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A Dragon's Death


George Lafferty

He awoke stiff and sore, feeling wearier than he had before his sleep began. His wing roots ached, as did the joints of his forelegs. Weariness seemed to be with him more and more as each day passed. His hind legs, so important for the spring into the air to achieve the first crucial wing down-stroke for flight, often hurt too much for him to make the effort to become airborne. A terminal weariness, he thought.

"I feel I will not see the one hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary of my birth," he said aloud.

Shaking his shoulders in an attempt to relieve the tightness in his upper body, Tiroth of Chaylith, stretched to his full, still magnificent, Dragon's height, then moved to the entrance of his home. The air was as pure as the crystal ice covering the cliffs around his weyr. Cautiously, though the sunlight reflecting from the myriad faces of the cliffs he called home usually blinded most others, he peered down from his place in those cliffs on the mountain called Looking Glass. He could see the lair of the humans, the small, weak, enigmatic creatures who had come to colonize Chaylith.

He wanted to hate them, but he could not. They were no more evil or vicious than a swarm of bees, doing what they were naturally driven to do. As they multiplied, they searched for more places to live, more places where their race could thrive and reproduce. It was a matter of survival, as always, for the fittest always survive.

Now that their flying machines, their ships of space, would take them anywhere, the humans were colonizing throughout this corner of the universe. But they know so little of other planets, other galaxies, other races, thought Tiroth. Being unable to speak mind to mind, they have never even realized Dragonkind is intelligent.

He looked down on the place they, so aptly, called their CTC (Confederation of Terran Colonies) City/Port. Small dwellings surrounded a flat place where their vessels of space launched and landed. A large machine sat at the base of the mountain, still partially under construction; a crew of the humans were always in attendance. Those humans always seemed to be aiming the long barrel, pointing it toward the cliffs whenever a Dragon ventured near.

Have they built the weapon of Dragonkind's final destruction? Tiroth wondered. If it were possible to talk with them… . If I could communicate our wish to live peacefully… . It was a hopeless task, a wish that would remain unfilled. Legends of Chaylith told how humans had destroyed Dragonkind on their own planet. Now they seemed determined to do the same wherever they went.

Tiroth had counselled Dragonkind to avoid contact with the humans at all costs. For only the most high ranking of diplomats to make any attempt whatsoever to try to meet with them. All to no avail, for the humans had such powerful weapons as to strike any dragon from the air so fiercely he was dead before he struck the ground. On the ground was even worse as the humans struck at such a distance the dragons had had no chance to even approach closely enough to make an attempt at peaceful gestures.

Surprise attacks had been effective only in causing more hatred and distrust, until those foolish young dragons, still surviving, had been stopped. Now the queens had been hidden in a secret weyr in the distant mountains and no contact had been attempted in a long, long time. Quick attacks on the unwary, then quick retreat proved no answer, and only made it more impossible to win this war.

Still gazing down on the humans, Tiroth's mind drifted once again to a time when Dragonkind was the only intelligent race on the planet and Dragons feared nothing, soaring through the high reaches of the sky, above the beautiful planet beneath them. Why, the closest thing the Dragons had to an enemy then had been the mountain dwelling Chay cats, wary and vicious, or the huge but easily avoidable Swamp Snakes of the large inland marshes of Chaylith. Then came humans to Chaylith and disaster to Dragonkind.

Legend speaks of times past when Dragonkind too, rode the space chariots of the Gods through the illimitable reaches of the universe, to other worlds. When Dragons too, knew many other races, yes, even humans, on the planet they called Earth. Dragonkind was a young race in those days of long ago and made many mistakes, as the humans were even now doing to the Dragons.

Like any other race, Dragons had their good and their bad. Long ago some had shown evil ways and caused a reputation of evil most of Dragonkind could not live with. Dragon counsel had met and forced those of evil intent to self banishment to uninhabited worlds scattered throughout the universe, so the remainder of Dragonkind could live in peace. So it had stayed for millennia. Now, though, it appeared the humans had unwittingly tracked them to Chaylith. Indeed humans had driven them to battles and a war they knew they could not win.

Only when a quorum of Dragons convened could enough telepathic power be concentrated to make contact with Dragonkind on other planets. Though rarely done, a message had been received that humans were also on some of the other Dragon planets with the same disastrous results. It seemed as if an end to Dragonkind was the sole intent of the humans, though this was probably not the case, as it would be foolish to even think humans harboured ill feeling from so many centuries ago. Besides, at first, Dragons had appeared to be only a creature of curiosity to them, and were still not even treated as much of a threat; after all, Dragonkind had no true weapons. Yes, after chewing the yellow stones of sulphur, they could and can, belch fire but true weapons were foreign to them.

Tiroth had hoped to see peace or some sort of treaty between the two races, but the Dragons had been unsuccessful even in proving to the humans that they were indeed intelligent creatures instead of the flying, fire breathing monsters of myth.

