Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | February 25, 2008

Redberry

Big Squaw Mountain, Maine. August 21, 2007.

Big Squaw Hike Red Berries

Rena was safe here, in the moss and redberry plants.  She folded her wings and ducked behind a rose-tinted leaf.  Her pursuer hadn’t yet given up.  She couldn’t hear its wings beat the air, but she felt the regular gusts shaking her shelter.

A real live dragon!  And she had found it!  Well, actually it found her, and she had been flying much too close to the edge of the cliff, but she wouldn’t have to tell the councilors that part of the story.  It was just a baby, too.  Its pale yellow scales had years to go before they’d darken to rust or gold, and its eyes were still cloudy and moist.  But it could see and smell better than any other creature Rena knew, and it was strong.  Strong and fast.  Rena was lucky she was alive.

Lucky, and exhausted.  Fairies need at least three naps every day; the sun was well past the middle of the sky and Rena hadn’t even had one.  She burrowed down close to the damp earth and pulled curls of white moss over her arms and legs.  This wasn’t for warmth — the thick fuzz of fur over her body kept her from ever getting too cold — she burrowed because she wanted to be completely hidden.

Dragons don’t give up easily.

This one was only three days old, and he patiently flew back and forth above the place where the big butterfly had disappeared with great interest.  He had eaten six butterflies since emerging from the dark of his egg, and each one was tastier than the one before.  He wasn’t really hungry today, but this one had giant purple wings and a fuzzy green body and looked delicious!  He’d tried every trick he knew to catch it, but it always flitted away at the last second and squeaked at him.  Now it was gone, hidden somewhere in the moss.  He could smell it there.

An older dragon would have set the whole forest floor on fire in a rage, but this one was too young to make any more than a wisp of smoke.  So he waited and watched.

And he saw the moss move.  There, right below a plant with a clump of red berries, something shifted.

The dragon pounced, clawing at the white plants, eager and full of a toddler’s joy.

Rena felt herself lifted up, up in the air, dangled upside-down in front of those misty blue eyes.

“Hello,” she said, trying not to think about the teeth as long as her arms clustered inside the dragon’s mouth.

Why was she even bothering to talk?  Everyone knew dragons and fairies couldn’t communicate.  Her language sounded like squeaks, and his was nothing more than grunts and tail switches.

But the dragon tilted his head to the side, and made a sound back at her.

“Hulll-ooo?”  He said.  It was low and guttural, but Rena squeaked with joy.  He was listening!

“What’s your name?”  Rena asked.  The dragon made a sound like a cough, then placed Rena down on the ground, holding her under one claw.  She couldn’t get away, but it didn’t hurt, either.

“What’ssss ‘our naaame?”  The dragon copied.

“Rena.  And I’ll call you Redberry, ok?”

“Redberry!”  The dragon barked.  He liked the sound of it.  Squeaky, but somehow strong and proud.  This butterfly was definitely clever.  He decided to keep it for a while, at least until he was hungrier.

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