James panted heavily, once more burying his head into his pillow as another wave crashed over him. He thought to himself about how much he hated his life, how much had changed in just a few short weeks. He thought about all of those adventure stories he had read as a child, about average people like himself being chosen for greatness and going on to have great adventures.
How did his story go so wrong so quickly?
For what must have been the hundredth time since he arrived in his new 'home' he thought back to where it had all started. He needed a distraction as another wave crashed over him and he let out a cry of frustration and pain. How many days had it been? Twenty?
Twenty days since he rebelled. Seventeen days since he first got sick. Sixteen days since he burned his bed. Fifteen days since he had learned of his true parentage. Thirteen days since he first transformed. Twelve days since his uncle Roume had come to his rescue. Eleven days since the waves first started…
It began with a glass of milk. An unassuming, completely normal glass of milk. Growing up he had been warned by his mother that he was lactose intolerant and she had guarded over him viciously saying that he would get so terribly sick. For a normal human, an act of rebellion was drugs, graffiti or alcohol. No normal mother should have been so worried about her son getting a bad case of gas.
Tony had been a good friend of James since they were children. It was the only friend that his mother trusted and one of the only reasons James had waited so long to rebel. However two bored eighteen year old boys were always bound to get into trouble.
The time they burned down the toolshed with firecrackers…
The time they had set off bottles of dry ice at school…
The time they both broke their arms when Tony slipped and accidentally pulled them both off of the roof…
Who could have thought that a glass of milk would be the worst possible thing he could have done? But it was. James and his mother had been in a fight earlier that day, one that spurned annoyance in her son. Tony had poured himself a glass of milk, and without even bothering to think about it, James poured himself a glass as well and drank the whole damn thing because fuck their fight and fuck the world.
To his surprise, it tasted good. No, it was better than good. It was better than great! There was no better tasting substance on the face of the planet than liquid rebellion in a fucking cup. He poured himself another glass, then he no longer cared and took the carton and drank the whole thing down. He told himself he would regret it later…he just had no idea how much or why.
He was on his way to the door to go get more milk (and to replace the carton he had essentially stolen) when Tony stopped him and just told him to see how his stomach settled. It took some convincing, but they agreed to just stay in and watch a movie before going out and gorging on more milk.
James settled to lay on the couch while his friend put in a movie. The previews had not even finished before the man was asleep, dead asleep. However it was the strangest sleep he had ever been in. It was so deep and heavy that there were no dreams, he sat in limbo in the most relaxed state of euphoria in his life. Nothing at all was better! Not a damn thing.
When he woke up he was back in his own room in his own home. His mother was sitting in his desk chair watching the television, ready and waiting for him when he woke up. He should have been upset, but he found that he was unable to do anything but lay there and let the slowly receding tendrils of perfect relaxation ebb from the very fabric of every bone and muscle in his body.
She yelled at him, asked him what he had been thinking and asked what he thought this all meant. James cared little, for as she screamed at him in that way that made her cheeks turn red and her voice turn shrill all he paid attention to was Letterman playing on his TV.
When the grips of euphoria slowly died down while her squawking chittered on he was struck with a sudden sharp pain in his gut. He growled out and curled up in a ball as a second one hit. The relaxation died swiftly and he became aware of his surroundings. His mother informed him that he had been unconscious for three whole days…
Three days of his life, gone?
The cramps refused to die down and only got worse. A worried look took over his mother's anger and she forced pain killers down his throat, but none of them worked. Almost a full day went by and much to his chagrin James was begging his mother to go to the hospital.
She ran for the phone, however he noticed that she did not dial 911. Whoever was on the other line did not answer and she dialed again, then again and kept going until finally she got through and began to babel. Whoever had been on the other line managed to calm her down and even made her smile faintly before she was given some instruction. She nodded and ran to fetch a box out of her room. James recognized it as a memento box that his father had given her long ago.
She opened this up and inside was several fistfuls of very fine jewelry. James demanded to know how anything she had done was helping, and let out another roar of pain as he clawed at his sheets and pillows. She thrust the box into his arms and he just stared at the woman like she was stupid, however after a moment the pain of his cramps began to wane slightly. He looked down into the box and saw the gold, silver and precious gems inside, fishing around to look for anything in particular.
