Please read the first part of the story, posted yesterday.
When last we left the little girl, she was found at the mouth of the Dragon's cave. He had just started a conversation with her when her stomach growled and she realized she was very, very, hungry...
The Dragons' eyes softened, and he pulled his giant head and neck back into the cave opening. His scraping along the walls caused rubble and sand to puff out, choking and blinding for a moment. When the dust settled, all I could see, recessed in the dark mouth of the cave were his eyes, blinking.
"What... do you want? Gold? Like the... othersss?" His sandy voice seemed to echo deep down into the mountain, slithering and sussing like a low wind.
"Gold? No... I want to know why you shake this mountain. It makes the goats run away and then I have to find them. And the chickens won't lay for days and days after the smoke makes the air taste bad. And all the villagers are afraid that you'll get so mad one day that the whole mountain will crumble and kill all of us!" It all came tumbling out so fast.
"Mad... What issss mad? I... have no memory of it."
"Mad is when you are upset or angry...but my mother tells me it's not good for you to be mad very long. I guess it makes you sick or something."
He sighed again, sending another puff of sand out of the cave mouth. "I am... not mad. I hurt."
"What could hurt you? You are the biggest thing I've ever seen! Even bigger than the elephants that come with the traders!" I was saying this even though I had only seen the Dragon from the neck up. The high sun slanted shadows down into the cave mouth and darkness covered his true size.
The rumbling started from somewhere below me, and within moments, the ground was heaving back and forth. There was nothing to hold on to, and the rubble and sand seemed to come from everywhere at once. The shaking slowed, then stopped, and I could finally see through the dust, as the last obsidian point of his tail came dragging out of the cave behind him. I looked up to see him towering over the mountain, perched on a rocky slab. All over his skin, bits of mica and black glass glittered in the sun. His wings shuddered and flexed, sending a shower of sand and debris raining down on the mountain top. And his claws, oh, how sinister and and deadly they looked, as they curled around and crushed the edge of the slab. Somehow they were much more scary than the rumbling mountain, and I couldn't take my eyes off their polished black curves.
"Inside. It hurts... there." My eyes followed his clawed hand as one shaped itself into a familiar gesture, pointing at his own chest.
My stomach growled again, more insistent this time, and the Dragon dropped his long neck down to look at me closely once again.
"You make noissse. Do you hurt... too?"
"Uh...no...that was my belly growling. I have not eaten for a while." How long I'd been away from my village I wasn't sure, but it took all night and most of a whole day to reach the mountaintop. And I was getting hungrier by the minute. But I realized I proabably shouldn't be talking about food to a Dragon.
"Iss that why... you are so sssmall?" He hissed, and wrinkled his brow, just like my mother does, when she's pulling fidgety wool across the loom.
"Small? I'm just a girl. I'm not grown up yet." I said, a bit defiantly, as I was hoping he thought I might be too small to eat.
"Ahh..." he rumbled. "Justagirl isss ... a child. A child! Wonderful, brave...and ssso ssmall..." He seemed to be talking to himself, but in an amused way, like the old men sometimes do.
"I have never sssseeen a child in all thisss time. Thank... you, Justagirl." When Dragons smile, there are more teeth than you can ever count. And I can count pretty high, because I've counted our goat herds and chicken eggs and even rows of men praying at the Temple...
"You've never seen....a...wait...thank me for what?" Now I was sure I was lunch.
"For helping me...remember what isss... yet undone."
"Oh. Uh.... you are welcome, then." I had no idea what he meant. How can you remember what hasn't been done yet? But then, I'd never met a Dragon either, so who was I to question his memory? He looked away for a while, towards the west, and all I could hear (other than my growling belly) was the sound of a wailing wind whooshing back and forth inside his great body. A series of small amber glittering stones dropped from his eyes, and landed in the sand around me. Now that the sun was lower, and the warm rays reached into the cave, I noticed for the first time that the floor of the cave mouth was covered in these stones. and realized that he must have cried like that every day for a hundred years to make that many stone tears.
After a time I said softly, "The elders say that you forgot the whole world."
"Yesss. It wasss... better that way."
"But why? How could that be good? I've never seen the whole world but I bet there are lots of nice things in it. Things that should not be forgotten." I'd never seen anything beyond the village and the valley and this mountain, but I knew from stories that the world was a wide and amazing place, full of wonder, but also of danger.
"All I remember isss... when I will die." He bowed his head, and more amber dripped glittering from his eyes.
"You know when you are going to die?" I asked. "Things like that should not be known."
"You are wise.... for one so young. All of my kind know thisss.... but try to forget."
"All of your kind? Then there are more like you? But you are the only Dragon I've ever heard of."
"Are there not... more like you? More children?"
"Yes, all over the world, I'm sure! Adults make babies, babies grow into children and children grow up to be adults. Then those adults can make babies. That's how it works everywhere!" I was starting to get short and cranky from lack of food.
"You are... the only child I've ever.... heard of. Now let uss eat....and become friendsss."
And with that, the Dragon rose up, and opened his sandy wings, catching the low sun, and he became all the colors of the sun setting on the desert, like the slow lizards the traders bring that can blend in with any color carpet or pattern. He dove off the mountain ledge, towards the valley, blending into the surrounding colors, so that it looked like only his long shadow was racing across the dunes towards a small herd of horned deer, grazing on cactus.
I watched from the mountaintop as he plucked a pair of them, just like the hawks do when they hunt mice, and wheel around back towards the mountain, with the struggling, bleating animals clutched in his claws. He squeezed once, and they stopped, so they were dead before he reached his cave. One he gluped whole, and I watched as the lump moved down his long throat, thanking whatever Gods I could remember that it wasn't me in there.
The other one he set upon a cedar tree, and said "Go far into the cave," motioning with his head towards the opening. I went in as far as I could see, and as the setting sun lit up the cavern tunnel, I could see that there were piles of rubble and glass melted in place. Then the whoosh of his firey breath nearly knocked me off a ledge, so I curled into a ball, closed my eyes tight and prayed the Dragon hadn't just tricked me into becoming dessert.
But it was the smell of meat cooking that brought me out of the cave. The deer, held aloft by an old knarled cedar tree, had provided just the right amount of dry wood to sustain a fire long enough to cook through at least the legs of the deer, and the Dragon, using his claws deflty, again reminding me of my mother with the wool, peeled off some leg and handed it to me.
"Maybe your noissse will.... ssstop now." He said, smiling again, and I could see bits of deer in his teeth. I wondered if it would be rude to tell him. Adults sure seemed to tell each other when they had food in their teeth, and sometimes it made them laugh.
"You....um... have....something stuck there," I pointed, then giggled as the Dragon sat back and picked away at his teeth with his claw, just like my papa does when the meat is too stringy. I burped and did the same.
Then a rumbling started again, but it was different. Stones once again fell from the Dragon's eyes, but this time they were clear. He rummmmmbled and coughed and howled. But the mountain did not shake with him.
"Thank you child. It has been many agessss.... since I laughed. Or wasss... happy at all."
And with that, I will leave now, to contine the story later on, as real life is calling me away from this wonderful dream.
...to be continued...