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The Heart of the Dragon

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2500BC

EGYPT

Some people think that deserts can be described with just one word – warmth. Those people must have never spent a night alone surrounded by endless fields of sand and impenetrable darkness. If they have, they would know that with the disappearance of the sun comes impossible cold. You have nowhere to run, your body starts dying and all you can think about is what is going to happen to you after you take your last breath.

Surprisingly, that is not what happened to Ven. He, who has lived in Egypt for more than three hundred years, was not going to die of low temperature. No. His inner energy was strong enough to keep him warm until the sun rose above the horizon the next morning. He knew there was no life for him in Heliopolis after what he had done. You cannot simply take life energy from innocent people and expect to escape the instruments of the ancient law of the gods. Everything comes with a price. Even immortality. Ven never wanted to kill those men and women. They were just too weak to survive the ritual.

For two weeks he wandered west, not really aware of where he was going. In his dreams he heard a voice telling him to find an old temple, which was supposed to be located in the middle of a desert. He ate and drank nothing and, if it wasn’t for the fact that he was something more than human, he would have surely died.

It’s been fifteen days since he left Heliopolis, when he saw an enormous mountain, which has not been marked on any existing map, and found the entrance to the temple. For the first few moments he wasn’t sure whether he was in the right place but suddenly the voice from his dreams came again, this time in real life.

“You finally arrived. Come in.”

The young looking man needed no other sign. Without hesitation he walked through the door. All of a sudden he felt horrible pain in his neck and, before he could realize what was happening, the world fell into darkness.

He woke up with a scream. He was now in a round chamber lighted only by two torches held by strong, muscled men guarding the entrance. His body has been tied to a cold, stone platform and four men were cutting through his skin and flesh with sharp ritual knives. Strange people, cultists as he presumed, were all wearing black masks made of ebony wood. Even with all this pain and surprise, Ven knew that as his blood was leaving his veins his magical energy grew weaker and weaker. His consciousness came back too late. He was no longer able to break free.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked using what was left of his strength.

For a while nobody seemed to care enough to answer. Only when Ven felt the knife piercing through his beating heart, the person holding it took of their mask and showed him their face. It was a young man. He could not be more than twenty years old. His calm face was emotionless, only his clear, blue eyes sparkled like diamonds letting Ven notice his inner struggle. He was in terrible pain.

“You are much too powerful to be left alive,” he said. “I’m sorry, Ven.”

In his last moments he recognized that voice. He didn’t want to believe it and begged the gods not to make him remember but the gods did not help him that night; they wanted nothing to do with him. His killer’s voice belonged to the man he once loved. But how could it possibly be true? He saw him die more than seventy years ago.

There wasn’t enough power left in his body to let him ask any more questions. He felt the last beat of his heart, saw a lonely tear sparkling on his lover’s cheek and… died.

 

2012

BEACON HILLS

That morning, like every other morning, Noshiko sent Kira and her husband on their way to Beacon Hills High School. She had something special planned for her daughter and needed to make a few preparations. With each passing day the fox was becoming stronger and more dangerous. There was still time to make everything right but she knew that waiting was doing them no good.

She was just about to leave the house, when suddenly the doorbell rang and a strange, unfamiliar feeling disturbed her thoughts.

“Hello? Is anybody home?”

It was definitely a male voice. Noshiko told herself that her behavior was rude and decided to open the door. After all, she was almost a thousand years old and if anything were to happen, she would most likely be able to defend herself.

She expected to see a neighbor, a long lost friend or perhaps someone from high school. She even considered that some old enemy might have actually found her after many years that she has spent in hiding. To her great surprise, when she opened the door, she saw a young boy wearing something that looked like a grey, worn out robe. She wasn’t able to sense his age but his face could have easily been put in a high school senior chronicle. He had deep, brown eyes and medium length dark hair. His skin seemed to be bathed in pure gold.

“I’m sorry for disturbing you but… I need some directions” he said and his face lightened up in a soft smile.

