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Draconic ep.6 FINALE “Throne”


The following is a fictionalized version of natural and human history. All that is not solid fact is a product of the author’s imagination.


Romania…

1544 CE…

Early summer…


The mountain air was cold as ever. It seemed to sink its fangs deep into her, wrapping her up in its frigid and unfeeling coils. And she loved it.


The dragon walked out and was almost blinded by the summer sun. It was like a smile that greeted her every morning. She breathed in the cold air and breathed out, warm air rising from her nostrils. She would’ve looked like a devil of the mountains, a demon of the peaks. Well, if it weren’t for her size, that is.


She was only the size of a horse, incredibly small for her kind, even for her age. However, being only two months old would still serve as a plausible excuse. She was a light green color with a snow white underbelly. Her wings and shoulder muscles had not yet fully developed, denying her the ability to fly. And she still hadn’t developed the ability to spit fire. Thankfully, though, she had one of the greatest predators to have ever lived as a mother.


The colossal reptile lumbered out of the gloomy cave, her once vibrant green pattern now a dull emerald with black striping. Her wings were slightly tattered and her ribs bulged. She was starving. They both were. But the mother had it far worse than her daughter because, unlike the youngster, she didn’t have any fat reserves to draw on. But even her daughter’s reserves were running dry, slowly depleting as her body used it as precious fuel.


mmmmrrrrr…


The young dragon let out a low moo. A call that signaled the youngster’s desire to be loved. The mother responded with an indifferent ruffle of her wings, still looking out at the icy and rocky landscape. There was no joy or curiosity in her glossy reptilian eyes. Only loneliness and sorrow.


Like mammals such as elephants or primates, dragons care for their children. And the mother dragon truly loved her daughter. However, the mother had grown despondent while her offspring were but embryos in eggs, slowly descending into a madness born from loneliness. And it wasn’t like she could just take a stroll and make some friends at the dragon club. The African mountain dragon she had mated with would be the last nonfamilial dragon she would ever see. He had starved to death somewhere near the Mediterranean coast. Not only that, the other two embryos in the eggs the mother laid had died of cold, leaving only one survivor. Unbeknownst to them, this mother and daughter pair were the last dragons on the planet. 


Every species had been culled and slain to the point of extinction. From the leviathans of the North Atlantic to the mysterious creatures of the Alaskan woodlands, every dragon had been killed. Even the mountain dragons that resided in the Atlas Mountains and Himalayas were eradicated. Only these two Romanian devils, the name of their species a reflection of humanity’s twisted and selfish perception of the natural world, were left.


Two days later…


It was good. It was so, so good. It was like manna from the heavens. It was warm, soft, and chewy. Even the smell of the animal’s blood was like a gift from the gods.

The young dragon tore into the carcass of the sheep, joy washing over her. The mother looked on, a satisfied look in her eyes. Her daughter shredded apart the belly of the sheep, eventually ripping up and swallowing down huge chunks of flesh with ravenous gusto. It was the first time she had eaten anything remotely substantial in weeks. But something nagged at the mother, a snarling yet quiet voice in the back of her head. It told her that she had made a lethal mistake. She had just put a target on her back. And her daughter’s. 


For centuries, mountain dragons throughout Europe, from the Carpathians to Spain, have been thought of as vermin. This, along with sport and glory, was the main reason for their eradication. But the reason dragons hunted livestock was out of pure desperation. It’s a sorry and inevitable series of events that has led to the extinction of not just dragons, but hundreds of other animals. Take, for example, the Thylacine, a marsupial carnivore related to kangaroos.


These lithe predators that looked like a cross between a wolf and a jungle cat were the apex predators of the island of Tasmania. Their striped pattern even earned them the name “Tasmanian tiger”. But when European colonists found their livestock dead, they began to eradicate the marsupials. However, it’s far more likely that it was the dogs that the colonists brought with them were the murderers. But that’s beside the point. The Thylacine was culled and shot into extinction at a horrifying speed. Eventually, the last of these mysterious animals died at a zoo in Tasmania. 


