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The Star Dragon
by Equestrian Horse Wrangler
©2001 Equestrian Horse Wrangler -- all rights reserved

Dozens of dragons filled the sky. I was shocked since they hadn't been seen in this part of the country for more than a decade. They preferred to stay in the southern realm of Noth, where the temperature was much warmer.

I could see twisted smiles on their faces, and they repeatedly twitched their fingers displaying their fierce looking claws. Fiercely beating wings cut through the heavens, as they headed directly for the village. I myself was outside of it, having removed myself once Lord Karlis had arrived to tally the week's food production. Trying to warn my fellow villagers, I screamed, but it was drowned out by the flapping of the creatures' wings. My warning was unnecessary however, since everyone turned to view the scene.

The dragons just dropped down into the village with little concern for where they landed, knocking over carts and tearing up gardens; towering over everybody as each one at least fifteen feet tall. Everyone was terrified; but the whole thing had happened so soon they didn't have time to react; families embraced each other in terror but other than that no one dared move. I myself was frozen where I stood, paralyzed by the sheer spectacle of what was happening but none of the dragons had seemed to notice me.

One of the dragons took a step towards the crowd, his nostrils flaring as he scanned his audience. He licked his teeth and then spoke. "You humans have encroached on our territory for centuries. It seems every time we turn around you've multiplied and taken even more of our homeland. We have tolerated your presence in our lands for too long!"

All the villagers seemed to cower at these words. Lord Karlis shook nervously, as did his entourage. I could see that even my father was sweating nervously.

The lead dragon continued. "Just yesterday we forced the villagers in Noth to abandon their homes and leave our territory. It is now your turn! We claim this land as ours, and we order you to leave immediately."

As if I wasn't already shocked by these proceedings, the next thing that happened stunned me as well. Lord Karlis stepped out from behind his knights and said "No!"

"What?!" boomed the dragon's voice. "Who is so foolish as to openly oppose us?"

"I -- I am Karlis, l -- lord of this realm," our leader stammered, well frightened but still holding his ground. He cleared his throat and then looked the dragon right in the eyes. "And these are my, my subjects. We have lived in this village for decades, and we have never done anything to harm you."

I had expected Karlis to try and bribe the dragons with a percentage of his spoils to save his own hide. I had always hated him; he was greedy and in my eyes he always seemed to demand more from our village than necessary. Before today I couldn't have possibly thought of one good characteristic about him, but to stand up to these creatures like that, I never figured that he could be so brave.

The dragon on the other hand was infuriated. "Your very presence here harms us! Your whole kind is like a disease, spreading throughout the land and infecting everything. You will leave now!"

Karlis was now angry as well. "You are the one who will leave! My subjects will not be bullied by you or anyone. This is our home; it doesn't belong to you!" The rest of the villagers, while still frightened, began to murmur an agreement among themselves.

The dragon blazed with fury; he clenched his hands so tight that his own claws dug into his skin, and smoke began to billow out of his nostrils. Furiously digging at the ground with their feet, the other dragons seemed to mirror their leader's animosity.

I cupped my hands over my mouth and watched with absolute fear running through my body. I wanted to run away somewhere, but I couldn't. Partially because I was still immobilized with fright, but mostly because I couldn't leave my family.

"So!" the lead dragon roared, "You will not leave willingly! You stupid humans and your pride! Today we will show all mankind what will happen to them when they don't obey us!" He let out an ear-shattering roar that seemed to be a signal to his followers as they began to grab the humans nearest to them and sliced at their bodies.

"My God, no!" I screamed, and dropped down backwards, witnessing the bloodbath with utter dismay. I tried to think of something to do, but all I could do was watch in horror as the dragons mercilessly killed my neighbors. The terrible sounds of bones being shattered and of flesh being torn was accompanied by gallons of blood splattering everywhere. Some of them took to the air and shot fire down into the crowd, while others concentrated their flames on the homes.

I saw the gruesome carnage as several dragons feasted on some of the children. Grown men were ripped to pieces in seconds, while others were picked up and thrown into the massive conflagration that was consuming the village. I watched Lord Karlis' knights lifted up and ripped from their armor, the dragons biting into their abdomens and ripping out the knights' intestines with their teeth. Women were torn in half, their bodies thrown to the ground with a sickening splat.

