From The Eyes Of A Dragon
From The Eyes Of A Dragon
“Father, why do we have to go hunting today?” complained the young white dragon as she sat examining the new streak of copper scales that had surfaced on top of her front leg. “Couldn’t we wait until the weather clears? I don’t want my first hunt to be in a storm.” It was a discussion she had held with her father many times. It wasn’t that she feared flying in a storm; she just had no desire to risk her life in one.
A deep sigh echoed through the air as the dull, cloud-covered rays of sunrise began to fall on the moist cave walls. The sun reflected off of the metallic copper scales of the large dragon lying at the mouth of the cave, peppering the dark cavern with soft orange lights.
The copper dragon’s tired reply echoed through the cave as he turned his head to look at her. Her white scales contrasting starkly with the cold, dark cave walls. His red eyes met hers.“Vakinari, you will be coming of age in a few years. It will not be long before you will need to be able to fend for yourself. You have delayed your flight practice long enough. Besides, every male wants a mate to hunt with, rather than having to do everything himself.” It was a jest pointed at her mother, who often opted to stay in the cave, watching her unhatched eggs.
Vakinari conceded to her father as he stood and began strutting out of the cave, his large tail scraping against the cavern wall as he walked through the entrance. It was no use arguing with him again; he was set on her practicing this day, in this storm.
Vakinari sighed as she rose to her feet. — like anyone would want to perform the dance with a mix breed like myself, — this notion she kept to herself. She wasn’t necessarily happy about it, but it was something she had come to accept. No male had ever even considered her as more than an abomination. It wasn’t just that her parents were different colors. Her father was a pure metallic dragon, while her mother was a chromatic. The union itself had been enough to get them exiled from their clans.
“All the more reason for you to learn to hunt, and to be comfortable with . . .” started her father.
“I told you I don’t like it when you read my thoughts,” Vakinari growled. It was an annoying trait of the metallic dragons, the ability to read the minds of others, hear their thoughts, and speak into their minds. She pictured a giant rainbow bear making the craziest face possible to close her mind. The sweet song of her father’s laugh filled the air as they walked.
Sometime later, they emerged from the sea of trees into a large clearing. The scales on her father’s side moved and rippled like the grass on a windy day. He was loosening his muscles, preparing to take flight. It was a necessary procedure she had practiced many times. Vakinari stopped to do the same. She thought through the steps carefully, stretching her copper wing membranes to their fullest, working out the soreness from a long cold night. Her wing joints extended and locked into place, as her muscles tightened around them. The air was thick with the coming rain; it would be an exhausting flight.
A soft roar reached them from the cave, a final call from her mother to be careful. Her father turned, the aging flap of scales under his jaw vibrating as he responded, assuring her mother they would return.
Vakinari thought a single word loudly in her head: “ready,” picturing herself in the most perfect stance possible. Her wings were now held partially folded by her sides, appearing nearly twice the size from before.
Her father moved over to her. He examined her back, pressing his massive paw against her to feel the muscles beneath her white scales. “Well done, child! That is a great flight stance.” His voice was that of an affectionate mentor, congratulating his pupil. “Shall we go?”
Vakinari surged forward, getting a running start before spreading her wings, giving her a silhouette nearly twice as wide as it was long.
“Great take off! But your right shoulder was a little loose.” The loud, amused voice of her father was clearly audible over the rush of air that surrounded Vakinari as she continued to climb. She turned, looking back at her father with her left eye while she tightened the muscles of her right shoulder.
Her father stretched his wings, nearly blanketing the clearing with their brilliant sheen that dwarfed Vakinari’s wingspan. With a single surge, he was high in the air. The trees below bent and swayed away as a few flaps brought him to the same altitude as Vakinari.
“We’ll start our hunt in the foothills; we may even get there before it begins to storm.” Vakinari’s father pushed ahead of her, leading the way away from the mountains.
Vakinari flew hard, flapping her wings at nearly twice the pace of her father just to keep up. She thought back to her early flight lessons, how she couldn’t fly more than a few minutes without becoming exhausted. Now she wasn’t even tired, and they had been flying for nearly an hour.
Her father’s voice brushed against the wall of her consciousness. — Do you remember your lessons on flying through storms? — This was an unwelcome reminder that today’s practice would be in a storm.
— Only that I should loosen my shoulder and wing muscles when I enter one, so as to prepare for the high winds. — Vakinari could hardly hear her father over the whirlwind of emotions in her own mind.
