Eye of the Storm

by Terry Spafford

chapter 1

I woke the next morning in better condition than after the last time I had been to the Deaf Mule. I yawned and stretched, for once not feeling something fall off my back and figured the cursed tiger had finally learned his lesson. I shifted to morph form and froze.

Lying on my stone bed, previously hidden by my large size, was a familiar black dagger. Roaring in anger, I picked up the dagger and threw it as hard as I could out the door to the balcony. I followed it off the balcony, shifting back to full size in midair. Not wanting to be thwarted by Electra again, I stayed in the air, crisscrossing the Keep, eyes open for that tiger. His death was the only thing on my mind.

I finally spotted him near the Three Gates, and my blood froze. He was talking to Sean! Feeling betrayed, I dove out of the sky, roaring in anger. I landed behind Scratch, not having enough room to fit between them.

{Sean! Get out of here before you get hurt!} I roared glaring at the Tiger as they both turned towards me. They both flinched a bit at the strength of my mental shout.

"Saroth wait! Calm down! Something's not right!" Sean shouted back, moving between me and the tiger.

Angry that he wasn't listening to me, I picked him up easily and set him down behind me, ignoring his shouts and struggles. I wrapped my tail around him to keep him behind me and returned my attention to the cat, who was simply watching me, a bored expression on his face.

{As for you, you're a dead cat.} I said, glaring down at him. {You've been warned, not once, but TWICE to stay out of my way, yet you STILL invaded my quarters and left those damned daggers.}

He shrugged, not even flinching from my mental onslaught. "Have you ever considered a ground floor apartment? Climbing up and down those stairs is a killer. Still, it has been giving me a good workout these past three nights."

It took me a moment for me to make the connection. My mental roar must have woken most of the Keep. {THREE NIGHTS?!?}

He smirked up at me. "Yes, three times. The first night you were so drunk I could've recreated the battle of the Three Gates in your room and you wouldn't have noticed."

Snarling, I reached out and swatted him, knocking him against the wall. Overhead, the sky darkened in response to my anger. Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed as I slowly walked up to the recovering tiger. I vaguely felt Sean tugging on my tail, shouting something, but I tuned him out.

{Taunting dragons is an extremely dangerous thing; especially when the dragon already hates your hide. Well you've taunted this dragon long enough. Now it's time for you to face the consequences,} I rumbled, waving my claws in the air. At my command, the winds picked up, slamming the gates shut in the faces of the Keepers running to see what was going on. I then turned the winds, circling the three of us in a wall of wind. In the back of my mind, I knew I couldn't keep this up for long, but what I had in mind wouldn't take long anyway.

A dagger appeared in Scratch's hands. Before I could reach him, he threw it, imbedding it in my chest, scraping against my breast bone. A second dagger quickly followed it, tearing through my freshly healed wing. I leapt at him before he could throw a third.

Using my size, I easily pinned the tiger to the ground, trying to ignore the pain from the daggers. I could hear the wall of wind weakening as I started to lose my concentration, forcing me to speed up my rough plans. Not wasting any more time, I picked up the tiger and pressed my claw tips to his chest. In retaliation, Scratch shifted to tiger and slash ineffectively at my fingers and palm. The rational part of my mind noticed something seemed strange about him, but I tuned it out, letting my anger rule.

I stared sadistically at the flailing tiger and started to press my claws home into his chest. The tiger's struggling stopped as he realized it was only impaling him deeper onto my claws.

Just as I was about to finish him off, the wall of wind suddenly strengthened and I was blinded by a flash of darkness from the cat in my claws. I roared in pain, both my tail and hands feeling like they were dipped in liquid fire. My concentration failed and the strengthened wall of wind fell away into nothingness. The tiger dropped down to the ground unnoticed through my pain. Overhead, lightning flashed and the clouds burst open, drenching us, but unable to cool the burning on my hands and tail.

Gritting my teeth against the pain, I glanced back to my tail and froze. A golden eagle morph wearing the remains of Sean's clothes was lying unconscious, my tail wrapped around him. The inside of my tail closest to the new morph, as well as the cobblestones under him, had been blackened by an unseen fire.

