Rarer than Dragons
Gabriel and Breena had worked hard to gain the trust of the villagers. There were eight new females in the village. They had come from Yellow-mane’s clan. Since the exchange, things were changing rapidly in both clans. No longer did the villagers in each clan feel as if they were strangers. They were all beginning to think of themselves as one clan, just divided into two parts, very far apart. That made them unique in the Scythian world.
Clans were naturally very private and secretive. They didn’t trust the outside world even the tiniest bit and trusted other clans only slightly more. For many millenniums, clan leaders sought out other leaders and fought to the death, hoping to accumulate enough ‘gift energy’ to become all-powerful. The actions of a few during the early eons of the Scythians, before modern humans arose, drove them to the brink of extinction. Now they understood any gift that strong would not make you all-powerful, it would destroy you.
Once Gabriel’s clan saw Leonidas and realized Grandfather had been right and Gabriel was his grandson, they saw him in a completely different light. Most were extremely ashamed and kept apologizing profusely, which only served to embarrass the new elder. Gabriel felt no ill will toward any of the villagers. In fact, since his return from being a dragon and his ‘rebirth’ in the burning cabin, he felt no ill will toward anyone, not even the White Alpha.
It was as if he had undergone the most Zen of transformations. He only wanted to help, to love and to be loved by all those around him. The loner, the warrior, the warlock, if he was still in there, was buried deep. He had even accepted Apollo’s decision to begin a new life and visit when he could, with relative ease. Breena was slightly shocked by the new Gabriel, but she loved him just as much, if not more.
One early evening he seemed to sense that he was needed. He walked out of the snow-covered village and toward the compound. He didn’t have far to go. Standing in the middle of the path were both Leonidas and Oz. They were so in contrast with each other, it almost made Gabriel laugh out loud. Leonidas was almost seven-foot tall and broad shouldered and heavily muscled. His coal-black hair was shining with the last rays of the sun. Oz was barely five-feet tall and appeared to weigh no more than a hundred pounds, but his black hair was reflecting the sun’s last rays as vividly as the larger man’s.
“We were just about to come see you,” Leonidas said.
“How did you come to know we were here?” Oz asked.
“I don’t know, it just came to me that I was needed here,” Gabriel answered.
“Did it just come to Breena too? I know she’s nearby,” Leonidas said with a chuckle.
“No, she followed me,” Gabriel started, “come join us dear, there is no danger here.”
A dark shadow drifted down from the closest tree top to slowly solidify into Breena. The beautiful young woman didn’t say anything, but she was mystified at how Gabriel knew. Before his transformation, he couldn’t sense her like Grandfather, Leonidas and Yellow-mane could. It must be a latent, family trait. Maybe…
“I get the feeling this is more than a social visit?” Gabriel asked gently. He didn’t want either of the men before him to think he didn’t value their visits.
“We are here for different reasons, but perhaps the same cause,” Leonidas began, “I have completed my research and there is nothing written in any scroll to tell us if you will become a dragon again. Until we know for sure, you need to avoid any conflicts that will cause you to change.”
“You need not worry about that, I will never be the dragon again,” Gabriel said.
All three of them stared at him.
“How do you know?” asked Breena in a whisper.
They were all looking at him intensely. What did he know and how did he know it. Breena and Oz were thrilled at the prospect he would never again take that form, but how could he be so sure. Leonidas was afraid he was just saying what they wanted to hear.
“I don’t know how I know, but I am as certain of it as I am the night,” Gabriel answered.
“But Gabriel, we always take three forms. You have your fireform, your human form and you will take another form. There has never been a Scythian with more, or less, than three forms,” Leonidas said.
“You may be right father, I only know that I will never be the dragon again. The loneliness, the suppressed rage, the anger at what happened to my family and why my life was the way it was, has passed. It was those things, bottled up for so long that helped bring that creature forth. All of those things are now gone, I am at peace with myself, my past and my future,” Gabriel answered.
Leonidas was trying to hold back his tears. His son had called him father for the first time, something he thought he’d never hear.
Oz reached up and touched Gabriel’s forehead.
“You are correct,” Oz said, “all those things, the anger, the loneliness, all of it is gone from you. I sense nothing but peace now.”
Breena stepped into Gabriel’s arms, she was hoping that somehow, she had played some small part in cleansing all the negatives from Gabriel’s soul. Gabriel looked down at her with love in his eyes and his heart.
“You did Breena,” he said, answering her unspoken question, “you, Apollo, father, Zeus and Oz. You all did. When I was at my worst, when the world was in jeopardy, you stood together in love and helped me cross over from that existence to this one. But it wasn’t what you did, it was what you felt. I could feel the love pouring out from each of you. If you could love me so unconditionally, how could I not love myself?” Gabriel explained.
