by Mark Wolf
Art by Jack S. Rogers
The dragon’s egg glowed with a golden hue. This fact amazed the beast that had laid it; so much so, she gave it more attention than she did her other eggs. If the other eggs hatched as remarkable a dragon as this one might, it would have surprised the mother.
When the egg finally did hatch, days after all the others, the mother hovered over the young golden dragonet, breathing hot steamy breath on her to keep her warm. The other young drakes had long since flown off to make their way in the world as soon as their wings dried. They would raise havoc in the villages of the humans around the snowy mountains for weeks to come.
Most would be killed by human and Elven alike. The few that survived would become crafty and live longer to fight and die in competition for territory and mates. These survivors would choose their own names if they lived long enough to develop an intellect above their primal instincts.
However, this special dragon telepathically proclaimed herself, Mist, just a few hours after hatching. The mother dragon’s curiosity drove her to finally ask. “Why Mist?”
“Why not, Mother?” Mist mentally projected her answer. “It is my first impression. You have kept me warm with your steamy hot breath.”
“I don’t understand why you are so self-aware, my daughter.” The mother cocked her head puzzling this unprecedented newness.
“Did you not think me an extraordinary dragon, even while I was in the shell? I remember your thoughts well.”
“That I did…wait, you knew about this while you were in the shell?” This ability was unheard of to learn from their mother before hatching.
“Of course. Don’t all dragons know these things?” Mist asked sleepily. She lay down to curl inside her mother’s resting forelegs.
“No. Most dragons are only aware of hunger for several days after hatching. You are unusual.”
“I am?” Mist asked, yawning. “When I wake, can you teach me more?”
“Of course, daughter. Sleep well.”
To the mother’s shock the dragonet turned into a beautiful, golden-haired, human girl as soon as she fell asleep. The mother hunched protectively over her in amazement. Unsure of what magic was taking place. Could she be the one foretold of by legend?
Years later, Mist and her mother watched the human retinue from an overhanging cliff. Far below them, a rider pulled in close to the enclosed cart as they entered the narrow canyon. The men at arms cast their heads about and the horses seemed to fearfully bunch up close to the cart.
“Should we attack now?” Mist asked, while her claws gouged the rock beneath her.
“Why? Are you still hungry?”
“No, but isn’t that what dragons do? Kill and eat humans?” Mist reached up to scratched her scaly snout and stifled a sneeze. She controlled two more small sneezes, swallowing them inside of her. The next one burst forth in flame with a powerful gust, sending several small boulders over the edge of the cliff.
The riders looked up at the noise as the stones crashed down the cliff face. “Dragons! Make haste!” one cried. The cart’s driver whipped the team of horses as the group fled for their lives. The cart careened from side to side with the last two riders scanning the sky amongst the cloud of dust and debris that trailed behind.
Mist backed up to gain room for a flying leap from the edge of the cliff. Her muscles bunched and she gathered her wings in. She launched for the edge.
Her mother grabbed her by the tail in her talons, halting her so suddenly her snout hit the ground.
“Do not be in such a hurry to give chase. If you aren’t hungry, it is better to leave the humans be. They can be formidable in numbers. Besides, I think you might learn something by observing them,” her mother sent.
Mist champed impatiently. She found it very hard to restrain the desire to chase the fleeing prey. “Ah, they got away.”
“Yes, they did. But is that such a bad thing?” her mother asked.
Mist raised her head to look at her mother. Her huge horns impressed Mist to no end. She wondered if she might one day have horns nearly as large. “I suppose not. Still it might have been fun to just chase them a bit.”
Her mother snorted steam in laughter. “It well might have been, but did you happen to mark the last two riders?”
Mist thought carefully. Of the last two riders one had rode on a brown and the other a black horse. In all honesty, she remembered the horses quite well, having a fondness for horseflesh, but she couldn’t remember anything about the humans. She hung her head, ashamed.
“I thought not,” her mother admonished. “If you had marked them, you would have noticed that both carried bows. Their arrows are nothing more than an annoyance for the most part.” Her mother leaned over and ran her tongue across Mist’s snout before continuing. “If an arrow hits you in the eye, though, it can blind you.”
That brought pause to Mist. Blind? Her mother knew so much and she turned her head up in contemplation. “That is good to know.”
“You’ll do fine in the world daughter, you just need to take the time and think about your actions.”
