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The First Dragons of Kawn

When the Red Rains Came

By Harmony KentPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 16 min read
17
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

There weren't always dragons in the Valley. Until the rains came. Crimson and thick as pig’s blood. The red deluge clung to the windows and made the tin roof roar. Frightened, Betsy and Billy snuggled into my lap while I tried to distract them with a made up fairy tale. Mother paced the short length of our old wooden cabin with her arms folded tightly across her chest. The old flooring protested every step with ominous creaks and groans. A sense of foreboding heightened the pitch of my voice, and I felt sure Mother would fall through the wood boards any second. Never to be seen again. My six-year-old siblings whimpered, so I cleared my throat and I raised my voice, ‘… and so, the kind fairy made it so the red rain would come each full moon day and awaken the sleeping princess …’

The door opened and slammed into the wall. Emma staggered into the cabin and fell to her knees, where scarlet ran off her in rivulets and stained the rough floorboards. She sobbed and hugged herself. Mother dashed to the door and pushed it shut. ‘You’re late.’ The soft towel she held out to her eldest took some of the harshness from her words.

The sharp tang of slightly-burnt ozone settled on my tongue and tickled the back of my throat. Something in it made me want to gag, and I had to keep swallowing to hold the urge at bay.

Emma took the towel. ‘Oh, God, Mum. It stings.’

Mother blinked and grabbed for the dented tin half-bath, which hung from a hook above the hearth. ‘You’ll have to take the water cold.’

Emma stripped off her sodden, stained work dress and climbed into the tub while Mother pumped the handle and water splashed into the bucket. When she had it half-full she heaved it from the sink and lugged it to the bath and poured it over Emma’s head, who stifled a shriek. From across the room, I could see her skin goose bump. On my lap, the twins shivered and giggled, diverted from their fear at last.

Mother helped Emma clean off the red stuff, and I strained to hear their murmured conversation. ‘Why so late? Were you foolin’ around with that Tom again?’

Emma tried and failed to sound indignant, and neither Mother nor I missed the pale coral flush that suffused her cheeks. ‘I was working.’

It took five more half-buckets of precious fresh water to get Emma properly clean, and by the time they’d done, her skin had gone the kind of fuchsia that would feel sore for days. The rain fell until the moon nudged the sun from the sky. When it ceased, it stopped all at once. Awful pouring and roaring one second, and leaving an eery silence the next. Not one slithering, skittering thing made a sound, and the birds forgot their evening call. My sense of dread grew heavier still. By then, I’d settled the little ones to sleep, and Mother, Emma, and I shared glances of confusion and concern.

Before bedtime, the three of us cleaned up the crimson mess as best we could, but it would take me days of scrubbing to get the stains out of the floorboards. The towels and Emma’s work dress never recovered. Neither did she. By the next morning, my eldest sister had developed a cough and a fever. After three days, Mother summoned a doctor we could ill afford. With a look of disdain, which travelled from his eyes and all the way down his long, thin, bespectacled nose, he declared, ‘She’s with child.’

Mother stepped into his personal space and stood akimbo. ‘This isn’t morning sickness.’

The doctor shuffled backwards and harrumphed. ‘There’s a malady in the valley, Mrs Butcher. I dare say, your daughter has succumbed to that as well as to the miller’s boy.’ With that judgement, he side-stepped Mother and strode from the cabin.

Across the sudden, yawning chasm which had opened in our family, Mother glared at me. ‘Not a word.’ I nodded and made sure I stayed busy for the rest of the day. Even at the best of times, Mother and I didn’t get along, and over the years, I’d learnt to keep my head down and do as I was told. All the while, I yearned to one day meet my prince charming and escape the harsh life of the valley. Unfortunately, being the second daughter of a poor family didn’t offer many opportunities. What rich, eligible bachelor would want to snap up a home-body such as me?

Over the next three weeks, Emma grew worse and slipped into a coma. Her belly swelled and hardened. No baby grew that quickly. In dire need of funds, I took over Emma’s work at the mill, and Mother had to handle the slaughtering and shop herself. The blacksmith’s middle daughter took on the babysitting of Betsy and Billy for us. Often, when I returned home from ten hours at the mill, I would change clothes to go and help Mother get ready for the next day’s work. We grew exhausted from burden and worry.

