Lizard stretched yawning, stretched, yawned some more, and rolled over onto his back. He laid there baking his belly in the warm sunlight.
“Where do you come from?” I asked.
“Originally we, that is my family, hailed from the south. Our line goes back a long, long way. My great, great, great-grandmother was a descendant of the Taladhron Dragon Clan, one of the last of their kind as they were.”
I looked at Lizard. He was not what you could call large by any means, “I always imagined dragons to be huge …”
“Imagination is a wonderful thing”, he retorted, grinning. At least I think he was grinning, it’s difficult to tell when someone is upside-down, he could have been grimacing – I wondered idly if I had upset him.
“Tell me more?”, I ventured hesitantly.
“We could be here a while.” “Well, you did say there was no rush”, I interjected, grinning back at him.
I felt as if we were sizing each other up – playfully working each other out.
“I am happy to tell you my story”, he rolled back onto his front, looking me straight in the eye, “If you will tell me yours.”
I have very little to tell but agreed of course. “You first”, I said. A quizzical look fleetingly crossed his face. For a lizard his features are remarkably expressive, but then I can’t honestly say I have had much, if any, experience of lizards.
Child is fascinated by the owls she can see in the trees above her, where a group of them sit seemingly chatting to each other. Gazing up at them Child imagines they are gossiping, probably about their noisy crow neighbours, who are cackling away in the tree next to them. In reality there are no owls. Bunches of older brown leaves have conspired, gathering together to shape owl forms, but what Child sees is real.
As she watches, dreaming of their lives, she hears a voice talking about dragons. This distracts her from her owl watching, turning her attention instead to where the voice is coming from – a Lizard, noticing him for the first time, as he talks of his long-ago family. “My great, great, great grandmother was an elder of one of the last surviving dragon clans. I am descended directly from her” – he was saying.
Child drifts off into dreams of living with dragons, seeing herself riding amongst the clouds on their backs as they fly across the sky – how wonderful that would have been…………………
Lizard pokes me – “Willow, are you listening? Stop daydreaming!” I have seen that look many, many times before.
Shuffling, feeling a just a little disturbed I assured him I was listening.
“Hmmm, yes, well, I shall give you the shortened version. As I was saying, I am a direct descendant of that line. Long, long ago there came a time when it became dangerous to be a dragon, when we began being hunted by ‘questers’. They had no understanding of dragon-kind and with little or no imagination or intelligence enough to want to get to know us. Before their coming this land was peaceful – everyone – all species lived together, each one knowing their role in the world. We don’t know or have forgotten where they came from, but it seemed they were intent on destruction.
“Who were they?” I asked.
Impatiently Lizard replied: “I just told you that where they came from has been lost to our memory!”
“Um, yes, no, sorry – I meant what kind of creatures were they – these ‘questers’?”
He looked at me askance, “Oh …. Well …. They looked like you.”
“I mean they were human.” Lizard let out a deep sigh, “Now, shall I continue?” “Yes…… please.” I gulped.
“My ancestors soon learned that to survive at all they would have to leave, so the remaining clans, of which there were few, took to the highest of the high points, becoming cave dwellers in the farthest reaches of the mountains, where no human could gain access. However, they knew that that wouldn’t be enough, sooner or later the humans would find a way to get at them. Besides which it was no kind of life, separated from everything and everyone they knew, totally isolated from all that made their previous lives so rich and varied.
The elders and the knowers of each of the remaining clans gathered together to try to find a way out, a way forward. One possibility was to leave this land altogether, to find somewhere where there were no humans. However they came to the conclusion that this would be difficult if not impossible, their thinking being that if humans had managed to get here then they were probably everywhere.”
“The only conclusion they could come to and agree upon was that, in order to survive, they would have to change, adapt – keep their dragon essence but alter their outward appearance.”
“How on earth would that be possible?” – I was intrigued.
“These dragons were extremely clever – they knew much of what you call science – physics, genetics and so much more – they knew how ‘things worked’ at the deepest levels. It would take generations, no-one knew exactly how many but they were sure it could be done – they could reduce their size without compromising quality.”
I swear that, as he said this, he winked at me!
“From that moment of agreement on only the smallest dragons were permitted to breed. No-one objected as they knew it was for the greater good, for the survival of our species. The knowers worked on creating a formula which, once consumed by the breeding pairs, would ensure that all offspring would be much, much smaller than their parents. Granted we lost some of our abilities in the process – no more ice or fire-breathing – but we survived . I am one of the smaller descendants it’s true, but there are some larger than I elsewhere. Once we were no longer perceived as a ‘threat’ to humans we came down from the high places and got on with our lives again, although so much had changed. The world that we had known no longer existed – fear had entered the landscape.”