Dragon Bones: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Into the Fiery Pits of Hell by thedarkenedlight via www.deviantart.com

Into the Fiery Pits of Hell by thedarkenedlight via www.deviantart.com

DRAGON BONES…

Phara studied the hand-drawn map as she stood at the edge of a ravine. It was steep here but sloped down, through the cactus and the acacia, to a spot that at the moment, was still in the shade. The wind pulled at the scarf that covered the lower half of her face. “Shit.” She tucked the map into the pocket inside her shearling coat, dust flying into her eyes in the steady wind. “Damn wind,” she muttered.

She studied the way down. One misstep and she would roll down, hitting every sharp-edged boulder and cactus on the way to the bottom. Phara adjusted the scarf again and using her pole, tested the first step before putting her weight on it. Not a guarantee, but better than stepping blindly on a bit of ground that would spill her to the bottom.

Halfway down she rested and sipped from her canteen—drinking the grit that coated her mouth. One more problem, it was half empty. If she didn’t find water soon, her trek would be for nothing. Her bones would be lying in the ravine bottom with all the rest. Sighing she capped the canteen tightly and secured it to her belt before edging her way farther down.

At the bottom she rested, legs quivering. The other side of this wide valley should be her destination. She hoped so. It had been madness to take on this journey. It had already cost her her brother’s life. The wind was less, here in the bottom, so she left the scarf loosely draped around her neck and plodded on. The mage had better be right. If I’m on a fool’s quest I’m going to haunt that old man for the rest of his life.

The sun rose over the edge of the ridge as she reached her destination. This has to be the right place. Look at the size of those bones! Leg bones were bigger than she was. Skulls twice the length of her body. So many. The mage was right. This is a dragon graveyard.

Phara prodded the piles. It looked like others had been here, the bones were scattered. Yes, there were human skeletons here too. Smashed skulls, broken legs, she left them alone. Bad luck or bad partners, she couldn’t say. There was no point disturbing them and bringing their final curses home to roost on her. Close to the cliff face she found a skeleton that looked nearly complete. Perhaps the other searchers never made it this far, running out of luck or betrayed before this dragon’s remains could be reached.

She dropped to her knees next to the standing rib cage. Phara crawled into the center, where the heart should be. Using her stick she dug through the drifted sand, deeper and deeper until she hit the huge spine. To the left, maybe it fell through the ribs to the ground. The sand kept sliding back into the hole until she shoved it back with her feet. Come on. Come on. Give it up, dragon.

Her mouth was so dry her tongue hurt. Grit crunched between her teeth. “Where is it?” She had to watch that, talking to herself when she got back. The proctors would mark her a crazy woman and drag her off. No water till you find it. Dig, damn it! She searched from rib to rib, digging two feet down. Maybe it’s on the other side? Phara cursed herself and the mage and began again on the right. The sun beat down now it was high enough in the sky, so she stopped digging long enough to pull the scarf up over her head to keep it from baking and over her mouth to keep some of the dust she was raising out of her mouth

One rib, two, three. Phara wanted to cry but couldn’t waste the water. It has to be here, right? The skeleton hasn’t been disturbed. She dug another foot to her right. Maybe the mage was lying. Maybe there’s no such thing as a heart stone. It would serve me right to be lost on a cursed dragon chase and die right here between this sorry creature’s ribs. Aggravated with herself and the mage and her brother for dying and leaving her out here all alone she slammed the end of her stick into the ground and heard it bang against something not sand or bone. She stopped; stick raised for the next strike.

Carefully she stuck it into the ground. It slid to the left, into the sand. Heart racing, she dropped her staff and dug with her hands. Yes! It was cool and smooth to the touch. On her belly she reached into the hole and cleared the sand. It was revealed. The sun glinted off of it, a color of red she’d never seen. Brilliant yet dark, like a dark, red, wine. Phara lifted it from the ground and wiped it clean with an end of her scarf. The mage was right. The dragon heart turned to stone. “It’s soul,” the mage said. She sat up and rocked with it clutched to her chest. Finally. It was hers if she could get it back to the city.

