Two young girls stood at the edge of an open field. One’s name was Margo, and the other was Annette. Margo was well-known to be the braver of the pair, but it was Annette who urged Margo on with an overeager prod.
“Go on, Margo! Imagine how excited people will be when we tell them we managed to call a dragon!”
“No, Annette, you should do it.” Margo had not believed so before, because while it was an honor to be in the presence of a dragon, it was even more so to be the one the dragon actually answered. Yet the prospect of meeting a live dragon often made even the most stout of heart quiver in their boots, and Margo was no exception. It should be noted, perhaps, that she wore no boots, for it was a lovely summer day and she liked the feel of grass between her toes.
Annette laughed, if only to convince Margo she was being foolish. She wasn’t, of course; there was no reason for either girl specifically to make the call, but, as I said. If Margo was afraid of being burned alive–or worse, being denied the chance to see a real dragon–then Annette was positively, secretly, terrified.
It was relatively easy to call a dragon. One only had to find or make an enchanted horn–and they didn’t require a master to create, though novice enchanters had the spells blow up in their face as often as not–and find an open field upon which the dragon could land, should they choose to answer the call.
In the end, it was Margo who brought the horn to her lips. She had been carrying it in her backpack to begin with, and she was only partly scared anyhow. The horn emitted a single note, clear and musical and lonely. Neither girl knew how long they should wait, but it was long enough that Margo put the horn dejectedly back into her backpack after several minutes of anticipation.
Then the ground began to rumble under them. Annette yelped, and even Margo felt a surge of fear. The two young girls grabbed each other’s hand, determined that, whatever happened, they would face it together.
No dragon came from the sky. Instead, a hole opened up in the ground before them, and a pointed snout peeked out. A massive clawed paw struck above surface and pulled the creature in full above the surface. Annette gasped, for she’d heard about amolians. They were said to be the dragon’s uglier, less elegant cousin, for where dragons breathed fire and lorded the air above, amolians used water as their weapon and lorded the earth below. If dragons were hard to find, amolians were rarer still, for they did not often answer the call of the horn.
The amolian had short brown fur, a long, sweeping tail, and eyes that somehow both saw and did not see. “Greetings, children of man,” the creature said, its voice deep and booming.
Annette dipped into a curtsy. It was customary to show deference to a creature of magic, though of course neither she nor Margo had ever done much curtsying except when pretending to be princesses of powerful lands, and as such, the one she did now was hardly elegant. If the amolian knew, however, he did not seem to mind.
Margo quickly followed Annette’s lead.
The amolian turned its attention directly onto Margo. “You have blown the horn, daughter of earth,” he said, “and I have decided to answer. Tell me, what is it that you desire? If it is within my power, I will grant it.”
Margo and Annette stared at each other. It was known that dragons sometimes granted wishes, if they appeared at all, but all they had truly wanted was for the dragon to appear. But now that the amolian was the one to stand before them, Annette came to the conclusion that the stories had it wrong. Amolians did not look uglier than dragons, just different, and it was grace enough to see an amolian, even if it meant they would not see a dragon.
Margo on the other hand did not care for the amolian’s looks. “I want to be remembered as the person who got to see an amolian,” she said, proud of her own diplomacy despite being denied the chance to see the graceful, mighty dragons in person.
“Daughter of earth, I shall do you one better,” the amolian said, its lips pulling back to show beaver-like teeth, “for I can tell your heart belongs below even as your friend’s belongs above. Get on my back, and I shall teach you the way of earth and water.”
Margo had not come to learn such things, but it was as if the amolian read something in her heart that she had not realized was there. She loved the grass beneath her toes, and wondered what it might be like to have it above her head.
“Can my friend come too?” Margo asked, sensing that the amolian’s offer had been for her and her alone.
The amolian did not answer Margo, but rather turned its attention onto Annette this time. “If you call upon the horn, you may find a dragon answers the call. He will offer to teach you the ways of fire and air, if you desire it. The ways of earth and water will not come easily to you.”
Annette reached again for Margo’s hand, and was glad when her friend squeezed her fingers tightly. “Where we go, we go together, great amolian. Please, let us both come with you. I want to learn.”
“Very well,” the amolian answered, somewhat amused. “They may wait for you, yet, daughter of air. Climb onto my back, the both of you, and you shall learn the secret might of earth and water.”
Once the two girls had taken their places on his back, clambering up with far less grace than even the curtsy, the amolian took them below to begin to teach them both, as he promised, for amolians, like dragons, would not break their word.