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The Forest Dragon's Heart

Found, cherished, learned and loved

By Ellen StedfeldPublished 7 months ago 5 min read
(Feelings of affection seeped in and flowered)

The Forest Dragon sensed a stirring, a presence in the woods that was not native to its territory. The mushrooms were concerned, the moss had a complaint, the twigs were chittering all about it, the insects didn't know whether to be awe-filled or awfully annoyed. As sovereign of this land, the dragon would surely take care of the issue, one way or another. With a stretch of wings and a slither of scales, the ground rumbled in its wake. Ready, if needed, to intimidate.

At first, the dragon camouflaged amidst the foliage, to observe unnoticed. The lump did not look like it required scaring. It was gray like a rock, but arranged in sloppily overlaid strips, like a pile of tree bark. A layer of leaves had stuck firmly to and rustled around the mysterious, now-quivering glob. Then it yawned. A small face popped out from what was evidently a roughly hewn cape or blanket. Rubbed its eyes sleepily, stretched, and toddled onto uncertain feet like a baby doe. Yes, the dragon could identify it now...

It was one of those undersized, soft and leaky versions of a human. Though the dragon was skeptical, first time seeing one up close. Would the creature screech in fright like the bigger ones do, or try to jab the dragon with some bothersome pointy things? Wasn't it supposed to be accompanied by these elder protectors? The dragon had heard rumors of battles and troubles amongst the humans, causing ruin to each other in their savage conquests for glory and power, but such petty conflicts were of no importance in the dragon's forest. Except, here was this little one, seemingly abandoned and alone. The dragon listened, waited, but no more humans came.

What will you do? the birds coooed. It must be you! the breeze whispered. True, the child needed a guardian, unless or until its people came looking for it. Surprising to have survived on its own this far already. The dragon emerged from concealment and approached slowly, with care. When its grand presence was made known, it could not be ignored. The very ferns bowed before it. The human creature, now under its shadow, turned to see.

The child looked at the dragon, the dragon looked back, and that's all it took for them to belong to each other. The dragon, of course, would not admit to it at first, could not have recognized such a thing as the form of emotions humans could elicit. Though an expert in many languages, this one was unfamiliar at first, puzzling. But with the tenderest of care, the dragon curled its talons and tail around the child protectively, in the closest thing it could muster to a hug. Blew warm steam onto the child's face, to ensure proper health, in case the ground had been too cold, or the leaves insufficient a covering. Yet the sudden flurry of air and hair being blown from her face made her squint her eyes in happiness and giggle with pure pleasure. The dragon tried this again, as bits of leaves flew around them in a spin, and again the silly sounds and excited wiggling of her tiny fingers and stumpy arms were unexpectedly endearing.

Who knew, a human child could be such a delight?

Swhoosh. Giggle. Whoooosh. Gurgle. Pause. A chortle of anticipation. AHHH-SCHWOOOOOSH, and the child erupted with laughter.

"Well, well, well," the dragon mused. "I don't know how to take care of a tiny human, but until we find you a guardian proper, I guess this dragon could try being your Mum for awhile. What think you?" Whether or not the child actually understood, the way she snuggled against the dragon's scales without hesitation made it clear she would not be at all concerned with this tentative arrangement. "Well then, little one, off we go. Your new home." Placing the girl gently between one of its smaller sets of wings, her fingers curled tightly around the feathery strands of its mane, the dragon slithered through a large empty tree trunk and into their forest abode.

* * *

They came out of the reverie in a daze, from memory back to their familiar walls, covered in child's scribbles that had evolved into a curious inventor's sketches and notes. The jewel glowed between them, a gateway joining the minds of both human and dragon. The young woman was first to speak. "Surely, I have always known you were not as other dragons, different even from your own friends, who are endlessly intent on hoarding gold and treasures, possessions and favors. Instead, your jewels contain great and special knowledge - the vast teachings of scholars over countless centuries. I thought that is what you valued most of all." She turned to look into her dragon's eyes. "But dearest Mum, you called this jewel - a recollection of the day we met - your greatest treasure?"

"Indeed, my child, though I was not so different then as you may think. Collecting what I valued most of all, to keep safely stored within my walls. It was you who brought me the greatest gift, of learning to love another." A talon stroked her cheek. "And now, as we must leave each other for a time, I want you to always remember. The wonder of knowledge may come and go, be kept or lost, but my love will always be with you. You are my heart." They enveloped each other in a warm hug. "And you mine," she replied.

The dragon took a last look at her, then with a fond smile, blew a burst of steam that scattered her hair around her face and rattled all the papers in the room. Once again, the dragon's daughter laughed, and the walls echoed with the laughs of her childhood. Joined by the musical notes of what had become the dragon's own form of laughter through their years together. The dragon held another pair of jewels in its claws, and extended one out to her, plopping it into the palm of her hand. "Here is my final parting gift, to accompany your journeys. Today's memory - a treasure beyond compare."

familyFantasyShort StoryYoung Adult

About the Creator

Ellen Stedfeld

Visual artist & writer immersed in drawing, illustration, and creative experiments

Community arts in NYC/LIC Queens and online, NaNoWriMo "The Ellesaur"

Love participating in challenges to motivate new work!

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