I even had the misfortune of watching old Cyrus, the village elder, being mutilated. Just the other day he had told me the story of a creature called the Star Dragon which would seek justice against evil doers. Like all his tales, he tried to convince us that the story was true. Looking at the butchery around me, I could only wish that the Star Dragon was real.

"Mom! Dad!" I cried out into the village, tears running from my eyes. "Geoff! Where are you?" It was at that moment that I saw them being ripped apart by a group of dragons. I screamed and cried as I saw it happen, my palms flat against the sides of my face as my fingers dug into my hair.

Through all the insanity, my brother Geoff spotted me. "Run!" he screamed to me as his arm was torn from his body. "Run, Burke!" The dragon then ripped open his chest, and he was silent. Turning, I ran alongside the fire, watching as Lord Karlis stepped toward the head dragon with an axe in his hand. His followers all dead, he gritted his teeth in anger and raised the blade.

"You murdering bastards!" he screamed as he swung the axe with all his might. The blade embedded itself into the dragon's belly, and the creature let out a bloodcurdling shriek.

But the beast instantly grabbed the handle and yanked the axe from his abdomen. Dropping the weapon, he seized Karlis and lifted his body off the ground. He held the lord between his hands and pressed inward from both sides, crushing Karlis' rib cage. He then let out a haunting laugh as he lifted the lord up to his mouth, opening his jaws wide as shoved the still struggling man between his teeth. Blood exploded out of the sides of his mouth as he sank his fangs into Karlis, and he chewed the mass slowly, as though he wanted to savor the taste. He then swallowed the mutilated corpse and after looking about in a manner that seemed to be making sure no one else still moved, let out a roar of triumph. His followers did likewise.

I turned and ran as fast as I could back towards the woods, tears rolling down my cheeks. How I wanted to make the dragons pay for what they did! To make every creature like them scream out in agony!

Turning my head at the sound of flapping, I saw the head dragon flying directly at me. I was spotted! I ran as hard as I could for the forest, closing the distance as fast as I had ever done. It was my only hope for escape, because I knew that the massive dragons wouldn't be able to fit between the trees.

I watched the tree line move ever closer to me. Twenty feet. Fifteen feet. Ten feet. I gasped as I put everything into the last few feet. I made it, I told myself as I got within five feet, preparing to dive headfirst into the woods. And right when I got in between the first two trees, I felt a hand grab me from behind and yank me off the ground.

The head dragon hovered over the ground, each beat of his wings sending a blast of air that shook my body. I screamed as he held me in front of him, seemingly inspecting me with a wicked smile.

"Your village deeply angered us today, little man," he said. "But I must say that killing everyone afterward made us all feel better."

"You go to Hell!" I screamed, kicking furiously at him.

"Whoa, ho!" he said maniacally. "You are feisty. I think I shall feast on you later!" He then turned to his followers. "Let's go!"

With that, dozens of wings unfolded and began to flap, sending their owners skyward. The head dragon increased his own wings' rhythm and he and I went higher into the air. Looking down at the village one last time as we flew overhead, I stared at the mangled bodies that were left strewn about and cried as I saw the remains of my family.

My lament caught the attention of my captor, who twisted his head down and said, "Don't be sad, boy. Soon you will join them!"

I fumed at this remark. "You piece of filth! I'd rip your heart out and eat it if I could!"

He let out a brief chuckle and returned to concentrating on where he was flying while I hung my head solemnly as I was carried to what was sure to be my final resting place. Looking down at the forest that seemed to be about a mile below me, I indifferently tried to see if I could recognize anything. But with the exception of a small pond up ahead, it was just a sea of trees.

All of a sudden, another dragon flew over towards us, taking a place directly below. He licked his lips as he stared at me, and then looked up to address his leader.

"He's a fine looking meal, Clor," he said. "May you and I split him tonight?"

The head dragon, Clor, laughed. "No, I'm afraid that there's only enough of him for me."

The other dragon was a little crestfallen, but then reached up for me. "Just a quick bite, then. Only an arm."

"I said no!" the head dragon shouted. Unswayed, the other dragon grabbed hold of me, trying to tear me from Clor's grasp. Clor tried to fend him off while maintaining his course, but it soon got too hard for him, and he let go of me, striking at the other dragon with his fists. This knocked the new dragon holding me off balance, and he released me as he tried to regain his equilibrium.

