Beneath the canopy of clouds, an emerald dragon watched as the shadowy figure of a man named Vandross began to emerge. Slender in form and ungainly in grace, the dragon clamped its four clawed feet against the shifting waters beneath it and considered what was to be its next course of action. Even with its tired eyes, the green serpent gazed past the rushing winds and spied the face of the falling figure.
It was him.
The man it had met so few days ago.
The man who with a single glance awoke a change within the emerald dragon's bone encased heart. The man who with a single smile uttered an unspoken song which reached the dragon's ears and declared "My name is Vandross."
It was late evening when the emerald dragon first spied the man. Close to the borders of the small fishing town called Elmata, the dragon had been running a con job. Through the judicious use of its innate ability to disguise itself, a gift called Maya which only certain dragons have learned to master, the emerald dragon had been posing as a young female pirate named Mesin. Having never learned to properly hunt prey, the dragon quickly discovered that humans could be made easily suggestible with the proper application of Maya. While most dragons learned to hunt with claw and talon, the emerald dragon had a fancy for meals a human would prepare and much to its brood's dismay had opted to survive through more roguish means.
As Mesin, the dragon was convincing a recently arrived traveling caravan that proper tithe and boarding taxes must be paid to the Pirate's Guild before they were to be allowed to disembark. Though such practices of extortion were common in any small town outside the direct protections of the Faith, the emerald dragon had learned that Elmata had no such pirates present. Mesin, therefore, was born to take advantage of this fact. For years, the emerald dragon embraced this new identity and face. She would stalk the ports and any easily manipulated fools whom she would encounter on her nightly jaunts. Some would provide her with the gold or valuables she would need for later needs. Others would surrender to her services or owe her favors she was to later claim when convenient. In many ways, the town of Elmata had become a convenient zone of comfort for the rogue dragon.
While the humans struggled between their beliefs on the songs of the Ancestral Dragons or the voices of the earth, the dragons and their brood had their own internal struggle. While the benefits of an Onus Bond could not be denied, and the songs of the elements could be heard as well by the dragons, the dragons were more concerned whether the dominance of man upon the earth was to be allowed to continue. In times younger than the written history of man, the dragons were the sole rulers of the land. No beast dared stand before the rage and immense power of a dragon. And while many dragons have learned to embrace the fact that the time of the wyrm had ended, few still dreamed of a day when the time of man should come to an end.
The emerald dragon had no desire to be involved in such debates, and had fled to hide amongst men. Little did it know this very action would lead it into becoming embroiled on a far greater struggle to come.
Mesin had learned of an incoming vessel from the capital city of Kibato. Remembering the previous Kibato victims of her mischeif, Mesin anticipated the spices, fine silks and perhaps even an artefact or two of the Faith she was to re-appropriate. She scouted the vessel at first from the air, darting between the thick rolling clouds as she approached from above. She saw the vibrant colors of the Kibato flag and tried to decide whether an intimidating or a charming approach was best for that night's adventure.
The emerald dragon dove, after surveying the vessel and discovering there were only four hired mercenaries on board, and with a silent invocation of Maya transmuted itself into the form of Mesin. Emerald scales warped into tight-fitting green leather. Luminous dragonmane rewove into silver fishnet stockings that covered her arms and legs. Four narrow horns shrink and folded into tiny ivory jewelry. With skin the shade of polished pinewood, lips thick and pouty, and wide alert eyes, Mesin landed on the deck of the vessel with a triumphant scream.
The four swordsmen quickly stepped forward, their steel drawn and gleaming in the night. Mesin slowly rose to standing position, her eyes casually noting how the four moved into position to flank her. Mesin announced her name then, calmly telling all those on board that she had come to retrieve from them their valuables and gold, and that half of today's bounty would be given to all the mercenaries who chose to assist her that moment. A simple declaration, but enough to sway three of the mercenaries. Underpaid and ignored, the three mercenaries saw Mesin's offer as a chance to make a change in their lives. The fourth died under his former co-workers' blades. The captain of the vessel pleaded mercy and Mesin simply declared that unlike the servants of the Faith, she was not the kind of person to kill anyone who disagreed with her.
