Sleep. Dreams. A swirling of conscious thought. A voice.
“Oh great one!”
Velomaw slowly opened a single orange eye, the pupil narrowed to a slit at the invasive torch glow. The human was so close to his face that he could snort heavily and blow the little creature back over. Velomaw did not have time for humans, especially not this one. He rose to his feet, turned on the cavern’s worn floor, and recurled himself. Closing his eyes.
“We have need of you!” Shouted the little man, skirting the cavern wall to bring himself in front of the dragon’s snout.
”I should eat you.” Velomaw took a slight pleasure in the sudden tremble in the hand holding the torch.
“I am but your humble servant!” The man wailed.
”If you were my servant you would not bother me every time you stub your toe.”
“I have not come to call on your for many years, see my beard is streaked with silver,” shouted the man still in his worshipping voice. Velomaw finally raised his head and looked down at the human, cocking his head like a curious puppy, but nothing so lovable.
”Years for you are but minutes for me,” Velomaw replied. Humans were annoying, but this one was… Velomaw often wondered if he’d done wrong by saving his life.
The human cowered behind him, bowing low and peeking back up through long bedraggled hair. Velomaw brought is head down, to view the human closely with a single orange eye. His human looked more beggar than farmer. He was soaked, his clothing was ripped and worn. Healing bruises and scabbed cuts were upon his skin. Velomaw sniffed him, he could smell the sickness within him.
”What has happened, Ghoan?”
“I know it is too much to ask, great one, and you have been good on your promise, my crops and my children have been plentiful and healthy,” Ghoan babbled. Velomaw did not need to hear all this. Ghoan needed to hurry to the point, what was such an emergency that Ghoan would wake a sleeping dragon?
”Get to the point.” Velomaw snapped, literally at Ghoan. The human dodged the action of course, the teeth clicking in the empty air.
“Raiders, Great One,” Ghoan began and Velomaw stood, his great size filling the cavern. He walked from his cave, to be greeted by the rain of winter. Velomaw did not feel the chill of the water as it wetted his black scales. Ghoan had jogged with him, trying to keep up with the moving dragon. He stood, protected from the rain by standing under the dragon, between his front legs.
”Why did you not wake me upon the attack?” Velomaw demanded of the human cowering next to his taloned paw. Velomaw had kept his voice low in the cave, or else he’d have harmed the human’s delicate ears within the enclosed space. Now Velomaw bellowed at him. Ghoan shrank against his leg.
“I was imprisoned, Great One, I have only recently escaped.” Ghoan replied and Velomaw looked at the smoldering ruins of Ghoan’s farm. The house, though not large nor fine, had been sturdy and dry, a warm hearth, good food, was now just a shell. The stable had also been reduced to cinders. The ground was muddy, and there had not been crop in the fields during winter. Velomaw could smell death upon the rain.
”Where is your family, Ghoan?” Velomaw asked but he knew the reply that was coming. Velomaw had promised to protect Ghoan, had promised that his life would only bring good tidings, but even the powers of a dragon could not control the actions of Men. It had been the reason that Velomaw had made Ghoan settle his family near Velomaw’s cave. Ghoan of course, bothered him, had come in every few weeks, bring offerings of cattle or sheep, thinking he had to feed the dragon, only to discover that Velomaw didn’t eat that much, he mostly just slept. Ghoan then had run into Velomaw’s cave for advice, choosing a wife, telling Velomaw about the birth of his children. Ghoan had had three, two boys and a girl. He’d brought them to meet the dragon, Velomaw tolerated Ghoan, but as powerful as Velomaw was, he’d discovered early on, it was always best to befriend a human, give them good gifts, and they would protect your cave.
“Murdered, Great One,” Ghoan croaked, clinging to Velomaw’s leg. “We offered them everything if they’d only leave us in peace. My eldest wanted to fight them, the raiders bested him. My youngest tried to run to your cave, and was shot. My wife died trying to protect our daughter’s virtue. Adanala and I were taken prisoner to be slaves.” Velomaw did not force Ghoan to hasten his story. “Please, Great One, I beg of you, find and rescue my daughter.”
