This story is by Gary G Little and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
On the thirteenth cycle, the leaves of the great bartuum tree turn from the reds and golds of spring and summer, to the indigos and violets of autumn. The cold was coming. From the smallest mite on the back of the smallest borogrove, to the masters of the sky, the great horned dragons, the urge was the same. They turned their head, or their tail, whichever the case might be, towards the one place that meant the same to all; the place of warmth, there to await the passing of the cold time, and the return of the suns.
Now was the time of mating, and the young red could feel the autumn season coursing through its veins, calling it to find a life companion.
One thing was known, a companion could not be found on the ground. The ground was for food, the murders of pterippi, the herds of monoceros, the picayune little pteropus and snipes that were more problem to catch than nutritious. To find a mate it must fly, it must soar to the fourth, nay even the fifth moon if need be.
Feet thumping, legs pounding, the beast ran, its wings unfolding, grabbing air and creating lift. More power gathered in those great thighs as each foot fall thundered through the valley below. Great gossamer wings spread to the fullest, rainbows scintillated, reds and yellow dominating, those wings rose and fell again and again. Legs ran faster, wings grabbed air, forcing it down and back, raised again for another beat. Faster ran those massive thighs, faster beat those great gossamer wings, until with a cry of joy the legs gathered for one last effort, the feet planted, and shin and thigh, muscles and sinews, compressed for one last effort. The great dragon leaped and burst free of gravity. Sailing beyond the cliff, a long graceful bank and glide took it to the thermal rising from the valley below.
Then it sang. It sang a lonely tune, with no melody, it’s cleft palate dividing the note into harmonics of the treble clef. It sang with one voice, but two notes, calling for a life mate to complete the dragon song.
Higher the red soared, seeking the thermals that let it climb for the clouds. It circled, it soared, higher and ever higher, to the tops of the azure cumulus, to the blazing ochre anvils of thunderheads rippling with the rays of the last suns setting.
Far away, towards the rising of the suns, a great blue circled left, feeling for a rising current of air with the sensitive tip of its left wing. Nothing. It looked to the right and saw just the barest distortion in the air. Using the comb and crest of the head like a rudder, the blue turned to the right, slowly, losing some altitude to pick up a little speed. No beat of the wings was needed as the blue circled, now using the right wing tip to find the edge of the thermal. Just the tiniest of tickles, but the rising air was there. The blue arced and banked into the turn, used a wing beat to settle, and rode a new thermal. Saving energy, the blue rode that rising column of air.
The shadow of the great blue crossed emerald forests and meadows. Sensing their ancestral predator on the hunt, the fauna below responded according to its kind. Borogroves scurried for holes. Snipes hid within bushes, heads tucked under wings. Pterippi and monoceros whinnied and neighed, shook their manes, and stamped their hooves. The pterippi flapped and spread their wings in defiance. The monoceros pointed their single great horn towards the circling blue and brayed at the predator high overhead.
The blue ignored all challenges from below, this thirteenth cycle. This was not a meat hunt, it was a hunt to satisfy another hunger deep in its core. A new hunger of the season told it to fly, to ride the sky waves of rising warm air, and had told it to sing. Higher it circled, to heights it had never been. Mountains on the horizon disappeared into a misty horizon, and still it circled. It sang a lonely tone, it’s cleft palate producing bass notes rumbling, grumbling and cascading to the valleys and rivers below. Higher it circled and still it sang, a pleading song, a song so lonely even the mountains wept tears of despair.
The red circled and drifted, singing its own song. There, was that an echo? A strange song it heard. A tone that harmonized, and for but a moment formed a vibrant chord.
There, from the left came the echo, a bass note that fit the song it sang. Curious the red turned in that direction. It sang again, when it heard the other song, and fit its treble tones with those bass tones. The overtones lifted the red’s great heart. Yes! This was why it flew today. It sought this song of the sky. This was the missing piece of the chord.
Eager flew the red now. Head turning left, right, seeking the source of that dragon song. The song the red sought was from the direction of the setting of the third sun. The fourth sun still high, there was time in this thirteenth cycle. With grace the red banked towards the mountains and the place where the suns set. It’s heart beat with joy, as now it reefed its wings and began a long glide towards a distant dot on the horizon.
The blue sang when it heard the echo coming from where the suns rise. Yes, that is what it sought. The treble notes to its bass. Eagerly now it sought altitude. It’s great wings beat with tremendous strokes. There, where the suns rise, was a distant dot, and what was sought, the other part of the song.
The red lifted the right wing to bank to the left, but continued into a wing over. The great red crest never deviated, eyes locked on the target. Great red wings folded back, streamlined, the red plunged for the quarry. The membranes of the wings vibrated with the speed the red cleaved the air. Down it plunged towards that unsuspecting blue dot.
The red sang the tonal song again, and the blue heard. Head raised, the blue saw the plunge of the red. The great blue wings beat forward and up, killing forward momentum and lifting that great body vertical, hind feet forward, claws extended. And it sang the tonal song of the blue.
The red plunged past the blue, partially unreefed those red wings and curved to the left. The blue sang. The red sang. The blue and the red sang and the bass and treble notes beat against and with each other. The blue chased the red through that curve and they both spiraled up, and ever up. Again past the thunderheads, again into the brightness of the red sun they spiraled higher and higher.
In a single penultimate moment they stopped, wings beat in a brief hover, both flipped to their backs, and they plunged straight for the ground far below. Round and round they circled, into each other and away, louder they sang, blending their tonal centers, the bass blending with the treble creating under and over tones neither had ever sung. Now there was joy to their flight, an exultation for they had found the missing notes, now they formed a chord.
They came together, necks twining, wings extending, forming a complete rainbow from deep red to deep violet, brilliant greens and yellows rippling through those veined wings. Momentum carried them higher until they slowed and fell, no longer in controlled flight, wings folded; the ecstasy of the merging seized them.
They fell towards the valley below, spinning faster. As one their wings snapped to full extension. Their necks untwined, their claws unclasped and those great bodies separated. Both looked down, saw boulders, bartuum trees and valley walls rushing away and both strained those great wings to convert their vertical plunge to horizontal flight. An undulating scream from both echoed through the valley as they pulled out of that dive. Small trees were blown aside, tall grasses rippled, and a cinnamon cloud of dust rose from the speed of their passage as once more they climbed for the sky. At the top of their loop, the red did a wingover and swooped into formation to the right and behind the blue.
On the thirteenth cycle, when the leaves of the great bartuum tree turn to indigo and violet, two great horned dragons flew into the setting of the red dwarf, singing a swinging jive, for all to hear:
Boop boop diten datem whatem choo
Boop boop diten datem whatem choo