Mist bumped her head up under her mother’s jaw, returning her affection, and then she leaned up to look her in the eye. “Mother, am I different from other dragons?”
The great dragon regarded her precocious offspring warily. Knowing, Mist was so much more self aware and contemplative than a very young drake. Perhaps she was the one. It would not hurt her to tell her the legend.
“There is a story, Mist, a legend and a prophecy among the dragons.” She curled Mist up in one arm and used the other arm to make her lay still while she tongue-washed the blood and gore from their earlier attack of the humans flocks. “The legend is that one day a golden dragon-child would come and make peace with the humans for all dragons.”
“No one knows how she will do it, but every year there are fewer and fewer dragons as the humans expand their territories and hunt us down,” she answered, a somber expression on her face.
“Then we take the battle to them!” Mist growled in a menacingly small voice while snorting little tendrils of flame from her nostrils.
The dragon chuckled as she soothed her fierce child with her tongue. “I suppose we could. But remember how I told you that in numbers the humans are formidable?”
“Yes, sort of.”
“They have much more powerful bow machines that can easily kill us. Attacking them directly is not wise.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Mist said.
“There are many things to learn, Mist.” She turned Mist over and held her still while she washed her stomach. “Even I am still learning, and I am a very ancient dragon.”
Mist squirmed in her mothers grasp to no avail. “That tickles.”
“Of course it does. Now hold still and we will be finished all the quicker.” Her mother finished her bath as Mist yawned and fell asleep, changing into the little golden-haired human as she did every night.
The years passed quickly. In time Mist was able to control the change herself. She spent much more time as a human as she aged.
Her mother watched over her carefully when she was in human form. As a dragon, Mist was quite capable of taking care of herself. However, her abnormal curiosity put her in some unpredictable situations.
In her seventeenth year, she decided to visit the closest village to learn more of the humans. While her mother hunted, she stole off and made her way first by wing, and then as she drew closer to the village, as a human on foot.
Thomas Pinen spotted a stray cow on the boundaries between the villages of Mirth and Farnon. The villages held little love for one another. Thomas decided to capture the cow and place it into the joint communities’ holding pen before trouble ensued.
Thomas didn’t mind his surname nor the task associated with it. When Thomas accepted the task of rounding up stray animals, the two villages gave him his surname and title. Now he was “Thomas the Penner”, or Pinen; the one who caught and penned up stray animals to keep disputes from happening between the two villages.
Thomas moved toward the wild cow and herded it toward the stream. Once there, he could easily get his rope around the neck if it stepped into the deeper water.
The cow wasn’t very cooperative, reluctant to go in the water. It fled before Thomas, and only a bend in the stream and his pressing forward spooked the cow into the water. Trying to cross to flee, it was literally in over its head just as Thomas threw the noose that slipped over its head.
That was when the misadventure started. The cow swam for the other side of the stream, pulling Thomas first into the water, then along with it. Thomas stubbornly clung to the rope.
When he reached the other side, he hoped to tie the cow off to a tree. With the intent to let it buck and kick to work itself into exhaustion while he stayed clear. Believing afterwards, he would stand more of a chance of getting the cow to follow him meekly. That was the theory anyway.
However, when the cow broke out on the other side of the stream, it nearly ran over a tall golden-haired and quite naked maiden, who jumped aside in surprise. The cow reared back, and then plunged into the thorny gorse brush, dragging Thomas, who had inadvertently gotten his leg wrapped and caught in his own rope.
Thomas could only watch the wide-eyed maiden as he flew past her, feet first. He suffered grievously as he was dragged through gorse bush, after gorse bush. A mercy, when his head finally struck a boulder knocking him unconscious.
Mist soaked the man’s shirt with water from the stream below, then returned and wiped the man’s wounds carefully. His injuries looked superficial, all but the nasty bruise on his forehead. He bled freely from the thorns of the barbed brush, but nothing seemed to have penetrated very far.
The cow lay nearby, its entrails ripped asunder. Mist’s ire and hunger had gotten the best of her and she ate half of cow before remembering the man might also be hungry. She politely decided to save the rest for him.
The man had a pleasing face and curly dark hair on his head and face, despite the deep scratches and bruise. Mist wondered if he would be considered good looking or ill-favored among the humans. Such did not actually matter to Mist. She was only mildly curious.