It felt good against his fingers…the metals were wonderful, the gems were strong. His mother plucked off her wedding ring from her finger and threw it into the box as James clutched it closer for salvation. He told her he was strangely feeling somewhat better.
Finally he found sleep, curled around the box his mother had given him like he were guarding it. His mother had remained on the phone with whomever had been on the other side.
He awoke later to a shriek and to warmth. It was delicious warmth too. Like a bed of flames…when in reality he was literally on his bed in flames! He jerked awake and let out a yelp, looking around his room from the bath of fire. His mother stood in the doorway in a panic before fleeing to take the fire extinguisher.
To James' shock, he found that he was not being burned. The fire felt wonderful. Pure energy, natural wonder! The box had been burned away from the jewels he had been protecting, but the gems and most of the metal were still intact. He gathered these up in his arms, clutching them to his chest before he fled from the fire in panic and confusion just as his mother raced in to try and extinguish the flames.
Outside of the fire, the world felt freezing. Painfully cold in fact. He trembled softly, teeth chattering. The extinguisher had not gotten all of the fire and his mother was forced to finally dial 911. The rest of his day was spent with insurance forms, making up stories and explaining to the officers why he was naked, as the flames had devoured his clothing.
His world was one of panic and excitement. It was not until the next day that he finally had his opportunity to corner his mother alone and demand she explain to him what was going on.
She looked to the phone as if worried something were to happen, but when nothing did she finally relented. She began to explain to James piece by piece the tale of her marriage. Why she was still married to a man she had not seen in over seventeen years.
His father was a dragon…
James was a dragon…
Not even a half-dragon, for no such thing could exist. Dragon genes were wildly powerful and mutated away all mortal genes within them. All of his life James had been 'dormant' in a human guise because all the natural aspects of dragon behavior had been denied to him.
Jewelry instilled a deep sense of territory, sports encouraged dominant competition, and finally for the oddest one, milk was the source of dragon hibernation.
His mother went on to explain that James was among the youngest dragon by over two-thousand years. A powerful witch had cast a plague on all of dragon kind that had killed off most of their females and left many of the rest infertile. Most humans were unable to carry dragon children for their genes were mostly incompatible, and for those few who were compatible they could not survive the pregnancy.
James asked question after question but many of them his mother was unable to answer. He demanded to speak to his father, but his mother refused. She informed him that if any other dragons found out she had given birth to a dragon's child she would likely be taken to try and produce more offspring. James' father had been careful that nobody knew about his son's lineage.
The day devolved into fighting between the two of them. James ached to learn more, to find out what all of his new discoveries truly meant. It was not every day that someone awoke to discover that they were a dragon, to discover that they had always been a dragon and that their mother was hiding it from them!
He broke the countertop with his bare fist, making his mother jump. He had honestly not meant to do so, and as he stared at the broken granite surface he began to realize that now that he knew he was a dragon, he had no idea how to control himself. The fire, the gems he still had collected in his pockets, his strength. It was beginning to sink in and he was feeling fear creep into his gut.
His mother professed that James' uncle, Roume, was safer to contact than his father. The next day they loaded up the car and drove out of their little sun-bathed city of Fresno, California and made their way into the mountains. His mother's friend had a cabin that she let them borrow from time to time, and James' mother had called upon it as an emergency. She had also called Roume who had assured her he would come as soon as he was able.
Once they had arrived at the cabin James got nervous. They were out in the middle of nowhere, the nearest town was over twenty miles away and they were surrounded by nature. Trees. He asked his mother why she had taken a dragon who had no control into a wooded area, to a log cabin out where firefighters could not reach… She promptly realized her mistake…
James would try to be careful, and settled himself into a bed in the cabin. He curled up around his gems, nuzzling into his pillow to find sleep. However with no television, no phone service or really anything to do, he was terribly bored. He made his way out onto the balcony and tried to make sense of his life only to quickly discover that…it was very boring.
The next day the cramps were back, and his jewels were not helping. He was irritable and unable to sleep. However the pain was not as bad this time, and in his state he decided that a walk would be good for him. His mother tried to protest but James just asked what out in the forest would be able to hurt him now.
