Once Upon a Nightmare
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The waves lapped lazily against the shore, a few small boats moored at the dock. There were only a few scattered houses on the bluff above, but the real mark of the town was a large watch tower. Installed at the will of the High King, it was meant to serve as a lookout, and had been ordered after the raid of sea monsters during the Ocean Blight. A scout at the top of it could see for many miles on a clear day. Four scorpions were mounted at the top, to cover every direction, along with a single flame. Below, a couple of guards were talking about who would be taking the next shift.
“I don’t see why it needs twenty-four hour coverage anymore,” One grumbled.
“King’s orders,” The second replied. “Can’t disobey the King.”
“The King who isn’t here!” His companion snapped. “The Blight is long gone, and with it goes the need. What’s a few hours rest for everyone, hm?”
His companion was about to respond when they heard a sound. Both fell silent, waiting for it again. Yet nothing came, and for all they knew, it was merely a trick of a breeze, the whistling of bird, a trick of the wind on waves. They’d almost convinced themselves of this when they heard it again. This time however, it didn’t fade away but continued to grow. A low whistling sound, that soon became a rumble, a sound unlike anything they’d ever heard. They stared at each other, horrified as it began to pitch up, and while it seemed to be coming from the ocean, they could not see what was making it. Suddenly, as if the cloudy night sky were attacking them, a great blue-white fireball appeared, rushing towards them. Screaming in terror, the two men bolted from the tower as the fireball collided with the bluff, causing the entire village to shudder. Confused villager rushed outside to see what had caused the chaos just as a great wind ripped at the grass, homes, and even knocked several people off their feet.
“What in the blazes is going on!?” Shouted one of the guards.
However, almost as soon as it had come, it was quite again. Yet the side of the bluff was smoldering quietly. Then, much to their dismay, the distant whistling picked up again.
“We’re under attack!”
Pandemonium struck as people began racing around, collecting weapons and rushing children inside. However, as the whistle pitches higher again, the guards, and several others stop despite themselves, not even having time to raise their weapons before another fireball flew through the sky, smashing through their brand new watch tower. Flaming splinters flew as the shockwave from the blast sent pieces of the building flying a quarter of a mile away, and for a moment, illuminated by the light, they saw a winged beast flash through the night. And as suddenly as it had come, it was gone, leaving the collapsing tower in its wake, flaming embers falling like snow, and the residents of the village wondering what sort of furious night wraith had just attacked them.
Tandlos did not look back at the carnage he had just created. He was frustrated; he’d spent the last week stuck in human form, patiently waiting until he had enough strength to remain a dragon for at least an equal amount of time. He hated the two legged beanpoles, he really did. They were unbalanced, ugly, and their senses were so dulled it was like somebody had shoved wads of wax in every sensing orifice they possessed. Being back in his true form was like a breath of fresh air, enabling him to once again return to his self assigned duty, but it was not enough. He wanted more, he wanted a real purpose. He was not simply a scavenger. He’d been alone since he’d come back, fighting blindly against the humans and the gods in a war that he did not understand, just as it had been before he was killed so long ago. Yet those memories remained difficult to access; all he had were those of the recent past, and the human he possessed. Although, he was not convinced that it was fully human. There was magic in its veins, though he did not know how to use it, but it made his transformations far less painful than they had been initially.
He’d been to the dragons’ territory before, but it had been back when he was new to this body, and so the memories were a bit off. So, he looked for signs, things that might be familiar. It wasn’t very helpful, so he just kept going higher and higher until the hills became whiter and whiter. It wasn’t long before he was at the top of one of the Hyadies’ peaks, where he finally stopped to take a look around. The view was stunning, but it didn’t help him. He had no idea where he was, which was incredibly frustrating; he was a bloody dragon, how could he not know where his own homeland was? He could strike down a hundred foot watch tower with a single blast, fly faster than most creatures could even track with their eyes, and yet he couldn’t seem to figure out where the homeland of his brethren were.
Unwilling to call out, he took to the skies once again, flying a bit more slowly, but going much higher than before. Perhaps with a better view he’d be able to spot it. Frustrated, he shot off another fireball, the inside glowing blue as the outside edges flickered with orange flame before it faded into the icy air. While this eased his frustration temporarily, it did not help him to find his destination - he could only hope to either stumble on it, or run across another dragon.
The icy wind battered against thick, black scales as he continued to soar. No more fireballs erupted from his jaws, and he closed his eyes in an effort to quell his frustration. He would find his brethren. He was a dragon, he would find them soon. Tilting his wings slightly, he gave several more beats and rose higher still, the air beginning to thin around him, but Tandlos was not to be defeated by mere altitude. His thick hide protected him from the pressure changes, as well as the cold. Not to mention, the tremendous heat he could conjure by way of fire at a moment’s notice. As he rose higher still, he felt the clouds whisk past, and it wasn’t until he was a mile or so above the highest peak that something caught his ears.
Or rather, his mind.
Yellow-green eyes snapped open as the words whispered through his thoughts. A call, and a command at the same time. He did not respond immediately, as the magic was not something he had felt in a very long time. Yet after a minute of circling, he was both compelled to, and eager to respond. Tipping his wings and his nose down towards the mountains, Tandlos went into a shallow dive, circling so that he stayed on target. Within a few moments, he was blasting through the clouds and into the snowy sky once again as he searched for the one who called. A moment’s searching found her, and Tandlos steepened his dive, the wind beginning to whistle around his wings and tail in the same way it had when he’d attacked the watch tower. As he neared the ground, he pulled up, spreading his wings and rapidly slowing his descent before he touched down lightly in front of what appeared to be a woman. The courtyard in which he stood was magnificent, larger than anything made by man, but Tandlos spared little gaze for it. His eyes were on the woman.
For a moment, he stood tall in front of her, gazing down at her with an expression that was difficult to read. Then, his front feet dropped to the ground, wings folding to greatly diminish his size and he lowered his head into what was unmistakably a bow with a low hum from deep in his throat. A moment later, after some minor discomfort on his part and a few pops and cracks, he stood as a man, his right hand balled into a fist against his chest while he bowed his head.
“My Queen. I have found you at last.”