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Halloween Story III: The Great Treasure

It’s annual story time!

Tolkien and Lewis were both authors and story tellers, as well as essayists and apologists. They formed the group the Inklings to read and review each other’s writings. That is where the “ink” part of Inklings came from. Creative writing was a major part of their fellowship and led to meaningful conversations. As we are seeking to be the second iteration of the Inklings, it seems fitting to share some of our creative writing as well.

This is the first 2 (of 15) pages of the next story in my “Tall Tales For Little Girls” series. I am a father of two girls and am writing stories to express the virtues that dads would want to instill in their daughters (or kids in general). Virtues like loyalty, sacrifice, courage, and that special kind of protection that father’s provide.

The title is “The Great Treasure” And will be published on 10/31/2022. I hope you enjoy.

***

Neach-Dìon stood next to his sire, a looming black figure to his right. The giant dragon’s piercing blue eyes watched Neach-Dìon’s every movement, every flick of the tail.

“The Nightshade line, MY line of dragons, has served as the Night Watchers of our homeland for hundreds of years. We are the protectors and guardians. As such, there can be no weakness.” His sire turned to him, imposing his size and strength on the young dragon. “You will seal your heart stone closed and take up your position as a Watcher.” Neach-Dìon said nothing.

The head of each dragon line had come to witness the Cridhe of a Nightshade dragon. The coming-of-age ceremony was important for every dragon but particularly important for a Nightshade, like Neach-Dìon. Their particular line had grown in notoriety for their diligence and ferocity with which they protected every dragon in their refuge. The addition of another Nightshade Watcher was celebrated by all.

Neach-Dìon walked next to his sire and was formally placed by himself before the matron. She was the only Nightshade permitted to seal her heart stone open, a necessity for the rearing of younglings. She stood on her hind legs, looking down fondly at Neach-Dìon, small flecks of light flickering across her dark blue body like stars at dusk. Neach-Dìon sat up and presented himself to the matron.

“Neach-Dìon, the time has come for you to choose your path. Every dragon is faced with this decision and must go boldly forward, for that is our way. You may choose to seal your heart stone closed, freeing you from all attachment, attaining a form of enlightenment in the single-minded pursuit of a Watcher.” The dragons roared their cheers around him. Neach-Dìon’s sire puffed up with pride. “There is a cost though. Freedom from attachment means you will never know love. Your pursuit as a Watcher will consume you. You will be great, but that is what you will be until your life passes from this world. Or, you may choose to seal your heart stone open. You will create strong bonds that fuel your fire. Your bonds will be an endless source of strength and power. With such great power, comes a great weakness. Your bonds will betray you to your death. Like bushels of grass upon the fire, your life will burn bright but short.” The Nightshade matron lowered herself onto all four legs and approached Neach-Dìon. “So, youngling, what will you choose?”

Neach-Dìon looked to his sire, whose impatience grew with every passing second. He did not know what he wanted. All he knew was that this wasn’t it. He lowered himself nervously back on all four legs, tucking his wings close to his body.

“I know the fear you feel, youngling,” the matron looked at him with tenderness. “Make the decision and all that nervousness, timidness…weakness will be cast off.” That oddly made him feel worse.

“I do not want what you want.” Neach-Dìon watched as the tenderness fell from the matron’s eyes. His sire stood and roared in fury, lunging for Neach-Dìon, who turned and fled. He ran for the nearest opening and took to the sky. The chase ended there as his sire knew better than all that it is impossible to find a Nightshade at night.

Neach-Dìon quieted the burdens of his mind and felt the cold night air press up against his wings. He was beyond the Nightshade patrol and relaxed into a glide. He knew this night would arrive as it did for all dragons. He just did not realize it would be so difficult. He thought that perhaps he would grow to accept his fate as a night watcher, but it never settled with him. What the Nightshades saw as glorious tradition, he saw as slavery. When it came down to making a choice, he chose freedom, even if that meant exile. He would now have to fend for himself. There would be no protection, no elders to teach him. He was alone.

A flight in the night sky was helping him make peace with his decision. He circled Jagged Tooth, his favorite peak along the great mountain ridge known as the Spine, unseen by anyone below. As a Nightshade, he was all but invisible to the naked eye. His scales were glossy black. His belly and wings were a deep hue of purple that reflected light like the stars. He caught the updraft off the mountain and with it came the smell of smoke. It was an odd smoke. It carried with it the putrid scent of burning hair and fat. The light from the fire came into view, illuminating a village below. Neach-Dìon swooped over to see more. Sounds on the wind grew louder, screaming, crying, and an all too familiar screech. Goblins, foul creatures that lived in the dank, dark spaces of the mountains, had raided the village. It was all but over now. The goblins had swarmed the little village and the unsuspecting humans.

A shrill cry rose above the noise and caught Neach-Dìon’s attention. He lowered his right wing and began a slow spiral in that direction. A human, holding a noisy bundle of cloth, backed up to a large boulder, wildly swinging her sword. She kept the sword and her body always between the noisy bundle and the greasy goblin scalps closing in on her. 

Neach-Dìon watched. A strange compulsion arose within him to intervene. He had been taught to leave humans to their fates. They were unpredictable creatures, often tossed about by their passions. To intervene in their affairs was to be caught in their tangled web and succumb to their poison.  

The pull on his heart stone forced him to the ground. He tucked his wings and, silent as an assassin’s arrow, he dove. Just before impact, Neach-Dìon threw open his wings, startling the attackers. He crushed two underfoot as he landed. A swipe of his claw sent another hurtling into the shadows. The fourth fled squealing. Rodents and thieves.

The woman fell to her knees. Neach-Dìon turned and eyed her suspiciously. She was wounded badly. Neach-Dìon could smell the life leaving her body. 

“Please,” she said. The woman laid her noisy bundle of fabric before her and pressed it forward. “Please, Dìonadair Mòr, I beg you, guard my hope.”

Neach-Dìon stepped forward and saw that the noisy bundle was a human hatchling. The little one stared up at him with its emerald green eyes, cooing like a turtle dove. It was utterly defenseless, but those eyes were limitless and filled with potential. Entranced by its beauty and vulnerability, he silently chose there to seal open his heart stone. The bond of Dìonadair Mòr was made. Neach-Dìon scooped the child into his claw and pulled it to his heart stone. He looked to the woman who laid her head down with thanks on her lips.

A screeching began to rise behind him. The goblins had regrouped and were rushing towards them. Neach-Dìon turned, holding his hatchling close. Goblins swarmed around him. The foremost goblin jumped for the bundle, but deep within his heart stone, a fire churned as he had never felt before. He breathed the cold night air in and exhaled a great purple flame. The air pressed from his lungs, the fire stopped. He looked to see nothing but scorched rock and glass where the sand had been. The goblin was gone. The rest of them, not wanting to share in that fate, fled.

Neach-Dìon checked the woman, but her life had passed on. He gathered the sword she dropped in his other claw, spread his wings, and took to the sky.

***

Thank you for reading.

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