A Word of Warning
Meganeea may at some point in time potentially feature certain themes, scenes and/or character dynamics that some readers may consider upsetting. Individual chapters will not contain warnings. The story will at times contain scenes that feature or reference murder, war, violence, natural disasters, and more. There may also be problematic character dynamics and problematic romantic relationships. The protagonists of the story may not always make the right decisions, not even the heroes and heroines. Not every character (antagonist or otherwise) will necessarily get a comeuppance. If any of these things would upset you, I would discourage you from reading. I write primarily to amuse myself, and anyone else who might find the stories enjoyable. For those who choose to visit Meganeea, I do hope you will find your stay entertaining.
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.
Inside the Earth Dragon
Ébano blinked once, twice. The darkness around him was so complete that he couldn't be sure of whether he was actually blinking at all. So he blinked a third time, but it made no difference.
The wolf-elf did not know where he was. He did not know how long he had been there or how he had gotten there, or where he'd been before he got there. Yet as more of his consciousness returned to him so did a pressing panic; a feeling of desperate urgency and the awareness that something dear to him was hopelessly lost.
His hand, in which he held something furry and limp, tightened into a fist, and a small whimper broke the dead silence. Ébano relaxed his hold immediately, but his hand did not let it go. More carefully, he cradled it now, with both hands.
“Amadeus,” he called to it, in a low voice. “Amadeus.”
The winged rat moaned and stirred in his hands. Ébano placed it gently on his lap.
“What place is this?” asked the rat in a tremulous voice.
“I don’t know. Your eyes are better than mine. Can’t you see anything?”
They sat in silence for a while. They were afraid, both of them.
“I don’t remember much,” Ébano said finally. “I do remember something as being terrible wrong, but… Somehow, I just can’t…” his voice trailed off.
“Shh! Listen!” the rat hissed. Ébano perked up his ears. He heard it, too.
Something was stirring, something big, and wet. It was walking in their direction with heavy, squelching steps. It was soon close enough that they could hear it heave and snort.
“Charko!” Amadeus squalled joyfully. Ébano heard him taking flight and then fluttering by the great tar-horse’s side. It had been his tar body that dripped along as he walked.
“I wonder,” Amadeus began, “I wonder if anyone else…” then he stopped and said nothing more. Neither did Ébano. He, too, had remembered. Yianna was dead. The Earth Dragon had killed her with a flick of her earthen tail. It had destroyed the entire land, the entire planet, with that single flick of her enormous tail.
“If we made it,” Amadeus began tentatively, “then perhaps Yianna, too—”
“No,” Ébano cut him off. There was a dangerous edge to his voice. He didn’t make any noise and Amadeus could not see his face in the dark, but because he was perched on Ébano’s knee, he could feel his body shaking convulsively. It was a miserable moment, and it seemed to last forever. Unable to bear it any longer, the rat finally spoke again.
“Why...? Why did She do it? She looked over us all this time. Why?”
“When has your beloved Master of All Creation needed a reason for her whimsy?” retorted Ébano bitterly.
“There must have been a good reason,” Amadeus sputtered. “She must have had one! She must!”
Ébano spat on the ground and was silent.
“I-I mean, look at us. We aren’t dead!” the rat insisted desperately, “If we were spared, She must have a reason for that, too!”
“So? She forgot,” said Ébano getting on his feet. “Just a sloppy job —and we ourselves might die yet if we don’t find a way out soon.”
Amadeus perched on his shoulder and Ébano began to walk, the tar-horse following close behind. It was no use to ride him —Ébano’s eyes had adjusted to the dark, but barely. He could not guide the horse if he was riding it. So he felt the rocky wall with his hand as he went and let the beast follow him.
It was wretchedly slow going. Every few steps they tripped over rocks they could not see, and ran into more dead ends than they could count. Ravines abounded, and Ébano fell into more than one.
Time lost meaning quickly inside the Earth Dragon’s cavernous body. It was a small mercy, at least, that they never felt a physical need to eat or drink, so they did not starve.
They spoke but little. Eventually Ébano lost himself in his own dark, despairing thoughts and stopped answering Amadeus altogether. Years would go by without him saying a word, so Amadeus would perch by the tar-horse’s ear and talk to it instead, or pray quietly to himself. It was all the rat could do to keep from giving in to utter hopelessness.
It would take them over two hundred and fifty years to find the way out of the caverns that twisted and turned deep within the Earth Dragon’s innards, and they would emerge looking no older than the day fate trapped them there. But Ébano would not surface unchanged.
For you see, in the face of great adversity, when one’s heartaches become too much to bear, those who believe in a higher power generally react in one of two ways: they may find solace in their faith, becoming stronger in it, or they may lose it altogether.
The rat did not understand the Earth Dragon’s motives, but by convincing himself that She must have a plan for them and it would all make sense in the end, he was able to withstand the ordeal, to a point.
Ébano, having once opened his heart to Her, felt the betrayal was too great to do the same. The Dragon was a cruel, capricious beast, and he had been a fool to love Her.
For over two hundred and fifty years he brooded and seethed, grieving for his lost bride and unborn child. Having no faith to hold on to, nothing to shield him from the pain that continually ate at his heart and the disturbing scenes of carnage which he could not forget, Ébano’s mind became clouded with dangerous, irrational thoughts.
In time, he found his way out of the Earth Dragon, but his sound mind, and any peace his soul had ever known, any gentleness his heart had once harbored, would be left behind.
