Personally, if I were the great sea serpent, I would have made the gulls cry louder. I would have made the sun a little bit brighter, and I would have made the sea spray me with a cool mist as I landed.
I hit the deck, my catch landing before my feet. Chori, the other "hunter" on the boat, was approaching at my rear, her own spoils in tow. I say "hunter" as that is her name, Chorikew, "Channel Hunter" in our language. Though I would not have called her this were I her father. A predator of the water was never a match for a predator of the land; I was far stronger, far fiercer than she could ever be.
Once I had finally offloaded my prey, Chori landed beside me. I scoffed at the morsel she had delivered. Seven fish. She could not carry the weight I could, and as such she only ever brought back enough to feed our friends. I, on the other hand, brought back the meal for the whole ship. I glanced proudly upon my boar.
She could never bear my name. Keunau. Keu, meaning "killer" and neu, meaning "island"; a deadly place feared by all throughout Chadosia. It was similar to Bermuda, on your own planet. My name was an adaptation, but that didn't change how everyone knew me. Simply Keu. My name was Killer.
Name: Keunau, Burmudae in English
Species: Venran Dragon
Age: 30 dragon years
DOB: March 3rd
Place of Birth: Dragon Island, Venrah
Residence: Scythes ship
Occupation: Frontal attack force
Though stats matter not. They show very little about me, I mean, really. Who could ever understand the sheer might I possess just by looking at how old I am, or where I was born? About the only thing of any use in that description is my breed.
As a raptor dragon, I have adapted to seizing my prey. My tools are my large talons, which I clutch with. Just like many birds of prey on your planet, my talons allow me to latch onto my prey and never let go. They lock in place so that neither I, nor my prize can escape. Though this comes at a cost - I must judge what I can and can't catch very carefully. But hey, when you have wing strength like I do, it doesn't matter too much, really.
That strength comes mostly from the muscles in my shoulders. My arms, unlike most dragon breeds, are very small. They are underdeveloped, not grown to their full capacity. Rather than running on my arms like most dragons do, I instead use them to poke and stab at my prey. After all, I cannot have it squirming around setting my flight off balance now, can I?
But even with that strength, it isn't enough to carry me and my catch. That's why we adapted to have our wing membranes stretch along the backs of our legs. This means that, when we have our prey and our legs are tucked in, the membrane stretches out more, giving us more air resistance!
And to top it off, that glorious tail I have? Purely decorative. The scales (yes, not feathers, I am a reptile, after all) are super light, and the tail itself has no fat and little muscle on it. My muscles are mostly in my legs and my shoulders, so to compensate, my tail is only used as a rudder.
It was here. Summer was finally here. I spread my wings wide, a grin across my face. Another year gone by, it was time to make my move. From the peak of the cliff, I could feel the winds change from north to west, the waves slowly grinding to a halt then copying its direction. This only happened once a year. The first day of summer; the first day of the yearly migration from Dragon Island to Chadosia. Every dragon that made the journey was prepared, waiting eagerly to jump onto the breeze and be carried off for the season.
And I was no different. This year, I had only one thing on my mind. This was it; this was the final move. No more tiresome migrations each year, I was going to stay in Chadosia forever. I had found my reason to stay, and it was the most convincing of all the reasons anyone ever had to go. It would be my strength that would take me there, and forever forwards. I could develop it to its peak, rather than wasting myself away each year with the exhausting journey.
I heard the cries around me as thousands of dragons began beating their wings, lifting themselves into the air. I watched them all, coating the sky in a rainbow of colours as the adventure began. I grinned and pushed off the ledge with my front toes, feeling the pull of air on my membranes. Five thousand miles. Sixty miles per hour, sometimes slower, sometimes faster. It would take me around four days to reach Chadosia, four days of tiresome flight, with nothing to entertain but the mumbling of other reptiles and the ever changing pattern of the waves beneath.
