As part of my keeping myself accountable in writing and expanding my reading horizons, I joined a Facebook group run by the same lady that runs my Ninja Writers group for a 1000 Day MFA. Basically, we are committing to reading and writing a lot:
- Daily: Reading (1) poem, (1) essay, and (1) short story.
- Weekly: Writing (1) short story. Watching (3) movies.
- Monthly: Reading (1) novel and (1) book on writing craft.
- Yearly: Writing (1) novel.
1000 days is a huge commitment, but I have a group to keep me accountable.
Here’s my first week’s accomplishments (above), followed by my first short story. I plan to share many more in a near future, but I suppose it will depend on how complete I feel they are at the end of the week.
Demithyra’s great blue bulk shifted as she roused and she made a mental count out of habit. Seven. No wait, she only counted six. She counted again. Six. Six sleeping dragonettes curled beneath her. No dragonette at her left forearm.
Lazheward was missing. Again.
Demithyra let out a quiet squawk. Edarmos did not reply. He must already be out hunting. She lifted her head and scanned the dim cave. Sometimes little Laz would sneak off and occupy himself with a stone or cavern critter or stalactite puddle, but he did not respond to her soft noises either.
Had he followed his father?
She could only hope that they both returned soon. Six other dreaming dragonettes still demanded her protection.
Demithyra resettled herself, resting her scaled head in the crook of her forearm, but she did not sleep.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lazheward splashed at the edge of the water and did not see the approach of a furred creature on four hooved legs. The creature approached from the other side of the river, leading toward the grassy plains. It got to the edge, a mere ten paces from the dragonette and gave the oblivious dragonette a cherubic grin. It looked like a human child in the face, except for the small horns and pointed ears that came from a head covered more with fur than hair.
The young dragonette heard a splashing that came from elsewhere and looked up to see the smiling child, his four legs curled beneath him like a gazelle. Surprise was quickly replaced by joy at a playmate other than his clutch-mates. Lazheward squawked, and it was a small bleeting noise. The child giggled and waved a chubby hand.
The water flowed slowly, it being the dry season at this border between the plains and the desert, and Lazheward had no problem loping on all four taloned feet through the low water to the other side.
The two younglings could not speak to one another, but it did not matter. Language was no barrier for play. They splashed and formed shapes from the sandy mud. Together they mounded it together and formed a mud hill, laughing and smiling.
As the two played, a shadow crept. Tawny fur blended into the sandy dunes and pale stripes hid it against the waving grass. It smelled the children before it saw them. Keeping low to the ground, but poised to run, the sand cat moved silently closer.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Edarmos scanned the burning desert sands. He had left again as soon as Demithyra had told him Lazheward was missing. An adult blue dragon feared little but a dragonette of less than one cycle of seasons had many possible predators in the desert.
He glided low over the sands, the heat of the climbing sun reflecting back up from each glinting grain and warming his underside. He needed to find Lazheward before the day got too late and the sun too hot. His scales could handle the heat but Lazheward’s were thinner.
Edarmos smelled the river and shortly after he caught the scent of his missing dragonette. A blue speck appeared along the sparkle of the flowing water and Edarmos bugled a call.
Lazheward made a faint happy noise in return.
Edarmos saw a centaur child sat in the mud beside the dragonette and sighed in a mixture of frustration and relief. He caught movement nearby and recognized the sinuous form of a sand cat mostly camouflaged by the sand and grass. He willed his wings to get him to his little one faster.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Vol’zan returned to the centaur camp early in the day, a gazelle with half an arrow still in its heart slung over his shoulder. He acknowledged his clan members with silent nods. His lifemate, Asa’fre, greeted him with a kiss and took the gazelle to clean it.
Settling himself in the shade of their tent flap, Vol’zan looked around the camp and settled his eyes on his youngling, Cer’ah, playing quietly with her doll just inside the family’s tent.
“Where is Mi’an?” Vol’zan asked.
“Playing with his sister,” Asa’fre replied, not looking up from the delicate cuts she made with her knife.
“Cer’ah, where is your brother?”
Cer’ah shrugged and did not look up from her doll. “Probably playing in the mud. He’s always getting dirty and trying to get my Kie’lee dirty.”
Asa’fre met Vol’zan’s concerned gaze.
They heard the bugle of a dragon and Vol’zan took off, his limbs a flurry of movement, his bow clutched tightly in his hand, and his quiver slapping against his shoulder. He saw the great gliding blue wings and ran with a stomach heavy with dread like rock.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Edarmos watched the sand cat until he saw another flash of movement coming from the plains side of the river. A full grown centaur galloped through the golden scrub, bow at the ready, heading straight toward Lazheward and his playmate. The blue hesitated, scaly lips peeling back from his teeth, and almost adjusted his descent, but the sand cat must have seen the centaur as well and broke into a sprint.
