Chapter One: On the Trail
“You always approach the nest from the north. Dragons never build their nests facing north. This is pretty much the only advantage you’ll get; everything else is just skills lad….Jarkan, are you listening?”
Jarkan started, but managed to keep a straight face.
“Yes Master Golak….approach the nest from north, got it.”
Golak looked at the boy on his side and sighed. He remembered when he was taken on his first hunt. He was excited and afraid at the same time…well perhaps more afraid. Much like Jarkan. He himself was much older than the boy when he did his first hunt, but he had no choice. The boy had to do his training on the job.
He pointed his large staff towards the mountain in front of them and spoke up making sure Jarkan was not daydreaming again.
“The Goor Caves beneath the Hormoz Mountains. That’s where we are headed. Keep your eyes open and your ears sharp if you want to get out of this with your head still attached.”
The boy shivered as if imagining himself without a head. Perhaps Golak was too harsh on the boy, but being afraid made your senses sharper and where they were headed, they needed them sharp.
The closer they got to the mountain, the quieter it got. A warm breeze flew by picking up dust and throwing it in their faces. Jarkan squinted.
What was he doing here? He wanted to be back in the village with Molir. It was late summer and the best time to score some free pomegranates. Jarkan’s village, Hooran, produced the best pomegranates in the whole of Ferdows. Every family living in Hooran was in one way or the other linked to pomegranates. The mayor had the biggest orchard and he employed half the village to either plant more trees or pick them when they were ready. And they were ready now. Jarkan and Molir went on a pomegranate hunt every year. They were caught twice by the mayor himself and Jarkan remembered his father’s reaction to that. The thought of it made his back side throb. Molir had gotten it worse than he did though. He couldn’t sit for a week. The following summer however, the pain was forgotten and they were back to their usual mischief.
The thought of ripe red pomegranates shining in the sun waiting to be picked and eaten by them made his mouth water, but as soon as he looked up at the looming mountain in front of them, his mouth dried up like a puddle of water under the sun.
“Master Golak, how do you know which egg to take? I’ve heard the Hunters only take two eggs from the nest at any time.”Jarkan imagined eggs the size of his head being guarded by a protective mother.
The question put a smile on Golak’s face. The boy was not daydreaming after all.
“That is something learned my boy. No Hunter can answer that question. It takes years of learning, not to mention staying alive, that makes one a Hunter.”
The truth was, in most cases only one of the eggs survived; that was the reason Hunters grabbed more than one. But he wasn’t going to tell the boy that. He looked at Jarkan walking beside him trying to keep up and gave him a pad on the shoulder.
“I have been doing this for some time now lad, no worries. You’ll get to see your family again.”
Somehow that didn’t give Jarkan any relief. They were headed for a dragon’s lair to get eggs that were guarded by their fire breathing mother.
“Master Golak? Why do we bother with this?….I mean if we leave them alone, they will let us be too right? Why would they attack us if we stop taking their Younglings?”
Golak had heard the very same question a hundred times throughout his years as a Hunter, and now with all the killings and pillaging of the villages by angry dragons, people were wondering if taking their Younglings was a wise move.
“Taking the eggs and raising the Youngling is necessary Jarkan. How can we survive without them? The only reason the dragons have not burnt down the whole of Ferdows is because of us and those Younglings.”
Jarkan was listening intently to the Hunter now and nodding his head in agreement with Golak.
“…People who have lost a loved one have a hard time looking past their grief and see the reason behind all of this. A dragon raised by a Hunter is bound to him for the rest of the Hunter’s life. They become the protectors of the places they were raised in. No dragon will fight a Youngling. They will spare the village and its people if it is guarded by a Youngling.”
Jarkan nodded as the Hunter stopped talking. It made sense to him, but why would the dragons stop attacking a village with a Youngling guarding it? He was about to ask when Golak stopped and started staring at something ahead of them. Jarkan followed his gaze and gasped. The gaping black hole leading to the Goor Caves was now visible to them. This was really happening. After today he would be known as a Hunter. Probably much sooner than most of the Hunters out there. Well, if he managed to come away with his head still attached.
Golak shaded his eyes with his hands and looked up. The time was right. They could be in and out of the Cave before sunset. One thing he had learned from all the years as a Hunter was not to be caught out in the dark with two dragon eggs. Those eggs began glowing as soon as they were taken out of their nests. Golak had found that out the hard way and had almost lost his life for it. The mother was returning from a hunt and had spotted him. Golak was almost crushed by a 900 lbs horse she was carrying to her nest. She had let go of her dinner as the sight of her eggs and Golak was right beneath her and her dinner. He was lucky to get away with a broken leg and a couple of bruised ribs.