The view of Dragon Island from the air was spectacular. With my sharp, predator vision I could see for miles. The coast below, with the sea dragons edging into the water for their morning hunt. The crater of the volcano towards this end of the island, where the elders still slept under the morning sunlight. The pygmy dragons nesting in the hatching sands, watching over their eggs, and the eggs of other dragons, protecting them from larger ones. I myself would be down there snacking on a few were I not leaving. But even then, it would only be a small snack. It would never satisfy me for more than a few hours.
All that was getting left behind. Good riddance, I say. Dragon Island was too crowded for my liking. It was massive, for certain, but as its name suggests, there were millions of dragons there, most of the breeds on Venrah existed in a substantial colony there. Be they the small pixie dragons, no larger than the tip of my wing, or the larger open water dragons which could easily swallow me whole. Everyone would squabble over food or land. There simply wasn't enough space for all of us to live on. I wouldn't miss them; I wouldn't even miss my own relatives. Dragons were born to leave their family. Very few species kept with their parents for more than a month to learn vital tricks, such as flight and hunting tips. We got named, taught, and then we left. It was just life.
I beat my wings quickly for around twenty sets, settling myself at a decent altitude. Most of the flight would be gliding, conserving as much energy as physically possible. Four days. Four long days of summer storms, fatigue and monotony lay ahead. Might as well make myself comfortable whilst I could.
By the end of the first day the flock had settled out neatly into sections. The speed demons had travelled ahead, perhaps a couple of hundred miles from the others. Behind the gathering the smaller dragons struggled to keep balance on the wind, relying mostly on the updrafts to hold them airborne. Then there was the average speed section, made of mostly strong-built, average-speed dragons. I was in this category.
"Strange to be this warm," a dragon beside me commented. I shifted my gaze to him. He'd been gliding along almost effortlessly for the past hour, and had only now started conversation.
"A little," I said, turning my attention back to flight. He was right; it was very strange to be this warm. It was perhaps only a couple of degrees hotter than usual, but that meant the difference between a cool dry breeze beneath us and a blast of moist, sickening heat. It was very uncomfortable, to say the least, keeping cool and conserving energy whilst the environment was increasing your metabolism.
"I reckon a storm's brewing." The dragon shifted his position in the air, realigning his four, brightly coloured wings. He was a sail dragon, possessing only arms and wings; he would have spent most of his life flying between islands. He'd go where the wind took him, and nowhere else. His species was also worryingly accurate with their weather predictions.
"I don't like the sound of that, really." I frowned and strained my eyes to see as far as I could. Nothing yet, but within the tropics, a storm could come and go within minutes. "A storm's the last thing we need."
"And so far to the mainland. Do you think we'd even make it?" I could see his pupils narrowing. Let me tell you, I have never seen a member of his breed show fear.
"I'd rather not consider it," I said, tucking my legs forwards to extend my wings outwards. It made the job a little easier, but I had to alternate every hour. It didn't take long for my legs to cramp. "Besides, I see nothing there?"
"Maybe… maybe… Do you feel the lift?" He beat his wings once, soaring at least fifty foot above me. He had to completely fold one set of wings to reach my level again.
"The lift's been there the whole journey. Have you even beaten your wings once after take-off?" I raised the eyebrow closest to him.
"That's the water vapour rising. It'll condense soon – it's night, after all. You know what that means?"
"Clouds, rain… If there's enough, a convection cell."
"Yup. We could be surrounded by the hour."
"Is there any way to avoid it?" I asked, worried about the possibilities. A strong storm, particularly one the size he was describing, could bring calamity. It was hard enough flying in line as it was, but expending the extra energy to fight against updrafts, downdrafts and side winds could mean we wouldn't make it the other end.
"I have a thought, maybe. I've been trying to tell other dragons, but barely anyone will listen to me. They think I'm mad." He grinned sheepishly.
"I don't think you're mad. Any dragon in my breed knows to trust the sails. You're the weather experts…"
"Thanks, I appreciate it. There's a small area of high pressure just a few degrees south of here. It's a little off course, but no clouds will form there, I guarantee."
