Dragon Soul

Mar. 6th, 2006 09:11 pm
brokenworld01: (Bucephalus)
[personal profile] brokenworld01
Much much belated birthday fic for Kiro. And as I am not really online, this counts as necro-posting. :p

um, many thanks to TJ for encouragement and catching my fiddly typos. Any that remain are my fault because I'm still on drugs!

Happy birthday, Ki-chan! ^_^ ah, this fic may contain things like politics and xenokink, and um, death and ... stuff. yeah. But nothing too explicit. Really.


Dragon Soul
~*~*~

The young man who now claimed the title of King of Âvárana had been a rather strange child. At his birth, he cried only once -- a primal scream that was more than a clearing of lungs -- and then proceeded to observe the world rather silently until he'd mastered enough of the language to make himself understood. Reading, on the other hand, came easily to him as he grew older, and his parents were hard-pressed to provide enough material of interest to him.


He might have been called precocious, but it was rather more than that. He was dignified, and expected the world to accept it. His parents did, at least, but they had a suspicion that they'd been gifted with a changeling child. Strange things were afoot in the world, and their lineage was not unaccustomed to oddities. It was a difficult time to be raising a child at all -- the great king of the youkai had awoken, it was said, and even remote Âvárana would face his army eventually -- but raise a child they must. There was more reason than ever to ensure the line of succession was secure. Better a strange, quiet, dignified child than no child at all.

Skander, for his part, was simply trying to make sense of a world that seemed to be ever so slightly, but perpetually, askew. He took to the trappings of nobility with ease and a certain sense of relief. There was comfort for him in the discipline of his role; in the daily details of rule and in the art of the warrior. He embraced the sword and bow, learned to ride as well as he walked, and dispensed unarguably fair justice in cases where his judgement was invited or required.

He was, in short and despite his somewhat peculiar reserve, a perfect prince.

It was about the time of his thirteenth birthday when Prince Skander first became aware of certain other peculiarities of his. His observations of the world had shown him that other people did not generally speak of hearing sound without source, so he did not speak of it when it began. He did, however, hear the ocean -- a sound completely alien to the rock-bound city, and yet known instinctively -- and the waves became a soothing background when he was distressed. There were never voices in the waves, but as the years went on, there was music there. He came to discern individual threads and the weaving of them that created music; recognized tones and voices that spoke without words. The wave-music grounded and balanced him, gave him an anchor he had not known he needed, and he thought, if he'd heard it earlier, he might never have learned to speak. Might have relied instead on humming and wordless song.

That would never have done. Not for a human. Not for the King's son.

If not for the looming threat of war with the youkai, he would have been content. It wasn't a case of wanting to avoid war, either; that would be ignoble of him. Rather, it was an aversion to fighting what was certain to be a hopeless battle. News travelled slowly to remote Âvárana, but even so, they heard of the fall of human empires, heard of the ever-expanding youkai army and the devastation left in its wake.

He did not want to lose his family, his home, his people. The thought of being cast adrift into a world without rules and routine was terrifying. There needed to be structure, order, of some kind. The youkai were bringers of chaos. Change in and of itself was tolerable, but chaos was not.

His father was unfortunately somewhat narrow-minded where the future was concerned. He desired a glorious end, in battle, for he could see no other options. He had already conceded, in his mind, that all he could achieve would be a glorious death in battle. A death worthy of his ancestors.

Skander was rather more concerned about life, and what his ancestors would think of him abandoning his people in such a way. He did not speak of it with his father, knowing it would only lead to an argument, as it had for his father's advisors, and that he wished to avoid. He would seek other ways, without his father's knowledge, and prepare for a different future.

It was shortly after his fifteenth birthday when the youkai army crossed the border into his father's kingdom. At first, it seemed they might hold off the invaders. The mountainous regions of Âvárana were not kind to strangers, and his father's men could pick off the youkai at will. But no matter how many they killed, more came to take their place, and more still, until the very earth seemed carpeted with youkai.

By the following winter, they were besieged; held hostage atop their unscalable mountain. The King grew impatient, spoke of reckless plans for a last sortie against the enemy. Time and again his advisors talked him down from the heights of his frustration (that perhaps bordered on the madness of a caged animal), yet even they could see the inevitable.


Skander refused to accept that it was inevitable. Surely the great king of the youkai had further conquests planned. Surely he would not waste years besieging one lonely human castle. It was a matter of time, of waiting and preparing negotiations. That he did so without his father's knowledge was not, to his mind, a betrayal. A King's duty was to his people, his kingdom. A son's duty was to his father.

