Estimated reading time — 21 minutes
The first part of this story ‘A Firefighter Lost’ can be found here:
The sound of the fire was quickly approaching and the dull roar encompassed Drakor. His fine tuned ears were able to discern the screams through the crackling of the embers. The war cries of the fellow Pride that had reigned above all else, had become solemnly silent in the past hours. He looked down to the man who stood next to him, who paled in comparison to Drakor’s height, but equal to him in loyalty.
“You don’t hear them anymore do you?” David asked, trying to sound hopeful but knowing it came out full of dread and fear.
Drakor’s look emoted everything that David needed to know. The years with his Pride had made David fluent in communicating with him now. It took some time, as they will never bring themselves to speak any tongue of mankind, but communication is easier when there is nothing to be lost in translation.
Drakor looked up towards the orange glow on the horizon. It was midday, but the sky was already darkened with the smoke of their enemy enough to see it’s eerie orange glow in the distance.
“Alright, we will go, but do you really think it’s a good idea? You remember the last time you went after It right?” David nodded his head at the scar that ran the majority of Drakor’s right forearm. It was the only place on his body that was not covered in hair other than his face. Drakor rubbed the scar with his other hand. It didn’t hurt anymore, but it was the sobering reminder of just how powerful It was. So many were lost that time around, and so many more were being lost this time. Drakor was emphatic on his stance, and again he looked up at the horizon after a long stare at David with his glowing eyes.
“Okay, got it, we’re going. No need to look at me like that, I don’t appreciate it when you threaten me like that. I thought we were supposed to be friends or companions or something, but sometimes Drakor, I just don’t know anymore.”
As he walked past him to lead the way, Drakor laid his massive hand on David’s shoulder.
“I know you didn’t mean anything by it, just remember who your friends are, big guy. I’m not going to leave your side until you tell me to.”
The walk up the hill was a silent one, but so much was said during this time. They could feel the heat grow as they neared where the battle was enraging. David sensed the apprehension coursing through Drakor. Not being able to hear the other Prides anymore worried him, and David knew the banshee screams of the fire were almost too much for Drakor to handle. They pressed on through the discomfort until a sound peaked both their interest.
Drakor was the first to stop. Eons had allowed them to evolve their senses to what was needed. When close enough they could hear each other the same as David could hear Drakor. David could never hear any of the other Prides, even when they were directly in front of him. They had their own Imprinteds, and they used them to spread the word that needed to be spread. It took time to get the flow of how things work, but once he had it, David was able to understand everything. He watched Drakor in front of him, and was still in awe of them, what they are, what things there are in this world that no one knows, and what they save man from ever having to know. He was impressed with his friend, but was also saddened at all he knew now. Life could never be the same, there were times in which he wished that he had never stumbled upon Drakor. He had never stumbled upon him though, they can hide themselves from almost anything that they want. Almost.
David had become accustomed to the stop and wait way of going about life that came with being attached to a Pride. He would just stop alongside, grab a seat where and when he could and watch until he became aware that it was time to move on. He set his rifle down against a tree. There never was a need for him to carry a rifle, or any weapon for that matter, but he found that it made it easier to explain to men that may stumble upon them. It’s easier to say he is dressed this way and in the middle of nowhere if he can say he was hunting for this week’s meat, instead of trying to explain to them that he is the companion of a 8 foot tall Bigfoot, and that the whole world was not what they thought it was. He snickered as he lowered himself onto a fallen log at the thought of ever having to try and explain any of this. As he sat, he noticed a small ember floating in the wind, looking itself for a place to land and grow. A small embryo that only needed a little bit of food and oxygen to grow through childhood, adolescence and eventually into adulthood. How It was able to live eternal through its constant rebirth was telling of the world that man thought it knew, and knew nothing of. David watched as the ember saw a Pride standing ever so still listening intently, and without a shift in the wind, it turned and floated off toward Drakor. It landed on the unscarred arm of the great beast, singing the hair as it tried to come to life. Without hesitation and without looking Drakor reached up and snuffed the life out of the young ember trying to flame into life. A small whimper could be heard.
