Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Gathering of Dragons - Chapter Fourteen

Snow sat in the shade staring out over the lagoon as the dragon lay snoring at his side. He saw the ripples traveling across the water when Lemira entered around the spit of sand that divided the bay from the open sea. He rose up and watched her as she glided into the lagoon. It was as if she were flying underwater. Her wings thrust down and back, and with each thrust, her head crested the water, followed by her back. She was a beautiful shade of blue-green with spots of lime green, which glowed in the dusk of evening, on her wings and fanned-fish tail. When her head rose out of the water, she gazed at the shore with huge opalescent eyes.

“She’s here,” Snow announced with a tap of his soft paw on Farloft’s head.

The dragon snorted and came to his feet. “Oh, yes…” He stretched out his front legs and rocked back on his hind ones to get the kinks out. “Come on. I’ll introduce you.”

Lemira came up in the shallows and called a welcome to her old friend in a song, which rumbled deep in her chest. The lime spots on her wings and tail flashed a cheery hello in rhythm to her greeting.

Farloft waded out and bumped heads with the smaller dragoness. He hummed a response and Snow cocked his head at this unusual exchange. He remained on the shore. Wetting his kitty paws to dig for delicious clams was one thing – wading out into chest deep water was quite another.

Farloft waved a wing back toward him and Lemira sang again. Snow thought that must have been his introduction, so he spread his wings and bowed politely in her direction.

The next few hours he sat and watched as Farloft reclined in the water by the sea dragon and hummed, while the dragoness responded in her song. Eventually, when it grew too dark to see anything but their silhouettes and the flashing lime green lights of Lemira, the gryphon retreated to the shallow nest Farloft made for them the previous evening and fell asleep.

Sometime in the still of the early morning hours, Farloft came back to the sleeping nest and moved in beside Snow.

“Did she agree?” Snow asked in a groggy voice.

“Indeed, but I fear my scales shall be permanently wrinkled from all the time in the water,” he chuckled.

“I’ll have to think up a new name,” Snow replied.

“You work on that, Fluff-butt,” Farloft said with a yawn. “I’m going to get some shuteye.”

They lay quietly for a few moments.

“Hey, Old Prune,” Snow chirped. “Can you turn up the heat a little? You’re chilling me out here.”

Farloft huffed at the new name, but raised his body temperature to accommodate the catbird. Snow snuggled in beside his toasty friend.

The next morning was spent fueling up on clams and fruit. Lemira left during the night with their package for Theresa. Farloft said it was another long flight to see Rymit on the tip of the southern continent in The Land of Sand and Stone.

“How will your healer friend communicate with Lemira?” Snow asked around a beak full of fruit.

“Clearair will be able to serve as a translator. She knows the way of many dragons, having hunted them for years.”

“Hunted them?” Snow chirped in surprise. He almost chocked on his melon.

“She had a curse placed upon her which made her human by day. She took jobs as a dragon hunter, but in truth, she warned any dragon she was hunting away and then faked their deaths. She has since had the spell removed. She is permanently dragon now.”

“And you met her during this ‘cursed’ time? That must have made for a very interesting relationship.”

“She saved James and my life. As I told you, I am heart-bound to her.” Farloft smiled at the thought of his mate.

Snow picked another low hanging fruit. “Do you think Lemira will join us in the fight?”

Farloft finished chewing and then turned his eyes out to sea. “I think it depends on her reception when she arrives in Kerth. I am hoping the females I left behind will be able to convince her. Unfortunately, she is not inclined to help humans. Her kind has been hunted by man for centuries - driven almost to the brink of extinction for the oil in their skulls. If the humans only knew, they could have befriended the sea dragons and had a helpmate at sea. Lemira and her kind love barnacles and would have saved the sailors the trouble of cleaning their hulls. They also know the waters better than any other creature in the seas. They could have been scouts for fishing vessels and kept explorers from floundering on rocky shoals.”

“Such a waste,” Snow said.

“Yes, indeed.”


