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Rosemary & Thyme

Remembrance and Courage

By Gabriel HuizengaPublished 3 months ago Updated about a month ago 10 min read
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The forest has always been cold. Strangely cold, deeply cold.

And as far as anyone can tell, it always will be.

At least, that is what all the locals say.

Something about that forest numbs the heart as much as it does the nose, they say; it dampens the soul as much as it does the socks.

And the forest has not always been empty.

There lived an old, good dragon in the forest, whose name somebody once wrote in a book that no one ever read. The somebody died, the book collected dust, and the name was forgotten. The dragon endured.

It is no small thing, to live with a forgotten name.

The sound of one’s name is easily recalled, of course. This good dragon shared the sound of her name with the birds and with the squirrels of the forest, with the trees and with the streams. They repeated it back to her many times in their chirping, squeaking, whispering, and bubbling voices.

But none remained who heard in her name the dragon’s deep, rolling laughter; none remained who caught her sweet, smoky scent at the sound of her name. And there were none left who saw her toothy dragon smile at the sound of her name; none left who on hearing it felt her warm, scaly embrace.

And so in the cold forest, the old dragon lived with a forgotten name.

And it is no small thing, to live with a forgotten name.

The good dragon curled up in an unwooded clearing. She little knew and little cared when she might wake. Her only treasure was a pile of memories- and it does no good to hoard that sort of treasure alone. So she slept long and deep. Grass grew, leaves fell, winds blew, snows came. Her slumber was not disturbed by any of these things.

One day, many winters later, a new sound was heard in the cold forest. A faint voice echoed through it, and the birds, squirrels, trees, and streams all quieted themselves to listen. It was a human cry, never before heard by any of forest’s inhabitants. The birds found the source of the crying first, with their deft wings and sharp eyes. It was a small child, a little boy no more than three years of age, lying alone in a patch of withered purple flowers. When the birds arrived, the child fell asleep.

It was cold, as always, in the forest. The flowers around the child were brittle and sparse, providing no shelter or cushion. A frost settled on the dark, hard ground.

The birds longed to help, but feared that their talons might scratch the child.

The squirrels longed to help, but feared that their strength was not enough to move the child.

The streams longed to help, but feared that their waters might drown the child.

The trees longed to help, but knew they could not reach down far enough to hold the child. Yet the trees had deep, old roots full of memory, so they remembered the good dragon who had fallen asleep. And they thought to rouse her and ask for help.

The boy’s cries did not wake the dragon, though she did not lie far away. Her sleep was deep and stubborn, and the young voice in the dragon’s ear only mingled with her sad and troubled dreams. But the trees gathered all of the others in the forest to rouse the dragon.

The trees whispered, but this was not enough. The dragon dozed.

The birds chirped, but this was not enough. The dragon snored.

The squirrels squeaked, but this was not enough. The dragon drooled.

But then the streams rushed cold and fast over the dragon’s feet, and at last this was enough to wake her.

The cold forest shook as the good dragon stretched her wings and coughed.

Though she rose, breathed, and blinked her eyes, her heart was still asleep.

The squirrels led the dragon to the child.

As the dragon looked at the tiny human, curled up in the patch of withering purple flowers, her heart awoke. Tears sprang from her giant dragon eyes and splashed on the cold earth.

She lifted up the child and gathered him close. As she did so, she remembered an ancient word:

Mbindasi.

This means ‘little fire.’ As she spoke the word, the fire that resides deep within all dragons was rekindled in her chest. With this fire within her, the dragon kept the little boy warm. She thanked the birds for finding the boy. She thanked the trees for remembering and finding her. She thanked the streams for waking her up. She thanked the squirrels for leading her to the boy. And she thanked the boy, fast asleep in her warm embrace, for bringing a warmth back into the cold forest. And she vowed that the boy would never face the cold of the world alone. For as cold as the forest might be, she thought with rage, it was a deeper kind of cold which led someone to leave the boy alone there that day.


And so it was that the dragon raised the boy, and called him her own. She sometimes called him Mbindasi, and sometimes called him Thyme- for it was in a patch of wild thyme that she discovered him in that day.

One day, when he had grown old enough to speak, the boy asked the dragon what he might call her. She told him to call her Mbika, which means ‘big fire.’ So he called her this happily.

