Five Miles Out von Peter Laessig

"The violence of the storm increased and the Piper V II 306 was shaken like a little fly in a gigantic fist. Michael Governson, an experienced pilot in his early fifties, was on his way from Scotland to Norway when the storm captured him by surprise. He experienced lots of storms in his small aeroplane (especially now in November those storms were quite common), but no storm has been so strong as this one. The only chance he had was to do an emergency landing... but where? There were only the cold waters of the Northern Atlantic beneath him.
Suddenly he got a message from his radar system: There was an island a couple of miles ahead. Mike shook his head: It must be an error, as he flew this route several times and there never has been an island, not just five miles away from the shore. Either the radar system was broken, his nerves were tricking him, or...
Mike was not able to finish his thoughts. With a deafeningly loud crack of thunder a lightning bolt hit the Piper in one of the two propellers. The aircraft started to dive and quickly lost its altitude.
"MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, calling all stations! This is Golf Mike Oscar Juliet IMC CU. NIMB. ICING in great difficulty - over!"
"The traffic controller is calling. Victor Juliet, your identity!"
"Mayday! I am lost in 18 - the storm is closing in now...."
With that the horrofied traffic controller lost contact with the pilot. The controllers at the tower watched in panic as the signal vanished from their radar system.
"Over," Mike said as his aeroplane continued to dive. He started to say his last prayer when he noticed the island coming closer. But it had no meaning anymore - his aircraft would crash on the rocky shore and explode.
Then a merciful darkness engulfed him.
.

Consciousness claimed Mike back after an uncertain amount of time: Was it just hours or days... or centuries? He was vaguely aware first of being alive - not necessarily a pleasant sensation. The skin on his face, hands and chest felt hot and burnt, as if he had been roasted alive. In the air there was a strange scent, very strong, but not unpleasant. A scent like melted iron combined with the smell of leather, honey and the hint of a sulforic stench.
Mike licked his dry lips and discovered that he was terribly thirsty.

"Greetings to you, my human friend." The voice in his ears was resonant, so powerful and deep that Mike felt his whole body vibrate, and a subtle pain stung his head.
The human slowly opened his eyes and a groan escaped his lips. He closed his eyes again.
"You have many injuries, some of them very serious, but you will live," the voice said in a friendly tone.
It did not sound like any voice Mike had ever heard. Whoever the speaker was, it must be someone - or something - huge. Was he already in heaven? Was God or an angel talking to him?
Again he tried to open his eyes and to stir, but he felt some resistance. Even this slight movement was promptly rewarded with waves of agony through his whole body.

Cold water unexpectedly splashed into Mikeís face. He gasped and then screamed in pain as a massive, solid object pushed gently against his right arm. Suddenly, a warm feeling poured through his body bringing relief - his pain was gone.
He started a new attempt to open his eyes, and then he saw it.