This vicious cycle of ‘humans kill the supposed vermin’ is a tragically fundamental part of both human and natural history. It’s a sad and terrifying fate that has taken the lives of hundreds of other animals like the Javan tiger and the passenger pigeon. And these two dragons had played right into history’s cruel hands.


Three weeks later…


The mouth of the cave itself was like the gateway to Hell, an evil entrance to some ungodly lair. “I gave the devil to hell. Those are your words,” said Barbu.


They pretended to be knights, claiming to be holy warriors at the service of the people. In reality, they were nomadic ruffians who would rob anyone and everyone they could for money. But a little paid service never hurts. And while they were just as scummy and tricky as any peasant, Octavian and Barbu were still men of their word. Not like there was much word to stay true to, though. 


The pair walked into the cave, their muscles tense and ears listening for even the smallest of sounds. They were reared on tales of dragons that slept in caves, waiting for unsuspecting prey to wander in and eventually fall victim to the reptile’s fire or jaws. The azure walls of ice seemed to slowly come closer and closer, making the tunnel narrower every second. They could almost hear it, the low growls and snarls of a stirring colossus.


tuk tuk, tuk tuk, tuk tuk…


There was the low sound of footsteps somewhere near them. It sounded like a four-legged creature like a horse or a dog. But it sounded much, much bigger. Octavian pulled his sword out of its sheath, both of his slightly shaky hands on the hilt of the weapon. Barbu grabbed the handle of his ax slowly, his grip tight and tense. Finally the creature showed itself. The dragon had arrived.


What were these creatures? What were they doing here? Those questions cycled through the young dragon’s mind again and again, never getting an answer. But the way they were postured, tense and reeking of nervousness, made the juvenile cautious. They smelled of the fluffy and plump animals her mother brought back to the den, of the place below her mountainous domain. 


SSHHAAaaa…


The youngster let out a growling hiss, a menacing yet wary attempt to make verbal contact with the aliens. They stepped back, startled and cautious, their shuddering breaths evidence of their fear. But then something weird happened. Their slack jaws and strange mouths morphed into a face like a snarl. But it wasn’t. Their eyes lit up like wolves stalking a lamb. The young dragon tensed and began to growl, pawing at the icy ground like a wolf. 


It can be done?” said Octavian.


He has no fire,” responded Barbu.


They were raised on the stories of dragons. And one of the most prominent factors in those stories was dragon fire. They had heard how it could scorch a person to ash and burn tunnels into the mountains’ ice. But this dragon didn’t have that.


But how?” asked Octavian.


I don't know, but now it is much easier,” snarled Barbu.


The two men inched forward, the monster roaring and swiping the air with its claws.


I cast you to hell!” screamed Octavian.


The men lunged at the beast, narrowly missing getting chomped by its jaws.


SKKREEAA!!!


The monster screamed and read up on its back legs, slamming back down with a thud. Barbu leaped at the animal’s side, swinging his ax screaming. Finally, he made contact, the weapon slicing through scaly skin and flesh leaving a huge gash on its side.


RRAAAHH!!!


It screamed in agony and whipped around like a mad bull. Octavian lunged at the beast’s flank, only to get kicked in the face. The dragon had bucked like a horse and managed to send the swordsman to the floor, roaring in triumph. But what it didn’t see was Barbu running at it while it looked over its shoulder. He slid under the animal and tore open its belly with his ax, slicing the underbelly causing blood and guts to fall to the floor. 


SSKKRRREEEAAA!!!


The dragon screeched in agony. In a last ditch effort to survive, a blind rage fueled by pain, the beast lunged at the man like a panther, pinning him down with its claws. Barbu struggled and writhed around only to have half his face ripped off by the reptile, blood flying onto the dragon’s jaws and ice.


sskkrrreeeaaa… 


The mother, who was just about to enter her lowland hunting grounds, suddenly heard a loud scream. It was animalistic and eerie, yet strangely familiar. That’s when she realized what it was. Her eyes widened and her wings were fueled by a sudden terror. She turned back, her heart and mind racing and wings propelling her back towards the den.


