The Dragons of Dragon's Rock von Beate Sass

Disastrous news struck the community of Dragonís rock on a peaceful summerday. Most of the dragons had assembled to celebrate  midsummerís eve, when the great doors of the cavernous ballroom flew open and a very upset dragoness rushed in with  rather theatrical gestures of dismay. "Beware", she wailed, wringing her front claws. Her spiky scales in red and amber sparkling like a gorgeous mosaic of rubies and topazes. "Doom is at hand! Beware!"

Several dragons looked up in astonishment. "Gosh! Whatís the matter with her?" asked Lord Rhinon, the host of the festival, in a low voice, slightly annoyed. The golden rings in his batlike ears tingled as he turned his head. "She looks a bit upset" remarked his loving wife, the Lady Delilah. She was a beautiful pearlcoloured dragoness, a vivid contrast to her dark scaled mate. "I hope, sheís got a good explanation for this behaviour!" She put her winegoblet - wrought of real goblin-horn - aside and went to meet the excited newcomer. "Serija dearest", she called in her sweetest voice, and licked the sides of the younger dragonessí muzzle. "What happened to you?" "O Lady Delilah", sobbed Serija. "Itís awful! A ... a dreadful monster has come to our valley!" "A monster?" All the dragons at the party fell suddenly silent. Lady Delilah  took a goblet with golden vine from a tablet and pressed it in Serijaís claws and urged her to drink. Gratefully Serijah accepted and sipped a mouthful or two to calm herself down.

Lord Rhinon moved towards her. His scales, black and violet, rustled with every movement and shimmered in the light of the mirrored candles like a gloomy jewel. "Talk, girl", he ordered in his rich, full voice. Serija forgot her theatrical sobbing. "Itís terrible. The worst has happened", she  stammered. "A monster has come to our valley. It seems to be a dreadful Human. Dega saw it when it stomped over the pass. And ... and Myrijah watched it chopping down trees in the Grove of Red Berries." "Then itís going to stay for some time", presumed the Lord. "Dragons, weíve got a problem. Empty your goblets, dear friends, and then letís assemble for war-council. In the Great Hall." He took his lady by the arm and led her out of the ballroom. 

The Great Hall was crowded with nervous chattering dragons. Some of them discussed the actual news, others preferred to crouch in the corners and clatter their teeth. A Human in the neighbourhood meant a nightmare come true.

Abruptly the noise stopped as Lord Rhinon and Taylinn the Wise entered the Great Hall. Silently they walked through the crowd to a natural pedestal at the far end of the cavern. The dragons strengthened their eyes to see the famous old one, the oldest dragon that lived in the shadows beneath Dragonís Rock. He was hard to see next to the dark Lord. As all old dragons he was fading away. His body was merely a sketch, almost transparent.

Lord Rhinon posed and started to speak. "Friends, dragons and mystic creatures." He nodded a short  greeting to a couple of unicorns and will-o-the-wisps who had asked for asylum and were now silently attending  the council. His deep voice reached even the farthest corner. "Thank you for coming in such a great number. Disturbing rumours have reached our peaceful vale in the shade of Dragonís Rock. Some of our scouts reported that a so-called Human or Man came over the mountains an settled near the Grove of Red Berries. It has begun to build its lair, so it will probably stay in our neighbourhood for a long time. I asked Taylinn the Wise to speak to us and give us some of advice how to cope with this problem. Dear friends, please be quiet and listen in utter silence."

The glassy form of Taylinn the Wise stepped onto the natural pedestal and opened its wings in a gesture of speech. The wall behind him showed through his shimmering airy figure. He started to talk in a voice that was as airy and thin as his body, but nonetheless all dragons could understand his words as easily as if he stood whispering right beside them. "Once upon a time things were different between humankind and dragonkind. The dragons of old were huge and mighty creatures. Even bigger than the tallest members of humankind. In fact the dragons were the biggest creatures that ever walked the earth or sailed the winds. But they were few. When the humans learned of the treasures they used to sleep on, of the magic that inhabited their bodies they started to hunt our ancestors. Some killed dragons out of heroism or to gain the love of one of their princesses. Some killed dragons out of greed, to get their bedding-gold, or to bathe in the blood of their victims to harden their soft skin and become invulnerable, or to get the scales, that their magicians, wizards and shamans grind to powder for their magic potions. Sometimes - disgustingly - dragons were even killed just because of their meat. Some human kings liked the taste of dragontails."

A shocked whisper ran through the crowd, but died away, as Taylinn the Wise flapped his wings impatiently and sent a nauseating flimmer over the wall behind him. "Thus the mighty dragons of old faced extinction", he continued in his hoarse magic whisper. "But then, when only a clawful of dragons remained, the Mother of Dragons, the goddess, came to earth and rescued our race: She made us tiny, so we can live and breed in peace without the threat of our foes. In the shelter of this truly deserved peace we could develop civilisation and create a decent way of live. But now humankind has discovered our refuge and we have to face our old fright and foe. But be careful! We must not put ourselves into the focus of its attention. Under no circumstances."

