When the past is born of the future, when the future is born in the past, there are no coincidences. There is only purpose.
~ High Priestess Nayli, 3033 A.D., planet Scotia Major
Planet Scotia Major
There were only three.
A reflection of luck. An abomination. He was one of them. The nameless, known as The One. And he could feel the love, the hate, the sorrow, and the joy of all the ages.
Sadness choked his heart, boiling his thoughts until he struggled against the fresh-smelling rushes the priestesses had spread for him beneath the stars.
Dogmatic loneliness always tried to smother him after nightfall. He clutched his chest, squeezing at the nidium scales until his paw went numb.
Alone, he was powerful. With his sisters, he was indestructible. But both siblings had gone before him, hurling themselves into the tall stones in hopes the Gods would take pity upon them. And both were lost.
His eyes brimmed with anguish, smearing the darkness of night. But he could still see his past. His sister's doleful eyes had mirrored the knowledge of the ages, reached out to him in The Knowing, comforted him when the pain was so excruciating he howled to the Gods with a plea for death.
But he was alone now. His purpose fading.
The dragon triad had vowed to rise above their fellow humanity, unite to hold the line, defend time and history because the vileness of human nature spurred their creation in a corrupted dream to change the past by altering the timeline. Yet, no matter how hard his sisters tried, they could never fly fast enough to escape humanity's emotions.
And, now, the triad was broken. With it, luck had withered.
The Brotherhood's High Grand Master had implored him to hold onto what was left of his courage for he was male and females were prone to weakness. But the Grand Master was wrong. No human born in true form could comprehend a dragon's thoughts. The changes to the human genetic code only magnified his dragon senses. What led to a smile for a lad was overwhelmingly rapturous to his kin. Therein lay the intolerable pain that drove his sisters' laments.
A male dragon couldn't control his own greeting with the echoing howls of all human emotion from every point in time haunting his overly-perceptive mind.
Yet, he hadn't relinquished his human grasp on hope. He clutched hope like a sparkling star, praying for the ability to activate the stone circle. To do something to make a difference. No other option would end his sorrow for those valiant men and women who had gone before him. For all of those servants of humanity lost to time.
Tears warmed his eyes, smearing his view of the glistening stars in the Dagda's battle-club constellation.
How could he remain here and relive the same agony night after night? So blessed many time guardians who had sacrificed their lives in studying the past and searching for Truth were lost in duty, imprisoned in time, marooned across the Universe on a planet he had never seen. Breaking his sacred oath of protecting the timeline meant little in the sacrifices of those lost ones to study the past. He could do something. Try to turn back the hands of time. Possibly prevent his creation. Relinquish his life's breath so he wouldn't experience the anguish of lost time guardians. He blinked away the smeared heavens and focused on the twelve stars forming the Dagda's club.
The scepter of the Gaelic father. The father could damn him. Or save him. "I pray to you, Father, for strength and forgiveness. If you cannot assist in my passage through time and space, I only beg for a quick death. My time stagnates here. Surely you can feel this as your arms stretch out the night's black cloak to embrace all your sons and daughters." True purpose never felt so near. Shifting his paw against the cool rushes, he stared down through the shadows at the five curled claws upon his forepaw.
A day never passed when he hadn't imagined what emotions he would feel if he saw the fingers of a man, a weaker creature who rarely made a decision without hurting his kindred with a hard fist. Now planning to do the impossible, was he any different? Was his plan so selfish? His wings, his claws, his impenetrable fireproof scales, his unnatural ability to share the fire in his heart with a snort, all his remarkably horrific features would be used to save the countless souls of time-traveling Gaels. For naught more than a selfish whim. No. Not selfish. Selfless. An act bards would praise for all eternity. Honor swelled inside his heart.
Hope played a wicked game with those who fell to its ploy. Yet, he was one now, and the shackles of loneliness were too hard for an immortal creature to wear. Perhaps he already donned a cloak like the Dagda. No. A dragon's mantle demanded justice. More so, personal sacrifice. The time had come for him to judge himself instead of mundane human bickerings.
His gaze trailed along the moonlight-carved walls of the Ring-Master Keep, over the blackened pointed treetops on the horizon, to the clear night sky.
Were the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirit listening? "By the God-dess- Spirit, I shall seek out those lost in time and see them to safety. Not one Brother or Sister shall be lost on my watch as long as this dragon draws breath."
The nagging whisper of gooseflesh tickled beneath his scales.
Portentous emotion. How dare fear rear its shameless face? He pounded a fist against the hard surface of planet Scotia Major.
A dull pain flowed through his paw.
Pain for Truth. Truth dwelled in his future. Pushing up into the gentle night breeze, he drew in a deep cool breath of crisp air.
Now, he must go, before the priestesses awoke with the dawn. How could a dragon attempt the impossible with brimful Druid-blue eyes beseeching he cling to their dreary hope yet another day? He strode between the low circular wooden windbreak of a fence sheltering his paddock's bedding.
Rushes whispered beneath his paws.
Hopefully, the grass knew of his purpose and bade him well. He cleared the gateway, hopped into a trot, and grabbed still air with his wings.
Cool wind kissed his taut skin with lover's hands.
Hands he had only ever dreamed of. The stone circle would propel him back in time or end the unending madness of a celibate creature's suffering. He pulled himself toward the Gods' stars.
The Druids said constellations were different on planet Earth. No Dagda or Cerridwyn watched from the heavens. Most a pity. He would miss the only father he knew. And Cerridwyn's constant reminder to welcome experience. He looked back to a Scotia Major's dappled-but- moonlit surface.
The stone circle had shrunken to wee bits of rock glowing faintly in the moonlight like a small mouth.
