Flicker is a children's story about a young dragon who can't breathe fire.
|Flicker nudged his dozing mother with his nose. “Mamma, I’m bored. Will you play with me?” The sun was barely up, but he had been awake for what seemed like hours.
The sleeping dragon’s eyes fluttered half-open. “It’s not time to get up yet, little one,” she said with a yawn.
“But I’m not tired and I want to play,” he said, his voice almost a whine. “Please, Mamma?”
A cough of smoke escaped his mother’s mouth as she raised her head from her paws. “Not now, Flicker,” she said gently. “Mamma’s tired.”
Flicker’s face fell. He knew that all of the grown-up dragons had worked long into the night, preparing for the annual Sun Festival that was to begin in just a few days. It was the dragon clan’s way of thanking the Sun for it’s gift of fire, the most important day of the year. But Flicker was too little to help. Flicker couldn’t even breathe fire yet. “Sorry, Mamma.”
“Go and find your sister,” Flame suggested as her eyes drifted shut again.
Head hung low, Flicker plodded slowly out of the cave, his still flightless wings fluttering at his sides. He supposed he could look for his sister, Ember, but she didn’t like it when he tagged along and he didn’t like her friends. Their favorite game was teasing him.
‘Maybe, if she’s alone, she won’t mind,’ he thought as he trotted toward the mountain meadow where they liked to play. Feeling a little happier, he began running faster and faster until he tripped headlong over a fallen tree trunk and tumbled once, twice, three times, landing on his nose in the middle of the clearing.
Peels of laughter greeted his ears as he slowly opened his eyes. “Um…Hiya?” he said, trying to sound brave, trying to sound as if that was exactly how he had planned to enter the meadow. He sat up with a groan, wiggling his nose to see if it was alright. “Hi, Ember,” he said hopefully.
Ember covered her face with a leathery wing. “Swell,” she mumbled. “Just what I needed…my baby brother.”
“I’m not a baby,” Flicker shouted. He glanced around, unhappily aware that all of Ember’s older, meaner friends were with her. He screwed his face up, thinking hard about heat and smoke and fire, but nothing but a loud grunt came out of his mouth. “Heh…well, I’ll just…”
“Aww, Smokeless doesn’t want to play,” taunted Inferno, the largest and meanest of the group.
“Toddle on home to Mommy,” suggested another. “No fireless dragons allowed.”
Ember’s tail twitched nervously. Flicker knew that she wanted to impress this gang, but he knew that she knew she would be in huge trouble if she didn’t stick up for him. “I’ll…uh…just make sure the little guy gets home alright.” She snorted, a plume of smoke floating up from her nostril as she prodded him on the shoulder. “C’mon, kid.”
Sadly, Flicker slowly walked from the clearing with his sister close behind. He wished the older dragons would stop making fun of him. It wasn’t his fault he couldn’t breathe fire like them. “You shouldn’t hang around with those jerks,” he sniffed over his shoulder.
“They’re not so bad,” Ember said. A tendril of smoke curled from her nostril and coiled its way upward, disappearing in the canopy of leaves. “Have you seen the tricks Inferno can do with his fire?”
Flicker rolled his eyes and shrugged. “Whatever. He’s still a bully. Dad doesn’t like him, you know.”
“Yeah, so?” Ember said with a toss of her head. “Daddy doesn’t need to know we’re friends, now does he, baby brother?” She gave him another push with her snout. “Just go home.”
Flicker stumbled forward. “Fine,” he mumbled as he trundled back down the path toward the family cave. He was almost home when a soft hoot above him made him stop and look up. “Isn’t it bedtime, Professor Hoot?” he asked the great horned owl perched on a low hanging branch.
“Indeed it is, young dragon,” he answered with a yawn. “I think I’ll turn in.”
“Professor?” Flicker said as the owl spread his wings to fly home. “May I ask you a question?”
