The leaves crunching under my feet and the smell of jasmine and cherry blossoms awaken all of my senses as the sun beams through the trees. This crisp morning is perfect for gathering berries for the day’s meals. I left just after my brothers and father did for their hunt, hopefully far enough behind them to not scare off their prey. As I thud along the path, I am reminded at the two reasons I cannot accompany my family, my gender and my lack of stealth. The Anadorie wood is my refuge anyway. I much prefer the silence of gathering on my own.
I can hear fox pups playing off in the distance as I come up on the stream where the best blackberry bushes grow. I climb up onto a huge flat rock basking in the sun, warm to the touch. I lay out to just rest my eyes and soak in this magical spring morning. The harsh winter finally has receded, just in time. My little sister almost died this year, she’s frail and the constant victim of winter’s wrath.
Between the hot sun, the warmth of the smooth rock under me and the babbling water passing by, I am lulled to sleep. A small chirping starts to meddle with my sleepiness, bringing me back into my gorgeous day. It’s an odd sound, not unlike a baby bird, but too deep and strong to be something so frail. I can tell it is close as curiosity begins to take over. I stretch my aching muscles and begin to search the bushes for the source.
After a few moments of rummaging on my hands and knees, getting pricked by thorns, I am shocked with my discovery. A broken shell reveals a new born creature that only lived in my bedtime tales. My ancestors used to tame them but until now I thought they had vanished from the woods because of hunters. I remember being told of the shiny white scales and black tipped wings and tail. These were not fire breathers from what the stories said but still fierce, protectors of humans. My eyes widened as my mind started to register that I was looking into the wide green-black eyes of a young black tip dragon.
My mind races, trying to think back to the stories my grandfather would tell about breeding, taming, and training these creatures for sale at market. How the fires from the poachers drove all the wild beasts out of their caves and hiding places. Dragon hide was strong and great for boots and hunting coats, like the one I was wearing. The meat was sweet and did not spoil as quickly as deer and other forest creatures. My grandfather was the last of the dragon tamers and my father had to learn how to hunt to support our family.
I remembered how the black tips were said to be just for humans, loving and loyal to the first human that offered generosity to them. Remembering they are the only ones that preferred plants to flesh, I grab the sweet blackberries from my bag and offer an open handful to the babe. Cooing sweetly the eyes soften into mine as the dragon props off its side, stretches out its almost pinkish tiny wings and scoots closer to me. Grasping the berry in its teeth, the serpent like tongue glides around, licking up all the dark juices oozing out of the fruit. With a sigh of relief, the baby dragon climbs into my cross-legged lap and curls up, its sticky head nestling into my stomach.
I was paralyzed with shock. How could this be happening? Dragons were said to only live in the north now, hundreds of miles from here. My fingertips stroke the smooth scales of my new companion, knowing that if my memory was not failing me, this beast was bound to me and me to it. The black tips were bred solely to protect and transport their humans, serving only one man their whole lives. It was believed that these dragons loved their owners and would die from broken hearts if they were to be parted from their master. My heart leapt as I thought of this. Breathlessly, I gather my belonging and climb to my feet, the babe standing next to me, with bright eyes. I lean down and pat the head of this beautiful beast. “I will call you Alorah,” I beam down at my new friend, realizing that it must be a female from the pinkish hue in her scales that glistens in the light. With a quick chirp from Alorah, I set off back home, excited to show my baby sister our new pet, hoping this was going to be the dawn of a new, exciting adventure for my family.
For the next chapter, please see: The Tale Continues…