Rymit lay upon his treasure trove in the oasis at the center of The Land of Sand and Stone. He claimed tolls, in merchandise, for his hoard, from each of the caravans who crossed his land. He was a huge black dragon and appeared even larger because of the vast array of jewelry he draped over his horns, around his neck, and tail. His long black horns spiraled back alongside his head for at least three feet. He was dazzling to the eye. Wingless and snakelike, his mere presence was impressive. Farloft knew he was miserly and not very trustworthy, but he also knew the dragon was a superior tunneler, which made him invaluable for what the old dragon had planned.

“What will you pay me if I join in your battle?” the massive ebony dragon asked, as he rearranged his mound of treasure into a better position for a more comfortable recline. He used his multiple coils to pull and push it into place. Farloft knew half of him was below the surface of his hoard. He had not risen since the two emissaries from Kerth arrived.

“We have nothing to trade, but I am sure I could find something in my hoard that would satisfy you,” Farloft offered.

“I do not venture out on promises,” Rymit sneered. He eyed Snow. “What does the gryphon carry in his pack?”

Snow ruffled his feather indignantly. The only thing this behemoth might want would be his grandfather’s journal and he was not about to give that up. 

Farloft nudged him with a wing to keep quiet. He had met dragons like this before. So greedy, that they could not see beyond their own muzzle.

“Perhaps some soft furs to cushion your coils.” Farloft reached out, and with a quick swipe of a claw, he cut the leather straps holding the furs to Snow’s back and they rolled out on the sand. “You do not see furs like this every day.” Farloft extolled with a wave of his wing over the bundle on the ground. “Look at the depth of that fur.” He picked one up and held it out toward Rymit. He huffed over it and the soft fur waved in the air enticingly. “The finest quality from the Northern end of the Westridge Mountains.” He was beginning to sound like a street vendor hawking his wares. “None better.” Farloft cast his golden eyes to the sky. “It gets cold in the desert at night. Nothing quite like a lovely fur to keep the coils warm and toasty.”

Snow could not help cocking his head to one side at the overkill salesmanship Farloft was doing, with his furs.

Rymit reached out and placed a paw on the fur. His eyes narrowed to slits of ecstasy as he stroked it. After all the years of laying on that pile of metal and rocks he called his hoard, Farloft imagined he must long for something soft. He was right.

“And there are many more to be had in Kerth,” Farloft added. He knew he had him hooked. Even if he had to give Rymit the whole collection in his cave, he wanted this tunneling dragon to join them.

Snow tossed over and sprang to his feet with ruffled wings and switching tail. He scratched his head with a claw. Then he dug at his wing with his beak, pulling several down feathers out and tossing them to one side.

“What’s the matter now?” Farloft asked in an exasperated tone. The gryphon had been restless all evening as they rested in the oasis before moving on to their next recruit. It would be a long flight to the Shadow Forest in the west.

“I think there are sand fleas,” Snow whined. He scratched at his side with a hind paw. “I know there are sand fleas.”

Farloft raised his upper body and looked around the pool in the middle of the oasis. “Why don’t you go lay over there on that rock?” He pointed with a wing to a relatively flat rock under a palm tree.

“The fleas aren’t bad enough.” Snow flopped down in front the old dragon and curled up between his paws.

Farloft sneezed into Snow’s feathered head. “What’s with you, Bird?” He pushed with his front paws on the gryphon to move him further away. His feathers tickled his nose and he sneezed again.

Snow pushed with his own claws and paws, and refused to budge. He was all muscle. He huddled closer to Farloft. “I’m cold. You are the one who gave away my furs,” he admonished.

“Better than giving up your grandfather’s journal, which is the only other thing that mercenary beast would have accepted as trade,” Farloft whispered.

“Nevertheless, we catbirds like to be warm. Since you chose to give them away, then you get to help keep me warm, Fire Breather,” he said in a muffled voice.

Farloft almost chuckled. The gryphon had curled up in a tight ball with his head beneath his wing.

The old dragon stood up and hit the ground beneath him with a small, controlled blast of dragon fire to warm the sand. “Ah, come here, Ice Cube.” He reached out and pulled the balled up gryphon onto the heated area. “That should take care of the fleas and the cold.”

Snow sighed contentedly. Farloft moved off to sleep in the cool breeze of the oasis.

Lemira and Rymit by Elizabeth Babicz

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