Entranced with the stillness his companion maintained while being burned by an ember, David did not notice the other ember that had landed only feet from him. Within minutes it had grown into a small offspring of It, barely bigger than a campfire. David had wanted to just stomp it out, after all a small fire left unattended could lead to a raging inferno that would take weeks to contain. He’s seen what these can become if not exterminated quickly. If allowed to grow, others would soon follow and what would they do then flanked by the enemy? He may not be able to ever fight It himself, but It’s offspring were of no match to his boot. As he raised his foot up to start kicking at the fire and throw some dirt on it, he felt an all encompassing desire to stop right as he was. He looked up and saw Drakor staring at him from only a few feet away, his eyes glowing bright. David could move if he wanted, but the thing is that he did not want to.
Drakor stared intently at the fire that was attempting to grow in front of him, and even in the light of the fire that would normally place a face in shadows, it could be seen that his eyes were fiercely glowing a bright yellow. David had only seen his friend like this a few times, and it never worked out well for whatever was in his sights at that time. As Drakor walked towards the fledgling fire, his glowing gaze never left the small flames. He got closer and his focus centered more intensely on the flames, David felt his urge to stop start to drift away. The Pride’s ability to coerce living beings never ceased to amaze David, just the same was their ability to remove that coercion as if it had never been there.
The fire seemed to be repelled by Drakor and the flames stretched out in the opposite direction as if being blown by a wind that could be felt by no other. As his eyes continued to glow and were fixed intently on the flames, Drakor raised his right hand and held it over the fire. The flames started to die down, David knew what was about to come. It would only take a few minutes now, so he lowered himself back down onto the log to sit and watch it all transpire. He would press the fire for information now and would probably get whatever he was looking for. Even the small embers would have some information, and if you collect enough of it, you will be able to get some pretty damning information. None of it would ever be revealed to David except for the small parts that he needed to know in order to protect the Pride’s secrets. David pretended to be inspecting his rifle as the interrogation continued. The flames squealed in pain as Drakor persisted in his efforts. As a fire burns, most would believe that the high pitched wails that emerge from the flames are nothing more than the moisture in the wood turning to steam and finding it’s torturous escape route, in reality it was screams of the flames either from them encountering water that could result in their demise or from being confronted by a Pride. Only the Pride had the power over the flames like this, but even they were limited in what they could do. If they were to confront a larger, more mature fire their powers become less potent.
The screams coming from the fire were louder than any David had ever heard in his time with Drakor, it was enough to get his attention away from his rifle and focus on the fire and his friend. The sight in front of him was appalling, he had never seen the look in Drakor that he was seeing now. His eyes glowed intently, his hand had been raised high above the fire, and was shaking. His lips were parted in a snarl and bared teeth that almost never got seen. It became obvious why the Pride never showed their teeth, they were designed for the tearing of flesh from bone and years ago would have been one of their primary weapons. Piercing canines in the front, large enough to rip into an enemies neck and render them helpless. Anger was something the Pride had given up long ago, the same time they turned themselves into protectors of all creation bound together against a common enemy. David could not imagine how many Pride would be on the Earth had they never fought amongst each other. There would probably not be any need for them as protectors if there were as many of them now as there were at the beginning. They were limited in number now, and there would never be any more than there are now.
The fire screamed again in agony, and Drakor made one final move with his hand and the fire was out. All that remained was a pile of smoldering ash, and a puff of smoke. Drakor’s eyes dimmed and his body relaxed, his head dipped almost in shame. He should never have lost control of his emotions.
“Well, feel better now?”
Drakor looked up from the ashes. His glare at David could have been interpreted by anyone, not just an imprinted.
“I understand they are family. I understand only you can help them, and I understand the fire was the enemy.” David tried to look empathetic to his friend, but knew that none of it mattered, he would see the truth no matter what was on his face. “However, you need to control yourself. It wants you to be angry, it wants you to lose control of your thoughts, it wants you to be emotional when you get to it. It was willing to sacrifice its offspring just to get to you, don’t let it.”
