Chapter One - Crazy or Half-Dragon?
Right from the first day, being part dragon had never been pleasant. Oh, sure, it might seem like some fantasy geek's dream come true, but take it from me, the whole thing is much closer to a nightmare.
Let's see if I can explain this.
Friday night I was a regular, slightly pudgy guy, and by Saturday, I looked like a giant lizard on steroids. You know what? I hate scales. I hate them. They rub against each other all the time, whenever you move; it's almost like wearing chain mail. Except it's attached to your skin.
Oh, and then there was the actual dragon I'd merged with, who had a nasty habit of arguing with me inside my head.
This is a ridiculous mode of transportation was his current complaint, as I rode my bike down the street. Thankfully, being half dragon comes two-for-one with basic shapeshifting abilities, so I was able to revert mostly back to human form when I wanted. The bad news: I still had two plates of armour on my stomach and tiny horns on my head. Hence why I was wearing a loose T-shirt and a cap, though it's generally a struggle to get any hat over my curly hair.
I'm in control of this body, not you, I retorted.
For now, perhaps, the dragon grumbled. His name was Teyaan, and he was about as happy about being a half-dragon as I was. Then again, it had been the only way to save my life, and as a statue, Teyaan hadn't really been accomplishing much either. Where are we going, anyway?
Home, I replied tersely.
Home? Did Charman not specifically tell you not to go back to your house? You're in a different world now, you fool.
I want to say goodbye. There's nothing wrong with that, I insisted. And like I said, I'm in control here. So you can't do anything.
Foolish child, Teyaan grumbled, but fell silent.
Considering I was having a conversation with a voice (a distinctly husky and pissed off voice, for that matter) in my head, many might be led to believe that I was either hallucinating or mentally ill. I was almost inclined to think the former myself, but the two plates firmly attached to my stomach disagreed. They were tough and felt like fingernails, only much thicker, and were definitely part of me, a part that had not been there on Friday. But today was Sunday morning, and there the plates were, a constant reminder of who or what I had become.
Then again, I'd rather be a half-dragon now than be doing what I was doing on Friday night, which was dying. The accident was pretty much blocked out of my memory, for which I was quite thankful--otherwise I still might be in shock. It'd been a stupid accident to get into anyways. Didn't look where I was going and walked onto the road, only to be hit full-on by a limousine and thrown into a building. Or so they told me, all I really remembered was walking onto the street one moment and lying on the pavement the next.
Lucky for me, the man in the limousine hadn't been your everyday corrupt rich guy. It had been dark; there was no one around. So like any upstanding citizen he picked up my convulsing body (maybe not convulsions, I'm embellishing) and threw me in the back of the limo, then instructed his driver to continue on as usual.
Turns out the limo wasn't really for him, it was for a gigantic dragon that was coiled over the entire rear of the vehicle. At least the dragon kindly made room for me when I was put in my seat. He even suggested that I wear a seatbelt, though by that time I was so dizzy from blood loss and pain I might have imagined it.
Turns out the guy that threw me in his limo was Horace Charman, AKA: A Guy Who Knows A Lot About Dragons. Charman brought me, still dying, to a huge skyscraper building. The huge dragon in the limo got out too, apparently that was his stop. The dragon was the one to carry me inside, actually.
So by that time I was almost dead and no one had called the police or anything, but given my physical state at the time, I couldn't exactly complain about it. The next bit is all a blur to me. Apparently, to save my life, Charman had to bond me with an ancient dragon spirit that was trapped inside a statue. Which they had stored in the skyscraper. You know, everyday stuff. Soon after I woke up and noticed I had scales, horns, and claws, and well, the rest is history.
I could see my house on the horizon now, a squat old-fashioned thing with a fancy roof and a crappy lawn. There was a maroon Cavalier in the driveway, so it looked like my mom was home. I took a deep breath, thinking about what I would say.
