The Ageless - Chapter one

“…And finally, Dear Lord, please help Kiana find me so I can get home again. In Your holy name, Amen,” Darion said finishing his prayer. He stood back up and looked around the countryside he was resting in. The grassy hill Darion stood upon looked down on a small town, probably a mile away. The clear sky and the warm weather seemed to galvanize each individual human in the streets weaving around the old-fashioned buildings. The mountains around him gave the hill he was on just a bit of shade, although it did nothing to keep the hot wind from blowing against his pale green dragon scales.

Despite the heat, Darion was excited. The sun was shining, and today was a new day. The chances were high that he’d find someone interesting; the type of interesting was what varied. He hardly ever found someone who was…well…nice. Every last interesting person he’d met had been of the bad variety. Sure, he liked the occasional entertainer that knew a few fancy magician tricks, but he found it rather hard to put up with someone constantly showing off. Heh. Kind of like himself, in a way. He could already do most of those tricks himself, so they held no real interest for him. Though, it was always slightly interesting to see just how much someone else could do.

After all, a shape-shifter was a rarity in and of itself. He could become any element, anything, or anyone at will. He could make himself bigger than any skyscraper yet built, and shrink as small as six inches. There were some who used illusions to create the same effect, but none of it was fake with him. It was in his blood.

“Dar, are you coming or what?” He spun around at the tap on his shoulder, tripped on his tail, and landed unceremoniously on his rear. Natalia laughed at the gesture. “We’ll need to head into another zone today, Dar. I think I found us some odd jobs.”

His sister, Natalia: also a shape-shifter. She was a golden yellow in color, and her blue eyes sparkled with her usual glint. Two small horns poked from her forehead, pointed behind her, and eight tiny horns, four above each eye, lined where her eyebrows would have been. The wings on her back deemed too large for her seemingly thin, fragile frame. Her tail went on for nearly eight feet behind her, tiny ridges of thorns lined her tail, all the way down to the tip. A leafy looking fan sat on her tail tip.

The clothing she wore was simple: a white t-shirt and grey sweatpants. They certainly didn’t do much for her figure, but Darion knew she liked it that way.

“Oh, good,” Darion grumbled. “You know how easy it is to sneak up on me! Aren’t you ever going to cut it out?”

She merely grinned. “I will the very same day you decide to give up on your childish pranks.”

Darion laughed. “Aw, but then it wouldn’t be interesting! This place is boring, sis! We need some excitement around here, and I’m not just saying that because I intend to jinx us and put us into another awkward situation.” He got back up from his previous fall to his feet, wiping away the stray bits of grass that clung to him.

She rolled her eyes. “You have a habit of doing that anyway. Just come on.” Natalia opened one of her portals, preparing to Jump to another zone. The portal appeared to just be a black hole hanging in the middle of the air, although it was much more than that.

Darion shook his head. “Sometimes I wish I had that power instead…”
“Yeah, well at least you can hit back. Come on. We’re training a group of kids in self-defense. I need you there. I’m no good at attacking, and you know it.” With a sigh, Darion followed her through the portal. At least there would be something to do today.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yashiri trudged through the desert, shielding her eyes from the sandstorm around her. “Ow,” she whispered, tears coming to her azure eyes from the grains of stone hitting them. The elemental wiped the tears away to get a better view of her path.

Her wavy turquoise hip length hair was pulled to the side, moving violently in the wind, just as her blue colored dress did. Because the dress was cut from the middle of the thigh down, the front and back swayed, leaving her short weary legs to the bitterness of the hot wind and sand. The sand stuck to her pastel blue fur like glue, irritating every part of her body. Being only three and a half feet tall, the gale pushed her constantly off track, forcing her to stagger. She couldn’t control her long tail from flapping in the storm. The thin fin on the end of her tail stung as the debris struck the sensitive membrane hard.

Her search wasn’t going to be easy, that was for sure.

The ancient stone, the ‘Water Drop of Hitrye’, had been said to have great powers of healing and peace. Sent on this mission by the head water elemental elder himself, she knew what she had to do. Yashiri looked down to the pocket-sized stone map in her hand. It told of a mountain range on one side and a tall tower on the other side of the desert. ‘I should be close to the mountains…’ she thought.

The sand grew thicker as the wind blew stronger, making her close her eyes tightly to prevent her eyes from getting any more hurt. The dunes beneath her feet shifted slightly to worsen her balance. It didn’t help that the blistering heat was wearing her down. She couldn’t help but wonder where the mountains could be. According to the map, they should have been near. Making her way across the scorching sand, she stretched out her free arm and felt the air for the mountainside that should have been there. They had to be there somewhere.

