A young dragon is separated from its parents by a blizzard.
1926 Words | 8 min reading time
To think that but yesterday I yearned for something other than the howling wind that had blasted me from the sky and the whiteout of snow. Now the cold silence, broken only by the crunching of my footsteps on fresh-fallen snow and the scraping of my limp left wing against the snow, made apparent just how isolated I was in the forest of snow-covered trees.
Two days ago, my father had seen something that scared him and insisted we leave immediately. My mother had worried about a coming storm, and my flight capabilities. He had insisted. She had been right. Now I was alone.
I had asked what they feared so, two big strong dragons like them, but they had neglected to answer further than “Someday we will tell you.” I had not pressed for further answers, I’d long since learnt to trust their judgment. They’d done their best to teach me of this harsh world.
Now, as I trudged onwards, it was time to apply what I’d been taught. Find my bearings. Find somewhere sheltered where they’d think to look. Stay there as long as it was safe. I recognized these mountain peaks. Many cycles of the moon had passed since we last travelled them, but I knew where to find the cave in which we had sheltered before. Before some creatures settled in the area.
My parents had called them humans. Said they were frail and fearful creatures. Their fear made them dangerous. Their frailty brought them the desire to change the natural order of things. They had no magic of their own but insisted on bending the world to their will. They went so against what nature had intended that their creations and magic, the lifeforce of the world, could not coexist.
My parents warned me that one day I might encounter these two-legs, that I should get away from them as soon as I could. They were unpredictable and could have many reasons for trying to kill me, fear of the unknown chief amongst them. I’d be able to understand them by virtue of my magic, but the poor creatures would only see me as some beast.
My wing ached with a dull throbbing. The sheer pain had subsided, but claws of pain dug into my side any time I moved the wing further than where it dragged behind me. I was exhausted, and the cold wind nipped at me as it danced between the trees. I was resistant to the cold, but not immune. I wanted to get to the cave, to find shelter. Somewhere my parents might think to find me. So, I pushed on. There was still hope as long as I put one foot in front of the other.
One foot in front of the other. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Shuush. Shuush. Shuush. It all dragged on into an agonizing monotony that finally broke as I exited the tree line.
Yet, all too quickly my hopes were dashed against the frigid mountainside. I would not be finding shelter in the cave. From here I could see that it was occupied. By humans. They huddled around a pile of burning wood a short way into what had once been our den.
I promptly turned around, suppressing a growl as my wing cried in agony at the change in direction.
One foot in front of the other. I journeyed on but had lost the hope of shelter. I soon collapsed on the snow, in one of the few beams of the setting sunlight that made its way to the ground. Maybe it was time for a nap. I’d either wake in the morning and deal with tomorrow’s problems, or my ice-resistance would not prove enough for the midwinter night.
I did indeed awake, but it was not the next morning. The sun had not even fully set yet, glowing a bright orange that only taunted me of the warmth I would not have.
I heard the crunching of snow and raised my head to look in the direction. What I saw set my heart fluttering with terror. They were here, and they saw me. One pointed a stick at me. I forced myself to my feet and ran. Something stung me in the rear. Maybe if they realised I wasn’t a threat to them, they’d leave me alone.
I didn’t make it far before my legs gave out. Loud stomping behind me told me I was still pursued. I turned to see the two two-legs. Maybe I had taken the wrong approach. They chased me because they did not fear me. I would need to change that if I were to survive. I turned around, flaring up my right wing to appear threatening, and released a blast of frost from my mouth in their direction. They both dived out of the way, then backed up – keeping their distance. They were frightened of me, but they still did not leave. The same one pointed its stick at me, and I felt a sting in my neck.
If I could not scare them away, I would have to make sure they could not follow me. I charged at them. Now they ran away, but they could not escape me even in my injured state. I inhaled forcefully exhaled. Yet, instead of a freezing blast catching the humans, a mere puff of frost escaped my mouth. I didn’t feel too good. The world spun and I toppled onto my injured wing, releasing a roar comprised of pain and defiance before I lost track of the mortal plane.
Once again the sounds of crunching snow, accompanied by the sliding of objects on snow, filled my ears. I was vaguely aware that I was moving, but not of my own accord. I felt my tail and hind legs dragging against the snow, but the rest of my body lay on something at an angle to the snow.
