I wrote this as a birthday present for @A-Random-Commenter. I tried a bit of a different style to my usual one. Enjoy! :)
The raucous laughter of men could be heard from far beyond the fire’s light, deep into the surrounding forest. They sang, drank and made merry. Tonight they celebrated a hard-won victory for the kingdom. The beast that had for so many years been the bane of their eastwards expansion had been slain. Soon they would unite the barbaric and uncivilised settlements to the east under the king’s banner, just as they had done with so many others.
Shadowed figures stood watching at the edge of the clearing. The soldiers paid them no attention, nor did they partake in the festivities. Aside from the occasional whisper, the barbarians barely even moved.
They were statues that seethed with loathing towards their conquerors: The subjugators that had slain any who spoke against them, the fools who had driven the creature from its home, the ‘vanquishers’ that slain the very creature they had provoked, the ‘heroes’ who had used the villagers’ children as obstacles so that the monster would not immediately incinerate the entire battalion. Even now, they used the very ground where the natives would have been mourning their protector’s passing as a place to celebrate its defeat. This would not last.
Some whispered that perhaps it was still alive. After all, the soldiers had not let anyone see the body. Others muttered that maybe the other villages’ protectors would strive to win no matter the cost. Perhaps they would see how much of a threat these metal-clad men truly were. More plotted quietly of rebellion and resistance, to hinder every effort these murderers made.
Yet, no matter how much they lied to themselves and each other – the villagers had lost all hope. Their people had already been subdued and their culture was but a memory.
Far from the village, in regions which not even the king’s armies had ventured, there lay an almost empty cave. From this almost empty cave came lonely squeals. Unanswered, they slowly increased in volume and urgency.
A response there may not have been, but the cries did not fall upon deaf ears. In fact, many forest creatures heard the mewling. Though they did not at first understand it, they knew they should follow it. Predator and prey alike gathered in the cave, their lifelong conflict set aside to witness this once-an-era event. Dozens of sets of eyes lay upon the shrieking green and blue rock, which glittered and glowed even in the dimness of the cave.
An abrupt silence was shortly followed by a gentle rocking and soft tap-tap-tap sound that melted the hearts of all those present – oviparous and viviparous alike. The shell cracked, an egg-tooth picking away at it. Chips began falling off, revealing the tip of a snout to the observers. Finally, the egg split fully and revealed a mucus-covered baby dragon.
Several animals rushed forward to tend to it as if it were one of their own offspring. While they had feared the raw power of both its sire and dam, they had also respected them. They had loved and protected the forest. Now that he had been slain and she had not been seen for decades, the animals – and even the forest itself – would return the favour. They would protect and provide for the young dragon. One day it would grow up to become their protector… if they could only manage to keep it hidden from the humans.
Heads lowered and tails tucked between legs. The humans would never stop. They would push on into the forest, hacking down trees and hunting animals. The poor hatchling’s life would either be spent running or cut short…
Suddenly, a yellow cardinal bird flew into the cave chirruping triumphantly. Thunder could be heard in the distance, despite the lack of a storm. The thunder grew louder; closer. Soon enough, the thunder resolved into resounding wing beats. Multiple massive beings landed heavily outside the cave.
The animals inside the cave headed towards the entrance, ears perking up again. One of the dragons quickly thundered into the cave, scattering animals and stopping only when it reached the hatchling. A mother never ignores her child’s calls. And she had brought friends. The cavalry was here.