Through Dragon Eyes
by Catherine Milos
Even after centuries, the twists and turns of the caverns and passages still felt strange, no matter how many times Earthana’s clawed feet walked them. Dragon Peaks was not quite home.
Over the years, she tried to make herself comfortable here. She’d decorated her chambers with comforting trinkets and soft rugs. She took regular flights down the mountain range and into the fields to familiarize herself with the terrain. She spent many hours wandering the ever-growing caverns. Still, she felt like she didn’t quite belong. But, it was impossible to go back. Maybe that was why nothing ever felt quite right. Perhaps, too, it was because of her age. The cricks and tenderness of her body always made her uncomfortable. Her once-gleaming emerald scales had faded to a dull mossy glow.
Today she had been summoned by the most important members of the dragon race and she couldn’t be late. Her shoulders rolled and her bones creaked as she ambled down corridor after corridor.
A small, lean dragon blocked her path. His voice sliced through her thoughts as a high-pitched squeak that bounced around inside her head. It made the scutes on her nose itch.
Wise One. Might I trouble you for your insight? Arl had the characteristic tuft of fur and crystalline scales of an Ice Dragon, along with stocky Earth Dragon features.
Since the dragon clans joined forces and cohabitated in Dragon Peaks, more and more hatchlings exhibited combined features. Earthana was pleased, it was long overdue. She wondered what Paxara might think of it.
Earthana had learned silence was always the best answer to inconvenient questions. There were so few dragons left, it was unwise to ignore their needs, no matter how inconvenient. Especially since the dragon speaking with her was on the Council. Arl had recently been included in Council meetings as an honorary member. His scaler had been elected as the newest voice for all scalers. Since the invitation to attend, the number of audiences with Arl grew. He was a young dragon, not much older than Earthana was when they first came to this new home.
Arl continued his request.
I was thinking we could decorate the Council Chamber with indications of each season, fresh plants to scent the room. You know, he squeaked in excitement as his thoughts raced through Earthana’s mind, brighten the place up. We spend a great deal of time in there and it can be rather bland.
Earthana’s left wing cramped up so she opened and closed it to stretch and work the muscles.
The idea wasn’t bad, actually. Earthana’s lips curled up, baring her teeth and wrinkling her snout. A lovely idea.
Arl. What would you think about starting a small committee to help? Take into account anything like allergies or restrictions. The Water Dragons might have some suggestions. Maybe the Ice Dragons could assist with decorating the higher parts. Ichabor’s seat is closest to the sky after all. The last thing she needed was to deal with another tiff over non-inclusive Council activities. The dragonlings shared and included each other better than the adults, most of the time.
Arl’s eyes half closed, and the scales on his cheeks lifted and bunched. He was pleased with her suggestion.
Perhaps, Earthana added, you might organize and chair that committee?
Arl’s ears perked up, making the fan of spikes that stretched down the middle of his pearlescent head larger. As always, you offer a wise decision. Arl dipped his long neck in a bow.
She was the Wise One, after all. Earthana patiently waited for Arl to leave. It was clear after a few seconds that she would have to take matters into her own claws.
If you’ll excuse me, I am late for an engagement.
Arl straightened and backed up to allow room for Earthana to pass. Of course, my apologies.
Earthana moved past Arl. Arl backed up into the adjacent passageway to let her by.
Have a lovely day! She said hurriedly as she disappeared around a corner. She hoped no more interruptions would stall her.
Deeper and deeper she wound down the corridors. The deeper she got, the more precious the treasures she passed. The most precious treasures of all were stored in the heart of Dragon Peaks. It was quiet in this part of the Peaks; only the Great Treasure Chamber was quieter. She walked past hollows and cavities that housed stores, family treasuries, and the Council Chamber. She stopped to appreciate the Chamber doors. At their peak, a female form, a harmony of elven and human features, held her arm outstretched and beams of light shone over Dragon Peaks. To one side of this inspiring figure, the Black Dragon. To the other side a likeness of Earthana’s predecessor, Paxara.
Her heart ached with grief. The kind a dragon learns to carry with her, but can never get over. She closed her eyes. Oh Great Ouroboros… her prayer began. She concluded her short supplication and resumed her journey. She began to hear the noises of dragons, scalers, and the other elves, merfolk, and humans that helped out as they went about their daily work.
A string of greetings brushed against her mind and tickled her ears. She excused herself twice from conversations that delayed her too long: a request for a visit from the Wise One to the village, and someone’s indecision over how to arrange the barrels of pickled fish and eggplant in a store room. She committed to the first and delegated the last to Crulan. She wondered how long the eggplant stores would last in his claws.
Finally, laughter filled the air. The joyful sounds of dragonlings at play warmed her heart and relaxed her old, stiff muscles. The future of dragon kind. New perspectives, new ideas. New problems. She hoped none of them would have to face the kind of darkness their grandparents witnessed.
Earthana noted a good turnout at the Dencare today. There were even a few Ice and Fire Dragonlings in the new specialized climate controlled areas. Why they hadn’t thought of something similar ages ago? Now the dragonlings could learn from each other.
A pool in the centre of the den allowed Water Dragonlings, under the care of the merfolk, to play alongside the others. One of the Fire Dragonlings hogged the lava pool. A snowball fight erupted between small parties of tiny Ice Dragons. Earthana dipped her head to avoid a loose snowball which puffed as it hit the cavern wall behind her. She gave the dragonling who had tail-tossed the ball of snow a look of part-scolding and part-amusement.
Oops, sorry… The little dragonling apologized, ears and tail tucked.
