Cut and Run Ch- 9
“Frazziss?” Qirri asked, as she stood next to Frazziss in the noon-time sun.
“You need to eat. Allen-Belushi will need you strong when he comes back, you know.” Qirri said, trying to reason with her.
Frazziss, continued to ignore Qirri. Instead, she remained sitting where she’d been for the previous days, silently maintaining vigil at the Seventh Path Egress Gate spot. Waiting for any sign of her mate’s return.
“Frazziss, PLEASE! At least drink some water!” Qirri pleaded desperately as she fell to her knees, holding an Ewer of water in her paws.
Slowly, reluctantly, Frazziss reached over to the ewer and took a few swallows from it. After a few moments more, Qirri took the Ewer back and waited for Frazziss to say something, anything, yet she didn’t. She searched Frazziss’ face for any sign of acknowledgement, but there was nothing beyond the saddened-resigned look on her friend’s face.
“I’ll just leave the food here if you should decide to change your mind.” Qirri said quietly, as she carefully placed the Dragon Bento tray next to her. Frazziss nodded once as she did so. Qirri then walked over to the edge of the clearing and spoke to a waiting attendant.
“At least she is willing to drink.” She said defeatedly. The Dragonewt attendant looked up sympathetically at her, and bit her lower lip.
“Is there any hope?” the Dragonewt attendant asked. Qirri looked over at her sadly.
“Maybe.” She sighed dejectedly, shaking her head and looking back at Frazziss with a deep and abiding melancholy.
‘He’s been away two days longer than the longest seventh-path walker.’ She said to herself, closing her eyes.
I screamed as I fell.
Immense rock walls blurred past me as I plummeted endlessly twirling and tumbling. I couldn’t think, I was too scared to. It was just me in between innumerable walls of rock, and the whistling air that blew past me.
“AAAAHH!” I screamed with the intense pain, when I drifted too close to a wall of rock. I’d managed to impact it, and scrapped myself something fierce against it. I noticed sparks flying out behind me, as I felt my scales wear rapidly away from where they contacted the rough granite.
It hurt so bad then, that I instinctively pushed out against it. Then I wasn’t scraping anymore. I gasped in relief when I was relieved from the immediate hurt. Its surcease was a brief pleasure.
‘Oh shit!’ I thought to myself, as I realized I had a measure of control over my falling. The next time I started to drift too close to one of the walls, I scrunched my legs and arms and allowed myself to get,…just,…a,…little,…bit,…closer…
BAM! I pushed/kicked with all of my might against that streaking surface! Panting, I suddenly realized that I was a good distance way away from that gods-be-damned rock-wall! It wasn’t much, but it was something.
Immediately, my Dragon instincts finally kicked in, and I spread eagled in an effort to stabilize. My arms, legs, tail, and wings, all splayed out. When the whistling wind hit the membranes of my wings, I screamed in pain again!
The feel of them stretching almost to the ripping point, was too intense! I immediately retracted them.
But, somehow I managed to keep everything else extended. Thankfully, it was enough to slow my descent and stop my tumbling. After a few more seconds, I noticed that the shrillness of the wind past my ears started to subside, then a bit more, then still more.
So, I cautiously extended my wings so that just the tips started out past the lines of my back.
The wind still stung my wing-skin, but it was tolerable. I cautiously continued to extend my wings: slowly, carefully, until finally, I was at full extension.
DAMN! It still hurt. But it was a good hurt.
My gliding instincts finally kicked in, and I was able to start steering by tightening up one wing or the other, or lashing my tail.
I quickly found that I was able to keep myself away from the intermittent walls. Taking a quick look at my hide, I noticed that I was weeping blood from all of the places where I scrapped along that wall. Which also had the side effect of helping me to remember the pain.
‘Road Rash?’ I thought at first. ‘Naaah! Rock-Rash!’ I laughed. It wasn’t much, but just that little bit of humor was enough, to get me to stop my heart from beating so hard. I realized that I had some measure of control, finally.
With that thought, I remembered that I could also flap. I had tried a bit of it before, when I was in Yosemite. But back there, I hadn’t had much in the way of wing-room to make mistakes. Here, in this weird ass place, I had way too much of it. Well, empty space with a shit load of rock walls to avoid.
Taking a quick gander around, I noted that the rock walls were starting and ending in a pattern. It was like I was falling through an asteroid field.
‘Wait, what’s that?’ I thought, as I noticed the top of one massive boulder I was passing. Its surface was covered with trees, scrub brush, and…
‘What the hell? A river?!’ I exclaimed. ‘What the fuck is up with this place?’ I thought in dismay.
River or not, I decided that I needed to fly my way up and over to it, so I started flapping. It took me a bit to get it right. Yeah, you’d think it’d be easy-peasey, my being a Dragon and all.
But it wasn’t, not for me. Basically, I had to maintain both my balance and my lift at the same time. The first few minutes of flying reminded me of that day the training wheels had come off my first bike.
When I remembered my bike, I remembered the best way to ride. That it wasn’t a good idea to force balance, better to just allow it.
So, I applied that to my flying. I can’t tell you good it felt when my falling slowed, and then I started to soar! I couldn’t believe how easy it came to me, then.
Oh man, I laughed out so very loud, as I swooped and I banked so much and so often, that I just about made myself dizzy from it all! Then I sobered. I remembered that I had a job to do! Looking around, I spied that scrub brush plain, and decided to search for a spot to settle down on.
Swallowing hard, I remembered that I still hadn’t learned how to land properly.
‘Well, no better time than the present!’ I thought to myself grimly, nervous as all fuck.
So, I circled that mountain sized-massive boulder several times. I then picked out a spot and turned to come in for that landing.
‘This is Red Five, I’m going in!’ I thought to myself as I smiled, then imagined several beeps coming from a non-existent ARR-Two unit on my back.
After a few seconds of approach, I could start to see my desired landing spot rushing towards me. It was fairly level with spots of tall yellowish grass here and there. I could feel my heart starting to pound harder.
I lowered my tail a bit, to induce some drag. I could feel myself starting to slow as a result. The air’s whistling dropped a note in pitch.
