The air has a nip to it even this late in the morning I note as I pace along the well-worn path. There's a feeling of fall whispering in the wind that murmurs in the dancing leaves of the trees. I smile as I draw in a deep breath, tasting the clean, exquisite air. This is my home-my cave, the forest, the meadow...
I stop at the edge of the clearing, still hidden by the trees and bushes I've trained to hide the trail from all but the most intent of hunters, and examine the meadow carefully. No, nothing that doesn't belong here, but as the breeze blows towards me, I lift my muzzle, close my eyes, and drink in the scents it brings to me.
Grass, sun-warmed rocks, fresh running water, the trees heating in the sun slanting downinto their branches, even the faint odor of the animals that've been to get their morning drinks before retreating back into the forest. But no humans have come this way in many days.
That pleases me. I don't really want humans here, and especially not those nosey ones who still show up occasionally in suits of mail to "fight the ferocious dragons of the mountains." Someday they might listen to the villagers, who tell them that we're no danger to anyone, but they never seem to ask, much less listen.
Ah, that's too much thought so early in the morning for me! Besides, with everything so beautiful and peaceful, why think of such things at all? I chuckle to myself, and slide between the trees and bushes to step into the sunshine of my meadow.
The morning rain has left water dropplets behind that sparkle like dimonds on the grass, the bushes, and the spiderwebs bedecked like some queen's coronation necklace. Where the foliage has sprinkled it's bounty onto my scales, the sun-sparkle shatters into a mosaic of multihued greens and golds. I spread my wings to the sun and admire the shimmer, reveling in the vision and the warmth for a moment, before setting off for the stream.
Dragons can walk upright almost as well as any human, but on such a beautiful "senses-open, feel the warm earth and grasses" morning, I prefer to go on all fours. I tread carefully through the wildflowers that sprinkles the meadow with color. They're so lovely, and so fragile that I'm careful to keep my tail high above them. I smile ruefully, remembering times when my temper made me thrash my tail along the ground, tearing huge swaths out of the flowers and making my anger even worse. Thank you, not today!
The sound of birdsong interupts dark thoughts, and I stop to watch the tiny brown songbirds as they escort their young down to the stream for a midmorning bath. So tiny they are! Almost like the dragonflies they displace, though dragonflies certainly don't sing the way they do. Watching them bathe reminds me that I didn't even do that this morning.
I wait patiently for the little flyers to finish, then decide that they're not in any hurry to move, and cough quietlysending the little ones scuttling for the safety of the trees. Their scolding makes me laugh-so much spunk from such a little package! It's only when I move that they realize what I am and nervously melt into the forest. It makes me sad to lose their flashing movements and song. I'd never hurt them, but they don't know that.
Sighing, I step down to the stream, only to sink several inches into the moist clay at it's edge. Now the need for a bath is a definate! grumbling with annoyance, I eye the streambed, looking for a place that isn't quite so muddy, before remembering the fishing hole's deep clarity. Oh, yes, that'll do nicely, but first I need a drink.
Normally I supply my home with water from the stream that cascades in a tiny waterfall next to my cave, but today I felt the pull of the meadow so strong that I chose to come here first. Besides, if I pick my drinking site carefully, the water in the glade stream is almost as pure as any glacier-fed river. I step away, grimacing at the mess the mud's left on me, and walk to the rocks just up stream, where the stream gurgles noisily over the bed.
I enjoy the water-music for a moment, then drop my muzzle to the sweet clear liquid, lapping as delicately as one of the big cats that share my people's mountains. Yes, a cup might be faster, but drinking this way makes me feel so much a part of the Web-of-life--of nature's way--and that's soothing to my forest dragon soul. When I've drunk my fill, I head to my bathing spot.
The walk isn't far, and it takes me to where the sunlight lies like a golden haze over everything it touches. There the stream, sometime in it's long, turbulent past, has dug a wide, deep pool. The water is so clear you can usually see the bottom, but here in the sun, it acts like a mirror. With a delighted cry, I dive in as deep as I can.
My inner eyelids sweep across my eyes as I surge through the pool's depths, protecting them and letting me see clearly. The fish scatter around me, and I can't blame them.I've taken many of there number and they don't trust me to not do it again! But, not today, at least not right now.
