Yes, it's been years. Years, since the original of this fic found a home and a fanbase on the internet. There have been many fans, many emails, many questions of 'when are you updating'. I've been battling depression, and anxiety, and even then, the fans have made their love of my 'Dragonheart' fics known. All I can say in the light of that is 'Thank you'. Thank you for putting up with the lack of updates and the fact that I did, for a while, practically fall off the face of the planet.
This rewrite is for all the fans that stuck around. The fic has changed a little. I don't write the same way I did back when I wrote the original copy of this story. I'm going to leave the original up here at FFnet, because this version is almost a different story. I suppose you can consider this rewrite as an "Extended Edition" of the first. There's new scenes, tweaked scenes, and rewritten scenes. Some people may find that they prefer the original draft of this fic, and that's okay. But I'm not the same person that I was when I authored the first copy of 'Destined Meetings'and, looking back, there are a lot of things that I wanted to change.
So, to everyone who stuck around. To every old fan and new fan, I present to you the 2012 version of 'Destined Meetings'. It seems rather fitting that this fic be posted now, at the beginning of the 'Year of the Dragon'.
Prologue - 984 A.D.
Dragon. A crude but accurate word he supposed. It sounded much better when spoken in the language of his brethren, but then again, the majority of humans weren't known for their willingness to learn complex languages. Nevermind translate them properly.
He sighed and shook his head slightly as he gazed down from the shadows at the woman that stood before him, her eyes bright with tears as she pleaded for her son's life. Aislinn, daughter of the Celts. Her people and his once lived in perfect harmony. It had been a wondrous time then. The Old Ways had been honored, dragons seen as protectors and teachers. As friends and confidents.
Nothing lasts forever. He sighed again, softly this time, so as not to be overheard. Aislinn had been his truest friend, oh so long ago. Why she had allowed herself to be married to a dragonslayer was beyond even his comprehension. Though knowing the ways of those butchers, she had probably been forced. That would certainly explain the sudden disappearance of her Celtic clan. Perhaps 'butchers' was an appropriate term for those killers, they didn't seem to hold any life dear except their own.
And now he was faced with this. A child already filled with the darkness of a killer. But he was still a child. Perhaps, with luck - a lot of luck - the young one could be pulled from the brink of disaster.
That would require a huge sacrifice on his part however. Was he truly willing to take such a leap of faith, just so that he could assure his place among his people when his time came?
He shifted his bulk slightly, wingtips scraping against the cave wall as he looked down into Aislinn eyes, unable to ignore the hope he saw there. Hope that he would save her son. Hope that through him, her son could be saved from so much more than just mere death. But even he wasn't foolish enough to do what she was asking without some sort of reassurance.
The look on the Knight's face was indescribable as he took his sword from him and held it over the boy, the light from the boiling hot mud pits in the main chamber of the cave casting a shadowed cross across the child's blood soaked tunic. Even now, the young man fought for life, but the dragon simply couldn't quell a feeling of distrust from nagging at him as the boy forced out a whispered oath, the strain of it stealing away what little strength remained to him.
He supposed that he shouldn't have been too surprised when the Knight ripped the sword out of his claw, making his talons scrape a long dark groove in the blade. True, this was the boy's protector. Perhaps the Knight had seen something he hadn't? Something good and pure that he simply hadn't had a chance to see?
"Peace, Knight." His rumbling voice echoed through the cave as he frowned down at the Knight. Almost without realizing it, he found himself already lifting up one of the scales protecting his flesh, a single talon slipping underneath to slice into the skin of his chest. Faith is all I have left. If my heart can purify this child, perhaps the age of Dragons can be prolonged. Or saved altogether. "Witness the wonders of an ancient glory."
It must have seemed so simple to the humans gathered before him. A cut, talon slicing deep into flesh, claw delicately scooping a glowing piece of his very life out of his body. The brilliant light of his half-heart outshone even the mud-pits, casting shadows across the cave walls. He ignored them all. Ignored the frightened part of him that took in the image of a slain dragon embroidered on the blanket that covered the youth. Ignored the pain in his chest. Ignored that little voice in the back of his mind that whispered that this was a terrible, terrible mistake...
