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Somewhere within that strange world between sleep and awakening, she felt something cold and wet hit her head hard.
"Knooack," she mumbled, wanting so much to return to her dream, only to be shocked fully awake by a loud explosion.
The thick brown knobs of her outer eyelids sprung open. Without thinking, she quickly shut the thin, protective inner eyelids. Where did this storm come from? she thought, her mind still somewhat in her dream. She could no longer see the familiar treetops, only sheets of rain coming down almost sideways and the fronds of nearby palms waving madly. And that roar. That horrible roar that resonated deep through her scaly skin.
A jagged bolt of lightning crackled and exploded, so close that it lit up the other side of her pond. She almost jumped, but the hooked black talons of her feet dug deep into her low-lying woven reed nest. Those at her wingtips gripped a rock to one side and pierced the gnarly tree on the other. As she lifted her horned head, water cascaded down and entered her ear openings, briefly drowning out the wind's incredible roar.
Her grip tightened when wind-driven palm fronds flipped up several of the larger, green scales along her back, exposing her skin to the cold and wet. A foamy wave drove muck into her two nostrils. She reared up her head on its long, brown neck and shook it, disgusted and angry.
Nothing made sense. The air had held no warning of a storm that morning. She had always been able to read clues to the day's weather from how high the small tweedle dragons flew, from scents in the air, or even from the way clouds scuttled across the sky.
She'd gone tosleep with such sweet thoughts.
Then she heard it, above the storm's roar. A sound like wings flapping. Her heart pounded harder. Not since her husband's disappearance had she been so confused. She held the nest tighter, but immediately relaxed her grip a little. It wouldn't do to destroy her nest and the great treasure it held.
How could I hear wings flapping through all this? Desperate to keep her three leathery white eggs safe against from the thrashing rain and waves without crushing them, she glanced up, eyes wide open. The air swirled with a terrifying mix of sticks, stones, rain, thunder and lightning. She shuddered and again closed the milky protective skin over her eyes. Once more she heard the crackling of something that sounded like wings.
She twisted her head, trying to locate the sound. A pebble struck and glanced off her protected eye. Angrily, she lifted her proud, crested head and roared, "KNOOOAAACK!"
As if to answer, a haunting sound cut through the storm's roar:
The voice, almost melodious, sounded like nothing she'd ever heard. Frightened, cautious, but curious, she slowly strained her long neck towards the voice.
It came again: "Aahnk..."
Coiling her neck back, ready to strike if necessary, she flicked out a long, dark, forked tongue to taste the air. The melody returned, this time without breaking off, now seemingly closer.
Her keen hearing caught every word.
Ever soft you glow
Oh mother below
To protect your brood
From evil so shrewd
Treasure to dread
is a fourth egg
Fear not his oddness
That's his key to bless
Ancient Mother's heart
is his to unlock
Nothing more. Not even the flapping sound. Only a whiff of something that was so familiar to her that a cold shudder crept up her back. She stretched out her long neck even further, in spite of the whipping branches. But the smell was gone. A good mother, she sensed her belly pressing down too hard on her eggs, so she lowered her head and resolved to calm down. Cold, wet, and upset that she couldn't understand any of this, she closed her eyes. Even through the thick, crusty outer lids, she could see the fierce white pulses of lightning and hear the cracking of thunder. To relax, she tried remembering how the day had begun.
* * *
By her woodland pond, nestled in a valley a half-day's flight from the Sea, dragons of all shapes and sizes had filled the air with shrill songs and clicking. A gentle wind caressed nest-filled trees, softly nudging the forest into a motion just like the waves sweeping the distant green sea. High above, the small and noisy tweedle dragons zigzagged as they chased insects or simply played. Higher up a hungry soarer slowly glided across a cloudless blue sky. Full-grown, brown and green-scaled waddle dragons like herself rarely had to fear their kind.
She had squirmed a bit, fluffing her belly scales to expose her warm brood patch to the three leathery eggs beneath. She sighed deeply, wondering how her children from hatchlings in years past were doing, and what life would bring to these new dragons slowly growing in her eggs. This world, Nistala, was not always an easy place, she reflected bitterly, having lost several young to the appetites of larger and fiercer dragons. Then, there was the disappearance of her husband. She wished fervently, as she had all too often, that all of Nistala's creatures would behave as waddle dragons and eat only plants, the sick, and those who welcomed death.
Stretching her curved neck to its full length, her large, friendly eyes looked into a reflection of herself before drinking.
Turning her head up she again noticed the soarer dragon slowly sliding across the cloudless blue sky. She wished it would go away.
"Knooaack," she said, squirming some more in her nest. Through her belly's sensitive brood patch, she felt the stirring of one of her babies. Inhaling deeply, she rested her head on a gnarly branch, letting it scratch an itch on her scaly brown and green throat. She kept an eye on that soarer. When it sailed out of sight, she exhaled and let her thick crusty eyelids slowly shut.
The sun's warmth settled like a thick blanket of moss over her mind. Soon she was dreaming. She'd had this dream often: Eyes closed and a mild wind in her face, she drifted across the sky in a woven nest firmly grasped in the claws of the legendary flame warriors. She heard the dull flapping of these Firstborns' powerful wings. Though she'd never seen any sort of Firstborn, the images of these immortal dragons lived deep in her mind through the stories her mother and aunts had told her of Creation. Even her husband, now but a memory, had spoken fondly of Creation.
Copyright © 2002 by Bent Lorentzen.