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Dragon Hunters

Book Two: The Path of Honor

© 2001-2002 Draconus / Stratadrake of NEWST

Chapter Four: Son of the Dragon

It was with a start that Katra awoke. He had had another nightmare during his sleep. It was much like the one he previously had during his first night in Lancaster, Suthcross. Katra was standing in the dream-field of a dreamy, foggy Norset Village during its destruction. Something was amiss, though; Katra was there at his present age, and so was his father, Draconus. The enemies this time were not the Dragon Fist mercenaries, but rather, a stranger shrouded in black robes and an army of his own. The town was set alight, and Draconus went to fight the enemy. They clashed swords and fought, while the city Norset began its burning to the ground.

Katra was about to join in when his father's battle changed. The enemy slew Draconus, or so it seemed; but instead of perishing, Draconus was the one countered with his own fatal blow, cleaving the dark enemy in two. The folds of the enemy's empty robe fell to the ground and burned to ashes, the enemy's body nowhere to be seen or found. It was a stark contrast to Katra's memory of what had actually happened, with Draconus giving Strato what should have been a fatal blow, but Strato somehow surviving, counterattacking, and killing Draconus.

This is where the situation became wierd. Wierd may not be the best word usable to describe it; vexing is more like it. The image of Katra's father, Draconus, faded into a colorless shape upon or near the ground. The shape grew larger, and more opaque in color; and after about three moments, it formed into a full-sized dragon, red in color and gazing down upon Katra in a powerful and menacing glare.

Katra couldn't understand it. Nor could he explain it. "...Dad?" was the only thing Katra could say. The dragon charged forward and attacked Katra.

Tossing and rolling about, Katra struggled to evade the dragon's attacks. However, Katra was able to hit the dragon only a few times. Katra was quite at the receiving end of its claws and tail, and the pains from each were adding up.

The dragon nailed Katra to the ground under one of its paws, glaring down at him. Katra, seemingly badly injured, struggled to maintain focus. The dragon opened its mouth wide, revealing its teeth in preparation to devour him.

Things got even stranger. A strange red eagle-sized bird appeared, and began to circle about the dragon. The dragon paused and looked at it. The bird landed near Katra, protecting him. The dragon drew back, and would attack no further. Whether or not the bird and dragon were talking to each other could not be determined, but something was happening. Katra's pain was fading, and he was able to stand back up again.

The dragon gave a roar, and began turning around in preparations to leave. However, just before actually leaving, it spun around quickly, whipping Katra across the face with the plates on its tail. Katra spun and fell to the ground. The bird covered Katra with its wings, and the dragon was no more.

Such was Katra's nightmare. Katra now looked about the room he was in. It was the afternoon, but due to the curtains covering the windows and skylight, the room was a bit dark. Dark by human standards, that is; for Katra could see perfectly in it. It was not until the door opened and a figure walked in that Katra realized how bright the noonday sun was. Katra shielded his eyes from it.

The man looked at Katra, speaking in an unfamiliar voice. "...You've finally come to, son."

Katra, still squinting as his eyes adjusted to the brighter light levels as the figure opened the curtains covering the windows, letting more light in. The man was apparently human, but Katra could not recognize him. "...have we met...?"

The man shook his head. "I don't think so."

A few memories popped into Katra's head. "What did you do with Hunter; where is he?"

"If I had to guess, i would say he is five hundred miles to the southest--give or take a hundred, that is."

Katra stood up. "No time for that; I've got to find him." Katra's thoughts being still jumbled, he didn't realize the ludicrousness of what he was saying and implying. Five hundred miles? Even that number failed to register in Katra's mind. Katra stood up and paced towards the door. "Sorry to have troubled you, I've got to be on my way...."

Katra left the room even as the man said quietly, "I don't think you'll get very far...."

Katra navigated his way out of the stranger's lodge, and as his eyes adjusted to the outdoor light, he realized exactly where he was. Although he could not possibly place the geographic location, he was surrounded in forest. Katra began walking along the path leading away from the stranger's abode.

