Reign Of Fire Fanfiction: Reign of the Dragons: Original Story - 7. Chapter 7
“I’ve made my decision,” Julie stated, looking dead into my eyes. “I want to go with you.”
I looked at her, and saw the slight glance Gator sent her way, and straightened to my full height. This would be the hardest moment of my life, but it needed to be done. She would be safe with the Rangers. She wouldn’t be hurt, and she would be given food, ammunition, and shelter. They were the last bastion of the nonexistent human army, and Julie would probably enhance their group.
“Saphir,” I whispered, knowing he could hear me. He turned to watch me, his eyes piercing. “Take me. Only me.”
“Are you sure of this, pathetic dragon killer? I will not comfort you and if you cry, I’ll kill you.”
“I am.” I looked at Julie, who looked deep into my eyes and saw the unwavering resolve of a decision finally made. In reaction, tears pooled in her eyes and slowly began to slide down her face. I wanted to reach out and comfort her, to assure her everything was going to be just fine, but I knew that if I did, my own control would slip.
“Julie, I love you. You take good care of Gator, you hear?” Gator’s gaze whipped to me, hot and angry.
“You’re going to go off with this dragon alone?” he snarled. “Where’s your common sense? He’ll kill you!”
“Probably,” I acknowledged. “I did kill his clan. And that’s why Julie will stay with you. I expect her to be in one piece when I get back, Gator. Mentor or not, she gets hurt, you die.”
Gator stiffened, but bit back any retorts he could have made. Saphir was bristling beside of me, the prospect of losing his new killing pet a waste he couldn’t afford. Even though we were armed to the teeth, a fight between a dragon and human was never a good thing. Saphir might die, but then again, he would take down more lives than Gator wanted in the process. The soldier in Gator was warring with the man, but I knew who would win. One life versus five or more. It was a choice easily seen, but not easily made.
“I don’t agree with this,” Gator began slowly. “I won’t lie to you. I think you’re out of your god damned mind. But I want you back in one piece.”
I nodded, accepting his words for what they were. ‘You’re an idiot, but Godspeed.’ From Gator, it would have to be enough. The soldier would always outrank the man, and I understood and accepted it.
“Wilco. Take care, Julie. I expect to see you master a real rocket launcher when I get back. Not some outdated series.”
Julie nodded, not bothering to hide the tears flowing down her face, but Gator did what I could not. He threw an arm around her, though he didn’t bring her to his side. He let her stand independently for my departure.
“She’s in good hands,” Gator stated, his own eyes betraying his pain.
“I know.” It was simple parting words, but Saphir had enough of our talking. He transformed, startling most of the soldiers into battle positions, but none of the rifles fired. It showed good testament to their training; Gator had probably killed the happy trigger finger habit early on for this type of situation.
Saphir’s claw wrapped around me, and I closed my eyes in misery. Why did we always have to fly everywhere? Why couldn’t we just walk? Oh, I knew why. He wanted distance in between us and the Rangers, even though we’d be exposed to the furious Raleigh dragons. It was a risk apparently he deemed worthy to take, but I didn’t dare complain. I wanted as smooth of a ride as he would give me.
“Be careful!” Julie finally called out as we took to the air. Even over the furious beating of Saphir’s wings, I heard her desperate plea, and I saluted her with a smile. Maybe it would take a while, but she would be happy with the Rangers. She would have to be.
We flew for hours before we finally began our descent. I was weary from the flight and from holding back motion sickness, and I looked forward to finally having my feet on the ground once more. Saphir landed awkwardly, doing his best not to crush me, and as he released me, I let myself flop onto the ground, uncaring of the dirt beneath me.
“Sweet, sweet earth,” I muttered, relishing the sensation of actually not feeling as if I were going to puke, and Saphir walked into my vision.
“Get up, dragon killer. Get your food.”
“A minute, I swear.” I had to let myself settle before I even tried to move. My waist literally ached from where I had been held, and I wouldn’t doubt if bruises would start appearing by tomorrow morning.
“Humph. Weak humans.” I didn’t bother to try to deny his statement. Dragons were stronger, faster, and the more dominant species than humans could ever hope to become. Sure, they had their weaknesses, but they wiped out earth’s population until only a few pockets of humans remained. That showed ultimate power, did it not?
“All right,” I said a moment later. “I’m up.” I pushed myself up, wincing at the pain in my middle, but said nothing. I would try to pull my weight with Saphir, and I wouldn’t complain. An irritated Saphir was more likely to hurt me more than a normal Saphir.
