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Don't Make Me Hunt You Down

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By ArdentAspen   |   
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© 2016 - 2020 ArdentAspen
She had been ignoring him steadily for the last two hours. Had they not been sharing such a comfortable camaraderie just the day before, this would not have bothered him as much, he suspected. But what could he say? The death of a dragon was shocking, unthinkable. To see a powerful wyvern reduced to...well, whatever it was Arcee had seen...must have been far worse than Jack could ever imagine.

Cautiously, he approached the base of the hill and set down the pail of water his mother handed him. "Arcee?" he began tentatively, "I just wished to say that I am truly sorry for your loss."

Arcee's frill rose in indignation and she threw herself down from the hilltop to land in front of the humans, eyes aglow with pain. "Loss?" she hissed, "What could you possibly know about loss?!"

The lad clenched his teeth and ignored his mother's whispered warnings as he approached the dragon. With trembling fingers, he unlaced the front of his tunic to reveal a rough wooden cross laying against his collarbone. "Do you know what this is?" he asked in a low voice.

"A cross," Arcee snapped, rather dismissively. "Lots of people have them."

Jack shut his eyes a moment, then spoke again. "My father tied this around my neck when I was scarcely old enough to walk. That was the day the landlord decided that, while he didn't want to join the Crusades, he wanted to "do his part" and sent my father in his place. We weren't serfs, he didn't own us nor had he the right to sell my father to recruiters, but he didn't care."

Arcee tilted her head, examining the way the human shook as he tried to control his voice. "I will never see my father again, Arcee. Don't tell me I don't understand loss." Then, when he had gathered a little courage, he added, "Humans can feel as deeply as dragons, even if our lives are shorter. We know your pain. Let us help you to bear it!"

For a time, each stood there gazing into the other's eyes. Jack knew he took a great risk by doing so, for nothing is so dangerous as to look a dragon full in the eye: if they've a mind to, they can hypnotize with but a thought and few humans that fall under a dragon's spell are seen again. But there was no spell in the fisher-dragon's eyes: only pain.

At last, with a shrill keening sound, Arcee stretched out her wings and launched from the grass, spiraling up into the air to lash out at the clouds. Jack watched her sadly, clutching the cross around his neck even as his mother placed a hand on his shoulder, warning him that they'd been away from the village too long.
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Foxbear's avatar
FoxbearHobbyist General Artist
The setting sun found Jack standing over a long table fashioned of logs, preparing to clean the doves that one of the hunters had brought in. June had entrusted him with several bundles of herbs she had collected and the doves were a cheap trade. The hunter had not wanted to spend the time it took to clean the delicate birds himself as he had larger game to prepare and the meat Jack cleaned meticulously from the fine bones he could use to feed himself and his mother or he could trade in turn to those in the village who had neither a hunter's skill nor a medicine woman's knowledge. Though the sun rested comfortingly across his shoulders the youth's heart was heavy and his gut twisted with the helpless grief of on who must watch another suffer. The village offered little respite from his thoughts. The once bustling mining village, which had at one time almost been a proper town, had emptied and the semi-precious stones had dried up and the mine had turned barren. Many of the dwellings stood empty now and at this time of day the only sound to be heard in this far corner was the rustle of the grass and the clicking of some insect. That is perhaps why Jack heard the tale tale sound of wings stroking the air so far off and his back stiffened. It had been days since their last real conversation, and since Jack had made his choice.
"It is unusual for you to come this close to the village," he commented when he heard the impossibly delicate impact of talons on hard packed dirt. He certainly wouldn't dare question a dragon's choices, but it was safe enough to comment on it, and perhaps he was still a bit stung by her behavior earlier. And if he had not earned the Primeian Dragons' wrath already by turning his back on them there was little he might do to earn it yet. The thought loosened his tongue a bit more than it should perhaps.
"Perhaps if your village had more guards, or any for that matter it might be of concern" Arcee said, but she spoke without malice and Jack fancied that he heard genuine concern in her voice. Ratchet had made no bone about how unsafe and undefended he thought the village. A large part of the reason that he kept Raf close to him.
Jack sighed and finished the dove in front of him, carefully wrapping the meat in leaves for preservation before turning to the dragon who seemed to glow with iridescence in the afternoon sun. 
"You must understand, Arcee," He tried to begin. "I have nothing but respect for what Optimus is trying to do. Bringing the humans and dragons closer together, it is a noble cause, but I have my mother to support. I cannot become involved, any more involved, in the affairs of dragons when I must put meat on the table and fire in the hearth."
There  was a long moment of silence and Jack seemed to see a great struggle going on behind the dragon's eyes. Finally she spoke.
"Optimus didn't send me Jack," Arcee said softly.
Jack wrinkled his forehead in confusion. "Then if we both agree that I am not the cloth a warrior is cut from, and have little understanding of such affairs, then what are you seeking here?"
"I, I recently lost someone...close to me Jack," Arcee said, deliberately not looking him in the eyes. Jack appreciated that, she  wanted him to be uninfluenced by the power even a small dragon wielded. "I don't know if it is the grief that drives me thus, or if you are simply starting to grow on me...but...I am not ready for this," her wing flicked to indicate the space between them, "to be over."
Something in Jack's heart clenched as lessons that his father had ingrained in his mind before he could speak twined with the compassion his mother had taught him every day of his life. As unfathomable as it seemed, this ancient creature of power was vulnerable, she needed him. His decision was made before he even had time to properly think on it.
"Neither am I," he whispered. He reached out to touch her and then hesitated remembering the gore on his hands. "Perhaps we could return to the mountain when I am done here?"
ArdentAspen's avatar
In the glittering caves to the north, surrounded by colorful smoke that danced among the prisms, Ratchet reared his head. His eyes changed from the milky hue they had been to a clear, pale blue, indicating that he had come out of the trance needed for his finding spell.