"Aaahhhhh!" The view was awful: A massive golden head, four spike-like shafts protruding from the side of its face, a little back from its mouth, with a translucent skin stretching between them. They ran straight back from its face, but the top and bottom spike tilted up and down respectively. Two small holes in the side of its head seemed to be the creatureís ears.
The muzzle was rather long, with a nostril on either side at the end. Although its mouth was closed, one tooth was still visible on each side, about one forth of the way from the tip of the muzzle. The tooth looked razorsharp and was nearly as long as Mikeís forearm.  Its upper lip went back in a wavy line that looked very much like a smile, almost to the cresting on the side of his head. Under the cresting on the side of its head were large, round bulges: powerful jaw muscles.
Large green reptilian eyes watched the human impassively beneath thick-scaled ridges. The monsterís head nearly brushed against the distant ceiling of what seemed to be a torch-lit cave. A great set of ivory claws rested not ten centimeters away from Mike, each of the four claws nearly as long as the humanís legs.
"A dragon!" Mike gasped and tried to move away, but he found himself lying on his back, bound on a type of bench.
"More water?" asked the dragon with concern. The great, clawed foot beside the human lifted slowly away from him, formed itself into a cup, and dipped into a broad wooden tub nearby. A new cascade of water splashed over Mike.
"You need not be afraid," Mike heard; or rather... felt the words in his head. "Have you never seen a dragon before?"
Mike sensed dimly that something very large had moved close to him, and the air grew exceedingly hot. The air around the human burned as if a large oven door had opened. Obviously it was not heaven, but hell where he landed. Was he really such a bad man during his lifetime?
"Whe...where am I?" he stammered. "What happened?"
"You are safe now. I watched you fall from the skies in a strange metallic device I have seen so often flying far above the clouds across my island. You must be a wizard if you are able to fly. Are many humans wizards?"
Mike looked puzzled. "Wizards? No, I am not a wizard... And I donít know any wizard. We are pilots, and these are aircrafts, and... Where am I and who are you?"
"As I said, you are on my island. And you can call me ĎWindfangí. May I have your name?"
"Governson. Mike Governson."
"Very well, Iíll call you Mike, if you donít mind. I have rescued you and it required even my strongest spell of healing to aid your recovery" - the dragon put emphasis on the last part.
"So you have saved my life... thank you. How can I ever pay back my debts?"
The dragon smiled. "Donít worry about that, my friend. You are very welcome. I enjoy helping you humans. Unfortunatly, there are not many humans coming to my island. It is very well hidden."
"Your island? Where am I exactly? I have never heard of dragons living in Scandinavia. Indeed, I have never believed in the existence of dragons at all!"
"Well, as I said, there are not many humans who have visited me and my people during the centuries."
"Your people? So you are Lord, or even the King of this place?"
"Queen."
"Pardon?"
"I said I am the Queen. I am a female, a dragoness."
"Oh, sorry, I see. Well, it is a pleasure for me to talk to such a nice, youthful..."
"Old. A dragon is strongest and happiest when it grows old in its power, and I am quite old. We dragons are not like humans who treasure only their youth." With that, the dragoness displayed herself a little bit and Mike lifted his head as much as he could. She was such a beautiful creature. Windfang looked like a classic western dragon: She stood on all four legs, there was a pair of bat-like wings and she had a rather long neck with no pouch under her chin.
Windfangís cresting started on the top of her head, just behind her eyes, and got smaller until it got down to where her neck met her shoulders, where it stopped.
Windfang opened her mouth and all of her teeth became visible to Mike. The two teeth that could be seen when her mouth was closed were about twice as long as her others. Her pointed teeth were very sharp and curve backwards to aid in tearing meat from very large prey.
Her slick, forked tongue could extend from her mouth about the length of her head. Her tongue was very flexible, smooth and long, with a pinkish tint.

Mike was only able to stare in astonishment. Again he tried to move, but a new wave of agony and the resistance of the shackles reminded him that he was injured and bound.
"Why did you bind me?"
"Oh, thatís only for your own sake. You have some very serious inner injuries that could get worse if you move too much. And you need to relax a little bit, my friend."
Slowly Mike became aware of all the bandages Ė nearly every limb was covered with them Ė and that he was, apart from these bandages, completely naked. "Yes, I had to undress you before I was able to take care of your wounds. Nearly every bone was broken," the dragoness said, as if she had read Mikeís mind.
"So, I am more or less your captive. How long do you think I must stay in this position?"
Windfang smiled. "Well, I think Ďcaptiveí is not the proper word. You are my guest and you must stay this way until you are healed. It may take some weeks."
"Some weeks? Without moving? But how should..."
"Relax, human, relax. Itís senseless to lament. Itís the only way you can heal completely. I will take care of you. I will feed you and give you drink. I will also clean you and take care of your other needs," Windfang rumbled softly.
"But I canít stay that long away," Mike objected.
"Hush. Think a little. You should be dead by now. Isnít it better to live, even if it is far away from your home, than to be dead? By the way, do you have a family?" Windfang asked.
Mike tried to shake his head, moaning in pain. "No."
"Then tell me: why it is so difficult for you to accept your fate? No one is waiting for you to return."
"There is. They are waiting for me."
"Who?" the dragoness looked curiously.
"I am the leading member of the board of directors of Scandinaviaís largest oil company. I was on my way back from visiting some of our platforms in the North Sea..."
The eyes of the dragoness narrowed as she rumbled. "So you are one of those wizards who pollute my sea with that black stuff, killing birds and fish and dolphins and whales and seals. You practice black magic to destroy the natural balance..."
"What does an animal know about natural bal..." Mike started, but was interrupted by Windfangís snarling.
"Animal?" She snorted and little flames emerged from her nostrils. "You had better sleep now." With that she put a spell about Mike, and he felt into a deep, relaxing slumber.
.

