The Transformation Story Archive Mythical Beings

Rise From The Ashes

by Anonymous

Everyday people
everyday shame
everyday promise
shot down in flames.
Everyday sunrise
another everyday story
rise from the ashes and blaze
of everyday glory…
    ––Rush, "Everyday Glory"
    Out of control. All out of control. She should have seen it coming. She should have. She should have been there. She should have done something.

    Tears slid down the woman`s cheeks slowly, repeatedly, as she walked blindly down the hallway of the house. Odd things registered. The painting outside the bedroom door was askew. The carpet needed to be vacuumed.

    _This isn`t really happening…it`s like those dreams where I drive a car off a bridge…I`ll wake up on impact…_

    But the impact had been several hours ago and she was still in this nightmare. This nightmare where her daughter and husband had been slain by a man robbing a bank. This nightmare where she was a police officer and powerless to do a thing about it. This nightmare where she couldn`t stand to live any longer.

    She blindly walked into the bedroom she and her husband had shared for five years opened a dresser drawer. She felt around among pairs of folded socks until a familiar, cold, hard sensation touched her hand. It was a 1911a, a truly beautiful gun, if one was of a mind to appreciate such things. Beautiful and deadly.

    It was loaded. And cocked. All she had to do was remove the safety. A simple flick of the thumb and the gun was ready.

    Her hand shook as she held the weapon flat against her cheek, the cold numbness of the silvery metal on her flesh an echo of the dead feeling that was spreading from her heart to every other part of her body. She could hear her daughter laughing yesterday, and her husband`s touch was as real as the wedding ring on her finger.

    All of it. Gone. Just like that. You blink, and it`s over. In a moment. Just one moment.

    She opened her eyes and stared into the mirror that hung across the room from the dresser. Her eyes were bloodshot and her cheeks were streaked with tears. The normally tight and efficient bun her long black hair resided in during work was now in total disarray. Only her uniform was immaculate and clean. The badge winked pitifully in the dimly lit room.

    She turned away from the mirror and pointed the muzzle hard against one temple. There was a sharp crack, like a whip, like close lightning striking in the heat of a dessert storm. The mirror on the other side of the room shattered as a bullet sped through the glass on its way to the wall, where it sat for several hours, until a forensics officer removed it with a pair of tweezers. _____________________________________________________________________________

    Steve concentrated on the spell, weaving the runes as carefully as any costume designer would a queen`s robes. It was a very delicate scrying that he was attempting, in that it needed to be unseen by the its target yet strong enough to hold the captive in place. This was something not so easily done with runes––typically the stronger the scrying was, the more obvious it was. But Steve was good at what he did, and he`d used this sort of spell before. Just never on such a big fish.

    There was a gentle ripple in the magical planes. If one were to liken what Steve was doing to fishing, feeling this ripple was equal to watching a large, healthy bass come to the surface to pluck an insect from the lazy waters. Steve restrained himself and held back. _It`s not close enough. I have to wait. I have to be patient. If I scare it off, it`ll be weeks before I can get another one. And I don`t have weeks. I have days._

    Another ripple. Much stronger. Much closer. His catch was almost here.

    A surge in magical plane as the being passed through.

    There!

    Steve drew a final sigil that burned in the air at his finger tips, and the trap was sprung. The huge, loosely constructed magical "cage" that was neither here nor there suddenly collapsed together into a seamless wall of shimmering energy. There was a wild shriek of anger that had Steve wincing, and the spell locked itself down and anchored to the heavy chunk of onyx he`d been using as an Anchor. He had the elemental.

    "Ha! Gotcha!" he announced happily, springing to his feet from a cross–legged position. The crudely polished piece of volcano glass, which was resting in a nondescript, black iron brazier, now had an internal glow that dimmed and flashed by turns as the elemental tested it`s bonds. Steve felt the spell moderate its energy usage accordingly, using a local Well as a source. Finally, the elemental spoke.

