Take A Detour - Please Do

Take A Detour, a white hatchling, tells of his lonely life high in the barren, snowy mountains north of my clan territory, and of the lives he could've saved.

Written 7/9/2013 - 2/8/2014

Author's Note: Hello! I am sorry for the long, looooong break. I sort of dedicated myself to other projects, including my other fanfictions. However, I do hope I can make up for this (and the lack of a Christmas story) with this sad, haunting, and yet at the same time, hopeful story about a white hatchling called Take A Detour.

Snow is falling.

Silently, the flakes drift pass the entrance of my cave. Such beautiful snowflakes, all different from each other, each with their own stories to tell. I watch them fall, suspended in the air for a fleeting second, then gone. I wonder where they've all come from, how many mountains they've drifted past, how many places they've seen. Each of them such a tiny speck in the sky, so delicate, so fragile, like the weary travelers that pass by my cave, weakened by the cold, yet pushing on so bravely. I sigh sadly as I think of them, as I think of their lives. The lives I could've saved, yet I didn't.

I am sitting in the back of my small cave. It's a nice place, shielded from the harsh, freezing winds and the neverending snow. A small fire is burning in a crook at the very back, keeping the place warm. There's a small pile of sticks near it, and another pile of berries on the other side. I'm tempted to curl up by the fire and sleep, but I shake off those thoughts as I pad towards the entrance of my cave.

The wind is howling, and I turn my face away from the stinging cold, blowing in from the east, on my right. There's nothing but a small ledge there, and beyond that, more snow-covered peaks. But on my left, beyond the ledge, I can see a steep drop. Only I knew the true nature of that drop, of the narrow canyon that lay beyond. At times, I hated it, but at other times, I knew it was my only friend, a silent companion on my journey of life as we weather out our days in these bleak, lonely mountains.

Not many come through here, through this lonely mountain pass. It twists and snakes up through the range, past the line where all the trees seem to stop, and the endless snowing starts. Notorious bends and steep crevices line the pass, all dangerous in their own ways.

Yet the biggest danger might be that narrow canyon, that last stretch of a snowy journey through the mountains.

My cave sits on a high ledge by that canyon, looking down on the snowy mountain pass. I see the travelers as they round the last bend, see their lights, dim in the darkening skies, snow swirling around their feet. They don't come very often, perhaps once a year, and maybe it's for the best. For that canyon, at the end of a tiring journey, luring in weary travelers, has claimed more lives than I can remember.

I don't know how the canyon manages to be so deadly. A narrow, snowswept path runs past my ledge, high in the mountains, and enters the crevice. The canyon has sides of sheer rock, towering high above, a welcoming guardian inviting travelers in. And in they flee, hoping the sides will conceal them from the dreary snow, from the howling, stinging winds, from the chilling cold that seems to creep into their bones as they trudge up the mountainside.

But they never manage to leave that canyon.

Something happens in there that I cannot explain. Something sinister, something unnatural. Yet the canyon itself looks far from foreboding, despite all the lives it claimed. It is a silent killer, quietly claiming its victims. Travelers trudge into there and never return, and nobody knows how. Such is the nature of the canyon.

I remember each traveler vividly. They always arrive in the evening, every few months or so, hoping to pass the canyon and move onwards to the little village beyond. Sometimes, staring outside of my cave, I see them, shrouded in cloaks and leading little donkeys and mules, other times, I only see the lanterns that they hold, little specks of light against the neverending snow and the howling wind. They make their way around the bend, struggling against the wind and cold, leaving tiny trails in the snow that quickly vanish behind them.

All the while, I watch, unmoving. I watch as they fight against the howling blizzard. I watch as they see the canyon up ahead. They quicken their pace, then, trudging with all their might through the blinding snow, determined to reach the canyon and have shelter at last.

Or so they think.

I find myself watching as they near the canyon one step at a time, looking upwards at the gaping, dark crevice as if it were a welcoming friend, a shield from the eternal cold. Thoughts fly through my head; the urge to save them surfaces as I watch them approach their inevitable deaths.

