There is a valley in the world of Worthana that lies just East off the peninsula of Zorl. To say that it is known for its cypress trees is an understatement, for here it lies at the base of Cypress Mountain, and it shelters the prosperous town of Cypress Cummings. Needless to say that the valley had been named Cypress Valley. Even so, neither the valley nor the town is the focus of this story. In all truth, neither is the mountain. Our story resides inside the mountain itself, in a large cave in the bowls of the earth.
Beyond the stalactites and stalagmites, beyond the sound of dripping water that bounces off the smooth stone walls, lives the strangest dragon you have, perhaps, ever heard of. She is not covered in scales, but with short, white fur. She has a bright magenta mane that sticks straight up, as if there is a current of electricity permanently keeping it that way. Her ears are large, and round, coming out from the curve of her jaw. Her nose is pink, and lamb like, and she has a blunt horn jutting out from above her sea green eyes on either side of her head. Her cave is filled to overflowing, not with gold, but with candy of all kinds! Chocolate, lollipops, gum, caramel, fudge, and even whole sacks of sugar! She knows exactly how many of each she has, and she’ll know in an instant if even one grain of sugar is missing. This is WildLamb.
Of course, WildLamb is not the only dragon in the mountain; she is only one of thirteen, and each is stranger than the last. There’s the giant Glyph, and his brother Leprechaun. The warrior-like Manny, with the beautiful copper Fexkra Lee, and her dragataur brother Fenrak. The armored Galrix, and his friend the rabbit dragon Buddy. The twins, Soapy and Corky, the healer dragataur Jayla, and their leader, P.W.
As it happens on this fateful day, WildLamb is not alone in her cavern. Today Fexkra Lee is with her, lying beside the mountainous candy pile, while WildLamb herself is sorting her candy. Again.
Fexkra watched WildLamb’s tail, the only visible part of her friend, move through the candy. “You know,” she said practically, “if you like him so much, you should tell him.”
WildLamb’s fuzzy head popped out from beneath a sack of sugar. “Tell him?” She repeated, surprised. “Oh, right, Lee. Hey Fenrak, guess what! Not only do Soapy and Jayla have the biggest crushes on you, but so do I! That means, that the only female in this mountain that doesn’t have a crush on you is your sister. Yeah,” she glared at the copper dragon, “there’s a brilliant plan.” She dived back into her candy moodily. “Besides, it would never work.” Her voice sounded muffled from under all the candy.
Fexkra’s ears flicked back, listening to the constant dripping that echoed through the cave. “Why not?” She asked brightly. “I think you two are perfect for each other.”
“You mean besides that fact that I’m five times bigger than he is?” Wild’s head gradually emerged from the pile again as she spoke. She cocked her head at her friend skeptically.
Fexkra rolled her wings back in an eloquent dragon-shrug. “That doesn’t mean anything. My dad was smaller than my mom.”
“Your dad was a dracolf.” WildLamb pointed out. “They’re not exactly supposed to be small.”
“And my mom was a meadow dragon,” Fexkra added, “you think she was supposed to be tall? And you’ve just named a perfect example! A dracolf and a meadow dragon aren’t exactly a normal draconic coupling. No one would think twice about a dragataur and a vassant.”
WildLamb scowled. “Fenrak should stick with Jayla; she’s a dragataur.”
Fexkra Lee opened her mouth to object, but her ears twitched as they caught the sound of rushing wind. WildLamb heard it, too, and pulled herself half out of her candy to see the newcomer. Manny flew into the cave, soaring high to the ceiling, then folding his wings close to his body, and free-falling towards the floor, spreading his wings at the last possible moment for a perfect landing. WildLamb snorted in amusement, then went back to her candy, unimpressed. Fexkra Lee, however, preened herself slightly as the brown approached. Manny grinned proudly at Fexkra, then he prodded the WildLamb’s pile with his barbed tail.
WildLamb poked her head out between a section of chocolates. “What?”
“P.W. wants us in the Great Cavern,” Manny replied, keeping one eye on Fexkra. “Dragonhunters again.”
“Again?” WildLamb whined, pulling herself out of the candy. “This is seriously getting old.”
“Tell me about it,” Manny agreed unconvincingly. “P.W.’s thinking about sending two of us out.” He winked at Fexkra, who bared her teeth in a grin of anticipation.
“All right, then,” WildLamb sighed, as she leapt onto the stone floor, “stop flirting and lets get this over with.”
“Who’s flirting?” Manny asked innocently as they took off.
The Great Cavern was exactly that: a great cavern. It stretch three miles from end to end, and a mile high. It lay in the dead center of the mountain, with tunnels leading to the other caves branching out in every direction. It was lit by dragon fire, kept in a glass and stone bowl 250 ft across, that hung from the ceiling, lighting every shadowed corner. At the moment, it was filled with cheerful laughter as the other nine adolescent dragons played around the stone formations. The single elder dragon watched them from his spot on a smoothed rock ledge that jutted out from the grey stone wall. Manny and Fexkra joined the six dragons who were practicing their attack patterns in the air, while WildLamb dove down to join the earth-bound dragataurs Fenrak and Jayla, and the water dragon Soapy.