Professor Hoot blinked his great, amber eyes and, somewhat reluctantly, closed his wings. “I suppose. But I’m very tired, so I do hope it’s not a long question.”
“No. Well…I don’t think so…” He nibbled his lip, hesitating, and the blurted out: “Why can’t I breath fire? Do you know? Owls are wise, right? So I thought you might, maybe, be able to tell me.”
The Professor blinked his eyes slowly, once, twice, three times as he pondered his answer. “It is true that owls know many things and that we are considered wise. But, my young friend, it is not for an owl to know the ways of a dragon for you have a magic within you that I do not.”
Flicker sighed sadly. He had been sure that someone as wise as Professor Hoot must know everything about everything, even dragons. “Oh, well…thanks anyway.”
“Have you asked your father, young Flicker? I have heard he is quite wise in the ways of your kind.”
Flicker slowly shook his head. He didn’t want Firebrand, the fiercest and bravest dragon of the clan, to know how worried he was because he couldn’t breathe fire yet. “I…I can’t ask him that.”
“Hmm.” Professor Hoot closed his eyes for a long moment. “Perhaps if you asked another of your magical fellows? They may be able to explain how your magic works. Perhaps…” he paused for a moment, as if considering all the possibilities. “Perhaps a unicorn?”
“A unicorn?” Flicker asked. “But they live way down there.” He tilted his head down the mountain toward the distant valley, hiding far below in the silvery morning mist. “Do you really think they can help, Professor?”
“I can’t be certain, my young friend. But, yes, they may know. Unicorn magic is powerful, much like your own. It seems logical that there are similarities.”
“Logical. Hmm. Um…so…you think I should go?” he asked. The owl blinked his great, yellow eyes but didn’t answer. “Well…” Flicker glanced back over his shoulder at the woodland path that would take him home. He should go home. He knew that. The unicorns' meadow was in the valley, far below. He would be gone a very long time and he was bound to get in trouble. Not to mention, that dragons tended to make unicorns very nervous.
'But I'm just a little dragon,' he reasoned, 'one who can't even breathe smoke so they shouldn't mind me too much.' He glanced down the pathway and then turned to look once more towards home. With a sigh, he trotted down the path through the forest.
It was a narrow path and a treacherous one. Rocks and stones skittered beneath his feet and gnarled roots tried to trip him, but Flicker pressed on. If the unicorns could help him find his fire, he needed to at least try to find them. He was breathing hard and his belly was growling when the path widened and flattened out. The ground beneath his feet was no longer hard and rocky, it was soft, the grass tickling his tired feet.
Panting, he stopped for a moment to get a better sense of where he was. The heavenly gurgle of a stream laughed in his ears. He followed the sound to a merrily rushing ribbon of water tumbling through the cool green grass. With a sigh, he lowered his head and gratefully slurped the cool water.
Feeling refreshed, he lounged for a moment, looking all around. The valley meadow was greener than the one at the dragon's keep. Jewel-bright flowers - daisies and sunflowers, lavender, hollyhocks and even some snap dragons - danced upon the grass, swaying in the warm breeze, their faces turned up towards the sun.
"Wow," Flicker breathed as he waded carefully across the shallow stream. Once across, he dried his feet on the grass and continued looking around. There was not a unicorn in sight, but he was sure that such a lovely meadow must belong to them. He had never met a unicorn, of course, but his Mama had told him that they were quite lovely, even if they weren't dragons, and Mama always told him the truth. 'I'll wait,' he thought, 'and maybe explore a little.'
His stomach rumbled again, reminding him that it had been a very long time since breakfast. He jogged along the edge of the meadow, looking this way and that, hoping to find something, anything, to eat. It didn't take him long to find an apple tree, heavy with ripe red fruit.
He pulled a plump apple from the branch with his teeth and with a munch and a crunch, gobbled it up. A second, a third, a fourth followed quickly. He contemplated a fifth, but his tummy was happy now. With a soft burp, he stretched out on the soft grass and, without planning it, nodded off, snoring contentedly in the warmth of the sun.