And yet I always refuse that desperate desire, the yearn to save a fellow life. I stay frozen like the snow falling around me as I gaze out into the blizzard, knowing that soon, they will disappear into the depths of the canyon. Soon, they would be one of the many hundreds of lives that met their unfortunate end in the middle of a swirling snowstorm, so close to the finish of their journey.

Lives that are gone now, like mere whispers in the howling, frosty wind. Blown away into oblivion. Blown away into the blinding white mountainsides, heavy with snow.

Lives that I could have saved, but I didn't.

But why?

I can't tell how many years it's been since I was but a tiny hatchling, living in this very same cave with my mother, whom I called Mama. Mama, the sleek, strong, beautiful white dragon who'd raised me all alone ever since father had died at the hands of a wild pack of roaming dragons. Mama, who kept watch at night, tending the fire as I slept, curled up beside it. Mama, who looked out into the blizzard, looking for those same weary travelers that I look for now.

Mama, who would brave the cold to rush out into the howling blizzard, bounding down the slope with such grace and determination that I was awed. She would seem to disappear, to become one with the snow, her white scales like twinkling snowflakes. And then she would suddenly appear next to the lonely travelers, like an snowy white angel.

Mama, who would fly them to safety, up and over the canyon, to the village beyond, only to return and land ever so softly on the cave, so as to not disturb my drowsy sleep.

Mama, who died by the canyon she had helped so many avoid certain death crossing through.

It was an evening so very long ago when Mama had somehow seen through the blizzard yet another weary traveler stumbling along the mountain pass that led to the canyon. It seemed so routine, and I knew not to worry for her.

But that night was different. The snow fell so thick that it seemed like a sheet of white outside our cave entrance.

That didn't deter Mama. Before I knew it, Mama had taken off into the night, spreading her wings, soaring along the frozen winds.

I knew not to worry for Mama. I always knew that.

Yet I was uneasy that night.

The blizzard looked so harsh! Frozen gusts of wind blew into the cave, barely repelled by the crackling fire that Mama had fed with sticks from the few dead trees that she could find clinging to the mountainside. Mama had never gone outside in such terrible weather before.

Briefly, I wondered if Mama was going to be okay. But...somehow, I knew she wouldn't.

Minutes turned to hours. I began to worry. Mama would usually be back by now...wouldn't she? I stared into the frozen night, into the howling wind and the snowy skies, longing for her to return. Longing to see her again, to gaze into those beautiful blue eyes, like sparkling sapphires, and and know everything was going to be okay.

But eventually, I drifted into a troubled sleep, and nightmares of Mama never coming back plagued my dreams.

I don't know how long it was before I awoke. But when I did, I knew something was wrong. Something was different. I shivered.

Then it came to me: I was cold! The fire was out!

...and that meant Mama hadn't come back yet!

Panicking, I ran to the entrance of the cave. The snow had mostly stopped; only a light amount fell, like a dusty blanket of powder slowly covering the land. I peered all the way out to look at the canyon. The crevice was as dark as ever, emitting a faint sinisterness that I could barely feel.

Only now, instead of mild interest...there was nothing but pure terror in my heart.

At that moment...somehow, I knew it. I knew what happened. I knew why Mama never came back.

"Mama!" I squealed. "Mama! Mama!" My tiny, high-pitched voice rang out all along the mountain, but I could barely hear the echo. The snow had smothered it all.

But that didn't matter. I was filled with sadness, with agony, with pure grief as I realized that nobody was going to answer me.

Mama, who took off into the howling blizzard on that fateful night to save but another traveler heading to their death, had met hers.

I didn't even think about what I did next. Suddenly, I had rushed out into the snowy hillside, tumbling downwards towards the path. Tears flew from my cheeks; my mind was so full of agonized, painful grief that I didn't pause to realize where I was headed.