Everything was peaceful out in the woods. The world around him was beautiful...but it did not help the cramps that plagued him. The further he got away from the cabin the more he felt amazing and sick at the same time. He found a wide clearing with thick grass that reached his hips and waded out into the middle of the area. The sun felt good on his skin, the grass almost felt like soft fur. It was the last pleasant thing he remembered before crippling pain gripped him.
His skin burned like fire, except this time it did not feel pleasant. His bones felt as if they were shattering inside of him and his flesh was splitting off. He tried to let out a scream but all that came out was a haggard whine and collapsed into the grass. He was only distantly aware of the world around him as it felt as if it were getting smaller. When he regained consciousness he found that his muscles no longer worked the same. He felt heavier...
His head lifted slowly and he looked down at the ground many feet below. With growing apprehension he turned to look at the rest of himself, a large and sturdy body covered in glittering bronze scales. It was definitely lizard-like in appearance, save for the large appendages that hung on either side of him in the grass. Thick arm like appendages with two sets of spines inside with webbing between it all. Massive wings!
With some work he manage to move them, but they felt heavy and lethargic as the rest of his body did. He found that he was unable to stand or do much, he felt weak and useless. There was a scent in the air, sweet and captivating, something he had never smelled before and it was wonderful. It was this that kept him so relaxed and calm...
After he gave up on trying moving much he subjected himself to sunbathing. The world still felt wonderful, and while his stomach pains were still there they were not as prominent. He hardly noticed the day slip by into night, then the morning too crept up on him.
Off in the distance was a roar that caused James to stir. With sudden energy he did not have before he lifted his head and stood, raising his wings for the first time before he let out a loud, feral cry. He did not know why he would return the cry of something that sounded so terrifying, it had been an instinct reaction. After a moment he let out another cry.
The trees creaked and the woods went silent before a WHOOSH of air surged past James and the massive figure of another dragon crashed down into the clearing. This dragon was bronze much like himself, with a muscular build and a squared head with ram horns. Something about his aura was overwhelming and powerful and made James lower his head in the same instinct reaction he had called out with before he slowly crawled closer and let out a soft sound.
The dragon growled and stepped forward, then snarled. James felt apprehension but he could not budge until the beast lashed out. Powerful teeth wrapped around the back of his neck where his head met his neck, and a large paw pressed down between his shoulders. James's chest hit the ground with a thud when his arms gave out and he let out a keening sound of pain. However in reality there was little pain, more pressure and aggression. Another deep growl and James found his mind returning, and his body began to shrink.
Slowly he felt himself reverting back to a human shape, sitting in the grass as the last painful vestiges were returning to normal. He sat naked, staring at the dragon towering over him. His instincts felt dulled now and he finally cowered away from the figure.
The dragon pulled something off from around his neck and tossed it aside. The shape began to shrink and shift with loud, painful cracking sounds. The scales drew into flesh and some of the appendages folded or bent in terribly awkward ways before James was faced with the figure of a naked man. Tall and tanned, with a squared jaw and thick stubble, wild black hair, the man was built like a house.
"James," the man said urgently, "Don't worry, I'm Roume. Listen to me, we have to leave now. Right now." He had reached down and grabbed the satchel that had been around his neck, pulling off a shawl that he threw over himself, then threw a second one at James.
He did not wait for James to cover himself up before he was grabbed and pulled away.
The man answered none of James's questions except to say that he was his father's brother, and that James had to get away from the area fast. At first James had thought it might be a territory issue, as many of the dragons he had read about in old fairy tales were territorial and aggressive.
"No," Roume had said, "Nothing to do with that."
James received nothing more until they reached the cabin. His mother's car was already gone, he was told she was forced to leave for her own safety. At this point James really began to protest, struggling against the man's hold which was like metal. He was walked to a large silver Chevy truck and thrown into the passenger seat and told, "If you know what's good for you, stay put!" Roume ran around to the driver's side and they sped off dangerously fast down very windy roads.
It was at that point as he tried to stare at the floor to keep from wanting to throw up, that he realized he was sitting rather uncomfortably on a large bony tail and was curled beneath him. It reached down to the floor and had a large bony axe like appendage at the end. He made a sound, a terrified sound, and looked to Roume.
"Don't worry, you'll have that for a while." The man explained, "Female dragons need a form of defense both in and out of their full form."
That was the first time James had been called a woman and to his chagrin, it would not be the last.