“You do look kind of lost.” Noshiko wasn’t sure if her next words were appropriate but somehow she was not able to stop them from coming out. “Would you like to come in? We can sit in the kitchen and talk.”

“Only if you have some green tea.” His voice sounded strange, like he wasn’t sure if he meant it as a joke or as a threat. 

Of course I do. She thought to herself but said nothing. I am more than nine hundred years old and I have spent most of my life in Asia. How could I possibly have no green tea in my kitchen? “Of course, come in.”

The boy stepped inside and a moment later they both went into the living room. There was a weird tension in the air between them. It was this tension that made Noshiko wonder if she made a right decision by letting a total stranger into her family’s sanctuary. On the other hand… he was just a kid. He was probably Kira’s age and if her daughter ever got lost, she would definitely want someone to help her.

They were almost in the kitchen, when suddenly the boy spoke.

“I’m sorry to tell you this but that thing… what you have planned for your daughter… Well whatever it is, it’s not going to work.”

“I’m not sure I understand what you’re talking about,” Noshiko answered carefully and kept on walking into the kitchen.

The next few seconds seemed to have lasted forever. When the boy appeared in the room, the old Kitsune made a swift move, her eyes sparkled like two flames, and in a blink of an eye her ancient katana was almost cutting through the skin on stranger’s throat. There was no way for him to escape her tight grip. 

“What are you?” she demanded.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Before he had even managed to think about it, he felt blood on his neck. Kitsune was in no mood for jokes and the blade must have already cut through his skin. His energy was slipping away and there was nothing he could do about it.

“Calm down,” he said. “Please, there is no need for bloodshed. My… My name is Ven and I am a new student at the Beacon Hills High School.”

Noshiko lowered her katana and took a long, deep breath. Maybe she was wrong and the boy was just an ordinary human being with a good intuition. It was possible that the last few weeks made her too cautious and that she simply overreacted. Or maybe not. If the stranger was normal, he would start screaming and the foxlike flames in her eyes would most likely make him fall unconscious.

“Noshiko. My daughter is a senior student at your high school.”

Suddenly the main door feel open and they saw Kira. The girl came closer to them and her face seemed to be a mixture of worry and curiosity.

“As I was saying. Ven, this is my daughter Kira. Kira, this is Ven. I’m not sure who or what he is just yet.”

“Nice to meet you.” The boy nodded slightly and the girl answered with an awkward smile. “I was just about to ask your mom for the directions to your school but since you’re here… Would you mind if I tagged along?”

“No problem but… wouldn’t you like to change first? Are you really going to be wearing… this?”

“What’s wrong with my robes?”

“Absolutely nothing except for them being robes in the first place,” Noshiko said putting down her blade. She turned to her daughter. “Why are you even here, Kira? Shouldn’t you be already in class?”

“I forgot to take my math homework. Sorry. I’ll just jump to my room and we can go.”

When she left, Noshiko went out of the kitchen and asked Ven to follow her. They crossed the living room and got to a big, old wardrobe standing behind a closed door. Even if the boy found it a little strange, he didn’t say anything, when the woman gave him a clean red t-shirt and a pair of dark jeans that seemed to be just a little too tight.

“I don’t know what you are,” she said, “but if you ever try to hurt my daughter or her friends, it’ll be the last thing you’ll ever do.”

For a moment there was only silence. The boy appeared to have taken her advice pretty well. Unexpectedly Noshiko felt an indescribable pain inside of her head. The world started spinning and everything became blurry. She sensed darkness approaching from the void. She wasn’t able to understand this feeling but she knew that whatever was happening to her, it was definitely not good. Suddenly the agony stopped and her sight came back. She felt the smell of green, juicy leaves and heard the birds outside the window singing her favorite tune. The woman took a deep breath and looked at Ven, whose face showed something that she hasn’t seen for a very long time. Something that shouldn’t even exist.

Before she was able to name that feeling, the boy gave her a warm smile. He has already changed into his new clothes and was ready to leave.

