It was the longest winter anyone in our quiet little town could remember. Something had changed in the world. We all knew it even though news hardly ever reached our distant corner. Small whispers had echoed on the fall winds of something dark and lonely. Those fall winds came suddenly and they were harsh and cold. Just as suddenly they turned to snow.
The air was almost always white with snow or crystalized with a frost. It was so cold that unless we had to go out we were forced to stay inside. The heat from the fire barely keeping the chill from the inside of our homes. We sat by the fire and spoke to the summer that might never come. We missed the sun and the green grass. The light hours were short but the day felt long.
After months for being cooped up inside I decided to try and venture out just for a little breath of fresh air. I piled on the layers of clothing and forced the door open against the blistering winds. My eye lashes instantly coated with beads of ice, but I ignored it. I pushed away from my house and out onto the street. Not a soul was in sight. No one else was crazy or desperate enough to leave the safety of indoors today. I hadn’t gone more than a few feet from my front door when those winter winds picked up and the snow became a blizzard that obscured my hand from my face. I turned to head back home but became quickly disorientated.
With a sigh and a shake of the head at my own stupidity I marched forwarded assuming that I would reach someone or another’s home before I had gone too far and I could bed down there until it cleared enough to get home. My legs and feet were becoming heavy and my movements sluggish. I felt the chill of winter entering into my bones and a tiredness that I couldn’t explain.
Where were all the houses? My mind felt groggy and the answer wouldn’t formulate. I stumbled. Heavier and heavier, until I fell. The cold of the ground should have been shocking but it wasn’t. It didn’t feel at all and my eyes closed…
An intense heat overcame me and my eyes flashed open to a soft light that danced on the rough stone walls. Confused I looked slowly around from my view point on the ground. A cave, I was in cave and the dancing light was from a wonderful fire that surely must have saved my life. But how? Where was I? How did I get here?
The rumble of an unnaturally loud snore startled me and I jumped causing a deep ache in my still thawing bones. As if that wasn’t enough I nearly died on the spot as my eyes filled with the sight of a large white snow dragon curled around the mouth of the cave sleeping soundly. I cast around for a weapon. I reached for a jagged chunk of stone but when I turned back its big wide white eyes regarded me curiously. The corners of its mouth appeared to pull back and turn upward in a smirk or a smile.
“That won’t save you skin born,” the dragon growled. “You needn’t worry, I hardly would have saved you if I meant you harm would I?” As it talked a frosty mist drifted from its mouth.
“Saved me? You saved me from the storm?”
“Of course, I could hardly let a skin born die in the snow.” My confused look must have made my thoughts obvious. “You don’t know much about snow dragons do you, beyond the horror stories that are grossly inaccurate?” I shook my head. The dragon growled low in its throat as if it was sadly disappointed with my ignorance.
We sat in silence for a while before the dragon began to speak again.
“Us snow dragons took an oath years ago before the snows started to grow longer that we would protect the skin born from the snows when we could and in return we could live out our lives without being hunted and sacrificed. Not many of us remain living, but those of us that do still honour the oath. You may leave in the morning skin born once the snow has stopped. Spring is coming which is good because I am ready to sleep.”
The dragon said no more. It lowered its elephant sized head and closed its sparkling eyes. I watched it in wonder for some time. Its scales sparkled like the frost on the trees in the early mornings. It was beautiful. I drifted off to sleep admiring its size and beauty and when I woke it was gone as was the snowy from the air. A tolerable temperature had taken over the air and I could see my village not far away down the mountain. I trucked down the path and as I entered the town a large group of folk moving through the streets stopped and stared as if I was ghost.
“You’re alive?” A voice muttered in shock.
“It’s been months?” Said another.
“How?” Ask someone else.
The questions didn’t stop and I had no answers. I cast my eyes toward the mountain as a frosty looking shape, some would have thought it a cloud, drifted lazily by and I knew that some of the answers lay with the snow dragon.
By Shari Marshall – 2019