Pushing through a stand of tangled bushes with thorns that tore at her scales, she burst into bright sunlight as the trees ended quickly opening onto a swamp. Glan glanced again to the left and to the right still unable to shake the feeling her father was waiting for her. With the canyon to her back she was nervous and jumpy seeing her father behind every rock or rotted stump. The trees formed almost a perfect circle around a body of water so clogged with decaying articles it made her gag.
Pools of fetid scum and stumps of fallen trees jutting from the black water made up the outer ring of the pond. She wrinkled her nose taking shallow breaths to avoid the stench of rotting vegetation and the unmistakable dead flesh of animals caught in the muck forever. Hanging grey moss decorated the few trees still standing with their roots deep in the smelly liquid, drawing water from the silt below the algae. The carpet of moss disappeared turning into squelching black mud that sucked her feet down into the sludge. 'Hmmm...not very fresh, it smells like death.' she thought her face showing disgust as she edged her way around the stinking liquid in the darkness of the trees carefully keeping her tail in the air.
At the center the water was free of algae and festooned with blooming lily pads floating lazily on the surface rotating slowly in the morning breeze. 'Funny,' she thought, 'there isn't any frozen water or even any hint of snow here.' The air was much warmer and as she waded through the tepid water bubbles rose near her feet then popped, spewing a dead smell toward her nose. Grimacing, Glan looked again at the center where the pink and white lilies drifted surrounded by their green porches where dragonflies rested. She studied the movement of water as it eddied, making crazy circles. Deducing that wind wouldn't be able to move the water in circles, Glan knew the swamp pond was fed by some fresh source. Excited she moved forward splashing eagerly, breaking the peace and quiet but determined to find clean water.
Continuing her circle around the swamp pool she made it to the halfway point. Blocking her way stood a large rock jutting from the land like a fat dragon tail. Flat on top, it was too wide to jump over. Thinking it was a good time to test out her injured wing, Glan unfolded them and gingerly stretched, giving them two test flaps. There was pain but not much. Launching gracefully into the air she jumped to the top walking four or five steps to the other side. Near the far edge and using her wings again but carefully, Glan descended.
~ * ~
Before she could really move, a dragon rose up on the other side of the boulder. The orange and yellow colors of the skin told her this was a fire breather. Even from the ground the dragon towered over the boulder and, rising to its full height, they were eye level. The startled face of the fire dragon had a slender nose and triangular shaped head wearing multi-colored scales giving off small sparks. Amber met blue as they gazed at each other. Glan stopped dead in her tracks still flapping her wings slowly and ignoring the pain. Her feet found the rock again and she poised unsure of what to do next. The dragon from her dream stared at her with those blazing eyes. He was the fire breather she believed tried to kill her just the day before.
Glan hissed. Turning rapidly she ran to the edge of the rock, her wings ready for flight. Hearing a snort behind her, she prepared to take off despite the pain flying caused. Barely registering the whisper sound of wings not her own Glan heard a soft thud as the dragon landed in front of her on the other side of the rock, blocking her escape. Was air combat better for her with her wing disabled or did a ground fight give her a better advantage where she could escape into the forest? She quickly dismissed both strategies, this was a fire dragon and water was her only hope.
"How far do you think you'd get with that injured wing?" the dragon asked in a voice matching not only his size but his color, the tones amber colored, honeysweet and deep. Her jaw dropped in surprise and she fought to find her tongue.
"Far enough," Glan answered shortly while furtively looking to the right where the water shimmered darkly. Not moving from her spot her mind raced, planning her escape route silently. The big male regarded her with interest and, to her complete surprise, stepped aside.
"Fine, go ahead," he said, "don't let me keep you," sounding amused.
Eyes narrowed to slits, wondering where the trick was, she spread her wings, flapping them aggressively to let him know she was not afraid. Even though he was bigger she was faster, more compact and far more courageous than he probably anticipated. Giving him a look full of suspicion mixed with curiosity, she challenged him.