I was roused from my slumber by Bryph standing over me and suggesting they put me in a trunk.
I had asked what was in the trunk, and Bryph replied:

Uh... Water! A water bottle. You're probably thirsty.

I graciously accepted the water (I was very thirsty) and sat down on the outside of the guard rail.
We sat in silence for some time, but eventually, Bryph spoke.

Arcturus, the green dragon, and Bryph, a grizzly bear, sit by a nearly abandoned stretch of road. Arcturus is holding a water bottle. Behind them, there is a taxi. The blue sky is visible above them.
So, first off, I'm sorry I hit you with my car.

It is fine, I did not die.

That's a hell of a metric for it being fine! Anyhow, my name's Bryph Glare. What's yours?

I am incarnate Arcturus, of the Ansel wheel...
So, that would make my name Arcturus Ansel.

What's this about incarnates and wheels?

Traditions from my homeland.

Your homeland? Where's that?

Help me to my feet, please? I am a bit weak right now.
I have not eaten for months, my body is at its limit.

Bryph extends a hand to Arcturus, and they each grab each other's forearm as Bryph pulls him to his feet.
Sure thing, Arcturus. What were you doing up here anyway?

Convenient, for both of your questions have the same answer.
FeyndraigFAYN-drayg. I come from Feyndraig, which is my homeland.
I have journeyed south through a great forest known to us as the Great Emerald Serpent.

Bryph laughs at Arcturus's response, but gradually their smile fades and is replaced with fear upon realizing Arcturus is in fact serious. Arcturus glares at Bryph, mouth full of sharp fangs.
Dude, no way! Sapes can't be from Feyndraig!

Well, that makes sense, because I am no sape.

If... Dang, I thought those wings were a costume or something...
That would make you a dragon, wouldn't it?
A dragon... who hasn't eaten for months.

I am a dragon, that is correct. I would appreciate it if you did not doubt me.

A dragon who hasn't eaten for months and is right in front of me,
and hitting you with my car did absolutely nothing but piss you off,
and you're hungry, and I'm right here, and this far from the city no one could hear me scream,
and- and- Oh god, oh god, please don't eat me. Please! Please don't eat me!
I'll do anything you want me to do just please don't eat me.

Arcturus, realizing he had scared Bryph, covers his mouth in shame.
I am deeply sorry, I did not wish to frighten you at all!
You are the first sape I have ever met.
This should be a joyous occasion for us both,
but through my insensitivity I have instead caused you great discomfort!
I am sorry, I am so, so sorry.
Please return home, I will find my own way to the city, and I promise I will bother no one.

Wait... Arcturus, I'm sorry, I didn't-

You have done nothing wrong!
I have stumbled into this construction which has a clear purpose of transportation,
and I have delayed you in your journey.
To make matters worse, now you are frightened and uncomfortable!


I turned and walked away from Bryph.
I would find something by going the other way.
It was fine, I told myself.
Why wouldn't the sapes be frightened of me? I am a strange creature to them.


Arcturus, hidden in the foreground with his horns visible, turns around to face Bryph, who looks on nervously from a distance away with a concerned expression.
If you want to eat something, I happen to know a pretty good restaurant.
I can bring you there, it's in that city.
In exchange, can you tell me more about your homeland?
The incarnate wheel thing?

I am a dragon of the poison tribe.
We dragons reincarnate when we die.
There are always twenty of my kind.

Only twenty?
You're practically endangered.

What danger? No one's ever killed a poison dragon.
I'm not even sure we *can* be killed.
We only seem to die of old age.

At the time, I had foolishly thought it impossible for a sape to kill a dragon.

Even when one of us dies, a new life is born.
I am the last of the Ansel wheel.
The previous wheel, that is, the previous cycle of reincarnation, is the Onna wheel.
In my previous life, I was known as Arcturus Onna, and I was a friend to sapes then just as now.
I was raised by Aldebaran Ansel,
the first of the Ansel wheel and a dear friend to me in my previous life.
He is the eldest of my tribe, now. He was born 37,000 years ago.

Thirty seven THOUSAND? Damn, okay. How many thousands old are you?

Oh goodness, I'm just a child by dragon standards. I was only born 28 years ago.



You're only 28? That makes me older than you.

Ah! Good, then you must know a lot about sapes!

Cut that out for a second...
You're only 28, a child by dragon standards,
and you were wandering around in the great emerald serpent for months with no food? Come here.


Bryph hugs Arcturus. Arcturus smiles as he looks down at Bryph.
Everything's gonna be okay, Arcturus. You're safe now.

I-I... Thank you.

I didn't realize how tired and scared I was until I heard Bryph tell me I was safe with them.
That was the first time I ever hugged a sape.
Bryph... they're warm.
They have a strong, quick heartbeat, and they take short, shallow breaths.
Though, perhaps that was residual fear dissipating.
When I was young I was taught by my tribe that fear was unbecoming of dragons.
I was taught instead that we are brave, fearsome creatures
whose mere presense demands respect and awe.

But my life has taught me otherwise.
We dragons are cowardly things.
We hide behind nigh-indestructible bodies and the safety of our long lives.
We tell ourselves we are superior creatures.
But Bryph, that day, taught me bravery is not a closed fist but an open hand.
Bravery is not aggression, but kindness.
Bryph saw something utterly unknown to them, and though of course they felt fear,
one minute later they reached out to me with sincere compassion and sympathy,
this fearsome unknown thing, but they offered me comfort and a promise of safety.

My incarnate name, Arcturus, means "guardian of the bear" in the language of the ancients.
I knew from the moment they embraced me that this bear was the one I was meant to guard.