Arafine’s eyes felt like dry holes in her head as she searched the sky for her lost son, trying to peer beyond the horizon where Arak had disappeared on his journey. Why had he headed out to sea? She should have flown after him and made him change course. But this was his first solo journey, and he would never have forgiven her.
Was he still alive? Cold waves crashed over her clawed feet and ran back into the sea. After dragon-weeks of searching, her heart felt colder than the waves. Stray memories of Arak surfaced in her mind, coupled with desperate, uncertain loss. Freezing sand shifted beneath her claws as she shivered.
Kragor landed beside Arafine and stretched a long wing across her back, enfolding her in a comforting embrace. She leaned against him, remembering a very different evening long ago. She and Kragor had playfully spiraled about each other, weaving a golden path through the night sky as they flew to a remote volcanic island.
Arafine and Kragor feasted on fresh oysters beneath curtains of colored light that hung in the sky, rippling in an unknown breeze. They walked wing-to-wing across worn rock, admiring the harsh beauty of this distant place, gathering diamonds. These large, eight-sided crystals had weathered out of dark rock and lay strewn about, sparkling in white, yellow, pink, blue and lilac.
Kragor arranged the sparkling gems in a pattern that captured the flickering essence of northern lights. Arafine recalled his impressive ice sculpture from their Winter Festival. He carved his abstract sculpture from an ice boulder, with carefully placed facets that caught the light like a star sapphire. These made glowing images within the ice that changed across time. A fleeting smile crossed her face. There was something about an artist, how they saw the world . . .
Arafine and Kragor chose each other as partners in the storm dances, tossing lightning back and forth with copper claws. They added metals to color the lightning bolts, and lit the clouds with rainbow colors. Kragor watched her eyes as he pulled a special vial from his chest pouch. He caught a new bolt, juggling it as he added the red metal. This was the color at the rim of dragon-lord scales. The bolt turned a bright emerald, the color at the tip of golden dragon-lady scales.
He tossed the green lightning.
Arafine caught the green fire and twirled it on her claws, considering. Then she smiled into his waiting, anxious eyes and returned the lightning, accepting his proposal. They were mated.
When her wing-tips turned rosy-gold, Arafine made her nest bowl following clan traditions. A dragon must hatch in a nest that combines land, fire, water, and air. The First Dragon was born of these four elements, and all dragons since were born within them. A ceramic bowl was made of clay, softened by water, and hardened by fire and air to create an ancient magic that nurtured dragonlets, and a functional nest that held life-giving heat.
Arafine gathered blue clay from a distant river, and spun her bowl with silver threads. She pinched the rim into wavy folds, then dragon-fired the bowl to hardness. Moonstones and aquamarines decorated the sides in a swirly pattern, so that her nest held the colors and movement of the sea she loved. She filled this bowl with sand to cushion her precious egg, and warmed her nest with dragon-fire.
When their tiny dragonlet finally broke through his shell, he peered about with curiosity and trilled a friendly greeting. She trilled back, singing a gentle lullaby as her heart filled with the fierce love of a dragon-dam. Now he was lost at sea. Her brief escape into happy memories collided with overwhelming grief.
Kragor’s excited cry brought Arafine back from her desperate dreams. A dark speck appeared on the horizon, growing slowly. Arafine strained her eyes to see and her heart beat faster. The spot grew into a dragon and her heart lurched with forgotten hope.
As color drained from the sky, Arak landed roughly at the edge of the sea and collapsed. Waves grabbed his limp body and pulled him back into the sea. He struggled to his feet and staggered up onto the shore.
Arafine slumped onto the sand, weak with joy and relief. “I had lost hope,” she confided in a whisper.
Kragor’s tail thumped with the sudden release of long-held tension, and his deep voice trembled. “I was afraid to say anything . . . afraid to make the loss real. No dragon has ever returned from the sea after being gone so long.”
Arafine stretched her cramped wings. They launched into the sky as one, flying together to welcome Arak home.
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