Betwixt and Between

Part One: Chapter Nine, Intermission


He slipped back into his room a few hours before dawn, tired of his restless wandering-- just tired, in general-- though his brain was still too full. During the day, he pretended to sleep but tried not to, or paced the room he'd been assigned like a caged animal-- like the caged animal that he was-- refusing visitors unless they were Tavarez, who visited him daily to make sure he ate, or they said the words Tavarez had told him were important: "It's time." Whatever it was time for, he hadn't didn't known-- though now he an idea.

At night the Sanctuary of the Sun was quieter, with fewer people-- and no Yula-- to interrupt him with questions and chatter and hopeful looks. So it was at night that he escaped his cage and prowled the grounds, seeking a breeze or a star-strewn sky, seeking at least the illusion of freedom while he waited anxiously for the reality.

The Sanctuary of the Sun was a pretty enough place, he supposed. Very bright, all in white colors and with sun roofs and open corridors to let in light, but airy enough that it wasn't too hot. This was where Tavarez had brought him, after the trip on the boat down the river, after leading him along a torturous route through a crowded city, onto the back of a large, blue Gepernan dragon, and away from the world he'd spent as long as he could remember on. That had been six days and nights ago.

When he'd left the room that evening, trying not to pant with the heat of his stuffy room and the late summer night, he had gone unerringly to the garden. It was the first place he'd sought out, on his first nightly excursion, and usually it was empty. Tonight, though, it hadn't been. Slowly crossing the simple sitting room attached to the tiny bedroom that was the extent of his cage during the day, he put the scene back together in his head. Even if it hadn't been important, remembering that stranger and that conversation, after over a week of avoiding sleep however he could, it would help keep him awake.

And after escaping sleep with only snatches, an hour caught here and there, that bed, glimpsed through the half-open door into the bedroom, looked so beautifully tempting....

Resolutely sitting in the wooden chair at the small table, facing away from the bedroom, he thought back. He'd sought the gardens, looking for someplace at least a little wild in all the cultivation, and was just stepping out into the heavy night air, when something small, black and silver, catching the faint starlight and flicker of torches from inside the Sanctuary, reflecting it, caught his attention immediately. Whatever it was, it pounced, flashing in the faint glow, then vanished again against darkness. He'd stopped, blinking, trying to pick the creature from the shadows of the unlit garden. There were some snuffling sounds, a rustling of dirt and plants, then a huff of air and paw-falls coming towards him. Whatever it was, it was downwind from him, so he couldn't smell it-- but as it left the shadows, he'd blinked with surprise. A small, black dragon with a silver belly and spikes all along its neck. It looked... oddly familiar, though he had no idea where it could have been from.

When the little dragon saw him, demanding to know if he needed anything, he'd been quick to back away and apologize-- needlessly, but out of habit. The gardens didn't belong to little black dragons, and he hadn't meant to disturb. That, however, was when the strangeness started, and he remembered the conversation clearly....

"You weren't disturbing me," the little dragon said, a little quickly, ears perking forward. "I just wasn't expecting anyone to be there. It's not like I own this place, after all, so you don't have to leave."

He relaxed a little as the hostility faded, and forced his hands to keep from wringing themselves. He stuck them into his pockets, instead. "I was just looking for somewhere outside, really... this is the first place I found."

The dragon settled back on his haunches, stretching his wings a little then refolding them on his back. "Why so antsy? It's not like I'm going to eat you or anything, pup."

The designation "pup" had surprised him, but he shook his head a little, and started further outside, tired of the walls. The black dragon wasn't stopping him, at least. "It's nothing. Just summer."

" ... ah. It's always good to get outdoors during the summer, away from females and to clear your head."

That had been the first sign that something was going to change. He stopped, staring at the dragon in momentary confusion. How could he know? No one else had the same... madness he did. Why would they? The golden eyes narrowed at him when he didn't answer. "What's the matter, pup? Haven't you ever heard of breeding season before? Three months during the summer?"