I couldn’t help it, I started to panic as I suddenly KNEW that I was going to tumble and crash.
‘Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies, Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I’ I recited from memory. Somehow, I don’t know how, that Pink Floyd song helped to calm me just enough.
‘Wait! Too low an angle!’ I yelped in realization, and wing-flapped a couple of strong beats, which raised me sufficiently. ‘Good.’
‘Coming in! I’m coming in on my final approach vector!’ I thought/yelled at myself, as I saw the occasional treetop fly by in my peripheral vision. I did my best to ignore them all. Instead I focused on nothing in particular, and just kept my eyes peeled to take it all in!
Despite the tears being whipped from my eyes by the wind, I had to force myself to keep from blinking my nictitating membranes. Clear or not, I felt that they’d block something important at the wrong moment!
Carefully, oh so carefully, I lowered my legs and arms in preparation for touch down. Glancing down quickly, I gauged my descent speed.
‘DAMN!’ I thought, ‘I’m still going too fast!’ I was too low to try for a missed approach, so I decided in that moment to deal with the situation and take it as it came.
I spread my wings to their full stretch, to induce still more drag.
So, when I decided that I had come close enough, I prepped a leg and pushed a foot down fiercely to the surface.
“BAM!” I yelled aloud when I impacted! I slowed down some more, and started to lean too far forward!
So, with the next foot/impact I pushed up and back even more, it probably slowed me too much, but it also had the effect of pushing me back upright.
I immediately started flapping my wings in unison with my feet as I impacted the ground. “BAM!,…BAM!,…BAM!,..BAM,.Bam, Bam, bam, bam, bam.” I shouted aloud as I slowed, and finally came to a stop, breathing hard while I pulled in my sore wings.
I just stood there, bent over with my paws on my knees, panting for several seconds until it hit me.
“I just successfully LANDED!!!” I laughed out loud, and gave myself a fist pump. After a few seconds of whooping and laughing, I fell to my knees and started to shake. I don’t know why man, I just felt like I had to do that then. It took a few minutes, but after letting the tears out, I felt a helluva lot better. I decided that I had passed a personal milestone.
Stretching my neck, I looked up, and I couldn’t see any of the asteroid/boulders I’d passed on the way down. It felt strange to not see anything other than blue sky then.
After resting a long while, I decided to flap off and get high enough to reconnoiter the area. Once I’d done that, I noticed that I was still on a massive floating boulder-mountain, but that all of the other ones I had seen bobbing about on my way down, had indeed disappeared.
Looking down and searching, I discovered I couldn’t see a source or an ending for that river down there, yet it flowed continuously across it. I could see white water rapids here and there.
“So, this is the Seventh Path, huh?” I spoke aloud, circling and searching. That was when I noticed him, standing on the shore of a river curve. It was a guy all right, that, I could tell even from that distance above. So, I banked and adjusted my trajectory to approach.
This time around, I was good enough in my flying ability, that I managed to almost land silently. It was a lot easier this time around. Feeling satisfied with this progress, I approached the dude.
As I got close to him, I noticed that he was facing away from me as if he was ignoring me. This, despite the fact that I was making enough noise, clacking my claws against the river rocks, to wake the dead.
When I got almost within touching distance of the dude, I got the strangest feeling that I knew him from somewhere. He was around six feet tall and he had a fairly muscular build with short brown hair. I also noticed, that he had a hint of sunburn on the parts of him that wasn’t covered by his plaid flannel shirt and blue jeans.
I stopped nearby, and waited for him to finish with whatever the hell he was doing. Which seemed to consist of him staring at nothing.
Then, he spoke with a familiar voice. He tilted his head up, still not facing me. “About Fucking time, you showed up ASSHOLE!”
“Who the fuck are you Bub?” I answered back, annoyed. He turned around and faced me. When I saw who it was, I stopped mouthing off, letting my jaw fall in surprise. He saw me gawping at him and he smiled a bitter smile.
“What’s the matter Allen? See someone you know?” he spat.
I did indeed.
I saw myself.
I didn’t see myself right now, as a Dragon. I saw the me that was in the mirror before I swallowed the Succubus Nostrum. Only I/he wasn’t reversed like you would see in a mirror.
I stared at my old self in disbelief. He stared back at me with a disgusted look on his/my face.
“Welcome to the Seventh Path, Allen.” I/he said suddenly and sneering at me. “Ready to face your demons?”
“No.” I exclaimed, shaking my head in negation. “You’re not real, this can’t be happening!” I said fearfully, frozen in place. The old me, just cocked his head and did something that indicated he was definitely real.
He shifted his weight, and kicked me in the balls!
“Oooph!” was all I could come up by way of reply, as I curled up and fell to the ground on my side, then started whimpering. The old me stayed silent for a couple minutes, watching the display.
“Is that real enough for you now, Asshat!?”
I didn’t reply. I was rather preoccupied then after all. After a few more seconds, the old me started to kick me again, HARD!
“C’mon asshole! Stop lollygagging and talk!” he shouted, as he kept flinging kicks into me.
“OW!” I yelled as he kicked me in the face. “OW” I yelled again, as he kicked me in the neck. “OWWWW!” I screamed, as I/he started kicking me again and again, all over my face, head, neck, and wings.
“GODSDAMMIT! STOP THAT SHIT!” I cried angrily, as I rolled over and got to my feet. I was able to block and intercept the next few kicks, and then he started hitting me with his/my fists. It was fucking weird. There shouldn’t have been any way for a human to have THAT much of an impact on me! By rights I should’ve been able to shrug him off. But, it was like he was the Dragon, strength-wise, not I!
Then, suddenly, he stopped. We just faced each other then, on the shore of that river, the water sloshing away alongside us.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked, out of the blue. He just smirked at me.
“Why beat yourself up?” He asked, as he began circling me. I kept an eye on him as he did. Once He got to the point that I had to turn my head to catch up with him, I noticed that he had disappeared!
Swiftly, I turned and looked about. He was definitely gone then! I took to the air to search for him, yet no matter where I looked, there was no sign of him anywhere.