Seeing that the entire population of Cypress Mountain was present, P.W. stood, and roared. The fierce noise rang through the cavern, magnified by the echoes. The dragons fell silent, the flyers landing as they approached the ledge attentively. P.W. stared down at them wordlessly for a moment, then he spoke.
“The dragonhunters are back.”
“You’d think they would’ve learned by now,” Fenrak snorted proudly. He nudged Leprechaun conspiratorially. “Hey, didn’t you and Glyph actually eat one last time?”
Leprechaun grinned, and nodded. “Yeah.”
“Who’s going out this time, P.W.?” Manny asked, eager for action.
P.W. started to answer, but Fexkra cut him off quickly. “Wild and Fenny should go,” she said. “They haven’t been out since the dwarf company almost killed Corky.”
All eyes turned to the smallest, spiky dragon, who instantly hid his face behind his yellow wings in embarrassment. P.W. looked at the Wild, who was glaring murderously at Fexkra, then at the black and green dragataur Fenrak. He nodded thoughtfully. “All right. I suppose that’ll work. Take care of the problem ASAP.”
“Wait, what?!” Wild shrieked in dismay.
Fenrak pranced up to her, the green scales of his horse-like lower body glinting in the firelight. He nudged her playfully, and said, “Bet I can get ‘em before you.”
Wild snapped her teeth at him moodily, and he withdrew quickly. “You’re more likely to trip over your own four hooves,” she growled. “Come on, let’s go.”
“Hey,” Fenrak grabbed her tail, and tugged it sharply as she spread her wings to fly. “No flying.” He flapped his own wings, too small to support his weight, and rode up to her head. “But I’ll race ya.”
WildLamb grinned. “You’re on.”
They shot off, but not before Wild caught a smug glance from Fexkra.
WildLamb felt all her anxieties melt away as the white sunlight touched her back. She breathed in the crisp, mountain air, chasing the stale cave air out of her lungs. She flexed her claws in the grass, enjoying the feel of the soft dirt after years with nothing beneath her but cold stone beneath her claws. “It’s nice out here,” she commented pleasantly.
“It‘s kinda great!” Fenrak agreed, prancing about happily. He flexed his muscled arms, his black, dragon face breaking out into a grin. “Remind me again as to why we don’t get out more often?”
WildLamb laughed. “We freak the humans out?”
“Oh, right,” Fenrak rolled his eyes. “Humans are so paranoid!”
“I know!” WildLamb laughed. “If we’re not razing their villages, we’re kidnapping princesses and eating them.”
“Yuck!” Fenrak rolled out his forked tongue in disgust. “Humans taste worse than cows!”
Laughing together, the two dragons strode briskly through the cypress forest. Their laughter died away into an awkward silence, and they avoided look at each other as they scanned the trees for danger. WildLamb felt self-conscious with Fenrak so close to her; she felt so large, and bulky that she could barely stand it. She stumbled slightly over her own claw, and resisted the urge to hid herself behind her wings. Fenrak didn’t seem to notice her embarrassment though, much to her relief.
“Hey,” Fenrak said suddenly, as if some bright idea had suddenly occurred to him, “if we win, can I have some of your candy?”
“No,” WildLamb snorted derisively.
“All right, then I’ll guess I’ll keep this.”
WildLamb’s nose twitched as it picked up the scent of sugar. Her head swung over to look at Fenrak, who was holding a heart-shaped lollipop in his human-like hand. “Where’d you get that?” WildLamb asked, her voice quivering greedily. She knew in an instant it wasn’t hers, but candy always made her crazy.
“You want it?” Fenrak asked tauntingly, waving it in front of her nose.
She snapped at it, nearly taking Fenrak’s hand off as he snatched it away. “Where’d you get it?!” She shrieked angrily.
Fenrak took a step back, and pointed deeper into the forest. “Over there. It was the only one I saw, though.”
WildLamb took a step towards it, murmuring, “I wonder if there’s any more?” Fenrak turned and ran. “Bet I get to it before you!”
“Oh no you don’t!” WildLamb growled, leaping into the air.
She soared above the green cypress’, following the tantalizing scent of candy. Suddenly, she heard a shout, half-angry, half in pain. She recognized the voice as Fenrak, and froze, hovering above the trees in concern. More shouts followed, excited, and dangerously human. Dragonhunters. WildLamb dived back down to the ground, and instantly spied Fenrak thrashing on the forest floor. His back hoof was caught in a nasty dragon trap, and his face was twisted in pain as he desperately tried to reach it.
“Fenny!” WildLamb cried in dismay, rushing over to him.
