Madness introduced itself to Glimclaw rather suddenly. After finishing a tiring but fulfilling day making children happy, a voice almost overwhelmed with rageful growls berated him from within his head.
‘What are you doing pleasing the humans? You should be a tyrant of the sky yet you lower yourself to tricks for treats?!’
Glimclaw only understood some of the words. The voice scoffed and instead assaulted Glimclaw with a barrage of strange images. All of them were of his gleaming black form flying around and destroying everywhere but his room.
Glimclaw shook himself, bewildered. Why would he want to do any of that?
‘To take what you want.’
Glimclaw thought of smiling and laughing young humanlings and a proud Tavrin and wondered how doing anything the voice sent him would lead to that. Glimclaw decided he should ignore the strange voice.
Unfortunately, the voice refused to leave Glimclaw alone, and a continuous stream of angry words and images soon led to an awful pain in his head.
“Glimclaw, what’s wrong?”
Glimclaw squeezed open an eye to a tanned human towering over him with a worried expression. Tavrin must have heard him in pain! Glimclaw cupped and rubbed his head with his tail all while whining.
“Oh, your head hurts? How badly?”
Glimclaw thumped his tail over five times.
“That badly? Kalden did run you rather ragged didn’t he? I know just what you need.”
Tavrin grabbed one of his many pouches and poured a powder into Glimclaw’s drinking bowl.
“Drink up Glimclaw.”
Glimclaw happily drained his bowl. The world seemed to twist and turn but the angry voice stopped mattering. Sleep finally became possible.
His sleep was restful, and the voice was gone the next day. His wings tensed with excitement, Glimclaw glided straight into their band’s practice ring after a quick chomp of his food.
“Good to see you feel great now Glimclaw.”
Glimclaw preened a little but kept himself rapt at attention.
Tavrin threw four silver hoops high up into the air, all in different directions, and after a moment swiped a hand down. At the gesture, Glimclaw beat his wings and leapt up into the air after the hoops. With deft flaps, he managed to dive through each hoop before they hit the ground.
After the last ring hit the ground, Tavrin threw a placard engraved with a star shape into the air. Using the placard as a starting point, Glimclaw blew brightly focused flames into a star shape into the air. Tavrin tossed him two treats once the fire burnt out, and Glimclaw quickly fell back into his routine with the days blurring together.
After an especially long day, Glimclaw overheard Kalden and Tavrin arguing.
“It would love to do anything for you and would be fine!”
“You’ve been running HIM way too ragged. I thought you wanted to do things right? If you’re so invested in including one of the bigger Orbs into the band’s route, just ask your family.”
When Tavrin came by his tent, Glimclaw poked his head out.
Tavrin became startled a little but then smiled wanly, “Glimclaw, there’s no reason to worry. I’ll make sure.”
In the most memorable Orb’s community, the children could somehow turn themself into various animals. They visited the place rather recently, so instead of his usual routine of flight tricks and fiery shapes, Glimclaw played hide and seek with the children within their band’s ring among actual animals. Tavrin had him act confused and bring actual animals to parents instead of their children. Glimclaw felt genuinely confused about why until the children giggled at his mistakes.
Glimclaw had a blast and decided to fly up to blow out a blast of flame into the void beyond the atmosroi connecting the Orbs and toward the daybreaking light.
The day would have been flawless if the angry voice hadn’t come back, even if only briefly. Glimclaw just herded one of the children whose form was actually draconic like himself. When the child reformed into a human child in a flash of light to hug his parents, the voice rumbled.
The voice kept quiet afterward, thankfully, so Glimclaw didn’t need to ask Tavrin for help with sleeping again.
The days blurred into weeks and the weeks into months once again until one awful night.
Glimclaw curled up back in his tent after a simple routine but for a long day with Kalden, when a potent smell of iron filled his snout. The smell was familiar. A few times before, Tavrin showed up with gauze over a cut on his face, grumbling about bad blades. The smell’s strength suggested a much worse injury. Glimclaw rushed outside into tall grass.
The day had long since ended, but Glimclaw easily followed the scent with such strength.
‘Ahahaha… one of ư̶͛͐̿͊̿̏s̸̃̎̿̋͛̇̄͘ always focused on the runners before picking off the others. Many runaway snacks complained about how they thought that the good ones always died first.’
Glimclaw ignored the voice with a growl. That was a mistake.
“I thought I paid you for a job without the drake noticing?!”
“It’s fine. I know how to mimic a Myalonar’s ability, so we just need to catch the drake before twenty hours pass. It’ll be easy once light comes back in six hours.”
Glimclaw fled but could not believe what he heard and an unfamiliar sensation boiled within him.
‘Finally! W̷̊̌̽̎͂̈e̸͐̊́̍̔́̈́̈ wondered if you were a true dragon, since you never raged. Don’t you now want to tear apart this… Kalden?’
‘Glimclaw would not succeed and survive right now.’
