Pale moonlight filtered down through the small bars of the cold cell to dance on the hard stone floor. The harsh, silver light played gently over the form lying prone in the corner, adding a light blue hue to the otherwise colorless scales.
The being lay as though dead, not even the slight movement of breath stirred the scaly hide. To move would only bring more pain. Today had been especially bad for the poor creature. First, it hadn’t made Mistress’s breakfast in time for her meeting. Then it had come too close to her guest for her liking.
Then her guest had noticed it.
Mistress had been especially upset about that. The first rule she had taught it was that it must not be noticed. It must fade into the background, only to appeare when Mistress called for it. Not only had the visitor noticed the creature, he had asked about it. Mistress could barely contain her fury. She’d never take her anger out on such a distinguished guest, but after the visitor had left, the beast’s colorless scales ran red.
The dark stains spead out from the beast, pooling in the middle of the room where the drain lay. The silver moonlight turned the dried crimson liquid to an ugly blacking brown.
This was the life of the colorless creatue lying in the corner of the room.
While others of its kind explored the world and the heavens, it lay in pools of it’s own blood on a hard stone floor. While others ate what they wanted when they wanted, it was thrown scraps that the cooks had nothing better to do with. Others were scolded with words, and afterwards shown affection. It was beaten if it so much as breathed in Mistress’ pressence and left to it’s room.
The beast had never known love, or pity. It had never felt the wind beneath it’s wings, or the soft grass. Mistress didn’t think it was worthy of those luxuries.
It wasn’t even worthy of a name.
For it’s entire life, it had been called many thing: Freak...beast...abomination. Mistress called it whatever she wanted to, and it would respond. The guest had seemed impressed with this, asking how Mistress had trained it so well. Mistress had gritted her teeth and said it had been trained since birth. After he’d noticed it, the visitor had asked alot of questions about the creature, questions Mistress didn’t want to answer.
It had been given lashes for that. The creature was lucky Mistress was preoccupied that night and only gave it lashes for it’s mistakes.
The clouds came to hide the moon, cutting off the light to the cell, hiding the creature in the shadows once more.
Baden, the 7th son of a 7th son, the last born of his family. Overlooked at every turn simply because no one bothered to look.
Now, the youngest Montu in the Thunder’s history.
Baden sat tall and proud at the table of his Thunder’s closest neighbor, discussing business and alliances. Midori was his least favorite of the surrounding Montus, but she was also one of the most powerful. The dragoness was close to 200 years old and had acquired more land than the other three Montus combined. The Emerald Thunder boasted a variety of terrain, from mountains to forests and valleys, and was rich from the mines deep under the palace.
No matter how powerful Midori was, Baden hated her. She was rich alright, but instead of giving back to her Thunder, she was vain and showed off her riches in the walls of her palace and in jewels draped on her body. Baden grimaced as a servant brought out yet another snack for them. Midori snatched up one of the miniature pastries. With a smack of her lips and a flash of fang, the poor mini-éclair vanished down her gullet. She waved the servant off and turned her focus back to him.
“As I was saying Baden, Emerald Thunder has enjoyed a bountiful season this year. We’ve found three new veins under the palace that are promising, and our crop fields have yielded more then we’ll need for the winter...”
Baden groaned internally, fighting the urge to roll his eyes. He knew where this was going. She’d tell him all about how wonderfully her Thunder was doing, then she’d offer him a share of the wealth in exchange for shifters. It was common among Dragon Montus to marry their Thunders together in exchange for supplies.
“We’d be more than happy to share with Garnet Thunder if the Thunder had anything they can offer us in return...”
“Ah, and there it is.”
“I’m sure we could arrange a gathering between our Thunders. Unmated shifters can sniff around...”
“Actually Baden,” Midori interrupted him, “I was hoping...you would take a marriage.”
Baden almost choked on his breath. That was a new one. If it had been one of his brothers in his place, the situation might’ve gone south. Baden being Baden, stalled for time.
“Midori, I’m flattered, really I am, but you know I’ll only allow my heart-fyre to rule by my side.”
Midori laughed, her sandy-grey hair bouncing down her back in waves.
“Oh Baden, I wasn’t talking about me. I was talking about my daughters.”
Baden groaned internally. Midori was always pushing her two daughters on any poor male who came through her door. Iris, the eldest, was as vain and shallow as her mother. If it was possible, Baden despised Midori’s oldest daughter more than the mother. Her sister Aurum, though much more to Baden’s liking, was steadfastly loyal to her unknown heart-fyre.
Movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention. Baden glanced at the little dragon that had entered the room. His breath caught. An albino dragon scurried around the edges of the room, keeping his small form low to the floor. Baden’s heart broke for the poor boy when he noticed the multiple scars criss-crossing his back and sides. The dragon couldn’t be more than 20 years old, yet his small form made him look like he was scarcely more than seven.
“Baden?” Midori asked. Baden snapped back to the Montu.
“I’m sorry, who’s the little dragon that just came in?”
“Who?” Midori cocked her head to the side, one perfectly painted eyebrow arched in confusion.
Her face darkened when he mentioned the dragon. Midori ruefully snapped her fingers and the little dragon darted to her side, not looking at her.
“This is my personal servant. I’ve had it since it was a babe.”
