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At the northernmost tip of Kalilandau, where a day lasts ten years of man, and night follows for a further ten years of man, lies the Mountain of Ice-Thunder where the dragons breed.
Here safe in a cave on the west side of the mountain overlooking the sea, she hatched out of a silver egg, the only survivor of her nest. We shall call her Taranadilla, as man once called her race.
<ul><li>Taranadilla hatched in the middle of the night, and when she caught that first meagre meal she was still blind, but could sense the flap of its wings. I did not need to teach her how to catch her prey, because what I know, all dragons know from birth. </li></ul>
<ul><li>In the same way she would later know how to fly, but Taranadilla would not try her wings, and the will is not mine to answer for. </li></ul>
She was just three hours old when she caught her first bat. And I can tell you that this is not an unusual age for such an occurrence, since I have been intimate with the development of dragons since their creation.
Perhaps it was a misfortune to be born by the sea in mid-winter, for it crashed terrifyingly onto the rocks below her cave and she knew, as I know, that the sound means danger. Perhaps if she had hatched to the sound of gulls, which are music to a dragon's ears as a lark is to man's.
If she had hatched into the sunlight, she would not have been afraid to try her wings over a sea that was now calm. If she had not seen it in terror first, then perhaps...
"Taranadilla do you sense me?” I asked. "I do. But not like the bats. You are inside me, in pictures. You have always been there, will you always be?“ she answered "Taranadilla, open your eyes, there is something beautiful to see." I said "My eyes are open I think,“ she replied.
Taranadilla moved towards the soft light that was flooding in through the entrance of the cave, and shivered as a cloud passed over the moon, stealing her vision.
She drank from a puddle, expertly curling her tongue as all dragons do, and I thanked the Moon that she knew how to quench her thirst and needed no mother dragon to show her how. She would survive, at least for a while, of this I was now sure.
The cloud passed and the moon's reflection appeared in the puddle. She placed her snout into it to see how it would taste and found it fine, then breathed her first fire into the water so that it began to boil furiously, and steam billowed into the recesses of the cave.
Now she had certainly become a young adult and it was time for her to fly, but alas, I needed aid and there was no one. I can do nothing a dragon does not will. Will, the gentle push of a mother's claw, the shame of refusing the dare of a sibling, the desire to be held in esteem in the eyes of others, even the fear of being left behind outweighing the fear of the raging sea below.
"Tell me," she asked. "Are there others like me?” she asked "Yes there are others“ I replied. "But why am I alone?“ she asked "The Moon Tara, She knows why, not me,“ I answered.
Taranadilla was not discontent, there were plenty of bats to eat and she could drink in the moonlight that shone into the puddle in the cave's entrance. But I would not let her rest. I wanted her to try her wings and called to her reason insistently, knowing that she would soon be of a size where her unused muscles could not carry her full-grown body through the sky.
"Taranadilla, fly, fly." "I cannot go out for fear. I cannot." "You must try your wings."
In the end she could take no more and began to flap her wings, but inside the cave and out of a frantic rage. At each flap of her wings the bats flew into the air and danced like angry bees about a hive. The roof of the cave was razor sharp and it tore at the soft membrane of her wings, and as her ice-cold blood poured out of her body she beat still harder and harder.
Outside the wind picked up and, strangely, she felt comfort in the roar of the turbulence, as if fear was a comfort to her. Struggling to the ledge she looked out and for the first time, saw others of her race. The sound of their thundering wings hammered into her ears and she looked across the sea as the formation passed in silhouette over the moon's reflection. The cold wind brushed against her face and she longed to join them, to fly to the moon as they had done.
For a long while after she sat on the ledge, watching the winter birds with their striped beaks riding the wind. She spread her wings and the wind caught at their torn and tattered strips, ripping and whistling through their holes. Stretched out to their full extent they fluttered like a distress signal from the mast of a ship.
"Will I have another life?" "Ask the Moon, Tara, and she will tell you." "I will go to her. I can see her over there on the waves." "Look up, Taranadilla, look up. The moon is above you. Look up! Look up!" "Oh beautiful moon. I am falling, falling." "Come back Taranadilla. Your life's purpose is to live on in others. You will get no other life if you sacrifice this one to the Moon. Tara... Live! Live!"
The ragged body was tossed against the rocks, all life in it gone. And I wondered, was I to blame? Did I drive her to senseless self-harm in my insistence that she try her wings? Was it my crime that she injured herself beyond repair? What should she have known, how to cry out at the ledge for another's help? Never, I say, for she would have attracted an enemy and without flight she was defenceless.
But listen, it is from Taranadilla's story I learnt and, all mother dragons since knew through me, always to return to the brood and push the stragglers out. Some of the fiercest dragons that lived after her were pushed out of the nest by a loving claw. Only then can I instruct them to catch the wind under their wings and fly the air-currents over the waves.
And was I to blame that Taranadilla never saw the sun? Yes I was to blame for it was I who made her desire to fly to the moon when she had never looked up to the heavens. It was I, Instinct. It was I.
<ul><li>Would you have preferred a happy ending? </li></ul>
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