There Be Dragons Afoot

Posting this for Ishaiya, with whom I had an interesting exchange regarding the efficacy of ice breathing in dragons. (Yes, writers have better conversations than most people.) 🙂

“You see dragons lie beneath the surface of awareness, waiting for you to see them in the corner of your eye, in the whisper of the summer heat, and the deepest cold of winters. The beating of their wings can be felt on the breeze, their talons felt in the storming clouds bearing down like hail and rain, to cleanse and remake the world anew. I love dragons.” – Ishaiya


From Discovery – Chapter 25 “Dragon Quest”

Charlie washed down his meal with water he kept in a leather cask strapped to his back, opposite his sword’s sheath. He lay on the ground, resting, looking up at the sky. The sun had fully burned off the fog and mist here, and Charlie could see the sky for the first time. Rather than the familiar blue, it glimmered in green and yellow hues, and the air appeared thick, as if made of clear white smoke.

As he watched, a small translucent cloud passed overhead, moving rapidly. It was thin enough that he could barely make out its movement against the sky. “There must be a storm coming for that cloud to be blowing like that,” he said, hoping he could find shelter in the barren terrain ahead. As he watched, the cloud suddenly reversed course then began a dizzying descent toward the hillside.

“What the?” Charlie murmured, sitting upright as he watched. “What kind of cloud does a nosedive?”

Some two hundred feet above the ground, a deafening screech sounded, as if a hundred eagles had all screamed at once. Charlie could see long limbs and taloned feet emerge from a huge body that was just now becoming visible as it neared the ground. At once, the air was filled with a chemical smell, a biting ammoniac odor that was mixed with the cloying perfume of rotting flowers.

Charlie gagged, and held his sleeve to his mouth, instinctively crouching on hands and knees. Whatever was diving from the sky, it was no cloud. “Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod,” he found himself muttering, at first wondering who was stupid enough to be talking with that thing out there. Once he realized it was himself, he clamped his sleeved arm tighter to his mouth, as protection against both the smell and his habitual muttering.

The air brightened in a brilliant horizontal flash, as if lightning had emerged from fifty feet above him and decided to travel in a line parallel to the ground. Charlie jumped at the light, falling backward and dropping his sword into the soft ground. From the sky came a broad, white stream of supercooled air from just below a huge pair of crystalline eyes that varied in the reflected light from pale yellow to a pinkish brown. It was a dragon, and it was on a hunt.

Charlie lay flat against the earth, happy that his clothing provided adequate camouflage. His eyes followed the stream of air to the top of a ridge half a mile away, where a small family of goats had scampered up the side of a nearby mountain. He could hear their panicked bleating, mixed with the sound of rushing air and the dragon’s screeches, now echoing from both sides of the valley. The supercooled air hit the animals in a blast. All of the goats stopped, frozen rigid where they stood. The dragon swooped in, now in full display, grabbed two goats in each of its forelimbs, and swooped back up toward the sky, barely slowing. Within fifteen seconds, it was gone, and the world had returned to silence.

Charlie exhaled, panting, only now realizing that he had forgotten to breathe during the attack. He looked at his sword, which was sticking hilt first into the muddy soil. Charlie grabbed the handle and pulled the sword out with a loud slurp.

“I’m going to need a bigger sword,” Charlie said, frowning at his now far-less-impressive sword.

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