Two hours later…


RROOOAAARR!!!


The colossal reptile let out a mighty roar as she landed in front of the cave, her eyes narrowed in rage yet filled with fear. She lumbered right into the cave, sniffing the air and letting out low moos like a lion trying to find her cub.


mmmuuurrrrr, mmmuuurrrr, mmmuuurrrr…


But all she heard was her own echoes. Then she smelled something. A rancid smell that signaled death was near. The smell of blood.

She galloped deeper into the cave, her heart pounding. Could it be? Has it finally happened? Was time already up? The smell of blood intensified, mirrored by her rapidly growing fear. She skidded to a halt before she almost stepped on it. 


For months she had tried to live nobly, searching for any goats or eagles in the mountains. But the recent arrival of those small, long limbed creatures was quickly followed by a sudden scarcity of food. And it wasn’t like she could just suck it up. She had a baby to feed. So she began to play a dangerous game, raiding villages and stealing livestock and even the occasional person. Life had become easy. Her daughter was happy and growing fast. Hunting never became less dangerous, but it was far less difficult. She could finally spend more time playing and resting with her daughter. But the fates weren’t so kind. History wasn’t so kind. The Thylacine, passenger pigeon, Javan tiger, Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Quagga, great auk, dodo, all would fall victim to the same tragic finale in this timeless tale of extinction.


The mother mountain dragon looked down, mouth agape and eyes wide. All the air seemed to be sucked out of her lungs at once. Her throat seemed to become bone dry in a second. The muffled sound of her pounding heart seemed to drown out the low chuckle of the frigid wind. And time seemed to stand still.


The body just lay there, mouth open and jaws caked with blood. Beneath it was the body of one of those smaller creatures that had taken over the lowlands. Its face was literally ripped in half, leaving flesh and bone exposed to the freezing Carpathian air. The mother lifted her head and looked at the rest of it. There was blood everywhere. It splattered the walls and turned them from icy blue to a terrifying red. The icy floor was soaked in the stuff. The young dragon's body lay in a literal pool of blood, a few stringy pieces of flesh poking out from under the colossus’s belly. In the hand of the smaller creature was a strange stick with some type of sharp, curved rock attached to the end. The mother just stood there, tail sagging and wings tucked tightly against her body. But then she just collapsed.


She flopped down with a colossal WWUUMMFF!, her head right next to her child’s. Even looking into her daughter’s eyes didn’t bring her peace. They were wide open and filled with rage and terror. The mother nuzzled the juvenile’s bloody snout, letting out low, cat-like moans of grief. Sadness overwhelmed her and seemed to make the cave far colder and darker. She had given everything she had into raising her young and the cruel hands of history still took everything away. Her mate, her two eggs, her prey, her mountainous paradise, and now her daughter. She couldn’t even scream in rage. All she could do was lay beside her fallen child, wallowing in this pit of eternal sorrow and agony. ssshhKINK! But then there was a noise. It was close. Really close.


I will rush,” muttered Octavian. His shuffling had probably given away his position. He hid in a small crevice near where his partner and the beast had been felled. After he was knocked out, the swordsman woke to the sound of a loud roar outside the cave and hid. He had made an oath to avenge Barbu on his next mission. He even painted the blood of the mountain devil on his face in the shape of a cross. But the chance for vengeance would come far sooner than he expected.


The mother Romanian devil stood up in an instant and began to sniff the air. It was clear. They were still here.


RRAAARRR!!!


She let out a loud scream, a desperate and mournful challenge to the hideous creature. It seemed to manifest from the ice, appearing from a small crevice in the walls. She snarled and pawed the frigid ground like a bull. The muscles under her stomach began to move incredibly fast, making it look like a swarm of bees was buzzing in her stomach. Her digestive acids began to release the gas that quickly made its way to her head. The small creature lifted its sword valiantly. The mother dragon’s fiery rage was only stoked even more so when she noticed that the creature was wearing the blood.


