the darkest reds, then even darker, into colors he had never seen before. Colors that maybe no human had ever seen before.
Small eddies of silver swirled behind every dragon in flight, arching down from the underside of their wings and dissipating a few moments later, swirling and twisting around in the air.
He tilted his head back, looking up through the high opening above him. Lines of gold rose from the ceiling, rising up into the afternoon sky. He could see the light of the stars, glowing brightly through the perfect blue of the sky, as bright as they were on a moonless night.
"Frances?" Surenian asked from behind him.
He turned around and looked at her with the strange sight. An orange aura hung from her green scales with small streaks of brown crisscrossing her chest. The brown seemed to ripple on the field of orange, like a leaf floating over the waves.
"Renie, you look amazing," he said, smiling at her.
A small burst of nameless color arched over her shoulders and around her chest. "Thank you. I was worried it might not be safe for you to be in DragonHome alone."
"I suppose that is true." As he spoke he reached out to touch her neck, once again seeing the blue aura with the black spots that seemed to cover him. As he neared her side their auras started to mingle, some of his blue slipping onto her while a little bit of her orange went up his arm.
"You're acting strange; are you alright?"
He smiled. "I'm seeing auras again, and yours is lovely."
The dragoness tilted her head to look at him, another burst of nameless color, different in shade from the last one, running over her body. She watched him for a moment then flicked out her wings. "Can you control it at will?"
Frances paused for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders. "I don't even know how I turned it on."
She lowered her large head to look at him. "Close your eyes and imagine the way the world should look. Picture it in your mind, and then give it to your vision."
"But I like the way the world looks like this," he said in mock protest, pulling his hand away from her. The connection between their auras broke, but some of the colors stayed transferred between them, producing a soft blue spot on the center of her flank.
She started to say something, but he just smiled at her and closed his eyes. He pictured the way the world should be. It felt bland next to what he had been seeing, bland and normal. He tried to make himself see it as he slowly opened his eyes, finding the same bland world before him. He felt a little bit of loss.
"Back to normal," he said with a sigh, looking down at his plain hands, flexing his fingers. He looked back up at Surenian. At least that was one thing that wasn't bland. "How long will I be able to do this?"
"As long as you're exposed to magic, which might be a long time at the rate you keep hurting yourself. If we can turn you into a gryphon you might never lose it," she said, dropping her head down until her eyes were at the same level as his.
Frances reached out and touched the side of her muzzle. "I think it would be nice to be a gryphon."
"It might not be a gryphon, there are other species that could quality," she replied. After a moment's thought she added: "But a gryphon would be best."
"I think so, too," he replied, gently stroking his hand over her cheek.
They stood there for a few more moments, looking into each other's eyes before the dragoness pulled away. "Come along, Dalkin is ready for you."
"Okay," he replied, pulling his hand away from her. Together they started back down the large corridor towards the imposing doors of the library.
She pushed the door open with one foreclaw, hardly breaking stride. Together they walked between the towering stacks of books, returning to the small office in the back of the huge room.
Curled about himself, Dalkin was waiting for them with a glass bowl held tightly in his claws. It looked small with his fingers wrapped around it, but it was gigantic to the human. As they entered the blue dragon motioned towards a pile of books.
Frances sat down where he was told and tried to relax, but instead found himself fidgeting in place. It was strange; he didn't know what was going to happen, but he was excited about it none the less.
"Please, hold this, and be careful not to drop it," the blue dragon instructed as he handed him the glass bowl. It filled his lap and was as heavy as a sack of bricks. He let go before Frances had a good grip on it, causing him to struggle for a few moments before holding it in place.
Surenian giggled slightly, relaxing half in and half out of the doorway.
Dalkin turned to work on something on his desk, fluttering his wings and clicking his hind claws on the stone floor. He dug around his desk for a moment and then picked up a large white and black feather. He gave it a close look, then started to trim the tip with one of his claws.