“It is not wise to threaten me, Noshiko,” he said. “I may not be a supernatural creature but that does not mean I don’t know how to defend myself. I am really just a new student. Nothing else should trouble your mind. I’m not your enemy. I don’t even believe in enemies. If anything, I may be able to protect your daughter from danger. I have no idea what is going on in this weird little town but nobody is going to convince me that you are the only nonhuman beings living here. I sense a lot of power in this place and it is not just the energy of the fox spirit. I know there is much more. It’s just that… it feels very unfamiliar.”

“Are you ready?”

It was Kira; she was standing in the doorway and from the look in her eyes it was pretty clear that she wanted to get to school as soon as possible. Even if she had noticed Ven’s new clothes, she made no comment.

“Can I leave my robe with you?” the boy asked with lots of uncertainty.

Noshiko was not thrilled by the idea but in the end she simply rolled her eyes and walked them out. Having something belonging to this new student meant that she could consult someone and find out what kind of creature he was.

***

When they got to the car, Ven realized that it wasn’t Kira that was going to be driving them to school. Inside of the car there were to boys. They both had short dark hair. The one sitting in the driver’s seat seemed nice and friendly, although his physical body lacked some training.  The other one looked strong and a little dangerous; almost like an ancient warrior. The brain and the muscle. Ven thought to himself and smiled.

“Hello” he said and instantly realized that it must have sounded awkward.

“Jump in.” Kira invited. “This is my boyfriend Scott.”

“And I am Stiles,” the boy in the driver’s seat said. “Can we go now?”

“Go,” Scott told him smiling at Kira.

And so they went. Their journey to school was kind of weird and almost unpleasant. It turned out that Ven wasn’t really interested in the things they usually talked about. He didn’t like science fiction movies or books but loved fantasy. He has never read any comic books and, when Scott wanted to make him feel welcome in their town and invited him to the dinner party he and his friends were organizing, he refused after he found out that they were going to be eating mostly meat.

“Okay, now that the pointless chit chat time is over, I’m really curious,” Ven said, when they were getting closer to school. “You are a fox and you just have to be human.” He pointed at Stiles and took a deep breath turning to Scott. “What are you?”

Scott, Stiles and Kira looked at each other at the same time and the car stopped. They were truly shocked.

“You know?” Scott asked warily. 

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Scott, maybe we shouldn’t tell him. We have no idea who he is and where he actually came from…” Stiles started but his friend was already saying the words.

“I am a wolf.”

“You can turn into an animal?” Ven wanted to make sure he understood. “Are you a human being or a beast?”

“He’s not an actual wolf. He is a werewolf,” Kira explained. “He can transform his own body into something that looks like a mixture of a human and a wolf. I think it’s easier to show it than describe it with words.”

“No,” Ven stated and his tone was unexpectedly cold. “I believe you. By the way, do not underestimate the power of words. It is greater than you may think.” He took a deep breath. “Are there any more surprises that I should know about?”

Scott and Stiles looked at each other at the exact same time. There were just too many things that he should know if he was a supernatural being. If he has just moved to Beacon Hills and knew nothing about the danger that crawled it’s streets in the night, then it was their responsibility to warn him. He was going to be alone, without a pack.  Scott knew it wasn’t right. Nobody deserved that kind of fate. 

“There is much for you to know,” he said and almost fell out of the car when Stiles struck him in the face with his free hand. “What the…?”

“He is a stranger,” Stiles said. “For all we know he may even be the evil that keeps killing innocent people. You have no right to tell him anything.”

Young werewolf looked confused but decided that it was important to keep his pack together, especially in these difficult times. Besides, Stiles had a pretty good intuition when it came to protecting his friends. He squinted his eyes and tried to come up with at least some kind of information that could keep the new student from possible harm.

“Just don’t wander the streets in the middle of the night. If you don’t have to, don’t even leave the house after dark.”

Ven nodded but at the same time he knew perfectly well that leaving the house has just became one of his priorities for that night.

***

He didn’t feel particularly welcome with Kira and her friends so he told them that he was going to walk around the school for a while and not attend the first class. Besides, he really hated math. Skipping it just this once didn’t make him feel all that guilty.

