The river binds us at the east, the heaven-high mountains at the west. Traveling north is no option, frigid forever-snow a barrier. As for the south… that is our only gate.
A cage, perhaps, but more so a protection from the outside world. We have to be.
The world carries on, change in the water, in the winds and quaking through the earth. How the wardens of this world have corrupted the soils, the very life force that gives them food and drink, their home… their Mother.
The gods should have put us as wardens, as keepers of this world. How Fate would have been different. Too different! Alas, they chose the lesser beings.
Perhaps the gods feared us and our own power, knowing our wills could parallel theirs, challenge their rule… overthrow them in their lofty seats.
But now the gods pay, their works of love and labor now scarred and burnt, polluted and wasted.
We cannot change the consequences of the humans' actions. But we have something the humans don't.
We age not the same pace as they. We outlive them for centuries. We walked this earth when our distance cousins still roamed, the ones humans named Thunder Lizards.
Our plan is thus: we will wait out the human race until they are no more. Already we see their resources dwindling, their numbers far too great to sustain continuity of life. Their end is close. The Mayans knew this.
Our Vale is hidden well by the mists, and an unexplainable primal fear that keeps the humans at the foothills, never wanting nor daring to venture up to us. What their mind cannot understand, their instincts tingle, warning them to keep away.
The Far Eastern peoples drew us as ferocious monsters, black eye-lined demons with wicked-curved claws. The Western peoples drew us as graceful slithering whips, a beauty with feral intentions. Humans. They exaggerate too much, perhaps because of their weak senses and how the moon tricks their eyes.
We remain hidden, but our time is soon. Our race will rule this world as it did eons ago, before the Meteor that nearly killed us all. How that sliver of a chance grew to a wide vision, our scaled wings beating in the clear night sky, fearing no beast, no element… until Man came.
Man is our greatest enemy for unlike the Meteor, a natural tragedy, Man's fear combined with greed drove them to sharpen their weapons and annihilate what strong numbers we gained. From proud rulers of the sky to driven into the north and mountains, our vengeance grows with each passing year.
My people are secret… smoke… ice… stars… we will take what Man has stolen from us. We battle them not in our natural form, but in a more covert way.
We Turn. We shift into Man's form, move among them, dress like them, even eat like them. They don't know, their wits dulled by their false impression of security, with all their technology and gas-guzzling automobiles.
Every two years our people leave the cities of Man and travel up to the Vale, the trail only passable by one route: flight.
At the edge of the iced River Amur, I stand among my people, our sights up and above, ignoring the biting winter. Soon we will not feel the cold. In the dark eyes flare, the first signal of the Turn. We spread out, needing the space for the next transformations to come.
Choruses of broken glass upon sharp nails sing in the silent night, accompanied by low swishes and whistling winds. All at once misty smokes emerge in angry flurries, subdued snarls kept at check but an undercurrent of fury present.
The rest are in full glory, in true form. But they sense an Other: Man. Their incensed gazes burn through my skin: I have not Turned.
This is my first time. I have been trained what to think and how to focus, but now, at the brink of finally having the chance to Turn… I cannot.
They push off from the river bank, their mighty haunches bunched, vaulting them into the night air. I'm left in the snow.
This cannot be! I scream in my mind. I have to Turn!
With a concentration that could burn a hole through wood, I focus on the image of scales… wings… black curved talons… fierce jaws. I imagine powerful beats behind my back as each one bounds me higher into an unknown heaven. I feel the tensions of the muscles in my back as my wings contract… relax… contract, relax, faster, faster!
I open my eyes, the black river before me. Upon the surface I see two live coals staring back, and a pair of lips lined with glare. I lift my arms and see formations, my smooth skin breaking up and clumping together to form armor… scales! I feel myself grow bigger, but not heavier. Longer, sleeker, my form made to swim in air.
Finally the flare at the tip of my elongating snout, wispy curls of smoke escaping my cage-like jaws. If I could smile, I would. But one sensation grips me too strong; I have no other will but to obey:
I beat at the wind, my wings expanding and pushing me higher up, to thinner atmospheres where instincts take over reason. Where my mind can never truly comprehend but my heart knows all too well.
In the skies.
In the heavens.
To the Vale.
We belong in the sky, our winged race of ancient dynasties. Forever a symbol of power, grace, fury...
This is who we are.
We are the Drakón.