A fresh flash fiction challenege, as exhorted by our team captain, Chuck Wendig, here. Grab your snorkles and your floatation devices, kiddies–it’s open swim!
Sometimes the Dragon Wins
From the last known copy of Hayden’s Anthropologie Draconis, on display in the Vault of Curiosities. Unfortunately only a partial, charred manuscript remains today, as Professor Hayden’s expedition went missing some years ago.
Located in heart of the Lost Seas lies the volcanic island of Draconis. Every fifty years, dragons mate and then lay their eggs within the volcanos. Eleven months later, the eggs gestating in the island’s volcanos finally hatch. The small village resides in a crescent-shaped bay, where they trade with the other islands of the Lost Seas and welcome travelers with open arms. They are a gentle, bashful people, trusting and generous in their hospitality. When I expressed concern for the dragons’ close proximity, they assured me the creatures have never bothered the village. They believe proper worship of the beasts keeps them safe from harm. This was surprising indeed, as every expedition in the past as gone missing.
In fact, as we all know, it is tradition for a knight facing retirement to embark on one last adventure to Draconis in search of dragons, so they may die in a blaze of glory and honor. As we also know, not a single one has returned to tell the tale. Even scholars such as myself have provided little information, history bearing few survivors. Only those who have stayed away from the island itself, limiting their travels to the other islands, have anything useful to tell us.
It is my therefore my intention to catalogue the entire hatching here, to see if we may discern the fate of our predecessors.
The village has been hard at work for months. The men hunt and fish, gathering food for the hatching celebration. The elder men and women gather fruit, nuts, and berries, while the women and children occupy themselves in the village’s sacred offering hut. There they clean and polish all the treasures they have traded for in the last year as offerings to the newborn dragons when they hatch. While it is common knowledge dragons build nests of their hordes, we now know the source of their treasures and the reason behind it–the dragons fight over the offerings, taking their winnings to their new nests elsewhere.
The shamans collect the bright red dragon berries found on brambles below the volcanos, surrounding a wide, shallow basin valley. They fill massive woven baskets with the berries, and return to the village balancing the baskets on their heads. The task, among others, is the making of dragonberry wine. According to the shamans, the berries are infused with dragon’s blood from previous hatching battles. By drinking the wine one apparently shares a bond with the dragons, who sense the “dragon’s blood” now running in the villagers’ veins and thereby keeping them safe. Local customs are so very quaint.
By nightfall the villagers are ready. They have painted their faces and donned dragon-like masks and costumes made of shed scales and a hodgepodge of local fauna. The repast is surprisingly replete, the dragonberry wine strangely potent. I sample the wine sparingly at first, not wanting to miss anything, but my fellow travelers indulge.
We all hike to the basin nestled between the volcanos, where the dancing and singing begin, and many shouts of encouragement. The villagers lug the year’s offerings in baskets. As the celebration continues unabated, I watch for signs of hatching. There are none. I suspect we are being made fools of somehow, but I am determined to see this through.
Imagine my surprise when, as the moon rises, wisps of smoke appear from all three volcanos on the island. The village revelries increase, and in my elation I drink more wine than is probably wise. I think the shamans have decided, being the expedition’s leader, that I am a shaman of my own people. I find this amusing, but find it impolitic to disagree.
The festivities descend into an orgy of mock hatchling battles and inhibited, feral sex. I fear for my person and hide in the nearest shrubbery. The smoke leaden skies make it difficult to breathe, and I am sick before losing consciousness. My last thought is I wish I had thought to ask for one of the dragon-headed masks some of the villagers wear.
When the moon is at its brightest, I awaken to the ground rumbling. Sporadic, jarring quakes are followed by continuous shaking. Chaos erupts in the basin. I stand. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for.
The volcanos erupt. In a rush of fetid, hot air newborn dragons the size of ponies burst into the sky. Dozens and dozens of them. It is breath taking, and magnificent.
That is, until the dragons look down upon our basin, and spot all that lovely, lovely treasure.
I seek help from the shamans, but they are nowhere to be found. In fact, the only occupants in the valley are the expedition. The dragons–
Alas, this is all that remains of Professor’s Hayden’s expeditionary journal. We hope this exhibit exhorts you to invest generously that we may launch a new expedition to find the answers academia seeks. Thank you.