After a while I gave up searching, and decided to find a spot where I could land and tend to my wounds. The spots where I had scraped my scales on my fall down, were still smarting, and I noticed that I was bleeding again. That, and I was sore all over from being kicked and hit.
Back down to the river’s edge I went, landing quietly. After a quick check around, I started washing my wounds. It stung something fierce, but I kept at it until I had them all clean. After I finished, I realized just how quiet the entire place was.
Looking around and listening, I noted that the only sounds that were happening, were the sounds of the river washing over the rocks, the wind in the air, and whatever sounds I made. There wasn’t the sound of a grasshopper, a bird, or anything else. It was like some Twilight Zone episode.
That’s when I saw the first of them. Up, over there, up near the tree line away from the river, there appeared to be a black statue that I didn’t recall seeing before.
It was a statue of a Dragon of that I was sure. I approached it cautiously, remembering the reception my old self had given me. Then, I stopped as I noticed details: This was indeed a Dragon/Humanoid. It had wings, horns, tail, head hair, claws and paws, but it didn’t have any tits!
Carefully I got closer, waiting for a surprise. Once I decided I was close enough, I stopped and scrutinized it. It was definitely a Dragon all right. But it was black in color. Just a uniform color of black, from its wing tips to its claws and head hair.
I thought at first it was a statue as it remained completely still. I jerked and jumped back when it moved its head, and stared at me for a second or three. After its eyes got done looking at me, it turned its head back to its original position and resumed being a statue again.
Getting nearer to it, I could see more details. Yes! It was a Male Dragon! Of that I was so sure!
“Definitely no tits, though you do have nice pecs.” I snarked out loud. The statue continued to ignore me, unmoving. Taking him all in, I noticed his finer details. He looked a lot like me, but different. I had to admit, he did look in better condition than I did. I had some muscles, yeah. But this dude! He could’ve modeled for a Romance novel-cover, he was that ripped.
Yet he was black. Not black as a black dude kind of black. I mean black as the darkness between the stars-black.
There was not even a shine of the sky reflecting off of his skin. The next time he moved, I didn’t flinch. He made no sound when he did. He just turned and stared at me in my eyes for a second or two, and then went back to his original position, again.
“What are you?” I asked him, not expecting an answer. But I got one, sort of. But not from him. From behind my back, I heard a little girl’s voice.
“He is one of Those Who Wait.” The little girl’s voice called out. I turned at this surprising sound, and I noticed what appeared to be a toddler sized human girl a short distance away. I began walking towards her, slowly, carefully, so as to not scare her. I was a big scary fierce-looking Dragon after all.
I need not have bothered. She just stayed where she was, watching me sadly as I got close.
I was about to ask what she meant by that ‘those who wait’, when I stopped. I decided that there was something awfully familiar about her too. But I didn’t recall ever having met a such a cute little girl before.
She had a button nose, and brown curly hair that hung down un-brushed to her waist. She was just standing there amongst the river brush completely naked, with a stoic look on her face. She was about three or four years of age, I judged.
“Who are you?” I called out. She turned her eyes up and locked her brown eyes with mine. Then it hit me, HARD!
I knew exactly who she was then.
It was my little girl. My first daughter. The one I’d killed when she was born without a brain! There was no mistaking that button nose, and that curly hair! The shape of her face, it was all just like her mother’s!
Yet here she was, as old as she should’ve been if she had lived! I stumbled back and away from her. She moved forward to match.
I wasn’t watching where I was going then! How could I? All I could do then was watch as she kept matching me step for step, approaching me. Then, I stumbled and fell to my butt, panting fearfully. I couldn’t move then, yet still she kept coming to me. All the while with that sad look on her mug.
“Wha…?” I called out hoarsely. “What…?! I’m! …I’m,…! I’m SORRY!” I yelled at her in an effort to get her to stop!
But she didn’t, she just kept walking slowly towards me.
“Please!” I cried. “PLEASE!” I begged, shaking violently all the while. “I didn’t want to pull the plug! I’M SORRY FOR MAKING YOU, JUST TO KILL YOU!” she kept walking towards me, not stopping.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME!!!” I shouted, as I covered my head with my arms and paws, then started weeping in remorse.
After a few seconds, more than enough time for this Zombie-Daughter of mine to reach me, and do I don’t know what? Rip me apart in revenge? I noticed that she hadn’t done so much as touch me.
Cautiously, I opened my eyes and arms and looked up. There she was, just beyond my feet. She was standing there unmoving, looking at me patiently with a hurt look.
I just stayed there, gaping at her for a minute or two. Finally, I spoke.
“What?”, I breathed. “What,…do you want?” I asked weakly. She looked at me for a second or two longer, then she moved her arms.
She raised them, elbows up, her hands positioned near her face, and held that pose, keeping her eyes locked with mine.
‘What?’ I thought, at first I was confused, then I realized what she wanted. She was holding that universal baby position that said: ‘Pick Me Up.’
It was too much. Somehow, I twisted away and jumped to my feet. Then I ran. I ran away like a coward, sobbing in fear and misunderstanding.
After a few hundred yards, I stopped and fell to my knees and covered my face in shame. Then, I heard something snap on the ground next to me. I uncovered my face to look.
But before I could see what it was, I felt my head jerk around as someone gave me a right hook. It knocked me to the ground.
“You fucking coward.” Said that familiar voice of mine again. “Running away from a little girl.” He said disgustedly, as he raised a fist and made to swing it. But then he stopped, and looked over my shoulder when he did. I followed his gaze and I saw another person a short distance away.
Turning back, I saw that my older self was gone, like he hadn’t just been there. Getting up, I went to see who this other person was.
I wish I hadn’t.
It was my first wife, Chiara. The sight of her was terrifying. She looked just like the way she did the last I’d seen of her.
Alive that is.
She came over and laid an angry hand on my arm.
“Why Allen?” she asked me quietly, as she stared at me reproachfully. “Why did you keep secrets from me?” I turned away from her, as I couldn’t maintain eye contact then.
