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The breeze whispered through the blue-green leaves of the ancient winsola tree, carrying the scent of its lavender blossoms over the forest. The gentle wind barely stirred the canopy of leaves formed by the younger trees surrounding the ancient winsola. Occasionally the breeze caught a few stray blossoms from the younger winsolas that grew amongst with the various other skyward reaching branches as it flowed past.
The breeze continued to carry the stray blossoms and their scent across the top of the canopy as it searched for a break in the expanse of treetops. At last an opening appeared, and the breeze swirled down into a clearing, the blossoms floating down like feathers. A few of these blossoms found their way to a young woman sitting on a hand carved wooden bench. One caught in her golden brown hair. Another landed on the woven fabric, which was the start of a tapestry.
The woman breathed in deeply as the scent reached her nose. A pleased sigh left her lips as she released the breath. She then took the time to look up at the subject of her tapestry, the ancient winsola from which the blossoms had come. Having checked her work, and assured herself that the tree looked as it should, she continued her creative work. Woven in amongst the branches were hints of brightly colored dragons, whose wings were twice as wide as their bodies were long, could be seen. Around the outer edges of the tree a few of the mystical miniature creatures could be seen prepared to land, or caught in a glide on one of the thermal breezes that always surround the ancient tree.
Having checked her work, and assured herself that the tree looked as it should, she continued. Her mind wandered to the elegant creatures that were on the tapestry. The dragons had been absent from the lives of human kind for many years, and many only believed the dragons existed in myth and legend, but she believed they were still out there in the forest. She believed with her heart that they only chose to remain hidden and protected from those that would kill them for their hides, and the magical properties that supposedly were held within them.
On the low branches of a white oak, the gray squirrel chattered excitedly. Her fluffy tail half curled behind her. The squirrel quieted as the woman that was the focus of its attention paused in weaving her tapestry to look up.
“And just what is it that has you so chatty this morning little Mary? The spring air getting you all excited?” The woman chuckled at the thought, knowing full well that another darker gray squirrel had been watching her little friend for sometime. The woman shook her head gently in amusement, causing a few tendrils of her hair to come fully loose form the long plait that held it back. She took a deep breath and sighed in contentment, one hand fell to rest on her slightly rounded stomach. Her amber eyes scanned the small clearing, noting the young rabbit, and gutsy sparrows that had come out to keep her company as she did her work.
A bright smile grew on her lips, and she returned to her weaving. Her smooth hands returned to the careful stitches as she wove the thread back and forth through her lap loom. Careful, but well practiced movements sent the shuttles back and forth through the weave, toughened areas of skin on finger tips and palms helped ensure that the shuttles and thread went were they were intended. The steady clack of the looms pieces filling the small clearing, and the squirrel began her chatter anew.
Nearly hidden by the vivid blue-green leaves of the winsola, pride glowed in a pair of dark violet eyes, framed by scale like skin that shimmered in the shades of deepest blue-violet on face, neck, body, and tail; to the pale color of lilac on belly and wing tips. With careful movements he added the pliable willow branches to the nest he was building for his mate. Once the branches were in place he moved back on the branch, his long dark violet tail curling around the branch for balance. No sooner had he backed away then the sound of wings drew his attention.
Pale green of the willow leaves highlighted the two dragon-lengths of elegant wings; evergreen tipped the tail, claws, and horns. The female dragon back-winged to land beside him, a section of moss held in her fore claws. She gave a soft chirp in greeting, nuzzling her head against his. She then moved to the nest, and placed the section of moss in the bottom, creating a soft lining for the eggs that she would soon lay there.
:: Not much longer now Saiph. Our children will have a soft and safe place to grow, and so near the ancient tree that has sheltered our kind for so many years. ::
Saiph’s chest puffed with pride at his mate’s words, his tail moving to twine with hers as he watched her adjust the layer of cushioning moss. :: You may stay here Ascella. I will gather the last bits for the nest.:: A purr of assent reached his ears and Saiph then glided off.
Ascella finished adjusting the moss then climbed up into the nest, folding her wings snugly against her side and curled her tail around her body. She rested her narrow nose on the edge of the nest, emerald colored eyes watching the area around her. It wouldn’t be long before she laid her eggs.
