Perhaps when you had been the dragons' keeper, it wasn't that you couldn't understand them before becoming Emil's vessel; it might have been that they had never bothered to talk at all. If that assumption couldn't have been proven true in the past, it was certainly starting to become valid at the given moment.
After stealing some clothes for Lukas, the two of you hadn't exchanged a single word since. You didn't even bother asking the dragon to slow down because you had a feeling he would only sneer and throw back some insolent remark about how weak you were as a human.
During the short time you had travelled with Lukas—and it hadn't even been a full day yet—you were constantly wondering how you were going to survive until you actually reached Eldur Mountain. Back at the castle, you and the dragons had been provided with food and shelter. Out here in the lawless wilderness, the blizzard raged on fiercer than you had ever seen. At the castle, you had the fortune of sleeping right underneath the dragons' resting place so their heat would radiate from their scales, down past the stone bricks, and into your body. As a human, you couldn't detect any warmth emitting off Lukas' body—literally and figuratively. Lukas had just as cold of a personality as he did as a human as well as a dragon, and in the times you had managed to catch up with him—only to fall behind moments later—he didn't feel the slightest bit as warm as he did at the castle.
I don't understand your brother, you thought to Emil. He's arrogant, he's heartless, and yet above all else, he's so…so attractive. It was irritating how no matter how far you buried your inner thoughts, Emil could hear them as clear as a bell.
"As I've mentioned before, we dragons are prideful beings, __________," Emil reminded you. "I have a suggestion: why don't you compliment him on how attractive he is? It might break away some of the tension between you two."
And feed his ego? No, thank you, you replied through your thoughts.
I'm more curious about how we're going to find shelter before nightfall, you continued. I've heard there are nocturnal creatures that come out at night—and those consist of things far more terrifying than wolves and bears.
"Right you are, ___________," Emil responded. "There are nightcrawlers and bloodsnares where we're headed. It would have been convenient to bypass such creatures if my brother's wing wasn't damaged."
Don't remind me, you sighed. You had never heard of either of those things Emil mentioned, but from the mere sound of those names, you didn't want to be running into any of them during your voyage.
At this point, you decided to break away from your telepathic conversation with Emil and see how far ahead Lukas had gotten.
Damn it all, he was nearly thirty meters away. How had he gotten so far ahead? Were you really that distracted or was his energy really that boundless? He may have had a human body to avoid any attention from other humans that might have been in the area but his feats were unmatchable.
Cursing softly to yourself, you began to quicken your pace by picking up your snow boots and doing the best you could to stay on the narrow path Lukas had plowed for you. It would have been easier to ask him to wait for you, but you had your pride, too, and you weren't about to let the dragon get the better of it.
By the time you were within normal speaking distance of Lukas, the sky had turned from a bright white to a darkening gray. The sun was going down, and if the two of you didn't find shelter soon, you were sure to freeze to death.
"Lukas, do you have an idea of how we're going to find shelter before dark?" you asked noticing how labored your breathing sounded. It was the first time you had actually spoken for a while so your audible voice nearly sounded unfamiliar.
"We simply stop when I say it's time to stop," Lukas answered in a monotonous voice, his pace continuing at his unusually alarming speed.
You frowned. How long can dragons go on without eating? you wondered.
"With a proper meal, we can go on for at least ten days at this pace," Emil answered to your thought. "I would assume a human would last a little less?"
In a suitable environment, we can last a long time, you pointed out, but in these conditions, travelling like this in a blizzard, I really can't answer for myself.
"Then perhaps it's time to call the day's voyage off," Emil suggested. "I don't want the journey to put any more strain on your heart than is needed. There is also my life to consider, too, after all."
You rolled your eyes. They were getting dry from the cold and lack of water in your system. Emil was right. You had to stop.
"Lukas!" you called out to the dragon who had made a fair amount of distance between the two of you.
The dragon looked back and stopped for you to catch up. When you reached his side, you were nearly out of breath like you had done an errand for every single person in the castle. Not only that, but your chest felt like it was going to explode. Being the vessel of a dragon's soul was harder than you had expected—though, there weren't many set expectations to begin with since it was the first time you had heard of dragons' souls being able to use humans as vessels.
"It's Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames," the dragon corrected you looking down at you with a cold, contemptuous glare his sapphire-blue eyes. "Don't tell me you're exhausted already."
You swallowed a lump in your throat—along with your pride.
"I need to stop for the day. Carrying Emil's soul has become too much for me, and it's not even normal for any human being to travel so much and so fast." You paused to take a breath. "It's getting dark, too. We should be focusing on finding shelter, not getting a few steps ahead. There's always tomorrow."
Lukas was unmoved. "Need I remind you that both you and my brother have a time limit?" he pointed out.
You made a face. "I haven't forgotten, but in all seriousness, I can't go any further."
For a moment, you were afraid Lukas was just going to keep on walking on like the arrogant dragon that he was. With his expressionless face, it was impossible to tell what he was thinking.
Then, after a few seconds, he turned around and continued to walk on.
I knew it! you shouted in your head huffing after the dragon. I just knew he'd be so inconsiderate! You were expecting Emil to say something in his brother's defense, but his soul remained silent as you struggled to keep up with Lukas.
Soon, the light had just about disappeared from the storm cloud riddled sky leaving visibility in Dragonfall close to zero. You had absolutely no sense of direction in the cold darkness save for the narrow path Lukas' human body had plowed through the snow. Your hair was stickled with ice crystals, and your nose and ears stung with a fierce cold; being made out of cartilage, those were the last things your body needed to conserve, and they could have fallen off from frostbite in any given moment. In such conditions, sniffling was a common thing among the residents back at the castle, but your body was so dehydrated that even your fit of sniffling had ceased.
