Soon our twelfth birthday came. This was my and Aedim’s month. We were both born into Val’Morn tribe, the descendants of great Drake. In Val tribes, the twelve months, which I always think of as usual Jan – Dec, are named after the six beings that gave us power. As our language is very Nordic, the names sound like Bolbjorn or some-other-jorn, their meanings are essentially six months of waking and six months of resting. The order of the months reflects the age of the six original ancestors. They are in order: Hoona, Halla, Kira, Eris, Morn and Luna. Which translate to Bear, Lion, Wolf, Fox, Drake and Gargoyle. So March here has meaning of Howling Wolf. June and December are Stone Cracking and Hardening Flesh, just because Gargoyle.
Our month is called Leaping Drake, so Val’Morn tribesmen decided to do a little extra and have a festival to honor me and Aedim. Honestly, all seven of us should have been celebrated, but this was about our origin and whatnot. There still were minor parties Bloodborn threw with my help for each one of us. Strangely, we were all born in the same order as the order of the age of the ancestors.
The oldest of us is Meriden, born of 4th of May. Every time I think about that date, I get an image of typhoon in my head, but I have no idea why. Weird. Next was Eleanor, born on the 10th. Elaya was born on 14th, Leah on 19th, Aedim and me on 23rd and 24th, and Lilith is the youngest with her birthday on 29th.
When we first underwent the Rite with Elaya, we both had to be ten, so my birthday way chosen. Meriden also chose to have the same date, so it was decided amongst us that my birthday would be the day of all the remaining Rites.
This meant that we would have a whole month worth of small parties, leading up to our Rite with congratulatory or mourning party combined with Lilith’s birthday. Her party would be the grandest.
The concept of birthday parties was alien here. Merely surviving another year barely counted as a feat to be celebrating. The announcement of betrothal on the other hand warranted some festive cheer. That was why we all met on our fourth birthdays. The rite of passage is another major reason do get drunk and dance nude atop the table, cough, Eleanor, cough. And then there is marriage. Those were the regular ones.
The success in wars or celebration of winners in tribe competitions, which happened rarely, also led to consumption of alcoholic beverages.
After this, Bloodborn all tried to celebrate their days of birth. Interestingly enough, Meriden and Aedim both shared birthdays with two dryad girls.
Enough talk about dates.
Our rite approached quickly, we were barely sober during that month. Only two days prior we stopped drinking completely. I learned ahead of time what my new beast form could be. Main characteristics of Great Drake were his hard scales, a flexible tail and horns. All the things I liked. The boost in defense was nice, but the horns would make me look wicked and the tail would be awesome. No longer would I have the duster that’s only good for wagging left and right, I would have a proper tail useful in both love and war. Not that there would be a lot of love till I am sixteen, but extra hugging limb would come in handy.
Also there were mentions of Drake healing very well. I didn’t know whether it was regrow-a-limb-well or close-otherwise-fatal-wound-well. Perhaps I would just be harder to kill by making me bleed. Meh.
The trial itself was rather tame. Ever since I almost died, my skin was hard enough that I could take a swing from a dull blade and not have a scratch on me. It also protected me from heat.
I slowly walked across the twelve meter trail of hot cinders. Others cheered, but they saw I had no difficulty ignoring whatever they threw at me, so for the next Rite there were many new ideas, including but not limited to: sharp things mixed with coals, sharp points on the whips, sharp things under my nails. There were awfully many sharp things.
When I stood in front of Aedim, she wore a bright smile. She waited for this moment long enough. We would be bound together mere moments later. She slashed her wrist, raised her dagger high above our heads to demonstrate the blood on the polished blade and just like Meriden before her, threw it at the ground.
I dropped on my knees as before, and took her hands in mine. This was now becoming a habit. Taking her wrist to my face I once again inhaled the smell of blood. It was sweet, but for some reason I could distinctly smell cinnamon. And there is no cinnamon in this world. What a cruel joke by the Gods.
When I licked her hand clean of any blood and licked her wound to close it, I restrained the other two beasts inside, which proved problematic through transformation. When my form began to change, it changed into that of a drake. At first it was ok, but when the heat wave reached my lower back, and moments later my head, I keeled over in pain. Your flesh boiling down and your bones completely changing shape were totally fine, but growing new bones proved problematic. Aedim panicked a bit, but I gestured that I was fine.
