2018 Quick-Shot: Dragons

 

Ok, it’s been 2019 for somethin’ like five days now.  Happy 2019!  But there was a whole lotta 2018 I never wrote about, cuz I didn’t have time, or things got too crazy busy, or my ‘puter was busted, or a tank ran over my camera…

Yeah.  The camera really did get busted.  Cooper tried awful hard to get photos off, but I hadda get a new one, so I lost a bunch of pictures an’ stuff.  I’ll get to that, though.

DRAGONS

There was a dragon onna roof of the big white house.  It scared everybody outta their minds.  Cooper an’ me chased after it to make it go away.

We tracked it through the forest, walkin’ days an’ nights an’ followin’ its flight or findin’ places where it’d landed.  There’d be these big circles of burn, with smokin’ trees an’ half-eaten things an’ burnt grass, an’ we knew we were onna right path.  Cooper hadda monster book, an’ he kept lookin’ through for ways to fight off dragons.  We knew it’d be tough, but we couldn’t let the dragon come back to hurt our friends.

While we were walkin’, I kept tellin’ Cooper I thought I heard somethin’ followin’ us.  He wasn’t so sure what it might be, an’ I gotta say I didn’ have a clue either.  But I didn’t like the thought it might sneak up behind us an’ do somethin’ not so nice.  So we went an’ hid one day an’ waited for whatever it was to catch up to us.

I could hear it crashin’ through the bush, gettin’ closer an’ closer.  It was sorta quiet, but sorta not, like an animal that maybe hadda bum leg or wasn’t worried bout bein’ super quiet or wasn’t used to movin’ through forests.  But we stayed quiet, an’ it came closer.  I held my sword so tight, my hand hurt. Then I saw somethin’ bright red pop up, an’ it was sorta kinda familiar…

Hey!  It was the witch!  What was she doin’ here?  Cooper looked at me, an’ I looked at Cooper.  Then she was standin’ right there with us, even though I swear she was a buncha bits away just a moment afore.

“Whatcha doin’ here?” I asked.

“Did you see it?” she asked.  “I sensed that you were following it, but I didn’t know if you had laid eyes on it or not.”

Wait…what?

Cooper’n’me must’ve looked dumb, cuz she rolled her eyes an’ sighed deep.  “The dragon.  Big flying lizard. Has scales. Breathes fire.”

My tongue came loose.  “We saw it onna roof.  I don’t wanna let it hurt our friends. We’re gonna go kill it.”

The witch started shaking her head.  “Oh, no, no, no, no, no.  You can’t kill it.”

“But we gotta.  It might eat us.”  What was the witch thinking?  “My book says they don’t like cold.  If we could throw loads of ice cubes at it first, it might get super weak, an’ then we can take it out.”

She sighed again.  “You will not kill a dragon with ice cubes.  You will not kill a dragon at all with the weapons you have.  You will die trying. I have a much better idea for how to solve the problem while keeping you alive.”

I looked at my sword.  It was awful small compared to the dragon.  “What do you think we outta do?”

“I believe we may have an advantage, but I need to know what the dragon looked like.”

Uh…  “It was big. An’ silver. It had two wings an’ four legs an’ some super sharp claws.  There were some horns round its head an’ … uh … sharp teeth.”

The witch looked thoughtful.  “What color were its eyes?”

“They were blue, with these gold stripes.”

She rubbed her thumb along her chin and started walkin’ back and forth, talkin’ kinda to herself an’ kinda to Cooper’n’me.  “There is a possibility that we are dealing with a female dragon that has recently laid a clutch of eggs.  If she’s out and about, they may have hatched.  This would create an ideal situation.”  She stopped and looked at us.  “Don’t you see?”

I shook my head.  Hatched eggs just sounded like more dragons.  More dragons would be a bigger problem.  How could more dragons be good?  Even Cooper didn’t seem to get it.  “I think I fail to see how newly-hatched dragons would benefit our situation…” he told the witch.

She sighed.  “New-hatched dragons have a very particular diet.  If we can get in there and help to feed them, we will imprint upon them that humans are good, that humans are friends, not food.  They will be easier to manage and less likely to cause chaos.”

