If you had been in a certain far-away galaxy at a certain point in time, standing on the surface of a certain oddly shaped planet, you would have seen a very peculiar sight: a great Dragon, as vast as the largest mountain and built of earth like one, too. You would have seen her curled up in a ball, fiercely clutching an egg in her claws. And you would have heard her low, mournful weeping.
Now, you would have needed to be at a good distance away from the Dragon in order to properly make out this picture. Even then, it might have been complicated if you did not know exactly what you were looking at. This is not only because the Dragon was as big as a mountain, but because she quite looked like one, too. There were trees growing out of the soil that made her skin, rivers running between her scales, and thick vines hanging from her long, rocky horns. There was life all over her body, from the birds that nested on the tree branches to the ground squirrels that made warm burrows in her earthy skin.
Normally, this Earth Dragon was a beautiful sight, but had you seen her on this day you would not have believed it. It looked, effectively, as though she had been ravaged in turn by an earthquake and a fire. Everything was in disarray: trees fallen, their trunks snapped; whole patches of forest burned to the ground and still smoking, birds flapping their wings and calling, disoriented, among the ashes that still hung in the air. Every surviving animal howled, brayed, yowled or bleated sorrowfully, each crying in its own fashion, accompanying the Earth Dragon in her mourning. It would have been the saddest thing you could have ever seen or heard, had you been there to see it.
But there was no one else there. The Earth Dragon was all alone.
The Dragon was crying because she had just lost her mate and her home. All she had left to live for was the egg. She had flown tirelessly through the vastness of Space, looking for a safe, empty planet in which to build a new nest for her egg to hatch.
Now she had found it. The planet was empty of any kind of life. There was not a tree, nor a single shrub; nothing but rocks and wind, and the dirt baking in the sun. And it was vast. The average planet was small for this enormous Dragon, sometimes to the extent that there would be barely room enough for her to sit on. But here it took her half a day to walk from one edge of the flat mountainous surface to the other. That made it just the right size, and an ideal place to raise her young —or it would be, just as soon as she had made it suitable.
With great care and using only her lips, the Earth Dragon picked up the egg and placed it in what to you would have been a very deep ravine, but for the egg made the perfect little makeshift nest. There would be no risk of it rolling off the edge of the world while its mother worked.
With one last lick and tender brush of the nose, the Earth Dragon left her egg behind and walked to the center of the planet. Once there, she rose high up on her powerful hind legs and took a deep breath. Then, almost as noiselessly as she had risen, she came down again in one determined swoop and dug her sharp rock claws deep into the parched earth.
Water spouted from it almost instantly, in beating, gushing sprouts, not unlike blood from an open wound. The Dragon unhooked her claws from the ground and began to scratch and dig on the spot, which was darkening rapidly underneath her as the water rose up.
It didn’t take long before she was standing talon-deep in muddy water. It was a small puddle to her, but to you it would have been a body of water so big that calling it a lake seems hardly sufficient. Had you sailed from one shore to the other it would have taken you weeks to cross it, and that is with the weather cooperating, for the lake was as big as a small ocean.
Now the Dragon walked to the spot where she had left her egg, quite near one edge of the world, and there she sat facing the other edge directly. She hooked her claws into the soil again, more gently this time, and closed her eyes.
A rumbling tremor began, barely perceptible at first. It started at the place where the Earth Dragon sat and moved from that end of the land all the way to the other, like a wave. It did not stop for hours, and when it was all over, things looked very different.
The first change took place at the Earth Dragon herself. Here a burned tree fell from her body, and there another. All sorts of debris —dead trees, rocks, even the bodies of animals that had lost their lives in the recent Calamity— rolled off her back as new trees sprouted in their place and pushed them aside, growing thick and bursting with green leaves. It took less than a minute from a tree to sprout and grow to be quite tall. It would then continue to grow, slower and slower, until you could hardly notice that it was growing at all.
Soon the Dragon was green all over. There was no remnant of her earlier ravaged looks now, other than for the few ashes that still clung to the air around her. These soon dispersed as she gave herself a little shake now and again.
This burst of life sprang forth from the Dragon to the soil around her like a seismic tide of green, and it did not take place quietly. You could sit by the side of a plant for days with your ear stuck to it and you would not hear a thing. But take hundreds; no, make that thousands and thousands of trees growing in a matter of hours, and vast meadows being covered in thick young grass in mere minutes —now that is bound to make some noise.