— You also want to gain as much altitude as you can before entry, and you must remember not to fight the wind. — Her father paused for a moment. — There’s a rainstorm ahead. Do you see it? It’s small and light, but will make a good first experience. —
Vakinari looked ahead of her father. His thoughts echoed in her head, fostering a foreboding sense of dread within her. Just over a mile away, there was a column of slightly darker air where a light rain had begun. The clouds above were shallow, and there appeared to be very little wind. The sight of the apparently calm storm eased her fears slightly. — Maybe this won’t be so bad, — she thought.
— We’ll need to enter it as far up as we can, just to be safe. Be ready; looks can be deceiving in small storms such as this. — Her father’s thoughts were a warning not to become overconfident, and to remember her lessons.
— Why can’t I start storm training when I’m older? — Vakinari’s thoughts were more a plea for mercy than a complaint, as she blocked out an image from a recent nightmare of her falling helplessly through a storm.
— You are older, and the sooner you learn, the better. Weather in these mountains is unpredictable, and you may one day find yourself in the middle of a storm on your way home. It is better that you know what to expect, and how to react before that happens. — The tone of her father’s thoughts betrayed his irritation at her hesitance.
— As you wish, — Vakinanri responded, her body already tightening in anxiety.
Both Vakinari and her father steered toward the small section of rain, gaining altitude as they flew. It did not take them long to reach the downdraft. Vakinari braced herself, slightly relaxing the muscles on her shoulders and wings to allow for the wind they were about to encounter.
The force of the downdraft was much greater than she expected. The immediate impact caused Vakinari to fall significantly. She grunted in pain as the muscles along her chest stretched. A crosswind suddenly took hold of Vakinari, causing her to roll onto her back. Instinct took over; she folded her wings before righting herself. Vakinari used the fall to gain speed before extending her wings in an attempt to glide upward. However, the downdraft grew more intense, Forcing her into a dive. Her muscles screamed and ached with fatigue. — Is this where I die? — Vakinari thought as she continued to fall. She flapped her wings vigorously, trying to push away from the rapidly approaching ground below. But no matter how hard she tried, her wings did not seem to be catching enough air to pull her up. She was starting to make out the details of the ground below when she collided with another crosswind. This one turned her on her side, increasing the speed of her fall.
Panic set in as she continued to fight, to struggle against the wind. Then it was over. Vakinari was breathing heavily, her heart racing as she emerged from the torrent of air. She had fallen dangerously close to the ground, just barely clearing a tree that passed beneath her. A great shadow engulfed Vakinari, as her father halted his dive towards her. She immediately felt the need to land, and settled atop a small hill. She was shaking uncontrollably, unsure how to feel about what had just happened.
“Are you injured?” Vakinari’s father asked her as he landed at the base of the hill. Vakinari did not answer. “That storm was a little more severe than I thought.” Her father’s concerned eyes met hers.
— I’m not hurt, — she thought to him. — That really scared me. I don’t think I’ll want to fly again, not in a storm. — An image flashed through her mind, rain, lightning everywhere. She was falling uncontrollably, unable to right her wings.
The thought was interrupted by her father lying down next to her. He spread his wing over Vakinari as he spoke aloud.
“You know, I was just a second away from catching you. You would not have hit the ground.” The warmth of his belly stopped her tremors as she pushed her small body against his. He was not even winded. His strong heartbeat was steady and even, while her’s raced wildly.
“This time.” She replied, as she pictured herself a crumpled corpse on the ground. “How are you not tired?” She looked towards him. His head was turned towards the small storm that now moved away from them.
“I have told you many times Vakinari; you must not fight the wind. Arava is a fickle goddess. Sometimes her winds aid us, and enable us to fly great distances. Other times they seem to work against us. You must learn to read these changing currents and flow with them. Once you do, you will find that you can fly through nearly any storm. More importantly, you will be able to defend yourself in any storm.”
Her father’s calm voice pierced Vakinari. She recalled many lectures about these very teachings, but when the time came to put her lessons into practice, she had forgotten them entirely.
“We had better head back. We can hunt in the forest.” Her father looked towards her, motioning back toward their home. The small storm they had flown through had joined a large mass of clouds obscuring the mountain tops, the floor of which was already darkening with rain. “We will have to walk once we get closer to that storm . . . Are you good to fly for a bit longer?” This was more of a command than a question. He would make her fly, even until her wings failed her.
“I can try,” replied Vakinari, unsure if her exhausted wings would even hold her aloft.
“You will become stronger, my child. In time you may surpass even me.” Her father rose to his feet, preparing to take flight. Vakinari was no longer trembling from her encounter. However, her timidness at opening her wings revealed that she was still shaken from her fall.
Vakinari rose into the air behind her father, relieved at the notion of hunting from the forest floor, rather than the air.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
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UP NEXT – The Forbidden Hunt, introducing a young hunter torn between two sides of an unspoken war.
Tales From Albrene
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