RRREEEAAAARRR!!! The mother dragon screamed at the top of her lungs, her throat and gums flapping. It was like the roars of a hundred elephants had been combined with the sound of a hundred jet engines being ignited at once and the sound of a hundred electric guitars screeching in unison. “DEATH!” shouted Octavian, his sword held high and pointed right between the monster’s eyes.


Millions of years of evolution, along with a constantly changing playing field, had molded dragons into the greatest predators the planet had ever seen. Intelligent, flying, fire-breathing animals that had managed to outlast the tyrant lizard king and had survived well into the age of mammals. But humans were right next to them on the evolutionary podium. Colossal monuments, savage weapons, complex language, political systems, music, art, the extinction of hundreds of species: All were part of humanity’s long list of accomplishments. The human race’s thirst for exploration and domination hadn’t been satisfied yet and would drive them to wage war on themselves, resulting in the deaths of millions. This was just another small step towards that domination. This was the dragons’ last stand, the final act in their ancient drama. It was time for one last fight.


Octavian lunged at the immense beast, his sword held high and throat stinging from his savage battle cry. The dragon dodged his attack and turned to look over its shoulder. Octavian skidded to a halt and ducked just as the dragon let out a huge blast of fire, a ribbon of amber flame that barely missed his tiny body. Once the dragon stopped he stood up again and charged at the beast. He dodged a swipe of its claws and managed to land a killing blow. 


SHUNK! RROOOAAARR!!!


The dragon reared up on its back legs like a horse and screamed in agony. The man had managed to sink his sword deep into the dragon’s body, slicing through scale and skin and narrowly missing one of its ribs, finally stopping once the blade managed to impale a small portion of the dragon’s heart. Pain ripped through the mother, causing her to roar at the top of her lungs. Octavian shouted in triumph, raising both of his arms in victory. But the Romanian devil wouldn’t let her rival win. If she was going down, she would take her enemy with her.


She turned around, still standing on her back legs like a bear. In this position, she was almost as tall as a giraffe. She spread her wings, revealing the tattered biological banners that had been used to carry her over the frigid peaks of Romania. Finally, with all the rage and grief she could muster, the dragon let out a huge blast of fire.


FFFWWOOOOOOSSSSSHHHH!!!!!!


But unlike the previous blast, this was more of a beam. A concentrated, precise shot that was a bright white and was almost as hot as the outer layers of the sun. The intensity and color of a dragon’s fire are largely dictated by its emotional state.


If it is relaxed and trying to cook an enemy or warm a nest, it's a dull gold and is similar to a blowtorch. If the dragon is in the middle of a fight yet has not gone berserk, then the fire will be a bright amber or orange and will be something similar to a flamethrower. But if the dragon had gone ballistic then the fire will be white hot in every sense of the term and will be more like a beam than a blast of fire. But white fire is extremely dangerous, especially for dragons that live in cold climates. When a dragon’s fire is white, the body overheats far faster than it would in any of the other states. However, white fire also uses much of the dragon’s body heat and expels it along with the actual blast. Afterwards, the dragon’s homeostasis is plunged into chaos as all the heat has literally been sucked out of the animal’s body, something that can be fatal for mountain dragons. Especially for one in the frigid heights of the Carpathians.


The mother continued to blast the little creature with all she had. It was like the fire and lightning of Heaven and Hell itself crawled up her throat and exploded out of her jaws, making her throat glow a bright white. Octavian was literally blasted into near nonexistence.


The dragon finally returned to its four-legged stance. All the rage and grief hadn’t been completely sucked out of her, but a lot of it was. She continued to stare at the smoldering man. She panted, her throat stinging and tongue dry as ever. Thankfully, her esophagus and tongue were covered in a special membrane that was incredibly resistant to fire. But a blast like that had burnt it right off, exposing the fleshy walls of her insides to the freezing air. But then the cold arrived.


It seemed to sink its fangs deep into her, wrapping her up in its frigid and unfeeling coils. It was like the mountains themselves were singing a demonic lullaby, trying to lull her into an eternal slumber. She felt so tired. It was as if some demon of the cold had put a spell on her, draining her of the primal strength she once wielded. She collapsed onto the ground, totally exhausted and internal temperature dropping at an alarming rate. Even if she hadn’t used white fire the sword that pierced her heart would kill her. And she welcomed it. She welcomed the prospect of death.


