Den Whitton - 1997
The river wound it way across the uplands, its waters stained to the colour of black tea by tannin seeping from the button grass peat. It eventually reached the western margin of the land and plunged over the cliffs to the sea a thousand feet below. The water leapt off the land and streamed through the air, taking on the appearance of a feathery horse's tail, which blew this way and that in the sea breezes. It wafted into the sea; its mist mixing with the salt spray from the waves that crashed into the cliffs below. At the top of the cliffs the noise was muted to a deep rumble.
Paveway didn't hear it.
The cliffs were white, and topped by a brilliant green cover that stretched to the horizon in three directions. The grass flowered constantly during the long summer days, its green carpet speckled by a myriad of tiny blue flowers. The cliffs were dotted by thousands of tiny holes. Each was the nest of a finch that had iridescent green plumage. The birds flashed from the holes and disappeared into the grass to feed on the seeds.
Paveway didn't see them. She lay at the top of the cliffs and stared to the west, hoping to bring him back bye sheer force of will. She didn't see the sun sinking with fire into the sea. She was once again with Mach while he said goodbye.
"Remember me," were his last words. How could I forget?
Her tears soaked into the grass. The late summer day was quiet but she wanted to howl and rage and rend. But she lay on the grass instead.
There was the sound of wings behind her and she recognised the beat of Mavrik and Amraan. They landed but said nothing. Eventually the silence was broken by a sniff. She turned her head and saw the young dragon had buried his face against Mavrik's chest. The larger dragon had his arms around her son. Mavrik had grown fully, and was a good one hundred feet long with scales a deep midnight blue colour. He was now the greatest dragon alive.
Amraan turned to her. "Mum?"
Paveway shook her head. "He was very tired."
Mavrik shushed him. "He never really recovered from the touch of that foul gem," he rumbled.
Amraan looked up at him. "That was so long ago!"
"Yes," Mavrik nodded. "One hundred years. And the most powerful people in the world could not help him." He looked up as Paveway sobbed.
"Yes, my lord."
"No!" said Mavrik. "No, you must never call me that. To you I am just Mavrik. Mach is the- was-" He choked to a stop. "I can't take his place amongst the ruling dragons."
"You must. His last official act was to appoint you to the council."
"Boy, didn't that cause a stir?" said Mavrik. "A Furred appointing a Greater."
The two male dragons sat either side of Paveway, and together they watched the sun set. Amraan stirred. "I wish Dad was here."
"We all do," said Mavrik. "He's not dead, you know."
Paveway put her arm around the shoulders of her son but said nothing. Their long shadows stretched across the grass as the sun set and the day ended. "I know, but it feels that way," said Paveway eventually. "Where did they take him?"
"They'll take him to the healer I took Aurani to. If they make it home, that is."
"The healer in the future?" asked Amraan.
"Can you bring him back?"
"I don't know," sighed Mavrik. "I'll try."
The three dragons watched the colours fade from the West. Overhead the stars came out, while below them the waves boomed against the cliffs.