Now, I dislodged my pack and threw it to the ground, fishing out a small battle rifle. Sure, it wasn’t the best for hunting, but it would have to do. I wasn’t going to wait and set a trap for a rabbit. I was hungry, and if Saphir didn’t find himself some food, I was sure he would take some of mine. So that meant….deer. Or a few deer.
I began to make my way into the forest, leaving Saphir behind me, and looked at the grounds for signs of any wildlife in the area. A few paces later, I saw traces of rabbit leavings, and I grunted. I wasn’t going to hunt rabbits. Freaking seriously. So I kept walking, taking note of where I was in relation to my campsite, and finally came across deer tracks. Score.
Since humans had been annihilated, the wildlife had multiplied by hundred fold. Deer were easy pickings in any part of North Carolina, as well as bear, if you had no other choice. It was good for us, but still a pain to bring down a deer without grabbing the attention of a dragon.
I stopped suddenly and knelt, bringing the rifle to arms, and looked down the sight at the rustling of leaves down the way. I waited patiently, not making a sound and keeping my breathing light. A few minutes passed, but I kept my silent vigil as I had been taught. For hours I could keep still, courtesy of Gator, and it came in handy when hunting. Less bullets used and less chance of getting caught.
Finally, the deer came into the open and instead of taking the first shot, I watched as it walked forward, nibbling at a patch of grass in between piles of leaves, and finally, it turned sideways at it reached for the next patch, exposing the prime position at its shoulder.
“Bingo,” I muttered as I pulled the trigger. A few rounds later, the deer keeled over, and I rose and placed my gun on my back in one fluid motion. I reached the deer and pulled out my knife, swiftly slitting its throat. Sometimes they survived a few minutes, and I didn’t want to put it through any unnecessary agony.
Now, I looked around, up to the few patches of sky I could see through the leaves, and saw nothing. There was no sense of danger, nor did I see any sign of a dragon, so I bent down and swung the deer over my shoulders. It landed hard and I grunted at the pain in my middle, but mostly ignored it. This wouldn’t be a pleasant couple of days, but I was sure we wouldn’t fly for a long while. Way too risky and we had put more distance than I thought we would between the Rangers and us.
“I see you’re not completely useless.” My eyes whirled to see Saphir standing casually where I had come from, his hands in his pockets. However, his shirt was gone, and my eye twitched.
“Where the hell is your shirt?” I growled out.
“A bear ripped it.” Again, my eye twitched and I was acutely aware of the mere deer I had bagged.
“And when did this happen?”
“A few minutes ago. I’ve been waiting for you back at camp.” By his smirk, I knew he was laughing at my pathetic trophy compared to his, and I glared.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying this.” Now his smirk widened.
“Want me to carry that for you? Your pathetic human self can only handle so much at once.”
“Go fuck yourself,” I muttered under my breath, brushing past him to go towards the camp. I heard his dark laughter behind me, but instead of antagonizing me farther, he caught up and walked beside of me.
“Give me the deer.” He yanked and I gripped tighter, although my grip wasn’t as strong as it should have been. The injury to my middle kept me from yanking back properly.
“It’s my kill, I’ll dress it, thank you very much.”
“Give it to me, human.” When I didn’t comply, he rapped my side with his knuckles, and pure white exploded in my vision as I fell to the ground, clutching my hurt side. I gasped through the pain, barely registering the weight of the deer being lifted off of me, and tried to ride the wave as easily as possible. Saphir, however, kept walking, the deer slung over one shoulder, and I glared.
“Doesn’t have to fucking rub it in. I know I’m hurt, and it’s his damn fault. Fuck that.” Yeah, I was angry. I was downright furious. And noting the way I would probably verbally attack him, or god forbid punch him and make him really angry, I opted for the coward’s way out. I stayed where I was, even when the pain finally ebbed.
He disappeared from view and I sat down, refusing to move until I cooled off. Angry Saphir was a no no. I had to keep him somewhat tolerant of me, no matter the cost to my own wish to pummel him into the ground. But still, that was a dick move. He didn’t have to strip me of my pride, nor did he have to show exactly how weak and hurt I was compared to him.
“Bastard,” I swore angrily, slamming my fist into the ground beside of me, through the shock of the force did irritate my injuries. The pain only fueled my anger, even though I knew it was pointless to get angry. I couldn’t act on it, I couldn’t spar it out, and I couldn’t take it out on….Julie. She was gone. She wouldn’t be here to diffuse my anger to draw Saphir’s attention away from me. God, it had only been a few hours and I was already missing her terribly.