"You should remove your shirt," Surenian whispered.
He glanced at the dragoness, then back to the blue dragon as he worked on the feather, then down at the bowl in his lap. "I'll just roll up my sleeve," he replied. Carefully he balanced the bowl between his legs, and as soon as he felt comfortable with taking his hands away he started to pull up the fabric of his long sleeves.
Dalkin turned back to face Frances, holding the feather carefully in his hand. The tip had been trimmed to a point, but the point had been blunted. There was a strange blueish tint running through the inside of the feather. "I'll need to touch this to your arm."
With a nod he moved his arm to rest on top of the bowl, holding it in place with his other hand. He looked from his exposed skin to the large bowl. "Don't take too much, I only have eight pints."
"I will hardly need such a quantity," the dragon replied with a dismissive flick of his wings. Gently he took the bare arm in one hand, holding it in place as he pressed the blunt tip of the feather against the exposed skin.
The moment contact was made, a jolt of power ran over his skin and across his chest. He tried to jerk his arm away from it, but Dalkin held him firmly in place.
The pressure on the feather tip increased, making a depression in his skin as more power jolted through him. A moment later blood started to well up around the tip of the feather, pooling against his skin.
Dalkin tilted the human's arm, letting the blood roll off the skin. It didn't move right, the blood flowed a little bit, then collected together on the skin, forming fat drops. Once they were large enough they rolled down the skin and fell into the bowl. The drops fell away clean, leaving nothing behind on his skin.
The blood gathered in the bottom of the bowl, clinging together and bulging like mercury. After a few moments Dalkin took the feather away. As soon as it was gone the strange rush of power came to an end. His skin was left completely clean; there wasn't a mark or a drop of blood left behind.
"That was strange," Frances said as the dragon let go of his arm. He rubbed the skin where the feather had been pressed. It was slightly tender, and the skin was still tingling, but otherwise it felt perfectly normal.
Dalkin smiled and dropped the feather into the glass bowl, then took the bowl into his large hands and moved it to his desk. "That is not unexpected. Magic can do many strange things, but this wasn't a very difficult spell, even for an old mage such an myself."
He nodded and pulled his sleeve back down, noticing a slight tear in his shirt over his shoulder. He sighed and put it out of his mind for the moment. "It was better than being stuck with a needle."
The blue dragon had settled back at his desk, seemingly ignoring what he had said. "It will take me a least a day to separate the blood and find out what you are, other than a human. I suggest you return to me this time tomorrow."
Surenian nodded and took a step further in the room. "We are both eager to hear what you have to say."
"Thank you. You don't have to do this, but thank you none the less," Frances added.
The old dragon stopped, then turned back and looked down at the human. He reached up slightly and adjusted his glasses, a small smile on his face. "I have no objection to the task. I hope I can find your gryphon blood."
"I hope so, too. It would be nice to know what it is. I'm just glad that its something. It's nice knowing that I'm something..." he let his voice trail off, looking down at the back of his hands.
He felt a slight weight on his shoulder. Turning his head he found Surenian hovering closer to him, the top of one claw resting on his shoulder. "Something special?"
"I guess so," he replied. Their eyes locked together for a moment as a small smile spread over her lips.
She leaned in a bit closer, a breath of warm air rolling over him. "I believe you are special; and it's not because of blood or magic."
"I'm just me," he protested, casting his eyes down.
The dragoness chuckled and leaned in a bit closer. "You're a human in the middle of DragonHome, that makes you very special."
Frances tried to prevent it, but a blush still crossed over his face. It was enough to make him break eye contact with her to look back down at his hands. She stayed silent, but didn't remove her claw, nor did she move away from him.
Finally Dalkin tisked and fanned out his wings. "It's not easy for me to work with you two chattering behind me. If you want me to separate the blood before next month you'll leave me be." He said it in a genial tone, but with a bit of force, his eyes glimmering behind his glasses.