The King would pay a huge sum for it. She could get her father out of prison. Get medicine for her mother and buy her little sister and brother back from the slavers. Tears streaked dusty tracks down her cheeks. It was going to be hard. The stone was too large to hide in her coat. It would have to be disguised as she dragged it all the way back home.

I’ll make a travois from dragon finger bones. That will get me most of the way home. I’ll cover it with rags. Yes. I can do this. She let herself sip some water and plan. Then it was time to get busy. She was going to buy her family back and no one would stop her.

 

 

Thank You!

999 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Winterthur: The Beginning, Flash Friday Post

Dragon by bloodybarbarian-d3jp97t by Art of Okan via DeviantArt.com

Dragon by bloodybarbarian-d3jp97t by Art of Okan via DeviantArt.com

It’s been raining and/or snowing here in central Arizona for the last four days. Usually precipitation comes, stays an hour or so and leaves. So to have four days of snow falling, not really sticking, but falling, is unusual. It’s prompted a winter story. Maybe more.

This has turned out more like a first chapter than a complete story. What do you think? Would you like to read more?

Winterthur: The Beginning

Gwella shifted her eighteen-foot length to coil on her right side. She eased onto the eggs beneath her with care. Winter was nearly over, soon game would emerge from their winter resting places and there would be food for her hatchlings. With long years of practice, she blew a small flame around the rocks of her nest, heating them to a dull red. Enough to keep the floor of their cave warm and the eggs that rested on the sand on top of the floor, the perfect temperature. She stretched her wings. Soon Feldin, her mate, and Flight leader, would return with something for her to eat. Tomorrow it would be her turn to hunt and his to sit and keep the eggs warm.

Several dragons, who lived in nearby caves, would be out with Feldin, hunting. It would be major game this time of year, buffalo or horses, or wolves if pickings were thin. She would prefer a nice big gator right now but they were hibernating deep in the mud of the Winterthur swamps like most of the reptilian life on the planet. Once the short summer came, the swamps and land thawed and the reptiles became the dominant species once again.

A buffet of cold air came down the passage to the outside. With it came the scent of her mate and of wolf. A poor hunting day, then.

Feldin entered the nesting area. He was not the largest dragon in their flight but at twenty-two feet long he was one of the biggest. She loved the shine of his gold scales as they reflected the dim light of the glowing rocks. It was hard to tell the red of his scales highlights from the red glow of the rock. He dropped the wolf in front of her.

“Feldin! Welcome home.”

He nosed her forehead between the eyes. “Mother of my hatchlings, you are well?”

“Well enough. I tire of egg sitting.”

“You say that every year.”

“It must be true, then.” Gwella chuckled, a rumbling that started low in her chest and rolled out through her long, emerald green neck. She eyed the wolf carcass. “Poor hunting?”

“It’s been a hard winter. The herds are very thin. It seemed best to leave them to breed for next year and eat the predators.” He lay circled around the nest, resting with his head next to hers. “Our flight grows too large. This spring I’ll propose splitting it and help the new group find their own home.”

The dragon’s necks twined, Gwella nuzzling her mate. “Meret as flight leader?”

“Perhaps. He is big enough but rash, too young yet, maybe. Nilde might be better.”

Gwella nodded. “She would be a good leader. She’s capable of making good, quick decisions. Her mate, Arath, is an excellent hunter.”

“It’s up to the new flight, of course, but that is what I’ll propose at the Spring Awakening.” He glanced down at the nest. “Can you tell when?”

“Two, maybe three weeks. When I go out tomorrow, I’ll see how the weather feels.”

“Fair enough. It will take the time it takes.”

#

It was three and a half weeks before the Awakening arrived, the day of the hatching and a celebration of new life for the dragons and for Winterthur. The cave filled with dragons who brought gifts for the mother of this year’s clutch of hatchlings. Food was the primary gift but woven grass mats, carved wood platters and bowls, and even dried rushes and grains were given.  Feldin and Gwella thanked each giver in turn as food was shared and drinks were quaffed.