He shook his head to get those images out of his head. He had to be extra careful today. Jarkan’s family expected the boy to return to Hooran in one piece. He had never lost an apprentice and he wasn’t going to start today, even if it was Jarkan’s first hunt. He looked at the boy and pointed towards the caves.
“Stay close to me and be quiet.” Soon the two of them were swallowed by the shades of the mountain as they began climbing towards the Caves.
Chapter Two: The Gathering
High above the clouds, twelve dragons sat in a circle on the summit of Hormoz Mountain. The air was frigid and the winds never stopped howling, yet the great beasts sat there untouched by cold or wind. Their scales shone brightly in the midday sun like a rainbow after a fresh rain.
“It has been prophesized. This is the day of resurrection. The boy is born and his destiny awaits him.”
Joorak moved his massive body sending a ripple through his scales. He was pure black and the oldest amongst them. He had called for the Twelve to come together. He hummed deep in his throat as the rest of the dragons began shifting in their places, in spite of knowing about the boy’s birth; they were all there; well, all but one. He raised his head and waited for the response that he knew would come. He didn’t have to wait for long. Snark growled and raised his voice. It was deep and full of hatred.
“You speak of prophecies Joorak while dragons are slaughtered throughout Ferdows for nothing more than retrieving their young. How can a boy, a human, change anything? Humans have been killing our kind for centuries. You don’t expect them to stop because of a boy do you?”
Snark was the leader of the oldest dragon sect in Ferdows. The only way Joorak had any chance to sway the others to his side was to get Snark to at least agree on a temporary halt on the attacks; then again if things went his way, none of them would leave the mountain top today. He waited till the others settled back down before speaking.
“You are right Snark. We have been fighting this battle for a long time. My earliest memories are of blood and death. Everyone here knows that the prophecies have never failed us. They have been handed down to us by our ancestors who were given those by Those Who are Absent. Everyone here except you were there last night. Perhaps you would have a different opinion of things if you were present at his birth. The boy was born at midnight not far from where we are Snark.”
He paused to let his words sink in. No dragon had doubts about their past and how they came to be. Every dragon knew that Those Who are Absent gave their breath to create the first dragon. And from the first dragon, the prophecies were passed down to others.
The dragons in front of him nodded, even Snark nodded, though a very slight one. He knew about the boy’s birth, but it took more than that to convince him.
“The First told our ancestor of the day that humans and dragons will live side by side in peace. That is the essence of the prophecies itself.”Joorak eyed the great beasts sitting in front of him and continued.”It is foretold that a human will be born and will merge with a dragon becoming one; of the same lifeblood. The boy is amongst us already and the dragon will be born today, here; much like Those Who are Absent gave their breath to the First.”
Snark raised his neck and flapped his wings.
“Listen to yourself Joorak…you speak of things that have not come to pass in thousands of years. The magic that ran through the veins of our ancestors has left us. All there is left to us is anger and deceit. How many Younglings have we lost this year alone? Twenty? Thirty? We are running out of places to hide, to hibernate and build our nests. I remember the days when the kings and queens of Ferdows looked kindly on us. Some even used our kind to guard their treasures. Even those days have come to pass Joorak. How can we wash the anger away? How can we live in harmony with those who steal our future and leave mothers behind blind to anything else but revenge? Where would you be Joorak if a Hunter had stolen you from your mother’s nest? You can’t expect any of us here to forget and forgo of the anger that has been running through our veins for thousands of years for a human, do you?”
“Be calm Snark. Don’t set your blood boiling. We are here to find a solution. You are here for the same reason as all of us. I agree with what you say about our past; however, today, we hold the future in our hands.”
Joorak opened his massive claws and revealed a large egg. It was glowing green in the shadow of Joorak’s wing. Like the ancient Forest of Meean where it came from. The dragons stirred and strained their necks to get a closer look at the egg. There were two intertwining Snakes wrapped around the surface of the egg. They glowed a deep blue, like the waters of the Aryn Ocean. The Twelve gasped, breathing out smoke through their nostrils.
“So it is true.”Said the red dragon closest to Joorak.
“The prophecies are true. This is the Egg of Union. The markings are true. There shall be an Amalgamation.”Others nodded their heads and moved closer to see the markings. Joorak hummed again.
“The boy was born at midnight last night. The Egg of Union shall give birth at high noon.”He looked up at the sun almost directly over the summit.”There isn’t much time. We must help the Youngling inside….When the moon travels the skies and stands high amongst stars, there shall be born a man whose destiny is bound to those of the sky travelers….This part of the prophecy has already come to pass. As the Earth turns and the moon fades, the sun shall shine its rays on the twelve pillars of the land. There, amongst the pillars will the Egg of Union give rise to a Sky Traveler who shall follow his destiny and look upon the face of his Earth Traveler’s brother. There, where the sky and earth meet, shall they amalgamate and become of the same lifeblood. Hence forth shall they be known as the Truth Bringer and bring about a new age for those that travel the skies and those who walk the earth….“Joorak stopped and looked at those around him. The twelve pillars of Ferdows.
