A New Threat
Breena sat beside Gabriel’s bed. She had not left his side since the moment Leonidas had placed him there. All the villagers had gathered outside to hear about what had happened and to find out how Gabriel was. Each of them, being part animal, had heard and even felt the dragon in the early morning hours. They had been frightened to their cores by the screeching of the mythical beast.
They all knew it was possible. Banchara had warned them that Gabriel would become a dragon. Now, they all wanted to know how he had returned from being a dragon. The villagers had also been told by Banchara that dragons were invincible. According to her, there was no known way to stop one. She had also told them he would have no choice but to destroy all life on Earth. They were beginning to realize Banchara did not have all the answers.
Yellow-mane and Azura stood on the porch and addressed the villagers.
“If not for the courage of Breena, your new elder, and the wolf, Apollo, all life on the planet would have ended this day. Her love for Gabriel and her willingness to sacrifice herself saved all of us. Grandfather would be proud of her,” Yellow-mane announced.
“What if the dragon returns?” asked one of the villagers.
“Your fear and cowardice will be the death of this village yet,” declared Azura. “Only because Gabriel was forced to fight against impossible odds, with just the wolf and Breena at his side, was he forced to assume the form of the dragon! Each one of us is responsible, and each of us should be ashamed! These are our elders and we abandoned them!”
There was silence as each of the villagers let that sink in. One by one, they lowered their eyes to the ground in shame.
“I am leaving this clan to be with Yellow-mane. I have always loved each of you and I still do, but I am ashamed of you as well. You need to gather and to decide once and for all if you will follow and support Gabriel and Breena or will you let your fear destroy this clan? I no longer have a say in what goes on here, but I wish for you to think long and hard and to come to a decision that will help rebuild the clan in the way that would have made Grandfather proud of all of you,” said Azura.
“Can we come with you?” asked one of the villagers.
Azura looked up at Yellow-mane. It was his clan and only he could answer that question.
“There is a reason the Scythians from one clan rarely move on to another. Long ago, that was allowed. Every time a clan member was disgruntled they threatened to leave and often they did. As a result, very few found peace or happiness. You will not find what you are looking for by running away from this clan and moving on to the next, even if it was allowed.
Only by staying here and working together to fix your problems will you ever truly know peace and happiness. I will not aid you in your own destruction by allowing you to poison my clan with your fear and anxiety. I doubt there are any other clan leaders willing to do so either. You must understand you will either learn to trust your new elders and work with them and to support them, or you will die, both as a clan and as individuals,” Yellow-mane decreed.
“Don’t forget, the decision goes both ways,” added Azura. “The new elders may decide they’ve had enough of you. With the power and the understanding of the outside world these two have, they can attract Scythians from all over the world. New clan members willing to pledge their loyalty to them and mean it. Those Scythians wouldn’t think twice about Gabriel’s animal form. They would realize that with their support, he may never need to assume his animal form ever again. They would also be smart enough to realize that if he did become the dragon, there would be nowhere on Earth that would be safe, so they might as well be helping and supporting him, rather than disgracing themselves with fearful reactions.”
There was a murmur throughout the crowd. Slowly they walked off, but not before agreeing to meet at the center of the village at sundown. Until then, they would each need to do some soul searching and decide once and for all how they wanted to shape the future of this clan.
As the villagers walked away, Yellow-mane turned to the giant oak tree behind him and spoke softly to the upper branches.
“Will you join us now?” he asked.
Neither Yellow-mane, or Azura, could hear the giant wings flap, but they both felt the sudden rush of air as the giant gryphon descended to the earth. Just as the magnificent creature was touching down, it was gone, and in its place stood Leonidas.
Azura could only stare as she was certain she was seeing a younger version of Grandfather standing before her. He was younger than Yellow-mane and his dark hair was quite a contrast to his uncle’s, but otherwise he was every bit as impressive. She had seen him once, many years ago when he was but a teen. That was before he left the clan and never returned. The clan had always believed he had somehow died.
“Will you help guide the clan until Gabriel is back on his feet?” Yellow-mane asked.
“No, it is not my place. Besides, it would only lead to more confusion and problems for the villagers as they try to decide whether they should accept Gabriel or somehow find a way to make me their elder. I never wanted to be a village elder and Grandfather knew that and respected my wishes,” Leonidas answered.
“Yet, he still believed you would accept the gift and the position when the time came,” Yellow-mane stated.
“That was long ago uncle, as the power of the gift kept growing, Grandfather accepted the fact that it would not only kill him, but it would kill his successor as well. He left a scroll for me explaining how he didn’t want me to try to take the gift after he passed, he was pleading for me to stay away because he knew I wasn’t strong enough to contain the energy for very long,” Leonidas replied.
“I don’t understand,” asked Azura, “why did this clan’s gift begin to grow?”
Leonidas looked at Yellow-mane and the elder answered it as best as he could.
