Chapter 16: He’s Still the Same
Dark grey clouds hung above the dragon realm that day. Sometime later, thunder shook the sky as a hefty rainstorm poured over the world.
Saulstrance and his friends barely spoke to each other. Saulstrance had spent the day in the library reading through scrolls while Eig’nia had stayed in her room for almost the whole day having talked to no one. Tourajé, as he had promised the crypt keeper, went to speak with Mayza’s family about their daughter and sister’s demise. As was to be expected, Mayza’s family broke out into tears as her parents and her younger sister hugged to comfort each other. Tourajé felt horrible. Seeing this made Tourajé believe that perhaps he was wrong in letting Mayza, Roasch, and Shashala assist them. This decision had resulted in the death of one of his closest friends. He didn’t want it to result in the death of another.
As this was going on, Saulstrance continued to just sit in the same spot, reading the library’s scrolls. While many of the scrolls contained information regarding their world or were writings by previous leaders, this one contained a story, one of many folklores that existed within the dragon realm. Saulstrance read the back of the scroll. The title of it was “The World’s First Half-Dragon”. This intrigued Saulstrance as it immediately reminded him of Cyrus. He opened the scroll and was about to set two rocks on the scroll to keep it from rolling up until his master came in to check on him. Saulstrance moved his paws from the scroll causing it to roll back up on its own. Léruc had checked on Eig’nia shortly before coming to see Saulstrance. He wanted to make sure that his students were okay after what had happened yesterday.
“Saulstrance? Are you okay?” Asked Léruc in a soft voice.
Saulstrance nodded slightly and gave a light sigh. Just like Eig’nia, Saulstrance had barely spoken since Mayza’s death. Léruc noticed this and tried to think of something he could say to help Saulstrance feel better.
“I’m…sorry, Saulstrance. I know this can’t be easy for you or for your friends. Mayza was a good dragon.” Léruc said kindly.
“One of the best.” Added Saulstrance in a dull voice that seemed to lack any feeling to it.
As Saulstrance turned to him, Léruc saw the despondent look in his young pupil’s eyes. Saulstrance’s eyes were bright red, suggesting he had been crying quite a bit. After a moment, he turned back to his scroll. His head sunk onto the rock as he lay there with a lifeless, disinterested look on his face. Léruc wondered if there might be something he could do for his adopted son. Something that could take his mind off the terrible event. He asked Saulstrance if he wouldn’t mind picking his head up for a second so that he could get a look at the scroll he was reading from.
Without saying anything, Saulstrance complied with his master’s wish. He raised his head as Léruc took the scroll and read the name out loud.
“Hmm…The World’s First Half-Dragon. A good story, this one. Do you know about half-dragons, Saulstrance?” Léruc asked.
“A little bit.” Saulstrance replied. He remembered his promise to Cyrus and his family and made sure not to tell Léruc that he had a half-dragon friend.
“You probably already know this but a half-dragon is a hybrid. A mix between a human and a dragon. The half-dragon race has never been a very fruitful one.” Léruc began explaining.
“It hasn’t? How come?” Saulstrance asked, surprised to hear this new information.
“Well…” Léruc tried to think how best to put it. “Half-dragons have never been favored by either humans or dragons. It’s said that humans look at them as monsters while dragons see them as mistakes.”
This truly came as a surprise to Saulstrance. He had gotten to spend a lot of time with Cyrus, who was a half-dragon yet seemed to have a pretty good life. It didn’t seem like any of the villagers thought of him as a monster and obviously Saulstrance himself, his friends, and Cyrus’ mom didn’t think of him as a mistake. This may have been true for half-dragons in the past but Saulstrance wondered if maybe this wasn’t true for all half-dragons.
“Sir, why do humans and dragons hate half-dragons?” Saulstrance asked.
Léruc wasn’t quite sure how to answer. He had never met let alone seen a half-dragon before so the thought never occurred to him. The way dragons felt towards half-dragons always just seemed like the natural way for him.
“I guess I can’t really answer that myself. I’m sorry Saulstrance but I just don’t know.” Léruc responded.
Saulstrance didn’t like that way of thinking. He thought that if the half-dragons didn’t do anything to the dragons or the humans, then there should be no reason to hate them. He considered that perhaps it was simply because his own friend was a half-dragon but he saw no reason to hate half-dragons. If anything, he hoped that as he became older, he’d get to meet more half-dragons.
Léruc had noticed a sudden change in his student. As soon as they began discussing half-dragons, Saulstrance had become more lively and seemed less somber. Léruc was pleased to see this. He wanted to keep Saulstrance in this mood so he asked him if maybe they could read The World’s First Half-Dragon together. Cheerfully obliging, Saulstrance unrolled the scroll and his adoptive father placed a rock on each side of the scroll. Then they began reading.
The story told of a dragon who came to the human realm. On his travel, he met a poor man, down on his luck and wearing nasty torn up clothes. This man didn’t have any money to his name and sat beneath a single tree, begging anyone who went past him to give him even a little money. The dragon walked past, taking notice of the man. The man was awestruck but also saw it as a blessing in disguise. He asked the dragon if he wouldn’t mind sharing just a little of his wealth. The dragon told him that he would provide the man with enough money to get him a proper home. And so, the dragon returned to his world and brought his riches to the man. With tears in his eyes, the man thanked the dragon over and over.