I painfully uncurled my tail around from him, causing the burned hide to crack and start oozing. Forgetting about Scratch, I turned and knelt down to pick up the bird morph. I noticed my claws were as blackened and burned as my tail was, but ignored the pain, balancing the light unconscious morph on my forearms. I started walking towards the inner gate, which was already being opened.

"Saroth! I thought we had a deal! What were you do Oh my god!... What happened to you? Who's that?" Electra shouted, running through the opening gates at the head of the mob.

I painfully lowered Sean back to the ground in front of her, pretending not to notice the burnt hide that fell off my palms. {It... It's Sean. I don't know what happened... There was just a flash and then this,} I stammered.

Electra knelt beside the morph, listening at his chest for a moment. "Thank goodness, he's still alive, just unconscious," she said, straightening up and glancing at me. She saw my bleeding burnt hands and shuddered. "Someone get Brian! Quick!" she shouted, her attention torn between me and Sean.

Behind me, another group had gathered around where I had dropped Scratch, but I paid them no attention, ignoring my own wounds, staring down at Sean. The bird's eyes fluttered open and looked around, confused.

"Just rest, Sean, Brian will be here soon," Electra said comfortingly, rubbing his scaled arm.

The confusion left his eyes for a moment, replaced with terror. "Need to... warn... Scratch... cursed...possessed!... Tried to stop... Danger!" He squawked out, barely audible, before his eyes closed again.

Electra held his hand, and looked up, confused. "What did all that mean?" I didn't reply, trying to hold my own pain in check.

Brian soon managed to get through the crowd. He took one look at me and shook his head. "This is becoming way too common Saroth... Lower your hands so I can see better. How did you get them burned so badly?"

I shook my head and refused. {Sean first, then me,} I said tersely.

He looked like he wanted to argue, but decided not to. "Where is Sean?"

"Right here, Brian," Electra said from her position beside the eagle.

Brian glanced down and did a slight double take. "He's changed? So soon?!? How did this happen?"

"We don't know for sure... we were kept us from coming in here until it was too late," Electra explained, sending a dirty look my way

{My back was towards him; I was protecting him with my tail when there was this flash, a surge of some sort. My tail felt like it was burning, and when I looked back, Sean was like this... Is he going to be all right?}

Brian started silently examining the morph before he responded. "Sean seems to be fine... It was probably just shock from changing so fast... I don't think I've EVER seen anyone change that fast since the battle. It was as if the counter spell gave out for a moment. In any case, give him some time to rest, and he'll be fine... Now for you, Saroth."

He looked at my tail first frowning to himself. I winced as he gently prodded the cracked hide. "Electra, could you come here for a moment?" he called out.

She left Sean's side and came over. He carefully positioned her hand over my burnt tail. "What do you feel?" he asked.

She moved her hand slightly before replying. "Heat, like from a fire, but there's a slight tingling too... I can't quite place."

Brian nodded his head. "Just as I suspected... Magic burns. I've seen these before, but never this badly. Saroth, you were simply too close when one or two very powerful spells were overcharged. Thankfully, they don't seem too bad, but they do need to be looked after as soon as possible. You said Sean was by your tail when this happened? It was probably the curse then that burned your tail. Don't know what caused the burns on your hands though."

{I had been holding Scratch when it happened. He was in full tiger form, I was like you see me now,} I explained.

"But Scratch has already been affected by the curse...."

"Brian! Come quick! It's Scratch! Something's happening to him!" someone shouted from the other group.

Brian took off towards the cat. "Saroth, go back to my offices and get Claudia to clean and dress those burns and to look after those dagger wounds. Someone else carefully carry Sean to the offices so Claudia can keep an eye on him," Brian called back as he ran off.

I rumbled irritably, expecting Brian to spend more time on Sean and me, instead of on someone who would be dead as soon as I had a clear shot to him. I felt someone put a hand on my leg and the surge of a familiar mind touching my own. Glancing down, I saw Electra looking up at me, tears in her eyes.

"Please Saroth, do what he said," she begged.

