This isn’t real. Talons long and curved. They wo
uld tear through my flesh so easily, like it was dough. Scales glistening a deep purple, the occasional chain criss-crossing over them. The wings are so thin, the light shines through them like stained glass. But they are bound in an awkward angle. My gaze moves up to meet this frightening creature’s eyes. Red like rubies. Or roses. Or blood. Pain slashes through my skull. I double over as my stomach lurches. I know the color of blood. New, freshly spilled blood. I blink away black spots and straighten to look at this beast again. No. Not red. Green like an emerald. And slitted like a cat’s.
“This isn’t it,” I manage to whisper hoarsely. “It’s not the same one.”
A murmur seeps from the crowd behind me. Of course they came. Who wouldn’t want to see a real life dragon. I would have been one of them too, if not for the incident that has forever changed my rainbow world to one color. Red. It’s almost as if God was painting my life, but spilled the dreaded color all over the canvas.
“Are you positive? Did you manage to see the other dragon well enough? Perhaps you shouldn’t be so sure-”
“It isn’t it,” I repeat. Louder this time. My voice rings. “This is not the same one.” More murmurs. This time more nervous. After all, this village isn’t very far from my old one. They could see the smoke. Probably heard the screams. Some people said they saw a winged shape. It could have easily flown the distance over the dark green forest top and had another meal, but for some reason beyond my understanding, it didn’t. Not that I’m upset it didn’t. Even these rather simple-minded townsfolk knew they couldn’t stand a chance against a dragon. This one however, was captured while it was sleeping and given enough potent herbs that it would be docile. And this creature is more petite than the other one. This one is maybe half the size, with lean muscles, rather than large bulky ones. Perhaps it’s faster. I snap out of my daze. It doesn’t matter. Dragons are still dragons. And we need to find a way to kill this one. Immune to almost all lethal poisons, skin like armour, and insides just as tough, I don’t see how we can. A bitter taste fills my mouth and I clench my teeth. That is what hate tastes like.
“Thank you for the effort,” I mutter, and walk quickly away, head down. I walk past the small, peaceful cottages to the bakery, where Ms. Cobalt, the owner has allowed me to stay. I walk through the swinging doors and am immediately assaulted with questions.
“How was it?”
“I heard from Lormus it was purple!”
“Mother won’t let us go see!”
Ms. Cobalt’s young twin sons pester me. I open my mouth, then close it again, like a fish.
“I’m tired. Excuse me,” I say with forced smile. I walk quickly up the steps to my room. There is a bed with a quilt, a bedside table, and a dresser full of Ms.Cobalt’s daughter’s old clothes, who has long since married. Ms.Cobalt’s husband died long before I came, so only Ms.Cobalt, the twins, and I live here. I sit down roughly onto the mattress and set my head on my hands, palms digging into my skull. I allow my curly brown hair to cover my face. It has been months since the accident. Two I have spent lying in a bed, recuperating from my injuries and trying to cope with what life had thrown my way.
When the golden dragon attacked, the children saw the winged shape in the sky, and stupidly ran out to catch a better look at this magnificent beast featured in traveling minstrel’s songs. I was among them.
“A dragon!” I had breathed, voice airy with child-like excitement. As if I was four years old rather than fourteen. I had quickly snatched my boots, shoving them on as I raced outside like everyone else.
“Claris! No!” my mother had shrieked, attempting to grab my tunic in her hands. But I was already out of the house, head upturned in wonder, like all the other children. My father was racing after me.
“Claris get back in the house!” But I was entranced by the powerful creature circling through the air above us. Fire light danced off it’s golden scales. The dragon’s body was so fluid, its form was like liquid metal.
“Please!” my father had shouted as the dragon began to land. Maybe it was the fact that my headstrong father was begging me, or that my slow mind had finally realized that it probably wouldn’t be very good if the creature landed, but I snapped out of my trance, my head snapping around to look at my father. Just as the golden dragon landed, it was right between my father and me, but its lizard-like eyes didn’t cast me a single glance. With a ferocious, predator-like roar, it bore down on my father. I could just stand there, stunned, as the scent of blood filled my nostrils. Finally, its eyes had looked up at me.
The color matched the shade of my father’s blood, that coated its muzzle. My heart was in my ears. My heart and my breathing was I could hear.
Its slitted pupils dilated. I turned and ran. Feet pounded the packed dirt as the golden murderer behind me raced forward, ignoring crowds of terrified, shrieking children. It had only wanted me. I could feel the dirt its talons were kicking up spray my legs. I could also feel its hot, thick breath, that had smelled like blood envelope me. With my energy depleted, I had leapt forward blindly, and tripped and fallen on something hard. I remember a brief free fall before I had crashed into something with a sickening thwack and everything had gone black.