Outside, the weak sun, Yafnag, warmed the icy planet. Birds were scratching away the last vestiges of snow from sun-warmed spots to unearth still sleeping insects. Small mammals searched for new green shoots or fallen and forgotten seeds and fruit from last fall.

Gwella hovered over the nest, making sure the temperature stayed perfect. The eggs quivered, the shells cracked. Soon the entire assembly watched in silence as the moment grew near. Which egg would open first? Who would the hatchling choose as its mentor?

A small pop of shell falling and a squeak determined the winner. A buff egg in the center rocked violently as the hatchling fought with the tough shell. Soon other eggs followed, cracking open and rocking against each other as the new dragons worked to emerge. The first hatchling was nearly free. One more push and it split its shell in two, the hatchling falling over with a lusty squawk, flapping its tiny wings.

It clambered over its nest mates, falling at last into the warm sand. It rolled, drying off and stretching its wings. Only a foot long, the hatchling was red, an unusual color for a dragon, with silver highlights to its scales. A male, the crowd realized, as it began looking around the cave. He darted left, then right, then circled all the way around the nest, pushing aside his less coordinated siblings as he searched the room.

Hours later, the red hatchling was the only one left who had not connected with a mentor. No one could hear the hatchling’s telepathic voice. Gwella and Feldin were at a loss. They’d never heard of this happening before. The tiny creature howled and shrieked. They tried to feed it fresh rabbit, showed it where the water was but the little one wanted nothing to do with either. The Flight went home, taking their mentees with them.

“What do we do?” Gwella asked Feldin after their hatchling collapsed on the sand with exhaustion. She cradled the tiny thing between her forelegs.

“I’ll go to the other Flights, see if they’ve heard of such a thing.”

Gwella nodded. Until her hatchling could develop a speaking voice, how were they to teach it anything? It was breaking her heart. “Tomorrow, Feldin. Before the little thing dies of loneliness.”

 

 

The End

986 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Three Times Flame

Phoenix by FleetingEmber via www.deviantart.com

Phoenix by FleetingEmber via www.deviantart.com

Speckles glided to a perch on Liken Mountain. The jagged crags gave her a view of the entire valley. The young dragon was pleased with herself. As the first of this year’s hatchlings to master flying, it made up for the embarrassing hatchling name given her. It was her goal to reach maturity before any of the rest and choose her adult name. She also hoped the dark red spots on her otherwise emerald hide would fade away.

A herd of antelope entered the northern valley. They were grazing in a slow motion along the grassy bottom. Speckles craned her neck to view the sky. It was clear; no other dragons flew overhead. The antelope were hers. Her tongue, a delicate pink, flicked out to test the air. The wind brought the scent of the antelope and… something else. What was that?

The young dragon opened her wings and flapped twice to warm the muscles. The antelope could wait. She wanted to investigate this new smell. In a dive from the crag that made it look as though she’d been flying for years, she gained altitude, the better to see both sides of the mountain. She circled to the south, exploring the valley as it widened. A trickle of water cascaded from the nearby ridge. As it flowed south, other streams joined it until it became a small river.

There. What is that? Spread along the north side of the river she spied a herd of… something. Four-legged and two-legged beasts and things, nests? Some of the four-legged beasts were pulling devices that looked like wood but moved. How curious. She circled lower to get a better look, her shadow now visible, racing along the grasslands ahead of her. As she passed over the strange herd, shouts and calls rang out. The four-legged beasts panicked, rearing and screaming. Two-legged creatures fell from the devices or the backs of the others and they ran, too.

This was more fun than the antelopes. Speckles chuckled, a sound like boulders grinding in the spring floods. She came around to fly over again. This time there was less running, and that was disappointing. Some of the two-legs lined up across her flight path. They held something in their front paws. As she passed over them, sticks flew up, one ripping through her left wing. Speckles shrieked—the sound echoing off of the canyon walls behind the herd.

