by Jason Brown, AKA "VeryGnawty"
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This is my world. I want to share it with you.
For Jay. May all your dreams come true.
Free. That's what she was: free. A young Dragon free to soar the skies. A tip of the wing here, a flick of the tail there, and she was off on another thermal. As the wind rose, so did she. Higher and higher she went, until the wind fell yet again. And she fell with it. From the peak of her flight to the thrill of the dive, she was free.
"Ow!" Lukai tumbled wing over tail into the soft dirt.
"No no no." An old human man stood up some distance away. He shook his head in disappointment. His white robes flowed simply in the wind as he made his way to the fallen Dragon.
"How many times do I have to tell you? You don't fight the wind. You flow with it. See here, you have sprained your wing."
The old man tended the blue Dragon's injured wing as he fussed. "Lukai, you think too much. Don't try to predict the wind. Don't think about the wind. Do you think the wind contemplates itself?"
"But Master," the young Dragon protested, "you said that I needed to be free."
The old man stroked the wing of a young Dragon many times his own size. "You need to be free to flow and decide where to move. Not free to control every aspect of your environment."
Lukai squirmed under her Master's care. She tried to stand up, but the old man pushed her back down. She cried out in distress, "But Master, isn't that what flying is about? Control? Why else would one fly if one didn't have control over it?"
Rinsai shook his head, "My young one, you still have much to learn. Come sit with me." The old man walked out of the training field to a hilltop. This was his favorite hill, and he often sat here for long hours. Everything could be seen from here: the fields of grass, the caves, and the many trees surrounding his little paradise.
He thought about everything that had happened over the years. He thought about when he had saved the abandoned Dragon. He thought about the feelings he had. Indeed, he had raised the creature as if it were his own child. He stroked his short white beard habitually, mumbling to himself.
Lukai could tell that her Master was meditating again, but she decided to interrupt him. She had to know. "Master Rinsai, why are we sitting?"
Rinsai pondered the question. "Why? Do you need a reason to sit?"
Lukai clawed at the dirt. "Well, you told me to sit, so I am sitting. What are we doing next?"
Rinsai answered simply. "We are sitting."
Lukai pushed her Master playfully. "I know what we are doing right now, silly. What are we doing next?"
Rinsai sat perfectly still, refusing to budge.
Lukai questioned again, "Master?"
Rinsai remained still.
"Master? What are we doing?"
Finally Rinsai spoke. "We are discussing why you can't fly."
Lukai protested. "But of course I can fly! Didn't you just see me?"
Rinsai answered truthfully. "I saw you fall. I did not see you fly."
The young Dragon couldn't believe her ears. "But Master, you saw me fly before I sprained my wing!"
Rinsai objected. "Nonsense. You can't even sit still. How can you ever expect to fly?"
Lukai was outraged. "That's ridiculous! I'm sitting here with you right now."
Rinsai answered coldly. "No you're not. You're fussing. You are squirming. You are thinking about what you are going to do, rather than what you are doing. There will be no more flying lessons until you learn to sit still."
Lukai was heartbroken. "But that's not fair."
"Who says life is fair?"
"But...But..." the young Dragon couldn't challenge her mentor, nor answer his question. Instead, she bowed her head meekly. "Yes, Master."
It had sounded easy enough. All she had to do was sit still. You'd think it would be easy, but no. She was stuck in some stupid cave sitting around, when she should be flying. Quivering with anger, Lukai lashed out her tail in a foul temper. By happenstance, a shard of rock slipped between her scales and slit a small cut into her skin.
"Oh great!" She yelled sarcastically, her strong voice echoing off the cave walls. "This is stupid. Sitting around in some cave. How am I ever going to learn to fly by sitting?"
She stormed out of the cave, her anger rising. "And what would some old man know of flying anyway? He doesn't even have wings! To think that I would let some old buffoon school me. Outrageous!"
She smiled to herself, anticipating her next move. "Well, I don't need him anymore anyway. I don't care if he raised me since I was a cub. I can teach myself now." Lukai leapt into the air, flaring her wings in delight. The moonlight shined off her blue scales in radiant luminescence. Taking wing into the darkness, she headed into the night to wherever the wind may take her.
