A warm summer breeze pushed its way through the thick clusters of trees surrounding the small village. With most of the homes still somewhat noisy, the decidedly tiny settlement seemed to carry an air of bustle. A few fireflies flitted around the more quiet homes, their iridescence arranging in tiny light displays on the aged wood.
A blonde haired man passed by one such home, his presence scattering the insects out into the forest as he neared the edge of the village. He had a heavy, brown sack tossed over his shoulder, its contents jingling with the promise of untold riches.
A lone cabin stood slightly out of the way of the rest of the buildings, a thin, overgrown cobblestone path leading from the village square to the building in question.
The man gave a long sigh as he opened the cabin door, the sight of his wife nursing their newborn bringing no small comfort.
"I'm home... how's he been?" He asked quietly.
She pulled the satisfied child from her breast, slipping her blouse back over her shoulder.
"Not a peep from him, as always... the thought of forgetting to feed or change him is terrifying. I'm worried he doesn't even have a voice." She said. "What's more, he's started leaving marks on me with his teeth."
"Well, at least he's keeping us on our toes." The man laughed. "Have you decided on a name for him yet?" He asked.
"No... I don't figure he'll need one for another few months... it's not like he can understand us yet anyway." She smiled.
The tiny boy shifted in her arms, turning to face his father. The child's face was emotionless, but his arms reached out to the man as his identity registered.
The woman gave a laugh, holding the boy out to him.
"Take him for a bit. I need to go out and stretch." She said. "Once you think he's settled down enough, you can put him to bed. Don't forget to wrap his face up too, or he'll never go to sleep."
He nodded, taking the baby gently in his arms.
"Go on... I'll take care of it." He smiled.
The boy turned his head towards the door as the latch clicked shut. His eyes fell on the sack that his father had been carrying.
"Oh... interested in that, little one? I'll show you what's inside, eh?"
He hoisted the boy into the crook of his arm, then carried him to the door, kicking his foot against the bag and sending its contents spilling out onto the floor.
A small mountain of thick, golden coins gleamed with a haunting flicker as the dim candlelight washed over them.
"This... my son, is the thanks we are given for our role in keeping this land safe from bandits and other unsavory types. This is gold from the King... although... it seems a little lacking in value when I compare it to you... my little treasure."
He brought the boy back to the bedside, laying him down and grabbing a large cloth. He set about wrapping his son, then setting him back on the bed with a sigh.
"Just another day for you, eh little one? That's okay... you're just a baby after all. I'm sure you'll be running around on your own in no time." He laughed.
He pulled the cloth over his son's face, tightening it across the strip binding his chest.
The baby gave a noiseless yawn beneath the cloth, the darkness bringing him a peace that his parents would never understand. Moments later, he was sleeping peacefully, completely unaware of the coming events.
The man gave another long sigh, leaning down to gather the gold that had scattered around on the floor.
"I wish I could sleep that calmly... hell, I'd give anything to be as heavy of a sleeper as you are. I can't imagine what your dreams must be like."
The door opened slightly, his wife's voice chiming through the crack.
"Kel! Come look!" She said.
He stood to his feet, turning back to his son hesitant, then pulled the door open, stepping outside.
His wife was standing a few meters away from their home, her head angled up to the sky.
"Look at that! Isn't it gorgeous?!"
He turned his head to the sky himself, taking in the sight she had called him out for.
A cascade of enigmatic dark purples and reds filled the sky high above the clouds, turning the typically black sky into a beautiful cosmic canvas. Stars littered the background with bright white dots.
Kel took a breath, the sheer beauty of the sky filling his mind completely.
"That star..." He said, pointing to the brightest star in the sky, hiding just behind a cluster of clouds. "You said it had a name, right?" He asked.
"That's right! I'm surprised you remembered. It's called Kainrall, named after the God of Earthborn Strength." She explained.
The man thought for a moment, then gave a start.
"That's it! Let's name him Kain!" He shouted with glee.
She considered the name, her face curling into a smile as she nodded her head.
"I... I admit... I like it... I don't see why we can't name him that. Kel... Kara... and Kain." She grinned.
They pulled each other close, chuckling happily as they nuzzled into one another.
"Teaching him his name is going to be fun." She said.
They talked a few minutes more, before stopping and focusing their attention on a man walking towards them.
"Evening, you two." Came his gruff voice.
"Good evening, Mayor. Nice night, isn't it?" Kara asked quietly.
"Indeed... it's been a while since I came to check on you three. How's the little one?" The old man asked.
"Kain." Kel said happily. "We think we're going to name him Kain, and he's doing quite well, thank you."
"That's fantastic to hear, and Kain is a wonderful name. I think he'll come to love it as he gets older."
"We agree... we have the Gods to thank for his name." Kara said.
"Well, it's getting rather late, so I'll leave you be, since I'm sure he's already asleep. Bring him around sometime, the Missus absolutely adores him." He said.
"Will do. Have a good night!" Kel called as the man slowly disappeared from sight.
A loud whooshing sound washed over them from the forest in the distance.
"My... sounds like some large birds out there." Kara said. "You think something has them riled up?" She asked.
"Dunno. They sure do sound big though." He agreed.
"It sounds closer now... actually... I DO remember rumors of a dragon being sighted around the area... but... even if it does come, we'll be fine... it's not like we haven't seen dragons before." He smiled.
"That's true... besides, why would a dragon care about u-"
An enormous red beast dove from just over the tree line, horned head angled down toward them.
It flapped its great wings a few times, catching itself on an air current and halting in the sky. A few more wing beats brought it down to the ground.
