A Dragon/Star finds a little Fire Spirit, for The Unofficial Fantasy Contest
Confusion of Pain
He was the only one of his kind in a society where no one would really accept him. His name was Argider and he was the product of a Dragon and a Star, a coupling that went against mortal and natural laws (then again, Love often never followed either of these sorts of laws) and thus the boy was an outcast even before his birth. He knew nothing of his parents and spent all he could remember of his life in a silver cage, not unlike an overlarge birdcage, woven together with magic mostly. The bars were silver colored, made of cat's breath, moonlight and dragon scales, an irony that was not lost on him. He was passed from person to person, falling into the possession of all sorts of creatures, griffins and chimera's, vampires and wavyrens, goblins, hobgoblins, giants and all sorts. He just passed form one to the next, like a particularly interesting trinket.
Argider was a beautiful creature, no one could dispute that. He may have been a product of the union between a Dragon and a Star but he more closely resembled an angle. He was tall and lean; a subtle sort of power hung all around him. And yet he seemed perfectly soft all over. His face was round but his bones stuck out. He was impossibly fair, but not in the manner of a vampire's sickly white complexion. He was pale in the manner of starlight, perfect and soft and glowing. His hair was so light it was more white then blond and his ears, lightly feathered, stuck up almost like cat ears from his head.
Two wings protruded from his shoulder blades. They were feathered white and were reminiscent of a star more so than a dragon, except for the fact that stars had no wings. Short claws extend from all of his fingers and toes, pale purple in color, shimmering and shining in the light. It was an effect replicated with his eyes. Yes, he was quite the beautiful creature.
He had a low key sort of fame among everyone who ever is and ever was. Everyone knew about him because he simply was the only one. Stories were made about him, most false, some plausible. Argider never paid much attention to the stories anyway, but there certainly were a lot of them.
Many seemed to think he was older then time itself, some sort of god like creature, imprisoned on this earth, unable to reach the stars once again. Argider, who had once been owned by a minor god of a forest, openly laughed at this theory. It was quite amusing. Then again, the little Dragon/Star child was just that... a child. And who was he to dispute the story. After all he could not remember his birth or his infancy. He might as well have been some sort of god. And, though he would admit it to no one (who would listen anyway) when he was feeling particularly broken and defeated he hoped it was true. Then he could make people hurt... hurt for what they had done to him.
The truth in that story seemed to be that no matter what sort of time passed, the child never seemed to age. He was caught in adolescence, a sort of young teenager age, and as far as anyone cold remember, he had been at that age forever. There's been much speculation over weather this lack of aging was due to some sort of magic or solely to Argider himself. The Dragon/Star didn't even know, but then again he wasn't terribly bothered. He didn't catalogue his life in years anyway; rather he counted his life in his ‘owners' who he thought of as his.... Absolutely his.
He had a lot of them, many bad, some good, no one willing to free him or able to. There was a lot of fear around his very existence and around what sort of revenge he would seek were he to be let out. But Argider was a rather sensible sort of boy and suspected he would do very little revenge seeking if he were to ever be let free. Chances were all those he would want to take revenge on would be long dead, and then where would he be. He wasn't a harsh or mean sort of creature in any respect at all and he thought little of vengeance but sometimes... sometimes someone needed to pay. Maybe not the one who caused the pain... but sometimes someone needed to hurt for suffering of someone else. He thought very little of what it would be like if he were set free anyway. Why get his hopes up.
He took pleasure in little things. Sometimes he was a sort of circus display, paraded to the masses for a price: food, coins, something, whatever. He didn't mind this existence because he rather liked the children who approached him. The little fairy children, tall and thin or small and fluttery, depending on their heritage, the brownie boys and girls, short and all hair and laughter, the fauns and the centaurs, smart and socially inept even in young age, the serpentine creatures, the spirits and the hybrids. Rather the socially acceptable hybrids, the chimera's and griffins, not like him. He was different. Nevertheless he liked the children best because they always seemed appropriately fascinated and they were mostly kind. He liked that. He wasn't so much of a exile with them.