“So…they won’t eat us?” I asked.

“They imprint like baby birds?” Cooper asked.  “That will be interesting.  I’ve seen videos of baby geese who imprint on a human.  They’ll follow the human around like puppies.  But how will this benefit us with regards to the mother dragon?”

The witch looked a li’l funny then, like she was hopin’ nobody’d ask that question.  “I have heard from a friend of a wizard I know that the adult dragon will be so grateful for the assistance that she will no longer see us as a threat but as an ally.  Another wizard theorized that she will simply fly away once the babies have been fed.  I am not sure that I believe either of them.  We may have to feed her as well.”

Cooper’n’me just stared at the witch.  Feedin’ baby dragons might be sorta ok.  But feedin’ a great big mama dragon that wasn’t sure if we were there to maybe hurt the babies?  That seemed a whole lot scarier an’ more like a Very Bad Idea.

“What do dragons eat?”  Cooper asked, alla sudden.  He had his eyes closed, like he didn’t really wanna know the answer.

“Stardust, of course,” the witch said, like everybody inna world knew that.  “Moonbeams sometimes, if there’s a full moon, but stardust is easier to harvest.”

“So they don’t wanna eat people?” I asked.  “Or pigs? Or puppies?”

Cooper chuckled.  “Or penguins or pandas or peacocks?  What’s with all the “P” things, Kestrel?”

I hit him inna shoulder, an’ he laughed more.  Brothers.

The witch crossed her arms.  “If you two are done?”  When we quieted down some, she kept on. “Baby dragons grow best on stardust and moonbeams.  Both are difficult for dragons to harvest, so most often the adult will feed the hatchlings blood from killed animals.  But that is not ideal, and it will stunt the hatchlings’ growth.  As adults, dragons also still want to eat stardust and moonbeams, but animals are easier to find.”

“How do we get stardust an’ moonbeams?” I asked.

“There is a process,” the witch said, as she was fumblin’ through a bag she had over her shoulder. “I will show you how to do it when the time is right.  We need both a full moon and a new moon, so timing is particular, and both cannot be harvested at the same time.  Thankfully, I harvest these items all the time and have some here with me.”  She pulled two things out of her bag: a bottle, filled with shimmery, glittery flakes, an’ a smaller closed pouch.  She handed the bottle to Cooper an’ worked on untying the knotted pouch.

Cooper popped the cork outta the bottle an’ shook a few flakes inna his hand.  They were all sparkly an’ sorta glowed like they were fulla light still.  I touched ’em with my finger.  They were a lot softer’n I thought they’d be an’ sorta warm.  Cooper poured ’em back inna bottle an put the cork back in place.

The witch finished with the knot an’ slid the bag back.  Soft light poured outta the bag, an’ she showed us these translucent white glowy bars.  Cooper’n’me both ‘wow’ed atta same time.  She covered ’em back up an’ put them an’ the stardust bottle away in her bag.

“I take it you have not actually found the dragon’s nest yet,” she said as she was closin’ up her bag.  “May I travel with you as you search?  I had seen signs of the dragon, but I confess I am not good at tracking beasts.  I nearly lost you several times, and you did not leave the ground.”

I laughed.  “It’d be nice if we had wings.  Flyin’ up over alla trees might make it easier to see…”  Then I trailed off, thinkin’. I didn’t have wings, but gettin’ high didn’t seem like a bad idea.

Cooper pointed to a nearby tree that had lotsa broken low branches, but it went up awful tall.  “Do you want a boost?” he asked.

“Nah,” I said.  “But maybe hold the sword.  It’ll make it hard to climb.”

It was a good climbin’ tree, with plenty of broken limbs atta bottom an’ lotsa branches higher up.  When I got high enough up so I could look out over the other trees inna forest, I looked round the horizon.  Ahead of us but off to the left, I saw some columns of smoke.  They looked dragon-ish.  I climbed back down.