Fearing he would reach them too late, Edarmos flapped his great wings harder, though he knew each flap made him less able to stop himself. He braced for hitting the grassy sands with all four claws out before him.
He hit the ground. The sand cat screamed. Edarmos felt only sand and scrub grass in his claws, but squeezed anyway. He felt the burning pain of talons along his belly, death throes as the sand cat was crushed beneath him. Then nothing.
Edarmos slid to a stop and his chin fell to the sand with a thump. The form of the sand cat and its claws, along with a thousand tiny pieces of hot sand, all burned his underside. He expelled a great breath that shot a spray of sand into the air before him.
Lazheward was at his nose, tugging a tooth and a nostril playfully.
“Mi’an!” the centaur cried and swept up the child with one arm, the other still holding tight to the bow. He set the child on his back and drew and cocked an arrow in one motion. The centaur held it ready, trembling but his face a menacing growl.
Edarmos rose with an effort, pulling Lazheward upwards with his snout and bouncing the dragonette onto his nose. The babe squawked and grinned. The sand cat still clung to his belly, already growing rigid, and Edarmos flinched as he plucked the talons from the raw, dirty wounds.
The stiffening cat hit the ground and sent up a cloud of golden dust.
Edarmos lowered himself back to the ground, both to protect his vulnerable belly and to make himself less threatening. The sand stung and blood oozed but he fought to ignore it. He tilted his snout in a way that protected Lazheward were an arrow to fly but relaxed the snarl on his face despite the throbbing pain.
The centaur hesitated. His face and arms relaxed. He too positioned himself in a way the child remained hidden from Edarmos’s view. He lowered the bow and the readied arrow a few inches.
The two fathers faced off for several breaths, neither moving.
Then the centaur backed several steps away. When Edarmos did not move, he backed off a few more. Then he turned and galloped away, glancing backwards several times.
When the centaur was out of view, Edarmos plucked Lazheward from his nose and tucked him into his forepaw. The dragonette squirmed but stayed put.
Making a noise deep in his throat, the blue dragon spat at the sand beneath him. Blue and white lightning crackled and melted the sand into hot red balls of molten glass. In his free forepaw, taking a deep breath to steady himself, Edarmos picked up the glass while it was still malleable and spread it across the dripping wounds of his chest and belly. The liquid did not burn his hands, but it stung the wounds, raw and open as they were. He smoothed it around until the wounds stopped bleeding and the glass had formed a tight but effective covering.
Picking up the sand cat by the scruff of its rigid neck, Edarmos sprang into the air to take his dragonette home.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“My precious Mi’an,” Asa’fre wept, holding their child against her.
Mi’an fidgeted and squirmed. Finally she let him down and he rushed off to play. She watched him even as she spoke, not willing to let him out of her sight again. “The dragon just let you leave?” she asked as she wiped her wet eyes.
“What was Mi’an doing?”
“Just playing with the dragon youngling in the mud.”
“I don’t understand. They’ve never thought twice about eating our kind. It’s why we follow the herds east in the wet season, to avoid them when they’re more active.” Asa’fre’s face crinkled in confusion as she looked to her mate for answers.
“I don’t know, perhaps it didn’t want to hurt Mi’an. It never made a move at us, just the sand cat. It seemed more concerned with protecting its youngling then with us.” Her mate paused. “I did not see the sand cat in time to stop it before it ran at the little ones. I wouldn’t have been able to save them.”
“Then we will thank Suriya the dragon arrived when it did.” Asa’fre hugged her mate, Mi’an still at the edge of her vision. It was the strangest prayer she ever made to the sun goddess, but watching her child pester his sister when he might have never come home made it the most heartfelt too.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Demithyra nuzzled her precious and frustrating dragonette, making noises that were almost purrs at tiny Lazheward.
“I couldn’t think to harm the child,” Edarmos confessed. “Nor will I hunt when not for food.” He absently shredded the sand cat into the pieces their dragonettes could manage. It pulled at glass protecting his tender chest, but it did not tear the wounds open again.
Lazheward squeezed out of his mother’s reach and grabbed the first piece. His clutch-mates followed after him, but he was munching away on a second piece before they even started.
“Maybe we should go farther into the desert,” Demithyra said. “Somewhere we won’t run into the centaurs. Family is all that matters now.”
Edarmos nodded. “We’ll have to go farther to hunt, but perhaps it’s for the best.”
“I want no more conflict. I just want to raise our family where no one, dragon, centaur, or otherwise, will trouble us.” Demithyra corralled her dragonettes with her tail and put a foreclaw on her mate’s. The two dragons nuzzled and looked down gratefully on their dragonettes.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.