Author's Note: While not a true adoption story, this is still a short story that I am very happy with. And inadvertently it did cause me to adopt my Sandscritter, Glaze. It also won me a spot as one of NightmareRebuff's spotlighted authors for her horror themed dragon origin story. And so, it goes without saying that THIS STORY CONTAINS PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR. It is set in the horror genre. That said, it is not so bad as Lantanis' (Swamp Demon) or Phantasm's (Geist) story.

"Oh gods! Gods, gods, gods, GODS!" The girl screamed down the narrow trail along the cliff tops. The twisting path was treacherous when walked, but her full-out sprint could mean death. If it didn't find her sooner. She couldn't look back. Couldn't stop. Couldn't think. Just duck, dodge, twist, MOVE. She had to get away, no matter how much she wanted to go back.

"Don't fear. It's painless. It's beautiful. Then you'll belong truly. You'll be part of the town." The leader had tried to convince her to join them in their customs. To stay, and to belong. The townsfolk had welcomed her with open arms. Had treated her like she was a returning royal. But the placid people and idyllic town were anything but. She should have run when she had first seen those things, but she had been admittedly intrigued. Wings- dragon wings- on vikings. It was something to make any person curious. But now she was running anyway, and she knew that she would probably never stop now. Not until the end met her.

"Sundra! Over here!" The girl spun to a halt, scanning the dark stone and undergrowth for the source of the voice. Two eyes met her own, and she darted out of the main path. Under the cover of the dark canopy, she made out the dim form of the young lad who had so desperately warned her to leave the second she had set foot in the town.

"Darten, oh, you don't know how glad I am to see you! Come on, let's get out of here! Let's leave!" She went to pull his hand, to dart off again with him in tow, but his arm jerked, and she looked more closely into his eyes. They were filling with tears, and his face showed great strain, like he was fighting desperately against some force. Sundra backed up in horror, watching as a pair of wings opened on his back- no! Two pairs of wings! His twitching face mouthed 'Sorry" before his eyes lost focus again. She full out ran, away down the path again as he followed her. Tears blurred her vision, and she tripped over a root, careening down a hill and landing hard on a boulder, cracking her head to the side. The stars were only starting to clear as the form of her once-trusted friend landed, his four wings moving powerfully in sync. She started trying to get up, but the fall had ruined her coordination, and her eyes were glued on the form in front of her.

He took a step towards her, and fell to his knees, holding his forehead in his hands, tears still streaming down his face. Her rapt and disheveled attention watched as the top pair of wings removed themselves from his back, slowly unhooking from his spine and the other pair of wings. The long, worm-like dragon clattered over the ground, approaching her prone form. It's many hooked claws clicked on the stone like tiny picks, it's wide, vertical jaws open as it scented the air. The fibrous filaments that slowly waved within picked up everything about her- her fear, her age, her gender. The long, pointed tail was the last to remove itself from its previously shared host. Now disconnected, it had but minutes to assimilate to its new form. Sundra kicked at it, but the rubbery creature just sprung back into place. She backed up, trying to run. Faster than you would think it could move, the creature leapt at her. It skittered all over her body, it's tiny claws digging into her skin as it moved to its rightful position. As it crawled down her back, she let herself fall, striking herself against the rock in an attempt to crush it. But there were no major organs to harm. She cried out as she only succeeded in injuring herself. Through her tears she could barely see Darten, who was now moaning and cradling himself, looking at her in horror.

The nerves all over her back were tingling with the sheer wrong-ness of the presence of the beast, but it was too late. Seconds stretched out so that she could feel- or at least imagine feeling- every part of the near instantaneous process. It settled over top of her spine, matching itself to her body. Its wings spread out from her shoulders, and its long tail lashed out past her own legs. The tiny hooks that ran the length of its horrid body dug into the skin and tissue around her spine. The numbness spread across its length. She couldn't feel, but yet somehow could feel the tiny hooks finally entering the disks between her vertebrae. The thin filaments emerging from their tips and wrapping around the nerves of her spinal column. As the full numbness set in, she only felt a slight pinch as its mouth opened wide before sealing itself to the skin at the base of her skull. The filaments from its mouth spread into her as well, slowly extending into the cranial cavity and infiltrating the nerves. The process complete, the girl could only lay there, stunned and dead inside as the parasite staked its claim.

It may have been minutes, or it may have been hours before the two children finally fully regained themselves. Using each other for support, they stood, slowly limping their way back to the one place that they now belonged. Inside, they stared with dead eyes at the rest of the people, who were now just the same as them. They smiled the same smiles, and welcomed the girl as they had before. "I promise you, it is worth it. It may not be an easy transition, but I knew that you would come around to see it our way. They always do..."