I watched them stream in, one by one, brilliantly radiant against the sun. Wings of spun crystal flashing in the light and muscles twining about ancient bones and writhing under glittering scaled hides. There were so many of us. So many had come here, streaming in from all across the globe. Colors of all imaginings, a patchwork fit to rival the rainbow. I stayed off to the side, by myself, musing this sudden turn of events. We did not gather like this. We were not made to be social creatures, we were created individually, unique, and spun from the dreams that wafted across the earth's surface. And yet we still gathered, only because she called us. I came because it was expected but not by her kind. No, the ones that still retained the fire looked for me among the crowd, their eyes silently pleading for me to become a rallying point. They longed to see my white scales rise above the rest, my crystal voice raised in dissent. They would see more than they bargained for. I am the eldest, the only one that remembers the world as it once was, before the humans came and drove us away, to this new world of ours. I remember the world when it was only fire and ash, primal and alive for the taking. I am the only one alive that remembers the days when dragons and dreams ruled supreme. And I fully intended to restore the old ways in all their glory before the sun set.
It had started nearly a year ago. I had awakened from my endless sleep to grave news. Ripping the veil of the worlds apart was a tiring business and as I was an elder I was one of the head dragons in the process. So I slept to regain my sleep, slept for many many years. I was the only elder to awake, the rest were claimed by the old ways. I wondered for a long time why I had not been claimed also. My time was long spent, the fire burned so fiercely in my heart that each day I wondered if it would consume me in my last flight. But it never did. But today, today would be different. I would take my last flight and restore the blood rituals. And I would bring the sundering of reality as we knew it with my death keen.
The younger dragons had told me everything when I found them. There was a small knot of them huddled away in the mountains not too far from where I had made my roost. They had been waiting for an elder, any elder to awake. And they got me, a rather small female: Kirshara'irha'kiraas. White snow dew drop, as my name was said in the old tongue. I was the only one who used my full name there, the only one who demanded the respect and dignity of the old ways. The younger dragons were apologetic as they botched every formality we have ever had, citing that they had not been used for a very long time. I taught them everything I knew and in return gleaned all the information of what sort of world I had awakened to I could. I left them then, deeply troubled and unsure of what to do. I returned to my lair and attempted to scry out the future across the dream threads. They were cloudy, faded, and almost impossible to be reached. It was then that true fear arose in my heart. The dreams were what we were made of, the thing that made us dragons. To lose them would be to lose ourselves.
So I sit here, my head held high and motionless as stone. The other dragons look at me oddly as they pass, streaming across the vast meadow chosen for our gathering. Some recognize me. Most do not. I am an elder. I am a dream-weaver. I am last dragon of the old ways. I do not belong in this time and era. The crowd falls silent as someone climbs up onto the pile of boulders in the middle of the meadow. It is her. The source of this. The death of the dream-weaves.
I barely remember her from the world we had left behind. She was young, naïve, and enraptured with the humans. She brought their ways with us, their customs, and their subservience to reality. Amiln, the first dragon to dare claim lordship over us. I do not know how she managed this. The younglings said that she claimed authority on the basis that the dragons were in a crisis position; the elders asleep and a new world before them. The other dragons were confused and did not know what to make of this. So she took silence for agreement and proceeded to gather a band of supporters. She used human tactics, human reasoning, and human customs. And the dragons, lost and unsure, were too slow in moving to stop her. Could she be stopped? Would the old ways allow this? We do not kill our own except for the blood rituals. And these vanished as the elders slipped into death, one by one. The blood rituals did not happen simply because there was no need. An entire world was more than enough land to contain all of us and so the immortals could spread and live in peace. They did not have to die to keep from destroying the world in their everlasting lives. So Amiln was able to do away with the old ways, citing them as useless and outdated, ushering in a new way of life. A way of life bound to reality.