It became impossible to feed or hydrate Emma, and her body wasted away until she resembled a skeleton covered in loose, wrinkled rags rather than young, tight skin. All except for that awful, impossibly solid, round stomach. That stayed tight and firm. We couldn’t afford the doctor again. Not that he was much use to us. Everyone who had gotten caught out in the red rain had fallen ill. First the cough and fever, then the long sleep. But only Emma had the swollen abdomen. Folks developed a nervous habit of glancing at the clear blue skies repeatedly. The skies, though, stayed cerulean and benign and only gave us much-needed normal rain as fit with the season. Until the next full moon day.

Thankfully, it being a Sunday, we were all at home when it happened. The red rain poured and roared and covered everything. The sharp tang of slightly-burnt ozone returned. And my sister went into labour. Because of the rain, no help would come even if one of us ran and begged our neighbours. I bundled Betsy and Billy onto the bed pallet behind the curtain, ‘You stay there and don’t you move. You hear?’

They each nodded with solemn, fearful expressions. I yanked the curtain closed and left the twins to comfort themselves. Mother and I heated water and fetched clean rags, just as we would for any childbirth, but fear oozed from our pores and made our sweat stink. For hours we laboured with my sister, but to no avail. The sun dropped ever lower in the sky, decorating our tired cabin with a soft peach glow, which I would have found pretty at any other time.

The moon rose, high and round and full, and cast a pale, ominous silvery-blue hue over us. Over the hours, I’d grown accustomed to the roar of the rain, and I missed its absence as soon as it ceased to fall. Mother and I shared a glance. Beneath us, on the bedding of rags we’d laid out for her, Emma’s struggles came to an end. Her stertorous breathing wheezed out of emptied lungs that didn’t refill. My sister died. Between her bloodied legs lay an egg.

I gasped, and Mother followed my gaze. Lines of consternation creased her forehead and deepened the crow’s feet around her eyes.

‘What is it?’ I whispered.

Mother shook her head and swiped tears from her glistening cheeks. Soft snores sounded from behind the bed curtain. At least the little ones weren’t awake for this. Around us, the cabin walls seemed to settle and sigh in mutual grief, and the air grew heavy. The egg drew my gaze as though my eyes were iron to its moon-made magnet. The thing lay nestled between Emma’s parted thighs, unstained despite the carnage its birth had wrought. Waved ridges lined the egg’s oval shell, which rippled and undulated through the all colours of the rainbow at each flicker of the gas lamp. In vain, I tried to pin down its shade, but it evaded my every attempt. Once in a while, it became almost pearlescent, then crystal-like, and then it would cycle through the rainbow hues again. Unable to touch the egg, which offended us both with its aura of foulness, Mother and I draped a sheet over Emma and the monstrosity she had birthed, and sat in silent vigil until first light.

As soon as the cock crowed, I dashed to the blacksmith’s hold and borrowed his large forceps, which I used to lift and carry the egg. I dumped it in the latrine pit at the back of the field and spat on the evil thing that had stolen my sister from me. Filled with revulsion and hurt, I returned the forceps and rushed home to dig Emma’s grave. Mother washed and dressed the body and comforted Betsy and Billy as best she could. We buried my sister that afternoon, and Mother read from the bible book.

All of the valley folk who had caught the malady succumbed at the exact same time as Emma did. And last night’s rain brought more victims to waste away over the month. It also made three of our young women grow solid, round bumps while they slumbered their way to certain death. By the third occurrence of the full moon day, the valley headman had decreed that nobody would venture outside until the moon had risen and the red rain had ceased. Nobody was of a mind to disagree or disobey.

Mother and I spent a miserable day indoors, listening to the plaintive bellows of the animals left neglected in the barn and thinking about all the chores stacking up that we’d have to catch up on as well as doing our usual work. Betsy and Billy grew irritable horns and kept butting heads against one another and fighting over silly stuff. They only stopped after Mother lost her temper and slapped them into a sulk. United in adversity, they retreated behind the bed curtain and cuddled together. Every once in a while, I would hear their soft murmurs as they told each other tall tales or sang nursery rhymes.

I’d forgotten all about the egg I’d dumped in the latrine pit the moon before. Just minutes after sunset, distant screeches and cries roused me from a depressed daze. Mother stood busy at the cooking pot, steam billowing around her, and the twins remained behind the bed curtain. Quietly, I slipped out of the cabin. The burnt ozone odour lingered, and I coughed. Could you catch the malady from the after-smell? Or did the red rain have to soak you? I shuddered and nearly turned to go back indoors, but the cries held a note of vulnerability that triggered my protective instincts. I followed the screeches to the back field. Toward the latrine pit. Where I’d buried that damn egg.

