Once Out of Nature

Chapter 1- Flight of the Dragon

    To say the day was hot was to say the sky was blue.

    It was a pointless observation everyone had already figured out on their own. And on a scorching day like this, you might just get punched in the face for stating the obvious.

    Victoria walked down the street at a languid pace, pursing her lips and blowing at the whisps of black hair that fell across her face.

    It was one of those days she wished she could be swimming in the lake at the park instead of wandering around town. But no.

    This is annoying, Victoria thought as she passed by the immensly crowded lake at the right fringe of the park.

    I have the lake all to myself any other given week, but the one time I really want it--completely crowded, no room for a duck, let alone another person.

    So after a bit of thought, Victoria pointed her feet towards the eastern part of town where her best friend Kristen lived.

    It was so boring. Kristen could probably think of something to do.

    Victoria quickly weaved through the familiar streets and her brown eyes lit up pleasantly as she saw the lean figure reclining on the steps.

    “Oi! Kristen!” Victoria called out upon seeing a familiar face. “What are you doing outside? Waiting for moi?” Victoria grinned.

    Kristen sat grumpily on the stairs leading up to her door and waved her hand as if to dismiss the very thought.

    "Don't flatter yourself. But no, my air conditioning is broken," Kristen informed her friend.

    Victoria gave a mock gasp then smirked.

    "Let's go walking in the park or something! I'm bored."

    Kristen glided up from the steps and remarked dryly, "I'm honored that you come to my house only when you're bored."

    "What else are friends for?" Victoria laughed, and smiled to show she was joking.

    She slid into pace beside her friend and they set off.

    They had been walking for about five minutes now, Kristen drifting in and out of thought with Victoria doing most of the talking.

    The end of the park they were in was virtually deserted, as everyone was either in their nice, air-conditioned homes or cooling off in the lake.

    Kristen suddenly had to swerve out of the way as her eccentric friend starting spinning in circles with her arms outstretched.

    "Hey! Watch it!" Kristen yelped.

    "But the air is cooler if you do this!"


    Victoria stopped spinning and wobbled off the path and into the forest.



    Kristen rolled her eyes and went to check on her friend.

    Victoria lay sprawled on the soft loam, and was grumbling under her breath and glaring at nothing in particular.

    "Stupid stick."

    "Why, exactly, are you cursing the foliage?" Kristen asked, laughing.

    Victoria hoisted herself up to her feet and looked down.

    "I tripped on a... Hey! That is definitely not a stick."

    Victoria dropped to the ground again and Kristen followed suit.

    "What is that?"

    A huge indentation was pressed into the ground and five furrowed marks were above the center hole, crushing the soil in the unmistakable form of a clawed foot.

    It was bigger than a human's head.

    "Okaay..." Victoria poked at it, mystified. "Looks like a..dinosaur print to me." She laughed nervously and looked away from it.

    "Uh..Kristen?" Kristen felt a pull on her sleeve and she glanced to where her friend was pointing.

    The tracks continued on and disappeared into the shadows. A large form was hidden amidst the foliage, and a strange, grumbling noise permeated the air.

    Kristen shivered, which wasn't from the heat-- because the sweltering heat had increased from the temperature a moment ago.

    Victoria stood up and grabbed Kristen's arm.

    "Okay. I am officially freaked out now. Let's go."

    They turned to go, but the grating noise swelled into a full-blown roar.


    Kristen and Victoria both screamed and broke into a panicked run.

    A loud crackling sound ripped through the still air as whatever was back there started to chase the girls. A mighty gust of wind nearly overbalanced them.

    Kristen glanced back and her breath caught.

    But this--It can't!

    Kristen could barely think. Being a lover of fantasy, she knew a dragon when she saw one. And the magnificent, deadly creature flying behind them was definitely one of the creatures of legend.

    But a dragon?!

    This is not real, this is not real, this is not... She kept repeating this in her head to accompany her rapid heartbeat and footsteps.

    Not real..Not real..

    Victoria's mind was racing.

    Dragons aren't real!

    A pause.

    Why don't people notice there is a dragon flying in the park?

    It's strange how completely useless thoughts come to people at the worst times.

    The dragon gave a triumphant roar as the girls ran into a wide clearing.

    Wide enough for it to capture them--for its Master.

    They realized their vulnerable positions almost too late. Terrified, both Kristen and Victoria screamed, hoping anyone--anything--would help them. Suddenly, a blur went shooting between the two girls.

    Still afraid to turn, the girls heard a deep, menacing growl. If there already was a dragon, whatever was growling could be anything.

    And that wasn’t a very pleasant thought.

    < Surrender the humans, half-breed.>

    For some reason, the girls knew instinctively that this voice did not come from the dragon's throat. Rather, it echoed in their minds as if from a faraway distance. Then the sentence registered.