    ^Damn that woman, I should`ve used a different route. She didn`t tell me there were ––scryers–– in this Realm.^

    The voice was deep and rough, but not unpleasant to the ear. An older elemental, possibly. Steve dearly hoped it was fire.

    "Hm, well, that`ll teach you to trust an old witch," he said with a slight hint of amusement. There was a growl of frustration as the elemental tried one last time to find a misweaving in the sigla binding it. It was to no avail. A loud groan fairly shook the walls of Steve`s modest home.

    ^Alright, Runist, you have me at your will. I assume you`ll ask me to take an Oath of a Favor?^

    "Damn straight," he replied, snatching a handy knife from a nearby workbench. The contents of the old worn table threatened to overflow onto the already cluttered floor of the small house.

    The elemental grumbled in its cage. The small onyx ovid fairly rocked with the energies it was housing, red veins glowing like the rivers of fire they had once been a part of.

    ^Let`s get this done with. I hope it won`t take me fairly long? By your time standards?^ The being now sounded more bored than angry.

    "Well…probably not."

    ^What is that supposed to mean?^ the magical creature asked dubiously.

    "You`ll see."

    Steve carefully nicked his wrist and let two drops of blood fall onto the onyx. "I swear by my Blood that you shall be released from your vow and hence your prison on the granting of a Favor, to be fulfilled at a time of my choosing."

    The blood evaporated from the rock as the elemental extended what little of its magic Steve had constructed the rune structure to permit. ^I will grant your Favor upon release from my prison, and fulfill it at a time of your choosing.^

    Steve sighed happily and set the knife down on his workbench. The weapon was immediately swallowed up by a stack of scrolls.

    He was slightly apprehensive about releasing the elemental. While it was well known that elementals couldn`t retaliate against humans without dire consequences, regardless of what the humans did, that didn`t mean they wouldn`t if provoked to a point. Steve very carefully and slowly took down the rune cage, prepared to rebuild it on a moment`s notice. The elemental, perhaps sensing his caution, very slowly extracted itself from the onyx stone, and even went so far as to manifest itself in the room. The cheerily burning fireplace flared briefly, and a slightly dragonic figure stood in the flames, made of flickering light.

    A fire elemental. Thank the Four!

    ^Your favor? Now or later?^

    "Now."

    ^Name it.^

    Steve crossed his fingers. "I need a human spirit to inhabit a familiar`s body."

    The elemental blinked in surprise. ^There are plenty of familiar–type animals that are fully capable of human like intelligence, you know,^ it informed him, sounding almost disgusted. Steve didn`t give up.

    "Not that can serve as a channel for rune scrying. It has to be human. The lower familiars aren`t capable. They can`t comprehend the runes, and the energies would burn their channels."

    The elemental plucked at its chin. The points were valid. Everyone knew that enslaving a human mind was punishable by death in almost all the Realms with magic. ^Do you have a body for it?^

    "I have a dragon egg that`s a week from hatching."

    Now the elemental looked very surprised. ^A dragon`s egg? Truly? How did you come by such a thing? Are they not rare in this plane? And how do you expect to extract the current spirit?^

    "That`s my business. Yours is the soul. And make sure it`s female."

    ^Oh, female? I see.^ The elemental nodded sagely, the innuendo quite obvious by its tone. Steve bristled.

    "That`s NOT what this is for," he snapped. The elemental laughed softly.

    ^Calm yourself, human. Your race is so touchy. It will take me perhaps a day or two to find one recently released into the Ways Between. You will need a fresh one, one that has not lost its humanness. Yes?^

    "Yes."

    ^I shall return. By my Oath.^

    "By your Oath." The elemental vanished from the fireplace with a small flash that momentarily blinded Steve. Once his eyesight had returned, he glanced across the room at the large dragon egg that was sitting in a rune structure he`d built expressly for warming it. Cushions, pillows, and blankets of all sorts surrounded it, doubling as sand. The shell`s surface was a dark cream color, with red spotting.

    Soon, he thought.

