When you woke up that morning, you noticed the castle noises below you were significantly livelier. Maids were scampering to keep the roof clean of as much snow as possible, and the numbers of soldiers increased for the case of an emergency. As you remembered from the night before, a handful of nobles from the neighboring castles had taken a quick voyage to witness the magnificent sight: a dragon being sacrificed.
The three days was up, and in that time, the winter only grew worse. A blizzard was now considered part of a normal day. Only the hardiest of animals could survive in such a brittle environment.
What disturbed you most of all wasn't knowing whether or not the sacrifice would actually work or not; it was whether or not you would have a job after all of this. Surely with there being only one dragon left in the world, it would have died of loneliness, and if there were no dragons, there wouldn't be a need for a dragonkeeper. Still, there was little you could do to prevent any catastrophes from happening. If the king, himself, wanted a dragon to be sacrificed, then he would have his way.
That morning would be your last as one of the dragon's keeper. The day started off normally: you came with the dragons' food as usual, swept their living space, and picked up their trays after they were done eating. Except this time, however, when you retreated back into the warmth of the inner castle, you heard the muffled voices of men shouting, chains jangling, and a low, sorrowful roar. You shut your eyes and pulled your hands over your ears hoping to drown out the emotions that were overwhelming you. Only the privileged were allowed to witness the dragon sighting so you wouldn't have to see the dragon die. You wondered which one it would be.
The morning after, you woke up with tears in your eyes. You didn't feel particularly sad, but something told you it was a necessary time to cry. Alas, you had to attend to your duties as dragonkeeper, and so you wiped your tears away and made your way to the kitchen to retrieve the dragons' breakfast. Your chest was noticeably lighter.
As expected, when you went up to the roof, there remained only one dragon tethered in chains: the sapphire one.
"I'm sorry," you apologized to it, though you didn't understand why.
"Don't be. There was little you could do about it."
You stopped. Where did that voice come from? You could have sworn whoever was speaking was right next to you, but the only living things in sight were you and the last dragon.
"Who's there?" you asked aloud hoping the person would reveal himself—you assumed it was a young man from the maturing tone in the voice.
No answer. The wind merely howled on, and the snow continued to fall. The dragon's sacrificed hadn't changed anything.
"I knew you were slow, but not this slow, human," a deep, velvety voice hissed.
You jumped back dropping the dragon's food all over the ground. When you looked straight ahead, you noticed the dragon snorted.
"It would have been better if you didn't drop the food," the voice spoke again. "I could have used that energy."
Baffled, you began to look around for anyone who might have been playing tricks on you like one of the maid's sons. When you didn't see anyone save for a soldier who was standing guard nearly a dragon's length away, you turned back to the sapphire dragon who's eyes were now completely open.
The dragon hissed.
"I can't believe he chose someone like you. You're clumsy, stupid, weak, and worst of all, a girl."
You frowned. This couldn't be. This just couldn't be. Was the dragon…?
"Are you talking to me?" you asked the dragon. It was strange suddenly knowing you could talk to the dragon when all of this time, neither of them had given you a response.
The dragon rolled his sapphire eyes back much like a human expressing sarcasm.
"Of course I'm talking to you. Do you see any other clumsy, stupid, and weak girls around here?"
You made a face. Never mind the dragon being able to talk, this dragon had quite the tongue.
"I'm terribly sorry, but you wouldn't expect me to know that a dragon could speak after keeping quiet for nearly fifty years, would you?" you threw back.
The dragon flicked its forked tongue out and glared at you with its unreadable eyes.
"It wasn't that we were keeping silent, it was because you weren't able to understand us until now," it explained.
You furrowed your eyebrows. "Us? But there's only one of you left."
"Oh no, there is definitely more than one of us."
"Wh-What?" you stammered. Your hands went straight to your chest. Something inside of you was pulsating with an unfamiliar warmth. The more you thought about it, the feeling was similar to those times when you would touch the pearl-scaled dragon on its snout. It couldn't be…
"Brother, if you can hear me, then I should tell you that you chose a poor vessel," the sapphire dragon suddenly piped up.
