Monday, December 24, 2018

The Fur and Frost Dragon Winter Games


Here is a little holiday tale Farloft passed on to me yesterday, 
which I thought you all would enjoy.


The Fur and Frost Dragon Winter Games

Norla shook and pulled at the furs Farloft was curled up on. “Time to get up sleepy head! The competition starts in two hours and you haven’t even had breakfast.” The youngling female furry dragon had been his constant companion since he arrived at the Fur and Frost clan’s stronghold in the far north.

“I’m up…” Farloft replied with a yawn.

They had all spent a late night celebrating the opening of the Fur and Frost Winter Games. It was an annual event and the highlight of the two clan’s holiday festivities. A lot of mead and quite a bit of dark red wine had flowed down his and the other dragon’s gullets.

Farloft, a youngling green western dragon, had made this his next stop on his dragon quest when he heard about the clans and the competition from a furry dragon in the village. The mixed community of humans and dragons was at the base of the huge mountain range they referred to collectively as The Ridgeback. He had never met a furry dragon until he ran into the old dragon storyteller in the pub of the village. He was fascinated by the fact that the dragons had fur rather than the scales he knew of his clans and the other clans in the southern regions.

The storyteller had lovely pinto markings, but when Farloft arrived at the Fur and Frost stronghold, he found that the fur clan were as diverse in their markings as kittens. They ranged from white through ginger, grey to black, brown to cinnamon, and everything in between. Norla was a lovely golden color with four white paws, along with the tips of her ears and her wings.

Farloft stretched out long like a cat, then arched his back and gave his dragon alarm clock a big grin. “What’s for breakfast? I have to build up the boiler for the old fire glands if I intend to win this competition.” He thumped his chest and templed his wings up over his head. They almost touched the ceiling of the furry cave he had been assigned in the stronghold. The youngling furries were smaller than him and he would be larger than the adult furries when he was full grown.

“They are serving elk, stag and boar, along with a collection of fresh fish - both smoked and fried, with roasted root vegetables, and a selection of fruit brought up from the valley below.”

“Sounds just like what I need. I want to thank you all for inviting me to join in the games. I’m really looking forward to it.” He nudged the smaller dragon with a wing. “I know I won’t be able to best anyone, but it is going to be really fun.”

Farloft fell in beside Norla as they proceeded down one of the long volcanic tubes that formed the corridors of this stronghold and connected to the general assembly area. Several dragons greeted them as they strolled by. Farloft had been living here for about two weeks and found the integrated clans of Fur and Frost dragons to be very friendly. The frost dragons, unlike the furries, were all white and their body style resembled that of an otter with wings. They were great fishers, fast and agile in the water. The furries, he was told, on the other hand were useless in the water. Their fur got wet and would eventually sink them.

In the dining hall they met up with several other dragons that Norla considered her close friends. Along with them was her older brother, Talwain. Talwain was considered the favorite for at least three of the five competitions.

There were five events for each of the two clans.

The Furries had “Fire Breathing”. This was done by placing a stone on a frozen lake and the first to melt the ice enough to make the stone fall through, won that round.

The second event was the “Midgin Catch”. Midgins were small rodents that formed tunnels under the deep snow. The fields were full of them and the furries detected them by their sound of either digging or scurrying along the tunnels. Farloft had watched Norla and her friends play at this event. It required staying very still on the snowfield, listening and when you heard the midgin, diving into the soft drifts of white, head-first, to capture the little creature. The midgins were only eaten during really tough winters. Usually, it was just a game and the little furballs were released. In any event, for a dragon they would not even be a mouthful. Whoever caught the most midgins in a designated time won this round.

The third furry competition was “The Hunt”. This was one poised for speed and skill because the contestants were restricted to the ground. No flying. The dragon who brought back the largest prize in the allotted time won this round.

The fourth round was a “Weightlifting” competition. Rocks were loaded in a large basket. The basket had to be lifted vertically through the air, fifty feet off the ground, starting from a sitting position with no running jump. Each round added another rock until the last dragon lifted the heaviest weight.

The fifth and final was a snow building contest. There were no restrictions and it was judged for artistic flair and originality. This round went on all five days of the competition. You could take any amount of time to create you snow sculpture from 1-5 days.

