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Chapter 5: Beast of the Night

A single, large bay window along the Eastern wall allowed the effervescent rays of the full moon to permeate my squalid studio apartment. A layer of dust coated most of the dark marble surfaces of the tiny kitchenette. An aged, aged rickety table sat in one corner of the room, her large bed took up most of the opposite corner. A packed bookshelf filled with well-worn pages covered most of the Southern wall. A scratched and worn wooden door opened to reveal a tiny bathroom. The surfaces were bare, there were no pictures — very few personal affects. The walls were comprised of knotted hardwood, and the floor boards were loose and nails were sticking up in various places. A steel mount for my sword hung on the wall above my bed, to keep it within easy reach.

I sighed and tossed the files down on the table, I strode over to my bookshelf. I ran my fingers gently over the spines of books I had never been able to read. They were a collection of hope. Hope that one day I may regain true sight. Hope that had long begun to extinguish, yet I held on to them. I reached for a tiny wooden animal carving atop the shelf, one that I had whittled the week before. I ran my thumb over the smoothed surface of the dragon’s snout, feeling the tiny grooves carved to mimic scales. A low mewl interrupted my reverie, the corners of my lips lifted, and I turned towards the fluffy black bundle curled into a sphere on the bed.

“Keeping the place safe, Mer?” I stroked the tips of his pointed ears. He meowed in agreement.

Merlin was a stray I had taken in after I found him as a kitten, hissing and clawing at a demon I had been summoned to hunt. He came and went as he pleased, but he usually pleased to stay in the warm bed where food was readily available. He tilted his head into my hand and purred contentedly.

“It looks like some answers are headed our way, little guy.” I whispered and sat cross-legged on the bed, taking a moment of respite with my only friend. I locked Caliburn, my self proclaimed title for my blade, into her mount. I rose to change into a pair of tights and a large T-shirt, both easy to move in at a moments notice. I went beneath the covers, and Merlin curled up in the warmth of my neck.

Soon, I was lulled into the world of my dreams. The world where I could see the sunlight refracting off of a crystal lake, I could see the birds flying in formation across the sky. Stacks of books surrounded me on the shores of the lake, where I rested on a blanket. I heard myself giggle, an unfamiliar sound I had never made before. I looked back over my shoulder, and behind me I saw a smiling tall figure, with shaggy midnight hair, black eyes crinkled in laughter. A strange tightness in my chest overtook me, I stared back in the reflection of the black water. Unfamiliar tears welled in my eyes, and a solitary tear cascaded down my cheek. Everything was so vivid, but it could not be real. I had never known love.

A screaming mewl followed by loud hisses startled me awake. I shook my head to rid myself of the unrealistic dream, and leapt to grip Caliburn. I saw Merlin standing on the bed, his spine arched and his hackles raised. He stared out the window. As I lifted my gaze to the window I gasped and immediately stood from the bed. Outside the large bay window, I could see only a large eye, red as garnet blinking slowly at me. Silver scales surrounded the eye as it blinked. The head turned to reveal a sharp snout, with yellowing fangs protruding menacingly. The snout quivered in an open snarl. I strode toward the window, revealing protruding leathery wings that spanned the length of two large busses. A serpentine body coiled around the building of the alley. My knuckles whitened around the hilt of my blade.

“A motherfucking dragon?!” I exclaimed.

The eye snapped up to focus on me. I reared back towards the far wall. How in the name of Hades did my enemies manage to contract a dragon. I sighed and set my shoulders, gazing around the walls of the apartment. They had found out where I lived. I had to move fast. My mouth set in a grim line, I charged toward the window, leaning my right shoulder forward to smash through.

The glass shattered outward, and the shards shot into the glowing red eye. The creature howled and reared back, I swung my arm around in the air and slammed the tip into the snout. I twisted clockwise. The blade embedded deep and I hung from my grip on the hilt. The beast hissed and snarled, a gargantuan taloned paw swiped toward me knocking me hard to the cobblestone ground. The wind rushed from my lungs. My skull cracked against stone. My vision was completely black. I gripped my blade over my face as a shield. I felt a heavy taloned claw press down on my forehead, sharp point against my skull. I swallowed heavily as the pressure increased. My body was in too much pain to move. Hot breath escaped the snout, now close to my face.

Goodnight, sweet Aelia... A familiar voice echoed in the cavernous walls of my mind.

“Merlin, Run...” I whispered. And then I felt nothing any longer.

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