Vur, Tafel, and Lindyss walked through a brush and approached a cliff wall. A dragon-sized tunnel led downwards at the base of the cliff. The ground was shattered and the trees nearby were uprooted and lying on their sides. A few boulders laid on the ground, having fallen from the top of the cliff.
“This is where your grandpa sleeps?” Tafel asked as she held Vur’s hand and squeezed. “Why’s everything in ruins?”
Vur shrugged and looked at Lindyss. Her face was pale and her palms were slick with sweat. “Are you scared?” Vur asked and raised an eyebrow.
“Of course,” Lindyss said and kicked Vur’s butt. “Who wouldn’t be? Let’s keep going; the dragons are waiting inside.”
The trio passed through the field of ruin and entered the tunnel. Tafel summoned a flame that illuminated the path ahead of them. They traveled through winding tunnels, passing by no signs of life—not even a speck of moss. “It’s so… empty,” Tafel said and shuddered as they followed the clawed footprints ahead of them.
Lindyss nodded. “The patriarch absorbed all the mana in the surroundings to recover faster,” she said. “It’s no surprise that nothing can grow here.”
After walking for fifteen minutes, the group arrived in a chamber. Icicles hung from the ceiling and a layer of frost covered the walls. A pile of glowing blue crystals lay in the corner of the room. Sera, Vernon, Grimmy, Prika, and Leila sat on their haunches in a semi-circle around a sleeping green dragon. Snuffles, his wife, and Floofykins sat on top of Sera’s head.
“You’re back,” Sera said as her eyes flickered towards the approaching group. “I’m glad you made it in time to see your grandfather wake up.”
“How do you know he’s waking up?” Vur asked.
Sera let out a low chuckle. “Your grandfather always sneezes three times in his sleep before he wakes up,” she said and smiled. “He already sneezed twice. You can tell from all the broken trees outside.”
“Oh,” Vur said and nodded. “It’s like how Prika always says, ‘I want a mate’ before she wakes up.”
“Hey!” Prika said and frowned. “I don’t do that. Right?” She looked around at the other dragons.
“Actually…” Leila said and her voice trailed off, “you do.”
Grimmy nodded. “Every single time,” he said, “really loudly too.”
Prika blinked and tilted her head. She sighed. “I can’t tell if you guys are bullying me or not,” she said and puffed out her cheeks. “I d—“
A torrent of wind swirled in through the tunnels and knocked the dragons over. The green dragon’s back rose by ten meters as the air rushed into its nostrils. The ground trembled and icicles rained down from the ceiling. The wind continued to roar past the group for a solid minute before it stopped.
Lindyss paled and slammed her arms against the ground, causing a bulwark to rise in front of the green dragon’s face. The dragon’s mouth opened and it sucked in more air. Its nose twitched and Lindyss summoned another wall of earth as the surrounding dragons turned around and braced themselves. Its nose twitched again.
The green dragon’s body deflated in an instant as all of the air was expunged from its body in a fraction of a second. The walls of earth disintegrated, doing nothing to impede the shockwave as it traveled outside. Rumbling sounds echoed through the chamber and the remaining icicles shattered before touching the ground. Outside, every bird within a 50-mile radius cawed and scattered into the air. Vur dug out a ball of earwax and looked around. “Is everyone okay?”
The dragons shook their heads like dogs shaking off water and crawled back onto their haunches. Tafel peaked out from behind Vur’s back. “A little deaf, but I think I’ll be fine when the ringing goes away.”
The green dragon sniffled a few times before its eyes shot open. Its mouth widened as it yawned and it twisted its head towards its tail, causing creaking noises to emerge from its body as it stretched. “That was a good nap,” the dragon said and sighed as it stretched its front claws forward while arching its back.
“Patriarch.” The other dragons sat with their heads lowered, staring at the ground in front of them.
“Oh?” the patriarch said and raised an eyebrow. It turned to look at Leila. “There’s a new addition to the family. Where’d you come from?”
“The eastern continent,” Leila said, her head still lowered. “You can call me Leila, Patriarch.”
The patriarch made a face. “Eugh,” he said and stuck out his tongue. “Then you probably know Kondra. I hate that woman. Is she still kicking?”
Leila nodded. “The matriarch is still alive and well.”
“Tch. Such a shame,” the patriarch said. “Well, welcome to the clan.” His gaze shifted towards Sera.
“Yes, Father,” Sera said and raised her head.
“What is that?”
“What is what?” Sera asked and tilted her head. Floofykins screeched in protest as she flapped her wings and scrambled back up Sera’s scales.
