Dawn was Eerarw’s favorite time of day. She soared mere feet over the treetops, closed her eyes for a moment, and enjoyed the feeling of the wind on her face.
Her reverie was interrupted by a noise. An unintelligible shout from below.
Oh, no. She opened her eyes and confirmed her fear. She’d flown too close to a village.
The single shout was joined by many. Eerarw made a swift turn to her left as arrows flew from the ground below. She thought crisis was averted until she felt a sting. One of the bastards had pierced her right wing.
Rage overtook her and she turned back toward the village.
“I did nothing to you!” she shouted in a language they couldn’t understand. Some of the men stood their ground and fired at the approaching dragon, but most ran as she unleashed her deadly fire on them, and their houses, and their crops.
After a few moments she regained her composure, flew to a nearby mountain, found a perch, and looked down.
I’ve done it again, she thought, her brow furrowing.
She could see the village, small now, but still ablaze. The tiny people ran to and fro. The ones she hadn’t immolated, anyway. They shouted their unintelligible babble, put out fires, moved things about, searched the ashes.
Eerarw crawled her way to a cave a little further up the peak. She gave one final sad look back at the turmoil, slunk into the shelter, and sat.
Why did they shoot? she thought. But she knew she was the one who had lost control. They were but ignorant men.
Eerarw wallowed in regret for a few moments more, then inspected her wound. The arrow shaft still protruded. She plucked it with her teeth and spit it onto the ground.
The damage was minor. A full day’s rest should suffice. She curled up, closed her eyes, and began healing.
She awoke. It was dark, inside and outside the cave, but dragons had good night vision. Eerarw stood, shook the cave dirt from herself, and checked her wing. It looked and felt better. The wound had closed and the only sign that it had ever existed was a slight discoloration.
She walked out of the cave and looked around. The stars glittered in the sky. The leaves of the trees rustled gently in the breeze. She could hear the owls on the hunt, and the squeals of their prey.
She looked toward the village. There was still a little smoke, but no fire. And no human babble. It seemed they had fled before nightfall.
Eerarw unfurled her wings, dove off the mountain, and glided gracefully to the ground for a better look, landing beside a pile of ash that used to be a man made structure.
She sniffed. The town still bore a mild stench of humankind. She nosed through some of the rubble, running across the occasional charred corpse. She wasn’t sure why she was torturing herself.
Eerarw flapped her wings furiously, causing a cloud of ash to form around her and travel down the dirt path.
She heard a faint shuffle behind her and pivoted in terror, raising her wings high to appear bigger. At the forest’s edge, she saw a tiny human child. It had perhaps approached to investigate the sudden ash storm. She wondered if maybe it had wandered over from another village. But it was so small and covered in telltale soot and ash. And it was alone. She was sure it was a child of the village.
Eerarw returned to a calmer stance and took a couple of steps toward the tiny creature.
It fell onto its backside and began to cry.
“No,” said Eerarw in her guttural language, stopping her approach. “Don’t be afraid.”
She crept forward again as slowly as she could, causing the human child’s cry to become a banshee wail that pierced even the dragon’s ears.
When close enough, the dragon gently reached out with its right clawed hand. The child flinched and ceased crying, now looking on in wide-eyed terror, but didn’t retreat. Eerarw gently stroked the tiny creature’s cheek with the soft backside of her hand.
The child let out a breath. Then a giggle. It grabbed Eerarw’s arm and pulled itself up to standing position.
“Where is your family?” said Eerarw, startling the child once again.
Speaking aloud wouldn’t do. Eerarw lowered its head down to the babe’s level and touched her left cheek to the child’s. It was soft and warm. Not at all reptilian.
And Eerarw closed her eyes and felt. And looked, deeply.
She felt the child’s fatigue, and it’s hunger. A little fear, but less than she would have felt a few minutes ago, Eerarw guessed.
Then she looked about. Into memory. An image of the child holding a larger human’s hand. Looking up. A woman. Then a later memory. Fire. The woman threw her through a door. Her. Yes, the child was a girl. The woman collapsed, and the roof followed. The child reached toward the flame, but it singed her hand. She cried. Rose into the air, carried by someone she couldn’t see. Dropped near the tree line. Crawled away in terror. Hid in a gully. Slept. Cried. Slept. So lonely. So sad.
Eerarw opened her eyes. She stroked the girl-child’s cheek again. The villagers fled while she hid. The poor dear was alone.
Eerarw realized she would have to find it food. Could she coax a mouse from one of the owls? We’re there grubs under the earth? What did these things even eat?
She stood, sniffed the air, patted the child, then took flight for a moment. The girl squealed, half in delight, half in fear that the dragon was abandoning her.
Eerarw found the tree that she was looking for, and plucked several fruits from it. The flew back to the girl and handed one over. The babe gummed the fruit, then threw it down.
She can’t even pierce its skin, thought Eerarw. How do humans ever survive to adulthood?
The dragon slashed at the fruit with the claw of one finger, exposing its inner flesh. The girl grabbed it and sucked the juice and flesh alike into her mouth.
Eerarw thought as the child ate. This child had lost everything. It was her fault and her responsibility. But what could she do? She couldn’t waltz into a village and hand her to a stranger. And she couldn’t raise a human child.
The dragon had a thought. She needed to consult a wizard.Most of them understood her language. The good ones, anyway. He or she might be able to help.
“Are you out of your mind?” bellowed Esmeralda, a wizard to whom the owls had directed her. They were a helpful lot.
“No,” said Eerarw. “I’m sure.”
The human child sat nearby playing with a crystal ball.
“She May take it amiss if she finds out how this came to pass,” said Esmeralda.
“She will find out,” said Eerarw. “I will tell her.”
“She will decide whether to accept or spurn me. But until then, she will be loved and protected.”
“Very well,” said the wizard. “You know what I need.”
Eerarw clawed a piece of flesh from her side, and handed the dripping mound to the wizard.
Esmeralda dropped it into the pot, picked up the child, placed her in the pot.
“Are you…?” said Eerarw.
“Silence!” said the wizard. She uttered an incantation, waved her wand, and a flash of light escaped it and entered the cauldron.
Eerarw and Esmeralda looked inside. The babe gurgled, gave a slight roar, and spit its first fire.
Eerarw scooped up the tiny dragon girl. “I’ll call you Raeeewarr.”
About the Creator
Bernadette “Berni” Johnson is the author of The Big Book of Spy Trivia, many tech articles, movie reviews, short stories, and two novels in perpetual editing.
You can find her blog, other work, and mailing list at bernijohnson.com.
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