Fenrak looked up at her, and growled, “Get out! They’re coming!”
“You don’t think I know that?!” WildLamb shrieked, more out of panic than anger. The trap itself was actually made with a dragon’s jaw, its teeth continuously sharpened for the deadliest edge. She examined the chain that held the trap to the ground, and pulled at it. It stayed buried. WildLamb shook her head. “Only humans could be so cruel,” she muttered, fastening her own jaws around the thick chain.
“You’re teeth aren’t big enough!” Fenrak snapped. “You’d need Fexkra or Manny to chomp it like that.”
It was true; WildLamb’s teeth were tiny for a dragon her size, no bigger than those of a human, but that was all in being a vassant. Still, they were sharp, and she wasn’t going to let size stop her. She sawed her teeth across the chain, working as quickly as she was able, keeping her ears open to track the progress of the humans.
“They’re on horseback,” Fenrak hissed fearfully, his reptilian eyes watching the forest. “They’ll be here any minute!”
“I’ve almost got it,” Wild told him through a mouth full of chain. The chain broke as the dragonhunters broke through the trees, wielding crossbows.
Wild ducked as bolts whizzed through the air, and roared at the men. A few of the horses reared in fear, and bolted, dumping their riders on the ground. Fenrak climbed to his feet, wincing slightly as pressure was applied to his sore hoof. He squared his shoulders, and growled, “Pay back time.” He lifted on hand, and green flames shot out from his palm towards a fallen hunter. WildLamb looked at him in shock as the flames died away, and he returned the look grimly. “Want to give these guys a cold shoulder?” He asked.
The hunters froze in terror as WildLamb barred her teeth, growling ferociously. She opened her mouth wide, and out came a stream of ice, encasing those who were unfortunate enough to get caught in her path in a frozen tomb. Fenrak limp up beside her, and added his fire to her ice. The hunters shouted in alarm, and retreated into the forest. A few of the men raised their crossbows, hoping to get lucky with a parting shot. They never stood a chance. WildLamb stopped the arrows in a wall of ice, while Fenrak targeted the archers. The men ran for their lives, dropping their weapons in their haste to avoid the deadly wall of fire.
Fenrak and Wild turned to those left behind, their skin rapidly turning blue. Fenrak raised his fists, and blasted the blocks of ice with his fire, melting them instantly. The hunters tumbled to the ground, shivering, and taking deep breaths. Fenrak limped over to them, and bent down so that his beak-like snout was even with their noses.
“Get out,” he growled, “and never come back. Believe me when I say that next time, we’ll kill every last one of you!” The men nodded, whimpering slightly in fear. Fenrak snorted in their faces, then roared, “Move!” The men scrambled to their feet, and raced after their companions. Fenrak straightened, and winked at WildLamb. “Not bad, huh?”
WildLamb considered the question. “I guess it was all right.” She glanced at his leg. “Need a lift? Jayla will want to have a look at that.”
Fenrak glanced down at the trap, still embedded in his back hoof, and sighed. “Yeah, sure.” WildLamb smiled, and gently placed him on her back as he commented, “Don’t let Lee catch us, though. She’ll never let me forget it.”
Back inside the mountain, WildLamb curled up on her candy pile, using sacks of sugar as a make-shift pillow. She stared dreamily at the cave ceiling, thinking back to when she and Fenrak had been in the forest. She was glad the assignment was over, but some part of her, the same part that loved Fenrak, wanted to go back to that brief moment when they had actually gotten along. She sighed wistfully, then tried to get it out of her head.
“You all right?”
WildLamb’s head shot up, and she looked over at Fenrak as he limped towards her candy. Jayla had tended to his leg, after having Manny remove the trap, so now his hoof was wrapped from ankle to knee in a white gauze. She smiled slightly. “I should be asking you that.”
Fenrak winced self-consciously. “I’m fine. Just a flesh wound. Nothing big. Maybe a scar or two.” Wild laughed, and he flapped his wings awkwardly. “He, um,” he said uneasily, “I brought this for you.” He held up the candied heart he’d found in the forest.
WildLamb licked her lips hungrily, then ducked her head, ashamed. “I didn’t think you still had it.”
Fenrak shrugged. “I figured since it caused all the trouble, it deserved to get eaten. But, then I figured since you did all, well, okay not all of the work, you should get it. I’ll just put it here,” he said, adding it to her pile.
“Fenny?” WildLamb said as he turned to go, half-thinking to confess. He paused, and looked at her expectantly. She opened her mouth to say those words, but she couldn’t. “Thanks,” she said lamely, her wings sagging over the candy.
Fenrak nodded, took a few steps, then stopped and turned back. “Wild?” He said, causing her to raise her head hopefully. “Don’t ever let size hold you back.” And with that, he limped out of the cave, leaving WildLamb to wonder just what exactly he meant by that.