Drakor lowered his gaze as he knew David was right. He walked over to him, and stood only inches away. He towered over his friend, and David knew that all it would take is one swing of his massive hand and he would be no more. His size was impressive, but even more impressive was the presence that he had. One could not look at him, and when in his presence, one knew he was a creature that demanded respect. Even when multiple Pride were together it was Drakor that had the highest aura around him. He was a born leader, not just within Pride, but with all known beings in creation.
Drakor lifted his mitt of a hand above David’s head, and David could not help but recoil in fear, especially after all he had just seen with the small fledgling fire. Drakor lowered his hand and patted the top of his head the same as an owner would do to his new puppy who had just sat on command for the first time. David let out a sigh and looked up at the enormous beast standing next to him. The beast tilted his head back and let out a bellow that started within his abdomen and resonated throughout his whole body. After years of experiencing this, David came to finally accept that this was them laughing. He never understood most of the things that any Pride ever did, but even worse was their sense of humor. Only they seemed to understand each other’s humor.
With that over, and Drakor making it obvious that he no longer wished to talk with David, he walked away and continued his determined trek to where the fire would be now. The glow was ever present on the horizon now, and in the distance David could hear the roar of the helicopters in the sky. He knew there would be men here, but no matter how much he persisted with him, Drakor would not stop his venture to the heart of the demon and join the side of his kin in the fight. It had to be beaten at any cost, and if that meant that some humans would see him, that is a small price to pay to maybe finally win the war.
The rest of the walk occurred in silence except for the constant dull roar of the battle in front of them and the periodic wild animal running in the opposite direction fleeing their almost certain doom if they had stayed. When finally they came to a clearing they could see It in all it’s glory in front of them. It was hard to determine where the flames ended and the sky began. It was as if the sky itself was on fire, which would have meant that It no longer had any bounds. Tall flames seemed to change direction as if they had a mind of their own, and David had learned that was the truth. Flames could change direction on a dime and chase whatever it was interested in at that time. The fire had no purpose other than to only destroy anything in front of it. Helicopters flew overhead and dropped water from nearby Goose Springs Lake.
As the flames scorched the Earth and removed any proof that anything had existed on this land before Drakor gazed into the abysmal fire that raged in front of him. He could not make a move until he knew for sure that there was a reason to go running in, alone it would be a futile effort to end something he knew he could not end alone. The screams of the fire echoed throughout the land, David knew those were battle cries from the wretched thing in front of them, but he still could not tell who was winning the battle. There were no other Imprinteds around that he could see, did that mean that all the Pride were gone? Did they run from the fight? That really wasn’t an option, they knew how important the battle against It was, and for an eternity they had fought to the death when It reared itself regardless of time or place. If Drakor could not feel them, then there really was only one option left. David shuttered at the thought of losing any Pride.
Drakor lifted his head, and his eyes went wide. He glanced at David, and instantly he knew. Drakor had heard the others and was going to battle. His eyes again grew bright and into the abyss he ran. David knew what he was to do now, nothing. He was to sit and wait, keep himself hidden and be ready to help Drakor make a quick unseen escape.
Drakor ran headlong into the blaze, ignoring the singeing hair and heat. All he heard were the war screams of his brethren and he knew that he needed to join their side. It only took a few moments until he saw the first Pride, arms raised high above his head, eyes glowing red with a scowl on his face. He was holding the flames in front of him at bay as they screamed loudly half in pain and the other half in frustration. Without having to say a word, they knew of each other’s presence, though he was younger than Drakor, his skills were strong and he was becoming quite adept at controlling the movements of beings as long as they were close enough. This younger Pride was Strake, and it could easily be sensed by an experienced Pride he was struggling to hold back the flames for much longer. Drakor lifted one hand while his yellow glowing eyes never left Strake, he made a fist and the flames screamed out in agony. It took only seconds and the flames that were being held back were gone, only ashes remaining. Strake fell to a knee, and even then was still over five feet tall. He was exhausted from holding back the flames, and knew exactly what would have occurred had Drakor not appeared when he did. Drakor knew the pain that his fellow Pride was feeling, he had once been there, struggling through battles. Each battle gave experience, but more strength would not come until Strake was able to gain the experience of other Prides. Drakor hoped that would never happen, but knew it was inevitable. He walked over to the young Pride and placed his hand on his temple. No words were ever spoken, but Strake stood again, rejuvenated.
