My good friend told me once that the hardest part of a story is the ending. While this may be the case for some, this is not my case. I know the ending to this story, or what I feel will be my ending. The hardest part of this story is what is the beginning, the start? Where do I start? You might say, "From the beginning." Where is the "beginning?"
Was it when I was born? Nay, I was born from an egg on the longest stretch of what you humans call River Crawl. A river that is some ways from here, five days, even as I fly. Humans hunted down my parents so I couldn't stay, flying away as soon as my wings were strong enough to carry me.
Was it coming to this dreary, small cave where I hunted and survived? Nay, for this was long before I met Alicia, my good friend. My only friend. Maybe I should start there? I have not much time to tell this story so I will start there.
First an introduction I do believe is in order. I was never given a name by my parents, but Alicia gave me a name. She called me Dahlia, after the flower. She said my scales reminded her of the color.
Alicia had been on the run from her village. They had marked her as a witch. (I think that is the word. She had told it to me a few times, but I tried not to remember such a horrible word for my good friend.) She ran right into my cave - scared, alone, and hurt. I could see the blood very well mixing with the running water. When she was sure she had lost her hunters, she collapsed near the entrance. (Later I was glad I had eaten, otherwise her blood would have smelled succulent instead of offensive.)
Picking her up off the ground like a wounded lamb, I carried her to the back and laid her on the most comfortable stone I could find. It wasn't until the sun was lower than the ground and the trees had become dark phantoms that she awoke.
At first, I think, she was quite startled by my appearance. Have to admit, if I had been running from a large group of dragons, and I had awoken to find a creature twenty times bigger than I staring me down, I would be quite startled too. She bit into her fist to stifle a scream. I was already curious about her as she sat on the stone, looking at me in terror.
It was then I tried to figure out a way to calm her down. Not like I had many options and I was even less sure how to act around humans. Taking too long to come up with a solution, she hopped off the rock and tried to run, but she was still hurt and fell at the entrance to my cave. (Again, I was glad I had not eaten.)
Approaching her, more curious than anything, I listened as strange noises escaped her mouth. I learned the words she used later, but right then I was ignorant to her speech. Looking back, it sickens my heart knowing she was begging for her life, and she had every right to… at the time. She edged away from me, looking at me like some kind of hungry demon.
Folding my front legs under me, sitting like a cat, I softly fluttered my wings and watched. This was when she stopped and saw me in all my glory in what little sunlight there was left. She stood up, still hurt, to get a better look. It is here I will have to use a later description that Alicia used for me. She was speechless at the time, but explained to me later how she felt. "I was a thing of shining orchid beauty." Alicia said that I was, "The color of lilac brilliance. Larger than anything she had ever seen, and more beautiful than any single star in the sky. My claws were emerald sickles of opulent glamour. My eyes, glistening jewels that burned of brilliant golden fire. My wings of white-silk glory only comparable to that of a dove's sent from Valhalla." Alicia was always more masterful with words than I. To listen to her talk, I was a thing of incomparable beauty. I usually tried to convince her I was just a regular dragon, but she never had any of it.
After a few hours had past, and she had sat at the entrance to my cave for most of it, my stomach began to growl. By this time the small morsel that Alicia was started to look appetizing. It was by pure coincidence that she became hungry too. I was the first to go out hunting for dinner, and she reluctantly left the cave. The two of us hunted in different areas, she brought back two rabbits and I had killed three deer.
Bringing dinner back to the cave she tried to eat the hares raw, but saw that I could breathe fire. This was the first time she tried communicating with me. At first, she gently nudged the carcasses at me, silently implying that she wanted them cooked. Now, at the time, I was nowhere near as understanding of subtly as I am now. I thought she was offering them to me to eat - so I did. I had eaten my three cooked deer and her food, too. In hindsight quite stubborn and gluttonous of me. Her anger towards me was very… crazed. She spit out horrid words and screamed with madness. Me being the ignorant scaly I was at the time, I just watched in utter fascination. She looked like a creature caught in a trap. Naturally I assumed she was in pain. Trying to figure out how to alleviate some of it, I was caught by surprise when she took off into the night to find more food.