“Ah!” She stepped into thin air and fell straight down a huge hole. Thump! She landed on something hard, something…smooth? Yashiri opened her eyes to find she’d landed on a stone edge just below the opening. She cautiously stood up and surveyed her surroundings. The walls were smoothed and pressed tightly, making the sand look stone, although a few scratches lined the circular walls here and there. Yashiri peered over the stone edge, staring down into a never-ending tunnel. She gulped. ‘Oh-no! It’s a Mangorda worm hole!’

She had never come across one before, but from the things she heard of them, she never wanted to. The huge worms were supposed to be ferocious, eating anything and everything that dared come across its territory. With its round open mouth lined with hundreds of long teeth in rows, it was a terrible threat to any unfortunate enough to come across one.

She had been hoping for shelter, but not of this sort. Yashiri turned back to the wall and dug her claws into the side. She tried to pull herself up, but the force only resulted in her claws tearing at the smooth sand. She couldn’t get out. Curling up alongside the wall, she quietly whimpered, hoping someone would find her…and soon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The group of kids ranged from six to sixteen; an easy group to teach, if they paid attention. Most of them were humans, although a few humanoid dragons had joined the group.

Darion glanced around, frowning. “I’m beginning to hate the indoors. Can’t we practice outside for once?”

Natalia glanced at him. “Where would we go? We have to stay close to the city, or all the parents will be down on us like hawks. The only place where we wouldn’t have to worry about strangers is the desert outside the city. Not the best place for a training session, don’t you think?”

“You could just put up one of your shields. Come on! It’d be fun!” He grinned to all the students present. “Would you like to get out of this place and go outside instead?”

The older teens didn’t seem to care, but every other kid jumped at the chance. The younger children bounced up and down excitedly. One even shouted their agreement. A few of the youngest chanted out ‘we get to go to the desert’ over and over again.

Darion only crossed his arms and turned his grin to his sister. “See that, Natalia? They want to go somewhere else, too.”

She shook her head. “Fine…fine. Everyone, grab a hand.” As soon as they were ready, she Jumped, and they found themselves in the desert. The moment of their arrival, Natalia placed a large shield around them, protecting everyone inside from the violent winds outside. The shield glowed a soft yellow and flashed just barely whenever a larger amount of sand struck it.

Outside, the storm was fiercer than before. Sand even started to pile up near the base of Natalia’s shield before the shield had a chance to flash and be rid of it, it was so bad.

Darion turned to the students. “Okay, I need someone who’s able to relax real easily.” He pointed to an older human girl, who looked around, seemingly bored. “You’ll do. Come here.” She walked up to Darion, shoulders slumped slightly, and faced him straight on. Darion placed one foot in front of the other and lifted his hand, palm upward. “Imitate me for a bit, okay?”
The girl shrugged and got into the same position as Darion. As Darion went through the motions, the girl followed.

They were simple enough. The hand that was raised was on the same side as the foot that had been placed forward. He started to let the hand come down but moved it in an inward half circle, ending with his palm facing the ground instead of the sky. He switched hands and feet and repeated the motion.

After a few times, he watched the girl as she continued the movements shown. She was doing well. He tapped her shoulder and motioned for her to step back to the group. “That’s good enough. Everyone, that little exercise we were just doing is all we’ll ever need to teach you, and it’s easy to learn, as you just saw. Want to see how it works?”

Each of the kids nodded. The younger kids shouted out, “Yes! Yes!!”

He turned to Natalia. “You heard them, sis!”

She nodded and took the same stance, readying herself. Darion sprang toward her. He threw punches, kicks, and he spun, trying to knock her down with his tail. However, she blocked each and every move he made with that simple defensive maneuver. He continued his attacks for a good five minutes and never landed a hit that she didn’t block.

The fighting did its trick, and they soon had each kid working on the simple movements.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yashiri opened her eyes. She could hear a distant sound. It sounded like…people talking? Out here in the desert in this storm? It was impossible! Was it? She lifted her large cat-like ear, hoping to hear more of the noise. Was it just the wind? Was it just her imagination? It probably—wait! It really was people talking! Someone was out there!

She got back to her feet, glancing down the hole once more with a wince. She only hoped the Mangorda worm didn’t come back. She looked around, thinking of a way to get their attention. If she tried to yell, the worm would probably hear. Looking to the wall, she unearthed a couple stones from the wall with her claws and gathered the free stones in her arm. She took a single stone and tossed it out the hole. It landed near the entrance with a thud.

