Work in Progress

We Were Never Dragons


       There weren’t always dragons in the Valley. Once upon a time the Koilada and Drakontes were one people. We were at peace. Waterfalls flowed from the mountains into our valley home. Wildflowers littered the earthen floor like rodi seeds in summer.

        At least that is what Giagia used to tell me as a child. My grandmother told me many stories, but our history was always my favorite. Maybe that is why I break the treaty every night. Maybe that is why I don’t fit in as a dragon. I was never meant to be one.

        My name is Nixiara and I am here to set the record straight - even if you are the only one who will ever read it.

        I am a descendant of the Drakontes tribe. Despite the popular lullabies that the Koilada like to sing, we are not dragons.

        I am not a ginormous serpent covered in scales and icky green skin. Actually, I am quite petite, only five rodi branches tall with soft silky black hair and skin the color of our Mother earth. In many ways I look like you.

        I don’t breathe fire - that is my favorite of your myths - but I have a wicked tongue so don’t mess with me or you will get burned.

       Am I a symbol of evil? I think about that myth when the moon is high in the sky. I guess, if you grow up thinking you are evil, you will adapt to the expectation. Thankfully, the Drakontes don’t care for your expectations. So no, we are kind hearted, but we do what we must to survive after you redirected all of our water to create your mountain utopia.

        You scare your children with tales of our pagan rituals, and with that I can’t disagree. We don’t believe in your god. I don’t even know who he is. Our Mother is the earth and to her we give thanks for our survival - no thanks to you by the way.

        Whoever picks up this letter, I hope you find the truth because I am tired of your lies.

 Nixiara Drakontes

        The soft ivory leather containing Nixiara’s letter floated down the river, bouncing back and forth between the smooth rocks, until a pale, slender, and unsuspecting hand pulled it from the meandering current.

         “Cassandra, Mother is waiting. We mustn't be late,” Cairo’s voice carried over the burbling brook as Cassandra’s toes dug deeper into the soft mud of its underbelly.

        “She’ll be fine. Don’t be such a momma’s boy,” she yelled back and swiftly gathered the hems of her sweeping brocade skirts so that she could wade in deeper. Her toes sunk into the silken sludge of Koila’s earth, and the rushing of the cold water lapped at the edges of her heavy dress.

        “Cassa, I’m serious. The guards will find us soon and then what?” Cairo stood shyly at the water’s edge, eyeing the drifting leaves and branches floating peacefully as if they were lecherous snakes ready to attack.

        Cassandra ignored him, as usual, and continued wading across the stream, the leather rolled and bound with a tie clasped protectively in her hands. She had heard rumors of the dragons in the Valley and, after slipping away from their guards’ ever watchful eye, decided to take a peak for herself.

        The tales of the dragons were her favorites. Tales of beasts larger than man with wings to rival the grand Koilada throne itself. Tales of their brutality, pulling the Koilada from the edge of the mountain to their pitiful deaths. Tales of their fire cast as hot as the royal iron smith’s forge, rolling through the Valley and creating the beveled hills that creep predatorily across the waste land floor.

        After a few more steps she made it to the opposite side of the river, her cold toes now tickled by the fluffy and vibrant green grasses. Each blade danced playfully in a ballet of whispered secrets across her now bare and wet feet, while a gentle breeze blew the scent of wild daffodils through the plateau. Cassandra looked back with a snide smile splitting her perfectly pink rounded lips.

        “Come on, Ro. The river won’t eat you, but the dragons might,” she winked with mirth and started to laugh when Cairo’s face morphed into utter terror. Then she turned back to her mission. They weren’t far from the mountain's edge. The river was the warning. Once across, few made it back alive, or so they say. Cassandra knew they were just tales to keep the children from wandering too far from the city. She wanted the truth just as badly as she craved to escape the crown.

        Looking down at the leather in her hands, she turned it around inspecting its rough edges. She had never seen anything like it in all of Koila. Its supple softness was warm and pleasant to the touch and the water of the river quickly dried on its worn surface. The crude tie was just barely holding it bound and she smiled with anticipation as she ran through the open grass to the cliff’s edge.

        She could hear Cairo calling behind from the other side of the bank, but she took no heed as her heart raced with adrenaline. There were no other signs of life on this side of the water and she felt free. Free from the pressure. Free from the control of the High Court. Free from her mother. The sky began to turn from its vibrant blue to the piercing rouge, gold, and plums of sunset. It was as if the greatest artists of Koila all gathered together and coated the sky in layers of pigment far richer than any fabric, jewels, paint, or precious metal she had ever seen before. Here, on the edge of nowhere, the earth was wild and it called to her deepest desires.

        A gasp slipped through her parted lips as she found her footing on the edge of the mountain. Only the sound of small pebbles falling down the cliff face split the reverent silence. All the air that had been swimming in her lungs rushed out of her tightly bound ribs and her eyes darted from one spot to the next as she took in the sweeping view of the canyon below.

        The Valley. It was nothing like the stories they told in the streets. Its harsh terrain wasn’t one of brutality, but of pure majesty. The rolling hills were painted soft pinks, blues, whites, and coppers as they billowed elegantly like fabric in the breeze, each one unique in its shade and texture. She couldn’t help but notice that the Grand Palace of Koila copied the delicate palette of what nature created ten times more beautifully on its own. A wild palace to house the wild dragons.

       The heat rising from the canyon caressed her skin, not like a furnace but like a kiss, a welcome. As far as her eye could see, the sweltering desert lay untouched and raw. When she looked down, the undulating layers of copper and tawny rock creating the Valley wall looked like ever flowing waves sweeping across the Paltinon Sea. But unlike the sea, there was no sign of water anywhere in sight.

        Feeling all of the sudden caught like a pontiki in a cupboard trap, Cassandra clawed at the layers of silk and brocade piled on her body for High Court decorum. The fabric covered every inch of her pale skin aside from her face as if baring her body to the sun would become a blasphemous offering. One layer after the next was torn and peeled away with a new sense of urgency and determination, until she was left scandalous in her silken lilac underdress, skin exposed to the kiss of the Valley’s scorching tongue.

        Finding a seat on the edge, Cassandra finally unwrapped the piece of leather she found floating in the river. Carefully, she pried apart the intricate knots along its tie to finally reveal the contents of its interior. Scrawled across the page was a unique rendering of the Koilada language. The letters and words were recognizable, but the penmanship lacked the coils and finer finishes enjoyed by the Koilada people. Sparing no time to admire the penman’s simplistic touch, she read through the letter, bewitched by the words swept across the page.

        Covering her mouth in surprise, she read over Nixiara’s letter three more times, before letting it fall to the barren rock by her side and gazing over the expansive canyon before her. A valley feared for its lingering evil and fraught with mystery and magic unknown to the Koilada. A valley marvelously bound by no laws, but those of nature herself and a centuries old treaty to keep the monstrous dragons at bay. A valley that hid the truth. The truth that left Cassandra now speechless and filled with an enraptured yearning to understand how this letter came to be floating in the river and to understand the true identity of this Nixiara Drakontes.

       Lost in her thoughts, she stared steadily at the painted horizon, an intuitive call pulling her further from her roots to the truth that lay beyond her sight. There were never dragons in the Valley.

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✿Created by Lilia Gestson✿