The pain, cold, and exhaustion seemed to wash over her all at once. But the grief of her daughter’s death was what truly did it. It was, even more so than the physical blade that was still sunken deep into her scaly skin, the proverbial sword that said her. Finally, it all seemed to fade away. The smell of blood, the smell of ice, the smell of ash, it all faded away. The sight of her daughter and the sight of the icy walls around her seemed to fade away. It all seemed to fade to black at once. She was once the ultimate mountain predator. But she wouldn’t go out with a bang or a whimper. Instead, she went out with one last look. One last glimpse of her frigid lair. Finally, with one last huff and plume of warm air that rose from her nostrils, she passed, her eyes closed and at peace. But this dragon’s death, despite being the last of her kind, wasn’t even the most tragic part.


This dragon’s bones, along with those of the men and her daughter, would decay long before anyone would find them. Even if they didn’t, the den’s collapse would seal them off forever. The fossils of dragons from all across time, which were hollow like bird bones, would never be found, disintegrating and decaying over time. Even the few remnants like teeth and other bone fragments would be written off as those of dinosaurs or some other animal. But even that wasn’t the saddest part. The saddest part is that they wouldn’t even be remembered.


For a short time, people from all over the planet would continue to tell tales of dragons. The Quetzalcoatl, Mokele Mbmembe, wendigo, bunyip, and leviathan would all be written off as “stupid myths”. Some people would remain resolute, believing the legends told by people like the Algonquians or Aborigines, only to be mocked and laughed at for believing. And while they would still be celebrated in both tribal ceremonies and pop culture, dragons would be forgotten, treated as mere legends meant to scare children.


Even the dinosaurs have it easier. Because while they are ingrained in our society as “real”, dragons would be lost to time. This family of reptiles that hunted alongside Allosaurus in the Jurassic and stalked early man in the ice age would be forgotten. A dynasty of such diversity and versatility that even outlasted the dinosaurs would be forgotten. A species that had been hunted and culled to the point of endangerment and, eventually, extinction, would be forgotten. That, more than anything else, is the tragedy of the dragon.


Well, hot damn. That was something.

I was wondering whether or not to make this a two-parter but decided against it because it would just feel so incomplete. And I’m sorry if I went overboard with the “tragic death” factor. It was meant to emphasize how sad extinction is. And while we haven’t forgotten about animals like the Triceratops and great auk, nature and time definitely have. A lost species is still a lost species. That’s why we need to conserve what we have of the natural world. Suppose we don’t find alien organisms and we realize Earth is the only planet in the universe with life. That makes every species, from dinosaurs to mosquitoes, incredibly important in the context of the supposedly lifeless universe. The story of the dragons is a reflection of that. Hundreds of species, from the Mexican death birds (Quetzalcoatl) to the Congo hippo killer (Mokele Mbembe) was slain and pushed to the brink of extinction. Now, aside from all that doomerism let’s talk about the biology of all this. Considering that the mother kept the three eggs warm during their incubation period, there should not have only been one survivor. But even if she did, the mother shouldn’t even have been left alive because she laid her eggs at the start of winter, meaning she shouldn’t have been able to survive long enough to keep her eggs warm. After that, I’m pretty sure it would’ve taken both Octavian and Barbu to kill the young female. Even then, a single man would’ve been obliterated by an adult Romanian devil. It would’ve taken six-to-ten men to kill the mother. And considering the mother’s wings were kind of tattered, she shouldn’t have been able to fly as well as she did. And even with the dragon’s extinction, the more recent bones should still be able to be found. But I would say the “hollow bone” idea works out kind of well. Again, it was all in the attempt to show the tragedy of it all. This is the last episode in the series. But considering how many species of dragons I came up with on the fly, I might just make a season two with each episode focusing on the dragons that inspired the myths of indigenous peoples. But maybe not.

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