A Horntailed Hungarian Romance
The Hungarian Horntail stood straight. She was the uncontested mistress of the plains and of the skies. One of her breaths could lighten the horizon; with but a few flappings of her gigantic wings, she could be in the horizon. She could crush anyone or anything with a single one of her footsteps. She didn't have enemies; they were dead. She didn't have friends; she was too careful to defend her territory to allow anyone in.
She had mates. He-dragons. They were thinner, and smaller, and weaker in many ways, but they were her weakness. She often took a stray male under her non-metaphorical wing, and offered him hospitality in her territory, in her lair, in her arms even. They needn't do anything but strut around, letting their bright scales shine in the bright daylight, to bring her under their spell, and for a night or a season she was theirs.
But she couldn't commit to a single male like most dragons did. Someday, she kept thinking. She'd settle down, if only to hatch the eggs properly – give them a stable home, a loving father, and all that claptrap her own father had instilled in her in her younger days.
But that was the crux of the problem. She had no eggs, could feel no new life inside of her. She had never tried like dragons were supposed to try, by pining a pliant male under them and forcing themselves onto them again and again, night after night for season after season – no male had yet held her attention long enough for that. But there had been many males, and many seasons, and still there were no hatchlings.
In damp days like this one, where not even a blast of fire could set flame to the decaying leaves on the ground, she couldn't help but wonder who would live in her territory when she was no more.
Apparently, she was not the only one with that concern, she thought with a touch of cynicism, as another female approached on the southern limit of her plains. And that generous soul seemed ready to help her fly away to where the manes of past dragons dwelled, if her aggressive demeanour was anything to go by!
She slowly jutted her wide shoulders backwards and deployed her wings to their full span. She was a large dragon, and she knew it, but the ill-advised intruder had obviously not been privy to that little tidbit of information.
She roared for good measure, and flames poured out of her nostrils as she screamed, up in the air. They grazed the other dragon, licking at her scales, frightening her off. But the Hungarian Horntail was angry now, and she beat her wings, rising up into the air with a force and power none of the lesser magical beings could even think of emulating and flew towards the intruder, still spouting fire, forcing her to flee. She turned around sharply, and by so doing let something drop to the ground.
The Hungarian Horntail was of two minds. Her instinct, her anger, her insatiable bloodlust commanded her to chase the other dragon and fight until she fell down on the ground like that… thing, battered and bruised and very much beaten out of the very idea to impinge on her territory like that.
But then she was also tired and, worse even, subject to that peculiar strand of ennui that, in lesser beings, leads to depression.
She didn't feel like fighting. She felt like investigating what the other dragon had let fall from her neck.
Curiosity won over instinct and she flew down to the… thing.
She halted. Was it prey? But one carried one's prey in one's talons, not over one's back.
The tiny thing made a tiny noise and moved again, as if to protect itself.
How cute, she thought to herself. It's as if it realises I'm going to kill it! She'd roast it, she decided, that way it wouldn't suffer, and it would taste better that way too.
But then she wasn't very hungry.
Perhaps she'd take it home for tomorrow? It was still alive so it wouldn't rot. She'd better not kill it during the transport, then…
As gently as she could, she gathered the thing inside her talons and then took off again.
She called it Little. Because it was little – obviously.
Dragons weren't supposed to have pets. Her father would have been shocked and appalled if he'd known she'd keep an animal inside her lair someday. There were prey, and enemies, and mates, and of course hatchlings, and all that left no place for pets. But she'd brought back the thing and left it in a warm spot in the lair where it had lain all night long, immobile. It had woken up in the morning, and the sun had shone over the bright red strands of its fur, making it look almost like the fiery red of her own scales. It moved cautiously around, cute in its tinyness, and she couldn't resist, she called him Little.
Little had been damaged by the fall. Little needed someone to care for it. Little was like a hatchling, in a way, she deluded herself into thinking. Of course she knew it would never fly, would never grow up, would never find a mate of its own – but if she half-closed her eyes and let her spirit wander, she fancied she had had a faulty egg, one that had hatched but that hadn't produced a real dragon, and that she would nonetheless care for the little runt until it proved to be viable on its own.
She brought it water, kept it in her mouth and then spit it on the ground, next to it, where there was a hole in the ground of the lair, so it could lap it up during the day. She brought food, the best morsels of freshly harvested prey, roasted by her very own fire. To her growing concern, it ate very little, especially at first, and she had to push the meat in its direction often to get it to take the offering.
At night she spread one of her wings over it, almost smothering it under the added weight. But she knew it was necessary: nights were getting colder and colder, and she couldn't well keep a fire going in her sleep, could she.
She often thought it would die, small and broken and helpless as it was. But it went on waking up in the mornings, and she felt its magic growing stronger around him, strengthening his tiny little body.
It made its first steps on its own several days after its arrival. It stood up and haltingly half-crouched forward to the outer wall of the lair and then back, before crumbling down on its sleeping spot.
She couldn't be prouder of her Little.
Then one day it gestured.
Not like a proper dragon, of course. Dragons communicated through a complex system of body gestures and magical stimuli – roars of fire, growls of power, and the occasional swab of the tail. Little could do nothing of these things, but still it tried to communicate.
