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"Synysteyre?"

My sister, Sorlysture, was seeking me.

"Yes, what is it?" I replied.

"Mother wants us. She’s dying!"

My world almost stopped, for my mother was as dear to me as life itself.

"Dying?"

"Yes. Her time is come."

"Already? She is but four spans only!"

"Aye, but she says that our times are shorter now."

I came out of the stream where I had been bathing, and looked at my elder sister.

I thought she was beautiful.

The sun glistened on her scales in a myriad of colours and patterns. She looked so sleek. The curl of her leathery wings was so elegant, while her eyes reflected so much love, wisdom and beauty.

"Let us go. For time is a-wasting," I said, so with four flaps of my mighty wings I was aloft and heading towards the rocky crags that were our home.

Sorly followed, and we hugged the tree line for fear of the Sharp-ones. It was but a shadow after dawn, so the Sharp-ones would still be sleeping. Then, using the thermals, we spiralled aloft and landed on the natural outcrop that served as our front entrance.

The caves were very old. They had housed our kind for untold generations. Once, there had been many of us, but that was before my time. Mother used to tell us stories of great adventures with many of our kind, in olden days.

Recently, the Sharp-ones had discovered ways of harming us. Before, they had left us alone, and we them. However, it seems that something their holy men said caused them to fear and hate us.  So much so, that they actively and deliberately sought us out to kill us and to take our blood and teeth. It was rumoured that our blood and teeth were demanded by their sorcerers, but as for why? I have no idea.

Mother lay in her chamber. Her hide was dull and her eyes had lost their shine. She waved her tail as we entered, looking at us.

"My daughters! What a world I leave you. My time is short, as the egg is soon to arrive, so when it does, my duty will be done and I shall take my leave from you. Now is the time for you to seek out your mates, so our kind shall continue. I have carried my egg for two spans, so cannot retain it any longer.

"Look after my son, for he shall be much in demand. Take good care of him, teaching him all that you know. You are wise, my daughters, in so many ways, but still young and foolish in many others. You must take care to protect him from the Sharp-ones, for there is evil and hatred in their hearts.

“I think you should head north, for the Sharp-ones fear the cold, so there is greater chance that others of our kind will be there."

We nuzzled our mother, as her love for us radiated as warmth. We could sense the life within her was ready to be set free, so she shook her great head for us to leave.

Reluctantly and shedding tears, we bade her farewell, leaving her for the final time. A short time later, we heard the sound of her wings as she took that final flight.

I was first to her chamber.

The egg was resting on a bed of soft velvet. As I watched, a crack appeared in its leather surface.

Sorly joined me, so we watched, entranced, as our brother made his way into the world.

The egg cracked further and his head appeared. His scales were very pale and his eyes were half closed.

He opened his mouth and gave a piercing shriek.

“You made a noise like that!” Sorly said.

I said nothing. I just stared in wonder at the newly hatched dragon.

Our brother kicked the leathery eggshell, advancing on wobbly legs while unfurling his tiny wings. He was the size of one of the Sharp-one’s helmets, and his minute claws made scratchy noises on the stone floor.

“We must name him,” Sorly said.

“Why?”

“Mother has gone, we are his guardians now."

“Who was his father?” I asked.

Sorly shook her head. “I know not.”

“He shall be called Charlavart, after the mountains that reach up to the sky,” I said.

Sorly nodded her great head. “So be it!”

 

*        *        *

 

We stayed in the caves through the spring and into summer.
Charly grew rapidly, so we played endless life games with him. He had a voracious appetite, so always one of us sisters would spend hours hunting for enough food for us all.

He was bright and quick, but he also had a temper when things didn’t go his way. We let him get away with nothing, so he soon learned that wisdom was something that grew slowly and was not the gift of youth.

As the leaves on the trees started to turn from green to yellow and gold, Sorly returned from the hunt with some quail and honey.

“There are Sharp-ones in the meadow,” she said.

“Warriors?”

“Not warriors, for they drive cattle before them.”

“Should we move north?” I asked.

Sorly looked around the caves that had been our only home.

“Perhaps,” she said, reluctantly.

I snorted with little humour. “Mother said we should leave. I think we should obey.”

Sorly looked at our brother, still not yet half grown.

“In the spring, when the snows thaw in the mountains. Then we shall go,” she said.