“Answer me Allen! Why wouldn’t you trust me?!” she demanded fiercely. “Why did you HIDE the truth of our daughter from me!” she screamed. I shook her off and started running again. Anything to get away from her. I heard her shrieking as I departed.
“AAAALLLLLEEEEEEENNNNNN!” her cry echoed like a banshee in the woods behind me.
Then I tripped, and rolled down into an arroyo, stopping into a pain laden heap. After a second, I saw why I tripped. It was the old me again, he had extended a leg into my path. He came down and started hitting me again, not saying a word. I couldn’t stop him.
I didn’t want to.
‘I deserve this. I’m such a piece of shit.’ I thought to myself, as I kept beating myself up.
I saw them all.
Every one of them I gave grievance to.
All of the people I hurt during the last few years. My Father with the broken arm that I gave him. The friends, and relatives I drove away in my grief-anger. Even that green Ogre I pissed on in that train car.
For some strange reason, the hardest one for me to face was Angelique, the Were-cat guard from that Mamono-Man prison. She never said a word to me. But she looked different from what I remembered of her. Now, she was so skinny that she looked to be nothing but a bundle of fur and bones.
Looking her over as she sat near the river’s edge, I could tell that her fur was matted in a couple of places, and was missing in other spots. Her clothing was ragged and hanging in shreds from her frame, and always, she clutched a mass of greying white cloth in one paw.
She didn’t even look at me, but somehow, I knew that she was aware of me. But I could hear her muttering the same word sadly under her breath. “allen,…allen,…”
And that, was basically my existence there in the Seventh Path for what seemed like the longest while.
Time and again, I ran into folks I knew, folks I’d wronged. Folks I’d hurt: My Demons. My personal demons. Not the fun kind of demons I’m afraid.
I ran away from every one of them, and every time I did, I met myself again. Every time he and I met, he started beating the shit out of me. A couple of times I managed to land a punch on him back, but he just shrugged it off like it was a love-tap.
Every now and again, in between my old self and one of my Demons, I’d encounter another of those black male Dragon statues. They at least, changed their form every time I met another one of them. At first, they stood alone, then more and more of them appeared. Near the last, I saw dozens, no, hundreds of them!
Every time I tried to sleep, my Daughter would show up. She wouldn’t say anything. She’d just stand there and stare at me with that sad look on her face, that hurt look. Then she would raise her arms, showing me that she wanted to be picked up. But I couldn’t. I wasn’t worthy.
I felt myself grow weaker as the days went by. There was no food to eat, though there was plenty of water to drink.
After several days of running, I was hungry enough to try taking a chunk out of one of the black statues, but my hands just passed right through him like he was a ghost.
‘I’m in Hell.’ I decided.
Soon, I became too weak to run, let alone fly. Until finally, I lay down to rest, and I couldn’t get up anymore. As I lay on the ground panting in my exhaustion, I Sensed him. My old self.
Yeah, Sensed. It was something that had started to happen during my time there. I learned to Sense things. I could Sense where my Old Self was. I could Sense where my Daughter was, and yeah the statues, and a whole bunch of other things. For all the good it all did me.
I decided that my old self was approaching me, to finish me off this time.
Instead of whaling on me like he normally did, he just stood nearby. I could Sense that he was staring at me.
“Why do you hesitate?” I asked myself. “This is the perfect time to finish me off.” He was silent for a long while, then he spoke.
“Are you finished?” He/I asked me in a patient tone.
“You’ll have to do it,” I whined, “finish me off.”
“That’s not what I asked, Allen.”
“Then what are you asking?” I half-sobbed. Gods! I was so tired.
“Are you finished with RUNNING AWAY!?” he shouted, then quieted. “Stop, running, away.”
“Running away?” I sobbed, “From what?”
“From yourself.” I/he whispered.
“What do you mean by that? Why do you want me dead?”
“Don’t give me that Allen. You know exactly what I mean.” He said with his eyes I felt boring into my soul. “I don’t want you dead, or at least, not anymore.” He/I replied.
I opened my eyes and stared up at him. For the first time since I arrived, he didn’t have a sneer on his face.
“Then what the hell do you want?” I asked wearily, and lay my head down on the ground. He shuffled closer, then sat down next to my head with his legs crossed. He smiled. A good smile it was.
“I want you,… to accept.”
“Accept? Accept what? My death here?” I huffed. He shook his head.
“I want you to,… Accept yourself.” I looked at me/him strangely.
He chuckled at that and then, leaning over, he lay his human hand on my head.
“You know what you need to do Allen.” I closed my eyes in confusion.
“Stop-beating-yourself-up.” He said simply. I opened my eyes again. “Accept yourself.” He tilted his head and looked at me sadly.
“Whether or not it’s your fault, for siring a daughter without a brain is irrelevant.” He began to explain as I listened, taking it all in. “The fact of the matter is, that’s what happened. Yes, you pulled the plug on her. That’s what happened. But you needed to do that, as opposed to some medico with a bad case of compassion fatigue doing it instead.”
“Yes, you hid your daughter’s condition from your wife.” He continued.
He drew my head up and pulled me close, placing my head to his chest. I could feel his/my heartbeat as I looked up at him then. He smiled down at me.
“You need to accept. Accept that you’ve done all that. Accept that you snuck behind your first wife’s back, and got that vasectomy without her knowledge. Accept all of the things you’ve done in your life.”
“But those who forget the past…” I began. He shushed me with a finger to my lips, shaking his head.
“No! You know what I mean! Accepting isn’t forgetting! It means that you learn to stop beating yourself up for making a mistake. Accepting, means remembering your mistakes in a way that motivates you to stop doing stupid shit in the future.” He explained quietly.
Strangely, I felt emboldened by this. I got back a bit of strength as I pondered his/my words. Slowly, I pushed myself to my feet and stared back at him.
He looked up at me and spoke some more. “By your beating yourself up, you allowed yourself to be pushed around in ways, that even the nastiest bully in high school couldn’t manage!” What he said started to sink in.
“So, if I accept,” I began, he nodded. “the fact that I’ve done all those things.” I mused and pondered. “Then I will stop?” I stopped as I realized the implications of what I’d been doing for far too long.