"Sounds better than braving the storm," I muttered, scanning the area. The dragons directly around us could hear, I knew it. But none of them showed any interest. "I'll go, if you lead me."
"Great!" The sail folded his hind pair of wings, slowly descending beneath the flock.
"Aren't you coming?" I raised my voice, challenging any dragons around me. They shuffled silently in their flight. Oh well, their loss. I shrugged my arms then stopped flapping, allowing myself to sink in the air column. "Alright, let's go."
I followed him or only ten minutes before an immense weight pressed against me from above. We'd entered the high.
"I take it we're here," I called out ahead, beating my wings as fast as I could. It was all I could do just to stay airborne.
"Yeah, we'll only have to stay here for half an hour, you can see the lightning already!" He nodded to his right, his wings narrowed and beating just as fast as mine. Despite his previously effortless flight, sail dragons were at the mercy of the air. When the air was under them, their job was easy. But coming from above? It was a nightmare.
I looked sideways to see the rest of the flock. Sure enough, the sky was illuminated with shining arcs of lightning. I could see the shadows of dragons within the clouds, battling against nature. I could see the mist on the surface of the water below them, churning as the rain struck. And I could see a rain of dark shadows dropping between the clouds and the mist. Dragons. The weak falling to their doom.
"I warned them," the sail dragon muttered, his head hanging low. I watched him shake slightly, the sight of our species failing flashing endlessly through his mind. I felt just as he did. Sick to the core. He tried his best… I tried too. But it was a shame only I would listen. Perhaps this would teach them…
It took, as he had suggested, around half an hour for the storms to disperse. They left just as fast as they came. Within forty minutes we were back on course, gliding once more effortlessly through the sky. From the thousand dragons we were flying with before, only perhaps a hundred remained. They were exhausted. I knew even then, some would not make it through the night.
Five hundred and seventeen. That was how many dragons had fallen during the night. Most had sunk due to fatigue, though others had suffered various injuries, like hail-torn wing membranes and broken limbs. I had watched each one of them, keeping count ever since I returned from our detour.
My new friend, the sail dragon, had briefly gone off course to calm his nausea. He'd taken it badly, seeing all the destruction the storm had brought. I, on the other hand, stayed, partly to honour the loss, partly to remind myself just what happens when you don't listen to those wiser than you.
I sighed and shook my head. To say it was a long night would be an understatement. It felt like an eternity, listening to the grunts and groans of the other dragons. All the while I could feel their desperation pulsing from them, that last bit of hope pushing them onwards to Chadosia.
The worst part was: that was only day one. The next day, the unthinkable happened. The winds changed.
It wasn't even a slight change, it was a full on swap, from westward winds to eastward winds. We had to battle head on to overcome it, which was impossible for many species. Gliders, such as my new friend, had no choice but to turn back. Those with the strength carried on, though at the time those who did were few and far between.
My wings were stiff, my muscles were burning. I was among the strongest of dragons, and the most stubborn, but even with the advantage of missing the storm the night before, I was still struggling. There was nothing I could do, nothing anyone could do. Those that decided to continue were grunting and groaning under the strain. Several more dragons fell below into the ocean. We were going to Chadosia. That, or die trying.
I hadn't been paying attention to the time, after that. I think a day had gone by? Perhaps two. I remember seeing the stars on two occasions, but that meant nothing when your speed was halved. I could have arrived… I could have been sitting pretty on a tropical island, munching on a boar or an island deer. Instead, Chadosia was still out of sight, an unknown distance away from us. We could have been half way, or almost there. Nobody knew.
"Keu!" I was so busy concentrating my thoughts, forcing myself to fly onwards through the pain, that when my new friend called out to me I almost dropped out of the sky.
"Tailae, what are you doing here? How are you still flying?" I looked back to see his four wings pumping hard against the wind. He was shielding himself from the headwind using my body, but even so, in those conditions he shouldn't have been flying.
