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In dragon's skin

By Maskedjoker81 All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Chapter 1

Long ago, in an age where sorcery ruled, a faraway kingdom called Zerik declared war upon all dragons. It's king, Roland, believed that dragons were the devil's spawn and would not rest until they were gone from the world. He promised much gold and vast land to any knight who would go forth and slay the beasts in his name.

One by one, all the best knights in the kingdom ventured to the great mountain where the dragons had chosen to nest. They armed themselves with only the best swords and axes, sharpened so finely that no mortal could stand stand against them. But dragons are not mortal. They are creatures of pure magic and no weapon forged by human hands could harm them. Any and all who invaded their home was sent fleeing from the nest in shame.

Time passed and King Roland grew desperate. He promised his throne and the hand of his daughter, Princess Katherine, to any man who could slay even a single dragon. All were frightened however and none would dare try. None that is, save Sir Nathan.

Sir Nathan was a young knight who had long courted Princess Katherine. He believed himself the smartest man in the realm and believed there was no one he couldn't outwit. If he couldn't defeat the dragons, no one could.

Because dragons were magical in nature, Sir Nathan reasoned he would need magic to slay them. He decided to pay a visit to the wizard Maximas,who lived in the forest that stood between the kingdom and the dragons' nest.

Maximas was very old and very wise. He knew the truth about the dragons, a truth the rest of the kingdom refused  to accept. He longed to reveal it to them somehow,  and he would start with Sir Nathan.

"Dragons have very powerful magic." Maximas told the young knight "in order to defeat them, you must have the same magic. If you kill a dragon and wear it's skin, you will receive their power."

Sir Nathan was confused. "But if I need magic to slay dragons, how can I kill one without it? But how exactly will I skin it?"

Maximas snapped his fingers and conjured a vial of powerful poison in one hand. In the other, he conjured a hunting knife. "There is a spring near the dragons' nest that they like to drink from. Pour this poison in it and wait for one of them to appear. This knife is enchanted and will allow you to skin it easily once it's dead. Now, go and change your life forever."

Sir Nathan thanked the old wizard and left. The next morning, he dressed in full armor and prepared to venture to the dragons nest. The whole kingdom turned out to wish him well and pray for his life. He merely laughed at their concerns, confident that he would return home a king and Katherine would be his wife.

The young knight rode for days until he came to the spring that stood mere feet from his true destination. He dismounted his horse and proceeded to pour every last drop of poison into the once pure water. Now, all that was needed was a victim.

It wasn't long before Sir Nathan spotted a fiery-red dragon approaching from above. He swiftly ducked behind a large tree and waited. The dragon eyed the spring cautiously and sniffed it at first, as if sensing it had been tainted somehow. 

Sir Nathan was surprised: could the dumb brute actually suspect a trap? His fear subsided however when the dragon began lapping up the tainted water, his massive tongue seeming to take in half the spring. A moment later, the brute released a loud roar of pain and slumped to the ground.

Sir Nathan emerged from his hiding place and silently approached the Dragon's still form. Just as he'd hoped, the beast was dead. The young knight took out his magic knife and began to skin the mystical animal. Despite the dragon's great size, the job took no time at all and the pelt looked as though it would fit him perfectly. 

Sir Nathan swiftly removed his armor and donned his new pelt. Already, he could feel magic coursing through his veins. But something was wrong: the young knight felt himself changing, growing.    He was horrified to realize that he had become the mirror image of the dragon he'd slain. 

Sir Nathan was outraged. How dare Maximas betray him! In his anger, he unleashed a roar so powerful that it seemed to shake the Earth beneath him. 

His horse, frightened by what it had seen, ran far from sight but Sir Nathan didn't care, nor did he care about the Dragons any longer. All that mattered now was making Maximas pay!

The transformed knight reluctantly realized that his new body could aid him in his quest for revenge. Gathering his courage, he attempted to take flight with his new wings. It was awkward at first but he eventually became airborne and was soaring none too gracefully towards the treacherous wizard's home.

Before the transformed knight could even come close to his destination however, storm clouds began to gather. A terrible bolt of lightning streaked across the sky and struck his back. He howled in agony as the lightning struck again and again, forcing Sir Nathan to turn back and attempt to outrun the storm. He was just within reach of the dragon's lair when a final bolt of lightning overwhelmed him and he blacked out.

The transformed Sir Nathan awoke some time later lying on a giant bed of crystals He at first thought it had been a horrible dream until he saw another dragon, deep blue in color and looking quite old, staring down at him with a stern yet concerned face.

"You gave us quite a scare Ethos. What were you doing out there in that storm? I thought you were only going for a quick drink?"

Sir Nathan was dumbstruck. Dragons could speak!? He was stunned that he almost forgot the Elder dragon was speaking to him. It also seemed that the dragon whose form he had taken was called "Ethos." 