He was not always a sort of display though. He had a captor once, a young vampire, the only creature he encountered who had the capability to be as old as him (for vampires were immortal except for the fact, of course, that they were not invincible) who fell in love with a wind spirit, a fluttery, irritable and yet terribly beautiful young man. It was something doomed from the start and Argider witnessed it all. To make a short story of a long one, the wind spirit (for wind spirits are not immortal) perished and the young vampire was left, empty and alone and sad. He was a good man, really he was, teaching Argider all he could, all he knew. The Dragon/Star learned of all manners of love and sex due to what the vampire taught him, in addition to other more useful but not as interesting things. Argider had a great fondness for him.
He was passed along to another captor, a very large sort of griffin, shortly after the death of the wind spirit. The young vampire was already rapidly becoming a shell and Argider didn't ask him what he was going to do now. He liked to think that the wind spirit and the young vampire somehow both made it to the same plane of existence. It seemed appropriate for two who loved each other like that. And there was the forbidden taboo of intermingling species. Argider, reminded a bit of his own existence, hoped for them, wished on shooting stars, and hoped.
That was a long time ago and nearly everyone from that time died long ago as well. The Dragon/Star's current captor was an aged, fat little hobgoblin who wasn't really a bad sort of fellow, just rather old and fairly lazy. Argider was fed often enough, kept happy, but mostly all the hobgoblin ever did was sleep, which was terribly boring. And upside was that the old man took to the traveling sort of life that Argider rather liked, and he was put on display yet again.
It was a lucky thing. One day found them in a rather large open meadow at a market. Argider loved the markets, there were all sorts of people and he liked observing the different creatures. And of course the children. A large group approached him, perhaps a dozen or so individuals. It was comprised mostly of brownies, including a young girl on a miniature unicorn who assumed the role of leader. There was a little tree spirit mixed in, tall and thick and made mostly of wood and leaves and moss. A few fauns with their goat hoofs and the little horns walked next to the brownie children.
And then there was another being, a fire spirit.
As was the nature of spirits, they had a vaguely humanoid appearance, though no one could ever mistake them for just an oddly shaped human. But of course humans (along with dwarfs and elves) had died off long ago, to the point where Argider himself could hardly remember. It was a terrible war that no one speaks about and no one likes to recall.
The fire spirit was taller then the brownies, but shorter then Argider himself, thin, with pale smooth skin that had a very faint tinge to it that may have been orange in color. His face was sharp and pointed with high cheekbones and almond shaped eyes that shone and sparkled and shifted colors from bright orange to muddy brown and all sorts of colors in-between. His ears were high on his head, small and point sharply at the tips. He had a mop of shocking bright orange hair on his head that was messy and tousled more then could be intentional, and it seemed to glow faintly.
He was a beautiful creature, small and ethereal. He was barefoot, clothed in brown cloth shorts tied with a length of rope. He seemed perfect and he reminded Argider vaguely of the wind spirit his vampire loved so much. He locked eyes with the fire spirit and in that moment he could understand why his vampire of long ago loved his wind spirit. It made perfect sense.
Of course it was the brownie girl on the miniature unicorn who approached him, all smile and giggles, offering an apple to the boy as his hobgoblin slept. Argider smile happily and suggested she throw it, which she did. It arced high into the air near his cage and, with a quick glance at the fire spirit, Argider reached out, his arm moving in little more then a blur and speared the apple on two of his talon like fingers. There was a small cheer from the group as he bit into the apple with a little laugh. Children were the best.
The show was over quickly through, as they all approached him, taking turn to stoke his feathers. Loud voices begged for the children's attention and they scampered off quickly. In a little panic, Argider reached out quickly for the fire spirit's arm, attempting to hold him, keep him there, for one more moment. He got a sharp gasp and the scrape of skin before the fire spirit ran away with the rest. There were small bits of blood on his claws and Argider suddenly felt emptier then he ever had been before.