 

     It was only a few days later that the elemental returned. Steve was sleeping soundly, the previous day`s activities having worn him out. When he wasn`t trapping hapless elementals and getting them to do things for him, Steve used his rune scrying abilities for the King and Queen of the country he lived in. Said country was known as Elvritshalla, and was largely forested, with several mountain ranges running through it. Because of the geography, farmland was poor. What little of it that existed needed to be preserved. That was where Steve came in. Rune structures were capable of preventing erosion and other maladies.

    ^I have what you asked for.^

    The deep, resonant voice had Steve leaping out of his bed, or attempting to do so. In reality his blankets got tangled around his flailing arms and legs and sent him sprawling across the hardwood floor of his small house. The elemental laughed until Steve had extracted himself from the bed coverings. If the subject matter hadn`t been so important to him, the young man would`ve been scowling.

    "Really?" he asked eagerly. The being had manifested itself in one of his oil lamps this time. The normally demure flame was twice as large as it had been moments ago, and once again in the form of a small dragonic creature. The elemental nodded.

    ^Yes. I said I could do this, didn`t I? Why would I lie?^

    Steve could think of several reasons why but didn`t comment. "She`s a female soul?"

    ^Yes.^

    "Great! Let me get dressed."

    Steve hastily dug about among piles of clothes until he found something suitable. He quickly pulled on the plain, velvet robes, not feeling very picky about their rumpled condition, and snagged a pillow for himself. He plopped it down in front of the egg and sat cross–legged.

    He began his relaxation exercises, slowly allowing the elation of the elemental`s return to fade into the calm, even feeling of concentration.    Like a ship on a windless sea. Like an empty, snow covered meadow in the dead of winter.

    When he had reached a point where he was fully into a trance, and could feel the varying magic planes, he began to mentally map what he was about to do.

    _First, I need to get the soul from the elemental, and anchor it to or in something so it doesn`t dissipate. Then I need to move it to the dragon._

    This is going to get complicated.

    Steve felt the elemental on a low energy plane. Good, he thought, it recognizes the sensitivity of the soul to magic. The elemental`s presence in the plane was bright, like a single star in the black ocean of space. And silhouetted against this light was something slightly dimmer, but well defined…and it roiled like a thunderhead…

    ^Your soul.^

    Steve reached out to where he could Sense the life force of the dragon inside the egg. A life force with no direction, no purpose. A rune spell was keeping the body alive, but the spell was a serious drain. A true spirit was needed, something that could imbue the body with a will to survive. It had been the oddest thing the mother of the clutch had ever seen, and she`d summoned Steve to investigate it. He was still, two months later, thanking Dargason, the Fire God, for his incredible luck. He formed a very tenuous yet tangible contact with the dragon, and allowed that to sit on the sidelines while he did other things. It`s purpose would be evident later.

    Steve wove a rune "basket" of sorts to transport the soul in. The elemental was using its own considerable power to keep the soul in place. However, as soon as it let go, the spirit would escape into the Ways Between and either find its way back to life or vanish for good. Unless something intervened. And this was where Steve`s basket came in.

    The structure needed to have a strong base and a delicate wall. The base sigla would allow the spirit to have something strong to keep itself centered and focused, but the walls needed to be both present and yet weak enough to make for an easy transition from the rune structure to the new body.

    It was a very delicate operation. As soon as he had the base architecture secured and anchored to the same piece of onyx that had not so long ago held the elemental captive, Steve reached out the soul. As one might expect, the spirit balked at being moved about and resisted the rune structure. With as much care as a woman prying a kitten from a treasured blouse might show, Steve took the spirit from the elemental. When the last trace of the being`s influence was gone, the delicate walls of the weaving tightened together and trapped the soul so that the only available anchor was the base architecture, and hence, the piece of onyx. The spirit reluctantly settled itself, and Steve breathed a sigh of relief.

    That was the easy part. Here`s where it gets real fun.