“No one knows for sure, it’s a very rare occurrence, but it has happened before. In the past, whenever a clan was growing beyond its ability to be protected by its gift, the gift would grow and then divide, allowing a new clan to be born and to divide off from the original. Only by keeping the clans small can we keep the gift in check and keep our secret safe.
In even rarer cases, the gift has been known to grow in order to be strong enough to combat a threat or great evil that was threatening its clan. In either case the gift can only grow to the extent the village elders can contain it. Grandfather always believed the clan’s gift would not grow beyond what he could handle, even if it was killing him slowly and surely,” Yellow-man answered.
“Was it Gabriel’s animal form that the gift was preparing for,” asked Azura.
“I doubt it,” Yellow-mane began. “Even a gift as strong as this one is no match for a dragon. No, whatever the threat is or was, it wasn’t Gabriel, he just managed to be in the right place at the right time. In a manner of speaking.”
“That’s what I’m curious about,” added Leonidas. “How did Breena and Gabriel both end up here at the exact time they were needed? Even Grandfather knew little about Breena’s past, she showed up one day as a young girl and no one seems to know where she came from. No clans claim to know anything about her or her parents. Our children are so few and so precious, it makes no sense that no one knows anything about her or her parents.
Grandfather sensed she was going to be powerful, and in many ways, she frightened him. He was adamant about adopting her and training her. However, he soon realized even she wouldn’t be powerful enough to contain this clan’s gift. Then, as if by some master plan, Gabriel shows up and Grandfather believed he was even stronger than Breena and the two of them, along with the wolf, could manage to contain the gift until it was needed for the coming threat.”
“You mean the clan hasn’t even seen the worst yet?” Azura asked in amazement.
“I’m afraid not,” answered Leonidas.
“Oh my, what will become of my friends?” lamented Azura.
“It is up to them to decide, they can choose to live as a clan or die as individuals, either way the choice is theirs and theirs alone. I will still see if we can manage an exchange of a few of my villagers with some of these, it would be good for both of our clans,” said Yellow-mane.
“When will you return home uncle?” asked Leonidas.
“In the morning. I have been gone for far too long. I doubt if you are aware, but there is a new movement within the Scythian clans. Many of the young Scythians are trying to go against the old law. I have several in my clan, and other former clan members, that believe the Scythians should begin to assert themselves in the politics of the world. They believe we are the superior species and that we should rule this planet. If they have their way, they will get us all killed,” Yellow-mane said quietly.
“Is it that bad? There have always been a few that thought that way, but they were few and far between,” said Leonidas.
“Unfortunately, it’s even worse than that. I’ve been watching several of my own, including Karven, the one that challenged Gabriel in front of this clan. They have been using the technologies of the outside world, computers and smart phones, to stir up the issue and to recruit Scythians to their cause. The young ones are always looking for a better way or sometimes, just a different way of doing things.
Every generation wants to think they are smarter than the one before, but they forget time is a constant. The past, no matter how old, will find a way to repeat itself. You can control how you will respond to it, but the situations, the ‘crossroads of life’ if you will, will continue to repeat,” Yellow-mane explained.
“So that’s how Karven knew about Gabriel so quickly,” Azura said.
“Yes, they think they can use modern technology to make the world easier for Scythians to rule,” Yellow-mane said disgustedly.
“Long, long ago, before the first full human walked this planet, we couldn’t bend it to our will and rule it! What makes them think we could do so now? Nature, God, whatever name you want to put on it, always seeks equilibrium. We have amazing abilities that give us an advantage over our environment, over humans and even the animals, and yet we reproduce in such small numbers, we can never rise to a population that would be needed for us to truly rule this world. We have seen this time and time again throughout ancient pre-history and yet, if these young ones will not accept it, they will bring about the end of the Scythian race!” Leonidas said sternly.
“That’s the most disturbing part nephew,” added Yellow-mane, “they don’t care! They have stated that they would rather die trying to gain control, rather than continue to exist as a shadow of who we really are.”
“I have been around the world and I have walked among the humans, the animals and the shifters in every known culture. They know no peace, nor will they ever. I left the village to find one that I could love. The peace of the village, the easy pace of our existence, and our unity with the environment provides a calm these outsiders will never know,” said Leonidas.
“There will be a meeting of all the elders soon to address this situation before the rebellious youths have our secret discovered by mankind. I’m sure the situation here with Gabriel will be a major topic of discussion as well,” Yellow-mane announced.
“Make sure they understand I will not allow any retribution to befall my son! He has done nothing wrong. In fact, he has sacrificed himself to save all of us and the elders need to know that,” Leonidas asserted.
“Trust me nephew, they will be made to understand all that has happened and to what extent Gabriel and Breena are our best hope for the future and whatever the coming threat is to all Scythians,” answered Yellow-mane.
“So, you think the threat is something bigger and it will affect more than just this village?” asked Azura.
“Yes,” answered both men at once.