By Rachel Tucker

Kytra dropped down on the soft forest floor, exhausted. She hadn’t slept in days and it was beginning to catch up with her. Looking at the bow and arrow beside her, she sighed in disgust. Her village was counting on her and she felt that she’d let them down. It had been four days that she’d been tracking the walake and still no sight of it. Biting into the last piece of fruit she had, she thought about her family and how she missed them. She should be home, giving her little brother the lessons that he needed, but she couldn’t. She had to find the walake and slay it. Dragons had not been seen in her forest for many, many years but suddenly, one had appeared and destroyed almost half of her village. While she was not at all the strongest of her village, she was most definitely the best with the bow and arrow. The town needed a saviour and Kytra was elected. Her skills were better than even the elders and she was more than willing to try to protect her village.  Finishing her fruit, she tossed the core into the underbrush and lay down on the soft needles of the forest floor to get some much-needed rest. Perhaps after a rest, her tracking skills would come back to her. As her eyes closed, she heard a snap but was too tired to pay attention to it. Another snap, this one louder and closer, brought her to an upright position. Sitting quietly, she listened. There it was again. Standing slowly and quietly, Kytra knew all the creatures in the wood. They knew her and would not be bothered by her scent. If the creature were a friend, surely it would have shown itself by now. Kytra knew better than to think that a human had made the noise. She had travelled far in the past four days and there were no other humans here. Moving her head slowly, she strained to hear. There was nothing now. Wondering if perhaps she had dreamt the sounds, Kytra remained standing. She knew better. She had heard…something. Bending, she picked up her bow and arrows and carefully slung the quiver over her shoulder. Holding the bow at her side, she began moving slowly. Leaving the path, she had been travelling, she began walking, her breath slowing. Moving deeper into the woods, she began to wonder again if perhaps she had really heard anything at all. In her exhaustion, perhaps her mind had been playing tricks on her. But that was not Kytra’s way. She was an experienced huntress and knew the sounds of the forest well. No, something was here, and she had to find it before it found her. A sudden crash made her whirl quickly around and she had instinctively brought the bow in front of her armed with an arrow. Walking backwards, she paused and listened. She heard odd noises and knew that she was not alone. Wary but unafraid, she crept very slowly toward the noise. Deeper and deeper into the forest she went until finally Kytra heard a sound much like that of a child crying. 

Disconcerted, she lowered her bow and arrow a fraction of an inch and waited. Could this really be something that meant to harm her, she wondered as she tiptoed toward the mewling sound. A sudden break in the trees brought her into a small clearing. Gasping, Kytra stood, transfixed. Staring at her with baleful eyes was a large dragon, blood seeping from its side. Kytra aimed her bow and arrow at the dragon but lowered it when she saw a tiny dragon sheltered by the wing of its mother. Kytra stood, uncertain of what to do. This dragon had swept through her village, destroying huts and fields of crops with its long tail. Why did she hesitate? Another mewling sound brought her head up and she watched as the tiny dragon slowly tried to stand. Finally, pushed by its’ mother, the little dragon made its’ way out from underneath it’s mothers’ wing and away from the blood. As she watched in astonishment, the little dragon came closer and closer until it was finally standing at her feet. Looking down, Kytra saw that the tiny dragon was looking up at her, its large eyes filled with sadness.

“Please,” the sound was so soft that it was barely more than a whisper but Kytra heard it just the same. Her eyes flew toward the mother and she watched, slowly lowering her bow and arrow. Believing that she had probably imagined the word, she simply stared at the walake. 

“Please, help my son,” she heard distinctly now.

“You speak?” Kytra gasped, almost dropping her bow and arrow to the forest floor.

“Yes, but not for much longer now,” the Walake was clearly having a difficult time. “My son,” she continued; her breath laboured as she spoke in a whisper. “He is so young. He will never survive on his own. I am one of the last of my breed and there are no others near to help him. Please?”

Kytra’s heart went out to the baby as she looked down at the tiny dragon at her feet once more, until she remembered the damage to her village.