His friendsí whistles and clicking sounds were all around him. His smooth body darted through the ocean. In pure joy he propelled himself with his horizontal flukes out of the water, his prominent beak marking him as a bottlenose dolphin. As he arched into the air, he took a deep breath of fresh ocean air. He dived back into the depths of the blue sea, his friends and relatives close around him. It was wonderful to be young, and lifeís lessons were interesting and thrilling.
Something large and dark down on the ocean ground kept his attention, and had to be investigated immediately! Skilfully using his flippers he manoeuvred himself downwards. His mother had already fed him with fish she brought, so it was not hunger which motivated him, but curiosity.
He carefully nosed it. It was obviously a rock, but what a strange one! It seemed to be covered with some black algae. He whistled in puzzlement, more curious than careful. He wanted to learn more about this object. Maybe it could be an interesting toy?
He circled around it, fascinated by its funny reflections of some sunrays that broke through the water. He drew his circles closer and finally touched it with his flippers. It felt somewhat slippery and soft. His brain was working hard so he did not notice that his whistles went unanswered by his friends. Neither did he realize that the ray of light illuminating the black object slowly faded.
His need for oxygen drew his attention away from the object and he ascended, now wondering where the rest of his group could be. Well, he could follow them later, he was sure he could find them. Did the water become somewhat darker?
He surfaced, but it felt so different now, so slick and silky. As a dolphin, of course, he wasnít able to smell anything, nevertheless the water tasted somewhat strange, as well as the air he breathed in. He felt an urge to take another breath - did he forget to breathe? Suddenly the mucous membrane of his airways burnt as he breathed in, his blowhole and the rest of his back just surfacing the oil slicks. He didnít realize that he was inhaling droplets of oil and poisonous oil vapours all the time.
His whistles and whining became more pitiful. Receiving no answer soon made him aware that something was terribly wrong. He wanted to clear his lungs and airways from this burning pain, and he blew out sharply, only to find his blowhole bunged up by something sticky and tar-like. He was not able to get rid of it.
More and more panicked now, he moved faster and breathed more rapidly, exposing himself to the dangerous oil even further. His eyesight became weaker, and soon everything around him disappeared in darkness. He struggled, now aware of being stuck in that black, sticky mass which not only closed his blowhole but also held him now in a cruel grip. His whistles turned into screams of fear and terror, full of agony. No one answered them. He was alone in his pain and terror. He was doomed.
After a while his movements became weaker as he ran short off oxygen.
The dolphin barely noticed the approach of the large and golden glittering animal; he barely felt how its deadly sharp claws carefully but powerfully pulled him out of the oily water. The relief brought by a soft touch of something smooth and moist against his blowhole remained fully unnoticed, while he faded away into deep darkness with a last sigh.

Startled, Mike woke up, covered in sweat and his heart racing. He moaned in relief when he felt a soft touch on his forehead and chest, slowly calming him down, inhaling deeply fresh air. What a nightmare. He dreamt of a dolphinís death... no, that was not appropriate. He was the dolphin who died a terrible death. He shivered and felt the dragonís paw gently caressing him. "Ssssshhhh," the dragoness tried to relax him with. She gave him some water and Michael thankfully accepted it.
"I...I had a dream." But Windfang seemed not to listen to him anymore.
Michael turned his head as far as possible and watched her kneeling next to a sort of dirty bundle. He was not able to recognize what it was: Its size was about one to two meters, and its shape was somehow familiar. It was covered in tar-like layers. "Whatís that?" Michael wanted to know -- but he was already afraid of the answer.
The dragoness carefully lifted the bundle and brought it over to Michael. "I was too late. Even my powers were not enough to save his life." Windfangís eyes were full of sorrow, but Mike did not find any hate in her eyes. "It was your black magic that killed him. He was still a calf."
Michael stared into the dead dolphinís eyes and his stomach turned upside down. He recognized the dolphin.