“Have no doubt dragons. Our time has come. Our destiny has led us to this moment. It is through us that this Amalgamation shall take place.”He spoke that to the group, but his eyes were on Snark.
The golden dragon knew the truth of those words the moment he had heard them. He threw his head back and shrieked into the wind.
There, high above the clouds and under the midday sun, the twelve dragons sat in a circle around the Egg of Union with closed eyes. Nothing stirred; even the winds seemed to have stopped. When the sun was directly above the Egg, Joorak opened his eyes and spoke:
“Through our blood and binding breath, so shall it be done.”He opened his mouth and a stream of white flame shot out and hit the Egg. One by one the dragons spoke those words and joined in bathing the Egg of Union with their breaths. Snark was last. He took in a deep breath and his voice carried over the streaming fire that was raging within the circle.
“Through our blood and binding breath, so shall it be done.”He opened his mouth and his breath joined those of the others. The intertwining snakes on the Egg began to move and dance as if alive. The Egg never stopped glowing. As the dragons’ breath continued bathing the Egg, it began to grow. The snakes grew with the Egg, but uncoiled their bodies from one another. Now they were chasing each other, one trying to catch up with the other.
Steam rose from the rocks beneath the Egg as they started to melt under the intense heat. The Egg of Union began pulsating and as the snakes merged with one another once more, it burst into a thousand pieces sending them high into the sky. There, on top of the melting rocks sat a Youngling as green as Earth with two intertwining snakes going the length of his back shining as blue as the sky.
When the Youngling took his first breath, the twelve dragons stopped theirs and fell where they were sitting. A white mist rose from the body of the giant creatures and came together above the Youngling. The Youngling looked up at the spinning mist as it descended and engulfed him.
For a moment nothing could be seen but the mist as it spun around the Youngling faster and faster till it finally burst from the inside leaving behind a single glowing sphere which floated over the Youngling before descending and disappearing between the thin horns of the newly born dragon.
Soon after the dragons left the circle, their bodies turned to dust and was carried away by the breeze and spread throughout Ferdows as a reminder of what they had sacrificed.
The just born dragon looked up and coughed throwing a fist sized ball of fire at the nearest rock melting it instantly. With the life breath of the Twelve raging within him, he took his first steps.
Standing there at the edge and looking into the far horizon, he wondered: Where am I?
Chapter Three: The Awakening
Jarkan and Golak stood in front of the entrance of the Goor Caves looking into the darkness. Jarkan could hear his heart beat as it grew faster and faster. This was really happening, he was going to a dragon’s lair. All other thought left him as the reality hit home. What if the mother snaps my head off as Master Golak had said? What if I get ripped to shreds by her giant claws? What if….he shook his head. No, I will do this. I will be a Hunter. Wait till Molir sees me with an egg. He wished his father was still alive to see him become a Hunter. He would be proud of him. The last thought gave him a little courage, just enough for him to straighten his back. He looked up at Golak whose eyes were still searching the shadows. Finally, the Hunter looked at him and smiled squeezing his hand.
“You shall never forget this day lad, for today you will become a man.”With that they both stepped into the Cave and were swallowed by the darkness.
Jarkan tightened his grip on Golak’s hand. He couldn’t see a thing. It reminded him of the time when he had fallen into the old well at the back of their garden. His father had found him hours after the sun had set. He clung to his father very much the same way he was holding on to Golak’s hand.
Somewhere ahead of them a drop of water hit the rocks which echoed through the darkness. Golak stopped briefly and lowering himself, he whispered into Jarkan’s ear.
“Here, your eyes are useless to you Jarkan. Open up your ears and let your instincts guide you. Become one with the darkness around you, it is only then that you can find your path to the nest.”
Become one with the darkness? I’m already one with it, Jarkan thought. He raised his free hand in front of his face….nothing. He couldn’t even see his own hand barely a foot in front of him, how was he supposed to find the nest? That thought had barely entered his mind when he heard a low grumbling sound that traveled through the Cave and made the rocks vibrate.
“What was that Master Golak? Was that..?”
“Shhhh…be quiet lad, remember what I told you.”
They continued forward. Jarkan couldn’t help but think that they were headed straight for whatever sound they had just heard. His hand was sweating, but he didn’t dare let go now. They passed a large opening that felt like a large room carved out of stone. There was a slight breeze in the air. It felt good on Jarkan’s sweaty forehead. They kept on straight and were walking for what seemed like hours when Jarkan realized his eyes could see some shadows on the rocks around them. Those rocks seemed to have a faint glow to them. The Hunter pointed to those rocks and whispered in his ears.