    Steve reached out a very weak telepathic link to the spirit. For a moment he received no response. Then suddenly it snatched at him like a desperate person who is searching for a lifeline. He refused to balk at the mental contact and allowed the spirit to use him and the rune structure as an Anchor. This would be necessary if he was going to coax the spirit into the dragon`s body. The soul had to trust him.

    He could feel it probing around his empathic and telepathic shielding, like a blind kitten probes around the hands that are holding it. When the spirit seemed to be settling down, he thought of the dragon egg, and the life, undirected, inside of it. He directed his thoughts through the tenuous link and hence to the spirit.

    The reaction was not what he`d expected. The spirit flared violently and attempted to break free from the weaving. It was clearly trying to reach the dragon`s life force with no prompting other than learning of its existence.

    _It wants to live again. Any way it can. Good. I`m not sure how I`d`ve gone about convincing a soul to live._

    Steve carefully took down the "walls" of the rune structure. When the first chance came for escape, the spirit was suddenly gone from his grasp. It blundered along Steve`s link with the dragon life force, and suddenly, it was there. Inside the egg.

    Steve sat very still, not sure if he should be wary or not. He was fairly sure that, once inhabiting a new life force, the spirit couldn`t leave it until the life force was exterminated. Could it?

    His telepathic contact with the soul was still in place. It wasn`t being very active though. At least, not that he could tell. He pulled away from contact with the dragon`s body and waited patiently to see what would happen.

    The spell that had been keeping the dragon egg`s life force alive suddenly terminated. Steve`s heart rate tripled. Something had ousted his spell from its position, obviously. He snatched at the flailing energies and quickly unwove the sigla so they wouldn`t result in some magical chaos. The spell had been using a local node as a source, and Steve felt the node flare briefly as he cut the large drainage of power loose. Much to the runist`s relief, the dragon`s egg was still present to his mage abilities as a healthy, growing life.

    He probed at the spirit telepathically, to see what was going on. A gentle push back was the response, definitely emanating from the dragon`s egg.

    I did it.

    ^Yes you did. Quite impressive, human. I have never seen the procedure performed so carefully. You really couldn`t afford to lose this chance, hm?^

    The elemental was speaking directly into Steve`s mind, and not vocally. He didn`t bother responding to the question, but instead began unweaving and dissipating the rune structures used to move the spirit from place to place. When he`d finished, he slowly allowed himself to move out of the trance, and back to being fully aware of his own body. The first thing that registered was a terrible need for something to drink, and something to eat.

    "Thank you for your help," Steve said to the room. A deep, low laugh answered him.

    ^It was well won, scryer. And now I take my leave. I ask one thing of you, though.^     "And that is?"

    ^You must tell her when she is old enough to understand.^

    Steve didn`t bother asking the elemental what it meant.

    "I will."

    ^Farewell then.^

    And with that, the elemental`s Oath was fulfilled, and he was gone. _____________________________________________________________________________

it was dark here dark and without purpose without reason direction focus she still maintained enough of her self to know that she was a she and that she was different from he there had been a he someone who had made her feel understood whole real but that had been taken from her that and other things and so she`d run away and she`d run here on the back of a blast of thunder that`d ripped her spirit from her body and now she floated aimlessly not really sure of what was next and then it came it was bright and warm, no, not warm, hot was more accurate it beckoned she came not sure what else she should do and then it had her not a tight punishing grip one might use on prey but a gentle firm grip one uses on a captive and then they were moving going somewhere that wasn`t here but elsewhere it held her close kept her together and when they arrived there she felt something else something that was a he by comparison to the other thing this was warmth and then she was being moved about again being given to the he she balked at first not wanting to go from where she was but the movement was inevitable she was given a choice something to hold onto walls rose about her and she realized it wasn`t much of a choice where she was was where he wanted her to be and so she held to the bright energy it was silvery and glowed softly against the sea of blackness that she had been in and now a touch from the warmth trust an outstretched hand she knew not how the term hand fit but she knew it did and so to him she reached out and he let her balance between himself and the silvery light and now there was something else it reminded her of what the thunder had torn her from life without direction and purpose i am direction i am purpose i need life she tried to rush to it but the silvery light blocked her path the he removed the silvery light but slowly she immediately fled to the life and found something there sustaining it something that was like the silvery light from before but golden she could make it leave and so she did and took its place the life force enveloped her it grew brighter and brighter until she could no longer see… _____________________________________________________________________________