Velomaw did not reply, he walked slowly circling the farm, ignoring the rain that soaked his black iridescent scales, and made his wings heavy.
”Where did you escape from?” Velomaw asked. The rain had washed away any tracks and any scent of attackers.
“From the west, Great One,” Ghoan answered him.
“I will save your daughter, and but there will be a price, Ghoan.” A dragon does nothing for free. Ghoan fell to his knees.
“Anything,” he offered.
“You will give me Adanala, and she will be mine,” Velomaw stated. He watched as Ghoan mulled it over in his head and it took less time than Velomaw expected. Ghoan nodded mutely. “Wait in the cave. I shall return.”
Velomaw shook himself in the rain, opening his great wings. He flapped them heavily, and began to lope across the meadow that surrounded Ghoan’s farm. The wings brought Velomaw aloft and he rose higher and higher into the air. Until he was a speck in the winter rain.
Dragons were old, and supposed to be wise. They were supposed to kidnap virgins and hoard treasure. Velomaw had the temper of a dragon, and the temperament of one. He found humans to be annoying, no more than needy ants, but humans had proven they could slay his kind, and therefore he did not underestimate them as much as he disliked them. He didn’t care for treasure, only made the humans more or less want to seek him out, kill him and steal his loot.
Velomaw in the age of dragons, though was older than several generations of humans, could be best explained as a teenager. He’d learned shortly after leaving his mother’s clutch that he would sometimes need the disguise as a human to move around. He normally believed he was too above human to walk among them constantly as some of his brethren were ought to do. Velomaw had found his cave, found his human, well several humans over the years and he slept peacefully, dreaming dragon dreams.
He flew due west, through the rain, hoping to find some trail of the raiders who had attacked Ghoan’s farm. Velomaw circled what looked like a keep with a mine near it. He could see men being whipped and cages on wheels pulled by horses containing women and men.
Velomaw could just land and melt the place down to lava with his breath, but he had to find Adanala lest he accidently harm her. Velomaw flew back east and landed in a field. He glanced left, then right, and began to shrink. Shrink and morph until he stood, on two legs, as a human. He was clothed, a black cloak concealing the twin hand scythes on his hips. He pulled the hood of his cloak up.
Velomaw trudged through the mud, it sucked at his boots, but he neared the keep and its guards. He observed from afar, their black eyes, and the burn marks upon their bald heads. He sniffed, the Keep was entirely saturated with magic. He figured that Adanala would be inside, and he had as to yet figure out how to gain entry. He was certain his human form would be more welcome than his natural dragon form.
Really? I am to stand here in the rain, to worry about the lives of humans?
He asked himself. Velomaw reached into his cloak and removed the hand scythes, with a jerk of his arms they opened fully. Velomaw ran across the muddy ground and before the first guard could even register an expression of surprise, the dragon already had sliced his throat. The second guard did have time to be surprised and try to draw his sword. Velomaw whirled, disemboweling him. The guard dropped his sword to grab his tumbling innards. Velomaw jerked his arm upwards, dragging his hand scythe across the second guard’s throat. He fell over as dead as the first one.
Velomaw walked through the open portcullis into the keep. Shouts were finally happening as other black eyed, bald guards, were trying to keep him out.
In a whirl of black cloak and glinting bloodied hand scythes Velomaw killed them too. Blood splashed, organs dropped when he slashed abdomens, heads rolled, until all that remained was a pile of bodies and one lone guard.
“I will spare you, if you tell me where can I find Adanala, she was taken from farm to the east,” Velomaw said in a quiet voice. He stood ready, scythes up; he would kill this man if he needed to.
“What are you?” The guard asked as he watched the man who’d entered the keep eyes glint from brown to a burning orange.
“I am not of your concern if you do not want to die. Tell me where to find a girl, taken from a farm to the east,” Velomaw demanded, his voice growing deeper and louder.
“The Master has them all inside,” the guard pointed to the inner keep. “He’s looking for a certain one, kills all the others.” Velomaw looked at the keep. It was tall, and he would have to most likely fight his way inside.