Travelling had seemed easy enough. But now that she was away, she found it quite tiring. Long flights were boring. The ground undulated with hills and trees. The landscape seemed to repeat itself for miles on end.
She thought about going back, but how could she after leaving so suddenly? He wouldn't want her back after what she had done. How could he? He would only fuss over her anyway. Besides, she had a new life to live. She could create her own life now, her own dreams.
Suddenly, a dark shape swooped past her, throwing her off balance. Struggling to maintain her flight, she looked back to see what the object was. And there, reflected by the moonlight, was a face. It was another Dragon!
"Hey hot stuff." The creature called out in a sly voice. He was a black dragon, and sleek. He swirled around her, performing fancy aerial maneuvers.
"Stop showing off, Dervy. You're all show and no substance." Another voice called out nearby.
Lukai couldn't believe it. Two Dragons! And they had come out of nowhere.
The black Dragon replied smartly to the other's remark. "Give it up Ffloyd. This one's mine!" He swirled down into the trees.
"Wait!" Lukai called as she desperately tried to catch up with him. Branches scratched at her scales as she skirted through the trees, pursuing the elusive black Dragon.
Suddenly, he turned and caught her in midair, and they both came tumbling to the ground.
"Ha ha. Gotcha!" The black Dragon rose, picking dead leaves from his claws.
Lukai rose sheepishly. "Yeah. Uh, Dervy, right? I'm Lukai."
Dervy pointed a talon at himself with a strong arm. "Dervy, the Derv. I own these parts."
"You own nothing." A booming voice called out as a large brown Dragon came lumbering through the trees.
"Yeah, you wish I owned nothing, Ffloyd."
"Well then, how about a friendly competition?" The brown Dragon chuckled.
"You're on!" Dervy tackled the large brown as they disappeared into a flurry of leaves. They rolled and leapt and grappled each other. In truth, their antics were quite humorous.
Lukai chuckled, not knowing what to think of their play fighting. "Excuse me, but I was wondering if I could join you?"
Dervy leapt to her side. "You can join me anytime, babe."
The brown Dragon pushed him over easily. "Don't listen to Dervy here. Ffloyd will show you around."
"We'll show her together." Dervy grabbed her by the talon and pranced through the forest.
"Right on." Ffloyd grabbed her by the other side. The flabbergasted Lukai was quickly ushered around. The experience was disorienting, and exciting.
"And here we are. The grand abode. A palace fit for kings!"
Their so-called palace was an ancient tree rising out of a hill. The hillside was worn in several spots, presumably from where the two Dragons played their games. There was plenty of room to move around, yet the surrounding forest provided plenty of privacy. The spot wasn't half bad.
"Dervy, is that you?" A pretty red female Dragon poked her head out from behind the tree. Even with the canopy obstructing the moonlight, she could be clearly seen. Her scales shone with a brightness unmatched by anything Lukai had ever seen, and her face was laden with curiosity and anticipation.
"Rose, my darling." Dervy fluttered to her with an overly dramatic flair. "I'm sorry we were gone so long, but we found another restless soul."
Rose batted at him playfully. "Sorry, oh hodgepodge. You're never sorry for anything. But who is this?"
Lukai stood still as the smaller red Dragon circled her.
"Lukai!" Dervy announced in a bold voice.
Ffloyd rolled his eyes at the ridiculous black Dragon. "We found her flying above the hillside."
"Is that right?" Rose fussed. "But what were you doing out in the black of night? It's dangerous out there all alone."
Lukai thought about her old Master, and how she had left him. She tried to speak, not knowing what to say. "I was...uh...I was just taking a flight. You know, stretching my wings."
Dervy patted her on the back. "She was having fun. You're a daredevil, aren't you Lukai?"
Lukai clawed at the dirt. "Yeah. I guess you could say that."
Dervy jumped up cheerfully. "See, she's a Dragon after my own heart. I like her already."
The night wore on as the new friends became acquainted. Rose continued with her questioning and worrying. Dervy made brash comments and silly stunts. Ffloyd just shook his head at Dervy. And Lukai tried to banish her old Master Rinsai from her mind.