    The first two days Steve watched the egg like a dragon mother might watch a sick hatchling. He constantly probed it to make sure that everything was going smoothly, and constantly felt the creature`s response. It knew he was there.

    The true telepathic/empathic link wouldn`t be formed until the dragon hatched, but it seemed to Steve that its foundations were already being built. He had woken up once or twice the last few nights from what he was sure had been the dragonet`s dreams, and not his own. They`d had something to with death and a very loud sound, and glass shattering…and loud, whining horn like sounds and flashing blue and red lights…

    I wonder how normal that is.

    The egg couldn`t be far from hatching, so Steve had been buying himself livestock and chickens. A baby dragon was, according to the Queen`s dragon handler, Morris, a terribly hungry creature. They would eat and eat for the first few hours of their lives, then sleep for several more. When they awoke again, their hunger would return.

    He had plenty of water from his well, and about ten cattle. A whole coop of chickens was supplying him with plenty of eggs for himself, and also multiplying rapidly. The same could be said for his rabbit hutch. Well, except for the fact that the rabbits weren`t laying eggs.

    I have enough to feed a small army, Steve thought to himself. A few of the city locals had accused him of becoming a farmer. These were largely people who had no idea what Steve was actually doing. Those that did asked him in truly innocent ways.

    Steve blinked as an odd feeling stole over him. it was similar to feeling faint and nauseous, and yet––

    ––the egg!––

    He had been tending to the rabbits. Now he was stumbling blindly into his small house (which might more properly be termed a cottage) and tripping over various artifacts in an attempt to reach the living room.

    Something sharp sounded in his ears. Like a cracking. The odd feeling intensified with the sound and made him very dizzy. Steve`s feet became entangled in a stretch of rope and he was sent sprawling across the floor. His tumble brought him mere inches from the piles of cushions that the egg was resting on. A large split was running down one side, from which a clear fluid, mingled with some blood, was leaking.

    It`s hatching my Four Gods it`s hatching!

    There was another sharp splitting sound and a second split ran along the long axis of the egg. Steve could feel the dragon`s will to escape from its captivity. He tried to calm it and coax it out of the egg gently. The dragon`s urgency only grew when it received what it likely thought of as proof that something was waiting for it on the other side.

    No, not it. She. She.

    ^I. I.^

    The clear, sharp mindvoice had Steve scrambling to his feet and stumbling back from the egg.

    ^Out. Out. OUT.^

    A huge section of the egg fell away. A clawed leg was clearly visible, pushing through amniotic lining to freedom. The small but still sharp claws tore through the heavy membrane, and for a few tense moments the dragon stopped moving.

    Steve was about to reach out to her, afraid that something had gone wrong, when a sharp protrusion formed along one of the larger cracks. There was some prodding, and then suddenly the dragon`s head pushed free of the egg shell. The force split larger sections of the egg, and with some flailing and squirming, the last of the shell fell free.

    Her first words were a meager, gravely croak. She carefully used a claws forehand to clear some of the membrane from her eyes and opened them, staring around at the strange world she now found herself in. Steve blinked and came out of his reverie.

    Her scales were dull in their color, but he had been told to expect this. If the dragon`s mother was any indication, she would be a brilliant, flaming red once she`d shed her Third Skin. She was about the size of a newborn colt, but not quite so tall. Her head, feet, and foreclaws were far too large for the rest of her body, and her tail seemed too long. This was common with newborns of any species, though, so Steve didn`t worry over it too much. Her wings were quite out of proportion, looking far too large, especially on the main wingbone. This was also, from what Steve had seen of hatchlings, typical. The wings would grow with the rest of the reptile. They were tightly folded against her sides and she was wet from the various fluids that accompanied life inside the egg.