On the dragon’s next visit, he found that the man had been able to get himself better clothes and was even able to start a family. He had a beautiful wife and three boys and three girls. However, he felt that he would need more money to support his family. He begged the dragon once more for his riches. The dragon saw no harm in giving the man more if it meant he could take care of his family. He returned once again with riches aplenty and the man cried, thanking the dragon over and over.
During the dragon’s next visit, he discovered that the man was now sporting much cleaner and more sophisticated clothes as was the rest of his family. The man cheerfully informed the dragon that it was thanks to his kindness that he was able to earn this life for his family. However, he felt that this rich, pampered lifestyle wouldn’t last forever. He begged the dragon yet again for more riches. By this point, the dragon was beginning to grow weary and suspicious of the man’s need for money. Against his better judgment, he went along and brought the man more money. He hoped that this time, this would be the end of it.
However, by the time he had visited the human realm again, he had learned that the once poor man was now a king with countless servants and a large castle that sat atop the town he called his home. The king was pleased to see the dragon who had so selflessly given him his riches. Yet the king felt this was not enough. He didn’t want to lose his status as a king or his impressive castle. He begged the dragon once more for his riches only this time, the dragon, angered and disgusted by the man’s growing greed and self centeredness, had decided he’d had enough. To teach the man a lesson, he chose to curse him with an appearance as evil and greedy as his heart. And so, with a simple chant from the dragon, the man found himself in agonizing pain. He fell to his hands and knees as his ears grew long and pointed. They soon began to stretch out, changing into a fin pattern. From his cape appeared two large lumps which grew larger until they ripped through the cape, transforming into leathery wings. Finally his back ached. He felt something being pulled out of it as the back of his pants were ripped open, dumping a long, scale covered tail onto the ground. Panting heavily, the man examined his new appearance as did his subjects. Everyone around him, his own family included, broke into loud terrified screams. Pandemonium broke out when the man’s family and servants informed the townspeople of what had happened to their king. Without another word to the naked king, the dragon departed for his world, leaving the transformed man as the world’s first half-dragon.
With the story concluded, Saulstrance wondered if this story could be part of the reason why half-dragons were so hated. The idea seemed a bit silly to him though. After all, it was only a story. There was no way a story like this could make one species despise another, right?
Léruc took the scroll and put it back where Saulstrance had found it. As he flew back down to join his pupil, he closed his eyes and sighed.
“Master, is everything ok?” Asked Saulstrance worriedly.
“Saulstrance, I didn’t just come here to check on you or read stories with you. There’s something I need to tell you.” Léruc said with a worried look on his face.
“Sir?” Saulstrance asked again.
“I’m going to be gone for at most a week. Until I return, there will be no missions. The other Leaders are meeting at the summit and I’ve been summoned as well to discuss with them what had happened with Raolef.” Explained Léruc.
As Léruc was about to take his leave, Saulstrance pondered if he should tell his master what Mayza said to them before she died. Would Léruc even believe it if Saulstrance told him that his guards were the ones who killed Mayza? Saulstrance himself could barely believe it when Mayza told him. If he found it hard to believe, Léruc himself probably wouldn’t believe it at all. Still, he had to try. Saulstrance figured that since Léruc was in charge of the guards, he might be able to do more than he and his friends could. Taking a chance, he called for his master to wait.
“Yes, Saulstrance?” Léruc asked, turning to face his adopted son.
Breathing a deep sigh, Saulstrance gathered up the courage to tell his adoptive father what he had learned. After a short moment, he finally spoke.
“Sir, I think I might know who killed Mayza.” Saulstrance said nervously but also sure that he had found the answer.
“What?” Léruc asked, his eyes widened after being informed of this. “Are you sure Saulstrance? Please, tell me who it was my boy.”
Taking another deep sigh, Saulstrance looked away for a moment. He tried to prepare himself for his master’s inevitable reaction.
“I know what I’m about to say will sound…absolutely crazy but…this is what Mayza told us before she died. The ones who did that to her…were your guards.” Saulstrance finally managed to say.
Just as Saulstrance had predicted, Léruc found trouble in believing what he had just been told. He looked at Saulstrance with a hint of confusion and uncertainty in his old eyes.
“Saulstrance…” Léruc barely managed to say, looking shocked at the young dragon. “Are you certain…that that is what Mayza said to you?”
“I know what I heard. And I also know Mayza wouldn’t lie about something like that.” Saulstrance affirmed, looking his master straight in the eyes to show him he wasn’t lying.
Léruc took note of the certainty in his adopted son’s eyes. He knew Saulstrance wouldn’t lie but even still, it was just so hard for him to believe that his own guards would do such a terrible thing. Despite his own uncertainty, Léruc knew whose side to take.
“Saulstrance, I still can’t say I’m 100% convinced. However, I will take your word for it. With that said, I still need to confirm with the guards what happened with Mayza.” Léruc said.
