I laid down my letters from Haden, which had ceased a bit more than a year ago, onto my oak chest loaded with clothes. And 9 months ago I got the message saying that he was killed in war. I wanted to scream, and never cease. That wasn’t how the jomundor line does it, though. We take it in stride. We cry for the sake of crying, and we laugh for the sake of laughing. But we never let our emotions show to the ones we don’t want to share them with. And I certainly didn’t want to share them with the alien behind me. He was a Hesserr, Juno Hesserr, and didn’t belong in the Roof of the World, where the dragon shifters like me stay. No, he belonged with his feeton the ground, like the tiger shape -shifter he is. I sighed, and swung my head to the new visitor. Amber curls framed my tear-drop face and bounced gently when I spun to face the enemy. As I was trained, my face revealed no signals, of happiness, fear, sadness, and hate. The dull gray walls of the castle helped me with the task. “What do you want?” I asked, my voice perfectly even, showing no sign of emotion. My voice echoes, as all dragons' do. We've been told that it sounds like a normal voice, bouncing off crystals, which give it vigor and energy, but no emotion. “You know what I want. Peace. Our kind has fought too long. One will side will win eventually, but I do not want to resort to that. I want peace. End this war,” He mumbled. It was true; there was sparse a time when one side was not shedding blood. The constant shift of advantages and power was endless. “Do not say that word in my roost or you will be in here no longer. It is by courtesy that I allow you to speak with me, with but three guards.” Not a hint of anger came from my voice. I sustained a chuckle, thinking about just leaving the tiger prince at my door. “We understand the circumstances of fighting. If you want action done about it, go to my mother. I am not Alpha yet.” “What did you think I was, a half wit? That was the first thing I did! That… mother of yours wouldn’t let me in. Even after climbing seven flights of stairs! Which is why I came here, in hopes I could get to her from you.” He’s lucky that he didn’t say anything about our alpha female; the guards would have cleaved off his head, prince or no. “Plus, I was here to see you in a way, too. You are 15. A mate is in your near future. Gods above know that we need a miracle right now, and you may just be one.” “I have been pondering the choice. Prince Cleo is in the running, still, but will not be if his brother continues to pester me about it. You know very well how dragons respond to pressure.” He shrugged. I loved Cleo, very much, but would put the feeling aside if it was not in our benefit. “You are in prosperity. We are in the void between life and destruction. It would be good for your conscience to help us.” “Dragons and tigers never get along; we feed off you and in return, you feed off of our babes. How do I know you won’t feast on one I birth?” I was not angry with him, not at all. “On the behalf of peace, I shall see to you meeting with my mother, if you are willing to be checked to weapons and be accompanied by 15 guards, and the Queen’s Own.” “I will not be meeting with her, but Prince Cleo.” Rose color sprouted on his cheeks. “He wished to see you, also. He gave me a message,” the boy muttered, handing over a small note on wax paper, inside a plastic tube. “He says that he loves you, and you are the most beautiful thing he has ever seen; more so than the Lily flower.” I took the crumpled paper from its tube and silently read it. Dear princess Lily, I hope to be seeing you soon. In case I may not, I wanted to send my regards. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes upon. You poor bird was attacked, though not by a tiger like usual. I hope you have others…? Mother is driving me to the ground in pop questions and quizzes. How do you address a bearess? What is the only meat that birds will eat? How do you respectfully eat without dirtying your whiskers? Here’s my favorite: How do you pass a platter of cheese verses a platter of meat? Left or right? Tigers don’t even eat cheese! One thing is making me worried, though. Mother seems to insist I meet with the bearess soon. She is obsessed with me, and does not care who knows. She would fall head over feet for me, but it seems too easy. You are a dragon, and I know I will have to fight to make you love me wholeheartedly. Even though I’m a prince, I don’t want the world handed to me! Mother is making me meet with her tomorrow, sadly. I will not give in. Unlike you, I will never give up love for my kind’s well-being. One of the attendants told me a joke he heard while hunting: what do you call cheese that isn’t yours? Nacho cheese (say it aloud). It isn’t that funny, but I know that you like jokes like this. Mayhap you will