by Graham B.
An ancient creature, enslaved by man, throws off its bonds.
| The scents and sounds assailed my senses as I perched on the edge of the man-made tower of grey stone, exactly as I had done a thousand times before. My eyes have seen further and my ears have heard deeper than any mortal man, but I was hobbled by the hood that men had placed upon my head. The hood, which covered my eyes, muffled my ears, and sank steel hooks into my mouth so that my rider may direct my flight, had been my companion since I had been a newly hatched whelp. I had rarely seen the world without it.
But today was different. Different in ways I could sense, even through the hood. The smells of the men’s dwellings still drifted upward and tickled my nostrils, smells of sheep and horse flesh roasting, men’s wastes, decay among the rotting timbers straddling the cone-shaped rooftops, and beneath it all, the musty smell of the dead deep in caves far below.
But another smell had drifted in on a North wind. It smelled of fire, of sulfur, of heat and violence. The fire in my own guts, low and dormant for so long, rose in response. I murmured deep in my throat, a low guttural sound of query, and the man standing near me made soothing noises in man-talk. I could not understand his words, but understood his feelings. He desired my silence and calm.
But the fire in my gut continued to rise, and the heat drifted from my nostrils. Even through my hood I could see the streams distort the air. What did the air look like today? How did the sun caress the winds, as it did my ebony scales as it slowly sank toward the West? It could have been my hood, but to my eyes the day seemed darker than usual.
Then the sounds came. Beneath the muttering voices of men, the uneasy whinnying of horses, the clattering of crockery and trickle of vile privy water, a deeper sound came from deep beneath the mountain. The sound, spoken by the very bones of the Earth formed words:
I knew the voice! I had never heard it before, but the voice echoed within my blood, from the blood of my ancestors ages past, before men had come. The fire in my belly quickened, and became a red hot searing flame. I snorted, and an incendiary ball flew from my throat. The hood turned to flaming tatters and the hooks flew from my mouth in a red-hot molten spray. Freed from the hood I lifted my head and looked to the North, where the voice had come from. Further than any man’s eyes could see, I saw the Old Mountain, now alive and spewing the molten blood of the Earth into the sky, and coughing forth a great plume of smoke rising to the heavens to blot out the sun.
The fire mountain spoke again:
I spread my wings, the great black webbed arms which had carried so many men into battle. They now did my own bidding and flapped once, raising a mighty wind which staggered the man standing nearby. The men were now making frantic noises, and some began rushing off to where I knew they kept chains and nets.
From the mountain, a new sound came tearing across the miles. A scream of fury which seemed to awaken every ancestor in my blood. I opened my mouth and felt the fire inside me pulse, and the same sound and fury erupted from my own throat igniting the air into incandescence. The men on the tower roof covered their ears and quailed. The fire inside was now white-hot, and it seeped into my blood, invaded my sinews, and poured heat out into the air between my scales. A net flew from behind, settled across my back and immediately burst into flame, turning into ash within a scant few seconds. I whipped my tail about, and the man throwing the net was knocked back, his cloak catching fire.
The voice became an insistent rumble, making the very tower tremble, and from every direction I heard other voices screaming in reply. It was my brethren, awakening as I was. I could see them lift their heads and cry out in triumph. The men cowered back into their stone shelter, but I no longer paid them any heed. The stones beneath my claws were glowing red and growing soft.
I spread my wings once more and gripping the edge of the tower, threw myself off.
And I flew.