"I need to get to Chadosia else I can't fly to the mainland this winter!" he yelled, raising his voice above the howl of the wind. "I've been down by the water; the air lifts there slightly as the water evaporates!"
It was a good idea, for certain, given his problems with flying against the wind. At the surface the air was calmer, only lightly pressing the waves forward; but it was also incredibly dangerous to fly that low. Even a slight clip of a wing on the water could make you crash. After that, it was only a matter of time until you drowned.
"I can vouch for that," I muttered. Any other year, I would have turned back to Dragon Island just with the possibility of storms. This year I just had to make it. I had places to go, people to see. Going back just wasn't an option.
"Anyway, you're big enough to stop the wind from hitting me!" I laughed at Tailae's comment. It was good to have somebody to lighten the atmosphere. It took your mind from the difficulties. Kept you optimistic. And it made you lose track of time.
It was here. It was finally here. A roar erupted from around me as a grey spot appeared on the horizon. I turned to Tailae, a grin spread across my snout.
"We made it!" I cried out, squawking loudly afterwards. Tailae nodded grimly, fatigue in his eyes. Despite it, he still managed to smile. There was not a single dragon around is that wasn't chattering or roaring in excitement. It had been the journey sent only by the dragon of darkness himself. A journey meant to test us, to test the mighty race of dragons. The weak fell. Thousands fell. The group left was only one hundred strong. But we had survived.
A further ten minutes and a series of atolls came into view. Sandy beaches, coral poking through the surface of the low tide, sparse forests of palm trees, we could see it all. Pure and true paradise, and like any paradise, it clearly needed a test to enter it.
I chose a place to land and felt my wings gladly drop to the ground as I stopped. Grunting, I fell to the sand, tired, but blissfully happy. Tailae landed beside me, gripping the ground with his arms and keeping his wings as tightly folded as possible.
"Feels good to be back," he said, allowing his head to rest.
"Tell me about it." I scratched at the beach with my talons, leaving a slight pit beneath them. "I could stay here for a month."
"I think I'll stay here for the night. What do you plan on doing now you're here, anyway? You seem mighty determined." Tailae stretched his lower wings out slowly and carefully, allowing the cramp to dissipate.
"I have somebody special to meet. I promised them that this migration would be the last…"
"Somebody special, hey?" He grinned at me, showing the two single teeth on his bottom jaw and the row of jagged ones on top.
"Yeah, yeah, I get it." I rolled my eyes, lowering and flattened the scales on my crest.
"When I get to Kotanos… I want to make my home up in the mountains. Maybe act like a deity for a bit. You know, toy with the tourists."
I couldn't help but laugh. Though this whole journey, Tailae had been so low spoken, as if he were shy around the other dragons. To hear him now… so bold and courageous… and suggesting he'd become a prankster. It was just too funny.
"Well… I think our dreams will have to wait," I said, yawning deeply. The sun was setting, and the big dragons would be out soon. Out to hunt. "I'm going to hit the hay… or sand, even."
"Good idea. See you in the morning. I'll be up early to hunt."
"Yeah, see you." I closed my eyes, my body feeling as if it were floating. As if I were still flying across the ocean. But, you know, in a more pleasant way than the journey itself had been. It was alright, we were finally here. All would be good.
"HEY. HERE'S ONE. IT'S STILL ASLEEP, COME ON!"
I moaned as I forced my eyes open, voices ringing through my mind. It was daylight, but only barely. I could still see the pinks from the sunrise.
"Keu! Keu you have to get up! Keu get out of here!"
"What?" I mumbled as I got to my feet, the world around me blurred. One voice stood out to me… It was familiar. Tailae?
"KEU THEY'RE COMING. FLY AWAY!"
"Tailae?" I called, turning my head to the sky. I could see his wings beating franticly, but that was all I could see. My eyes weren't in focus yet. "What's going on?"
"Look behind you!" I watched him turn and gradually shrink. He was fleeing. But from what?