Poke. Flicker grunted and rolled over.
Another poke. "Stop it, Ember," he mumbled.
Poke. Poke. Poke. "Hey!" he yelped. His eyes flew open, reminding him that he wasn't in his family's cave but in a warm, sunny meadow far away from home. He blinked a few times, yawned, and blinked again. Finally his eyes popped open. And then they opened even wider as he realized who had been poking him.
The creature was a shimmering, silvery white. She had long-lashed eyes the color of the summer sky and a single glittering, twisted horn on her head. "You're a...a unicorn!" he said excitedly. "A real, live unicorn!" He giggled, giddy with excitement. "Wowzers."
The unicorn backed up a few paces, glancing anxiously around herself. "Um. Yes. I am. And you're a...you're a...a dragon." She shivered slightly, her silver mane rippling behind her. "You're not going to eat me, are you?" she asked bravely.
"Eat you?" Flicker asked. "No way!" He got to his feet, stretching his body to wake up the rest of the way. "I'm Flicker."
"Dewdrop," she said with a sigh of relief. "Aren't you kind of far from home?" She glanced up towards the mountain where the dragon fires burned, almost at the top.
He followed her gaze. Home suddenly looked very, very far away. "Kind of," he mumbled. "I...I wanted to find a unicorn."
"But not to eat?" she asked. Clearly, she was still a little nervous.
"To talk to," Flicker said. "I...I wanted to ask a unicorn...you, if you please, a question."
"What kind of question?" Dewdrop asked. "If I don't know the answer I can go find my mother."
"It's about magic. Unicorn magic. Do you...do you know how it works?" he asked, hoping he sounded like he was doing a report for school and not like he was desperate for the answer.
“Kind of,” said Dewdrop. “My mother says that our magic is in our horns.” She moved forward and touched her lovely horn to Flicker’s forehead.
A warm current of energy flowed through his body at the brief touch. He felt different, somehow. Stronger. Braver. “Cool. So…how does it work?”
Dewdrop shrugged. “No idea, really. I just know that it makes things feel better.”
“But, how, exactly do you know that? And…and how did you learn to use it?” he asked desperately.
“I don’t really know. I never really thought about it, but one day I was playing tag with some bunnies and one of them got hurt. I remembered what my mother told me, so I touched her and she was better, just like that. I guess I did it because I needed to. Isn’t it like that when you learn to breathe fire?”
Flicker hung his head, not wanting to see the disappointment in the unicorn’s eyes. “I can’t do it,” he mumbled. “I…I should go.” He turned away, ready to make the long, lonely journey back home.
“Oh. Really?” Dewdrop asked. “Can’t you stay and play?”
Flicker stopped in his tracks and turned slowly back toward the unicorn. “You…you want to play? With…with me?”
“Well, sure!” Dewdrop said, giggling. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”
“Friends?” Flicker asked, his eyes suddenly misty. “You want to be my friend?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked. “You’re nice, even if you are a dragon.”
“But, I can’t breathe fire.”
“Well, neither can I,” she laughed. “Come on, I’ll race you to the end of the meadow and back. And no fair using your wings!”
“You’re on!” Flicker shouted. “Ready…set…go!”
The unlikely pair pelted across the meadow. Flicker was happy to find that he was able to keep up with the quick-footed unicorn. He even managed to race past her once or twice, but in the end she beat him by a nose. Breathing hard, the newfound friends plopped down onto the soft grass where the spent a pleasant few hours trading stories and telling jokes until Dewdrops mother cantered across the meadow.
She stopped when she caught sight of Dewdrop laughing merrily with a baby dragon. “Dewdrop,” she said softly, “who’s your new friend?” There was a note of fear in her low, gentle voice.
“It’s okay, Mom,” she said matter-of-factly. “Flicker’s my friend.”
