Awaiting his fate –
the girl perfects her approach
with a healing touch.
The dragon rises and sighs
a mellowed-out breath of thanks.
©2017 Colleen M. Chesebro
The north wind howled through the brown stalks of dead prairie grasses as the girl trudged through the rough terrain toward the outcropping of rocks that hid the entrance to the cave. Her long red hair glistened in a shimmering red haze under the glare of the moon. She pulled her shroud closer, shivering in the cold.
At the opening to the cave, she paused, looking over her shoulder as if worried she might have been followed. She backed up against the bastion sheltering her body in the darkness of the rock face. Only her quick gasps of frosty breath were visible in the blackness. It had been a brutal winter and spring had refused to warm the earth. Satisfied she was alone, the girl gathered up her long garments and pulled them to the side to make her passage easier as she crawled on her hands and knees into the crevice opening.
A low fire burned in a rock-lined pit in the middle of the cave. Gray smoke curled upwards toward a hole in the rocky ceiling where a shaft of light from the moon filtered into the room. The girl moved on swift feet extending her hands toward the heat. A luminosity from the firelight danced in her amber eyes giving her face a spectral glow.
“You made it back safely, Blood Witch,” said a quavering voice from the darkness.
Evanore Redwood rubbed her hands together and turned toward the sound. She gathered her hair in her hands and tossed the strands over her shoulder away from the flames. “I did. The herbs were difficult to find.”
Slowly, the girl bent to the ground next to the fire and retrieved a twig from a basket of kindling. The fire sizzled at the end of the stick, and Evanore cupped her hand around the flame sheltering it as she walked toward the back of the cave. The tiny flame cast long shadows on the rock walls flickering with each step as she advanced into the darkness. In the dim glow, she spotted half burned beeswax candles lined along a stone ledge which protruded from the rock wall. She lit the candles, and the flames sputtered from each wick as they caught casting a yellow glow around the room.
Dried grasses, leaves, and twigs littered the dirt floor of the cave. A pallet of pine boughs covered the back of the chamber releasing their sharp musky scent into the air. In the corner, a giant, olive green, smooth-skinned serpent lay reclined, propped up against the rock wall. Two spiked horns protruded from the creature’s head, and bony protuberances surrounded his snake-like eyes. Sharp claws extended from each of the four fingers at the end of his hands. Two wings, comprised of thin layers of skin and bone were attached at his back and stretched to the end of his arms while piercing talon like claws protracted from his feet.
The creature’s breath rattled deep in his chest, and small puffs of steam escaped from his flared nostrils. “I was worried about your safety. You’re sure you weren’t followed?”
“No, Dragon. The wind is out of the north tonight. It’s too cold for humans to be outside. They are all clustered in front of their fires, asleep by now.” Evanore dipped a ladle into a bucket of water near the dragon’s bed. She stretched on her toes to extend the water to the creature’s lips. He parted his massive jaws and let the water trickle down his throat. The dragon sputtered and coughed.
“Blood Witch, I thank you for your shelter. Now, prove your healing powers. Can you fix me and cure the fire that rages in my belly?”
Evanore drew back from the dragon’s prone body and placed her hands on her hips. “I was born under the Aries Moon and possess the power to transfer vital energy.” Reaching inside the bodice of her dress, Evanore pulled out a strip of leather. Dangling at the end of the leather strip hung a greenish black stone encased in silver. Undulating currents of crimson moved within the stone as if filled with a lifeblood that flowed inside.
Turning toward the dragon, Evanore walked toward the light. “This is heliotrope, a bloodstone. It is my talisman. I was born a healer and come from a coven of healers. You have no worries. I can heal you from your fate.”
The dragon stared at the bloodstone mesmerized by the sinuous red inclusions that continuously moved within the gem. Finally, tearing his eyes away from the stone, he sized up the girl standing in front of him. “You are too young, Blood Witch. I need skill, not youth to fix the curse placed upon my soul.”
“My gifts contain the strength of spring. I have the abilities to bring about renewal and rebirth. You have nothing to worry about because of my youth.” Evanore smiled and gently touched the dragon’s arm sending shivers into his body.
The dragon’s eyes narrowed. “You look and smell like a human. How do I know if you are a real Blood Witch.”
Evanore peered into the dragon’s eyes. She smiled kindly and lifted the ladle to his lips once more. “Of course I’m human. All witches have a human component. You know that. Besides, I know things about you, Dragon.”
Steam rose in curled mists from the splayed nostrils of the dragon, and he fought to regain control of his breathing. “You know nothing.” A coughing fit stopped the dragon’s words.
