“Yes Ancestor, I am fine. That welp merely got lucky.”
Ka-Gaar nods slowly, indulging the young one in his foolishness. The human - what that ones name again? Dew something? - had beaten the blue cub multiple times, and rather soundly at that. “I am sure you could have.”
The way Ka-Gaar smiles at the small dragon is meant to be a complete dismissal, but his threatening display is completely ignored. So the massive earth dragon decides to be rude and tucks his long snout under his wing before trying to sleep again. His breathing slows at once, indicating a deep slumber.
Ka-Gaar is not asleep, however. Ka-Gaar just needs time to think. The cold permeating his body does not help, but that is just the way things are when you try to sleep on the north pole. Many of the members of the Flight that Re-Haan had collected have long since dispersed again, the majority of them returning to Flight Mountain to lick their wounds.
And what wounds they suffered. Multiple casualties too. The massive earth Ancestor cracks one eyelid, lifting his wing slightly to peer at the place where snow has started to cover the bloodstains. Only a single spot of red is still visible, the fragment of scarlet ice jutting from the white blanket not yet hidden.
Ka-Gaar’s tumultuous thoughts continue to tumble through each other, his busy mind refusing to be calmed down as he attempts to slumber. The last few weeks have just been too much, too fast. The last time he has been awake for this long, he was but a youngling of a few thousand years old. Where previously he could rest easy in knowing the Flight was the absolute ruler of the planet, everything seems to be slipping further and further from his grasp and from the control of his scaled brethren.
From when the current All-Dragon woke him, to the chaotic fight on the shores of Flight Mountain, to his conversation with Re-Haan, and the entire qi-fuelled chaos after that, nothing seems to be under the Flight’s control any longer. Trying to stop thinking in order to go to sleep, Ka-Gaar wonders what the future will hold with worry in his massive heart.
Then, just when was starting to doze off, something calls to him. A sound most sublime, a smell most tantalising, and the most beautiful sight that ever was, is, or will be calls to him. Rising his head from under his wing, he sees nothing amiss. He is still surrounded by several white lumps, dragons resting or waiting for further developments. None of the less cold resistant dragons have remained, as the freezing climate is far from comfortable for the dragons not inclined to earth, water, or shadow.
Sniffing the air, he smells nothing special - just the dry and piercing cold, vague traces of battle and blood. Yet still, something calls to him.
Shaking off the thin layer of snow, Ka-Gaar stands. The amazing, wonderful, and breathtaking thing is just over the horizon, he senses. Sending his body into a lumbering gait, Ka-Gaar starts flapping his wings, breaking the thin layer of ice that has started to accumulate. His scales and skin free from frost, he flaps them once.
Speeding up his gait, he takes a leap and is flying shortly after, leaving a choking cloud of blown ice in his wake. The pull only grows stronger, and Ka knows that something amazing is asking him to come. Flying through the perpetual gloom that’s present on the most northern part of the planet, he reaches his goal soon enough.
Joy fills his heart when he sees that he is the first. Surely, he will either be rewarded, or the treasure will be his, or the…
Ka-Gaar’s mind clears enough for him to realise that he can not get any closer. A small cave holds his prize, and in his current form, he can barely even get a claw inside. Roaring his frustration out towards the heavens, he starts biting the rock in frustration. His massive teeth don’t leave a single mark, and the mana in the stone refuses his song. Hating that he needs to do so, Ka-Gaar opens the valve near his heart, letting the burning power melt his frame into goop.
It takes him a few minutes of mindless pain before he stands up again, this time feeling oddly naked in his humanoid form. Shivering against the cold, Ka-Gaar wonders what he is doing here. The massive pull no longer holds his mind, but there is an interesting smell coming from the cave. Deciding that he might as well check it out, and that the cave will be a sheltered sleeping spot in the worst case, he walks into the dark opening.
Nearly stumbling over the lowered threshold - it has been a couple dozen millennia since he took this form, after all - Ka-Gaar finds a single table holding a deliciously smelling cup. Taking it in his clumsy hands, the smell hits him the moment he looks at it closer. A single sip later, and Ka-Gaar knows bliss. A scalding heat burns away the uncomfortable feeling from inhibiting a form not his own. The fog in his mind lifts further, allowing him to realise that life is not as unknown, scary, and bleak as he had been thinking.
The aftertaste is what truly sells it, though. Tastes unlike anything he has ever experienced burn into his mind. The taste of glowing coals hidden by ash, the feeling of emerging from your stuffy sleeping cave and seeing the salty dawn, the smells of growing trees untouched by all. All of these things vie for his attention as Ka-Gaar stands there frozen, empty cup falling from his fingers.
“Ancestor, why did you drink what was mine?”
His eyes shooting open, Ka-Gaar sees Re-Haan look at him with big, watery eyes. The calm in his head, the first since he was so rudely awoken, shatters. “I drank what was yours?”