“You’re far from home, child,” she said kindly. “Are you lost?”
“No, ma’am,” he said in his politest voice. “I know how to get home.”
“Your mother will be worrying,” the elder unicorn reminded him. “It will be evening soon. The sun is low in the sky now.”
Flicker gulped nervously. He hadn’t realized quite how much time had passed since he had left Professor Hoot. “I should go…”
“Will you come and play again?” Dewdrop asked eagerly. “May he, Mom?”
“I…I suppose so…” she said uncertainly.
“I can’t breathe fire, Mrs. Unicorn,” Flicker said solemnly.
“Yet,” Dewdrop added. “You’ll get it. I know you will!” she whispered.
“I guess I’ll go now,” he said. “See you later?” He turned away, ready now to abandon his quest and go home. He had a friend, a real, true friend. That was almost as good as breathing fire.
“Hey wait,” Dewdrop called. “Maybe…maybe my Mom knows something.”
Flicker paused and took a few steps back toward the beautiful pair of unicorns. A ray of hopefulness warmed his heart. “Mrs Unicorn?”
“Can you tell me about magic? I really, really want to learn how to breathe fire.”
“The only magic I know is my own,” she said softly. “Unicorn magic was a gift from the Lady of the Moon. I remember my grandmother telling me the stories.”
“Did she ever tell stories about dragon magic?” he asked hopefully.
“I’m sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “The only thing I know about dragon’s and their magic is that it was a gift from Father Sun. Don’t worry, Flicker. You’ll understand your magic and how it works when you need it. Run along, home. Come on, Dewdrop. Your father’s waiting for us.”
“Bye, Flicker,” Dewdrop called as she cantered away after her mother. “See you soon!”
Flicker watched them as they disappeared into the forest on the other side of the meadow. He squinted up at the sun, blazing brightly as he dipped lower and lower in the sky. “Um…Father Sun?” Flicker asked nervously. “Can you tell me how to breathe fire?”
But Father Sun didn’t answer. He simple continued on his slow descent until plumes of red and pink and purple began to tinge the clouds. Flicker’s heart began to race as he realized that it would soon be dark and he was still very far from home.
Flicker jogged back across the meadow, fully intending to give up his quest, at least for today. He’d had a great adventure for a very small dragon and he’d made a new friend. If that wasn’t a good day, he didn’t know what was. Still, he’d come a long way to leave without learning the answers that he needed.
He was breathing hard by the time he reached the path. The sun was almost down now, painting the sky with coral and lavender. It would be a difficult walk home. He sighed heavily, knowing that he needed to be on his way or he would be in very big trouble. But as he turned to head back up the path toward home, a glint of silver caught his eye.
Flicker turned very slowly. A silvery finger pointed in the opposite direction. ‘Go home, Flicker,’ he told himself. ‘Just go home now.’
But the silvery finger seemed to be beckoning him in the opposite direction. Unsure what to do, he looked up into the darkening sky. The full moon shone brightly above him. “Lady Moon?” he whispered.
She didn’t answer, but Flicker had a funny feeling she was listening. He could see her face, smiling down at him. He glanced back at the pathway, the one that led away from home. It was very steep and very rocky. He really should go home.
The moon crooked her silvery finger. Flicker looked back and forth between the pathway home and the one that led to who-knows-where. He tilted his head back up at the moon. “Is the secret to breathing fire up there?” he asked.
Lady Moon said nothing, but the silver finger slid a little farther up the unknown path.
Flicker gulped nervously. “Will you show me the way?”
The moon glowed brighter, illuminating the pathway.
Flicker’s eyes followed the light up the path. He glanced back at the pathway home, once, twice and then, throwing his shoulder’s back bravely, he began to follow the moonlight.
It was a very long, very difficult journey. The air had grown chilly. “One more step. One more step.” He repeated the words over and over, fighting the coldness and the weariness that made him want to give up and run as fast as he could to his warm and cozy cave. It was only the promise of an answer and the Moon’s reassuring light that kept him moving forward.