    Steve gave little thought to the pillows and blankets that were undoubtedly ruined and scrambled to his feet. He hastily took down the runes that were keeping the egg warm and was rewarded with a startled squawk when the dragon`s eyes focused and it saw him for the first time. She backed up into the wall and hissed at him pitifully.

    They were impossibly green, deeper than the finest emeralds Steve had ever seen. He reached out a shaky hand to the equally shaky newborn. The telepathic touch he used was a little more stable.

    The dragon flinched and chirped when it felt his telepathic presence. He remained quite still physically. This was such a delicate moment.

    I have to do this right.

    She didn`t do anything for a moment. Her eyes held his. He could almost see the thoughts flitting through her head. Finally, curiosity won out.

    The mental contact was tentative, unsure. Steve very carefully stabilized it and attempted communication. But before he could think of anything to say to the dragon, the dragon thought to him.

    ^mother^

    Steve bit a lip. Well, okay, good enough for now. She`ll learn in time.

    ^HUNGRY^

    The thought hit Steve like a hammer and he jerked his outstretched hand back in surprise. The dragon`s response was to hiss and in her vain attempt to back away from Steve more her tail became entangled in one of the blankets and she fell back onto her haunches in an ungainly pile. Steve cursed softly and tried to calm the creature down.

    Hungry? he asked her. The dragon sent a very affirmative answer. Steve immediately turned to go outside and get something from the meatlocker.

    He was stopped by a high shriek. The dragon, seeing him leaving, panicked. She stumbled over the pile of cushions and very clumsily attempted to follow, the blanket still tangled around her tail.

    No, no, stay, Steve told her. The dragon stopped walking and looked up at him in confusion.

    Here. Stay here. I`ll come back. He thought of himself walking outside, and then returning shortly with a nice big something–to–eat.

    The dragon`s thoughts were confused and dubious. Steve slowly began walking outside, and instead of trying to follow, the dragon sat down and generally felt sad and lost. Steve had to keep himself from turning around and walking back inside the entire way out to the stone building that was kept cold by rune spells. He found a fairly good sized leg of meat and after working a simple defrosting spell he lugged it back into the house.

    When he opened the door the dragon glanced over its shoulder at him. She`d wandered over to his workbench and been sniffing amongst the various odd contents. She sighted the meat and came bounding across the room, heedless of anything in her path, and tackled Steve.

    ^FOODfoodfoodfood!^

    Steve grunted as he and the large side of meat went down under the force of the dragon`s impact. She immediately tore into the food, all thoughts of her "mother" forgotten. Steve stumbled away from the carnage and wiped some of the blood from his hands onto a conveniently present towel.

    Gods. She`s hungry. He watched her for a few minutes, not really sure if he should do anything. Then a thought occurred to him.

    Water. She`ll need water.

    Steve went outside and unlike before, his exit wasn`t noticed. He returned with a large bucket drawn from the well and placed it a few feet from the dragonet and her meal. She glanced up from eating and eyed the bucket curiously. Swallowing a strip of ribmeat, she stumbled over to the bucket and sniffed it curiously. After a few moments she took a curious sip, and when it registered in her mind that this was drink, which went with food, she began to gulp down the rest of the water. Steve sighed in satisfaction and leaned against a wall.

    Well then, he thought to himself. Where do we go from here?

 

    It took a few weeks for the baby to get the hang of telepathic/empathic communication, but once she did life settled into a routine. She ate and slept more often than she did anything else. Steve quickly learned that keeping things out of her reach was quite important to the safety of both the dragon and the things in question. Once he came in and found her dangerously close to toppling a solution of acid in a glass jar that was sitting out on the workbench. Shortly thereafter Steve began keeping things slightly more organized––it was almost possible to see the worktable`s oaken surface, and his scrolls and leather–bound books were all ordered on bookshelves. He gradually ordered the rest of the house, as the young dragon`s curiosity grew and grew. After about a month, it became impossible for her to stay inside. She was almost the size of a draft horse. So she began sleeping in the barn with the cattle, who weren`t too fond of her company but didn`t have much say in the matter.