Saulstrance wasn’t too sure of his master’s plan. He feared that Léruc might mention his name or worse, Eig’nia or Tourajé’s names when he asked them. Saulstrance made this worry known to his master who simply smiled at him and assured his adopted son that he wouldn’t make any mention of the three of them. While still not entirely sure, Saulstrance felt that he could trust Léruc. After all, Léruc had been like his father for his whole life.
Both Léruc and Saulstrance left the library and went off in different directions. Léruc headed for the exit to his fortress to begin his journey to the summit and Saulstrance returned to his room. When he got there, he found Tourajé and Eig’nia waiting for him. Tourajé was wet from head to claw, a big puddle forming under him as he sat.
“Hi, Tourajé, did you just get back?” Asked Saulstrance.
“Yeah. I was just telling Eig’nia that I told Mayza’s parents about her death.” Tourajé said, the tone in his voice growing almost nonexistent.
“They didn’t take it well I assume…?” Saulstrance asked in an equally toneless voice.
“What do you think?” Tourajé asked somewhat snappily.
“Tourajé, Saulstrance was just asking.” Eig’nia said in Saulstrance’s defense.
“I’m sorry. It’s just…I never thought in my life that I’d have to tell the parents of one of my friends that they’re dead. This is just…” Tourajé groaned in annoyance, not able to determine what else to say.
Saulstrance and Eig’nia understood their friend’s feelings better than he thought they did. Mayza’s death hadn’t been any easier on them either. Of course, both Saulstrance and Tourajé thought that the one who was taking this the hardest out of all of them was Eig’nia. Not only was she the one who of them who was closest to Mayza but she had also had to be the one to end her suffering. Both dragons felt sorry for their friend. They thought that what Eig’nia had to do must not have been easy.
Eig’nia lowered her head and shut her eyes. She sat there amongst her friends not looking at them or saying a single word. Just as Léruc had with Saulstrance, Saulstrance thought that it might be best not to bring Mayza up anymore. At least until sometime had passed. To try and take their minds off of it and to hopefully put Eig’nia in better spirits, Saulstrance decided to tell them what he had discussed with their master and where he was going.
“Tourajé, Eig’nia, I hope you won’t be too mad at me, but I told Lord Léruc who it really was that…what really happened with…you-know-who…” Said Saulstrance, quickly catching himself before mentioning Mayza’s name.
“You did? What did Lord Léruc say?” Asked Tourajé as he and Eig’nia looked over at Saulstrance.
Saulstrance explained to his friends everything he had discussed with their master. He told them that while Léruc was a little wary at first, he initially decided to trust in Saulstrance’s word and that he would talk with the guards to confirm what happened to Mayza. Both Eig’nia and Tourajé rightfully grew nervous when they were told this but Saulstrance assured them that their master would not make any mention of the three of them. Saulstrance, Eig’nia, and Tourajé hoped that that would be enough to keep their identities in this discreet. If the guards were to find out that they were planning something, the three of them and possibly even Léruc himself could wind up in danger.
“I just remembered, Saulstrance, since you mentioned Lord Léruc, did he tell you that he was going to be leaving for a week?” Eig’nia asked.
“Yes. He said that he had been summoned to the summit. He and the other Leaders were going to discuss what happened to Raolef.” Saulstrance explained.
“Lord Léruc is gone?!” Asked Tourajé in a surprised voice.
This news of their master’s departure made Tourajé uneasy. He knew this wasn’t a good sign. He explained to his friends that with their master gone, the guards could possibly try and attack them.
“For the time being, I think it might be best if we hide ourselves in the human realm.” Tourajé suggested.
Eig’nia and Saulstrance thought this sounded like a good idea. The guards had never been with them to the human realm and they had kept Cyrus and his family’s existence a secret from the rest of their world. Right now, it seemed as though Cyrus’s village was the safest place for them. Even their own world couldn’t offer them protection.
Tourajé poked his head out into the hallway to see if any guards were in the vicinity. To their luck, not a single guard was in sight. Quickly, Saulstrance opened a portal and the three of them scattered into it as quickly as they could. In just a minute, they found themselves back in the human realm. They were standing in the same woods where all their other trips to the human realm began. They changed into their human forms and made their way to Cyrus’ house. Along the way, they noticed that the ground and the grass were slightly damp. They figured it must have been raining earlier in the human world as well just as it had been in their world.
They walked down the same path they always had and made their way to Cyrus’s house. Once there, Saulstrance knocked on the door and the three of them were greeted by their friend’s mother. The disguised dragoness smiled upon seeing her fellow dragons back for another visit.
“Saulstrance, Eig’nia, and Tourajé! What brings you three around these parts?” Miranda smiled kindly at the younger dragons.
“Hi Miranda. We’ve…run into a bit of trouble again. If it’s okay, can we stay with you guys for a little while?” Asked Eig’nia somewhat nervously. She and the others didn’t like potentially risking the safety of Cyrus and his family however they unfortunately had little choice. Cyrus’s home was the only place they would never be found, not by Raolef’s guards, not by their own master’s guards, nor by Tomi.
Miranda just snickered a little. “It seems like trouble has a habit of finding its way to you three. You don’t need to ask. We’ll always be willing to protect you.” She said with a kind smile on her face.
