Chapter 1: Ruins
The war ended 100 years ago. What did it accomplish? The answer stares back at me, like an open wound on the horizon. Once a proud city, now just decrepit buildings. It must have been a trading hub, back before the war.
Maybe the shifters mingled with the humans and other races in its territory. I can't be certain. The sign at the half-destroyed gate is too faded, for me to connect this ruin with the name of the city it once was.
Life didn't become easier for the dragon shifters, despite all the propaganda that Ajax spewed to us. If anything, we are now rarer than we were before the war. A dragon can light a flame, that devours a city. A dragon slayer can extinguish that flame, and all those which come after it.
As I push what remains of the wooden gate open, I sniff the air. There are no traces of life nearby. Still, I could be mistaken. My nose is not so keen, when I am in my human form.
Yet, what other choice do I have? Passing off as a human is the only way I can avoid the fate of many dragon shifters. It is the smart thing to do. The only way one can survive.
Walking around, I search for a relatively intact house to spend the night in. The clouds above me are overcast. Not even the higher powers like dragon shifters, these days. I don't mind, though. As long as I can pull the wool over people's eyes with my healing ability, then no trouble will find me.
A moan from one of the ruins captures my attention. I pull out my dagger, and move in the direction of the sound. What I find is something I wouldn't wish on anyone.
There, leaning on a wall, is a young boy. There is an angry burn on his naked arm. I come closer to the child, and sheath the dagger. He is not a danger to me.
The boy's eyes flutter open, but they are unfocused. I kneel before the child, and take his arm in my hands. This looks like even the fat layer has been damaged. A third-degree burn, in the middle of nowhere. This will be a tough one to heal.
"Who are you?" The boy whispers. Figuring that he is thirsty, I let go of his arm, to take out my water bottle. When I open it, I help the child drink.
"Givontair, a healer," I tell the boy. He pauses in his drinking, to give me a quizzing look.
"You don't look like a healer," the boy counters. I grin at that.
"That is because I am self-taught," I say, and the boy nods. He doesn't stop drinking, until the water bottle is empty. I place it back in my bag.
"My name is Erik," the boy says, now in a clearer voice. Even some life has returned to his eyes.
"Who did this to you?" I point at his arm. The wound is blackened. I will need to do a skin graft.
"There are bandits not too far from here. I managed to get away," I can see that the boy has a haunted look in his eyes. Before, when my brethren ruled over the Dorumian Theocracy, no bandit dared to pillage a city. Normally, they stuck to the countryside.
"Are there any other people in the camp? How many were injured?" I ask Erik. He bites his bottom lip.
"These particular bandits work with slave traders," the boy says. I can see that his green eyes are filled with fear. There is nothing more bitter than seeing fear in a child's eyes. "Chances are, the others from the caravan are already sold off."
I want to ask the boy in which direction did the bandits went, but a look at his burned arm makes me stop. If I don't act now, the wound will fester. If I leave the other people with the bandits, then I am dooming them to slavery.
The boy takes in a deep breath, and then looks me in the eyes.
"Is it normal that my burn doesn't hurt?" Erik asks.
"This is a third-degree burn. Your nerve endings are damaged," his eyes go wide at my words. He begins to shake then.
"I don't want to die," a sentence like this spoken by such a young boy can freeze someone in their spot. I am no exception. I make my decision then.
"I will need to do a skin graft for you," I tell the boy. "That is the cutting of healthy skin, and then positioning it over your burn, while using mana."
"Will it hurt?" Erik asks, edging away from me.
"I will put you under anesthesia," I assure him. The operation itself won't be a problem. Finding a clean place where it can be performed will be.
"I can't pay you. The bandits took everything," I wave the boy off. If he only knew of my entire horde, trinkets gathered for 100,000 years in a bottomless bag, he wouldn't have offered to pay me.
"I just want for you to survive," I tell the boy. Then, I take off my backpack, which holds my treasure bottomless bag, and my medical supplies. I am running low on anesthesia. Some doctors perform skin grafts with just local anesthesia. I don't like seeing people's faces, when I cut in their skin.
"Thank you," Erik says, as I inject him with the anesthesia. I don't have time to search for a cleaner place. Chances are, everything is covered in ash in this entire city. As he dozes off, I take out an operational table from my medical supplies bottomless bag, and busy myself with cleaning it.
The boy's breathing evens out, and I place him on the table when I deem it clean enough. Deciding to take the skin I need from the inner tight, I make precise incisions. Soon, the burn is cleaned of the puss that is oozing out of it, and the healthy skin is stretched over it. As I wait for the boy to wake up, I bandage both his arm, and his tight. I know that I can't leave this child by himself.
Yet, my mind keeps on wandering towards the other people, who were attacked by the bandits. I can't leave them. What is the point of having a form as big as a small mountain, if one refuses to fight for those, who are in need?