I bowed my head in acquiescence.

 

*        *        *

 

Autumn came, slowly changing into winter. The leaves left the trees to form a carpet on the ground, while the frosts hardened our bathing pool. Snow covered the land in a silent white mantle. The Sharp-ones stayed inside, the smell of their fires wafted our direction when the wind carried them.

Charly was nearly grown now, and was full of life and curiosity. We had the devil of a job keeping him from flying around the countryside, as he so wanted to see the world.

We would limit our flights to those hours just before dawn and after dusk, when the Sharp-ones were still inside their hovels. Their sight was limited to the hours of daylight, so we knew we were safer at these times.

One morning, as I was stretching to ease the cold from my bones, Sorly hissed a warning at me.

“A warrior is in the cave!”

“A Sharp-one?”

“Aye! With a sword half his height in length!”

“Where’s Charly?” I asked, panicking, as I could not see the youngster.

“He is in my chamber. He knows to be quiet.”

I relaxed. “Show me the warrior!” I said.

I followed her along a gallery, until we looked down at the thing that called itself a ‘man’.

We called them ‘Sharp-ones’ because they carried sharp instruments of death and they were incredibly quick. Although small, they could think and react much faster than we dragons. However, they were very soft and vulnerable, so that was why they wore the shells of metal.

For one swipe of our claws or tail could disembowel them.

He was big for a man, wearing the dull grey steel shell that all warriors seemed to favour. He wore no helm and his long dark hair was plastered down his back. He was breathing heavily, as moisture ran freely from his face. The climb had been exhausting, particularly wearing the metal shell and carrying that long double handled sword.

The sword gleamed dully in the poor light. Our sight was so much better in poor light than his. Another advantage we held over him.

We watched silently as he stood in the centre of the entrance cave.

He spoke.

“A thousand curses on you, father! Now I am here, what in blazes am I to do?”

“Is there another?” I whispered to Sorly.

“No. I think he curses the one who has sent him,” she replied.

I bowed my head to acknowledge her wisdom, as he placed the point of his sword on the floor, leaning on the handle. His weak eyes glistened with moisture, so I could read the fear reflected from his soul. He lifted his head, fighting his fear.

“All right, monsters. Come and do your worst. For I am as ready to die as I ever shall be!” he shouted.

“Monsters? Who’s the one with the nasty pointy thing?” I said to my sister, arching my delicate eyebrow.

“It’s a matter of perspective, sister.”

The man seemed to freeze to the spot, as something ahead of him took his attention. He lifted the sword, holding it in readiness.

I heard the sound of claw on stone.

“Charly!” I gasped.

Sure enough, our impetuous brother had come to see what the noise was about. He was but ten paces from the warrior.

Sorly and I acted with one accord, swooping down from the gallery, to land beside our brother.

“Hi girls! Come for the fun?” he said, grinning with youthful ignorance. Sorly wrapped a wing around her brother, as I turned to face the man. His face was pale and I could see the sword shaking in his hands.

He was deathly afraid of us!

“Oh God, preserve me!” he shouted.

I took a step towards him, while he retreated the same distance. I took another step, and again he moved back. The sword point was shaking like a leaf on a twig in a storm.

“Boo!” I said.

There was a clang as he dropped the sword and fell to his knees.

“Oh, monster, please don’t hurt me! I never wanted to do this, but it was my duty. My father made me do it. He said I must come and slay a dragon to seize some blood so that the sorcerer could make a potion to ward off the raiders who come to our lands every spring and take our provisions and rape the women.” His words fell over themselves as he poured them out.

I reached out with my right arm and picked up his fallen sword between two of my claws.

Upon closer examination, I noticed that it was quite old and was not as sharp as it could have been. I threw it into a corner.

“What shall I do with it?” I asked my sister, referring to the quaking creature.

“I don’t know. Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Not really. Besides, it’s got that silly shell on; I do find them so fiddly to get off. All that effort for such little reward.”

She came closer and examined the man, who was still cowering in front of me. Even Charly was curious. It didn’t seem so vicious or dangerous as it knelt in a moist, trembling heap.

“What did you do to it, Syn?”

“Nothing, it’s terrified.”

Charly reached out and prodded it with a single claw. The man shrieked.

“Man, what’s your name?” I asked, in the mannish tongue.

