Author's Notes: This story originally came from a very interesting idea I had, based on the brilliant book "Song in the Silence". The idea was that a male human and a female dragon somehow fall in love with each other, and the dragon council or something disagrees. I scrapped that idea halfway through, as my dragon character became more of a logical… er, dragoness. So, this tale's recipe is now something a tad different – a cup of fantasy, a dash of human kindness camouflaged in scales, a teaspoon of action, and a pinch of magic. Enjoy.
Long ago, before the births of our ancestors, it was said that humans were one with the world. It was said that they lived in harmony with creatures of savage might, and that they befriended and spoke with them. None of these creatures was more powerful or honored than the dragon. These powerful beings were revered, not as kings and queens, but as allies in battle and close friends.
This did not last. Many years ago, so it has been said, the dragons suddenly left in a mass exodus, as soon as the first human king first came to power. The age of kings has long since passed, but they say that you can still find the dragon clans of old, hidden away deep in the mountain caves to the north. Some say that they chose to leave, to keep themselves safe from the humans, who had grown too greedy and far too bold. Others believe that they were the greedy ones, sent into exile for robbing the human's livestock and killing any human that got in their way.
The true reason has long since faded from human memory – but the tales remain, a single glimpse into our past. There are tales of violent battles and witty evasions of traps, of love and lamentation, vengeance and victory, and of Fate's relentless pull. Yet no story, however strange, can compare to the tale of Kale the wanderer and Isdrae the dragon…
The sky was a beautiful cerulean blue, soaring above the mountain peaks and the sitting young man, resting upon a rocky outcropping. His pack, which contained all of his worldly possessions, lay at his bare feet. His worn leather boots, faded with age and use, sat next to him on the rock.
His name was Kale, and he was a Wanderer, one who leaves the cities to live on the run, either for criminal or personal reasons. Kale was no thief, however, and swore on his life that he would never become one. He simply loved the wilderness, and the wilderness loved him back.
Kale very rarely if ever entered the villages, preferring to hunt and forage for himself. He was a very good tracker, and skilled with a bow and arrow – a good skill to have, not only for hunting deer, but also for warding off raiders that sometimes hid in the forest. Not that a thief would want to attack him – he had very little money to his name, and his appearance – dark-haired, tall, and muscular – was enough to make even the most foolhardy thief think twice. For his intimidating appearance, however, Kale was as kind a soul as you could hope to meet, far more likely to give to the needy than to kill a man. He was introspective and sensitive, which is partially why he became a Wanderer in the first place. The other half was simply a strong desire to explore.
Kale sighed and pulled on his boots. He was getting restless, and he had planned to map the mountains by sundown if the weather stayed decent. Not that it was likely: these mountains were notorious for terrible weather.
Kale pulled on his pack and began towards them.
"Isdrae? Are you dreaming, youngling?"
Isdrae turned her head, silver scales glinting white in the sun's rays.
"Oh. No, Rayenae, I was just…"
Rayenae cocked her brazen head, slit emerald eyes wide and knowing. Rayenae was an Elder, a leader among Isdrae's clan, and the only female Elder among them.
"What is it that troubles you so, Wind Daughter?" she asked, her voice nurturing.
Isdrae sighed and turned, steely eyes dark with some secret.
"It is… I am… I need something, Rayenae. I seek something else, something that I have not seen before. I am sickened of seeing only mountains and dragons. I even dreamt just last night that a shadow of some creature visited me, and it, whatever it was, strode upon two legs! I tried to speak with it, but I woke up before I could…"
Rayenae smiled knowingly.
"You are young, Isdrae, and restless," she said. "You simply are feeling rebellious. You are no longer a hatchling, and you will begin to feel…"
She trailed off, unsure of how best to continue.
"Differently," she concluded.
Isdrae wasn't paying much attention. She had heard this quite possibly a thousand times in her four thousand year lifespan (young, for a dragon), and she wasn't particularly interested in hearing it again. She had male friends, of course, but she planned to keep them as just that and nothing more. She knew that she was not heartsick. Besides, her keen eyes had detected movement – unfamiliar movement – and tentative curiosity had begun to grip her as a dragon's talons do rock.