He couldn’t help but wonder what kind of evil Scott wanted to warn him about. Should he really listen to him and stay home after dark? How bad did something have to be to scare a Kitsune and a werewolf? Ven knew that he was not defenseless but even with all his power he really hated the unknown. And there were so many uncertain things in this crazy world. That was one of the main reasons why his soul has never been able to feel at peace.

He was walking around the school and thinking of a million things at the same time, when suddenly his body collided with something; something like a pillar or a wall. But it couldn’t be any of those things because it wasn’t cold. It was warm, it smelled like summer rain and… it was moving.

Ven opened his eyes and saw a young student standing not more than a few centimeters from his face. He was almost a head taller and looked much stronger than Ven. He was wearing a tight, black t-shirt that nicely highlighted his well-shaped muscles. Broad arms, strong neck… and even the veins were barely visible. Gods. That’s too perfect. I need to leave. The boy’s face seemed almost noble. He had sun-touched skin, deep, blue eyes and short, brown hair. I should have left before I looked.

“You okay?” the boy asked and his eyes sparkled with curiosity.

“I am.” That answer was short. Too short. “Sorry about that… I’ve just transferred from a… different school and I was looking for a classroom.”

He lied. Or did he? He didn’t tell the truth and the words just popped out.

“Okay, then.” Even if the boy sensed a lie, he didn’t say anything. “Well, it’s nice of you to stop by my chest.”

He was smiling. Or was it really a smile? It looked… it felt more like a smirk. Ven wasn’t sure whether the boy was making fun of him or trying to be nice. Whatever it was, it seemed strangely familiar.

“I’m Ven,” he said and almost instantly wondered if giving out his name just like that was a good idea.

“Theo”.

“Nice to meet you, Theo,” Ven said and, even though there was nothing funny about it, they both started laughing. When they realized how they synced, they laughed even harder. A few moments later Ven added. “Sorry ‘bout that. I just wanted to say your name.”

“Hang on a second.” Theo crossed his arms. “You must be this mysterious new student, who was supposed to join out class for the senior year, aren’t you?”

“That is correct.”

The boy seemed both surprised and happy with his deduction skills. He briefly squinted his eyes as if he wanted to come up with the best possible idea and, when nothing came, he released the air that he must have been holding in his lungs.

“In that case we’re in the same class,” he said. “Look, I still need to use the toilet so… we’re having math in room 213. I guess I’ll see you there?”

“No.” Theo wasn’t able to hide the surprise that filled his face. “Oh, don’t look at me like that. Just hurry up. I’ll wait for you here and we’ll go together.”

“Just give me a minute,” Theo said slowly. He looked pretty confused but he was not going to reject a new friendship. With everything that’s been happening lately he desperately needed to make some friends.

It seemed like Ven was going to attend that math class after all.

***

“I’m worried about Lydia,” Kira said to Scott, when they were going through some boring, scientific text. “I’m not sure if putting her in the Eichen House was a good idea. Are you sure her mother knows what she’s doing?”

Scott didn’t know what to tell her so he decided to focus on their assignment instead. It was Stiles who poked the girl’s back.

“Has anything connected to that place ever been a good idea?” he asked. “We need to get her out of there. I’m already working on something. Just give me a few more days.”

Kira nodded and Scott, who must have been both doing math and listening, released a strong breath. He was really glad that his pack was once again on the same side. Stiles has always been like a brother to him and their argument hit him very hard. His relationship with Liam seemed to be a little shaken but he thought they were on the right path. Now they only needed to do something with Kira’s inner fox and rescue Lydia. After that… everything would be the way it used to; the way it should always be. Well… almost. There was also this weird new guy. Ven? Yep, that was his name.

“How do you know this new student?” he asked Kira.

“I don’t. He was talking to my mom this morning. Besides that, I have never seen or heard of him before.”

“But he’s human, isn’t he?” Stiles’s interjection made them all wonder.