When I stood up, I looked just like I thought I would. Two and a half meters high dragonman, with plenty of muscle, completely covered in scales. I had a tail, one very flexible and easy to control. I also had horns. I looked cool. While my back was turned to the crowd and only Aedim could see my front I checked one thing that really bothered me. When I tensed my muscles, my privates, previously hidden within folds of my skin, withdrew. Seeing this and the relief on my face, Aedim firstly turned beet red and then laughed out loud. Before I turned to face the crowd, I once again hid Zern Jr. in my own skin folds, where it would remain until I can hide it in someone else’s. Har har, penis in a vagina joke.
I took Aedim into my arms and embraced her. While we walked to the crowd, I took a cloak that was already prepared for me. As I tried different new form combinations of drake-wolf and drake-bear and the drake-bear-wolf, I noted each of them and then switched into my human form, while covering myself with the cloak.
In my human form I now had a tail. It was just as long, if not longer than in my beast form, reaching down to the ground with a third of it lying flat. I would have to walk with it pointing upward or wrap it around my leg. I true trouser snake! Coming off my lower back, it first was slightly thinner than my wrist and then shrunk down to about to the thickness of a thumb near the end, where it expanded slightly. It looked like a flower bud that would open up at the end of my tail. Thankfully it didn’t. I also had small horns coming off my forehead. With a little effort I could elongate my tail to twice its size or shorten it to little more than half the original size. I could also remold and reposition my horns, so I put them at my temples and made them slightly wavy.
In all honesty I now looked like a demon. I didn’t have any scales or vertical eyes, because that would be overkill. But with my yellow eyes, my slightly pointy ears and now the horns, I seemed to look less like a human. Oh, what would the human king say if he saw me now?
My strength also grew with this new transformation. My senses expanded once more, my muscles were more defined, my bones denser and harder. I seem to be getting more overpowered with each time. I also felt the greater regeneration affect me easily. It wasn’t just faster healing, it was faster metabolism, which I could control, thank the Great Drake. If I wanted to, I could get wasted easily, but at the same time I could drink and never get drunk and even break down poisons rendering them harmless. What a cheat ability. Now I will get my revenge on Meriden in our next bout of drinking.
With my new characteristics observed and noted, we dove head first into celebration. We had so much elven and dwarven boose this time that we didn’t wake up till early June. What a party!
Afterwards, we resumed out normal duty. As in, elders did important work and I and my group continued slacking off. Well, we trained. Now there was me training and them training. I didn’t bother dueling anyone anymore. Taking my swing straight on would easily shatter bones. Steel was like putty in my hands. I’ve become a monster.
Previously, I needed less and less sleep after each transformation. Now, with Drake’s power inside me, I could go on without sleep for weeks before getting tired. And this with only three transformations so far, just how powerful would I be with six? May be I should stop now? At least taking on an army wouldn’t spell my certain doom. My scales are too hard for steel. They would need mithril or adamantite to cut me.
At least my tail is awesome. Being able to wrap it around someone is cool. Lilith became jealous of it, she wanted one just like mine. Her justification was that she did have a demon ancestor and those had tails. She became even more jealous after I began to tease her with it. She was the only one I used it on, as she was more open to “experiments” than the rest. Perhaps it was my hormones talking or the lack of sex for at least twelve years. How many adults you now with a dry spell that long?
Thankfully we didn’t do anything too serious. I am not even going to clarify what we Did, but I’ll say that she often needed a breather afterwards and had trouble walking straight. Whatever that meant, it is not for you to know.
Anyway, not seeing any way to further improve my physical strength, I concentrated on meditation for strength of spirit. Even with three years to prepare, I would put in all the effort I can to control the Gargoyle when the time comes.
Now that I no longer needed much sleep, I could wonder my inner landscape for weeks at a time. I would often send Frez’ twins on a quest of great importance and meditate while they were not around. Although, at no point did I neglect my people or the princesses. I was available whenever they needed me, but they often were busy, as each one gained more responsibility and more power within our tribe.
If I spent four days meditating, trying to expand my consciousness and improve my senses, I could now cover about quarter of the forest that belongs to us. Which is A LOT. Although it was still very draining on me, I would tire quickly and would have to recuperate afterwards for a couple of days. Sometimes I would get nosebleeds.
Otherwise I would travel through the memories I had available. One time I came towards something than Aedim said to me before. Cutting my meditation short, I made my way to her. My suspicions were confirmed. As Aedim now frequently heard of the growing darkness to the Far East.
