The Earth Dragon remained awake for some time after the birth of her hatchling. She moved but little, however, and her offspring, who for the time being would absorb sustenance from his Mother’s life force without the need to eat, was mostly left to his own devices, though under her watchful eyes, most of the time.
In the beginning, he set out to explore the mountain that was The Earth Dragon’s body. He was quite small in comparison to it; enough that it was a place he could get lost in, but not so much that he couldn’t find his way back before nighttime or come to any harm during his wanderings.
There was a sharp mountain ridge going down the Earth Dragon’s back all the way to the tip of her tail, which she kept curled around the side of her body. The shortest of these peaks was as tall as Faahvrigüo could stand when he stood on his hind legs.
Past the southern side of his Mother the land ended sharply. He could explore no further. So he tried to explore the land to the North, but every time she would corral him in her claws, and his attempts were foiled.
The older he grew, the more frustrated he became. He learned to control his liquid essence so well, that he could turn to water that would go between her talons, and regain his shape once on the other side. But then she would pick him up and place him as far from the northern land as she possibly could, forcing him to restart his long trek until he reached her claws and was stopped in his tracks once again, over and over.
Always before night fell he would find his way back to his Mother’s head, where he had his favorite sleeping place, right ahead of the spot where her long, curved horns grew. From here he would watch the sun set over the land to the North with longing, and wonder what was there, beyond the sea of of green treetops that extended as far as his eyes could see.
Little Faahvrigüo grew older and bigger. In time, he got big enough that he had to curl up very tightly in order to be able to fit on top of his Mother’s head. Once in a while one of his legs would slide out of him and he would wake up, startled, scrambling and reaching to hold on to a rock or bush with his claws, lest he slide down her neck all the way down the mountain range that was her back. When that happened, it was a stony, bumpy ride down. And happen it did, several times, until it was one time too many.
On that occasion, when Faahvrigüo managed to grab onto one of his Mother’s scales and stop rolling and bumping and splashing against rocks and trees, he decided to make his way down and find a new sleeping place. But when he turned around to give his old, comfortable nest a last sulking glance, something caught his eye.
There was barely perceptible light coming from a crevice somewhere below his sleeping spot. It flickered and moved around. As Faahvrigüo approached, he noticed that it was in fact a cluster of several very tiny little flames, constantly moving, slowly and jerkily.
This crevice was far too small for him to get in, and that was a good thing, for in the dark he had not noticed that he was peering into his Mother’s ear. The mouth of this tunnel was just big enough for him to peek into.
His eyes were beginning to get accustomed to the dark and make out the little shapes that accompanied the flames when a soft little voice greeted him.
“Young Master, hello!”
So startled was Faahvrigüo, who had never heard a voice other than the rumbling of his Mother’s throat before, that he lost his footing and went rolling and bumping and splashing down the mountain again. This time, however, he managed to stop his fall sooner. Frightened, but curious, he went back to peek into the tunnel and look for the little voice among the dancing flames.
He looked in, and saw a pair of golden, sleepy eyes looking into his own. They appeared large on the face of the friendly little creature to whom they belonged. A bright flame burned merrily atop its head.
Faahvrigüo watched it as it moved slowly toward him. It was smaller even than one of the young dragon’s own eyes. Faahvrigüo could see no feet on it; it dragged the bottom of its body over the rock much like a slug would, leaving a trail behind. It did, however, sport a pair of tiny arms, and rather shapeless hands at the end of each. Every part of its body seemed to be merely a suggestion of the real thing, half formed, partly melted, or melting into waxy little droplets.
“Hello,” it said again, waving a tiny three-fingered hand very shyly. Then a finger melted and dripped to the floor, and there were only two left. Faahvrigüo was astonished.
“Oh, dear,” said the little creature, “Don’t be frightened. Look, here it is again.”
He showed Faahvrigüo his hand, with the fingers it had left directed toward the floor, and a new finger was being formed where the other one had melted off. The other two, however, seemed to become longer. So the little hand was now even more shapeless than before, but its owner seemed satisfied.
“There, all better!” he said, wriggling his three fingers so Faahvrigüo could see them.