It stared at me with its mouth working yet no sound came forth.  I think he was surprised I could speak his tongue, although it made my throat ache.

“Your name, Man?”

“I am Gawain.”

“Not very brave, is he?” Charly said in Dragonspeke.

“You are afraid of us?” I said to the man.

“I’m not a warrior. I’m a farmer, but as my father’s son, I had to come.”

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“The village of Longwicke.”

“Is that the one with the ruined castle?” Sorly asked.

“Yes. It’s my father’s castle. Most of it still stands, but some is in ruin now.”

“You live in it?”

“No, not any more. We live in the manor house, nearby.”

“So who lives in the castle?”

He laughed, with little humour, I noticed.

“Only the ghosts of our ancestors and the rats."

Sorly had a far-away look in her eye.

“So, your quest was to seek a dragon, to slay it in the hope that our blood could protect your people from raiders?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Isn’t that a bit illogical? What happens if it doesn’t work? That means one of us dies for nothing!”

“Or I die in the attempt,” he said.

“Quite!”

I looked at my sister. For not only was she very fair, she was also very intelligent.

She looked at me and smiled.

“I have a plan,” she said. She told me her plan. I started to laugh.

Poor man, nothing could have prepared him for dragon laughter. The sound was enough to make his armour more than damp. He would have to change it before rust became a potential hazard.

I told him my sister’s plan, and his face changed.  He no longer looked so afraid; he even managed a smile of his own.

There was no point staying in the cave any longer.  We took those few belongings we needed and set off with our new friend.

The first peasant we met turned white and fainted. The second ran screaming to the village, so by the time we reached the village itself, a band of terrified villagers were waiting with diverse weapons, comprising mainly of nasty sharp pointy things.

At the forefront was a portly man of late years, for his head-fur was white and his face ruddy with too much porter.

Gawain was astride my sister’s neck, as Charly and I flanked her.

“Father! Meet my friends who have agreed to protect us from the raiders,” Gawain shouted to the portly man.

“Away fiends!” shouted a scrawny man dressed in a long black cloak.

“That’s the sorcerer!” Gawain explained.

In one bound Charly pinned the sorcerer to the ground.

“Fiend, am I? Who is it makes potions out of my relatives in the vain hope that magic could happen? Who is it who takes these villagers’ gold, and then pretends to cast spells to aid their harvest or sex life?

“I think as fiends go, you have the edge, little man!” he said, taking off with the hapless sorcerer in his clutches. He climbed and swooped, with the screams of his victim making some entertainment in an otherwise dull day. On the third swoop, he dropped the man into the pond.

Nervous laughter rippled through the crowd. It ceased as soon as my sister stepped forward to speak.

“Listen to me, good people of Longwicke. For too long you humans have hunted and killed us. This must stop. We can co-exist in peace and help and protect each other. Contrary to popular belief, we do not eat your children, or your cattle and sheep. Our dietary needs are filled from elsewhere. So in return for your friendship we will protect you.”

There was clearly some resistance to our very presence. One could hardly change attitudes of centuries with a brief stirring speech and an appeal to men's better nature.

They were a superstitious and untrusting bunch.

Gawain, still mounted on my sister’s back could see what was happening, so he started to shout.

“Listen to her, my people! In return for their protection, we will allow them to live in the castle. Imagine how secure we should be with our own dragons to protect us! I have been in their home, so I can testify that they mean us no harm. They could have killed me many times over, and yet I still live. They were about to leave and flee north, because they fear us and our blood lust for them!

"We can exist in peace with no fear of them, or of the raiders. Mark my words, peace has come to Longwicke!” Gawain shouted, and a ragged cheer came out of the mouths of those who, only moments before were ready to shish kebab us!

 

*        *        *

 

As I write this, four spans hence, I am near my own time. I now have children of my own, and there are twelve dragons in the castle. Charly left us during the year after we moved to the castle, returning months later with one male and two females. Sorly and I shared a mate, while our impetuous brother was kept in check with two fine mates.

As for Gawain, well, he married his childhood sweetheart and still farms in the valley. The raiders came, but will come no more. The villagers still sing of our exploits that spring, as the raiders sought to pillage and rape the provisions and women of the village for the last time! The village of Longwicke has changed its name, and now the castle presides over the flourishing town of Dragonwicke.

 


 

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