I decided to bring this news to the council, who ensured me everything was fine and laughed it off, until I mention that information was gained through Aedim’s Star-Whispering. That forced some changes on their faces. They became serious and looked at one another. I was swiftly kicked out to go mind my own business, while they spoke with Aedim.
Having no tasks to do, I decided to walk around and see how my future brides were doing.
Elaya spent her time tending to the needs of others. She would spend some time looking after kids or caring for the elderly. She was very compassionate. Of course this was more a hobby for her, during her serious work, she would learn how to run the tribe with her mother. This puzzled me, as Elaya was third in the line of succession. When would she get a chance to run a tribe?
Leah and Lilith still very much enjoyed tormenting mortals. Their pranks grew in severity somewhat since the time they were kids, now it could include some tampering with tribe’s budget or messing with prearranged marriages. Although nobody was really hurt, they seemed to get more serious. I should probably get a grasp on them. But no harm no foul, right?
As of their serious duties, Leah employed some Bloodborn, some Val people and little extra from other places to create a spy network. Industrial espionage as I called it. She was handling gathering of the information for the sake of our people. Her efforts were not really acknowledged by the higher ups yet, but she enjoyed doing it, and in the future it would surely prove useful.
Lilith decided to have an assassin guild as her pet project. She gathered whatever Bloodborn that wanted to learn the art of stealth, as well as some elves that were not peace loving hippies and trained them. The skills she taught were not just staying hidden, but the arts of quick stealth kills, disguises, tracking and being able to notice and counter being tracked as well as employ of various other ways to kill people. Dryads, with their natural aptitude for poison were a great asset. Lilith also got Leah to teach the art of hiding in plain sight. Nobody could do it as well as her, so any employee of Lilith would need the skill to act while under observation and in such a way that no suspicion was roused. She could teach it herself, but asking the master would yield better results.
Meriden fully embraced the way of the warrior. She was my intended, she didn’t need the silly training to be more lady-like, and she didn’t mingle in politics. What she wanted was mastering the arms of the world and showing her strength. She readily accepted anyone who sought power and trained their body and mind.
Through our combined training, Meriden learned to feel and use Ki. She also learned strengthening magic from me, as she couldn’t use any proper magic just like me. She surpassed Frez some years ago, as her skills were broader and her training more severe. She didn’t have any real duty unlike the man. But Frez was an excellent general and masterful tactician, so their worth couldn’t be judged adequately. On one hand is an excellent warrior, with vast array of skills, capable of mowing down most enemies, on the other is a general who could think of a strategy to counter almost anything. Working together, they would be an unstoppable force.
Compared to either of them I was a brute, if I swung my sword, I had no proper elegance like Meriden, nor a clear purpose like Frez. I and Jacob were kindred spirits in that regard, preferring to end the fight with one single hit K.O.
Eleanor maintained her public image and tried helping wherever she could. She didn’t prepare for running the tribe, instead she tried solving whatever issues people had. I would have thought that she should be in Elaya’s place and vice versa, but no. Elaya didn’t give a rat’s ass about what others thought of her. She did good things because she wanted, and need be she would do bad things. Eleanor on the other hand was proud. Her royal nature didn’t allow her to look bad in the eyes of her subjects. She was more like a strategist, planning for the future, doing things for people in order to maintain good public relations.
Aedim used her time to study arcane arts. She wasn’t the only one to study magic, but she took it farther than any other. I sadly was of little help, I didn’t inherit much knowledge about it. Aedim improved her skills and taught others as well. She was like a court wizard for us.
I visited each of my beloved girls, and then goofed off, doing whatever I felt like.
You might think that letting twelve year olds do important things was misguided, but firstly, in this world succeeding in any Rite, be it rite of marriage or rite of passage, makes you an adult, so Elaya, Meriden and Aedim were treated as such and Eleanor, Leah and Lilith were regarded as technical adults, as they would surely pass. And secondly, living past forty was somewhat a considerable feat, as people had only basic knowledge of medicine.
Maybe I should make it MY pet project. Although all the medicine I know is sewing up the wound and pouring on some liquid courage. Not exactly groundbreaking. There may be a merit in improvement of personal hygiene. Having toilets would be good probably, although we are wildlings, who have time for a toilet. Squatting and walking is enough… I kid, I kid. We use leaves to wipe…
Well, back to hunting wabbits.