1744 words | fire (mountains) hunting x6 | Prospero, Marshasp, Cat Sith, Kolkhis, Firefall, Caliban
The mountains imposed on the island beneath them, their form ruling over the landscape, dwarfing anything and everything in sight. That is–until you looked to sea. Nothing was larger than that. The ocean sighed as the low tide lapped at the edges of pools and draining creeks. The rivers were shedding their ice, throwing their slush through the rocky beach and into the sea, even as the ground held onto the last vestiges of snow. The birds were slowly arriving from Bestia d’la Mer as Spring started singing. Cormorants, swallows, waterfowl, and snaketails all arrived to reclaim their nests among the Tsotska pines or build anew. They were still few in number, but a few enterprising males were twittering their mating calls for the whole blue world to hear. They would be the first to nest.
Marshasp sat atop Firefall, loath to even walk right now. He still felt poor after saving Prospero a few days before. His head ached and his limbs were sore and his mind was still dwelling on what happened. He had risked his life—again—for Prospero. Well, a different Prospero. If Marshasp had died, then no one would remain to help the one he left behind. He doubted the ocean dragon he had connected with even considered him a Rider, less so someone to fulfill dying wishes for. Even more problematic—he would do it again.
It’s okay to let go of that one in the past, Firefall calmed him. Both of his dragons supported the new bond as best they could. It was only Marshasp with misgivings. This is a new opportunity to do things right. Perhaps a reincarnation?
The thought had crossed his mind more than once, though he knew it was impossible. When a mortal was sacrificed, their soul went with them. The physical similarity—right down to the veins—was perplexing enough. Even twins carried their blood differently.
And for those who aren’t sacrificed? What if they move on as a Quetzalcoatl would? Cat Sith had been explicit in knowing that part of his past. Every so often, Quetzalcoatl held a ceremony that gathered souls rather than released them. The spirits would recognize the hymns and take their place in the realm of the goddess. However, he highly doubted the goddess would take in the soul of a human, and she wasn’t known to return them. On top of that, he only had the word of gold-feathered Quetzals that this was even true at all. Fen insisted he could see the souls before they left. He saw no evidence of a goddess anywhere.
What if there is some other god that had power over his soul and returned him to you? Iapetus knows of many gods. He answers to someone different. We can ask him…or even Prospero himself. There is more to death than what you have seen as a serpent. Again, Cat Sith was doing her best to quell his doubts. Her proximity to death helped give her words credence, though they both knew they were not absolutes. Even she couldn’t glimpse past the veil of death, to the place where spirits supposedly passed to. What if, perhaps, they are the same? Time works in strange ways. If it is him in the past, you may yet change his future. You can prevent him from dying in the first place. Perhaps you already have.
He mulled it over. It was another solid theory. He hadn’t peered deep enough into Prospero’s memories—there was a chance of overlap. If so, where did it split? And what would happen to the other future if he changed things? If that future ceased to exist, then so would his feelings and the dragons he had bonded with; if it did not cease to exist, then he would be abandoning someone he loved. Then there was the matter of Prospero’s dragons. The first was guarded by a black and white creature, rather than Caliban or Kolkhis. Caliban would never abandon his Rider, while Kolkhis would likely leap at the opportunity to hinder his lifespan. He cursed himself for hesitating with the bond. He should have looked further, faster. At the same time, wouldn’t a reincarnation make more sense?
It doesn’t matter, interrupted Firefall. Focus on what’s in front of you. Let the past be. See there? The dragon’s attention focused on a spectacular shell lined with spines stuffed among the stones. That’s what we came here for. Not philosophy.
That man in question was active as ever, combing the beach with Caliban protectively in tow and two shadows lingering in his wake. Kolkhis refused to leave his Rider’s side, nor could anyone deny him that, given their connection and Prospero’s quick forgiveness. All they could do was have his keeper—Cat Sith—constantly at his heels. Between her and Caliban, Prospero would never be left unattended. Iapetus had tasked them all with finding new trinkets for his spirits. Small shells would suffice, but the dragons also dined on whatever they found inside. All of them seemed to like seafood–especially Cat Sith.