During my reluctant trek across the field, the moon rose to its zenith—in its full silver glory—and lighted my way. A cold, pearly-blue hue tinted the grasses and trees around me. With each step, my fear rose, but so did my curiosity. What sounded like thunder cracked the night and silenced the crickets and birds. With my heart thudding behind my collarbone in alarming palpitations, I stumbled to a halt and held my breath until my desperate lungs forced out the air and made me breathe in again. Two tiny clawed hands gripped the mounded earth at the edge of the latrine pit. The sodden soil crumbled, and whatever belonged to the hands scrabbled for purchase. I staggered backwards and screeched. The head of a creature from myth followed the claws, and amber eyes blinked at me through the lambent night.

Terror rooted me where I stood. My muscles first tensed rigid, and then they trembled and turned to jelly. I slumped to my knees and covered my mouth with my hands. The baby monster hauled itself out of the pit and crouched a few feet in front of me, watching me with its huge amber eyes. The thing mewled. I fell into those vast, beaming orbs.

As a young girl, I’d begged Father to allow me to keep a pet. I would have loved a dog. But Father forbade it. Said we couldn’t afford to keep ourselves, never mind some dumb domestic animal. Eventually I’d given up asking. Father died in the great quake last year. Since that seismic event, strange things had happened in the valley. The red rains were only a part of the upheaval we’d had to learn to live with. And now, it seemed, having a pet dragon would become my new normal.

I fell in love. Right then and there. Even though I had no clue how to care for a creature that only existed in fairy tales and folklore. We bonded, and nothing and nobody could separate us. If nothing else, I knew that much. The dragon was a he, and he was hungry. Ravenous. I could feel his pangs as surely as if they were my own. Tentative, I reached out a hand and rubbed his nose. ‘What do you eat, little one?’

A laugh bubbled up and out of me at his answer, which drifted into my mind. Of course he would want meat. And born at a butchery, of all places. ‘What shall I call you?’ I rubbed his nose some more, and he mewled in pleasure. A puff of smoke escaped his nostrils, and flame belched from his mouth. I dove to the side and only just missed a painful singe. With another laugh, I declared, ‘Fagel. With that flame how could I call you anything else?’ Not many in the valley still spoke the old Kawnish, but Mother and Father had taught their children the language in an effort to keep it alive, which pleased me now. Fagel fit my new companion perfectly. ‘Come on. Let’s get you fed.’

Fagel used all four legs to lope along next to me at knee height. My mind filled with worries and what ifs and hows and all sorts of imaginings as we headed toward the cabin. What would Mother do? What would the valley folk do? And the headman? How much trouble would I be in? What would happen to the three women with the swollen bellies? Why had dragons come to us?

Stood at the door, Mother screamed and yelled, ‘Get out. Get away!’ I stayed outside the threshold and waited for her to calm. It took a while. Fagel nudged my hand with his skull, and I stroked his head. The commotion woke Betsy and Billy, who squealed with childish delight upon seeing the creature. I introduced them, and they dashed up to the dragon to stroke him and make friends. If only the adults could be so accepting.

After a few minutes, in a faint voice, Mother said, ‘Take him to the yard. Just … just get him away.’

Sad and hurt, I made Betsy and Billy say goodbye and led Fagel away from the cabin. At the yard, I brought one of the goats from the barn and tethered it to the slaughter pole. Fagel circled the animal, which screamed and struggled. Flame shot from the dragon’s mouth, and the goat burned. Fagel pounced, grabbed the roasted carcass in his forepaws, and devoured the animal in seconds. His hunger wasn’t sated. ‘We can’t feed you from our stock.’ I gave the matter some thought. ‘We’ll have to go up into the hills, away from the settlements. Do you understand?’

Fagel blinked his warm amber eyes. He understood well enough. What would happen when he grew big? From the yard, we made the long trek out of the valley and up into the high hills. The scrub-brush scratched my bare ankles, and the climb brought aches to my knees and calves. There, high above the valleys, Fagel gorged on wild boars and deer until first light. For my breakfast, he roasted a rabbit I’d snared and prepared. We headed back home. A posse stopped us at the valley mouth. Word had spread. They didn’t want us. The headman held his long sword pointed at my belly. ‘Selene Butcher, you are hereby outcast. Take that vile creature with you.’

