The dragon was asleep.
She was dreaming, an old dream, her mother’s body warming her shell as she waited to hatch. It was dark in there, dark and warm and safe, not unlike her cave now, not unlike that at all.
The dragon was asleep, but she could hear the human out there, could hear its footsteps in the dirt, could hear the hitch in its breath when its eyes took in the dragon’s body.
The human can see me.
The dragon risked a tiny movement, opening her eye ever so slightly, but it was enough to see the human.
She was wrapped in blue, layers of blue sprung from her skin, the sadness pulsed off her body.
Sadness but not fear
The dragon opened her eyes fully, and the woman held up hand to her chest, the stinky orange of fear radiating through her blue essence. But the human did not reach for the sword at her hip, and she did not run. She stood there as her heart thundered through the cave, the sound bouncing around the walls, impossible to ignore.
She spoke, a few words at most, but the dragon had been asleep for too long to know her language. Before, she had heard humans, humans who never knew she was there, and she heard them enough to learn what they said.
Her mother had taught her how to read humans to know what they were feeling, and that they could not see her if they wished her harm, but the small words they shouted were too hard for her small ears.
She had been asleep. She had been dreaming.
She thought of her dream, of her egg, and her mother, the pull was so strong, even if she had just been there, but still, the woman was talking, and her heart was still like thunder.
The dragon listened, she heard the words, she pushed and pulled them in her mind until they sounded familiar, until they made sense.
“I made a promise,” the woman whispered. “I promised him.”
The woman was leaking, her eyes wide and aching, but the dragon saw a sliver of red soaring through her blue, a love buried in her blue.
“Will you help me?”
The dragon had been asleep.
But now she was awake.
She wanted to go back, to dream her dream again, to dream forever, but she knew those eyes would follow her, her egg would offer her no peace while this woman looked at her.
So she stood. The woman trembled, they all trembled for her, even the ones who could not see her, they felt her in their bones, their bones remembered, their muscles remembered running from her kind.
The humans forgot what it meant to know a dragon. Their bodies never did.
The woman was speaking again.
“The girl is in a tower, a tower high in the air, so high that no one can get to her,” her voice shook, but she didn’t stop. “No one but you.”
The dragon nodded.
She kneeled down, and the woman’s knees shook, but they lifted her to the dragon’s back, and her legs clamped around the dragon’s neck.
My first rider
Her mother had lied to her, she mused as she pushed off the ground and spread her wings, the air cracking beneath her as she pushed herself upward. She had told her that every dragon had riders, humans would line up for miles for a chance to ride a dragon, and somewhere out there, was her one rider, and once found, she would fly for them and no one else.
It was a kind lie, but a lie through and through. Humans did not ride dragons anymore, if they ever had; even this one, for all her bravery, shivered and shook as her meager arms gripped her scales. Even this one could not hide her fear of the dragon beneath her.
The woman gasped, her arm shook as she let go and pointed east, and the dragon saw it, the tower, a tower covered in what looked like ice, but the dragon knew better.
It was ice, but not ice too, a deep magic had seeped into the walls of the structure, a magic that could not be broken, even by the wielder.
But dragons are older than magic, she smiled to herself as she drew a breath, and let loose the ancient fire in her throat, the ice melting into the air under the onslaught.
A girl appeared in the window, a maiden with red hair, red like fire, and eyes like the ocean she had forgotten long ago, the ocean where her mother’s bones rested, the ocean she refused to see ever again.
The girl, she was blue too, but a deep blue, murky and hidden, so much shielded from even herself. Her eyes were wide, but she could see the dragon, could see the knight on her back.
“I promised your mother I would keep you safe.”
A streak of vivid orange cut through the girl’s blue, her eyes narrowing at the woman’s words. But she nodded, and stepped through her window into her knight’s waiting arms.
They were strong now, holding onto her as she settled herself on the dragon’s back.
Look mother, two riders at once, how many of us could say that?
The dragon wished for her mother more than she had in centuries.
None. There are none left to say anything.
The dragon heard her mother’s voice, but she was gone, they were all gone now, killed by the ones who should have loved them.
But she would see them again, as soon as she went to sleep.
The wind shifted behind her, and the dragon caught a whiff of the girl, she smelled of the wolf, it was long gone now, but that was a smell that never vanished.
The dragon remembered. The dragon chose to forget the wolves, and now she remembered.
Another mother, with cubs, too many for the dragon to keep track of, this mother had found her cave, and the whole pack had followed her, nesting around the dragon, keeping themselves warm.
The dragon had woken up for them, had let them stay, had loved them. And then they left.
And she slept.
And she dreamed.
She did not hear their cries as the humans killed them. She did not wake up too late to help them. She did not roast the men who had hunted them.
None of that had happened.
But this girl was here, smelling just like them.
The dragon turned in the sky too quickly and with too much force, the girl screamed but the dragon took no notice. With a forceful slap of her tail, the tower crumbled, killing the magic for good.
The dragon did not hear the screams beneath them as she flew away.
At her cave was a human, a man bathed in red and gold.
He was rigid as she landed; he could stop his body from shaking, but he could not control the fear emanating from him. But that didn’t stop him from approaching, helping the girl down from the dragon’s back, then the knight.
His orange evaporated as he held the woman, his hand lingering on her hip, and the dragon saw that red streak again in the woman's color, but now it was pulsing and breaking through all of her blue, until she was a solid purple, just like him.
But the dragon was tired.
And her cave was right there.
She had no time for reunions, or love, or anything this world had to offer. She only wanted her mother, and her egg.
The woman said “thank you” before she turned back to the man she loved, but the dragon heard no more.
The dragon was asleep.
The dragon was dreaming.
Her mother was alive. She was safe in her egg.
Sometimes she felt a rough hand on her back, and the knight’s soft voice singing her to sleep, but she was certain that was a dream.
She was safe in her egg, dreaming of flight.