Prologue: Enter the Dragon
Disclaimer: All copyrighted properties are copyrighted to their respective owners, including the canon dialogue that is used heavily in the beginning, from multiple sources.
“Unnnh,” Xander groaned, slapping a hand to his face. He rubbed it vigorously as he tried to remember the events of the last night. He remembered dressing up for Halloween, a green turtleneck and pants, and some yellow mask he’d picked up from that Halloween shop that turned everyone into their generally monstrous costumes. His original soldier idea had fallen through, and Ethan, the worst costume shop proprietor ever, had sold him a bag of random stuff for cheap. That was all he really knew for sure. Most of the rest was just blurry.
He sat up in bed, faster than he had planned, and felt dizzy. His whole body ached, like he had just gone twelve rounds with Mike Tyson. Xander tried to get up and out of bed, but found that his legs wouldn’t obey his commands. His upper body felt heavy and tight, and he resisted the temptation to lie back down. It was a struggled to even push aside the covers. Gritting his teeth, he pushed himself up and off of his bed. Unfortunately, his legs didn’t like that idea and buckled, sending him to his knees.
“What the hell?” Xander said, after he had had a moment to collect himself. He picked up a brown leather belt that had been lying on the floor next to his bed. It was a double shoulder holster, dirty and cracked with age. He pulled out one of the black guns, feeling its light plastic weight in his hands. Its orange tip revealed its origin, Ethan’s costume shop. One of the items in the bag of odds and ends that had started the whole thing.
He smelled the traces of gunpowder on himself, along with heavy traces of sweat and smoke. The guns must have turned real last night, but reverted back to their present fake state after the spell wore off. The holsters, on the other hand, had been real. He sniffed again and muttered, “I need a shower.”
After returning the gun back to its holster, he shoved the whole set under his bed. As he did so, he noticed a scrap of yellow under there, and pulled it out. Unfolding what turned out to be a piece of yellow cloth, he noticed that it was a mask. One of the other items from the shop. It was a subdued, almost mustard yellow. Thick black surrounded the eye slits, with strokes going up vertically from the edges. It would cover the top half of his head, with two long yellow tails in back allowing him to keep it tight around his face. He rubbed the material, feeling its weight. It was light, with a close knit, like silk almost. But it seemed tougher than that, though it didn’t appear to be much more than normal cloth. He felt an odd temptation to put it on, instinctively knowing how it was supposed to fit and be tied, but there was a deeper reluctance. Besides, it would probably look rather silly in the daylight. Who wore yellow masks anyways? He was no Wolverine, after all.
Xander shook his head and shoved the thing back under the bed next to the holsters and stood up slowly. His knees still felt weak, and his chest oddly tight, but he managed not to fall over again. He still didn’t remember everything that had happened, though he was getting flashes of the night before. Buffy had turned into some noblewoman, and Willow had turned into a ghost. He had been some soldier or something. But, not the one he had originally planned on. There was something else too. There had been some odd glowing light that had faded near around the time when the spell had worn off. A light that had seemed oddly comforting to him, though also seemed to carry some amount of melancholy. Like it had been a gift and a burden.
Looking down at his right hand, Xander noted some small red bruises on his knuckles. There was bruising along the side of his hand as well. The whole thing ached slightly, but didn’t seem as bad as it should have given the bruising. Whatever had happened last night had resulted in some amount of action. Too bad he didn’t remember. Xander just hoped that nobody had gotten hurt. Well, nobody that didn’t deserve it at any rate. He started for the door, still looking at his hand. “When did that happen? How did that happen?”
He stopped, standing in front of the mirror and looking at himself. “And, why am I talking to myself?”
Xander was about to keep walking out of his bedroom when he noticed something else that was wrong. He stepped closer to the small mirror and looked down at his chest. He ignored the fact that his muscles seemed a bit more cut. He hadn’t gained any mass, but he didn’t remember being that defined. That line of thought was for another time though. No, his focus was on the dark mark on his chest.