He moaned and his eyelids fluttered as he regained consciousness. Mist backed away in preparation to flee. Instead, the man turned to the side and vomited watery fluid. After heaving himself dry the man turned his head to regard Mist. His eyes looked bleary, then widened. There was something in his expression.
Mist wasn’t sure what it was, having only encountered the expression of stark raving terror on the faces of the few humans she had captured and eaten. It wasn’t that.
“Who are ye, lass?” the man asked.
Mist understood the man’s question, though the words were meaningless. His thoughts were strong, like her mothers. Mist shaped her name in his thoughts. The man’s eyes grew wider, approaching the fear she had encountered before in humans at her mental gesture.
“Are ye a witch, then, to take me own thoughts and make them your own?” the man croaked the words out.
“Witch?” she sent.
The man’s thoughts were filled suddenly of women screaming as they were roasted in flames in the fires of revelers.
Mist shuddered in disgust. “No, at least, I do not think me to be,” Mist sent. “Do you then eat the witches after you cook them?”
This time it was the man’s turn to exhibit disgust. “No! How foul a thing.”
The man noticed the cow for the first time. “Odin! What happened to the cow?”
Mist almost told him what she’d done, but then thought better of it. “A dragon took part of it. It is gone now.”
The man gave her a look of what Mist realized was disbelief. “I suppose since I’ve no better way to explain how half a cow goes missing, that will have to do. I’m Thomas by the way. Thomas Pinen.” The man stretched forth a hand in a gesture.
Mist kept her distance, but stretched her hand forth also, but not quite touching his.
The man, Thomas, frowned. “Ah, I mean no harm to ye lass. Though ye be comely. I am not one who would take advantage.”
The man turned red as his thoughts showed a man rutting atop a woman. Both of them seemed to be enjoying the activity. She wondered why he would not wish to take advantage of her. Did he not say she was comely?
“You do not wish to mate with me?” Mist questioned.
Thomas sat up and stared at the beautiful girl, dumbfounded. Was she really offering herself to him? Thomas knew he wasn’t very good looking. To be an unmarried man in his late twenties was proof enough of that. His occupation did not provide much of an income. He had a small cottage at the edge of Mirth and a very small stipend to provide him with meals, hardly enough to entice a wife to him. She must be making fun of him.
Mist moved closer to him and knelt down, almost as if she were curious. She extended her hand to his face and painfully withdrew a gorse thorn lodged there, holding it up for Thomas to see.
Thomas continued to wince in pain, but held still as the girl moved her hand carefully over his face, removing more thorns. The girl stared at his face a question still lingering in her eyes.
Thomas, this time, very slowly and carefully raised his own hand to that of Mist’s, gently touching the back of her fingers, but then quickly removed his as she drew her hand back in alarm.
He waited patiently. After a moment, Mist reached forward tracing Thomas’s veins and scratches on his hand very lightly. Thomas’s respirations quickened. He turned his hand and returned the girls light brushes.
Mist’s breathing paced Thomas’s own. He ran his hand from hers and onto her arms. She shivered and drew closer, running her hands across Thomas’s arms and onto his shoulders and chest.
Now it was Thomas’s turn to shiver. His hand caressed her shoulders and neck, eliciting a sigh. When Thomas traced his way down and lightly brushed across her rigid nipples she moaned and arched her back.
Mist sighed. After the smallest amount of discomfort, the mating had been very pleasurable indeed. She and he mated twice more in quick succession before both fell asleep.
The day had passed quickly and grew dark. Mist hated to go, but she needed to speak with her mother. She extricated herself from Thomas’s arms, careful not to wake him, but he was a light sleeper.
His eyes opened and quickly asked. “Where are you going?”
“I must leave now. I would like to be with you again. Can we meet later?” Mist’s own desire surprised her.
“Of course,” Thomas said. “But why leave? Why not stay with me?”
The question caught Mist by surprise. Dragons did not stay together after they mated a few times. The female usually chased the male off, so they would not be around to devour the young hatchlings.
“Do humans stay together after mating?”
“Humans? What do you mean?”
For a moment, Mist thought to continue her deception. After the two of them had been so intimate, she found it impossible. “I am not as I seem to you.”
“What do you mean?”
Mist thought she would try to explain, but then realized that words, even words of thought, would not convey the meaning adequately. She stood up, and then changed into a dragon.