Of course he hadn't. No one else had ever felt the same things he did, spoke of the coming of summer with loathing and longing, or even so much as hinted that they hated walls and feared people for three months out of the year. Because this little dragon had, he'd moved so quickly and eagerly to him that he couldn't remember the steps in between, and he'd startled the dragon badly. Once he'd apologized and was forgiven, he finally learned one of the many things that had always nagged at him, for as long as he could remember: he learned what he was.

"You mean you don't know what a draclin'geyar is?" the little dragon had asked.

"No... I'm sorry, should I? --I'm Vagrant, by the way," he added, picking a name at the spur of the moment.

"Hemlock," the black dragon answered, inclining his head politely. "Well, as you are one, I should expect you to know what one is?"

"I've never known," Vagrant breathed. "Not as long as I can remember."

"Well," Hemlock began, with a slight 'hmm'. "A draclin'geyar, which is what you mostly are... I think you have something else, too... is a crossbreed between human and a type of kien dragon called intyrpre. We're roughly the size of humans in both forms, or about the size of a large dog when on all fours. We have elemental magic, good psionics, and magical senses.... And we're from Gevorn originally, but... well... it's hard to explain. I'm from Kvria province, which was destroyed, on Tselene. Now most are from that area or from Pre'Mian."

He had listened intently, trying to memorize all that in one sitting, nodding at each point, though he didn't understand it all-- what was a kien, or an intyrpre? Where was Kvria, and how was it destroyed? He'd asked questions, but now that he thought back, there were so many more he'd wished he'd asked. His dreaming, his other world, was not normal for a draclin'geyar-- but running away from people in the summer, the madness, was. Perhaps not with as much fear and panic as he had usually attributed to it, but then, he hadn't known what it was. Perhaps now it wouldn't be so bad, now that he knew.

Hemlock hadn't known anything about the dreaming, though. He'd had a couple ideas, but none of them seemed to fit.... He'd been a little disappointed-- but only a little. He knew what he was, at least. The rest... well, it was a start. "Thank you," he'd said.

"You're welcome. So what are you doing here, anyway?"

"A-- friend," Vagrant guessed that Tavarez was a friend: he seemed nice enough, and at least they both liked fish, "brought me. He says something here will help me."

"Dragon eggs?" The black dragon's ears swiveled forward. "That would make the most sense."

That was the first he'd heard of anything to do with dragons, but it didn't make a lot of sense-- not the dragons he knew of. "The only thing I know about dragons is that they take things from you, to survive, themselves." He paused, then, remembering he was talking to a dragon-- one who was very different from Mythicalaean or Gepernan dragons. "I'm guessing that's a different kind...."

Hemlock, thankfully, had not been offended. These dragons, too, were different, he'd said: Nexiian dragons, or Alskyrian dragons, some kind of mixed species that he couldn't remember, and they didn't feed off of their bonds the way Mythicalaean dragons did. According to Hemlock, those were probably why he was here. The hatching was due any day. Having a name to give to his mysterious "cure" helped him imagine a little better what was to come-- he knew, now, what Tavarez had meant by requiring a lifestyle change, and a responsibility! But it also raised even more questions: How would a dragon help him? Could a dragon go between worlds with him? And if he could, what if the Others hurt it? What if the dragon didn't like him-- what if he didn't like the dragon?

There were too many questions, too many thoughts. His head hurt. He scrubbed at his tired eyes with the palm of his hand, and caught, out of the corner of his eye, another glimpse of the bed. Beautiful, tempting, comfortable bed-- with the sleep his body craved.

If you keep going without sleep, it seemed to say, you're going to really go mad. So come sleep. You know you want to.

"I'm already there, and I'm not going to sleep," he answered it, and got up resolutely to pace again.


The Hatching

Chapter Ten: Finale



Song borrowed from Five for Fighting's "Two Frogs", on the Message for Albert album

Draclin'geyar are the Creative Property of Silver Midnight; Fleshshifters are the Creative Property of Drakiera

Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight; the character Hemlock is used with permission.