"I...I am so sorry," Mike said as Windfang carefully cleaned his face and mouth with fresh water.
"No excuse needed," the dragoness smiled. "After all, vomiting is just a natural reaction, you see." She winked. "Deathís not a nice view, I admit. But one gets used to it as it happens more often."
"No, no, I didnít mean that. Of course, my apologies for vomiting over your paw." Michael blushed. "But I meant something different. I am so sorry for the dolphin."
Windfang breathed in sharply and stared into the manís eyes. "Why? Itís just a dolphin. Would there be a difference for you if it was a seal, a seagull or a shark?"
Windfangís eyes were deeper than the ocean. Michael felt how these eyes penetrated his skin, his flesh, his bones. The dragoness was reading his soul like a book. It was painful, and made him feel naked. She could easily kill him now. She was obviously very concerned about all the marine life there, and he had contributed to destroy it.
He shook slowly his head. "No," he whispered. "I am sorry for what has happened, even though I donít know where the dolphin killing oil comes from."
"Oil? You mean that black stuff covering the beach of my island, the life-devouring black power?" Windfang snarled. "It appeared just a little bit before you fell from the skies in your strange device. I donít know where it comes from. I just know that it is caused by humans. Itís not for the first time, you know? But it was never so evil before as it is this time. It took me quite a time to get you out of this black magic you call Ďoil.í You were trapped in the crushed device, and the black stuff seemed to devour you."
Michael felt sick. "Why? Why did you rescue me? I mean... Well, you must hate us humans after all we have done to your friends."
Windfang looked into his eyes and, instead of answering, nuzzled him gently. After a while she said: "Yes, that would have been an option. But for what use? I know that black magic is human, but I also know that you are not the particular human casting that curse about us. At least not willingly." She sighed. "It is obvious to me that you humans have lost control of your magical abilities. You set spells free but you canít stop them anymore. I feel sorry for your kind, but I donít hate you."
Michael fell silent. What should he say? There was a creature, probably some sort of a sentinal, and certainly powerful and wise -- not a ferocious bloodthirsty animal as so many legends claim dragons to be.
The dragonís face was close to his own and he felt the urge to touch her snout. How beautiful she was. She did not accuse him, she helped him, she saved his life -- and in return he called her an animal. "I feel ashamed, Windfang. I didnít know how I hurt your feelings when I called you an animal."
Windfang did not answer, just caressed Michaelís maltreated body, purring and humming softly. Her soft kiss felt like silk on his lips and he felt his body becoming wonderfully easy and relaxed. She was so good to him, so caring, so full of love...

The pain was incredible, and Michael screamed in pain. The smell of burnt flesh filled his nose and his chest was stinging. Another blast of flames hit his back, bringing another wave of burning pain through his body. In all his agony he wondered how he was able to survive such a blast. His view was blurred and he barely noticed two large dragons, a red and a black one, attacking him. Again he was engulfed in their flames but again only a small part of his body was hit by the flames. He tried to back away but found himself trapped.
"Human, you deserve nothing better than death." The powerful voice cut into his brain like a knife. "You will pay the price, and I swear you will beg for your death soon."
A new wave of pain ripped through his body. Michael found himself in a sort of a container. It was made up of some obviously fireproof glass that was able to resist the incredible heat of the dragon flame. The container was cube-shaped, and its sides were perforated with a few holes allowing some of the fire to come through. Not enough to kill him instantly, but enough to torture him. Four dragons sat around the cube taking turns breathing their flames against the container, torturing Michael.
In all his agony he even noticed an audience, dragons and strange anthropomorphic dolphins. There were even tigers, wolves, and other animals, all of them somewhat human in shape. Finally, a merciful unconsciousness took his pains away.
.

There were voices around him, and a cruel cold light hit his eyes. An annoying mechanical sound was around him, mixed with the beeping of some machines, beep-beep-beep. Like a pulse. A heartbeat. His heartbeat. "Professor, professor, heís coming back, professor," the young woman hurried out of the room. Michael carefully opened his eyes... the room was empty, he was laying on a bed, but instead of that bench-like device he found himself on blankets and sheets and a pillow, all white. Also, the scent was different now, but nevertheless strange. He was no longer bound but there were lots of tubes leading away from his mouth, his nose, his arms... He barely managed to move his head. He was not in a cave; it was a more or less empty room. Cold, depressing. Machines all around him. Life-support-machines.
.