Together the two would be stronger and maybe Strake would not perish in this fight. It had grown the fire larger than any he had seen before, and Drakor was worried about what that meant. Was It making a move to wipe them out? How had it come across this area? It could not sense them, so It either got lucky and stumbled upon the group of dens, or something had told It where to find them. Nothing of that mattered at the moment, the Pride needed to unite together against It and at least push it back and contain it again. At least until the next time.
The two Pride walked further into the heart of the fire, searching for others. They would need more if they were going to end this one. Every few feet they would have to stop and extinguish flames in their way. Every time it would go the same, Strake would hold back the flames and Drakor would squeeze them out of existence. Together they made a good team, and neither of them suffered any harm, but they would need to find the other Pride in order to actually gain any headway in this battle. They needed to get to the heart of it and end it, probably not forever, but at least for the time. They were making progress in getting to the heart when Drakor heard it. The thoughts of another Pride in pain and struggling to continue. Drakor gazed into the eyes of Strake and the two took off in the direction of the suffering. They did not stop to put out flames, they did not stop to contain budding fires, they only ran through the flames all the time having them reach out to touch them. Their hairs were smoking as they made it to the source of the sounds. A Pride in front of them fought an epic battle with flames surrounding it. It was a lighter gray color compared to the almost black color of Strake and Drakor. It was slightly smaller in size, but would still look down on most humans. It’s eyes were glowing blue, almost as if they were sapphires embedded into the Pride’s head and not eyes. It lifted it’s hand and swung it in a quick motion towards the flames that were coming at it in waves from every direction. With every swing piles of earth moved and covered a flame, ending its existence. It’s thoughts were instantly with Drakor, as it sensed him and pushed all it’s thoughts onto him. There were several smaller fights occurring throughout the fire, but this Pride, Makor, had stumbled upon the heart and had been calling out for the others to come, but none had. Drakor and Strake immediately jumped into action, even though they heard the cries of the firefighters coming and they should be fleeing.
Makor was being attacked from all sides, and the scars of the battle could clearly be seen in the burns that covered most of her body. Every time one set of flames would hit her from one side, she would throw the earth at them, ending them. However, two more new flames would come in its place. That was the way the heart worked, the Pride needed to team up and put out multiple flames faster than It could replace them. Strake and Drakor took action in perfect harmony that could only be completed by beings in communication with each other that needed no words. Strake froze a group of orange flames coming for Makor from behind before they could reach her, at the same moment she threw a mound of charred dirt into the fire dampening a cluster of flames before they had gained strength. Drakor walked between the two with clenched fists, suffocating all that had been subdued by Strake among others. Ground was being made, and the heart was starting to collapse on itself. As the fire fell apart, small glimpses of other areas of the fire could be seen. Off in the distance firefighters were combating an edge of the fire, and were starting to fall back as the fleeing flames ran in cowardice from the Pride towards them. The firefighters would be able to have the blaze contained soon, and they would deem themselves victorious again, never knowing where the battle was actually won.
Past the heart in the other direction, more Pride could be seen, singularly fighting their own battles. These smaller battles were what made the heart easier to contain as It’s attention could not be solely kept on those fighting it’s heart. Drakor saw in the distance a young Pride fall to the ground, flames covering it’s entire body. He could barely hear its thoughts and knew something had to be done, he could not let the Pride’s soul not be claimed. A quick glance at Strake and the two were off, leaving Makor behind to finish the heart alone. She continued her throwing of land while wishing speed and safety to her brothers.
Drakor and Strake reached their fallen comrade and took action instantly. As Strake froze the flames and forced them off the fallen, Drakor formed his fist and in an instant the flames were gone. Drakor lowered himself to his injured friend, knowing what had to be done for him. He was in pain, and the sorrow was all that could be seen in his eyes anymore. Drakor had to act fast, there were no thoughts left in this Pride and once it was gone, he could not release the body, and it could not be left for man to find.