Gather near children, she said. She kept her voice quiet but firm inside their minds. Earthana settled down at the back of the story cave.
The dragonlings gathered around her. Still-leathery wings fluttered in anticipation. Wide eyes stared up at her in wonder and nervousness. The sound of fins splashing and a small, melodious voice greeted her. The singing voice of a Water Dragon is a balm in a world of noise.
What story will you tell us today, Earth-I mean Wise One? Perhaps of the very first exchange between dragons and the Ouroboros? Or maybe about the first Dragonstone and scaler and how the scaler made a saddle so he would stop falling off? Azaria’s granddaughter, Aseah, lifted her serpentine body and twitched her whiskers. Her long body undulated to keep her afloat. Aseah’s special gift manifested early. Earthana spent extra time with the young dragon to help hone her story-keeping magic. A debt of time long owed to Azaria.
Earthana watched as a barely-hatched Earth Dragonling stared at Aseah. How do you move around without feet? It asked Aseah, who giggled a crystalline trumpeting noise.
A few of the youngest dragons fidgeted, restless, as the rest of the dragonlings found their places.
Today, Earthana would tell the story of Dragon Mountain. She had told this tale a great number of times.
Long ago, the land was one big mass. Creatures born of the oceans climbed upon the shores, but another type of creature was forged in the depths of fire.
Dragonling eyes widened, hypnotized by the Wise One’s calm voice.
Yes, little ones, dragons. Our ancestors climbed out of the molten earth. And where they first stepped foot and claw on the cool surface, they made the first Dragon Mountain. Eventually the land broke apart and new lands were formed, but the Land of Origin remained home to the Earth Dragons.
Wise One? A dragonling interrupted. What about the Ice Dragons and the Water Dragons?
And the Fire Dragons, another added.
Earthana smiled. The old dragon adjusted her posture to try and alleviate some of the tension in her haunches. We are all from the Land of Origin. The Ice Dragons climbed from the depth, taking a different route than us. Where we stepped foot and claw and cooled into Earth Dragons, Ice Dragons burst from the top of the Mountain and lived in the frigid snow of the peaks, like they do here. The Water Dragons couldn’t climb. Much like the Fire Dragons, they had long bodies without legs. Instead they swam from liquid stone out into the oceans. Their fan-like wings functioned better in the water, where they glided with ease. They too found their domain and built a big city to live in in that watery Realm. The Fire Dragons were content to stay deep inside Dragon Mountain and the other mountains and make their home amidst the molten heat we all came from.
But there is something more you must know. That first step of our kind left a magical imprint, deep and ancient, inside the Land of Origin.
As you know, dragons are made of magic, too. Sometimes magic can be difficult to see, but it is everywhere. There is magic in the skies, on the ground. From the growth of a plant, to the birth of a dragonling, Earthana nuzzled her grandson gently who giggled, to a breath of air or fire. We are magic. It’s in your bones and blood. You will feel it in the air each time you fly. It may not feel like it now, but trust me, one day soon, you will fly. And we use magic when we exchange with the Great Ouroboros.
But our magic was feared, even hated. That fear is why we are here now. This is the story of our birthing place. A story you must heed. A reminder against the power and reaches of fear. One you must remember. This is the story of our home.
One of the dragonlings, a little dull orange thing, piped up, But I was hatched here, in Dragon Peaks.
Yes, little one. What I mean to say is, this is the story of the Land of Origin. To where we can no longer return. The land of the humans, merfolk, and the elves.
But there are humans, merfolk, and elves here, a white dragonling who was only beginning to develop her opalescence commented. That little dragonling reminded Earthana so much of her dear friend Oporia. She and Oporia escaped Dragon Mountain together long ago: youthfully seeking trouble, playing jokes on Rubin… That would be a good place to start this story.
You are right, Essence. But they came here with us, giving up their land forever. The few scalers that remain can never return home.
The dragonlings shifted and swallowed nervously.
Why was the birthing place so bad? A pinky-rose coloured dragonling asked.
Before Earthana could reply, a rich-brown dragonling asked, Yeah, why did we have to leave?
Dragon Mountain wasn’t bad. The dragonlings relaxed with her assurance. A great many people loved us there. They once sought us out to learn about the mysteries of magic. There were many scalers, one for every fifty Dragons or so. Now those who may have become a scaler have had their fates forever changed.
What is a scaler? The dragonling the colour of buttercups asked.
Earthana made a mental note to talk with the parents and denkeepers. The little ones should have been taught the basics tenements of history and dragon culture alongside hunting and foraging techniques. A dragon never knew when they might stumble upon their scaler. It didn’t matter the probabilities. Hope must live on.
That’s a very good question. Does anyone know what a scaler is?
Dragonlings began shouting and wriggling excitedly.
They are non-dragon people.
They get to fly –
Or swim on our backs! Aseah interrupted
They learn dragon magic! Essence said.
Elder Soran is a scaler. Her grandson said enthusiastically, his blue spiked tail flopping.
Earthana nodded and continued. Scalers are humans, merfolk, or elves who have access to The Great Treasure Horde of the Ouroboros. They are magical apprentices to us, but, more importantly, they are our friends and allies. Most dragons never have one. There are only about a hundred Scalers in Dragon Peaks right now. I have had the pleasure and sorrow of having two.
One day, one of these dragonlings might be the next Wise One and would have two scalers, just like her, but at great cost. It worried her that the Ouroboros remained silent regarding the dragon that would take her place. These old bones of hers could give out at any moment. Still, she trusted the Ouroboros’ judgement.
This, my little ones, is the story of the Wise One Paxara’s Age. The tale of the exile of dragon kind.