Katra had travelled only about twenty paces when he came to the realization that he was lost. Katra couldn't tell north from south, nor east from west. He looked around; nothing was familiar, and the only landmark visible anywhere was the stranger's lodge. Katra looked down at the path, up at the trees, and a whole flood of memories came haunting back to him.

Memories of Norset, Lancaster, Strato, and the death of King Leonardo; memories of the entertainment at the Hamlet Inn, the city of Border, the night raid by Andrake; memories of memories gleaned while Katra was recovering from the raid, the sinking of the C.S. Titanic, the discovery of a dragon on the isle it called Atlantis; memories of Strato and Andrake again, about Adgers and Glacier Village in the mountains. Memories of a large underground complex and a portal. Memories of a great light flash--

Followed by his most recent memories. Katra examined his medallion; it seemed to glow softly in his hands. At this, his most recent and painful memory came back in a flurry. A great flash of energy, like a ball of fire, enveloping him and surronding him for an inexplicable reason, released from the medallion. Shortly followed his memories of stumbling outside, in pain from something. Hunter trying to help him, and Katra demanding to Hunter that he find help, even giving Hunter a slash with claws.

Katra's memory grew more painful, and with it, Katra was experiencing a bit of lingering pain himself. He knelt down on one knee to help bear the memory of sharp pain: the memory of something inexplicable happening to him, Hunter's bewilderment and fear about exactly what; and a stranger coming to help. Katra's memory ended there because he had previouslyblacked out from the pain.

--Claws? No, that was impossible. Or was it? Katra brushed himself over in quick examination. To his reassurance, he was indeed completely human; his hands, arms, legs, feet and body were entirely normal. His uniform and armor had been completely repaired, by someone or something. Katra drew his sword, and it was exactly how he remembered it.

Katra's questions multiplied. Although reassured at still having his own familiar form, this made his questions even more inexplicable. Had he awoken somehow in a non-human form, Katra would have been horrified at such discovery, yet ironically, such could have possibly served up an explanation about what happened. As it was, Katra was both assured and dumbfounded; except for the painfully fresh memories of what had happened, Katra himself bore no signs of being affected at all. Could it just have been a dream?

The answer was, obviously, no. Katra's memories were no dream. They were real... but how? Katra needed answers, and he knew one thing for sure--the only person available to ask was the stranger back at the lodge. Katra turned back around and returned to the lodge for some answers.

Katra returned to the study where he had awoken and, not finding any chairs to sit down upon, he sat back down on the bed, head hung in his arms. The stranger looked back at him. "I knew you would come back."

Katra did not return the man's glance. "All I have are questions; I need answers. Who are you?"

The man nodded. "Perhaps you are asking for my name. Very well. You may call me Falknyr. I serve my people of Anathia as a warrior, scholar, and a bit of a wizard, too. And, possibly, I might be the one who saved your life."

Katra shook his head. "If you're a scholar, perhaps you can help. How did I get here?"

"That is a simple question," said Falknyr. "I was told to find the one..." Falknyr pointed at Katra's medallion. "...with that medallion, and that sword."

Katra detached the medallion from its chain. "This medallion? It was my father's...."

Falknyr nodded. "Indeed. Medallions like those have been passed down from parent to child for over one hundred generations. They contain the powers envested to our tribe, and they define and represent our warriors. May I see it?"

Katra tossed his medallion to Falknyr, who examined it. "I was right.... This is--or more accurately, was--the medallion of Draconus, one of our best warriors--"

"Wait one moment!" Katra interrupted as he looked up and stared back. "My father! You knew my father?"

Falknyr was surprised, mumbling slightly to himself, "by the stars... I was indeed right."

"Draconus of the city Nathos. You knew him?"

Falknyr lit up at the answer. "Our capital city, Nathos! I knew it; I was right...."

"Will you stop saying that?" Katra was getting annoyed at Falknyr's murmurings. "Right about what?"

"Well, son," Falknyr responded. "You've been on a long, tough journey. But at least you're safe now...."

"That still doesn't answer anything," Katra lamented. "How did you know dad?"

Falknyr nodded. "He was a comrade. Even more so, he was my best friend, even to the last....."

Katra glared at Falknyr. "You're telling the truth... but you're holding something back. What aren't you telling me?"

