There were two documented dragons left in the world. Both remained tethered in chains mounted on display in the cold atop the highest point in the castle in hopes that with their souls being born of fire, they would be able to drive away the progressing winter.
These were tough times in Eliatha.* A curse had ravaged the land once bathed in sunlight and warmth. The winds carried sleet that cut through the skin like knives, and the snow fell in a ruthless torrent of blankets painting everything with nothing but the empty color of death.
Nowadays, the dragons were nothing more than mere spectacles of times long forgotten, when colorful flames filled the night skies in a dazzling array of both power and beauty. You had been born in a time when the dragons had nearly vanished from the face of the world, in Dragonfall, the period that marked the start of the relentless winter.
Being the dragonkeeper had its ups and downs. Before getting the accidental fortunate of being appointed as the castle's most recent dragonkeeper, you had heard stories of the luxuries the job would bring: daily food, a roof over your head, decent pay, and best of all: a warm room all to yourself.
Now, after getting the privilege of experiencing the job firsthand, you realized, though your own naivety, that being the dragonkeeper wasn't as glamorous as it was rumored to be. Sure, you may have gotten your daily food, but like most of the townsfolk in the surrounding settlements, those rations consisted of cabbage soup, a cold piece of bread, and if you were lucky, a portion of the daily hunters' catch of rabbits. While you may have had a roof over your head, it wasn't the best place to reside in: light was scarce, the low grumbling of the dragons sputtered on throughout the night, the castle workers always clamored beneath you, and the icy wind whistled through the cracks nonstop. The pay didn't mean anything to you since you never had the time to leave the castle to spend your hard-worked earnings. Instead, you would sneak a few copper pieces to the castle servants as they had it worse than you in the castle cellars; plus they had the privilege to go outside to shop for supplies needed in the castle.
The only thing that remained true and appreciated of all the rumors was that while things had turned out worse than expected, the never-ending heat radiating from the dragons' bodies was always enough to make you drift off to sleep despite anything that had happened during the course of your day.
As the dragonkeeper, your duties consisted of feeding the dragons, cleaning up after their droppings, and shining their scales. Since it had been so long since anyone had seen a dragon—if anyone still lived to share their knowledge—any information about how to properly take care of them was lost along the way. Still, you did what you could in silence, watching as the dragons would do nothing but lay on the stone flooring with their eyes constantly closed. You had thought that being such large beasts, dragons would have been significantly ferocious and short-tempered. Of course, you had also heard that while beasts by nature, dragons were also highly intelligent. It remained a mystery as to how anyone would come up with such an assumption if the dragons didn't even speak in the first place.
The dragons you had been entrusted to were slightly different in personality and appearance: the smaller one with the pearly white scales and lavender eyes was generally calm but could become irritated quite easily when disturbed; the other with a dark blue armor of scales with sapphire-like eyes was even-tempered throughout your daily routines—you minded your own business, he minded his.
In time, however, the smaller one had developed an attachment towards you. You noticed that every time you would come up to the top of the castle to bring the dragons their daily meal, the pearl-coated one's head would tilt in your direction as if expecting you. Its outbursts had dramatically decreased, and it came to a point where you weren't afraid to pet its snout.
Soon, you had grown comfortable enough to where you would begin talking to the dragons. It didn't matter whether or not they could understand you or not. Sometimes, in a place where everyone was constantly busy, it just helped to have someone to listen to what you had to say.
"It's b-been getting colder and c-colder," you said to the dragons one day after delivering their meals through chattering teeth. "I don't know i-if you two can feel it, but it's worse than before."
The dragons remained silent and continued to eat their food without giving you so much as a glance.
You sighed, your breath condensing into the frostbitten air in an icy puff. "I w-wonder if you two really have the power to end this winter c-cu-curse…"
Still, the dragons did not say anything so you decided that it was best to retreat to your room before your ears froze off from the cold.
Once inside, you could hear the voices of men from the floor below you.
"This is becoming ridiculous. How long has it been? Fifty years? The storm hasn't died down. If anything, it's becoming worse by the day. Pretty soon, the forests are going to run out of things to eat. The last of our crops finally succumbed to the winter just a week ago. We're all going to starve if something isn't done."
You rubbed your hands together to keep the tips from freezing off. No wonder your rations had become smaller. It wasn't just the village that was running out of food; the castle was beginning to feel the impacts of the everlasting winter, too.
"What do you suggest we do?" you heard another voice ask.
After a pause, someone else spoke.
"We're running out of options. If the cold doesn't subside in three days' time, I want you to sacrifice one of the dragons on the altar."