After she did not return for some time I went looking for her. Before I had even learned the word "pet," I believe that's what I though of her at the time. A curious creature I wanted to keep around. She fascinated me to the point I was willing to explore the deep night to find her again.
When I found her, she was surrounded by at least five men with torches. One of them I learned later, from Alicia herself, was named Hjarchmar; captain of the witch hunters. He was a big man, by human standards, and was dressed in bear pelts with a metal breast plate, sporting a double broadax and several short swords, which I also learned later he could use like daggers. Most of them had come from other humans he had killed in bloody combat. His whole head was nearly covered in hair, but what I really remember about Hjarchmar (even back then) was his eyes. As feral and as big and as tough as I thought I was, I paused at his eyes. Blood red and killer-crazed, looking not like a man's, not like a dragon's, but a beast's from the deep, unchained and unchallenged even by the most evil of monsters.
At this very moment I did what came to me naturally. I spread my wings and spouted a long gout of fire from my maw. I saw the rest of these witch hunters twitch and move away, but not Hjarchmar. He moved towards me, spinning his ax in some kind of sick glee. I could have sworn I could see an evil smile buried deep in his bushy beard. If it was not for at least three of his compatriots, I might have been killed right there. They pulled him away and only after he had shrugged them off once, he still approached me like a cat on a giant mouse.
After the group had finally left, with their leader begrudgingly in tow, Alicia was looking at me with grateful eyes.
It was then she embrace me. It's funny to look back on now, how angry she was with me just a few moments ago, and now, she was hugging me with tears in her eyes. (How I would give anything to experience one of her hugs one last time.)
She had found more food though she was to weak to carry it back to my cave, having been on the run nearly all day. I carried her and her catch back, and this time I let her have her fill.
For the next week she stayed close to the cave and let me do most of the hunting. I "insisted" that she stay close. In silent agreement with me we started learning from each other. The first bits of her language began filling my head, and I learned to speak simple words to her. From me she learned how to stay extremely quiet, and also learned what fruits were safe to eat along with the animals I caught and cooked. I also tried to teach her to fly - that one didn't go over so well.
As time went on she taught me a few things that I had no idea about. One of the biggest was about men… and women. She asked me to lie down once, wanting to know if I was a "boy dragon or a girl dragon?" Turned out I'm a girl dragon. This was when we had traveled far from the cave and found a beautiful field of flowers. Both her and I were attracted to them, and she told me that this was one of the most common traits of women, "Liking flowers."
Close to a tree, not far from the field, she found a beautiful flower that made her smile brightly. She held it up to me and giggled, telling me, "You are a lot like this Dahlia. You are apart, yet, if some one goes searching, and finds you, they will find the biggest, most beautiful flower in the whole bunch. Different, extraordinary, and worth the time and effort it takes to find you." Her smile only increased and I remember thinking at the time that her face was going to crack open.
She held it up to me and said, "Your name is Dahlia."
Now, I was not thrilled with the name. Being compared to a flower, to me, was insulting. Most flowers are weak come winter time, and I prided myself surviving in any weather. Yet I humored her, and after so long, hearing her say my name happily, it grew on me. It became wonderful to hear her actually say my name. And now, if I were to hear her - one last time - say my name with that same tone of love, I could die happy.
Later on she taught me how to write, how to form sentences, and even taught me a bit of grammar. (By the way, I do apologize for my ill use of it in some parts. She didn't have time to teach all of it to me, and I was a stubborn student. That is not due to her lack of trying, or lack of character. She was a wonderful teacher and I think I taught her the true meaning of the word "patience.")
Winter came slowly. Alicia said it was like, "The world being eaten by a hungry, yet picky snake." Even today I'm still not sure what she was getting at it, but I told her she would have plenty of time to explain it to me.