Over my shouts of fear as I plummeted towards the ground, I heard Clor yelling at his follower for making him drop me, but then I fell out of hearing range. I cried out as I dropped closer and closer to the ground, heading down into the pond that I had seen from the air. But I knew that didn't matter for I was going to hit the water at such a speed that my bones would shatter upon impact. I closed my eyes as I felt the earth below getting ever closer. It was just a few more seconds.

I crashed into the pond and everything went dark, my senses all becoming numb. This must be death, I thought, as I felt my consciousness slip away.

I don't know how long I was out before I woke up. Maybe a few minutes, maybe a few hours. It didn't really seem to matter to me though, since the very fact that I had regained consciousness at all was what shocked me. I should be dead.

Everything was still black, but I must have still been underwater, because I could feel it on all sides of me. I definitely knew that I should be dead at that point, but still I felt deep down that I was still alive.

At that moment my body began to burn. Not with heat, but with something else. I could feel something inside me growing, and it frightened me.

It was then that my sight was restored to me. I didn't have time see anything, though, because I felt my body force itself up towards the surface of the water. Literally force itself; I had no control over it. My body burst forth out of the water and flew straight up into the air.

Wings! I could feel monstrous wings flapping behind my back. I could also see a long snout extending from the front of my face, and my body seemed to be covered in silvery, reptilian scales. In fact, my entire body felt different; larger and more complex.

The scariest thing of all was that I could feel everything about my body, only I had no control over it. There was some other presence in my body, I could feel it. Whatever it was, it was operating everything.

Suddenly my mouth moved and I began to speak. "We will set things right," I seemed to say, and my body leaned forward and I flew straight ahead.

It was then, after the initial shock had subsided, that everything was revealed to me: I was the Star Dragon.

The information just seemed to flow effortlessly into my mind. The Star Dragon's spirit had inhabited the forest where I fell, and sensed my presence as well as my pain. It immediately entered my body and merged with me; we both were now inside this new body.

This creature that I had thought was one of Cyrus' fairy tales was real, and what's more, I was it. Well, part of it anyway.

"We will seek justice for what has happened to your village," said the spirit forthrightly, with not even the slightest hint of emotion in its voice.

I burned with anger remembering the images of the massacre, still fresh in my head. "Yes! We will seek justice!"

I could feel every muscle in my body, every claw on my fingers. I felt powerful, like I could do anything. I wanted to destroy the dragons that had attacked my village, and with this body, I could do so easily.

It wasn't long before I caught wind of something in the distance. My increased olfactory senses alerted me that some creature was off in the distance. As we got nearer and nearer to it, I felt it become stronger and more distinct, until I realized that it belonged to a whole group of animals.

The spirit spoke out. "The scent of dragons. It is them."

A feeling of deep hatred begin to build in me, and I remembered the horrible atrocity that had occurred today. The sight of burning buildings, the terrible sounds of agony, the smell of death. I wanted to slaughter the dragons with a passion. And I knew that with this body, it would be easy.

We caught sight of them all laying in a field, resting. They must have visited a few more villages today, and were tired from all the activity. I couldn't wait for the dragon spirit to use our body to dispense vengeance.

It was then that the spirit said, "Seek your justice." And something weird happened. It felt like I was shoved to the front of the Star Dragon's mind and it took my place in the back. We had flip-flopped; I was now in control and he resided in the subconscious.

I faltered in flight, the aerial equivalent of stumbling I suppose, but only for a moment. My mind snapped into action as I regained use of my body, and dove straight down into the crowd of dragons.

They barely had time to acknowledge my presence before I tore into them, slashing at the nearest ones with my claws. They were razor sharp, and sliced into their flesh with ease; their screams were loud, drowned out only by my roar. I felt something hot billow in my upper chest and I instinctively let out a long blazing stream that engulfed a large group of them, melting the hide from their bones.

The remaining ones screamed in panic and tried desperately to organize some kind of counterattack. Some charged directly at me with claws at the ready, swinging their arms about savagely. Without the least hesitation, I lifted my long tail off the ground and swung it around with all my might. It crashed into a few of them, and I could feel their bones snap as it flung their bodies out of my way.

