Excerpt From The Book Of Dragonology, a Memoir By Mycroft Holmes.
Dragon (Noun): A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits that features in many different cultures. Since the dawn of time, Dragons have been the subject of both legend and speculation, deriving from many different traditions and originally thought to have been of mythical descent. However with modern science, the "Dragon Gene" has been proven to be a mutation of the genetic strand of a Human, allowing the subject to "Shift" into a beast-like state at will. (See page 104 for more details on "Shifting"). Though many attempts have been made to "cure" subjects of the Dragon disease, it appears to be a genetic condition. As it is today there exists no verifiable treatment or cure for the ailment. There exists many types or "species" of Dragons, though it is dependable upon the subject's living environment and heritage as to which they will transform into. The three main categories are:
It is a life-long condition. Little is known as to the reasons why it exists, though there is speculation on it being the next evolutionary step in the Human chain. (for more information on the theory, see section B page 338)
He doesn't know a life outside of The Collars and The Chains.
A part of him wonders if it's where he was born. What he was born in.
He knows it isn't however. Knows because if he was then he'd be like the others that were born in The Kennels. Savage beasts, unable to think past the next meal passed to them in their cages and unable to Shift into their Human forms. Also he has a name to call himself, unlike the ones born inside the enclosure of steel walls and wire mesh that holds them all. Sometimes if he closes his eyes he thinks he can hear somebody calling to him using it. Softly speaking it in his ear. Then he wakes up and he snarls at his own visions, because they leave reality tinged with such hopelessness and disappointment. He curls his wings about him then, blocking out the harsh lights that make his sensitive eyes dazzled and tries to sleep. Tries to remember what sleep felt like not laced with aching wounds and all-absorbing hunger. He tries to recall what grass felt like under his feet, and what skin felt like as it brushed against his face in a caress. It helps the four walls of his Kennel dissolve, fade away as he retreats into the Mind-Palace of his imaginings. What he thinks he should remember.
He thinks the sun would be warm.
Snow would be cold.
Somehow, that seems right. He feels like he once held snow in his hands.
Felt sun on his cheeks.
He thinks rain would be wet, as logically the water they sometimes douse him with to clean him was wet. Cold too, probably.
But other than basic, instinctive things, he feels like he is missing a piece. A chunk of a puzzle he has no hope of getting back because the Kennel takes it away, as does the whining and clawing of his people around him. It drills its' way into his mind, and it takes everything he has inside not to howl with them. Not to lose himself in the animal that lingers just under the shell of a Human skin.
Sherlock Holmes wants to forget.
And yet in order to forget, he knows a part of him needs to remember.
He never intended to join the Army.
In fact, John Hamish Watson had originally as a child wanted nothing to do with fighting. As a small boy, he had been the kid in his little run-down neighbourhood to avoid anything to do with a scuffle, having seen one too many between his old man and his Mother for him to have the taste for blood. He grew up instead often pulling his older sister out of fights, like when Harry was younger and had attacked Timothy Banks for calling her ugly. Later, he had protected her from the same Timothy Banks when he had pulled a knife on her when he found out she was shagging his sister. Maybe that was why John originally developed a Healer's complex, because he watched so many people get hurt in the little ghetto district he had grown up in. Wounds were a constant thing, a telling passage of time, and John found a comfort in being the one who fixed them. There was a kind of completion in sewing together a cut, and a solace found in taking care of the ill as they lay before you. It was the knowledge that you were helping someone, the faith that came in the steady rhythm of your own hands working to fix things. Some nights it was the only thing that kept John from going absolutely insane as he heard the fighting going on downstairs, or watched his Father drink himself into oblivion.
At least if people decided to ruin their own lives, John couldn't be held responsible this way. Because if he did his best to heal them and they still didn't make it, at least he had tried.
No, the Army only called him originally because like many young people growing up in the Slum Districts, he was dirt poor and couldn't afford his next meal let alone an expensive Medical Degree. Studying and scholarships could only get you so far, and though John was an avid student and a hard worker, he still only just managed to scrape by as most of the time he couldn't afford the text books or even new pencils and pens. Really going to War seemed like the only option, especially with the way it was advertised everywhere with posters and propaganda signs that decorated the brick walls of the Slums better than the greying paint underneath them. In fact it was during Career Day, when he was checking out the military booth stand that he first laid eyes on one of them.
A creature he had heard about and yet never seen.
He remembered the creature even years later, mostly because if it weren't for the leather collar circling her neck, he wouldn't have thought her to be anything other than Human at all.