He rubbed it, hoping that it was just paint or some dye that had spilled on him or something, but knowing that it wasn’t. It was something else. A tattoo to be exact, and from the lack of reddening it looked like it had been there for quite a while. He stared at it in the mirror, blinking a couple of times, as if hoping it would disappear. He touched it more carefully, examining it. It wasn’t just ink, he could tell that now. Underneath the black, it felt oddly smooth. Like the tattoo had healed over from some old burn wound, though had remained its current color.
It felt oddly heavy.
Try as he might, and as much as he kept rubbing, it wouldn’t disappear. The thin black dragon stayed on
his chest. Its large wings stretching across most of his upper chest. It tail curled once as it pointed toward his navel. It was familiar, a comfort, though he couldn’t remember where it had come from. He just knew that he couldn’t get rid of it.
His right hand started to hurt more. He decided to ignore the ink he had somehow picked up and held his hand up to look at it. It felt like it was on fire, but strangely the pain did not seem to affect him. Like he was disconnected from his own body. The hand started to shine green, like it was radioactive, before it burst into a bright orange and yellow flame. “The hell?”
He tried to shake it out, but it did nothing. Xander was too busy panicking to notice that it didn’t feel like it was burning anymore. He clenched it shut and tried to shake it out again, but again nothing happened. Then the flame died down, seemingly on its own, though his hand remained a brilliant yellow glow. The center of his fist was white, like it was the core of a heated iron rod, light radiating from the center. The yellow glow transfixed him for a moment before he remembered what he was looking at. Xander continued to stare at his glowing fist, but started willing it to die down.
Nothing happened for a moment or two. But, slowly it started to get dimmer until it turned back to normal. He moved his hand closer to his eyes carefully, inspecting it. It didn’t look any different than it normally did, although he did notice that the bruises on his hand were gone. His hand didn’t hurt anymore either.
“What the hell happened last night?” Xander said to himself, still staring at his hand. He turned to look in the mirror, his eyes drawn to the tattoo that was still somehow on his chest. Whatever magical spell had been cast last night, and however it had ended, it had obviously left something behind.
He repeated himself, “what the hell happened last night?”
“And why the hell am I still talking to myself?”
The unkempt blonde haired man sat up in bed. He wasn’t sure of the exact time, but he knew that it was time to get up. He rubbed a palm against his face, feeling the rough stubble rasp against his hand. He was regretting the decision to allow himself to awaken. But, he had no choice. His dreams had not been good ones, and while the monstrous figures he had seen were likely a mixture of the figurative and the literal, it meant nothing good. He wanted to blame it on a bad batch of opium, but what he had seen was too vivid. Too vivid and too detailed. He knew that it was the truth.
It had been like a shockwave tearing towards him from all directions. Vibrating through him. He had been the only one that could feel it, he knew that much. Somewhere, somehow, someone had touched his Chi. Someone had touched the heart of the dragon. And he would have to find out whom.
The room reeked of sweat and cheap liquor. His exploits from the night before were in the air as well. It was hot, and would likely get hotter. The thin wooden walls wouldn’t help much against the heat. And the open window did little to keep the place from getting stifling. It felt even more oppressive now. Despite the time of year, it was never comfortable in that part of the city. It was the end of monsoon season, and the temperatures would start to rise. Making things even worse. That was part of the reason why it had been such a good place to come. To try to lose himself. Masochistic behavior on his part maybe, or maybe he just deserved it.
It was to have ended with him. He had taken the book, and run. It should have ended with him.
The man ran his hand through his short hair. He didn’t look it, but he was certainly feeling all of his age now. All of his tricks and all of his training were not helping him deal with the situation. He had run. Run and hidden, but it was all coming back. For sixty four years he had been gone. Lost to the world, but apparently the world wasn’t done with him yet. It had found him again. And kicking and screaming, he knew that it would not let up.
“This isn’t supposed to be my life anymore…,” Orson muttered to himself. He got up, feeling his muscles ache. As he stretched, his unbuttoned shirt fell open to reveal a thin black dragon tattoo emblazoned on his chest. “It was supposed to be over…”