He alighted at the edge of the barren plateau, the downdraft of his wings making billowing clouds of dust, and the setting sun glinting off his black scales so it looked like he was drenched in blood. He was well aware of the effect, and had used it to his advantage in the past, although he could have done without those evil connotations today. The other dragons cleared a path for him to the center of the gathering, averting their gazes as he passed. While it would have been an insult to bind him or set a guard over him, they still made it clear he was a criminal to be judged.
He held his head up proudly, his talons clicking on the sun-baked stone as he came to a stop before the most ancient of his kind. He lowered his body so his belly almost touched the warm rock, his head curled down in submission. He waited that way for some time, until the elder chose to acknowledge him.
“Rojensyrahae, Night Shadow, Bane of the Eight Tribes, Bringer of Eternal Darkness… you have defied the will of the council too many times. For this we will punish you.”
He kept his head lowered, hiding the mocking curl of his muzzle.
“Rojensyrahae, you were warned. The humans are not yours to play with. We were cursed once for interfering, we will not suffer a worse fate because of your obsession.”
Against his better judgment, Rojensyrahae raised his head. His nostrils flared and his eyes burned. “A worse fate? What fate is worse, elder? The gods have forsaken us.”
“We still have our lives, young one… and our power.”
Rojensyrahae fairly shook with rage. “So we can languish through life with hope until we are sent into oblivion? Bah! They should have just ended it!”
The elder reared up on his hind legs, extending his wings to their full spread. His voice reverberated from the canyon walls around them, stilling even the black dragon’s complaints. “Enough! It is the will of the council that you be punished!” He dropped his foreclaws back to the earth, shaking the entire plateau. The sound of rocks tumbling down the cliff’s edges echoed around them.
“Since you enjoy human life so much… that will be your punishment.”
The air around the plateau thickened. Rojensyrahae peered up into a swirling ring of smoke. He heard the elder begin to chant and knew what spell he was casting. He had used it many times himself. This variation sounded much more permanent.
With the final word of the spell, the swirling cloud dropped around him, beginning the change. Moments later he stood on the plateau, his bare human feet warmed by the stone. He flexed muscles different from those of his true form. His hair, black as his scales had been, blew in the wind. He was already starting to sweat in the desert heat, and he could feel the sun glaring down on his unprotected skin.
The elder peered down at him with an expression of sorrow. “This is the form you will carry for the next thousand years. Where you go is up to you.”
Rojensyrahae clenched his fists, averting his gaze from his people as they vaulted from the plateau, soaring up on the warm air currents running through the canyon. They whirled in the air above him and he gave in and looked up at a sight he likely wouldn’t see again for some time. They darted through the sky with the grace of birds, even though they were a hundred times larger.
He drew in a deep breath and screamed a string of curses at them, knowing full well even if they caught a hint of his voice on the wind they wouldn’t be able to make out the words. When they had all gone he walked to the edge of the plateau and started the long climb down.