Surging to the surface, I swim to the shallow, rocky end of the pool, making sure to get thoroughly damp before I pull myself out onto the sun-warmed rocks. Shaking the extra water off and spreading my wings to dry in the sun, I examine my body scales fastidiously. Only when I've checked them all for any signs of damage, do I turn to my wings.
Okay, so I'm a little vain about my wings! The gold of their undersides matches exactly the gold of my belly and throat scales, and both lieu in the bright sunshine, but it's their tops that I love best. There, the infinitely tiny scales shimmer with all the greens of the forest, my glade, and the mountains that sweep above me to the north. I caressed them carefully with my tongue, making sure that nothing mars their brilliance; his saliva coat sealing them, protecting them from fire and water, as well as having an antibiotic tendency for any wounds I might have. Yes, grooming takes a while, but it's important enough that I seldom notice the loss of time.
With my grooming done, I finally feel "presentable" enough to face the mirror surface of the pool.
The dragon I see reflected in the pool isn't very big, to be truthful, not by dragon standards, anyway--barely twenty feet long from nose to tip of the tail. Slender and lithe, by body was covered in scales as olive green shaded as my beloved forest, touched in places with flecks or streaks of gold. And while the spine that crests my head is as green as my neck and face, the vane that runs down the entire back of my neck is as gold as my belly. The eyes that return my gaze are as gold as my vane, but they glow with a luminous inner light and crinkle at the corners as I smile my pleasure.
Oh, my friends would really T's me if they knew how proud I felt at that minute! I sigh softly, and the face becomes simply "me," green and gold and rather commonplace, after all.
Turning away, I gaze across the length of the meadow toward my garden and the long abandoned cowshed in the field beside it. I grimace and shake my head, ruefully remembering my attempts to rear cattle in the hopes of making the cheese I so love, and the laughter of the other dragons when they found out. But I was stubborn and had to try, anyway.
I should've listened to them. I'd trade in least five or six milk have before I finally admitted that cattle panic when they catch a whiff of dragon, and with good reason. It became a case of them bolting back to the village, which was insulting--or dying of terror, which was annoying--or, if I could convince them to stand still, I couldn't milk them because of my talons!
Worst of all were the times I'd come to the shed unaware of my hunger, forget myself totally, and tear into the poor creatures, eating a huge amount before coming back to my senses--which was downright embarrassing! The villagers had been sympathetic towards my attempt, but I think they agreed with the dragons, and everybody was relieved when I gave up. Especially the cattle!
But the garden... Now that is truly this dragon's treasure! I take two quick, running steps towards it and launch myself into a low, fast flight that leaves my wings brushing the tops of the tall grasses on my downstrokes. Within heartbeats, I drop to the land next to the land that I've tended so carefully.
My dragon kin had laughed almost as hard at my gardening attempts as they did at my attempt to herd cattle, but since many dragons grow herbs it wasn't quite so bad. Besides, with the garden, I did prove them wrong.
Cultivating the ground had been hard work, but I managed, often using my own talons to prepare the earth for the seeds I'd gotten from the villagers. Getting water to the plot was more tricky, and I despaired of finding a way to get it where I wanted, until an old villager finally took pity on the " idiot dragon" and showed me how they ran their irrigation canals.
And the garden grew! And prospered! My answer to the teasing by dragon and human alike was the huge abundance of my harvest that year. My grin is wide and satisfied at the memory. Even now, many years later, my garden still produces and many times more than the gardens in the villages. The human say that it's only because the plot is so saturated with dragon scent that the pests give it such a wide berth, but maybe I just do it better, too! My laughter ripples across the meadow, and I bend willingly to the work at hand.
The sun is much higher by the time I finish weeding out the last row of melons, and I can feel it's heavy heat on my back and neck, but I'm satisfied. I have a large basketful of produce ready, some for the stew kettle tonight, but most for my next trip to the village. I glance at the well-worn trail that starts a short distance away. yess, I'll soon have enough to make the effort of getting out my sled and pulling it all the way there worthwhile.
Smiling , I gather up the harvest into the big carry-sackthat I have waiting and start back toward the trailhead to my cave. It's only when I get close to the stream that I realize just how dusty I am. Setting the sack aside, I repeat my splash into the pool, but this time I bring a couple of big fish to surface with me. Hey, a dragon's gotta eat, you know!
Content, I carry the sack and the fish back to the disguised trailhead, examine the area carefully for any presence other than mine, then slip through the bushes.
