Ruan waited, tethered to her erratic behaviour until his attempted conversation had finished. Eventually, the whispered words died, flittering to be memories, and she lessened her confused stance with it. Scent as her sole guide, she could not tell his reaction. His lips could have been parted by silent mirth, and she would be ignorant to his laughter. He could have fallen sway to her charade, and even then she wouldn’t know. It was a game of logic, battling, but some things were thickly wrapped in guess and chance. Without knowledge and with nothing to lose, she was best to continue her play of superficial simplicity.
As her thoughts returned to be her own, she lifted her head from its cower, gently shaking the sand from between her scales. The whimpers that rattled her throat gained a sudden defensive tone, an animal gaining courage while the threat seemed subdued. After a few seconds, it deepened to a growl that rumbled against her skin, lips quivering with the force of its aggression. The snarl of a beast; it was not hard to imitate.
As any that knew the dragons were aware, the ancient creatures walked a fine line between an elder’s mind and an insatiable hunger. So many fell to the lust for flesh…too many. With each generation, her race’s will grew weaker, the intelligent standing few in numbers, and shamed. The White Dragons…diminished. A tragedy, of course, but so useful in the heat of that moment. She remembered how the lost ones growled – brutality sharpened by life-honed cunning, anger fuelled by the passion to feast. The taste of blood was like ecstasy to the tongue, a pleasure beyond anything previously known. The yearning had almost overcome her last year’s tournament, subdued her to a mindless need. Standing strong against it had been the window to her victory – now, she took what she’d seen of the fallen, and she made it her own.
The snarl held power even as her target began moving. To her eyes, it was impossible to tell he had faded from the vision of humans. His scent remained as clear as before; with no other life around them, his smell was like black paint on a white canvas. Even her tired mind was unable to miss the contrast. No sight to distract her thoughts, she was free to concentrate on what she could sense.
Although it was a challenge to keep up with such speed, he came to a gracious halt soon after. Thankfully, he had remained at her front, albeit diagonal to his original position. For all his alien taste against her nostrils, she felt soothed in knowing he wasn’t an experienced dragon-slayer. Jagged scales grew towards her rear, a shield against whatever stood before her. It left her vulnerable against offence from behind, but few warriors felt inclined to enter the proximity of her tail. If not for disease rotting her flesh, she would have been awe-inspiring.
A husk was all that trailed in its shadow.
Considering his haste to action, she should have expected more than simple movement; an attack.
The speed with which the projectiles hit made them impossible to count. A flurry of sharp edges and rage-fed ambition. They ran grooves through scales that usually repelled swords with ease. One embedded its tip, but dislodged upon the recoil of her reaction. Had he not so foolishly attacked from before her, he would have likely drawn blood. Just the thought was a shock to a creature that rarely took a single blow of damage.
Jealousy rent deep when she considered what eyesight would be needed to make such a shot. The thought, however, was not wasted envy; it inspired her next move instead.
Still snarling and snapping furiously in her opponent’s direction, she relaxed her wings away from her side. Tendons, ligaments; taunt as she flexed. Nerve, jolt. Age-withered muscles were awoken by ambition. They strained, beating the air slowly at first, but gaining vigour each second. She feigned a grunt of pain, as though trying to rise to the air but struggling.
In truth, flight was the last thing on her mind.
What she wanted formed around her, the whip of sand soaring from the beat of her wings. A storm of golden grit, a tempest of the barren land. She couldn’t see it, but she could feel its howl.
If Ruan wasn’t allowed to see – cruel age, a thief of vision’s blessing – then she planned to level the advantage that health had so whimsically granted him.