The Dodo Dragon and other stories.

I am the last and I am lonely.

Last night I saw three of the large moons hanging together, with the sea sparkling and dancing below.

It gave me no pleasure. There was no-one to share it.

#

For a full year before my first mating, the males gave me no peace. I miss them now. They thronged the air round me, begging me to fly with them, until the air shimmered.

They were all surprised when I chose Uao for my mate. True, he was rather small, even for a male. He wasn’t properly transparent either; he looked more like smoke than water, so that he cast a faint shadow and his lunch sometimes saw him coming.

“It’s not really a problem,” he said. “I hunt with the sun in my eyes, so my shadow’s behind me. I have to squint a bit, that’s all.”

Uao’s slight smokiness dimmed the brilliant tracery of his veins, but it set off the pale rainbow sheen on his skin to perfection. To me he was even more beautiful than a perfectly transparent dragon.

Besides, he made me laugh. Often I came back to my perch to find that he had left me some fish, and arranged them into the shape of one giant fish, or a dragon, or a heart. He did that sort of thing all year round, not just a few days before mating. And he looked into my eyes not under my tail all the time.

Oh there was no-one like Uao! I knew he’d make a wonderful father too. I could hardly wait for spring and the mating flight.

#

One winter’s night, a ball of fire streaked across the sky. It caused a great deal of comment. Some said that it was a very large shooting star, others that one of the mountains must be spitting fire again. I wanted to see for myself, so a group of us set off in great excitement. We visited twenty or so islands, but four days later we returned disappointed. Every island was boringly normal.

One of the elders called a meeting, and said he’d seen one of these fireballs before. It was only a shooting star, and it happened perhaps once in a dragon’s lifetime, if the dragon was lucky. He had seen one himself, many years ago. Nothing for us youngsters to worry about.

“Pompous old ass!” said Uao that night. We were lying side by side as usual, with our tails entwined, and Uao’s wing over my back. It was too small to keep out the cold, but it gave me a cosy feeling anyway.

“Who?” I asked.

“Eo the Elder,” said Uao. “He doesn’t know any more about that fireball than we do.”

“But he said he’d seen one,” I objected sleepily.

“Only after we went and found there were no fire mountains. If he’d really seen one before, you’d think he’d remember straight away. It was pretty memorable.”

“True.” Uao had a way of being right.

“One thing,” Uao continued. “If we ever do find out what it was, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of dragons pretending that they knew all along, or at least that they had a feeling about it.”

He was right about that too. Eventually almost everyone claimed to have known that it was an omen. They just didn’t feel the need to mention it for the first three years, that’s all.

Perhaps forty nights later we saw another twelve fireballs, all in V formation like migrating dragons.

“Once in a lifetime?” murmured Uao. “My, my. Aren’t we doing well.”

There were no more fireballs, or at least we saw no more, and the memory began to fade.

We never did find out whether the fire balls had anything to do with the disaster.

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Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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