At the men’s feet lay three identical dragon eggs. I shuddered and swallowed down bile. They’d cut the eggs from the sleeping women. Had they killed the poor, slumbering souls? Would these eggs mature now? Anger grew hot inside me, and I realised Fagel was about to burn these valley-men. ‘No!’ I yelled, but too late. Only, he aimed his flame at the eggs rather than the humans. As one, the men leapt backwards and brandished their various weapons, but not a single one dared to threaten us further.

The fire died out, and when the smoke thinned, the three eggs bore cracks from top to bottom. Thunder bellowed, and tiny claws broke through the ridged shells. Shocked gasps and mutters came from the cowed posse. I glared at the headman. ‘Fine. I shall go. The dragons will come with me.’

The headman glowered. ‘We don’t need your evil in our valley.’

‘Cowards, the lot of you.’ A sudden certainty settled upon me—innate knowledge from Fagel, which passed to me—and I smiled. At my show of mirth, the men grew more unnerved. I said, ‘One day, you’ll regret this. You’ll have need of our help. Our world is changing, and the dragons have come for a reason.’ I turned my back on the men and walked away. Fagel herded the new-born dragons and followed me back up into the high hills, where I found a sheltered cave and set about making it into a home.

Fagel and the three young ones grew quickly. When the next full moon day came, the dragons took to the skies and burned away the red clouds before they could disgorge their load. Eventually, Fagel grew strong enough for me to ride dragon-back, and I flew with him as we cleared the skies of the deadly red rains. For the first time in my life, I felt wanted and needed. And, oh, the joy of dragon-flight!

The braver, more enlightened valley folk began to leave us gifts at the foot of the hills, not daring to come any closer. And then something magical happened. Amadora, the female dragon, birthed four eggs, which produced live young, who all survived.

After many months of aloneness, a settlement developed in the foothills and grew. I enjoyed human company once again. No longer ostracised and feared but respected. More quakes struck the valleys, and a great evil entered our once-tranquil world. One which only the dragons of Kawn could help us conquer.

[Author Note: I hope you enjoyed this introduction to The First Dragons of Kawn. Who knows, this may develop into a novel one day! I'd love to hear what you think. Please be aware, I am a British English writer and follow British spelling, grammar, and punctuation conventions, which some non-British-English readers may not be used to. Please rest assured, these are not mistakes but simply a different way of doing things. Thanks so much for reading my story and for all your support! All the best, Harmony :) ]

Fantasy
17

About the Creator

Harmony Kent

The multi-genre author who gets write into your head

I began writing at 40 after a life-changing injury. An avid reader & writer, I love to review & support my fellow authors.

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Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (12)

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  • David Parham2 years ago

    Great writing. I became so immersed in your words and descriptions to the point where I no longer took noticed of my physical surroundings and stepped into your story completely. This happens each time I read your stories.

  • Lori Lamothe2 years ago

    Excellent story. I'm just ploughing through these waiting for the announcement...yours has to be a contender.

  • Elena K2 years ago

    Very original and interesting! Beautiful written also. Definitely better written than mine…damn! )))

  • Jasmine S.2 years ago

    Among the best I've read for this challenge. You should definitely turn this into a full length novel. I hope my writing becomes as poetic and descriptive as yours someday. :)

  • A captivating read, Harmony :) What a coincidence that water and birthing inspired both of our dragon stories!

  • Well done! Interesting take on Dragons in the valley! Very imaginative.

  • Stephanie 2 years ago

    Great story. Wonderful physical descriptions and a fun "dragon ride." I read it because your story starts with rain and I started mine with a drought - I was curious to see how we each went in opposite directions. Thanks, I really enjoyed reading yours.

  • D.L. Finn2 years ago

    I absolutely love this, Harmony. I really do hope it turns into a novel!

  • Beem Weeks2 years ago

    A truly brilliant story you've created, Harmony. Wonderfully descriptive. Well done.

  • Priscilla Bettis2 years ago

    I enjoyed this story, Harmony. The rain, egg, and disease descriptions are so poetic, and I felt sorry for Emma and was cheering on the protagonist. Great fun!

  • V.M. Sang2 years ago

    You should definitely turn this into a novel wonderful story, leaving us wondering what happened next.

  • Gwen Plano2 years ago

    Powerfully written, this is an impressive short story. Bravo to Harmony Kent!

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