“You tried to kill us!” she accused the walake. “You destroyed much of my village. Why should I now help you?”

“I did not,” the walake began but stopped as a pain tore through her body. Waiting until the pain subsided, the walake continued, “I did not do it on purpose. I had been hurt and could not fly any higher. I was looking for another walake to help my son but the longer I flew, the harder it became. It became too difficult and my tail fell, destroying your village. I am sorry but,” the walake stopped again, her head falling to the forest floor. Another tear escaped, running down the side of her face and mixing with the blood that was now flowing in earnest. 

“You mean me no harm?” Kytra was uncertain that she should believe that a walake would not mean to hurt a human but seeing this beautiful creature before her, could not bring herself to believe that she could harm her. The walake was indeed beautiful, or would have been had it not been for the blood. A long, bright red tail and beautiful wings, partially unfurled, lay beside the walake and Kytra had to admit that this was indeed a beautiful creature. Finally, seeing the life draining out of the walake, Kytra set her bow and arrow on the ground and walked over to the walake. The tiny dragon followed on wobbly legs. As Kytra knelt beside the walake, she lifted her large head and Kytra saw something that looked like a smile pass quickly through her eyes.

“Truly, I meant you no harm,” the walake said again, her breathing becoming more and more laboured. “My son,” she looked over as the little dragon came close to his mother, brushing her side and covering himself with blood in the process. Seeing the tiny dragon, covered in his mothers’ blood, Kytra bent down and snatched him away.

“Thank you,” the walake managed before her head drooped to the forest floor once more.

“I don’t know how to take care of a dragon,” Kytra protested. “Dragons have always been our enemy.”

“No,” the walake managed through the pain. “Not walakes. We are herbivores. We are peace loving creatures. Take Madel and teach him to be kind. The rest will come to him naturally. He is after all, a walake.”

“But,” Kytra began then stopped. Madel had made his way back to his mothers’ side and was now curled up close to her, crying large tears. Kytra felt a small breeze as the walake took her last breath. Kytra felt a sadness she would never have thought possible as she watched the beautiful walake die. Herbivores! Walakes were herbivores and this poor dragon had simply been looking for someone to care for her baby.

Leaving the baby dragon beside his mother, Kytra quickly gathered sticks and underbrush to cover the large walake. It took more time and energy than Kytra would have believed she had, but finally, she had covered the dragon. Picking up the baby, she stroked him gently, trying to comfort him. Taking Madel to a nearby river, she cleaned his mothers’ blood off of him then watched in delight as he splashed playfully in the water. 

“You like the water then?” 

Madel stopped what he was doing and looked at Kytra, his eyes full of love. Moving quickly to where she stood, Kytra was surprised at how easily swimming was for the baby. 

“Will you wait here for me then?” Kytra asked Madel with a smile? “There’s something I must do before we go home.”

Madel looked up at her and his long blue tail began to wag. Kytra decided that this was a good sign and, telling him that she would return shortly, left the little dragon to play in the water. 

It took Kytra no time to do what she needed to do and soon she was back at the river, playing with Madel. The more time she spent with the little dragon, the more she grew to love him. Finally, she grabbed Madel in her arms and took him to the riverbank where they sat, feeling the suns rays warm them. Kytra wondered where she had found all of this energy. She had been about to sleep when she had first heard the walake, yet she now felt more rested than she had since she had set out in search of the dragon. Smiling at Madel, she said tenderly,

“Well, my little friend, it’s time to go home. I’m going to have some convincing to do at home, but I promise that I’ll never let anything bad happen to you.”

“Yes please,” the words were spoken so softly that Kytra barely heard them, but they were there. Smiling, she picked the little dragon up and began her trek homeward. 

“Yes, I will most definitely have some explaining to do,” she said with a smile as she cuddled Madel to her. “But we’ll be fine Madel, just fine.”

As they walked through the forest, Kytra saw the smoke from the pyre she had set ablaze and said a silent prayer for the beautiful walake who had been trying to protect her son.

“Farewell my friend,” she said to herself as Madel slept in her arms.


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