It had large, yellow eyes that honed in on the two humans before it as it craned its head. It's entire body was clad in thick, shiny red scales that glistened with a lustrous beauty, reminiscent of the red sky above their heads. At nearly fifty feet from head to tail, it's great size meant that it struggled to fit in the space between the forest and the cabin. Still, it managed.
"What a sky tonight, humans... the Goddess of Devastation has blessed me on this evening with foresight that I appropriated to sate my greed. You have quite the treasure in your home, and I'd like it."
It's voice... HER voice, seemed to emanate from nowhere, and yet it drowned out all other sound.
"With all due respect, Madam Dragon, the gold in our home is rightfully ours." Kel said.
The dragon focused on him momentarily.
"You would reject my demands? If you refuse to do as I ask..."
The beast's body twitched, quickly shrinking down in size, then gurgling as it began to change its shape. Standing before them after a moment was a woman. She was entirely nude, her skin only slightly covered by long locks of dark red hair that swayed with every motion of her form.
She moved in a blur, closing the distance between her and Kel in a single step. Her palm shot forward, tapping Kel on his shoulder. His body lurched with an unseen force, slamming into the ground just in front of their home.
"Don't test me human, it won't end well for you OR your lovely woman." The dragoness sneered.
Kel pushed himself up to his feet, surprisingly unhurt after the attack.
"Typically I'd argue with you over it... but I'm willing to acquiesce this time." He grimaced.
He disappeared into the slightly open door, returning moments later with the sack of gold he had so proudly displayed to his son.
The woman gratefully relieved him of the bag, her body rumbling with an incoming change.
Her pale skin grew red welts that raised from underneath her flesh. They hardened, becoming brilliant red scales once more. Her physical body underwent a number of equally drastic changes as it morphed back to its original form.
The newly reformed dragon pressed her nose to the bag, taking in the scent of the gold within.
A scream from somewhere deep in the village broke the trance of the beast, who raised her head.
"You trifling little things startle so easily don't you?" She asked with a hint of amusement.
She inhaled a second time, her large nostrils flaring as they widened to fill her lungs. She gave a huff as she took in the scents around her.
"I smell your filthy hands all over this place, human..."
Her claw raised up and crashed into their home, tearing the rooftop off with reckless abandon.
The dragon craned her neck over the side of the splintered walls of her victim's home, almost immediately spotting the brown bundle sat motionless on their bed. Kara gave a squeal of fear, her concern for her sleeping child overwhelming her.
"Oh-ho? Trying to hide the best bits for yourself? Well unfortunately for you I'm no fool." She murmured, leaning into the building and wrapping the thin lips of her snout around the bundle, careful to avoid swallowing it.
She lifted her head from the home, her wings already beating, prepared to take her wherever she deigned.
"Goodbye humans, with this, I've taken everything valuable to you... may you never cross my path again." She growled.
She bolted faster than anything her size should ever be able to move, disappearing over the trees in the blink of an eye.
Kara and Kel rushed back into their home, dread consuming them entirely as they realized that the beast had taken their child.
The sound of footsteps nearing their home with was drowned out by the woman's scream.
"KAIIIIIIN!!" Kara's voice pierced the night air, her shriek even reaching the distant dragon, now nearly a mile away.
"Kain? Kainrall? He wouldn't dare try to stop me." The beast chuckled.
The creature continued her flight for almost a day, night already having returned to grace the sky as it honed in on the mountain she had made her home. She descended lazily, circling the mountain a few times to clear the forest below of birds and noisy animals.
Finally, she landed at the mouth of a cave about halfway up the mountain face. Her mouth opened, letting the small bundle drop to the cave floor.
She morphed back to her human form, immediately setting upon the bundle, unwrapping it gently. Her eyes widened with utter confusion as she finally laid eyes on her "prize".
A small baby boy was looking, no, leering up at her, obviously upset at all of the motion and force he had been subjected to.
She nearly fell back as she registered the events that had occurred the previous day.
"Kain... Kain... Kain... you are Kain, aren't you?" She asked quietly, her eyes locked with the child's.
His eyes were a blood red, and his tiny shock of hair a pure, snow white.
"You're an odd looking boy... you don't remind me of your parents in the least." She said.
She took the boy into her arms, bringing him to the mouth. She held him out, letting him dangle his legs, the only think below him being the face of the cliff.
"Young one." She said, doing her best to acknowledge the child before releasing him to his doom.
A rush of air swept up the mountainside, blowing the nude child's hair upwards in a puff of fuzz.
The boy had giggled.
She stood motionless, her eyes widened once more with disbelief.
"You would look death in the face and laugh? Brave of you." She said.
She gave a sigh, then pulled the child back against her bosom, where he instinctively nuzzled himself against her.
"I suppose I should take you home, not kill you... you aren't the one who made me look like a fool." She said.
Her yellow eyes began to glow, granting her visions of the village she had just plundered.
It was gone.
Gone was a strong word, as the buildings remained, although some had been burnt to the ground.
Her eyes focused on something closer to the edge of the village.
It was a pile of bodies, most charred and black, some missing limbs and other various parts.
She was sure she could make out the bodies of the boy's parents, both near the top of the pile. She gave a sigh, ending the spell and clutching the baby a little closer.
"You should be grateful to me, child. I saved you from the horrors of this world... now I suppose it falls to me to rear you... at least until you can care for yourself... like I said... be grateful that my pride is keeping me from throwing you off this mountain." She said.
She sighed a final time, looking out to the darkened sky from the cave mouth.
"A human, eh?"