“This is Uricchin,” he said, placing a hand on his chest. Then he made a respectful little wave with it in Faahvrigüo’s direction. “You are the Earth Dragon’s Son.” His childlike voice was full of devotion. “That makes you Uricchin’s Master.”
Faahvrigüo only stared with bemusement, making no reply. The creature baffled him, rather, but he was glad to have this unexpected companion.
“We grew from the body of Master’s Mother, like everything else here,” explained Uricchin with a motion toward the many other little creatures like him that crawled aimlessly as far inside the tunnel as Faahvrigüo could see. Some were smaller and some were larger, and all were melted to different degrees. Some had no flames on top of their heads, only little wicks, and appeared to be asleep.
“But unlike everything else,” continued Uricchin, “we were here first. And I’ve been here since the Earth Dragon was still in her egg.”
Here Faahvrigüo found his voice.
“You don’t look that old,” he said dubiously. “You shouldn’t tell lies.”
The little flame burned brighter, and Uricchin’s chubby face seemed to glow red under its light. He giggled and looked away and seemed terribly pleased.
“My Young Master is too kind, much too kind!” he squeaked with delight, “It is no lie. Uricchin would never dare lie to his Master, not ever... Uricchin is very old indeed. He is as old as Young Master’s Mother. He has been with her, always... Before this world, and before the world before this one, too.”
“What do you mean? What other world?” the little dragon flicked his ears, puzzled.
“The Earth Dragon made everything in this world,” said Uricchin with a hint of sadness, “She made another world before this one, but it ended badly. That was before my Young Master was born.”
Faahvrigüo shook his head slowly.
“I don’t understand,” he said.
“It would be too hard for my Young Master to understand,” said Uricchin, “when He doesn’t know what a world even looks like. This world doesn’t end at the edge of the Earth Dragon’s tail.”
“I know that,” said Faahvrigüo, flicking his own tail with annoyance, “She won’t let me see what’s beyond it. I’ve tried and tried.”
Uricchin gave Faahvrigüo a long, thoughtful glance that for a moment almost seemed to betray his age.
“The Earth Dragon’s sleep is more sound with every passing day,” he said. “Soon it will become so deep that almost nothing will rouse her from it. My Young Master must wait for such a time, and then, quietly, without disturbing Her, fly over to the side that lies beyond Her. There He shall find the rest of this world.”
So Faahvrigüo waited. He waited days, and months, and weeks and even years while his Mother still shifted occasionally around, or sometimes awoke, gave a contented look around, and slept again. Of course, though years were a long time to the rest of Meganeea, they amounted to little for Faahvrigüo, who by the time he’d first met Uricchin, was already a two hundred year old hatchling.
He didn’t grow any more than you would between Halloween and Christmas Day, but the wait was just as grueling for him. To pass the time, he would sometimes have a visit with Uricchin, whom he found in equal measures entertaining and grating on his nerves. Other times he would climb up the tallest peak he could find, and there he would concentrate on making himself lighter and less dense, until his body became so light that his feet started to leave the ground, and he was able to cover small distances by letting the wind push him as it would a cloud.
Every day he got a little better at it, and a little stronger, until he was able to push himself around him with his own wings.
“I flew above the tree-tops today,” he said to Uricchin one night. His voice carried a careless note, but he held his head very high.
“How marvelous!” Uricchin praised him dreamily, “How Uricchin wishes he could fly and see everything from above, too.”
“But you have been with Mother when she has flown before, have you not?”
“That isn’t the same, Young Master. Uricchin has spent almost his entire existence in this cave. He cannot look down from above, not from here.”
“Maybe I’ll take you with me one day,” said little Faahvrigüo magnanimously.
“How generous Uricchin’s Master is to his humble servant! He so wants to see the world!”
“So do I,” said Faahvrigüo. “Now tell me —just when will I get to do that? I ask you this every night, and every night you say, ‘Not yet.’ I’m going to lose my mind from boredom, always walking up and down Mother’s back, seeing the same old things.”