He was fed as per usual and older creatures visited his cage, including a sphinx, all fur and beauty and seduction. Argider was well versed in the ways of the sphinx and turned his back and refused to speak with her. She left and he caught her sad and disappointed walk. Usually he was a friendly sort but now his mind was full of the fire child and so he mostly just sat and stared and people became disinterested and moved away.
Night fell but Argider didn't sleep. The hobgoblin did of course and the Dragon/Star could hear him snoring from inside the little caravan. He was left in the windy night and the darkness, not that he minded so much, especially when he heard a rustling in the darkness and saw a slight orange glow in the black.
Argider was at the bars of the cage in an instant, peering out into the night with vision far better then the average sort of being, better even then his vampire's night vision. He found the orange glow quickly and then found the rest of the boy, pretty and bright and amazing. Argider could feel something getting inside him, inside his very soul. He found the deep scratch marks on the boys arm.
"I'm sorry," he breathed, his voice like smoke, thick with regret. The boy shrugged though and didn't even look down at his arm. They stood like that for a moment, staring at each other, trying to penetrate some deep sort of level, neither knowing if they achieved or if the other had. Eventually the fire spirit spoke, his voice laced with all sorts of shyness and embarrassment, but still he spoke.
"You're quite... pretty." Argider saw the orange blush on his cheeks, the glow in the moonlight and he smiled happily, fangs poking out from under his lips.
"Thanks," he said, no knowing what else to say, awkward like the fire spirit, but terribly flattered as well. There was silence again and the fire sport spoke once more.
"Can I have a feather?"
Argider's eyes narrowed and he was thrown back into the world were people wanted something from him, poked at him with sharp sticks, stared at him unkindly. Perhaps the fire spirit caught this but he spoke again, rushed and hurried and apologetic.
"Your wings are pretty and... I just want... a remembrance," he said, his voice coming out in a rush, his eyes wide and Argider forgave him instantly and was ashamed at having doubted the boy's motives and sincerity. But then an idea came into his head and he grinned again.
"You have to give me something in return," he stated firmly, as though he was not the one in the cage.
"Anything," the boy said instantly, gratefully, desperately.
If the anything was indeed anything at all, Argider would have asked for the key to his cage. Not that it would have done much good... old magic. Someone had to buy the key, set him free, but in all the eons of his existence, no one would ever do that for him. They'd buy him, his cage, like he was a simply item, a commodity, not a breathing, living thing. Even his vampire, who treated him so well, like an intelligent creature, said that he would not let Argider go, for fear of the world and those in it. And Argider couldn't say his fears were unreasonable.
So he thought nothing of being let out. His mind was squarely with this boy and all the selfish little teenage desires coursing through him. "A kiss," he said. "I want a kiss."
For a moment, judging by the shocked look on the fire spirit's face, he thought the boy would refuse adamantly and leave without his feather. That would have hurt. As it was he stood there for a long moment in silence, perhaps trying to figure out if Argider was serious or not. But then he stepped foreword and placed a hand on the thin silver bar of the cage. Those bars were burning lines into Argider's face he was pressed so hard against them. There was a moment of hesitation before the fire spirit closed the distance between them.
They kissed around the bars of the cages, all warmth and starlight and fire. It was awkward at first and Argider didn't expect it to last but it did. It was just lips for a while, hesitant and chaste and then the fire spirit lifted his hand, threaded it through the bars and pressed it against Argider's cheek. Argider put a hand through the cage, between their bodies, pressed against the fire spirit's chest, feeling his heat beat. Perhaps he was assuring himself that this was real. The world turned on its head.