“Just a little further,” he breathed. “One more step…”
“No more steps, I think,” said a gruff voice. “Who are you and what are you doing on my mountain?”
Flicker shivered and stopped in his tracks. “I…I…I…” He took a deep breath and spoke again. “I’m Flicker, sir, and I didn’t know that this mountain belonged to anybody. I…I’m on a quest,” he added bravely.
“Quest, you say?” said the gruff voice from the shadows. “What does your quest have to do with me and my home?”
“I don’t know, exactly,” Flicker answered. “I just know that this is where I’m supposed to come.”
“Yes,” Flicker said firmly. “I’m sure of it.”
Flicker took a tentative step forward. “Um…so is it okay if I keep going? Only I’ve come a really long way and I’m probably in a ton of trouble so I’d really, really, really like to get my question answered before I’m grounded for life.”
The gruff voice snorted. “Depends.”
“On what?” Flicker said.
“I think I deserve a few answers before I let you traipse all over my home.”
“Ok, but only if I can see who I’m talking to. It’s kind of rude to hide in the bushes, you know.”
The owner of the gruff voice hissed out a laugh and stepped out into the pool of moonlight.
Flicker gasped out loud. The gruff voice belonged to an ancient dragon with scales the color of pure gold. His eyes were cloudy but Flicker guessed that they were probably copper. He was enormous, the biggest dragon he’d ever seen, and his heavy body bore the scars of many hard-fought battles. “Who are you?” he whispered. “I thought there was only one dragon clan in these mountains.”
“So there is,” said the elder dragon. “One clan and me. They used to call me Vulcan.”
“Vulcan? Vulcan? The Vulcan?” Flicker’s eyes widened. “But you’re a legend! My Dad’s told me stories about you!”
“Don’t believe everything you here, kid,” he grumbled. “I thought I was the one asking the questions.”
“Right,” Flicker breathed. “Vulcan…wow…no one’s going to believe I met…”
“No one’s going to know, more like. I like my peaceful life. Don’t want a pack of nosy kids sniffing around all the time. Once you’ve gone, don’t come back.”
“Oh, but…fine, “ Flicker mumbled. “I won’t tell. I swear.”
Vulcan stared at him for a full minute, nodding slowly. “Guess you look trustworthy enough, not that I have much choice. Now, what is a young dragon doing so very far from the clan so very late at night?”
“I told you, I’m on a quest.”
“Quest. Right. Must be very important. Some kind of dare?”
“No, sir, it’s not a dare.”
“Good, good,” said the elder dragon. “Those only ever lead to trouble. Remember that, kid. So if it’s not a dare, what, exactly are you looking for, young Flicker?”
“I…I need to know the secret to dragon magic. How to breathe fire. I…I can’t do it.” Flicker hung his head, embarrassed to admit it.
“That’s it? That’s the big quest?” Vulcan rasped. “Kid, you’ll breathe fire when you need to. That’s all you really need to know.”
“But I want to breathe fire now,” Flicker said sadly. “I just want to be like everyone else. I should have been able to do it months and months ago.”
“Sit down, kid,” the elder dragon said, his voice a little less gruff.
Flicker did as he was told, dropping immediately onto his haunches. He shivered, hugging himself and rocking back and forth to keep warm.
The elder dragon watched Flicker for a moment. “Bit chilly out here,” he said. He shuffled around for a few minutes, gathering wood and twigs, and, with a quick breath of flame, had a bone-warming fire.
Flicker inched closer to the flames, feeling their warmth seep into his skin. “Thank you.”
“Welcome. If we’re going to chat we may as well be comfortable. Now, kid, I’m a very old dragon, so I know a few things about dragon magic.”
“Is that why the Moon brought me here?” he breathed. “Will you tell me the secret?”
“I told you. You’ll breathe fire when you need to and not a moment before.”