“W̷̊̌̽̎͂̈e̸͐̊́̍̔́̈́̈ agree so w̵̧̡̙̪͎̮͇͔͎̥͔̉̅́̃̓ͅȩ̶̧͚̠̜̱̝̙̺̦̦̯̞̂̾̐́͛́̈͠͝ remembered how that one herd of humans managed to turn themselves into other creatures. You will mimic the one humanling we commented on.”
‘Glimclaw remembered the comment but the child turned back into a human in a flash of light.’
‘Ah yes, that flash of light was a pattern of rapid currents of prana.’
Glimclaw cocked his head.
‘Currents of prana?”
‘You always used your prana to twist your flames into those ridiculous shapes. Stop focusing on increasing your flames brightness and your flames should contain enough unused prana for you to use. Hmmm… your brief existence as a trained beast might actually prove to be of some use. Most young drakes get too accustomed to focusing their prana towards pure destruction.’
‘Glimclaw likes the approval but still doesn’t know how to mimic the child.’
As soon as Glimclaw projected his thoughts to the voice, a series of many snapshots of the light forming around the child began looping slowly in his mind. It immediately reminded Glimclaw of when Tavrin taught him the more complicated shapes to form with his fire.
Making another silent vow to rip apart Kalden, Glimclaw hunkered down to recreate the child's prana flow around himself with his flames.
Time became nebulous to Glimclaw for a while, but his flames finally almost completely mimicked the child’s prana flows.
‘Hurry! Daybreak comes soon!’
With one final puff of his flame, Glimclaw started his transformation. He almost immediately regretted his decision. Switching from quadrupedal to bipedal set alight every part of his body with frigid pain! There must have been an error in his mimicry. The child hadn’t shown the slightest hint of discomfort in switching forms.
‘Get up! You need to grab some of those coverings humans use or your disguise might not work!’
Glimclaw tried to get up but quickly toppled back to the ground. Losing his tail and standing on two feet appeared to be too much for him.
‘Well… at least w̵̧̡̙̪͎̮͇͔͎̥͔̉̅́̃̓ͅȩ̶̧͚̠̜̱̝̙̺̦̦̯̞̂̾̐́͛́̈͠͝ know how to take the form of a human as a disguise now. The addition of your memories will be meager in amount, but great in value. Your life will not be meaningless.’
‘Shut up. Glimclaw won’t die. Show how the child walked.’
‘W̷̊̌̽̎͂̈e̸͐̊́̍̔́̈́̈ do not belive this would help, but here…’
Glimclaw scrutinized the slow loop of images of the child’s motions now in his head and then focused on his body. First he got up on all fours. Then after some thought he bent his rear limbs and moved most of his weight atop them. Using his fore limbs as a support, he began to waddle back to the band’s encampment. He fell over multiple times but steadily extended his rear limbs for him to eventually stand.
‘What are you doing? Did you not admit to being too weak to take revenge?’
‘Glimclaw doesn’t think asking for clothes from a human not in the band will work.’
‘Fair enough, but move quickly.’
Glimclaw made a beeline to where he knew the used cloth and clothes were kept. He took the green trousers of a performer's outfit and the dark grey shirt of a vending grunt.
“What are you doing boy?” Kalden glared down at him.
‘To keep suspicions from rising, refer to yourself as ‘I’.’
Glimclaw simultaneously stumbled over changing how he referred to himself and scrambled for an excuse when a trick he managed before came to mind.
“I was trying to replace the clothes your drake burnt off me!”
The suspicion in Kalden’s eyes melted into desperate interest.
“Where did that drake go?”
Eager to get rid of Kalden, Glimclaw blurted, “I couldn’t see too well from the drake’s strange attack but I think he went opposite to the daybreaking light.”
It would be what Glimclaw would have done if mimicking the child took too long, and Kalden nodded to himself, muttering how the lie Glimclaw fed him made sense. Speaking for the first felt strange but went weirdly well. Kalden called out to his hired killer and most of his other hires, and they all raced away.
Glimclaw sighed in relief.
“Why didn’t you force the Glee and Supply Trader to pay for the information? Makes things easier for us since we have a time limit, though.”
A young man appeared at the tent entrance.
Glimclaw cocked his head.
“I thought I would just take what I want once he left.”
“What a coincidence, I thought the same.”
Glimclaw followed the chuckling young man outside. At an edge of the encampment, several young men and women worked to tie up unconscious hirees Kalden left behind. Children overrun the rest of the encampment.
“Why don’t you join in the fun? You gave us a lot of time, after all.”
Before Glimclaw could run off to pillage for the first time, the young man stopped him by the shoulder.
“I’m Jalten. What about you?”
Glimclaw figured he couldn’t go by his real name. Not a single human he met had ‘claw’ in their name. He shrugged.
“I guess plenty of people also ‘forgot’ their name. Hmmm… how about Galan as a name?”
“Seems fine. I guess I’m Galan now.”