The dragon whirled and slashed. The guard’s head slid down from his neck stump, blood spurting.
“Humans.” Velomaw grunted.
He looked at the keep, trying to plan the best way to enter. In his opinion he should just go back to his dragon form and rip it apart stone by stone, but there was the chance he didn’t want to take that he might harm Adanala.
He was inside the courtyard, surrounded by dead bodies, and rain that was washing the blood from his hand scythes. He was soaked, water dripping from his chin, from his cloak. As a human he was hindered by human discomforts and where the rain did not bother him as a dragon, it was just as annoying as humans when he was one.
Velomaw practically ripped the door of the keep off its hinges and entered the lit halls of the keep. More guards appeared to attack him. He did away with them as he had the ones in the courtyard. Only one seemed to get a hit in on him, and it was superficial cut across his shoulder. It bled lightly, but did not hinder him.
Slowly, he fought his way to the great room, the first place to look for Adanala. He entered the great heavy doors to see a man upon what could be described as a throne. Blood dripped from Velomaw’s scythes.
“You lead this rabble?” Velomaw asked first.
Velomaw waited for a reply, and for a moment, almost decided one wasn’t going to come. The man just sat upon his great chair and looked at the dragon in his human form. He hadn’t put away his scythes, and was tensed, ready to spring.
“I will admit, seeing a dragon come for a single human is not at all what I expected,” the man upon the throne finally spoke. He was pale, like he’d been dusted with flour. Eyes of unnatural red, and dressed as a nobleman.
“I seek Adanala, I will let you live you if tell me where she is,” Velomaw made the same offer as he had the guard, but Velomaw realized he’d killed the guard anyway. He was just a human afterall. They were cockroaches, their purpose to be stamped upon.
“I will gladly give you Adanala, if you do something for me,” spoke the man upon the throne. Velomaw didn’t relax his stance. There was a creak as he actually tightened his grip on the scythes.
“Asking a favor of one such as I is not the best of ideals,” Velomaw replied. “When I collect. I collect.”
“You seek Adanala, it will be fair trade.”
“I can take the human girl by force,” Velomaw replied, “You know I will succeed. This form, it gives you a fighting chance.”
“What is your name, Dragon?” Velomaw remained silent.
“You won’t tell me?” The man asked when Velomaw hadn’t answered him.
“I’m not a fool,” Velomaw stated. The man upon the great chair nodded his head. “Give me Adanala.”
“I cannot.” The man stated firmly.
“You best wish for your life that she is not dead,” Velomaw said in a deep, low voice.
“She lives, or at least she was alive when I sold her,” the man replied. Velomaw caught himself growling. If Adanala was no long here, he no longer needed to be human. Velomaw replaced his scythes into their sheathes on his hips and grew in size until his dragon form filled the great room.
He dropped a heavy taloned paw on the man on the throne, splintering the throne and pinning the man to the floor. Velomaw brought his face down to sniff and breathe heavily upon the man.
”Where is Adanala?” Velomaw snarled, his black scaled lips curling up his long fanged teeth. Each tooth in his mouth as long as a man’s arm and sharper than any dagger.
Velomaw’s form filled the entire great room. He’d have to burst through the stone of the keep to escape it. He didn’t care, he was going find Adanala, he’d made an agreement with Ghoan and he was going to deliver on it.
“I sold her to a man in the desert, he was looking for a marked woman,” the man quickly burlbled.
”Adanala has no mark upon her.” Velomaw stated.
“She does! It’s upon her breast,” the man wailed. Velomaw brought down his head to look at the man with a single eye like he’d observed Ghoan. He was determining if this man was lying.
”Give me a name, a city of origin.” Velomaw demanded, not caring about how his voice filled he room even more so than his dragon form.
“Bel’ris! Please don’t kill-“ Velomaw bit down on the man, severing him in half. Blood squirted between Velomaw’s teeth to dribble down his scaled chin. Velomaw spat out the human’s upper half and spat.
”You might actually taste better if you bathed more.” Velomaw banged himself into the wall and burst into the rain of the winter. The top of the keep crumbled from the damage he did to it. Velomaw flapped his wings and flew further west.