'It exists', Shervan thought amazed, landing onto the sandy beach as he closed his wings on his black scaled body and started walking.
Being on solid land was a welcome relief after such a long and desperate flight. Fresh water had been extremely scarce, the rain often being the only source, and islands to rest on were few and far between. Uncountable times the spectre of death had fallen on him but he had resisted, just like he had been resisting the human threat throughout his life. Now on the distant horizon, illuminated only by the pale moonlight, stood a mountain range with peaks almost seeming to reach the stars. The sight of it promised him the safety he had taken the risk of flying across the ocean for.
Shervan began walking on the ground, with his scales trembling from emotion, and inhaled two deep sniffs of that mythical place. The fresh scent of grass was a pleasant change after breathing so much saltiness. How many times, as a hatchling, had he heard of stories the land up in the north where dragons were safe from the threat of humans. A place separated by his original land by an immense expanse of sea, a safe haven for all dragons where no humans hunted them. And he had found it.
'Yes', the young dragon thought, 'maybe this time I am truly safe'.
He glanced at the scar in his right forepaw, the first one a human ever inflicted him, during the terrible night when he became a nomad. 'Mum, dad, sister... if your spirits up there are watching me, I greet you once more.'
Ten years of solitude, wandering through the mountains of two different continents and defending himself from human assaults. The scars that permeated his body were a remind of how they had destroyed in one night everything he loved. The land he had reached was his last hope.
Too many times he had revived that terrible night in his head. He was eighty seasons old, barely a teenager. His head still just reached the lower part of his father's chest. And little Shervan would ask him or his mother why, why the humans did hunt them so much, since they did not even eat them like dragons ate deer. The answer was straightforward: it was just how the world worked. But Shervan knew, inside of him, that it was not so. The world could not let him assist at their slaughter, in their very own cave, in front of his eyes, by those hairless monsters and their gigantic metal claw. All they were doing that night was dining around their fire and then he would play with his dear sister under their parents' sight. No way an action like that deserved such sudden and brutal death. If his father, in his last moments of life, hadn't roared him to fly away, he would have remained inside, ready to be murdered by those demons. But he survived. He didn't surrender, he didn't accept it to be reality. No matter what he could be told: it was not fair.
Now he was there, in the promised land of peace, conquered after forty seasons of flying around and fighting the monsters that would try to interrupt his path. He roared his triumph to the stars, and let a glimpse of fire burn up in the air.
'Here I declare my triumph! I emerged from pain and misery, and defeated the monsters that torment my race! I did it by remaining alive!'
He was tired of running away. Tired of daydreaming of the life he should have had as a dragon, like calling another female dragon his mate and have hatchlings. Tired of letting his inner rage unfold by spitting fire on some rocks. As he kept sniffing the air around with enjoyment, he smelled nothing but the same grass scent. No stone would fall victim to his angry fire, at least for the moment.
'I will rest here tonight', he decided, 'and then maybe head to those mountains'. He made himself comfortable in the grass and drifted into slumber, finally truly in peace.
Shervan's big yellow eyes opened caressed by the sunlight. He contemplated the sea before turning to that peaceful land and preparing his wings to fly. Full of optimism, he soared up above the ground, towards the peaks' direction, where he would probably find some fresh prey. He flew, full of hope and strength, above forests, coasts and mountains, stopping shortly for claiming a moose for himself, until he found a bunch of buildings, like the ones humans made. His certainties about their absence were put in doubt. Their number was massive - the greatest set of human constructions he had ever seen. But no scent of them came from there: only again grass, aging, and someway, death - human death, the smell of victory, which still could not delete his doubts.
'Maybe humans used to live in this land', he told himself, 'and we managed to get rid of them'...there was only one way to be sure of it. He had to actually look around there. Abruptly, he turned his body to the ruins and landed just few paws before them, hiding for precaution. The smells did not change. Out of great curiosity, Shervan took courage and entered.
They were all made of solid stone. If they had still been in their entirety, Shervan could easily say that the most central constructions would be three times his height. More amazing, the holes that lead into the interiors were big enough to let him enter.
'There had to be some giant humans living here'...he frowned.
But a strange detail fell into his eyes. Not daring to enter still, he lowered his head. Inside, there was something shaped like a square, made of metal...it depicted two figures. One of them was a dragon, just like him. It was raising one paw towards the direction of the other figure's paw, which happened to be a_
SWOOSH. His sense of danger reactivated, saving him from an arrow. An arrow...then there was...
