The night’s previous storm brought good omens. Fresh rain washed the trails giving new smells for fresh game. Despite the dark cave where Razak and I dwell, I knew exactly when the light sources would hit the sky. The double light hits the cave at just dawn giving the temperature a few degrees increase. My dragon was to thank for his stubborn temperature fascination.
Clearing my throat, I grabbed the jug of fresh rainwater that had dripped in the night. It was cool, refreshing, and welcomed. Once the snow hit the mountains in a few weeks, I would miss the fresh rainwater. Razak was still asleep on the floor, the bed of furs laid for him were worn and tattered, yet he slept like a king, unlike the other hybrid beasts like him. I had found him when it was just a cub; his mother was killed in a hunting expedition held by one of the dragon tribes on the Southside of the mountain. Many tribes were careless, not caring if a female animal was pregnant or nursing young. If they continue to kill without thinking, they will find their tribes going hungry later in the winter.
Since I lived alone, having a companion would be helpful. I’d trained him on clicks and whistles, so I didn’t have to strain my voice. If he was in trouble, all I had to do was say was his name, and he would cower in the corner. My voice wasn’t the most pleasant since my accident, and using it scared many. So silent is how I remained, even to the animals of the forest.
Rising from my nest of furs, slinging my pack over my shoulder, Razenak wakes with a start. His tongue hangs out over his wolf-like maw. His dark hair covered his entire body, but even darker hair of stripes and harsh lines decorated his coat. Sleek movements like a cat, yet the possessiveness of a wolf. He was the perfect combination of loyal and independent. Sending him off into the forest to capture his own meal was helpful when trying to take care of myself. Yet rewarding when he comes back and brings game to me one as well.
Clicking twice and whistling once, he knows I call for him. My bag held rope, knives, and a small shovel to dispose of any innards that I did not want. Giving back to nature what I have taken to spring new life makes this land turn. Respect it, and it will respect you.
Shutting the gate that protected us from unwanted intruders at the back of the cave, we continued walking a short distance until we reached the outside. No large animals dare come in, not unless it was a wondering supernatural caught the rain; even then, they wouldn’t stay long. The lingering smells of scorched walls and smoke held true scenting to ward them off. Not just any dragon-like creature here, but a wild one.
Razak was full of energy this morning, brought a bit of a smile on my face while he pranced about in the puddles around the twisted trees. The bit of cold breath that left his mouth gave a fright to the forest fairies that lurked for sprouting to take at the bottom of the mountain. The sprouts wouldn’t survive the winter, and forest fairies were an imaginative species. No plant was left uncared for.
Razak scouted up ahead while I checked the traps. I was looking for bigger game, a bear perhaps, but not with Razenak this morning. The spring in his step was too loud, and hunting would not be fortuitous this morning. Shaking my head, I pulled the dead rabbit to my bag. It was fresh, still warm to the touch. Drying it would be easy and make a great jerky treat.
Razak’s soft paws stopped scuffling about the forest floor. The leaves calmed, and the wind even changed direction. A new smell wafted to my nose; it reminded me of summer citrus, the bouquet was long since forgotten since my mother. It was laced with a hint of salt and blood.
Resetting the trap quickly, my feet moved to the smell of my pet; he was sniffing the tree, pawing at the undergrowth of the dead trunk with long spindled tendrils.
Whatever was inside was small. Small movements and light breathing, gasping for air could be heard. Razak continued to paw at the ground, trying to dig it free. He was trying to pry it free, not eat whatever was inside. When he would find prey, he would growl, bark and use his brute strength to challenge his food. This was different, almost pawing and whimpering at the tiny creature inside.
Inside, a slight movement rustled with the mud and a faint whisper. Sniffing again, it was still the same citrus smell. It was not of a fae, elf, or nymph that could easily enter the trunk. In fact, it seemed much smaller. My curiosity was becoming the best of me; I almost didn’t hear the small whisper.
“Please, don’t eat me,” it begged. The voice was that of angels. Miniature and meek, quiet as one of the whisps that liked to toy with my braided hair. My heart almost stopped hearing its cry.
Whistling Razak back to my side, I praised him with a few clicks of my tongue and looked back over at the base of the trunk. Dirty fingers touched the outside of the rotting tree, and half of a dirty porcelain face peaked out.
The saltiness I smelled was that of her dried tears stuck to her face. The dirt had been washed away in small trails where her tears were left in her wake. An amethyst eye looked me up and down, no doubt disturbed by my appearance.
I wasn’t the most eye-catching man. My face and body were riddled with scars from my childhood before I had accepted my dragon. These all healed independently, even though my childhood friend tried to help reduce the scarring. Razak nudged my hand again with his snout, pushing me forward, but my eyes remained on the one amethyst eye staring back at me. If we were to get anywhere, I would have to make the first move. Showing this creature, I meant no harm would be difficult.