The Frost clan’s competition had two swimming competitions, one for speed and one for agility. The second was like an underwater obstacle course.

The third round was a fishing contest. Most fish caught in an allotted time.

The fourth like the fourth in the furry competition was for weightlifting.

The fifth and final was an ice sculpture contest. The Frost clan dragons, unlike the Furry clan, did not breathe fire, but instead, breathed ice. Farloft had been told that the ice sculpture was an incredible competition to witness and very hard to judge. The Frost clan were very imaginative with their works of ice art.

“What’s first?” Farloft asked around a mouthful of elk.

“First stop is the beginning of the snow and ice sculptures at the base of the mountain,” Norla answered. “Today they will just be piling up the snow and creating the ice bases for their work, but everyone gathers to cheer them on and the hatchlings love to help pile the snow.”

“Help?” Talwain scoffed. “I am glad I do not participate in that competition. The first day is spent digging out hatchlings that have disappeared in the snow piles.”

The group all chuckled around the raised rock platform where they were eating.

“I tried one year,” Pollark, a snowy white frostie added. “It was enough to make your claws curl. Hatchlings…” he snorted.

Farloft had to chuckle. Pollark was barely old enough to be called a youngling himself. “You do have a passel of the young ones in your two clans.”

“We do,” Multon agreed. He was one of the older younglings, a large gray tabby, in the fur clan and was Talwain’s rival for the Midgin competition. “But it is nice to know the clan is healthy and growing.”

“The Frost ‘Speed Competition” and the Fur ‘Midgin Catch’ will begin in one hour,” a large red coated dragon roared.

Norla nudged Farloft. “Eat up. We need to get down to view the snow and ice sculpture contest before heading out to the midgin field. In spite of what the boys say, you don’t want to miss the hatchling’s antics.”

She was right. Farloft could not keep a straight face while they watched hatchlings tunneling and destroying the piles of snow as fast as the adult and younglings worked to pile it up for their art projects. Some of the hatchlings looked more like snowballs than furry balls. And the frost hatchlings were just as much to blame for the mayhem as the furries. They appeared to be as adept at tunneling as their parents were at swimming.

By the time they broke away from that competition, the snow bleachers at the Midgin Catch and Speed Swim were almost full. Farloft and Norla squeezed into the fifth row up from the field.

“We’ll be able to see better from here then from down lower,” she explained. “You can see both contests.” They had a view of the stretch of river to their right for the Speed Swim and the Midgin field was just below.

“Why didn’t you enter the Midgin Catch?” Farloft asked. “When I was watching you and your friends last week, you beat all of them, paws down.”

Norla shook her wedged head. “Nah, there are lots better than me. Wait until you see Zoolic. She is so light on her paws that the midgin haven’t a clue that she is above them. She catches them as fast as she can release them for the judge’s count.”

Farloft’s furry companion was right. Zoolic, a tiny furry colored like an appaloosa, won the Midgin Catch with no one near her in the count. 56 catches in the two-hour contest.

The Speed Swim was exciting and Norla was right to have found them seats so high in the snow bleachers. Most of that competition was underwater, so the best way to watch was from above where you could see the frost dragon’s lieth bodies gliding through the water with strong thrust of their wings and webbed feet while being steered by their tails.

After the Speed Swim, everyone flew back to check on the progress of the sculpting in snow and ice. Some of the works still appeared to be only piles of snow or ice, but a couple were taking shape. You could see that one team of furry dragons was being very optimistic in starting to create a large vignette of several dragons playing some sort of game. And one of the teams of frost dragons was building a huge platform for something really large they intended to create. Everyone was anxious to see the works at the end of day two. Norla told Farloft that was when you usually could see what everyone had planned.

They all retired at dusk when the sculpture teams chose to stop for the night. Everyone gathered in the assembly room for a meal and an early bed. Tomorrow would be the ‘Fire Breathing’ and the ‘Underwater Obstacle Course’. Farloft intended to participate in the ‘Fire Breathing’.

~*~ 

When Norla went to wake Farloft the next morning she found his chamber empty. She located him in the main hall sitting down to his fourth platter of elk, stag and fish.

