I started something new. Enjoy a little teaser. -Robin
Even from a distance, the great beast could see the girl was small, almost beneath notice. Indeed, if not for the bright red cloak fluttering in the spring breeze, the beast's attention may never have been drawn.
But drawn it was.
It took little for the beast to turn. Upon seeing such a large creature, one would have expected it to require far more effort for the beast to turn. But really, it was little more than a lifted wing tip here, a drooped tip there, and the beast wheeled in the sky.
It didn't turn straight to the girl. Oh, no. The sun was bright, the sky clear, and if the beast was seen too early in its approach, the girl might have scampered to safety amongst the trees. That would not do. No, that wouldn't do at all. Winter had lasted overlong, and there would soon be a new mouth to feed, a hungry mouth to feed. The beast couldn't afford to miss in today's hunt.
And so the beast remained high, high in the sky. And if the little girl had looked up, she would only have seen a speck moving across the blue heavens. She would most certainly have determined the beast was nothing but a bird. Oh, she might guess the speck was a predator, a bird of prey, and in a way, she would have been right. But she would not have guessed the true nature of the beast.
She would not have realized her own danger.
And so the beast turned, but it didn't move towards the girl, not directly. It moved to a place between the girl and the sun. And so if she had looked up, she could not remotely have seen the beast.
But not quite exactly between the girl and the sun. Oh, no. If the beast did that, then the shadow may have given the game away too soon, as well. And so the beast chose a spot close to in line with the sun, but not quite in line.
The beast judged the girl. The beast judged the sun. The beast tracked its own shadow across the ground.
And then the beast wheeled in the sky before tucking wings close to its body and plummeting.
Maybe the girl heard something, the sound of wind in leathery wings. Maybe the girl saw a flicker of shadow regardless of the care the beast took. Who can guess?
But she began to run. She dropped her basket of posies and began to run through the upland meadow, running pell-mell for the nearest trees.
And maybe if she had heard something sooner, or seen something sooner, she would have had a chance. But she barely had taken three steps before the sings snapped out again. The wings snapped wide, eclipsing the sun, eclipsing the entire sky, and making a snapping noise like sails in a gale, and the beasts plummet towards the earth was arrested, a portion becoming forward motion, the rest becoming its own gale to knock the tiny girl to the ground.
She scrambled to rise, screaming, her heart pounding in her chest already, but the beast didn't wait.
Long, black talons wrapped around the girl, snapping her into the air. Talons long enough to wrap entirely around the girl, even if she had been far, far bigger than she was, held her firmly. And then the massive wings began to beat, lifting beast -- and an inconsequential burden -- back into the sky.
"No!" the girl screamed, the word devolving into a long, shrill scream.
She beat at the talons and struggled to free herself, but then she looked down and realized just how high they had come after just moments, and her attempts to free herself changed entirely. She clutched at the talons.
"Please don't drop me! Please don't drop me!"
And the beast didn't drop the girl. Oh, no. That wouldn't do at all, for the girl was... necessary. No, there would be no dropping of the girl, not at all.
And so, holding the terrified girl carefully, almost tenderly in the long, share talons, the beast turned north and flew deep into the mountains, much deeper into the mountains, into the land where no man dwelt.
Together they flew, one massive beast and one frightened girl. And when it became apparent the beast wouldn't drop her, and the beast wasn't going to immediately eat her, the girl yelled, "What are you going to do with me?"
And if the beast heard, it gave no indication. If the beast understood, it gave no answer.
But the girl began to beat against the mighty talons, and while the girl couldn't do so much as bruise the beast, this the beast felt, and it ducked its head while still flying and looked at the girl.
And that was almost worst than not being noticed, because the beast's head was bigger than the girl, much, much bigger, and the teeth were long longer than the girl's hand, although not as long as her arm. The girl stopped beating on the talon but stared into the beast's eyes.
"Are you going to eat me?" the girl asked.
Perhaps the beast understood the question. Perhaps it did not. It gave no indication but turned to face forward again. And the girl grew still in the talons, not yet resigned to her fate, but resigned to the knowledge she could do nothing while carried so far from the ground.