She raised her head in alarm, the tiny bone structures that made up a dragon’s ears shifting slightly as she tried to catch sounds, but failed. The birds had ceased their normal calls, neither were the other small creatures making noises. Something was coming, something dangerous.
She hummed a bright tune as she gathered her things for the rest of the day’s work, her loom having been carefully put away already in a small alcove. She was running low on some of her threads, and needed to go gather the supplies for more. Glancing around the small well-loved cottage, she spotted the note left by her husband that morning while she still slept.
I’ve gone out searching for the proper pieces to finish the baby’s cradle. Don’t work too hard and I’ll be home this evening.
Cora’s smile brightened as a warm feeling spread throughout her, her eyes wandered to where the already complete pieces of the cradle lay. In five moons she would have a baby to place in that cradle. A little boy for Miro to teach the art of woodcarving, and the care of the forest, or perhaps a little girl to teach how to weave, sew, spin, and cook. Her eyes drifted to the drop spindle that her husband had carved for her, resting in its place on a pile of wool ready to spin. However, it was not wool she needed in order to finish her tapestry, but the silky fibers of the hiedsa plant. Unlike many other plants that produced similar fibers, the hiedsa was truly ideal for weaving and tapestry work. She had never known a piece made of hiedsa to fray or lose it’s color, and like her mother and grandmother before her, she wanted her work to last.
With a light smile, her gathering basket, and walking staff she slipped out the door. Carefully latching it closed behind her to discourage unwanted visitors. Mary, the gray squirrel chattered an excited greeting, running along the branches to Cora’s left as she headed off onto a path. “Keeping me company today Mary? I take it your suitor didn’t please you then,” the squirrel scolded a response, which caused Cora to laugh out loud. Not long after she soon stopped at the edge of the path, and kneeled in the moss and grass where she had spotted the violet edged leaves of the hiedsa plant.
Yellow eyes slit by black pupils watched the female dragon’s movements carefully. The dark tawny fur covering its sleek body allowed the drae weasel to remain unseen. Its thin rat like tail twitched behind him as it contemplated attacking the lone female, or waiting until there were eggs to steal in the nest as well. The cawing of a crow not far away settled it. Another would steal this meal if it did not act now.
With a sinister grace inheritant of the drae weasel allowed it to move unseen and unheard through the underbrush. It approached the dragon’s nesting tree from the side opposite the nest. Up the tree trunk it slunk, pausing every few steps to insure it hadn’t been seen. On the other side of the tree, the drae weasel sensed the female dragon’s movements from just beyond the tree trunk. She sensed it as well, but did not know what approached or from where. A feral sneer pulled the drae weasel’s lips back to reveal needle sharp fangs followed by smaller teeth with points just as sharp.
Ascella searched the branches around her nest carefully, moving to inspect the wide strong branch the nest used as a main support. Then turning and checking the other lesser branches, a strange scent reached her nose. A scent she did not know save for that it meant danger. Her head snapped up to its highest position on her long neck, a tendril of smoke escaping her snout. As a low growl filled her throat, her stance and manner shifted into attack mode, her wings unfurled slightly. Her neck twisted this way and that as she swiveled her head, searching for the enemy. :: Saiph… there is something here... something dangerous!::
No sooner had she called out to her mate then a hiss and rush of air from behind announced the presence of her attacker. Sharp fangs sunk into her wing, tearing the thin membrane as she turned to face her enemy, and then cold hard fear welled up within.
A spark and then stream of white-hot flame left her mouth, catching her attacker’s side. A growl of rage and pain followed as the drae weasel responded with a rough blow to Ascella’s fore shoulders, sending her off balance. With a dragon scream she fell from the tree, hitting the ground with a thud. The drae weasel paced the branch as it watched the female struggle to rise and fail. It gave a bark of triumph. She was caught.
He crouched, preparing to pounce, but before he could move a roar filled the air right above the drae weasel’s head. Blasts of storm light struck all around the now cowering creature. It let out a shriek as the purple male dragon connected with four sets of talons, and sent both drae weasel and dragon tumbling from the branches and onto the ground below.