He and his friend, Mike Stamford had been both eyeing the table all afternoon. Mike not because of a money issue since he had a fairly wealthy Grandmother, but because he had a childlike enthusiasm for War that only showed in people who had never actually experienced a battle before in their lives. He and John had gotten along well since meeting last year in the same biology class, and they both had slightly destructive siblings. Though Jerome had a drug problem instead of an alcohol one like Harry.
The man that had stood at the table with all of the military pamphlets and sign-up regulations and rules was a burly man, someone who when John looked at him he was reminded immediately of being shaped a bit like a barrel. However most of it was muscle, and there were definite signs about him of a man who had seen fighting in the scars on his arms and the tan of his skin. He held her chain lazily, as if it was more for show than anything else. John's eyes were immediately drawn to the woman beside him.
Right away he knew she was a Dragon.
Everyone could tell, the collar about her neck was a dead give-away. It was industrial, metal and leather, and it was hooked to the leash the man held as if he stood a chance at stopping something like a Dragon from killing someone if he had a mind. Of course, the real security was the fact that John could see the electrical glow flashing in the ring about her pale throat, threatening shocks if she were to suddenly lash out and attack for some reason. Her eyes were as pale as a sky just before Dawn crests over a horizon, and her cheeks were high and angular. She had silver-blonde hair cascading down over her shoulders, and it had a slight wave as if suggesting it was used to being braided for battle. Rosebud lips were pressed into an unreadable line, and her pale skin was in stark contrast to the green-brown military uniform she wore. Upon feeling John's gaze upon her, she stared back. The young man saw in those eyes an empty sort of calculation, and he felt something in the back of his neck crawl upon those pale irises meeting his own. Though her face was blank, John got the distinct impression that she was not at ease. Her limbs may have been slack, but there was a feral way about her that seemed to make most people either eye her with curiosity as he had done or shrink away in fear.
She was beautiful, and yet John was also aware from the start that she was highly deadly.
In the end, she had been what had drew him to the table.
The man introduced himself as Captain Jeoffrey Briggs, and he immediately noticed the two teens' obvious fascination with the specimen beside him. He grinned in an easy sort of way, and though his voice was gruff like he was used to shouting orders, he was quite friendly.
“Britain's finest right here. This is my Damelia. She's an English Dragon, which ya can tell by the colourin'. The eastern ones tend to have darker hair, though all of 'em have the fair complexion. I've had her since I was sixteen, when I first joined the ranks.”
Damelia didn't acknowledge them other than the way all slaves were forced to. She bowed once lowly then straightened, apparently preferring to observe the hordes of students for any sign of danger than to talk to two gangly strangers ogling her like she was property. John immediately felt a little embarrassed for being so obvious, but it was hard not to stare. Not just because of her beauty, which was definitely a factor, but because of her unnatural stillness. She stood with an utter frigidity about her, not a single muscle twitching in even the tiniest way.
“How long do you serve until you get one? I hear they're right expensive.” Mike said plaintively, clearly just as curious about it as John was. Briggs stretched a little lazily, tilting his head to the side so he could work out a crick in his neck. He scratched one side of his head as if thinking on the answer.
“Depends on where you're posted. Low-risk operations means you'll have to wait at least a few years. However since you two are medical boys chances are you'll be sent to the really important lines. I'd say by your first year.”
His friend grinned excitedly at the answer, but John frowned. He didn't like the idea of being sent into such a dangerous mission. Then again if he could help people, he'd do it. After all the only one who would miss him back here would by Harry, and she hardly noticed his absence most of the time. Still his cautious side warned him to question things. To not get caught up in the bluster and bravado that came with the whispering lies of being a War Hero.
“When you say dangerous.... How dangerous do you mean?”
“Being medics will mean you won't be put on the front lines most likely. You probably won't see much battle at all. After all, if one man can patch up fifteen other men, they tend to put the fifteen other men out first. Plus with Dragons now being used as Defensive Partners, mortality rates have dropped significantly.”
Briggs grinned, and though John didn't totally believe what he was saying his next words sealed the deal for him.
“Plus serve three years and we'll pay for your medical education.”
John didn't think twice as he stuck out his hand, the chance of getting out of the Slums a one in a million chance he wasn't about to refuse.
To forget his past life and embrace a new identity.
It was better than a magic spell.
Beside them, Damelia looked down and away at her pristine black boots.
Her smirk of pity was left unseen.