From the profound depths of my mind, I knew that my end was coming. I came to realize that I would not continue on; I would not go forth. My life was ending in this bleak, tenebrous world, a world that I had never seen. Suddenly, I found myself beginning to dream.
Once more, the mythical beast entered my mind, smiling with joy. The dragon lightly sprinkled the world with her peaceful laugh. So soft and so gentle, it relieved the stress from my body. I felt completely placid watching the beast twirl and soar through the clouds. There were no worries lurking in the shadows of my mind and the pain departed from my body along with the shrill, wet feeling. This was the way I was to leave the world. This was the way I was to go…
There was silence before the sounds began to return to me. I could smell the thick smoke of a fire and heard the flickering crackles that emitted from it as it spread its warmth over me. There was a sturdy rock wall that supported my back. I seemed to have returned to the cave from before and felt relieved to know that I was alive and safe, but, where was I?
After my senses became clearer, I could tell that there was another being enjoying the warmth of the fire. I could hear the deep breaths that repeated in a slow rhythm telling me that the being was content and well. “Oh,” came an astonished voice. “You’ve awoken.” The voice seemed to belong to a woman and radiated a sense of bliss about me, sounding as if an angel had delicately practiced each syllable of every word. “Are you feeling well?” she asked me.
Fear did not allow me to answer the voice as I longed for my brother once more. I’d never been without him and was unsure of how to react with a stranger. I couldn’t see the woman before me and felt frightened as I shivered in my damp clothing.
There was an unusual stirring noise that came from the opposite side of the cave where the voice had resided and I was unable to tell what it was. It sounded as if one was opening the curtains upon a window. “I’ve made a fire. Are you warm?”
I glanced in the direction of the voice and managed to choke an answer. “Yes, yes I’m much better.” Just then, I remembered the wolf attack and immediately grabbed my left shoulder blade. I was surprised to find that it had healed and left no mark of being slashed open. The pain had completely left me. “Ha-How did you…?” I began, trying to put my words together.
I heard a friendly chuckle before the person replied, “I’ve healed you. I hope that you don’t mind.”
“Thanks,” I said, still amazed. Afterwards, there was a long moment of silence between the two of us as I collected the warmth from the flames and began to dry my clothes. Many fears began to rise within me with the unknown knowledge of this new woman. Who was she and why was she helping me?
“I have been meaning to ask you, boy,” came the angelic voice. “Why is it that you wear that cloth about your face?”
In reflex, I brought my hand up to the black cloth that obscured my useless eyes from the world, usually symbolizing my blindness. “This,” I began, my voice quivering, “This…” I trailed off in embarrassment and quickly questioned her. “Don’t you know?”
Her voice told me that she was taken aback with my question, “Well no, I don’t see humans very often, especially not this close before.”
I didn’t know how to reply to this statement and I began to wonder what she meant. “My,” I stuttered, “Well, I can’t see. I’m…blind.”
“Oh,” she replied, astonished. “I see.” Before continuing, she let time pass through our conversation. “I couldn’t imagine not being able to see the world, enjoy its sights…” Her voice trailed away as it came from a different direction. I guessed that she had turned her head to stare out towards the cave’s entrance. “I’m so sorry,” she said to me, turning to face me.
Once again, I fell in silence, not knowing what to say. I was no longer afraid of this person but was still unsure of who she was and why she was here.
“Do you have a name, boy?” she asked me kindly.
I felt no tension in her voice and decided to share. “My name is Arin.”
“Well that’s a beautiful human name I suppose,” she replied quickly with a cheerful bounce to her phrase. “My name is Niarus and you are free to speak to me whenever you feel the need, friend.” Many questions hovered in my mind, screaming at me to be asked; yet I said nothing. “Where is it that you live?” she asked me. “I’ve never seen you in the mountains before.”
“I usually don’t come here. I live in the farmlands at the base of the mountains.”
“Ah, so why are you here, now?”
For a moment, I had to think of why I’d come; yet my memories were blurred. I suddenly remembered my brother, Theo. Where was he? Was he still searching for me? I realized that the sound of rain was no longer a presence and only light gusts brushed against my cheek. The storm had died down. How long had I been here? “I was out trapping…with my brother.” I felt tears come to my eyes and brought my words to a halt.
“Then, where is your brother now? I never saw another human with you,” she replied. I heard the drive of curiosity pushing her forward.
“I-I do not know where Theo is. He…he must be,” A tear released its grip from my eye and absorbed into the fabric covering it. “I don’t know where he is.”
