The boy rode for ten days and ten nights—searching high and low for the dragon.
His horns grew bigger; his mind grew more savage until he only had one goal—killing the dragon who had taken away his Sophie.
His dead, gray skin was frostbitten after searching for so long. Snow clung to his eyelashes and hair. Still, he searched. He searched until his muscles begged him to stop, but he paid no heed to them.
Out in the wilderness, he heard a roar that shook the land.
After spending a week with Hipeos, he knew it to be hers. His eyes widened. His scaled nostrils flared. I can smell her!
The boy kicked his heels against Moonlight and steered his steed eastward.
It was night; a dark blue shadow swallowed the land, and yet, in the distance, atop a hillock, he could see his quarry.
The clouds peeled back in the night sky and cast a silvery light upon the dragon. Hipeos, while curled up in a ball, had her neck craned upward.
Meandeer had no plan of how he would kill her, but he spurred his horse on until Hipeos finally looked his way. Her face lit up. “Hello, Little Human! What are you doing out here? I thought you were done hunting creatures who can speak!” She joked with a chortle.
She took flight and closed the gap of space between herself and Meandeer.
Moonlights stayed itself before it ran into the dragon.
The dragon’s eyes were wide with concern when she saw the boy up close. “Meandeer, what happened to your skin? It has scales…”
Meandeer ignored her.
He dismounted the horse and approached her. He had no expression on his face; his fists were clenched.
She took a frightened step back. “Meandeer…?”
With a yell, the boy leapt upon her—digging his fingers under her scales and making his way to her back. Hipeos moaned in pain—rearing up and trying to shake the warrior off her. “You’ll pay for killing Sophie!”
Hipeos shouted. “Meandeer, please! I did not kill your sweetheart! Have you gone mad?”
Meandeer barely heard her; he was too consumed with the hatred in his heart.
The dragon shook violently, but her assailant could not be thrown.
Blood dotted the white snow.
The dragon had tears in her eyes. “Have mercy, Meandeer! I thought we were friends!”
The scaled lizard tipped to the side—with Meandeer jumping off—and rolled through the snow.
Meandeer was on his feet and sprinting at her faster than she could blink.
The dragon bared her teeth—flames rising from the pit of her stomach; but as they came closer and closer to her mouth, she found herself being warmed and comforted by the memory of the undead warrior throwing his arms around her.
She emitted a soft, regretful howl and found that she couldn’t harm him.
She swallowed her flames; the boy leapt upon her with renewed vigor.
“Give me my parents and Sophie back, you monster! Give them back!” He said over and over as he tore her to shreds.
Hipeos did not fight back.
Eventually, she collapsed.
Meandeer finally let the dragon alone—leaping off her back with bloodied hands.
Rain dotted the ivory dragon’s body as her breathing slowed.
A flash of light pulsed from the dragon’s body and blinded Meandeer’s eyes.
A girl appeared where the dragon had lain.
Meandeer took a shuddering breath.
He clapped a hand to his mouth and choked back a horrible sob.
He approached her hurriedly and checked her diminishing pulse.
The tears from his eyes dotted her face. “No, no! I can’t lose you again! Not by my own hands! Sophie, open your eyes! Sophie…”
Meandeer fell to his knees and hugged her lifeless body under a blanket of rain.
From behind the boy, a black horse approached at a trot.
It came to stand behind the boy and the corpse he cradled.
It nuzzled the back of the boy’s head with its nose.
“You couldn’t recognize her, and she couldn’t recognize you.” The horse stated. “Ah, you humans and dragons. You are both so foolish—which makes sense, considering you come from the same seed. These cursed lands will ever be yours to roam.”
The boy spun around. “Moonlight?”
“She started out as a dragon, became a human when she saw you from afar, and then turned back into a dragon when she couldn’t stand being among you humans any longer.” Moonlight tsked. “Dragons do not retain their memories when they become human and vice versa.”
“Wha--?” Meandeer began.
“Do you want to bring her back?” Moonlight demanded.
Meandeer, still holding Sophie, nodded slowly.
“You are dead, but your soul burns brightly. Give it to her.” Moonlight said.
Meandeer wiped his eyes with a smile. “That will make her well?”
“At great cost, yes. Fill your mind with love, take that love from your forehead, and bestow it upon her.” Moonlight instructed.
And Meandeer did fill his mind with love; he remembered every kiss he shared with her, every hug, and every conversation when she was both a human and a dragon.
At last he realized that being a hero wasn’t about following orders blindly, slaying beasts, or garnering love from strangers; it was about caring about others more than he cared about himself, regardless of whether they had scales or not.
A shining bead popped out of his forehead.
Slowly, he lowered it into Sophie’s.
The boy watched her with bated breath.
Her eyes fluttered open. They shone with intelligence and love.
Meandeer exclaimed, “Sophie, I love y—”
But his words were swallowed in his throat, and he couldn’t speak anymore.