They sat on the edge of the Green Sea, waiting. Waves of tall grasses as far as the eye could see rippled in the breeze. Adem, the elder, found the motion of the plains soothing. These were the hours that helped set his mood for the rest of the day. The calmness washed over him. Every morning for ten years he had come to Dragonwatch looking for… something. Anything. Any sign that the prophecy wasn’t just meaningless drivel. Each day he left rested but disappointed.
His daughter, Red, joined him more often than not—and not entirely by choice, most days. She found the entire experience utterly dismal. “How much longer must we wait, Father?” she asked.
Adem breathed a sigh. “You know the routine, Red. We will stay for two hours past first light. If one has not come by then, it will be another day.”
“Or another week, or another month or year,” Red grumbled.
“It might be, yes,” Adem said, placidly. “Or it might be today. The gods keep their own timetable.”
“And yet the prophecy says—”
“The prophecy is not exact; that is the nature of prophecies,” said Adem. He fixed Red with a glare. “We’ve had this conversation before, daughter. Are we to have it again?”
Red looked down at the ground. “I still don’t understand why these… things are held in such high regard. They killed thousands—tens of thousands—before they disappeared. It is said they breathed fire.”
Adem couldn’t help but chuckle. “Many of the gods’ creatures have had that ability,” he said. “As for the war between humans and dragons, not all took part. The actions of a few affected the course of all.”
“As you say, Father,” said Red. “May I wander a bit?”
“You may. Stay within the sound of my voice and come immediately should I call.”
As he watched his daughter leave, his thoughts turned to the prophecy. Despite his outward sureness of the truth, Adem was faltering. The first years had been exciting. When the clerics decreed that the Return was imminent and that the prophecy would be fulfilled, Adem had been the first volunteer. “We haven’t asked for any volunteers,” they had said. “There is nothing yet to volunteer for!” Adem had insisted that whatever plan the clerics came up with, he wanted a part of it.
The clerics assigned him the arduous task of waiting each morning at the edge of the Green Sea, the most likely location for the Return. Adem thanked them profusely and vowed to never miss a day; he never did. Adem was lost in memory when Red startled him.
“That did not take long, child,” he said, turning toward her.
“I was troubled. I felt I should ask—father, look!” she cried.
Adem followed her eye line. “By the gods of darkness and light,” Adem whispered. “You see it, don’t you, Red?”
“I do. I’m… sorry, father. I should not have doubted you.”
Adem waved the comment away. There would be time for a father-daughter talk later, if either of them decided it was still important after what was about to happen to them.
In the distance stood a creature out of legend, a creature that few believed ever existed. A beast whose return had been foretold in the ancient texts. It walked slowly toward Adem and Red, seemingly cautious, though why it would be cautious Adem couldn’t say.
“Where did it come from?” asked Red.
“I’ve no idea,” her father replied.
“It’s coming. What do we do?”
Don’t be scared, child. “We wait. It should be here soon, it is not far. It seems to be gaining confidence and speed. We have magic on our side, daughter. They are powerful, but we are far from defenseless.” Adem wished he were as confident as he was trying to sound.
The wait was not long and soon, the beast stood before Adem and Red. It was smaller than Adem expected it to be and had the grace to prostrate itself before them before speaking. “My name is Skye,” it said.
“I am Adem. This is my daughter, Red.”
“An apt name,” Skye said, gazing upon her. “You speak the Old Tongue?”
Adem bowed his head. “I do. Many of my kind do, though not all.”
Skye smiled. “It is the same with us.”
“Why did you come back?” Red blurted.
Adem’s eyes went wide at his daughter’s rudeness. “Red! That is no way to speak to an honored—”
“It’s quite all right,” said Skye. “Red, we know of your prophecy. We have a prophecy as well. They both speak of our return, but yours does not give the why. Ours does. Redemption. Our exile was self-imposed, you see. For five thousand years we have lived in the Elsewhere. Only after the Atonement would we be allowed to return to our homelands. That day has come.”
Red seemed content with the answer. “Daughter, it is time to fetch the others,” Adem said. “Bring them back in all haste, that they might greet our guest.”
The Green Sea itself seemed to heave a sigh, causing Adem to look up for the first time since Skye’s arrival. Where there was once nothing but green and brown, now there were hundreds of Skye’s kinsmen. They began to walk, slowly at first, as if they were just getting used to the feel of their legs. Adem noted that most were of a height; they stood less than two meters tall. Their skin was a motley collection of shades from pink to deep brown and nearly all had hair atop their heads.
“Ah, my brethren,” Skye said. “Adem, before we get swept up in the fanfare of our two cultures coming together again, may I ask a favor of you?”
“May I touch your scales? I would be the first human in five thousand years to lay hands on a dragon. The honor would be immeasurable.”
A puff of smoke escaped his nostrils as Adem lowered his head to Skye’s reach and closed his bright yellow eyes. “My lord,” he said, “the honor would be all mine, I assure you.”
About this Story
I’ve been reading and watching Game of Thrones lately, and last night a thought crossed my mind: it seems like there are quite a lot of stories about dragons in exile or dragons that have seemingly gone extinct only to return. “We’re all doomed, the dragons have returned!” Well… what if the dragons weren’t the ones that went away? What if it were the humans that were making some grand comeback? As I turned it over in my head, I started thinking about how such a story could be written. I could play it straight and lay it all out, of course, but I remembered a short story written by Isaac Asimov back in 1952 called Youth. That story had a great twist ending, and I decided to have a go at playing with that kind of ending for my own story.
Youth had a character called Red, and I decided to borrow it because I needed a name that could work for both a dragon or a human—I couldn’t very well call her something like Skydancer Fireheart, after all. Might be a bit too obvious, that. I chose Adem for my elder dragon because I wanted something distinctly human. This was my attempt at playing the twist ending close to the vest for as long as possible. I named Skye for the same reason. Though it wouldn’t be long before his true nature was revealed, I wanted to squeeze it for all I could!