There were times during the coldest days when she would sit by herself and cry. She told me she was lonely. I didn't understand what she meant because she had me, and I told her as much. Her smile was light and gentle, but also sad and small. I think she missed being around other humans. I was never sure why. They had driven her out, sent the witch hunters on her, and shunned her from ever returning. During that winter I learned her mother had died at a very early age, and that her father had become one of these witch hunters. It was unclear whether her father was the one that had actually killed her mother, but Alicia told me that her mother was a practitioner of strange concoctions and recipes, not to mention a lot of what she knew about writing was her mother's teachings as well.
Most times we were snowbound and in these times Alicia taught me how to write. Most of it was just sonnets and a few ballads. She told me the most progress I made was when I wrote a poem about how I felt about my parents' deaths:
Lost you eternally,
Never knew your touch, your smile, your grace,
Never knew your warm embrace;
My heart aches, my mind fakes,
Images I take, truths I make;
Lost you eternally, completely,
To have you back for a fee;
I will not pay,
For now I have a new warm smile to look at in May.
I didn't say it was any good.
When the warm weather did start to return, her and I started to venture out again. Looking back, I am not sure if this was a horrible mistake or dark destiny.
One of these warmer days, Alicia and I were out picking berries for a big feast we were going to have that night. I left her to it, figuring she would be safe. I went to go get the meat, thinking deeply, but I thought boar would be better than deer. My plan was to find at least two. Now, for anyone who has been boar hunting, you know boar are extremely territorial. To find two I would need to circle a huge area from my cave. I even remember it took me a good six hours to find two of them.
When I returned to where Alicia had been picking berries, I did not find her. I then checked our cave - she was not there either. Leaving the pig carcasses, I flew around the area… and then I found her. She was laying in a pool of her own blood. I swooped down from high and landed right next to her, crushing a few trees in the process.
When I first saw her, I thought she was still in one piece. From above I didn't notice that her head was missing, nor her feet. I looked at what was left of my friend, and at first, I thought, maybe, I could get her to come back. I nudged her with my nose and whispered, "Alicia. Come on, wake up."
Missing her head and feet with enough blood around her - and me - to turn a river red, she wasn't getting back up. This was the first, and probably last time, I would ever cry in my life. I cried hard and loud. I even dragged her body towards me and cried into it. Alicia had told me wondrous tales of people who had cried onto bodies and they miraculously came back, others were they kissed their love and they came back without a scratch. Fairy tales I believe she called them, but… this isn't a fairy tale.
I took her back to the cave, and there tried many thing to get her back. There were plenty of remedies I tried. I even tried arguing with her, talking to her, hugging her, but she never came back. Just like my parents, she didn't come back.
After nearly a month of trying, and failing, I began to feel another emotion I had never felt before: anger. This wasn't the anger I had for whoever had taken my parents, or for me, for letting it happen - this was different. This was a blinding, overwhelming anger. It felt subdued in my mind, but in my heart and soul, it roared and raged like a wild bear. I gently put Alicia's body into a corner where I put flowers and candles all around her.
Leaving my cave, and my best friend - my only friend - behind, I flew off to the only place I knew where I would find the things that cut her down. A village of humans where the witch hunters dwelled.
Landing in the village, the first thing I was greeted to were screams. Screams from girl humans that had been attending to their mundane lives when they saw me. I hushed their screams with a scream of my own, only mine was filled with fire. My blinding anger was now flooding out of me with flaming vengeance. I don't remember much before a certain point, all I remember is that in less-than-an-hour, the village was a giant, burning ember of ash. There was a few of those witch hunters that tried to stop me, but they all failed. Their iron weapons nothing compared to my flower-colored scales.
Surrounded in flames and burning flesh, I chuffed smoke and looked for more to burn… and that was when I saw him; Hjarchmar. He stood me down with that big ax of his, towering in the flames like a demon born from Hel itself. In the firelight his eyes looked like pools of blood, his skin a bright orange, his hair blacker than burnt ash. He growled at me, "I took that witch's head, and now, I'm going to take yours."
