A/N: This is a short story, nothing special or epic - I'm just fond of brief moments that could possibly occur in the fantasy worlds we all love so much.
Dance the Night Away
Deep growls could be heard along the rocky outcroppings hidden in the countryside. They echoed and reverberated off the trees, making them bend every which way, and whisper, as if they longed to mimic the baritone noise that had so shaken them. Birds rose up and scattered, their harsh cries drowned out by the much harsher din preceding them. The echo rippled and softened to nothing, dying on the brims of the treetops that stretched far to the horizon...and another sound could be heard. It was no harsh cry, nor deep, melodic growl - but the tinkling of bells and rhythmic beat of a tambourine. Its beat was steady and peaceful, horribly contrasting the vast noise that was its antecedent.
In a glade nearly surrounded by cliff and pines, there lied a very large, very bemused dragon. He was a young thing by dragon standards. To the human eye his youth was apparent only by the twinkle in his eye, and the manner with which he carried himself, as all young things do, be they dragon or human. His scales were a glistening red-brown, but his eyes were the color of the sun. Before him sat a woman with eyes the color of night. Her face was flushed, her dark hair in wisps, and she sat panting on the ground - but she was lit with a jovial smile. "How..." she breathed lightly, "how was that for a dance?"
The dragon's eyes narrowed and closed in pleasure, opened again, and he answered, "Wonderful, pleasant, jubilant...you humans have many words for one meaning." His deep voice belied his contentment, yet the note of youth in his tone was apparent even to the woman, who had little experience with dragons.
She reached a long arm back to brush her hair out of her face. "You are no less talented yourself. Shall we have another go at it? I could sing and dance all day."
His long tail thumped happily on the ground. "With the utmost pleasure."
She hopped up, long, colorful skirts swirling, and reached for the tambourine. It was a sight to behold, a small human whirling and jumping before the immense beast, who bellowed out his own tune in time to the sprightly dancing and beat of the tambourine. None would believe it except it was plain as daylight. None were there to share in it, save the two. Faster and faster the woman danced, and the tune of her instrument changed pace. The dragon's voice rose up and out from deep inside, his head turned to the sky, eyes closed in rapture, communing with a kind of magic that neither he nor his human guest understood. And neither did they need to.
After a time, both wordlessly felt the song come to an end, and the woman - for the first time in her life - nearly collapsed after a song and a dance. The tambourine fell and spun to the ground. The dragon's voice - not in the least exhausted - spun out one last, lonely tune, and fell silent. And there was, indeed, an utter silence afterwards. Not a bird chirped, no leaf rustled, no wind blew in the trees, but the sound of a nearby stream was ever-present.
The woman lied down, stretched out on the ground, not at all minding the hardness. As she caught her breath, she gazed up at the cloudless sky, now beginning to turn a pale pink with the sunset. The first star came out low in the sky, and the air grew colder. Both dragon and human were silent for what seemed a long time. Eventually the woman sat up, sighed a contented sigh, and looked at her fearsome companion. "I do not believe I ever thanked you, Great Beast." She didn't know the dragon's name, but he seemed unperturbed by the title.
He bowed his head in acknowledgement. "I am welcome of it, I think is the human's reply."
She smiled absentmindedly. "Were it not for you...I mean if you had not come when you did, I would surely be dead."
Her gratitude was apparent, and somehow without further words, they both understood that the matter was best left in the past where it belonged.
The dragon had rescued her from the very people she had been traveling with. Just as she had little experience with dragons, he in turn had very little experience with humans. Still, there were some things he knew about them, primarily thanks to his parents, who had told him a thing or two about the human race when he was younger. He had spotted a caravan while out flying, and knew instantly that a struggle was taking place, and he didn't need the piercing shout from the woman to tell him so. She was being held by two men, struggling to get free, while a third approached her with a hatchet and knife. It was a curious scene, but he descended upon them so swiftly that he barely had time to make any of it out. With a bellow, he swept down and seized the woman in his claws.
An older, wiser dragon would have known better, and probably would not have chosen to get caught in the affairs of men. The young one probably knew better himself, but for one reason or another, he chose to intervene and deliver what looked like an innocent person from the clutches of the rather rowdy-looking men. Needless to say, they had hollered and scattered when the dragon came down. The woman had not had time to do much else than scream as she was suddenly airbound.
When he had delivered her to safety (unbeknownst to her), it took a lot of convincing on the part of the dragon before she herself was truly convinced that he meant her no harm. Tales had reached even her ears of the ways of dragons, and she was loathe to give him the benefit of the doubt. But give it to him she did, of a time.
When, at last, she was more at ease, she had learned that the dragon meant only to save her life. He compelled her to tell him what had happened.
"They were my traveling companions," she had explained. "They got it into their heads that I had cheated them out of money, and they took to threatening me."
The dragon barely narrowed his eyes. "Did you?"
"No," she said honestly. "I did not. But I could not convince them. Our leader would have none of it, and told me that if I did not tell them the truth, then I was welcome to slither my way out of a confrontation with his knife." She seemed not to want to dwell on it, offended by the accusation, even if it had not been true. Strange to say, but human and dragon were somewhat fascinated with each other, even if they weren't aware of it.
One thing had led to another, until, for a moment or two, the woman had almost forgotten about her unfortunate experience earlier that day. It took nothing less than a first sight of a dragon to do so.
They came upon the topic of music, to which the dragon seemed especially interested, and the woman produced a tambourine somewhere within the folds of her skirt. She wasn't sure whether the dragon recognized the instrument or not, but his eyes brightened, his wings spread wide, and a deep, rumbling, musical sound came forth from his great lungs. The woman began to dance, and chant, and beat upon her tambourine. The two forms of music were so different from each other, yet they managed to mingle their forms harmoniously. The dragon's voice sang on, in time to the tambourine, and the woman let herself sink into that otherworldly haven that all sentient beings travel to, upon hearing that wonder known as music.
Human and dragon sat now, together, as night came on.
The woman finally stood up. "I must be off," she said. "It is dark, and now I have no clan to travel with..."
"It would be best if you stayed here until morning, when it is safer to travel."
She held his gaze, and then nodded. "Very well. A wise notion for sure, thank you, great beast. You have been so kind." Partly joking, but mostly serious, she swept her tambourine beneath her abdomen and elicited an elegant bow before her magnificent host.
When morning came, the woman left the dragon's lair without a sound or a word of goodbye. He knew she had left, for a dragon's senses never sleep, but he neither said a word nor lifted an eyelid.
'Luck to you, my musical friend,' he thought, and allowed himself to drift into a deep slumber. In his dreams, he continued to sing, while the strange woman danced and beat upon her tambourine.