The Dragon's Plight
"There weren't always dragons in the Valley, you know." Shakash suppressed a groan. Of course he knew there weren't always dragons in the Valley of Kivan. He'd only heard the story a million times since his hatching three centuries ago. It wasn't even that exciting of a tale. Voidships from Despar discovered the dragon's crumbling home on Isl Dava and brought them back to settle on their much larger island in the Vast. The Valley of Kivan was a large but isolated area similar to Isl Dava's geography, so there the dragons stayed. The "exciting" part of the tale was that ever since leaving their home, the dragon immigrants could no longer shift between their humanoid and bestial forms. "Yes, Master Vor, I know," Shakash replied, though he knew it would do nothing to deter the old drake. As expected, his mentor continued as though he'd said nothing. "We were once majestic beings. Our true forms were huge and glorious! We could soar through the heavens and ignite both earth and air. Our elders had wisdom to rival the gods! Had we been so inclined, we could have conquered the Vast itself!" Yeah, sure. Because the laws of the Vast don't apply to the almighty dragons. What Shakash wouldn't give to spend the day alone rather than tethered to this old broken record. It didn't matter what the dragons once were. Immortal or not, they couldn't save themselves when their isl began to crumble. Vein Dava was slowly being consumed by the Vast, and their kind could do nothing. The idea of sailing the Vein was unheard of until the Desparans arrived. The dragons leapt at the chance for survival, taking on their lesser, two-legged and wingless forms to fit as many as possible on the explorers' vessels. Hundreds were left behind with the promise of rescue from even more ships. But when the Desparan fleet returned, they made a void-shattering discovery. Isl Dava was gone. Now, less than a hundred dragons remained. In their lesser forms, breeding was more dangerous and rarely successful. No one could explain why, just like they couldn't explain why they were stuck in these forms. They were just as "immortal" as before. Sure they could die of injury or disease, but age was meaningless to dragons for anything more than determining seniority in dragon society. In the early days of their Desparan immigration, some dragons had left the valley to try and start colonies with humanoids, or find a way to regain their true forms. But none met with success, and after a time, the elders forbid anyone from venturing forth except on sanctioned diplomatic missions. As his mentor droned on, Shakash stared forlornly out at the peaks of the mountains across the valley. They were dying. Whether it took years or centuries, their kind would eventually cease to be. There had to be a way. Why would the gods give them a chance if there was nothing but a slow, inevitable death waiting? The elders believed dragons alone could save themselves. But they couldn't save themselves from Isl Dava's collapse, so why would anything be different now? Eventually, Master Vor lead him back to the colony and released him from his lessons for the day. He sat alone in the meal hall and ate in silence. He was the last of only seven hatchlings born in his century, and the others had already progressed past their basic studies. They weren't bound to a mentor anymore. They didn't have to spend every day listening to the same damn stories. They got to pursue their actual desires, be it hunting or weaving or catching butterflies. Shakash gritted his teeth hard enough to cut his tongue. One more week. He just had to get through one more week of this torture before his own rite of passage. He'd bathe in the blood of the elders and absorb their strength as was tradition, and then he'd be a child no more. One more week before he could finally leave, and find a way to save his kind.