The two continued their fight on the ground. Dragon jaws and talons seeking to kill the enemy that dared attack his mate. Pointed fangs and needle like claws ripped and shredded scale and wing alike as the drae weasel sought to make the kill and claim two dragons for its dinner. Tufts of tawny fur and patches of violet scales began to scatter on the ground screams of rage and pain came from both involved in the fight.
Just as the fight had begun, it ended. The drae weasel panted heavily as it held its teeth tightly embedded in the male dragon’s throat.
The drae weasel gave the male dragon a final shake. An audible crack reached Ascella’s ears. Her mate was dead. The drae weasel dropped his prize, and then curled its lips back as it moved towards the female. Ascella shrieked and tried to back away, but made it no more than a few steps before legs injured in the fall stopped her. She hissed and spat a bout of white flame at the drae weasel, raising her wings to take flight, but freezing before they were even half raised. The membrane of her right wing was shredded in more then one place. The drae weasel hissed, and sneered knowing she had no escape.
Cora hummed as she gathered the hiedsa while Mary kept up a steady chatter as she sat on a stone here, or a low hanging branch there. Both froze as a terrible animal scream filled the air, with a terrified squeak Mary dashed off the branch and hid in the folds of Cora’s skirt. “What on Terra…” another screech filled the air, soon followed by the sounds of a fight between two animals.
“Come on Mary. Some poor creature may need our help,” she rose to her feet as she spoke, gathering her staff, basket, and the hiedsa within it in one smooth motion. She quickly headed down the path, searching both left and right for signs of where the fight was located. The sounds brought her closer and closer to the ancient winsola, not leading her off the path until the tree was within easy sprinting distance. The sounds had stopped, and for a moment she thought she had gone the wrong way, but then she heard another cry and moved quickly in that direction.
Cora froze at the sight before her. A noble purple dragon laid dead only paces away. Just past that a weasel of some sort stalked and taunted a second dragon, this one bearing the vivid shade of green. It was injured. Cora moved closer. It was then she recognized the dragon’s attacker, a drae weasel. One of the most vicious and cunning of the weasel family, and long known in legend as one of the dragon’s natural predators. With a shout she rushed towards the drae weasel and swung her staff, satisfied as a solid thunk vibrated through the staff to her hands, the weasel ending in a heap on the other side of the clearing.
The drae weasel snarled and quickly rose to its feet, hackles raised. It moved as if to make an attack at the dragon once more, not ready to let the human woman keep it from its prey. Cora stepped in its way, however, holding her staff with both hands. She blocked the drae weasel as it tried to slip past her, and her staff connected with its nose as it attempted to dodge. The drae weasel gave a final snarl of rage, and slunk off into the undergrowth leaving tufts of fur, spots of blood, and the dead dragon as signs of its passing.
Once she was sure it was gone, she turned and knelt near the wounded dragon. “Hello, I’m Cora,” she said in soft tones, while slowly moving out a hand to inspect the dragon’s injuries. Ascella watched her warily, dodging the hand as much as she could, but when it got too close she snapped, sparks of white fire leaving her mouth.
Cora drew her hand back, but remained kneeling within reaching distance. “I’m sorry that I did not arrive in time to save your mate, and I hope you are not injured too badly. Won’t you let me help you?” Ascella glared coldly.
“You have beautiful scales and such graceful wings and long neck. Dragons have not been seen by humankind for many years.”
With good reason, Ascella thought sharply. Humankind had once hunted the dragons, and ended the special relationships they had once shared. Suddenly Ascella’s attention was drawn to a small gray squirrel sitting beside the woman’s knee. It started chattering at her vehemently, scolding her for not thanking the woman. Ascella looked at the squirrel in surprise. It defended the woman over her? A forest creature defended a human over a dragon? She had never heard of such a thing.
“That’s enough Mary. Can’t you see that she is injured? She has every right to be frightened and wary of a stranger.”
