Hey, yo. Mostly just trying to keep myself together as I prep for the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” summer release and my upcoming return to Germany. Meanwhile, though, I felt like gifting the dear ol’ blog with a bit of attention. So here – have one of those out-of-the-blue bits o’ fiction that sometimes spill out of my brain. I call it: “Altered”.
Today, the dragon comes.
They’ve chained you to the altar stone and left you – this winter’s sacrifice. I can’t know if your shaking’s from dread or from cold.
Your eyes are wide and darting, searching for me. I told you I’d be here for you. I told you I’d see you freed. I am, and I will. I hope you can trust me, even if you can’t work out my hiding place.
My gaze moves between you and the sky. The sun’s dipping lower, the Cursed Mountain’s shadow stretching closer. As near as anyone can figure, the dragon’s roars never sound ‘til the shadow’s crossed the altar’s runes. We have minutes left.
I flex my grip on my sword, bought with every coin I had, plus a few more I saw no choice but to steal. It will be worth it, once the dragon’s slain. Once I’ve broken the hold the mountain’s had over our land for years longer than anyone’s sure of. Once you’re free to live your whole life long, and I’ll never again have to fear losing you to a monster.
Shadow and altar touch. You pull away, as far as you can, as far as your shackles allow. I turn away, my eyes on the mountain. Any moment now I’ll hear—
The roar. The air ripples with it. The power of the sound knocks me to the ground, and for the space of the breath I can’t take, I’m too scared to move. Because the roar came from too close.
It came from you.
When I can lift my head, I catch only the end of the change. The stone’s runes glowing unearthly-bright beneath you, you stretch and twist and thrash and grow. Another roar, riding from your throat on an eruption of flame. Somewhere within the sonic blast, I hear your scream of terror.
There never was a dragon. There were only the sacrifices, cursed upon the altar. What have we been doing?
Your alteration complete, your first chain breaks, the sharp sound shocking me out of stillness. I burst from my hiding place, sword drawn, calling your name the best I can with a voice scared half-worthless. Your eyes have finally found me, and they shine red, the pupils slitted like a snake’s.
You speak, your voice again somewhere inside the dragon’s.
“Please…” you say. You back away, your head dropped low on the end of your long neck, shimmering with scales. “Please. You promised.”
“To slay the dragon,” I say.
“To see me freed,” you plead. “And free I am, to be gone from this place. To discover the truth of what I have become. Will you let me go in peace? Or are you my champion only when I am powerless?”
My racing heart slows as, beat by beat, you make no move against me. At last, I swallow. Fill my lungs. Speak.
“You loved me when I was the stronger,” I say. “I will do no less for you now.” I plant my blade’s tip in the snow. “Fly, my friend.”
With the snap of your second chain, you raise your head. Your wings unfurl, starkly silhouetted against the twilight sky. Your tail sweeps around to rest before me, the ridges rising like a staircase up your spine. Your dragon voice rings out: “Fly with me.”
And so we rise together, our whole lives long awaiting.
(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha.)