I charged towards the canyon. I had to get Mama back, no matter what. Maybe she was still in there, injured and dying. Maybe there was still hope. I had to keep hoping. I had to keep believing she was alive, or else I might have died there of the immense grief I felt.

As I entered the canyon, a peculiar chill shrouded me. Tendrils of mist began to curl along my tiny body as I pushed in deeper and deeper. My heart pounded in my ears; my small little feet scurried along the rocky bottom.

I turned a corner, and then...there was Mama.


I halted in my tracks, too shocked to think. Too shocked to cry out. Too...too overwhelmed to do anything but look at where Mama had met her end.

Even in her death, she looked so peaceful, so graceful. Even with the dozens of scratches covering her body, even with the bloody gashes that would never heal. Even with the rips and tears in her luscious white wings...she was still such a beautiful creature, meant to soar the skies, an angel that saved so many from certain death.

Even to this day, I still don't know what killed her. Maybe she got lost in the thick, suffocating snow. Maybe the howling, gusting winds pushed her off course. Maybe she simply didn't realize that she was flying too low, until it was too late, until the first protruding rock had torn a hole in her wing. Until she lost control, until she spiraled down into the canyon, descending to her death.

But I will never forget that moment. The moment where I discovered that Mama, my Mama, was gone forever.

Ever since then, I haven't ventured near the canyon. Not out of fear that I would die - in fact, for months afterwards, I didn't care whether or not I died. Life meant nothing anymore without Mama. I felt so cold, so alone in the barren world of the mountains that I was tempted to venture into the canyon and disappear, like the travelers that passed by. It seemed like such a peaceful idea: to simply disappear, to vanish into the flurries of snow and become but a mere snowflake among countless others.

Maybe that was what Mama became. She became the snow all around me. She became the snowstorms that swirled the thick blankets of snow around, making them dance and whirl. She became the cool gusts of wind that blew into my cave, barely caressing my face, like a gentle reminder that she would always be there for me, even if she was gone forever.

But still, I refused to go near the canyon. Partly out of respect for Mama - I wanted her to rest in peace among the soft blankets of snow that she loved so much. But also partly out of grief.

I wanted to forget. I wanted to move on. But how could I, when thoughts of Mama sprang into my mind every time I looked at the dark shadowy entrance of the canyon, almost as eternal as the snow that fell all around me?

I have not helped a single traveler since then. I can't really explain why. Maybe it's because that was Mama's role. Maybe it's because doing so would remind me too much of her, who sacrificed her life so that so many tired, hopeless, forsaken travelers could live.

But I know that it is my destiny. Mama had given me a rather peculiar name. Sometimes, when she set off to rescue but another weary traveler, she would take me along with her. We would soar along the sky, me holding on as best as I could. And when we finally approached the panicking, bewildered human...I would talk to them. Of course, nobody could hear anything above the howling snow. I had to speak to them directly...through their mind, so to say.

And I always said the phrase that I had been named after:

"Take a detour...please do."

And then Mama would whisk us away, detouring above the canyon, above the jaws of death that had eventually taken her.

It's been many years since I've said that phrase. Many years since I had soared in the skies, hanging onto Mama's back. Many years since I had seen the last human up close, spoken to them, calmed them, reassured them.

It's been so many years since I'd fulfilled my destiny.

Snow is falling.

I peer out of my cave, silently watching. I don't know if anyone will come by today; recently, there haven't been that many travelers. Why, I can only guess, but hopefully, the village has built another way in and out of the mountains.

Suddenly, something catches my eye. A light, faintly visible through the snow, twinkles off in the distance.

Someone is coming.

I hesitate - should I? Should I save that weary traveler? One of but hundreds that I have let go to their deaths?

The obvious answer springs to my mind - no. Let them die. Let them wander into the canyon and disappear forever, like Mama had so long ago.

It was so easy to simply let them go. All I had to do was to watch silently, watch as they neared the canyon, as so many hundreds of others had. Those travelers, those humans...they never learn from their mistakes. It was only because of Mama, a miraculous, snowy white angel, that they ever lived to speak of their journey.