I shot some more flames at another group of dragons who had made the mistake of freezing in fear after watching what I had just done to their comrades. One tried to jump on my back and tried to bite me on the neck, but it's teeth just shattered upon coming in contact with my flesh.

"They cannot harm us," I heard the spirit tell me in the back of my mind. With that, I lifted the little dragon off my back with one hand and grabbed his head with the other, twisting it until it snapped off his body.

The last few dragons had took to the air, flying frantically to try and escape. This angered me more, and I was airborne within seconds. Pumping my wings as hard as I could; feeling the veins in them bulge out as my back muscles worked, I let out another roar as I chased them, their leader Clor turning and ordering his remaining dragons to attack me. I welcomed this challenge and flew straight at them.

They spat fire at me, and while I naturally wanted to roll out of the line of fire, I could feel the dragon spirit inside me remind me that I was immune to their attacks. I smiled as the feeling of the fire just rolled around my body, my expression complimented by a look of terror on my assailants' faces. With quick strikes of my claws, I tore all their throats asunder and they plummeted lifelessly to the ground below.

Ahead I saw Clor turn around and try to fly away. I gave chase. He tried desperately to evade me, but I was stronger and faster. He screamed as he put all of his strength in his wings, desperately trying to persuade them to work harder. But he could not outfly me; where he was only an ordinary dragon, I was the Star Dragon.

I caught up to him with ease, flying above him and then reaching down, seizing a wing in each hand. His body flung forward until his wings stretched out taut, and he swung back towards me. I dove to the ground and planted him under me, spinning his body around until he faced me.

"Why did you attack us?" he asked in a whimpering voice. "We did nothing to you."

I just stared back at him, my eyes glowing red as I exposed my teeth. He was frightened. Good.

"Who are you?" he questioned me. "What sort of dragon attacks his own kind?"

That infuriated me. "I am the Star Dragon! But before, I was a human named Burke. You killed everyone in my village today, and now I will have my vengeance!"

Slashing at his chest, I cut an incision that ran from his pecs to his abdomen. He screamed out in pain as I grabbed both sides of the gash and pulled them apart, allowing his intestines to spill out onto his lap. I broke open his rib cage and grabbed his heart, making sure that with his dying breath he saw me rip it from its cavity and sink my teeth into it. The organ's blood exploded in my mouth, splattering my snout with gallons of the crimson fluid.

I spit it out and wiped the excess from my mouth, and then stood up and let out a roar of triumph. I had done it. I got all of them.

But it wasn't enough. The feeling of victory was too fleeting; I had to find more creatures to destroy. Surely there must be more evil monsters in the world.

I could sense that the Star Dragon's spirit seemed troubled by my thoughts. "Why do you wish to continue killing? Your village has been vindicated."

How could he ask that? "Didn't you see the terror in his eyes when I killed him? It felt so good to take his life from him. To force him to live in the same agony that he made my family feel."

The spirit replied, "Then your anger must now be sated. We must go and rest."

"No! It can't be over yet. There must be others just as bad as him somewhere. I can't stop now."

Still he was bothered. "But we do not just mindlessly seek revenge. The Star Dragon exists to protect the land; now that it is once again alive, we can go about helping others."

I gritted my teeth. "Damn you! I don't care about anyone else! Don't you understand? I want to keep punishing the guilty. Now!" I shot my wings out to full length and prepared to take off, but suddenly I felt them become limp, and I lost sensation in my body. "What are you doing?" I screamed.

"I see I was too quick to want to help you. You do not understand what our real purpose is. I thought that by letting you seek out those that had wronged you, you would be satisfied. But now I have the true measure of your soul."

I began to feel weak, and I soon realized that the spirit was leaving me. I felt my heartbeat begin to slow down, and I become lightheaded. My body began to shrink, and I was racked with pain. "What's happening to me?!"

"You would have died from your fall; my presence was the only thing keeping your body alive. Now I no longer desire to be with you, and you shall perish."

"No! Don't leave!" I begged desperately.

"You let my power corrupt you. If I allowed you to go on, you would become just as evil as those you wished to punish. You do not deserve this power."

I felt the last vestiges of his presence leave me, and I dropped to the ground in my weak, broken human form, writhing in pain. And then, I felt a terrible blackness engulf me.

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