The three younger dragons smiled at their friend’s mom. They were more than grateful for her kindness but even then, they still felt a little uneasy about putting them at risk on more than one occasion.
Miranda allowed the three dragons inside. They sat down at the kitchen table with Miranda joining them shortly after. A moment later, Cyrus and his father Thomas came into the house. Cyrus was overjoyed to see his friends there waiting for him.
“Saulstrance! Tourajé! Eig’nia!” Cyrus exclaimed with a wide smile on his face.
“Hi Cyrus.” Tourajé smiled back at his friend.
Cyrus and his dad joined the dragons at the table. Thomas asked them what had been going on since their last visit. Suddenly the three dragons’ smiling faces turned gloomy. Cyrus and his parents noticed this. Immediately they could tell that whatever happened, it wasn’t good.
“Guys…what happened?” Cyrus asked in a soft voice.
Saulstrance explained to his friend and his family everything that had occurred in the past couple of days. He told them about how after word had spread of their eliminating Raolef, Tourajé’s and Eig’nia’s families disowned them and how, after a fight between him and Tourajé, they ended up battling Raolef’s apprentice, Tomi. Saulstrance went on to explain how after barely surviving their encounter with Tomi, they began to suspect that there was something more going on than they’d previously thought and so, together with three of their other friends, they decided to uncover the truth about what was going on underneath the surface. Then…just as Saulstrance was about to conclude, he stopped. He let out a pained sigh, rubbing his eyes as Tourajé and Eig’nia looked away, another wave of sadness washing over them.
“What happened next?” Thomas asked.
“We discovered who was really behind this: our Leader’s guards. But…we gained this information at the cost of one of our friend’s lives. The guards left our friend in…very bad shape. As a result…” Tourajé paused, unable to bring himself to continue from where his friend left off.
“As a result… I…took her life so she wouldn’t have to suffer anymore.” Eig’nia said, feeling a lump swell in her throat as if she was going to cry.
It didn’t take long before Eig’nia did just that. She began to sob, covering her hands with her eyes. Tourajé looked at the ground glumly. Slowly he raised his fist and pounded it against his knee.
“I never should have let them get involved. Mayza…Roasch…Shashala…this was never their battle to begin with. And now…because of me…Mayza’s…”
“It wasn’t your fault Tourajé!” Saulstrance cut his friend off leaping out of his seat, not wanting to let him finish his sentence. “You didn’t kill Mayza!”
“Even if I didn’t do it myself, it was my bad decision that led to it. If I had just said no to them –“
“Then Mayza would have helped anyway because that was who she was.” Saulstrance interjected again. “And Roasch and Shashala would have done the same thing. Because…they’re our friends.”
Saulstrance then turned to Eig’nia who was looking up at him with a face full of tears. He walked over to her and kneeled down by her side.
“Eig’nia, I know what you had to do was…probably the hardest thing anyone would ever have to do. But, we still need to be strong.” Saulstrance said in a soft, tender voice, trying to be as gentle as possible with his guilt stricken friend.
“I just…I just can’t anymore. I’m sorry Saulstrance.” Eig’nia said through her tears.
“Eig’nia, we owe it to Mayza to see this finished. It’s only thanks to her that we were able to find out the truth.” Saulstrance stopped for a second, sniffling and gasping twice. He sounded as if he was about to join Eig’nia in crying. Slowly and shakily, he placed his hands on Eig’nia’s shoulders.
Suddenly, Saulstrance lowered his head. His whole body began to shake as light sobs could be heard coming from him. He raised his head, revealing that, just like Eig’nia, he too was now crying.
“If we stop here, then Mayza truly died for nothing. Please Eig’nia. We…have to be strong…and continue forward.” Saulstrance said, his small, barely audible crying having grown louder as he spoke.
Having to ask Eig’nia to continue in light of her taking Mayza’s life was one of the hardest things Saulstrance had ever had to do. Even though Saulstrance had tried to keep his composure and provide a pillar of support for his friends, he himself wasn’t fairing any better than they were and his cries proved this.
Saulstrance and Eig’nia hugged in an attempt to try and comfort one another. Tourajé stood up and went over to his friends, placing a hand on each of their shoulders as he shut his eyes. Even though Cyrus and his family had never met Mayza, they offered their support and understanding to their forlorn friends. They too gathered around Saulstrance, Tourajé, and Eig’nia, placing their own hands on their shoulders.
That night, after Saulstrance, Tourajé, and Eig’nia had time to clear their heads, the three of them went out the back of Cyrus’ house where they sat in front of a small stream that ran through his yard. The sound made by the water as it traveled along its course calmed the three dragons and helped put their minds at ease. A little while later they were joined by Cyrus.
“Are you feeling better, guys?” Cyrus asked his friends.
“Yeah.” Smiled Saulstrance. “It’s just that with so much having happened so quickly it’s been hard to take it in all at once.”
Eig’nia and Tourajé nodded in agreement to Saulstrance.
“It has. But hopefully, once this is all over and our master’s guards’ plans have been exposed, things can go back to normal for us.” Eig’nia said with a hopeful look in her eyes.