“Running away from your problems Allen, didn’t make them go away.” I/he said, continuing.
“Stop being less than the man you could’ve been! Remember that you can be a much better man, or Dragon!” My old self nodded, and reached up a hand. I grasped it and pulled him up to me. We stood there together for a short while.
As I looked at myself I asked.
“Is it really so simple?” He smiled sadly back at me.
“Yes.” He nodded. “And No.” He shook his head, then chuckled. I matched it. It was strange to notice it, but our laughter still sounded the same.
“Since when did I learn this wisdom?” I asked myself suddenly. He/I grinned.
“You’ve always had it, Allen. You just finally had the opportunity to stop, and listen to that nagging voice you’ve ignored for so long.” I stayed silent.
“It’s easy to say, yet hard to do. But you’ve finally started along the path. Just promise me that you’ll keep going. No matter how slow you go Allen Belushi, Just. Keep. Going!”
I sniffled then as I closed my eyes, realizing how much of my life I had wasted. Realizing how close I had come to losing it entirely. All because I wouldn’t accept things as they were.
I opened my eyes, and noticed that my old self had disappeared. I couldn’t Sense him nearby anymore. Then I realized where he was. Right where he should’ve been, right where I was the whole time.
“I promise.” I said, out loud.
Swallowing, I turned as I Sensed another presence that I’d been running away from: My daughter. There she was, a short distance away.
She looked at me once more with that hurt look, then silently raised her arms.
This time, I walked over to her.
Yes, I was still afraid, but this time I faced my fear. I bent over once I was close enough, and for the very first time in my existence, I touched my baby girl.
Carefully placing my paws under her arms, I could feel the softness of her skin and the firmness of her ribs pressing through my hand/paw scales. Gently, I raised her up and hugged her close. I wondered what it was I was supposed to do then, as I closed my eyes.
Then I remembered.
“I accept you Serilda. I’m sor,..!” I was about to apologize once more, but I was interrupted when I felt her hand touch my face.
Opening my eyes, I saw that her hurt look was gone and that she was smiling at me. It made my heart melt to see it.
“Thank you, Father.” She whispered. “Thank you for accepting me!” then she said something that puzzled me.
“Now, I can be born again!” she laughed. I noticed something strange then. Her eyes, which had been brown, were changing color. Slowly, as I watched, they became an odd pair, one blue, one purple.
“Born again?” I asked, incredulous. “What do you mean?” I whispered.
“Just wait and see, Father!” she smiled. Then she looked over at something. I followed her gaze. It was another of the black statues. Behind him were others, hundreds of them, thousands now. They were all looking back at me, and her.
“Those Who Wait.” She said simply, and turned to look at me once more.
“What are they waiting for?” I asked. She smiled widely then, wide enough for me to see that she had Dragon teeth.
“They are waiting to be born Father. Just like me!” She laid a hand on my cheek and turned my head to look at them again.
“They are all of the Male Dragons that are needed. But, you must be careful to whom you bestow them upon.” She explained. I turned my head and looked at her.
“I don’t know if I can sire that many!” I began. She laughed out loud again.
“Silly Father! You’re not required to sire them all!” she giggled.
“But how,…” I began. She stopped me with a hand to my lips.
“When you return to the Dragon Realm Father, remember this: ‘Read With Your Ears’.” I felt my face scrunch up.
She then reached up to my neck and gave me a hug. When she did that, she started whispering into my ear.
She told me many things. Wonderful things. Things I would need to know. Things about my abilities that I hadn’t known. Talents I didn’t know I had, or I forgot about. I took them all to heart. When she finished and pulled away, I saw my little girl looked a lot different. She had the most adorable set of Dragon features then.
“Goodbye Father.” She said sadly. “It is time for you to go.” But I couldn’t release her then, I didn’t want to, not that I finally had a daughter to snuggle!
Gently, yet firmly, she wiggled herself out of my arms and slid to the ground in front of me. She did it in that manner I’d seen so many other children do, when they didn’t want to be held.
Reluctantly, I let her go. She walked away from me then, and it near broke my heart seeing it. Finally, after a few feet she stopped, and looked back at me with a smile.
“Go to Frazziss, Father. She needs you!” she then looked beyond me. Turning, I looked where she had. It was the Gateway, six feet across and blacker than black. I stepped towards it, and before entering, I stole a glance back, but she was already gone. Gone to wherever she was going to go. Waiting to be born.
I turned and stepped through…
I blinked at the sudden glare of the light that met me. I breathed in the air of the Dragon Realm once more. If felt good. Good to be Home.
I could feel the Egress gate shutting behind me. I could feel the molded stone beneath my feet. I could smell the myriad smells of hundreds of Dragons, and their emotions. I could hear and feel them, those closest to me were in shock at my arrival.
Then, I Sensed her, my mate. Frazziss, she was nearby, and she was in a bad condition! I ignored the cries and entreaties of the Dragons that surrounded me, all trying to gain my attention. But I spared them none!
She was lying there, unconscious. Weak from self-imposed hunger. I felt several someones pawing my arms and wings.
“NO!” I shouted then, unmindful of the other Dragons crowding me. Swiftly I knelt and scooped up my mate in my arms.
I supported her head and saw that her eyes fluttered, but she was just barely there. With the abilities I had gained in my journey along the Seventh Path, I scanned her. I knew then, what I needed to do to save her.
Around me I could hear the clamor and shouting of other Dragons around me, I ignored them all. I had something much more important to attend to then!
Quickly, yet carefully, I raised Frazziss’ lips to mine, and I kissed her. Not a sexual kiss, nor a chaste one either. It was a Ki-Kiss. No, not what you think, not that. I willingly gave her then, a significant portion of my Essence. Because that’s what males do for their women. Frazziss needed mine, desperately!
We stayed joined together like that, for several minutes. I breathed my soul into her and she remained with me. After a few minutes more, I released her and she began to breathe stronger. Color returned to her cheeks and I could feel her heart beat strongly again.
I smiled at the joy of seeing her doing well. I was about to stand up with her and get her some food, when I felt a set of claws suddenly gripping my shoulder, painfully tight.
