Day 12: Dragon

Art by Rhett Backstrom | Twitter | Instagram

Hiding places for the dragons were becoming less and less as man wanted and took more and more. The Earth was divided by those who took and those who wanted nothing but the ability to live and be free.

Times were changing. Generations came who were tired of violence – tired of taking and finding emptiness in lack of generosity. These children and young adults were seen as weak and overly emotional, but after centuries of selfishness, a break in the cycle was much needed for the preservation of the natural world and, namely, the dragons.

The younger generations had to be secretive with their endeavors. Much of society still disproved of this kind of lifestyle based on stories that had been passed down through history. The sum of most of the tales were along the lines of “dragons kill people”. However, what seemed to be left out were the parts where dragons were backed into a corner and had to defend themselves to survive.

Despite efforts to bring the dragon’s innocence to light, high members of society are determined to further the murderous dragon narrative for their own gain…

Leah skips clumsily down the cobblestone pathway in front of her house. In her arms, she carries a bundle of something unknown that seems to weigh her small frame down as she keeps moving forward.

She’s 11 years old with a lanky figure and long blonde hair. She’s not really the athletic type, but her true talents shine through in her studies, or, rather, what curriculum her parents left behind for her to read and fill her mind with since there’s not a whole lot to do out here.

She lives in the vast countryside on what seems to be the edge of society. The buildings here are old and dilapidated compared to what you may find in the modern cities that litter the world. Nature grows over everything here and in the hundreds of years it’s been settled, not a lot has changed.

At one point, it was only her and her parents here, but they left and never returned. Research was their life and she found it hard to accept change and travel with them, so they left here here. Whether or not it was on purpose is unknown.

At the bottom of the path she follows, she gets to a door in the side of a hill and opens it despite the load in her arms. She closes the door behind herself tightly and continues down old, wooden stairs until she gets to what used to be a cellar that has now turned into storage and overflow from her parents’ collection of things from around the world.

Leah knows this room well and has no trouble finding a match to light the lamp in the corner. Despite the small size of the lamp, it lights up all of the space. Once lit, there’s a shuffling and the sound of papers falling from deep within.

“Come on Ruby. I’m not gonna hurt you. It’s time for breakfast,” Leah says as she unwraps the package she carried down. Once opened completely, she reveals a giant cut of meat, enough to feed a family for a week.

More items are knocked over and a flash of red appears in front of Leah, then a flame. She jumps out of the way in order to not become a rare steak like the one on the ground.

“Careful, girl! Don’t char my hair again. I’m still healing from the last one!”

A dragon no bigger than a deer shakes her tail behind her in amusement. These two are clearly comfortable with each other.

Some of the papers on the floor next to Leah have caught a bit of flame and she pats it out quickly before messily stacking them on a desk against one of the walls.

Leah sits on the floor cross legged as she watches the dragon, Ruby, scarf down a meal nearly as big as she is.

She has been taking care of this young dragon for a couple of months now in secrecy. An old couple who takes care of her from time to time has almost found her out a handful of times due to the occasional burnt item or Ruby escaping a couple of days after Leah rescued her from the river nearby. She had read before that water weakened dragons, but Ruby was the first dragon she had ever seen. All she had heard about dragons had been someone else’s account, but when Ruby appeared and she started digging deeper, she found out her parents forward thinking theory that dragons were good and coexisted with people at some point in history.

Ruby looks up suddenly, the last bit of slightly cooked meat sliding down her throat in a snakelike manor. There’s noise from above and her attention is laser focused on it.

Leah shakes her hands in a panic at the dragon. “No, Ruby! It’s just a stormy day. There’s going to be thunder and lightning, but you’ll be okay down here!”

As if they were listening, the clouds produce a loud cracking of thunder which makes Ruby and Leah jump. Seconds afterward, Ruby darts forward and Leah wraps her arms around the dragon as if to stop her, but instead she’s carried in the direction Ruby is headed.

Leah fears a crash is imminent and she squeezes her eyes shut. She can feel them moving forward, but the movement is smooth and all that’s moving are Ruby’s wings. Leah opens her eyes and gasps at the sight. They’re in the air about 50 feet off the ground and only getting higher and higher.

At this point, all Leah can do is grip tightly and hope Ruby decides to keep her along for the ride. They’re quickly leaving the town and Leah sees that they’re headed towards the unsettled lands. She tries to be calm but fails.

“No, no, no! Ruby we can’t do this! We have to go home now. I don’t know what’s out here!” Leah can barely keep her eyes open. The wind rushing against her face is a lot to handle, but the area they’re headed towards is out of this world. A pristine valley with a meandering stream in the center leads to hills then forest then mountains in the distance. Leah wants to be mad, but she’s amazed. She’s never wandered far out of the town she’s always lived in. She’s been too scared of what else is out there.

Something is telling her to shut her eyes, but she wants to keep looking. They’ve made it to the tallest mountain in the mountain range and are headed quickly for it. She sees smoke then it gets comfortably hot, there’s evidence of a recent lava flow and they’re headed right towards it! She almost screams before a voice tells her urgently, “shut. Your. Eyes!” and so she does, then feels painfully hot steam hit her face and they’re moving so fast she has no time to react.

In what feels like seconds, everything feels calm and still and they’ve stopped moving. She keeps holding onto Ruby and catches her breath from the excitement of it all. Her feet touch solid ground and she almost falls. Her eyes are opened now and she stares at Ruby in confusion. Why are they here?

The same voice that told her to shut her eyes comes back into her head. “I’m so glad you’ve made it. Who you call Ruby was tasked to find you and bring you here.”

Her instant reaction is to turn around. In front of her is the biggest living thing she’s ever seen. A green dragon with a yellow stomach lowers onto its front legs in front of her in a slight bow. Ruby springs forward and meets up with the large dragon. Their noses touch in some kind of greeting. It’s now clear where the voice was coming from. It isn’t an external voice, but being put into her head.

Leah is starting to notice the two dragons aren’t the only ones in the room. Others start revealing themselves. Out of a tunnel to her right, she sees the silhouette of two people walking towards them. When they get closer, she sees the two most important people to her – her mom and dad. It’s a millisecond before she sprints forward and into the arms of her parents. It’s been months since she had felt their embrace.

“I thought I would never see you again,” she cries into their chests.

“We were brought here the same way as you and couldn’t leave,” her mom responds and runs her fingers through her daughter’s long hair.

Her dad puts his hands on her shoulders and bends down so they’re eye level. “Leah. Did you read the books we left for you?”

“Ever single one. Multiple times. I missed you two so much. I could hear you in your writing,” her eyes sparkle as she speaks to her parents.

“I knew we could trust you to do that,” her father says with a smile.

“Now. We need you here because we are building an army to fight for the dragons. They deserve to have rights just as we do,” her father continues.

After all she’s read this last year and the opinions she’s formed, Leah would do anything for the dragons. They aren’t seen among the humans of the world anymore because they fear humanity and their numbers are declining.

“I’ll do anything I can to help,” Leah resolves. She looks up at the green dragon who has returned to its full height. She smiles.

This is where she’s meant to be.

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