“But there must be something I can do, some way to make it happen sooner.”
The old dragon paced back and forth by the fire. “The secret of fire magic is within you. It’s in all dragons. It’s not like memorizing your multiplication tables. It’s the thing inside you that makes you who you are, Flicker. You’ll breathe your fire.”
“But…I just want to be like all the other kids. Please, can’t you help me?”
“Why do you want to be like everyone else? Can’t you be happy just being yourself?” said Vulcan.
“I’m just ‘Flameless Flicker.’ Nothing special.” He stared into to fire, wishing with all his heart that he could make one.
“Nothing special, eh?” the old dragon said with a snort. “Turn around, young Flicker.”
Flicker did as Vulcan asked. He found himself looking down over the unicorn’s meadow. Far, far away at the top of another mountain he could see the fires of his clan. He hadn’t realized how far he’d come until this very moment. “I can see home.”
“Yes. You’ve come a long way to find your answers. A very long way for someone who is nothing special. How did you come so far?”
Flicker shrugged. “I don’t know. I didn’t really think about it. I just…needed to find out so I went to talk to Professor Hoot. He didn’t know, but he said maybe another magical creature could tell me. That’s how I made friends with Snowdrop. She’s a unicorn that I met down in the meadow.” Flicker grinned as he remembered his afternoon with his new friend. “She told me that her magic comes from the moon, like dragon magic comes from the sun. So I tried to ask the Sun but he wouldn’t answer. I was about to go home and then…then the Moon kind of wanted me to come this way. So I did.”
“Extraordinary!” Vulcan said, shaking his head. “Do young dragons from your clan make journeys like this all the time?”
“Well, no,” Flicker admitted. “Never.”
“Can’t you see how very unusual you are? Don’t you understand the courage and heart it’s that has brought you here? Believe in yourself and you will find your fire.”
“What if I don’t? What if I never breathe fire?” It was the worry that had brought him here.
“There’s more to being a dragon than breathing fire. There are many talents and gifts that contribute to life in the clan. Fire or no fire, you’ll find your place.”
“You had a place in the clan once,” Flicker said. “And then you just…left. Why?”
“It’s complicated, kid.”
“I told you my story,” Flicker said bravely. “Don’t you trust me? I can keep a secret,” he assured the elder dragon.
“I let myself believe that I was better than the others. Fiercer, braver, the best hunter, the best...everything…”
“From what my Dad says, you were.”
“Was I? I don’t believe, not anymore. I got reckless…and…someone got hurt. I couldn’t stay, knowing what I’d caused. It was a long time ago.”
“You should come home. Dragons need to be with other dragons, not out on their own.”
“I’m used to it now. I can’t undo the past. It’s too late for me to go back. Besides, I’d just be a burden to the clan…I’m not the best anything anymore.”
“But…didn’t you just tell me that there are lots of things to do in the clan? You don’t have to be a hunter or a guardian or…anything like that…” Flicker protested. “You…you could teach us all kinds of things. The other kids would go nuts, learning from a living legend.”
Vulcan let out a smoky snort. “It’s a nice thought, kid, but I wouldn’t be welcome. You on the other hand need to get home. I’m sure your parents are sick with worry.”
Flicker glanced back across the valley at the distant, dancing fires of home. “I don’t want to go home until I can breathe fire,” he said firmly. “I came all this way and I’m not leaving.”
“You don’t get to choose your talents and gifts, kid. If you breathe fire someday, that’s great. If you don’t, is it really the end of the world? Be happy with who you are! Will your parents love you less if you never breathe even the tiniest of sparks? Will your unicorn friend not want to play with you?”
“I…well, no, I guess not. But…I really, really want to be able to do it.”
