Farloft circled his prey from high above. The unsuspecting animal stood with its head down by a fallen tree. No doubt it was filling its belly with grass. It was larger than any others the young dragon had seen and bulkier. Like it still had its winter coat. He was about to dive in for the kill when its legs folded and it went down. Farloft opened his second eye lid in order to see better. He tilted his wedged head and stared at the beast. It wasn’t the same as the others. He dropped down several hundred feet in altitude making sure to keep his shadow off the animal so it would not know he was above. He was surprised at what he saw.
The beast was not the same at all. This one had wings. That was what gave it the impression of being bigger. They were close to its sides, but there. When he passed around the head of the animal he could also see it had something draped or stuck on its head. As much as he squinted in the fading light he was not going to be able to see it clearly unless he landed. His curiosity was stronger than his appetite at this point. He landed softly behind it blocking its retreat. It would have to go over the downed tree if it chose to try an escape.
“Who’s there?” the beast challenged in a frightened voice, as it tried to rise. The voice was muffled by the leather apparatus stuck on its head. It struggled to its feet and tried to turn toward Farloft, but it appeared it could not.
Farloft faltered. He had not expected the beast to talk to him. Now that he was on the ground he really didn’t know what he was looking at. It was the size of a very large horse, about half his size. It sported a charcoal gray to black coat with splotches of white on it that looked for all the world, like huge snowflakes. Its wings were covered with varied feathers from white through the pale grays, to charcoal and finally black. It had a tail at Farloft’s end that was black and scaly making it look distinctly dragonly, but with a puff of the same speckled feathers as its wings on the end. The ties to the leather boots it wore were wrapped above the ankles and sported soles at least four inches thick.
Farloft circled around, giving it a wide berth as he approached its head. It had a mane of feathers like its wings that encircled its neck from just under its head to a ‘v’ on it back between its shoulder blades and another similar ‘v’ on its chest just between its front legs. Its horns were ebony colored and closely coiled over its head to a little beyond the back of its ears.
Its feathery ears flicked in agitation, obviously picking up Farloft’s movement, but now the young dragon could see why it did not turned around. There were reins leading down from the halter on its head and they were tangled in the branches of the fallen tree. The halter completely covered its head except for the ears, horns and the eyes if they were facing forward, for the device had blinders on it.
“What are you?” Farloft wondered out loud.
The beast yanked at the reins holding it captive and strained to turn so it could see Farloft.
“Who are you?” It growled in the same muffled voice. Farloft was surprised it could breath in that leather contraption.
“I am Farloft,” he said, as he finally came far enough around the creature that it could see past its blinders.
“You’re a dragon,” it seemed to breathe in relief.
“Last time I looked,” Farloft quipped. “The question is what are you?”
“I will be pleased to answer all of your questions and converse in length if you will just help me get free of this confounded tree!”
Farloft tilted his wedged head for a moment in study. He opened his mouth and leaned down over the beast.
“What are you doing!” it demanded, as it cringed beneath the dragons open maw full of sharp teeth.
Farloft closed his mouth and licked the drool that threatened to fall off his chin. “I thought you wanted to be set free?”
“I do, but eating me was not what I had in mind,” the creature retorted.
“I’m not going to eat you,” Farloft scoffed. “I just think if I can hook my teeth under that contraption on the top of your head I can bite through it and it will slip off.” Farloft bobbed his head from side to side checking how the halter was connected. “You would like to be out of it, wouldn’t you? I mean I could just yank you free of the tree if you want to continue to wear it.” He squinted his golden eyes. “I don’t think it could be all that comfortable though. Must be hard to breath.”
“Indeed,” the creature sighed, “and I would appreciate you removing it for me if you can. Just be careful of the ears. I happen to be attached to them,” it cautioned.
Farloft dropped his head once more, clutched the binding of the halter at the top, between the ears and chomped down. The creature gave a shake of its head and the headdress fell off.