The crackling sound reclaimed its dominance over the cave as our voices fell silent. My uneasiness continued to discomfort me, causing me to turn and fumble about. The rock wall behind me was clammy with the lack of heat and gave a stiff support to my back, forming an ache that disturbed me. I was relieved when she spoke again. “Would you like to return home, Arin? Do you need help? I can help you,” she whispered. “I can help you, Arin. Would you like that? Come outside. I’ll take you home.”
I was surprised to hear that this woman was going to help me and immediately stood. “Follow me,” she instructed. There were a few heavy footsteps that lightly shook the ground as she left the cave urging me to follow her. I began to walk forward from where I had been resting with my arms outstretched in front of me just before my fingertips brushed against a cold, rock-like surface. I immediately stopped and jumped back in surprise when I heard the voice lightly chuckle. “Don’t be alarmed,” she said. “That was only my tail. Grab a hold of it. I can lead you.”
It was then that I recognized the laugh from my dreams and the angelic voice with the shining, joyous face. Was this being the dragon from my dreams?
I did as she told, and reached out for her tail. The scales brushed against my hand once more, allowing me to grasp the slender shape. I felt a slight tug as she pulled it, guiding me to her side. “Come,” she calmly said, “Climb onto my back. I’ll take you home.” I felt my uncertainty return just before I felt her tail slip from my hands and push up against my back, just enough to guide me. With my hands reaching out for the unknown, they met with the now familiar texture of scales. “That’s my shoulder,” she stated. “Help yourself up.” Following her steps, I grasped her shoulder and began to pull myself atop. I felt the tail push beneath my feet, giving me the help I needed to swing myself over her back. “Watch out for my wings,” she warned. I heard the unusual sound from earlier once more and realized that she was flexing her leathery wings out of my way. I felt myself slip between two of the spikes that lined her back and tightly grasped the one before me. “There!” she exclaimed gratefully.
She gave her body a light shake, getting into a comfortable position before I heard her stretch her neck to look at me. “Now hold on tight,” she said. “I won’t go too fast, but I don’t want you to fall. I’ve never had a human rider before.” I heard her release a bit of nervousness with another slight chuckle before taking a few steps forward. It was odd adjusting my weight from side to side with each step that she took and I found it difficult to keep my grasp. Her steps stopped as I heard her release a sigh. “Are you ready?” she asked me.
“I-I think so,” I called out, tightening my grip around her spike. I waited with great anticipation. Suddenly, there was a huge gust of wind that whipped against my face as I felt myself fall forward. I heard the sound of claws against rock as Niarus launched herself from the edge of the cliff. Screaming, I hugged the spike before me with all of my strength and tried to keep from being blown off of her back. The wind violently slashed at me, trying to knock me from my grasp.
Just then, Niarus fluidly curved her long, slender body into a horizontal position, now spreading her wings out, one on each side of me. I could feel the gust that each wing created as it flapped and could feel the air smoothly travel over her back before tearing into my face. I realized that I had stopped screaming and lessened my frightened grip, allowing myself to be amazed with the thrill of flight. “Wow,” I whispered as I stretched out my arms before quickly returning them when my friend turned downwards a bit more. We began to spiral down the mountain, changing the airflow and causing me to constantly shift my weight. “This is amazing!” I cried out.
“Yes,” I heard from before me. The voice was as beautiful as before and almost sounded as if she was whispering. “It truly is,” she agreed. After a few more enjoyable moments in the air, Niarus turned her neck to look at me once more. “We are almost there, Arin, but I’ll have to let you off at the very base of the mountain, not in the farmlands.”
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“I can’t be known to man, Arin. I’m not able to share my presence. I can’t be seen.”
“Oh,” I replied. I felt the creature beneath me stretch out her arms and legs as she came in contact with the ground, smoothly landing. I was jostled a bit before I slid from her back, down her side, and found myself to be standing upon grass, rather than rock. “Thank you, Niarus.” I said with a cheerful smile. “I am very thankful.”
“I’m honored,” she replied. “But Arin, you mustn’t tell anyone about me. I can’t be known.”
“I won’t tell anyone.”
“Even your brother,” she assured.
“No,” I whispered, staring down to where I would have seen my feet. “Not even Theo…”
“Well, I must be going, Arin.” Niarus stated as she flexed her wings once more. “I don’t usually come down so low. Farewell!”
“Good bye!” I cried out, just before she launched from the ground and soared into the sky. I stood and let the gust from her wings sweep over me before they dissipated. “Good bye,” I whispered before turning to return home.