Kale paused near the cavern entrance, shifted his pack, and gazed out to the horizon, where the final rays of the sun were just beginning to slip over the snow-capped mountain peaks. It would be dark very soon, and nighttime in the mountains could prove deadly to those caught out in the open.
He looked towards the yawning cave behind him, gaping like the immense mouth of some large and hungry animal. Kale did not fear caves, nor did he fear the dark, but he knew that the mountains were full of dangerous creatures.
Yet what choice did he have? The cave might be the only shelter for miles, and if he tried to walk further to find shelter, he'd run himself ragged and possibly off the edge of a cliff. No, he'd just have to take his chances with the cavern and pray that there wasn't a bear inside.
Kale leaned towards the entrance and gave a great shout, but there was no response, save for an echoing of his wordless yelp.
Cautiously, he tiptoed into the cave.
It was surprisingly warm inside and quite large, about the size of a small ballroom. Not that Kale had ever been inside of a ballroom – that privilege was reserved for the king and only the king, and the only way that a vagabond like Kale would ever get even as far as the castle gates was if he committed some heinous crime.
Kale sat on the dirt floor, setting his pack beside him as he did. It was very dark in here, too dark to see, and it made him uneasy. Nervously, he fished in his pack for some flint rocks and a bundle of kindling with which to light a fire. Eventually, he found them and set to work on generating a spark.
Suddenly, he felt something leathery brush his cheek.
"Just a bat," he murmured, continuing his work. "Wing must've got me."
Kale continued striking the flint together, the steady clacking nearly muffling a soft shuffling sound…
He looked up suddenly, his hand instinctively reaching for his bow.
A soft, keening growl, unlike any sound he had ever heard from any animal, resonated through the cavern.
Carefully, Kale began to stand.
"A bear!" he hissed, edging towards the cavern entrance. "Maybe I'm lucky. Maybe it's asleep and it's only snoring. It won't bother me if I leave…"
To his surprise, he hit something large and scaly.
"Okay, that is not a cavern wall…"
"I'm not a bear, either."
Kale jumped, grabbed his bow, and knocked an arrow.
"Hello?" he asked, aiming into the darkness. "Who is there? I warn you, stranger, I am armed!"
A soft, tinkling laugh, like the peal of a silver bell, sounded. Kale swung towards the sound, trying desperately to see in the darkness.
"I highly doubt that you will be able to harm me," the feminine voice replied. "Not with those silly sticks."
"I will shoot!" Kale warned as he pulled back the drawstring and aimed at what he thought must be the body of the unknown intruder. However, he was anxious and unable to aim well, and so when he released the arrow, it only managed to mar the dirt floor.
The stranger laughed again, and Kale could sense that she was close to him – very close.
"That is nothing," she said with a smirk in her voice. "Watch this."
A sudden burst of heat and light sprung to life from seemingly nowhere, lighting the forgotten pile of kindling at the back of the cavern. The cave soon filled with the fire's warm glow, reflecting off the rocky walls, pooling on the dirt floor, and glinting off something large and silver.
Kale turned from the glowing fire to find himself face to face with a large and very smug-looking dragon.
Isdrae gave the human a cool look of superiority, examining his stance and face for emotions. He was tense and the smell of fear was on him, but he also seemed to be in awe. She was pleased, but also a bit disappointed that humans were so easily cowed.
"I do not wish you harm," she said, lowering her head to the level of the man's eyes. "I am called Isdrae. What is the name you use?"
Kale was bewildered.
"K-Kale," he stuttered.
Isdrae gave him an amused smirk.
"Very well, Kah-Kale."
"I would appreciate it if you would get rid of the 'kah.'"
"Well, I assumed so. I just figured that it would be better to make sure first."
Kale's mind raced with thoughts. Here he was, standing in front of a dragon. A real dragon. And it wasn't planning on killing him so far?
Isdrae kept her storm-grey eyes fixed on the human.
"You have heard the tales, haven't you?" she said in disdain. "How we Draconians will kill any human who strays into our lands without a single thought."
She sighed in annoyance, paused a moment, then continued.
"That is not entirely true, Kale. The majority of my people do not see humans as a threat at all. In fact, our two peoples even lived together in peace once… But of course, no one ever told you that story."