Uricchin grew serious. “My Young Master must take care,” he warned, “for beyond the Earth Dragon live Her other children.”
Faahvrigüo’s eyes widened with astonishment, but before he could ask anything, Uricchin went on.
“They are not other young dragons such as my Master is. These children of the Earth Dragon are called elves, and they do not all look alike. But they are all very small, so small that my Young Master could kill one by stepping on it by accident. My Master must take great care not to frighten or hurt them when he is out in their world.”
“What kind of brute do you take me for?” scoffed Faahvrigüo. But then, because Uricchin seemed so earnest and concerned, he added, “I’ll be careful.”
Time went on, as time does, and a day did come when Faahvrigüo perched on his Mother’s talons, looked back, and she did not rouse. In fact he could not recall the last time she’d moved, or even blinked. Her breathing was shallow, though he had been reassured by Uricchin not to worry. All the same, as he took that last look, he was filled with trepidation. He went over her talons to the other side, and she did not move them to corral him back in. It wouldn’t matter now that he could fly, but he felt reassured all the same. Emboldened, he rearranged himself into something that was almost like steam and floated up with little pushes of his still-small wings.
The air was warm, and Faahvrigüo’s steamy body lingered on it with ease. He felt almost weightless, and the slightest movement of his wings pushed him forward and high, high to the sky. For the first time he felt complete confidence as he flew, save for the occasional cold pocket of air, when he would plummet down until he collected his wits and made his body lose enough density to float, or the warm air enveloped him again, doing it for him.
It was still dark out, and drunk in the exhilaration of this first true flight, the sunrise caught the young Dragon Prince by surprise. When the sun spilled color all over the land below, he stopped mid-somersault, first shocked, then delighted, at the vision that presented itself for him. He swooped down to get a closer look.
For miles all around, a carpet of green extended below him. Trees grew thick and tall, more than he had ever seen. But only for an instant did he stand in awe as he beheld the view. Faahvrigüo was young and wild and full of curiosity, and the exhilaration of his flight left him feeling deliciously reckless.
Instinctively (for it was becoming second nature to him now) he rearranged his essence to make his body heavier, and in one fell swoop he dropped down toward the expanse of green below. The speed with which he dropped caught him by surprise, so that he nearly crashed against the canopy. He composed himself just in time, however, and was soon coasting over the trees regarding the landscape with his best lofty expression, for you see, he was a Prince after all, and it simply won’t do for a prince to appear out of breath while exploring his dominion, even if he is a very young prince.
The vast expanse of green seemed to stretch forever into the distance. To Faahvrigüo they looked little different from the trees he was accustomed to seeing on his Mother’s back, and he found himself growing bored in spite of his earlier excitement, until a faint glimmer in the distance caught his eye. There was something promising and deeply compelling about these far-off dancing lights, and now with a clear destination in sight, Faahvrigüo beat his small wings with added vigor and moved toward it at greater speed.
It was far, far away.
Morning gave way to noon and Faahvrigüo still found himself coasting on the warm currents of air, flapping his wings only occasionally so as not to tire himself out too much, and yet the glimmer seemed as distant as ever.
Still, the landscape was changing. Slowly but surely trees began to grow sparse, and soft sloping hills gave way to mountains. He came upon a sharp cluster of peaks that reminded him of something —alarmed him, even.
“Mother!” he cried out, immediately aware that it was not, could not, be her, but wondering for the first time since he’d left whether she had noticed he’d gone off, and whether she would be cross when he got back.
Faahvrigüo looked back, indeed for the first time yet, and was quite astonished, not for the first —or last— time that day.
There lay the Earth Dragon, fast asleep. For an instant Faahvrigüo did not “see” her, for truly she was as if one with the Southern Meganeean landscape; a long range of sharp peaks surrounded by thick green life. But the pattern of those peaks was unmistakable, as were the vine-wrapped horns. The misty cloud of breath that always hung thick and warm near her snout was visible even at this distance.
To that day, Faahvrigüo had never seen his Mother’s body from end to end. Now, even after hours of flight, she still loomed so vast and imposing! Faahvrigüo felt strangely afraid and very, very small.