A Prince's duty was to both. A difficult juggling act of delicate compromise.

~*~*~

When his father rode out against the youkai, it was not a gloriously sunny day. The light did not flash from helms and bright polished armour. The horses' hooves did not ring against the stone path as they paraded down the winding approach.

It was a grey, overcast day. Clouds hung low around the tops of the mountains, dampening the fortress with mist. The path was slippery, slow-going, making easy targets of the men for the youkai archers camped below. Men screamed, horses screamed, youkai jeered.


Six men fell on the way down. Thirteen men, and the King, reached the bottom of the trail. With weapons brandished, they raised their war cry with voices already grown hoarse, and disappeared into the youkai horde in a hopeless, pointless charge.

Prince Skander watched from the ramparts with a heavy heart. His mother remained in her rooms, cloistered in protest of her husband's stupidity. The Prince did not stand alone, though, for his father's advisors remained at his side in unwanted, silent judgement.


Preparations for the coronation were already underway.

The sky remained dark throughout the afternoon, but there was no comforting release of rain. The air remained as still and heavy as the mood inside the fortress. Lost men, lost horses... a lost king. No one spoke the thought, but the rumours were heavy on their minds. These youkai served a man-eater; a king who fed on human flesh.


Grey fog gathered, dripped, hung sullen and listless around the turrets as Skander walked out onto his balcony. His guards remained in his suite, cautious and watchful, but knowing there would be no attack at this height -- not unless the youkai suddenly grew wings. Standing on the balcony, Skander closed his eyes and leaned against the cold, damp stone. The wind was rising, hissing as it streamed overhead.

When the hiss changed to a hum, he raised his head and peered into the night sky. A darker shadow writhed among the weight of clouds. He studied them silently, watching the lithe shape twist closer and closer. It occurred to him, distantly, that he should perhaps be afraid. It might be some strange new youkai they'd not seen before. His people were scarcely familiar with the other race. But his heart sang, jubilant, as he watched the form dance in the clouds.

In the back of his mind, the waves sang. He closed his eyes, sank to his knees on the balcony, and waited.

He heard the hiss of the wind, the shush of wings; felt the wind rise against his face as the air was displaced. Something settled on the stone beside him with a soft pad of feet where he'd expected the rattle of claws.

There was a moment of absolute silence. Blood thrummed loud in his ears, a bass roll beneath the waves. One voice in the water-song now, clear and strong, and shining in his mind. Tears prickled behind his closed eyelids. He blinked them open, blinked away the salt of ocean tears, and saw her.

She was no youkai.

In the shadows of the balcony, her skin was dark, her hair almost black. A single braid hung down over her bare shoulder, though the rest of her hair barely brushed her dark skin. Her ears were long, tapered, almost delicately pointed. Above them rose slender dark horns.


She was the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen, even with her boyishly flat chest and the tiny fine scales he could see glistening on her cheeks.

Kneeling beside him, she took his trembling hands in hers, raised them to her forehead and bowed to him. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you, grandfather," she said. The words sounded awkward after the wave-song, as if she was unaccustomed to human speech.

"Who are you?" he whispered, while the word she had spoken rattled in his mind. ... grandfather... grandfather...

"My name is Meiru," she replied. Her name, at least, was music. "And you are Skander, yes?"

Her eyes were red, he realized. Concern creased her brow as he remained silent, staring.

"Yes," he said, closing his eyes. Her hands rose to cup his face, warm and dry and smooth. "My father..." he whispered helplessly, though he had not meant to.

"I know," she murmured. "I am sorry I was too late to stop him."

He shook his head blindly, felt her fingers tighten in his hair. "Nothing could have stopped him."

A gentle hand slid down the back of his neck, pulling him closer. "I am here for you, now."

Resting his forehead against her shoulder, he gave in to her embrace and wept. She sang for him, softly, in a language he did not recognize but somehow knew. The wave-song supported him, cradled him, while she sang, while he wept. The ocean washed him clean.

~*~*~

Meiru told him, later, when he began to remember, that the song was called West wind wakes the waves. It was a song of his childhood, sung to him by his father; sung in turn by his wife to his son and by his son to his granddaughter.


It was difficult to think of her that way. Easier to see her as simply Meiru, for they had no blood relation in his current incarnation.

But he remembered....

~*~*~

When the Prince rose to his feet and turned to escort his guest inside, he found one of his men standing quietly on the balcony, watching.