I jolted upwards, spreading my wings as wide as possible. But it was impossible. I fell straight to the ground, my head scattering the sand. Nothing could ever be easy. There was sand in my eyes… my wings were stuck. Who was pinning me down, anyway? It certainly wasn't a migrant… They spoke Chadosian, not Dragonese…
"You're going to make capt'n real happy." The voice behind me laughed. I turned my head, nipping at them, my eyes tightly shut. "Hey! Don't you dare do that!" I felt a whip beat me across the face. I stopped struggling. They blindfolded me. They gagged me. They covered my earholes. The only thing I could do was smell and feel.
I was brought back into the world again by a loud thud that rattled through my bones. It was my own weight, of course, being thrown against something wooden. I hissed as the gag was stripped from my mouth. I glared as my blindfold was removed. The stench of dead fish made me recoil.
"I'll kill you," I growled, stretching my wings out to make myself look bigger. "What have you done?!" I screeched, then realising the last finger of my wing would not stretch fully. It was stuck, fixed in place by a small black diamond.
"Shhh! Calm down, it's ok. The guys who brought ya here are gone." I felt a soft hand rub against my side. I lashed out, striking them down with my tail. Their skin felt strange… Unlike a dragon's. No. They weren't dragons. I was captured not by a predator of my own species, but rather, Venrans.
"Rey! Are you alright?" Another Venran joined him as I swung round to study them. They were small, a couple of feet shorter than me when I stood. Both of them were grey, one covered in skin, the other fur.
"I'll kill you!" I roared as loud as I could, sending birds flying from the trees of the islands nearby. They had captured me, restricted my flight and thrown me onto a ship. A boat. A wooden box, floating in the middle of the ocean. No dragon should be shamed to this. I looked them in the eyes.
"Please, calm down, we didn't bring you here…" The furry one stood up, his long ears pinned back. "We're going to help you get free…" He had a tattoo on his arm; a skull with a snake wrapped around it. In fact, they all did. I looked up to see the same mark, flying above me on a flag. I'd been taken by pirates.
"Your name's Rey?" I folded my wings and hunched my back, settling into a more comfortable position. The offer of freedom was mighty convincing.
"Yeah. Rey. This is Arcaizz, my friend." He held his hand up to my snout, allowing me to smell him.
"You stink," I said, turning my head, "why should I trust you?"
"Because we're all captives here… And we all want to get out together."
To say boats are horrible is the understatement of the century. Without flying, you can't get on them or off them, which is a big problem when you're held on one against your will. I couldn't even swim; if you put me in the water I would just sink like a stone. If the sharks didn't get me first.
The two people who had unbound me (yet not my wings…), Arc and Rey, had lead me below deck into a large cavern. It was marked "Attack Quarters" in Chadosian, a different language to my own, but with strong roots from my own language. I could understand them just fine.
Once there, I was introduced to two more captured dragons, and another of their friends, Atai. The dragons were… interesting to say the least. Weak species. A fishing dragon and an island hopper, both spent their whole lives in Chadosia. Both would have died if they had flown my journey. I exhaled sharply through my nose and turned away from them once seated.
"Keu, this is Chorikew, Atai's dragon, and Laenatar, Arc's dragon." Rey pointed to the purple fishing dragon and the yellow hopper dragon in turn. "They don't belong to them, obviously, they are all just close friends."
"Friends?" I raised an eyebrow, watching Arc ruffled Laenatar's mane. "Seems a strange way to do things, considering where we are…" I folded my wings and crouched.
"Well… friends make the suffering better?" Rey looked at Arc and Atai, confused. I smiled to myself.
"Channel hunter and Fly low." I nodded to the dragons.
"Killer Island." Chorikew replied, adopting an aggressive stance. I stood taller, matching her.
"Come on, Keu, Chori… we don't need any arguments," Rey said, standing between us, facing me. He looked concerned, but still managed to put on a brave face. A brave face, even to me. I had to respect that.
"Fine. I hope I get a room to myself." I huffed and turned away, stomping through the door. With each footstep I splintered the wood beneath my talons.