“Allen-Belushi! You are under arrest!” said an obnoxious voice. Turning, I could see the source- it was Ramoth the Bailiff, the one who had manhandled me and knocked me out the first time I’d arrived at the Dragon Realm.
I gently lay my woman down upon the ground, then I turned and faced her, I looked down at her hand/paw and I frowned pointedly at her, which she ignored.
“Let go of me.” I said patiently. Ramoth just sneered in response, and gripped me even tighter.
So, I did what I had to do. Reaching over with my other hand, and channeling my Ki, I gripped her paw with a Koto-Gaesh, an Aikido Wrist-Grab. Then, I plucked that paw off of me, easily. This shocked her enough to make her draw back in alarm. For a moment she stared at me in disbelief.
Shaking herself, she then looked angrily at me and reached over once more, this time with both paws.
Seeing that, I decided that a demonstration was in order. So, I chose to wait until she had nearly contacted me, then I reached out with an open paw and gently placed it midway down her neck.
“no.” I spoke, then carefully, ever so carefully, I ‘nudged’ her Ki with mine. With a sigh, she then collapsed gently into unconsciousness.
Yeah, I gave her a ‘Vulcan Neck-Pinch’.
I then nonchalantly bent over and picked up my woman. I noted then that there was a much larger number of Dragons surrounding me there in that Grand Plaza, than the first time I showed up. I noticed that they all blocked my way, staring at me in shock and dismay.
When I stepped forward they all automatically parted, allowing me free rein. I then silently carried Frazziss to the Council’s Cafeteria hall.
Once there, amidst the ever increasing numbers of Dragons, I carefully placed Frazziss upon a table. I could’ve taken her to our ‘cell’. But, I knew that a public showdown with Herrassiss was inevitable.
“I’m sorry, but you can’t leave someone,…” a Dragonewt attendant began speaking, then stopped when I turned and glared at her. When she met my gaze she gulped, and walked back a step in fear.
“Water and a cloth.” I said over my shoulder to her.
“Pardon?” she asked in confusion.
“Fetch me a container of warm water, and some clean cloths.” I replied patiently to her. She looked affronted.
“Now just a minute!” she began, raising her wings indignantly.
“Do as I say, NOW!” I commanded her. Seemingly without hesitation, she hurried to obey. After she took a couple of steps away, she stopped walking, turned and looked back in confusion. In a smooth arc, I turned my attention from my wife to the quaking Dragonewt.
‘Obey.’ I thought. She blinked once at me, and scurried off in the direction of the kitchen. She was back in a couple of minutes, and set down a bucket of water along with several clean cloths.
“Thank You.” I said gratefully. If my commanding behavior surprised her before, my thanking her left her flabbergasted. She was left standing and looking at me, blinking uncomprehendingly.
I dipped a cloth into the water, and wrung it out. I then started cleaning Frazziss up, she’d gotten rather dirty since I’d seen her last. I had no idea…wait. I think I knew why.
‘She’d probably been waiting vigil for me to come out.’ I thought, ‘and didn’t eat the entire time.’ I surmised. After a short while of cleaning the airborne dirt and grime off of her, Frazziss woke up enough to weakly bat away the washcloth I’d been wiping her with.
“Allen!” she whined softly. I smiled down at her. “What do you think,…? She stopped talking, as her eyes widened then she turned and sprang to her feet.
Or she tried to, instead she mostly surged up for a half second and would’ve fallen to the floor if I hadn’t caught her. I then placed her down to sit atop a cloth-covered boulder. I knelt down next to her and hugged her tight. She didn’t say anything coherent then. Instead, she just hugged me back and sobbed in relief. We were that way for a little while, just the two of us. I liked that little world then.
It took a bit, but I was able to peel her off of me. I then got her to settle down long enough to begin ‘scanning’ her, and she kept looking at me all weird the entire time. There was something I felt I needed to check. But before I could get too far along in it, I Sensed someone familiar approaching behind me.
“Hello Qirri,” I said loudly, not looking or turning around.
“How did you know it was me?!” she said in surprised tone, from a short distance off. Looking up, I saw her then. She had rebraided her hair to compensate for the scorched off parts. Strangely enough, I rather liked the lopsided look of them.
“I know many things now, Qirri.” I replied cryptically, smiling. “For I have successfully walked the Seventh Path of the Gullet.” Her emerald green eyes widened in response as she came near, and then stopped.
I waved her to come closer. She obeyed, looking at me with new eyes all the while. Probably wondering where I got all the scratches and bruises.
“We have much to discuss Advocate-Qirri! But for now I need you to do something for me.” I asked, looking back at her. She nodded.
“I’m fucking hungry!” Frazziss cried out softly then. I was rather surprised at Frazziss’ uncharacteristic cursing then.
“Would you get some food for Frazziss and I?” She got a surprised look on her, and then an annoyed one.
“Why didn’t you get some, yourself?” she grumped, folding her arms.
“I dare not leave Frazziss alone,” I replied, indicating her with an arm. Qirri looked surprised. I then dropped the pitch of my voice to match James Earl Jones, “For I sense a great disturbance in the Force.” I replied. Qirri shook her head uncomprehendingly at me.
“I think someone would take advantage of her vulnerable state.” I looked at Qirri again, this time I looked deep into her eyes, and said: “Please?”
That did the trick. Her face softened as she turned to go. But before she did she remarked. “Allen-Belushi?” she asked. I nodded.
“There’s something different about you now. It’s more than just being an adult, isn’t it?” I smiled back at her, nodding.
“Like I said, we have much to discuss. Off you go!” I chided. She went, but this time she carried a curiously satisfied smile. But, she wasn’t gone long. While she was, I finished my ‘Sense/Scan’ of Frazziss. What I discovered then, left me delightfully surprised.
I guess I must have had a dumbfounded look on my face when Qirri returned, for she quipped.
“Allen-Belushi, if you leave your mouth open like that, you’ll catch Dragon-flies!” she laughed, then her face grew serious as she saw that I was still in shock. “Is something the matter?” she asked concernedly, placing the tray next to Frazziss then.