I knew my irritation with Saphir stemmed from this as well. He was the reason I had to be separated from her in the first place, and he was the reason I was hurt. If not for him, I’d be with my human group, living off the land and avoiding all dragons entirely. My life would be normal, I’d be free, and I’d be happy. But I wasn’t going to feel that way for a long time, if Saphir even decided to let me go.
As if the heavens read my mind, it began to rain softly, picking up strength after minutes passed. I didn’t move; I sat on the ground and turned my face up to the rain. Instead of depressing me, as it would most other people, I felt as if it was washing away my sins and anger, calming me. It would cover the scent of my kill and the food we were going to cook. This was the only time you could cook the food over a campfire and get away with it. The rain washed away the scent and the smoke, and kept dragons at bay for at least the duration of the storm.
“Are you coming back yet, dragon killer, or must I carry you back?” His patronizing tone immediately put me on my guard, and I felt my body stiffen in response. My anger renewed, I shut my mouth and tried to calm back down.
“I can smell your anger,” he pointed out. “It’s useless to try to hide it from me.”
“Then you know damn well why I haven’t come back. I’m angry, not stupid.” I heard him ‘humph’ and figured he would leave, but his hands clamped on my shoulders. On instinct, I began to bring my feet up to attack him, but he blocked my kick with his forearm.
“You do have good instincts for a human,” he admitted. “But you will not prevail against me in a fight.”
“I wasn’t trying to,” I snapped back. “You said it yourself. Instinct. Now leave me alone until I can calm back down.”
“You were calm before I made myself known.” His tone was completely devoid of any malice or derision, and it made me stop and focus on his words. What was he really trying to tell me? “Your anger at me will not go away because you try to calm yourself. Don’t be stupid.”
“It doesn’t help that you fucking insult me at every turn,” I snapped back, my irritation at him mounting. “Civility doesn’t take much effort, you know.”
“I will not treat a mere human as an equal,” he stated calmly, but his hands kept their place on my shoulder, and strangely, my chest was starting to feel better.
“I never said that!” I finally yelled, losing what little control I had over my temper. I got up, whirled, and took a step away from him. “I will not be treated like a fucking leper! Treat me as you would a lesser dragon!” His eyes widened a fraction. Barely noticeable, but I knew he was surprised. “Not a human. I killed Sanglat. I killed his mate and Genis. I am valuable to you, and I will not be treated as dead weight!” My tirade finally done, I glared at him with all the loathing I could possible muster, my chest heaving with the passion of my words, and my body ready to do battle. He would attack me for my insubordination, I knew.
“You know of dragon clans,” he stated calmly. I didn’t fall for the ruse. I kept up my guard, ready to defend to the death if need be. “Then how would I treat a lesser ranked dragon?”
“With fucking civility! You wouldn’t insult him as you do me, nor would you belittle him as you do me. He is a dragon and deserving of some respect in your station!” Now, I was speaking of myself and the hypothetical dragon, trying to impart my point on Saphir. “His hunt is his only. You wouldn’t dare touch his food. You wouldn’t deliberately hurt him unless he was trying to pull rank and needed to be put back in his place.”
Now, Saphir threw back his head and laughed, and I stiffened. The hell was he laughing about?
“A human you are, but you know more of dragon rules than most half breeds, I’ll give you that. And yes, that’s how I would treat a dragon.” He eyed me, noting the anger and hostile stance, and smirked. “You may be weak, but even a kitten has claws, no? Come, human. I have accepted you as my pet until you pay back your life debt.”
“The hell do you mean, pet?” I growled out.
“Exactly as it sounds. You are my pet. I will care for you, but in return, you must obey me. I will treat you as you wish, human. It is a small allowance on my part. You know who is the stronger and dominant between us.”
My fists clenched at my sides, but I still realized this was the best I was going to get from him. My anger didn’t spark his own; he allowed my small rebellion and even seemed to laugh over it. It probably was hilarious to him. I couldn’t do a damn thing to him, but I still jumped down his throat when he pushed the right buttons, asking for a beating.
“I wasn’t trying to be dominant,” I managed to say.
“I know,” he stated simply. “Come, dragon killer. Dress your kill as you wish. I have already eaten.” Now, I bristled.
“You’re still a dick,” I muttered.
“Mine’s still bigger than yours,” he replied smoothly as he turned to lead the way back to camp. The double pun caused me to deadpan, completely taken off guard. Dragons actually made penis jokes? What was this world coming to?
I sighed but dutifully followed him a few yards back, not trying to crowd him, but not trying to put too much distance between us either. Of course, that was just habit. Too close to a dragon and they’d kill you with claws. Too far from a dragon and they could transform before you got to them. A lesson learned early in life, and with more of a mark than I cared to admit.