Isdrae sighed again, turned her face towards the starry night outside of the cavern, and began her tale.
"Long ago, when the world was but a young thing, the Drakenclans of Old were at peace with the humans. Man and Draken lived amongst each other, each helping to keep the Old Laws balanced. When someone broke these laws, they faced severe punishment. We Draconians never expected one of our own to break them.
"His name was Vengre. A pure sable Drake was he, with eyes that burned like acid. He was a good soul once – a little rough, perhaps, but kindly. All of that changed the night his home was ransacked. He lost his wife, Aedelade, and his daughter, Aeris – both slain by alcohol-brazen youths. Driven mad by this terrible loss, Vengre organized a group of already rebellious young Draconians, and with them went on a bloody rampage. Any human they found was killed on sight, and any Draken that got in their way was in grave peril of going the same way.
"The humans did not believe that our Elders wished to help them. A terrible war broke out between our Drakenclans and Vengre's Drakenclan, and many were slain. By now, the human you call king had risen to power. We Draconians sensed that he was a malevolent being, evil to the core, but we no longer had the power to put a stop to his reign. His first decree as king was that our two warring factions be exiled to opposite ends of the earth – Vengre's clan to the vast desert plateaus in the east, and the rest of us to these snowy mountain peaks, chilly enough to kill any man who strayed too far."
Here, Isdrae paused to think, great steely eyes turned towards the heavens.
"That," she said, turning to face Kale, "Is why I am here. But what, child, brings you here? What in these desolate mountains do you so desire?"
Kale could sense that Isdrae was getting suspicious, and this made him nervous. An angry dragon – or, as Isdrae insisted, Draken – was a formidable foe. He could be dead before he fired a single arrow.
Steeling himself and trying to look as sincere as possible, he locked his gaze with Isdrae's and answered.
"I must explore," he said truthfully. "This was one of the few places I have seen, and I wished to see what lies beyond this mountain chain."
Isdrae was unconvinced. "Is your family not worried?" she replied, her tone as admonishing as a mother scolding a child.
Kale grimaced slightly at the word 'family'.
"I'd… rather not speak of my family."
"I see. My mother died in combat when I was very young."
Isdrae softened a bit, relieved to see the man show a small bit of kindness. Perhaps he was not as untrustworthy as he looked…
"It is in the past, long before your time," she responded calmly. "What has transgressed has transgressed. One can neither change the past nor dwell upon it."
Isdrae turned away, her expression grim, and Kale thought for a moment that, had she been human, she might have been crying.
"Well," she said, pausing before she continued.
"… Well," she repeated, rustling her wings slightly and turning to face Kale again. "You say you wish to explore these mountains and see what secrets they horde? I know of a place that may be of interest to you. Just beyond this cave, to the west, lies a vast, cascading waterfall that empties into a miraculously warm basin. It is known as the Wishing Pool, for it is said anyone who bathes in its waters will be granted their strongest desire – but only once. It also is said that the water, when drunk, will heal any affliction save for death itself. Perhaps you would like to visit it? I could take you there if you like."
"Take me?" Kale asked, con fused. "What do you mean by…? Oh. Oh."
Amused, Isdrae smiled and lowered her head. Gently, she took the Kale's tough leather jacket between her teeth and deposited him, surprised, on her back, just between her shoulder blades.
"Hang on!" she warned, breaking into a run, and before Kale could breathe a word of protest, Isdrae had launched herself out of the cavern and into the chilly night sky.
The bitter cold, a horrid dagger of ice, seemed to stab at him at every graceful flap of Isdrae's great silver wings. The landscape below was a terrifying view, thought Kale as he clung to one of the ivory spikes on Isdrae's back, but a beautiful one. With the entire land splayed out before him, he felt as if he were a god looking upon his creation and laughing, smiling at his work.
I'm flying, he thought, astonished. I'm really flying. It was such an amazing, freeing feeling, so liberating and joyful that there was no longer any room for fear. It felt miraculous, so miraculous that when Isdrae landed, it felt as if gravity had clamped heavy, iron chains upon him, fettering him to the ground once more with horrible, crushing loneliness.