I looked down at her, grumbled, but obeyed her. Walking slowly, trying to keep my hands and tail as still as possible, I left the gate yard. A horse morph carefully carried Sean behind me. Claudia was standing outside Brian's offices, watching us approach.

"What's going on? Who's that? What happened to you this time Saroth?!?" she called out, seeing us arriving.

{That's Sean, I was trying to take care of something I should've done last week, when this happened. Brian sent us back here for you to look after us. He says my burns are magic burns,} I explained as best as I could.

"And a dagger wound, I see... Just a second. Is Sean hurt?" she asked, ducking inside to get supplies.

"No, Brian says he just needs rest. 'Change Shock' I think he described it as," the horsemorph said.

"Carry him inside and put him on the first bed. Watch his wings! He won't know how to hold them yet. Pat! Could you come give me a hand?" she shouted from inside. "Bring out the burn creams, as much as you can carry..... Magic burns you said?" I nodded briefly. "And the anti magic salves."

Claudia and a beautiful woman came out, arms full of supplies. The horse morph stepped around them, and placed the new eagle morph on the bed just inside the door. The horse spent a few extra moments adjusting the eagle's wings so he appeared more comfortable.

"Water, we need to clean these burns off. There's a basin in the back, can you haul it out to us?" Claudia called to the horse. He left Sean and rushed back to get the basin. I knelt down and painfully straightened my tail so they could examine the burns.

I closed my eyes and whimpered as Claudia and Pat carefully cleaned off the burned hide. "Easy Saroth, nearly done," Claudia said softly, patting my side as she finished.

She opened the jars of salve and started spreading it over the burns. I sighed as the heat and the pain slowly cooled. Claudia and Pat quickly bound my tail and hands in the bandages. They were careful to leave my blackened claws exposed, though the bandages left my hand mobility extremely limited.

"There, that should do for now, though I want Brian to take a look at those when he gets back. I think you know the drill by now, don't you, Sar?" Claudia said good naturally.

I nodded my head meekly, {No shifting, right?}

"Bingo... Now, let me take a look at that dagger wound."

{Wounds... He got me in my wing too, but I don't think it's too bad,} I corrected her, spreading my wounded wing. The wing sail was stained red around the wound, but it had already clotted over.

Claudia shook her head and climbed onto my knee to get at the chest dagger. "How many mirrors did you need to break to bring this onto you, Sar?" she jested.

{I don't know, a half dozen I guess. I don't remember how many were in that crate I dropped,} I jested back, wincing as she pulled the dagger out, metal scraping against bone. She inspected the wound closely before pressing a bandage against it.

"I don't think you need any stitches this time and there are no signs of poisons or infections, thankfully. Just be careful. I've been seeing more of you then I ever wanted to see," she concluded, motioning to Pat to take her place at my chest wound and heading out to look at the wing tear. I lowered my wing so she could see it clearer.

"DDanger... Scratch... The Keep is in danger," a shaky voice interrupted us. Looking up in surprise, we saw Sean leaning against the door frame, his new wings drooping low behind him. He looked exhausted, but his eyes were clear and scared stiff. He didn't seem aware of what had happened to him. Claudia left my side and rushed up to him.

"Shhhh... Everything will be all right, just get some rest," she said, trying to lead him back to the bed.

He shook her hand off and stared at me, somehow finding more energy. "Saroth, you need to stop him! He's possessed! Something evil has him! Something BIG and Evil! You need to stop him NOW, while he's still confused." Sean sagged against the door frame, his energy burst running out. "I I tried to stop it, slow it down, warn you, but it wasn't enough... I couldn't do it... I I only made it worst," he said quietly. He finally conceded to letting Claudia lead him back to bed.

Claudia came back out and her eyes widened. "Saroth! Wait! You're in no condition to go anywhere!"

{I need to do this. I started this, I need to finish it. Have the bandages and the needles ready; I'm going to need them,} I sent, crouching down and leaping into the air. My first wing stroke reopened the new wounds, but I ignored the pain, concentrating solely on my task.