She wasn’t sure whether whoever was out there saw that little rock, so she began to repeatedly throw more and more. She prayed; oh, how she prayed they would see the stones.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“No, you’re too ridged, Mabel. Like this. Smooth motions…relax. See? There you go! Kip, wait a sec! Not so hard! Pretend your arm is bouncing off a ball. It’s okay to put a little strength behind a block, but you don’t really have to. All you’re doing is keeping them from hitting you. You’re not hitting back.” Darion smiled. They were getting the hang of…

…Hello? What was that? Darion turned to Natalia and gave her a nod. She nodded back, and a tiny portion of the shield ebbed away. Darion shifted into wind and slipped through the small hole. Natalia closed it up once he was out to keep the storm from getting in and affecting the others.

In the form he was, it was hard to keep himself together, especially with the howling wind blowing against him so hard, but he managed. Was someone out there throwing rocks? Why? Who in their right mind would be out in the middle of a sandstorm? He chided himself for thinking like that. He was out in the middle of a sandstorm, with a bunch of kids, no less.

As he came to the hole, he grimaced at the sight of it. ‘There’re worms out here? Mangorda ones, no less. Better tell Natalia about that when I get back.’ He kept moving until he was facing the hole with his back to the wind. One of the rocks came up and hit him, but being made of wind as he was, the rock just met a stronger force of air and was blown the other way. As the stone headed back down toward the thrower, Darion shifted back to normal and shot out his hand, catching it.

He knelt down and motioned for the person to grab his free hand. He didn’t want the Mangorda worm heading up if he could help it, so very little sound would be a good idea. They’d talk once they got back behind the safety of Natalia’s shield.

The stinging sand wedged under some of his scales, making him wince in irritation. Darion shifted his wings larger so that they blocked the sand from getting through to him and returned his attention to whoever was down below.

Yashiri looked up to see the scaled hand extended toward her. She stretched out her paw-like hand, trying desperately to grab it. She barely made it, but she managed to take his hand in a tight hold.

Darion pulled hard, dropping the rock on the ground, so he could grab hold of this person with both hands. Once she was out, he whispered, “You okay?” He still wanted to be quiet; they were so close to that blasted hole.

Yashiri, still clutching the hand that saved her, softly replied, “Yes. I…I am.” Her voice chanced from relief to panic. “We better get out of here…I just know that Mangorda is going to come back.” Glancing down the hole again, her shoulders quivered.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Natalia watched the small scene going on with her brother, just able to make them out through the thick sand. Something wasn’t right. She turned back to all the kids. “Everyone, I think it’s time to head back. Grab hands again, and get ready to leave.”

Everyone one took hands, although some of the boys were reluctant when they had to hold the hand of another boy. When they were all set, she opened her black portal. When they all stepped through, the shield disappeared into thin air. They were instantly brought back to the building they were supposed to be practicing in.

“I’ll be right back. I need to get Darion. Keep working on the technique until we get back, okay?”

“Okay!” the younger children shouted out. The older teens merely shrugged or nodded.

Natalia smiled, promising there would be treats for them all when she got back. She left in a flash, jumping into her portal.

Back in the desert, she created a smaller shield and began to make her way toward her brother. Something still didn’t feel quite right.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Darion smiled, whispering back, “Yeah, probably a good idea.” He looked around to the direction the group was supposed to be in to find his sister’s lone figure coming toward them. She was still a little ways off.

But then, the world decided to crash down on them. It started with a slow rumble, one that grew louder, faster, and stronger. The Mangorda worm hole caved in on itself, and the winds whipped up into a violent frenzy, making it impossible to see more than a foot ahead.

Darion didn’t have to think too much to figure that everything was starting to center on the spot he and this stranger were standing on. He shook his head, frowning. “Sorry in advance for this!!” he shouted over the howling wind. His hand suddenly warped, wrapping around Yashiri enough to create something close to an airbag larger than her. Darion heaved the bag, Yashiri gripping at the inside walls in shock, as far ahead as he could muster. Just as he lost sight of her, the land beneath him shifted, swallowing him whole.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Natalia caught sight of something soaring through the air. Her first reaction was self-defense, but she recognized her brother’s handiwork. She created an opening in her shield and shape-shifted herself to act as a giant cushion for Darion’s toss to land on. She changed back to normal and tore open the airbag around Yashiri. “Are you okay?”

Yashiri quivered. “Y…y…yeah. I…think so.” She shook her head, as if trying to get the jitters out of her.

An odd movement in the area Darion was still in caught her attention. Someone was in there! She called out, “Dar! Dar, answer me!!!” A large gust of wind forced her to bring back the portion she’d released before. The amount of sand that was thrown against the shield made it so bright they couldn’t see past it.