"Not like that, Lukai. You have to turn as the wind blows."
They were flying again. Dervy was trying to show her how to spin and flip. But all she managed to do was fumble around in the air.
He continued to flip around in the air, as Lukai became more and more frustrated. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore. "I don't get it!"
"Whoah! Calm down, it's no big deal." Dervy flew up beside her.
"Yes it is. It's a very big deal." She dove down into the trees.
Dervy followed her, landing in a pile of soft leaves. He approached her, bewildered, "What's wrong? Is it something I said?"
She let out a sigh. "No. It's not you. It's just something my Master used to tell me. He used to say that I am not free."
Dervy looked confused. "Master? What Master?"
"It's not important." Lukai shook her head.
Dervy protested. "Just tell me what's wrong. Whatever it is, we can work on it."
"Let's just go eat some lunch."
"Ok." Dervy followed her cautiously.
Ffloyd and Rose were already back at the tree. They feasted on long vines hanging from the trees, as they were abundant, and Dragons could eat just about anything.
"So Lukai," Dervy shoved a lump of vines into his mouth, "tell ush about thish Mashter of yourz."
"Master? What Master?" Rose asked inquisitively.
"Oh, it's nothing really." Lukai tried to play it off like it wasn't a big deal. "There was an old human I used to keep company with. He told me that the only way that I would ever be free is if I sat around in some cave."
Rose laughed, her shrill voice piercing the air. "Ha ha! That's silly. Did you do it?"
Lukai laughed in relief. "Yeah. It's pretty funny I guess."
"What happened?" Rose asked.
"I got bored, so I left and found you guys."
"A smart move." Dervy remarked, trying to emphasize his words with gestures from one front leg while grabbing vines with the other.
"Yeah." Rose giggled. "He sounds silly."
"Yeah, he was very silly." Lukai sighed. "Half the time he just sat around on some hilltop doing nothing."
Rose twisted her snout in disgust. "What was he doing sitting around like that?"
Lukai shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe he thought it would make him free."
"Ha ha ha!" Rose snorted annoyingly. "That's funny."
They all laughed at the thought of some old man sitting around all the time. But secretly, Lukai was a little sad that she never said goodbye. But she would never tell that to her new friends. Besides, they actually did stuff, and knew how to have fun. She glanced at the sun beaming through the trees, unable to eliminate old Master Rinsai from her mind.
The months had been good to her. The forest was bountiful, and life was good. Furthermore, she had been able to practice her flying. Dervy continued showing her some fancy tricks. The two of them had become quite close over time. She felt a certain affection for the black dragon which she couldn't explain. As they circled the skies, she felt a surge of emotion.
"Dervy?" She grabbed him by the leg in mid-flight. "Do you like me?"
Dervy looked back at her, confused. "Like you? Of course I like you. Why wouldn't I like you?"
She stroked his leg. "No, I mean, do you like me?"
He tried to shrug her off. "Stop being silly. You know I like you."
Suddenly she felt very alone. She felt like she didn't belong. Confused, she let go of him and flew off in the other direction. "I think I'll take a flight out this way."
"Fine." Dervy shook his head, flustered. What had gotten into her?
Lukai continued until she became bored. She saw a meadow in the middle of the forest, and decided to land there. And there, out in the middle of the tall grass, she decided to sit. She thought about her old Master. She thought about what she was doing, about what she wanted to do. Why did she feel so alone? Hadn't her new friends showed her how to truly live? Why did she continue to get so angry?
Question after question entered her mind. She thought about it so much that she grew tired. Lying down, she let the questions die in her mind. She rested, trying not to think about the turmoil of ideas in her head. She fell asleep still with the why's and the how's and the when's rolling around and around in her mind.
It was dark. Lukai had slept well into the night. The moon cast pale shadows throughout the eerie meadow. The golden grass swayed and sighed with the wind, flowing this way and that. Lukai rose, her muscles aching from the long inactivity.