Marshasp’s efforts were relegated to pointing things out to his dragons. He didn’t have the energy everyone else seemed to enjoy. He let his eyes wander to Prospero. He was probably attractive, for a human. What sort of feathers would he have, if he had them? Probably red, he decided. Prospero glanced over and their eyes met; He smiled wide and Marshasp looked away, doing his best not to blush. His feathers puffed up a little, but he wouldn’t know what that meant. The dragons shared their amusement with him and he did his best to focus on the task at hand.
Firefall carefully picked up the shell and passed it to his Rider for safekeeping. He kept close to Prospero as well, but instead of guarding him, he was amusing himself with their little interactions. I think he’s warmed up to you, Firefall hummed quietly. He only smiles at you now.
He’s just happy to be alive. There, look—another shell. This one was less impressive than the other.
Firefall plucked it up nonetheless. The Rider slipped it into the bag, making space next to Cat Sith’s lantern. We don’t have nearly as much as him, he pointed out, looking at the large bags Caliban carried.
He stuffed it with anything on the beach that shined. Quality over quantity, Cat Sith huffed.
Prospero noticed Firefall’s attention and grinned. “If you need help carrying anything, Caliban and I are ready. We can handle plenty of weight.”
“No, that’s quite alright,” Firefall grumbled.
“But you also have to carry your Rider everywhere.” He plucked up a large coconut crab from the ground, its legs wiggling in the air and its claws snapping. Realizing it had no removable shell at all, he tossed it right back to the ground. It skittered away. “It’s not the first time I’ve seen you two riding together when it’s inconvenient. Are you still feeling unwell, Ezra?” Since the quetzal was out of reach, he patted Firefall’s leg instead. Firefall grinned—it worked just as well as touching Marshasp himself. They shared a bond, after all.
“I’m alright!” He replied as quickly as he could.
Prospero didn’t look confident in him at all. “If you’re alright, why don’t you show me your quetzal form? Cat Sith said it takes energy to switch from one form to another, so if you have it, why not prove it?”
If he could glare at Cat Sith, he would. Fortunately for her, she was still in Prospero’s shadow, surely wearing a smile. He shrugged and dismounted. It had been a while since he shook off this primitive form; It was the least taxing, after all. Even in the hunts he attended, he still barely grew enough feathers and talons to fly and take down prey. Without human blood, it was difficult to grow in size at all, and the extra feathers needed energy to sprout. But–If it was just for a moment–he would manage it.
He focused on moving the extra blood stored in part of his feathers, pushing it outwards to create new feathers and piercing it inwards to bore holes in his bones. As his resources dwindled he felt a headache coming on, but he persisted anyways. His legs and arms grew harder scales and his neck extended until he could comfortably swivel it around. He stretched his wings, taking great care not to show his now-white speculum feathers, and turned to the human. He laid his neck flat and raised his crest to show his annoyance. “Are you satisfied?” he hissed out.
Prospero looked from Firefall to Marshasp. The dragon was large enough to tower over both of them, even with Marshasp’s neck held far above the ground. When he didn’t immediately answer, Marshasp realized it was the first time this Prospero had seen this form. It was a perfect opportunity to remind him of what he was. Without thinking, he growled and crowded Prospero, advancing on him as if he was prey, baring his fangs. “Or would you like to see more? Do you have a death wish?”
The man blinked, looked between the two again, then gently clamped his mouth shut with both hands. “You’re just smaller than I expected. I’m not worried about your teeth–most animals are built to bite down, not up.” He shifted his hand so that his jaws were clamped shut by one arm. With the free hand, he reached up and scratched at the feathers on his brow.
Marshasp tried to say, “You dare pet me like some beast?” but the words didn’t go far with his lips sealed. He wiggled around trying to release his grip, but the man was strong enough to hold him steady. That, or Marshasp was weak enough. Something about it felt nostalgic, though, and he held his form. He didn’t dislike it.
He glanced over to Caliban, who had been quite nonchalant about the whole ‘deadly creature charging my Rider,’ thing, only to realize his reasoning. The dragon was chowing down on everything in his pouches, whether there was a shell in them or not. Prospero stopped for long enough to follow his gaze, dropped Marshasp, and ran over to stop the dragon from eating anymore. “Caliban! There aren’t any crabs in there!”
The dragon blinked as if he was confused. “Eat shell. No crab? Still yum.”