Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Highly Commended 2020 Buzz Words Short Story Prize Competition

Dragon Tears

© Stephen Heron (WA)

Fire-breathing dragons rely on their chispa, their spark, to ignite their flame. Since Flame lost the power of her chispa, the young dragons tease her.

    ‘Hey Fizzle Face, your little fire gone out?’ The oldest of the fledgling dragons teases the most.

    Although she comes from the bloodline of Chador the Royal, Flame lost the ability to breathe fire the day her father, Blazon, joined the flight of noble dragons to bring peace to the Thunder-Split Mountains.

    Flame lays awake at night listening to the distant thunder caused by the battling dragons. She misses her father more than the night would miss the stars.

    One morning, while wandering in the Oak forest, trying to breathe fire, Flame comes across a cave, semi-hidden by vines. As she investigates, a wise old dragon emerges. Fletcha-del-Fuego, or The Arrow of Fire, as the younger dragons call her.

    The dragon’s magnificent scales in the colours of fire shimmer. ‘Why have you come to visit young one?’

    ‘I haven’t come to visit. I came across your cave by accident.’

    ‘No accident. Only destiny,’ The Arrow’s voice blazes. ‘Only dragons who need help find my cave.’

    Flame backs away. ‘But I’m not looking for help.’

    ‘That doesn’t mean you don’t need it,’ says The Arrow. ‘For a dragon to have tears, something must be very wrong,’

    ‘But I don’t have tears.’

    ‘Not ones you can see. I saw you trying to breathe fire just now. It’s your hidden tears that are quenching the power of your chispa.’

    ‘I can’t breathe fire anymore.’

    ‘As I thought. It must be heartbreaking to lose your chispa’s power.’

    ‘Yes. The other dragons tease me and won’t let me join their games. How can I get my chispa’s power back?’

    ‘There’s a dragon who can help. Chador the Royal Emperor, guardian of the Treasures in the Caves of Drac.’

    ‘My great grandfather?’

    ‘Yes. Your great grandfather.’ The Arrow nods.

    ‘But no one knows where he is.’

    ‘Not no one.’ A dart of flame fires from Fletcha-Del-Fuego’s mouth. ‘You’ll find him in the White Cave on the island of Majorca, a half day’s flight over the treacherous sea.’

    ‘But that’s a long, frightening flight.’

    ‘Do you want to breathe fire or not?’

    Flame inhales some courage. ‘I do.’

    ‘Well, your quest awaits.’ Fletcha-del-Fuego holds out her claw to the West.

    The young dragon trudges homeward.

    Flame has trouble sleeping as words of the old dragon invade her thoughts. Her mother wraps her in her wings and tells her a story from her childhood about a time she visited her grandfather.

    The next morning Flame, so desperate to breathe fire, sets out on the perilous journey.

    She spreads her fledgling wings and soars from the shores of Menorca. A storm brews over the Mediterranean from the Thunder-Split mountains. Lightning and thunder threaten her, forcing her to fly just above the water. Waves claw and leap at her like tongues, trying to pull her into the sea. She musters all her strength and reaches the island where she finds a safe cove and regains her energy.

    She climbs craggy limestone cliffs, traverses the Forest of Drago, and scrambles over a rocky outcrop. The entrance to the White Cave in her sight, she approaches. She feels the warmth of a dragon’s breath.

    A voice like an earthquake rumbles from within ‘Who dares approach the White Cave of Drac?’

    Flame trembles as a dragon with rugged, royal brown scales and flecks of gold, emerges. When he notices the small dragon, his voice changes to the sound of distant thunder, ‘What causes the sadness I see in your eyes, young one?’

    ‘I’m on a quest.’

    ‘Don’t I know you? Aren’t you the daughter of Blazon and Vibria?’

    ‘Yes, they’re my parents.’ Flame shivers.

    ‘That makes you my great-granddaughter. What is your name, young one?’

    ‘Flame.’

    ‘Young Flame. Last time I saw you, you were a new hatchling with a fire in your belly. It’s good to see you.’

    ‘You too, Great Grandfather.’

    ‘So, young Flame. Tell me about this quest.’

    ‘The Arrow of Fire told me to seek you. That you’ll help.’

    ‘Fletcha-del-Fuego? That wise old dragon? How may I help?’

    ‘I’ve lost the power to breathe fire.’

    The mighty dragon strokes his chin. ‘Has perdido tu chispa?