Faklnyr was a bit puzzled. "It is a long, complex story. Perhaps we should take this, as they say... 'one step at a time'."

Katra was undisturbed. "Nonsense. What are you hiding?"

"First things first," Falknyr stated. "we haven't been properly introduced. I have told you who I am; now, who are you? What is your name, son?"

"My name--" Katra started, but then he stopped. For some reason unknown, Katra couldn't recall his own name! "I..., ...that is..., I don't know."

Falknyr was puzzled. "That is strange. Your parents did give you a name when you were born, right?"

"Yes, it's just that... I just can't bring it to mind. Something so simple, and I can't even say what it is! Yes, I was given a name. Hunter and Marcus used it constantly, as they should. But, I-- I just don't rember what. It's gone...."

"Hmmmm.... Anyway, son, placing the name aside, can you introduce yourself, please?"

Katra nodded. "Well, I was born in the city of Norset up in the mountains. Spent nearly my entire life there. Dad founded their Honor Guard, and I always looked up to him. Mom died when I was about two years, so only Dad could raise me. Unfortunately, when I was about five years, Dad was killed by the mercenary, Strato, when he invaded the city and robbed the Gallery. I could never forget that day; Dad dealt Strato what should have been a fatal blow with a sword of fire. However, for some reason, Strato survived, and he slew Dad right there. After that, I was raised as an Honor Guard myself, and I protected the city with my life. Recently, though, Strato led an organized assault on the city Norset with a group of brigands called the Dragon's Fist. The brigands are but a memory by now, but Strato--"

"Wait one moment," Falknyr interrupted. "You said Strato. You don't, by chance, mean Strato Valkyros, the legendary Dragon Knight of Khatalus?"

Katra looked at the man. "A mercenary like Strato... legend? What do you mean?"

Falknyr nodded. "There is hardly a soul in the world who hasn't heard of Strato at one time or another. He was a noble warrior, serving the King of Khatalus until the city was attacked by dragons, over sixty years back. After that, he became a Dragon Knight. But about twenty years ago, Strato vanished without a trace. And just a few days ago, they say dragons attacked and destroyed Khatalus. It is all unfortunate timing...."

"I don't know where you got such information...," Katra blinked. "In my home country, Strato is a wanted criminal. Siege, asssassination, robbery, the works. According to Hunter, Strato's done everything except break his word. Quite a strange, yet fearsome man."

"If you say so.... I myself cannot imagine a knight like Strato as a criminal."

"Enough of that," Katra spoke out. "I've introduced myself now. What can you tell me?"

"About what?"

"About Nathos. About my father's medallion, and his sword; and most importantly, whatever it did to me. I have questions, and you know the answers."

Falknyr was a bit surprised. "I can see there is no fooling you at all. You're right; I do know what that medallion is. But as for what happened to you, I am still trying to figure that out.

"Anyway, it is best to start at the beginning. Our ancestors served the fire guardian, Empyros, during the ancient war. Medallions such as these were given to our warriors for use. The medallions contained specific powers over fire. One power is that of the sword, another is that over armor, and the third is over fire itself." Falknyr drew his sword off of its spot on one of the room's walls, held it in his hand, and (for lack of a better word) 'concentrated' on it. The sword glew, and in moments the air around it caught ablaze with a golden-yellow fire. Falknyr swung the blade around, carving a shape through the air. Falknyr swung the blade downwards and doused it, before putting it back into its space on the wall.

"That's amazing... almost like the Atom Blade itself. What else can a medallion like mine do...?"

"The second power contained in these medallions is the armor of fire. Wearing the medallion, one could armor themselves with a layer of fire, unharming to them, but dangerous to a foe." Falknyr looked off towards the window. "The medallion itself is required for the second power to work; but my medallion is currently elsewhere.

"And the third power, is that over fire itself. It works rather much like--" Falknyr concentrated, and when he snapped his fingers, a small globe of fire appeared right above his hand. Without warning, Falknyr threw the miniature fireball towards Katra with force. Katra reacted reflexively, shielding himself from it. It hit his armor and disappeared, leaving not even a singe. Katra looked back at Falknyr in a strong glare. "What was that!?"

