Crimzon & Clover I
Orphaned Dragon, Lucky Girl
Copyright 2009 by Michael Robb Mathias Jr.
The week-old hatchling nudged its horny head against the cold, lifeless bulk of its mother. Getting no response again, the puny male dragon whined pitifully. Instinctively, he reared his weary head back and squeaked out a high-pitched wail. The sound would have brought a living mother dragon raging home from a hundred leagues or more. A living mother dragon would have stopped at nothing to feed her hatchling’s hungry belly. This hatchling wasn’t so lucky. His mother was dead. After a long, sorrowful time of nudging and wailing, the song of misery finally ended. Mercifully, the starving little dragon fell into an exhausted slumber.
Being highly intelligent creatures, dragons are taught by their mothers the skills they'll need to thrive in the ever-dangerous world of men. This particular hatchling's mother was now four days dead. She was once the proud and ferocious high predator, and undisputed queen of the small, but very active, range of mountains sheltering her nest. Sadly, her reign had ended.
Years ago, she summoned a mate. His seed readily quickened inside her. She laid her eggs in this remote cavern high up in the rocky passes. Then, as all female dragons do after laying their eggs, she began warning away every living creature that might threaten the welfare of her unhatched young. It wasn’t long until every beast in the area, great and small, understood what valleys, caves and streams to avoid, and what the consequences were for not doing so. She then returned to her nest and spent a full year tenderly and methodically incubating the eggs.
When the day of hatching finally came, she proudly coaxed her two little ones out of their shells. She fed them their first meal of red meat from a valley stag she slaughtered. The two baby dragons devoured it greedily. She beamed as they began growling and tumbling with each other all around the gravel-strewn cavern floor. They were working their tender muscles and fluttering their wings awkwardly. Every now and then, one would pause to shriek at the wonder of life and belch out a puff of smoke. More than once a thin tendril of flame accompanied the swirling gray clouds that left the hatchlings' toothy mouths.
On the second day after the hatching, she left them to hunt their next meal. She didn’t know how horrible a mistake she was making. She hadn't considered the small group of men traveling through the neighboring valley a viable threat to her nest. Her valley was much higher in elevation, and no man had ever dared venture into it.
In her campaign to warn off possible threats to her eggs, she attacked and terrorized several nearby human towns. She scorched a human dwelling or two, and plundered their animal herds. She devoured a few humans as well. Humans aren't very high up on a typical dragon's preferred sustenance list, but to keep the rest of them frightened and wary of her nest, more than a half dozen men ended up in her belly. In her long life she had been lucky in her dealings with the pesky humans, but her luck in that area, as well as the luck of her two rambunctious hatchlings, was about to run out.
The men came a short while after she left to hunt, and they came with murderous intent. The male hatchling woke to see his nest mate being roped by the angry men. He lashed out at them in a feeble attempt to save his sibling. He clawed one man to the ground and lashed another to the floor with his whip-like tail, but he was too small to do any real damage. Ultimately, he ended up tangled in a throw net the clever humans had brought. The humans paused to argue whether the two young dragons would be taken and sold or killed on the spot. If the mother dragon hadn’t returned during the argument, the latter is exactly what would have happened to both of them.
With a single blast of her noxious breath, the mother roared out her anger at the intrusion, scorching several of the men to cinders. Then she unleashed her true fury on them. A purplish-turquoise blast of prismatic dragon magic erupted from her claw and pulverized the bones of two more of the attackers. A blade slid between her scales, but the pain only angered her further. Relentlessly, she went about destroying the men who violated her nest.
The battle that followed was swift and bloody. Though she managed to slay all of the men and save the life of one of her precious young, she took several wounds that couldn’t be healed with her magic. Some of the wounds were mortal. She lived just over two days, and in that time she used her remaining energy to try and instill everything she could think of into her surviving hatchling's mind. She wanted to increase his severely slim chances for survival any way she could. She named him Crimzathrion. He was only two days old when the men came, so he understood almost none of his dying mother's melodic ravings, but she wisely cast a spell on her words so they would come to him again and again as he grew. It was all she could do to help him survive in a world full of ignorant men. He would have to find a way to prosper as a hunter while often being hunted himself.