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Raised By a Dragon

What happens when an orphan is raised by a dragon

By Shawn David KelleyPublished 2 years ago 17 min read
Raised By a Dragon
Photo by Alyzah K on Unsplash

Raised By a Dragon

Tobias awoke to the thunderous noise in the distance. His massive head rose to sniff the air. Anger grew in his breast as the scent of his age-old foe drifted to his sensitive nostrils. Somewhere, outside his cavern were men. Not only men but men of war for he could smell the unmistakable scent of iron and steel mixed with the blood of men and beast alike. The noise that had awoken him was the noise of battle, steel upon steel, and the twang of bows and crossbow strings. Other sounds came with those of battle. The soft whimpering of women and children. In all his days, he had never encountered another creature with as little respect for life as the race of men. Even Tobias’ bloodthirsty cousins, before they were driven into exile within the bowels of the earth, could not compete with the brutality and vicious nature of the race of men.

For thousands of years, his fore-bearers had lived in harmony with the race of men until one barbaric king declared war upon dragon-kind and the dragon-kin. The centuries that followed saw the mass slaughter of the magnificent race of dragons. Many races of dragons were driven to the brink of extinction by the race of men’s ever-hungry appetite for riches, precious gems, and metals. Whole colonies of dragon-kind were lost when dwarves and elves allied themselves with mem. It was inevitable that the race of men would turn on their allies once the dragons had been driven from their homes and their treasures stolen.

Once dragon-kind had been evicted from their ancestral homes and became the subject of myths and legends, it was but a matter of time before the race of men turned on their once proud allies. First were the elves and their forest kingdoms. Men began to cut down the forests to make way for farmland and pastures for their livestock. When elves protested the encroachment upon their hereditary lands, the race of men attacked them, burning cities and villages until the races of elves fled deeper into the forests.

The dwarves stood back and watched as the elves lost their lands and many, their lives. But dwarves were too arrogant and short-sighted to think the race of men would not turn on them as well. When the day came that the race of men marched against the citadels and mountain fortresses of the dwarves, the kings of the dwarves laughed behind their stone walls. They beat upon their drums and blew their horns as armies of men gathered at their gates. When the first breach occurred in their greatest citadel, it was a total surprise. The dwarves withdrew further into the earth until they too became nothing more than characters in folktales.

With all opposing races, scattered or driven into exile, the race of men turned on their brothers. Mighty wars were fought for the possession of land and riches. The race of men spread wide and far even though they were the youngest and the shortest-lived of races. Where dwarves lived for hundreds of years, dragons and elves were nearly immortal, the race of men lived but a century at best.

Tobias had hatched a thousand years after the last remnant of dwarves vanished from the mountains. When he was but a hatchling, a knight from a far-off land had sought out and killed his mother to prove what a great warrior he was. It did not matter that his mother was ancient and was no longer as strong and agile as she had once been. Her eyesight had gone, her joints ached and her heart was weakened due to her advanced age. It was no wonder that a single man was able to trick her into a trap where she met her fate for no other reason but man’s bloodlust.

Tobias’ mother told him to flee and avoid the race of men before she walked into the trap set for her. He had fled the knight, fled the death of his mother, spending decades roaming the mountains and deserts of the deadlands. He did as his mother had bid him, avoiding men whenever he sensed or smelled them.

During his travels, he had come across solitary dwarves that had ventured out from their cavern kingdom. He had even happened upon a few in caverns he had sought refuge in. They were no longer the proud warriors and miners of old but fearful cave dwellers who fled before the evils of the race of men. Those that did not fear him would converse with him, imparting their tales of how the race of men were monsters and ate their young. Many of the tales that the dwarves told, were lavished fantasies where the dwarves had been kindly, peaceful folk and the race of men had been warmongers and tricked the dwarves into leaving their lands by sorcery and dark magic. But every conversation would twist until the dwarf would try to find out where Tobias hid his treasures, for all knew that dragons had huge caverns of treasure. Each time, he had barely escaped the encounter with his life when he had no treasure to give to the dwarf. In the end, he found that dwarves were opportunists, looking for treasure.