She is speaking now. I can hear her words but I do not listen. She will declare herself ruler now and no one will dare to protest. They have forgotten what it means to fight and bleed and die. I stand, flaring my wings and shrieking a battle-cry to the heavens, daring the stars to echo my keen. The dragons around me scatter and I launch myself into the air. Fitful roars grow at my interruption and the dragons bunch closer around Amiln. I do not care. I am an elder. I must be heard. I glide over the massive gathering, my shadow passing over their upturned muzzles. I hover just above the pile of boulders, glaring down at Amiln. The dream-weaves support my wings and I barely have to move them to remain aloft, the sun illuminating my back and casting my shadow across Amiln's body. This alone unnerves her. She is even more rattled when she realizes who and what I am. I sneer at her fear. Dragons do not fear anything. We know that one day our deaths will bear us away, just as the fall bears away the browned leaves. It is the way of things and to fight or fear it would be useless. But she fears. She has lost that inferno of the soul that makes us dragons.
"Can you lay claim to something that does not exist?" I say, my voice magnified and sent across the meadow by the dream-weaves.
"I know you. You are Kirsha. We thought you were dead."
"I am Kirshara'irha'kiraas! Can you say your name in the old tongue or have you forgotten?"
"The old tongue is no longer needed. I am all that is needed."
"Then weave dreams such as I. Claim the glory of your race! Do not huddle there, fearing death, fearing I, like a human would."
There are hisses of anger around me and I meet her cronies gazes, one by one. In each of their minds I speak a single phrase: 'We do not kill each other save for the blood rituals.' They are reassured then, confident that I would not spill Amiln's blood. I am bound to the old ways and they are bound to me. Amiln's death would not bring the old ways back. That is a human thing to do.
"The old ways are lost. We – " she begins but I cut her off with a metallic screech and swirl higher into the air.
"We are dragons. We are the children of dreams, not slaves to reality. We danced among the stars and now I see only craven beasts crawling along the dirt. The old ways are what make us dragons, what make us creatures of power and glory. Remember then, what it was like to weave the silver strands of illusion and untruth. Remember the blood ritual. I am the eldest among you. My time as an immortal is past due, the fire threatens to consume me each day now. Let it claim me fully now as I take my last flight."
I rise higher still, feeling the fire well up in my heart. It will spread to my bones now, consuming me, and I will fly in a fury until the younger dragons shred my wings and I fall to be claimed by the fires. I close my eyes, waiting, feeling the molten blood in my heart bubble. It will spread. I will die.
A shriek tears the sky in two. I open my eyes and stare in amazement as Amiln throws herself into the air, her eyes glazed over in a red haze, the fire licking at the pupils. She is crazed, maddened, and taking to the sky on wings that seem burn with the searing heat of immortality. It is her last flight. Not mine. I land and can only watch in disbelief as a couple younger dragons feel the tug in their hearts, feel the lure of the old ways coax them into the sky. The fire pulses in time to my heartbeat but it does not spread. The blood rituals have chosen her, not I. It is not my time to die yet again.
They catch her and the dragons fight. Her blood rains down on us as they shred her wings, tearing the fragile skin off of the bones which are similarly broken. She falls then, a graceful star curving towards the earth. The dragons follow her as an honor guard for her last flight. I can only watch, wondering why the old ways took her and not I. She hits the ground and the dragons gather about her to wait. I close my eyes for I know what is to come next. The fire consumes her body and an immortal sinks into darkness and is no more. I can feel the dragons around me dispersing, the blood ritual seared in their minds. It has been restored in one dragon and so it will spread. The old ways will reassert themselves into our minds and the dream-weaves will hold sway over the land once more. I sink into the grass, my eyes still closed. I am tired. So incredibly tired. I have seen the beginning of our race, the exodus of our kind, and now I have witnessed the breaking and rebirth of the dragons. And still the blood rituals have not yet claimed me. I will wait then, just as I have waited for all these long years. One day they will claim me and I will finally be permitted to make my last flight. Until then, I will sleep. And dream. And wait to die.