I flew back towards the Three Gates, not knowing what to expect, but knowing it would probably be bad. As soon as I crossed the first row of buildings, I started hearing the screams, coming from the direction of the gates. The streets were filled with Keepers trying to get away from the gates, and guards trying to get to the gates.

Crossing the inner wall, I saw the chaos below me. People were running in all directions, trying to get through all the gates and away from the source of the terror. Sitting in the middle of the chaos surrounded by a large, cleared out circle, was a large scaled dragon. The dragon was still groggy from something, but I could feel an aura of evilness from him. I knew that it was somehow Scratch.

He lashed out randomly at the people closest to him, many scrambling to get away. The few Keeper Guards that had arrived were trying to pull others clear and deflect the dragon's attacks as best as they could. I could see he was quickly shaking off his grogginess as his attacks began concentrating more on the armed guards then on the people trying to escape.

Before he could recover any more, I roared and dove out of the sky, towards his back. There was one thing, and one thing only on my mind... The death of this traitorous intruder.

chapter 2

I groaned and woke up slowly, my body feeling weak and strange. The last thing I could remembered clearly was trying to warn Saroth about something. My mind scrambled backwards, trying to piece together what had happened.

I remembered going down to the gates and studying the ebb and flow of the spells around them, like Magus had asked me to. Scratch stopped by for some reason and I had noticed something wrong with him. It was some sort of spell, but I couldn't place what it was, other than that it didn't feel good. I had started talking to him, mainly to try and get a better look at that spell, when Saroth had come down, out of nowhere.

He had pulled me out of the way and had tried to tell me to get out of the way, but I had refused. As I had watched, the evil spell in Scratch seemed to be getting stronger,and I knew I had to warn Saroth. He hard ignored me, blinded by his own anger.

I had struggled against his tail, trying to break free and get him to back down, to no avail. There had been a brief lull in the battle, and I had suddenly felt an intense feeling of dread. Looking up, I remembered panicking, seeing the dragon about to kill the tiger.

I groaned louder, not really remembering what happened next. I remembered feeling desperate, and grabbing at anything I could. All the magic in the area seemed to flare up and engulf the three of us and I blacked out. My body still seemed to ache from the powers that flowed through and around me.

"Sean? Are you awake, dear?" a woman's voice asked from a distance. At first I thought it was my mom, but the voice was wrong; it sounded too young. I opened my eyes briefly, and immediately closed them, overwhelmed by the sights I saw. I was in a room, that much I could tell from the brief glimpse, but the room was too full; a maelstrom of energies and details, each begging for my attention. Every movement, from the person who had been walking towards me down to the merest twitch of a healing spell quivering in the magic winds, had clamored for my attention.

I felt a hand on my head. "Easy Sean, you've been through a lot. Here, drink this," the voice added. I finally managed to place it as Claudia's.

I was startled when I heard a soft clunk and felt a slight pressure on my lower teeth. Water soon dribbled into my mouth and seemed to travel a long way down my tongue before reaching my throat. Curious from those strange feelings, I cracked my eyes open a little to look. I forced myself to dampen as much of my magic sight as possible managing to ignore most of the small movements of magic flowing through the room enough to focus on Claudia.

It wasn't easy. What little control I had I nearly lost when I began to put the details together and sort out what I was seeing. She was standing next to me, holding a cup far out in front of me at the end of a long projection from my face. At first, I thought it was a cast, but it slowly dawned on me that it was shaped wrongly, and in the wrong place for a cast. Other wrong feelings dawned

on me slowly as I became more aware of my body and my surroundings. Things like the pressure on my rear, and extra muscles and just feeling lighter than I should be called attention to themselves. I looked down and saw the golden brown feathers covering my chest and neck and everything clicked into place.

"The curse," I muttered, the words coming out strangely around my tongue and beak.

Claudia nodded, sending her short hair bobbing and distracting me for a moment. "Somehow the curse got triggered around you almost as bad as it was when it was originally cast," she explained.

I sighed and leaned back, feeling my wings press against the bed a little, before I remembered something else, the memory of Saroth hurt and running off. "Saroth?! Where is he?"