He had even met a few elves during his travels. Elves were more elegant and trustworthy. He found them to be nothing like dwarves, who had ulterior motives in conversing with him. From the elves, he learned more truths concerning the races of men, dwarves, elves, and many other races that populated the world. He had even learned truths concerning dragon-kind. Elves spoke the truth more often which isn’t to say they spoke the truth all the time, just more often. In the end, it always came to the same conclusion. The race of men was the enemy of all races, including men.

To say, Tobias despised the race of men would be an understatement. Never in all his days had he met even one dragon of his race. He had stumbled across a few cousins but it would always end the same. Where two or more dragons gathered, word would spread and the race of men would send hunting parties to kill them. He could not stay for long in any one place in fear of being found by the race of men. It wasn’t that he feared men but the killing that always came with an encounter with the race of men. He had many battle scars from the encounters and even more troubling memories of taking the lives of those that attacked him. He shied away from confrontation and fled when he could but when pressed, his fangs and talons left his adversaries on the field of battle.

Tobias was not happy to be awakened by the sounds of battle or the smell of spilled blood. He knew all too well that the race of men would eventually find his cavern. When that happened, they would come in great numbers to kill him. Therefore, as night covered the landscape and the moon was in hiding, he slipped out of his cavern and made his way northward toward the ice-covered mountains and frozen wastelands.

For such a massive creature, Tobias was agile and stealthy. He could move through the forest without disturbing even a leaf on the ground. With each footstep, his ears and eyes were alert for the subtlest of movement, sound, or smell. The battle was long over and the sounds of men and labored beasts of burden had moved away from his cavern, but the smell of blood and death lingered in the air. His every sense was alert.

His eyesight was splendid in the light of the sun and the darkest of nights. His nostrils could smell the slightest scent from leagues away. It was for this reason that the crying disturbed him the most for it came from a blood-covered child, a child of the race of men. The child could not have seen more than three summers as it sat in the center of the forest path, he was making his way through. If it had not been for the suddenness of her crying that came to his ear, he would have stepped on her and crushed the life from her body.

Instead, Tobias froze, his right front foot hanging in the air above the child’s body. He softly placed his foot on the ground away from the child. As he looked down, she looked up. A sparkle came into her eye as the tears continued to flow. She stood up and moved towards his right leg. She hugged her tiny arms against the massive, scaly appendage as tight as she could. Everything he had heard and knew concerning the race of men told him that he should leave this small creature to her fate, to the death the forest held for her. However, his mother’s love and sacrifice made him pause. Something so small and innocent couldn’t be evil as he hadn’t been as a hatchling. He remembered the tales the dwarves told of the ancient dragons and how evil they were in their cavern lairs, stealing and hoarding treasures.

Tobias knew the tales of the ancient dragons had been wrong. Could it be that the tales of all the races of men being evil were wrong as well? He pushed aside all the legends, myths, and prejudice he held and looked at the innocent child. For better or worse, this child was now in his charge for the time and he would not allow any harm to come to her.

He slipped his left front leg behind the child, claws retracted, and took the child into the soft pad of his paw. He closed his paw around the child, creating a protective, impenetrable shield about her. Knowing that if caught, he would be at a great disadvantage with the use of only three of his appendages, he unfurled his large leathery wings from his back. Once he took flight, he could disappear into the clouds above. He had long ago learned to fly as stealthy as the wind itself.

Pulling the child close to his breast, Tobias took to the air. His massive wings created great down drafts, uprooting trees and flattening a large swath of forest. Before the first tree fell, Tobias was gliding through the clouds, his small, innocent charge nestled tight within his embrace.

He flew for hours, leaving the last remnants of the race of men behind. To the north were dangers but he knew the secrets to avoid them. Great ice giants battled in the mountains to the far north. Ice bears roamed the tundra. There was even a race of men that called the frozen north home. However, Tobias set his course for a long-forgotten forest surrounded by frozen death within the heart of an ancient volcano.

Long ago, even before Tobias had hatched, the forest had been the home of the races of men, elves, dwarves, dragons, and so many more races. They had lived in peace and harmony until their numbers grew too large for the forest to care for. The races had slowly traveled from the forest until very few remained.

When the young Tobias happened upon the forest for the first time, he had been nearly frozen to death. He had been fleeing an orc hunting party when he turned northward. Fear pushed him to his limits and before he knew it, he was lost in a blizzard. His wings froze over and he plummeted to the tundra below. On the brink of death, the forest had stretched out her green foliage and drew him into her warm embrace. The fire giants that lived within the volcano had sent heating stones to help heal the young dragon. Forest and river sprites attended him as he regained his strength. He had stayed within the warm embrace of the forest for a hundred years before venturing back into the world of dangers. Now, he was returning in hopes that the forest would care for his young charge and release him from the burden.

