The monument stones lined the walls of the arms room. A stone for those who never came back, for those who returned scarred for life. There were no victory stones.
She was next. After the ritual blessing, she was left in the circular room to prepare herself physically and mentally for the task. She chose a shield forged in her home place, and a sword fashioned here in her duty place.
She held the sword in front of her and bowed to the four directions; the flame kept burning until victory; and to the monument stones. The most recent was of a good friend.
Standing as tall and straight as she could, shield in one had, sword in the other, she set her face in determination, and walked out of the sacred door. The journey wasn’t far and they were all taught to walk it in light or dark. She chose the dark; she felt more comfortable hidden from immediate view. She could dart between trees or rocks with no one seeing her.
At the entrance to the cave, she waited. It was her turn, her duty. The grim determination of birth order, home place and luck brought her to this spot. Now, she must make the moment her own.
It wasn’t long before red eyes pierced the darkness. The smell of brimstone hung in the air, almost suffocating her. She looked straight ahead, staring into his eyes. She put down her shield and sword, walking towards the great creature with her hands held in a gesture of peace.
As she approached, another set of red eyes appeared, much smaller and lower to the ground. Then another, and another. She realized that it wasn’t a he who dwelt in the cave, but a she. And her children.
She continued towards the red eyes and hot wind. She focused on the first small set, humming a lullaby that her mother used to sing at twilight. A soft gurgle and then the small creature stepped out of the cave. She continued to hum, looking up at the mother to reassure her.
The two met halfway between the shelf of cliff before the cave and it’s mouth. She let the creature sniff, lick, and nuzzle. A dragon child no bigger than herself.
With saddened hearts, her comrades placed a memorial stone in her honour. She, like so many, never returned. Soon, someone else would take on the grim task. She hoped to dissuade them when they arrived sword in hand.
@ phylor 2014