Dragan hovered just below the sparkling surface, silently watching as children played by the pond’s edge. A splash broke the water’s serenity, followed by the plummeting of a palm-sized stone to the muddy depths below. Fearing the onslaught of more rocks, he dropped a few feet lower.
While he knew his cloaked form blended well with the surrounding flora, and it was unlikely anyone had seen him, he didn’t relish the idea of being squashed today. He had better things to do, like waiting to see if She came. It was a beautiful outside, the sun was shining, the air was warm; he expected she would.
Of course, he wasn’t too sure who She was. All he knew is that after all his centuries of faithful service, the Lord of the Underworld had finally granted him his prize. His Damselfly. Now it was up to him to find her.
He had one in mind; a tall, voluptuous, leggy blonde who liked to wear skimpy shorts and low cut tops. She had a nice form, and he liked the way her hair glistened in the afternoon sun. But he had to be sure she was the one. Once selected, his mate would be his forever.
Spying a cluster of mosquito larvae tucked between the submerged folds of a water lily, he cautiously made his approach. While the squiggling worms writhing within their gelatinous bubble held no threat to him, a passing bluegill might mistake his current shape for a common nymph and attempt to make him a mid-day snack.
The prospect wasn’t life threatening, since he’d merely change into his human form and free himself from the fish’s gorge. It was, however, daytime and any passersby might tend to wonder why a fully-grown, naked man was swimming about in their community pond, not to mention the havoc his transformation would wreak on the poor fish.
He propelled himself through the water, silent and deadly. Attacking the unsuspecting mosquito larvae with fervor, he quickly devoured every one, then jetted his way back to his former spot, taking refuge at the base of a cattail. To anyone watching from above, his movement was nothing more than a streak of crimson, so quick they’d wonder if they’d seen it at all.
The sun sat high in the crystal blue heavens, illuminating the green-tinted water down to its muddy bottom. Only there did the clarity dim. If she came, it wouldn’t be until later, when the sun began to set and he was forced to migrate to the top and watch from the shallows.
Perhaps he’d rest until then. He stretched all six legs at once, curling his long slender body back on itself as he expanded his large hinged mouth in a much-needed yawn. Then he sunk down into the mud, wiggling his roach-like form until it was submerged in the cool sludge up to his round head.
He wasn’t alone. Several other naiads shared his muddy bed, but none were quite like him. While the others were common odonatas, dragonflies, awaiting adulthood—their last stage of existence—he was a three-thousand-year-old Anisoptera demon, a shifter from the realm of Akitsushima, on a final mission to find his eternal mate.
Many myths and legends surrounded the odonata. If only they knew the truth. The Italians believed they were spawns of Satan, sent from Hell to cause mischief in the world. In his case, that was fairly accurate.
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