This is idiotic, Teyaan insisted. For a wise dragon spirit, he sure was annoying. You cannot expect this to work out well. What will you do if your family sees your horns or scales? You're still new at this, I'm not sure if you can hold this shape for long.
I'll be fine, I shot back, jumping off the bike and walking up to the front door. I reached for my pocket, but my house keys were gone. Figures.
"Matthew. What are you doing?" I jumped, then had to grab my hat to keep it from falling off. Charman was standing right in front of me, smiling without humour. Where the hell had he come from? Charman was a short Indian man, with broad shoulders and corded arms that filled out his pinstriped suit. He also had a way of smiling that was pleasant but at the same time, it kinda felt like he was ready to jump over and throttle you at a moment's notice. So in essence, not so pleasant.
"Oh, hey, Mr. Charman," I said casually. "How's it going?"
"Oh, pretty well, I'd say." His eyebrows rose. "It seems like you're getting into a bit of trouble, though."
"I wouldn't say that " I muttered, inching backwards.
He is attempting to contact his family, Teyaan informed Charman. I guess the two had some sort of telepathic communication thing going on.
"Is that so, Teyaan?" Charman asked, frowning.
Snitch, I grumbled.
"Come on, Matthew. There's nothing for you here." Charman said gently, clapping a hand on my shoulder and steering me away. "Come on over to the Lair, I think you'll really fit in there."
"Back off!" I demanded, shoving his hand away. "You're the one who turned me into this thing. If you're going to take me away and never let me see my family again, fine. I guess I can't exactly hang around town when I look like this. Just at least let me say goodbye."
"I'm sorry, that isn't possible." Charman replied, grabbing me again and dragging me down the street. "We've got to go, now."
"Is something wrong?" I asked, suddenly growing nervous at his tone of voice.
Listen to your senses, child. Teyaan advised me. They certainly know more than you do.
Ignoring his advice, I dug my feet into the ground and shook off Charman's hand. "Look, you can't just kidnap me. That's illegal. Tell me what the hell is going on around here."
Charman's brows lowered. "You cannot begin to understand the danger you are in, just wandering about like this. Stop acting like a child and come with me. It's for your own good."
"By law I am a child," I pointed out derisively, "and I highly doubt that we're in danger in this neighbourhood, unless it involves five-year-olds riding tricycles." Something, though, was still setting me on edge.
I felt a ripple go through my skin and Charman shook his head. "Well, there you go, transforming into a dragon in the middle of your street. What happens if one of your five-year-olds happens to see that?"
I looked at my hands and watched the ripple end at my fingertips, leaving a scattering of orange-red scales in its wake. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate, but felt more scales pop up all over my body, like poker chips forcing themselves up from beneath my skin.
I said that you wouldn't be able to hold that shape, Teyaan admonished me, sounding on edge. And I told you to listen to your damn senses. Can't you tell that something is wrong? Go with Charman before you end up killing us.
I can control it, I insisted, reaching desperately for some grasp on my shapeshifting abilities. I managed to calm the ripples, but could do nothing about the scales already showing sporadically across my skin.
"I don't have time for this," Charman sighed, then grabbed me by the shoulders and proceeded to manhandle me towards a black Sedan that was parked discreetly down the street.
"Wait! You can't just take me somewhere against my will!" I protested. My concentration shattered and I felt the scales erupt all over me, closing off almost all of my skin.
"You'll get used to it." Charman said dryly. He was frighteningly strong, and threw me into the car's backseat with ease. I hit the seat, then closed my eyes and resumed my struggle to remain human. It wasn't working; I could feel my body shape changing, growing taller and bulkier. My clothes protested as more stomach plates revealed themselves, pushing at the fabric.
"You should have just called the cops when you hit me," I informed Charman as he started up the car and took off with a squeal of tires.
"I don't see what good that would have done," my captor replied as he scanned the streets, presumably for some sort of threat. "You would have just died in some hospital, and I'd probably have some major court issues on my hands. Not to mention all the trouble if anyone noticed old Finn in the back of the limo there."