"Tell the dragon he's wrong, please," the other voice spoke.
You stepped back and looked around. You still couldn't trace the source of this voice.
"Y-You're…" you began and shook your head. "The other voice says you're wrong."
The dragon snorted. "That's because his spirit has grown soft thanks to you," it said. "But forget about him for a while. Human, I want you to unchain me."
You merely stared at the dragon like it was mad. "In case you haven't assessed the situation, your companion has been sacrificed, and now you can suddenly talk to me. Don't you think I at least deserve an explanation before doing something as irrational as that?"
"Is there something the matter over here?" a soldier suddenly asked walking over to you.
"I—The dragon was—" you stammered. "The dragon was talking just now. Didn't you hear it?"
The soldier only gave you a funny look as though you had gone funny in the head. "I think spending all that time with the dragons has finally gotten to you."
"No! It really talked!" you insisted.
"Right, and Dragonfall will end tomorrow," the soldier sarcastically added giving your shoulder a pat before going back to his post.
"Wh-What?" you babbled.
"Just do as my brother says," the other voice instructed. "It will makes things easier."
"I can't even see you, and you expect me to just listen to you?" you asked still looking pointlessly around for the other speaker. That soldier probably thought you had gone mad with the death of the other dragon.
"Stupid humans," the dragon growled. "Why do they always need an explanation before carrying out a duty?"
"I'm not going to free a dragon just because I can suddenly understand it," you said. "I will definitely lose my job—and my life in the process."
"There's nothing to fear. I promise you will continue to live so as long as my brother is with you."
"Who is talking?!" you burst out. Some of the soldiers gave you glances, but other than that, they remained where they were.
"You can't see me because I'm inside your heart," the voice said.
Immediately after hearing that, your hands when to your chest.
"My heart? But how…?"
"When I was sacrificed, my soul migrated to a vessel of my choice," the voice said. "Consider yourself honored for being chosen."
It was starting to make sense.
"You…You're the other dragon," you realized.
"It took you long enough," the sapphire dragon snapped. "And now that you know about that, you should know that if you don't hurry and comply with my orders, you will die here."
You were unconvinced. "What gives you the right to say that?"
"My brother is right, unfortunately," the other dragon spoke from inside your heart. "Since I am a dragon soul inside a human body, your heart will burn up if we don't separate before the time is up."
"Then why would you enter my body in the first place?" you asked.
"Because it will be easier to get to where we are going," the dragon's soul answered.
"I don't understand."
"You don't have to understand, you wench!" the dragon suddenly barked making you stumble on the icy stone. "I told you to unchain me, and I expect you to do that!"
"No," you huffed. "I don't take orders from a dragon, and I don't plan on going anywhere. I'm happy here, thank you very much."
Then, from inside of you, you heard what sounded like a sigh.
"I guess I'll have to act on my own for a while…"
To your surprise, after hearing the other dragon speak, your body began to freeze up like your skin was being stabbed with a thousand needles. Your mind was racing, but other than that, you couldn't control any part of your body. It was like you were being possessed.
The first thing you did was walk towards a soldier, the very one who had talked to you only a few minutes ago.
"Is there a problem, dragonkeeper?" he asked with a strange look.
Of course, your first impulse was to tell him that you didn't have control over your body anymore, but instead, your arms shot out and pushed the soldier down despite his great weight.
You tried to apologize, but your tongue sat like a lump of meat in your mouth, and your facial expressions remained completely relaxed like a dead person. Then, while the man was down, you grabbed ahold of the axe around his belt and began to drag it back towards the sapphire dragon.
No! No! No! you screamed in your head. The dragon was waiting for you. Behind you, the soldier had gotten to his feet and began shouting after you.
"Are you crazy?! It will destroy the castle!" he shouted.
