2. Humans and Dragons

She flew southeast, away from her safe, quiet, and empty ledge, towards other islands she remembered. Another lair waited for her; where warm air floated above gentle seas; and food was in abundance. Through the evening she beat away the air, neck outstretched as if to gain extra inches by straining forwards. As night fell, she flew by instinct, but energy was failing and she was losing speed. It was centuries since she had felt the full warmth of sun on her scales; centuries since she had eaten. She needed rest.

Beneath her,  as twilight lifted the skies, she crossed a great massif from which one conical peak stood out. Just beneath the ultimate summit was a line of rock, like a saddle, a snow-ridge, scooped out of the granite. A place to rest and oversee the world including that small collection of stone huts some few hundred metres below her. She alighted on the ridge, tired, green scales dull; her whole frame dusty and worn. Panting, she clung to the stone, eyes closed, waiting for the dawn.

The first fingers of sunlight stole across the snowy mountain face, creeping towards her. She opened her eyes and watched them slink across first her claws, then lower limbs, rising up her torso.

The dragon soaked up the warmth and power of that fresh new day. She arced her neck lifting her head to the skies, feeling those rays warming her blood, feeding her whole. Now bathed in dawn light, she transformed, like a chameleon. In that golden sunrise, gone was the flat green of her skin. The tired grey-ish beast transformed into this creature of turquoise and azure; taller, grander, fiercer. Flattened neck spines stood straight and needle-sharp, her scales curved like individual shields of carbon; flawless and iridescent.

She had been recharged: more beautiful – more terrible; more wondrous – more terrifying than ever before. Magnificent. In her rejuvenation she opened her mouth, roared, throwing flames high into the sky in a plume of triumph.

Hundreds of decades ago, before her great sleep, the dragon had fostered a profound contempt for mankind.  In those simpler times, had men seen a mountain-top dragon throwing  fire into the sky, they would have run: very fast, very far.  But times had changed.

In 2017, the collection of small huts beneath the mountain’s peak contained two types of human. The first were trekkers, bound to scale the north face of the summit she sat just below, caught up with their own sense of achievement, fighting  with nature. Second, were the indigenous people who ran the camp, fed the walkers, charged exorbitant rates for the bacteria-ridden toilets, bottled water and WiFi access. The locals worked around the visitors whilst accommodating their impatient demands, ensured their safety against optimistic thieves and looked to make an early retirement from the foolish exploits of dreamy-eyed westerners.

Locals and trekkers rose early, keen to start with the first rays and make the best use of the fleeting daylight hours for their conquests. To a man (and woman), they heard the roar. They saw the plume of flames. The trekkers reached for their smartphones; the locals for their guns.

Lowering her head to the sound of their cries, she saw beings running, in all directions. She heard their shouts. Irritated she gave fair warning sending a long, low growl towards them with a gust of hot but not dangerous air towards the settlement. She puzzled that they remained in place or came closer. Sending a second warning salvo, hotter air and a louder growl.

To no effect.

Men ran towards her, not with spears or swords, but long sticks held close to their faces, pointed in her direction. These produced small bursts of fire that did not puncture her shiny, glorious scales, but stung nonetheless. Deeply annoyed she shifted on her snowy ridge and bent lower towards them. They continued to use their fire sticks, provoking her ire.

Two humans then ran in front of the others, holding what looked like a larger fire-stick between them.  The others stopped and she observed as the stick made a loud boom, propelling a speeding orange orb that moved towards her. Recoiling, she watched the missile go past her right wing and smash into the side of the mountain bursting into flames and leaving an ugly black scar on that perfect mountainside.

Now, she was incandescent with rage. This beautiful mountain, eons old, besmirched by imbeciles. Without another thought, she inhaled deeply, holding the air until it was super-heated. Exhaling, she created a stream of flames, as if an enormous frond of red and orange montbretia was wafting in front of her. The tickling of those petals, incinerated the humans, their artillery detonating in-hand, creating explosions and bangs that augmented the blaze, pin pricks of silver light from phone cameras adding flashes to the brilliant but destructive chaos.

After the charring ceased, small dust clouds drifted where people had been, some of that black dust sinking into the pool of melted snow. “Humans!” she thought. “Limited in understanding. What they don’t understand, they abuse or destroy

The dragon pushed up and away into the morning, flapping rapidly to create an updraft and rise above the wind-sharpened peaks. As she rose, the vibrations of her wings shifted any snow left balancing on rock. Starting slowly from the top, the white blanket grew, gathered pace and density and came crashing down.  The resulting avalanche tumbled over the stone huts, smothering them completely. This silenced the radio communication that had been taking place inside, the authorities already alerted to the threat.

(Please see the next blog entry for answers to the questions: “How do dragons breathe fire?” and “How do we know dragons are real?”)

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