I smelt dead things. Cold blood that barely released a smell, but it was there. When I managed to open my eyes, I found myself staring at a human dragging a platform behind it. On this platform lay the corpses of a few deer. We used to hunt deer when we lived here. We ate them. My mind struggled with the dilemma of what humans could want with deer. As slowly as the sun currently rising in the east, the realization dawned on me that the humans probably ate the deer too. The awareness reached me that I was also on one of these platforms, dragged along by another human I couldn’t see.
As panic filled me and I struggled to move my unresponsive limbs, I heard a third human. “It’s stirring. You’ll need to tranq it again.”
I felt the movement stop, and the platform I was on get placed on the ground. I dully felt a sting on my neck again, before I again lost consciousness.
I was still out in the cold, but I had stopped moving. I could hear talking all around me. I struggled to make out any single conversation, but I could sense uncertainty and fear. The two things that made humans dangerous. I lay as still as I could while feeling returned to my frigid limbs.
A voice cut through the rest. “The hunters should not have brought it here,” this voice held some authority – the rest silenced to listen, “but they have. We now need to decide what to do with it.”
“Kill it!” shouted someone.
“And bring the wrath of others onto us?”
“What others? This is the first we’ve ever seen here!”
“Look at those feathers! Could make a warm coat.”
“They’re not soft. Jaden cut his hand on them earlier. It almost blasted me with ice when we caught it. I shouldn’t have let Lucas talk me into that. This thing is dangerous. It’s meant to kill.”
Somethings held both pairs of my legs together, meaning it would be even more difficult to make an escape now. My mouth was also trapped shut.
“It’s too small to pose a threat.”
“It will get bigger.”
“Not if it doesn’t live that long.”
“We can’t take care of it. We’re overdue for a supply drop from the southeast and we barely have enough food for ourselves. That’s why we sent the men hunting in the first place!”
“She’s right,” the authoritative voice concluded. “The two who caught it, however, have the final say.”
“I say we kill it. See if we can get any use from the carcass. Lucas?”
Slow, deliberate footsteps towards me. I opened my eyes to see a human with a stick pointed at me. He held it as if it possessed some great danger. More concerned with my life than the charade pretending to be asleep, I struggled against my bonds. I tried to open my mouth and defend myself with ice, but I could not open my mouth either. Whisps of frost escaped the gaps at the sides of my mouth as I panicked.
“Daddy, no!” A tiny human ran from behind the one with the stick and jumped between him and me. It practically touched me. This close, I noticed how its body repelled my magic aura. But also the warmth that it released.
“Lexy, move. We can’t look after it.”
“You can give it my food!”
I stopped my panicked struggle and lay still once again, awaiting the decision.
“Fine.” The human lowered its stick. Then looked at the leader. “We’ll look after it.”
“Very well. You will, however, not be receiving extra rations. If I feel it poses a danger to any of us, it will be killed. You will need to keep it under control.”
“Understood.” I, too, took note of the words. I would need the humans to believe I would not harm them until I had the opportunity to escape. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? I felt relief wash over me.
“Daddy,” called the tiny human who had been staring at me, “its eyes changed colour.”
As members of the crowd moved in closer, my aura felt practically stifled, but I remained calm.
“You think it understands us?”
“A wild animal understanding a human? These things aren’t dogs, stupid.”
“My nan used to tell me that these things were very clever. That they could understand us.”
“Your nan now an authority on magic creatures?”
“The magic is how they understand us!”
Some arguing broke out, but the little human remained focused on me, crouching down so its head was only a little above mine. “Do you understand me?” I wasn’t sure how to respond. “Breathe out a puff of air if you do.”
The fully-grown humans stopped and watched. I did as instructed.
The parent of the little human now addressed me. “Wiggle your tail if you won’t hurt us if we take the rope off your muzzle.” I did this, too.
After some hesitation, the human did free my mouth. Avoiding making sudden movements, I raised my head and looked around. I then bowed my head slightly in appreciation to the human who’d chosen not to kill me and its hatchling.
“I’d like to contribute some of my family’s rations to help it too.”
“As you wish,” replied the apparent leader.
“Thank you. Come Lexy, let’s take it home.” They moved to pick up the platform I still lay on. “Please stay still,” it now addressed me, “We will take you home, get you warm and fix up that wing of yours.”