(Honorable mention in Writer’s Carnival’s Create a Creature contest!)
Faye stared through the trees into the open fields. She sighed as she watched the other children laughing and playing without her. This was life in the enchanted country: every seventh day, when the sun was high, the youth would engage in a friendly game to see who could put on the biggest show of magic. And during every game, Faye watched from afar with a heavy heart. It never mattered who among her peers won; she envied every single one of them.
All dragons were born with a beautiful coat of iridescent scales that shone as bright as diamonds in sunlight and that functioned as the source of their magic. All but a rare few. Roughly once a century, a hatchling was born with pure white scales that didn’t so much as glimmer when the sun touched them. Such individuals were dubbed Achromatic, and for their dull appearances that left them powerless, they were considered inferior to normal colorful dragons. Faye was one of the unlucky few.
“Monochrome!” “Colorless!” “Pale-face!”
The other drakes’ taunts had driven her to hide in the forest during their magic contests. As always, Faye watched silently as they showed off the powers they so often seemed to take for granted, trying to guess who would win this time. She knew the fire dragons usually placed first in this game, their red-and-gold scales absorbing enough light to shoot their fiery breath as high as the treetops. Sometimes the blue-green dragons achieved victory with strong jets of water, while yellow and orange dragons scored an occasional win by conjuring small yet powerful tornados. She had even seen an earth dragon win once (she later learned it had taken him a month to store enough solar energy in his brown scales to split that boulder in half). The magic displays were essentially the same every week, and today was no different from any other match day.
Except for Faye’s plan to change her life.
Two weeks ago, a traveling dwarf had stumbled upon the Crystal Cave that the Dragon Clan called home. In exchange for shelter for the night, he had shared half the gold in his pack and stories of his travels across the world. The children were especially fascinated by his tales of humans, with whom they had been warned for as long as they could remember that they should never interact. It was the main reason they weren’t allowed outside at night: they couldn’t risk running out of magic when the sun wasn’t up to regenerate it.
“Humans? Bah!” The dwarf scoffed at his juvenile audience. “Demons, more like! Tear ya down soon as look at ya! Darn near lost me leg to ’em last summer! Caught me in a snare and wouldn’t let me go ’til I told ’em where to find the witch!”
“Witch?” one of the older scarlet girls whispered in awe. The traveler nodded.
“Ay, a folktale from the olden days. The stories differ: sometimes she’s a witch, other times an angel. Human children even call ‘er a fairy queen. But they’re nothin’ but stories. I told ’em all I’d heard, but I never seen ‘er meself.”
“How do you find her?” asked a cyan-scaled boy. The dwarf laughed.
“When the moon’s full, find a clearin’ in the heart o’ the woods with a pool o’ crystal clear water. Close yer eyes and make a wish, and if ya believe with all yer heart, the witch’ll appear and make it come true.”
The very idea of such an event made the children quiver with excitement.
“Any wish at all?” said an amber drake, her eyes wide.
“I s’ppose it could be”, the traveler mused, then shook his head. “If she was real. But she en’t! I tried ages to find ‘er. Asked all across the land. Been a hundred years since anyone’s seen anythin’ o’ the sort! She just don’t exist! But humans, those buggers are real. Real as these here scars from the time I fought off three at once…”
The children listened intently as the dwarf returned to his stories about humans, but Faye, ever silent in the back of the group, couldn’t take her mind off the tale of the witch. That was it: her one chance at a better life. If there was even the slightest possibility that this omnipotent being did exist, surely she wouldn’t object to such a simple request as coloring the scales of an Achromatic dragon. It was worth a try.
Since the new moon when the dwarf had passed through, Faye had had two weeks to prepare for her big wish. While the other drakes practiced their magic, she spent the days scouring the forest until she finally found the clearing. All that was left to do was choose a color. Unfortunately, hours of watching her peers proved this was harder than it seemed, and by the time night fell, she still hadn’t reached a decision.
I’ll figure it out when I get there, the white drake thought as she waited for everyone else in the cave to drift off. Maybe the witch will know…
The young dragon lay still for what felt like an eternity, but at last the entire clan fell asleep. Her heart beating wildly, it was all she could do to keep from shaking as she snuck out of the cave and into the quiet forest. This was it: time to change her fate.
To be concluded next Friday