"Mr. Governson. Can you hear me?" For Mike this voice sounded quite distant and far away, although the man who spoke stood right next to the bed. "I am Professor Ericson. It is a wonder you regained consciousness." There were now nearly a dozen people in that room, busy switching on and off various devices and preparing injections. What the hell happened? The storm, the aircrash, the island, the dragon... oh yes, the dragon... The whole world was a single blur for Michael. He barely noticed the professor explainig the situation to him. "You were found at the shore next to the wrecked Piper after we got an anonymous telephone call. Whoever informed us has done a miracle with his excellent first aid. That person saved your life. Do you remember who rescued you?"
Mike just shook his head slowly and fell into sleep again...
.

The warm summer sun heated up the little room. Michael had just finished his breakfast when the door opened and the professor came in, holding Mikeís folder. "Mr. Governson, I am happy to tell you that all the examinations were positive. You can leave the hospital today. We already informed your company, they will send you a car and take you home. You are lucky; there wonít be any remaining damages. I wish you all the best."
After about one hour waiting, Michael followed his chauffeur through the corridors of the hospital and stepped out into the August sun. He stopped briefly to take in the wonderful summer air and was about to descend the few steps when a couple of reporters jumped on him like he was a member of the Royal Family or some moviestar. "Mr. Governson, please one minute. How do you feel now"? - "Mr. Governson, they lost your aircraft from radar five miles offshore. What happened exactly?" - "Mr. Governson, you were missing for several weeks before they found you around Christmas and brought you into hospital..." "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Governson will answer all your questions later. Weíll welcome you tomorrow into the conference room of Governson Oil. Mr. Governson still needs some rest." The driver the company had sent was very experienced in keeping reporters away. How often he had to do so -- especially after an incident with one of the large, but quite old tankers. Michael was glad when they reached the limousine and the driver brought him home. There was only one question he had answered: "Mr. Governson, whatís the first thing youíre going to do now?"
"Iím going to have a nice hot bubble bath, playing some of my Mike Oldfield records. Later I will have a nice large steak with a big crispy salad and a nice baked potato for dinner."
.

Michael felt terrible and was in an ugly mood. Actually, his mood had been bad for weeks now. The interviews were endless and horrible: the newspapers came forth with crazy theories about some Greenpeace activists having kidnapped him and stuff like that. Even the police interviewed him. If he had enemies... Michael sighed. Enemies. No, no enemies. But also no friends, either. Except for one. Perhaps.
The man stared out of the window into the moonless darkness for some hours now, holding a glass of whiskey on the rocks. The way she looked at him. How could he ever forget her deep eyes, her beautiful golden face, that slender muzzle? Her grace and power. It could not have been a dream. On the other hand, he was seriously injured, nearly dead, as they said. And if dying people experience a large tunnel with a white light at its end, heck, why shouldnít he see a dragon... Michael made himself another drink and kept staring into the night. Soon it would be a year...
He felt empty and lonely. He never cared about having a family, since he was married with his work. To run such a large company like Governson Oil left no time for a wife. He was rich enough. If he needed love, he simply bought it. Oslo is full of exclusive clubs...
But now it was different. The rest of the board of directors were eager to push him out of his leading position. Business as usual. He would give everything for a strong shoulder to lean on now. Someone to comfort him, to caress him. Someone to encourage him to find himself - to be himself - instead of being the plaything of a few stockholders and the rest of the management.
.

It was a clear sight and the ocean was calm as he looked down through the binoculars. He had instructed the pilot to fly exactly the same route as Michael did nearly one year ago when he was on his way home from Scotland.
They were five miles offshore and he searched the water... there was nothing. No island, not any hint of an island. But he was sure that it was here. Right here. Exactly under the little aircraft. He ignored the pilot. "Mr. Governson, please believe me. I was born here. I know this shore like no other. There is no island, there never was."
"I must admit, it seems that youíre right." Michael was frustrated. "But Iím sure -- hey, whatís that?" His eyes had spotted something large drifting in the water, surrounded by something black, oily... an oil-spill.
"Thatís the ĎFreedomí."
"The ĎFreedomí? Itís the largest ship of our fleet..." "Was the largest ship..."
.