Leonidas stepped closer and Gabriel reached out and stroked the deep scar along his neck, the one caused by the dragon. With Breena in his arms, as he touched the scar, it slowly faded away. Leonidas touched his neck and was amazed at how new the skin felt. The pain of the burn, which had been a constant reminder of what had happened, was also gone.
“Another new trick?” Breena asked.
“No, that was you, I just channeled it for you,” Gabriel said.
It was going to take some getting used to, but the new Gabriel made Breena feel even more loved than before. Gone was the youthful puppy love and the excitement that comes with it, all that remained was a deep, soulful love that few people rarely ever experienced.
“Oz, among the Scythians marriage is nothing more than moving in together. Breena and I were wanting something a little more traditional. Would you marry us in front of the entire village?” Gabriel asked.
“I would be honored Gabriel,” Oz began, “I came to tell you that your grandfather is headed to Europe to check up on the latest version of Miss Grace Stevens. He is no longer under the auspices of the warlocks, he’s now leading a new group with government support called the Angel Corps. With luck they can find and destroy Grace’s cloning lab and then we will only have to eliminate her once more.”
“I will help any way I can old friend, but I will not willingly kill unless it to save another’s life. My days as a warlock are over. I am a Scythian Elder now and I intend on acting like one,” Gabriel declared.
“We will all respect that Gabriel, and we will gladly take whatever help you can give. As you know, I too will not take a life, so I understand your decision more than you know,” Oz replied.
“Then that means I am in too,” Breena answered.
“Me too, where my son goes, I go,” Leo added.
As they watched, Gabriel turned toward the north words and spoke loud and clear into the night.
“Tansi, will you be there when you are needed my brother?” Gabriel asked.
Suddenly a deep howl came from the woods. Apollo had answered.
“You knew he was there?” Breena asked.
“Yes, not much escapes me these days. Besides, I could have guessed even if I didn’t know. Though he has begun a new life, he hasn’t let me wander from the village without an escort yet,” Gabriel answered.
They all giggled at that.
“What else did you have for me father?” Gabriel asked.
Leo didn’t bother asking how he knew and there was no sense in denying it, he did have another message for the elders.
“There is to be a conclave, the first in almost a millennium. All elders are to go to Belize. The meeting will be held in the Cebeda Cave system. There are rooms within the cave that have never had a human visitor and will be prepared for the meeting. You’ll need to be there one week from today,” Leo said.
“If there are more clans in Asia than anywhere else, why are we meeting in Belize? Why in Central America where there are so few Scythians?” Gabriel asked.
“You are correct, we would usually go to where the most clans are, but in this case, they are all headed to the Americas to see you. Cebeda is the most secure spot in the Americas so they will meet there, but they are all coming to see you, the elder that was once a dragon,” Leonidas answered.
“In that case we will need to make sure we don’t disappoint them. What is the purpose of this conclave?” Gabriel asked.
“There are several purposes, but besides the recent situation with your being a dragon, there are two very important matters for the Scythians to address. The first is the growing number of young Scythians who are insisting on using modern technology. Some have begun to act as spies to gather information to be used to overthrow the human leaders of the world.
The second issue is the disappearance of Scythians around the world. Sometimes clan members leave and live in the wilds, as I have done for many years, but this is different. Almost two dozen Scythians, even one elder, have disappeared from clans in Eastern Canada and America. No one has seen them, and they did not voluntarily leave their clans. Most left family behind,” Leonidas explained.
The first was a constant issue with younger Scythians. They didn’t like the smallness of the clans and they wanted to travel the world, but not in fear, rather as conquerors. They didn’t truly grasp the concept of how their actions could endanger the entire village or even all the Scythians around the world. Exposure must be avoided at all costs!
The second issue was indeed a major emergency. For that many Scythians to be missing, someone, perhaps even a government agency must have found out about Scythians and must be kidnapping them. No bodies had been found so they weren’t being assassinated. Why would anyone want to capture a Scythian?
Of course! It had to be her.
“Grace sent her mercenaries with a large, air-tight cylinder to try to capture Breena. She knows of the existence of the Scythians, even if she doesn’t fully understand their abilities yet. It must be her doing. The question is, why? What does she hope to gain from them?” Gabriel asked.
“If she has managed to capture these Scythians, that would be very bad indeed. With her advanced knowledge of genetics, she might be able to use their DNA in ways we can’t even imagine. Or worse, she might unleash something even worse than the Shifter virus on the rest of the world,” Oz interjected.
All four of them stood contemplating that for a moment. Each of them knew just how bad it could be if she had managed to capture that many Scythians. It could be a catastrophe equal to the introduction of the shifter virus, or even worse.