Claudia sighed and went to refill the cup. "He went back I think... Said he had to do it. I couldn't stop him; I doubt even Cerulean could've stop- HEY! Where are you going?"

I got up quickly and staggered a little, not used to my new form. I ignored Claudia's indignant shout and wobbled towards the door. "I need to get back there, help them," I muttered, leaning against the door for a moment to regain my balance and control of my eyes. Even with my magic sight severely restricted, there was enough movements of real objects, to distract me. Magical energies that I just couldn't stop from seeing were also beginning to give me a headache. I was having trouble just telling the movements of real items from the magic energies floating around the Keep that I would spy from the corners of my eyes.

Claudia tried to get around me, but I managed to awkwardly block her with my wings. "And don't try and stop me, I have to do this... I got us into this mess, I need to see if I can help get us out." I added. I wasn't sure exactly HOW I was the cause of this danger, but I knew in my gut that I was partly responsible.

She sighed and stepped back. "Just give me a moment to get an emergency kit, we'll both go over there, see what needs to be done," she said, grabbing a black kit off of the shelf.

We both walked as fast as I could on my taloned legs. Many times I had to place my newly taloned hands on her shoulder and let her guide me as the movements overwhelmed me. I briefly wondered if I would need to start wearing a blindfold from now on and quickly dismissed the thoughts concentrating on the problem at hand. The first few times I gripped her shoulder, Claudia suggested we return to the clinic, but I overruled her each time. When we got closer to the battle site, we saw the hurt Keepers and could hear the battle going on, and she stopped suggesting that; We both knew we were needed.

Pushing our way through the crowds of Keepers, we finally reached the line of guards keeping everyone back. Between the buildings, through the flickering of magical energies, I could make out two draconian forms twisting and slashing at each other. I couldn't see enough to be certain, but I knew they could only be Saroth and Scratch.

"I've gotta go help the wounded. Stay out of everyone's way Sean; you're not used enough to your body to be of any use to anyone yet," Claudia shouted at me

over the roars of the dragons and the shouts of the Keepers. She didn't wait for my response, already running towards the makeshift infirmary. It was just as well that she didn't wait for a response; I had no intention of following her orders.

Waiting a few moments, I slipped past the guards while they were distracted and made my way closer to the battle. Without Claudia to guide me, I didn't dare close my eyes while walking, even though the amount of things I saw was adding more and more to my pounding headache.

Stepping out from between two abandoned houses, I had a clear view of the gates and the battling dragons, and I had to stop. There were a few people around, mainly staying back from the dragons and waiting to help when they could, but what I couldn't ignore was the amount of energies in the area. Even with my sight restricted as much as I could possibly make it, the air was still filled with the aura and remnants of cast spells, failed spells and spells yet to be cast. Even worst; most of the energies had the sickly looking colours I had come to associate with evil spell castings. I leaned against the wall to catch my breath, clenching my eyes shut.

"Sean?!? What are you doing here?" a familiar voice cut through the noise to my ears.

I cracked open one eye and saw a group gathered at the next building over from me. Over their heads, the energies of a large spell under construction were building slowly; but were paused at the moment. I pulled my view down to the casters and saw Electra looking at me, surprised

"Claudia brought me out... I insisted I had to come here," I replied, speaking still feeling strange around my beak. I walked towards her, keeping one eye closed. "I want to help," I added quickly.

"Electra! We have to do this now! The Sivikian is about to deliver a killing blow!" One of the other casters shouted, watching the dragons. We all turned and saw the scaled dragon standing over Saroth, roaring triumphantly before lowering his head for a killing blow.

Electra didn't spare me another look, turning back in the circle and looking up at the spell mass. They clasped hands and finished the chant, releasing the spell towards the Dragons. The dragon that had replaced Scratch paused in his killing blow as the spell slammed into him. He shuddered for a moment, physically fighting the spell. I let my sight return to watch better and shuddered, seeing the Keeper spell weakening under the strength of the dragon's attack. I knew then that it wasn't powerful enough and struggled to figure out what to do.