He immediately turned his head, and the smell came to him, filling him with anger and discomfort. The smell of a human, which stood outside the ruins. It had on its back something long, that he dreadfully recognized to be made of dragon scales, and a metal plate on its chest - just like the assassin of his parents.
And the same long metal claw on its back.
His dreams died like a spark in a deluge as he launched himself to assaulting the deadly creature, and the battle began. As Shervan got closer, the human monster raised its metal claw and charged, shouting its terrible roar. The dragon breathed fire, but the human readily answered with protecting itself with its rounded metal piece, and Shervan rotated on himself to avoid an attack from it, taking distance and getting ready to charge. But another assault from the metal claw forced him to deviate, and the attack failed. The whole ruins echoed with the roars of the fighting dragon and the human in their dance of death.
But as the battle continued, Shervan discovered himself to be slowing, while the human kept being full of energy. His attacks were more predictable, his fire not efficient enough, while the human was close to inflicting a decisive wound. Shervan was now collecting new scars alongside the ones the previous humans he had encountered had caused to his body. He had not rested enough from his dangerous journey in the open sea, and was now paying for his foolishness.
'It had to just happen, right? My parents were right ab'... but he did not have the time to complete his last thought before a new attack from the human's metal claw arrived, and his movements were just sufficient to avoid getting hurt in the chest...his forepaw got wounded. Ignoring the pain, he desperately attempted to bite the monster with his jaws, unsuccessfully.
He knew it. This human was way too strong even for him. He gave his last thought to his family...
'I am joining you finally...but I won't do it surrendering to the creatures that caused my misery...'
As he prepared himself to die, a roar shook the ground. Out of nowhere, amber claws landed on the human.
In front of Shervan was now a second male dragon. His scales were the color of amber, with a stripe of green ones along its back, and his chest was ruined by battle scars like Shervan's, although his wrinkled muzzle revealed his old age. The new dragon was now battling the human, now struggling to recover from the surprise.
"Who are you..." Shervan stammered, immobilized by his arrival, while joyfully thanking the dragon spirits for sending him a savior.
"Not now!" The amber dragon growled, while the human attempted a new attack with his metal claw. The fight continued, but the situation was reversed: soon, the newly arrived dragon would prevail and the human would get the death it deserved. But inside of him, a painful certainty pervaded his soul. There were no true havens. The world was infested with the human vermin. His whole life would be a continuous breathless fight. He just kept watching the raging battle, until finally the human ended up between the dragon's claws.
But just as victory was the amber dragon's, and a simple bite would have ended the monster's life, the amber dragon stopped abruptly. Instead of using his jaws, he simply pressed its nape with a claw, and the human fell to the ground.
"Is it dead, right?" Shervan asked desperately. "Is it dead?"
The amber dragon looked at him for the first time, revealing brilliant emerald eyes that contrasted with Shervan's yellow ones. "No," he said finally, "I just knocked him out." His voice was deep, clearly an elder, and most of all astoundingly calm. But that did not manage to calm the younger one.
"What are you waiting for?" Shervan exclaimed, incredulous. "Kill it now, before it awakes!"
But the amber dragon gave him instead another deep look, then snorted. "I suppose you were born after the War. I will not kill a human outside a war battle anymore. The bond shall not be broken, no matter what the Krisaders can teach to them nowadays."
Shervan's mind became a bunch of foreign words. "What are the Krisaders? What is this bond? Where am I?"
"Ah," the dragon nodded, "you are...not from here? May I know your name?"
"Mmm," The old dragon reflected. "That sounds like a Krisader name. I suppose you crossed the sea to come here to this land?"
"I...yes, I crossed the sea," the black dragon confirmed, too full of questions to make one. "I've been on this landmass for only one day..."
"Curious," the other dragon reacted, with a calm, yet someway admired, tone. "Just as our oldest ancestors did. You are immensely brave."
Shervan raised one paw dismissing his compliments, his muscles too unquiet while waiting for a clarification.
"However," the old dragon continued, "now that I know your origins your confusion is understandable, Shervan." He paused, his muzzle, lowering to the ground, becoming a mask of sadness. "The story of this land used to be happier than the land you come from."
"Who are you? What is this land?"
The old dragon got closer to him. "My name is Iexolud. I welcome you, Shervan, to the land of Gyr'end, whose human inhabitants used to share with us dragons a millennial bond."