A Moonlight Swim
A Dragon’s Perspective Chapter 3
This is the third chapter in A Dragon’s Perspective, if you haven’t read the others you can find them here.
…various shimmering metals coated the sides of the cavern, melted into the stone by dragon fire. Still more gold, precious jewels and minerals were piled at the bottom of the lake, adding to the ever-dancing light show created by the moonlight’s reflections…
A dark fantasy short story following Kehfre, a young dragon who is returning from a tiring day of flying through a storm and hunting with her father. She is welcomed by her mother, who treats her injuries. But something’s happening in the world. And this perfect scene can’t last forever.
©2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED James Lee Aarwen LLC.
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Kehfre looked toward their cave, fast approaching. The moon was high in the sky, the scent of rain lingered in the chilly night air, mixing with the nightly dew of the forest below. Kehfre’s breaths were rapid and uneven. Her neck throbbed. Broken scales stabbed and pinched with every flap of her wings. Her muscles burned with fatigue.
[Almost there, you can make it.] Her father’s words echoed the desperate thoughts of motivation repeating in Kehfre’s mind. Their mountain refuge was so close, yet so far away.
Kehfre dropped into a glide. She relaxed in relief at the sight of their cave. Kehfre’s mother waited at the mouth of the cave, her bright white scales glowing in the moonlight. She took off from the mouth of their cave, rocketing toward them. Her mother met them in the air, circling around them a few times before settling into a glide by their side. Her wingspan was much longer than that of Kehfre’s father, her body narrow and regal.
“Kerade,” her mother roared, glaring at her father. “What happened?”
[Sämër, there’s no need to worry. A jumper attacked Kehfre while she was hunting. She fended it off extraordinarily well for her first battle.] Kehfre smirked at her father’s defensive tone. She looked at her mother, eager to judge her reaction. Her wing muscles on her wounded side spasmed, drawing her wing in. She dropped several feet before the spasm stopped. Kehfre’s heart raced. She returned her focus forward, regaining altitude with her parents. She closed her eyes, forcing deep, timed breaths with her wings.
[She was stung, but not before she crippled the beast. I would have stepped in if it were necessary.]
Sämër positioned herself underneath Kehfre and rose, lifting her.
Kehfre knew her father would protest, but she folded her wings, collapsing against her mother’s smooth scales. She sighed, reveling in the much-needed chance to rest her wings. “At least Father brought you food,” Kehfre whispered to her mother as they neared the clearing outside of their cave.
Sämër huffed in response, glancing at the gutted bear hanging from Kerade’s talons.
Sämër’s landing was smooth, transitioning flawlessly from flying to walking. Kehfre’s eyes threatened to close, her limbs dangling on either side of her mother’s neck. Her wings relaxed, falling limp by Sämër’s sides. Kehfre smiled, taking a deep breath filled with the scent of fresh herbs and damp stone.
“Don’t fall asleep yet, Kehfre. We must clean your wounds. We should bathe in the spring. Your scales could use some polishing, anyway.” Kehfre’s muscles reached a new level of relaxation. Her mother’s melodic voice rang over the cave walls in sweet echoes.
“Do I have to? I hate it when they’re so bright.” Kehfre glanced down at the strips of metallic scales that had surfaced in her last molting.
“They won’t stay polished for long.” Sämër laughed. “Besides, you love swimming.”
They rounded the corner into a massive open cavern. A hole in the ceiling allowed moonlight to enter. Layers of various shimmering metals coated the sides of the cavern, melted into the stone by dragon fire. Still more gold, precious jewels and minerals were piled at the bottom of the lake, adding to the ever-dancing light show created by the moonlight’s reflections.
“Let me examine you.” Kehfre’s mother lay on the ground, allowing Kehfre to climb down.
“I’m fine, mom, really.” Kehfre relented to her mother, tilting her head to expose the injury. “I barely feel the toxin anymore.”