"I would really like it if you explained-" my request was cut off as something heavy slammed into the side of the car. I dug my fingers--oops, they were claws now--into the front seat as the Sedan skidded to the side and tipped ominously before falling back onto its wheels.
"Ah, damn it. You should have just waited like I told you." Charman sighed, then calmly pulled out a gun from the glove compartment.
"Whoah!" I protested, then hit my head on the roof as my neck suddenly gained several inches. "What's going on?"
"I'm not the only person around here who specializes in half-dragons." Charman replied, rolling down the window several inches and carefully poking the gun's muzzle outside. "Trust me, Matthew, you'd rather work for me than for these people. Sit tight and wait a moment, will you?"
There was a muffled crack from outside the car and a bullet ricocheted of my window, leaving the smallest of scratches. I yelped. Good thing it appeared to be bullet-proof. "No. There is not a gunfight happening here on my street. Someone's going to call the police, you know."
Gunfight? What is going on? Teyaan demanded. I suddenly remembered that he had been a statue for hundreds of years and would have no knowledge of modern technology.
Oh. Well, a gun is this weapon people use nowadays. It shoots a little piece of metal-
I know what a gun is, you fool. I could still see and hear when I was petrified, Teyaan snapped. What I want to know is why the Revivers are using them, considering what else they have at their disposal.
"I'm afraid there is much I haven't told you, Teyaan." Charman replied, then fired his gun a couple times. The kickback was startlingly loud inside the car. "If you hadn't allowed your host to go gallivanting about like a lost puppy, we could have avoided this."
I could not convince him to stay, nor do I currently have the strength to take control, Teyaan growled. My nose suddenly extended outwards and I sneezed, releasing several sparks from my nostrils. There was no point in trying to stop the transformation now; I was too far gone.
"I'll explain later, when we're not being attacked," Charman said, firing once more. This time he was rewarded with an unearthly shriek. I gathered my courage and brought my face to the window, searching for our attacker. There was only one man, standing in the street with a handgun clutched in one hand. With the other he was holding his bloody side.
"You shot him!" I exclaimed.
"That's what you do to people who try to kill or capture you." Charman informed me calmly. "Another thing you should get used to."
He immediately rolled the window back up and hit the gas, shooting us forward. I caught one last glimpse of our attacker and determined that he was an abnormally tall man in a suit. Something writhed behind him--a tail?--but then we had turned a corner and I couldn't see him anymore.
"Are you going to tell me what that was about?" I demanded, now fully in my half-dragon form. Teyaan and another half-dragon that had been looking after me until that point, a woman called Patricia, had assured me that this was now my real body, but I could not bring myself to think of it like that.
Every half-dragon had different human aspects and different dragon ones. From what I'd gathered, my new body was a result of Teyaan's dragon features imprinting themselves on my structure, so I still functioned like a human for the most part. My body shape was very familiar, with legs that bent normally, though my feet were enormous and had just broken my running shoes to bits. The tail took some getting used to, and the spikes that now made their way from the nape of my neck to the end of my tail were short but quite inconvenient. I hoped Charman would enjoy the dotted line pattern now sliced into his backseat, not that he didn't deserve it.
I caught my reflection in the passenger-side mirror and couldn't help but stare. My eyes had lost all human shape and were round and shiny as a pair of coins, with catlike pupils that expanded and slit at the light. My snout was long and changed the entire shape of my face, so that it was almost identical to that of a full dragon, but with less teeth. My horns had grown out completely and now touched the backseat of the car, and my ears had flared out to look like a horse's, which I could turn and flick on will.
Wear my face proudly, child, Teyaan told me somewhat bitterly.
Charman glanced back at me. "You may not realize it, Matthew, but you have entered a very dangerous game by bonding with Teyaan."
"I didn't have much of a choice, if you recall." I grumbled. Talking with a snout took a bit of getting used to, but I was pretty sure I had the hang of it. "What kind of danger are you talking about? More people with guns?"