Time seemed to freeze momentarily as my eyes traced the lines of the spells, trying to find any place that looked like a good place to strengthen it, to no avail. The dragon was slowly approaching the casters, roaring out loud; the spell shredding in front of him. Our time had run out. Throwing caution and Electra's lessons to the wind, I reached up mentally and grabbed what seemed like the main lines of the spell, let out the loudest screech I could, and willed my energy into them. The power flowed into the lines and slammed into the dragon, knocking him backwards.

The dragon froze in place, surrounded by the Keeper's spells. He slashed and tried breaking through them to no avail; my own power added to the caster's, made the spells too strong. With one final defiant roar, the dragon collapsed, his counter spells failing with him. The Keeper spell dove deeply into the dragon, doing something I couldn't figure out before dissolving in my mental talons, taking my energy with it. Hands caught me as I started to collapse.

"Sean, if you EVER do something like that again, I'm going to punt you all the way to next full moon," Electra's voice said near me, her voice filled worry, concern, relief and other feelings I couldn't sort out. Opening my eyes slowly, I noted that she was barely holding me up. I didn't have the energy left to move away from her, so I let her support me while I glanced through bleary eyes around the battle scene.

Focusing on the dragons, I searched for the influences I had noticed on Scratch a lifetime and a morning ago. I found none. "He's clean now... No trace of the possession," I mumbled, watching Saroth slowly begin to move, crawling towards the unconscious dragon. We watched, shocked as he growled at the unconscious dragon. Only rage filled his eyes that we could see. He didn't send any words, but his intentions were painfully clear.

Electra let me go suddenly, sending me stumbling, and ran towards the bleeding bronze dragon. "Saroth! NO! Sean said he's clean!"

The words weren't getting through to him. With his bleeding claws, he moved the other dragon's head, exposing the scratched, scaley neck. Opening his maw wide, he began to lower his head to bite down, a killing blow almost identical to what Scratch had been about to do to him.

Collapsing back against the wall, I watched the dragons and young wizard, unable to do anything. I didn't think anyone was close enough to do anything, but I was wrong. Still some distance away, I saw Electra skid to a stop, mumbling under her breath and pulling back her hand. Clenching her fingers into a fist, I saw magical energies gathering there for a moment before she swung.

The energy leapt from her fist, aimed at the bronze dragon's jaw. The dragon's jaw slammed shut and his head snapped back. I saw his eyes glaze over for a moment before closing, his bloody bronze form collapsing on top of Scratch.

Electra was already moving again, not even waiting for all of the magical concussive forces to dissipate. She rushed over to the dragon and hugged Saroth's head, sobbing and stroking his forehead. I stumbled over to her and collapsed next to her, hugging her small body in return and offering with my last bit of energy all the support I could. We shared that brief moment until others arrived and carefully pulled us apart, leading us away to be checked out.


"He's waking up... Someone go get Sean!" a voice cut into my dazed mind.

Rumble-groaning, I slowly opened my eyelids. A scene that had become all to familiar for me recently greeted me. {Wh- What hit me?} I asked, seeing the familiar walls of the winter stables.

"I did, or rather a spell of mine did. How do you feel?" Electra asked.

I lowered my head and focused as best as I could on her. {Don't ask... How long?}

"A little over a day. Don't move! The damage was worst then before, but Brian managed to get to you sooner. You'll be fine as long as you don't get into any more fights with frost dragons, or any other dragons for that matter," Electra explained, putting a small hand on my nose.

I turned my head and looked along my body. It seemed to be completely wrapped up in white bandages, stained red in many places. I briefly wondered where they found enough cloth to mummify a fifty foot long dragon. I smirked at the thought.

I heard the rustle of feathers near the entrance and turned my head. I saw the gold eagle morph again. He held his wings up proudly, but his shoulders seemed slumped, and his eyes showed relief touched with a deep fatigue. "Hi Sar," he said, waving a scaled hand at me. His voice was friendly, but like his eyes, tinted with a deep fatigue.