The forest always seems different in the heat of the day. There's a heavy feeling too the air, and its rich with scent blown in by the few stray breezes that find their way in here. Except for the birds singing high in the canopy and the insects, the animals are silent, even the night-sleepers apparently taking a midday break. The shade is broken by the occasional sun- splash, and that's soothing after the heat of the garden.
Transferring my sack to my jaws, I slip back to all fours and move with a graceful sinuousess along the path back to my cave. The trail isn't long, but it winds in a way that makes it seem as if it'd been made by the deer that should live in these woods. As if, I chortle to myself, the deer would ever come this close to a dwelling of the dragonkin!
The trail appears to end at a large, sun-drenched cliff face, but it doesn't, really. It's simply another trick to fool the humans-in-metal. I stop at the edge of the trees and examine my surroundings carefully. Well I don't expect to find anything, habit is hard to break, and often saves one's hide.
But there's nothing to be seen, except for hawk that settled on the top of the cliff and now watch as the warily. I ignore it, crouch back to my haunches, and spring upwards to land next to the bird, which abandons its perch with a screech, fleeing for the trees. Chuckling I step away from the edge towards the second, hidden-from-below cliff face.
The top of the lower cliff forms a deep ledge here, and it's scattered with my belongings. To the left, the lower cliff continues unbroken, eventually blending in with the upper one. To the right, a tiny stream cascades down the cliff to the collecting pool I dug for it at the edge of the lower cliff. Straight ahead is my cave-home, complete with a dragon-sized door set in a wooden barrier that totally covers the natural cave mouth. No open-door windy cave for me or any of the other dragons I know - we're no fonder of freezing than anyone else!
The stout door opens easily to my touch, and swings inwards with a soft creaking sound. Beyond is a familiar darkness, lit only by a single oil lamp near the door. I step inside and wait for my eyes to adjust to the change in light. Dragons are pretty versatile creatures, so it doesn't take long, but I want to see better than that.
Finding one of the candles that I keep next to the door, I use a small flicker of my fire to light it before heading deeper into the room. Once I've lit the dozens of oil lamp I use, I return to the carry sack I left behind and close the door.
My cave isn't large by dragon standards, but it's mine, and I'm pleased with it. I have three rooms, lined up almost in a row. The room next to the outside door is the largest, serving as both a living room and where I sleep. The room beyond is where is where I prepare my food, and beyond that is the icy storage room for produce from my garden.
Of the three, it's the outer room that I enjoy the most, and I smile with satisfaction as I look around. On the wall to the left of me are my tools; to the right is the area where I make the art that I also trade with the villagers. Beyond that - along the curve of the room - lays my bed, and, against the far wall, lies the second of my treasure/hoard - my books and the art items that I've traded for with both humans and dragons.
Smugly, I scan the shelves and note each item by name and subject, and for the feelings that I had when I first acquired them. No, the humans-in-mail would find few rare gems or gold here - I need very little of either - but the books! My teeth clench and a low growl rumbles through me at the thought of someone even touching my treasures without my permission, then I laugh at my response. Well, I'm still a dragon, after all! Shaking my head, I head towards the second room and the large kettle that waits there.
I'm proud of this room, too, though for a far different reason. It took long and painful bartering to get a dragon Mage that works stone to come here and put in the venting for my cooking fire. But I was so tired of cooking in the rain or snow on my outside ledge! Yes I could use my fire, but it'd take more energy to cook that way than what I'd get out of the meal, and I certainly wasn't going to eat all my meals raw! Setting the carry sack on the carved wooden table, I give the wood under the water-filled kettle a well-placed blast, then start sorting the produce on my table.
Okay, okay. It probably sounds strange to think of a carnivore like a dragon eating vegitables, but I've developed quite a taste for them over the years. I can't chew them since I don't have grinding teeth, but dragons digestive systems are caustic enough to digest bone, much less something as benign as a carrot or a cabbage! I grin and pop a handful of sun-ripened berries into my mouth, chomp twice to get the full sweetness, and swallow it down. So much for dental problems!
I take the rest of the produce to the back room and collect the deer meat that I'd prepared, along with a careful selection from the herbs that I also store there, and bring them back to the cooking fire. Before long, the aroma of cooking stew fills the two front rooms, and I move the kettle away from the fire to let it simmer.