"Let me put it this way " Charman tapped on the steering wheel distractedly. "Half-dragons are special creatures. You have certain abilities that are unique to both humans and dragons, and the power to blend in with each."
We are quite dangerous, Teyaan said. Some people think we would make very effective weapons. They're right.
"Wait a moment," I protested. Charman squealed around a sharp corner and I dug in my claws to keep from slamming into the window. "You said earlier that I didn't want to work for these people. Does that mean I'd be working for you instead?"
He shot an irate glance behind him. "Please attempt to keep your claws out of the upholstery. I'd appreciate it."
I didn't remove my claws. "You didn't answer my question "
Charman intends to help us. Teyaan stated eventually. We should really just cooperate for now.
Suddenly, another heavy impact slammed the roof of the Sedan, creating a considerable dent. Charman muttered a curse under his breath and began to swerve wildly, bumping the curb. To my horror, a fist punched through the roof just beside my head, then unfurled to reveal a set of wickedly clawed fingers.
Charman twisted back and fired several shots at the hand, forcing me to duck for cover. Another fist punched though on the other side of my head, though, and both hands proceeded to peel back a portion of the roof, revealing that our passenger was the suited man Charman had shot earlier. A dark, red-black liquid had completely soaked through his suit jacket. My keen dragon nose could immediately scent the blood.
He leaned closer suddenly. I only had enough time to see that there was something off about his face before he grabbed me around the neck and, with terrible strength, lifted me right out of the backseat.
Foolish child! Teyaan declared. This is your fault for bringing us here!
I struggled, my legs and tail still hanging inside the car, and raked my claws down my attacker's arms. I felt a peculiarly rough texture underneath his sleeves--as if his arms were lined with pebbles. My scratches seemed to have no effect.
The car suddenly screeched to a halt and the shooter's grip loosened as he was nearly thrown off the roof. I instinctively thrashed out, aiming at his face. He gave a shriek of pain as my claws made contact, and I yanked his hands from around my throat. My stomach plates scraped along the torn car roof as I slid back inside, and collapsed into the seat with a gasp.
Charman promptly shoved me to the side and shot through the hole at my aggressor. The creature gave another cry, and I saw it fall off the car.
Quick as a bat, Charman leapt back into the font seat and we took off, leaving the strange gunman lying on the pavement behind us.
"Are you going to tell me what that thing was now?" I panted, feeling at my throat for damage.
"Sure. A retriever, sent to capture you." Charman said. We sped through the streets, and I waited for the police appear with sirens wailing. However, no one came.
"It wasn't human " I said hesitantly.
No, it wasn't Teyaan pondered, sounding a little suspicious. It wasn't dragon, either. I haven't even heard of a thing like that before.
All the more reason to get away from here and go home, I suggested half-heartedly.
You know that would be foolish.
They might leave me alone if I did, I tried, but was losing my will to resist. Without Charman I'd probably be dead and bullet-ridden meat by now. If any more of those creatures came while I was alone, I didn't stand a chance.
It isn't as if you have a choice, Teyaan sighed. Charman continued to break every conceivable law of traffic as we sped through the streets, but nobody seemed to notice us. It was rather unnerving, actually, though not quite as unnerving as the suited demon that had nearly killed me.
"You're not going to get very far with your new sunroof, there " I informed Charman, pointing towards the gaping hole in the roof.
"You're in the same boat as I am, you know." Charman retorted in that amiably hostile way of his. "Besides, I'm not as worried about the police as you seem to be. You overestimate what they can do to people like us.
"Still, it's hard not to notice a giant hole in the roof," I said. How could he be so unconcerned?
He shook his head and looked at me in the mirror. "Just relax and be quiet for awhile, please. We're headed for a safe place, with other half-dragons. They call it their 'Lair'. We'll be there soon."
I reluctantly settled back into the seat, marvelling at the royal mess it had become. I guess I just had to face it, my old life as Matthew Solis was over. It only remained to see what Charman would do with me next.