It didn’t take long for Sarah to realize that Azal wasn’t listening to her. In fact, she expected he probably couldn’t even hear her small voice, considering how high up his ears were. In another moment, he began calling out in a sound that Sarah first mistook as a roar. It wasn’t quite a roar, though. It was something more intelligent than that, with a purpose that she almost understood but didn’t quite capture. It was a language, ancient and wonderful: the secret language of the dragons themselves.
“What’s he saying?” she asked Keeley, who had finally stopped chatting with her uncle and had landed on Sarah’s shoulder again. The tiny white dragon only shook her head and made a shushing sound.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “it’s good news.”
A growl and then a roar answered Azal’s call. It was soon followed by another one, and another one. In less than a minute, the deep mountain cave had filled with the animal-like but nonetheless melodic calls of the dragons. The ground began shaking with the footfalls of at least a dozen of the great beasts. One by one they appeared in front of the group, studying the companions curiously, as though none of them had ever seen a real live human before.
The dragons didn’t look quite like Sarah had expected. They weren’t all lizards like Keeley and Azal. Like the fey, each one had its own unique features. One of the dragons seemed to be made of stone, with large patches of green moss covering its rocky hide. Another one had feathers, like a giant bird. Others crawled on their bellies like great winged snakes, or trotted along on two large hind legs like ostriches. Most of the dragons were enormous, though few were anywhere near as big as Azal. The smallest ones were about the size of grown horses. Poor Keeley was still little more than a gnat compared to even the tiniest of her cousins.
“What is it, Azal?” asked one of the larger dragons, a green-skinned creature with long, crocodile-like jaws. “Why have you woken me from my slumber?”
“It’s not all about you, cousin Grimjaw,” replied Azal. “In fact, you could have stayed sleeping for all I care. I called everyone here because we have some new visitors. They were having difficulties with the trolls at the top of the world, and so they have found themselves down here with us.” Finishing his speech, Azal waved his claw toward the ground, showcasing the dazed companions. Keeley flew off of Sarah’s shoulder to circle her uncle’s head. If the rest of the dragons noticed one so small, they didn’t show it.
“Well, things are looking up indeed,” grumbled Grimjaw, clacking his sharp teeth. “You’ve brought us a tasty set of humans. But so few…are we going to have to play rocks to decide who gets the first bite?”
Dragons are creatures of legend and grandeur in many different worlds. Although some still lurk in the hidden corners of their original lands, most of them answered the Wizard’s call when he created Greystone Valley. They now serve as protectors of the land, although their tempers are still legendary and there is nothing more dangerous than an angry dragon.
The dragons have many mysteries, but there are a few facts that most people in Greystone Valley knows about them:
1) No two dragons look alike. While most people think of dragons as massive, fire-breathing creatures, that is only true of some of them. Others crawl on their bellies like snakes, have bright-colored feathers, or lurk under the waves like sea serpents. Many dragons can fly, while others have no wings. While there is a family resemblance among some dragons, they are for the most part vast and varied in both appearance and abilities.
2) Dragons are eternal. Dragons do not die of old age, living hundreds or even thousands of years unless slain. Many of them start life very small, sometimes no bigger than a bird or a mouse, and don’t stop growing bigger for centuries when they are as large as a house. They have excellent memories and do not forget slights, nor do they forget those who treated them kindly.
3) They can smell fey. Dragons have keen senses in general, but they can smell fey above all else. Some people capture small dragons and use them like hunting dogs to track down the fey. It is rumored that dragons love the taste of fey, but they are forbidden to consume them in large numbers due to an ancient pact set forth by the Wizard.
4) They love art and beauty. All dragons have terrific singing voices, and many of them learn other arts such as sculpture or poetry as they get older. The best way to befriend a dragon is through the gift of song or a well-crafted story. However, trying to earn a dragon’s friendship often has risks – they tend to react very badly to poor music or hackneyed poetry.
5) A dragon cannot break its word. The ancient pact that formed Greystone Valley also ensured that dragons must always keep their promises. A dragon may not kill another dragon, and an ally of one dragon is an ally to all. If a dragon makes a promise, that promise must be kept at all costs. Failure to do so could ignite a war among the great beasts, which would potentially spell doom for all of Greystone Valley.
The first dragon that Sarah meets in Greystone Valley is the mouse-sized Keeley, but not all dragons are as small and loveable as she is. Many others, both friend and foe, await our heroine in this enchanted valley.
Image: Sleeping Dragon by blackseagull, licensed through a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.