And yet...

I am conflicted.

I struggle to decide what to do. The light is coming closer, slowly but surely. It swings wildly in the wind, bobbing up and down, swerving side to side. Almost certainly, it is a lantern, and the person who holds it will soon be dead in a matter of minutes.

But only if I choose not to act.

Briefly, I think of Mama. What would Mama have done?

...what would she have done?

The light is already past me now. I can see the shadowy silhouette of the person carrying it: hunched over, tired, weary. And yet, they still push onwards with a silent strength, with a forceful determination that all of them seem to have.

What would Mama have done? Mama, graceful and serene, soaring into the blizzard to rescue so many dozens of travelers.

Suddenly, the light flickers out. The person stops; he sinks to his knees and tries to relight it. Several sparks are immediately extinguished by the fierce, howling wind, but eventually he succeeds.

What would Mama do at this moment, if she were here with me? Mama, strong-willed and determined, flying away into the night, only to return hours later. Mama, who rescued so many from certain death by the cruel jaws of a canyon that knew no mercy.

This is the last chance I have. The traveler approaches the canyon. Weary and tired, the canyon must seem to them like a welcome friend, shielding them from the cold and the snow. Just a few more minutes now, and the traveler will vanish forever. Just a few minutes now...and yet another life would be gone.

...what would Mama want me to do?

Suddenly...I spring forward. I tumble down the snowy slope, spreading out my tiny wings, taking flight. My wings cannot yet support me for long periods of time...but they will do.

I've decided, and now I feel free.

For the first time in so many years, I am about to speak to another traveler again. I am about to save another being's life.

The feeling is such a warm feeling. Such a rewarding feeling.

No wonder Mama loved it so much.

As I began to descend towards the weary traveler, trudging through the snow...I only wish Mama were here to see me. I only wish she were here to watch as I carried out my destiny, as I continued her legacy of saving these travelers' lives.

I know she would be proud. I know it.

The snow feels soft as I land. The person is but a mere few feet ahead. He has stopped, looking upwards at the canyon. I am glad for the few seconds his hesitation gives me.

I am close enough now to sense his mind, his spirit. I focus on breaking the barrier between us. I envision a connection raising between us, bridging our two minds, so different, yet so alike.

The human is startled at this surprise intrusion of his solitude. He turns around, his gaze frantically searching all over, before finally finding me.

"W-who are you?!" He shouts, panicked at the tiny white ghost of a dragon, nestled into the snow a few feet from him. I can barely hear him above the howling wind. "What do you want?"

There is silence between us, filled with the howling winds and raging blizzard. I concentrate on making him relax, emanating calmness through me.

Then I speak the words that have never been spoken since that fateful night that Mama died.

"Take a detour. Please do."

Those simple words would never be enough if it hadn't been that along with them I had tried my best to communicate to him my sincerity. My knowledge of the canyon. My experience with watching so many dozens of travelers die within its depths, and then Mama herself, joining them in their eternal resting place.

For several minutes, the human stares at me. He is still alarmed...but now, I can sense a new feeling: curiosity. And then contemplation. And then, almost so subtle that I can barely sense it...agreement.

The human turns around. He walks towards me. I watch as he stops where I am, staring down at me. I can't see his face, wrapped in a woolen scarf, but I don't need to see the smile to feel his appreciation. It is all too apparent to my mind, bridged with his.

As he trudges further and further past me, our minds grow more and more distant. Soon, it is almost impossible to sense what he is thinking.

But I have one last thing to say to him. One last thing before he leaves, his life saved by a tiny white hatchling who lost his very own Mama to the treacherous canyon that almost claimed him as well.

Without him, I would never have realized it. Without him, I would never have overcome it. Without him, so many dozens more would have died before I realized that Mama would have wanted me to rescue the weary travelers she used to whisk to safety. That she would have wanted it this way.

Our connection began to sever. But along with my very last thoughts, I send a very simple message of appreciation for what he had unknowingly done.

"Thank you."