    By the time she began using the barn as a bed, Steve decided it was time he named her, if for no other reason than because calling her "you" all the time was becoming tedious.

    He dug through his folklore and finally came upon a name he liked. Among the Elven tribes who inhabited the islands off the coast of Elvrishalla, there was a Queen of Night, and a King. The King was named Aratyr. The Queen was known as Ralla.

    "Ralla," he murmured, watching as she toyed with a length of rope and rolled around in the grass outside the house. Her scales were beginning to look dry and flaky; Steve suspected she was nearing her First Skin. Her mentality was on the order of a five year old human`s, which was enough to comprehend games and some rudimentary math.

    He supposed now was as good a time as any to acquaint Ralla with her new name.

    Ralla.

    The dragon stopped playing and glanced at Steve in confusion.

    ^???^

    You. Ralla.

    ^Ralla?^ Her voice echoed his, but sounded unsure.

    Steve thought of himself. Steve. And then he thought of her. Ralla.

    ^Me. Ralla.^

    Yes.

    ^Ralla.^ She watched him for a moment. And then she went back to playing with her length of rope. Steve smiled to himself.

    It was a beginning.

 

    Months stretched into seasons. Ralla shed her Third Skin by the time she was two years old, which put her at about two–thirds of her mother`s size. Her mental abilities grew much faster than they would of have had she been in a human body. By the age of one she was already thinking like a human teenager might. Steve was hoping, at this rate, that by three years he might be able to begin teaching her about runes and magic.

    The country of Elvritshalla went about its business around them. King Jan and Queen Rhiannon were fair rulers, if unliked by the more power hungry lords who approved annexation of the Desserts. The Dessert peoples, who lived along the coasts of the continent, were loosely united under an aging King with a very young son as his heir. The boy was only ten years old. Many people in Elvritshalla feared that, if the old King of Yavaerea died, his sister Sharra would become regent until her nephew was old enough to reign.

    Sharra believed that her people were the rightful rulers of large regions of Elvrishalla`s lands, and made public announcements to this effect. She had a fairly good sized following among the Dessert peoples, and this worried Jan and Rhiannon. The rumors that Sharra was allied with the hideous sorcerer Ky didn`t help to ease their minds either. Ky was known for practicing Necromancy and approving of the enslavement of human beings.

    Steve, being Jan and Rhiannon`s chief rune scryer and one of the highest ranking magi in their employ, had to keep an eye on these things. If it ever came to war with Yavaerea, he`d be on the front line with the rest of the mages.

    The Four help that it doesn`t come to that, Steve thought to himself one day as he and Ralla were hunting. The news had been bad today: King Osaka of Yavaerea was becoming worse instead of better. It was rumored he was already bedridden and that Sharra was really calling the shots, but Steve wasn`t so sure how accurate those rumors were.

    Hopefully they`re entirely inaccurate. But somehow he couldn`t bring himself to be so naive.

    ^You`re thinking things that trouble you.^ Ralla`s mindvoice was a soft murmur. Steve sighed slightly.

    _The situation with Yavaerea is degenerating. They say that Osaka is already giving the lead over to Sharra._

    Ralla`s mental reaction was a faint sort of growling. Sharra supported the hunting of wild dragons as a sport, and was reputed to have a cloak made of dragon leather. ^That bitch. Would that I had her in my claws right now. I`d tear her to shreds.^

    _I know the feeling, Ral. But unfortunately, if she is in control, she`s holed up in Blackavar. Fat chance of anything but a full rank of magi getting in there._

    ^I know.^ Ralla walked alongside Steve, almost as silent as he was. She was becoming better at hunting in the forest without his help, although stealth was still a problem. It was quite difficult to move about quietly when you were almost twice the size of the largest draft horse on the continent.