How was a totally telepathic race to speak to one who converses in unintelligible noises, obviously some sort of language, but far from the possibility of a reptilian palate to imitate. How they could even convey the thoughts a Dragon cherishes, was beyond Tiroth to comprehend. Imagine no pictures, vivid as if seen with your own eyes. True thoughts, where one was able to see the truth in another being's mind and heart.

Tiroth's thoughts became fuzzy as his memory drifted back to a conversation he had remembered. A conversation about this very communication problem between the races, with Journath, the present President of the Dragon Counsel and second in authority only to Queen Parnath, Weyrleader of Chaylith.

Journath had made the journey to Tiroth's weyr. A journey most were reluctant to make since the humans had constructed some type of weapon at the base of the cliffs of Looking Glass Mountain. Each time a dragon had approached the weyr of Tiroth the humans would swivel the long barrel of the weapon and track them through the sky. Apparently the weapon was not completed as yet as it had never actually been fired at anyone as far as the Dragons had been able to tell.

Once Tiroth and Journath had exchanged courteous pleasantries they had gotten down to serious discussion of the problem with the humans.

Tiroth had said, "A way must be found to communicate with the humans before a serious battle is forced upon us."

"A chore no one has been able to manage as yet," Journath had answered.

"I fear I will not be going into the next life alone," said Tiroth, "if a way is not found."

"I am afraid you may be all too right, though I see no way to accomplish a treaty, when to get near the humans is to invite sudden death," said Journath.

"I must think more on this," said Tiroth, "a solution has to be found. It is the only way to avoid a disastrous battle."

"True, but without an answer a battle must be fought to keep the humans from finding and killing our queens. Without the queens to lay the eggs, there will be no more Dragons."

"Then you have found no way to keep secret the location of the Queen's Weyr, or distract them from that area."

Journath had simply shaken his head sadly in the negative.

At that point, Tiroth had begged a favour of Journath. "Ask the counsel to convene a special meeting for mid-morning tomorrow. I know this is very short notice, but I fear I have not much longer to live and I wish to try to help save our race from these creatures who call themselves man."

"I will tell them, my friend," Journath had promised. "Can you make it to the Hidden Weyr, or should I beg them to convene here?"

"I am not dead yet, old friend," Tiroth had answered. "I will make it to the

"Then be warned Tiroth, the humans keep pointing that strange weapon they are building, at the foot of these very cliffs, at any dragon who ventures into their sight."

"I know," Tiroth had answered, "I have never seen it fire, but when it does, I fear it will be terrible indeed as it already gives me very bad headaches and disturbs my sleep."

That meeting with the elder dragons of the Dragon Counsel resulted in Tiroth being given leave and diplomatic standing with which to deal with the humans. So it was that when Tiroth launched himself from his home in the beautiful Looking Glass mountains, so named because of the purity of the air and therefore the sheets of ice that covered every surface at all angles. The ice of course, reflecting the light of Chaylith's sun in a blindingly beautiful array, as if from a thousand mirrors, hence it had been called Looking Glass Mountain. Tiroth fully expected to make contact with the humans at last or be blasted from the skies of Chaylith, so the sight of them swinging the long threatening barrel of the new weapon at him came as no surprise. It was not the first time by any means that Tiroth had seen the humans pointing their strange new weapon at him.

They had done so, so many times, Tiroth had been having many strange thoughts about these beings and indeed his sleep had even been disturbed of late, with strange dreams. Tiroth had considered this, to be yet another sign, of his great age, and yet, he felt as if they were trying to talk to him in some strange manner, which he was failing to understand. As Tiroth approached the humans he could see them scurrying to keep their weapon aligned with his line of flight. He made no effort to avoid their line of fire, yet approached as carefully as one can in mid-air with no place to hide.

The closer he got, the more confused he became and the headache started coming back, causing him to fly more and more erratically. He was feeling more and more strange, weird sensations buzzing in his mind Suddenly he had a painful flash in his mind and his wings folded. Tiroth nearly plummeted into the ground before saving himself at the last minute, gliding to a landing near the humans and their Matheson Telepathic Receiver/Thought Broadcaster. The very machine all the Dragons had believed to be yet another new weapon. Everything seemed better now as the humans kept adjusting the verniers, their thoughts became ever clearer to Tiroth. Suddenly Tiroth was able to understand how to answer them and though things were still a little blurry, it wasn't as if it were a different language, simply a slurred or blurry one and very loud.

"Turn it down," said Tiroth, "it is too loud."

A Human, quickly adjusted the volume, then began the first conversation between Mankind and Dragonkind. Between the oldest diplomat of the ancient race of Dragons and the new upstart but powerful and young Confederation of Terran colonies.

The speech by Journath in the Hidden Weyr of the Queens was one of praise when he spoke of the previous President of the Dragon Counsel, Great Diplomat and most of all his friend. Tiroth of Chaylith was laid to rest, at last, as a great hero. With a small group of humans, flown in on Dragonback, looking on, Tiroth received the highest honours of his race. One who would forever be known as the Dragon who accomplished the "Treaty Of Life between the Humans and the Weyr. The Weyrleader Queen Parnath gave unto Tiroth, burial in the Cave of the Queens.

The End

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