“He seems normal,” Scott said. “I just don’t know why he knows about the supernatural.”

Suddenly the classroom door opened and Ven stepped inside. To their surprise, he wasn’t alone. Right beside him there was Theo. The same Theo that took Scott’s life just a few days earlier. Kira, Scott and Stiles couldn’t help but wonder whether the boys just met or knew each other all along.

Unexpectedly, Ven waved at them and, to their utter surprise, left Theo and sat next to Stiles.

“I’m back,” he said with a small smile.

“Here, be of some use.” Stiles gave him his notebook filled with very weird exercises.

“Nope, I don’t think so.”

“Why didn’t you sit with Theo? Are you guys friends? ”

“We’ve just met,” Ven said rolling his eyes. Stiles seemed relieved. “What. Why would you react that way? What’s wrong with being friends with Theo? Stop this. Why are you looking at me like I am crazy or stupid?”

Stiles looked at Theo, who appeared to be focused on his work.

“I’m not going to tell you anything. Just… stay away from him.”

“Look. I’m not sure if you understand this but I’m kind of new here and I could use a few friends. Why do you keep me at a distance?”

At that moment Scott turned to face them both. There was no doubt about the fact that he was already tired with all this hiding and lying. He hated when he was forced to deceive other people, especially innocents, and for him that was exactly who Ven was. Why would Stiles want to keep him in the dark?

“We’re going to tell you everything there is to know,” he told Ven. “But you need to do something for us first. It’s Saturday tomorrow. Come, visit me at the Animal Clinic. I need to ask you about a few things. Is that fair enough?”

“No, it is not.” Scott’s face went almost pale. He felt a strange warmth in his throat. It was something that he’s never experienced before and it disappeared before he was even able to cough. He wasn’t sure but he thought that for just a fraction of a second he saw a gold light in Ven’s brown eyes. “But I will do it if it’s going to make you feel less worried,” he added.

***

The night is dark and full of terrors… Or so they say. That night was no exception. After almost an hour of considering his options, Ven decided that leaving the house while being unaware of that unknown evil, Scott has warned him about, was not a good idea. He needed to make some preparations and create a sacred space in his apartment. There weren’t too many blocks of flats in Beacon Hills and the one that the boy has moved into was located very close to the forest.

He moved from New York just the other day and he came alone. His parents disappeared three years before that and he had no family left. There was no reason for him to stay on the East Coast. He needed to change his life.

“Blessed be,” he said calmly.

He was sitting in his living room before a small, round table. Although is still lacked a few things, it was an altar and Ven was a witch. He was not Wiccan and didn’t follow any particular tradition. He did try to join a coven once but it didn’t go so well. After a conversation they told him that there was something very strange and possibly dangerous about him and banished him from their grounds. After that encounter Ven went for the books. He read many interesting things and learnt how to cast basic spells, but he still felt like there was something missing. That was when he started having these weird dreams. He dreamt of the ancient times. He saw powerful magic, lots of pain and even his own death.

“Burn,” he commanded, his voice strong and stable.

Suddenly three golden candles filled the room with light. After a few minutes the boy started breathing in a strangely irregular way. If normal, natural breathing could be connected to meditation, this one pictured the essence of chaos.

“Let’s see, what terrifies you so much.”

At first, he saw nothing. No. Not nothing. Nothingness. It filled his mind and made him forget about the world around him. On the surface of blackness he could slowly notice his own thoughts. They were like living, shining patterns that floated through the endless energy of the universe. Come on. Show yourself. The wind started howling outside the window but he kept going deeper into his own mind.

Suddenly he heard a crash and realized that the window has been broken. He instantly stood up and turned around. The glass was everywhere but there was nobody standing in the room. Maybe it was just that freaking wind… He was going to go back to his chaotic meditation, when all of a sudden he felt a burst of unknown energy. Without hesitation he turned towards it and raised his right hand in a sign of protection.

