Kryos stirred. He had never expected to wake from this sleep. It should have been his last.
He opened his large fluid eyes, eyes that gleamed liquid silver like mercury, and glanced about his cave. This should have been his crypt, his final resting place. He was the last of his kind – the last crystalline dragon. He had purposefully chosen that special dormancy common to all dragons, the one that dragons used to prepare themselves to mate, as he had settled into place here. With that particular type of sleep, the only thing that could rouse him to wakefulness was another of his kind, a female who was also ripe for mating. There had been no such female. He should have slept forever. Why then, had he awakened?
He raised his large head and sniffed at the air. It was there, the scent of female, young, but mature and fertile. How could that be? There was something odd about her aroma, however, something not quite right. The odour was strong but heavily tainted in a way that Kryos would almost describe as incomplete. She was crystalline dragon alright, but not pure, which meant that he still was the last pureblood of his kind. The remainder of her smell was not that of any other dragon that he could identify, either.
Fully alert now, Kryos pushed himself into a sitting position. His cavern was very cramped. He had not chosen it on the basis that it would serve any purpose other than being the place where he would die. That death would not have come until after many more centuries had passed and even the near ageless quality of a dragon would have succumbed to the rigors of time.
Pinpricks of sunlight wormed their way in through small holes in the rock, and glinted off of his scales. Each scale acted like a tiny prism, capturing the light and releasing it again, divided into its spectrum of colours. The effect lit Kryos up with a myriad of tiny rainbows that reflected onto the rock walls surrounding him.
He sighed, wondering if wherever she was, the female had scented him as well. She would not have been able to find him. He had almost completely sealed the entrance into his niche, not wanting anything non-dragon to disturb his rest. The gap that he had left would not allow for anything the size of a human to pass. In fact, it was so small that Kryos would have to change to the most diminutive of his three forms in order to escape his enclosure.
He sniffed at the hole into the outer world, not wanting to transform and flit away if there were any dangers lurking beyond. He was most vulnerable in his smallest form, and could not afford to take any chances. Trying to detect the smell of danger past her scent was almost impossible, however. His body tensed as he breathed deeply, driven by the urge to find her and mate with her, a compulsion generated by the type of sleep that he had chosen. He had created this desire in the process, and now he was possessed by it.
Unable to resist that draw, Kryos leaned back and initiated the change. He hated transforming. It was a very uncomfortable process, one where he had to use his innate magic to compact his essence, his own matter, and force it into a shape that it did not prefer. At least this particular transformation only required him to shrink his form, and not alter it in any other way. Not so for his third form, which he avoided using if at all possible.
Kryos fell onto the rock floor as the metamorphosis took a hold of his very being. He writhed from the pain, feeling as though he were being twisted inside out. As he shrank, the world seemed to grow and by the time the change was complete, when he lay there stunned and aching, he was only a fragment of the dragon that he used to be – he was not even the size of a small house cat. From a distance, he looked like a giant crystalline butterfly, but from up close, one could make out his slight reptilian form, including his long snout and limpid eyes, his elongated neck and tail, and his tiny clawed limbs.
It was several minutes before he had returned enough to his senses to scramble up off of the floor. The wind was blowing through the crevices in the rock, carrying that alluring scent to him, without any effort on his part. Kryos tested his wings, fluttering them eagerly and darting about the cavern until he was sure that he could attain and maintain the speed that he would need to help him avoid any predators. Once he was sure that he was ready, he crawled over the series of rocks barricading his intended crypt, and out into the light of day.
The sun was bright, glaringly so, and it took Kryos’s vision time to adapt after being confined to the dim contents of the cavern. Things on the outside were very different than they had been when he had crawled into that hole, lonely, depressed and praying for death. The rock on this mountain had been mostly barren, with some patches of moss and a few sprouting plants. An entire forest had sprung up around him over the centuries, as he had slumbered. He gazed about at the lofty trees, wondering how things had also changed in the wild valley below.
That was when her smell wafted past him again, and a thrill rushed through him. He longed for this other dragon, more than anything else. Soon, they would be soaring high in the skies together, and then plummeting together, locked in a lustful embrace. He could almost feel her claws, brushing against his scales, and her tail entwined with his own. There would be no more loneliness.
Kryos sprang into the air, and then headed for the shadows. If he did not keep well out of sight, and allowed himself to be exposed to the sunlight, he would be impossible to miss. Anyone who looked his way would be bedazzled by his brilliance and would automatically know that he was there, whether he wanted them to or not. That was why his third form, his least preferred form, had its uses. He could hide out in the open with that shape. He could blend into a crowd.