Turns out I had fallen into a cave, much too small for the dragon to fit through. I can imagine its bright red eye covering the hole I had fallen through, looking for me. I shudder involuntarily at the mental image.
And they found another one of them. For all we know, this one could be related to the golden dragon that had killed everyone in my village. Hopefully, it won’t take much time for the farmers to figure out how to actually kill this one. I remember them talking about drowning it. Try as I might to suppress it, I feel a small pang of pity in my stomach. Drowning is a cruel way to die. To have your lungs burning and be helplessly thrashing. I used to go swimming with my father, and when I tried to swim too deep into a lake that was near my old village, I would have the horrible feeling. I remember its eyes. Green as the grass stains on my father’s coat, or my mothers old emerald ring. This new dragon’s eyes brought back nostalgic memories. I have only seen two pairs of dragon eyes before, but they control my emotions in two, very different ways.
I snap out of my trance, (I have been going into “trances” quite often recently) when I realize that the sky is now a deep dark blue, shrouding this small village, dubbed “Eve,” in shadows the colors of lapis lazuli.
That is also a prominent color in my life, yet it cannot shine past the brilliant, overpowering red. Very calm, yet full of sadness. I feel as if I am in shock. I should be sobbing much, much more. My anger should be blazing red-hot. Instead, I am full of quiet rage. Ice cold rather than burning. I want them back. I want my life back. But, I have been thrust into adulthood much too soon for a fourteen year old. I’m still technically a child, but I already understand that you can’t get everything you want, no matter how hard you wish for it.
My thoughts drag me back to the jewel-hued dragon that was caught, chained so roughly. These townsfolk are being cruel, even for a prisoner sentenced to death.
I stand up with an exasperated sigh. I shouldn’t be worrying about that dragon. But, another adult-like quality I have is that I have grown used to the way my mind works. It will not stop moving until I have satisfied its hunger.
Because it is evening, most of Eve’s citizens are in their houses, enjoying dinner. I took Ms. Cobalt’s daughter’s old cloak to protect me from the crisp night air. I ghost by cottages, on a mission.
I finally make it to the center of town, where I had been introduced to the dragon. I see its large shape, being watched by farmer volunteers. I peer out at it from behind a house. There are more chains that have now been anchored to the ground. The chains are rusty, and squeal when the poor animal shifts. Those farmers jump every time. I roll my eyes. If it could have broken out, it obviously would have.
I walk forward.
“Who’s there?” one of the guards asks.
“Claris,” I respond. “May I please look at the dragon one last time? T-to make sure.” I make sure my voice sounds small and feeble and silently congratulate myself. I have become far too good at lying.
“I’m not sure if we’re supposed to,” one of the men says, unsure.
“Please? I just need one more look,” I plead, practically begging.
“Well, I suppose, but don’t get too close that thing.” This man spits out the last word with contempt, which makes me angry. He knows nothing of this creature which he now holds prisoner. He cannot judge. Although, these people were far too easy to win over.
“Thank you!” I add so much enthusiasm to my voice, it’s dripping from the words like honey. I take a few steps, but the guards don’t budge.
“Alone, please?” I ask. One of the men begins to protest but is quickly waved off. Then all four shamble off to a bar for a quick drink.
I avert my attention to the being before me. The wide, slanted green eyes glow like fireflies in the dark. Light from house’s oil lamps reflect off the amethyst scales. But my attention is quickly averted back to the eyes, glistening with unshed tears. Wait, tears? I can feel emotions roiling off this poor animal. It-she, I realize, is scared. She feels helpless, she desperately needs to leave, she knows she has been sentenced to death. A perfect, sparkling tear, much like a small crystal, roles across her scaled muzzle. My feet move forward involuntarily. My eyes are locked in her green ones, I’m in another trance.
I move closer, and closer, my feet taking me to this helpless dragon before me. And before I know it, my outstretched hand is touching her smooth, purple scales. The emotions that do not belong to me that had I felt earlier hit me like a brick. I feel so sad, and helpless, and desperate. I can’t breathe, a shriek wells up inside of me and I snatch my hand back as if it was burned, scrambling away. What happened? I don’t understand it. I stare accusingly into the dragon’s large, green eyes. She just looks back innocently, as if she doesn’t know why I’m panicking. I blink in surprise when I realize that already the sky has deepened to a black. How did it get so late? With one last look at the chained dragon, I dash away, towards Ms. Cobalt’s house.
I swing open the door to the bakery, breathing heavily after my run to get to bed. Ms.Cobalt and the twins are putting dirty dishes into the wash basin.
“Claris! We saved you some dinner-” Ms.Cobalt starts, before I interrupt her.
