The Life Of A Dragon
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The Life Of A Dragon

A Fairy Tale

The Life Of A Dragon
Clare Zicari

Some time ago, a young woman took the long way home. Her path led her down a wide, empty road which gave way to a forest. The trees on the outer edge of the forest were bright with sunlight and she happily traveled on, failing to notice the darkness that followed in the heart of the branches.

When the road was long behind her and the light had faded a bit more before her, she heard a rustling in the trees beside her. She stopped and peered into the leaves littering the ground, until a small, sharp-pointed tail emerged. A little dragon followed it and struggled to free itself from the twigs that had caught it, and it finally toppled out into the path, delicate wings fluttering, bits of smoke escaping its sooty lips. Ten curling feathers the color of moonlight sprouted from the top of its armored head. The tiny beast looked up at the young woman, eyes like reflecting pools, and smiled.

“You are the first creature I’ve seen, and I am to follow you,” it said.

The young woman considered this a moment and knelt down to the beast, allowing it to climb onto her hand.

“You may ride on my shoulder if you wish,” she said, and the dragon settled where it would not fall.

And the two traveled safely on through the forest while the light continued to dim.

By the time they had reached another road and the trees had receded far into the distance, night was upon them.

“Now that we have left the forest behind, I have something to ask of you,” the dragon said from the young woman’s shoulder.

“And what is that?” she asked.

“I am to ask if you would like to live forever.”

“Why of course,” the young woman replied without pause. “Who on the earth would refuse such a wonder?” The dragon nodded and one of its soft moonlight feathers fell from its crown.

“Take the feather and you shall bear the life of a dragon,” it said. The young woman plucked the gift from the air and inspected it carefully.

“I shall live forever?”

“The life of a dragon will be yours.”

The young woman placed the feather in her pocket and continued on.

Soon, the pair reached the edge of a small city. The young woman followed the familiar streets she had grown up on until she came to the step of a comfortable if modest home. She opened the door and stepped inside, finding her mother and her father seated at a long table in the kitchen. They welcomed her and smiled widely at her return, for she had been gone quite a long time and they had begun to worry. She was fine, she assured them, more than fine, but she did not show them the small dragon or its feather and they did not ask about it.

They ate food and they laughed and they appeared to be happy. The young woman stayed with her mother and father a great while, the dragon all the time perched at the window of her bedroom and the dragon-feather tucked safely in her pocket. She was forever joyful for her trinket of safety, the life of a dragon secured by her side, yet as the years went by and she left her parent’s home for one of her own, she noticed that her eyes grew tired and her hair lost its shine. She found someone whom she loved greatly and who loved her, and together they grew old, day by day and year by year. And though she kept the dragon-feather with her always, it became clear that the young woman would soon die.

“Dragon,” she said to the small creature perched on her windowsill. “Why have you lied to me? You told me I would live forever, but I am dying now and always.”

“I have not lied,” the dragon said. “I told you you would have the life of a dragon, nothing more and nothing less.” And the young woman died and the dragon flew from the window on wavering, delicate wings.

The dragon soon came to rest on the pilings of a wide harbor in which stood many tall and imposing ships. A sailor in dark clothing approached the beast and gazed up at its still, feather-headed form.

“What say you, dragon?” the sailor shouted, startling the creature and begging it come down.

“I am to ask if you would like to live forever,” the dragon said wearily, setting down on the sailor’s outstretched arm.

“And do you ask it?” the sailor replied.

“I do.”

The sailor thought a moment and then said, “Why, yes. I suppose I would like to live forever. But what does my answer mean for me?” The dragon shook its head and a feather fell from its plume. The sailor caught it quickly and inspected its glowing edges.

“The life of a dragon shall be yours, if only you keep this feather safe.”

“I shall never die?”

“The life of a dragon will be yours.” And the sailor stuck the feather in the corner of his cap and took the dragon onboard his ship.

“You may sail in the fore there,” he said, and with that went to join his crew.

The dragon spent several years onboard the sailor’s ship, and soon the sailor became the captain. The dragon watched the crewmen come and go. Some would acknowledge the little beast’s presence on the prow, but most simply looked past it as a mere decoration of the ship, a tired masthead standing at attention.

One day, one of the men got drunk and began speaking of the dragon passenger in volatile tones. The dragon was a demon, he said, and it was a danger to them all.

