The outcast

Weeks passed as we became familiar with each other. She kept preferring to have her ridge tended with warm water in the evening even after her healing, which I continued as I usually preferred to have a fire anyway to make myself a dinner. She demanded me to stay with her for longer even when I wasn't caressing her until one day I fell asleep by her side, waking up abashed in the dark night realizing I was on the ground with the sleeping wyvern. I made an attempt to stalk away to a tree, however briefly looking back I met her gaze, the sparkling gems of her eyes in the blackness, calling me. From then I spent the nights with her rather than alone uncomfortably lodged between branches.

She carried some unworldly silence with her as seemingly most large animals avoided her. I felt safe even out in this wilderness by her side, and she also showed care towards me, never leaving me alone asleep on the ground. It was strange how sometimes she didn't even attempt to use language to express herself, rather coming to nudge me if she wanted something, frequently just my touch, to groom her.

Having plenty of time I kept studying Draconic, straining myself to understand both the book and her gestures when she tried. It came slow, despite the apparent crudeness, the structure was odd, with a logic unfamiliar to me. I wondered how it came to be, why it wasn't crafted to something easier to grasp, ending with recalling how Dave told that the dragons formed their side. Maybe their mind worked differently to ours.

After a while I even figured out the chapter on the connection between the human and the dragon side of the language, how our hand gestures corresponded to their motions. It was about then where I realized that she probably understands my deficiency, noticing how she occasionally even attempted to name me things hoping I would pick them up.

She appreciated every new idiom I used or understood with glee, sometimes repeating them several times enjoying how I kept reacting proper the same way. Repetitions were common in their talk, however these were more than that, a lot more! She taught me to speak!

As our communication improved, certain things however started to bother me. Why she attacked me the first place? Couldn't I ask her to come in Drino with me? Was she even really alone here with her capability to speak Draconic? At occasions it also bugged me whether there were people traversing the road, whether she still attacked, although I couldn't see any mark of stingers on her apart from a few well-healing old ones and those I caused.

One day I decided to venture east, back to the trail, to check for any sign of people traversing it. I set out for it with just my hunting equipment partly to avoid stirring her, but also for it was much easier to walk without everything if I wanted to return anyway. I passed the termite tower, marching maybe about half the distance when suddenly she appeared to swoop down right before me! "Do you trust?", she asked, anger mixed with sorrow, "Me trust", I responded. She passed me with a "Follow" gesture, and I had to return with her to the acacias.

She didn't leave our camp the entire remaining day sitting there with a sullen expression, not even letting me near. Her sadness bogged my mood down, even worse as the evening came, she still avoiding me, forcing me to sulk away, up a tree for a long uneasy night with little sleep. I couldn't know she would feel so much betrayed by my action.

Next morning I sunk deep in linguistic, trying to figure out whether I could apologize to her, but there was nothing even remotely fitting for this purpose. Absolutely nothing as I realized in bewilderment. Not like it wasn't impossible to make myself look pitiful, but whatever I remembered fitting by our human logic didn't seem to work in Draconic. Treat dragons with utmost honesty, the book kept pressing.

So did I, starting a conversation with her.

- Me want see people's trail past.

- Why you want see people's trail past? Do you not trust?

- Me want meet people. Me trust.

- Me trust. Do you not happy, me trust?

- Me happy, you trust! Me sad, you want maul people past.

- Me want maul people past. Me not want maul people.

- Why you not want maul people?

- You trust. Me trust.

Her confession touched me even through the crude language degraded by my inferior skill. She accepted me again for which I felt very relieved, although she left me puzzled still with everything unanswered. I resolved to keep on studying the language, to be honest with her, to ask if I wanted to go away from my usual hunting courses hoping I could eventually discover her deeper.

Two days later it popped in my mind that maybe I could ask her to bring back the arrows I shot at her about a month before by then, thinking they could have been collected if anyone traveled the road.

- You know location, me maul you past?

- Me know location, you maul me past.

- Do you bring arrows from location then?

- Me bring arrows from location then.

It felt strange how simply she accepted my request, and indeed, she returned with three stingers in her mouth from her flight next day. Those were all my arrows bought in Tikira, every one I shot at her that day, almost completely intact save for a bite mark on the shaft of one.

This outcome was odd. I didn't expect her to find all these thin needles for her size, they still must have been laying clear on the ground or lodged in the foliage by the trail for an entire month. Marco in Zarvo told there were people traveling the road, at least one stepping on or popping out every week, someone should have noticed these useful items left behind. Did the conflict really turn this bad since I was away?