"Your little civilization isn't worth my while," you heard the dragon hiss. By now, your arms had brought the axe behind your back and were about to swing, when someone grabbed onto your wrists.
"Don't do it!" the soldier shouted struggling to keep you restrained, but an inhumane strength inside of you had overpowered the full-grown man with your weak build. Once your body had broken free, you immediately brought the heavy weapon down on one of the dragon's chains sending the metal flying back as the dragon broke free from its cold prison.
"Now you've done it!" the soldier shouted and retreated back into the castle walls.
"Coward," the dragon snorted and continued to wriggle out of its chains. While this was happening, you suddenly collapsed to the ground in a fit of coughing and swimming lights dancing around your eyes.
"I'm sorry I had to do that, but it was the only way you would comply at this point."
Now, the dragon had broken completely free of the strong chains that had once bound it to the castle. Years of weathering and the cold had finally weakened the metal enough to brittle down. You could only gape at the horrific sight even as the arriving soldiers began to surround you and point their weapons at the free dragon.
Then, unexpectedly, the dragon looked over to you as the weapons began bouncing off its armor like pebbles.
"Get on my back, human!" it shouted.
"Never!" you yelled back.
"There's no future for you or anyone if you stay here. Please do as he says," the dragon's soul told you.
The dragon was right. No matter what, you would be executed for unintentionally freeing the only dragon left in the world. Even if you weren't executed once the dragon disappeared, there wouldn't be a need for a dragonkeeper. So, without another moment to lose, you charged through the soldiers and scrambled onto the dragon's back surprised at how easy it was to gain leverage.
"It's about time you did something right," the dragon huffed and made a sharp turn sending several of the soldiers falling on their back from being struck with his tail. "I highly suggest you hang on tight."
"Y-You're not really going to fly from here, are you?" you asked in a wavering voice. The castle was at least three stories high not counting the height of the stairs leading to where the dragons had been kept. If you fell, you would definitely break your neck, and that would be the end of it.
"What else do you suggest? We're going to be surrounded by humans who want nothing more than to kill us," the dragon replied and backed up.
Oh no, you thought. Oh no, oh no, oh—
"Noooo!" you screamed as you felt a powerful gust of wind blast past your face as the dragon's wings spread out on its sides and began to beat them violently against the blizzard gusts. All the while, you could hear the shrill whistling of arrows and spears flying towards you. It took everything you did to hang onto the dragon's neck and hope he remembered you were on his back.
"Keep still, human!" the dragon barked. Just then, an arrow nearly missed your ear causing you to yelp and climb higher onto the dragon's neck. Unfortunately, you must've underestimated how much it would affect the dragon's flight pattern since he swerved and began to wobble the more you moved.
"Idiot!" it screeched.
Then, a terrible sound cut through the air like paper or thin cloth being ripped to pieces. When you looked at your left side, you noticed that there was a tear in the film around the dragon's wing. Soon, the tear had grown larger and larger until it completely tore the section of the wing away.
"Your wing is ripped!" you shouted to the dragon. All of a sudden, you felt a jolt followed by a series of shaking as the dragon struggled to keep itself airborne.
"Brace yourself," the dragon growled as it managed to fly over the castle town unscathed. It continued its flight pattern for a few house-lengths down until it finally landed between a few groves of trees plowing some snow out of the way in the process. Aside for a few scratches from some snags, you were completely unharmed miraculously enough. However, since you had landed so close to the town, it wouldn't be long before soldiers would arrive on the scene.
"We have to get out of here," you heard the dragon say as he picked himself up and began to run straight for the shelter of the trees.
"Eek!" you squealed surprised at how mobile the dragon actually was. You could still see the torn film on its wing; it was mainly your fault it had happened in the first place.
Eventually, the trees faded into a series of rocks piled on top of each other.
"There should be a cave here somewhere," you heard the dragon murmur in a surprisingly soft voice. Then, it banked into a sharp turn and disappeared into a hollow opening in the stone wall, a cave.