He knelt at the head of the Pride and placed his hand over the eyes of the injured Pride. His head tilted back and he let out a bellow that was heard by all around, even above the cries of the fire. His eyes lit up, and as soon as the bellow was silenced, the body in front of them was n more. Drakor appeared lighter in color now and his face seemed older than it had. The two together let out a cry that broke the night, and all Pride stopped their fight to join in the praise for their lost brother. The sound caught the attention of the firefighters near them, a siren’s call that sent shivers down their spines. It was the call of the spirit of the fire that so many talk about, but no one ever hears.
It saw the distraction in the honor being given to their friend, and it used it to its advantage. The heart pulsed as It gave all it’s attention to one target. The flames changed from an orange and yellow mix to bright red. They spun around each other gathering speed and size until a tornado of fire had been formed. Firefighters have seen these on many large fires, and science explains it away as the rapidly heating air creating vortexes in which a tornado forms, then flames continue this until a swirling funnel of death is created. It can create this in the heart of a fire, but it requires all It’s focus.
Drakor turned to head back with his new found strength to assist his friend with the final blows to the heart of the flames. The funnel had grown to a height twice that of Makor, and before Drakor could reach the heart, it had dropped on top of Makor. Swirling flames surrounded her and she herself seemed to be made of fire. In only a few strides Drakor made it to her hands clenched, fangs bared, shaking with fury that was not supposed to be felt by a Pride. His eyes glowed bright, flames moved out of his way in fear of what was to come. He reached his friend and let out a scream, but no sound came out. Strong winds swirled around as Drakor clenched his hands to the point of blood coming from his palms. The winds continued for only a few seconds, but as they subsided there were no flames around them. Drakor looked down at the body at his feet, badly burned but alive. He could not leave her here, and he was not willing to release her here. Firefighters would be coming soon, now with the fire under control and them able to put out the last of its flames. He grabbed his friend in his arms and carried her out of the scorched earth and into the tree line. There he disappeared.
David saw the flames die down, and knew that the battle would be over. He waited anxiously for his friend to let him know he was alive, which did not take long. When he wanted, Drakor could let David see through his eyes, letting him know where he was. A small trek through the woods and he was upon his Pride. On the ground, laying on a bed of soft leaves was another Pride. One David knew he had seen before, but could not remember the name. If he had seen this specific Pride enough to recognize them, then they were important to Drakor.
“Where’s the imprinted one?” David asked so he could try and get information on what had happened without having to bother Drakor while he was dealing with his friend. Drakor did not move from the shadows but a vision could be seen in David’s head of a man running away, who seemed to age as he ran. That only meant one thing, this Pride in front of him was dying, and their imprinted had been released. Hopefully peace would come to them both shortly. The Pride on the ground let out a scream, David could only imagine the pain that it was in as they were always able to hide their pain and keep from screaming. David wanted to cry, but knew it would upset Drakor. He had learned over the years to appreciate these great beasts for what they were. He cared for them more than most men.
The snap of twigs around them immediately made Makor stop screaming. The restraint to be able to hold back was incredible, but the protection of the Pride was more important than any temporary pain she was in. David saw an image of men trekking through the woods. As David looked at Drakor, he could tell he was different. He seemed lighter, but David could not tell whether that was because of the lack of light, or if he had actually changed his appearance. There was only one reason why Drakor would have changed appearance, and again, David wanted to cry.
“I got it,” David said in response to the silent communication, “I will make sure they disappear.”
As David walked away, Drakor again bent down to aide his friend. So many years, so many battles they had shared together, Makor was the only Pride that Drakor had felt differently about. He enjoyed when she was near, and always felt as if he could stop It eventually with her by his side. Now that would not be able to happen, and he did not know how to comfort his friend. All he could do is wait until there was no choice left. They sat together in silence, broken only periodically by a scream escaping from Makor when she could no longer contain it.
After only being gone a few moments, David returned but he wasn’t alone. This was unheard of, and was a clear violation of what he was supposed to do. He knew there was going to be consequences for what he had done, but he did not care. He could not see his friend in pain, and even more so, he could not feel his friend’s pain anymore.
