The Dragon Thief (A Fencorian Legend)

When the world was still young, millennia ago, there were no daiyer wolves and there were no Fay. Only two creatures had Morlaithe, sun eternal, blessed with the gift of intelligence: humans, still hunting and surviving in small clans throughout the world; and dragons. The dragons were not the dumb, fire-breathing beasts we see today, though. No. They were intelligent and fierce, rulers of the sky.

Morlaithe stood as guardian over the long, warm days, and was pleased at her creations. During the day, her precious humanity made good progress and grew more and more independent. And the dragons, mighty as they were, had built grand cities on the Plains under her watchful eyes.

The night, however, was another matter. Even the goddess needed sleep, and so gave dominion over the night hours to Fionnlagh, god of the moon and stars. He reported troubling news to her in those early hours when they both shared the sky: The dragons were managing well enough at night without her warmth, but humans did not have a dragons’ thick hide and so were freezing to death while Fionnlagh ruled the sky.

Fionnlagh pressed for Morlaithe’s intervention, but for some time, Morlaithe refused. She wanted humanity to be independent, to be capable of growing and thriving on their own so Morlaithe herself could focus on the larger, looming threat at hand. Eventually, though, Morlaithe heard humanity’s prayers and, with the help of Fionnlagh’s pressuring, the sun goddess took on a corporeal form and descended from the morning sky.

Humanity and dragonry both were terrified as the sky grew dark, but Morlaithe appeared before her creation and gifted humans with the Spark of Fire. It came in the form of two small rocks tied together that, when struck, could be nurtured into a small flame. It was a source of warmth for people who had nothing else to help them survive the night.

The dragons, Morlaithe deemed, needed no such gift to survive, and so she reascended and brightened the sky once again.

And for a short while, the world was peaceful and brilliant. Humanity clung to their gift of fire, and grew, and built, soon with settlements so large and magnificent that they rivaled that of the dragons.

But the peace was not to last. The dragons, curious about humanity’s sudden growth, spied on their fellow intelligent neighbors and found what gift the sun had given humanity. The dragons saw the gift and grew angry and jealous. They gathered their finest, most brilliant minds together in a secret room and discussed what ought to be done. In that room, they talked and talked until the sun began to set and the moon began to rise.

Then the dragons flew out of the room and one by one returned home. Each of them, except one dragon, who flew under the cover of darkness. Up, he flew, higher and higher until he’d flown higher than any dragon before him had ever dared. Fionnlagh either did not see or chose to ignore that dragon’s ascent.

Finally, the dragon flew so high that he found Morlaithe, sleeping beyond the horizon. Quietly, he swooped in closer, and landed a mere few inches away from her slumbering form. The flames around her were dim, but even then the dragon had difficulty seeing. He reached out and scooped up some of her fire. She stirred but did not wake. The flames were hot,  more so than a black rock after sitting underneath the sun’s gaze for an entire day, but his scales protected him from the heat.

Before Morlaithe could wake from her slumber, the dragon thief took back to the skies and found his way home.

He showed the gift to all who had been in the secret room, and each one of them stared at the flames in awe. They built a small cove of rock and set the flame above it, discovering that it grew smaller unless given something like bits of wood to devour.

But by this time, Morlaithe was stirring from her sleep and knew immediately that something had been taken from her. In a fit of rage, she descended again from the sky. The ground trembled as she reached the dragon thief’s city. The dragons knew what it meant, knew that they had been caught. Out of fear, they each split the fire into smaller pieces and swallowed them whole to hide what they’d done.

Morlaithe, however, could sense where every bit of flame was, and found each of the jealous dragons. The flame in her eyes flickered from yellow to orange to red, and she grew before the dragons’ eyes.

“I have given you many gifts since your creation,” she said. “Your intelligence, your wings, your strength. Yet you grow jealous at the humans for receiving one simple gift, and choose to then take what is not yours to claim.”

For their treachery, Morlaithe reclaimed their intelligence and their wit so they might never again know the meaning of jealousy. For their theft, she banished them from her gaze, expelling them from the land of Fencoria, east, across the great Edalis mountains where even Morlaithe’s brightness could not reach.

But before she could then reclaim the fire that had been stolen from her, Fionnlagh too stepped down from the sky. He asked her to grant her creations a single mercy, so she did. And as the dragons, no longer quite so mighty or quite so fierce, flew towards the mountains, they found that they could still breathe fire, and that Morlaithe’s mercy kept their cold hearts warm.

This story is a legend told by humans in the world of Fencoria, the setting for my current novel. See above page “Novels in Progress” for details, if interested.


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