Emil, I know you said Lukas wasn't going to let us die, but don't you think he's really pushing that promise? you asked the dragon's soul hoping to stay conscious through conversation.
"I trust my brother completely, and I know that he wouldn't be pushing your limits like this if he knew you couldn't handle these conditions."
You rubbed your hands together and bent down to stay along the path and away from the winds as much as possible. With all of the snow stinging at your skin, it was hard to keep your eyes open for very long before reflexively blinking. It didn't take a genius to realize that your steps were growing increasingly slower; your legs slogged through the snow at a snail's pace, and your body was nothing more than a small and exposed ball of cloth covering bones and flesh and a dragon's soul.
Emil, I think this is it.
"Don't say that, __________. I chose you as my vessel for a reason. You're better than this."
Just then, a large shadowy figure began to emerge from the snowstorm causing you to freeze up in place.
What is that? you wondered, your thoughts racing in your head. A wolf? A nightcrawler? A bloodsnare?
When the figure came into view, however, you saw that it was giving off a faint blue light and radiating an inviting warmth from its body.
"Lukas!" you breathed. Never before had you been so grateful to see him. You thought he had left you behind to fend for yourself since you lost track of his progress many minutes ago.
The dragon huffed. "I'd prefer it if you addressed me by my dragon title. You really are something else, human. In the time you were struggling, I already found food and shelter."
You blinked in disbelief. "Was I really that slow?"
"It sure looks that way to me," Lukas replied and swept the snow on the ground in front of you so you wouldn't have to struggle after him.
"I told you he wouldn't jeopardize your life," you heard Emil say.
After walking for a few more minutes, Lukas had led you to a small dent-like hollow shape in a tall wall of stone. It was much too small to be considered a cave, but its curved shape proved to be an ideal shelter against the biting winds. There was already a small fire alight at the center of the clearing, and two skinned rabbits were roasting on a crudely fashioned spit. Once you arrived at the base of the fire, Lukas' majestic dragon body started to glow again, and soon, he had reverted to his human form fully clothed and all.
"I've already eaten," Lukas said curling up into a ball against the stone barrier. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of the roasting meat on the sticks. "If there's one thing I can't understand, it's how humans aren't able to digest raw flesh."
Ignoring his remark, you sat yourself down and took one of the rabbits off the spit. After blowing on the charred meat, you began to peel away the blackened areas and bite into the juicy muscle beneath.
Between bites, you decided to break the silence by trying to talk to Lukas now that your journey had ended for the day.
"Have dragons always been able to transform into humans in the past?" you asked.
Lukas shrugged. "As far as I know, we've always been able to do it, but dragons are only able to take the form of the first human they've bonded with in both heart and soul."
You frowned. "So at some point, you've done the same thing Emil has done?"
"Yes," Lukas nodded. "The vessel I chose was a prince praised for his beauty and powerful ability to govern." He sighed. "I thought I had chosen well, but his pride and vanity still have an impression on me. I also inherited the human name, 'Lukas' as a result."
So that's where his cocky attitude and name come from, you thought.
"And what of Emil?" you then asked after swallowing a mouthful of rabbit meat. "Does he already have a human form?"
Lukas narrowed his eyes. "Fortunately he has," he answered. "It would be a shame if my brother had to live on knowing he would transform into a girl."
I wonder what he looks like… you thought.
"I would say I chose a decent human for my first vessel," Emil replied making you jump.
That's right, you can hear my thoughts, you miserably thought and continued eating.
After finishing your meal, your stomach was full of rabbit meat, and your eyes began to droop with the coming of sleep. It had been a long day, and from what Lukas had told you, the journey would be even harder from here on out.
When he saw you were done eating, Lukas walked to the fire and stamped it out extinguishing all visible light and heat for kilometers all around. Immediately after the fire went out, you began to shiver. It wasn't just the loss of heat that made your teeth chatter, it was also the lack of the comfort the light had given you. Of course, Lukas could justify that he had stamped the fire out as to avoid drawing attention to the two of you.
To avoid the winds as much as possible, you pushed yourself against the wall and tucked your legs and arms as close as you could to your body to maximize the heat circulating in your body. Why, oh why, couldn't you have inherited Emil's warmth when you took up his soul? It would have made the journey far more easier.
Just then, you heard Lukas walking over to you in the darkness.
"You're shivering," you heard him say.
You didn't dare try to say anything in the case that he would be able to hear your teeth chattering past your sealed lips.
I really need to get some sleep, you thought and shut your eyes. Back at the castle, you had heard the blusterous winds of Dragonfall. Cold or not, you knew that you would need every bit of energy you could conserve for the morning ahead. But before you could try to fall asleep, you heard what sounded like a sigh drifting along with the wind.
"If you're cold, you can just tell me," you heard Lukas say. Then, before you could reply, you heard him settle down next to you and press his body against yours.
"I'll admit while my human body isn't as generous with heat as my true form, this body should be enough to last you through the night," Lukas murmured. You couldn't see his face, but you could smell the familiar musty scent of your old room in the castle from the clothes he was wearing.
"Don't get the wrong idea, __________," Emil piped up after hearing your inner thoughts. "He's just doing this to keep you warm."
You frowned. No need to remind me, Emil. I don't think your brother would be suitable for a lifetime commitment anyway. Just before shutting your eyes, Lukas murmured something softly into your ear.
Your heart skipped a beat. Oh. How thoughtful—