"Sorry," Frances replied as he slid off the stack of books and looked up at Surenian. She was already working herself back through the doorway, a sheepish smile on her face.
As soon as he stepped out of the room the door closed with a thump. A moment later he heard the sound of the lock falling against the door.
He shifted his weight between his feet, looking around the large stacks. They were alone in the library. "What should we do next?" he asked.
"It will take a few hours for Kraydrim to find a gryphon clan that we can visit. It might not even be until tomorrow. We should keep occupied until then."
"That's a bit long isn't it? We're on the second day of our week," he replied, starting to walk back through the library. The tall stacks were deceptive, but he was still able to find his way.
Surenian smiled at the young man as she followed him through the stacks. "He'll find something soon; he knows everyone. We might be able to spend this evening with a clan."
"That does sound nice," he replied as they neared the center of the library. "So, what should we do next?"
"I do not know. It is best for you to stay away from the other dragons, at least for the time being. We do not want to risk them hurting you."
Surenian came to a stop in the middle of the stacks, arching her head back, her nose falling slightly. She sniffed the air for a few moments the lowered her head.
"What is it?"
"I though I smelled something, another dragon, but it was fleeting. I believe that we are still alone."
Frances looked around, unable to see anything but the tall stacks of books around them.
They stood together as silence fell over them. They looked at each other a bit uncomfortabley before the dragoness turned away, her wings fluttering for a moment before she pulled them tightly to her back.
He watched her, the growing lights above them outlining her shape and giving it a slight glow. A small smile fluttered across his face, lasting for just a moment before it faded away. He thought the glow made her look pretty.
"Is your family still here?" he asked, struggling to find something that was worth asking.
The dragoness looked back down at him, cocking her head to slightly to the side. "I don't have family, not like your family."
Frances shrugged. "If they care they're not like my family."
She shook her head, moving a bit closer to him. "No, it's not like that. We're not raised like you are. We're all hatched together and raised by everyone. I don't have a mother or a father, other than in the most literal way.'
"So, no family?"
They lapsed back into silence. They stood close together; neither one of them really knew what to say or what to do next. They fell into an uncomfortable quiet, only interrupted by the slight sounds of movement between the two of them.
Finally Frances let out a sigh and looked back at Surenian. She had lifted her head to look around the books. It seemed like she was trying not to look at him.
"How do you know Dalkin?" he finally asked.
"I liked to hide in the library, Dalkin was the only one who didn't treat me like a savior," she said, still looking over the top of the books.
The human nodded and turned to look around the tall stacks of books, the weight of all the words filling the air. It was a familiar feeling, as was the slight smell of paper that hung over everything.
It brought memories of the library in Golden. It wasn't huge, in fact half the interesting books had come in from Coeur d'Alene. They were safe memories, something warm and familiar, a place he went when he couldn't take being around his family anymore, or when his father was posing for the press.
It was there he discovered dragons. He had spent a summer reading everything he could on them, and the stories of the dragon of Baker's Hill. He had read it all.
"Can you read?" he asked, turning back to look at the dragoness.
She looked down at him, her eyes narrowing slightly. "Yes, I can," she said with a slightly annoyed look.
A slight blush crossed his face. "I don't mean to ask anything stupid, I just didn't know if that was normal for dragons."
The annoyance on her face smoothed slightly. "Most dragons can read, but I don't think many do. I can see books that are still where I left them."
Frances looked around the books. Some of the shelves were clean, but there were spots of thick dust in many different places. He could easily believe that some of them hadn't been touched in centuries. "Which one was your favorite book?"
"My favorite?" she asked in surprise.
He nodded. "Your favorite. I always liked the Pern novels myself, though I think you're smarter than any of the dragons in them."
Surenian gave him a slight look of amusement then cocked her head to the side. "I'm not familiar with those."
"Well, they are kind of new. Did you read any human books?"
She nodded. "A few. We don't have many, it takes a great deal of effort to transcribe them into something we can hold." She flexed her foreclaws as she spoke.