“Here you are… You got an early start this morning.” Norla set her platter down beside the young green dragon’s.

“My clan is known for its fire breathing abilities, but we need the fuel to burn,” Farloft explained, as he gulped down on his sixth large salmon. “No fuel, no fire. This makes my fourth helping.”

Norla nodded in Talwain’s direction, as her brother piled his platter high. “Us too, but maybe not to the extent you do.”

Farloft covered his muzzle as a belch escaped. “Excuse me. Side-effect of the gasses building for the fire. It’s a good sign.”

Norla giggled and tucked into her own meal. She was not competing but seeing all this over consumption of food had perked up her appetite.

Talwain sat down across from Farloft. “Looking forward to the contest today, I see.” He nodded toward his new friend’s almost empty plate. “Going back for seconds?”

“Fifth’s!” Norla answered for Farloft with a grin. “I am learning something new each day about his clan. They can consume a lot!” She rolled her eyes toward her new friend.

Farloft shrugged his shoulders. “I want to do my clan proud in the competition today. It, and the hunt, are the only two contests I entered.”

“With fifths on the horizon, I better eat up,” Talwain responded and dug into his platter with both paws.

The two contests of the second day were intertwined. The course for the Frost obstacle course was laid out on the floor of the frozen lake. The course had been built during the summer months and consisted of several small, tight grottos, several boulders to maneuver around, a bed of freshwater kelp to pass through, and two blow holes which had been carved out of the ice sheet over the lake. In addition to these, the frosties had to avoid the large stones that would be randomly falling through the ice from the ‘Fire Breathing’ contest being held above their heads.

Farloft took his station on the frozen lake. The judges were also the dragons who made sure the ice was at the same depth, and the stone the same weight and shape, as all the other contestants.

The crowd in the snow bleachers was diverse today. The hatchlings had their fun yesterday with the snow and ice sculptures. Today, with the artwork taking shape, the hatchlings had been restricted from the area and therefore had accompanied their parents to the two events further away from the lair. The hatchlings were full of questions and anxious to see the competition start.

Farloft was told that the competition was initiated with a roar from the same red dragon who announced the starting time in the assemble hall. He was keeping an eye on the cinnamon colored dragon as he walked around checking each contestant’s position and stone.

“Ready, my friend?” the large red asked as he approached Farloft.

“Indeed, Sir.” Farloft grinned and let a trickle of smoke escape from his nostrils to show his enthusiasm.

“Good boy,” the red replied and clapped him with a big paw on the back, which made him expel even more smoke. “Wait for my roar. An early start will get you disqualified. And remember, for the frostie competition below, you must continue to sink your stone even if you hear that someone else has beaten you to the winner’s spot.”

Farloft gulped down his fire and smiled. “Will do, Sir.”

A moment after the red dragon roared, another roar went up at the start of the frostie race and the contestants in that race plunged into the water as the fire erupted on the surface of the lake. The crowd could see the flashes of the frosty white coats under the ice between the licking flames of the furry dragons above.

Farloft had pumped up his fire glands, but when the frost dragon’s roar came, it startled him, and he lost his concentration for a moment. He caught the sight of the frosties diving into the lake through the spots that had been cleared of ice for their entry. They were on their way to the first blow hole.

Farloft shook his head and pumped more gas into his glands to bring the heat up on the ice under his stone. His station was about halfway through the course that was being run below him. Talwain told him that if the racers made it to his spot before he sunk his stone, then he would most likely lose the contest. The racers below were a good judge of melt time.

Farloft kept inhaling and exchanging the air for gas in his glands. He was pleased to see his fire was so hot it was a lovely shade of blue. The stone was beginning to sink into a pool of melted ice. He didn’t look up to see how the other contestants were doing. He kept his head down and his fire burning bright.

He glimpsed the frosties come to the first blow hole, rise like whales, blow and take another deep breath to take them to the second hole beyond his station.

Farloft had no idea how much longer he had to go, but based on the white flashes of the frosties under the ice, which he caught out of the corner of his eye, he hoped the ice wasn’t much deeper.