Cyrus sat down next to his friends and folded his legs.
“How are you going to expose their plans?” Asked Cyrus.
“I told our master and he said that he was going to speak with the guards about what happened to Mayza.” Saulstrance explained to Cyrus.
Like Tourajé and Eig’nia, Cyrus wasn’t sure how he felt about this. He was worried that their master might mention their names which could end up making things worse for them. However, Saulstrance assured his friend that Léruc wasn’t going to make any mention of them. While Cyrus was still a little unsure and concerned for his friends’ safety, he knew that he didn’t know his friends’ master. If they were willing to place their trust in him then Cyrus figured he could do the same.
The rest of the night went relatively peacefully for Saulstrance and the others. They joined Cyrus and his parents for dinner and a few hours later, they had gone to bed. The next day had been for the most part uneventful. Despite this, Saulstrance, Tourajé, and Eig’nia had actually been grateful to be experiencing a normal day. Their last few days had been anything but normal so this had been a welcome change of pace for them.
As they joined Cyrus on his errands around town, they had noticed something strange about the people in the village: most of those they passed had been giving them weird looks. This had been rather off putting for Saulstrance and the others who, on their prior visits, had found the citizens of Cyrus’s village to be a lot nicer. What could have changed? Cyrus, unlike his friends, hadn’t taken notice of this. To him, things were the same as ever.
“Cyrus?” Asked Saulstrance, tapping his friend on the shoulder.
“What’s wrong with everyone? They’ve been giving us some pretty mean looks.” Saulstrance said, glancing around at some of the people around them.
Cyrus had taken notice to this. He raised an eyebrow, a confused look on his face. He turned to his friends who were standing behind him then turned back to the two people who were glaring at them. Suddenly, a peculiar thought crossed Cyrus’s mind: what if these people weren’t looking at his friends that way? What if it was him they were watching? It seemed really bizarre to Cyrus. Why would the people from his village look at him like that? Everyone was always really friendly towards him and he was always really friendly to them? Did he do something to make them mad?
“H-hi, guys.” Cyrus greeted nervously. “Is everything okay?”
The people standing before Cyrus and the dragons turned from them and continued on their way. This was just getting too weird for them. Cyrus frowned. He couldn’t help but think that he must have done something to anger them.
“Cyrus, are you okay?” Tourajé asked, putting a hand on Cyrus’s shoulder.
“Oh? Yeah, I just…I don’t know. I don’t know why those two looked so angry at me.” Said Cyrus, still trying to figure out what he could have done to make them mad.
“You? Are you sure it was you they were looking at, Cyrus?” Asked Eig’nia, surprised to hear Cyrus suggest such a thing.
“I’m pretty sure it was me. But I just don’t know why. What could I have done to anger them?” Cyrus said worriedly.
The three dragons felt sorry for their friend. They didn’t understand how anyone could possibly be angry at Cyrus. He always seemed so nice and so friendly not just to them but to the people of his village too. They watched as Cyrus fretted, trying to make sense out of what was going on. Another person passed by the four of them as she too flashed Cyrus a dirty look. All these looks were beginning to make Cyrus feel horrible. He just couldn’t figure out what he did to make the people in his village look at him that way.
“Cyrus, don’t let them bother you. Let’s just finish your errands and go home.” Saulstrance suggested in an empathetic voice.
Cyrus nodded. “Yeah. Okay.” He said in a somber voice.
That night, as Cyrus was telling his parents about what happened, numerous voices could be heard approaching, growing louder. Cyrus and his parents were concerned by this. They had lived in their quaint little village their whole lives and had never heard any kind of commotion like the one they were hearing now. This worried them so they stepped outside to see what was going on. Before them stood more than half the village, many of whom were carrying rocks with them. Some of the people in attendance were those that Cyrus and his friends passed along the way earlier in the day.
“What is going on here?” Thomas asked demandingly.
“What is going on indeed Thomas. How long have you known about this?” One of the village women asked.
“Known about what?” Thomas asked, not understanding the question.
“Your son! How long have you known that your son was really a monster?!” A man at the front of the line screamed, pointing a finger at Cyrus accusingly.
Cyrus, his parents, and Saulstrance, Eig’nia, and Tourajé stared at the crowd, shocked by the man’s statement.
“What do you mean he’s a monster?” Miranda asked, holding Cyrus close to her.
“Several people among us, some of whom are children, have claimed they saw Cyrus sprout a pair of wings and a tail. They have also claimed to see him flying above the woods and the village. These claims have been made on more than six different occasions. There’s no way this is all merely a coincidence.” Another man who stood on the middle of the mob explained. He seemed to be the mob leader.
Cyrus’ parents gathered close to him in an attempt to protect him from the angry villagers. Saulstrance and his friends stepped in front of the scared family, ready to protect them from the people they once called their friends.
“What does it matter to you people what Cyrus is? Shouldn’t who he is be more important instead?!” Eig’nia asked looking outraged at the way they were speaking of him.
“It does matter to us what he is. What if this, this, FREAK goes feral and tries to attack our children?! You three wouldn’t understand because you’re children yourselves but those of us with families need to put their safety first!” Another man in the audience rebutted.