Baden’s shift snarled in the confines of his head. The prickly beast didn’t like the way the dragoness was speaking about the boy, as if he was a pet. The wheels in Baden’s head started turning. If only the dragon would meet his eyes. Baden rose to his feet and stalked around the table to inspect the youngster. He nodded in approval when appropriate, pretending not to be infuriated at the ribs poking through the dragon’s scaly hide. He ran his hand down the dragon’s muzzle while Midori continued her talk of a marital alliance between him and one of her daughters.
There. For a split second the albino’s eyes flashed up to his. It wasn’t for long, but the second his gaze met the deep red irises, fire erupted in Baden’schest, searing his throat and belly. He fought back a cough, stepping back from the dragon. He glared at the rambling Montu.
Baden won his challenge because he knew how to pick and choose battles. He knew how to play the game. The rules had changed now that Baden knew Midori had his heart-fyre on a leash.
“You’ve trained him well, Midori. Tell me, how did you do it?”
Flattery always worked with the vain dragoness. Midori stopped her rambling about how wonderful a marriage between him and Iris would be and glowered at the albino.
“Like I said, I’ve had it since it was born. A deformity like that had to be eradiated from the Thunder, but I took pity on the runt. It’ll do anything you ask of it and it’ll respond to whatever name you choose to call it. Go ahead, try it out.”
Midori leaned back in her seat. Baden looked at the boy.
“Albino,” He said sternly, “step away from the table and spread your wings. I’d like to get a proper look at you.”
The albino stepped back from the table and spread his wings out as far as he dared. Baden stalked around him, taking inventory of the multiple scars and barely healed cuts on his spine. The little dragon’s wings were nearly transparent. The wheels kept turning.
“Do you beat him often?” Baden asked, finding it difficult to keep the venom from his voice. Midori didn’t notice his change in tone.
“Very seldom actually. The first few years of it’s training I had to discipline it almost every day. Now it only requires a few lashes every few months.”
Baden nodded, pretending to be interested. He looked again at the dragon’s ribs.
“How often do you feed him?”
Her eyebrow twitched.
"It is fed whatever is left over from the day. There’s no need to waste good food on the thing. The doctors said it wouldn’t live past it’s 20th birthday, if it even lived that long.”
Baden’s heart gave a painful jolt. “Of course he won’t live long you idiot, you treat him like a slave.”
“What of his breeding? He’s a fine specimen, I imagine his parents...”
“It’s parents were fine dragons, yes.” Midori cut him off. Baden’s shift growled. It was considered a great disrespect to interrupt a Montu. Baden might’ve been young, but he was by no means a weakling. Midori realized her mistake.
“I’m sorry Baden Montu, I meant no disrespect. It’s parents were fine dragons yes, unfortunately I couldn’t allow them to continue breeding after they produced the defect. The sire died recently in the mines, the dame died soon after.”
No emotion at all. Baden was fuming on the inside. Smoke started to pour off of the wheels in his brain from the speed at which they were thinking. Baden took in a deep breath.
“If the albino is such a threat to your Thunder’s bloodline, why didn’t you just drown him?”
“I would’ve, but unfortunately the albino is perfectly healthy. It would be a crime against Equus to kill the dragonet.”
Baden had a plan. He didn’t like it, but if it got his heart-fyre away from Midori, then he’d do it.
“Midori Montu, I was thinking. I believe a marital alliance between our Thunders is a wonderful idea. My thunder will give you a share of the profit from our mines as a dowry. However, I’d like to take the albino as my tribute.”
This was a risky move, since Baden would be breaking his promise to Midori, which could result in a war between the two Thunders. Midori laughed.
“Baden you don’t have to ask for the albino as a tribute. By all means, take it. I won’t even ask you to marry Iris if that thing is your request. Just taking that disgrace out of my territory is enough for me to take an alliance.”
She waved her hand at the albino. Quickly, the little dragon scampered off. Baden’s shift whined at the loss of his heart-fyre. Midori glared after the dragonet.
“It’s getting late Baden Montu. Why don’t you stay here tonight? I’ll have the servants fix a room for you.”
“Thank you for the invitation Midori Montu. I don’t want to be any trouble though.”
“Oh it’s no trouble. This way you can take the albino with you when you leave. The sooner it’s out of my home the better.”
That night, as Midori stood before the albino, whip in hand, Baden was standing on the very large balcony of his room. The moonlight shone pale blue on his rich chocolate skin, highlighting every dip and curve of his body. He stood naked under the silver light before shifting into his beast.
The dragon stood 12 feet tall at its shoulder and covered head to talons in deep, charcoal scales. He spread his wings, the translucent membrane glowing silver in the night. With two powerful thrusts, Baden was air born.
He loved night flying. The feeling of the cold wind against his scales, the miles upon miles of empty sky, the thousands of diamonds sown into a blanket of Caspian silk...Baden tucked his wings into his body and dove down into the valley below him. Closer and closer he zoomed, until at the last second, he snapped his wings open and glided just over the tree tops.
He wondered if his heart-fyre like night flying. Then with a pang, he realized that the poor dragonet had probably never been night flying. That thought alone was enough to take the joy out of his nightly pastime. Catching an air current, Baden wheeled back to Midori’s palace.