Word Count: Roughly 1000
Origin: A pile of snow I saw on my walk that reminded me of a lizard skull
Premise: A young woman discovers that the last dragon, who protected her people for centuries, is dead.
The skull of the last dragon lay on the prairie, bleaching in the midday sun. A few scraps of dried meat clung to the huge skeleton, but for the most part, all that remained were stark white bones.
I squinted and scanned the area. Around the body, the ground was scorched for a handful of paces in every direction. Further out, dry stalks a little over knee-high rustled in a fitful breeze. After a moment I said, “She really is gone then.”
Kip made a disgusting noise in the back of his throat and then spat. “Good riddance, I say.”
I snapped my gaze back to him. “You can’t mean that. She’s protected us for as long as anyone can remember.”
His dark brows drew down, framing his eyes in his weather-lined face. “Protected us from what? The mages are long dead, Dru. Far as I’m concerned, we gave that thing half our food all these years for nothing.”
How many others shared his profane belief? While She had lived, not one of them had dared give those thoughts voice.
I put my hand against the skull and traced the arch around the hole that had once been Her kind eye, still unable to believe She was gone. The bone was warm from the sun, but did nothing to ease the chill I felt.
I picked up one of the smaller bones from Her tail, cradling it in my hand. On a whim, I decided to collect a few more and bring them back with me. After tucking them away in my saddlebag, I took another look around with no idea what I hoped to find. A glint of metal caught my eye.
I rushed forward, falling to my knees to move some of the larger bones out of the way. I barely held in a sob as I lifted the shackle that had spent so many years around Her foreleg. There could be no doubt now. Fastened with magic by the mages that had enslaved Her, the shackle would only come open upon Her death.
The strange metal felt cold in my hands. The circle was open now, but there was no visible hinge or fastening. Incomprehensible runes marked the entire length with the words of the spell the mages had used to bind Her.
“You upset because now you’re a priestess without a purpose?” Kip said, sounding not the slightest bit sympathetic.
I stood and moved to tie the shackle to my saddle. “My purpose is the same, regardless of what you believe.”
He spat again before mounting his horse. “Not to worry, Joh will find something else for you to do.”
The amusement in his tone made me clench my teeth. Having pledged to the dragon five green seasons before to avoid Joh and his unwanted advances, the subject was a sore one. I concentrated on my stirrup as I mounted to avoid looking at him and then pulled my scarf up over the lower half of my face.
Nudging my horse into a walk, I thought about what the last dragon’s death meant for me and my sisters. My hands tightened on the reins. If the Dragon Sisterhood was dissolved, I likely would end up one of Joh’s many wives. For some of my sisters, especially the older ones, the outlook would be even worse. A woman well-past marriageable age did not have many prospects if the Sisterhood could no longer take care of her.
When we reached the caravan, I dismounted and untied the metal circle. Heart pounding in my chest, I rushed to the Sisterhood’s tent. I pulled open the flap and said, “Kel, She’s dead.”
The High Priestess rose from where she knelt at the altar. A dozen carved figurines of dragons and several candles cluttered the surface before her. I couldn’t see her face, but her shoulders sagged. “You’re sure?”
I moved further into the tent, throat too tight to speak. I stood behind her left shoulder and reached to put the circle into her hand. Her fingers curled around the shackle in a tight grip. After a moment, she traced the raised runes along the surface.
She turned her face to me, blind eyes moist. “It is done then.”
I wanted to collapse into her arms and cry, but she was much too proper to permit such behavior.
After a few silent moments she asked, “Was there any indication of how it happened?”
“None, Her body was too far gone.”
Kel pursed her lips. “I did not want to set you to this task. You are much too young.”
Trying to quell some of the apprehension prompted by her serious tone, I swallowed. “What task?”
She held my hand. “To the north, two week’s ride from here, there is a cave. Inside there is a clutch of Her eggs. You must go there.”
Shocked, I pulled my hand away. “Why is it we were never told of this?”
“For quite some time I have been suspicious of the loyalties of some of our people, especially the Council. I thought it best to keep the number who knew of the eggs small.”
Her lack of trust in me stung. “What is it that I am to do?”
“She died so that Her young might live. Now that Her life is ended Her eggs will quicken. One of us must be there to assist the hatching.”
“Hatching? I don’t know anything about eggs.” My voice cracked as tension tightened my throat.
“None of us knows about eggs, it’s been centuries.”
She smiled, her hand raising to caress my cheek. “If you are gone, Joh has no reason to dissolve the Sisterhood at once, perhaps we can last another season. Now go pack your things, and tell no one.”
She pressed the circle into my hands.
I gripped the metal and leaned to kiss her cheek before I left the tent, mind whirling.
Last Days of the Dragon by Coral Moore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.