As Tobias alighted in the glade near the center of the forest in the middle of the night, he was astonished to find that it was not as he had left it. The spirit of the forest had been diminished. Large tracks were now burned from where the volcano erupted and the lava flow cut through the vegetation. He pulled his paw from his breast, slowly opening it. The toddle had fallen asleep. He gently placed her on a bed of soft green grass before setting out to find whoever was left.

Tobias hadn’t gone but a few steps when a not-so-welcoming party confronted him. The race of men had rediscovered the forest oasis of the frozen north. However, Tobias was shocked to find elves, dwarves, and halflings in the group that came out to meet him, torches held high to guide their way in the dark.

“Hatchling, why have you returned?” A familiar voice called from the midst of the races before him.

“I have found a child from the race of men. She is the sole survivor of a battle within the race of men,” Tobias said in his gruff voice.

“And what would you have me do with the child?” A woman asked as she stepped forward, a shimmering, magical glow emanating from her.

Tobias could sense the power and essence emanating from the woman. He was confused as to why she held the essence he once knew to be the spirit of the forest.

“Who are you? I sense that you are the spirit of the forest but I am confused as to why,” Tobias asked.

“I have always been this way. My spirit simply spread out over my lifetime to encompass the entire forest, back when the tundra was not a frozen wasteland but a flourishing, lush landscape. To answer your question, as the world changes, so does the forest. The heart of the sleeping volcano allowed life to prosper here but it has begun to wake up, taking that life away. The more active it becomes, the more of the forest it will consume,” The spirit of the forest told Tobias. “How may I assist you in the time I have left?”

“You cared for me, once, in the past. Might you care for this one?” Tobias asked, indicating the sleeping child.

“As you can see, my presence in the forest has diminished. Long ago, I might have taken the child and raised her to be my successor but that time has long passed. I am not long for this world, even now I can feel the other world calling to me,” The woman said.

“But you are the spirit of the forest. Can’t you do something?” Tobias longed to be rid of his self-governed obligation.

“No hatchling, I cannot. Within a season, I will be gone. Most of my children will fade away with me. The few tribes that have found shelter here are making preparations to travel across the tundra to warmer climates. You are welcome to leave her here but the oasis is not the same as it once was. The sprites and pixies will remain but they are flighty creatures at the best of times. Would you hand her over to others, not knowing her fate? Even the race of men that have journeyed here are not prepared to care for a child for they prepare for war, to protect this place. The elves and dwarves would raise her as one of their own but what would that do to a child from the race of men? You must find someone that cares for the child more than themselves and will be here for her as she grows,” The woman said.

“There is no one here that can take care of her, then?” Tobias asked, hanging his head low as he knew what she was about to say.

“Only you, hatchling. You alone can be here for her. You have already taken it upon yourself to bring her safely this far. Will you not see that this child becomes an adult? Through her, the race of men may yet be redeemed,” The woman said before she faded into the midst of the group.

Tobias watched as the group melted into the forest, leaving him alone with the child.

As the child slept, Tobias began to construct a crude dwelling for her. Within the forest, there were no dwellings for the trees had provided shelter before everything changed. He made sure not to harm the forest but used fallen limbs, leaves, and other materials to put together a small lean-to. He gathered fruits and vegetables the best he could. When the sun rose the next morning, it shed its light upon a crude dwelling with an abundance of food for the child.

“I commend you for your great accomplishment here, hatchling,” The woman said as she appeared next to him.

“Thank you. It’s the first human dwelling I have built,” Tobias replied, noticing that the woman’s glow was diminished.

“I wish I could offer you a permanent dwelling for her and you but as you know, the forest provided everything for so long. Now, the time has arrived that the spirit of the forest is no more. The sentient beings of the forest have passed over to the next realm. Claim what you must to provide for the child,” The woman said as she glided away on a wisp of air.

Tobias found being the caretaker of one so small and so young was a great burden. At times the burden threatened to crash his life but he endured. Where there were hardships, there were also joys and triumphs.

