Chapter 8: The Dragon

Smoke.

The Dragon froze as he completed assuming his original form. Pieces clicked together in his head. He was the only creature who made fire, except... Man. His hatred grew from the depths he had shoved it down into, burning once again. Where, though?

He grabbed the nearest tree that could support his weight and shoved himself up into the air, using his wings to boost him higher. His wings strained to raise him into the air above the trees, but soon he was racing toward the pillar of smoke he saw in the distance like a maddened beast.

Men. They had to be responsible. First his family, then his wings, and now the forest. They simply couldn't leave him be, could they? The Dragon's roar blasted as he flew onward, fire escaping his mouth with his verbal rage. Where was the Unicorn in all of this? She had left a little before he started smelling the fire, but it could have been coincidence. Or was it?

The Dragon ignored the thought. He was upon the fire. Now, to stem the expansion.

Hovering over the edge, he took a deep breath and blasted his flames into the edge of the fire, burning the section that fueled the fire. It was a technique taught to him by his elder brother. A brief longing to see the larger dragon once more came to the Dragon, but passed in the wake of the destruction before him. It was a large section that blazed.

Creatures escaped the area, all yelling about a monster that he assumed was himself. They did not understand his method and most likely blamed him for the fire. Fools, though he could not truly fault them for ignorance. In time, they might understand.

It took longer than expected, but the Dragon had stemmed the flames and prevented them from expanding. The river running through the forest helped with that, of course. He landed in the smoldering area that still burned in places to look around for signs of men's presence, or worse. The flames licked his body as he passed, but they were but a warm touch to his scales.

A deep growl reverberated in the Dragon's throat when he arrived upon the edge of the river. On the ground in front of him lay a single flying dagger. His wings ached and trembled as he remembered how many had been stuck in him just a day before. 

He roared, sending any birds that still remained nearby flying away, and leaped into the air. His wings carried him high and soon he was racing once again through the skies, but this time towards the fortress he had encountered before. This time he would get revenge for both his family and the forest. His debt to the Unicorn demanded as much.

But...

The fortress came into view. The Dragon wanted to rush in and kill the feeble men that dared commit atrocities against nature itself, but instead hovered in the air. He was torn. His anger demanded retribution immediately, but his mind screamed for him to be cautious. Last time they had forced him away. He knew he still could not win.

The Dragon landed some ways away from the insufferable men's den. The small forest around him gave some cover, though the animals escaping the growling mass of scales they just saw land was worrisome. He ignored them and stared at the fortress in the distance, glowering.

It was then that an idea formed. An idea that he hated almost more than he hated the men and their daggers. Men hunted animals of the forest, with the exception of their tamed ones. The Dragon's pride would not allow him to take the form of something subservient to man, though. But, there was another way to get into their abysmal town without being stopped.

The idea he thought up repulsed him to such an extent that he almost actually felt sick, but he knew it was ideal. After all, who but a man could walk through that place inconspicuously? After this, however, he was never going to take the horrid form again.

And so the Dragon transformed into a human. He pictured it clearly in his mind. Tall, for he would not be looked down on even in that crude form, and strong. He could not control what part would remain of his true form, but hoped it would not be enough to cause suspicion.

The Dragon opened his eyes to his scaled feet. 

He had not changed at all! He tried to change into a fox. It almost worked, but something made it hard. He couldn't quite achieve the change. Had it been the forest making it easier? The Dragon clenched his jaw, letting tufts of flame escape through his teeth. He was fed up with the men, his own inability, and his situation! 

'Patience,' He thought, breathing deeply, his inner rage calming to a small blaze. He would work on his transformation outside of the forest and then go in. He would find out who had lit the forest on fire and kill them. Then, he would find the men responsible for his brood's disappearance and eat them.

First came preparation.

He focused on transforming once again, to a fox once more. His body felt the change, but still would not conform. It took nearly the entire afternoon to accomplish what had once taken a few minutes. And once he had achieved the fox form, he struggled to maintain it. Why was this so hard? 

He leaped out of the forest and raced towards the town surrounding the fortress. He would try to turn into a man again later. For now, he scouted for anything he could. He wanted to kill all the men, but that would lead to his death. Dragons had learned that long ago. He would have to settle with the ones who had assaulted him and the forest directly.

As a fox, the Dragon ran onward.

The End

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