“Do you have more?”
“I do not, currently.”
Frowning at the way this youngling - no matter how powerful - refuses to show the proper deference, Ka-Gaar stands straighter. He has immensely appreciated the talk he had had with this female, but first meetings are not meant to be serious, after all. “Where is more?”
“I only know of one place, Ancestor.”
Nodding that she at least addresses him with the respect he deserves, he continues commanding her. “Where?” A small part of him still remembers being a youngling himself, and he slightly recalls the quiet frustration he had felt at the way he was ignored by all that hatched before him. The perspective of time has long since put that foolish rebellious part of him into its proper place, though.
“I merely had to agree and sign with that document. I’m getting a daily portion, but you just drank the last of it.” Re-Haan slowly points towards the side of the odd cave. He sees a few small barrels that have papers stuck on their lids. Walking over, he starts reading the small script.
“What is this nonsense! These words make no sen-”
“You there, what is this smell? Hand me that”
“My apologies Ancestor. Here you are.”
Ka-Gaar watches with open mouth as another Ancestor in human form enters, shouts at Re-Haan and is handed a similar cup. The newcomer stands stock still for long seconds before Ka-Gaar interrupts the peaceful scene. “You had more?”
“My apologies, Ancestor. My barrel only supplies a limited amount. So I had none that moment.”
“What is this nonsense paper? This all said nothing. Why would anyone-”
“Silence, whelp! Where is more!” Interrupted by the furious newcomer, Ka-Gaar is forced to shut up. He is one of the younger Ancestors, and the gravitas radiating from the room’s third occupant indicates that he is at least twice as old as Ka-Gaar himself.
“Over there, Ancestor. I only had to understand and agree to receive more.” Re-Haan again deferentially gestures towards the few barrels Ka-Gaar is standing over.
“Move over. Right, right.” Ka-Gaar is pushed aside as the newcomer starts studying the barrels.
“Explain this situation right this instant!” A new voice thunders through the small space, and Ka-Gaar grits his teeth as he recognises one of the Flight members walk in that was ancient when he had started sleeping in the Ancestor caves. The same routine plays out again, and this time, Ka-Gaar sees Re-Haan filling a new cup from the barrel she is hiding behind her body.
Ka-Gaar walks over and pulls the small object from the woman’s hands. “Give me that.” Ignoring protocol, the earth dragon holds it above his mouth. One drop lands on his tongue, filling his head with calm for a brief moment once again. This fades too quickly, however, and not a single drop more comes from the obviously still full barrel.
“Excuse me, Ancestor. As it said in the contract, the barrels are for personal use only. Only the contractee can pour from it.”
Looking around, Ka-Gaar sees yet another Ancestor in humanoid form has entered the cave. This one sports a thick maze of horns sprouting from their forehead, their sex not visible in the dim light. What is visible, however, is that there are just two barrels in the cave. And there are three ancestors who have tasted the amazing, wonderful, and life completing brew that comes from it. The third intruder shakes itself free from the haze it has found itself in after drinking from Re-Haan’s cup, and looks at the two barrels.
Ka-Gaar is briefly confused, as he could have sworn there used to be a small stack of the wooden things with papers on top just moments earlier. Then the second Ancestor presses their thumbs against the paper, intones a hasty “I agree,” and puts the barrel to their lips.
A fourth humanoid dragon steps into the cave, and now there are but two barrels left, still one too few. The ancient dragons all rush forwards at the same time, pushing the busily drinking dragon to the side.
The following hours are a blur to Ka-Gaar. He remembers fighting for a barrel, shouting “Yes, I agree” at the top of his lungs before finding bliss in the liquid gold, nay, the liquid more precious than gold, the mana crystal dripping from the small wooden vessel. Ignoring the fight happening off to the side, he finds himself stumbling outside, sitting himself down on one of the many benches located behind the cave. Sipping from his barrel, chatting with other Ancestors that sip from their barrels, he looks at the stream of dragons entering the cave with a smile.
For the first time in all his life, Ka-Gaar can just enjoy the moment. Instead of living on mana crystal alone - a proof of draconic adulthood - he is glad to be able to take in the liquid sustenance. The small cave seems to grow as more and more dragons transform into their humanoid shapes, but the entrance never grows bigger. Fights break out, but thick wafts of the heavenly smell distracts most dragons before they sustain injuries. Ka-Gaar finds himself massively enjoying himself, perhaps even finding just talking and drinking preferable to sleep.
The walls between Ancestor, youngling, All-Dragon, and whelp seems to become extremely unimportant as Ka-Gaar chats and shares drink with ancient and newborns alike. The last thing that goes through his mind before passing out is a single thought. Why does he feel like he just made a massive mistake that he will regret all his life? Putting his lips to the barrel one last time, the bliss of drunken sleep overtakes him.
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