“The feathers,” he babbled, “like moonlight from its head. They are cursed, and shall bring the oceans down upon us all.” The drunken man lunged at the dragon clinging to the prow, and grabbed it by the tail. He pulled and the dragon flapped its wings, frightened, pulling back. The man was lifted briefly from his feet, and in a panic, released the dragon’s tail and fell backwards into the sea below. The dragon sat back on the prow of the ship and watched the disturbed water as it rippled back into the current.

“It killed him,” one of the men said.

“It’s those feathers,” another chimed.

“We’ll be next,” a third decided. And the three advanced on the little beast and before it could get away one had taken the tail and one the feet and one the wings and they wrestled the creature to the deck, binding its muzzle and wings so it could not escape.

The captain of the ship, expecting mutiny, emerged quietly from his quarters, pistol raised before him. Seeing, however, that his small dragon was the cause of the trouble, he holstered the weapon and called to his men.

“What has the poor beast done to all of you? Perhaps it is the sun and the salt air clouding your senses that you believe it worthy of this treatment.”

One sailor called back from the fray, “This poor beast killed our comrade and we must be rid of it. The feathers it bears on its head bring misfortune, as does the one in your cap, sir. They are cursed. They must be destroyed.”

At that the captain laughed aloud, knowing himself the true power of the dragon-feathers.

The men paused a moment in their frenzy, uncertain. And then, the captain, wishing to regain the order over his crew, plucked the moonlight feather from his own cap and held it before him.

“This feather is nothing but luck, friends. It is nothing but a trinket I keep with me for safekeeping. There is no curse nor magic here,” he said.

“If it means so little, do away with it,” the sailor said. The captain smiled and willingly took a match from his pocket, striking it on the deck. He held the blaze to the feather and silver sparks ate the talisman whole. Dropping it proudly, he stamped it out with his boot.

“See?” he said. “Nothing to fear.” But the feather burned with such a bright and unearthly light that it easily caught on the wooden deck below. The boards fanned out in fire and the captain jumped away from the blaze, tripping over the planks and falling to the deck. The men, realizing the danger and seeing their fears confirmed, angrily began tearing at the dragon’s crown, shedding moonlight feathers across the deck.

The sailor called to the rest of the men to leave the beast, as it would go down with the ship either way. And they left it too late to flee the flames that were quickly engulfing the vessel. The heat loosed the dragon’s bonds and it hurried to take flight, wobbling and uneasy, flying out over the ocean as the ship burned gold in the moonlight.

Three moonlight feathers were left glowing from its forehead.

The dragon flew on for many miles and many nights until it finally came again to land. It settled down to sleep and the next morning rose with the sunlight.

Twice more it shared its moonlight feathers and twice more it asked if its masters desired to live forever. Twice more they answered yes and asked no more questions, taking their feathers and keeping the trinkets close.

When the dragon had but one feather remaining, it flew quite slowly down a wide and empty road that gave way to a forest. It soon became tired, however, and set down to rest.

Minutes turned to hours and the dragon still sat, glowing faintly, until the wheels of a carriage rumbled down the road towards it.

The vehicle pulled to the side and stopped, and the door opened. An old woman emerged, stepping out into the road and looking kindly at the little beast.

“Hello, small one,” she said. “Why are you here all alone?”

“I am to ask if you would like to live forever,” the dragon said. The old woman laughed.

“I am afraid it is too late for all that,” she said. “I have already lived forever, you see, and I’ve no need to do so again.” At this, the dragon paused. The tiny beast looked up at the old woman, eyes like reflecting pools, and smiled for the first time in a long time.

“You are the last creature I will see, and I am to follow you,” it said.

The old woman considered this a moment and knelt down to the beast, allowing it to climb onto her hand.

“Shall we simply walk then?” she said. The dragon nodded and its last moonlight feather fell from its crown. The old woman retrieved it and turned it over carefully. She extended it back out to the dragon, who nodded again and took the feather in its claw.

“The life of a dragon is such a precious thing,” the old woman said as they walked slowly into the trees. “It lasts forever and a day, yet only when forever has passed do you realize how long a day can be. I have seen the moonlight through the trees there, and seen the darkness the shadows from it cast so deep in the forest. But there is no darkness a little light can’t fix, and so long as that light illumines as much as it can forever, it is alright when it finally goes out.”

The old woman and the dragon walked deep into the forest, seeing the darkness that followed in the heart of the branches. They soon disappeared into the shadows, the moonlight dimming as they went, but the darkness just slightly brighter than before.

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