|A Steel Cage
Author: Kallamari PM
It was just the three of them in the plain little room- a general, a tamer, and a beast. The "beast" was said to have the strength of a dragon. Somehow, however, this boy was tamed- he had never been able to escape his steel cage. A short story.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy - Words: 1,505 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Published: 05-03-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3019047
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Doesn't look too impressive," the general admitted, peering into the cage. From behind the steel bars, gray and detached eyes met the stern gaze of the gruff man, not caring about his dismissal. Beside the cage laughed a middle aged man with a graying brown beard. It was just the three of them in the plain little room- a general, a tamer, and a beast. It was also dimly lit, with fire from hung up lanterns illuminating the wooden floors and walls. Outside in the daylight, the calls of merchants and the laughter of children could probably be heard, but not here.
"Don't judge him just yet," the bearded man said smugly, looking over to the cage. "Jack is the best of our stock." As if that power was his own accomplishment, the tamer's voice was rich in pride. The eyes of person who actually possessed that power, however, held nothing.
"You call him Jack? That's a name for another towns-boy," the general mocked.
"Jacks was how he said he's named. Stupid name, really, but not like monsters need 'em."
The two men both laughed in agreement, and while the "monster" did not seem to find any humor in the subject, his gray eyes did at last show some stir of emotion: outrage.
His name was not Jacks, it was Jax. Jax Ditryth. The name translated to something along the lines of the "tail of a protector," but the meaning was lost on humans. In his original tongue it is a respectable name. It made him a part of his clan; that's where his pride could be found.
But instead he was in some human town, a caged up boy sitting down on the hay that was supposed to be his mattress. It was itchy, and even more so, degrading, but it was hard to fall much lower from where he already sat. Originating from a strong clan with the might of dragons, he ended up a human tool. He had been tamed. The bangs of his brown, shaggy, unkempt hair fell over his eyes as he looked down. He might as well just be some Jack. He might as well resign himself even further.
"My name is Jack," he countered coolly, interrupting the two. He'd much rather give into what he considered a stupid name than have them besmear his actual one. He could not expect them to understand it.
"He speaks English?" the general asked, standing straight, incredulous even at the plainness of his words.
"He can do a lot more than that," the tamer said with a grin, though he spared a scolding glance towards Jax. It was not like him to speak out of turn, and the tamer did not want him to start now. "This boy has the strength of a dragon."
The general snorted, causing Jax to look up at him with questioning eyes.
"The strength of a dragon and you keep him in a cage?"
Jax's eyes narrowed, another nerve being struck, but that was because of its truth.
"Don't taunt him now," the tamer warned, looking back at Jax. The tamer sensed a sort of disturbance, as Jax was usually not one to react upon being provoked. There was something different in him now; the anger long extinguished flickered- reignited.
"So let's see this strength. I don't want a liability on my field." The general didn't bother with subtlety; it was an outright challenge to the tamer, and- most especially- Jax.
Without waiting for permission, Jax stood. Scales formed an armor for his tanned skin. From what wasn't covered by his clothing, they were apparent around his arms and the frame of his face. The whites of his eyes transformed, fading from their natural color into an eerie black. His gaze was given a whole new emphasis. He stared down at the general, now taller than him at his full height as he stood the cage. The tamer dared to look smug, sure that Jax had showed the general off. The general only smiled, as if vaguely impressed, but it was too conscious an effort- so unshaken- that it did not satisfy Jax. The general did not want a scary face. He wanted power, and so Jax would give it to him.
The fire from the lanterns flickered. Simultaneously they all dimmed, with barely enough light to highlight the distinct features of the threes' faces. Both the tamer and the general took a moment to look around, the tamer more taken off guard than the rugged old general. The flames held their attention as it pulsated, threatening to grow strong enough until they nearly shattered the glass that contained them. The room was filled with a blazing light, so incredibly bright that no shadow could flourish. The room had a whole new hue to it now. Even Jax's once ordinary brown hair was as orange as the lanterns that lit the room.
The tamer opened his mouth to speak, but before that Jax found his own voice.
"In a field filled with fire, I'm hardly a liability," Jax said quietly, his gaze firm as he met eyes with the general. The man could only grin, feigning pleasantries.
"What good does that do ya in a cage made of steel?" he challenged.
A silence was shared between them, filled with such intensity the tamer couldn't think to break it. At last the general turned to go, directing his smile at the tamer now.
"Sorry, I was having fun. Yeah, he'll make a decent weapon."
"Thank you for your decision..." The tamer seemed more than pleased to have the ordeal over and done with.
Just as the general got his grip on the door handle, there was an abrupt sound of shattered glass. After the startled outcry from the tamer, he turned around to see a broken lantern with the flames catching onto the wooden floors. The other lanterns continued to break one after another right after it.
"Jack!" the tamer called out, his fear masked by fury. In response the flames only coiled around the bearded man, in a manner that was surely beyond nature. They singed at his skin with a purpose, then cutting deeper into his flesh, but during his cries of agony Jax merely continued to lock eyes with the general.
"Do you think you've won?" the man asked with a cruel smirk. The licks of flames lashed at him, but somehow, even as it scathed through the skin that had no scales to protect it, his expression remained the same.
Feeling desperate now, Jax made the flames devour everything. The floors were all charred black. The walls began to fall. The general, however, still remained. That smile still remained. Jax grit his teeth, his chest tightening as he fought the overpowering authority that oppressed him. He would have no more of it. He would be free.
Finally, the general fell to the ground, half of his face- his smile- molten by the blazes. The walls then disintegrated into ash, collapsing around the boy with dragon's fire... And at the scene before him, his eyes widened.
Outside those walls, there were only more people. Among them were weapons that entailed pain not necessary for death, and they all held no fear to use them against him. All of them smiled, those same cold smiles, ready to break him at any given moment.
And he was still in his cage.
Falling to his knees, Jax reached for the ground hopelessly. Jax had no strength of a dragon, only its fire. As much as he could destroy, he could not break those steel bars. He could not save himself.
Gray eyes opened slowly. With stray pieces of hay still caught in the locks of ordinary brown hair, the captive turned his head and looked out ahead as he lay. There was no general, nor any tamer, though they both existed in some form of sense. There was no plain little room either. Instead it was a black night, with the stars so clear it reminded him of the mountains of his homeland. No matter the distance he traveled, it was still just as far away from him as it had been years ago. Eventually the quiet chatter of men reached the cage where he slept, forcing him to focus on the small fire pit from where the humans camped. There they sat, right by the fire that could have easily killed them on the spot, but they were not the ones who were afraid. He continued to stare towards them, not conscious of what they were talking about or what they were doing. The fire did not grow, nor did it harm. He did nothing but watch expressionlessly as they all smiled.
As the flames danced, he listened to the rhythmic creaking of the metal cage door, softly as it swayed with the wind all the while.