"It is all right," Skander said, holding tightly to Meiru's hand. Not for the first time, he was glad he had been able to choose his own personal guard. The three men were boundlessly loyal to him, and had every confidence in his ability to judge a situation and dictate the best course of action.

The guard's eyes ranged over her curiously, but he inclined his head and held the door open for them.

Skander offered her one of his own dressing gowns, which she accepted gracefully. Her skin was green, he realized, as the light from the lamps fell on them both. Her hair was green as well, with a white ribbon threaded through her braid.

"There is much we need to speak of," Meiru said, as she considered his room.

"Yes," Skander agreed. He sent for refreshments, allowed one of his guards to remain on the balcony, and the other two in the outer chamber of his suite. "But perhaps not tonight? Unless you must leave again soon?"

The idea brought pangs to his chest. He did not want to part from her, not now, nor in the future. Turning from the door, he found her suddenly beside him. She reached out, resting her palm against his cheek, and he studied her helplessly.

"Not tonight will I leave, nor any time soon," she said softly. "I am here for you, to walk with you through the days that come. You will not be alone."

Tears burned in his eyes again. He blinked them away, felt them leak down his face, damp and salty. Meiru leaned forward, and the touch of her tongue to the trail of tears was no surprise. His heart leapt, pounded thunder in his ears as he slid his arms around her slender waist and pulled her closer.

"Skander," she whispered, and his name was magic and music, freedom and affirmation. Her fingers slid up into his hair, massaged his scalp where his horns would be, if he had them.

A strangled sound escaped him; part moan, part sob, speaking what he could not say. He found her lips with his, gentle, hesitant; so uncertain, but needing so desperately the connection that she offered. Connection to his people, his past, to the part of him that he had always known was not human.

Dragon soul.

She twined around him, still human-shaped, but infinitely more flexible. Her cheek brushed against his, and he gasped at the indescribable sensation of scales scraping lightly over his skin. Her claws (blunted, but still longer than human nails) caught on his shirt and they separated enough to shed clothes and fall onto the bed.

"Meiru," he whispered, between kisses.

"Skander," she answered, comfort to his need.

The rest of what he spoke that night was in a language he would not remember when he awoke.

~*~*~

In the morning, he woke to find her curled against him, warm and heavy with sleep. His thoughts came slow and heavy, as if tangled in deep ocean currents, but when memory of his actions returned, his face burned with shame. How could he have lain with her? How could he have lost himself so completely in such a base need?

He shifted his weight, wanting to flee the bed, but her arm tightened over his chest. He had not realized she was awake but when he looked to her, she was watching him calmly.

"I am sorry," he began, "I should not have.... It is wrong. You are --"

She arched one eyebrow at him. "I am?"

He could not bring himself to say it, but had to look away, feeling the burn of heat in his ears.

"Skander, I am no relation to you, in this life, in this incarnation."

"It is wrong," he repeated stubbornly, ignoring the way his heart lightened at her words.

"It was a comfort you needed," Meiru said. "A need I was glad to fulfill. Do not let it cost you what you have gained." She sat up and let the covers fall to her waist as she turned to face him. "Do you desire me now?"

He studied her, forced himself to set aside his judgement of right and wrong and warring morals. Teachings he had barely begun to remember insisted that it was deeply wrong to join across generations, just as it was wrong to join species.

Neither argument rang true for him, when he stopped to consider them.

He was human, after all, at least for this lifetime. Whatever he might remember, whatever he might have been, all he could do was honour that as he did his human ancestors and their traditions. His honour was not so rigid as to sacrifice the present -- and the future -- to remain true to the past. That had been his father's route, and his father's downfall. He would not make the same mistake, not in any aspect of his life.

Reaching out a hand, he touched her face, gently; ran his thumb along the shimmer of scales on her cheek. He felt a deep and abiding love for her, buoying him up, but no sudden spark of lust as he had last night.

"No," he said, softly, knowing it for truth. "I desire your friendship, your loyalty... your trust."

She smiled, grasped his wrist and kissed his palm gently. "Then it is well."

~*~*~

The storm clouds of the previous night broke and fled before midday. Brilliant sunshine streamed in the high windows of the throne room, limning the soon-to-be-King in golden light as he introduced Meiru to his court. There were murmurings of surprise, of course, but it was a measure of Skander's people that the young representative of the dragons was welcomed.

Though he made no grand pronouncements, no declarations of intent that day, they were not needed to mark the turning point. There wasn't a person in the room who did not recognize the dawning of a new era.

A dawning of new hope.


~owari~
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