In a dragon burrow, a woman sat reading a letter. Most dragon burrows are just large enough for the dragon and its mate. Sometimes extended families of dragons create branching systems of rooms. This burrow had just one dragon but room enough also for the woman to have a table and chair, a bed, and a little walking about space.
“My sister gave birth to a daughter,” she said.
A gentle inquisitiveness entered her mind. “Will you ever have children?” the dragon rumbled.
Maria felt something turn inside her. “I…maybe.” It wasn’t that she didn’t want children but she couldn’t bear them herself. If she found a wife she could mother a child with her then but she had no luck over the years. She was still relatively young, only twenty-nine years old.
“I’m sorry I distressed you,” the low rumbly voice said.
“I’m not distressed. You just took me by surprise. Why do you want to know anyway?”
“For five generations, I have been pledged to aid your family. The pledge is passed from parent to oldest child. If you have no children, my pledge to your family ends.”
“Eh? Are you looking for a way to escape me? Go! I won’t stop you.”
“No, I do not wish to leave you. I have grown … fond of your family. I wish to remain with them even if you do not have children.”
“Then go to them.”
“It isn’t that easy.”
“Why not? I release you from your pledge, now go and live with the family that tossed me out.”
“They didn’t toss you out. You left.”
“They would have.”
“Don’t talk to me about my father!”
“I can not just go to them. The bond we share is forged by time spent together. They would not be able to understand me as you do. I need you to come with me, to help them understand me.”
She poked the fire sending small bright embers flying. Thirteen no fourteen years since she ran away her family. Ran away from her father. “Dragon you ask too much of me.”
— Years ago
She runs outside to the workshop. Tears spilled from her eyes. They just didn’t understand her. He didn’t understand.
“Are you all right little one?” a deep rumbling voice asks from behind and inside her head.
Behind her, a dragon uncurls from behind the kilns, “Yes, I’m fine,” she says and tries to project the feeling as well.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, just … my father … I …” She doesn’t know what to say.
“Hmm, your father calls you his son but you are not a boy, why?”
“What do you mean, I’m not a boy?” she asks.
“I feel it in your thoughts,” the dragon says his voice rumbling, massaging deep into her mind, “You feel like your great grand aunt. She and her sister were twins but so different. She was born second and so was not the pledge bearer but we were friends. You feel like her.”
“How long have you known?”
“It has become apparent over the years.”
“Could you tell my father that? Maybe he would believe you.”
“Your father does not wish to listen to his own daughter. Why would he listen to an animal like me?”
“You’re not an animal.”
“I am to your father. I’ve felt it in his mind.”
“Why don’t you tell him not to think that?”
“I am pledged to aid your family till its end or mine. This is how your father has chosen for me to aid him.”
“It’s not right. You should say something anyways.”
“It’s not right how he treats you. You should say something.”
“I’m not a dragon.”
“No, you are not. I’m sorry for forgetting that the most your father can do to me is speak harshly.”
An idea springs into her mind. A wild idea that she has thought but never said aloud. “I’m going to run away and I want you to come with me.”
“I’m pledged to your family. I can not abandon them.” There are concern and fear within the dragon’s rumblings.
“I’m not asking you to abandon them. I’m asking you to help me. I can’t stay here any longer. Father won’t let me be who I need to be here, so I have to leave.”
“Why do you need me to go with you?”
“I … I’m scared to go alone but I will if I have to. I thought … hoped as my friend you would come with me.”
“I am bound to your father by my pledge.”
“I’m next to be pledge bearer. You won’t be breaking your pledge to go with me. You’re supposed to aid the family; well I’m part of the family and I need aid.”
“You are stretching the meanings of words.”
“Will you come with me or not?” the youth pleaded.
The dragon drew its head back, tucked its chin down, its wings pulled tight against its body and it became still, even pausing its breath. The girl waited and watched the dragon.
“Dragon, I was cross with you last night and I am sorry.”
“I know. I felt it last night while you slept.”
“Can’t keep any secrets from you can I?” She paused and waffled on her decision before plunging forward, “I’ve decided to return home. I want to see my newborn niece.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I miss my family. My sister will be more than happy to receive me.”
“And your father?”
“I don’t know. But I’m not the scared little girl who ran away anymore. I will go and see him whether we see each other after that will be up to him.”