He did not fear rousing his Mother’s anger, not truly. But seeing her so large on the horizon that she herself was the horizon, reminded him of just how tiny he was by comparison. And this world —just how big was it? Uricchin hadn’t said. Perhaps he should turn back. What if he flew so far he no longer could see his Mother, and became lost? What if…?
He turned around. The glimmer trembled and danced on the other side, calling to him. Suddenly Faahvrigüo knew what it was.
Now, don’t ask me how Faahvrigüo knew that it was water, when he had never seen a lake, river or even a pond in his short life. In fact, the largest body of water he had ever beheld was his very own. Perhaps this is how he could tell. He had seen small puddles across his Mother’s back, and found that he could control the shape and density of the water in them just like he was able to do with that of his own body.
And what fun it was! Just imagine the potential that a whole lot of this liquid plaything could have. For it was a lot: this much, too, he could tell. At this enticing prospect he wavered no longer, and flew onward.
By the time he arrived, it was late afternoon, but the sun still danced with blinding beauty over the water. It was the biggest “puddle” that the young dragon had ever seen; a lake so vast indeed that Faahvrigüo could not see the shore on the other side at first approach. Jagged, great rocks and misshapen islands poked randomly throughout its calm surface.
Flying over this great expanse of sparkling blue made the Dragon Prince drunk with delight, and he dove straight into it with a delightful crash. He found that he could breathe underwater as easily as he could out of it. Not only that, but almost as soon as he hit the water he was overcome by the feeling of becoming one with it.
Faahvrigüo did not feel small anymore! In fact, he could not tell where his own body ended and where the lake began. He laughed when fish swam right through his skin, tickling him. Vaguely he could “feel” the massive reach of the lake itself. He felt the soil that surrounded the water, and felt its great depth, the reach of both being much farther that he would have dared to explore. The lake was absolutely teeming with life.
Although the place where Faahvrigüo swam was peaceful and quiet, the energy of this ebullient life made a “noise” that coursed through Faahvrigüo’s body in a deliciously confusing fashion.
He was distracted from his pleasure by an odd, somewhat alarming feeling, the sensation of an unknown presence on the lake’s surface —and by extension on his own body— that had not been there before. Or maybe it had been there all along, nearby, and he had only noticed it now?
Deciding to investigate, he swam up and poked his head out of the water only just enough to be able to take a quick, safe peek.
Looking around, he saw nothing peculiar at first. Dusk was falling, and mist was settling over the lake’s surface. But then, out of the corner of his eye, Faahvrigüo spotted two shapes coming into view. To him, however, they were completely unrecognizable.
He dove back in so as to swim closer to them undetected, and after a fruitless inspection of the objects’ smooth, curved bottoms, he peeked out again.
Two tall, very peculiar structures were floating on the water. They smelled like they might be made out of trees, or something that had been a tree before, yet they looked unlike any tree that the young dragon had ever seen, with only a few gigantic white leaves billowing in the breeze.
These floating contraptions were made even more disquieting by the fact that they were crawling all over with angry-looking little people, most of which sported pointy ears and furry tails —some longer, some shorter. They were causing a great din.
Faahvrigüo told himself that these must be the elves Uricchin had described to him, and the puzzling structures must be their dwellings. He had not expected to find them drifting along in the middle of a lake.
Inconspicuous as the young dragon may have been trying to appear, he would have been the cause of great and immediate alarm for these elves under ordinary circumstances. As it turned out, they were much too preoccupied with one another to notice him at all.
Faahvrigüo watched in fascination as the structures drifted dangerously closer together until they ran into each other with a loud bump.
Shortly thereafter, great excitement ensued!
There were yells and shrieks and waving of pointy things and shaking of fists. Some pointy things flew with a whizz! from one structure over to the other. There was a powerful blast, which caused Faahvrigüo to dive in a panic. He was greatly frightened and confused. When he dared to reemerge just enough to see, thick, foul smelling smoke which stung his eyes was obstructing his view. He had to draw closer to better see the hulking vessels, one of which was now badly marred. Both structures were in flames. Something resembling vines was thrown between the two, and by their use, most of the elves were now on the same one. The ones that weren’t, Faahvrigüo noticed with a sickening feeling, were floating in the lake, not moving. The water around some had a faint red tinge. Faahvrigüo felt it pollute his own body, which was then mixed with the lake’s waters. He felt ill.