“Cyrus would NEVER do anything like that!!” Cyrus’s dad exclaimed as he broke away from his family and marched up to the angry mob. Just like his son’s friends, his blood was also beginning to boil at listening to the people he thought were his friends and neighbors throw such horrible accusations at his own child.
“That’s right!” Cyrus’s mom chimed in. “Cyrus has always been a good kid and you people should all know that full well! You’ve all known him ever since he was just a baby.”
“This was before we knew what your son truly was. He’s a monster and he has no place in this village. As far as I’m concerned, only the woods would be an acceptable place for a beast like him.” A boy a little older than Cyrus said.
Miranda hugged her son tightly as Cyrus turned from the villagers, heartbroken and buried his face in his mom’s chest. He felt the most horrible pain he ever experienced in his stomach. Tears traveled down his face as he cried. Cyrus didn’t get why they were being this way to him? Why was it such a bad thing that he was a half-dragon? Why did it make them see him as a monster? The villagers who had been so kind to him in the past were now treating him as if he was some sort of subhuman creature. He had never felt so low, so horrible in his entire life.
Suddenly, several of the villagers started tossing rocks at the dragons and the family they were trying to stand up for. Rocks flew at them from all sides, one of which hit Thomas in the head, causing him to release a pained yelp.
“Dad!” Cyrus exclaimed as soon as he heard his dad’s cry.
Cyrus saw that blood was trickling down from the top of his dad’s head. He and his friends and family continued to be pelted with rocks. While Saulstrance and the others could have put a stop to this by changing into their dragon forms, they feared that by doing that, they would just make things worse than they already were for Cyrus and his family.
Cyrus watched with an agonized look on his face as his family and friends continued to be pelted with rocks, some of which hit him, one barely even missing his left eye. Cyrus’ sadness began to change into anger. His hands were shaking rapidly, his body trembling furiously. He was starting to hyperventilate. He broke free from his mom and, growling loudly, approached the crowd. With how enraged Cyrus had become, he didn’t even notice as his skin was growing darker.
“Leave. Us. ALOOOOOOOOOOONNNNEEEEEEE!!!” Cyrus screamed at the top of his lungs.
Or at least, that would almost be completely what he said. Before he could finish saying alone, his speech had begun to change into a loud, ear shattering roar. As he panted from his roar, Cyrus noticed something…different about his body. His lungs felt stronger and his lips were burning, almost as if he had eaten food that could literally set his mouth on fire. To his horror, he found a scorching black mark that lay at the feet of the crowd. They stood at Cyrus, horrified at what they had just seen or rather, what they were still seeing.
As Cyrus managed to calm himself, he raised a hand only to find that this hand was so much bigger and covered in dark green scales. His fingernails had turned into long sharp claws. In fact, he noticed he had claws growing from his toes too and only four toes existed on each foot. He looked over the rest of his body, finding it covered in scales and noticing his wings and his tail had appeared. Cyrus now stood before everyone as a creature that appeared as a human looking dragon standing on its digits. His hair had grown longer and nestled on top of his head were twin ivory horns. His eyes were yellow and his irises had changed into slits. His nose and mouth were drawn outwards, having formed into a reptilian snout. He flicked his tongue around, noticing that it had become longer and somewhat thinner. His ears had changed into the same elegant fin pattern that he had in his half-dragon form.
Nobody, not even Cyrus himself could make sense of what they were seeing. Even Miranda had never seen something like this before. She had seen her son turn into a half-dragon all throughout his life but this was the first time she had ever seen this form.
“M-mom?!” Cyrus turned to his mother, a petrified look on his face. “What happened to me?!” He asked, scared out of his mind.
His mom ran over to him as the two sunk to their knees and she held him in her arms.
“That…That just proves it! We need to get this creature out of our village! You saw how he acted! And now he’s shown us his real form! If we let him stay, it will only be a matter of time before he attacks us. Listen everyone, don’t be afraid. Together we can drive this monster out of our village before –“ But before the leader of the mob could finish his sentence, he found himself interrupted by a voice from behind the crowd.
“That is enough!” The voice said sternly.
Half the crowd moved to one side or the other, revealing that the person who had said that was Robert. With him were three kids about Cyrus’s age. They moved through the crowd and stood with Saulstrance and the others in an attempt to protect Cyrus and his family.
“You should all be ashamed of yourselves.” Robert said, looking infuriated at his fellow villagers’ treatment towards one of their own. “These kids told me what you were planning. You all want to drive a child out of his home just because he’s different than you?!”
“Cyrus has always been really nice and helpful to all of us.” One of the kids, a girl who was just a year younger than Cyrus said, stepping forward.
“We know Cyrus. Apparently we know him better than any of you do. We know he would never try to hurt us or eat us or do any of the things you people have been saying about him!” The second kid, a boy who was the same age as Cyrus said.
The last kid stepped forward. He looked a little younger than the other kids who stood by Cyrus.
“When I was little, I fell and cut my knee. I was crying because it hurt really bad. Cyrus heard me crying and he tied a bandage around my knee so it wouldn’t hurt anymore.” The young boy said a little nervously. Nonetheless he was still determined to stick up for his friend.
