Monday, October 19, 2015



      Black and white... Black ash, covering the ground, the trees, the rock face – blackened trees, cracked and bent – smoldering piles that still curled with choking smoke - black...and white. White and blackened bones – skulls - some crushed, as if the dragons, not satisfied with having torched everyone – had purposely walked across them.

    I felt blank. The terror I'd felt up until now shut off – like a candle being blown out. There was no grief – not yet... All I felt was numbness as it crept from the tips of my fingers and down my arms.

       Black. White. Grey. Death.

        Looking at those bones – some collapsed in piles, others at the edge of the clearing as if some had woken from the dragon song and tried to run - I knew that my village was dead.

        I made myself walk across the clearing to the cave. I didn't look down, though I stumbled several times. Almost every step resounded in loud popping and cracking. I didn't let myself think about it.

         The dogs followed quietly behind me. In the midst of it all, somewhere inside me I was grateful I wasn't totally alone.

Monday, October 5, 2015


It had been twenty-two years since the last “choosing”. Of course I wasn't there remember it, but I'd heard the hushed stories. My father's younger brother found an egg at the edge of our village one morning as he went out hunting.. He could have left it where he found it for someone else to stumble across. He could have brought it to the Council so lots could be drawn, as tradition mandated. But he took it as his own.

No one will say it to my father's face, but I know a few think my uncle took the coward's way out. He didn't say his goodbyes. He didn't tell anyone what had happened. He penned a letter leaving everything he owned to my father, and he went out into the forest to die.

But no one can truly argue that he wasn't brave in another way. He took responsibility for what he had found... If he hadn't simply left, my father would have made them draw lots... Or my father would have taken the egg himself, despite the fact he had pregnant wife. My uncle knew this. Once I took the letter from my father's drawer. The last lines were. “ I have to do this. You have too much to live for, Korren. I love you.”

They found his body two days later. Killed by the dragon cub that had hatched.

He's buried under an old Balli tree by the river, with others who have died by dragons. It had been over thirty years since the last egg was left for us to find, but before then, there were deaths almost every year. Their graves remind us of their sacrifice. They remind us to keep watch.

People like to try and forget about the dragons. Dragons tend to stay higher up in the mountains, far enough away that they aren't part of every-day life. Occasionally a younger one will come steal a few sheep, but they tend to feed on the mountain goats in their territory.

Though they're formidable predators, they don't hunt us. They are about the size of a cow in height, though much more light-built. A war-party with spears and arrows could probably take one down if given the element of surprise. That is – if it weren't for their songs. They can sing humans into a stupor, and demand that we come closer... If they didn't sing, maybe we could fight them...

We don't fear the dragons as much as we fear finding their eggs. When an egg is found outside the village we have two choices – either kill the cub when it hatches, or allow the cub to kill one of us before its mother comes and reclaims it. The first isn't really much of a choice. If you kill the cub, a swarm of dragons will come and burn the whole village... 

And what if we leave the egg? What if we move it far outside our village and remove the threat that way? Then the dragons will come and choose someone for us. Mother - Child - Sole provider for a family - It won't matter to the dragons. Someone will be taken to die.

So an adult is chosen by lot, or someone volunteers. The last person to die before my uncle was an elder who volunteered in place of her son. My Uncle Jesh and too many others– they sacrificed their lives so we could live in peace. It has been this way for generations.

And then Jesh died, and my father tried to make a change.

He swore that no one else from his village would die by the claws of a dragon. He and the Elder Council agreed – if ever another dragon egg was left in the village, we would flee deep into the mountains and wait them out.

Finally, that time had come.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


My walk home was nothing to speak off. Triff kept wandering ahead – he'd come bounding back if I called, wagging his tail and snuffling around me before catching whiff of something else and again going out of sight. It was a peaceful walk on the well-worn forest path. Trinn stayed near me the whole way, keeping pace in her steady, calm way. We ate a couple rabbits Triff and I caught and slept together in a pile under the stars. That was the last peaceful night I'd have for a long time.

I came home to find my village deserted. Empty. Belongings strewn through the streets, and doors left ajar. Several stray chickens were wandering loose, with their little ones bobbing around their feet.

The air was heavy with smoke, but nothing was burning. In the middle of the village square was a small dead animal, slit from tail to throat, with a few spears in its side. The blood around it was dark and dried – a red-black stain in the dirt. Both dogs whined and sniffed the air but wouldn't move closer.

I stood there in shock as persistent flies buzzed around the corpse... The unmistakeable form of a dragon, even as small and bloodied as this one was.

Do you know that sinking feeling that starts in your stomach and then travels to your head? Where for a moment, you stop breathing, and you can't think? Where the enormity and terror of the situation surrounds your senses?

And then.

Everything rushes back in.

I ran. I ran almost the whole way to the caves, with both dogs bounding by my side. I had enough sense to slow my pace and creep in the last half mile. Agonizingly slow, with my breaths coming in shallow gasps as I tried to be quiet... Praying, hoping, that everything would be fine. But there was so much smoke, and the forest was silent. I think I knew, even as I stumbled and prayed my way to the mountain, that my hope was dead with that dragon cub, rotting in the sun.


If I hadn't been gone those extra days, I'd be dead too. Some nights I lie awake turning that thought around in my head until my mind goes blank.

It was the spring I was sixteen – my parents had let me stay at the next village over, while they traveled back home. They almost made Jessh stay with me. I remember him laughing and clapping his hands on my shoulders.

“Taalla can take care of herself! She can almost take me down!” I moved as if to elbow him, and he caught me in a bear hug. “I said almost!” He kept one arm around me and tousled my hair before laughing again and letting me go.

I knew he just wanted to get back home to check on his horse. She was soon to give birth, and he didn't like being away. Still, I appreciated his support. He was right too – I wasn't half bad with my knife, and I was a better shot than him with my bow.

“I'll be careful! It's only for a few days!”

Finally they agreed to let me stay – so long as I stayed at the inn, and wasn't out too late, and started home no later than early afternoon of the third day. My mother rambled instructions while my father nodded in agreement every time she paused. It would be a two day walk back, but they left me our dogs Triff and Trinn so I wouldn't be alone.

All I had wanted to do was stay the extra days of the festival... The village of Rain's Pass was more than twice the size of ours, with a market square that was teaming with life. It was exciting and colorful... I remember having a good time. It feels a bit traitorous, but I still think of those last few days fondly. One last bright spark before the dark...