understand it more than I. I must go; guards are getting close to my ‘report’ on the high tower battles. I send my love. In hopes to see you soon, Cleo. Post script: If it is opened before you read it, tell me. I would very much like to rip this ‘messenger’ apart. I read it several times over before escorting the young prince to mother’s courtyard. I spoke his requests quietly to the guards, then watched him be taken to the exit. I practically ran to my small room again, and scribbled the joke on a pad, that was already littered with small one-liner jokes that I hear. My poor desk was a mess, and much of its belongings were spilled onto the floor. Likewise, the oak chest was messy, the few presses laying on the bottom coated with spider webs. I grabbed a piece of paper from a dilapidated pile, and dipped my quill into a jar of octopus ink, teetering dangerously over the edge of paper piles. The elegant black ink swirled around my quill as I dipped it in. My Prince Cleo, That is nuts. You must pick country before you. It’s like saying that you’d rather your country died than you or your mate. The same thing is happening to me, in the respect of questions. Alpha keeps drilling me, to no avail. I always seem to get one wrong, or to express emotion in my voice too much. Your brother, who I assume is your ‘messenger’ just left. And I beg to differ, any joke you send will be funny. You wouldn’t bother with the duds. Here’s one for you; you may like it: What did the mama bear say to her cub? “Don’t go out in your bear feet!”. Not so funny to me, but you may find humor in it. I’m sure we shall see each other soon. Mother has openly voiced her concerns on me finding a mate, and continues to dwell on ‘those poor tiger’s market’. But, in another breath, she warns me of tiger’s violence and vicious habits. One way or another, war or not, we will see each other. I’m simply blessed that no guards are allowed to be in here when I’m alone, unless summoned. I’m anxious to see your writing again, so here I wrap it up. Much love, Lily, Alpha-to-be P.S: they are making me do the most ridiculous things, like making me say alpha to be in all of the documents I edit or create. They randomly check my desk, and I don't want one toe to be out of line. A snatched a beaten tube and rolled up the crisp paper. A soft whistle beckoned a dove, which I strapped the tube onto. the bird fluttered it's wings, as if hesitant to take off. "Go on. Shoo." I demanded. After flapping it's snow-whit wings, it took off into the brisk morning air, towards the sun. To be specific, the east, the tiger colony.The birds know where they are supposed to go, especially this one, Rosemary. Knock Knock Knock. The door snapped open, showing my mother as she strutted in. I pretended to be reading my pad flooded with jokes. “Mother, I was not expecting you. Busy, are you not?” I asked, not unkindly. “Dear one, you must start to think of a mate. I am requesting that you make a list of your opinions of people, best to worse. Have it prepared in ten, in which I shall be expecting you in my room.” She unexpectedly uttered before hastily leaving the room. A conversationalist, like always. A deep sigh emerged from my chest. I was going to go for a fly, but I guess not. I dipped a different quill, and grasped another paper. My hand began to ache and I wrote again; I was used to writing once or twice a week, or whenever Cleo's letters would come. [i/]List Tigers-as close to perfect as one can be. Bears- He will protect me and cares, but seems to have no personality. Horse- Bullheaded, but has good intentions. Buffalo- to strict; wants to take over me. Lion-not interested in a mate, hates me. Cobra- sends shivers down my spine. Wild dog- blah. Turtles- all slimy and icky. Rhino-set on another.[/i] With the note in hand, I took my time and ambled to my mother. She was only seven doors down, but it took me a good several minutes to arrive. I slipped in, and sat by my waiting Alpha. “It has taken you longer than expected. Who do you serve first, lady or mister?” She questioned out of the blue. “Male?” “No, no, no! Female!” She argued, before reading the paper. “Well, we are already seeing the Prince Appalachia tomorrow. Then we go to the buffalo’s land. We are traveling with Prince Cleo the whole way.” “What of the fighting?” I asked, not expressing my overflowing excitement. “It is in the process of elimination; we will sign the pre-prepared treaty on the road. It is dusk; I advise going for a fly. Clear your head; think of your choices. Tigers are sneaky beasts; know what you are in for before you choose.” I nodded my head, rushing out the door. I loved flying; I could stop thinking, or start. I developed my amber scales, and my arms turned to fragile wings covering small veins. My legs turned thicker, my toes to three claws sharp as