He wove his way spryly through the trees, enjoying the journey at first but growing confused as he approached the area from which her scent was originating. The closer he got, the harder she was to detect, not because she had left that place, but because that place was filled with odours reminiscent of the one that had marred her distinct dragon smell. They were there in such quantity that Kryos was bewildered. There had been nothing like this in the nearby surroundings when he had sought out his last place of rest. Something had gathered here. Something had bred.
As he neared the base of the mountain, Kryos’s sensitive ears could pick out strange noises in addition to the bizarre smells. There was movement. There was bustle. As he neared the edge of the tree-line, he almost exposed himself. Recoiling quickly, he retreated beneath the fronds of an immense fern, and observed. There were people.
Why? Why was she here? Why was she living among these lesser beings? It did not make sense. Had they captured her? Were they keeping her caged, hoping to lure one like Kryos to her side? It did not make sense.
It was then that he spotted her, and in doing so everything fell into place. Moving through the crowd was a willowy woman, one who seemed completely out of her element. Her movements were hesitant and untrusting and there was a constant sadness to her features that made his heart ache. She had skin the colour of alabaster, shockingly white blond hair and large silvery eyes that separated her from the rest of the bland looking villagers, the ones who milled about around her, brown haired and tanned looking. She also had slight points to her ears, another unique feature. Kryos wanted to transform into his largest and most natural form, pluck her out of the crowd, and carry her away. But he could not let anyone know that he existed, not as long as he felt driven to breed.
The reason that his kind had been dying out, the reason that they were practically extinct when Kryos had chosen a slow and catatonic pathway to death, was because the wizards of his world had discovered a fundamental function for the heart of a crystalline dragon when used in their magic. Their heart, dried and ground to a powder, was the most important ingredient to a potion that could extend a man’s life well beyond the age that nature would allow. Never mind that such magic meant the murder of one sentient creature for the sake of preserving the life of another, those who were driven by desperation to concoct such a brew usually were possessed by a heightened sense of entitlement. As far as they were concerned, they deserved to live, even at the expense of another. If Kryos revealed that his kind were not entirely extinct, someone would come hunting for him, hoping to take his heart from him.
No, things would not be so simple for the last pureblood crystalline dragon. He would have to hide in plain sight, charm her and somehow lure her away, before revealing his true self. It was possible that she had no idea what she truly was.
Kryos understood things now. She lived amongst these people because she thought that she was one of them. Centuries before, when there were still a scant few other than Kryos, some other male, desperate to preserve their kind, had forced a mating without a proper sleep, by changing to the third form and breeding with one outside of their species. His genes had remained dormant in his offspring and their descendents until something had triggered them, drawing them to the surface in this one. Now, his kind’s blood flowed through her with much of its magic, and she was clearly oblivious of this. Convincing her of this so that he could get her to change – so that he could feed his urges, would be difficult, and he certainly could not do it the way that he looked now.
“Bianca! Bianca, quit messing about and get in here now! You aren’t paid to loiter,” came a harsh and grating cry from one of the buildings.
His mate-to-be nearly jumped out of skin and scampered off in the direction of the wretched voice, disappearing from view. The tiny Kryos let out a soft whimper.
“I need you,” he whispered anxiously.
He would have her too, but that would require sacrifice, a sacrifice that it was time to make. He flitted deeper into the brush, away from the village, and found a small copse of trees shrouded in shadow. He settled into its centre and began his second and more difficult transformation of the day.
The pain was intense, his body not meant to exist without tail, snout or wings. He tried to bite back a scream, and he mostly succeeded, but it still managed to escape as a low throaty moan, while his body became rigid and he clung to the springy moss beneath him. He twitched and thrashed, gradually growing and morphing, his skin looking more opaque as he changed.
It took him the better part of an hour, and when it was done he lay there trembling, his raw skin blistering in places, his nails and gums bleeding. He was exhausted and in agony. While he was uncomfortable in this form, unlike other people, he was not uncomfortable in his nakedness. He remained where he was, as he was, allowing the cool damp moss to soothe his irritated skin.
As twilight eased its way in, Kryos finally sat up, his violent shakes reduced now to the occasional tremor. He stared at his hands, the smooth colourlessness of his skin and all the other novel parts of his altered body. It was time to seek her out, this Bianca, and to make her see things his way.
But first, he would need to find some clothes…
Kryos stirred. He had never expected to wake from this sleep. It should have been his last.