Magic Words Contest Entry /2190 words/List 1 & 2
Byron woke to the scent of a cool breeze coming in through his window, the diaphanous curtains wafting into his bed chamber on puffs of air tainted with the smell of the sea. He rose from his pallet, donned his robes, and went to the window to view the day. After pushing the delicate window dressing to the side, he placed his hands on his hips, standing akimbo as he breathed in the invigorating freshness of the morning air. “I wonder if I’ll see that Wyrm today,” he thought aloud.
Amaranth had not been around for days. This was not something the young wizard was used to, and it weighed heavy on his mind. He had found the young dragon when he was not too far developed from when he had hatched, and had tended to him until he was grown enough to fend for himself. It was a daily ritual for Byron to go out to the edge of the cliff, on which his cabin sat, and watch the beautiful creature wing his way in for a graceful landing before greeting his surrogate father with affection. His playfulness, and humor, often left the wizard needing to change into dry robes, but it was a part of the Wyrm’s character that Byron enjoyed. Although, he would never admit this to the adolescent serpent as he scolded him for the retting.
Amaranth’s mother had sacrificed herself for the good of the kingdom, fighting to maintain the border and fend off invaders. Byron had been there when she passed. It had happened during the season of the popping flowers. It was a time when Mother Nature was waking from her slumber, the days were getting warmer, and all the world seemed to spring back to life, and this magnificent creature lay dying in the middle of battle. The irony had not been wasted on the wizard, and he found it impossible to remain obdurate to her last struggle to hold onto life. Her pleas, as she cried out in mental anguish, were to beg for someone to watch over her only hatchling. “Please,” she called, “my young one!”
In the aftermath of war, most of the other wizards, as well as the majority of the generals, showed a sense of insouciance towards the plight of the desperate mother. They had their own posthumous rituals to attend to, and a wayward dragon; infant or otherwise; was not foremost on their minds. Byron, however, could not get the sound of the dying serpent’s cries out of his mind. “Please!” echoed through his mind, over and over. He had to find her nest and tend to her child. There was no question.
As soon as the young wizard had been released from service to the king’s troops, he went in search of Gaetane’s den. There he found a bumbling boy dragon crying for his mother. No mother to be found, and only knowing solitude, the infant had tried to hide from Byron, but it was not that difficult for the hatchling to be found in his nest. With a bit of coaxing, and a nice chunk of lamb, the wizard was able to get the little one to emerge. “Come on,” he cajoled, “I’m not going to hurt you,” as he held the slab of meat at arm’s length so the youngling could smell what he had to offer.
Once he had drawn the dragon out of the shadows of the cave, the light of the sun revealed shimmering opalesque scales that reflected differing shades from green to indigo, with the fluctuating hues coalescing to display a very handsome young specimen. It was the main theme of a lavender glint, however, that caused Byron to name the Wyrm Amaranth.
Byron thanked the creator, Abijah, that the creature was already able to walk. If Amaranth were without that ability, he would have had to find a cart with which to tote the little one home. The term little only applied to this infant as it came to terms of dragons, and would be humorous if applied to any other animal of his size.
The child was about the size of a full grown plow horse, and would not be easy to carry had he not been as mobile as he was. As it were, the wizard was able to fashion a tether around Amaranth’s neck and lead him down the path. Amaranth followed along, happily, urged on with bits of meat to lure. He was no longer alone, hungry, and scared, and although he was, as of yet, unable to communicate in words, his emotional emanations were of curiosity and the joy of discovery.
The trek from the cavernous den that had held the dragon’s nest inside was long and arduous. Amaranth tired easily, as all growing infants do, and they had to stop for frequent periods of rest each day. Just as well, the little one’s bumbling stride caused Byron’s horse much dismay, and the pair were thrown off balance more than once. However, once the animals came to be more familiar with one another, they learned how to compensate and stay on their feet. Byron’s sturdy mount even displayed a certain fondness, for Amaranth, over the course of their journey.
Byron was exhausted by the time they had climbed the incline to his cliff-side abode at the end of two weeks travel, and he slept long on the night of their arrival. He did not, however, allow himself this leisure until after he had settled horse, and dragon, in the security of his open stable attached on the lee side of his home. The horse had been brushed to whisk away the sweat resulting from the ride, the youngling had been wiped down to clear away any road dust from around his scales, and both had been left with enough water and provender to see them through until the next day. “Rest well,” he told them both as he turned to attend to his own needs.
During the war, Byron had noticed that their enemies treated dragons as animals. They whipped them, tortured them, and beat them into obeisance. They would even immolate one, on occasion, to maintain fear in the others. Therefore, it was a lucky thing for Byron, and Amaranth, that the people of their realm were able to recognize the intelligence, and the majestic beauty, in the dragons. It was even considered a boon, and a blessing, to have one as a part of your community. Their fearsome size, fierce loyalty, and amazing natural weaponry, tended to cause pause to anyone that even thought to harm someone within a Wyrm’s scope of family. For these reasons, the people of the wizard’s village were more than happy to help provide for the little one’s needs, and there was no need to worry about any machination to harm him.