"Thank you, Taylinn the Wise", said Lord Rhinon. He stepped beside the old dragon and his compact, dark form diminished the airy figure to almost nothingness. "Now, honest friend, what is your advice?" "We need a true hero to fight the Man-Monster", he suggested. "The foe is to be destroyed or made to leave our territory, without learning of our existence. This dragon must be brave as well as cunning and fearless."

The following silence burst into upset discussion and proposals who this hero should be. With their bodies their boldness had shrunk as well. In the peaceful world of  Dragonís Rock and the Vale of Shade, of caverns and lustrous parties there had been no need for heroes and braveness. Most of the dragons had spent so much time with polishing their colourful scales to sparkling brightness that most of them had even forgotten how to evoke their inner fire. Only coloured smoke puffed out of their nostrils and ears.

Lord Rhinon wasnít inclined to do the job himself and looked over the glittering crowd. Near the back wall he discovered a group of three dragons in the striped rainbow colours of youth who put their heads together in eager discussion. They called themselves "The Gang". The biggest of them named Saphyre, because of the various blue colours of his scales which had started to dominate his coat. Right beside him an agile dragoness nervously stepped from claw to claw. She was called Hotspot because of her temper and her readiness to solve any problem with a quick spouted flame. Her scales flashed in red, pink and pearl mingled with violet at her back. A long line of triangular upright scales in fiery red decorated her spine from head to tail. The third was a lanky dragon in whose coat green and orange fought for dominance. Suddenly Saphyre noticed the Lordís gaze and met his eyes boldly. Then he squared his shoulders, arched his wings to improve his stature and shoved through the crowd to the pedestal. His buddies trailed after him and mirrored his proud pose. "Someone has to investigate", he snarled and tried to look heroic. "And someone will have to burn the humanís butt. Iíll go." "And I", added the skinny dragon, with an uncomfortable voice. His name was Greeno, the Lord suddenly remembered. "And I as well", squeaked Hotspot. Her voice had not yet darkened with age. Smoke curled out of her nostrils as she spoke.

Lord Rhinon nodded gravely at the three volunteers. Hopefully he gazed over the suddenly silent dragons. It didnít seem to be very wise to lay the fate of the community into the inexperienced claws of three youngsters. No one else volunteered, he realised with an inward sigh. "I thank you for your braveness, Saphyre, Hotspot and Greeno. The task will be dangerous. Have you well thought about it?" "Sure", the three dragons replied in unison, though they looked rather uneasy. "Then go with the blessing of the Mother of Dragons. Our community depends on you."

In the evening the three young heroes set out to investigate. One after the other they flew out just when the last light of the red sun had vanished behind the rough peak of Dragonís Rock. Soon they reached the place the scouts had described. They sat on a low hanging treebranch and inspected the place. A dark rectangular structure dominated a small clearing. Several treestumps witnessed the destructive work of the Man-Monster.

"It has built a cavern", gasped Greeno, breathless with astonishment. "A wooden cave", nodded Hotspot. "Letís burn it and return home." "This cave is too big to de burnt", said Saphyre thoughtfully. "I wonder where this Man-Monster is." He jumped to the ground and stalked to the hideous building. The other two followed cautiously. The wooden cave towered over the three heroic dragons and dwarfed their enthusiasm. They tiptoed to the huge rectangular opening, covered with deerskins. Hotspot eyed suspiciously at them. "It killed animals", she spat under her breath, "and ripped off their skins. How terrible!" "Iím sure it would like a sparkling dragonís hide", whimpered Greeno. "Weíve seen enough, Saph. Letís go home." "At least we have to investigate", Saphyre said impatiently and turned to his companions. "Shut up, both of you. I donít want Man-Monster to hear us arguing." He lifted a corner of the deerskin and slipped in.

Gloomy darkness surrounded him. The air smelled of woodfire and the stench of a big being. Saphyre strengthened his sight. In the corner near a giant fireplace slept a huge figure on a bed of twigs and furs. Greeno looked at the giant forms in mere fright. A leg showed between the furs, covered with black, wiry hair and a yellowish-gray foot at the end of it with crumpy, flatclawed toes. A smell like a forgotten, overripe cheese rised from it. Greeno turned even greener. The vision of this ghastly thing, stomping him into the ground conquered his mind and made him panic. He cried out: "Mommy!" And fled.

His friends chased after him and finally caught him. "Will you stop,  you coward", cried Saphyre and held him by the tail. "The others count on us." "But this monster is so very big. And so ugly! Itíll kill us!" wailed the green-and-orange dragon. "Nope", retorted Saphyre. "We saw it. Now we need a plan. Letís go back to Old Cheesy ToeĎs lair and get over with it." Hotspot chuckled. The nickname took off the fright of the terrible figure they had encountered. "We could incinerate it", suggested Hotspot and rolled her eyeballs wildly. Little red sparks danced before her nostrils. Saphyre wagged his head. "Our fire is not strong enough to burn it to ashes. No, we have to be as cunning as the dragons of old." "You got an idea?" "Sort of, Greeno." Saphyre scratched his long, beaky muzzle. "Listen, gang. We will need all our magic and our imagination." In an excited whisper he developed his idea to his friends.