Kehfre’s mother looked her over dutifully. Examining the area where the jumper had raked its claws against her scales. Her mother moved to Kehfre’s neck. She paused near the base of Kehfre’s skull, where the creature had stung her.
“The jumper scratched your scales along your side. It’s shallow. The bath should prevent a scar. You got lucky. The sting broke a few scales, though. I will need to remove it them.” Kehfre withdrew at the last notion, stepping away from the water.
“It hardly hurts anymore.” Her heart raced. She turned, hiding the broken scales. “We can just let it heal on its own.”
“No babe, we can’t.” Sämër stepped up to Kehfre, lowering to eye level. Kehfre sat in defiance, anchoring herself to the stone floor.
“We can do it here in the open air; or we can do it under water where the minerals will dull the pain. You’re choice.” Kehfre wined in response. Her muscles tensed as memories of the last time she’d needed this done flooded through her.
“I know it hurts, but we have to.” Sämër guided Kehfre toward the water.
They waded into the frigid spring water until they reached a massive drop-off in the center of the cave, the bottom of which sparkled with varous treasures. Kehfre’s mother jumped forward into the deep water. Her mother swam beneath the surface before circling back to Kehfre. Kehfre jumped back as Sämër thrust her folded wings forward, drenching Kehfre with a wave of water. Kehfre laughed and dove into the water behind her fleeing mother.
Kehfre closed her eyes, allowing herself to sink into the mineral rich water. She breathed deeply. Her limbs and arms floated freely as water filled her lungs. She was utterly weightless beneath the surface. A brief exhale of water, mixed with a few bubbles, then again. The cold water numbed the light throbbing of her neck and restored her fatigued muscles.
Kehfre and her mother moved effortlessly through the water, circling one another as they dove. Kehfre inhaled before shooting a stream of hot water toward her mother. Laughing at her mother’s exaggerated reaction to being hit. Kehfre shielded her face as her mother returned fire. Jets of steam flushed over her wings and body before rising to the water’s surface. They laughed and played, dancing beneath the surface for some time.
The moon aligned with the hole in the ceiling, illuminating the entire swimming hole. Kehfre and her mother stopped, floating Infront of one another. Bronze lights danced across the gold encased cave walls, bouncing back in rainbow patterns refracted through the water.
Sämër swam to Kehfre. Their energetic swim had reopened the injury. Small amounts of blood were trickling into the water behind Kehfre’s head. Her mother pressed the top of her head against Kehfre’s neck, warning her of the pain to come. She then looped her talon under the first broken scale and pulled.
Kehfre let out a muffled cry. Bubbles raced from her muzzle to the surface. Her tail curled on itself, whipping in the water. Heat built in her chest, boiling the water against her glowing scales. Kehfre gagged on the water, contaminated by her blood. Sämër pulled at the second broken scale. Kehfre cried again as the third and final piece was pried away. Her mother gently pressed her paw against Kehfre’s neck. Kehfre’s muscles spasmed beneath her mother’s touch. She tried to pull away, but her mother held her close. They floated in place for several minutes.
The moon was passing out of alignment with the cavern when Sämër removed her paw from Kehfre’s neck. The bleeding and throbbing had stopped. Kehfre raced her mother to the surface, launching out of the water and onto the shallow beach. The moon’s reflections illuminating the cavern were waning.
“Better now?” Sämër questioned, nuzzling Kehfre before shaking off the excess water.
“I smell dinner.” Sämër craned her head toward the pool’s entrance.
“Shh” Sämër hissed. The scent of a foreign dragon wafted through the cave. All outside was silent. “There is another dragon with your father at the entrance,” Sämër whispered. She peered around the corner of the cavern, toward the entrance.
Kehfre sank against the cave wall beside her mother. Other dragons didn’t enter their territory. They were outcasts, pariahs. Something was very wrong.
“In the water, now. And don’t make a sound.” Kehfre backed away, unquestioning her mother’s urgent tone. She slid into the deep pool while her mother stepped out into the passage that led to the entrance.