Falknyr backed off slightly. "A small example of the third power. Our warrior medallions have been passed down from generation to generation, parent to child, for eons--"

"And that is all? That still doesn't explain what happened to me; and you know. So, tell me...."

Falknyr stopped Katra. "I was not finished. As I said, the medallions have been passed from parent to child for ages. There is a specific rite used to bequeath a medallion from one owner to the next. In such, the medallion is re-forged slightly to adjust and adapt to the new owner.

"This grants a fourth power to the warrior to whom the medallion belongs. Each medallion has a certain power about it; a certain energy field especially tuned to its owner. With practice, and experience, the owner can easily detect the medallion's field, and locate the medallion within short order. For example...." Falknyr opened a drawer in the desk he was sitting at; he withdrew three round containers. Opening one, he placed Katra's medallion in one of them and closed it. After jumbling and re-ordering the three containers, he set them down in a row on a footstool. "Now, which one do you think contains the medallion?"

"I..." Katra had seen that trick enough previous times that it sounded all too lame. "It's anyone's chance. Try the one in the center."

Falknyr opened the center container; Katra's medallion was visible inside it. "Good choice; but I doubt you could do it again by simple luck."

"You're on," Katra responded.

Ten minutes later, Falknyr had repeated the trick ten times, and miraculously, Katra had picked his medallion's location correctly ten times in a row. The exact odds of doing so through simple luck is 59,049 to one against; so either Katra had chanced upon an unbelievably improbable spell of luck, or he wasn't locating the medallion through sheer luck at all. Falknyr had made the trick harder by adding a fourth and fifth round container to choose from, but Katra still managed to single out whichever container Falknyr had put the medallion into, regardless of how they were shuffled or jumbled. By now, Katra had beat mathematical odds of a million to one against. Falknyr looked at Katra. "Correct again, and for a dozen times in a row. Now, what do you think about the fourth power?"

Katra blinked. "Are you saying that because it is my medallion, I can find it anywhere? That sounds impossible."

"And what you just did is not? No, quite possible. I can prove it further, if you are so skeptic."

Katra thought about it. "Sure. ...but how?"

Falknyr withdrew Katra's medallion and held it firmly in his hand. He withdrew a small timepiece and tossed it to Katra. "I will be somewhere within two miles. If you can find me before the next hour, I will answer all your questions I am able." Without further comment, and much to Katra's surprise, Faklnyr did something unexpected. He waved his arm, and in a flash of energy, his form disappeared and was replaced by that of a large, fiery-red eagle-sized bird, hodling Katra's medallion in its foot. The bird gave Katra a quick wink, and then jumped out of the window and flew off.

Katra was at a loss for words as he rushed to the window to try tracking the bird. "Hey! What did you just--!?" Katra searched the skyline and forest canopy, but unfortunately, the large bird was nowhere to be seen. Katra tried to figure it out. Was Falknyr that large bird? Or was the large bird Falknyr? Why did he do that, or more strangely, how? Katra had as many questions about what Falknyr had accomplished as he did regarding his own painful experience.

Somewhat exasperated, Katra looked down at the timepiece. According to it, Katra had but twenty minutes to find Falknyr--and/or that large bird--before the hour. Katra knew that the chances of finding a bird like that in a place he never saw before--and within twenty minutes, too--were near impossible. But even so, if Katra wanted more answers from Falknyr, he had to track that bird down.

The sun was beginning to set as Katra paced outside of the lodge and into the forest. Despite the setting sun, the forest was nowhere near dark. Katra looked around; every direction seemed the same. Katra thought to himself, "Now, if I were a bird like that, where would I be?"

Katra decided to head west. He walked for about five minutes without spotting a single thing. Katra stopped for a moment and leaned against one of the trees for a breather. Looking around, Katra noticed that the tree was large and branchy, which would make it easy to climb up. Now Katra is not very skilled at climbing trees, but he did know that if the brid--Falknyr, perhaps?--wanted somewhere to play hide-and-seek, it wouldn't choose a spot on the ground. It would be up in the air, or in a tree. Therefore, Katra decided to climb up the tree.

