Dragon Heart

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Saving Starlyn

Anastas woke to what she thought was a scream. Sitting up quickly, she listened but heard nothing more. Turning to wake Starlyn, not only was she perplexed at the total darkness, but after feeling around for her friend, she quickly found her spot empty.

“Gorvanal!” she called out, “Wake up quickly! Starlyn is gone and so are the wolves and the torch!”

Startled by Anasta’s urgent shout, the troll opened his eyes to find himself in the dark. He quickly tore a strip of cloth from his shirt and telling Anastas to stay put, he headed for the dim moonlight at the entrance of the cave. Once out in open, he searched for a branch, preferably green, to use for a new torch. Finding a perfect one, he wrapped the strip of cloth around it, rolled it in pine pitch and used his flint stones to start it on fire. Smiling at his handy work, he hurried back into the cave and found Anastas huddling in the dark in fear.

“Come, little Atranoch,” he commanded, holding out his big hand, “Let’s go and find your friend.”

**************


Baylor and Daelyn and landed on the rocky ground as graceful as two butterflies, soft and soundless.

“According to the legends,” Baylor told his son, “the cave’s entrance is very hard to see from the air, if not impossible. It should be around here somewhere, probably up higher.”

As they walked up the rocky slope, Daelyn thought about Starlyn. She was one of a kind, that human child. Not that he hadn’t seen human children before, just none of the likes of Starlyn. Most humans he’d ever come in contact with were greedy, quick to start wars and fearful of just about everything. If they were doubtful, they killed it. Even human children were rude and disrespectful, with the exception of Starlyn. He wondered what her dragon parents were like and surmised that they must have been extraordinary creatures to have raised such a unique and wonderful child. His heart skipped a beat as thought about where she could have wandered off to. Strange beings were said to reside in this cave and no one knew what they were or what they looked like. All he knew was that there would be hell to pay if one of them touched a single hair on Starlyn’s head.

******************

“Father! Here it is!” Daelyn called, “I wouldn’t have even of seen it if a hawk hadn’t landed on branch near the opening. There’s footsteps, too!”

Baylor hurried up the slope to investigate his son’s discovery of the cave, elated and wary at the same time. Would they find Starlyn and if they did, would she be in one piece? His big body shuddered with the thought. If the troll hurt her this would be his last day on the green earth, he thought, growling softly.

“Okay, let’s go in,” Baylor said, “But be very cautious. We have no clue what’s inside. Stay close to the wall and keep your ears open.”

Daelyn nodded, entering the cavern first. It was dark, but their eyes soon adjusted from years of cave dwelling. Inspecting the floor of the small, inner cavern, they saw many footprints. The larger, deeper prints of the troll, the clawed feet of the female Atranoch, wolf prints and those of a human child. What they noticed as they studied the prints, was that the troll and the Atranoch were together, following the foot prints of Starlyn and the wolves. They saw where all had laid down, apparently to rest, then they headed into passageway. While it looked they were all traveling together, Baylor had the distinct feeling Starlyn was alone. They had to hurry.

*************

Starlyn woke to find her hands and feet bound, laying on the cold cavern floor. Struggling to sit up, she looked at her surroundings, surprised to see it lit with three torches. The walls of the large cavern shimmered with white ‘cave flowers’, gypsum. The walls were illuminated with delicate white crystals infused with green. Eyes widening, she forgot her fear for a moment to stare with wonder with what she thought was the most beautiful sight she’d ever seen.

“Do you like what you see, human?” a small but commanding voice said behind her, “This is our handiwork. We are cave decorators, we make the crystals, fashion them and shape them with our own hands. You’re trespassing, this cave is not yet finished for any eyes in Kilaborn.”

The speaker, a tiny, Elvin creature, stepped out from the shadows. Starlyn gasped at how small he was, yet at the same time, had a presence of one much bigger. His long, pure white hair reached almost to the backs of his knees and his upwards slanted eyes were the color of glaciers. His ears stood up tall, covered in a fine layer of white fur. He wore a robe shimmering with tiny fluorescite crystals and gypsum flowers, hemmed with diamonds. It was a magnificent robe, made only for one who was a leader or a king. But what caught Starlyn’s eyes were the creatures wings. Large, filamentous wings, the color of pearl, rose up from behind him as wondrous as a peacock’s tail. Aware of how beautiful his wings were, he strutted and popped out his chest with pride. And then he smiled.

