A woman made the first dragon, thousands of years ago.
She was struggling as she laboured. She had borne children before, and knew that all was not well with this one. She felt her body struggle and grow weak. The expressions on the faces around her had moved, these last long days, from encouragement to concern to resignation to sorrow. But the woman could not leave herself to her fate. She thought of her living children, and the child dying within her. She thought of the great skies above her, the beauty of the sun as it rose and fell, the chill gentle light of the stars. She thought of rain and touch and the richness of sleep and the joy of faces that she loved. She thought of how she was not ready to leave this world.
And then, the magic happened. The woman’s need was so great, so acute, so vivid and so sure, that it spoke to the universe. And in response, somewhere – in this world, or in a world brushing past, touching-close – a dragon leapt to life. The fear of the woman made the dragon strong. The memories of the woman made the dragon gentle. The love contained in the woman gave the dragon a compassionate heart. The strength of the woman gave the dragon fire, and the woman’s need made bellow-lungs and sinuous, supple, tireless wings.
The dragon had no chance to examine her new self. She was pulled to the need like a trout on a line, wondering at the stretch of her tail and the shiver of her scales, thrilling at the first feel of fire at the edges of her nostrils.
The woman recognised the dragon when she arrived. The other people couldn’t see the creature, but they moved out of her way anyway, bunching into knotted conversations, pitying looks, tears, as they waited for the end. The woman waved away the ones who wanted to hold her hand. Her world was shrinking, shrinking.
The dragon didn’t know whether she was there to help with a birth or to gentle two deaths, but she did what she needed to do. The woman was snarled around her baby, and the dragon enfolded the woman, making her warm, breathing a safe universe around her. And the dragon waited. She was glad when the feeble mewl came. The dragon opened her wings, the people rushed back, exclaiming, crying, and the woman looked straight into the dragon’s eyes with thanks that tumbled out in tears.
So the dragon, no longer needed by the woman, left her. But she didn’t leave the world. It wasn’t long before that need came again, a pitch that drew the dragon the way the spring wrenches snowdrops from the earth. Time passed, and the dragon kept on helping. She saw fathers die, lovers leave, legs break. She tapped claws, breathed fire, ruffled her scales, made a safe place with a curl of her tail, shrank to fit into a pocket. She flipped and flamed around the cosmos, now watching, now waiting, now enjoying the look on the faces of people who could smell cordite where cordite had no place to be. Some people didn’t ever realise she was there. Others greeted her as a cold man greets a fire. It didn’t matter to the dragon.
Over time, the dragon started to forget the people who had called her. She could no longer pick out the people who she’s known as she trod clouds and looked down from the sky. But she still remembers the woman who had brought her into being.
The woman had made a name for her newborn that meant ‘child born of the dragon’. But the dragon knows that she was born of the child.