Prologue: How to Live With Dragons
The whisper escapes my lips and fades quickly into the silence; nothingness takes its place. I gaze down at the boar as it grazes in the grass. The beast pays no attention to me; yet again. My hands loosely grasp the tree branch above my head as needles prick a little into the palm of my hands. My knees are firmly planted on the branch below. The boar doesn't know what's coming.
I lightly touch the end of the dagger held by a leather band at my side, and hoist myself up the tree. The coolness of the afternoon soothes my skin as the weight of exhaustion begins to threaten me. I take a deep breath with ease and then slowly maneuver across the branch. I put one foot in front of the other and lift my arms. Otherwise, I risk falling. I try remembering the last time desperation forced me to prey on an animal. If I was correct, it was a few weeks ago. The trout hadn't been biting, and everyone still lay around at high noon snoring, "Lazy..." I remember saying before arming myself with a bow and my last few arrows. I set out to go boar hunting, and it took most of the day to find one.
Today, the boar I have my eyes on is plump and covered in short, black hair. Its tusks are larger than any I have seen before. But a key feature are its large ears, and yet it continues to graze with no notice of my presence. I stand above it, sucking in my breath and slowly pulling out the dagger. The dagger is made out of wood with a large dragon tooth I had stuck on with some sticky moss. The edge is still sharp, but the handle's beautiful design is faded. Once, there had been a carving of a beautiful dragon stretching the length of the handle. There were elegant details... and now, my eyes scan nothing but an outline.
I sway on the branch, failing to keep my balance for a split second. My left arm accidentally bumps the branch above me and for a moment I breath unevenly. The boar lifts its head, and I curse inwardly, No noise. No noise.If the boar knew I was up here, it would dash for the nearest exit...which is everywhere. I would never see it again. And I would starve. I manage to regain my balance. For a moment, I keep my position on the branch. If I moved, I could jeopardize this mission. I pray for the boar to go back to grazing. It looks around, its long eats rising slightly.
After what felt like forever, the boar lowers its head back into the grass and continues to graze. Reflex wanted to let out a sigh of relief, but I fight the urge. Instead, I wait. I don't know what for because I had run out of branch. The branches are thin and curved, maneuvering on them is near impossible. It took me forever to learn how. And even now, my legs wobble.
But if the boar comes to me...I smirk at the thought and cup my hands around my mouth. I imitate a boar call. The boar lifts its head mid-chew, ears twitching a little at the sound. I hold my breath praying that the call works...and that the boar doesn't run. For a moment, it looks around...until it squeals and bounds in the opposite direction. I slam my fist into the tree and groan in frustration.
Night is beginning to set in by the time a familiar ancient looking tree with dragon claw marks catches my eye. It towers over a cliff up ahead with a few branches hanging loosely from the tree. I run to the cliff's edge; my arms and legs feel like jelly. Waiting and hunting that boar all day had become tiring and my body was already fighting fatigue. I stop at the edge of the cliff and peer down to the beach. Anyone a distance from the cliff's edge would never guess a beach is here. If the sound of the waves washing ashore and the salty smell of the ocean were absent, the beach would be hidden from view. Which is amazing for it stretches as far as I can see in either direction. The beautiful orange and yellow sky emphasizes the water's serene beauty
I always found this handy. At one time, local vikings had found their way to my beach, and the position of the beach allowed me to hide within a hidden cave. They never bothered to find and venture to the beach floor.
A few dragons are spread out on the beach. My eyes catch a green dragon with long legs and three large claws on either foot. The dragon's lengthy tail is green and white and smooth. Its legs are long, and it has large, pointy spikes on top of its head. Suddenly, spikes stand up on its tail and the dragon flings them towards another dragon with large, brown horns. The horned dragon is red with black details and short legs with five long, skinny claws on each foot. Its tail is long with black spike like details sticking out.
I watch the fight. The Horned dragon growls and lifts its wings, exploding into flames. The Green dragon doesn't budge. It lifts its semi-large wings wings and growls back before taking a snap at the horned dragon's leg, "Again?" I sigh before my eyes catch a path hidden by several large boulders. It's narrow, with only enough room to fit one person at a time, Meh, I can do this... I slip in between the boulders, my feet hit the path, and I start to descend. Of course, not too fast. I know the consequences of walking too quickly. A knock on the head from a boulder could knock a person unconscious...or worse.
It takes all of forty seconds to walk down the path. The moment my foot hits the beach floor the dragons grow silent and stare. I gaze at them, and can feel their souls searching mine. Silence plagues us, but it doesn't haunt us.
And then it happens.
The dragons bound towards me, and all at once, three dragons try to nuzzle my stomach, "Wow, calm down!" I exclaim. The horned dragon, of whom I nicknamed Red, growls and lights himself in flames, "Really?" Red lifts his wings and growls at me, "There are other dragons. Not JUST you." Red roars again. I sigh, Five...four...three...Almost on cue, Red lifts himself into the sky and shoots for the open ocean.
"Hey Splinter," I say to a round, brown dragon with an unusually short tail and wings. I see large white teeth when Splinter opens his mouth. The dragon purrs and licks my face with its long tongue, "good boy." The Green dragon hits my shoulder, "Be patient Grub," He growls, "Yeah, you too." Grub nuzzles my chest and I brush my fingers over his dry, scaley skin. It's good to be home. The warm feeling I get when I'm here is unparalleled. My heart turns up a thousand degree's, and my shoulders relax.
