Trees cover the mountainside. Their bark blistered; their branches bare; their trunks broken. Rocks are cracked, deep cuts score the ground, dried up ravines are etched into the mountain side. Pathways meander to the top which are used by the huge beast which lives in the vast caves beneath.
The dying dragon pulls her body out of the darkness of her lair, and with her fading efforts to remain alive starts to climb with a slow, painful lumbering crawl, the mountain which she was used to running up. She knows her death approaches and she wants to lie on top of the mountain, away from her large cave, and take one more look at the world. One more look at the air in which she was used to flying thousands of miles in a single day. One more look slow look with dimming eyes.
Once more to feel the touch of a breeze on her face and smell the smells of the world. The rich smells of living.
Her head droops with her struggle to even walk. It sways in time to her tortuous, small steps. Her breath, fireless, is harsh and heavy. Her scales hang loosely from the folds of her aged skin. Gone are those underlying muscles that rounded her body and made the scales into armour. The tail, which had flattened trees and shaken mountains in her anger, meekly follows where her feet lead. Like the withered stalk of an unwatered flower, it has no life of its own. It leaves a deep trail as she wends her way up onto the last few metres of her walk. To stand and see. To lie and see. To look across the land. For her eyes to go where she no longer could. She collapses on her vantage point her eyes struggling to open. Shaking with the effort.
Dark clouds move with the rising storm.. Like distant visitors fleeing the sky before it crashes upon the earth. The dragon gasps. A mournful cough that groans from the pit of the stomach in an effort to make music. To speak. To maintain the body for one final effort. The sound is awful. A wail. A dragon’s rattle. A ghastly reproach for the end of things. A warning to the storm.
A lightning flash, as silent as the grave, lights up her decrepit aged-grey body and once livid red eyes now pale and bleary. She shuts her tired lids, sighs, and rolls over onto her side on the edge of the plateau. She made it. She will never move from this spot. She opens her eyes one last time and sees the world. Feels the darkness, caresses the light, greets the storm. It is fitting there should be a storm at this time. Today of all days. She closes her eyes for the last time, moaning the song of her people which she has known since she was a young dragon learning the things she had to know to live through the centuries of her life.
How people will hunt her
How men will fear her
How fire will be her friend
How riddles will keep her mind active
How gold glitters but is dangerous.
How to find a good cave
How to protect her friends and vanquish her enemies.
How to love and be loved
How to be brave
How to be shy
She had done all these things.
Her thoughts are not of death. Not of treasures or wars. Not of enemies or intrigues. If thoughts had life then she would be seventeen again. The age at which a dragon first tries her adult wings, new formed. Still damp from growing and the shedding of her baby wings. How she tumbles with the joy of freedom they give her, over and over with her friends. Thundering with energy, with hope, with love. Dragon laughter like a river ripples down the mountain side and joins all the sounds of life. Friends playing the game of youth. A dragon’s youth. And high above the land, they dip and dive, blow flames and play ‘catch-as-catch-can’.
But thoughts have no life outside the head in which they are formed. And no more had she a moment left.
Twilight is a good time to die.
She dies. The once immense body of the most feared animal that has ever existed, moves no more. The loud voice is quiet. The body greets the storm, but the mind goes elsewhere.
As always with the death of the mighty, no one mourns. It is a lonely passing from greatness back into the earth from which all things come. The trees stand silent. The cave stands empty. The gold inside glitters here and there as starlight and lightning catch it. A mouse scampers and scurries along.
The storm breaks. Throughout the wilderness of that raging night the water pours out of the clouds, gurgling into the parched mouth of the thirsty soil. Teeming down the mountains in that lonely land, and washing everything clean.
Even the dragon is washed by the rain of the heavens. The grey vanishes. She glitters in the moonlight which follows the tempest. Her weight takes her gently into the newly softened earth. Her eyes fastened upon the last thing she ever saw, the distance. Her mouth is partially open but unusually dampened. Her fire no longer strikes fear into anyone’s heart. The stars cover the sky in their many thousands and they look down upon her.
And she is beautiful in her dress of purple and gold.