daggers. Lastly my head changed, my face becoming more triangular, and bulkier. Two short fangs protruded from under my lip on the sides of my mouth. Two short horns sprouted from above my eyebrows, shielding my sensitive and powerful eyes. The transformation was complete, as it had only lasted a short few seconds. I shot off from the deck, remembering how dad had told me that he flew to the sun once. My wings flapping on the breeze, I soared near the thirteen story high caste.. Dragons flew everywhere, like a beehive. Two towers rose from the castle, used for whenever an attack was on it's way. The on and off gentle and steep fall of the roof was for archers. Enemy archers who climbed up could be easily shot down this way, but a traitor could not shoot another archer without difficulty. Eventually I flattened out, gliding over the vast rolling hills of Uptmorsh Prairie. It was very relaxing, and I got to think of many things when I flew, from fighting to Cleo. It was a most intriguing subject; what is love? How do you know it you love someone? I thought of nothing but Cleo until I got to Lake Uptmorsh. I dove into the crystal water, cold enveloping my body. It was welcome in the summer; it was sweltering most of the time. Fish scuttled away, shocked with the intrusion of my giant mass. I sprung up, out of the wonderland, beads of water coming up with me. Gently landing on the prairie grounds, I saw the beginnings of a forest not too far off. Once I was dry- and the grass around me soaked- I took off, going to my safe standing among the old trees. My mind eventually shifted back to Cleo. Did he get my letter? Did he write back? Did he- Arrows pierced my chest and wings. About ten archers stood positioned in trees; three of their arrows were stationed in my leg or right wing. The crest of a constellation told me they were tiger archers. A net was draped over me. “What do we have here? A cub, roaming on her own?” One voiced. At that moment, I strategized: They do not know who I really am, and I have no reason to inform them. Act fierce. “Should we just end her?” Another asked. “Hush! You heard his majesties’ order. We bring her to him.” Again another, clearly the leader stated bluntly. I roared yet again, showing I had no intentions of following. The leader stepped up to my coolly. “Unless you want all twenty of my arrows in your heart, I suggest you follow us.” I had no choice but to come. Cleo would release me. Pray he was in the court for some reason. *********** The ride was harsh. Dragons aren’t meant to walk on land. I got four more arrows in my chest for trying to fly, which made my already labored breathing even harder. I collapsed several times before I couldn’t get up again. If I changed to human, I would die; the arrows are right where my human heart is. It couldn’t morph to a human one again, and the immense and frequent beating of a dragon’s heart would be unsustainable for my human body. Crimson blood slithered from my body to the ground. One tiger morphed and ran at a substantial rate towards his colony. The others set down a red-and-white blanket, ate, and talked while I was slipping to deaths open arms. Leave me, child. It is not your time. A female voice boomed. A hooded figure was vaguely visibly when I closed my eyes. It seemed to be singing. Wake, for ones still love you. Arise, for ones still need you. Awaken, you have not yet succeeded in life. You are a beast of ledged! Act like one! But it hurts, I complained. The gods are the father and mother to the dragons; they pick our color dependent of their mood. [i/]I am here. Wake up, for you are loved. You have yet to accomplish great deeds. We can talk when you are at a ripe old age. [/i]A faint calling of my name rang in the distance. It was not a voice I recognized, so I simply ignored it. I was wrapped up in her word and song. She cooed to me as if I laid in her arms. [i/]It hurts… wings pierced… soul missing…[/i] [i/]You must venture for a new one, then. I must advise to search the mountains for the good ones. You will have only simple emotions till then: Happiness, sadness, love, and hate. Find your soul! I am not accepted you into my hold till you have one. Time will heal physical injuries. Go! Find a worthy soul. Many people are needing of you. Go to them; people will sing and dance because of you. Have an adventure so these people can wake with throbbing heads.[/i] [i/]Thank… you[/i]. I felt like a babe again, cradled in her musical grasp. She gently let me go, pushing me towards a light. [i/]May the wind never leave your wings[/i]. She mumbled, her voice strained by distance. The light grew bigger… bigger… bigger… [i/]Lily, wake now! You are needed. You are loved. Let the light become you![/i] She hollered. I released the barrier around my mind. I was sucked into the harsh reality yet again.