His skin was sharp and cool in contrast to the fire Argider could feel pouring from it, enveloping them both. He didn't want to breathe in, but he did and his nose was filled with the smell of fire and ash and it went straight to his head, making him dizzy, but the boy kept him grounded. His lips parted in a little gasp and with only a brief moment of hesitation, the fire spirit flicked his tongue out. Argider was hesitant again, careful and cautious. He didn't really expect this, but it felt so nice, the warmth and the fire and everything, so he reciprocated.
Despite the bars the two boys were pressed so close to one another. The Fire spirit was shorter but he tilted his head back and Argider accommodated for the other boy's height as best as he could and it wasn't entirely comfortable but it was incredible. His claws lightly grazed the fire spirit's back, and the fire boy's own fingers ran up and down the Dragon/Star's back, trailing little lines of flame and smoke.
In this one moment, for Argider, everything made sense. He suddenly understood just why his vampire loved his little wind spirit. He understood why everyone was afraid of letting him out of this cage, why he was imprisoned in the first place. It was like a key or something. He had spent his entire life searching for something without realized what he was looking for or even the fact that he was looking. And he found it in this one moment, in this kiss. It was fire and starlight and lips and tongue and pointed teeth, it was gentle and desperate and wanting and beautiful and suddenly it was as if Argider understood everything there was to understand. It was a rush, it was frightening and he was afraid to let go, so he didn't.
It ended far too quickly, far too slowly, far too soon, far too late. Argider found the fire spirit's orange eyes and as soon as their lips parted he felt that much colder. They stayed that way for a moment, still close, still holding on. And then Argider moved, wondering briefly if the fire spirit understood what Argider understood.
"Paytah," the boy said with a whispery voice that seemed almost... choked. "My name is Paytah." And that was Argider's answer. He smiled sadly, because he knew, like Paytah knew, that this was only for one moment and then it would be gone.
He then reached a clawed hand to his own wing and wrapped fingers and claws around a particularly long feather and stared into Paytah's eyes before yanking hard and fast. There was an incredible amount of pain that was all worth it when the fire spirit's eyes lit up as he handed the feather over. It was white and shimmering and Paytah's held it like a fragile treasure. There was silence and staring again and then Paytah stepped foreword and pressed a short kiss to Argider's lips.
"Argider," he said, even though the fire spirit already knew it. Everyone knew his name. But it was different to hear it and Paytah nodded before disappearing off into the dark. Argider's eyes followed the orange glow until it disappeared
After that things changed. He felt disappointed and empty and slightly desperate because he had seen what he wanted, the one thing he wanted. It wasn't quite like living in hell (he had been to hell before in the possession of a demon). Rather it was like living in purgatory. He passed from the hands of the hobgoblin to the hands of a rather odd centaur and then to the arms of a harpy who taunted him constantly. From the harpy he became the possession of Griffin who had a great love of gold and wealth. This was soon to be a very fortunate thing.
Mostly he was a trophy for the griffin, though word got out that he was the one to possession the Dragon/Star. Argider tended to sit in his cage and stay still and alone and silent. The Griffin lived in a rocky outcropping on a very tall mountain. It was a solitary existence, but there were visitors, sometimes, not that Argider cared.
Then one day he cared. Because he recognized the boy materializing on the stone ledge from fire and smoke and ash. His heart jumped and he pressed his face against the bars of the cage, watching.
He had grown over the years, not as quickly as some begins, but much faster that Argider himself aged. He was taller now, leaner and tough looking, still made of fire, still beautiful, still glowing, still Paytah. He didn't meat the Dragon/Star's eyes and walked confidently to the cave where the griffin was, hitching the pack on his back up higher. The Dragon/Star saw the bag wrapped in the fire spirit's hand, could here the rattle of coins from inside.
It was scary, what was happening to him, like there was someone electrocuting him, like there was fire in his veins. He wanted Paytah to come back out, he wanted to kiss the boy, he wanted, so terribly to get out of the cage. There was a long moment where nothing happened and Argider's heart beat like crazy and then two figured exited the cave, the griffin and Paytah. The griffin looked hard at Argider and then handed over a small key on the thin chain over to the fire spirit, who looked down at his feet, guilty and ashamed.