The Stones of Destiny. Rather, the omnipontent jaws of Fate. But how would he activate the time machine? His sisters had flown so fast they created a whirlwind. Was the force enough to free him of this time? Or, at least, his immortal breath? He thrashed the wind with his larger male wings, raced through the thick air in an infinity pattern, and circled in upon himself in an eternal knot of damnation.
What would unwind the quarrels of his Gaels with his absence? Perhaps he was wrong. Or frightened. Only legends could save him now. "Fafnir, Grendel, Ddraig Goch, Wyvern, Draco, Amphisbaena, Worm. Brothers and Sisters of legend, see me strong. See me fast. See me through the Stones of Destiny." He lunged toward the circle.
Air whistled across his cheekbones. The stony ring glowed yellow, then so white the ground blackened in its wake.
A portal. A circle of promise. His doorway to solace regardless of the destination. Anything to squelch his torment. Was this all a dream? Would the Gods cooperate? He thrust his paws out to touch the star-like stones. To seize hope.
Blackness engulfed him. Thunder droned like the honking skirl of an army of bagpipes stuck on one squawking note. He was motionless, floating yet not floating, hung aloft in a strange dark place. Was this the place without time?
The ground knocked life's breath from his lips.
Such a timeless place of silent darkness had to be one of death. A vault. His tomb. At last, the Happy Otherworld. Where were the joys promised so often in old bards' tales? Would his sisters' spirits welcome his arrival? Wherever he was. But his heart drummed with worthless life. How could he be dead?
"Arthur?" a wee voice squeaked.
Did someone speak to him? Reaching up to rub his eyes open, his paws bumped his hard head. "Who goes there in the darkness?" Hopefully, his assassin. Thank the Universe for the God's jest.
"`Tis I, the Singer of Transfiguration. Welcome judge. Open your eyes and face your mentor. You may call me Wee Pix."
Was this still the sixty-first century? They could keep their bloody dragon's position of status. He was finished serving as a Gaelic judge. Without his sisters, there was no one with which to discuss issues. He clamped his eyelids so tightly lights danced in the dark void of his mind. But understanding was his only option with his ultra-human intelligence. "What's a singer, Wee Pix?"
"Forgive me," the darkness replied. "I forget dragons do not study fairies the way your time-traveling brethren do. I am an Irish sprite of home and hearth. But not the usual Geancanach. I was fashioned from light to aid you on your journey. Open your eyes, Brother, for I have long awaited your arrival since your Sisters came to me."
The other dragons were here? His eyes popped open.
The most elegant being of purest red light floated near his head. Who was this exquisite creature of crystalline beams illuminating the night?
Wee Pix's limbs radiated like points of brilliant stars. Her light sputtered, her rays arcing, curling like wings caught in an updraft. Wee Pix was a glistening red sword. Not fashioned from blood. Perhaps passion. Light she had claimed to be. And Light was pure spirit to time guardians. Among all her luminescence smiled the fairest facial features where both her rays crossed at her center.
She blinked eerie green eyes. Those eyes glowed with godly essence. "Welcome, Judge." Her wee lips moved with her words. "The promise has been fulfilled. I now have purpose."
Curse the fey's riddles. Time guardians chanted that singular Truth. "Why?"
Wee Pix's arm-like limb curled into her heart, then unfolded to extend a shining shaft of yellow light.
She stabbed the golden beam toward the constellations. "Rise, Judge. Your fate has been decided."
Fate? At last, blessed death. Better to meet one's demise with shoulders thrown back. He pushed up from the cool grass and tried to straighten his wings with a flutter.
They didn't budge.
Had his magnificent wings broken upon impact? Flightlessness was a far worse sentence than a dragon's chains of emotion. He reached around to feel for any damage and hit his back.
"Your wish is granted, Arthur. Welcome to Earth." Wee Pix giggled.
"Arthur?" Who? "I am the nameless. I am The One." Bloody fairy jest. He spun to face her.
Her limbs stretched, shining with greater radiance than any heavenly body.
"You are the Supreme Justice." She bowed her head, settling down upon the Earth's surface, casting the blackened grass blades with a reddish hue. "I am your humble servant."
Even the dirk-like grass bowed before him.
More swords. Odd humbling swords. And she had said mentor. Wasn't this death? She toyed with him. Someone would explain.
"Arthur? Supreme Justice? My wish? Am I dead, Wee Pix?"
With the serenity of all the ages, she peered up into his eyes and smiled. "You are human, Arthur."
He slapped his arms, feeling for the nidium scales, hitting the softness of mortal bodies. Skin. Impossible. He stared at his paws. The sprite's red light outlined ten long fingers.
"Welcome, Supreme Justice. `Tis time for you to take your place among the people."
His gaze slid to her surreal eyes.
"Tell me straight, Wee Pix. I am to live as a human?"
"For one moon." She humbly bowed her head, then locked her green gaze upon his. "You still think with your superior intelligence and heightened senses, but I shall grant you a special boon. Kneel before me, Arthur."
Argue with becoming human? Never. Buckling his knees, he sank, slipping his fingers into the soft vegetation.
She raised the beam of light higher over her shoulder like one sword wielding another. In the manner of the accolade ritual he had witnessed so often among the Brothers, she tapped his shoulder with the shaft of yellow light.
"With He of the Fiery Sword, I anoint you with The Knowing."
Curse the Gods! More knowing was absolutely intolerable. But give up his chance to be human? What was life without suffering? The High Grand Master chanted that truth often.
"You shall sense those lost in time. Be drawn to their helplessness." She tapped his other shoulder. "For the length of one moon, Arthur, you shall exist as a human before turning back into your true form. Then you become the hunted."
Dragons don't kill.
~HE OF THE FIERY SWORD by Skhye Moncrief available:
in paperback online at www.amazon.com and www.bn.com
in e-format at www.thewildrosepress.com
in kindle format at www.amazon.com