{Hi Sean,} I replied cautiously, trying to figure out what all had happened. I followed him with my eyes as he walked across the stables to tower over Electra. I noticed how he tended to keep one eye closed most of the time while walking, and wondered why. Adding it to the long list of questions I was forming, I turned my thoughts inward and started trying to sort through my memories. Awareness of another presence in the stables; an intense coldness and steady, deep breathing interrupted me. I lifted my head and looked past my two friends. At the other end of the stables, I saw Brian and a few other figures standing near a large form; a large, familiar, scaled form. The sight of the other dragon proved to be the key, releasing all the memories and anger I had been trying to remember.

I growled angrily, pushing myself up as best I could. {What's HE doing here?}

Electra glanced over where I was looking, then back at me. "Recovering, just like you," she replied nonchalantly, trying to keep me calm.

My growls grew longer, and my tail tip started flicking, tapping against the wall. I was tempted to blow up about letting that monster live, but I could clearly see he still had them all enthralled, and I still felt too weak to gather the energy to blow up. A slightly calmer section of my mind took control instead. Turning my gaze to the buildings I could see outside the door to try and keep my mental voice steady, I spoke. {Get him out of here,} I sent as coolly, and as calmly as possible, but making no effort to hide the underlying anger.

"Saroth, he's been cleared! He isn't tainted anymore. It was the Sivikian that possessed him before, that taunted you and left those 'gifts'," Electra explained, exasperated at me.

I didn't move my gaze, even to look at her. {I SAID, Get him out of here. What part do you not understand? Either remove him from my presence, or I WILL kill him the first chance I get.} I sent, letting more of my anger in my mental voice.

Electra frowned and started to say something, but stopped. She nodded curtly and left, walking over to Brian and the other dragon. I watched her until she got close enough to Scratch that I couldn't see her without seeing Him. Still growling deep in my hurting chest, I refocused my gaze on the buildings outside.

Sean stepped over to me, pressed a scaled hand against me and looked up at me. I glanced down and met his gaze, the contact letting me feel his worried thoughts about me and Scratch. The only sounds in the barn were my growls and the muffled sounds of Electra and the others talking. Finally, Sean spoke up. "So, do you want to hear what they think happened?" he asked, trying to come up with something to take my mind off of the other dragon.

I didn't reply, breaking my gaze with Sean and glancing up at Electra and my foe. Part of me could sense that he didn't have the evil feel to him that he had the first time I saw him, but I wasn't listening to that part. My growls grew louder, and my claws clenched tighter around the bandages at the thought of getting them under his scales. Sean flinched a moment, then continued on as if I had said yes. I paid him little attention, seeing Scratch was awake and looking at me now. The others stayed out of our line of sight, more because they didn't want to be pinned between the gaze of two large, angry predators than out of respect. Sean fell silent, moving and touching my neck, small against my body.

Scratch stood slowly, glaring back at me and not flinching. "I tried to be nice. I tried not to let my past catch up to me, and for a few months I thought I was free," he said slowly, like my previous words to Electra the anger not hidden in them. "But YOU... You brought that past back. The pain of losing a family, does not compare to never HAVING one."

I shuddered and snarled back at him, my mental words cutting through the air. {I will kill you, if you speak of my family again.}

He points his talon at me, the only real movements either of us had done against each other. "You have never fought me, you do not know what I can do to you. You want me dead. I thought I had rid myself from my passsst of thievery, ssssspying, and murdering. Yet you bring it back, and try to try me for crimessss I have already paid for. The old Ssssscratch wasssss dead. The lasssssst member of the Theivessss Guild wasssss gone, but YOU brought him back."

With that, he turned and left the stables, walking as steadily as his wounds permitted. I roared wordlessly after him and slumped down, my body aching too much to do much else.

Everyone else stared after the departing dragon for a moment, silently other than my own laboured breathing. No one seemed willing to be the one to break the silence, so I did it. I swung my head around and looked at the coon. {What's my prognosis?} I asked.

Those three words opened the flood gates. Everyone snapped back into action, swarming over me, checking my bandages and asking what hurt and what didn't. From the many contacts, I caught hints of their surface thoughts, mainly concentrating on lessons many of the healers had learned about dealing with my sort of wounds. Underneath it all though, there was the undeniable feeling of dread and uncertainty; not about my own survival, but about next time Scratch and I clashed.