Sweetly the Dragon Dreams
by David Farland
Life finds a way. We dropped planet-killers on Mursadoni, scorching all three
continents, and when I returned forty-two years later, the land was covered with
green ferns that provided food for clouds of lightning moths.
So I have searched the heavens further. On Remiseas, nine hundred years after its
immolation, I found forests and birds and lizards -- all which should have been
decimated -- and I discovered new life forms rising from the ashes of the old.
On Danai, the infestation was much worse. A few of the higher life forms were
gone, but after six thousand years I found wide variations in the flora and fauna.
Included among the survivors is a thriving population of humans led by a hive of
skraals. My supply of planet-killers and sunbusters has been exhausted. I will
drop flash-heads into the hive with the hope that the resultant nuclear
contamination will wipe out the skraals' queen. Further steps will be required to
eradicate the biological contaminations. . . .
-- final transmission from the cycor drone ship Death's Head
In the dry days on Danai, the moon lures the damselfly nymphs from the slow-flowing waters. Soft of flesh they come, minute hunters from the marsh, climbing
ashen stalks of cattails or perchance some slender green reed.
At the rising of the sun they settle at the base of a frond, letting the light take them
and transform them, until their old bones crack and their new form breaks free.
For a moment they will hesitate, poised, their new wings still wet, waxen and
thrumming, as they examine their own glory.
Soft new carapaces shine in the sunlight -- glimmering like cinnabar or rubies, or
the green of dappled leaves.
That is how young Tallori found them that summer morning as she waded along
the shores of the marsh. The rising sun hung like a golden shield upon the
shoulders of the world, and the young damselflies just seemed to be waiting for her
to pluck them from their perches.
She had caught nearly a hundred in a dozen different hues, and placed them in a
reed basket. She was happy to be catching them. One silver penny for every five
damselflies Tallori was to be paid. She could make a small fortune in a few weeks.
Tallori was a bright child, but not bright enough. She had not been found worthy
of schooling. She was a mere human, and thus far inferior to skraals that ruled
The damselflies were to be food for the Holy Maiden Seramasia, and Tallori was
grateful to be of service, for not only would she make more than she had ever
dreamed, she would also be assisting a goddess.
Tallori was large of bone for an eight-year-old girl. Her hair was as bright yellow
as the sunlight, and her eyes, set deep beneath her brow, were greener than the sea.
She sang a rhyme as she picked the damselflies from the stalks:
"A blue one to ease my lady's cares,
"A red one to make her grow.
"A white one to match her skin so fair,
"A gold one to make her glow!"
That is when she found the monster. Tallori tiptoed over a break in the cattails, a
space less than ten yards across, when she noticed how rough the ground felt
beneath her feet. The dark water was as brown as her father's beer, and one could
not see through it. But sometimes she could feel clams in the mud with her toes, or
find small freshwater crabs to eat. But the rough surface made her wonder.
She stopped for a moment to pick a scab from her knee and eat it. That's when she
looked down, saw a vast eye, and let out a scream.