Laying by her side in the darkness my mind kept drifting down a dismal slow river, the arrows, and all what their return could mean. Was there a war somewhere out there? Did the King really march his army down the Mera to attack Ugaros? How the relations went with the Antaran Lords? What was about Tikira, Mother? Was she well? By the rumors I knew Ugaros being a country where wyverns were still treated as guardians, no aerial corps, no riding, would they even stand a chance against the King's forces? Why it started, why we couldn't live in peace? If I were to return, what would I find?

I was unsure whether I even wanted to return. I felt the calmness, the slow, deep breaths of her, the peaceful darkness of the night shrouding my vision, my senses dwindling, yet her presence providing me safety.

Time lost its meaning living out here, weeks passed by the same routine in a sort of everlasting serenity, our only real duty being hunting or for me, gathering fruits occasionally. We sometimes spent entire days together, she developing a taste for apparent laziness, appreciating grooming in delight, but even just sprawling out on her back calling me to lay on her chest. I used the time to learn Draconic, to understand the little nuances, how they handled adjectives to express emotion, her logic.

Despite our mutual effort, I felt her having some grief, while not expressing herself being alone anymore, her sullen mood occasionally returning. I tried to talk with her about it, but it kept sinking in a convoluted mess of symbols which I couldn't decipher.

She lived in Drino in the past, and as I could put together the fragments of her expressions, she was exiled for being a man-eater. It shocked me how it could have happened. When I asked her "Why you eat person past?" she denied, telling she killed them. Yet then she talked about eating with some gestures I didn't understand, eating people who trusted her, eating her friend. These stressed her asking me scared "Do you trust?", sometimes repeatedly, only calming as I reassured her, "Me trust", stroking her jaws, showing I didn't afraid of her, that I didn't think her being a monster.

These were very unsettling, to learn she might have at least killed people who trusted her, people probably like me, but she sunk so deep telling those I could only feel sorrow. Confusion strangled me. Part of me wanted to stay away from her, yet other part wanted to understand, to share her burden. Sometimes I drifted away stroking and comforting her, to imagine myself being eaten, a limp body not even belonging me anymore, seeing her wandering in a sullen solitude, exclaiming and exclaiming "Me alone" again and again for no one to see in her eternal vast desolation.

One night I suddenly woke up almost squalling in horror as something pressed hard on my back to realize I was still there by her side. She moved in her sleep, I felt the two claws of her wing-paw pressing in my shoulders firm, my body wrapped in the folds of the membrane, a bony finger against my side. Her grip almost crushed me! I felt, and as the moon reflected her scales, I could see the muscles twitching up her neck, a nightmare, maybe. But there was no way for me to escape, fearing she might squash me as I felt her grasp tensing, the claws sinking in my shoulders! Laboriously I wriggled out my arms, and started stroking her chest, the neck as far as I could reach to soothe her, afraid of that by doing anything else attempting to wake her might leave me crushed dead. Slowly she went limp, but still trembling occasionally which continued until morning.

To my astonishment she didn't let me go even then. Waking up she wrapped her other wing around me, coiling up, sinking me in the warmth of her body, hopelessly out of her field of vision. I had to go, I terribly had to until my bladder miserably gave up to produce an another source of unpleasant soggy warmth by my crotch. I tried to push and wriggle myself out, but it was such an unusual situation that I was simply afraid of stirring her. She didn't release me. She heaved herself to her feet holding me firm against her breast by a wing and started limping around, then down all the long way to the water hole for a drink and back.

Finally, she rolled on her back, and while she rested both of her wing-paws on me, her grip loosened and I could carefully slip out, stroking her to calm her down. I left her despite how she looked after me to get some water myself and to clean the mess somewhat up. For the entire day she kept having a sullen expression, nudging me almost apologetically without a word, so much I simply couldn't do anything but forgive.

Her state however had some severe impact on mine. I had to realize that maybe I couldn't continue to Drino even later if she was really exiled from there, although I wasn't even sure what the word meant. The book described it with an example of being chased off of another wyvern's territory, without any hint of permanence or what it could imply in her case. Neither I knew the Drino law, what they would do with dragons like her, who might have even fled from jurisdiction. Would I just bring her back to face a sentence of death?

I thought I could probably still return home with her, as the rumors went, it wasn't hard to convince the authorities of the ownership of an adult wyvern, especially if the owner joined the aerial forces or any other service in demand. Of course there was Ugaros as well, further west in the Seehal. Neither possibility comforted me. Bring her to her death, join a despicable war serving our King's Army, or serve the enemy? I couldn't spend my life out in the wilderness, despite how occasionally I so much wished to stay, to just be with her enjoying this strange relationship of ours, not caring about the entire foul world.


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