I sit by the window of this shabby excuse for a tavern and watch them. I have nothing else to do; unlike them I do not want for money, and hence I need not scurry about in search of it as they must. But the longer I spend in this form, the more I understand their cowering terror of all that is more powerful than they are. Like hunger, for example. Or dragons.
That terror is a great motivator for them – I had not truly realised it, even when I first took their own shape to escape them. But they can be deployed like an army, prodded by their politicians, goaded by false panic. “Today some lambs, tomorrow our children!” Fools.
This alcohol makes my mind wander … which is why they drink it, I suppose. It makes no sense to my mind – but my new body, just like theirs, seems to take the same comfort in its dull warmth. Maybe it reminds them of their native condition. Dull warmth. Ha!
It angers me to be trapped like this: forced to become as my persecutors just to escape them; forced to live among them in denial of my true nature; forced to live a lie, or die. To be sure, my race is a proud one, but not so proud that we don’t value our lives over our dignity.
But I feel that dignity withering day by day as I walk the streets of this feckless hovel of a village, my throat sore as if from holding down the flames, my back aching from the absence of wings. I urge to burn, destroy, to take my revenge. Oh, I am alive, true. But at what price?
Trapped, by my nature and theirs. I cannot flee without my hearthstone, passed to me by my mother, the source of all my power. I cannot retrieve my hearthstone until the damned mage decides that I’ve gone for good and decamps from my cave. I hear all the gossip, here in this tavern; I know how much they are paying the mage each day. He’ll not decide to leave for a long time yet.
But the longer I wait, the more I become lodged in this shape. I don’t know that I could even change back at this very moment, if I had the chance. And sometimes – when the alcohol is working – I wonder if I should even bother. Why return to the loneliness of being one of the last of my kind?
That’s the one thing I envy them – even the ones who believe themselves to be lonely are surrounded by their fellows. They have no idea what loneliness is, truly. And even as I hate their vapid ignorance, and hold their shallow herd instincts in contempt, I am comforted by their noise and movement.
Perhaps it is already too late. Perhaps I will be dragon no more, and die the normal unsung death of a mortal man. Perhaps I shall have another drink.
[Unusual for me to write in a fantasy setting, I know – but I’ve had an idea kicking around and threatening to become a poem for a week or so, and I decided to see if I couldn’t make the metaphor concrete and write a flash piece with it instead. Whether or not I have succeeded, I remain unsure. I still quite like the concept, though.]