“Dragon’s breath. That’s why they are glowing.”
He gasped. So this place was carved with dragon’s breath?
As the two of them continued walking, Jarkan noticed that the shades were becoming shorter. There was light up ahead. However from that distance it looked barely larger than a candle flame. Golak stopped and pulled out a small bottle and opened its cap. A musky smell filled up the air around them. He took a drink and handed the bottle to Jarkan.
“Drink. It will help mask our smell.”Jarkan sniffed . The smell made his nose wrinkle. Under the gaze of the Hunter he forced the bottle to his lips and took a drink. It felt cold going down his throat. It had a mossy, earthy taste. He handed the bottle back to Golak and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. They stood there for a few more moments before heading towards the flickering light.
A few feet from the opening, the Hunter pulled Jarkan down and they both crouched in the shadows the light threw on the walls. The opening in front of them was massive and the light came from the glowing rocks beyond it. But this was nothing like what Jarkan had seen earlier. The rocks glittered as if they were made out of crystals. Their reflection bounced off of each other and created a pool of colors that left him mesmerized. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
A warm breeze blew in their faces for a brief moment before stopping abruptly. It came at them at intervals and made Jarkan’s skin tingle every time it hit his face. Slowly the Hunter began moving to the edge of the opening pulling Jarkan with him.
Jarkan’s mouth was dry and his heart was beating so loud he was afraid it would give them away at any second. They stopped right where the light met the shadows and raised their heads. Jarkan almost screamed in awe. In front of them, about thirty feet away, was the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on. Its scales were deep red and their radiant glow made the rocks around them look hauntingly beautiful . It had a long neck and a massive head that rested on the rocky ground. Its head was narrow and it had two long thin horns that rested behind its ears. Its nostrils were the size of Jarkan’s hands put together and as the dragon took a breath and let it out, Jarkan realized where the warm breeze was coming from. He ran his eyes on the body of the dragon. It was large enough to fit in the mayor’s house; and the mayor’s house was the biggest in Haroon. Its wing facing him was stretched out as if protecting something under it. Its feet were tucked under its body and its tail seemed to be longer than its body. The end of it twitched. Like a snake with its tail caught in a trap trying to get away. Strangely though, Jarkan wasn’t feeling any fear from the dragon. As a matter of fact, he felt a sense of calmness by being near such a beautiful creature.
The Hunter looked at the boy and his reaction to the dragon and smiled. All of them behaved the same way the first time. Fear and respect. The boy though seemed to be taken back a little more than the others. There was no fear in his eyes, but then again, how could he not feel fear at the sight of a female dragon sitting on her eggs. He moved a little to get the boy’s attention. He didn’t want him numb from fear. They had to be sharp.
The mother dragon was sleeping and that made Golak smile. This was the first for him. Dragons slept for days on end when sitting on their eggs. However when they closed their eyes, only hunger and thirst would awaken them.
Let’s hope this one won’t get hungry anytime soon, Golak thought. He reached into his pouch and put on his gloves. They were made of the wings of a dragon and were always warm, as if they were still attached to the dragon they were made from. Golak had made those himself. He could grab a dragon’s wing with them and the creature would not feel a thing. He motioned to Jarkan to stay where he was and crawled into the room.
When the Hunter moved into the room and towards the sleeping dragon, a feeling began to rise within Jarkan that made him frown. What was he doing there? How could he steal an egg from a creature this magnificent? All the feelings that he had before entering the Cave had vanished and were replaced by a feeling of guilt and shame. Those eggs were the dragon’s babes. Stealing them was like stealing a mother’s babes. What if someone had snatched him away from his mother when he was born? No, this in not right.
The Hunter was now laid next to the dragon’s outstretched wing. He reached and lifted the wing exposing four large eggs. The mother dragon’s breathing never changed. Jarkan felt anger rising in him as the Hunter pulled out his pouch and lifted the first egg.
“NO…You can’t do that! Put it back.”
His voice echoed in the room and down the Cave. The Hunter’s mouth fell open and his eyes wide. He looked at Jarkan as the mother dragon stirred. She lowered her wing as if making sure the eggs were still there. Her eyes opened and her thin horns stood up; she knew. The Hunter was climbing back towards Jarkan his eyes full of anger. The dragon shrieked and shook her massive body. The whole mountain shook and dirt escaped the rocks somewhere over Jarkan’s head hitting him in the face; but he didn’t care. Jarkan stood in the opening blocking the Hunter’s way.
“Put those back Master Golak…no.”
He pushed back the Hunter as he reached Jarkan and slapped him across the face.
“what do you think you are doing boy? You want us both to get killed? Move, before she sets us both ablaze.”He grabbed his staff and ran passed Jarkan, but the boy did not move. He looked straight ahead with teary eyes.