“The… thing,” the patriarch said and pointed at Floofykins. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Floofykins hissed and spat a fireball towards the patriarch. It collided against his snout and dispersed without leaving a mark.
“Ah,” Sera said and nodded. “This is your great-great-granddaughter.”
The patriarch blinked with furrowed eyebrows. “My what? Did you mate with a pig?” Snuffles oinked and snapped his jaws at the patriarch.
“Was it this one?” the patriarch asked as he picked up Snuffles with his claws. “Kinda small, don’t you think? There’s no way you could’ve fertilized an egg with him.”
“You’ve misunderstood, Father,” Sera said as she held out her claw to retrieve Snuffles. “This is your great-grandson. And this phoenix is your great-granddaughter-in-law.”
The patriarch dropped Snuffles into Sera’s claw. His shoulders drooped and he sighed while shaking his head. “You know, back in my day,” he said and raised his head towards the ceiling, “species only mated with their own species: phoenixes mated with phoenixes, boars mated with boars. Ducks mated with chicke—ducks don’t count. You youngins are too progressive these days. Alright“—he lowered his head and stared at Sera—“where’s my grandchild if these are its offspring.”
Sera’s gaze flickered towards Vur. “Vur,” she said. “Come here.”
The patriarch frowned as Vur walked towards him while holding Tafel’s. “Please tell me he’s at least an elf that looks freakishly like a human,” he said, “and she’s an elf that happens to have horns.”
“I’m a dragon,” Vur said and stuck his chest out. His imprint glowed as he opened his mouth and let out a roar.
The patriarch blinked at Vur before turning back to Sera. “Explain.”
Sera blinked back. “He’s a dragon,” she said with a straight face, “and your grandson.”
“I see,” the patriarch said and nodded. “Then what’s the girl?”
“Your granddaughter-in-law,” Sera said.
The patriarch nodded and turned towards Grimmy. “Did my daughter hit her head on something?” he asked and frowned. “Maybe she ate the wrong kinds of mushrooms for dinner?”
Grimmy chuckled and raised his head. “If the squirt says he’s a dragon, then he’s a dragon,” he said and smiled.
“Vernon,” the patriarch said and whipped his head towards the golden dragon. “What is he?”
Vernon raised his head and a bead of sweat rolled down his forehead. His gaze shifted between the patriarch’s piercing stare and Sera’s smiling face.
“I, I,” Vernon said as his body shuddered. “I’m an ostrich.” He dug a hole in front of himself and buried his head in the ground.
“What the hell is going on?!” the patriarch roared and whipped his head towards Prika. His eyes narrowed. “Prika.”
Prika whistled while looking towards the ceiling. She inched towards the exit while avoiding eye contact. When she reached the exit, she turned towards the patriarch. “He’s a dragon,” she said and dashed out of the chamber before he could say anything in return.
“Leila?” the patriarch asked and raised an eyebrow.
“I…” Leila said and bit her lip. She turned her head away. “I’ve only just recently came back from visiting my family.”
Sera beamed. “Three of us said Vur’s a dragon,” Sera said and pat Vur’s head. “And two of us declined to answer. So 100% of the ones who responded said he’s a dragon. I think it’s safe to conclude that Vur is indeed a dragon.” Sweat formed on Lindyss’ brow as she tiptoed towards the exit. Goddamn dragon logic. I’ll get killed if I stay here, she thought and slipped into the tunnel.
“Mama’s so smart,” Vur said and nodded.
Tafel stared at Vur. “So it wasn’t Grimmy who removed your common sense,” she mumbled.
“Sera. Do you really expect me to accept a human as one of us?” the patriarch asked as he sat on his haunches.
“I’m a dragon,” Vur said. The patriarch ignored him as he continued to stare at Sera.
“We’ve all already accepted him,” Sera said and matched the patriarch’s gaze.
A minute passed in silence as the two dragons stared at each other. The patriarch sighed and looked away first. “Alright, alright,” he said. “You win.”
Sera smiled. “I’ll tell you all about him,” she said as she walked over to her father and curled up next to him. Vernon’s head popped back up from underground and Prika peeked her head into the chamber from the tunnels with a squirming Lindyss in her claw.
“Let’s gather round,” the patriarch said. “I want to hear about everything that I’ve missed.”
Everyone stared at Sera after they formed a circle. “I guess I’ll start then,” she said and smiled at Vur.
“I’ll start from when the humans forced you to—”
“Start with me!”
Sera sighed. “Alright.”
“It all began when the humans stole my egg…”