It was that moment her eyes met Vandross.
He was among the crowd of worrying noblemen and merchants who were being retrieved of their precious belongings. He stood silent and unmoving amidst a sea of weeping and frightened faces. He stared back at Mesin, but his face did not betray anger or disapproval. He stared at her with eyes that were brimming with recognition. Familiarity. And something else.
His name emerged in Mesin's mind, sung by the Ancestral Dragons themselves. His name learned without word or invocation. Without action. Without thought. Mesin panicked then, not understanding what had come over her, and leapt into the sky. She transmuted herself back into a magnificent emerald dragon as she spreaded her wings wide to catch the air. She fled, fearing this unexplainable familiarity for a total stranger whose name she already knew without asking.
A stranger who hunted her down in the nights that followed even after when the emerald dragon had abandoned the face of Mesin.
Who searched for it even after the emerald dragon attempted to bargain with the Febhed for safe passage between Faith domains.
And who came to rescued it from the Febhed who turned on their own word and imprisoned it within a cage of stone and earth.
The emerald dragon saw the man falling and once again felt every urge and instinct to flee. The connection between them was frightening. It was revelatory. It was like being stripped of all defenses and disguises and being forced to stand brutally naked and exposed to an utter stranger. But was he a stranger? Was this man whose name sang in its mind a stranger? Was this man whom felt familiar and in some strange way comforting truly the source of fear and anxiety? Or was it merely cold selfish defensive logic fearing the undeniable truth of a growing understanding of what was already there and could not be ignored.
The emerald dragon smiled. It was a reaction it itself found unexpected. The man, Vandross, had called out to it. He knew its name. And that made it happy without knowing why.
"Savati, I know you can hear me."
Green scales glistened as Savati crouched low. It felt its muscles tense in preparation for flight. Though the dragons had wings, the initial flight always required a leap into the sky. Beneath Savati, the ground rippled as the water swirled against the moss and the fine yellow sands. Savati felt its heart beat faster and faster, and wondered how even if it felt so much like it was going to explode out of its chest, the dragon felt excited and happy. With a final motion, the dragon pushed against the earth and launched itself into the air, leaving a massive growing ripple on the water, like a widening arc of an explosive force.
"I hear you," Savati sung, its voice reaching Vandross regardless of the wind howling around his ears. "I hear you even if I do not know how." Savati was airborne, wings spread as he swam the currents towards the falling man.
"And I you," Vandross felt tears welling in his eyes. The teardrops escaped and flew upwards, carried by the whipping winds. "This is strange."
"It feels like-" Savati began but perceived the dark coiled shadow that suddenly emerged through the clouds behind Vandross. With a fluid twist, Savati angled its wings to divert the winds and extended its lowers talons to weave the air currents and bring it into a sudden abrupt stop. That very same moment, Vandross felt his descent halted as a dangerously sharp talons snatched him from the sky and perfectly harmlessly plucked him from his fall. Savati stared at the saffron dragon that had appeared and held Vandross in its grasp.
"- Love," Vandross found the word on his lips and knew it was exactly what Savati was going to say. But within the saffron dragon's grasp, he suddenly felt pain remembering that he had already made his choice and it was with Nicodemus that the Onus Bond was forged. A union that could only be surpassed by the finding of The Other.
"Vandross," Savati whispered, "I'm sorry." The fear was too intense. Nicodemus held on to Vandross as the emerald dragon twisted in the air and began to fly away. Vandross realized he had not stopped crying and motioned Nicodemus to follow. But Nicodemus did not move. The saffron dragon watched as Savati continued to fly away and pondered on a truth that it had witnessed just now. Unlike the communication of the Onus Bond, the emerald dragon was able to communicate with Vandross directly. No need for signs. No need for actions. No need for deciphering.
Nicodemus understood the fact: Savati was indeed Vanross' Other.
But what that entailed was something the saffron dragon was still unwilling to accept.