We headed in the direction of the smoke. It was different travelin’ with the witch.  She sure didn’t know much bout movin’ inna woods, but she did know loads bout alla plants we passed an’ what they outta be used for. I didn’t listen too much, but Cooper did.  He likes stuff like that.  I kept lookin’ for more signs we were trackin’ right:  burned trees, broken limbs, gouged trunks.  An’ no animals.  The woods were quiet.

We kept walkin’ til it was dark.  I wanna keep goin’, cuz I felt like we were close.  I could smell a bad, stinky smell, like rotten eggs, an’ lotsa smoke.  An’ I heard a sound, somethin’ like a wind sneakin’ through a crack inna roof.  Cooper said it’d be better to wait for light, an’ the Witch said she thought it’d be better too if we didn’t go in at night.  I guess they were right.  It’d be scary to face dragons–big or li’l–at night, when you couldn’t see.

It was hard to wait for mornin’. I kept wakin’ up, lookin’ around, an’ wonderin’ what time it was or when the sun was gonna come back up.  That awful sound kept on, too.  Once, I got up an’ started to walk closer to where I thought the dragons were gonna be, but the witch started talkin’ in her sleep, an’ it was weird.  I couldn’t see too far, either, so I stayed there with the others.

But dawn finally came, an’ we set off again.  The forest was black an’ smokin’, an we started hearin’ loud noises ahead.  The burned up forest gave way to lotsa rocks, an’ the noises got louder, so we went creepin’ behind rocks one by one, peekin’ out in case there was somethin’ to hide from.  Then, finally, the land opened up, an’ oh-my-gumdrops…

There was the dragon, all huge an’ hulkin’ an’ scary.  There were dead animal bodies piled around the area, but they weren’t eaten or nothin’. Most of ’em were covered up in flies an’ smellin’ bad bad.  The witch was right, too, cuz there were eggshells an’ some baby dragons!  They were huge too, but not so scary, cuz they were not happy lookin’.  Some of ’em were lyin’ splayed out onna dirt, not movin’.  Some were covered up in flies.  There were two or three crawlin’ about, cryin’.  That cryin’ sound was what we heard inna forest.

“What’re they doin’?” I asked.

“Starving,” the witch said.  She kept her voice quiet.  “The mother dragon must be young.  She doesn’t know how to feed them.”

I looked at the babies again.  They were thin an’ slow-movin’.  Their scales were dull.  “We gotta help them,” I said.  “What’s gonna help faster? Moonbeams or starlight?”

The witch shook her head and shrugged.  She couldn’t take her eyes off the mother.

“Gimme both.  I gotta try somethin’.”

Then the witch looked at me.  “Hold on, girl.  If you just go rushing in, the mother dragon will think you’re attacking her babies. She will kill you without realizing you’re only there to help them.”

I frowned, looking back out at the babies.  “Ok.  So what should we do?”  The silver dragon kept staring at the crawling babies.

Cooper spoke up.  “It’s like chess.  We need to distract the mother while we make our move.  Can we get her attention off in the other direction?  Maybe make her think there’s a threat over there while we move in to help the babies?”

“That might work,” the witch said thoughtfully.

“I’ll do it,” I said, startin’ to hop up.

The witch pulled me back down.  “No.  You should let me take care of the mother dragon.  You are smart, clever, and quick, but you are no match for an actual dragon.  I have spells that will assist me.  I’ll distract her, and you two move in to feed the babies.  Start with the stardust.  I think it will be all right after.”  She took the stardust an’ moonbeams outta her bag an’ gave ’em to us.  She put two moonbeam bars back inna bag.  Then she whispered some words I didn’t know, an’ alla sudden, she vanished.

Cooper’n’me peeked out from behind our rock.  The baby dragons weren’t movin’ any more, except to breathe a li’l bit.  The silver dragon kept watchin’ ’em.  The mornin’ was all sortsa quiet now.  While we waited, Cooper split half of the stardust into two piles an’ wrapped ’em up inna bandanas.

