Dargon (a)

Daniel moves to get clear of the brush and see this miracle properly, but like a tripwire Jashe immediately pulls him back when he moves not more than a foot in front of the trapper, planting his pants into the dirt.

“Sit yer rump down, boy,” the old man growls softly, both his eyes locked tight on the beast and it’s meal up ahead.

“But, but it’s…  it’s…!  How can, how can it be…  alive, they’re, not supposed to be…!”  The boy’s heart clogs his throat, making words difficult if not impossible.  His little world struggles to keep its balance, but it is no easy thing to balance a boulder on the steeple of a church.  History, biology, folklore, all turned upon their head at this one sight, this one dragon, which to his mind and the minds of everyone in his life has no right to exist.

“’Cause your folk ain’t ne’er come to the Border and see it fer your own selfs,” he replies, one hand still gripping Daniel’s thigh as the other thumbs the fletching of an arrow at his side.

 

Daniel shakes his head, trying desperately to make sense of it all.  “It’s, it’s not possible.  Th-they went, they went extinct!  Two thousand, three thousand years ago!  If they even existed to begin with!  It’s, it’s not possible!”

Jashe moves his hand from the boy’s thigh to the boy’s mouth.  “Keep yer voice down, land sakes, boy!  She already knows we’re here; don’t let’s make ‘er wanna have reason to come after us.”

“She, she know—Wait, she, how do you know?”

He motions vaguely to the upper half of the creature.  “Ridge pattern on the skull up there; females got them smooth scales, males got little bumpily bits like gravel or som’in.  They say’n you can sometime tell by the color a’ hide, too, but I ain’t never seen how.”

“Oh, well, well that’s good, right?  Females are, are smaller, right?” the kid asks blindly, momentarily placated by the man’s explanation.

“Bad, kid; you sure as heckfire are from the inside, ain’ch’ya?  Yeah, males’re bigger, but they’n don’t much care for men.  They only go after the big stuff that’s a threat.  Girlies, though, they’ll take anything.  ‘Specially now they’ve figured out we take better than deer or wolf or any-a that.”

Daniel swallows, his childlike wonder still eclipsing the dour reality this old man is recounting.  “So, s-so why doesn’t she?”

Jashe looks the boy in the eye, like a grandfather to his grandchild.  “Let’s say you on an island, boy.  You ain’t ate nothin’ for a month.  Suddenly, sky opens up, and there’s be a pig, and there’s be another man, and there’s be a knife in your hand.  Now you starving, kid; you don’t much care anymore ‘bout killin’ a man.  All you know is you gotta eat, and you gotta kill one’a them to do it.  Which one you kill?”

The boy blinks and tilts his head to the side, completely confused with this nonsensical question.  “Wait… what?  What is that supposed to mean?  Why am I on an island?”

“Gaah, fer the love of…!”  The trapper wipes his face in consternation, then emits a gruff sigh.  “You go after the hog, kid.  Because that man can fight back.  That man know you tryin’ to kill him, and if you go after him, he ain’t just gonna try to get away, he gonna try and kill you.”

“I don’t understand, sir…”

“Son, listen to me…  Dragon know that too.  Dragons, they smart.  Lot smarter than you are right now.  Smart enough to ain’t never go within a thousand miles of men what ran ‘em into the ground ever again, even a thousand years ago.  Smart enough not to try an’ eat folk what got pointy bits on ‘em.  And if you—“

{I’ve often asked myself, “If I would ever do a story about dragons, how would I portray dragons?”  Here is the start of a random vignette about a world that has the kind of dragons I might do.}

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