"Optimus," he flapped his stunted wings both to drive away the smoke and to catch the Elder Tempest dragon's attention. "I have at last pinpointed the seat of Megatron's foul operation: he means to tear open the firmament itself to bring through his lich-wyrms from Ilfay."

Optimus shook his heavy head solemnly. "In accordance with the abilities of each flyer among us, that is still out of our reach."

At their feet, the little noble staying in the village -- part of some diplomatic venture, Ratchet thought -- tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and frowned. "Perhaps Ratchet and Bulkhead cannot fly," she piped up boldly, "But surely there must be some spell to help all those needed to reach the necessary height?"

"My power has limited range," the old healer answered sourly, "Stretched so far beyond my own awareness, a spell could snap, scattering any unlucky dragon caught betwixt spell and Earth among the stars."
Mikoto's horrified expression suggested that further explanations were not needed.

Optimus frowned and wrapped his wings around him. "Since Megatron is likely already in transit," he began in a determined tone, "I am afraid that is a risk we may well be forced to take. Reaching the ancient door to Ilfay first is our only means of stopping him." He turned away from the gathered dragons and faced the opening in the caves that led to the sea, having caught the distant snap of wings. At the sight of the shimmering creature twisting in the wind, his eyes narrowed in approval. At the sight of the human on her back, his eyes widened again.

Arcee landed gracefully, and stretched out her wings in a humble greeting before folding them back. The human slid down and fussed with the hem of his tunic before clearing his throat and peering up at the dragons from beneath a fringe of hair.
"I greet you, Optimus Prime," he gulped, quite unsure of what to say, "It appears that I cannot so easily leave after all."

In that moment, the Prime of their wing appeared almost to smile, turning a kind gaze on the young man, then he raised his head and trumpeted, "Primeans, prepare for departure!"

Jack's face fell, for though he had expected no welcome, he had hoped they would not immediately leave. Behind him, Arcee's audial frills perked up with interest. "Where are we bound?" she asked.

Mikoto stepped forward, never taking her hand from her guardian's scales. "To that frontier which man has never yet breached," she said solemnly, gesturing towards the darkening sky.

"The stars!" Jack gasped, reaching for his cross for comfort. "But Miss, I would have thought there was no sure way for all of them to make such a journey!" He cast a pointed look at the wingless forest dragon beside Mikoto.

"In truth? We do not have a way. Not really," the little wizard's pupil, Rafael clung tight to Bumblebee's horns as the fledgling dragon lowered his head so that the child could step down. This did nothing to soothe the sudden fears that surged to life in the older human.

"Until we meet next, then?" he said to Arcee in a surprisingly steady voice, considering his memories of all who had left his life before, never to return. The fisher-dragon's frills fell to lay flat against her skull, and she nudged the lad with the tip of one wing in what was meant to be a reassuring gesture. Then she shuffled along after Optimus.