Finally, Gabriel broke the silence. Since none of them had any answers for the problem of the missing Scythians, he might as well change the subject.
“Oz if we could have the ceremony in three days, just at sunset, in the village?” he asked.
Breena smiled, “and how did you know I always wanted a sunset wedding? I’ve never told you that before. Wait, let me guess, you just knew it?”
Gabriel simply smiled and nodded. On the outside he was calm and peaceful, but inside he was beginning to see just how serious the situation was. If Grace had captured Scythians and was able to extract their unique DNA and incorporate it into her Alpha shifter self, she might truly become unstoppable. Depending on which Scythian she used, she might be able to become anything.
Breena looked up at Leo and asked, “Would you be so kind as to walk me down the aisle? I always imagined it would be Grandfather that gave me his blessing, but I believe he would want you to take his place.”
Leo found himself blushing, “Of course Breena, I would be honored…if it’s okay with Gabriel.”
“Tansi, will you be my best wolf?” Gabriel asked, speaking into the woods.
Another howl told him that Apollo would indeed be his best ‘wolf’.
“I want you to know that your mother and I had a private ceremony ourselves. We were all alone among the creatures of the forest, but we pledged our love and our lives to each other. She knew she was infected with the virus, but she knew she couldn’t hurt me or infect me. She trusted me, and I protected her. It was only after she found out she was pregnant that she decided to run away. I still believe she’s out there somewhere. The human, shifter or Scythian that could kill her doesn’t exist as far as I know. One day I’ll find her, and we will be a family, I promise you this on my life,” Leonidas told Gabriel.
With a nod goodbye, Oz turned and floated away, back toward the direction of the compound. Leo leaped in the air and the giant Gryphon he had become flew silently toward the ever-darkening sky. Gabriel had told them the truth, he knew he would never again become the dragon that threatened the entire world.
What he hadn’t told them was the vision in the back of his mind and what he would someday become. Being the creature didn’t scare him, it was the process to become it that worried him. He wasn’t even sure if he could explain it to either Breena or Apollo or if they would believe him. He wasn’t sure himself, he only knew what his dream was trying to tell him. Leonidas was right, Scythians always had three forms. An elemental, an animal and a human form.
It seemed that Gabriel was fated to experience the most unique of all the possibilities. If the dragon hadn’t been bad enough, his next animal form might be even more rare than that. At least there had been a couple of dragons. His next animal form might truly be the only one to have ever existed, or at the most only the second such animal on planet Earth.
He knew he needed to tell Breena, but he wasn’t sure how. He decided to wait until after the wedding and probably until after the conclave was over. Once everything calmed down, he would try to explain it to her.
As they turned to walk back toward the village, Gabriel knew someone wanted to talk to him.
“Apollo wants to talk to me. Do you mind going back alone?” Gabriel asked Breena.
“Of course not, I will wait for you in the village. Besides I want to break the news to the women that we are about to have our first real wedding ceremony. We’ve wanted one for a while but none of the males would agree,” Breena answered excitedly.
As she transformed into a giant black wolf and ran away, Gabriel turned north into the snow-covered woods and walked around several massive trees to find Apollo waiting for him under a giant oak.
“Hello brother,” Gabriel said as he sat down on the snow in front of the massive grey wolf.
“Mate,” Gabriel heard in his mind. He understood that Apollo wasn’t asking if he and Breena were to become mates, he was telling him that he had a mate. It had to be the black wolf with the golden eyes. Gabriel was happy for his adopted brother. With any luck he would find both peace and happiness with the wild wolf. They were both things he never would have had as a warlock.
“You are always welcome in the village at any time,” Gabriel added as he reached over and rubbed behind the wolf’s ears.
“Mate uneasy with villagers,” Gabriel heard in his head.
The elder simply shook his head up and down to acknowledge what the wolf was saying about the female wolf and why he wouldn’t be in the village very much.
“I go Belize,” Gabriel heard.
“That isn’t necessary brother,” Gabriel answered.
“I go, I have gift, elder too,” Gabriel heard.
There was no arguing that, in his own way, Apollo was just as much an elder of the village as he and Breena were. Gabriel already knew better than to disagree for he would never win the ensuing argument. The wolf had mastered stubbornness to the point he could rival Oz!
“We leave six days from now, we will take a plane from Vancouver to Belize. Meet us at the motorcycle just after sunrise, but first, we have a wedding to attend,” Gabriel explained.
With that, he gave the wolf a heartfelt hug and stood and headed back to the village, after a few steps, he looked back but there was no sign that the wolf had ever been there. Even the snow-covered ground was undisturbed. He was already moving through the trees at tremendous speed but as silent as an owl. Gabriel smiled, both he and Apollo had found love, he only hoped they would live long enough to enjoy it.