"It was mostly histories. We don't understand the world the way you do, and it's interesting to know. I liked fictional works in most of the human languages."
Frances thought for a moment, trying to think of any books he had read that she might have had access too. "Did you read any Wells, or Dickens?"
"Sadly no--they are books you're familiar with?"
"Authors," he responded.
She nodded. "DragonHome does not have many books in English. Most of them are in dialects of Chinese or related languages. The only English author I have read was Mark Twain."
"Mark Twain?" he repeated in surprise.
"Yes, his travel books were fascinating. The world he described was so amazing. It was nothing like the bland life I had, stuck in here," As the words escaped her, she let out a soft sigh.
"Maybe we could go visit some of those places? It's nothing like it was when he wrote about it, but there are some nice places. I went to Baton Rouge when I was fifteen, it was some sort of thing for my dad. I remember sitting near the university and watching the Mississippi river. Maybe we could go, would you like that?"
Her eyes lit up at that, then she lowered her head down to look him in the eyes. "That would be wonderful. I would love to see that."
"Then we will have to find the time, " he replied, reaching out to touch the side of her muzzle.
She leaned into his hand for a moment, then lifted her head. "Thank you."
"You don't have to thank me."
"Yes I do," she replied.
Frances smiled and looked up at his friend. "I would love to know what books you have here. Can you show me?"
The dragoness nodded and leaned down closer to him, a smile on her muzzle. "Of course. Follow me; I'll show you the best of them."
* * *
Surenian was curled inside a reading spot, a depression in the corner of the library that had been worn out by generations of dragons reading there. It was cold yet comfortable, a familiar place in the center of DragonHome.
The book she held in her claws was one she had read so often she had nearly memorized the words. Even a century away had not dulled the memory of them. It wasn't a special book, it wasn't one of her favorites, but it was... comfortable. She had been reading it to Frances, to give him a flavor of the sort of things dragons wrote.
He had been fascinated by it, but the young man had eventually drifted off into a light slumber against her side. He had fought it for a while, his head dipping down before snapping back up, but he finally lost that battle.
She had decided to let him sleep. All the excitement and the travel had drained him, as had the drawing of his blood. He deserved a bit of sleep after all of that.
The dragoness continued to read, trying to follow the words, but only finding that she had read the same page three times in a row. With a sigh she ruffled through the thin pages, smelling the musty scent wafting over them.
Finally she closed the book and pushed it to the side. Turning her head back, she looked down at Frances, watching the young man as he slept. He would shift in place every few movements, his eyes twitching under his eyelids. Now and then his fingers would shake, one hand clamping into a tight fist for a few seconds, then relaxing back open.
She wondered what he was dreaming about. It seemed like it was something strong from the movment his hands. There was a part of her that wished she could see dreams, but that wasn't the sort of magic she had. All she could do was pass through stone and dirt, something that wasn't very useful unless you were trying to make an escape.
Fanning out a wing, she carefully placed it over him. This seemed to be enough. His body relaxed and the twitching in his fingers came to a stop. He let out a soft whimper and rolled against her flank.
"I wish I knew how to save you," she whispered to herself.
The words, as quiet as they were, echoed through the library until they finally fell into silence among the books. The only response came in the form of a slight shifting of the shadows.
She shook her head and looked away from her human friend. Her mind went back to the image of him standing at the edge of the tunnel mouth, looking down at DragonHome. She had watched him as he stood there, moving closer and closer to the edge. For a moment she had worried he would forgo their arrangement and jump.
Surenian knew she had to save him, but didn't know how to do it. She didn't know the world well enough to know the things she needed to show him to make him understand that the world was worth living for.
The possibility of having gryphon's blood was a blessing. Just the chance of it brought a light to his eyes, one that she had only seen back in the mine, when he declared his intentions to die. She was hoping that it would be true--that he would have the blood, and it would be enough to change him.
She hoped it would be enough to save his life and was terrified that it would not be.