“He’s hurt,” David said, “burned badly by the fire, he had tried to reason with the fire, to save it’s home, and lost.” As David spoke, Drakor reached his hand out of the darkness and touched his friend, trying to calm her. It seemed to at least slightly work as it stopped crying, and looked up into the night sky. He should tell David that his friend was a female, but would that really matter? David had brought back new men, which was forbidden, but maybe they would be able to help Makor. That is all that mattered right now to him, he will deal with the men later.
“What do you have in the bag?” David asked, focusing on the man carrying a bag.
“General first aid stuff, some equipment to make an air way, exasperate a lung, really just general stuff”
“See what you can do for him, please. He is a hero and we need to get him out of here before others come.”
“Wait a minute, you can’t be serious?” The second man was not as calm as the first, and David was getting very frustrated with this man. “What exactly do you think he can do? We aren’t trained in how to treat wounds on an ape!”
“Don’t call him an ape!” David jumped at the man. He did not like this second man, and he wanted to show him what the Pride were, not because he wanted him to understand, but because he wanted him to feel the pain and sorrow that comes with knowing and not understanding. Only imprinted ones could understand. “You have no idea what you stumbled into, and the only reason you are even still alive is because maybe your friend can help ours. Do not give me a reason to change my mind!”
“Do not look into his eyes, you will scare him and you are not worthy of gazing into the Pride’s eyes. Take a look at his wounds, and see if there is anything you can do. Do not talk to him, he can understand you, but he will not desecrate his mind by speaking our words.” David was again talking to the second man carrying the bag. The man’s visit to Makor was short.
“There is nothing I can do. He has third degree burns over three quarters of his body, it looks as if something has beat him in the chest to the point of his rib cage being pulverized, and I am fairly certain he has internal bleeding that will cause him to bleed out in a few more minutes. I can relieve his pain, if the morphine I have will even affect him. He is just so big, I don’t know.”
“No drugs,” David said. Drugs would possibly dull the soul and could make it so the Drakor could not release it. David shuddered at what had to be done if a Pride passed and could not be released, or was not released in time. Luckily he has only had to do this once, but could not bear to ever have to help with that again. It was all to protect the Pride, so he understood, he just never wanted to do it again.
David walked Drakor dreading what he had to tell him. Drakor leaned down so his head was even to David’s. David told him why he had brought them in and that he only wanted to help. He was sorry for what he had done, but he would have done it again. Like usual Drakor said nothing, but instead David’s mind was filled with images. He saw himself growing old, and growing rapidly. He saw himself dying alone and never being able to tell his story. David knew this was required, and he reached up and put his arm on his friend’s hairy arm.
“I know, my friend, and it’s okay. It is my time,” David knew what was going to happen, and he knew the Pride needed to be released first.
Drakor’s eyes shifted to Makor, and they were able to understand each other without a word being spoken. Drakor knelt down and placed his hand over the brow of Makor, just as he had done a few minutes prior with the younger Pride who had gotten in over their abilities. As he tilted his head back he let loose a bellow that trumpeted throughout the woods, his eyes glowed yellow and he looked back down at his loved one. Drakor made an assumption that it was love based on the ramblings of David. They would often sit on quiet nights and Drakor would listen to all David’s stories. If it was his job to protect humans from It, he had to understand humans as the times changed. His gaze lit the Makor’s face and the anguish in her eyes went away. They both started to glow from their heads to their feet, and just as quickly as it started, the glow was gone, as was Makor.
“What the hell?” the angry man blurted out. He wasn’t even supposed to be looking. In his anger David started to take strides towards the man and got his rifle to the ready. Drakor made David freeze in his place and coerced him into not moving. He quickly made his way to the angry man who he felt was the next in line to be imprinted. The anger, the spirit, the lack of fear all meant that he would be a good imprint. He would risk his life on the regular to protect the secrets. Drakor grabbed both sides of the man’s face and his eyes began to glow as they had before, and he forced the man to look into his eyes. In an instant, the man knew everything he needed to, and Drakor knew what he needed. The man’s name was Jake, and he would be Drakor’s last imprinted.
“He just imprinted on you, I told you not to look into his eyes,” David said, “There is nothing I can do for you now, you know it all and you know what you are now.”
Credit : Curtis Kammerer
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