Grabbing onto one branch after another, hand and foot, Katra began scaling the particular tree. A tree being as thick as it was could easily reach one hundred feet into the air. Katra climbed to a hieght of about twenty feet and looked around. Still nothing to be seen, so Katra climbed a bit higher.

At a hieght of about forty feet, the tree's trunk ended abruptly, with a wooden platform constructed on top. A light wood-and-rope bridge led to a taller and larger tree at the north. Although wondering exactly what he had found, Katra crossed the bridge to the taller tree. It had a platform built around its trunk as well. Katra navigated around the platform, examining it caerfully. A crude ladder was constructed on one side of the tree's trunk. Katra looked up, but could see nothing against the dimming sky. Still, Katra felt like exploring, so he climbed the ladder up to the top.

Falknyr was waiting for him. "Welcome to my observatory, son."

Katra tossed the timepiece back to Falknyr. "I've found you; can I have my medallion back now?"

Falknyr nodded, walked over, and handed the medallion to Katra. "It took you but ten minutes to find this observatory. Combined that you didn't know where this, or I, was in the first place, you tracked it well."

"What do you mean by, 'tracked'?" Something still didn't add up in Katra's mind.

"The fourth power," Falknyr responded. "The energy field. I don't think you've realized it yet, but that is your medallion; its powers are yours, and that includes being able to locate and find it, anywhere it may lie."

Katra put his medallion away, attaching it to its chain. "Tell me, then; where am I?"

Falknyr motioned around. Except for a few torches lighting the observatory, the sun was now hiding behind the horizon, and the forest was growing dimmer by the minute. The observatory had been constructed about fifty feet aboveground; it was built upon and around a sizable yet tight grove of trees, twined and grown together for extra support, and measured about fifty feet by twenty feet. There were a few chairs set up in one area; two telescopes in another; a globe on a desk, and other scholarly and astronomical supplies. Although the taller trees still loomed higher and covered a portion of the observatory with their branches, a sturdy roof had been made to shelter a good half of the area from the elements. "This is my lab, my observatory. I do the majority of my studies here. A bit of 'home away from home', if you would."

Katra requisitioned one of the chairs and sat down upon it. "I have never seen anything like it...."

Falknyr nodded. "You did well locating this place. As I promised, I will give you as many answers to your questions as I am able. What do you want to know?"

Katra asked Falknyr his first question. "What, exactly, happened to me?"

Falknyr searched for an answer. "That is a difficult question to answer directly. It starts with your--or should I say your father's--medallion, so that is where I will begin.

"When the world was formed, the Guardians were assigned to rule over it. Eight elements, eight guardians. Fire, ice and water, earth, air and thunder, darkness, and light. Each Guardian saw fit to grant small portions of their power to the sentient, ruling races. Such is where the principle of magic was founded."

" 'Magic' ?" That was one word that Katra had never heard before, at least not in such a serious context as this. "What is it?"

"Magic is a force of the elements, power given for use directly from the Guardians. It is a form of energy, and as usable as a beast of burden. If one knows the right commands, the right tasks, they can instruct the energy of magic to accomplish that task, and it will. However, if one does not know the right commands, magic can not be used.

"Magic comes in two primary forms. The first is a simple spell; a command given to the force of magic for it to carry out. The second is enchantment; where the energy of magic is solidified and stored in a tangible object. The medallions of our warriors fall into this second category, the one of enchantment. Contained in their metallic structure is a sheer amount of magical force, and it is this that grants them their power."

Katra nodded. "But this means what?"

"I was getting there; be patient," Falknyr said. "As I said previously, each medallion has its owner. This is a magical bond of sorts. When bequeathed to a new owner, the new individual is infused with a slightest amount of magical energy from the medallion. In return, the medallion's energy changes to match its new owner. This is what enables the ability to track your medallion anywhere it may be. Because you-- no, because it is magically attuned to you, you are able to detect its magical field in proximity and from afar alike."