I was about to answer her, but then I noticed something about the tray she was carrying. Fiercely I grabbed it, and flung the covers off of every one of the bowls.
‘Could it be?!’ I thought intensely to myself as I held my paw over all of the bowls in turn, and ‘Sensed’ each and every portion of food then.
‘What the Fuck?!’ I raged silently, looking about. Qirri noticed must have noticed.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, worried.
“From which attendant did you get this tray?” I whispered fiercely. “Point her out!” Confused, she turned and pointed. I followed her claw and noted the Dragonewt that I had commanded earlier. She must have been watching us, because that’s when she gave out an audible squeak and ran off, disappearing into the kitchen proper.
“Stay here, and Guard Frazziss!” I ordered Qirri, as I leapt towards the Dragonewt in question, my wings unfurling slightly.
“ALLEN-BELUSHI?!!” Qirri shouted fearfully at me then. I looked up and at her.
“Every portion of that food, HAS BEEN POISONED!” I shouted over my shoulder.
“What?!” she cried, “But that’s imposs,…!” she began, but I wasn’t there to hear her. Instead, I was already well into the kitchen with a major load of Whoop-Ass or Whoop-Tail, I didn’t care which, in mind.
It was only a short distance in there, but it was enough for me to locate her. She in her haste, had managed to trip herself over several kitchen items in her attempts to flee.
“YOU!” I yelled at the Dragonewt. “WHY?!” I shouted, raising. Her eyes widened in terror when she saw me pinpoint her. I then grabbed her without too much difficulty, and then I drug her back to Qirri, Frazziss’ table, and that tainted food.
Qirri was alongside me then, trying to get me to stop. “Allen! What are you doing? Poison?! What proof do you have?!” she kept saying. I was having none of it.
“YOU! Explain yourself or,” I began, as I pushed the Dragonewt’s nose into the tray. “I’ll,..I’ll,… do something drastic!” By that time, she was trying to scuttle her way backwards from me, so I let her go.
“Pluh, pluh, pluh,…” she mewled with her eyes as big as saucers, then she tripped over something in her haste to get away and landed on her tail, still scuttling.
Within a second she had backed up to a wall and attempted to crawl up it, without looking at where she was going. Even with her claws and her desperation, all she managed was a heaving up, and a falling back down, over and over rapidly. Under any other circumstance, I might have laughed at the sight of it.
But I wasn’t laughing then. No, not in the least. Instead I stalked her and as I grabbed her by the shoulder, she let out a long terrified scream as I lifted her up.
I didn’t bite her, though Gods-Be-Damned I wanted to. No, I held her up and stared at her. At first, all I could get out of her was a series of terrified cries. While all during that, Qirri was latching her paws on my arm, trying to get me to settle down and for me to please-let-go of the poor kitchen attendant.
“WHY, did you poison the food?” I demanded of the Dragonewt.
““She’ll kill me if I tell!” she screamed, sobbing. THAT statement of hers, got Qirri’s undivided attention as she turned and gave the attendant a surprised look.
“SHE?” Qirri demanded sternly.
“…uh,…uh!” the Dragonewt panted, realizing her mistake. She was still trying to rip herself away from me.
I breathed in and out several times to calm myself. I released the Dragonewt and then stepped back. I then drew myself up to my full height and pulled in my wings. This had the effect of getting the Dragonewt to stop crawling away, as she slowly started to calm down.
“What,” I began. “Is your name?” I asked her quietly. After some gentle coaxing from Qirri, she responded.
“Pirin, my name is Pirin.” She whispered, her eyes still fixed on me.
“Very well then. PIRIN.” I enunciated, committing that name to memory. “You’re afraid that someone will kill you, for talking to me?” She nodded her head so quickly that I half expected to hear her brains rattling around inside.
“What about the protection of your House?” Qirri asked. “Wouldn’t they be able to protect you?” I looked sharply at Qirri then. She ignored me.
“I don’t have a house!” Pirin answered, looking rapidly between Qirri and I.
“What if I offered you the protection of mine?” I inquired. Qirri cut Pirin off before she could answer.
“Allen-Belushi, you don’t have a house!” Qirri hissed, as she directed her attention to me. I turned and met her gaze.
“Then how do I start one?”
“New houses can only be started by an adult…” she started, then stopped as she realized what she said, then she smiled.
“Very well then Advocate, what else do I need to do to achieve that?” Qirri rubbed her chin with a paw momentarily, seemingly lost in thought.
What it turned out, she went on to explain quickly, was that all I had to do to start a New House, was to formally Declare it. Later, I’d have to choose a name for the House and Demand, yes Demand, in front of the Full Council the right to have it recognized.
“But!” Qirri went on, “New Houses aren’t often accepted. You’ll have to demonstrate something out of the ordinary to justify it!” she explained. I just looked at her and folded my arms. She looked at me confused for a second, then the light went on in her eyes. She face-pawed for a second.
“Well, something more momentous than being the first male Dragon in many centuries!”
“What about the fact that I just successfully completed my Rite of Ascension in the Seventh Path? When was the last time someone did that?” I asked patiently. Qirri was brought up short by that. She looked away for a second and thought about it.
“I,..I’m not sure.” She began, blepping slightly as she pondered the notion. “I could be wrong here, but I do believe that you’re probably the first Dragon to have done so in at least two, maybe three, centuries.” She smiled broadly.
“There will be many details you’ll have to work on and hammer out.” She informed. “But for now, yes, you can start a House.” She looked at me meaningfully. I got the hint.
“I HEREBY DECLARE THAT I’M STARTING MY OWN HOUSE!!! I shouted to all and sundry. The crowd of Dragons that were there then mostly looked at me perplexedly, but more than a couple of them started to clap and cheer. I smiled.
Then I looked down at Pirin, who had calmed down considerably watching the interplay between Qirri and me.
“Pirin? I offer you the protection of my House. Will you please trust me?” Pirin looked at me for a second.
“Yes,” she said, “but only on one condition.” She added rapidly. I tilted my head at her, questioningly.
“That I be allowed to join your House.” She asked tentatively.