Slowly, I took off my bag and leather straps bound to my chest. It had many knives, spear tips, and rope to help pick up game. The eye watched me intently as I threw it away from me. All that was left of me was the waterskin on my hip and my leather pants made from a wild bear.
Another hand gripped the trunk until finally, another eye appeared. One was beautiful, but now both looked back at me with an intensity that would sear into my soul until the day I died. It was a girl, a tiny girl, but what species she was, I couldn’t be sure. Not siren, not werewolf, nothing that I have ever seen or smelled. Her smell continued to be blown in my direction, and by the gods, I swear they were trying to draw her to me.
My thoughts went to my voice; if I spoke, it would do nothing but scare her. Even Razak couldn’t take my brutal voice. If I could have gone back in time to fight for my voice, I would. To be sure, I would have my voice to meet the girl with amethyst eyes and bring her safety.
I would have fought harder for her.
Razak became impatient, trotting up to the girl, and she ducked her head back in the hole. He was too quick and licked the side of her cheek. A squeak left her lips, but she realized he wasn’t going to hurt her. Her head poked out again, and she looked at me. Razak, my old friend, was going to help.
Squatting to the ground, I held out my hand. I was too far away to touch her, not that she would let me. She glanced at Razak, asking for permission until he licked her cheek again. A slight smile, showing some of her blunt teeth, showed through. She wasn’t an animal shifter then.
She squeezed out of the hole ever so slowly, wearing nothing but purple rags. At one time, they looked expensive. Purple was a hard color to come by in this land, even to the south of us. Where could she have come from? Once she squeezed out of the hole, she pressed her ankle while she winced. It was doubled in size of the other. Her body was covered in mud from the night before, and her hair was matted. Breathing ragged, she huddled her legs closer to her body to protect herself. Shivering, she rubbed her body up and down with her hands.
“You won’t hurt me, will you?” Voice still faint, I shook my head slowly. I must treat her like a newborn fawn, with slow and steady movements. Her body relaxed, Razak nuzzled closely to her thigh, licking the mud from her leg. Scratches littered her body, and there was a mixture of old and new blood on her body.
The overwhelming need to take care of her was strong, a feeling I had never felt before. I knew she could not be my mate, however. All the elders had spoken of this many times to my mother and me. I was conceived without a bond; I was conceived of rape. My mother should have gotten rid of me, fed me to the wild, but she didn’t have it in her heart.
Her tender soul couldn’t do it after the many warnings and was chastised for many moons; maybe I inherited her compassion for those hurting.
Keeping my crouch low, I approached slowly. The fawn’s weary eyes never left me while I came closer. Her body was shivering in the cold, and I cursed myself for not bringing a cloak to wrap her in. The water skin attached to my side was untied in an instant; I put it to my lips to show a drinking motion and handed it to her. I was still an arm away, and she showed no signs of distress. My efforts were rewarded as she gripped it and closed her lips around it.
While she drank, I looked at her ankle; she wouldn’t be able to walk on it. Scratches from an animal ran up her leg. It had crusted over, but it was at risk for infection. She wasn’t healing like the people of this land usually do. She was without an animal inside her, like a hollow shell. Using rudimentary techniques, I would have to use roots and herbs to clean it.
Taking the water skin from her lips, she looked back at me and put it into my calloused hands. She didn’t hold the fear like many of the other dragon whelps did. Many held fear in their eyes, hearing legends of my temper, strength, and brutality to those against me. This little fawn looked at me like any other person. For the first time in many years, the worry of scaring another, especially someone as sweet as this innocent girl, dwindled.
“C-can you tell me where I am?” Her eyes lit up, the light sources hit them at an angle you could see the sparkle reflect from the iris mimicking the whisps of the forest. Shaking my head, my hand goes to my neck where the massive scar lay. Could I speak to her? I could, my dragon could force its vocal cords to open; the harshness would be too much for her delicate creature. I couldn’t scare her; it would break my heart into pieces if it did.
“Oh,” her head bowed. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean…” Razak licked the fawn’s cheek, releasing a giggle. “Can you tell me if I am in America?” America? I had never heard of such a place. Not unless it was the realm of the humans. A land where most of the humans resided before all the supernaturals were created this world by the gods.
Dragon shifters stay away from the world of Earth. Many moons ago, young dragons were hunted by men and praised by taking down newly shifted dragons. They could never take down a full-grown shifter, just the ones who had not been trained to fight. The gods saw the wickedness of their ways and created this world, Bergarian. Filled with supernaturals that were in body like the humans but gifted powers such as shifting, magic, and other abilities. Not only that, but elves, fairies, whisps, and many other creatures moved here to be protected.
Could this little fawn be from that world? What is she doing here?
Before shaking my head, no, the woman I have dubbed the name Fawn rested her head against the tree. Her eyes had shut while Razak frantically paced and whined.
Our most regular morning and now turned into one of new beginnings.