There was first that dull tremor, which reverberated throughout the land for as long as life continued to grow in this extraordinary manner, and on top of it there was a constant crackling of growing branches and snapping of twigs. There was also the sound of thousands of millions of blades of grass growing all at once, which I can’t quite describe and you will have to try and imagine for yourself.
Then there were the animals. All the creatures that had survived the Calamity and come to the new land on the Earth Dragon’s body began to climb, creep or fly down to this bountiful land, to make their new nests and burrows in it, and to feed. Everything was in bloom, and the branches of every tree and bush that could bear fruit were heavy with it.
By twilight the very tip of the edge opposite to where the Earth Dragon nested grew thick with grass and wildflowers. Then, just as it began, the tremor was over.
The Earth Dragon looked over the virgin land, so clean and pure, and breathed deeply. This was not the first time she created life. But it was only the second time she created an entire world. Now as the first time, the moment had arrived to do something which invariably broke her heart as much as it made it swell with joy. For while she was but one of many Dragons that could make life out of nothing, she was the only one she knew that could create this kind of life, and nothing made her happier or prouder; there was nothing which she loved more tenderly, not even the egg which rested snugly in the ravine by her side.
She lay down with her head resting on the ground, and closed her eyes. Then her great earthen brow furrowed, and right between the spots where her long curved horns began, something started to grow.
A little shape was slowly rising from the mud. It was a little person, quite unlike any other animal that had arrived riding the Earth Dragon’s body. It had no face at first, and its arms had no hands. But eventually the mud that dripped at the end of each arm solidified into four perfect fingers. As this happened, the creature brought a hand up to its shapeless face, and the mud it was made of swirled into an expression of pleasant surprise. It was a young masculine face, with thick eyebrows, big eyes and an odd flat nose. Locks of red hair sprouted from its head, as well as a pair of pointed ears. Now able to hear, the creature looked even happier. He laughed, and the sound of his own voice startled him, causing him to laugh again.
He did not yet have feet; his legs were still solidly rooted to the soil from which he had risen. Now he looked down, and pulled one leg up. It dripped, at first; then just as his hands had formed, a perfect footpaw with wriggling toes shaped itself. The creature then did the same with his other leg, and while he was examining his new feet and poking the pawpads in the with delight, he sprouted a long tail with a tuft of red hair at the tip. This gave him a great shock. He grabbed it with both fists, greatly suspicious, and gasped when pulling on it caused him pain, but before this incident could distress him further, he was distracted by another shape rising very near the same place he had.
In minutes another little person stood beside him, risen from the mud in the same extraordinary manner: a pretty female with green eyes and long auburn hair that grew down to her waist, and a tail as long as his own. Holding hands they climbed down the Earth Dragon to the land below. All the while they talked happily to each other in a babble that was incomprehensible even to them, for they had yet to develop a proper language. But they soon would, as the Dragon knew only too well.
At one point the couple looked back. They saw the Earth Dragon and looked into her eyes. Then they knew who she was, and who they were, and why they were there. Then they turned around and walked on.
Nuzzling her egg, the Dragon watched them leave.
Their presence comforted her. She was glad they were there, as well as concerned for them. She hoped they wouldn’t cause each other much pain, and that they wouldn’t forget her too quickly this time. They always knew her, at first, but whenever she lay down to sleep for long, they would often forget she was there. She didn’t really blame them —after all, in the time she took a nap, an entire generation of them could have children, grow old, and die. Still, it made her a little sad whenever it happened.
With her creatures gone from view, the Earth Dragon's entire body slumped heavily. She was exhausted. She nudged the egg closer to her body, between her moss-covered rock talons, to keep it warm, and shut her eyes. As she drifted to sleep she thought of the two elves alone in the rich new land, and wondered what it would all look like when she woke up.
But she was wrong: the young elven couple wasn’t alone in the vast country that they would later call Meganeea. There was someone else like them there, a survivor of the Devastation, who had come on the Earth Dragon’s body along with the other surviving creatures.
The Earth Dragon should have known this, of course, because she knew each and all of her creations as if they were extensions of her very own being. She knew their names and their thoughts, where they were and whether they were alive or dead. She should have known that he was there, but she didn’t, because she had done the unthinkable.
She had forgotten him.
But there he was, lost and forsaken deep within the treacherous caverns that were her insides. And while she fell fast asleep, he awoke.