Isdrae bowed her head to let him off, but Kale, shaking with cold, could not move save for shivering. Carefully, Isdrae picked him up by the jacket and set him on the ground, thawed green from the heat of the Wishing Pool. It was all Kale could do not to jump into the tepid water immediately, but Isdrae's words about its power still rang in his ears.
It will grant your strongest desire – but only once.
Carefully, Kale knelt by the water, grateful for the warmth it provided.
Isdrae watched him for a moment, smiling, then turned her head towards the southern mountains, disturbed. Something about them felt menacing tonight. A vague intimation that something was watching them surrounded her, but she shook it off and animatedly began to speak with Kale.
Something still bothered her about the mountains, however. She just couldn't help but feel that something lurked amongst them – something decidedly evil.
Deep in the mountains sat a dark cave. Deep in this cave sat a black shadow, its tail curled around its feet like a monstrous cat. Its unblinking, venomous green eyes glittered strangely, feverishly, as its gaze flitted from the distant shapes of a silver Draken and a small, humanoid figure.
The figure flared its nostrils and rustled its wings angrily. Man! How he despised those sniveling, cowardly creatures - too filthy to eat and too small to matter! After all, what was a mere few decades to a being that had lived for eight thousand years and would live many more than that?
Even the Draken itself was small – certainly much smaller than he – and obviously female; he could smell it from here. He could easily snap her neck in two.
The Drakeness turned her head to face his cave, her expression obviously suspicious even from a distance.
He had to stifle a laugh at that. This weak, pitiful youngling actually believed that she could defeat him and keep the man-spawn safe? She would need some straightening out…
The Drakeness turned, speaking to the man.
Silently, impressively so for a Draken of his size, he turned and swooped into the night as a bat would swoop upon its prey.
Isdrae tensed, turning towards the south once more. She saw only the shadow of another dragon, flitting amongst the mountains – far off yet, but there.
Only returning home from a friend's Cavern, she thought, willing herself to stay calm.
She stole a glance at Kale, so small and vulnerable by the pool. If another Draken found him and thought him a threat…
Isdrae shook the thought from her mind and shifted her position, hiding Kale from view. Anxiously, she watched as the shadow winged its way east in a wide swath, perhaps sensing a tensed Draken nearby and not wanting to intrude.
But what if it did want to intrude?
Shake that thought from your mind, Isdrae thought as she turned her head towards Kale. He is merely returning home…
Kale, meanwhile, was busily sketching something in a small, leather-bound journal, the landscape perhaps. Curious, Isdrae snaked her head over his shoulder.
Kale looked up at her, vaguely annoyed.
"Would you please not watch over my shoulder, Isdrae?" He asked. "It's very annoying."
"I apologize, Kale. I did not mean to -"
A long, low rumble of a laugh cut her off, echoing off the cold mountain peaks and chilling her to the bone. She knew that laugh, dark and deep…
Kale, startled, looked up to see what had made such a terrifying sound.
"Isdrae? What was…?"
"Kale… hide. Now."
"But I -"
"Now!" Isdrae snapped, baring her teeth at him.
Kale, spooked by this sudden display of aggression, ran behind a large rock and crouched down as small as he could.
Isdrae turned towards the sound, unfolding her wings and standing in her defensive stance. Another, more mocking laugh rang through the starry night, and she growled deeply, letting this intruder know that she was not going to back away from him.
The laugh shifted into a deafening, angry roar, and something, a massive shadow, fell towards her from on high like a thunderbolt. Angrily, Isdrae launched herself at it, only to have the figure pin her to the ground before she got so much as a foot off the ground. She struggled in vain, only to have the shadow laugh at her pitiful attempt.
Isdrae flicked her eyes towards the assailant's face, and as soon as those venomous eyes locked with hers, she knew.
"Vengre…" she growled, struggling. "How dare you set foot in our lands again!"
"Good evening, Isdrae," he purred, his voice darker and deeper than an endless pit. "Lovely night for flying, isn't it? Clear and cool and starry."
He stood, unpinning the silver Drakeness, and watched dispassionately as she stood, teeth bared. Their eyes locked once more, acid green boring into slate grey.
"Where is the man-child?" Vengre hissed, his tone far more chilling than the icy wind. "Come now, Isdrae – surely you do not care for the creature so much that you wish to die for it?"