When his vision cleared again, the dragon’s head was only a few feet from his face. They both held their gaze not moving a muscle. Her eyes were as bright and clear as morning dew. The mother dragon locked eyes with him for a moment longer and with a flap of her wings took off after the Hunter leaving Jarkan standing there in awe.
Chapter Four: The Search
The Youngling scanned the land stretched out in front of him. His eyes rested on the northern horizon. He took a deep breath and let the coolness enter his young body as he spread his wings. They were twice the length of his body and as the wind filled them, he felt the impending flight and his heart began to beat faster in his chest. His first flight.
He soared over the clouds, letting the sun wash over him. His scales shining like a deep clear emerald. He flew across the vast skies feeling the joy of his existence, of the infinite possibilities that lay ahead of him. At the zenith of his exuberance, he felt a tiny speck of light in the back of his mind as it entered his consciousness. The speck of light grew and as it filled the boundaries of his mind, it burst deep within him leaving him empty of all that he had felt. The young dragon threw his head back and cried into the wind. When the emptiness had settled over him, it left but one feeling behind. The urge to be whole again. It gnawed at his mind, overwhelmed him, making sure that he felt its heaviness. Yes, he thought. That is my purpose, what I must do. I shall find what I have lost…..I will become whole again.
Chapter Five: The Truth
On shaky legs, Jarkan turned and looked back into the darkness. A brief moment later he saw a bright flash and thought he heard a scream. Then everything went silent. What was going on? She didn’t kill….? No. He held his head with both hands.
After a few long moments he began realizing what he had just done. He had awakened the dragon who was chasing Master Golak in the Caves. What would his father say to all of this? He would be disappointed in him. Strangely, that was the only thought that occurred to him. He wasn’t worried about the dragon hurting him. In the back of his mind, he knew that he had done the right thing.
Ever since he had lost his father, Jarkan always felt empty inside; like something was missing in his life. He always thought the loss of his father had made him feel like the way he did. However, standing there, waiting for the dragon to return, he did not feel empty anymore. A strange stillness overtook him as he remembered those eyes again. He had seen no hatred in her eyes. Jarkan didn’t know how, but they somehow looked familiar to him, as if he had looked into those eyes before. He knew that was impossible, however there was something there that had awakened new feelings in him. Jarkan didn’t move. He stood there waiting, someone would come back for him. The dragon would return.
Shaleema opened her mouth and streams of white flames sprayed the walls of the Cave. She knew she could kill the human who had taken her eggs with one breath, but she didn’t want to harm her eggs. It had taken a century to lay those eggs and with the number of Hunters increasing, her eggs were even more precious to her. Besides, she had to keep the location of her nest hidden from humans as long as it was possible.
As she glided down the tunnel chasing her eggs though, her mind was back at her nest. Those eyes. She had sensed something in those eyes and was hoping that she was right. First things first though. With an effort Shaleema brought her mind back to the present.
She gave a loud shriek shaking the mountain as she sped up ahead. She couldn’t let her eggs leave the mountain. It was still daytime and the human could hide anywhere out theree and she wouldn’t be able to find her eggs. There, right at the entrance of the Cave, her jaws closed on the arm of the Hunter; with a jerk, she ripped it out. The pouch was still hanging from it when she backed up slowly into the darkness. The screams of the man filled the belly of the mountain as she headed back to her nest.
The night of his birth, the skies over Hooran had filled with dragons circling over the village noiselessly. The wolves howled in the distance and the moon stopped right over his house in anticipation. Jarkan smiled every time his mother told him that story. Dragons and wolves. None sense. He didn’t mind hearing it though. His father also told him that for a long time after his birth, no dragons attacked any villages in Ferdows. He would always smile and ruffle his hair as he told him the story. It was the only time that his father would smile and play with him. He told Jarkan that he was a special boy; so special that the dragons danced in the skies celebrating his birth. A sign that he would become a great Hunter and bring honor to Hooran and the whole of Ferdows. His father would then point to his forearm-where two lines wrapped around each other like two snakes- and say that it was a mark of a true Hunter. The man who could tame the two snakes, would be able to tame any dragon. His father had told him the story of how two snakes had merged together through ancient magic and had given birth to the first dragon. Taming those two snakes meant controlling the fate of the dragons. He told him the two lines on his arm meant that he was the one to take down the dragons for good. Jarkan didn’t know if his father was serious or not, either way he liked those moments he spent with him. Jarkan’s father had died when he was only six and the only memories of him were of the times when he would sit Jarkan on his lap and talk about his destiny while ruffling his hair.
Jarkan remembered the day when the first Hunter had come to Hooran. He was a guest of the mayor and was there trying to look for apprentices amongst the village boys. The word spread quickly and soon all the boys had gathered in front of the mayor’s house trying to get a glimpse of the man who went into the belly of the beast and brought back its eggs.