     Kristen looked at what she thought at first glance was a man. As if aware of her scrutiny, the creature slowly turned.

     His (for he was undoubtedly male) eyes were slit-pupiled, like a cat’s. They were a exotic shade of hazel, warm and golden like clear honey. They met with her own emerald eyes briefly. Then his lips curled upward in a smile, giving her a shot of his elongated canines.


    Kristen hurriedly looked away, and saw the outline of erect black ears nestled on the top of his head--ears like a wolf’s--almost invisible against his long ebony hair.

     His clothing was strange, and Victoria instantly placed the red kimono and white gi as Japanese. He was barefoot, and two quick glances revealed that both hands and feet were clawed.

     Victoria and Kristen both jumped as the half-demon replied “I will not” to the strange, echoing voice in his own pleasantly deep timbre.

    The voice raged.

    <KILL THE DEMON!!! And bring me the other two--alive.>

     The half-demon, supposedly, moved in front of the girls protectively as the dragon moved to obey.

    A mighty howl cut through still air as yet another demon yelled a battle cry.

    Victoria barely got a glimpse of the fast-moving form, but this one had the same form as the other “half-breed”, except this one had beige hair and ears.

     The dragon turned its head to one side to avoid the outstretched claws, but it wasn’t fast enough. Victoria and Kristen gaped as the claws crushed the right side of the dragon’s face.

    The reptile gave a horrendous, almost human, shriek. This little demon had given it more hurt than it had ever known.

     The dragon opened its great maw--revealing sharp fangs, the points curved backward. No prey could ever escape from those jaws without inevitable death, be it bleeding to death or being eaten--or in this case, being burned by acid saliva.


    With an odd hissing sound, the dragon shot acid at the beige half-demon. He dodged neatly and yelled something.


    The half-demon in front of Kristen and Victoria ran to help.

    "Aniron" must be his name, thought Victoria.

     The black half-demon, Aniron, ran and launched himself at the left side of the dragon’s face. He reached out to shatter the other side of the dragon’s already crippled muzzle, but the dragon evaded and shot acid at the black’s retreating form.

    The girls shouted a warning, and Aniron turned with impossible speed and dodged. In fact, it was so fast, the girls didn’t even see it. To their eyes, he was in one place, and the next second he wasn’t.

    That’s impossible!

     Then the dragon lurched upward with another inarticulate cry of pain. It twisted and writhed in agony, and the two girls got a glimpse of the beige hanging onto the dragon’s neck, with his arm stretched to the front-- in wrist deep at the soft spot under the dragon’s chin. Blood dripped down the half-demon’s arm, spattering his white gi with crimson drops.

     The beige ripped cruelly, and the dragon’s cry dwindled into a gurgle. The beige jerked his hand out of the dragon’s flesh and jumped down and away as the dragon flailed in death throes. It jerked for a few moments, then fell to the ground with a mighty crash and lay still.

     The beige half-demon turned to the black and said “Let us go.”

    The black protested.

     “Maeniel, we cannot leave them here!” 

    “They are humans!The beige growled sharply.

    He spat the word “humans” like it was a curse, and looked like he would be more than happy to add more blood to his wardrobe.

    Kristen and Victoria both took a step back. The beige sneered.


     “Why’d you save us, then?” exclaimed Victoria boldly. Maeniel whipped his head around to stare at her, and she returned his gaze with defiance.

     He had the same outfit as the other half-demon, and strange-colored eyes as well. His eyes were a gorgeous violet; they seemed to be prismatic, drinking up the colors around them. But for all their startling radiance, his eyes held no emotion. They were blank, as if someone had just swiped their surface clean and left nothing behind.

    And that scared Victoria more than the fact that he was a demon.

     The beige, Maeniel, turned his icy gaze on Kristen and back to Victoria. “We did not kill the dragon to save you, we killed it because it is a minion of the Sorcerer. You have no value to us. Foolish humans!”

    Kristen thought about asking him who the Sorcerer was, but dismissed the idea as soon as it formed.

    "Humans, huh?" Maeniel glared at Victoria, who was ignoring Kristen's violent "shushing" motions.

      “But you," Victoria pointed at the glowering beige, "are half-human as well as half-demon. Hn.” She sighed.

    “I pity you.”

     Wordless rage sprang to Maeniel’s face.

    “What did you just say?!”

    Victoria repeated, “I pity you. For the rest of your life, you will go around hating a part of yourself, something you can’t get rid of. Every time you look at your reflection, you’ll see something you despise. You’re so full of hatred, no wonder your eyes are so cold.”

     Maeniel stared at her for a second, his gaze unreadable. Then he growled, a cavernous rumbling coming from the center of his chest.. Victoria didn’t back down.

    “No one has ever dared to say that to me,” he snarled.

    “And you’re pissed because it’s true.”