There was a roar to his right, just as his stone broke through the ice and sunk in front of the first frostie to pass his station. He looked up to spy a grinning Talwain. His stone was the first to fall through the ice. He was strutting around like a over grown rooster, fanning his wings in the air and doing a little high stepping dance across the lake. When he looked Farloft’s direction, the green dragon gave the furry a thumbs up.

In the distance, just past Talwain, Farloft saw the frosties rise to the second blow hole, breathe and descend again.

Talwain gave a little flap and skidded gracefully across the ice, past the other contestants still working on sinking their stone. “Good job!” He gave Farloft a high-five. “You almost beat me. You were HOT!” he complimented.

There was another cheer as the third stone sank through, followed by cheer after cheer, from the crowd as the stones all began to fall. Over two dozen. Farloft imagined that must have made the last part of the underwater race a real challenge.

A few moments later and roars were heard as the first frostie emerged on the bank of the lake to claim the win for that contest.

“Come on,” Talwain said. “I’ll introduce you to the winner of the frost race. She will want to meet the dragon that almost dropped a stone on her head.”

~*~ 

Day three was the weightlifting contest for each team. The furries had a large basket with two stout handles which they held in their front paws in order to lift the weight. The frosties had a contraption that fit over the middle of their long backs with a basket on either side. The baskets were harnessed around their bellies and around their necks, with a strap in between that ran the length of their torso from the belly strap to the neck strap.

Hartlorn won the furry lift after almost half a day of competition. Reggit won the frosty contest over the previous year’s winner by only one stone.

When they returned to the sculpture competition at the end of the day, it was clear what everyone was constructing. In the furry competition, there was the vignette of the three furries having a snowball fight, a sculpture of a furry and a frostie entwined in a huggle kissing, a furry wrestling with an ice bear, and lastly a surprisingly good likeness of Farloft with a huge grin on his face and an extended paw to another huge pile of snow.

Farloft grinned in embarrassment. “I am surprised they chose me. I wonder what that is going to be?” he added eyeing the other pile of snow.

“We’ll see…” Norla said with a sly smile.

Farloft wondered if she had any inside information. She seemed to know everyone in the furry and frost community.

The frosties had an ice sculpture developing of a huge snowflake with smaller flakes dangling from the outer points, there was a tree developing that looked like it was going to be in bloom when they finished with a frostie sitting below it in her summer coat, a frostie perched on the crest of a wave looking as though he/she was going to dive right over the crowd, and the large platform they had watched being constructed for the past two days was beginning to show signs of yet another Farloft sculpture with one hooked outstretched arm.

“Another mystery.” Norla gave Farloft a wing bump. “You seem to be a popular theme.”

“Nah,” Farloft said with a grin. He was so surprised to see they had chosen to render him in ice and snow. “I bribed them.”

Norla cocked her head on one side. “You didn’t.”

“No,” Farloft confessed. “I didn’t, but it’s kind of embarrassing to think they thought of that on their own. I mean, I am not that handsome a dragon.”

“You are to us,” Norla admitted. “And the contest is for originality and artistic ability. You are original around here, with your scales and vibrant green. It will be good to see how much detail they put into their work.”

“I’m looking forward to it.” Farloft blushed a bit under his green.

“Hey, Farloft…” Talwain called. “What makes you so popular? I’m the one who won the Fire Breathing contest,” he teased.

“Guess it’s just his handsome green,” Norla answered for him. “And his lack of ego,” she dug at her older brother.

“Yeah… right…” Talwain said. “Come on, Farloft…” He placed a wing over the young green dragon’s back. “Come have a mead with me and tell me your secret to popularity.”

“My pleasure.”

Farloft and Talwain headed for the assemble hall, a mead, a meal, and then bed. Tomorrow was the Hunt.

~*~ 

Farloft cleared the snow from a large granite boulder. He proceeded to sharpen his claws. In two hours, the hunt would begin. He had his breakfast early so he wouldn’t be running on a full stomach. He and Norla had checked out the sculpture area, which was fast becoming almost park-like where the sightseeing dragons had trod so heavily that they had made lanes around and through all the snow and ice sculptures.