Once you were deep inside the cave, the dragon lowered its neck and began to shake it as if telling you to get off. You obeyed without protest.
"They'll be here any minute now," the dragon hissed and urged you to follow it deeper into the cave. "We can't spare anymore time here, human. Follow me."
With that, you did your best to follow the dragon into the cave feeling wary of tripping on a rock. The dragon wouldn't have to worry about stumbling since it was so large, but you couldn't see a thing, and frankly, it frightened you.
Sure enough, you began to here voices shouting into the cave from its opening.
"They went in here, men!" a soldier barked sending vibrations bouncing on the walls of the cave. You wondered if the sounds the dragon was making echoed through the opening, too.
Speaking of the dragon, where did it go? You were sure you had been following it—
"Keep quiet!" a familiar voice hissed, but this one belonged to someone that couldn't have been anything other than a human. Before you could scream, he already had one hand covering your mouth and another wrapped around your neck so you couldn't move.
"There's no way something that big could have made it this far into the cave," you heard a soldier say as the team progressed further into the cave. You remained pinned against the shelter of the rocks taking care to not make a noise.
"Let's keep looking," another soldier suggested.
"Are you dense? The cave gets smaller the more we go here. There's no way the dragon could have squeezed past us without making some kind of noise."
"I'm sure it went this way, though."
"You thought wrong. Men, clear out!"
With that, the soldiers began retreating from the cave and marched back out to the snow. Finally you could breathe in relief, but there were still the questions of what really happened to the dragon and who the person behind you was.
"If you stayed still like I told you to, my wing wouldn't have been shot like that," a deep velvety voice growled.
You blinked trying to adjust your eyes to the darkness. The person had let you go so you were able to get a full view of what he looked like.
He was beyond handsome. He was beautiful. Even in the dark, you could tell his face could have belonged to that of an angel. His hair was a fair shade of light blonde, and his eyes had the same otherworldly gaze as they did as someone you had taken care of only until this morning, his irises sparkling with a dark blue light.
"Y-You're…" you stammered feeling your face grow hot despite the cold. "You're the dragon…"
The young man sneered ruining his angelic impression on you. "That is what I am, but if you're going to address me in the future, I'd prefer the title, Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames."
You frowned. Who in their right mind would want to call anyone by such a long name?
"Or you can call him Lukas," the voice inside of you said.
"Lukas," you repeated. "I'll call you Lukas."
Lukas—or rather, the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames—made a face.
"So he told you about that name," he commented. "Then I would assume he wouldn't mind if you called him Emil."
"Emil?" you repeated.
"As my brother mentioned, my title is too long," the other voice said. "You can just call me Emil."
"Lukas and Emil…" you practiced the names softly to yourself. Then you lifted your head up. "Do you want to know my name?"
"Your name is irrelevant to me, human," Lukas huffed and began to walk away. "Now hurry up. We have to get moving before time runs out."
You pouted and began to trail after the dragon. You couldn't understand why or how he was able to transform into a human or exactly why you needed to tag along, but if you were going to be following him for a long time, you weren't about to let him get the better of you.
"I'm going to tell you my name anyway," you called after him. "My name is ___________."
Lukas didn't say anything.
"It's nice to finally know your name, ___________," you heard Emil say.
At least someone around here is polite, you sarcastically thought as the two of you stepped out into the slurry of ice and sleet outside. That's when you noticed it was impossible for Lukas—despite resembling a human in every visible way—to travel with you.
"L-Lukas…" you began.
The dragon continued walking. "You are to address me by my dragon title, human," he said without bothering to look your way.
"B-But Lukas…" you pushed on trying your best to remain looking at the back of his head with a straight face.
Now the impatient dragon snapped his head around and threw you an icy glare.
"What is it, human? Is it so important that you couldn't wait until later to tell me?"
"Uh…" you hesitated. You couldn't do this anymore. You had to cover your eyes. "Lukas, you're naked."