The woman of the forest lingered several seasons longer until one morning she was no more. There was no funeral for to have a funeral, one must die. The woman had not died, she merely was no more. Her children, the sentient trees, and many fairy folk followed her. The tribes left within a fortnight to establish settlements along the tundra to protect the forest from the warring world beyond the tundra. The many races that banded together began to call themselves the Guardians of the Tundra.

Tobias and the child accompanied the tribes as far as they dared to see them safely within distance of the warmer, more hospitable climates. When they turned back, the child cried as her friends had gone. Tobias even shed a tear at the parting of ways.

Tobias began to call the child Em for it was the one sound she made the most often. He watched and cared for her as she grew. He was amazed at how quickly a child of the race of men adapted and grew. Occasionally, a small party from one of the tribes that had called the forest sanctuary returned to bring objects and items from the outside world. In this manner, Tobias was able to school Em in the many languages of the world, though he hid the books and scrolls concerning magic and sorcery. She was very interested in the histories of the races. When she came across the hidden books of magic, she pleaded with Tobias to teach her.

In this way, Tobias himself learned what his mother had been unable to teach him. He found through the pages of the magic tomes that dragons were born with magic and of magic. Their very essence was filled with magic. Em showed a keen aptitude for magic. During their many lessons, the two found that they could communicate with one another without words. Their telepathic link grew stronger and stronger as time went on. Their link was not limited to words and thoughts but feelings as well.

Then came the time when Em was apart from Tobias gathering nuts and berries when she fell into a ravine. She had been eight summers old at the time. Tobias felt her fear but he also felt the physical scrapes she had received from the fall. He saw through her eyes where she was and she saw through his. In this manner, she was able to guide him to her. From that day forward, the two would exercise that ability and strengthen it.

During their magical learning and history lessons, Em came across a book about dragons. From it, she learned that most noble dragons would not hatch until their egg came into contact with the special individual, the individual they would be bound to for life. The majority of individuals were adolescents or young adults, but there had been tales of grown adults finding an egg and the dragon hatching at that time. From the moment the hatchling emerged from its shell, the two would be inseparable. The bonding linked the two in strength, health, knowledge, magic, and the ability to share certain attributes that one possessed that the other did not. According to the book, the bond between the two would grow as the two grew. The odd part of the book was that there was no mention of any dragon hatching before coming into contact with the one it bonded with.

She discovered that Tobias was from a long-extinct race of Bronze Dragons, keepers of an ancient treasure of knowledge and power for they were one of the noblest races of dragons. The last Bronze Dragon, an ancient female, was reported to have been slain by a knight in response to a decree given by a king for the knight to marry his daughter. The head of the dragon had been presented to the king as a trophy and it adorned the audience hall of the king.

When she brought the book to Tobias, he realized that the moment that he chose not to step upon the child in the forest, he had unintentionally bonded with her and for better or worse, they were as one. As for the treasure of knowledge, he had no memory of such a thing. It came as a sad confirmation that he was indeed the last of the race of Bronze Dragons.

“Why did you hatch so long ago if dragons wait until they find the person they are bound to?” Em asked him.

“I don’t know. I remember being in the egg for generations but I never understood why I waited or that I was waiting for a specific reason. My mother carried me with her wherever she went and I never understood that either. She fled before the slaughter of the dragons and hid me away. One day, I heard a female’s voice calling to me, urging me to leave my egg behind. I broke my shell that very moment. I never understood why my mother was so concerned that I had emerged from my egg at that time but she cared for me nonetheless. It wasn’t long after I hatched that she was murdered leaving me with so many questions and no answers, until now,” Tobias told Em and that was where the two had left their conversation.

Every three months for ten short, peaceful summers, Guardian patrols were sent into the tundra with a stopover at the forest with previsions, books, and news of the outside world. It was never the same tribe nor was it the same tribe in a given year. Most often, the Guardian patrols would repeat at the end of the second year or middle of the third year. It was during one of these patrols that peace was lost forever to the forest in the middle of the tundra. The race of men had come to the tundra to conquer.


About the Creator

Shawn David Kelley

Prior Service, saw the Berlin Wall dismantled and the aftermath of the Gulf War/ Desert Storm/ Desert Shield. He has drawn upon his unique views of life and science fiction to bring together an alternate reality of excitement.

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  • mark william smith2 years ago

    well written. really enjoyed it.

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