“I wasn’t there when the Invaders first appeared in our land, obviously,” Levi chuckled to himself, as if to laugh something unpleasant off. “I’m a freak, but I’m not that much of a freak.”
I filed this statement away for later.
“So, while I don’t have the particulars, I do know that the Invaders who came and trashed the home of our ancestors didn’t mange to capture all of our clan. Again, I don’t know all the stories, I just know that here and now, there’s a group of us who live in hiding.”
Now this was very interesting news. And it explained a lot. Why there was a group of people who I sensed were like myself, yet were not captives. I suppose I should have worked through the logic of all this myself before now. But I was too busy trying to figure out how to make those people serve me.
Seeing that I was not interrupting his story, Levi just continued. “Fast forward to today. We may not be captives of the Invaders… as I assume you were… but we have our own problems. Namely, generations of being disconnected from our natural state, or what I’ve been told is our natural state, is tearing our people apart.”
“Hm,” I grunted with interest. “Meaning?”
“People… just start losing it. They succumb to what we call the Longing.” His face was grim as he tried to put it to words. “They… they just leave or turn.”
“They go Wild. It’s like an unexplained madness,” Levi squinted, peering into my face. “There’s something in our people that drives us… we want… we need… to fulfill… to become…”
“You hear the spirit’s call,” I said simply, putting into words what he could not.
His eyes lit up. We had something in common. “Yes. Yes, that. Exactly! Then you…?”
“Of course. How do you think I found the Glade to begin with?”
“Makes sense,” Levi mused to himself.
“So what about these ones who go Wild?” I nudged him back on track.
“I can only assume they hear the call, and leave to find the Glade. We can’t stop them… We’ve tried.” Sadness lowered his gaze. He’s had personal connections to this. “We never see them again.”
“With all the battles and Invaders that used to crawl around this area, I’d suspect not.”
“That changed.” Levi glanced back up at me. “We heard stories of the Dragons. They became rumors that could only mean that someone had found our sacred ancestral land. Someone had unlocked its secrets. And someone had cleared the way to return to it.”
I put the pieces together in a way that seemed to fit. “So, you heard about me and brought your people back here to find the Glade and reclaim your legacy.”
“Well…” His frown told me it was more complicated than that. “Yes. And no.”
“We monitored everything we could. Found all the information about Bahamut we could find. And when all was weighed and balanced, the Elders weren’t happy. They decided to to intervene,” Levi told me.
“Wait,” I interrupted him. “I thought you were the leader here. The Chief.”
He laughed lightly. “I call the shots in some ways, for some things. But our Elders know what’s best for the clan as a whole.”
He stopped, his silence growing heavy. I could see the torn apprehension creasing his brow.
“But?” I prompted him to speak his concern.
“They sent me to stop you,” Levi picked his words carefully.
“To kill me.”
He opened his mouth, then closed it. It looked like it physically hurt him to agree, “Yes. I think that’s what they had in mind.”
“But you didn’t,” I reminded him.
“When I came here… after the stories I’d heard… all the cities you destroyed… the people you killed. So much destruction… I was sure they were right.” He squinted looking at me for a long moment. “Then, when I actually saw you… saw what you are… sensed what’s driving you. I… I couldn’t do anything but pity you.”
I curled my lips back in displeasure and humiliation. I was not a thing to be pitied.
He was ready for this. “I know. I know. That’s too low a blow for your pride. But if you want the truth, there it is.”
“You can keep your pity!” I spat at him. “I am the bringer of the Flames! I will consume until there is nothing left of those who–“
I stopped, losing steam in mid threat. Not only was Levi not buying it, he was looking at me like this was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard.
“Are you done?” he asked, tilting his head.
“No,” I huffed, knowing I sounded like a child. “But what’s the point?”
“The point is,” he prodded me with one of his food sticks, “Killing your problem is not always the best way to solve it.”
“It’s worked for me.”
“And you see where it’s got you now.”
“Only because you and your busy-body Elders decided to shove into things. I had everything under control,” I argued.
“No,” he told me flatly. “You didn’t. Least of all, yourself.”
I scowled, but it didn’t bother him.
“Your Elders must have had a lot of confidence in your ability to take me down,” I scoffed. “Did they know you were a Dragon?”
This. This was the topic that made him really uncomfortable. For all his show of confidence going into the Glade, I think the transformation shook Levi up as much as it had me.
“I don’t know,” he answered me honestly. “I suppose they had an idea. Or maybe they were just at a loss of what to do… should I…”
Levi seemed ashamed as he admitted, “I felt the Longing. I fought it for as long as I could, but it was very, very strong within me. It was only time before I turned or left. I would be no good to anyone in my clan if I went Wild.”
“You act like that’s a crime.”
“I should have been strong enough to handle it.”
I shrugged, “That’s life, isn’t it.”
He didn’t respond. This was really eating at him.
I changed the subject slightly, “So does that mean that the rest of the people in your group also…?”
Levi nodded slowly. “They weren’t as bad off as I was. But the signs were there. It’s only a matter of time. We knew that the way to the Glade was open… more or less. Except for Bahamut himself.”
“I wasn’t going to stop you,” I smirked.
“No. Until you realized I wasn’t going to be controlled.”
I grunted. “You know too much.”
“That’s about the only thing the Elders could give me. Information. About you. About how to stop you.”
“How touching,” I clicked my tongue mockingly.
“They knew you’d embraced the Flames of Bedlam. They told me what to look for and how to fight it,” Levi said.
“That’s why I’m on their hit list, then?”
“That’s one of the reasons.”
I mulled over this, summarizing. “So you came here, turned into a Dragon, stomped my tail… but didn’t kill me like you were supposed to. Now what?”
He shook his head. “I’m thinking… I take you back with me.”
“What?” This was not what I expected to hear.
“I show the Elders what you are. Maybe by then, the disconnection from the Flames will be enough to… I don’t know… do something.”
“What?!” I asked again.
Levi spread his hands, “If they see you… maybe they’ll see that we don’t have to kill to find peace… and… and…”
I dismissed him. “You did go mad with the Longing.”
“Come on. I’m trying to save your life here,” he protested. “Give me something to work with.”
“I’ll give you a hard time.”
He just sighed. “I don’t doubt that.”