"Chori sleeps with Atai in the room down the end of the corridor. Laen and Arc sleep in that room, with us…" Rey followed me out the door.
I leant forwards, allowing myself to walk on all fours. It was easier than standing upright when the ceilings were so close.
"What do you want from me? What does this "captain" want from me, anyway? Why am I here?" I climbed the stairs, shooting a quick glance at Rey.
"Captain Tralazi wants you to be the main lead of the attack force, with me riding you. You'd drop boulders on villagers from above, then land and allow me to strike… Arc would work alongside us, but on foot."
"Attack force, hey? Hmm… Well. As long as I'm here, might as well enjoy the job." I smirked. Yes, attack force. It had a nice ring to it. All would fear me, and as they rightly should. And eventually, when the time came, Tralazi would fear me too.
Rey was designated to be my keeper, and as such we share a lot of time together. He is bold, courageous and daring. He shows no fear; as a hunter should be. Show no signs of weakness to your opponent and you are sure to succeed. Rey is the second in command for the attack force, behind Arc. From this position it means that Rey has full control over his enemies. A position that is both great and devastating. A perfect position for someone so trustworthy to be in. Needless to say, I have a lot of respect for Rey.
For a leader, Arc is far too lenient. He allows, essentially, free reign within his group. Strange, as if I were in his position, I would use it to assume authority… But instead, he listens to the ideas of others and often disregards his own in their favour. A leader should be the decision maker, a leader should strike fear into the hearts of others. He strikes no more fear into me than a tumbleweed does waking me up from my roost. A little shocking a first but after three nights you manage to ignore it. About the same kind of system I use for following his lead. Pity that Rey is forced to obey him.
Laen is a pathetic excuse of a dragon! Laenatar, "fly low" indeed, he's scared of flying! What creature born of the sky would be scared of flying?! He can't even make eye contact with me. He's scared of me, just like everything else in the world. A timid member of a species that barely had any courage about them to begin with. He can fly for a couple of hundred metres, but he skims the water. Even then he's obviously too scared to do so. I don't speak to him much. I wouldn't waste my time, he'd probably run away.
And speaking of pathetic, Atai is just as bad. The janitor of the crew, he was shunned into such a position by the captain, mainly because of his inability to accept dominance. Perhaps at one time, not now. Atai would bend over backwards to receive punishment. He would kiss the feet of his punisher and beg for mercy. His past self, I might have respected more, but for now… My my, how the mighty has fallen. He clearly did not have the fearless heart one needs, after all.
Chorikew. I cannot think of a time that we haven't fought over something when we meet. She is stubborn, to say the least. Stubborn in that she won't accept that I am a far greater hunter than her. Though, I have to admit, she has some very admirable qualities, if only for the fact she will stand up to me as an equal. She believes she is as great, if not greater than me. Even though she is very, very wrong, a sure sense of self and the courage to stand up to those better than you are never bad qualities!
Sibare is essentially the first mate. The only girl on the ship that isn't a dragon, and selected especially by Tralazi for this position. For a good reason, too. She is loyal to him, for starters, and she is an excellent spy. She has the ability to change colours, within the limits of brown, pink, purple and blue. As you can imagine, when you're on a wooden boat, this gives you some very good camouflage. She is the one who reports all incidents to Tralazi. When she's around, you're on your best behaviour, even though I could easily take her down.
Honestly? I don't see why everyone has their wings tangled about Tralazi. He has some good ideas… like taking control of the weak and using them to his advantage. I will of course, never forgive him for what he has done to me, but there will be a time at which I can show him who is the weaker of the two of us. He is ruthless and fierce, he never gives mercy, and always demands what he wants. There is no questioning his leadership, and if there is, you are punished severely. A strong and powerful leader. But I repeat: I will show him who's the strongest of him and I.
This box will be home to an adoptable set which will be created post application! The set will contain Lennies carrying heavy objects with their talons, or perched with an ocean view. I have not decided yet.
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