Falknyr walked over to one of the desks and produced a few differently-sized and colored crystals from it, placing them on top in plain view. "Now, in our world, objects of all sorts fall into three magical categories. The first category--" Falknyr rapped on the desk. "...the first category is the mundane, the ordinary. All objects in this category are non-magical. They cannot be tuned to hold a magical energy of any sort.

"The second category--" Falknyr pointed to the set of crystals upon the desk. "...the second category is the magical. Objects and items in this category are capable of holding magical energy. Anything made of crystal, and some metals, automatically falls into this category as a rule. Individuals like you and I can also be placed in the magical category, in the sense that spellcasters are able to physically store magical energy in their bodies for use whenever."

Falknyr then pointed to Katra's medallion. "And the third category, is the now-magical, consisting of anything currently enchanted. Our people's medallions fall into this category. Spellcasters, mages, and wizards as a rule are classified in this magical category as well."

Katra was beginning to lose interest again, and Falknyr noticed this.

"You'll notice that the magical and now-magical classifications have overlapping areas. A crystal, for example, can be classified as either magical or now-magical, depending on whether it is currently enchanted or not. If it is enchanted, it belongs to the now-magical category. If not, it is placed in the magical category. Items in the mundane category cannot be enchanted, unless something is done to place them in the magical category prior to enchantment."

Katra sighed. "And, the point of this is what?"

Falknyr put the crystals back into the desk. "Medallions like yours, although containing an enchantment of their own, are capable of receiving one or two extra enchantments, those going above and beyond its nature. My medallion, had I had it here and now, contains one such enchantment."

Katra remembered the large red bird. "The large bird that flew off... was that, by any chance, you?"

Falknyr nodded. "You guessed correct. One of the strongest magical spells that were made accessible to us comes in the form of transformation. A special and demanding ritual can grant a person the magical ability to shape-shift their very body, their physical form, into that of a specific animal. It is a long story, but to sum up my experience and history, when I received that ability, I had chosen the form of a phoenix."

"A phoenix...." Katra recalled the phoenixes who roosted in the volcano of the Atlantis island. "I thought that bird looked familiar.... it was you, wasn't it?"

Falknyr nodded. "Transformation is a unique enchantment among magic. It is placed on a magical or now-magical item and bonded magically to the user, but with time, experience, and a lot of practice, the magical energy stored in the 'talisman' (such is what a now-magical item is often called) can be gradually and permanently envested in the user theirself."

"But that still doesn't answer any of my questions...," Katra complained.

"Give me a chance to proceed logically," Falknyr smiled. "Your father, Draconus, in his time, he had received a similar enchantment of transformation. His chosen form was that of a dragon, pure and fire. So too did his lover, Ashana, receive the same enchantment for shape-changing into a dragon. Our two best warriors, having chosen to receive the same enchantments for themselves."

"Mom's name...," Katra remarked. "So, then, Falknyr, do you know what happened to me?"

Falknyr was silent for a moment, and then gave a response. "Yes and no. I have a suspicion of what happened to you, and only an inkling of how; I have no idea of why."

Falknyr looked at Katra. "This is the type of news best taken sitting down, as you are." Falknyr walked over to one of the railings before continuing. "Your father, and your mother too; they were our best warriors. Pure human as we are, yet by the means of magical enchantment, also able to live as pure dragons. At least until our war with Catalonia. They were never quite the same after the war--"

Something spurred Katra's memory. "Wait a minute, didn't you say something about a curse?"

Falknyr was surprised. "Yes, but... well, that's not important. I told you portions of that story while you were still out; I didn't think you'd actually remember them!"

Katra recited the story. "You said something about a pair of powerful warriors, able to become dragons. Tell me, were those my parents?"

Falknyr nodded as Katra continued. "You said something about the two warriors being cursed. Was that true?"

Falknyr nodded again. "It is a sad chapter in our history. Nonetheless, it happened. The Chancellor of Catalonia was in charge of receiving an important shipment, ported through our country. It was later determined to be a contraband shipment: dragon eggs. No one knows what the Catalonian Chancellor, or his wizards, wanted with the dragon-eggs, but one thing was for sure: the mother dragon their forces had purloined the eggs from was enraged, and when that dragon found the shipment, she slew all the Catalonian escorts and the Chancellor too, to recover her eggs.