Evanore pulled a cloth from the pocket of her dress, and she turned and walked toward a ledge at the other side of the room. Bottles and vials filled with mysterious liquids littered the surface. Studying the contents of various bottles, she selected one whose contents swirled in a dizzying array of colors. The stopper on the vial came off quickly, and Evanore poured the contents onto the cloth. She hurried back to the dragon, whose ragged breathing echoed around the chamber.
“Dragon, breathe this in.” She held the cloth to the dragon’s nostrils, and he inhaled deeply. His breathing improved immediately, and he blinked his snake-like eyes in surprise.
Evanore smiled and dangled the bloodstone in front of his eyes. The stone’s crimson striations moved in a constant motion and flashed red slivers of light on the ceiling of the cave. The dragon met her eyes with a stare that signaled his fear.
“Tell me who placed this curse on you, Dragon. The bloodstone demands the truth.”
The dragon tore his eyes from Evanore’s face. His stare concentrated on the red light emanating from the bloodstone. He began to speak in a voice that seemed disjointed from his normal voice.
“My name is Drac. I’ve hunted these hills and dales for deer and elk for centuries before the humans came. The great wizard, Elwyn, placed this curse on me because the fires in my belly produced a hot, poisonous breath. He said I killed too many humans.” The dragon shuddered and coughed.
“Go on, Drac. Tell me everything. I can’t help you if I don’t know the truth.”
“I was an evil sort and killed humans out of spite.” Drac coughed and sputtered as he spat the words out. Drops of blood spattered his chin. “Because of my evil ways, Elwyn used my own poisonous breath against me. It sits inside my belly and rots me from the inside out.”
Satisfied, Evanore snatched the bloodstone from Drac’s line of sight and tucked it inside her bodice. She paused a moment in deep thought. “Your fate has been changed, Drac. Elwyn made it so that you could never return to your original form. I can stop the poisons that live within your soul but only if you decide to fight the evil and turn towards the light.”
“The light? What do you mean exactly?” Drac swiveled his massive head toward Evanore’s voice.
“I will cast a spell on you that will change your true nature. Instead of killing and poisoning humans, you must do something to help them. Once you fulfill these requirements, I can give you an elixir to stop the poison.”
“But, hunting and killing are all I know. I’m too old now to change. Blood Witch, is this the only way?”
“I fear so, Drac. Remember I told you a Blood Witch can change your fate by transferring your vital energy? If you want to live, this is the only way. You need to decide how you will help the humans. It must be your choice.” Evanore smiled reassuringly at the dragon.
She wiped her hands on her dress and grabbed a stone mortar and pestle from the shelf. Colored bottles hovered in the air and with a flick of her wrist poured the contents into the stone vessel. From her pocket, she withdrew a plant that contained three leaves shaped like hearts.
“This is the sacred shamrock, Drac. It will help to bring your soul to the light.” She crumbled the leaves between her fingers and dropped them into the mortar. From a woven basket in a corner, Evanore retrieved a dried up piece of fruit. “This is a crab apple. The fruit is powerful against poisons.” The dragon’s ragged breathing increased as he watched the girl prepare the elixir. She cut the crab apple into small bits and added them to the concoction. She pressed the pestle against the ingredients crushing and stirring until a frothy liquid appeared.
At long last, she stopped stirring the potion and turned to face the dragon. “Drink this, Drac. It will taste terrible but is necessary to your rebirth.”
The dragon opened his jaws as Evanore poured the elixir down his throat. He gagged but kept the foul tasting liquid from coming back up. “Blood Witch, I know I’ve met my fate. Instead of spewing poison and killing everything in sight, I want you to make it so that water flows from my jaws. I will be able to water the crops of the humans and keep forest fires from ravaging the earth. When there is a drought, I can fill their wells with much-needed water.”
“It is a good choice, Drac. I will make it so.” Evanore held out her left hand and began to chant using ancient words from a time before the dragons. A tiny flame appeared in her palm. As the spark grew, the blaze increased in size. Red flames shot from her hand into the air in an arc toward the dragon’s body, aimed for his heart. A whirlwind of fire, hot and blazing, consumed the dragon’s body. The stench of death filled the air.
A great rumbling of thunder echoed inside the cave. Evanore ran to the exit and crawled outside into the cold dawn. Dark clouds gathered in the sky overhead, and a light rain began to fall. A large cloud drifted close to the ground, and in a booming voice, the dragon once known as Drac spoke.
“I am the storm. My wings beat the air and create thunder, and my tears of remorse fall like rain. ”
Evanore smiled. The first spring thunderstorm of the year rumbled the ground beneath her feet. Spring had finally arrived.
This story was inspired by this post. It’s amazing where you can find writing inspiration. ❤