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The Lay of Persephone

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Timothy Drake is born of the ice and the hearth that stem from the fiery passion of dragons. He is the scion of the Drakes, old in name but not in myth. His mother leads with the cold, unprejudiced mettle necessary to guide them and to stay rooted in the old traditions.

Dragons are solitary creatures, but those who live amongst immortals are blessed with eternal youth. No living creature, deity or otherwise, can bear the test of time and its inevitable loneliness. The most territorial creatures to walk the earth are vulnerable to this as any god or common mortal. The Drakes are of dragonblood and fire, but they are but demigods and ultimately human in design and flesh. Timothy is raised impartially, and his parents take their leave to fly freely, to search faraway lands and to expand their hoard. Once their brood is strong enough to fly, drakes leave their children to learn the ways of the hunt and to fend for themselves on their own.

Timothy often wanders beyond the dragon caves, close to the dark forests of bramblewood and belladonna (there is beauty there, in its solitude and sadness). He dares not cross the river, a strange and curious tide. Its riparian depths are opaque as ebony, reflecting the clouds traversing the sky. Not even the sun can sink beneath its ripples. For a time, he contents himself with his largely solitary life. He is happy with the abundance of food in his parent’s lands, for the generous warmth of their lands permit him to never want for nothing.

Still, as all dragons realize, there is a craving deep in his belly that will someday awaken, an itch that will scream to be scratched raw. For his father, it was the sight of other exotic lands that intrigued him. For his mother, a hoard of treasures was the only meal that could sate her lust. For him...

His curiosity stirs fitfully on a warm day when his throat is parched. Across the river of slow-flowing molasses, ripe fruit hangs delicately from brambles. Their redness is vibrant, beckoning and swollen enough to burst. It is late afternoon then, and Timothy’s stomach growls with hunger. He hesitates, but inquisitiveness wins against caution. He finds a narrow section of the river where a boulder rests, and leaps across its width on feet as light as air. Touching down safely across the other side, Timothy straightens, flushed with his success and the sweat of the sun. He makes his way towards his prize, taking in the sights and silence as best as he can. Vines curl at his feet; they part for his magic, stirring at the unfamiliar touch.

His mother had always been a neutral figure, neither compassionate nor cruel. His father’s courting had softened her slightly, though not by much. Still, their love had warmed the summer lands and Timothy had been blessed with their magic. After all, without the scorch of dragon heat and fire, how could things nurture? Fire was a tricky, capricious element, but it brought warmth and heralded life. It could stop wounds and cleanse the earth, and it were no small feats that had elevated the Drakes to demigod status.

It did not matter now. Even with the trickle of dragon flame within him, Timothy feels an eerie chill within the silence of the forest. The thicket is still. There is no life here, save for his prize. He’s come too far to stop now. His thirst complains once more, urging him onwards. He makes his way carefully through the thicket. Dead vines snap beneath his feet, those that cannot respond to his magic. Another step forward.

A murder of crows take flight to the air, interrupting the silence with a raucous whoop and the beating of heavy wings. Timothy startles but holds his ground, relaxing subtly as their wings fade from the grey backdrop of the clouds and return to the forest’s depths. Perhaps his presence had disturbed them; animals were often cautious of his company, fearing the dragon inside him. They are of no consequence; his prize is within reach.

The pomegranate tree stands sedately before him. The wind gusts and dies as quickly as it had come. Its leaves brush his cheek as he reaches up. He breaks the stem of one of its low-hanging fruits. Under his knife it cracks open easily, spilling out delicate red pearls that drip blood and sweet juice onto his fingers.

He lifts a piece to his lips to relish in the taste; the juice trickles down his wrist. He opens his mouth.

“I would not eat that if I were you.” Cool fingers close against his wrist, entrapping it. Startled, Timothy’s eyes flick open. He pulls away from the touch but the fingers holds firm.

“And why not?” he queries. The stranger laughs shortly. His laugh is low and throaty, but there is little humor in it.

“They are sour this time of year,” the man says shortly. His helmet is as crimson as the juice drying on Timothy’s fingers, and reluctantly, Timothy allows the man to lower his wrist away from his mouth.

“I have never seen you here,” the scion of the Drakes asks, cocking his head to the side, studying the warrior whose face is concealed. “What war do you fight?”

“Who says I’m in one?” The militant figure eyes him warily, stance aggressive.

“Why else would you wear that helm?”

“This helm is my crown, trespasser. And you are in my realm.” The man drops Timothy’s wrist. “You should go back home, little bird. This is no place for one such as you.”

“You fancy yourself a king?” asks Timothy dubiously, looking the man up and down. He is big and broad, his helmet shrouding his expressions but revealing a firm jawline lined with stubble, and his armor and gauntlets bear no crest. The leather sheath of his sword is plain, but he can see the faint outline of a hunting knife strapped to his belt on the opposite hip.

“Perhaps.” The man shrugs, uncaring of Timothy’s skepticism. “I protect this place, after all.”

“What does it need protecting from?”

“Foolish boys who know nothing.” Then suddenly, the man takes Timothy’s still entrapped hand – and Timothy had not even realized that he had never let go in the first place – and drags his chapped lips over the crimson stains drying on his skin.

Timothy yelps, shocked at the wet rasp of the stranger’s tongue. He tries to rip his hand out of his grip and fails. The man’s calloused knuckles tighten – and Tim is helpless but to watch through wide eyes as the man cleans his fruit-stained fingers, lips trailing over his wrist. The foreign touch sends thunder and fire crackling through his veins, the stranger’s mouth a stark contrast against the cold grip on his wrist. Timothy spots the dark gleam of unnaturally green eyes gazing from the shadows of the helmet, gauging his reaction. The man’s grip finally slackens, and Tim yanks his hand back as if he had been burnt. No trace remains of the fruit he had longed to taste.

“I…” he flounders for words, and the man grins at him roughly.

“This isn’t a place for a gorgeous boy like you to be wandering alone in, kid. Get going.” He shoves Timothy roughly in the direction of the river. Tim stumbles a few steps back.

“Do I know you?” he blurts, confused. He doesn’t know how or why he would ever have met this man with a blatant disregard for others, with an oddly worldly countenance that Tim certainly has no recollection of. Yet he is somehow familiar. Timothy’s latent curiosity awakens, dragon blood singing at the hint of a mystery to whet his appetite and intelligence on.

“I doubt it, kid. And don’t come back here.”

“Will I see you again?” The man rolls his eyes and exhales in annoyance.

“Keep outta here, and hopefully you won’t.” He escorts Timothy to the edge of the river, watching grimly as Tim leaps across the black water. His feet touch the rock for only a brief moment and he lands safely on the other side. When Timothy looks back, the stranger has already vanished.

He is already making plans to find the stranger once again as he heads back to his humble hoard, small even by fledgling dragon demigod standards. He stumbles into bed when the moon is high and the sky inky as the river of molasses. His dragon dreams are of fire and heat, of blood red helms that his possessive blood desires to make his own.