From the Shadows

clouds

Sing a song of sixpence

I stand in the shadows, hair falling into my face as I glance up at the scene around me.  There is a quiet panic in the city square, bubbling just beneath the surface.

They are coming.  The monsters of legend.  They are coming and the people are scared.  I play with a switchblade in one hand, flipping it open and shut.  Waiting.

There’s a sudden silence that ripples through the air.  People are standing frozen in place, their faces turned in the direction of the city gates.  They’re coming.  They’re coming.

They’re here.

A spark is glistening in their eyes

I know it before the whispers start sweeping through the square.  Among all the statuesque crowd, a face turns and looks straight at me.  One flash of amber eyes and I know who he is.

What he is.

He grins at me, and I know it’s an invitation.  He’s decided then.  That would make one of us.

Just as the whispers sweep past me, the screaming starts.  The panic is boiling over.  These people know they are doomed.  I am watching them, waiting to see what they do about it.  Waiting to see what happens.

Golden wings are spreading

I can see it now, over the rooftops and domes.  A dark cloud is approaching, and I know better than anyone what sort of horrors it brings.

I glance back at the gleaming amber eyes, and he nods, just once.  He was always one for heroics.

The screams rise as he transforms in a burst of light and smoke.  Wings spread out from him, and he leaps into the air as his limbs grow scales.  He is fully in the sky before he finishes changing, probably because of how crowded it is on the ground.

A second flash hits the corner of my eyes, and I spot another one of us joining him.  I shut my switchblade and flip it back open, listening to the confusion this is causing.

They are taking to the sky

Screams rise behind us a block over, followed by the sound of wings.  Very, very large wings.  I raise my head to watch as he soars over us.

I know him by his black scales.  I’m surprised that he’s joining them.  I was with him when he received that long scar down his tail.  He’d sworn never to face those creatures in battle again.

I guess he’s breaking that vow.

The people below are crying, screaming, clinging to each other as they watch my friends gather above them.  I hadn’t expected so few to be running.  Perhaps they’re too scared to, or perhaps they’re clinging to some hope that these creatures gathering above the city will protect them.

I know they’ll at least try.

The sheets of clouds are breaking

I shut my switchblade one last time and put it back into my pocket.  There’s an older girl with wild eyes searching the crowd, calling out a name.  She’s lost someone, and I can feel the terror rising in her.  Not terror for her own safety, but for the safety of whoever it is she lost.

She pauses in front of me, standing on her tiptoes and scanning the crowd.  I can hear her heart from where I’m standing.  She turns in a circle, and she stops when she sees me in the shadows.

“Have you seen my friend?  Blue curly hair, about so tall?” her voice is breaking.

I slowly shake my head.  Tears fill her eyes and she turns back to look at the dark cloud approaching from the horizon.

The northeast winds begin

I melt out of the shadows, walking through the crowded square.

I am tired.

So, so tired.

A young man is sitting on the edge of the public fountain, shaking from head to foot.  He couldn’t run if he wanted to.  Wouldn’t even be able to stand.  I stop in front of him, and he lifts his eyes to meet mine.

He is young.

So, so young.

I pull out my switchblade and hold it out to him.  His hand is trembling, but he takes it, his face full of questions.

“You’ll be fine.” I say.  My voice does not shake.  It hasn’t for centuries.

A spot of color catches my eye, and I leave the man behind.  On the far side of the square I approach a girl with blue curly hair.  She’s turning in circles and calling out her friend’s name, fear coating every word.   She sees me and pauses.

“Your friend’s over there.” I say, pointing my thumb over my shoulder.

She runs past me, and I close my eyes with a sigh.  I have decided.

They’ve left behind their shadows

Light and smoke bursts from me, and I spread out my wings first.  They lift me to the sky as I change my form.  Scales cover me in an impenetrable armor.  Fire is rushing through my veins.

It’s been so long.

Amber eyes turn to meet mine, and I see surprise inside them.  I don’t blame him.  I’m still rather surprised myself.  Below me the city is a small thing, filled with little people.  People who I have lived amongst for ages.

In all that time, I remained a stranger.

A creature in the shadows.

But the others had found friends among them.  Nooks and crannies where they could fall in love with the place we’d gone to for hiding.

They’d found something worth standing against this cloud of darkness for.  I couldn’t share their reasons, but I had some of my own.

Up here, gathering in the sky, these were my friends.  My family.  If this city was theirs to die protecting, then it was mine as well.

Making a last stand with their kin

I turned to face the approaching enemy, and roared my challenge.  The others took up the sound, and I swear a ripple of fear swept through the cloud before us.

As one, our cry ceased.

As one, we charged.

As one, the last of the dragons made their stand.

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