They flew further, and if the girl had been dressed for a spring day on the ground, she wasn't remotely dressed for a spring day high in the thin air, blasted by the wind of their passage, and she grew cold.
And she began to shiver.
She was a small girl, a very small girl, but she wasn't a stupid girl, and she had lived near the mountains her entire life. She knew the dangers of catching too cold, and being unable to do anything about it.
"I'm cold!" she called out to the beast. "If we're going a great distance, can we turn back and collect my winter clothes?"
If the beast understood these words, it gave no indication. Perhaps the beast thought the idea was ludicrous, or perhaps there was simply not sufficient time to turn back.
The girl began beating on the talons again. "Do you want me to die? Is that it?" The beast felt the beating and turned its head to look again, the long, sinuous neck curved back on itself.
"I said I'm cold!" the girl said. "I'll freeze to death like this. The air is cold and the wind is worse. I'll freeze! Is that what you want? Don't you want your meal warm and fresh, not frozen into ice?"
Maybe it was the words. Maybe it was the look in the girl. Maybe the beast could see -- or feel -- the girl shivering.
So far, the beast had held the girl in the talons of one hand, but, almost tenderly, it gathered the girl in both hands, one high, just under her arms, and the other low, wrapped around her legs. And then it lifted.
Oh, not to its mouth. No, no. But instead the beast drew the girl to itself, cradling the girl against its own warm body, and even sheltered, if not entirely, at least largely from the wind.
The beast was warm, quite warm, actually, and it was only a few minutes before the girls trembled subsided. And she called out again.
"You! Hey. You!"
When her cries were not acknowledged, she again beast her fists on the beast, but this time against the belly of the beast. And so the head turned to her again. Seeing she had the beasts attention, the girl said simply, "Thank you."
The beast looked at the girl for a moment and then turned nose back into the wind.
The girl knew she wasn't safe. Oh, no. She was sure whatever would happen next would be no good to her at all. But for now, she was warm. For now, she was alive, and she was not being dropped to the ground for her body to lie, shattered.
And so, as the world flew past far underneath, she did what one wouldn't have thought possible.
* * * *
As all journeys do, this one reached a conclusion. As journeys often do, this one did not end anywhere the girl recognized, and indeed, she didn't realize it was coming to an end until the end was upon them.
Perhaps it was the change in light. Perhaps it was a change in how the wings slowly beat. Perhaps it was the change in the air. Perhaps it was a change in the sounds, echoing from the walls of the great cavern as the beast disturbed the air. But the girl came awake.
And so she saw the last few seconds of the trip.
She saw the beast circle around the great cavern.
And she saw the beast approaching the wall. The girl gave out a scream, sure they were about to crash headlong into the wall, but the beast lifted its head and flared its wings before coming to a perch in an opening, high, high above the cavern floor.
The beast settled, and all grew still. And then, a moment later, the beast withdrew the girl from the embrace, holding her with outstretched arms before dropping her a very short distance to the ground.
And the girl stumbled, falling onto her backside before scrambling away from the great beast, scrambling away until her back came up against a smooth object.
At first the girl thought it was the wall of this cave, and she stopped, then felt backwards with her hands.
The wall was smooth.
The wall was warm.
The wall was curved.
The wall was moving.
The girl spun around to discover she'd backed not into a wall. Oh no, a wall wouldn't have been at all as frightening a thing at ones back.
No. She had backed into an egg, a very large egg, nearly as tall as the girl herself, and much, much wider, an egg so large it would have taken three of the girl to link hands and wrap arms around the entire egg.
And the egg held a crack, more than a crack. And as she stared, another crack formed, right at the height of her eyes. A beak poked its way from the shell, just the tip of a beak.
And then, over the course of just seconds, more cracks formed, and widened, and then all at once the shell best apart.
The head wobbled. The wings spread wide, fluttering as if the new beast, the baby beast was struggling to balance. And then the eyes opened and looked at the girl.
And the girl knew the dragonet was hungry, very, very hungry.