In time, the boy found another name for the dragon. If he was to be called by the name of a wild herb, he reasoned, she ought to be as well. He called her Rosemary, for it was his favorite thing that grew in the forest. And so the dragon and the boy lived together for many years, calling each other their special names. They shared laughter and love, embraces and memories.

The boy grew brave and strong, and wandered with purpose through the forest. He befriended the birds and the squirrels, as well as the trees and the streams. This was a time of true joy for the dragon, the boy, and the forest. And light, warmth, and color lived in the forest in those days.

One day, when the boy called Thyme was almost seven years of age, he told the dragon called Rosemary a strange thing:

“Mbika, I believe there is a song that I have never heard, and which I do not know how to sing, which my heart longs to hear.”

These words touched the good dragon deeply.

She knew the power of this strange thought, and in her heart she feared where it might lead her beloved Thyme. So she distracted the boy, asking if he would like to learn to fly like her. This excited the boy, and his thoughts wandered away from longed-after songs. In the days that followed, Rosemary taught Thyme to befriend the wind and to soar farther than any human ever could.

But one day when the boy called Thyme was almost twelve years of age, he told the dragon called Rosemary another strange thing:

“Mbika, I believe there are faces which I have never seen, and which I cannot picture, but which my heart longs to see.”

These words stirred within the good dragon’s heart, and her fear for the boy and his future remained. For she knew that following such a strange thought might lead the boy far afield from the cold forest, and into the colder, crueler world beyond. So she asked Thyme if he would like to learn to breathe fire. This excited the boy, and his thoughts wandered away from longed-after faces. In the days that followed, Rosemary taught Thyme to find the spark within his chest and to breathe a great blaze from his lungs.

But one day when the boy called Thyme was almost a man, he told the dragon called Rosemary yet another strange thing:

“Mbika, I believe there is a home which I have never known, but which my heart longs for more than anything.”

For the third time, the good dragon was deeply moved by the boy’s strange words.

She knew that all hearts long to hear unknown songs, and to see unknown faces, and to find unknown homes. But she was old and wise, and she knew also that young souls must often seek and learn these things for themselves. For when Thyme said all these strange things, Rosemary knew that he desired adventures far beyond the forest. And so though this Mbindasi had rekindled the fire in her own heart and brought warmth and light into the forest, the good dragon Rosemary knew that the time had come to let the boy go. This time she did not distract him with more lessons; she only told him these things:

“You have always been such a brave adventurer, Mbindasi; seeking these songs, these faces, and this home will take more courage than ever you have ever needed before. There is a cold deeper and more dreadful than any in this forest in the world beyond- yet you and I know that the things you seek also reside beyond these trees. For it was a soul from that world who left you alone to die so many years ago. So go, sing the song you have never heard! Kiss the faces you have not seen, and find the home you have not yet known! But when you go out there, do not let the warmth leave your heart.”

Then the boy and the dragon wept together, and shared many more memories before his departure. And all the cold forest was sad to see the boy leave.

The birds sang a mourning song.

The squirrels chirped slowly and sadly.

The trees whispered a gentle goodbye.

The streams shed burbling tears.

The good dragon was still and silent as she watched the boy walk out of the cold forest. She vowed would always remember his name, even as he vowed the same of hers. It took greater courage than Thyme he had known for him to step out of the trees and begin his journey. And it took more courage than Rosemary had ever known for her to watch him do so. And they whispered each others’ names:

Mbindasi…

Mbika…

Rosemary…

Thyme…

The cold forest grew quiet as the boy stepped farther and farther into the world beyond. The birds, the squirrels, the trees, and the streams all stayed with the good dragon as she watched the boy leave. It was long after the boy had vanished over the horizon that anything moved in that forest. And since his departure, the cold and stillness have rested more deeply on the forest than they ever did before.

The forest has always been cold. Strangely cold, deeply cold.

And as far as anyone can tell, it always will be.

At least, that is what all the locals say.

Something about that forest numbs the heart as much as it does the nose, they say; it dampens the soul as much as it does the socks.

But the forest has not always been empty.

They say an incredible man once came out of that forest, whose name figured in the greatest stories of the land. They say he had the heart of a dragon, and went on adventures so grand and perilous that no historian ever captured the scope of them. All who encountered him were amazed by his power; all who knew him were warmed by his compassion.

They say his courage was greater than that of the most renowned warriors. And they say he remembered the name of every soul he ever met.

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About the Creator

Gabriel Huizenga

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  • Kris Griffith3 months ago

    Great story. It really draws the reader in!

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