Rafael brushed his fingers across the broken patterns of black and yellow scales that had earned Bumblebee his name. "Be careful, won't you, Bee?" he asked in a very small voice. The youngling nuzzled the tiny boy playfully with a low bass croon, promising in his own tongue that he would return to his new favorite companion.

Beside them, Lady Mikoto folded her arms across the silk of her gown -- sorely in need of a good wash -- and huffed. "Ah, I am so envious of you, dear friend!" she exclaimed.
"You had best put any thought of following me out of your mind, my girl," Bulkhead growled as a precaution, "I won't stand for it!" Then he too had moved to stand with his fellows in preparation for....well, whatever spell Ratchet meant to concoct.

"Optimus," Ratchet said urgently, even as he retreated once more to his ring of gemstones and crystalline rock formations to concentrate, "If you leave me stranded upon this world teeming with humans, I shall never forgive you!"

"Until we meet again, old friend," Optimus answered placidly.
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"What are you doing?" Miko demanded glaring over at Jack. 
"He's praying Miko," Raf interjected softly as he lifted a pale green crystal and shifted it to the side, never taking his eyes off of Ratchet. The old cave dragon was deep in a trance following the rest of the Primean Dragons with his mind. While he could move the crystals closest to him with his own talons to clarify the images he was seeing the ones further out had to be moved by other hands. The stubby wings twitched and Rafael darted to shift a golden crystal barely shorter than him. In his prime Ratchet had had an entire nimbus of young dragons, apprentices, to aid him like this. Now one small human tended to his needs and Primus he was a blessing. Raf took great pride in knowing that he was useful to the old dragon.
"Is that doing any good?" Miko interrupted his concentration and Raf stumbled, displacing a glittering blue crystal and making Ratchet hiss in discomfort.
"Ep, ep, ep!" Raf scolded. "He needed that! Don't distract me!" 
Miko huffed and hiked up her skirts, stalking over to the cushions that Jack was currently kneeling over. She considered interrupting him but huffed and dropped down to sit on another nearby cushion. There was something about the intensity of his face and the way his lips moved silently that made her hesitate to interrupt. The soft leather of the cushions, pillows for the dragons, couches for the humans, formed to her body and Miko hesitated to get up. She leaned over and rested a gentle hand on the peasant's shoulder. 
"Please remember Bulkhead to Jack," she whispered.
A soft smiled and a nod was her only response but it lightened Miko's heart. She stood and began to pace the room, her mind worrying over what might be befalling her guardian as he battled the undead legions among the stars. Now there was a thought! Her brain conjured images of brilliant light filled spaces and her fingers twitched, yearning for her brushes and inks. It would be well to have something to commemorate the great battle. Miko chewed her bottom lip as she pulled out her finest papers and  inks, shipped to her to continue her studies. She took a deep breath and arranged her silks. She would start with the image of Bulkhead atop a rainbow stair with the stars scattered around him. 
The children were all well involved in their pursuits with Raf suddenly cried out and darted to the circle of crystals that had so recently taken their guardians from them. He frantically moved about the shards in obedience to Ratchet's wing flicks until he came to one of the largest and struggled against its side. Miko spotted him and leapt to her feet.
"Jack!" She called out in her tone of command. "Help us!" 
The two larger children lent their strength to Raf and pushed the crystal into the place the smallest ordered. He then grabbed their hands and dragged them out of the circle. Ratchet snarled and threw he head back his entire body straining. Raf whimpered as bright tears began to stream out of the cave dragon's eyes at the stress and Jack pulled the smaller boy into a hug. Light begat to glow from the great crystals and lightening danced between them. A swirling green mist formed and Ratchet staggered. 
"Four hearts beating," he groaned out. "One very weakly...."
The children gasped and clutched at eat other. 
"Keep praying Jack," Miko hissed. 
He squeezed her hand and nodded, clutching the cross beneath his shirt. Optimus appeared, and if a dragon could stagger in flight he staggered before righting himself and landing with some dignity on the floor. His bright eyes swept the cavern as if hungrily counting to make sure they were all there before he turned to clear the way for the next arrival. 
"Bulkhead!" Miko cried in delight as the flightless green dragon landed with a much louder thump and grunt  behind his Prime. Miko darted forward and flung herself into his talons.
The boys followed her with Jack's eyes nervously searching the portal. The sound of light beating wings filled the cavern and a yellow and blue blur darted forward and Ratchet groaned and the portal dissipated. Jack stiffened as he saw Arcee draped limp across Bumblebee's back. The younger dragon reached around to nuzzle her with a worried trill and Jack darted forward, fear clutching at his gut. Her face was blackened and fine cracks crossed her crest. Her eyes were shut and her face disturbingly lax. Miko came up and rested an ink stained hand on Jack's shoulder and Raf clutched at his other hand, two  points of warmth to counter the cold dread of Jack's heart. He could not lose another he loved...
As if echoing his innermost thoughts Ratchet staggered over.
"We lost one this week already," the old dragon groaned, "by the first egg do not let it be two!" 
Optimus brought a wing up to caress his friend but kept his eyes locked on Arcee. Jack suddenly surged forward and rested his hand in her talons, he wasn't sure why. He just had the urge to touch her. Slowly her eyes opened and the lifelight flickered in their depths. 
"Arcee!" He whispered hoarsely. 
"Jack...really?" She whispered hoarsely. "There are other dragons in the world." 
ArdentAspen's avatar
"There are none like you," the lad brushed away a tear and smiled.