The light from the half-heart slipped from between his talons, nestling into its new home in the young ones chest as words unconsciously rumbled out of him. Words of tradition. Words of an everlasting bond. Words of life: "Half my heart to make you whole. It's strength to purify your weakness. Live, and remember your Oath."
As the young one stirred back to life, gasping for breath, he gazed down at Aislinn once more. The look of everlasting gratitude and joy on her face helped chase away some of the sickening emptiness inside him. He smiled in return. But she couldn't see the expression. He was shrouded in darkness. So, he gave her a short nod, then gestured towards the cave entrance with his muzzle. Understanding flickered across her face, and she paused to kneel before him a final time before turning and beckoning the guards forward.
His attention wandered as the four guards moved to lift the makeshift litter that cradled the recovering boy, his gaze drawn to the Knight of the Old Code as the human approached.
What happened next shocked even him. The Knight actually stepped forward and knelt, bowing his head.
"I serve the father only for the sake of the son." The dragon didn't miss the barely veiled contempt in the man's voice as he spoke of the dead King, nor the emotional hitch in the Knight's breathing as the human continued. "All my hopes rest on him. Forgive a blind fool. Call when you've need of me. Ask what you will of me. My sword, my service, are yours."
He blinked, surprised and - dare he think it? - hopeful. Surely, to have a soul that would follow the teachings of the Old Code at the boy's side was a good omen for the future, was it not?
Perhaps this world wasn't as lost as most dragons believed it to be.
Unbidden, a grateful rumble rolled from his throat as he graced the Knight with a smile that remained hidden in the shadows. "Only remind him always of his vow, Knight of the Old Code," he murmured, his wings scraping against the cave walls as he turned away from the human, clinging to the small ember of hope that the man's oath had kindled within him.
Not even a day later, that hopeful ember had been squashed by the terrifying truth.
The coldness he sensed in the half heart that beat in the boy's chest sunk it's icy talons into his very soul, giving him shivers that had nothing to do with the cool autumn rains. Hatred and bitterness that had been dipped in the blood of innocent life curled around the piece of the heart he had sacrificed. The link that tied the halves of his heart felt wrong. So very, very wrong. Even the strength and purity of a dragon's heart could not hope to last against such darkness. A darkness that constantly tore at his own inner light like wolves tearing at a fresh kill.
Oh, what a fool he had been! What a stupid fool! He had ignored his instincts, ignored everything that he knew about the boy and his deceased sire. Had let hope blind him to the truth. Had let Aislinn's pleas and tears and her once-friendship nurture the foolish wish to prove himself worthy of joining his Kin.
Unbidden, a mournful keen ripped its way from his throat - the closest equivalent to tears that a dragon could come to. His vocalization of pain echoed around him, bouncing across the cave walls, swirling around and around, until he felt as if he was drowning in his own cries.
So caught up in his horror that he didn't even take notice of the Knight of the Old Code's return to his cave until the human's angered, broken, yells overwhelmed the echoes.
"DRAGON! I know you're in here!"
He grimaced and retreated deeper into the shadows, letting his inner lids shutter down to hide the shine of his eyes. A rippling sensation across his hide accompanied the deepest instinct to let his scales morph to mirror the textures of the cave walls, almost completely camouflaging his bulk.
The Knight stalked to the stone alter where the boy-king had lain only a day before. "You changed him dragon! I loved that boy and you changed him! Well, today I make a new vow!" The anger and bitter pain of the Knight's voice made the hidden dragon flinch anew. "No matter where you fly, I will find you! I will spend the rest of my life hunting you down!"
The dragon closed his eyes in grief and rose a taloned hand to his face, barely able to hold back another pained keen. Oh, Knight, there is nowhere I can fly to now. This darkness will haunt me every day for the rest of my life. There is nowhere I can go to escape this darkness. I bet everything I am, and lost. I've taken on every poison stirring in that brat's evil breast. Only the shadows are open to me now.
Stars Above... Another shudder wracked him, wings trembling as he clamped a claw over his mouth, muffling a despair-ridden cry. What have I done?