Ascella turned her emerald gaze to the woman once more. Could she trust this human? If she did not, the drae weasel would come back, and finish her just as it had Saiph. Saiph… Ascella hung her head and did not flinch or pull back as the woman called Cora carefully reached out and began to check her injuries, explaining what she was doing and why the entire time. Ascella relaxed, and grieved.
It had been six days since Ascella had first met the woman named Cora, and in those six days the female dragon’s respect for the young woman had grown. Right from the start she had respected Ascella for what she was. Not an average creature or plain animal, but a dragon, and had tended her wounds as such. Taking the time to explain what she needed to do each time, rather then just doing it and causing possibly more damage in a struggle. Cora had also left her time to grieve the loss of her mate, and because of this Ascella had formed a sort of bond with the woman.
Her husband had also been kind to her, and she had seen the love between them; as well as the joy of expecting a child. The man, Miro, had built a nest, or cradle as they called it, for their baby just as Saiph had been helping her build one for theirs. Ascella gave a dragon sigh, and stretched her wings slightly, but not enough to shift the bandages that Cora had carefully bound her right wing with. The injuries to her right foreleg and left hind had healed nicely, which had given her free movement around the small cottage and clearing, that is, as long as she stayed on the ground.
She rose from the blanket that Cora had helped arrange into a sort of den or nest, and then headed towards the door, which had been left sitting ajar so she could come and go. Once outside she stretched all limbs save for her right wing, and looked around brightly at the clearing. Cora sat on a bench with her lap loom weaving, a nameless tune on her lips. Ascella wandered over, and chirped a dragon greeting at the woman; Cora raised her eyes and smiled.
“Beautiful day isn’t it? Miro is out searching for wood again, though he refused to tell me what for. Claimed it was a surprise,” an amused chuckle came from her lips. A twig snapped. Ascella turned her head towards the sound, Cora’s gaze soon following. Without any urging Ascella moved out of view, using Cora’s skirts to hide behind as a man entered the clearing.
“Excuse me miss… are you related to Miro Oakmay?”
“My husband,” at those words the man’s face saddened. “Is something wrong?”
“I... I have to inform you Miss. Your husband was killed by a group of rouge bandits early this morning. He stopped them from cutting down the sapling winsola trees. Ma’am, I’m sorry,” with that the man dipped his head and turned to go back the way he had come.
Cora stared at the space before her, but saw nothing. “Miro…He’s gone,” a half strangled sob escaped her throat, her loom forgotten as her arms wrapped around herself. Ascella moved out from her hiding place and watched silently for a few moments. With a nod of her head, she made her decision and leapt up onto the bench beside Cora, draping her head across one of her hands. :: We will grieve together, and we will raise our young together. For just as you have stayed and helped me in my time of need, I will stay and help you in yours. The old bonds between human and dragon renewed. I am Ascella. ::
Cora’s gaze turned to the dragon at her side, tears formed trails on her cheeks.
::Together we will heal. ::
Laughter filled the clearing. Cora shook her head with amusement. “Making that noise won’t help you get out of the tree Eriloa. After all you climbed up, so why don’t you climb down?” The six-month-old dragonet pretended not to here the advice, being much more interested in getting her mother or Cora to get her down.
:: Cora is right. You climbed up, so you must fly or climb down. :: Ascella stated from where she lay, curled up in the sun by Cora’s feet and the baby cradle. The sapphire colored Eriloa’s sounds of protest clearly stated she did not agree. A sudden burst of blue white flame from her was an added emphasis. The dragonet sat in shock. Ascella raised her head from where it had been cradled on foreclaws and watched her daughter. :: Congratulations Eriloa, you have breathed fire, but that still won’t get you out of the tree. ::
A baby’s gurgling laugh came from the cradle. Cora carefully set aside her loom, the beginnings of a new blanket now stretched on the bars. “Well look who woke up from their nap!” The baby giggled and reached two chubby fists upwards. Her mother complied and picked her up, “Such a pretty little girl you are.”
:: Meria’s eyes match her father’s. ::
Cora’s smile softened as a pang rang through her soul, “Yes she does.”
:: And Eriloa is as stubborn as Saiph ::
“And so we grieve, but in grieving we heal.”
::Yes… we heal. ::