The Egg Hatches
For two hundred years the Earth Dragon slept soundly with her egg between her claws, becoming more and more covered with trees and other green life. Generations of elves came and went, until no one remained who could tell of seeing the great mountain rise on its feet or roar in such a way as to make the land shake from one end to another. She thus became little more than a myth, though there were still elves who faced the direction of Earth Dragon Mountain when saying their prayers every night, and even staunch unbelievers swore by the Dragon if they happened to drop something heavy on their foot by accident.
But then the egg hatched, and everyone’s doubts were decidedly dispersed for a good long time.
The first creature to become aware of the hatching was a lone goat grazing atop a gently sloping hill on a chilly, drizzly dawn. A dull tremor had been reverberating under his hooves since the prior night, so he was rather unnerved, but not especially alarmed given that it had not brought him any immediate harm. The turf which grew all over the hill was delicious and thick, so the goat ate cheerfully, only pricking his ears momentarily whenever the tremor occasionally became louder.
Then quite suddenly he felt uneasy. The noise, he noticed, had stopped completely. Mid-chew, he raised his head, sniffed the air, and then, seized by instinctive panic, he took downhill. His hooves barely left the spot where he had been grazing when the ground underneath cracked open with a sickening sound. The crack grew longer and wider behind him, and water began to burst through it, soaking and terrifying him further —but he made it off the hill and disappeared among the nearby woods bleating indignantly.
The egg’s short, deafening crack echoed repeatedly throughout a good part the land. Those elves who heard it were now looking out their windows or staring, their plowing or other chores paused, toward Earth Dragon Mountain, and as they did their puzzlement turned to fear and wonder.
The mountain was moving.
It began by giving a short, if rather violent upward lurch. Then, as if remembering itself, it continued to rise very slowly and carefully.
The Earth Dragon’s shape was unmistakable by now. She opened her great amber eyes, and earth crumbled down her face with each sleepy blink. Once in a while an uprooted tree fell from her with a dull crash. She gave one wondering look to the land so changed, and under this gaze more than one bewildered elf fell on its knees.
There was not one spot in that vast land where the fantastic display had gone unnoticed by any creature. Every wild beast, too, was watching, quiet and reverent. Watching and waiting.
The Dragon, for the time being, had no attention for them. Her eyes were for her egg only, and the round snout that now poked through its widest crack.
The little poking snout pushed forward, grunting and snorting, until quite suddenly and with one watery snap, the shell broke all around its contents, leaving a very wet, bluish blob in its place.
A head with a mop of sopping blue hair rose gingerly from the blob, eyes tightly shut. A little mouth opened once or twice in a silent cry, and then it began to squall shrilly, to its mother’s immense delight.
The little dragon made a clumsy attempt at a step and tripped, momentarily losing his shape as his wobbly body hit the ground with a watery crash. Occasionally his lower half would fall apart and almost instantly come to shape again as he made further attempts at mobility. Most of his body was made of water, yet at times it appeared quite solid. He could not control his essence very well, and would occasionally become almost fog-like as he stopped to rest on a spot, shivering with his eyes half-open. At these moments the hatchling seemed but a misty mirage. Then, with a violent sneeze, he would solidify into view
again, eyes wide open and a startled expression on his face.
The Earth Dragon kept her toddling offspring confined to a small area between her claws, which to him were like great earthen walls, much too high for him to climb.
His wings were barely there, and he did not know how to make himself light enough to float upwards as a raincloud would. He was, like his father, a Dragon of Rain, so his essence would allow that in time. But for now the young Prince could only explore the ground below his Mother’s adoring gaze.
This gaze he now noticed. His once-filmy eyes having cleared up, he looked up for the first time and soon discerned the shape of her face towering so high above him; the curved horns that framed it, but most of all the eyes that looked down at him with such love. He cried out to her shrilly, and she returned the call with a soft, crooning growl. Gently she lowered her head toward him. The little dragon dragged himself around in a slight panic, because his mother was infinitely large, and when her face was right over him he could not recognize its shape as easily any more. But there was nowhere to escape, so he curled up where he was, and put his claws over his eyes.
Eventually, gentle pokes from the great snout reassured him enough to entice him to sniff it and give it a couple of tentative butts with his own head, still soft and with the barest hint of horns. His fear gone, he began to climb, until he was sitting on top of his mother’s head.
The Earth Dragon stayed still and waited while her hatchling made himself comfortable among the bushes and full tree-tops that grew on the top of her head. The little dragon clawed and kneaded the way a kitten does when fixing up its sleeping place, making it just right. Then he settled down with a contented sigh, paying little heed to the couple of displaced mountain goats that went scurrying for protection somewhere down the Earth Dragon’s neck.
He began to drift off to sleep when a gentle lurch caused him to sit up in alarm, claws digging to the ground. He felt as though he were falling, and in his fear he cried out shrill little cries, but the falling sensation only increased.
He was, in fact, going upwards. His mother was rising her neck, slowly but continuously, as well as her upper body. The little Dragon Prince found himself higher and higher. In time the tickling feeling in his tummy stopped. He opened his eyes, still frightened and squalling shrilly for some explanation.
Before him stretched all of Meganeea. He stared at it all, full of awe.
His mother crooned at him, and his whole body reverberated with her reassuring growl. He was not frightened when the reverberation grew more intense, even when it caused little stones all around him to dance on the ground.
As the growl grew louder, his mother’s jowls opened wider. There was absolute silence for a fraction of a second before a deafening roar burst forth from within; a long, joyous call for every Meganeean creature to hear.
The young Dragon Prince, too, broke into happy, proud squalls. He was infected by his mother’s joy with no awareness that he was the cause for it, or that her proud calls were made to inform the land and its inhabitants of the very occasion of his birth.
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.