     Maeniel looked at her.

    This girl knew just what to say to make him angry, and she had never even met him before! Her next words shocked him even more than the others.

     “And if you kill my friend and me, you’ll be as bad as the humans who senselessly slaughter and destroy.

    "Even though I’m human, I admit that we are barbaric in some cases, but not all. Somehow, I don’t think you’ve met any nice humans.” To Maeniel’s surprise, she grinned.

    “Now you have.”

     Aniron, gave a small smile. “You must admit that you have never met anyone quite like her, Maeniel.”

    “I should kill her for her impudence.”

     Kristen, who had been listening quietly, said “Then her words have just gone to waste. Let’s go, Victoria.”

    “No,”  commanded Maeniel.

     It looked like he might chase them. Kristen broke into a sprint with Victoria following. Kristen turned to see if the half-demon was following and collided with something very hard.

     She flopped backwards, and with an “Oof” Victoria slid down thin air. They both got up, and Victoria cautiously tapped in front of her. An azure shimmer filled the air, along with an odd, pulsing vibration.

     “Okaaay...” said Victoria, mystified. She turned, and there were the half-demons standing calmy, looking at both of them. She yelped. She hadn’t even heard them approach.

    Kristen grumbled under her breath. “Stupid wall.”

    “What wall?” asked Aniron.

    Overcoming her surprise at his keen hearing, she said “There’s this big invisible wall here. When we tapped it, it turned blue and sort of... hummed.”

    She placed her hands on the "wall," her slender fingers splayed out against the air and the paleness of her skin stood out against the blue color of the magical barrier.

    They just stared.

    "What? You can't see it?" Kristen asked, alarmed.

    The two half-demons shared a glance. “You are coming with us,” declared Aniron.

    Victoria came to stand next to her friend, both of them lending each other their own strength to overcome their terror.

    "How do we know if we can trust you?" she asked.

    Aniron looked at them both sadly.

    "You cannot."

    "And besides," Kristen added, "There is no reason to go with you two. This is all a dream. And even if this is real, there is no reason to move from this spot.

    "We could find a way to go back to our own world or whatever, from where we are now, if we've gone anywhere."

    Aniron looked at them with that sad expression on his face.

    "Would you rather we leave you to the other dragons? There are many other creatures in this forest, you know."

    Green eyes met brown as Kristen and Victoria glanced at each other. Victoria shrugged, and Kristen sighed.

    "Very well. Even if you wanted to hurt us, you could do so very easily, judging by that battle. We don't even have a choice in this."

    "So..." Victoria started. "Where are we going? And how long will it take?"

     "I would like you to meet a...friend of mine. It will take about fifteen minutes to get to the village where he lives."

    "Gah," Victoria made a disgusted noise. "And we'll have to walk in this heat too."

    "No," Aniron explained. "the heat is radiating from the dragon's body, and we shall carry you."

    It took a few moments for that to sink in.

    One-- the heat comes from the dragon. That's interesting..

    Two-- Carry?

     “No w-AY!” The last word came out oddly pitched as Aniron picked Kristen up and flung her over his shoulder.

    She shrieked in surprise. Victoria stared.

    “Maeniel, come h-”

    “No," he interupted coolly. "I think I shall decline." He took off running without so much as a farewell.

     Aniron just smiled and picked up Victoria as well. She laughed.

     This was quite unexpected.

    The girls were amazed at his strength. He could carry the weight of them combined like it was less than a feather.

    Victoria and Kristen were both scared still, beyond all reason. This couldn't be real, it just couldn't!

    They had no choice but to trust these two demons, for the moment.

    The two girls both gasped as Aniron started to jog, and then sped up to a level that no human could ever hope to achieve.

     Aniron moved quickly, with preternatural speed, and was soon running even with Maeniel. He tried to run smoothly, conscious of the two fragile humans clinging to his shoulders.

    The two girls grumbled irritably as his long hair whipped in their faces. After a few minutes of trying to tame the wild strands, Victoria sighed in mock defeat and buried her face in Aniron’s soft hair.

    Well, laying on his hair keeps it from getting in my face, thought Victoria. She nudged Kristen and the older girl followed suit. They rode like this comfortably the rest of the way.


    Back in that blood-strewn clearing, one amber eye snapped open; the dragon began to change shape. Its mighty bulk shrank rapidly, the wings and fangs disappeared. The hard scales turned to skin, and long brown hair sprouted from its scalp. Blue replaced amber in a slow swirl.

    It was now in its male human form.

    The major bonus of shape-shifting was that every time it changed shape, any injuries from the other forms disappeared.

     Its Master has expressly forbidden it to show this power to its prey. That was why it had pretended to die, so it could change soon after they left. Now it had to go to its Master. It turned and strode off into the woods in the opposite direction that the half-demons had taken.