    ‘Si, I have lost my spark.’

    ‘Why has your chispa lost its power?’ Chador’s eyes blaze with compassion.

    ‘The other young dragons are mean to me, and I miss my father. He’s with the noble dragons battling in the Thunder-Split mountains.’

    ‘Your father is a noble dragon indeed. Many young dragons miss their fathers while they are defending the righteous, but still find the courage to spark.’

    Flame’s tears work their way to her eyes.

    ‘I see the hurt in your eyes. If you follow my instructions, it will restore the power of your chispa.’

    ‘What do I do, Mighty Chador?’

    ‘Venture into the depths of the White Cave until you find the Black Cave’s opening. Enter. In the deepest cavern, you’ll find the hidden treasure. In the centre stands the Goblet del Cristal.’

    ‘But the Black Cave is dark and terrifying.’

    ‘Absolutely!’ Chador’s voice echoes. ‘You’ll need courage, young one.’

    ‘But I’m scared, not brave.’

    ‘What good is a quest if you don’t have to overcome fear? Courage cannot exist without fear.’

    ‘If I find the goblet, what do I do with it?’ says Flame.

    ‘You’ll find it, and when you do, drop one tear from each eye into it. The tears will turn into a crystal. Wear the crystal around your neck to restore the power of your chispa.’

    ‘How will I know it works?’

    ‘My word is enough,’ Chador’s voice booms as he points to the White Cave’s entrance. ‘Your quest awaits.’

    Flame’s heart pounds as she enters. The further she ventures into the darkness, the deeper her fear grows. When she can no longer catch the tiniest glimpse of light, a blanket of dread smothers her. She cries for help. No answer, only black silence. In the depths of the cave, her fear and her sadness join forces, and she slumps.

    A tear escapes from her eye and drops to the cave floor, giving off a soft glow. More tears cascade and the glow brightens. It creates enough light to give Flame a flicker of reassurance.

    She glimpses a sparkle and twinkle of light. ‘Is this the treasure?’ She whispers.

    In front of her is a mound of gold, silver, and jewels. In the centre is a silver cup.

    ‘This must be the Goblet De Cristal?’ Flame grasps the shining goblet, sensing its power.

    More tears, but different tears, tears of hope. She holds her head over the goblet and lets a tear from each eye fall in, as the Mighty Chador instructed.

    A deafening rumble shakes the cave. Flame drops the goblet. She lays in darkness and trepidation. ‘What now?’

    Shimmering shards of red, yellow, and orange light erupt from the goblet. A necklace bearing a crystal with the colours of fire tumbles onto the cave floor. She remembers Chador’s instructions and her hope grows as she reaches for the necklace.

    She places it over her head and the crystal rests on her neck. A welcome warmth surges in her throat. When she exhales, a spatter of sparks ignites. An ear-splitting, flame-filled roar fills the cavern. Every part of the cave knows that her chispa has recovered its power.

    The recharged young dragon finds her way back to the cave’s entrance. She searches for Chador to thank him, but he has left.

    With her chispa restored, the hope-filled dragon sets flight for home through the storm over the treacherous sea.

    When she arrives, Flame’s first sight is the young dragons playing in the opening near the Oak forest.

    ‘Hey, look, it’s Flameless,’ the oldest dragon teases.

    With her renewed courage, Flame approaches the flight. ‘May I join in your game?’

    The oldest speaks, ‘We’re playing a fire-breathing game.’

    ‘Okay.’ Flame grins.

    The dragons wonder what is different about Flame. They line up to show their fire-breathing skills, not knowing that Flame’s chispa has re-powered. One at a time, each of the dragons fills the air with their fiery breath.

    When it’s Flame’s turn, the others wait to tease.

    From deep in her throat, a roar bellows. The crystal glows, and her chispa ignites. A fearsome flare of fire fills the air.

    Astonished that Flame has regained the power to breathe fire, the dragon’s words of rejection dry up.

    ‘Can I play another game with you?’ Flame asks.

    The oldest dragon stands with her claws on her hips. ‘Do you want to play fire-breathing dragons again?’

    ‘As long as we can play Chase the Tail after,’ says Flame.

    ‘We’ll see,’ replies the older dragon.

    From that day on, they include Flame in the dragon games, often playing her favourite.

    Now and then, Flame still enjoys playing on her own. When she misses her father, the Crystal continues to help her find the courage to spark.

 

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