Amil After the Wars
The Country is about change, again.
There weren’t always dragons in the Valley. They had existed, deep within the mountains, crouching in caves and venturing out to steal wandering sheep at night. The fishermen of the coastal hamlets reported seeing them fishing on nights when the moon was almost full, and the fish could be seen in the cold azure waters of the Blacksmiths Sea.
For such large creatures, the dragons moved with care. They damaged the stone and timber homes that once housed the people of the village, but the damage was deliberate, crushing any possibility of return. The humans had fled when the first dragon came. The men had mostly left for the wars, the women and children were farmers, and had no way to fight an armour scaled beast expelling fire columns higher than the roofs of their simple houses.
That first dragon, Amil recalled, was both fearsome and stunningly beautiful. The shimmer of scales changed colour when she moved, reds, orange, and gold. The broad expanse of wings, a webbed leather in deep claret. The trees had bent with the force of the winds pushed from one flap of the wings, the dust on the village square had flown high, enveloping the dragon as she landed, heavily and trembled the earth.
Amil had been captivated, standing, and staring dumbly as everyone else in the village flew into a blind panic, screaming, running, tripping, and sprawling into the dirt. Baskets were dropped and the square cleared. Amil still stared, perfectly calm and completely entranced. The dragon exhaled and shot flames directly into the sky, the threat obvious, and met with further screaming and yelling from the villagers who hadn’t yet reached the tree line.
The earth underfoot rumbled when the dragon turned. The gleam off her scales reflected the sunlight and drew Amil to step forward. Being so young, Amil’s steps became unsteady under the movement of the ground, stumbling, she fell backwards, landing firmly on her behind onto packed soil of the path. The movement caught the eye of the dragon, and she stopped, stretching her neck forward and leaning in towards Amil.
Heat radiated from the mouth of the dragon, smoke and steam curled from the nostrils of a serpentine face. Deep amber eyes carefully considered the tiny human. To the dragon, all humans were small, but his one was a youngling. It was alone, and quiet. There was no shrieking or anger, she could smell no fear. It simply stared, crouched in the dirt, wrapped in rough cloth and leather. Fuegolaith inhaled the air near the youngling. The powerful breath rose the dust and lifted the hair on Amil’s head. Fuegolaith detected not scent of emotion and it confused her. The air all around the village was thick and overwhelming with fear, a tint of anger drifted through, but it was not strong enough to pose a danger. There was no threat of attack from those she had so quickly displaced.
Fuegoliath had grown tired of the mountains. It snowed there, the glaciers creaked and cracked every day as it shrunk and expanded throughout the seasons. Summer had now passed and the evenings in the mountains grew colder. Fuegolaith wanted warmth. All dragons want warmth. She’d live in a desert if it wasn’t without cover or sufficient food. The sheltered valley was perfect. She had selected it carefully over many months of scanning the landscape.
Amil had stood and the dragon had snorted in response. The nostrils had glowed with the snort, Amil felt the heat and smelt the smoke. A hand stretched towards Fuegolaith’s face, tiny pink fingers straining towards her nose, too high for the youngling to reach. Fuegolaith was unsure how to respond. She had certainly never had such an encounter before. It had been spoken of in the old stories, of other creatures being aligned with a dragon.
The mountain dwarves lived with a mutual respect of the dragons, but they didn’t associate. There was no communication with them, just a generalised acceptance that both species lived in the mountains. The dragons chose not to eat the mountain dwarves to avoid any conflict. Humans, however, were different. They were seen as fair prey, although sheep were far easier. Fuegolaith was more partial to horses, but few of those were left out overnight.
Now this prey, barely a mouthful to a dragon as old and large as Fuegolaith, wanted to touch her. she lifted her head higher, drawing up to stand at her full height, extending her wings outwards and streaming fire over the rooftops of the houses around the square. Shrieks and screams echoed from beyond the trees. The villagers were hiding, watching, curious as to the motivation of a dragon in the valley, especially in the daylight. The youngling dropped her hand, but made no move to depart.
A sudden pull at the back of her tunic lifted Amil off her feet. She was thrown under an arm and swiftly carried away from the dragon. Fuegolaith had seen the youth approach behind the youngling and snatch her away. She chose to ignore it. She wanted the valley to live, not a war. She could move in, and the humans could move on. They moved easily. It wasn’t like getting a troll to move territory, they shared blood with the trees.
Amil felt a deep loss as she was snatched away from the beneath the gaze of the dragon. At 12 years old Amil was slight and easy for Crais to carry. He wasn’t an over large teen himself, but fear had given him the strength to carry the slight form of Amil to the trees. Once placed in the crushing arms of her weeping mother, Amil allowed herself to cry. The villagers assumed she was relieved to be out of harm’s way and her tears were of relief.
Amil’s soul ached, a deep clawing loss now she was no longer in the presence of the dragon. She let the tears fall and corrected no one on their assumptions. As a child, she knew, it was hard for the adults to understand her. Sharing her thoughts was generally met with confusion and a direction to go outside, go wash or go to bed.
The day wore on, the dragon didn’t leave and the villagers moved deeper into the trees to build fires and camp. After days of the dragon’s occupation, the villagers had moved on, scattering to other towns and villages. Amil had been watched carefully over those days. She kept trying to wander away, drawn back to the dragon. There was muttering from older villagers about her ‘not being right’, furtive whispers of sorcery and witches. Eventually Amil had gone with her mother to the coast, but she dreamt of the dragon every night.
Fuegolaith had settled well into the valley. She had knocked the buildings down around her as the whim took her, moving the rubble to create a comfortable nest. Occasionally other dragons would come and stay in the valley for days or weeks at a time. They moved on. Dragons are independent, territorial. They will socialise briefly with others, but ultimately, they are solitary.
Humans accepted the valley dragon’s presence and avoided it. Any thought of regaining the land, killing a dragon was secondary to the ongoing wars, the poverty and the general need to survive. So, five years later, Dragon Valley was the reign of Fuegolaith.
Then the war was over, and the country was due to change once again.
About the author
A country girl, living on the stunning NSW coast. Working to live in a job I adore, my passion for writing, photography and nature finds me outside watching for the creatures visiting my back yard. Otherwise is couch and doggo time.