“Dragon killer, how many dragons have you killed?”
“Only the ones that attack me,” I answered back vaguely. There were many I had killed over the years, and it was higher than my own age.
“Dually noted, dragon killer. How many?”
“Twenty-three.” Including his fallen comrades. I didn’t say the last part, but I was sure he knew I included their count.
“That is a good count, for a human.” Now, I looked at him strangely. He was…complimenting me. Not a subtle comment, but an actual I’m-impressed-by-this comment. Sensing my confusion, he clarified. “A master must be proud of their pet, of course. Don’t assume that I will always be, what did you say, a bastard at all times.”
“How long were you even there?” I asked, slightly embarrassed. Did he have to see my entire temper tantrum?
“Long enough. Were your kills pureblood or halfbreeds?”
“Mostly pureblood. They’re the ones that attack most often. My group had orders not to engage halfbreeds unless attacked first.”
“And if they were in dragon form?” he asked, probably referring to how we met.
“An attacking dragon is the same to us. Life or death, capture or freedom. You choose what you would do.” He actually thought about it, and I saw him nod.
“I see your point, human. If I was attacked, I would defend myself, no matter who was stupid enough to attack.” I didn’t say anything to that; I let him have the option to continue or not. I wasn’t going to push him when he was being this agreeable.
“How many humans?” I asked curiously, half wanting to know, and the other half dreading the answer.
“I don’t know. Humans seem to blur together after a while. Nothing rememberable about any of them. Just pathetic humans seeking their next trophy.” I could understand that. When the dragons first began their reign of terror, many of us tried to kill them. Gloryhunters, true hunters looking for a challenging kill, and the plain idiots. All of them went to hunt the dragons, and only a few ever returned.
“I know. Most of us were idiots.”
“What do you mean were, dragon killer?” I glared at his back, and he cast a smirk back at me.
“Darwinism is still in progress,” I snapped back. “Not all of us are idiots.”
“What is this Darwinism?” Saphir asked as we entered the camp.
“I do not make it a point to learn pointless human culture references.” His curt answer made me blush, and I grabbed a knife from my boot and began to skin and clean my deer.
“Darwin was the father of ‘survival of the fittest’. You probably would like him.”
“He seems wise,” Saphir agreed with a toothy grin. I watched longer than I should have, surprised by the first true smile I’d ever seen him do, then looked back to my kill.
“He went to some islands and studied the bird population, I think. He then concluded that the birds not suited for the particular climate or for their habitat died. Same goes for humans. Humans who are idiots and can’t adapt get weeded out. The ones that are smart enough not to attack a pureblood dragon on purpose live on.”
“Truer words never spoken,” he agreed, stretching out against a fallen tree and placing his hands behind his head. “What other things do humans say of dragons?” I blinked at him, not used to this conversational side of him, but I wasn’t going to complain. The easier he was on my hurt body, the better…even if it was a tad bit odd.
“You want the legends or the actual facts?”
“How are we legends? We’re here and real. We wiped out your major nests. How are we legends?”
“Before we found the egg,” I said, rolling my eyes. “There were legends of dragons. That’s what I was referring to.”
“And what did they say?”
“Which culture and which type of dragon?” I asked with my own smirk. “There were many legends. Each culture had their own type of the legend and their own style of dragon. For instance, the Chinese differentiated between the Welsh. The Welsh was different from the American dragon.”
“Humph. Amusing. At least we were properly feared.”
“Until we found the first egg, there were no dragons. Yes, there were legends, but no one was afraid. You didn’t exist.”
Saphir was quiet, digesting my words, and I finally began to try to find dry wood to start the campfire. Saphir saw me looking and guessed what I wanted, seeing as he sighed with resignation.
“Pathetic human. Get back.”
With that, he sat up, took a deep breath, and aimed toward my deer. Fire flew from his mouth towards me, and I scrambled away with a yelp and a cry of pain. I barely escaped the flames as they torched the deer, but thankfully I wasn’t burned anywhere.
“Mother fucker!” I cried out, holding my pounding heart. Sure, I had seen dragons breath fire. Sure they had been aimed at me. But never that close and never when I had my guard so low.
“There. One cooked deer for your human stomach.”
I glared at the offending dragon, who merely shifted to make himself comfortable again while he burped out a ring of smoke, probably on purpose. Glaring at him, I got to my feet and went back to the deer, only to find the outside burnt. I growled and began to clean my kill again, hating every second of it. I was hungry and I just wanted some damn food. But as I cleaned it, I saw that the meat on the inside was almost perfectly cooked, and I just sagged. I was going to have to thank him.
