On The Dawn Of A Dragon's Breath
A scurry of movement, disturbed the rocks along the craggy ledge.
The stones fell and met the sea with a splash.
Along the horizon, the first spring sun was rising.
Father Humatti moved with purpose: his footing hurried and careful as he carried a bundle firmly in his arms.
Adrenaline propelled him forwards along the steep ledge until the cliff face widened and he faced a cavernous hole.
Wasting no time, he dashed inside the cave and began his descent down a set of winding steps.
His legs moved quickly.
Their surface was worn to a polished shine, very like the father's bald head, which reflected the torchlight perfectly.
After travelling deep into the rock, he reached the bottom a panting mess. Still unsure how he'd never grown accustomed to the journey or the thick air that hung here.
Wiping the sweat from his brow, the bundle he held, began to emit small sounds. Pulling aside the cloth, he looked down at the newborn child.
A boy, less than an hour old. Still pink and wrinkly. His sapphire blue eyes twinkling with wonderment up at the Father. A man hired for a very important task.
A task that had been recited countless times, by past fathers, for past generations.
And every time, made the hairs on the back of the father's neck stand to attention.
Because no matter the number of times they stepped down into that cavern - its walls opening out into a cathedral-like scope - could they truly be at ease when entering the lair of a dragon!
The area reeked of sulphur and ash. But was otherwise still.
There was no sight of the Dragon.
Arenia. They called her.
But, she wouldn’t be far off, the father knew, moving calmly towards a boulder of rock. The surface and the space around scorched black.
Gently, he placed the child upon it. A quilted blanket lying beneath -Its edges embroidered with alchemical symbols in silver and bronze.
Assured that the child was secure and content, he stepped back. His gaze snapping to the wheel-plate where Arenia had placed the egg. Its shell perfectly smooth and pearlescent white.
He was so drawn by its presence he wanted to touch it. His fingers trembled restlessly at the thought. But he knew It wasn't wise too, so clenched them tightly.
Then behind, came a sputtering. Turning around, he saw the midwife descending the steps, as she aided the mother - barely recovered from the ordeal of birthing her firstborn child - her face red as she wheezed for breath.
“There does it, Mam. We’re here” The midwife reassured her kindly, allowing the mother to lean against the rocky wall.
The mother closed her weary blue eyes and then opened them again. Searching for her child before they widened in shock.
Father Humatti spun around, finding The babe perfectly fine. But it was Arenia’s egg, lightly trembling in its cup.
They all watched on as the first hairline crack appeared on its flawless surface and with a slight tremble and a woosh.
The Mother dragon arrived.
Her mighty presence felt. A spectacle of burnt red and amber landing close by.
She soundlessly closed her great wings and filled the space ahead.
Her golden eyes, striking, but gentle regarded the humans before her.
Father Humatti stood in her shadow and raised his arms. Gesturing to the boy upon the altar.
‘Here lies Maximus Tillus,’ He began, reciting the words that had once been carved into the rock itself, time and fire erasing them all.
'May you be worthy.
Your soul be honourable.
May it rise among the fires;
support and shield you.
May you be honoured
with the Dragon.'
The father stepped back several paces, allowing the mother dragon room as she loomed over the child. Her golden eyes surveyed and scrutinised every part.
Every limb. Every digit.
Then, she slowly lowered her great head closer and they all watched with wide eyes and held breaths.
For this part was the most perilous:
Good heritage did not always guarantee the mother dragon would approve of the babe. She must. For, after all, it was her offspring she’d be gifting to this child. If she deemed him unworthy?..... Well, there are very few mistakes as cosmic as displeasing a dragon.
Arenia's nostrils flared and the room was filled with a sharp intake of breath.
Father Humatti felt his stomach flutter and sensed the trembling women behind.
Braced for an eruption, they watched as Arenia drew back. The thick hot air stifling, as she came down and exhaled.
Flinching, they witnessed a wispy plume of white smoke expel from her nose and saw a definite smirk in Arenia's expression.
The child's mother cried with relief.
The dragon had approved.
The warm smoke drifted over, engulfing the egg and the child.
Once it had cleared, the egg's rattle intensified, with larger cracks begging to appear. After a moment it had shattered in a spray of eggshell.
The mother, midwife and father, all looked at the rock in wonder.
"On a dragon's breath,' Humatti gasped. His eyes unbelieving. 'ye have been gifted with not one, but two dragons.'
Arenia looked down at her two small offspring. Coloured in the same burning red as her.
Their large and luminous amber eyes were drawn to baby Maximus. And with a little nudge from Arenia, they cuddled in close to Max, who observed them with just as much interest as a newborn could.
Humatti smiled, just as the midwife and the mother joined him.
'you will serve and protect Maximus' He announced. speaking to the hatchlings 'throughout his life. And when his is over, so shall yours.”
'My Max. Two dragons. What luck my little fellow has' The mother awed.
'Indeed. My dear, Indeed.'
And then, Arenia, gave one last look of pride before bowing her head. And with a graceful unfurling of her wings, soared high, up into the dark.