"Catalonia blamed this incident on us and demanded an apology. We would not give it, for if it was anyone's fault, it was that of Catalonia and not of us. They insisted on an apology, though. All we could come up with was to apologize for them bringing the situation upon themselves. They took the insult for what it was, and because they would not admit to any wrongs, declared war.

"Your parents, Draconus and Ashana, who were then planning on raising a family, joined our cause as dragons to level the field. Their help was invaluable. Unfortunately, on the eve of our victory, one of the Catalonian High Wizards cast a curse upon them, that they would never regain their human forms for as long as their medallions held their power.

"Now, the magical powers enchanted to a medallion are bonded to the user, and because of this, they last for the user's entire life. Your two parents were but about thirty years of age by then. Dragons, though, age more slowly and live longer than humans. Being cursed to remain dragons, your parents had--instead of forty more years as humans--about one hundred years of life ahead of them as dragons.

"It was learned, though, that Ashana was with child even before the struggle. Because of this, when she came full-term, she gave birth to an energetic pure-blood hatchling dragon. For our own safety, we could not allow them to raise a pure dragon in our midst, so when the hatchling was about four years old, I was told to banish your parents from our presence.

"I don't think I can ever forget that day. I gave the news to Draconus, my best friend and comrade. Nothing hurts you more than having to banish your best friend from your presence, due to reasons beyond either of your control. If you could imagine a heart-broken dragon, those were your parents when they received the news. They knew our reasons, and they knew they would have to leave. I gave them my information about where the nearest dragon-shire might be, and they left.

"It was the most painful chapter in our people's history. Since then, we never saw your parents again. And now, here you are, full-blooded human. All I can say is that somehow, somewhere, sometime, your parents were able to regain their rightful human forms for one last time and to raise you. For if they hadn't, you would've been born as a dragon, not human."

Katra was listening intently to the story. "Who would've thought...? You're telling the truth, and yet, I still have trouble believing it."

Falknyr walked to the other side of the observatory as Katra asked him another question. "Unfortunately, how does that explain what happened to me?"

Falknyr gave Katra what he knew. "I do not know when your father gave his medallion to you, but when he did, he also passed down all of the powers contained inside of it. When a medallion is passed onto the child, its powers are transferred in their entirety. Since your father had the magical enchantment for transformation contained in his medallion, so too would you have received that ability."

Katra reflected on it in silence, as Falknyr continued. "However, evidently, something went awry, and this is what I am still trying to figure out. I sensed the presence of a familiar medallion--your father's--and because of it I was instructed to find you. I am glad I found you when you did, because something about the medallion's powers had gone terribly wrong.

"Ideally, when one receives the enchantment for transformation, it is as instantaneous and painless. However, in your case, it was neither. For some reason, it was causing you pain and occuring slowly. If I didn't know better, I would conclude that it was being hindered by something."

Katra tried to sift through that painful memory for some useful information. "I.... From what I remember, no sooner was I on this side of the portal but something happened. A burst of energy, or --something-- completely washed over. It was wierd; I don't have any way of describing it. After that, something felt wrong, and the more I tried to ignore it..., the worse it became."

Falknyr nodded. "How remarkably odd.... It sounds as if you never received the full power of your father's medallion until recently. Did he..., did Draconus ever tell you about the powers contained within your medallion?"

Katra shook his head. "Not one word. All Dad ever said about it was that it was a sign of heritage, that it was important, and that I should keep it with me for all my life."

Falknyr was trying to think up an explanation, and his next phrases made almost no sense at all. "If that's so, then ... which could mean ... and since ... therefore ... you know? That may have been why!"

"Why what?"

Falknyr filled Katra in, even though precious little of it made sense. "As history says, transformation was a magic sealed so that it could be resisted by an unwilling subject, thus preventing its abuse. However, the enchantment of transformation was considered exempt from that rule because its subject would be naturally willing for it. Since this enchantment was stored in your father's medallion, therefore, when the powers of the medallion were given to you, so too was the enchantment. However, you weren't expecting it, thus you resisted. The enchantment was not one designed for such resistance, so that may have caused the pain you experienced!"

