Last Wild Dragon
It was impossible.
A dead dragon.
But dragons didn’t just die. Only thread or old age could kill a dragon. When it was time to die, dragons went between.
Besides dragons lived in weyrs, and Telgar weyr was seven days walk from the cliffs of Xadu. From the top of the cliffs, not the bottom.
Wild dragons simply didn’t exist.
Except this one had.
Kyte had noticed the carrion birds while she gathered herbs for the Hold’s healer who was too frail to venture into the forest. Five massive birds circled a few kliks away. More than one herdbeast had fallen from the cliffs of Xadu where the forest dissolved into a fifty-foot drop. Shrugging on her knapsack, she began walking.
At the edge of the forest, Kyte looked down an arrow nocked on her bow focusing her sight on the still form. The carrion were becoming braver as they hopped toward the massive form. Weyr dragons were purported to be huge, though this dragon seemed smaller than the ones Calon, Lord Holder’s son, had bragged about when he had been chosen as a candidate to impress a dragon. Kyte snorted. At least those newborn dragons had enough instinct to know better than to impress upon him.
The carrion’s voracious appetites would destroy the dragon hide as they attacked the carcass with talons, beak and teeth. Arrow drawn, Kyte ran into the clearing to chase them away, shooting one with her arrow. Quickly nocking another arrow, she let loose volley after volley until the carrion scattered in the wind and her quiver lay empty.
They would return, but not today.
As Kyte picked up the spent arrows she kept a leery eye on the dragon, bemused as the scales changed color as she walked around it. Black, but not black. Green, but not green. Purple, but not purple. Blue, but not blue. Colors changing at will with light and shade, blending into the surroundings.
Hiding in plain sight.
Its spiked tail curled around its head and body protecting itself as if it slept. Open eyes, once iridescent and full of vitality, were now grey and dull with the film of death. Spanning her hands between its eyes, Kyte whispered a blessing. Sadness at the loss of life drooped her shoulders. Sadness for the desecration she must commit. Dragon hide would fetch a steep price on the black market. Marks, she and her mother desperately needed. Inhaling deeply, she shook off her melancholy.
A quick glance at the sun confirmed a few scant hours until sunset. The body of the dragon blocked a small cave at the base of the cliff, and would provide shelter for the night, while a fire near the entrance would discourage any curious night creatures.
Three hours later, a fire blazed while she scraped the dragon hide she’d removed. Guilt over violating such a magnificent beast warred with the necessity of removing the hide to prevent it from rotting. She’d worked around the bony spikes riding the dragon’s spine to cut even sheets of hide. Though she had to sharpen her blade numerous times, she harvested over twenty weaver’s lengths of hide. Sprinkling salt over the scrapped raw side of the hide, she placed them back to back. Tomorrow she would build a travois to carry the hide home.
Tossing a thick branch on the fire, she smothered a yawn as she placed her knife on the ground. Wrapping her cloak around her, she curled toward the fire and rested her head on her arm, closing her eyes to allow sleep to claim her.
Terror ripped through her body as Kyte woke, gasping for breath. Her heart pounded so rapidly it felt as if it would explode from her chest. The fire had burned down, but it was the numerous pairs of yellow eyes peering at her from their shadow shapes that triggered her fear.
Wulvines. Pack hunters. The smell of death brought them. Fear rippled through her, though not as intense as it had been when she’d first awoken.
Kyte grabbed a burning log with her left hand and held her knife in her right. “It’s okay. I’ll just scare them away. There’s plenty of dragon for the entire pack to eat.” She didn’t know whether she talked aloud to comfort herself or convince herself she could chase them away.
Yelling and brandishing her weapons, she charged the wulvines. Their yellow eyes winked out as they slunk behind the dragon’s carcass, growling and snapping at each other. Releasing the breath she hadn’t known she’d held, she placed more logs on the fire stoking it into a cheery blaze. There was more than enough wood to last the night. She lay down, trying to sleep, but sleep eluded her.
A rock clattered from the depths of the cave as a curious snuffling echoed. Heart pounding, she held her breath as she listened. She’d searched the cave earlier, but not as thoroughly as she should have done. Knife in hand, she carefully rolled over to peer into the darkness.
Emotions rolled over her. Loneliness. Fear. Hunger . . . intense, creeling hunger.
But they weren’t her emotions.
Whatever was in the cave, it didn’t want to hurt her. “It’s okay. You can come out. I won’t hurt you.” Staring into the cave’s depths, she laid her knife behind her and held out both her hands. “Come on out. I’m a healer’s daughter. I can help you.”
With an awkward gait, the creature wobbled toward her. About the size of a large canine, but not any type of canine she’d ever seen. Green ichor oozed from a cut on its front leg as it limped, wings dragging, toward Kyte until she could touch its muzzle.
A dragon? A baby dragon?
“Now, what am I to do with you?”
Its eyes whirled red, orange and yellow as it tilted its head.
This short fanfic story is an homage to the Dragonriders of Pern by the late, great Anne McCaffrey.
While it was entered in a Random House contest, there are many more entries much better than mine, I really enjoyed the challenge of writing a new story. Yes, I did use the same character name as all my other stories. To be honest, it's because I suck at naming characters and this one works for me.
While this story was streamlined to fit the 1000-word limit, I have been thinking about how I can develop a plot to fit this submission. The rusty wheels are starting to churn in my brain.
Maybe, just maybe, I'll come up with another story.