"Ok, I want an explanation, right here and now!" Michael yelled. The complete board of directors sat in the large conference room on the 15th floor of Governson Oil headquarters.
"Please, Mr. Governson, calm down," one of the men said to him.
"Calm down?! Calm down?! With our largest ship somewhere in the ocean, 5 miles out from the Norwegian shore, sunk? With an all-devouring oil carpet destroying the shore -- the largest disaster since Exxon Valdez -- and I was not informed?! Very amusing, Mr. Gustavson."
Michael took a deep breath. "It happened in January, and the wreck is not yet salvaged?"
"No, that would have been to exp--"
"Too expenisve? And the consequences for the environment?! Ever thought of that? What about the media?"
"Mr. Governson," an elderly man started, "You donít need to worry about that. We are the largest shareholder of the most important medias here, as you know. Besides, too much publicity would have been detrimental to our stock."
"Fuck the shareholders! Fuck you all!" Mike yelled, and headed out of the room, the door slamming shut behind him.
.

"These damn motherfucking bastards," Mike cursed as he read the letter for the third time. It was signed by all the members of the board of directors of Governson Oil. He was fired. Not that he was surprised. Not after the things he had said. Not after he gave secret information about that "Freedom-accident" to the press. One magazine gave him $1 million for that story. Even the company paid him a large amount as "indemnity," afraid that he would tell further stories -- about old oil platforms in the North Sea, for example. He grinned wickedly.
Well, he would have enough to retire. And if he sold some of his apartments -- like the ones in London -- he would have enough to live a good life. But money did not matter to him anymore.
.

It was in the middle of November and Mike cruised in his new Piper in front of the Norwegian shore. The sky was lead-grey, and the storm increased. The little aircraft was shaken by the storm, but Mike didnít worry. He was five miles out and he knew now what to do. He brought his plane into the center of the storm and, at the exact moment when a lightning bolt hit one of the propellers in a loud crack of thunder, he saw it in the stormy Northern Atlantic: a little island, rocky and evil looking, but there was a small strip of sand where he should be able to land. A glimpse of something golden confirmed his thoughts.
.

"So you came back, finally", the mighty dragoness said. He leaned against her gorgeous body and sighed happily.
"I would have come earlier. How often I have tried to find that island again."
"It wasnít the right time yet, my friend," the wondrous animal said. They both looked at each other: the human ex-manager and the golden dragon queen.
"I know," Mike said, and caressed the dragonís muzzle. "And I know what it means for me that I have found you again."
"You know?" the dragoness asked curiously. Mike nodded.
"Yes. I know that I canít return home anymore."
"And you came nevertheless?"
"Yes."
"But, why?"
It was a sad smile that Michael displayed. "Well, three reasons: In my childhood I dreamt of places like this, but I gave up these dreams for my successful life. Oh yes, I had everything: money, success, influence. But I was alone. I was even more alone when I gave up my dreams so long ago." The dragoness simply watched Michael but did not reply. "Now, my career is over. I do have money, but I donít have a life. Life isnít worth living if Iím alone."
"You donít have any friends or family?" the dragoness asked.
"No. My parents died long ago. And friends... well, you have friends as long you are successful. No, I donít think there are any real friends left behind."
"You said there were three reasons for you to return. Whatís the third one?" The dragoness looked him straight into the eyes. Michael blushed slightly.
"Itís a little bit silly, I must confess." Mike took a deep breath. "Windfang, I have to tell you something.  I...I... I love you. I fell in love with you since I first met you, since you touched me." Michael knew that this would be a shock to her. It was like a scene out of some stupid Hollywood movie or a soap opera. A human being in love with a dragon? It didnít make much sense, but to Mike it felt just right.
"You...you love...me?" She sat down on her haunches now. "Mike, ...I... would have never said this to you, up until...now." Mike cocked his head looking at her.
"What? That Iím crazy for loving a dragon? Yes, I know."
Windfang gently wrapped her tail around him and folded a wing over Mikeís back. "No, Mike." The man saw a tear run down her cheek. Windfang said softly, "I love you, too."
They stared into each otherís eyes, Mikeís heart beating like a drum. He gently pulled down Windfangís muzzle and placed a soft kiss on the tip of her snout. "Thatís how we humans show our affection for someone."
"Well," she replied and nuzzled Mikeís face, tenderly rubbing his back with her large paw. "Thatís how we dragons do." Michael felt like walking on the Milky Way. His head was spinning. It was too wonderful to be true, but if it was a dream he never wanted to wake up again. "I have to show you something. Follow me." the dragoness finally said.