Strange noises wakened the hunter and a peculiar odour stung into his nose. Sniffing he set up, yawned and rubbed his eyes unbelievingly. The flames of his hearthfire burned in a strange, blue-green light. A lot of violet coloured smoke filled the air and bit his eyes. "What the ...." he started and fell silent in astonishment.

The smoke started to swirl and twist like a living being. Various coloured strands of smoke mingled together, twitched and tangled and a huge creature grew out of the fire. The hunterís eyes grew wide with horror, as he slowly recognised a horned head, a big snout with long, impressive teeth and deep red flames dancing in the nostrils and the hollow eyesockets. There was a serpentish arched neck with bristling spikes. Wings unfolded like the clouds of an oncoming thunderstorm, swirling dark with sudden light streaks.

In hasty panic the hunter groped for his bow, not averting his eyes from the terrible thing that all of a sudden loomed over him. Bravely he released an arrow. It passed through the creature without any harm and thudded into the wall with a hollow sound.  He had no name for the demonic thing that sprang into being just under his eyes, but it was terrifying. The form of the nameless creature shifted. Small curls of smoke were constantly curling away, but nonetheless it looked uncomfortably solid. "Go away", he commanded in a hoarse whisper. "Leave me alone! What ... who ... are you?" Trembling he backed away, fingering for his sword. The creature even grew bigger, its head bowed under the cabinís roof. The wings stretched from one wall to the other.

The three young dragons pressed into a corner of the cabin. With greatest effort they produced the smoke to feed their creature. It took all their magic skills to create and maintain the image of  the mighty dragon they had found in the deep of their souls. The smoke dragon was so beautiful, so very dragonish they could hardly believe that it was a creature, formed by their own wills. The figure shifted and began to loose its shape. "Concentrate", hissed Saphyre. "Concentrate!"  He reached inside his mind and willed the Mighty Dragon to open its mouth and speak. The magic voice sounded much deeper than his real one.

"How daaarrre you!" snarled the smoke creature, turning its blazing eyes on the human. The hunter jumped to his feet, the sword clenched in both hands. "Go away!" he screamed, voice shrill with fear. Boldly he struck at the monster. The blade slashed through the huge creature without leaving a trace. It was cutting the wind. Frantically he stabbed and cut at the presumed attacker. The dragons ran into danger to be sliced by accident.

"Stop it, you fool", cried Saphyre with the smokedragonís voice. Red and golden embers left the creatures nostrils as it spoke. "You stand on sacrrrred grrrround! Leave! Leavvve at once! Orrr you will diiiiee!" The image opened its jaws and struck down on the human. The hunter stumbled back in awe, choking, when smoke filled his lungs. His nerves failed him. He scrambled to his feet, burst out of the cabin and ran as fast as he could. Just one thought occupied his mind. Away! Just away from this horrific things.

The smokedragon died away, as soon as the noise of the running man vanished in the distance. Hotspot whooped of joy. "We did it, we did it!" Saphyre and Greeno fell flat on their backs, gasping with exhaustion. They returned to Dragonís Rock as soon as they had regained their breath.

The scouts had already brought the news to Lord Rhinon and the community. All the dragons had assembled to welcome the three heroes back. They cheered joyfully, when Saphyre, Hotspot and Greeno came into sight and closed around them to clap their shoulder and to congratulate. Even Taylinn the Wise tried to greet them, but he was pushed aside and stepped on, because in the common pellmell nobody could see him. At last Lord Rhinon and Lady Delilah managed to get through to them.

"Saphyre, Hotspot, Greeno. - We are very proud of you. Our scouts reported that the human was still running, when he crossed the pass. You are true heroes and saved our place from a great danger. The title Salvator draconis may be connected with your names as an everlasting honour." Saphyre bowed to the lord. "We are greatly obliged, my lord", he said in a far more respectful tone than he usually used. "But there is still one thing left to do. Old Cheesy-Toe - Ďscuse me, Man-Monster I mean - built a wooden cave in the grove. Letís go there, set it on flames as a bonfire and celebrate our victory with a big party!" The dragons agreed gleefully. "Splendid idea!" "Fantastic!" "Someoneís going to roll on the wine barrels!" "Off we go." Grinning Saphyre watched the dragons rushing out to the grove. Thoughtfully he cocked his head and put his arms and wings around his friends. "Salvator-Gang. Cool name, donít you think so?" Hotspot chuckled. "Yeah. Cool." A very small flame escaped her mouth. Greeno poked them playfully into their ribs. "Donít waste your time talking. Thereís a party waiting for us."