One need not have the horror of death explained to them to recognize it. Even in his fear and confusion, Faahvrigüo knew it when he beheld it.
What stupid little creatures, to thoughtlessly do such horribly things to one another! And for what reason? The young Dragon Prince’s first excursion was ruined, his new special place most grossly violated. Faahvrigüo could not stand to be in the bloodied waters any longer.
He dove down and under the structures, where the muffled screaming could still reach his ears. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, he shot up and burst through the surface right between them with his fiercest roar.
To be sure, this made a strong impression on his bickering audience, as he would have —roar or no roar. For you see, Faahvrigüo felt quite small next to his Mother, and he had felt small when first surveying the vast unknown world that morning. The endless lake, too, had made him feel quite insignificant, yet in reality he was anything but. In fact, he quite underestimated his size, and when he emerged so violently the waves his body created caused the wrecked structure to capsize, and the other to nearly do the same. He had not meant to cause this to happen, and was taken aback along with the elves.
They stared, and Faahvrigüo stared back, regaining enough of his composure to glare at them, feeling large and imposing and very terrible indeed. No one said anything or moved, and after a minute or so, the silence began to turn rather awkward.
Then someone —someone not very bright— decided to seize the distraction as an opportunity to club someone else on the head, and to the young dragon’s dismay and disbelief, pandemonium broke loose once again.
The battle resumed as if he had not been there at all. Indignant, Faahvrigüo roared again and with one hard swat sent the now sinking wreck bouncing a little way across the water, like a skipping stone.
Then the elves on the remaining ship paid attention to him, and how! This attention they expressed with spears and harpoons and cannon balls, all of which naturally went right through Faahvrigüo’s liquid body, causing little more than a good deal of splashing. Such things could not hurt him, nor could any other means available to common ruffians such as these elves were.
They did however serve to greatly frighten and anger our Dragon Prince, and in a second his talons might have clawed those rickety wooden things to pieces, the elves along with them. This would have been a terrible thing, so I am glad to tell you that it did not happen.
Both dragon and elves were stopped in their tracks by a deafening, ear-splitting roar that got into the core of every living and non-living thing so thoroughly, that by the time it was over —and it lasted a good while— every blade of grass shook and every rock shook with its might.
The elves, with their bodies flat against the deck and their hands over their heads, shivered as well, though for different motives. Faahvrigüo gave them a scornful glance and looked up in the direction of his Mother, where she, with her body half-risen, lay looking back at him.
It took one confusing, painful instant for Faahvrigüo to come to the shocking realization that the wrath he read in her eyes was not directed toward these insolent, foolhardy creatures that would try to hurt her precious young, but at Faahvrigüo himself. Even though he probably ought not to have strayed so far, the burning fury in her eyes hurt him deeply. It scared him, too.
He did not look back at the elves again, but took flight and made for home. He was not eager to arrive, yet he pressed on, for the Earth Dragon’s roar had carried very far, and this made the way back a very uncomfortable experience.
Elves were everywhere now, out in droves and in small groups, with torches and lanterns. Every window was yellow with light in every farmhouse and village that Faahvrigüo flew over, which in the daytime he had somehow overlooked. All eyes and pointing fingers were on him, and various sorts of exclamations, the nature of which he could not understand, followed him all the way.
He did not have to bear the terrible look in his Mother’s eyes for long, at least. When she saw him take off in her direction, she lay down again and shut her eyes. Even from far away it was evident that the effort of rising had exhausted her. For the first time the young Dragon Prince wondered why she spent so much time sleeping, and why she tired so easily. Had it always been so? Why hadn’t he noticed?
His mind heavy with many worries, Faahvrigüo flew higher, over the clouds, away from the gaping faces and pointing fingers of the pesky little beings on the ground, and he did not begin his descent until he reached his Mother.