Slowly she made her way back through the forest, crushing leaves underfoot. She walked in a daze, not sure of what to think or do. Eventually she could see the familiar signs of their encampment. Ffloyd was sprawled out along the hillside as always. Rose and Dervy were coiled around each other, sleeping. They looked cute together.
Suddenly, a rage welled within Lukai that she couldn't explain. She stomped over to the sleeping couple, waking them up. "What are you doing!?"
Dervy woke up groggily. "What do you mean what am I doing? Oh, hello. I'm sleeping, what are you doing?"
Lukai pointed an accusing talon at him. "I mean, what are you doing with HER!"
Dervy looked towards Rose, confused. "I already said that we were sleeping."
"Together?" Lukai questioned.
Dervy rose. "Look, what's the big deal? You're gone all evening and you come back and accuse me of sleeping? What's gotten into you?"
Lukai fumed. "I thought you liked me?"
"But I do like you!" Dervy begged helplessly.
"Humph!" Lukai flew off into the night.
Ffloyd looked at the other two. "What was all that about?"
They shrugged, each Dragon just as confused as the other.
Lukai flew until she could fly no more. And just when she thought she couldn't go any further, she realized that she recognized her surroundings. She was close to her old home!
She quickly landed on the old hilltop, excited. "Master! Master!"
But the Master was nowhere to be found. He was not sitting on the hill. Lukai walked across the fields looking for him. She found him lying down in their old cave.
"Master!" She rushed over to him. "Master, I have returned."
The old Rinsai gazed up at his former student, a tear in his eye. "Lukai. Is it you? One day, I knew you would return."
"Master, I'm sorry I left so suddenly. It was just, I mean I...but you'll never believe what happened. I have new friends, and you should meet them."
Rinsai rose his hand feebly. "I'm sure you did, my child. But I won't be meeting anybody. My time has come."
"Time? What time? Surely you have plenty of time to see them?"
Rinsai answered earnestly. "I am dying."
Lukai cried. "But you can't die. Not now. I've only just returned."
He grabbed her with old gnarled fingers. "Now don't get upset, child. Death is nothing to get upset over. Don't you see? You've done it. You're free."
"Free?" Lukai pondered. "But Master, I'm not free. I never completed your training."
Rinsai sat up with great effort. "It's not about the training. It was never about the training. It is about doing what you want to do."
"But Master," she protested, "I'm not free. I got angry with my friends. I don't know why."
"Why did you get angry?"
Lukai shook her talons in frustration. "I don't know. Something they were doing upset me."
"And what were they supposed to be doing?"
Rinsai smiled. "I said, what were they supposed to be doing?"
"I don't know." Lukai sighed.
Rinsai waved his hand through the air, emphasizing his point. "You see, you are still about control. You think that your friends are supposed to be doing something, and that you are supposed to be doing something with them. The real truth is that it doesn't matter what anybody is doing. You do what you want. Don't you see? Stop trying to control them."
"But what if what they're doing isn't what I want to do?"
Rinsai pointed a finger at her. "You need your friend's approval to do what you want?"
Rinsai chuckled. "Then don't worry about what they are doing. Do what you want to do. That is the only way anybody ever became free. Why don't you go to them?"
"What, NOW!?" Lukai asked in shock. "But, you are dying!"
Rinsai let out a hearty laugh for a man of his age. "That may be so, but don't worry about what I'm doing. You don't need to sit around here on my behalf. What do you want to do? I mean, what do you really want to do?"
Lukai thought long and hard. "I want...I want to fly."
Rinsai dismissed her with a wave of his hand. "Then fly. Don't worry about me. I've already made burial arrangements with some old friends. Fly away, Lukai. Fly away and be free."
Lukai walked out of the cave in a daze. Could she really leave her Master lying around in some cave alone? But that's what he wanted. And he wanted her to fly. She wanted to fly. She wanted so much just to fly away.
It was like she had some kind of enlightenment. Without even thinking, she opened her wings. She stood there as the wind whistled through her scales. She leapt into the air as the morning sun crept over the horizon. And as the wind rose and fell, so did she. She floated through the air like a feather, not worrying about where she would go or what she would do. At last, she was free.