He definitely wasn’t alone. Thanks to the light cast by the candles on the altar he saw a teenage girl. He knew she was human but her looks suggested something very different. Her face was dark, eyes glowing and… her body looked almost diseased. She had claws, fangs and a tail that seemed truly dangerous.

“Who are you?” Ven asked with a fake smile.

Instead of answering, the girl tried to attack. To her own surprise, she couldn’t. Something was forbidding her from making any moves.

“What have you done?” she demanded.

“Did you honestly think that you can make an assault on my ritual chamber and be able to hurt me in my sacred space? That is… beyond stupid. Let me reverse my question. What kind of creature are you? Your energy feels… human.”

“I won’t tell you anything.”

“Yes, you will. You just don’t know it yet.”

This time Ven’s smile seemed honest and warm. Without effort he slightly moved his fingers and the girl started screaming in agony. Her eyes and ears were bleeding and the veins in her body were about to burst into flames.

“Have you changed your mind?”

She roared in pain but didn’t say anything.

“All right, I don’t have time for this.”

He crossed his fingers and with a soft moan the girl fell unconscious. She was no longer a threat so he came closer and slowly put his hands on her temples. She was definitely more than human but… it wasn’t healthy. How did this happen to you, you poor little thing? He went deeper. It was the only way. There were some images flashing before his eyes. A shadow. Something extremely powerful. Hold on. Theo? Does that mean that they know each other? They must.

Suddenly he had no wish to inspect her mind any further. He stood up, took a few steps back and snapped his fingers. The girl woke up. Whatever it was that made her look like a monster, started disappearing and she was now just a girl. At least for a moment. She looked terribly confused and he easily sensed her fear.

“Don’t be afraid,” Ven said carefully.

“What did you do to me?”

“I suppressed your anger and your… powers automatically disappeared.”

“Does that mean that… that I’m free?

The boy saw a sparkle of hope in her eyes and suddenly his heart started aching. He wondered if it was possible that her anger was the only thing… Maybe she was cursed. No. He would have sensed it. He wanted to help her but didn’t know how.

“I’m afraid not. But I believe that there might be a way to make you better. Normal, if that’s what you want to call being a pure human being.”

“I’m so tired…”

“You’re still under the influence of my power. It’ll pass. First, I need you to tell me four things. Let’s say that you do this in exchange for your freedom. What do you say?”

“Will you hurt me, if I don’t tell you anything?”

“No. I will not.”

It was obvious that she wasn’t convinced but, nevertheless, she seemed willing enough to cooperate. That was a great relieve for Ven.

“My name is Tracy,” the girl said with slight hesitation. “I’m… I am a chimera and some people made me what I am today. I came here for something with your DNA.”

You’re an abomination. He didn’t say that aloud. It was just a thought.

“I am not going to judge you, Tracy. You’ve already answered three of my unasked questions. Only one remains. I would be grateful if you could keep this one to yourself. How do you know Theo?”

Her face turned white. She was really afraid and couldn’t do anything about it. Ven had no idea what to do with her. He needed to know the answer. After a moment, he took a deep breath and, as he released the air, the room sparkled with joyful, golden energy. The girl’s heart once again started beating regularly.

“Go on,” Ven encouraged.

“I think he is the first chimera… or maybe not… I’m not sure. But he is our leader.”

The words collapsed heavily on Ven’s heart. He was definitely not expecting that kind of answer. Theo seemed so… nice. Unlike Tracy’s, his energy felt very pure and almost heartwarming. There was something more to this whole situation. There had to be. There was nothing more that Ven wanted to hear from Tracy so he decided to let her go. He walked her outside, not lowering his magical barrier even for a second. He was already going back to his apartment, when suddenly he heard the girl’s voice.

“Can you tell me your name?” she asked. 

“Ven,” he answered with a smile. “And you don’t need my DNA. Tell your… leader… that I am a witch, which means that I am just a human with a very powerful soul. I didn’t come here to threaten anyone but if somebody tries to hurt me, I am going to do to them things so horrible that they’re going to beg me for a merciful death.”

Having said that, he smiled even wider and disappeared among impenetrable darkness.