Published on / 12 Chapter(s) / 2 Review(s)
Cursed to live with the body of a fearsome beast, Zuko hid from a cruel world that would not hesitate to destroy him, consumed with rage for those who had betrayed him, resigned to a lifetime of solitude. But then a ray of hope came in the form of a beautiful, blue-eyed woman. Could she look beyond his physical appearance and break his curse? Or would he forever remain alone?
Chapter 1, Prologue
A cold breeze rustled the thin broken branches that clung like crooked fingers from the tall trees. Heavy, gray clouds moved swiftly across the dark sky, impeding the bright sun from touching its warm rays to the earth below. Birds rose to the sky with loud chirps and squawks as they deserted their nests in order to migrate to a much warmer area. The creatures and critters that lived on the ground below scurried on the dirt floor and burrowed themselves in their warm holes to sleep off the coming winter and wait for spring. Caribou-elk and other larger herbivores roamed the large basin and stayed close together to ward off the cold.
The seasons were changing once more. Fall was over and winter was arriving at the grand mountain area at the northernmost point of the Earth Kingdom. The valley surrounding the large looming mountain was peaceful and silent with the exception of the howling wind. The area was surrounded by countless trees whose leaves were currently being tossed wildly about by the harsh wind. One the western side of the summit rested a large, blue lake that was frozen solid. It was a place that mankind had not touched.
One creature in particular paid no mind—or cared, really—to the changing cold weather. It continued to glide through the air even though the climate was freezing cold and the wind was blowing harshly against it.
The creature flew above the trees, swirling amongst the angry clouds as it headed away from its hunt to its warm cavern where it made its home. Winter birds that flew near quickly moved away from the creature’s path and squawked loudly as they beat their small wings urgently in order to escape. The critters below hid underground or behind trees and within bushes as the huge creature passed over them. They only came out from their hiding spots when the creature’s large dark shadow disappeared.
Just like it paid no heed to the biting weather, the creature ignored the frightened animals as well. It was used to the panic its large form caused to those who laid eyes upon it.
The creature was a dragon. A mighty, majestic, and magnificent dragon. Its serpent like body was adorned with dark, crimson scales that gleamed golden when light touched upon them. Dark golden scales decorated the underside of its body. Raven-dark hair covered its large head and ran partially down its long spine, ending at the tip of its long, whip-like tail. Two dark wings were attached to either side of its sinewy body, when spread they were a few feet wide and beat large gusts of wind. On its four strong legs were five digits, each boasting black claws, sharp and deadly just like the pointed white fangs in its powerful maw. Two thin whiskers fell down on either side of its wide nostrils that flared hot smoke. Two thick, long black horns sprouted from its head, curving upwards into sharp points. Above its snout-like face were two intelligent and cunning eyes, the color of molten gold. They glinted like the power of the mighty sun itself.
The dark clouds shifted and the wind picked up speed. Cold, white snow began to fall to the frozen ground below, quickly covering every inch of the surface of the mountain valley. The snow, however, quickly melted when it landed on the warm scales of the dragon’s body.
What made this particular creature, this particular powerful dragon, unique was not only the fact that it was not living in the Fire Nation where dragon kind hailed from, but also that this creature had not always been a dragon. A beast that struck fear in every living thing that came across its path, a creature that was written in books and myths as being a terrible and fearsome monster.
Once, a long time ago, this particular beast used to be human. A man who once had been a prince and was next in line to inherit the throne to the most powerful country of the four nations that made up the world, the Fire Nation. A man who had been respected and admired by everyone. A handsome young male who struck admiration and lust in every woman who came across his path. Royalty that was written about in history books, as a great and venerable prince.
His name was Zuko. The Crown Prince of the Fire Nation.
And he had been cursed.
Forced to live the rest of his life as a hated and feared dragon. He was placed in a terrible spell not because he had been a tyrant who deserved such a fate, such a punishment. No. He was cursed due to the greed and evil hearts that some humans possessed. That lust of power that drove people to do cruel things, even if it meant hurting those around them. The worst part about the whole situation was not the curse itself—as horrible as it was—but the fact that said spell was placed on him by people he had trusted.
Zuko, human trapped in a dragon’s body, flew through the snow storm as he lost himself in memories of days past. After all those years, he could not forget his past life, the comfort of living as a prince, of living as a human. But most especially, he could never forget that horrible day when his life had changed forever.