Amaranth grew strong quickly. He thrived in the open air, and thrilled to the attentions bestowed on him by the people. The children of the village would visit him often, bringing him extra treats and tidbits from their own meals. His trove of treasures built up nicely. Although it consisted of, mainly, pebbles, children’s toys, and trinkets the children had fashioned by hand, it was an impressive stash. The Wyrm thrilled every time he heard the happy chatter, and giggling, as the younglings approached his own, personal, nest.
One of the children’s favorite things to do was to secret away parts of their dinners they disliked, dash up the road to Byron’s cabin, and give them to the dragon before their parents realized what was going on. Said parents, of course, knew that their younglings were doing this, but they said nothing in protest. It was a game that was enjoyed by all.
These memories, and more, combined to beleaguer Byron’s mind with scenarios as he stood on the cliff in hopes of catching sight of those graceful wings as Amaranth came winging home. There were very few things that would keep the young dragon away this long, and not all of them were pleasant. The wizard tried not to focus on such things, but his love for the dragon denied such optimism. His worry grew with each passing moment. One night away was one thing, but two nights, two mornings, and a third night coming up was too much.
It could be that the Wyrm had flown too far, in exploration, and had been forced to rest before heading back. It would not have been the first time, as his young charge was wont to wander. It could not, however, be that he was lost, because dragons could fly high enough to see the lay of the land for miles. They also had keen directional abilities, which they were born with, that allowed them to always be able to find their ways home.
Amaranth, Byron considered, could have flown too low, over the bordering realm, and been harmed by a thrown spear. This was unlikely. The war had been over for years. Yet, the memories of how the enemy troops had treated their dragons was right on the edge of his thoughts, and the wizard couldn’t help but wonder if all the people of that land suffered the same ignorance.
”Where are you, you big bird!?!” Byron cried out over the cliff. The endearment pulled at his heart strings, and caused a sob to catch in the wizard’s throat, as he recalled the first time it was used.
As with any developing child, communication came at its own pace. At first there were just sounds that attempted to be words, then there were partial words. These were followed by actual words, individually at first, which would eventually combine into phrases. When those first words began to be understood, Amaranth called him, as everyone else did, by addressing him as either “wizard” or “Byron”. It was a joy the first time the man heard his name emerge in the draconian dialect. He smiled every time he was called. However, if hearing his name had made him smile, hearing the young dragon call him “father” had thrilled his heart and made it sing.
”Why do you call me father, now, after you are over half grown?” he asked the Wyrm.
”Because that’s what you are to me,” was the simple logic of his “child”.
While his heart soared with love and appreciation for the gesture, he could not let Amaranth know how he was feeling inside. He did not want to be called “father” simply because that was the position he had filled in the dragon’s life. He wanted to be called “father” because the adolescent had those familial feelings toward him. The bond of parent to child was a special one, and unless the bond was felt, the word was meaningless. Byron certainly felt the bond on his part, but he wanted to make sure the Wyrm understood, and felt the bond, as well.
”I cannot be your father, youngling. I am not a dragon,” he insisted.
”It matters not, ‘father’,” Amaranth insisted. “You are the one raising me, are you not?”
”I am,” Byron acceded. “But,” he continued, “Anyone can raise a Wyrm when assisted by an entire village.”
”The village brings me food, yes,” the young dragon agreed, “and the children come to play, but they are not the ones who rescued me, brought me to their home, and claimed me as their own. They’re not the ones here, teaching me, guiding me, and worrying about me when I go astray. You are,” he finished.
”And this is your definition of a ‘father’?” Byron wanted to know.
”Yes, it is.”
”Well, then,” emotion swelling in his chest, “I guess that would make me your ‘father’. But,” the wizard added with slyness, “If you get to call me father, I get to call you ‘big bird’.”
Puzzled by this last, Amaranth tilted his head to the side in query. “But, I am not a bird.”
”But, you can fly like one, can you not?” Byron asked with a smile.
”Yes, but that doesn’t make me one,” Amaranth insisted.
”I know,” the man agreed. “Being able to do the same thing a bird does doesn’t make you a bird any more than being able to do the things a father would do makes me your ‘father’. But,” he added, “I accept the title in the tone, and feeling of love, it is offered. Thus, you will accept the endearment I have thought of for you.”
Dragons, not being able to smile as a person would, emanated happy emotion instead. This feeling washed over the wizard, and although it was tinged with a bit of confusion, it was a welcome one. Amaranth may not completely understand his reasoning, at the moment, but he would in time. And, in time, he would come to love the nickname given to him by his ‘father’.
As this memory faded, a new one began to emerge, but before it could blossom into a full blown reminisce, Byron caught sight of a dark spot in the sky. “Father!” The dragon’s voice cried out. It was as if this last recollection had called him back home. Joy filled the wizard’s heart, and he fell to his knees with relief. His child was home.