    _Speaking of magi, would you like to begin learning the basics today? When we return from hunting?_

    The dragon`s elation was almost tangible. ^Magic? Do you mean it? Of course I`d love it!^ Her head snaked around and she licked him. Steve wiped off the side of his face with one of his hands.

    Elch. That was disgusting.

    ^I`m sorry.^ She looked as sheepish as an excited dragon could. Steve stopped walking.

    There`s something I have to tell you, though.

    Ralla stopped walking as well. She looked at him curiously.

    ^What?^

    He could feel her anxiety. She was afraid he was going to say she wasn`t good enough to learn everything about magic. That she wasn`t good enough in general.

    No Ralla, that`s not it, he reassured her, walking over and giving her a scratch along the neck. She leaned into the scratching. _You see…you were human. Once._

    Ralla went very still and cocked her head to one side curiously. The sound of the wind sliding through the leaves of birch and pine seemed loud to Steve. ^What do you mean? In a previous life?^

    Yes, after a fashion. Steve steeled himself and had to make an effort to explain the situation slowly. _I had an elemental bring me a recently freed human soul to inhabit the unborn body of a dragon from Tiamal`s last clutch. The dragonet didn`t have a soul. I kept it alive using spells, and when I finally managed to find an elemental that could help me… Steve allowed the thought to trail off._

    Ralla was very quiet for a moment. Then, all of a sudden, he was assailed by thoughts, memories of darkness, and silvery–magical energy. Of deafening thunder tearing her away from the world, and of the strange echo that the word mother sent through her…and brilliant flashing lights of amber and blue…

    ^Is this where these odd thoughts come from? The dreams I have sometimes?^

    It might be.

    ^Is this why sometimes, when I see children laughing and playing, I feel so…^

    …out of place?

    ^Yes.^ A pause. ^Why are you telling me this?^

    _Well, it`s possible that you would have been reborn as something else…no one really knows what happens to spirits and souls in the Ways Between, except for the elementals, and they don`t tell anyone._

    ^So you`re saying I might have been reborn as a human?^

    _It`s possible. But now there`s no way to know. I just…didn`t think it was fair, letting you go through life, not knowing where you came from._

    Ralla thought it over. ^Are you afraid I`ll think you were playing at being a god?^

    Perhaps.

    More silence. She was considering. ^Well…there is no way to know what would have become of me. It would be foolish for me to assume that you had possibly destroyed my chance at rebirth as a human. And this body is not so bad. I like it, compared to your frailness.^ She meant it as a joke, and a corner of Steve`s mouth lifted in a partial smile. Ralla continued. ^Perhaps in some viewpoints you were playing god. But I know that, even if you were, you were doing it for what you felt was a good cause. You gave life to what might have otherwise died. I cannot condem you for that.^

    Steve wasn`t sure why, but he breathed a sigh of relief.

    ^What were you afraid of?^ Ralla asked, sensing the tension drain from him.

    _Rejection, of course. The same thing you were afraid of before I started speaking._

    ^How could I reject you? We have a bond between us. I would be harming myself as much as I would you. It seems like an unintelligent way to right the situation.^

    _Well yes, but when someone feels that they`ve truly been betrayed, hurting the other person in return becomes vital, no matter the consequences._

    ^I don`t feel betrayed by you, Steve.^

    Thank you.

    ^Thank you. For giving me this life.^ She stretched her wings and let out a loud trumpeting call. Far in the distance came the response of one of her kin. All chances of hunting were long gone now, Steve mused. He slung his bow onto his back.

    _Well then, shall we begin with learning how to use the nodes as power sources? It`s tedious and rudimentary work, but if you want to be able to use runes, you`ll need to start with the basics. We can hunt tomorrow._

    Ralla bared her teeth in a dragonic grin. ^Yes, let`s begin now.^

Rise From The Ashes copyright 1998 by Anonymous.

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