My dad took me flying yesterday. I could feel his smooth cool scales under me and the wind in my face. The soft snap of his wingtips as he gained altitude. And I could hear his deep voice with the faint British accent teaching me about thermals and wind currents, and to watch out for the sucking winds near storm clouds that could lift me up higher than I could breathe in seconds.
I dreamt about Dad again and again as I slept. Memories of things that we did came back in sharp clarity, and fantasies of things I'd always wanted to do with him but never got the chance. It's been so long since Dad was murdered that sometimes I have a hard time remembering his face. But these dreams were so vivid that I woke up with the scent of his favorite pipe tobacco in my nose. I cried when I realized they were just dreams, and he was still gone.
It's probably because of Fafnir and Vlad. For the first time in my life, I've got other dragons around me. That brought the memories back, I guess. I just wish they wouldn't fade away again. I'll write down as much as I can.
The first one was the memory of that first time Dad took me flying. I was five, I think. He took me up in the hayloft in the barn, and put me on his back like a piggy back ride. He climbed a ladder on the outside of the window where he used to throw hay to the cattle. I was really scared and held on tight.
Then he shifted into his scaly form while I was still on his back, spread his wings wide, and jumped off the peak of the roof. I squealed in terror, then in delight as I realized we were flying. The house and barn were at the top of a steep hill. In one direction, we had neighbors a half mile or so away. In the other, there was our own 600 acres of ranch land, and another, several thousand acre ranch on the other side. That was where we flew, where no one could see but the livestock. There were creeks that never ran completely dry and flooded their banks sometimes, round mirrors of ponds and furry green cedar and oak forests, steep hillsides and open fields. I loved the pecan grove on the bottomland by the creek most of all, where the trees grew tall enough to climb as high as the barn. Dad and Ma pretty much let me have the run of the place the whole time I was growing up, and I never got lost anywhere near our land because I could always remember where everything was after seeing it from above while on my Dad’s back.
I tried to fly myself when I was seven. I climbed the ladder from the hayloft to the roof and jumped off, tiny wings spread wide. But I didn’t fly, I fell hard, and cut my wing open on a plow blade in the process. I screamed and cried until my dad came and held my delicate little wing membranes together while he poked me with a fang just under the joint between my wrist and first wing bone. His fang made a sharp sting, and then the pain in my wing disappeared and I watched in fascination, tears drying on my cheeks while my wing mended itself like magic. My dad was a magical man who could fix anything.
He said I was too young to fly yet, but he was proud of me that I was brave enough to jump off the high roof like that.
He moved the plow and we piled up a whole bunch of loose hay there instead. I spent the rest of the day climbing onto the barn roof and jumping off gleefully wings spread wide to sploof into the pile of soft hay, while he watched over me and laughed. Eventually, he got up there and jumped as well while still in human form. We took turns until we were both exhausted.
Ma came out, wiping her hands on her apron, to tell us dinner was ready just as I’d made another final trip up the ladder and Dad lay exhausted in the hay. I said, “Look, Ma, I can fly!” and jumped. She nearly had a heart attack as I plummeted into the hay next to Dad. She gave Dad what for and didn’t mince words either. Dad looked all sheepish and contrite, like he’d been caught stealing bacon before breakfast. Then he looked at me and winked. I grinned. Ma stumbled to a stop in her tirade, and finally just shook her head. “It’s like raising two little kids sometimes, I swear.” She made me promise not to do it unless she or Dad were around to make sure it was safe. I promised, but it became my favorite game, and Dad and Ma both got accustomed to me jumping off the roof, flapping my little wings like mad, and made sure to add more straw to that pile whenever the cows nibbled it down.
When I was older, maybe 10, I overshot the pile of hay by 10 feet and landed with a crash on hard packed clay next to Dad who had been mending a saddle and watching me play. I broke my arm and two wing bones, and it hurt like heck, but I was getting old enough that it was a matter of pride not to cry over a mere injury. Besides, I was shocked more than I was in pain. The only way I could have missed the hay pile was if I flew, even if just a little.
Dad didn’t look concerned or even surprised.
He just walked over, nodded like I’d said something he agreed with or expected, and started straightening out my broken bones. That hurt, a lot, but he did it quick. The tears came whether I wanted them to or not, and then he bit me in that same spot just under my wrist, and the pain went away.
“It will be a few days before your bones are solid again. Then, it’ll be time for your first real flying lesson.”
I forgot all about the pain in my sudden rush of excitement. “You’re going to teach me how to fly?”
“No, little plum. Flying is easy. You’ll naturally get better at it as your wings mature.” He tousled my unruly thick mop of purple hair. “I’m going to teach you how to land.”
And he did.
So many things he taught me of a world I would never know. He told me stories at bedtime of dragons who were the wise men, healers, druids and wizards of the old world. He loved to tell stories about his father Merlin, a dragon who was ancient when Rome was a dream, and what it was like growing up as a young English knight. He taught me how to ride a horse when I was seven, how to hunt with a rifle, and snare wild game when I was nine, how to rope cattle when I was 13, what to watch for to tell when people were lying when I was 14, and he taught me what real pain was like when I found him dead later that same year. I was such a daddy’s girl, until they took my daddy from me.
White Knight is the only Georgian I’ve ever known of. And right now, while I’m sitting here in the middle of the day, dripping tears on my diary and wishing I could have gone on dreaming, I hate him. I’ve felt fear before, fear that the Georgians would find me and kill me and hurt Ma. I’ve lived with that fear most of my life. But until now, my enemies were faceless, and terrifying simply because they were complete unknowns. It’s hard to hate an unknown. Now, my enemies have a face, and I know that bitter acid feeling in my belly is what real hate feels like.