What happened? She flapped to gain altitude but the hole in her wing made it hard to rise. She flew north, away from the herd and back home. It was difficult to gain the height she needed to reach the nest but after a struggle, she made it, collapsing with near exhaustion.

“What happened?” Speckles mother, Fire Queen, a glorious ruby red dragon, nosed her daughter’s wing.

“A strange herd, mother.” Speckles held the wounded wing out. A hole the size of a rabbit gaped in the membrane between her third and fourth digits. “I flew over them twice. The second time sticks flew up and one hit me.”

Fire Queen roared. “Men! You found men. Where?”

“South of Liken Mountain, next to the river. What are they?”

“Killers,” her mother hissed. “They claim everything. They hunt us down. They killed your father.” The dragon roared her wrath and grief. Loose rocks below the nest broke loose and cascaded down the mountain. “Let me fix your wing.”

Fire Queen gently laid her daughter’s wing flat on the floor of the nest and pulled the ripped edges together. With great care, she blew a tiny flame against the edges, sealing them. Speckles cried out with pain, tears rolling from her eyes but she didn’t move. Her mother kissed the young dragon’s eyes. “There. That should hold.”

Speckles sniffed. “Thank you, mother.” She looked down the mountain. “What about the men?”

“We need to destroy them before they destroy us.” Fire Queen wrapped her wing around her daughter. “Have you been trying to breathe fire?”

“I have.” Speckles sighed. “Just a little smoke.”

“Keep trying. We’ll need all of the dragons we can muster to fight the men.”

Fire Queen brought the youth all manner of foods high in sulfur and coached her daughter in breathing techniques. The fourteenth day, Speckles blew a tiny flame. She roared her joy, her mother with her. More boulders tumbled from the mountain. “Good, my daughter. Rest today. We’ll try again tomorrow.”

Speckles barely sleep that night. Her wing was healed and now she could breathe fire. If she could do it again in the morning, she would join the adults and attack the man herd. At first light she was awake, standing on the edge of the nest, watching the sun come up. The clouds turned pink, then red. She roared and a blast of flame appeared.

“Well done, daughter. We fly to the attack tonight.”

The dragons found the men miles north of where Speckles had been hit. They flew high to avoid the men’s sight, but the men were revealed by their campfires. Twenty dragons circled the camp. Fire Queen whistled a signal. The dragons dove. Again, Speckles opened her mouth and blasted the ground in front of her. Tents and wagons burst into flame. Horses ran screaming. Men hacked at them with long knives and shot more sticks at them but the dragons were fast. Soon the light of the fires showed all the men dead. Horses ran through the night. Some even managed to escape the dragon’s hungry jaws.

The next day the dragons met on a high, flat topped mountain. Speckles stood in the center of the ring. “You have three times flamed,” Fire Queen told her daughter. “You may choose your adult name.”

Speckles looked around the ring. She was the first of her year to reach maturity. “I choose to be called Night Flame.”

The dragons roared their approval. They had a new member of the group.

 

The End

992 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: The White Dragon of the Forest

Ice Dragon by Aerin Kayne via www.deviantart.com

Ice Dragon by Aerin Kayne via www.deviantart.com

Michael crept through the oak forest, trying not to rustle the leaves littering the ground. He swore under his breath as a branch hit his breast plate with a loud thwang. The dragon was sure to hear that. Michael’s heart thudded in his chest.

He didn’t understand why King Eglebert sent him on this quest. He was the youngest and least experienced knight in the kingdom. But the King had heard of a white dragon in the southern part of the kingdom and had sent Michael to investigate.

The knight stopped to listen to a rumble. The sky was a clear blue dotted with puffy white clouds, so it wasn’t thunder. Dry-mouthed, his head turned to the left at another rumble. Following the sound he came to a hillside, a cave mouth halfway up. Lying in plain view was the white dragon. Eyes closed, a wisp of smoke curled up from a nostril as the sun reflected in silver sparks off of the scaled hide. Michael could see the beast’s sides move in slow rhythm, the dragon slept.