Starlyn felt a deep unsettling feeling unlike anything she’d ever known before at the sight of his teeth. They filled his elongated mouth in way resembling a shark, ready to rip and tear flesh off bone. She shuddered, realizing the true nature of the cave-makers. Deceptively magical, they were nothing more than tiny flesh-eating machines. The rest of the Cave-makers stepped into sight smiling in a way that haunt her dreams forever. The crystals they formed into geometric shapes and the shimmering beauty of them was nothing more than a ploy to make their victims want to see more, traveling deeper into the caves until all direction was lost.

Noticing the awareness in Starlyn’s eyes, the creature’s grin grew wider still, letting her know that show and tell was over. Opening her mouth, Starlyn let out a shrill scream to rival no other she’d ever screamed. It bounced off the walls of the cave making the Cave-Makers cover their

ears with the power of it. On and on it went, spiraling down through the passageways until it reached the ears of the troll, Anastas, Daelyn and Baylor. From deeper in the cave, she could hear the faint howl of the wolves as they answered her cry with forlorn howls of their own.

******************

Starlyn’s drawn out scream reached the ears of first the troll and Anastas and an instant later, Baylor and Daelyn who looked at each other with wild dread.

“Hurry, Father!” he urged, running through the passageway, “Something’s wrong!”

No sooner did they reach the end of the first passageway when they encountered the troll and Anastas staring at them as they stood in a defensive stance.

“YOU!” Anastas yelled, spotting the dragon who killed her brother.

Grovanal, wielding a large knife, tucked Anastas behind him and stood defensively.

“Who are you?” he thundered, “If you touch one hair on that human child’s head, by the God’s themselves, I’ll tear the flesh from your bones strip by agonizing strip!”

Baylor, taken aback at the troll’s words, stopped Daelyn from moving forward.

“What do you know of the human child,” Baylor said, “I am her adoptive father, Baylor and this is her brother Daelyn. Where is she?”

Lowering his knife, Gorvanal nodded.

“We don’t know. We stopped in here for shelter when the tree spirits attacked us,” he explained, “took a nap, waking to find her gone. We must find her! Give me your word the young Atranoch will not be harmed.”

Baylor nodded, looking at Daelyn warningly. They had to hurry before it was too late.

“We slept for a bit and when Anastas woke, she was gone,” Gorvanal told them, “There are legends about this cave that speak of entering and never being seen again. I think the tree spirits outside led us here on purpose.”

“Yes,” Baylor agreed, “We were also driven here by the spirits, and our ancestors also warned us about a cave in this area to beware of. Do you have any idea what could be in here? What could have made her scream like that?”

“No,” Gorvanal answered as they hurried through the passageways, “No one has ever seen

what lies within, but I have a feeling we’re about to find out.”


*******************


Starlyn wished she’d never disobeyed and left the human village, hating herself for leaving. These creatures had no room in their hearts for friendships, intelligent conversation, or anything of the sort. To them, she was food, no more. Crying openly now, she wished shes say goodbye to her dragon mother and the elders. As she sat bound on the cave floor, each little Cave-maker came up and put a bundle of sticks on and around her until she realized what they were about to do. They were getting ready to roast her. As if they knew her thoughts, the wolves howled long and loud from somewhere within the cave filling Starlyn with rage. How dare they hurt her friends!

“What did you do with the wolves?” she asked the pompous leader of the Cave-Makers, “where are they?”

The robed leader looked at her curiously. Here she was about to die and her concern was not for herself, but for the gray-furred beasts.

“The beasts are none of your concern anymore, human,” he told her, “It gets extremely cold in the cave at night and their thick fur will keep us all warm, once we remove it from them of course.”

“Don’t you dare hurt them, you evil creature!” she yelled, “What gives you the right?”