Alla sudden, the silver dragon’s head snapped up an’ whipped ’round.  Smoke dribbled outta her nose, an’ she let out a roar.  Then she leaped to her feet an’ ran off, movin’ super fast.  I was sorta glad then that I wasn’t out inna forest, tryin’ to distract her.  I think if I’d seen her leap up an’ come chargin’ at me like that, I woulda been frozen stiff.

Cooper grabbed my arm.  “Come on.  This is our chance.”  We both scuttle ran out from behind the rock an’ headed for the baby dragons.  They saw us comin’ an’ tried to rear up an’ fight back, but they were awful weak.  They just made a soft mewling sound an’ their heads weaved back an’ forth a bit.

I knelt down next to the red-gold dragonling, an’ Cooper helped the one that was green-gold.  The baby hissed at me an’ snapped its jaws a li’l, but it couldn’t do nothin’ to actually hurt me.  I untied the bandana with the stardust an’ scooped some inna my hand, then held it toward the baby.

It stopped hissing. Its nostrils got real big as it snuffed in an’ out, tryin’ figure out what I had.  Then its tongue came out, an’ it licked up some of the shiny stardust.  Then it licked again, an’ again, until my hand was empty. An’ wet.  I was covered in baby dragon slobber.  It made me giggle.

The baby dragon Cooper was helpin’ started to make a different sound, sorta like a happy hummin’.  My dragon baby did too, even as I got it another handful of stardust.  Its eyes got brighter, an’ its scales started shinin’ some too.  It was lookin’ loads better.

Neither of us was payin’ any attention to the big silver dragon anymore, but I kinda started to when it came flyin’ straight at us.  It landed inna dirt near the babies, an’ I thought for sure we were gonna be fried toast.  I looked up at it an’ gulped.

But it stretched its big head down an’ nosed the li’l red-gold baby.  It was all pretty an’ shiny now, lookin’ loads healthier’n’ it did afore.  It raised its head up too, an’ they rubbed against each other some, then the silver dragon looked at me an’ Cooper both.  The big silver dragon made that happy hummin’ sound too.

The witch popped up behind us alla sudden.  She hadda moonbeam bar inna hand an’, while we were still feedin’ stardust to the babies, she walked up to the silver dragon again.  It seemed loads friendlier now, but it still drew back a li’l bit when she started walkin’ towards it.  Then it caught the scent of moonbeam, an’ its nose did the big-wide thing like the babies’ did.  It crunched up the moonbeam bar, an’ its blue eyes went bright.

“A long time ago,” the witch said softly, like she was tellin’ bedtime stories to the baby dragons, “dragons and humans got along.  They relied on each other.  Adult dragons couldn’t feed their babies starlight because they couldn’t harvest it.  And humans couldn’t perform magic without dragon scales.  So they worked together, and they thrived.  But history says something went terribly wrong–maybe a wizard tried to enslave a dragon or take too many scales or take a living dragon’s soul, or maybe some bachelor dragons went rogue and attacked a city–and the dragon-human bond was broken.  Without humans to help, the dragon population has fallen dangerously low.  I want to thank you two for your help with making this happen.  I hope that we might be able to re-establish the bonds of old.”

The witch looked really happy.  I kinda felt like she’d used us again, but I didn’t mind so much this time.  Maybe she didn’t know how to explain things good when she started explainin’ things.

“Are we gonna stay an’ feed ’em some longer?” I asked.  I didn’t know how long we outta feed baby dragons, or when they could start eatin’ normal dragon foods.

“I think you and your twin should go make sure your family is safe and that they know they’ll be ok.  There is nothing more to worry about from these dragons.  But yes, I will stay and care for this family, at least until these small ones are better able to care for themselves.  It is a time honored tradition that many wizards and witches have ignored for far too long.  I hope that I can help convince more of them to agree to help the dragons as we did before.”

“All right, then,” Cooper said.  He tugged on my arm.  “If you need anything else from us, or if we can help again, you know where we’ll be.”

“Thank you,” she said.

As we walked back inna woods, I was happy.  We hadda great adventure.  The Flock was safe.  Dolli Lane was safe.  I gotta feed a baby dragon!!  It was a super good day.

~Kestrel

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