A quick survey revealed no good way to get up to the ledge where the dragon lay, not without a lot of noise. He drifted back into the woods and hid in a thicket where he could think about what to do next while he watched the dragon. At dusk, the dragon woke and stretched. Michael’s mouth went dry. The creature was at least fifteen feet tall; its wing span wider than the dragon was tall. A yawn revealed rows of sharp teeth. How was he going to fight that?

The dragon gave a few practice flaps of its wings then took off, sinking below the ledge then on the next beat, rose into the air. Michael cringed as the creature flew overhead but it didn’t come back. With a sigh of relief he hurried forward. While the dragon was gone, he could climb to the lair and lie in wait.

After three hours Michael rested at the top, arms and legs shaking with the effort. He took a sip of water and dug out a piece of jerky to eat. The smell coming from the cave was dank and rotten, like the midden behind the castle. It wasn’t a place he wanted to go into without a torch but the half moon was just coming up over the horizon. Shortly it should provide enough light to move a little way into the cave.

He stood after a final sip of water to wash down the jerky. The top of the cave mouth was about a foot above his head. The dragon must crawl inside, he thought. If I’m quiet, I can attack the creature as soon as its head is inside the cave, before it can bring its claws to bear. He took a step inside, his nose wrinkling against the reek. The moon wasn’t any help yet, Michael couldn’t see a thing. He moved to the left and felt for the cave wall, shuffling his feet so he wouldn’t trip. The side of the cave was ten steps from the edge of the cave mouth. He could just make out the opening, slightly less black than the surrounding space. He settled against the rock, sword drawn and leaned against the wall where he could grab it fast. Michael waited for the dragon’s return.

The sound of wind woke him. The moon shone through the opening, lighting the area just inside the cave. A shadow passed by the opening, then, with a rustle like shaken leather, the moonlight was blotted out. Michael picked up his sword and prepared to strike the reptile’s head.

Over the sound of his heart racing, he could hear the creature sniff, then sniff again. Drat, he thought. It can smell me. He gripped his sword tighter. Michael had hoped to take the dragon unaware, now that wasn’t going to happen.

“Man, I can smell you.”

Michael froze. Surprise washed over him, then confusion. Dragons could speak?

“I know you are in my cave, Man. Come out.”

“So you can eat me, Lizard?”

The dragon’s laugh sounded like boulders falling. “I will not eat you, Man. Come out.”

“How do I know you’ll keep your word?” Michael panted softly with fear.

“How do I know you won’t kill me as soon as you’re outside?” The shadow moved and the moonlight returned. “Come out. I’ve moved away.”

Michael took a step forward, then two, into the moonlight just inside the cave. “Do you have a name, Dragon?”

“My name is Tiamat, Man. What is yours?”

Michael dared to step to the cave mouth. He could tell from the sound the dragon had moved back. “I’m Michael, Knight to King Eglebert.” He stepped outside, sword raised.

“Greetings, Michael, Knight to King Eglebert. Why do you lurk inside my home?”

“My King sent me to investigate rumors of a dragon.”

The dragon bowed. “I’m searching for a place to have my babies.”

Michael cringed. Multiple dragons in the land? “My king would rather you nested in some other kingdom.”

Tiamat laughed again. “Did your king send you to kill me?”

“Not specifically.”

“Then take my word, fair knight, back to your king. I will not attack people or cattle nor lay waste to your towns or farms if I am not attacked and allowed to raise my brood in peace.”

Michael nodded. The king may like to have such an ally if the neighboring kingdom decided once again to attack. “I will relay your message, Tiamat.” He sheathed his sword. “Good night.”

“Good night, Michael the Knight.”

Michael climbed down the way he came. At the palace, the King thought over the dragon’s offer and agreed with Michael that the dragon could be a good ally. He gave permission for the dragon to remain where she was. Two generations of kings later, she and her brood helped fight off the invading armies of their neighboring country.

 

The End

996 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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