A large animal swept past overhead, its colours illuminated by the dying sun and its roar shaking the bones of all who heard it. In response to the terror instilled in him by the infinitely larger animal, Cyrus moved closer to his father. His father, James, swept his son’s hair of his brow, soothing the boy.
“It’s alright, Cyrus.” He smiled down at Cyrus. “They won’t hurt you. You are, and you always will be, protected.”
“But Papa, how?” The curiosity intrinsic to any young human was rampant in Cyrus.
“Well, my dear boy, one day, many years from now, you will no longer see these magnificent beasts.” James explained to his son. “At least if I have anything to do with it.”
“So you’ll keep me safe?” Cyrus questioned his father even further.
“Yes, Cyrus, I will. Now let us watch the beauty soaring above us.” James admonished Cyrus.
“Yes, Papa.” Cyrus replied before returning his gaze to the skies. The dragon slid through the air effortlessly, its leathery wings moving infinitesimally in response to the wind currents washing over the animal. Each individual scale was a different shade of purple, each shone unique in the light of the sunset. Here was lavender, there plum and there the purest of periwinkles.
The dragon released another growl, this one accompanied by a fire that blanketed the hillside in an acrid smoke. The minute the fire was released, guards immediately surrounded their King and Prince, but James waved them off, confident in the domestication of the dragon. Again, in response to his fear, Cyrus drew closer to his father.
“Shhhhh,” The father comforted the son. “All is well, Cyrus.” James gently turned his son’s face away from where it rested on his chest and oriented it towards the dragon that paid its tribute to the dying sun above. “Did you know, my dear boy, that dragons, when they used to be in the wild, or what we would call the wild, did this every night?”
“No. Tell me, Papa!” The child insisted.
So, the father began a story to distract his timorous son. “Once upon a time, there was a place where dragons roamed free with no chains or obligations. They flew where and when they wanted to and surveyed the world we find ourselves in. They were the great mages of that time. They were also the great teachers and students, writers and readers and explorers and conquerors. They were the men of their time, so to speak.
“They had their own cities, governmental structure and religion. Their religion consisted of worship of the sun goddess, called Jindri in their tongue. She was the mother of dragons. Out of her fire they were given life and knowledge and the other tools to survive. With her blessing they prospered.
“Each morning in their cities, as well as in the wild, would begin with a salutation to her in thanks for all those gifts bestowed on them. At night, the dragons performed an archaic dance, nearly as archaic as the dragons themselves, that mourned the passing of the sun.” Here, the father paused in order to track the movements of the mournful dragon above. “See, she flies with her head bowed. She looks not at the sun, or Jindri as she calls it. Her’s is a flight of sorrow and respect. She believes.”
“What do you mean, Papa?” Inquisitive Cyrus could not even be contained by a tale of dragon lore.
“Many years after,” James began again, “As men came into being and began to fight and enslave the dragons, a false believer emerged. He presented the idea that Jindri had abandoned the dragons and that she no longer deserved to be worshiped. He had a following. Dragons doubted. They were easily swayed and so Jindri lost influence. Only those dragons who’s parents’ parents were believers still know the sun dances. They are the only ones that still protect her legacy and present her with the appeasements necessary to keep this world safe, for though she is a mother, she is fiercely protective of her offspring and we would surely be annihilated if she chose to make it so.”
“Why do they protect us, Papa?” Cyrus tugged on his father’s pants, drawing James’ mind and imagination back to the land and time that they inhabited. “We hurt them!” Cyrus insisted. “They have no reason to help us.”
“Many times it those we expect least to help us or care about us that do.” One last seemingly tortured shriek rebounded off and across the hills, echoing as their thoughts shifted and father and son turned to watch the dragon.
With one forceful thrust of her wings, she propelled herself higher. Then, in tandem with one dying howl, she plummeted to the earth in unison with the fading sun. Once both had left the horizon, father and son rose.
“Are you ready to continue back, Your Majesty, Your Highness?” One of the many guards enquired of the king and prince.
“I believe so.” With that, James lifted his son to his shoulders, denying the guards their offer to carry the prince, and the group headed towards the inner circle of the castle. As the walked down the hill, remnants of the shriek met them, accompanied by the sulfurous smell of dragon smoke. Each man in the group scrunched a nose up in an effort to minimize the effects of the smell, yet all failed. The smell, like all other attributes of the dragon, was designed to instill fear within the beholders. As the group left the scene of the sun’s worship and worshiper, the event faded from their mind, replaced by those mundane concerns that fill daily life. The dragon and her goddess remained a mystery. Only the taste of smoke lingered on the humans’ tongues.