A voice that didn’t belong to Darion spoke. It was deep, dark, and familiar. “All hail the Ageless One, a being who cannot be stopped. Your world is the dominion for the Ageless. Do not resist. This Child is but the warning of what is to come for those who interfere.”

Natalia’s eyes grew wide. He’d put an emphasis on the word ‘Child’. That meant he knew of their position, which meant… “No!! Darion!!!” she shouted, rushing forward. She grabbed Yashiri’s hand and pulled her along, keeping the two of them together.

“Foolish Child. You thought I meant the boy.”

Natalia gasped and stopped, but it was too late. In desperation, she grabbed a shard of black gemstone from beneath one of her scales and shoved it into Yashiri’s hands. In an instant, she vanished into thin air.

Her shield disappeared with her. However, once it did, the entire desert grew silent. The stormy winds calmed into a gentle breeze, whipping small clouds of sand along the dunes. The sun gleamed down intensely, shining the light over all it could.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yashiri shook her head and blinked to get the sand out of her eyes. What just happened? Where did that girl go? What was that voice from before? She coughed a few times from the dust and stood up brushing herself off. Looking towards the place the worm hole had been, Yashiri saw Darion lying a short distance away, his lower half buried beneath the sand. She gasped and rushed over to him.

When she got close, she got a better look at her savior. His body looked exactly like a human, but his face was distinctly dragon. He had ear holes where the ears should have been. A dark green patch of scales lay on his forehead, just above his nose. His muzzle stuck out a couple inches, and it rounded off at the end, appearing short and thick. On each side of his head where the cheek and chin merged, small horns, only an inch long, poked out. His wings were spread out limply. It appeared that his wings had a six foot wingspan, but the way they were bent, it looked like it would have been more than that. His tail poked out from the ground, revealing the long, tiny ridge of thorns on his tail. A black tattoo sat on his left arm. It intrigued Yashiri. It looked like a picture of a three-fingered hand with talons on the ends. A black circle enclosed the black claw.

Yashiri took Darion’s wrists and pulled. Ugh! This wasn’t going to work. She moved around to the sand that had piled atop his body. She quickly began to dig, using her claws to get past any stones that had ended up in the hole. The sun made the work even harder with its grueling heat. She panted hard. She just needed to do this. She didn’t care. He had helped her before, so she would help him.

An hour dragged by, and the boy was finally free from the sand covering him. She went back to his wrists and pulled hard, slowly succeeding in sliding him across the sand. Good. He was out of the hole, finally.

She wiped the sweat from her brow, wheezing in exhaustion. There was still the matter of shelter. There would be no way either of them would survive in this heat. She had to find something for them to rest in. Something.

Glancing to her left, she noticed the tall mountains she’d been after. In her concern for Darion, she hadn’t bothered to really notice them, but this meant shade. A large cave entrance caught her attention. It was a little ways away, but it was shade, perhaps even coolness. She groaned as she picked Darion’s wrists back up and lugged him along.

When they finally reached the cave, Yashiri laid Darion down carefully against a large stalagmite near the wall, a good ways away from the entrance. She sat down, finding it hard to catch her breath. That had been more work than she’d ever done before. Wow. It was hard to believe he was so heavy. He wasn’t even that big around. Although, he was just over six feet tall.

She glanced around panting. The cave was much cooler than outside by a fair amount. It was almost cold, which was soothing to Yashiri. Stalagmites and stalactites scattered throughout the cave, almost forming something of a maze down into the darkness. A couple pillars interrupted the patterns the stones created. Near the entrance, little bits of sand dusted the ground, though not enough to really cover the grey stone around them. A few bunches of small cacti outlined the entrance.

Say, wasn’t there supposed to be water in cacti? She forced herself to get back up and stumbled over to the plants. She fell to her knees and used her claws to tear out chunks from the plant’s hide. A little bit of water slipped out from the inside, running along the hard skin. Using her water controlling powers, she picked the water up into the air before it could touch the ground. Perfect.

Yashiri gathered all she could from the cacti, sucking it dry of its water, and she brought the bubbly orb to her lips. She drank greedily. Oh, it had been so long since she’d had water. What was it? Three days? As she drank, she could feel the delicious pure water slipping down her throat, cooling her whole body as it quenched her terrible thirst. Once it was gone, she laid herself down. Yashiri folded her arms under her head and closed her eyes slowly. She was tired. She needed rest. The cool cave served to quell her nerves and send her to a deep sleep.

The Ageless - Chapter one

Bethany Angelstar

Joined February 2009

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Chapter one of The Ageless, a book I have written with John Harbaugh. He is a great writer and a fantastic friend to boot. We both take great pride in this story, so let us know what you think of it!

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