A low growl escaped from his draconic lips and he narrowed his slanted eyes at the memory before he dismissed it quickly from his mind. He had years of reminiscing about his tragic past and he was unwilling to think about any of that for too long. The horrible memory brought too much pain, too much sorrow, but most of all, it brought immense feelings of anger and rage.
There was one good thing about his problem, however. The curse could be broken; it was not permanent. There was one way to break the curse, one way that could change him from his draconic state to his normal human form. Oh, how he wished for it every waking moment of his life. How he wished to be a human man again, to be able to experience human activities again.
Being a dragon had its advantages such as flying, the heightened sense of sight, hearing, and smell, the strength, and the speed. But he would trade all those advantages to be human once again. He was tired of being feared all the time, he was tired of being hunted down for resembling a fearsome dragon, he was tired of living like an animal, but most all of all he was tired of being alone.
Freezing wind blew across his face, ruffling his dark hair and large dark wings. Zuko slowed down as he neared the grand mountain. He ignored the dark looming clouds that seemed to perch on the tall peak and the snow that crossed his path. He circled the rocky mountainside a few times until he spotted his hidden home. In the middle of the mountain, a few feet closer to the bottom, was a large cave. Its entrance was surrounded by small trees and bushes that made it difficult to find if one did not know its existence. Zuko had come upon it by pure luck when he had first arrived in the valley and explored the area. The entrance to the cave was small and low. Zuko had to crawl through in order for his large serpent-like body to pass.
Zuko’s wings flapped loudly as he gracefully descended near the mouth of the cave. He perched onto the rocky sides with his sharp claws, gripping the rock beneath him, and folding his long wings to his sides, he slowly slid inside on his stomach. A few feet in, the low tunnel expanded into a large circular cavern, big enough that he could stand to his full height. The walls of the cave were rocky and plain. Due to the season it was cold, but thanks to his warm and thick dragon hide, the icy temperature did not bother him.
What he enjoyed the most of his small home was that attached to this cave was another chamber where he spent most of his time. When the dire situation he was in pressed down on him too much that it was painfully overwhelming he went there. This chamber was smaller than the one he slept it, barely big enough that he could fit. On the surface of the ceiling were many glowing teal crystals that illuminated the place with a soft radiance. But what was enchanting about this chamber was that on the northern wall stood a small waterfall. Water from the top of the mountain trailed down the wall and the water trickled into a small pool where a group of four people would be able to fit. From this pool a small stream was attached and ran down to an underground river that deposited to the lake below the mountain. The constant flow kept the pool clean and fresh, and he drank from it when he did not wish to leave his cave.
Wings still tucked against his body, Zuko entered the small illuminated room and bent his long neck down to the refreshing pool and took a long, deep drink, washing away the blood and taste of the caribou-elk he had eaten earlier. This was another reason why he disliked being a dragon. He did not have hands, and thus, was unable to cook. He sometimes used his fire breath to cook the meat, but the effort it took not to char it was sometimes an inconvenience. So he sometimes ate his food raw and bloody. Lifting his head, Zuko licked his chops. Water dripped from his chin and fell back onto the pool, creating a few ripples on its surface.
Zuko liked to spend time in this small, serene chamber because the soft radiance of the crystals relaxed him and the pool reminded him of the pond in the Fire Nation Palace garden that he used to visit with his mother before she was killed. His bright golden eyes closed as he tried to suppress the hurtful memories he had fought to keep locked away. He opened them again and caught sight of his draconic face.
A plume of smoke escaped from his nostrils and floated up to the glowing ceiling as his sadness turned into rage. His eyes narrowed and he growled at his reflection before he turned around to walk back to the larger room.
How he wished he could break the curse! To return to his homeland, exert his revenge and claim his rightful place on the Fire Nation throne!
How he wished to be human again!
Zuko made his way to the large pile of grass and moss at one corner of the cavern. He stretched his wings before he pressed them back against his sides. Grunting, he settled down on his earthy bedding and curled up, his long tail wrapping around his head.
A sound fell from him that sounded like a sigh. He would do anything to regain his human form, but the only way that could happen was if the curse was broken. The only way to break the curse was if a woman learned to truly love him in his current state and kissed him. Not only that, but he had to love her in return. Zuko closed his eyes in defeat. He had no hope for that to happen.
For who could ever love a…dragon?
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