Thomas seemed to alter between fear and awe. Mist continued to speak to him as she loomed over him. “I understand if you do not wish to see me again. I must be really ugly to you?”
Mist was many things, but none of them ugly, Thomas thought. “You are an awesome and beautiful creature, even as a dragon.”
“Really? I do not strike terror in your heart at my ugliness?
“Fear, yes. You have the power to end my life. But terror? No. I consider you to be a most beautiful dragon!” Thomas spoke quickly from his heart and without the slightest subterfuge.
Thomas sensed Mist’s pleasure in his heart-felt reply as her thoughts mingled with his.
“Then we can meet and mate again?”
“I would be well pleased!” Thomas replied quickly, before thinking.
Mist sprang into the air and executed a joyful loop as she departed, sending back to him. “Then tomorrow, here, at this time of day!”
“Yes, lover. Tomorrow.”
Her mother listened as Mist talked about the man and the mating. “It was so much fun, mother! Is it like that for you when you mate?”
Her mother chuckled and sent Mist the mind pictures she remembered from mating with dragons. They were passionate, yes and pleasurable. But nothing of the tenderness that Mist had experienced with Thomas.
Mist could see the difference almost immediately. There was something more in the mating with Thomas than the mating her mother had experienced. Thomas’s element of deep caring and concern for her, she wondered what it was called.
“Then you think I should meet him again? Mate again?”
“I do not know if this path is right or not, Mist. I think you must decide for yourself. Keep in mind that there is more that comes from mating than pleasure. What if you bear young?”
That brought Mist up short. What if she did bear young from her joining with Thomas? What would happen then? For that matter, what kind of young would she bear? Dragon or human? She
chewed abstractly on a ram’s hind leg as she thought about it. On the one hand, mating was very pleasurable. On the other, she might bear young.
The thought of bearing young dragons did not frighten Mist; in fact, she grew excited thinking about it. But what if her young were human? She didn’t know the first thing about raising tiny humans. What dragon did, for that matter?
She realized that she had already made a decision. She needed to see Thomas again and mate with him if he wanted to. Perhaps afterward, she would share her fears with him.
Mother nodded knowingly as she followed Mist’s thoughts. She was very supportive of Mist’s decisions and ran her tongue over her snout in affection.
After the fourth mating of the evening, Mist relaxed happily in Thomas’s arms while lying atop him. Why do I feel so safe? It didn’t make sense that she would feel safer in the arms of this human than she did as a dragon, but it was so.
Thomas caressed her cheek with the back of his hand as his breathing slowed. He would fall asleep soon. She decided to ask the question burning in her mind before he drifted off.
“What will we do if I bear young?”
Thomas stiffened in her arms, but then relaxed. “Get married, I suppose. That is if you will have me?”
“Married? What is this married?”
Thomas chuckled. “I keep forgetting you are a dragon. Perhaps dragons don’t marry. It means that a man and a woman decide to live together the rest of their lives. It’s when they love one another and bear and raise children, together.”
“Oh,” She was silent for a few moments. “What is this love you keep calling me and talking about?”
Thomas shifted under her. Mist could sense him organizing his thoughts before he spoke. “Love is more than mating. It is when two humans decide they like one another so much they decide they couldn’t live apart from one another.” Thomas stared up into her eyes as he finished his sentence.
Mist pondered his words carefully. She realized that she enjoyed Thomas’s mating and his tenderness. She certainly had no desire to seek out a male dragon to mate with. Perhaps what she was feeling was love for this Thomas. She wanted to stay with him forever, she knew that. She decided to ask him the question.
“Thomas, do you think we could get married?”The druid, Merlin, stood before Thomas and Mist. High in the skyabove them, safe from the reach of the archers, a great dragon circled.
Merlin took the hands of the couple and placed them together. “Now, Thomas Pinen, I charge you with protecting and nurturing your young bride, Mist…”
“Dragon, Merlin. She does not speak.”
“Yes, Mist Dragon. The two of you will join lives and names today. Your family name from this day forward will now be known as Pendragon.”
Merlin stepped back as the two embraced and kissed. When he had held both of their hands he felt the centuries spread out and expand before him. Kings and kingdoms would arise and fall from the descendants of this union. He knew he would be there to experience it all and tell the tale.