Streching lazily, I wander back to the front room and open my door. The tall trees that grow up from the valley floor now shade my ledge, and I realize the fish I'd caught earlier are still in my cold-room. No wonder I was still hungry!
Laughing at myself, I get the fish, and then consider - cooked or raw? Nope =, too hungry to wait for cooked! Within two minutes two large fish have been swallowed whole (dragon's don't have a gag reflex due to being inheritantly carniverous), and my hunger has faded nicely. I recheck the stew, and decided that I have time for a late afternoon sunning session on the ledge above my cave.
Once again, I examine the woods below, but there's nothing nearby, certainly nothing that could deduct the placement of my home from my flight. Satified, I crouch back on my hind legs, spread my wings and lept upwards. With my first wing-beat, I'm above the top of the cliff; within five, I'm far above the valley and close to my sunning ledge.
Which seems to be occupied by two of the local big cats! Now, that doesn't please me. Growling low in my throat, I land on the ledge and get a snarl in response. The big cats are the only other predator in these mountains that can claim top ranking in the food chain here, and they've marked many hatchlings with their sharp fangs and claws. Well, I'm certainly no hatchling, and I know how to deal with these unwanted Visitors!
Howling, I flare my wings, rear tall on my hind legs, and blast the air above them with a plume of fire. The cats understand. Growling and showing their teeth, they back slowly away until they disappear from sight among the rocks. I watched their retreat in glimpses of tawny fur, making sure they don?t return, before relaxing and settling down on my sunning rock.
Sunning is a process that dragons to for pleasure, not the necessity that cold? blooded reptiles have so they can process their food if, and all of us do it differently. Me, I like to watch the valley below, for the clouds scampering across the sky word for mountains like a pack of puppies heading towards their mother.
Today, the sky is as blue as the wildflowers in my meadow and as clear as the stream, so I watch the forest with my eyes half-closed. The sunshine is so warm, and I let myself relax totally, unfolding my wings to catch more of the sun on their surfaces as a drift in dreams of the things that gives me pleasure ?the garden, my books, the sculpture I?ve been working on, the feel of the wind under my wings in flight ?and the stew! Oh, dear, I forgot the stew!
I can tell by the sun?s angle that at least an hour has gone by. I watch myself off the ledge and drop like a raptor intent on pray to my cave ledge, then hurry inside to check the kettle. Thank the First Egg, it hasn?t burnt, so I add a little more water and head back out to my front ledge.
The late afternoon light illuminates the bits and pieces of old and new projects and the tools that I store out there, but my favorite part of my ledge if is the wildflower garden I?ve planted next to the stream. Unfortunately, the weeds that choke my flowers and herbs make it very apparent that I haven?t spent much time here lately! If
I work on the little garden until the sinking sun colors the sky a radiant yellow-orange, wash my hands in the little pool if, if and go inside to move the kettle off the fire for later. Sunset is my favorite time of day, and I want to savor the beauty without anything distracting me.
I watch myself towards my sunning ledge, not really caring if I?m seen this time or not, and land next to the sunning rock. A few drifts of clouds now streak the sky, the sun painting them gold and crimson up above a skyline that?s turned a beautiful brilliant orange. Sighing happily, I settled back on my haunches to enjoy the show.
What the wind has picked up, and it flutters my vane and sighs along my wings. It was first to me, ?come and play. Come dance in the sky and chase the sunbeams!? a shiver in the grip of instincts as old as my species; feel my wings spread and my leg muscles tense. Oh, it would be so easy to launch myself upwards! The sky and the wind call again, a song of welcome and? And? I can hold back the overpowering urge no more!
My launch is graceful, my body guided by instincts and long practice. I feel the strength of my own muscles and the powerful down-strokes of my wings, and the freedom! To leave the ground behind, to feel and know the nuisances of air ?the little eddies, the playful side winds, a strong upward thrust of the thermals rising from the cliff face far below. My body whispers all of this, and so much more ?my health, might joy-of-life flows through me from muzzle to tail-tip and ripples along the bone, muscle, and fiber of my wings, making them shimmer a green and gold.
Dreamchaser's story is not mine, I downloaded it when I was 12 and printed it. fast-forward 8 years. I find a page of the story and go looking online for the original. Not a trace was left. So to keep this story from disappearing completely I've uploaded it anywhere I can.