He came out and talked to the boys who listened to his words intently. His face was weathered and he looked to be in his middle years, however his eyes were sharp and his shoulders broad. Hunters trained the dragons once the eggs hatched. They were called Younglings and they stayed close to their trainers. He told them that many of the dragons were given to different villages to stop other dragons from attacking them. Jarkan couldn’t wait till Hooran got one. Nothing ever happened in Hooran. It was such a boring place that not even a dragon bothered attacking it.
After the Hunter had left without taking anyone with him, Jarkan would jump out of his bed in the middle of the night with every noise that sounded like flapping wings or a shriek that the dragons were known for making. One night when the neighbor’s barn had caught fire, Jarkan was sure it was the work of a dragon, till to his disappointment , he had found out that the cause of the fire was not a fire breathing beast, but a tipped over lantern.
He had almost given up on the thought of seeing a dragon or becoming a Hunter when one day Golak was back in Hooran. This time the Hunter would not leave without taking a boy with him. The mayor had gathered everyone at the square and had told them that Ferdows was in turmoil. The dragons were attacking every village and town throughout the land leaving behind nothing but death and destruction. Something had to be done and the king himself had dispatched his best Hunters throughout Ferdows to recruit the bravest amongst the young to become Hunters.
It was the day after Golak’s arrival that Jarkan was picked to be the first Hunter from Hooran. He was happy and wished his father could see him there standing next to Golak while the Hunter told the villagers of the task in front of them and how he planned to make a man out of Jarkan before he returned to Hooran with a Youngling of his own.
Golak had planned to take Jarkan with him to be trained when he received a message that a new nest had been discovered only half a day’s walk from Hooran. Golak had dismissed it at first saying that a dragon this close to the village would have attacked it by now or at the very least had to be seen by one of the villages around here. He had sent a pigeon back with a message for confirmation. The bird returned with the message reassuring the Hunter of the dragon’s lair in the Hormorz Mountain. The next day, Jarkan and Golak set out towards the Mountain in the hopes of finding dragon eggs.
Shaleema, holding the limp arm in her teeth, headed back to her nest. There was something in those eyes that had moved her heart. And a dragon’s heart never lied. She knew of the prophecies and every dragon in Ferdows knew what the Twelve did on top of Hormoz Mountain. She had chosen her nest because of that since it was there, at the very same mountain, high above the clouds, that the dragons gave their breath to the Egg of Union. Shaleema felt safe there, deep in the belly of the Mountain. Well, she did, till the humans showed up. But she was still right in choosing these caves. After all she had met with the one whom her forefathers had spoken of. The one that would bring forth a new age for dragons and humans. She had seen it in those eyes. She picked up her speed as her heart began beating faster.
Jarkan looked down at his forearms. The two lines throbbed. They did so ever since he had walked into the dragon’s lair. He turned and looked into the darkness. He could feel that warm breeze again. The mother dragon was coming back, however, he didn’t move. He turned around and stepped into her nest and sat down in a corner hugging his knees. He felt no fear. Looking around, he couldn’t help thinking that he belonged there; right here in the nest, next to the remaining eggs. But why?
He didn’t know. Perhaps the mother dragon had the answer. Jarkan had heard that some of the Hunters became so close to their Younglings that they communicated with them. Molir had actually asked a Hunter and according to him, it was only possible for Hunters to do so. At least that’s what Molir said. As far as Jarkan knew, Golak was the only Hunter ever to set foot in Hooran.
Either way Jarkan wasn’t a Hunter, but this feeling he had since coming here was something different and it had to do with dragons.
Shaleema could smell the human now. He was still there. How come he didn’t run away? She glided into her nest and saw the boy sitting in the corner. Keeping an eye on him, she walked to her eggs and sat next to them facing Jarkan. From the look on the boy’s face, she realized she was still holding the arm with the pouch. With a yank of her head, she threw the arm across the room and used her teeth to rip the pouch rolling the eggs next to the others. She opened her mouth and breathed on the eggs.
Jarkan almost jumped as the dragon blew a stream of white flames at the eggs. She had noticed him there and hadn’t done anything. How am I suppose to find out anything from a dragon? He felt silly for thinking that he could talk with her. A dragon talking to a human. He almost smiled at the thought. Perhaps his question would be answered by one of the Hunters. Jarkan knew he could talk to them.
I need to go see if Golak is still alive. The limp arm between the dragon’s teeth had given him the chills. He has to be alive. He has to be.
Jarkan stood slowly knowing fully that the dragon’s eyes were on him as he headed towards the Cave. He was about to leave the nest when the dragon behind him stirred. Jarkan looked back. She was shaking her head up and down. What is she doing? The dragon took a step towards him and kept shaking her head. Jarkan threw up his hands in frustration.
