Joqout's Story: Chapter One
He lays in silence on the dry ground, weary and bloodied and baking in the sun. He gave up on movement hours ago, just letting the sun beat down on him, too tired, sore, and heartsick to keep plodding on. What is the point, after all? There is nothing left for him, he is lost in the middle of a desert, and he has just killed nine raiding Ignius. Not driven away, not wounded in warning, killed.
Not even the mercy of forgetting is given to him. Though he forgot himself in battle, though he lost control of the horrible rage, he can remember everything he did, as if he were simply an observer in his own body. Were he not so tired, had his attacks not ended in death, he thinks he could even now look back and take pride in how flawlessly his body responded, remembering well the relentless training which he has never expected to use in earnest. It has always been a game, a pass-time, a hobby, training himself, making his body stronger and quicker... a game turned deadly, now.
A game, at least, he is unlikely to ever abuse like this again. He tracked the Ignius clan raiders, forgetting to remember which way he'd come, deep into the desert. When he found them, he killed them, all nine of them. He remembers each one, how he killed them, how they felt, how they fell, what they did in retaliation. Even in his worst battle frenzy, he cannot avoid being wounded entirely, and these raiders fought fiercely once they realized they were under attack. When the job was finished and he staggered from their camp, the weariness that always came after the rage hit him, and he hadn't gotten very far before collapsing from it and his wounds.
Now, he simply lay and waited for death. His whole family, his own small village in the canyon, had been decimated in the first attack. There is nothing for him to return to but a burned-out husks of their houses and bodies he had been too angry to bury when he first found them. He only escaped the initial slaughter, himself, because he had been deeper in the canyon, meditating and, in between periods in which he grew bored with the silence and stillness, indulging in his cursed training.
He knows, now, what had to have happened. His village has always stood its ground against nearby, mobile packs of Ignius clan, at least until now. A simple hunting trip, however, walked into an ambush and turned into a massacre, and it left the villagers next to defenseless. They took some of their attackers with them, but in the end were left dead and dying, for him to stumble upon nearly an hour after the raiders departed. They killed even the children, even the lame old priest who had done his best to teach an anxious, stubborn, impatient pupil these past years since that pupil had turned to the priesthood.
Seeing his mentor, who he has always looked up to and respected, even before he gave up on trying to control the battle rage on his own and sought the peace of the priesthood, dying in the entrance to their underground temple... that had been a shock. Finding his father, not a warrior in any sense of the word and left behind to tend the garden, dead amidst the plants he'd loved... that had hurt. Discovering the body of his little sister, barely a decade out of the shell... that had been the last he could take before the rage took him.
He shuts his eyes, now, remembering. He hates when he looses control... bad enough to go wild, bad enough to hurt, but this time he has killed. Never has he taken the life of another dragon, until now. Never has he thought that, in the midst of it all, he might enjoy taking the life of another dragon: the sick satisfaction as he crushed the throat of one Ignius clan raiders, the rush of pleasure as another fell with a hole in his belly and his insides spilling out, the rightness of speed and strength coming together.... There was a kind of beauty in the movement and the power of it.
But there is no beauty in death! None! Everything in him rebels at the thought. In his weariness, grief, and remorse, even the corpses he had left behind in that camp barely more than a mile behind him had seemed sad and lonely, like the bodies of family and friends in his village.
Even the truly evil deserve the chance to change their ways, he had thought then. They deserve the chance to repent and learn; death deprives them of that.
There must be something wrong with him, he thinks, surely. No Solistien enjoys killing their other Fantasan cousins, not even killing the kind who preys on the weak and kills children. Do they?
There is certainly to be no beauty in his death. The scavengers will come soon, sensing his life slowly seeping away. Not even an otherwise immortal Solistien dragon can stave off death from wounds, blood loss, or exposure to the harsh desert elements. After a night and a day in the heat, he expects there will be little left of him for anyone to mourn but picked bones. He is ready....
He sighs, thought, trying to ignore his thirst, shutting his eyes to the bright sun reflecting off pale sand. If only death wouldn't take so long...!
"D'shia! Hurry up, slow-pacer!"
Audial hallucinations? Surely he isn't that far gone... or is death simply coming more quickly than he had thought?
"I'm coming, I'm coming! What is it?"
The voices are still far away, vague and indistinct with distance. He doesn't have the strength of will to open his eyes and prove to himself he's hearing things.
"I don't know-- but it's big, and it's brown, and-- D'shia, I think it's alive!"
"Well, hurry up, stupid! Maybe it needs help!"
Yes. Yes, he needs help... though he might not deserve it, and he certainly hadn't expected it, he cannot deny that he is in need of help.
"What if it's... you know... dangerous!"
"Come on, Yacint, it's obviously gotta be out cold, or it woulda noticed us and done something by now! We're loud enough, after all."
Or just too weak to do anything about what he heard, which he is. Or, if he had been something dangerous or deceitful, he could be just waiting for them to reach him, so he could pounce. Part of him has the urge to do just that, to warn these children-- they can only be children, so naive and cheerful-- not to approach strange, bloody forms in the desert. The rest of him is too tired, and, despite his previous acceptance of death, now that life seems possible, he is surprised to find that he still wants it, even after everything that has happened.
"Whatever it is, it's all bloody...."
"It's-- Yacint, you idiot, it's just another dragon, like us! Mister Solistien? Hello? Can you hear me?"
All he can manage is a dry-throated groan, but the two children hovering over him both jump at the sound.
"He's still alive! D'shia, what should we do??"
"You stay here-- I'll get Father!"
"D'shia! Don't leave me here!"
"I'll just be a minute!"
"But-- but-- what should I dooooo?"
The little girl's voice is father away, now. "Just stand there and-- and chase away any buzzards that get close!"
"Oh, or wolves, too!"
But the little girl is gone, leaving her nervous playmate, or brother, or simple tagalaong, and the silent, still, finally unconscious Solistien dragon alone in the middle of the desert.
Fantasa and Legend dragons are the intellectual property of Silver Midnight.