Argider's heart sunk... it may have broken.
"You bought me," he asked, out raged and angry, when Paytah approached his cage. The boy's eyes widened and he shook his head furiously.
"No," he said quickly, vehemently. "No." There was a pause. "I refused to buy you... I only bought your key."
He hated himself for doubting the boy, but still all his suspicions had not completely vanished. The boy held the little key up on a thin chain and looked at Argider, sad and serious. "I'm scared" he said and Argider was silent, anger and hate and the impending release pooling in his stomach, taking hold.
"I don't want you to hurt me," he said softly and Argider protested instantly, harshly. "I don't want you to hurt anyone" he said and Argider was silent again.
Because he did want to hurt someone, anyone, anything, everything. It was the prospect of being let out after a lifetime of imprisonment that was turning him into a monster and he knew... he knew he could kill anyone he wanted. The cage, the magic kept him in check, kept him under control, canceled out his own magic. He didn't know what his own magic was, but he could feel it now, close to the surface, ready to be released.
They stared at each other for a long moment, the only two people in the whole world and Argider felt his anger there, his hurt, his pain and it scared him but it didn't go away. "I love you," Paytah said, stepping closer and Argider nodded, unable to speak for a moment.
"Do you trust me?" And the boy shook his head, slowly, sadly and Argider understood.
"I love you too," he said, the strangeness of it not dawning on him, how he could love this boy, after all this time, from that one moment and that one kiss. Because it made sense, even if it didn't. Paytah backed up and walked to the entrance of the cage, holding the key in his hand. He fed it into the lock and Argider felt as if he would burst. The door opened and he was out in an instant, in a rush of feathers and scales and flame, transforming instantly, unaware of how he knew what to do, only that it was the most incredible feeling he'd ever experienced.
He was powerful, full of strength and magic, hatred and fear, pain and anguish. He was purple tinted, scaled and beautiful, pure white wings erupting form his dragon's back, lifting him higher and higher, to where he didn't know. He felt like he was racing against everything, time and life and everything. He didn't know to what end. Maybe Death, maybe that was it, maybe he was racing Death, to hell and back again. He was sure he would able to withstand the flames.
He thought of nothing and everything. He thought of stars and Death and punishment. He thought of pain and crying and children. And he thought of Paytah and love and this thought stopped him, brought him to a halt before he began to fall. He spiraled downwards and he felt the rush of racing again until he righted himself, desperate and quick, and then he returned.
He was crazed and disoriented existing as a Dragon, all teeth and claws, with an impressively long neck and a hide of shimmering purple scales. He was lean, powerful, small, not pit bellied like the dragons of long ago. He landed back of the ledge where Paytah still waited and he wondered how long he had been gone, flying, racing, falling. Maybe a minute, maybe an hour, maybe a day. It felt like a lifetime. Perhaps it was.
He shifted back with no thought, not even realizing he had done it until he stood there, next Paytah who glowed orange in the darkening sky and had fear in his eyes. He was still clothed, he didn't' know how that worked, and his claws were still present. He realized this when he reached out a hand, careful and nervous, to brush against Paytah's cheek. The boy shivered.
There was an explosion of fire and feathers and light and Argider wrapped his arms around Paytah quickly, brought their lips together in a harsh kiss. Teeth knocked together, claws ripped into flesh, there was the smell of burning flesh and blood and it was painful and brilliant. He felt alive and wonderful and complete. Their hearts were beating like crazy and there were tears, but Argider couldn't tell who they belonged to. They stopped kissing at one point but didn't let go
After they untangled themselves, all Argider's hatred and anger gone (it would flare up again, but for now he forgave the world and felt no need to make anyone suffer) Argider spotted the chain hanging around his fire spirit's neck.
It was thin, golden colored and on the end there was a long battered white feather.