This is where my memory becomes crystal clear.
He charged me like a mad horse. A deep throaty roar came from him that I didn't think humans were capable of making. A tongue-shriller so monstrous in tone, so terrifying in cadence, that I knew this was no human I was dealing with. This was an evil from some other world, a plague upon the planet that needed to be purged.
The fight between him and me was long. His ax might have not done much to my hide, but it didn't have to. He knew plenty of other places to hurt me. He struck me twice between my plates, near my neck, and I thought my head was going to come off. There were several times he hit my back ankles, knocking me off balance, and that was when he tried to cleave my head off. I successfully avoided his blows and used my fire breath to singe his body. His armor baked him, but he just tore it off and went almost nude.
Picking up the fight again, scoring a few more hurtful, bloody blows, I threw him away into a burning house, which he just erupted from with a beastly bellow. Throwing several of his short swords at me, I dodged them and went at him this time. I scooped him up and took him high in the air, dropping him from a great height.
When I landed, I found out it wasn't high enough. Dragging himself along, blood emptying from his mouth, using his ax as a prop, he approached me like a wounded, yet still able-body killer. Growling, I spun my body and lashed out with my tail, knocking him away, chucking him into a large rock. I didn't see him hit, but when I found him, he was sat down with sanguine water dripping from the rock face. He looked up at me with a tired sneer, and said, "Witches, dragon, sprites, all need to be wiped from the face of this world. If I don't kill you, than someone will take my place and drive you to Hel!"
His words were hurtful, mean, and hate-filled. But, so were mine. "See you there."
That was when I drove five of my emerald claws through his body, piercing through the rock and his anatomy. He popped like a bubble. Warm, red liquid gushed and splashed everywhere. It steamed on the cold ground, and soaked my hand.
After wiping off his blood in a nearby river, I flew back to my cave and waited for death. Maybe by a group of knights, a dragon slayer, or, perhaps, a young, prideful lord. I know now that it's coming, and coming soon.
Dear knight, or dragon slayer, or whoever you might be, know this: if you are reading this, and have come to this end, then you know most of my life. You know the beginning, the middle, and possibly were the end. I don't know if you'll show pity, sympathy, or even mercy, but I highly doubt it. I am hoping you didn't, either. For my angry crime, I don't deserve sympathy. Just knowing that you know why I committed such a heinous crime makes me feel better, and that you most likely acted accordingly. The only thing I ask is that you take Alicia away from here, and give her a proper human send off. I don't know what you humans do to finally set your dead to rest, but please, treat her with respect. Give her a good, decent send off, no matter how you do it. Don't remember her as a witch, remember her as a great friend, an excellent cook, a beautiful teacher, and a loving, nurturing person. She nurtured me back from a very dark place, and became more than, I think, she expected to be. I only wish more people like her existed in the world - both in you humans and in dragons.
Before I end this letter, I'd like to leave you with one last thing. I wrote a poem for her after her death, hoping it might bring her back. If you wish, you can read it to her as you… put her away forever. I loved her so much and I don't want you to remember me as a killer fiend, but a protector, a student, and a friend who was looking for justice for a murder. Not having someone to dole out justice on her behalf, I thought everyone deserves justice. At first I was angry, but now I am just sad. Not just for me, but that no one else will know Alicia's smile, knowledge, or beauty.
Here are my final words, a poem for my love; Alicia:
You were there when I was alone,
You stood tall against a world of stone.
You taught me speech, love, and so much more,
Which made me better at the core.
You gave me a name,
Made me lovable and tame.
They say you were a witch,
That you belonged in a ditch.
I say you were high above,
A kind, wonderful love.
I know it was probably scary for you in the end,
But just know, my dearest, lovely friend,
That I will be there for you, after my end.
(A/N: As mentioned in the description, this was a Christmas gift for a friend of mine. I hope you enjoyed it Sky! The reason I uploaded this here is because I believe another avid reader of mine, also with a flower for a name, may enjoy it as well.)