"I...I was just...going hunting." Sir Nathan lied quickly "I thought I would find someone tasty to snack on." The Elder dragon knitted his eyebrows in confusion. "You are obviously not well Ethos. Rest now and I will prepare some vegetable soup for you."

The fake Ethos nodded obediently but scoffed the minute the Elder Dragon was out of sight. "Vegetable soup, indeed! The beasts probably consider hearts and livers to be vegetables." The soup arrived some time later and Sir Nathan was surprised to find it quite tasty. Could Maximas' curse have removed every shred of his humanity? Would he soon crave the flesh of his fellow knights?

These horrifying thoughts plagued the transformed knight's dreams as he slept. When he was awoken the next morning by the elder dragon, he resolved this would not come to pass. He would fight whatever change was taking place and use his new form to learn his enemies' weaknesses.

The first thing he did was explore the dragons' home. Each one lived in a spacious cavern within the mountain and tales had been told of treasure hidden within, stolen from the kingdom over many generations. Sir Nathan saw no treasure however, just common household wares, in dragon's size of course.  The  only other things he saw within the cavern were eggs, laid by females and guarded protectively by both parents.

"They've got it all hidden" Sir Nathan mused to himself "that's the only answer. These greedy monsters would never share with anyone, even themselves!"

The transformed knight continued his search until he came to an opening centered away from the other caverns. It was impossibly large and could only contain what Sir Nathan sought. He was preparing to enter when the elder dragon, whose name he had yet to learn, stopped him. "Ethos, get back into bed! You are not yet well enough to venture this far alone."

Sir Nathan wanted to argue but the elder's stern gaze quieted him. For a minute, he thought he glimpsed something familiar in those ancient eyes but soon forgot it and was lead back to the cavern in which he'd awoken. He guessed it was the home of the real Ethos and where he would be living until his mission was completed. It would be a harsh task but for his king, his country, and his love, Princess Katherine, he wouldn't fail.

A week or so passed before the Elder dragon announced that "Ethos" was fit to  leave the cave. He invited the transformed knight to join him in gathering food. Sir Nathan, fully believing that he would  be forced to capture innocent villagers, fought down the anger and disgust threatening to rise in his stomach. He knew that sacrifices would have to be made if the war on dragons was to be won.

The two mystical beasts traveled far until until they glimpsed a party of knights below. Sir Nathan recognized them as being knights from the kingdom of Wan, Zerik's most powerful ally. It's king shared Roland's prejudice and had sent his own forces to aid in the war upon dragons.

Sir Nathan, thinking he could prove himself to the Elder dragon and curious as to what powers were now at his disposal, attacked. The knights of Wan were brave, but no match for a dragon, or so he thought.

King Edwin of Wan was no fool, he knew full well that magic was the only true weapon  against magical creatures. He'd called on some of the best wizards and witches of his realm to craft  the perfect anti-dragon weapons. Once this was done, a troupe of his finest knights was sent to deliver them to King Roland. 

This troupe was lead by Sir Robert, Sir Nathan's best friend since childhood. Once he'd heard of his friend's journey and rumors of his subsequent demise, he vowed to personally bring  an end to those responsible. It was during this particular quest that the transformed Sir Nathan chose to chose to strike.

Sir Robert was the first to spot the attacking dragon and went into action. Motioning for his men to bring forth the massive chest they had been carrying, he reached in to draw forth one of the magical weapons inside: the Soul Mask.

 The Soul Mask was a deeper red than "Ethos" and made to resemble a demon's face. It was said to have made from the blood of dragons slain through the ages, blood that had been collected by wizards and witches around Wan for it's strong magical properties. This same blood was said to hold a piece of each dragon's soul.

The Mask's power enabled it to project all of this into the mind of a living dragon, enabling it to feel all that it's ancestors had felt. Because Dragons only felt rage, this would cause it to go berzerk and attack it's fellows. At least, that's what Sir Robert had been told.

The knight of Wan held the Soul Mask up like a shield in the face of his charging adversary. It's eyes  lit up and tendrils of dark purple magic oozed out to wrap around Sir Nathan. The transformed knight unleashed his fire breath on pure instinct but it was no use: the magic engulfed him completely and he felt centuries of emotion from dragons past.

It was not rage that Sir Nathan felt however, it was fear. Fear of humans who attacked him without warning, fear of humans who had stolen his unborn children, fear of humans who hunted and slaughtered his kind for so many of the wrong reasons. The only other emotions he felt were sadness when he'd tried to befriend humans, even fall in love with them, and was rebuffed.

The flood of emotion proved too much for the transformed knight and he went into shock, falling to Earth in the process. Sir Robert immediately took advantage of the situation and drew his sword. His men swiftly moved into position to surround the downed beast and help make his end swift and painful.

