A Short Story
I was alone and scared. I was a child who had no home, no people, no chance at living past the tender age of eight. But then again, such was the world at that time and in that place. Today, humans like to think that they are above nature, but those that think that are wrong. So very wrong. Back then we knew well that we were a part of Mother Nature.
I had just been kicked out of yet another village when I came upon the sight that would change my life forever - and coincidentally lead to my becoming immortal. I witnessed a dragon shedding her skin.
I was deep in a wood not far from the small nameless village that I had been sent from. I had liked that village. There had been a nice old lady who had fed me and called me a "poor little lamb." I had hoped to be taken on as her apprentice since she was a midwife, but as was my luck, she was accused of being a witch and burned at the stake. A couple of the sympathetic ladies had told me to run while I could. My fiery red hair was looking awfully suspicious in connection to the witch and my rather sudden appearance.
All of that had happened over a week ago. Now, I was just minding my own business and searching the ground for fallen nuts and maybe berries when I heard a rustle and a faint grunt from up ahead of me. Could it be a wild boar? A bear? Either one would end my miserable little life very, very quickly. I've seen what a bear can do to a corpse, and I've seen a wild boar gore a man. There had been blood everywhere, and the hunter's shrill screams still sometimes haunt my old nightmares.
Trembling, I slowly reached out and moved aside a few branches and vines, and my eyes went as wide as saucers. In the middle of the large clearing ahead was a gigantic dragon. The beast had four limbs; two back legs built like mighty oaks and its arms were spindly. It had no hands, but instead it walked on its knuckles with wings like a bat forming a great fan about its muscular body. The head was tapered like a fine horse's and set high above the ground on a serpentine neck. It was rubbing its head against a tree, and from where I was I could see that its eyes were milky-white. They may actually have once been another color, but at that moment they liked the dragon suffered from cataracts.
Before my bewildered and awed eyes, the dragon's skin began to peel from where it rubbed its nose on the rough, brown tree bark. I had seen something like it before when my own skin peeled once from too much sun; but to see the dragon neatly rolling back its skin was amazing. Just as amazing were the scales revealed by the dead skin. They were a beautiful midnight black, and they shined like the finest obsidian. But I didn't know what obsidian was way back then; all I knew was that the dragon's scales were the most beautiful things I'd ever seen.
Suddenly, I realized that this dragon was staring at me. Its eye was a deep burgundy, the color of dried blood. There was a darker spot in the middle, but that orb was still completely alien to me. Its transparent skin hung from its mouth, and I realized that the dragon was consuming the skin for whatever reason a dragon may have.
The dragon took a step toward me and I jumped back. The dragon kept coming and for some reason, I stopped moving backwards. My mind said run, but my body wouldn't listen. The dragon mesmerized me; I couldn't have run if I had wanted to, which of course I did.
The dragon's large head came to rest beside my crouching form. The red eyes just stared at me. That head was bigger than my entire body, but I felt my fear melt away. Then, the beast nudged me with its muzzle. A buzz filled my mind, and instinctively I reached out and took the skin that was dangling from the dragon's maw.
The moment my fingers touched that magical skin, my mind was blown away. I saw things and heard things I never thought possible. I saw the world as it would be, as it had been, and how it would end. I saw stars and suns alien to my own. I saw magic and science and history untold. I saw into the dragon's mind and knew what it was offering me. I took that gift without a look back.
I took the skin and placed it in my mouth. It tasted odd, and only later would I identify the separate sensations: biting cinnamon and ginger, sweet honey, and rich chocolate. The dragon and I shared the meal and sated ourselves on the ephemeral, decadent skin. As she went to lie down, now comfortable in her shiny death-black scales, I ruminated on what I now knew.
The dragoness' name was Elysian and she had been born before Babylon was ever constructed. Elysian was a wise old one, well versed in the ways of her people. It was law that if a human or another dragon witnessed a dragon shedding his or her skin, then the shedding dragon had to offer to share the magical skin with the watcher. The dragons consumed their skin for the same reason that the phoenix immolates itself. If a human should partake of dragon skin then they become immortal.
Elysian cocked her head and stared at me. "What shall ye do now young daughter of Eve?"
"I don't know. What is there for one such as me?" I answered.
Her ruby eyes held mine. "Go east to the isle of Britain. Find the ancient Merlin. He will teach ye all ye need know."
"Thank you, Lady Elysian." I stood up an brushed myself off. I had a long journey ahead of me. "Live long, Lady Elysian."
"Fare thee well, Daughter Bridget."
I waved as I walked from the clearing. I never looked back.
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