Isdrae gave a great roar of anger that shook the very rocks from the cliffs. Just as Kale peered out from behind the rock, she spat a white-hot stream of fire at the black Drake.
Vengre returned the fire with blind fury and roared madly, launching himself at her. The force of the impact was so great that it knocked Isdrae off the cliff. He followed her, diving at her like a falcon diving at a sparrow.
Isdrae quickly righted herself and unfurled her wings, silver scales flashing. Angrily, Vengre flew at her, massive black talons outstretched.
"Kale!" Isdrae cried, effortlessly dodging the blow. "Kale, run! He will kill you if you do not run! Ah!"
Vengre had gripped her by the tail, sharp talons tearing at her scales and slicing through her skin. With the speed of a striking snake, Isdrae whipped her head towards him and struck him with another shimmering blast of dragonfire. Vengre fell back, roaring in pain.
A sudden flicker of movement caught his eye, and he turned to see a small something run across the cliff, looking for a place to hide. Kale watched in horror as the massive black shape sped towards him. A silver spark followed the sable arrowhead.
Vengre was upon Kale in an instant. With one powerful swipe of his tail, he sent the boy flying into the Wishing Pool.
"Kale!" Isdrae cried as she launched herself, roaring, at a smirking Vengre.
The water is warm, thought Kale as he felt himself fall into the pool. It was as if everything had slowed down, as if the water entering his lungs was solid and not liquid. He was slowly becoming a part of it, slowly melting into it, slowly, slowly…
It was so relaxing simply to float like this, at the mercy of the tide, at peace. Was he dead? He knew not.
He looked up, watching as a trail of red curled upward, smoke like, in the water.
I am injured… my head aches… I hope that Isdrae isn't hurt… I wish I could help her… I wish…
Suddenly, Kale found himself thrashing, his limbs filled with a new desire to move. He felt himself clawing towards the surface, felt a tingling spread through his fingers… up his arm… throughout his body…
Confused, he looked at his hand, and was shocked to see it enveloped in a silvery-white glow. He continued towards the surface, Isdrae's words ringing in his ears.
It will grant your strongest desire…
Vengre grinned madly at the silver Drakeness, her hide smeared with red and marred by gashes. The youngling was on her last legs, gasping in pain. She would surely appreciate the final blow…
"You should have listened to me and given up the human," he sneered, circling Isdrae. "It would have been so much easier on you…"
"All your mercy would be worthless," she spat. "I need no pity from Evil itself."
Vengre slashed her side viciously, leaving three long gashes that crossed the older ones like jagged stitch work. Isdrae growled in pain and anger, but did not move – doing so only hurt more.
Vengre smiled sadistically, an eager, lurid expression that was naught but pure madness. Leaning forward until his sharp teeth were inches from her neck, he cast one last dark glance at the terrified Isdrae.
"Any last words, youngling?" he asked, acidic eyes gleaming.
Isdrae swallowed her fear and cast her thunderstorm-grey eyes at him, loathing permeating every fiber of her being.
"Die in agony," she hissed.
Vengre chuckled darkly, then reared his head like a snake about to strike.
A sudden burst of sound and water distracted him in mid-attack, and he turned to see a large, golden something bursting from the Wishing Pool. Over the tremendous roar of the water, Vengre heard another, different roar – a warm, triumphant bugle of anger.
Isdrae flicked her eyes towards the sound, smiling weakly at what she saw.
A golden Draken, his eyes the color of bronzed metal, circled the mountain peaks once and glided into a landing. He took one look at her and snapped his head around to face Vengre. He snarled only once, then reared back and threw a brilliant beam of flame at the sable monster.
Vengre, caught off-guard by the hit, toppled off the cliff. The golden Draken followed, roaring angrily.
Vengre spread out his colossal black wings, twisting to catch himself in mid-fall, and swept around and upward towards the interloper.
The gold Draken was ready for it. Diving like a great eagle towards the sea, he glanced Vengre's left side, then swept around, speeding at full force towards his opponent's right wing. There was a sickening crunch as his jaws clamped hard on one of the bony joints, permanently ruining his opponent's ability to fly.