Katra looked at Falknyr, dumbfounded. "Umm... could you explain that in simpler terms?"

"I'll try...," and Falknyr did. "It is like this: The enchantment in your medallion tried to infuse itself into your body. However, you resisted it, and the enchantment persisted. Essentially, like our country and Catalonia, the magical forces declared war. The enchantment combatting against your resistance and fear, and all the while using your physical body as the battlefield.

"In any war, both sides make victories and suffer defeats. However, if a war is stalemate and allowed to proceed until its logical end, one thing is constant: the battlefield gets destroyed. In your case, the longer you combatted resistance against enchantment, the greater harm it did to your body. In the end, it would not have mattered whether your resistance or the enchantment triumphed, because either way, your body would have been destroyed, and you dead with it."

Katra shuddered at the thought. "So, then, if that is that, what happened that am I still alive?"

Falknyr nodded. "That is where I came in; right on time, too, I may add. I used my skills to negotiate a metaphorical 'armistice' between you and the magical forces at work, and stopped it from literally tearing you apart."

Katra seemed to recall some figure trying to help him just before he had blacked out. "That makes some sense... what did you do?"

"It was a tough choice. I had to purge the medallion entirely of the enchantment gone sour. However, in doing so I was also risking purging the medallion of all its magical properties. However, that risk had to be taken in order to save you."

Katra had an idea. "What became of the enchantment?"

It is gone; purged, and irreversibly dispelled. If you were thinking of receiving that enchantment, there is no way in hell that I could put it back into the medallion."

That cut Katra's idea off at the pass. "Well, as the saying goes, one can't have their cake, and eat it too."

"People actually say things like that where you come from?" Falknyr was amused.

Katra nodded. "I'm surprised you haven't heard of it yourself. Although... if what you say is truly what happened to me, about having to choose between some enchantment and life, isn't it always better to choose life? Either way, that is what I wanted to know, so thank you."

Falknyr nodded. "You sound just like your father.... You have his eyes, too. Have you checked a mirror lately?"

Katra blinked. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Falknyr grabbed a hand mirror from the desk, and gave it to Katra. Katra checked his reflection, and he was a bit surprised at what he saw.

Although Katra's face was just as he had been used to it, it was his eyes that caught Katra off guard. Katra examined them closely. The irises of his eyes were larger than he remembered, a pure blue in color; the pupils of his eyes seemed a bit larger too. His eyes seemed to glow back at him as he glanced at the mirror.

Falknyr brought a lantern over for better illumination. Katra was temporarily brightened by the light, but as his eyes adjusted to it, Katra was very surprised--downright alarmed--at what he saw in the mirror. As his eyes adjusted to the brighter light, their pupils tightened into a vertical slit. Normal human eyes have a round pupil that shrinks or expands for various light levels, but the pupils in Katra's eyes were adjusting in a fashion identical to cat's eyes. Even more strangely was that the pupils of Katra's eyes were glowing back at him in the lantern's light. Katra was shocked. Eyesight was the one thing he couldn't notice before. "Are those... my eyes? What happened?"

"Those are your eyes," Falknyr nodded. "They are also dragon eyes. It looks like you received some small token of that enchantment after all."

A slight fear washed over Katra, sending a chill down his spine. "I never realized; I guess I never bothered to look." Falknyr shut off the lantern, and then doused the torches on the observatory. The darkness was intense for a moment, until Katra's eyes fully adjusted to the lower light level. Then, Katra discovered that he could see perfectly in the starlit darkness. "Falknyr...."

Falknyr smiled, re-lighting the torches to provide some light for him to see by. "I wouldn't worry much about it. In fact, son, eyesight like yours is a thing to treasure. Only three other sentient races are privileged with night-vision: dragons, dracans, and requato. You are the first human I have ever heard of that can literally see in the dark."

That was reassurance for Katra, all right. "Thanks...."

Falknyr nodded. "Just remember not to glare at other people; the gaze of dragon eyes has a tendency to unnerve humans."

Katra nodded in response. Despite not being able to remember his own name, or know where he was, he knew he had made a friend for life.