“You know nothing about rights!” the creature yelled, “You’re just a child! A worthless one at that! You humans, ha! You have no teeth, no claws, no special powers of which to speak of, yet you like to think you own the planet! You’re all so clueless about how things really are! Creatures of whom you have no idea even exist!”

Just as he ordered his minions to light the fire so they could feast on her soft flesh and strip her bones, a whirlwind of sound came from the main passageway that led to the outside. With a string of curses unraveling from it’s forked tongue like yarn, a large dragon squeezed through the narrow opening with murder in its dark eyes. Followed by another dragon, larger still and a troll, the cavern was suddenly alive with sound and panic as the Cave-Makers scurried to get away. Both Baylor and Daelyn took deep breaths, letting out a thick, dark mist and draining the creatures of all energy. With no energy to use their wings, the Cave-Makers could only fall to the ground helpless as the dragons and the troll made short work of killing them. For once, Starlyn didn’t object to the slaughter. She saw what lay in their hearts and was glad they were dead. She felt the prick of claws as Anastas struggled to untie her and once freed, hugged her friend so tightly, the young Atranoch struggled to breathe.

“You came for me!” Starlyn exclaimed as they all gathered around her, “I didn’t mean to wander, but I heard the most wondrous of sounds and needed to follow it. I couldn’t help myself!”

When she locked eyes with Daelyn, she saw his remorse as he watched her and Anastas hug and quickly ran to him, locking her arms around his darkly scaled neck.

“I’m sorry killed your friend,” he apologized sincerely, “I didn’t know. When they were standing next to you, all I saw was red as I remembered the village I found you in. Will you forgive me?”

“Oh, Dae,” she murmured into his ear, “of course I will. I love you, my brother.”

“We have to find the wolves!” Anastas said, unlike her to be so outspoken, “I heard them howl!”

Baylor took his turn hugging his human daughter, wrapping his wings around her to enfold her with love. Shapira would never forgive him if he came back without the wayward child.

“You’re mother is so worried, Star,” he told her, “please forgive us for leaving you, but we had to do what we did for all of Kilaborn, not just a few.”

“No, father,” Starlyn said softly, “It is you who must forgive me. I disobeyed and acted like a spoiled child, I’m so, so sorry. I just want to go home now.”

Suddenly, two huge timber wolves burst into the cavern, followed by a beaming Anastas.

“I found them, Star!” she exclaimed proudly, “They were bound like you were!”

Starlyn untangled herself from her fathers wings and ran to her friend, joyously hugging her. The wolves whined and nuzzled her for attention as the two friends were reunited. Baylor was momentarily shocked by the female Atranoch touching his daughter, but immediately saw the love the two unlikely friends had for each other. This wasn’t going to be easy, he thought. It was going to take a lot of talking on his and Starlyn’s behalf to vie for the creature’s acceptance. But knowing Starlyn, she could make it happen. Walking over to the troll who stood off to the side looking rather forlorn, Baylor gave him a deep nod of thanks.

“I don’t quite know how to repay you for your kindness,” he said solemnly, “That human child is our shining star and we love her dearly. Thank you.”

“No thanks are needed, dark dragon,” Gorvanal told him, “She is unlike any other in all my travels. You’d do well to keep her closer.”

The five friends plus two furry ones, couldn’t get out of the cave fast enough. As they stood saying their goodbyes, Gorvanal hailed Baylor just before they took off into the air.

“Dark dragon!” he called out, walking up to Baylor, “I do have one small request, my friend. Don’t forget about me. Whenever you’re out this way again, please, stop in visit. I get so few visitors with a face such as mine.”

Starlyn, hearing her friend’s request, laughed. “Oh, Gorvanal, you’re mistaken! You have a lovely face!”

“And perhaps get this child a visual aid,” Gorvanal laughed, “She’s quite blind.”

Laughing, the two huge dragons lifted and spread out their magnificent wings, one carrying a tiny miracle and the other, the last Atranoch. A strange sight, to be sure, but one forged with the bonds of love and friendship such as the land of Kilaborn had ever seen.

The End

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