And yet I never ignore that stab in my chest. It's something I cannot pinpoint. But there are a lot of things I cannot name. One time, I scowled and my face heated up. I could've sworn steam was going to come out of my ears. And I wanted to hit something. It's unusual because I don't consider myself the kind to hit things at random...but I wanted to at the time.
Something nudges my side and I snap out of my thoughts. At my feet is a pile of regurgitated fish. I frown, "You went...fishing?" The dragon growls softly, running to another pile of fish a few meter's away...with no dragon spit sticking to it, "...twice?" Grub lifts his wings and turns around in a complete circle in a weird, dance like fashion. He bobs his head, and I glare, "I went HUNTING today..." It was early in the morning when I left. Red, Grub, and Splinter hadn't opened their eyes and were sound asleep when I slipped away. But this annoyed me. I wasted an ENTIRE day.
I fold my arms over my chest, "Very funny!" Grub flaps his wings and growls softly, "You aren't getting out of this," I approach the fish that aren't regurgitated. I should be thankful, and of course I am. If anything, I'm glad Grub brought back some fish, because I did a pathetic job hunting the boar earlier. I glance at Grub; he tilts his head, "Whatever. Eat your dinner." I gesture to the fish Grub regurgitated.
Grub snaps up the first fish, and I take one from the pile in front of me. In the cliff is a cave. Inside, it's dark but not enough to hide what's within. A large pile of branches are up against the cave wall. Beside them is a large pile of rocks along with some random stuff from the wilderness I had found including bark and dry grass.
I saunter over towards the cave and pick up a little of everything; I proceed to make a fire in the middle of the beach. I lightly place some bark and dry grass on the beach, followed by some logs and to finish, I use the stones to make an outline around the branches, "Splinter," Splinter prominently fires at the pile of stuff. The fireball explodes, and the branches catch the fire. I pick up the remaining stones and throw them at Splinter, who catches them in his mouth. He chews quickly and swallows.
By the time I put my fish on the last stick I brought and hold it over the fire, Grub is finished. I hear something walk over and plunk itself beside me, "Already?" The dragon remains silent. I look at him, and he's staring my fish, "You ARE NOT eating mine! Eat those!" I gesture towards the pile of fish that hadn't been regurgitated, and the dragon dashes for them, "Pig..." I wonder if Grub is even a dragon...I watch him snap up all the fish, "are you a pig?" Grub cocks his head and growls, "Didn't think so."
I turn my attention back to the fire and Grub takes his spot beside me. We sit in silence. I can't describe what FELT different. It's like there is a hole in my chest and it's eating at me from the inside. I have everything I need. Food. Survival skills. Dragons. What more do I need?
In the distance my eyes catch a large body jump out of the water. Its small with two heads and tails. The darkness makes it impossible to note anymore detail.
My stomach churns...I don't know why. Now I'm not hungry. I take my fish off my stick and throw it in the air. Grub catches it quickly and swallows it. I frown, "Do you even chew?" He growls, "Whatever." I throw the stick into the fire.
Suddenly, a roar pierces the silence as the darkness engulfs the world. I turn to see a dragon covered in fire landing on the beach behind me. He roars, lowering his head so its few inches above the beach ,and meets my gaze. I roll my eyes, "Better?" The dragon stands his ground. Stubborn dragon, "Good."
Red's fire disappears, and he sits down. He stares at me, "We can't play right now, Red." He growls, "Do what you want. I'm going to sleep." The fire crackles and pops, and I lay down against the sand. The ground is hard, and I feel the sand on my back.
I shut my eyes and try to steady my breathing despite the darkness threatening to make it race. You're safe. You're safe. Nothing will get you. One. Two. Three. Four. Five...I feel something with dry scales curl up against my arm. I smile. Something curls up beside my other arm, it's bumpy and licks my face a few times, "Go to sleep, Splinter."
"C'mon, Red," I mutter, "I won't tell anyone." A few seconds later, the cold breeze brushing against my bare feet is gone and replaced with a little bit of heat. Red roars, but seconds later I hear a thump.
The sound of my dragon's breathing is melody to my ears. And I quickly allow sleep to consume me.
The first thing I notice when I wake up is the darkness that looms around me. It's empty and lifeless, and for a moment I panic. I shoot up into a sitting position; my breathing accelerates. My palms are sweaty. I look around in a panic. Where am I? Why is it so cold? I hear the sound of water washing up on the shore, and smell salty ocean air.
I catch a glimpse of a tree on a cliff towering over the beach as my eyes adjust to the darkness, and then a well burnt log at my feet surrounded by some rocks. The coolness of the wind ruffles my hair. I go to touch Splinter, but my hand meets empty space. I frown. Where are my dragons? I look around. The beach is deserted. But I fell asleep to the sound of their breathing! They were RIGHT here! My mind draws a blank. And then I'm on my feet, running down the beach, "Grub! Splinter!" I cup my hands over my mouth, "...Red?"
They couldn't be gone. They CAN'T be gone! The thought of living without them is unbearable! There is NO such thought...NO such possibility. I run until I'm out of breath. Until I can no longer see the campsite...on my knee's. It's inevitable.
The dragons are gone.