Windfang went a few steps deeper in the cavern and walked through a hidden door in the rock. Mike followed and stared in disbelief. "Whoa! A forest!" A waterfall cascaded down the rocks of one of the mountains surrounding that small green valley. The stream poured into a small river and ended in a magnificent crystal clear lake. Mikeís heart missed a beat when he saw a shiny white glimpse of some animal drinking from the lakeís clear water. "No wonder the water is so pure. A unicorn." Mike remembered old legends he had read about unicorns in his childhood.
The trees were of many varieties, some of which heíd never seen before. Shafts of light were pouring through the trees in multiple places. The air was crisp and fresh. A slight mist was on the ground, passing by smooth and slow.
"This is a beautiful place, isnít it? Oh, greetings to you, Chryontius." Windfang welcomed the large silver dragon who landed just in front of them. The dragon eyed the human curiously.
"Is he the one you expected to return, Windfang?" the dragon asked. As the dragoness nodded, Chryontius nosed Michael. "Well, then, welcome to our island. And now, on my back, as I have to show you your new home." The dragon lowered his head to let Mike climb onto his neck. He settled himself and took a firm grip of the dragonís horns as it leapt steeply into the air, followed by Windfang. Michael felt like he was sitting in a roller coaster as the wild wind tousled his hair. After this ride, he was sure all his hair would be grey.
.

"Chryontius will be your teacher, if you wish," Windfang said when they were back alone in the dragonessí cave. "So, how do you like your new home, my dear?"
"Itís wonderful, my love," Michael replied, a little bit depressed. He felt happy and sad at the same time. Happy that he loved her and she loved him. Sad that he knew it would be impossible. "Windfang, you know, we canít..."
Windfang curled all around Michael now and folded her gentle wings over him, keeping him warm. "There is no need to be sad, my love. It is just up to you. If your love for me is strong enough, then there will be a way. Mike, I really do love you."
Mike smiled. "So do I, Windfang. So do I."
The dragoness and the human drifted into sleep.

Michael was dreaming again. He and Windfang were flying together, high above the skies. They wrapped themselves in each otherís wings and plummeted back down to the ground.

Mike felt funny. Apart from the strange hunger for raw meat and a burning desire for fresh warm blood, he felt dizzy. He remembered his dream... he was with Windfang... actually they both... Damn... he was still so sleepy. "Mike! Wake up, Mike!" It was Windfang, sounding quite excited. Mike opened his eyes and felt as if he was drunk. Her head was level with his, even though she was on the floor. Then he noticed... a dark space between his eyes. Right where a snout would... be? Suddenly Mike was fully awake. He looked down at his Ďhands.í He had claws! They were covered in scales, each with a wonderful blue tint. His original five fingers were gone, replaced with four talons. The rest of his body was similar in scale and colour. Mike stared at his new body: Two large, powerful wings, and strong, massive hind legs. His long tail ended in a spade... Tail? He attempted to move it back and forth, and found that he could. Spines stuck out all along his back, from the top of his head to the tip of his tail. Two dark horns stuck out the back of his skull, his muzzle was long and slender, and his entire chest was covered in huge thick plates that protected his underbelly. He could feel two fangs protruding from his jaw. His tongue was forked... What an odd sensation.
"Windfang... I... Iím... a... I am a dragon!"
She was sitting in the corner, watching Michael while he inspected himself. She looked like a cat ready to pounce. "You certainly are," she smiled. Mike tried to get up, but fell over instantly. "Donít worry, my love. This will take some time to get used to. Chryontius and I will teach you how to be a dragon." With that Windfang pounced on Michael. They rolled around, hugging each other and laughing. Laughing with pure joy in their hearts.
"Oh love, now we can be together. Windfang, I love you."
They curled up together in the cave. Michael was a dragon. They were together. Forever.
He had finally found his freedom, just five miles out.
 

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