The Horntail bowed her head to the side before the cuteness of it all. It was spreading its diminutive not-wings and tapped its tiny foot behind itself like – like it were a tail! Was it mistaking itself for a dragon?
Still, the signal was unmistakable. It was saying "fly!"
She nudged him with her head, as gently as she could, tipping him to the floor. It would never fly, the poor thing, didn't it realised this?
Little stood up again and started a complex series of awkward gestures. He was trying to tell her something, but what?
She brought her head down, almost to his level, and concentrated on its tiny face.
He was no dragon, but he was a magical creature nonetheless, and magic could carry her mind into its thoughts. She took the plunge.
It was a very confusing place, Little's mind, packed with odd images. Many more red-furred things – odd, closed landscapes – a flurry of such emotions she would have never suspected it capable of harbouring – and, tied in with most of these emotions, the picture of a black-scaled creature recurring again and again. Apart from its face, its body changed with every memory – navy blue scales, and purple ones, and red ones, and complex fur-like arrangements – but most of the time the creature was scale-less, in a disgusting sort of full nakedness, in all sorts of undragon-like positions.
It was a very disturbing sight, and she retired from Little's mind with a physical jolt, but Little wouldn't have that. It walked to her and gestured for her to bring her eyes back down on it.
She reluctantly agreed and stepped back into his mind. It guided her, this time, and showed her a much simpler spectacle.
The black creature again, without its scales, mixed with one single emotion – lust. That she could understand, but then it shifted to something else. Affection? Tenderness? Commitment? She couldn't pinpoint Little's feeling, but she did understand it was connected to the other creature, and it suddenly downed on her. They must be mates – not occasional lair partners, but a true pair, like her own parents had been!
How very quaint. Such tiny creatures, having such deep emotions!
It guided her further into its memories, and there was an uncomfortable scene. The black creature was saying something, and it caused anger, fury, even. Then she saw Little himself, chasing after a smaller dragon, propelling itself onto her back, and flying towards her territory.
So that was how it happened. It had had an argument with its mate, had ill-advisedly provoked a dragon, fell and broke itself. It didn't say how he'd managed to come that close to the smaller dragon in the first place, but she didn't have time to dwell on that enigma, it pulled her towards another one of its thoughts.
This one was different. It was no memory, and looked more like a figment of his imagination. There it was hopping onto her back – her back! – and flying, east-south-south, and then he and the black creature flapping their not-wings around each other in a slightly gross parody of a dragon embrace.
She felt sad as she left Little's mind. She had known the time would come, all mothers did. One day all normal hatchlings left the nest. When all was said and done, she would rather this little creature did too. She would miss it, but it was best for it to get to a mate of its own than to remain forever in her care, in the full knowledge that it would never grow to become a real dragon.
She let out a long draft of smoky steam from her nostrils and lowered her entire upper body, inviting him to climb on.
After a rather long flight, they arrived at the strangest territory she had ever seen. There were many creatures just like Little there, and they seemed all aflutter to see them arrive.
"Charlie's back!" they kept shouting at each other whilst running all over the place, "Call Kingsley, Charlie's back!"
She lowered her neck again and Little stepped down and walked away from her. She felt her heart twitch at his eagerness to get away, but then she saw the black creature. It was wearing scales this time, she noted with relief, and was rushing towards them, without even a second glance to her. That wouldn't do. She tilted her head upwards, roared, and breathed fire high up into the sky. That was a gesture of intimidation no dragon could fail to recognise. It needed to get the message – nothing and no one got to hurt her hatchling, was that understood?
"I'm so sorry," Little was saying, "I acted like a child, you should accept the Ministry's offer, don't mind me, I'm sorry I ran away like that-"
"I thought you were dead," the black creature said at the same time, "oh Charlie, nothing matters now that you're back-". The dragon noted he was shaking – good for him, he ought to be afraid of her.
They finally reached each other and did it, the not-quite-dragon-like embrace. They were both shaking now, and rubbing their faces in a rather obscene manner.
The Horntail averted her gaze – this was too embarrassing to watch – and was met by the sight of a much younger, lithe, male Horntail, at the periphery of Little's camp.
There was a strange implement on his left wing - had he been broken? What that the reason why he was staying here, in the territory of the little creatures?
He lowered his eyebrows and adopted a downright seductive stance.
This wasn't reasonable, she thought, trying to ignore her own body's immediate response. She wanted to take him right there, right then, but obviously that was out of the question. There were creatures watching! And she couldn't take him back to her lair either, he wasn't able to fly that far. Yet.
Come hither, he was signifying to her with calculated body language.
She had to go back to defend her territory, she answered, but of course she would need to check in on her Little soon…
I won't be going anywhere, he communicated with a boyish blush, his scales glistening in the evening sunlight.
I should hope not, she replied, subconscious showing off her bulging wing muscles. I can fly very fast, you wouldn't want me chasing you…
They both knew he wouldn't be that adverse to getting caught by her, and together with having her Little back in its home, with its mate, it made her very happy indeed with