“I don’t know what you want from me.”Hearing his own voice echoed in the room startled him a little.
“What are you doing Jarkan? Talking to an animal now?”He threw his head back and began laughing.
“I am NOT an animal…”The voice was smooth and clear, yet seeped with indignation.
Jarkan almost choked trying to control his laugh.
“Did you just? Wait….You understand me, but how?”
The mother dragon turned her neck to the side and kept her eyes on him.
“Your eyes told me we would be able to talk to each other. No dragon has spoken to a human for a millennia, yet here we are. Times are changing human. “Her teeth shone in the room. A perfect set of white teeth that could turn boulders into pebbles. Jarkan swallowed audibly; she still hasn’t told me how we can talk? He could see the dragon’s mouth move, but no words came out; yet, he had no problem understanding her. Either way he was glad to be able to talk to a dragon.
“I am…Jarkan from Hooran.”He raised his hand and pointed towards the Cave. The village was somewhere behind him.
Shaleema raised her neck at the sight of the snakes on the boy’s outstretched arm. She glided towards Jarkan putting her snout on his arm hoping what she saw were indeed the markings she knew well.
“Let me see your arm again Jarkan of Hooran. Show me the snakes.”Jarkan stood there frozen. The giant dragon had leapt for him and was now touching him with her nose. It felt cool, like ice; yet the feeling he had walking into the room never left him. Even the touch felt familiar.
“The what? Snakes?”He rolled up his sleeve and pointed to the lines.”You mean these lines? Oh its nothing. I was born with these.”
Shaleema’s eyes shone brightly at the sight of the snakes. The prophecies had come true indeed. This was the human the Twelve had given up their breath for. Well, half the reason.
She was so distracted by her thoughts that she didn’t realize the boy was touching her face. She let him.
“How come you didn’t eat me dragon? I am a Hunter you know.”Jarkan kept running his free hand up and down the bright scales on the mother dragon’s face.
“A true human indeed…Do you know what these markings mean Jarkan?”She growled as Jarkan accidentally poked her in the eye.
“Eh…Sorry. The markings? No, they are just birth marks. Everyone has one or two, nothing special.”
“Nothing special? You have a lot to learn…come. Seat by me and open your ears for what I am about to tell you will change your life…our lives, forever.”
The words spun in Jarkan’s head and he had a hard time keeping up with Shaleema. She had told him that was her name. He didn’t know dragons had names. There was a lot he didn’t know. Egg of Union? Merging of a dragon and a human? By the time Shaleema had stopped talking, Jarkan’s shoulders had dropped and he was holding his head in his hands again.
“Where is the Youngling then Shaleema? The one I’m supposed to you know…amal..?
” Amalgamate with, the joining of you and a dragon. I do not know where the Youngling is Jarkan. The prophecies speak of you two finding each other.”
Jarkan was leaning on Shaleema and felt the dragon’s icy scales through his shirt. It didn’t bother him. He lifted his head and looked at Shaleema.
“What am I to do? How can I go back now after what’s happened?”
He imagined Golak running through the village with an arm missing telling everyone he knew what he had done. His mother would not spare him this time. They might even throw him out of Hooran for good. He had left hoping to return as a Hunter, but all he had done was gotten himself into trouble and almost had Golak killed, if he wasn’t dead already.
“I can’t go back Shaleema, not after all of this. If what you are saying is true then I need to find this Youngling you are talking about.”The dragon raised her head in protest and growled. Jarkan threw up his hands.
“Ok ok. I must admit things have not been the same with me since coming here. Where did you say the Twelve met? The dragon leaders?”He pointed up with his finger.”Up there?”
The dragon nodded her massive head, shaking her thin horns.
“Yes. And you must make the journey on your own. It is your destiny and you are the one who must walk the path Jarkan.”
Jarkan looked up into the darkness above. The mountain was familiar to him. As a kid he came here and spent hours exploring the rocks and camping in its shadow. Its looming height gave him a sense of security, of being safe; like a father looking over his son. However, he had never climbed the mountain. His mother let him come here only after he had promised not to climb the mountain by himself.
Now he was supposed to do so and it wasn’t just any climb, but one that took him high above the clouds. Years ago two villagers had disappeared attempting to conquer the mountain. He sighed and walked back over to Shaleema. The dragon read his eyes.
“The fastest way is if you stay within Hormoz. The Caves will take you there safely. I will show you the way.”
The dragon left the room with Jarkan following her closely. This time around, Jarkan didn’t need any help finding his way in the dark. He knew where he was going. They walked for a long time before they stopped in a large room with two doorways ahead of them. Shaleema opened her mouth and breathed on the rocks around them making spakle. The room was filled with a faint glow, bright enough for Jarkan to notice the two large openings in front of him. The dragon pointed to the one on the right.