Vengre roared in agony as he fell, his eyes feverish with hatred and his broken wing flailing. In a final act of malice, he flung one last jet of fire at the victor, but the golden Draken skirted it effortlessly and flew back to the cliff, scales flashing. The only sound he heard as he flew was that of Vengre's angry, agonized howling, fading slowly as he fell into the thick mist below.
"Isdrae? Isdrae? Are… okay? Answer me…"
Isdrae flicked her eyes open, gazing upon the gold-plated Draken that stood above her.
"Are you alright?" it asked, bronze-tinted eyes and familiar voice filled with concern.
"I am… hurt…" she murmured. "Where is… Kale?"
The golden Draken smiled knowingly. "I am right here, Isdrae."
"… K… Kale? Kale! What happened… to…?"
Kale's smile widened.
"I made a wish, Isdrae," he said." "I wished with all my heart that you would be safe – that there was some way I could help you. I fell into the pool and healed myself. I wished… and I changed. It was a miracle. That is the only way I can describe it."
Isdrae smiled wearily.
"You changed your form and sacrificed your human life to save my own… Kale… I cannot believe it…"
"I told you already, and I will tell you again, my friend. It was a miracle. And now, I believe it is time for you to have a miracle as well."
Gingerly, Kale nudged her prone form towards the edge of the Wishing Pool. Gratefully, Isdrae began to take long, deep draughts of the water. Gradually, the bleeding stopped and the wounds healed, leaving only long, grey scars as a reminder.
Isdrae stood, testing her once-torn wings, then turned to face her savior.
"Thank you, Kale," she said.
Kale bowed his head in gratitude, then turned to the east, watching as the first few rays of dawn began to creep over the snow-capped mountain peaks.
"I… should be going," he sighed.
"But Kale," Isdrae asked, voice filled with worry, "Where will you go? You are no longer human…"
Kale turned back to her, smiling sadly.
"Isdrae… human or Draken, I am Kale the Wanderer. My very name means 'Traveler'. I have no home; I have no family. I was born such, and such I will ever stay. I cannot live in one place. I am too restless. I thank you for your kindness, and I will visit you, but… I cannot stay here."
He turned to leave, but Isdrae walked in front of him, blocking his path.
"I am sure that the rest of my Clan would like to meet you," she said, eyes begging him not to leave. "They are very kind… would you not like to meet them? Do you not want someone with which to travel? You do not have to stay here… you could merely use this as your home base. You could still travel if you wish…"
Kale thought about this a moment, then looked to Isdrae again.
"My name is what I am," he said firmly, and he began to walk away.
Isdrae ran around to face him again, eyes sincere.
"Then all you need is a new name," she said. "Just… please stay, Kale. My savior should not wander homeless. That is not what he deserves."
"Isdrae, where would I live? I cannot exactly build a shelter anymore."
"Then you will stay with me. I have room in my Cavern. I could give you your own room if you like. We could be like siblings – but hopefully without the fighting. Please stay, Kale… please?"
Kale thought a moment, trying to find some argument. Failing to find one, he sighed."
"Alright, Isdrae… I shall stay with you. But I do not need a new name."
"Yes you do!" Isdrae countered. "The Elders will laugh you out of the Main Hall if you come to them and say 'Hello, my name is Kale'. It is a silly human name, and you are not a silly human."
Kale gave her annoyed look, but said nothing.
"Well, it is!" she said, feigning a hurt look. "Still, it is only fair that you keep some of your name…
Isdrae stepped back, looking him over.
"You shall be known as Saavkael, the Changed Wanderer; Soulfriend of Isdrae, the Shining One. You shall live with me in my Cavern, and we shall travel together. It is the very least I can do for you. Now come, my friend, and follow me. I have much to show you."
With a running start, Isdrae leapt from the cliff and into the sky. Saavkael followed and caught up with her, and the two friends winged their way east, into the dawning day.
That is the tale of Saavkael and Isdrae. To this day, say the bards, they still live with the Dragonclans of old in the mountains to the north. Perhaps someday you yourself will see a spark of silver or glint of gold in the sky, and look up to see Saavkael and Isdrae, roaring playfully and chasing one another on their way to their next new adventure.