Kehfre closed her eyes, gripping the side of the pool’s wall, holding only her head above water. She focused her hearing. Her father and mother were at the mouth of the cave; they were just standing there. Kehfre heard one of their tails scrape against the floor. She also sensed another dragon standing just outside of the cave. None of them were speaking, which meant that it was a metallic dragon, and they were conversing telepathically.
Kehfre sighed, propping herself up on the ledge of the deep end, examining her now shimmering scales under the waning moonlight. Several minutes passed by before Kehfre’s parents began walking further into the cave. Kehfre heard the heavy rush of air from the other dragon’s wings as it flew into the night.
Kehfre’s mother passed the entrance to the pool first, continuing deeper into the cave toward her nesting chamber. Her tail flicked the wall, knocking several rocks to the floor. Something had her agitated. Her father turned into the room and walked toward Kehfre, stopping at the edge of the water.
[Kehfre, I have to go away for a while. Some humans are trespassing on dragon territory, and my clan has asked for my aid.] Kerade’s thoughts were distinctly void of emotion. He was hiding something.
Kehfre opened her feelings of concern, curiosity, and anxiety to her father. She climbed out of the water, lying down before him. Her father sighed, lying down on the floor before Kehfre.
“Who was that, Father?” Kehfre asked aloud, closing her mind. “Why do you have to leave? They are not your clan. They exiled you. They hate Mother and me. Why do you have to—” Kehfre’s pleas were interrupted by her father placing his heavy head on top of hers. She pushed against him, begging him with her thoughts not to go.
[I will be back soon. These humans cannot be allowed through the mountains. I am the most experienced in the clan at fighting humans.] His thoughts were full of sorrow. His moistening eyes lingered on Kehfre.
“They are not your clan; you do not owe them anything.” Kehfre’s heart was racing at the notion of her father going into battle. “You can’t leave us!” Kehfre’s pleas turned to high-pitched roars. Filling the cavern with a looming sense of dread. Ice formed at the edges of the pool. The temperature of the cave plummeted. Her father rose to a seated position, his eyes closed, his head bowed. Clouds of condensation rolled off her father’s chest. Kehfre lifted her legs from the ice. Her heart raced, pumping fiery blood through her. The scales over Kehfre’s chest glowed with a faint orange light.
[Would you look at that, you’re an ice dragon.] Her father lowered his head once more, resting it on top of Kehfre’s. [I’m proud of you, you know that. You’re getting so strong.]
“No!” Kehfre stomped, splattering ice shards over the cave floor. There was a long pause between them. Neither of them moved.
[I do owe the clan, Kehfre. I owe them everything. The leader of the clan is a dear friend. It is only because of him we can live in these mountains undisturbed. Without that friendship, we would be forced to leave the northern mountains—We’d have been forced out long ago. Goodbye Kehfre. I love you; may your wings stay true to the wind and your heart to the fire.]
Kehfre whimpered, sinking to the floor as her father pulled away. He left the cave. Kehfre listened to the beat of his wings, rocketing out of earshot. Her chest was heavy, unresponsive. She drew a deep breath, forcing herself to stand and move deeper into the cave. She found her mother, lying in a finely crafted hollow of formed trees, various shreds of cloth and melted armor that provided structure, warmth and padding. There were four eggs of varying size lining the wall. Each had its own uniquely constructed frame, with a small bed of coals hot underneath. Their shell was a marbled mixture of cream and brown color with a rough, stone-like texture on the outside.
Kehfre cautiously stepped into her mother’s room. She snuggled under her mother’s wing, pressing against her neck, finally comfortable. Her mother’s heartbeat was fast and light. Her breaths shallow. “It’ll be alright mom, He’s always alright.”
Sämër pressed against Kehfre, pulling her close with her wing. “I know. You’re right.” Her voice was low, devoid of its usual melodic nature. Kehfre laid her head over her mother’s paw and closed her eyes. “Maybe he’ll be back by morning.”
To Be Continued . . .