“But why?” I asked. She smiled slightly, then glanced down for a couple seconds, at my loincloth, then she looked back up at me and smiled even broader. I sighed.
“I will expect certain standards of behavior and conduct.” I stated, not knowing what they were, yet. “Most of all, you will not behave dishonorably, yes?” She looked shocked for a second, thought about it, and nodded. I reached out a paw. She lifted hers.
“Deal?” I asked, holding the back of my paw to hers like I’d seen Frazziss and Qirri do several days earlier. “Deal.” Pirin said quietly with a smile, tapping the back of her paw to mine.
Well Frazziss was simultaneously happy, and royally pissed about my starting a House. She was mollified by the fact that the final details had yet to be worked out. As she, understandably, wanted to have a goodly amount of input on what OUR House would stand for.
I had to admit that starting a House, was a spur of the moment thing. But in the end, it felt right to do so. As for Pirin, I had her attend to, and guard over Frazziss, as she was still weak from hunger. As I suspected, and Pirin explained, the order to poison Frazziss’ food came from Herrassiss’ herself, purportedly.
“But why?” I asked Pirin.
“I don’t know.” She replied, shaking her head. I thought for a second or two.
“Frazziss?” I mused. “Any idea?” She thought.
“If I had to tender an opinion,” she mused. “I’d say that her ‘reasoning’ would be that since you’ve shown such loyalty to me; that you’d be easier to manipulate if I wasn’t around.”
“That doesn’t make any sense!” I cried. “If anything else you’d think,…” I began.
“Actually!” Qirri interrupted, “You’d probably be in dire grief if she was dead. From what I remember of the stories of the Old Male Dragons, they became incredibly compliant after their mates died.” She looked up at me with a pensive look on her face. “Often to the point of breaking their word.”
‘Damn.’ I thought, blinking. It’s all I could come up with by way of reply then.
Just then, another Dragon food attendant arrived with a food tray, I took the food and thanked her. The attendant kept looking nervously at me all the while. I passed a paw over the food and was satisfied with it.
Qirri, Pirin, and Frazziss all gave me a curious look when I did.
“Just a little something I picked up from my time in the Seventh Path.” I explained smugly, as I picked up each one of the first portions of food from the Bento-Tray, and put them all into a bowl for Frazziss to eat.
“ALLEN!” she hissed/whispered worriedly at me then, looking at me significantly. I frowned back at her.
“Frazziss,” I said patiently, “I feel there’s no need to hide your condition anymore.” She looked back at me exasperatedly. I continued, “Particularly if the lives of our children are in jeopardy.” She looked at me oddly for a second.
“Don’t you mean, our baby?” she asked, suspicious.
“Babies.” I corrected, smiling. “Twins”.
“What?!” she demanded, confused. “How can you claim to know that?”
“Like I said a few seconds ago, I picked up a few tricks during my time in the Seventh Path.”
“But,…you…can’t…” she began, almost speechless.
“Believe me, when I say this my love.” I replied, as I knelt down and started to lift up a portion of food to place into her mouth. “We have twins on the way.” I said proudly.
“Are,…,are,… they?” she asked over a mouthful of steak tartar, her paw just over her mouth. I knew immediately what she was asking.
“They’re both alive, and they’re both annoyed at Mommy for starving them. But, I don’t know if either, or both, are male yet.” I began, “I wanted to wait and see if you wanted to know first.” I finished, and waited for her to finish chewing. “Do you want me to check now, or wait?”
She thought about it for several seconds, chewing, and looked around her at the crowd of Dragons who were looking back at her in wonder. Frazziss stopped chewing, thought for several seconds, swallowed, and then looked at me straight on.
“Wait.” She ordered, smiling. Then she opened her mouth to receive another portion of food. I returned her smile and picked up another portion. Fish, this time.
Glancing about, I could see that no few of the nearby Dragons, Qirri and Pirin included, were looking at Frazziss and I in awe, and no small amount of envy.
Eventually, Frazziss got her fill of food. Unfortunately, I didn’t.
Halfway through my meal, I was interrupted.
“ALLEN-BELUSHI!!” an annoyingly familiar voice screamed out behind me, there in that cafeteria. I closed my eyes and stood up to face her. Opening my eyes, there she was. Herrassiss.
“It has been seven days, Whelp! Will you submit to me now? Or will I have to have you dragged off in chains?” she demanded smarmily from her position several feet away from me. Standing alongside her, there were no less than four Bailiff-Wurms standing erect on their tails, each with her own set of Dragon-Manacles hanging from their paws.
Herrassiss smiled at me triumphantly. I unfolded my wings, and smiled back.
“No.” I said quietly, patiently. Herrassis lost her smile, and seemed confused.
“What?” she replied hoarsely, surprised by my defiance.
“I said, no.” She was surprised still, and looked along both her sides seemingly to reassure that the Bailiffs were still there. They were.
“But,…but…” she started, but before she could say anything else, I spoke again.
“Which part.” I began, still quietly. “Of NO.” I continued, stepping forward. “Do you not…” I spoke as I got close enough to force Herrassiss to either take a step back, or be forced to allow me to bump into her.
For a second it seemed like I was going to bump into her. But then, at the very last instant, she quailed and stepped back, eyes going wide in consternation.
“UNDERSTAND?!” I growled fiercely, paying no attention to the Bailiffs as I began summoning up my new Breath-weapon. Her eyes went wild when she saw what I was doing.
“BAILIFFS! ARREST HIM!” Herrassiss cried shrilly then.
For a moment, the four Bailiffs stood in a line peering down at me. In that moment I could see each and every one of them and their inherent beauty. One was as Scarlet as Heart’s Blood, the second was as Alabaster as Ramoth, but wasn’t her- maybe a sister. The third was Verdigris Green, and the fourth was as Dark as Vantablack. I decided that I would probably feel terribly awful afterwards, my having ruined their beauty and all. But such was their choice.
The Scarlet one rumbled at me with a voice like gravel. “Submit.” She demanded. I looked back up at her/them.
“Male Dragons never submit.” I replied, baring my teeth.
As one, they moved quickly to attack.
I moved quicker.