Plebians. There was no other word that Mordryd could consider adequate for the group of riders now standing alongside him. Oh, sure, they were all 'skilled'. But none of them were affiliated with or were related to anyone of importance. They didn't have the backing of powerful sponsors or crews, if they did, he would have recognized them.
Ignoring the his inferiors- why he had been expecting better for the hidden form of a beast, Mordryd didn't know- Mordryd recalled his father's list of characteristics to look for. The golden dragon would be young, but not a child. While there were no descriptions of his human form given, Word had been able to give Mordryd some symptoms of a pre-shift dragon of legend.
Mag sparks would slowly begin to flicker over the dragon's body, becoming more prominent and numerous in number as the constellation continued to its peak. Heightened senses may also be common, at least before the dragon is distracted by the pain of the shift. Which brings him to the final and possibly most obvious shift symptom. The pain of the constellation's forced shift.
Ordinarily, the golden dragon could shift from human to dragon and vice versa easy peasy. However, because of the nature of the constellation, the shift becomes slow and volatile. During the time before the human shifts to a dragon, jerks and tremors were not unheard of as the creature sought to disguise its pain.
Mordryd glanced around at his fellow riders, but none of them seemed to be in any pain. They seemed to be earnestly trying to learn from the summit on homeopathic dragon care. Beside him, the young man even appeared to be taking notes. Mordryd concluded that if he could write in such beautiful cursive, then he wasn't in any pain.
The woman to his other side was suspect for a few moments, jumping around on the tips of her toes, unable to keep still. At least, until Connor Penn asked for questions- after he returned from his errand, which seemed to at least have unnerved him. Once questions were allowed, the woman next to Mordryd burst into a flurry of questions, leading Mordryd to the conclusion that she wasn't the dragon of legend, just on something. Like about four cups of coffee.
For the next few minutes, Mordryd continued to observe his fellow summit attenders, to no avail. He would have continued observations, had he not somehow drawn the attention of Connor Penn.
Penn had been handing out grooming tools and stopped in front of Mordryd. Connor's eyes had narrowed as he recognized Mordryd Paynn, son of Word Paynn- whom he most certainly did not invite to the summit. Would not have invited to the summit even if he was dying.
Keeping his voice level, despite the sudden panic that Mordryd saw jolt through the ginger haired man's eyes, Connor Penn said, "You're Mordryd Paynn, Word Paynn's son."
Mordryd lifted one pale eyebrow. "So?"
The man couldn't evict him from the summit simply because of who his father was, not in front of all these elite racers.
He didn't have to.
Connor reached out the the hand not holding dragon brushes and pulled Mordryd's jacket to the side, revealing his crew's mark.
Connor Penn's face darkened at the sight and gave Mordryd a slight shove, saying, "My stable is off limits to down city crew members. I'll have to ask you to vacate the premises."
Mordryd, never one to allow someone else to get the better of him without a parting jab, straightened his jacket and sneered. "Fine," he spat.
Connor stared after him until he rounded a corner, out of sight. It seemed his old friend had been more watchful of the stars than he had been. Good thing Artha was already in the safe room.
Life was pain. From the tips of Artha's ears to the bottoms of his toes, he ached. It felt like his bones were trying to outgrow his skin. Like his nails and teeth were going to fall off.
No matter how he twisted or turned, writhing in pain, he couldn't alleviate the burning in his veins. Even his eyes hurt, burning whenever he opened them to see golden lightning arcing over his skin.
Where did Dad go?
Why did he go?
Artha's breath caught in his throat as another wave of electricity crisscrossed over his pale, sweaty skin. He wanted to scream, but found himself paralyzed. Every muscle in his body went taut as the energy went from his forehead to his toes.
When the wave passed, Artha went limp, exhausted by agony. He felt boneless in the wake of the pain. He was still hurting, bones aching and skin burning, but compared to what he just experienced, it was bliss. Artha whimpered, wishing his dad would come back.
It felt like his body was having a complete meltdown. Which, if he believed what his dad said, might be closer to the truth than not.
Artha didn't know what to believe. The pain reminded him it was real, but the tale his father had told him before leaving him in here seemed too surreal, like something one might see in a dream. Or one of the stories on Drakpad..
Artha somehow found the strength to roll over onto his stomach. Once there, he curled into a ball, shaking in pain. The blanket his dad had left him with had long been kicked away during Artha's bouts of pain.
Another wave of pain wracked Artha's body, heralding the appearance of more golden sparks. Artha stuffed one of his hands into his mouth, screaming. At least that one had not left him completely paralyzed...
Artha soon fell into a rhythm over the next few hours. During the lulls, when the pain dropped down to a bone deep throbbing, Artha curled into a ball, digging his nails into his knees. When the flashes came- what he decided to call the spasms brought on but the lightning waves- he stretched out as he convulsed. Then he would lie limply until he found the strength to curl up into a ball again.
It felt as though the agony would last an eternity as Artha became lost to the pain. His hair was matted with sweat and his vision blurred with tears.
It was only when Artha gripped his knees sometime later that he was broken from the pattern.
Artha hissed in pain when gripping his knees as he curled up resulted in needles being driven into his flesh, even through his pants. Pulling his hands away, Artha was horrified to see golden talons taking the place of his blunt fingernails. The talons were heavy on his slim hands, seeming too large for his slender fingers. Flexing his feet, Artha could feel something similar on his feet.
In his terror, he felt the fear mix with the pain and the result crept up and out of his throat as a sob. It seemed he really was turning into a dragon.
After the appearance of claws, the pain was worse, and getting more severe as time went on. After every major arc of gold energy, Artha was beginning to find more changes to his body. Already, there were ridges just under his skin, revealed to be scales when in agony, Artha had blindly dug his new claws into his legs, peeling the human skin back lack paper scraps to reveal a mix of black and gold scales.
Artha screamed again as a new burst of pain surged from head to toe. He ran out of breath waiting for it to stop, this flash persisting longer than the others. The pain also seemed more centered on his spine- it felt like his back was breaking.
When the gold light finally let Artha go, he was weak and dizzy, gasping in air as black swam around the sides of his sight. It was getting worse. Again, Artha wondered where his father was and why he wasn't here with him.
In the back of Artha's mind, he already had an idea, although his mind vehemently denied it. If Artha was really the dragon of legend, then he was not Connor's son. That was why Dad wasn't here, because he wasn't really Artha's dad, and now the ruse is up, then he must not care anymore...
Artha felt tears roll down his cheek that had nothing to do with his pain.
Weakly, Artha shook his head, arguing with his own self doubt. He knew his father loved him. There was going to be a very good reason that he wasn't here for this. There was.
Artha screamed, his hoarse throat finally giving out and closing, cutting off the agonized wail halfway through. A new wave of pain had come early and he was unprepared. One again, Artha found himself running out of air before it let him go, the pain looping up and down his spine, forcing it to bend in unnatural ways.
But, the wave didn't let him go. It kept going, even as darkness stole Artha's sight. However, as Artha blacked out, all he could feel was relief- the pain was finally fading.
AN: I'm going to go ahead and end it there. No one really reads this story, I mostly write it for my own amusement, and I do have other projects that need work. Plus, my word count for this story is 1,000 words per chapter and I've reached that.
I did enjoy putting this into words though. I'm finally making progress, albeit slowly, with this story. I can't wait to get to all the stuff I have planned.