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Nicoryan: Guardian of the Whispering Woods

A curious dragon and a boy who doesn't belong.

By Donna ReneePublished 11 months ago 8 min read
created with DALL-E 2

Nicoryan was invisible. Well, to you he would have been and to anyone else who happened to look up. His leathery, emerald skin was now as smooth as glass and the color of an early autumn sky, stunning blue shot through with feathery gray streaks of clouds. He was barely an indistinct mirage now rather than an imposing dragon many times the size of your average wooly mammoth.

The dragon was an expert in the art of skinchanging, one of the many reasons that he was the best watcher in the clan. To see without being seen was his main goal today as it was on all days. But today, Nicoryan had another objective as well.

He observed carefully from his perch atop the rocky hillside that overlooked the meadow valley adjacent to the ancient forest of the Whispering Woods. He had been studying this human child daily for weeks now. He wasn't supposed to be doing so as this wasn't his assignment, but he couldn't seem to stop himself from coming back to this very spot.

It had been by chance that he first took notice of the child during his survey of the surrounding human encampments in this valley. The dragons of the Whispering Woods were peaceful beings who liked to keep to themselves but they still had to keep an eye on the human settlers lest they attempt to spread past the boundary of the forest and into the magical dragon realm (where all manner of unfortunate things might then be possible). The magic of the woods had, let's just say, interesting effects on nonmagical beings, especially over time. It amplified the natural characteristics of all beings, and humans had natural characteristics that, in the opinion of most other beings, were not meant to be amplified.

The boundaries of the Whispering Woods were, of course, enchanted and while magical beings were drawn to and welcomed by these enchantments, all nonmagical creatures were repelled by them. Humans however, were notoriously stubborn and obsessed with expansion of their territories. This meant that one of the many mundane tasks of the dragons was to continuously patrol the areas of the forest nearest to any human settlements and to reinforce the enchantments regularly with their magical essence. This had always worked well before to keep any humans from breaching the boundaries of the Whispering Woods.

But this child had done just that.

Nicoryan had been perched atop this rocky crag, fully camouflaged, of course, when a flash of movement had caught his swirling, cerulean eye. The child had been running at full speed away from the encampment in the meadow. It had broken through the enchantments without a moment's pause and darted straight through the magical boundary and into the Whispering Woods.

Despite its obvious youth (it couldn't have been more than a few years of age), no one had chased it, or followed it, or even noticed that it was missing. Nicoryan had found that rather odd as he had always observed human parents to be fiercely protective of their young. Oh well, he'd thought. The parents must have been busy and simply not observed the child's escape. It had been evening and perhaps the parents were preparing the nightly meal or putting other children to bed?

The dragon had silently alighted from his perch on the hillside and drifted like smoke in the wind following after the child as it ventured deeper into the woods, his outstretched wings causing no more than a stir of the surrounding air molecules. Despite Nicoryan's stealth, the boy had become aware of him instantly and begun to look nervously all around him for the source of the change in the winds. That was very unusual.

Nicoryan had only had his cover blown once before while camouflaged and that had been because of an unfortunate run in with, well, nevermind. It doesn't matter. Point being, it was clear to him that there was something strange about this child.

Nicoryan had escaped further detection by allowing the enchanted currents to loft him up and away from the child, whom he had watched leave the woods and return quickly to the encampment on his own after his fright. But Nicoryan had returned to watch the boy the next day, and the next, and the next. He had needed to know more about this creature with its excellent powers of perception and he had made some interesting observations over the past few weeks.

First of all, the child ran away from the rest of the humans at every chance it got. Not that Nicoryan could blame him. The other children avoided the boy like he had some contagious disease and the adults all seemed to regard the boy with annoyance and poorly concealed contempt and disappointment. It didn't seem like any of the adults treated him like their offspring. Perhaps he was an orphan?

Secondly, the child was extremely observant, precise, and determined to accomplish his "missions", however odd they seemed to the others. Nicoryan had watched from his perch atop the rocky hillside during his second week of observation as the boy waited patiently until an adult's back was turned for a second at which point he took off at top speed toward the creekbed like his life depended on it.

