He loved gold most of all, the way it glimmered under the moonlight that dripped through the small hole at the top of his cave. He would’ve smiled–if he could smile–watching it at night when he was awake. He hated leaving it behind, but he knew that his magic could protect his hoard, when he was soaring over the forests hunting for whatever he could find.

The forest was getting smaller. People were pushing deeper and deeper into his territory, tearing down large swaths of forest and replacing it with twirling roads bordered by identical homes. And his food supply growing slimmer. He was growing hungry.

Tonight, he flew and found few creatures large enough to sate his hunger. The bears had gone long ago, the elk had been hunted and forced to flee, and the coyotes were themselves running out of food and had moved on. So he found a human home. It was thirty feet in height, covered in white paint, and roofed with dried clay hardened into red-orange arches. He landed outside the wooden fence, having seen a person sitting on stairs leading to the backyard.

He took human form. These were not like the days when he and his kindred could fly openly over villages and towns. One of his brothers had been shot down by a massive explosive arrow, propelled by fire from one of the humans’ metal birds. These days, his kind had to be cautious. Subtle.

He blew on the gate lock that kept him from his prey. It glowed bright orange. With his fingers, he ripped it off the wooden frame easily. Then he opened the gate and saw his quarry, sitting on a set of stairs, his head in his hands. It was a boy, he could tell now. Thin, with his hair parted on one side and combed flatly over the right side of his face. He was dressed in long sleeves–strange for summer weather.

The boy looked up as he approached.