Her eyes narrowed a bit as she looked down at Frances. "If it's not, I'll still find a way."
"Your dedication to him is noble. How long have you known him?" a new voice said, in a whisper the same volume as hers.
Surenian turned her head to find Kraydrim standing between the stacks of books. The brown dragon was watching her, his head cocked to the side, his wings fluttering against his back.
"I've... only for two days," she replied.
The older dragon smiled as he walked up to her, his claws not making a sound on the stone floor. "Two days? He's willing to die for you in such a short period of time. He must believe in you."
"I'm trying to help him."
He nodded. "He said something to that end before. I was curious as to why he wishes to die."
The dragoness sighed and shook her head. "I really don't understand it myself. He tried to explain it to me, but I do not understand his reasons. It seems to be about his family."
"The concept of family is confusing, but I didn't think it would enough to drive someone to their death," Kraydrim replied, leaning down to look at the human.
Frances shifted under her wing, his fingers starting to flex again.
The brown dragon watched the human for a few moments, then looked back at the dragoness. "Why are you helping him?"
"I... I'm not really sure. When I first saw him I just wanted to scare him away, and he didn't scare. He wanted to die at my hand. After that I lost my will to kill him."
"So you came to an agreement with him instead?"
She nodded. "I wasn't going to kill him, and I wasn't going to let him kill himself because I wouldn't."
Kraydrim reached out and ran a hand along the back of her neck. "You never could harm a thing. I still remember that hunt in the mountains, the one with the goat."
"I still hate snow," she said with a small growl.
Frances stirred slightly and lifted his head. His eyes were still heavy with sleep, but he was blinking them awake. "Snow?" he muttered out.
"Yes, I hate snow."
The young man sat up, shaking his head to wake up. He rubbed his face a moment then yawned. "Why would you hate snow?"
"It was a goat," Kraydrim said.
With a blink Frances realized they were no longer alone. He looked up into the dragon's eyes then turned his attention to the green dragoness. "What does a goat have to do with snow?"
A frown crossed over her face and she turned her head away. "It tricked me into causing an avalanche. I was burried for half a day."
The human let out a short snicker. "How could it do that?"
Kraydrim explained: "It ran across a weak patch of snow, and when she landed on it, the snow gave way."
The amusement on Frances' face fell away to a touch of concern. "Ouch. I'm glad your okay."
"It was over a century ago," she replied.
"Still, I'm glad you okay," he repeated, standing up and pushing her wing to the side. He looked at her for a moment then turned away with a soft sigh.
The brown dragon chuckled. "I hope snow won't cause you trouble. I found a gryphon clan that is willing to let you visit them tonight. They are to the north."
"How far north?" Surenian asked with a touch of dread.
"Far enough that it will be very cold. They are a clan with little interaction with humans, and they are looking forward to meeting your friend."
She flexed her wings and uncurled herself from the curved stone floor. "Where exactly are they?"
Kraydrim said a few short words in draconic, and she nodded, understanding.
"We have to leave now if we want to be there before nightfall," she said.
The human smiled and rubbed his hands together, an eager look crossing over his features. "Then we should be going." He paused, then looked down at his feet. "Though I'm going to need shoes of some sort."
"And something warm to wear," Surenian added.
"That won't be hard, we have enough human clothing here to provide something," Kraydrim said, then turned and started out of the library.
Frances looked puzzled. "Why would you have human clothing?"
"It's best not to think about it," the dragoness replied.
The young man paused, then blanched, shiering slightly. He clearly had thought about it.
To Be Continued...
This story is copyright 2009 by Fox Cutter, hardcopy reprints limited to one a person, all other rights reserved. This story may not be distributed for a fee except by permission of the author, and this copyright notice may not be removed.
Your Current Location is
Objects: Chapter 7: The Shared Loss
Page last updated: 02/19/2012
Page created by and copyright 2012 by Fox Cutter, all rights reserved.