The mission on this particular occasion? To look for perfectly round pebbles. Not to play counting games with, not to skip stones at the pond or to use in a slingshot like the other children did with rocks.

Just to keep.

Just to hold.

Just to line up with precision and admire.

The boy had seemed so proud of his perfectly straight row of identical pebbles. He had taken another child by the hand and led them over to share in his great accomplishment, gesticulating excitedly and squealing with joy but the other child had laughed at him, flicked his beautiful pebbles back into the creek, and run back to join the other children in their play.

Nicoryan had observed the way that the boy's shoulders had sagged almost imperceptibly, but he didn't cry or go running to the adults to tattle on the other child. He only went back to work collecting equally impressive replacements for the lost stones.

Nicoryan had slowly come to realize that the reason that he found the child so fascinating was that it acted more like a dragon hatchling than it did a typical human child. Human children were, to be frank, a bit predictable and boring. Hatchlings, on the other hand, were surprising and fascinating in every way. Yes, this child was much like a dragon hatchling.

It never sat still for long. Hatchlings were also always on the move, skittering about here and there and everywhere, even before they learned to fly.

It never stayed silent for long. Hatchlings screeched and chittered and squawked and even burst into dragon song at the most unexpected moments.

It rarely spoke with words that made sense to anyone else. Hatchlings preferred to communicate by eye rolls and talon taps and wing flaps and little bursts of flames.

Nicoryan thought back to his days as a hatchling. He knew that he had been especially odd when he was young, back before he had learned to communicate with the other dragons. Fortunately, mature dragons were very patient and loving towards all hatchlings, no matter how odd they seemed.

Even more importantly, dragons had an infinite capacity to learn new languages and ways of communication. Every hatchling taught the mature dragons a slightly different way of seeing and interpreting the world and the dragons all became more magical because of this.

Nicoryan wished that humans could be more understanding, like dragons were, but perhaps that was just beyond their capacity.

The boy was on the move again this morning... the adults had been yelling at him (as usual), telling him to sit still and eat the food that they had prepared. But the boy couldn't sit still and his fidgeting had angered the adults, like it always did. He had slipped away while they were arguing over something else he had done wrong. And now he was running. Running towards the Whispering Woods. Nicoryan spread his wings and let the currents carry him towards the trees, so that he could better observe the boy as he approached the woods this time.

He was getting very close now.

Yes, thought Nicoryan. The enchantments should repel the boy this time and send him back towards the encampment.

They didn't.

As the child breached the barrier, Nicoryan caught a glimpse of a shimmer pass over the boy's body. That was even odder still as only magical beings shimmered when they passed through the barrier. Something was wrong with the enchantments. But he had just reinforced them yet again earlier that very morning!

It couldn't be the enchantments then. And that could only mean one thing.

This was no simple human child.

Now, Nicoryan understood.

This boy was magical.

And that meant that this boy could belong in the Whispering Woods.

Nicoryan smiled to himself. He landed gracefully in the woods a short distance away from the boy, who finally stopped running. The dragon's camouflage fell away, revealing him in all of his gentle beauty to the boy who stared in awe.

It might take some time for the dragons and the boy to understand each other, but Nicoryan knew that the boy would eventually feel at home in the Whispering Woods.

Because magical creatures would always find a place to belong.

familyFantasyShort Story

About the Creator

Donna Renee

Hi! Thanks for reading! My hobbies include making coffee, drinking coffee, and starting to write a story and then rage-deleting it when I get the slightest bit frustrated.


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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • Roy Stevens6 months ago

    I have to suspect that you had a particular little boy in mind as your character's model. You absolutely don't need to respond to that thought as it's creeping a little too closely into private territory, it's just that some of your description of him reminds me very much of a few of the particularly wonderful kids I've known. "and humans had natural characteristics that, in the opinion of most other beings, were not meant to be amplified." -Made me laugh out loud with that one! Beautifully told story from the heart Donna.

  • Awww, the little boy has my heart! I felt so sad when the other kid made fun of his pebble collection but was so happy that he didn't let that kid dampen his spirits! He's a magical boy! 💖

  • An absolutely wonderful story and love the image you made. I wasn't subscribed , I am now

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