I knew very quickly that I’d made a mistake in taking up Levi’s offer. I should have just done what I wanted from the start. Instead, I had agreed to participate in a social situation that was completely foreign to me.
It was so awkward. I sat there, a tall pillar of darkness, so out of place in the middle of the light and sound of these people. At first, they avoided me, walking wide of my perch, as if I was some plague-stricken creature. But, as the evening passed, and I didn’t evolve into whatever monster they expected, they gradually began to accept and discard my presence all together.
Such couldn’t be said about their leader, Levi. His was a presence that always made itself known. It was bright, almost shimmering with good-nature, and terribly infectious. I didn’t know what he was or what made him this way, but it was difficult for me not to watch and observe him all night long.
They called him “Chief,” which I suppose is another form of king or leader. On first glance, he hardly fit the image that one would have of a “Chief.” And yet, the more time you watched him, something about Levi didn’t just fill that position, but exceeded well beyond that.
Maybe it was so awkward and strange because this was the first time I witnessed true warmth and closeness between people. Call me sappy, but when I saw what these people had, I wanted it.
I just needed to figure out how to take it.
“I like your sword,” I told Levi as the scent of cooking food clouded the camp and filled my senses.
“Oh, this old thing?” he responded, casually drawing it from it sheathe.
I watched how the light shone over the burnished blade. Our blades had been old, rusted, clunky and heavily-made. This one would sing through the air as it moved, I imagined. This made me desire it all the more.
“Give it to me,” I commanded.
Levi’s eyebrows lifted and he gave his scraggly facial hair an idle scratch. He took his time before he asked, “Why?”
“Because I want it.” It was the most obvious and uncomplicated thing to understand.
The man just laughed softly and shook his head. “You’re used to that, aren’t you?”
“Getting what you want when you want it.”
“And why not?”
Levi rocked back on his heels and sheathed his blade, making a show of denying me my treasure. “The better question is why?”
I must have looked quite angry in that moment, pondering all the terrible things I should do to this little creature who dared deny me my demands. He broke in quickly, not letting me stew.
“Have these desires really consumed you so much?” the man asked.
“I don’t follow what you mean,” I said. But I did know what he meant.
Levi wasn’t fooled. His gentle laugh rippled over his words. “I’ve heard that Dragons ache something fierce for shiny things, but I expected the King of Dragons to be beyond that.”
“The what of what?” I furrowed my brows at him.
“Oh, haven’t you heard? That’s what they’ve taken to calling you.”
He laughed again. “Pretty much everyone.”
I was flustered. I had a name, perhaps a title, and I didn’t even know about it. “What does it mean?”
“Obviously,” Levi’s tone was droll. “You are the King of Dragons. The First Dragon. The High Destroyer. The Terror Flame.”
With each new title, I felt a little spark of pride and flattery grow in my chest. That’s when I thought to question the legitimacy of his words. “They call me all those things?”
“Alright, so maybe I made a few of them up.”
It was my turn to imitate his droll look. I was learning so many mannerisms from his extremely expressive nature.
“But they do call you the King of Dragons,” Levi confirmed.
I was silent for a moment. Then I asked, trying not to sound too ridiculous, “Is it bad if I inquire… what… exactly… is a Dragon?”
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten real food. Not that any of the slop that the Invaders served their soldier-slaves could be considered real food. It’d just been so long since I craved or consumed anything except for the earth energies of the crystals.
I wasn’t even certain I could eat. Levi must have seen my dubious expression as I looked at the food on my plate and misread it.
“It’s not poisoned or anything, you know,” he informed me. Then, as if to prove it, he took his eating utensil and shoveled some of the food from my plate into his mouth.
I growled a bit at this. I didn’t know if I wanted this food, but it was mine. It wasn’t his to take.
To prove it, I responded by taking a vicious bite from the thin slab of meat on my plate. The taste of it was unlike anything I’d ever consumed before. I was captivated by my overwhelming senses, and just sat there savoring it, juices trickling down my chin. Though I didn’t require food anymore, eating a meal of this quality was certainly a pleasurable experience that I’d been missing out on.
“Hey,” Levi finally spoke, snapping me out of it. He pointed to his chin with a jovial glint in his eyes. “You got something on your face, right there.”
I paused in my food-reveling to see everyone else watching me with a mixture of unreadable expressions. I must have looked so much like an animal to them.
“Here,” a woman handed me a knife. It was the same woman who called Levi by his name, rather than his title. “Cutting it makes it a little easier to swallow.”
It was the first time one of the other clan members spoke to me. Though I felt as if I was being gently mocked, I swallowed my ire and took the knife silently.
Have I really become so much of this… Dragon… and remain so little of my former self?
Did I want to remain any of my former self? That broken, miserable little creature that was too weak to fight for freedom? Like these pitiful little people… who didn’t know the potential of the greatness waiting inside them.
I wiped my chin with a provided cloth and set about figuring how to carve my meat. Levi’s gaze was upon me.
When my eyes met his, that’s when I realized what I’d been seeing all along. This man knew exactly the potential of greatness that was hidden within him. He did not fear it. He sought to embrace it.
He would become mighty.
And I had to find a means to contain… and control… that.
I’d never seen an instrument before, nor heard this thing they called “music.” It mystified me that a strange wooden object with strings could produce such pleasing sounds. When blended with drumming and the voices of the singing people, it was something that soothed the inner flames… even my own.
Levi played the instrument well and with confidence. His wasn’t the most beautiful voice there that night, but it was pleasant enough. I could see the joy and passion he put into his music, and though I wanted to fully enjoy it, something within me felt cold and jealous.
I wanted to make such lovely sound. I wanted to know what that kind of joy felt like.
On the edge of the fire, I heard laughter among the singing. People were dancing. Men and women held hands and spun each other. Children imitated the adults, but that mostly devolved into childish running amok.
The faster the music played, the more they danced. The more they danced, the wider Levi’s smile became.
And the further away from it all I felt. I was so… so… different from these creatures.
These… weak but… happy… blessed… creatures.
I suddenly hated it.