Cyrus and his family smiled at Robert and the kids’ determination to protect him. Cyrus especially was deeply moved as were his friends. Every time Saulstrance and the others would visit Cyrus, they knew that the people of the village cared for him but they never saw Cyrus or any of the villagers interact so personally. To see that Cyrus truly did have friends he could count on aside from them greatly touched the dragons’ hearts.
“Did you hear that?! Does that sound like something a ‘monster’ would do? Me and my friends are just like Cyrus. We’re not completely human either.” Saulstrance said.
Suddenly, Saulstrance changed into his real form, his dragon form. The entire crowd, including Robert and the kids, stood there in a stupor. They had no words for what they were seeing. Before them stood a real breathing dragon and they could tell just by looking into this dragon’s eyes that he wasn’t happy.
“Cyrus is a half-dragon but that doesn’t change who he is. If anything, you all have changed once you discovered what Cyrus really was.” Saulstrance growled, glaring at the village folk.
The villagers’ angry demeanors slowly changed. It had taken some coaxing but slowly and surely, one by one they came around, realizing that Saulstrance, Robert, and the others were absolutely right. They knew that the way they had treated Cyrus, a boy who was only fourteen years old, was unacceptable. The angry mob slowly began to disband, most, if not all of them apologizing to Cyrus and his family before returning to their homes. Cyrus didn’t say anything. Although grateful and accepting of their apologies, he was still slightly shell shocked by his transformation, his roar, and very nearly burning some of the villagers without even noticing. As soon as all the villagers had disbanded, Cyrus and his mom stood up. Still in his new form, he approached his dragon friends, his human friends, and Robert.
“Are you okay, Cyrus?” The kids from the village asked worriedly, gathering around him.
“Y-yeah…” Cyrus said, feeling a little calmer.
Followed by the kids from the village, Cyrus approached Saulstrance who was still in his dragon form and Eig’nia and Tourajé. With a smile on his muzzle in which one fang stuck out, he hugged his friends.
“Saulstrance…Eig’nia… Tourajé…thank you.” Cyrus said in a soft voice.
He then turned to the kids from the village, his parents, and Robert and thanked them too. Robert smiled at the young half-dragon and approached him.
“Now that the village knows what you really are Cyrus, I would imagine it will be hard for most of its citizens to adapt.” Robert said, placing his hands on Cyrus’s scaly shoulders.
“O-oh…” Cyrus said, looking away sadly.
Robert noticed this. With a smile, the old man patted Cyrus’s shoulders.
“But…If any of them have an issue with you, they’ll have to take it up with me.” Robert promised the boy.
“And us too!” The kids said in unison.
Cyrus’s scaly mouth wobbled as he felt a tear run down his scale covered face. He couldn’t thank them enough for everything.
“Say, Cyrus, do you think you’ll ever be able to change back?” Asked Eig’nia.
With everything that had happened, Cyrus hadn’t even thought of that. He imagined that his new form must have been just like his old one in that all he had to do was close his eyes, relax, and imagine himself changing into a human. He closed his eyes, relaxed himself, and imagined that he was becoming human. He could feel his draconic appendages retreating back into his body. While Saulstrance, Eig’nia, Tourajé, and Cyrus’s parents had seen him change plenty of times, this was the first time Robert or the village children had experienced such a thing. They watched in amazement as the reptilian creature before them changed back into the kid they came to know and love as a member of their village.
Once he was done changing, Cyrus looked over his body, finding that he was back to normal. His wings and tail had gone back into his body and as he felt the top of his head, he discovered he no longer had horns crowning his skull. His flesh had also returned to the pink humany pigment it had been his whole life.
With things having calmed, the kids realized how late it was becoming. Robert offered to escort them all home but before they started on their way, the kids approached Cyrus one last time and asked him if they may want to play together sometime. With a gleeful smile, Cyrus eagerly accepted their offer and suggested that perhaps they skip rocks together sometime by the lake. The three of them liked the idea with the youngest suggesting that maybe afterwards, they’d get to watch Cyrus fly. With a light chuckle, Cyrus told the younger boy that perhaps they would.
As they all watched Robert and the children depart for home, Saulstrance couldn’t help but wonder what that form of Cyrus’s was. Since Cyrus was able to change into a more draconic looking form, he had to wonder if it may have meant that Cyrus was beginning to become more dragon than human.
“I’m not so sure it’s that.” Cyrus’s mom said. “This is just a theory but I believe that Cyrus got that form from me.”
“From you?” Asked Tourajé, not understanding what she meant.
“I think that a half-dragon’s abilities may depend on how they were born. Perhaps, because Cyrus was born from an egg, that might make him more of a dragon than a human and that form we saw expresses this.” Explained Miranda.
“That makes sense…I think.” Thomas said confusedly.
“I was born from an egg myself and even I’m a little confused.” Saulstrance said before changing back into a human.
Tourajé and Eig’nia agreed.
“Well, perhaps we should get some sleep. Maybe it will make more sense in the morning.” Miranda let out a small laugh.