The two of Farloft were getting a lot of attention. The scales on the ice sculpture were getting carved into place. The tail was getting some detail on the snow sculpture.

Pollark, Multon and Talwain landed in front of Farloft and tucked their wings.

“We saw you head out. Wondered what you were up to,” Pollark said.

“Just sharpening my claws a bit.” Farloft flexed his paw to show off his lethal weapons. “They needed a little attention.”

Multon sidled up to the boulder. “Mind if I join you?” He raised a large striped paw and extending his retractable claws.

“Wish mine would do that,” Farloft lamented. “Mine are permanently out.”

“Yeah, soft paws make for great cuddles with the ladies,” Pollark said. “Kinna calls me ‘puddy paws’.”

“Aww…” Talwain rolled his eyes and wing bumped Pollark. “Our lover boy,” he teased.

“I don’t get any complaints,” the frostie defended himself. “From Kinna or anyone else.”

“Anyone else?” Multon said from his place at the boulder as he whittled away. “Who else are you huggling? If Kinna finds out she will have your plush white hide for an area rug in her chambers.”

“Kinna’s a bit jealous,” Talwain whispered to Farloft behind a wing.

Farloft raised a brow. “Really?” He rolled his eyes at Pollark. “Better watch out. Those females can be a pawful when they have their fire up.”

“I don’t have anyone else,” Pollark started to backpedal. “Kinna is my one true love.”

“True love at sixty?” Talwain snorted. “Wait until you are at least a hundred before you make a heart commitment.”

“Indeed,” Farloft grinned. “Think of your youngling quest. I am just 75 and haven’t finished seeing half the places on my list. I didn’t even know your clans were here. There is so much to see out in the wide world.” He waved with a wing.

“He’s right,” Multon added. “There is more to this world than furs and frosts.”

~*~ 

The hunting and fishing competition were run at the same time and the feast that followed was based on the catches of those contests. Elk, stag, boar, and fish, but the winner was Multon with an ice bear.

“How did you ever decide on an ice bear to win the competition?” Talwain asked. He had taken down a large elk, which he thought would win him the competition, but Multon had actually had to enlist help to get his kill back to the lair for judging, it was that heavy.

“I didn’t choose it, it chose me,” Multon answered. “I killed a good sized dagmoose, but the ice bear seemed to think it was his kill. We fought over it and he lost.” Multon rubbed the large scratch over his muzzle from wrestling with the bear.

“Don’t rub that,” Norla chided. “You’ll open it up again.”

Multon looked contrite and lowered his paw. It was the third time Norla had gotten after him about the wound. She had held his paw while the healer stitched it shut for him. He was going to have a nice sized scar from the tussle.

“His loss, your win,” Farloft said and clapped his new friend on the back. “Good think you took the time to sharpen those claws.”

“Indeed,” Multon agreed, as he raised his bowl to toast the day. “To the feast and to those that provided it.”

~*~ 

It was the final day of the games and everyone was anxious to see the results of the snow and ice sculpture contest. After the viewing and voting for that competition it would be time for more feasting, play and long naps in the furs for those who had played hard over the last five days.

Everyone migrated to the sculptures after breakfast.

Farloft was the center of attention. The snow sculpture by the furries was a surprise. It was based on a story Farloft had told everyone during the first day of his stay with them. That second pile of snow had materialized into a gryphon. The ‘Snow Farloft’ was reaching out to pat the gryphon’s beak. The detail on the feathers was exceptional.

Farloft thought the ice sculpture was just as awesome. It was of him with his arm around what looked a lot like Norla’s shoulder. They both had big grins on their faces. It was really a testimony of how open and friendly the fur and frost clan were.

“Who does the judging?” Farloft asked.

“We all cast a vote,” Talwain replied. “The winner will be announced at the dinner tonight.”

~*~ 

It was a surprise when the winners of the sculpture contest were announced. It was a tie between the two Farloft sculptures. The young green dragon was both honored and a bit embarrassed to be the center of attention the whole night. Many a bowl were raised to his health and long life. That night, and in truth his entire stay, with the Fur and Frost clan would go down in his memory as some of the best days of his youngling quest.

Happy Holidays to All!


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