“Thank you,” I ground out, still not the happiest about having to clean my kill twice.
“You’re welcome, dragon killer.” By the smugness in his voice, he loved every second of harassing me.
I began to eat, savoring the flavor of cooked meat, and tried to relax my aching stomach. My body was ready to simply collapse; the pain and the toll of it had been beyond harsh. Now, Saphir got to his feet and trudged over to me. I eyed the shirtless dragon warily, my hand instinctively on my knife, and he smirked.
“You wouldn’t be able to hurt me with that in your current condition.”
“Don’t make challenges you don’t want followed through,” I countered, causing him to chuckle darkly.
“You wouldn’t, human. Nor would you like the consequences. Here.” He reached out and my grip on the knife tightened, causing him to stop and stare at me, as if he was thinking about something. A few seconds passed, then he finally blinked and kept his face neutral.
“You, dragon killer, are more of an animal than human.” I went to interrupt and insult him, but he kept speaking. “You are hurt and instead of seeing to your wounds, you would rather fight to the death. An animal trait if I’ve ever seen one.”
“I am not forgetting about dressing my wounds! I haven’t had the time!”
“Then do it now, human.”
“That would require me shirtless, and I’m damn well not going to strip in front of you.” It was true. I would have to bind my whole chest and stomach to keep the pressure constant enough for my wounds to heal and be supported, and I wasn’t comfortable enough around Saphir to even let go of my knife nor to divest myself of the weapons hidden on my chest.
“Then what to do, human? Suffer, or allow me to help you?” I opened my mouth to speak, but his hand shot out to cover my mouth. “Thought so. Now, seeing as you are my human pet-” I spat out muffled curses at him from behind his hand, which he only grinned to. “And seeing as how you are supposed to be useful to me, I will heal you. I will need you to kill another one of us soon, and you must be ready to flee after you accomplish this.”
With that, he lifted his hand, and even though my eyes were spitting angry, I wisely kept my mouth shut, and he nodded in satisfaction at my self control. Now, he knelt as he straddled my legs, and placed his hands onto my stomach. Warmth began to spread from the contact and the pain began to dim, and now I stared dumbly down at his hands.
“I didn’t know purebloods had healing abilities,” I stated in awe. “No one has ever told me of this. Ewan couldn’t even do it.”
“Of course a halfbreed couldn’t. This is a pureblood magic and I’m damn well sure a measly halfbreed couldn’t ever begin to try to master this technique.”
Already I could feel no pain, and I touched my chest softly as an experiment. When I felt little to no pain, I finally relaxed a few degrees and allowed him to finish whatever he was doing.
“It feels better,” I admitted.
“Of course it does,” he immediately answered back. His arrogance was almost laughable by this point, but I didn’t dare let him see my amusement. “There, human. How do you feel?”
“Much better. I don’t feel any pain at all.”
Now he rose in one fluid movement and padded over to my backpack. I quirked an eye as he rifled through my things, but he didn’t seem to be in a snarky mood, so I allowed the action. He finally pulled out a shirt that was too big for me and lifted it over his head and finally covered his bare chest.
“A good fit except it reeks of you.”
“No shit,” I commented dryly. “It is my shirt after all. Who do you think it’s going to smell like?”
“I never said it smelled. I said it reeks of you.”
“And what’s the difference?” I asked, exasperated with his wording.
“You do not smell. It just has your scent on it.”
Now I understood. It smelled like me, though it didn’t actually smell bad. A dragon’s sense of smell was very acute, and since he had been around me for so long, he knew my scent through and through. He could find me almost anywhere I tried to hide, since he knew my true scent.
“Do you want it or do you not?” He spared me a quick glare before walking back to his designated spot. “So do we camp here?” I asked curiously. It wouldn’t be my first miserable night in the rain, nor would it be the last.
“No. Now that you’ve eaten, we’ll be going to a nearby house.”
“What do you smell? Humans?” I asked. “That might not be wise, you know. Dragons may be residing somewhere close and-“
“You seem to fail to grasp the concept that I myself am a respected dragon of the highest caliber. I can go anywhere and not have any complaints. You, human, will only be alive because you are my pet. Now, you can sleep here in the wet earth, or you can allow yourself the luxury of a warm and dry bed. Your choice, human?”
“You know what I’d chose.”
“Then let us go.”
I sighed, but held back my many objections. Saphir had the best time to fly; the rain washed away scent and lowered range of sight, letting many dragons travel in relative secrecy. I was going to be very sick, miserable, and probably bruised once more, but a warm bed. I hadn’t slept in an actual bed in years, since the risk was far too great compared to personal luxury.