“This is a passageway to the summit. It was carved by dragons. In the years passed, they escaped humans and Hunters seeking safety within the mountains.”She stepped closer to Jarkan and sat on her back legs and reached under her right wing and ripped out a scale and dropped it in Jarkan’s hands. He gasped as the shiny scale began losing its coolness. He looked up Shaleema. The dragon opened her mouth and blew at the scale. It immediately began warming in Jarkan’s hands.
“This will keep you alive when you leave the Caves Jarkan. You are going to the place where the Twelve left their bodies. No human can survive that place. This will see you safely to the top”
Jarkan looked at the scale. It glowed red, like Shaleema. He finally looked at her and reached up for her. She lowered her head letting Jarkan rub her snout.
“Thank you Shaleema. You know what I said earlier about being a Hunter? I didn’t mean it. I was never Hunter material anyways. I rather be here with you.”He dropped his hand reluctantly and looked at the passageway ahead of him.
“The prophecies don’t lie Jarkan. Have no fear, you will be whole again.”She lowered her head and ruffled his hair. He smiled and walked through the doorway.
Chapter Six: The Age of Concord
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. Years passed as the Youngling soared the skies over Ferdows never relenting, never tiring. He had met the dragon sects of north and had rested with those in the east; yet he never stayed in one place for too long. Dragons all across Ferdows were at war with humans and he did not want to be part of it. It did not seem right to him. When he had first arrived amongst the northern sects, he had tried to talk to them, to dissuade them and help them stop the fighting, yet the anger and hatred in their blood had blinded them to reason. They all listened to him, but never conceded to his words. They had told him about the prophecies, about him. They called him Arun’gashi. True Essence. He wondered how they could believe in the prophecies and yet continue with the fighting. He flew from north to east, and from there he headed west looking for the one. The one who would join him, bind with him……..making him whole again. But as the years came to pass, his frustration grew and with it the emptiness inside him.
On a clear day when the sun was directly over him, sitting on a large boulder looking at the setting sun to his right he thought about his journey. As his mind took him to all the places he had been, a revelation came to him. The only place where had felt any measure of wholeness was where he was born. His travels had only taken him further from that place. Something in the back of his mind told him to return to his birthplace. Something was waiting for him there. Exhausted and tired, he threw his head back and gave a loud shriek and pushed off the boulder sending it rolling down the hill.
Jarkan let Shaleema’s scale guide him. It kept glowing as long as he stayed on the right path. During those hours in the dark, Jarkan never questioned himself why he was there. As a matter of fact his mind was empty. He just took one step after the other trying to reach the summit. He knew what awaited him there, who awaited him there. He had no doubts anymore. His life passed before his eyes, his father, his village, his friends. But that was Jarkan’s life, not his. It was just what led him to this moment. His true life began when he stepped into the Goor Caves. He stopped. The scale glowed brightly now. He was close.
He continued again in the darkness till he heard the winds howling up ahead. The scale grew warmer. Jarkan put it in his shirt pocket ; its warmth comforted him. Before the opening he took a deep breath and stepped into the night and onto the summit.
The moon rose ascending the sky. The stars glowed faintly and winked out as the moon passed by them. Arun’gashi flapped his tired wings one last time filling them with air. He circled overhead a few times before landing on the summit tucking his wings at his side. He was not alone. He looked around and his eyes rested on a human boy. They locked eyes.
“You have come.”The boy said. He stepped toward the human and raised his neck. The boy was rubbing his forearm.
“So have you.”The snakes on his back glowed and he could feel them pulsating.
They looked at each other. The dragon had found his lost half and the human his. In the other they sought what they had yearned for. What they were born for. They took another step and stood facing each other on the molten rocks beneath their feet.
Jarkan lifted his arm, the marks on it glowing, and rested his palm on the dragon’s chest. Arun’gashi felt the boy’s touch as it entered his body wrapping around it. Engulfing him. The rocks beneath their feet began to glow again, as if remembering the breaths that touched them.
The wind howled around them. A white mist rose from Arun’gashi where the boy was touching his chest and engulfed both of them. Jarkan stood with his outstretched arm tying not to be overwhelmed by the dragon’s lifeblood surging in his body now. With his heart about to burst, he let go of all discretion. In that moment, the moment of true unity, the dragon was no more, the human was no more. They were but one and the same. The mist engulfing the two dissipated and there, high above the clouds stood a man and a dragon, brothers bound by destiny.
…The night was awakening and gathering up the stars to make room for the sun. As the first rays of the sun dawned the new day, Jarkan looked at Arun’gashi and smiled.
From that day, people began talking about the dragon and its Rider, a human they named Arilan’hir, the One Who Tamed the Dragon.