"And...Megatron?" Ratchet turned to Optimus hesitantly. The larger dragon pulled his wings in close, ears laid back.

"Not even he could have survived the collapse of the Gate." There was sadness and yet also a measure of relief in his words.

"Prime of Dragons," said an unexpected voice. It was the marshall they had all rescued from Starscream's clutches not two days previously. He had evidently recovered from the Decepticonian's venom and was standing on his own two feet once more.

"I was not able to thank you before for the saving of my life," the man said. "I am in your debt. So are we all."

Optimus nodded regally to him. "Go in peace, friend Fowler, and be welcome when you return."

Arcee hauled herself to her feet, though her left wing was curiously stiff, as though ice had formed upon the membranes, and shook out her frills. She favored Jack with a smile, which he returned. Behind him, Mikoto clasped her ink stained hands together and worried at her lips. She slipped around the lads and came to stand before Optimus solemnly.

"So," she began, "have we reached the part of the tale in which each of us humans is dismissed and forbidden to speak of what went on here?" There was a startling fragility to her voice.

The Primean dragons exchanged looks, and Ratchet indicated to Optimus his circle of stones, suggesting that something of import had taken place during the battle. Optimus nodded, agreeing to discuss the matter later, and turned to the rest of his wing.

"Without a means to leave this world, the Primean wing takes strength in the bonds it has forged with our three young friends. True warriors: if not in body, than in spirit." He smiled at Mikoto, and she knew then that there would be no goodbyes.

Dawn found the dragons scattered across the mountain range, each burning runes of fire into the stones at Optimus's dictation, creating a message that could be seen from the sky.

"My name is Optimus Prime, and I send this message: though we did not choose to be of the human realm, it would seem that we are here to stay. If you approach this realm and its settlements with hostile intent, know this:
We will defend ourselves. We will defend humanity. We will defend our home."
daywalker-designs's avatar
daywalker-designsHobbyist Digital Artist
Way to go Jack. Kid's got some bearings, as Bulkhead might say, to be so forceful with a dragon like Arcee.
ArdentAspen's avatar
I always did think he was pretty gutsy around Cybertronians, right from the very first episode
daywalker-designs's avatar
daywalker-designsHobbyist Digital Artist
He was indeed, but at the same time there was something that almost seemed like a reluctance to accept that they were real, which was shattered by the "second death" of Cliffjumper, which now that I think about it has to be what's got the dragon Arcee so disturbed.
ArdentAspen's avatar
Yeah. She'd sort of semi accepted that he was gone, and then his signal pops back up out of the blue and there's hope again.
Having that hope cruelly twisted facing a parody of her partner has got to be an extremely disturbing experience.
JasonVoorheesfurry's avatar
QwQ Sad feelings!

:la: But a cool idea, TFP in a medival setting with dragons :la: love it!
Fanatic97's avatar
Wow..that sounds like one jerkish Landlord. 

Nice thouching moment though 
ArdentAspen's avatar
Oh yeah, feudalism and being a serf was bad bad news before the Crusades. After the Crusades were over, interestingly, serfs were actually given more rights. (Probably because the population had dropped due to how many died in the crusades, so you can't really afford to keep enslaving all these people)
Fanatic97's avatar
Yeah ^^: 

Well it seems like the cursades did some good :) 

Can't wait to see more of these :D 
anonymous's avatar
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