“Thank you, Ms.Cobalt, but I’m not very hungry,” I say quickly, already going upstairs. “Goodnight!”
I plop down in a heap on the bed’s quilt, I have already dropped the cloak. I curl up, my mind and body still shaking from the surprising burst of emotions I had felt. I’m vibrating all over from the adrenaline. I pull the covers over my head and close my eyes. I never want to see that dragon again.
The next evening, I’m back. The confusion is too great to ignore. I reach out once more to touch her, but my hand stops before It can touch her shiny scales. I can feel her emotions again, but more faint. I gaze in wonder at this brilliant creature. Her feelings are bubbling up, out of her body and into me. Can she feel my emotions, too? I close my eyes and think of the most fond memory of my mother. Her weeding her old, precious garden. When I open my eyes again, the dragon is shedding a tear, not of grief, but happiness.
I come again the next day. I have brought an old wash tub, which I fill with water from a nearby well, and I have a deer carcass that the butcher said I could have, because it would be bad soon anyways. It took me two trips to get this here. She digs into the deer carcass as soon as I set it in front of her. I wince as I hear bones crunch. As soon as she is finished with that, she slurps up the water, very gracefully.
“There you go,” I whisper. “Now you’ll feel a little better.” She looks up at me with her big green eyes. She’s thanking me, I immediately realize in wonder.
I look out my window. People run, screaming, fire is everywhere. I don’t know what’s happening. I start to go get Ms. Cobalt in the next room over, when a red eye covers my window.
I wake up in a cold sweat, my breaths are too fast, my lungs fluttering. I hear a scream from outside my window. My heart turns so heavy, it’s like it’s been turned to lead, and it drops to my stomach. I scramble over to my window and look out.
The dream is true. I see the people of Eve racing around, trying to hide, or help their family. I look into the sky and see a back shape circling. The fire reflects off of golden scales.
“Claris?” I whip around to Ms. Cobalt, standing in my doorway, eyes wide and clutching her sons.
“Stay inside!” I bark as I race downstairs to the door. They won’t stand a chance. Humans can’t fight dragons, but I know what can.
I run into the air, my lungs are instantly burning with smoke. I cough and run as fast as possible to the center of town, where a large shape sits. I yank the abandoned axe of the town woodcutter from a tree stump, nearly pulling my arm out of my socket in the process. I run up to the dragon. Her wide eyes are filled with understanding instead of fear and confusion. I hold my arm up high and swing, letting the heavy axe do most of the work.
Clank. A chain link snaps, and the whole metal rope swings free.
Clank. Another broken chain slithers uselessly to the ground.
Clank. A third. The amethyst dragon, brimming with determination, stretches. The other chains snap. She looks at me.
“Please,” I whisper desperately, my eyes growing wet. “Help.”
With that, she swoops into the air, but not before I feel her bird-like talons grip me.
“AHHHH!” My shriek is high pitched and my eyes are squeezed shut. My back shoulder smack into cold rock, and some of my breath whooshes out of me. I open my eyes and realize I’m in a cave above the village. My wide eyes look to see a smaller, more petite dragon silhouette fly over to meet a large one. She roars, a musical sound. The golden dragon roars back, loud and ferocious. I cover my ears as the sounds ring throughout the village, and I quickly scramble to hide behind an oval-shaped boulder.
The golden dragon makes the first move. He swings at the purple dragon, Lillafee. I quickly decide. My mother’s name. Lillafee dodges, swooping around to bat at him. This exchange goes on for a few moments. They are testing each other’s abilities, I realize. The golden dragon is strong. But Lillafee is fast and fluid. She dodges again and again, avoiding his razor sharp teeth and claws. He opens his mouth to breathe fire on her, and she is enveloped. My heart skips a beat. But, I quickly see her winged, smoking storm shooting out from the blazing inferno. I release a breath I didn’t know I had been holding. Fire won’t work on her armour-like scales. She swipes, he dodges. He bites at her, but she pushes his stomach back, leaving him with his belly facing her, and disoriented. She raises her talon, heading for his throat. Victory! My heart soars. But, I realize too late that she has left herself open.
“NO!” my shriek rips through the air, but is quickly drowned out by Lillafee’s roar of pain. Both beasts plummet to the ground, tattered and broken.
My heart stops beating. I sit down roughly. It’s my fault.
Everything is silent.
Until I hear a rattling, cracking sound, shattering the silence. The boulder I’m next to is quivering. I stumble backwards, staring at it with horror and confusion. Why am I always so confused?! I think angrily. A piece falls off the rock.
And a purple, scaled head pokes out.
I stare a moment as it opens its large, red eyes.
The golden dragon was not a stranger to Lillafee.