Sir Nathan shook with terror, his fear amplified by the torrent of emotions he was feeling. He looked into  the face of Sir Robert and couldn't believe the cruelty he saw there. He asked himself was this the man he'd grown up with? 

"P...please Robert, don't!" His words were only a growl to the other knights and they prepared to deal the final blow, their blades poised to strike.

It was only at that moment that the elder dragon appeared. Swooping down at a speed thought impossible for one of his age, the  mythical beast opened his mouth as if unleash a stream of flame. No fire came.  Instead, a massive ring of white light rained down upon Sir Robert and his men, forcing them into a deep sleep.

Sir Nathan watched the whole scene in awe. He'd always known dragons possessed powerful magic, but never believed it would look so peaceful or beautiful.  The elder dragon turned to him and eyed him for several seconds, studying him curiously. "Did you know those men?

"I-I thought I did." The elder dragon seemed to accept this and inhaled to release another burst of his magic breath. This time, it came out as a steady stream of tiny glowing lights that resembled fire flies. They floated around Sir Nathan and removed the magic of the Soul Mask from his body. "Sometimes, it is impossible to know something until we experience it first hand."

After that day, Sir Nathan changed: he wanted to really find out what it meant to be a dragon. He would learn as "Ethos" and report back what he'd found to King Roland. Surely such a wise king as he would see the error of his ways and seek to make peace.

Months passed and in that time, the transformed knight learned that dragons were not fierce monsters as he has first believed. Rather, they were wise and gentle creatures well-versed in the art of magic. Sir Nathan spent his days watching them learn how to use their magical breath to heal and conjure beautiful illusions. The art of fire breathing that they were so well known for was simply a defensive art against  those who would do them harm.

 The transformed knight was also surprised to find that dragons didn't eat  humans, or meat at all. The mysterious hiding place he found was actually for storing the fruits and vegetables they collected from the outside world. The treasure they supposedly stole from the kingdom over the years was also a myth as they had no need for material things. Dragons found wealth in the love they shared with family and friends.

Sir Nathan was so moved by what he saw that he wondered how he or any other human could have been so cruel to such majestic creatures. One night, he said to the elder dragon, "I wish humans knew the truth about dragons."

The elderly mystical beast smiled strangely at Sir Nathan. Once again, his eyes seemed eerily familiar to the transformed knight. "All good things come to they who wait. For now, it is important that you continue your magic lessons."

The false Ethos groaned. He had been trying to learn magic since his encounter with Sir Robert, but had yet to make any real progress. He couldn't even make a decent flame! Despite this,the elder dragon simply told him to be patient. "When the time comes," he said knowingly, "you will do exactly what is needed. Now let's begin."

Meanwhile, King Roland had learned of Sir Robert's defeat and became enraged. He and King  Victor of Wan agreed to combine their armies into one and lead the final march on the Dragons themselves. Even Princess Katherine donned sword and armor so she could avenge the loss of her beloved Sir Nathan. The armies approached the dragons' nest with days and attacked at first light.

The battle that followed was the most terrible one the realm had ever seen: dragon and knight alike fell before the great magics that both sides wielded. Sir Nathan tried to help his new friends but couldn't quite bring himself to attack the old. It was only when the elder dragon was wounded, and the Soul Mask was brought out again that he realized what he needed to do. Sir Nathan will show them what he'd learned.

The transformed knight inhaled and summoned all his magical breath to  the surface. After a moment, he released a steady stream of golden magic that mixed with the purple magic of the Soul Mask, creating a blinding flash.

This flash caused the the two kings and all knights to see and feel everything that Sir Nathan had experienced. Likewise,  all dragons saw and felt all that was good about the kingdoms of Zerik and Wan. Sir Nathan's Dragon magic had altered the magic of the Soul Mask and shown everyone the truth about both sides.

When it was over, the kings and their knights wept and begged for forgiveness. Sir Nathan also realized that he had become human again, a man wearing dragon's skin. He worried that his new family would no longer accept him but they embraced him warmly: he was their brother, now and forever.

Sir Nathan suddenly broke their embrace and ran to where the elder dragon had been wounded. He was surprised to find the wizard Maximas standing in the mystical beast's place. "You were the elder dragon," Sir Nathan realized as he looked into the wizard's all too familiar eyes "it was you all along!"

Maximas nodded. "I was also Ethos, so you are innocent of ever killing a real dragon. I concocted this scheme with the dragons to teach you an important lesson, never judge a man until you've walked in his shoes."

Sir Nathan was soon crowned King of Zerik and never forgot what he'd learned that day. He strove for peace with dragons and all others during his reign and taught  the same to his young son, Prince Eric. "Never judge another until you truly know them" he would say "or you may one day have to learn by wearing their skin."

THE END 

     

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