Everybody around agreed. With how crazy things had been, they hadn’t even noticed just how tired they truly were. Suddenly, exhaustion washed over them and everyone was ready to sleep. Agreeing to call it a night, the dragons, along with Cyrus and his family retired for the night. With all the excitement that had occurred, it was amazing that they were able to fall asleep as quickly as they did.
The next few days had been much more peaceful than the first. While some members of the village were still wary, each day, some would come around and be ready to accept Cyrus for the half-dragon that he was. Then, on the morning of the fourth day…
Tourajé awoke. With a mighty yawn, he stretched, scratching the left side of his face as he smacked his lips.
“Good morning, Saulstrance and Eig’nia.” Tourajé greeted his friends as he had done every morning since coming to stay with Saulstrance and their master.
Only this time, a good morning wasn’t returned. Tourajé was surprised to find himself alone in this room. It was surprising to him as he was usually the one to wake up before them. While surprising, he didn’t consider it anything out of the ordinary and headed into the kitchen, expecting to find his friends. When he got there, he didn’t find his friends but instead Cyrus and his parents. They sat at the table with worried looks on their faces.
“Cyrus, Miranda, Thomas, is everything okay?” Asked Tourajé, taking note of their concerned expressions.
Thomas shook his head. Tourajé didn’t like this. He immediately deduced that the reason for those looks had to do with Saulstrance and Eig’nia.
“You haven’t seen Saulstrance or Eig’nia, have you, Tourajé?” Asked Cyrus, concerned.
Tourajé was startled by the question. What did Cyrus mean? Had Saulstrance and Eig’nia gone missing? If so when and why?
“They’re missing?” Tourajé asked feeling puzzled as he tried to figure out where they could have possibly gone.
“We weren’t sure. We woke up about two hours ago and when went to check on you three, we saw that they weren’t there. We assumed that they may have just gone to the bathroom or that they may have wanted to take an early stroll around the village but…when we asked the villagers if they had seen them, they said that they hadn’t seen Eig’nia or Saulstrance since yesterday.” Explained Miranda, looking deeply worried for her son’s friends.
This made Tourajé greatly nervous. His hands shaking with worry, he continued to try and determine where his friends could have disappeared to. They all agreed not to return home until their master had returned from the summit. Their master had told them that he would be gone for at most a week and they had only been with Cyrus and his family for four days. So…if they didn’t go back to their world, then that could only mean…
With a loud gasp, Tourajé bolted out of his chair, knocking it over in the process. He hurried out the door as he headed further into the village in a desperate attempt to find his friends. Cyrus and his parents followed far behind him as Tourajé had proved to be too fast for them.
Tourajé asked some of the villagers if they had seen his friends but none of them could confirm that they had. He saw Robert passing by and asked him if he had seen Saulstrance and Eig’nia. The old man shook his head but was as surprised as Tourajé was to hear that they were missing. He offered his assistance to Tourajé who was more than happy to receive the extra help in locating his comrades.
Joined by Cyrus and his family, Robert suggested that the five of them split up, believing that would make it easier to find anything that could tell them where Eig’nia and Saulstrance had gone. They all searched frantically outside and inside the village. Tourajé, who had been joined by Cyrus, thought that a good place to check might be the very place where they always first arrived when they came to visit Cyrus and his family: the woods. Together, the dragon and half-dragon ran for the woods. Once there, they called Saulstrance and Eig’nia’s names. Although skeptical, they still hoped that perhaps they’d hear their cries and turn up safe and sound.
Searching through the woods, Cyrus stumbled upon something.
“Tourajé! Come here!” Cyrus called to his friend. “I found something!”
Tourajé immediately hurried over to where his friend was. He found Cyrus crouched down by whatever it was he was looking down at. He leaned over Cyrus, noticing that whatever he was looking at appeared to be…writing. He crouched down beside Cyrus and what he saw made his eyes widen.
“Cyrus, go get your parents and Robert and have them come here.” Urged Tourajé.
“Go!” Tourajé cut Cyrus off.
Cyrus hurried to go and retrieve his parents and Robert. A short while later he returned with them in tow.
“Tourajé, is everything alright?” Asked Miranda.
“Come here. You all need to see this.” Tourajé said in a low, worrisome voice.
Cyrus, his parents, and Robert gathered around Tourajé who hadn’t moved from his position since he sent Cyrus to bring everyone to the woods. When they looked down, they saw the same message Tourajé did. The message read:
SAULSTRANCE AND EIG’NIA, RETURN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. URGENT.
“They must have gone back home.” Said Miranda.
“But…if they did, then why didn’t the message ask for Tourajé to go with them?” Robert asked, finding this peculiar.
Tourajé was perplexed by this too. He knew, without a doubt that the message that lay before him in the dirt had been sent to Saulstrance and Eig’nia by Léruc himself. Unfortunately for Tourajé, that just raised a whole new plethora of questions: Had Léruc returned from the summit earlier than he had anticipated, or had something else happened? Could the guards have tried to do something to him and that was why he claimed the message to be urgent? And why did he only ask for Saulstrance and Eig’nia to return and not Tourajé as well? Just as things had begun to make sense, Tourajé felt that now things made even less sense than ever before.