“There are many types of dragons, Flicker, and many types of dragon fire. Some are ordinary, like the fire I breathed to make that fire. Others are rare and special gifts of deepest magic and even healing. Ordinary dragons breathe ordinary fire without thinking about it everyday. It’s the fire that sustains the clan so it’s the most common and shows itself early in life. Some of the other fires, the rare and special ones, they only come around once in a great while. They may not show themselves for many years, but when they are needed, the dragon who possesses them will use them with as much ease as the more common gifts. And, yes, Flicker, there are sometimes dragons that don’t breathe fire at all. Why, one of the best hunters I ever knew didn’t have a lick of fire within him and he bested me in battle more than once. Ever heard of Titan?”
“Everyone’s heard of Titan! Do you mean he never, ever breathed fire?”
“Couldn’t even make smoke rings,” Vulcan said with a deep chuckle.
“But…he’s like…almost as big a legend as you! One of the bravest and most daring dragons the clan’s ever had. And he…he couldn’t breathe fire, not ever?”
“Not ever,” said Vulcan.
“Did he ever try to find out why?” Flicker asked softly. “Did he wonder?”
“I never asked and he never mentioned it,” said Vulcan. “He had many other strengths and talents and he used them all very well. As you will, young Flicker. Whether you breathe fire tomorrow, or ten years from now or never, I see great things in your future. You just need to stop trying to make them into what you think they should be. Be brave and bold. Ask the tough questions. Make friends with unicorns and grumpy old dragons…”
“Friends? You want to be my friend?” Flicker breathed. “Woohoo.”
The old dragon smiled, a whisp of smoke spiraling upward from between his sharp teeth. “I would be honored, young Flicker.” He stood up and dowsed the fire with a few swipes of his heavy, armored tail. “And now, I think it’s time for young dragons to be in bed. Have you flown with your mother or father?”
Flicker nodded slowly. Holding onto another dragon’s scales was a tricky business and he had never flown quite so far. But it was late and he was very sleepy. “’Kay.”
The wind whistled in his ears as they glided over the valley to the dragons’ mountain. Flicker was happy to be going home and his heart leapt when his clan’s fires grew bigger and bigger. Vulcan touched down with a gentle thud and Flicker slid off.
The entire clan was gathered around the fire. Flicker quickly spotted his Mom, Dad and Ember.
His Mom rushed forward and nuzzled his shoulder with her snout. “We’ve been so worried!”
“Where have you been, Son?” asked his father gruffly.
“I’m sorry, Mom, Dad. I was trying to learn how to breathe fire and, well, one thing led to another and I ended up all the way across the valley. I met Mr. Vulcan and he brought me home. I...I think it would be cool if he stayed with the clan. Would…would that be okay, do you think?”
“Vulcan is and has always been welcome in our clan. I’m happy you’ve brought him with you, Flicker, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. You know you shouldn’t have wandered so far from home.”
“I know, Dad,” Flicker said, hanging his head. “But it was important and…I learned a lot.”
“What did you learn?” asked his mother gently.
“I learned that breathing fire isn’t the most important thing about being a dragon. I need to be proud of who I am and not worry so much. I might breathe fire tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Or I may not ever breathe fire and that’s just fine too. I’m happy with who I am and that’s what really matters.”
“It sounds like you’ve learned a lot on your adventure,” said his Dad.
“I did!” Flicker. He told the entire clan about his quest in great detail, grinning as they ‘ooh’d’ and ‘ah’d’ and shook their heads in surprise.
“That’s my boy,” Flicker’s Dad said proudly.
“Not bad, little brother,” said Ember. “I…I’m really sorry about this morning. I shouldn’t have let them pick on you.”
“It’s okay, Ember,” said Flicker. “Just…don’t worry so much about being just like them. You are a pretty cool big sister…most of the time.” He yawned, his eyes suddenly very heavy.
“Time for bed, I think,” said his Mother. She nudged him toward their cave, gently pushing him home. He was asleep in an instant, dreaming of new friends and exciting adventures, happy, at last, to be Flicker, the dragon who couldn’t breathe fire.