This is so much better than walking. Adelaide stretched her silvery wings as far as they could reach and clipped off a boulder on the peak beside her. Thus far her body hadn’t threatened to transform back, so she hoped it was under control.

Humans should have wings too, Cyr said from where he flew on her left.

Perhaps, but they’d probably misuse them, especially if they could breathe fire. She imagined an army of Gyndilians who could change into dragons and shivered at the destruction they would wrought.

A faint sound from below caused Adelaide to stop, hovering in mid-air like a hummingbird. A familiar voice was singing an unfamiliar song.


“Close your eyes, breathe deeply,

the fearful phantoms of the night

have fled this home completely,

for dragon fire is the best light.


Let the dragon’s sweltering steam

creep and seep peacefully into

your darkest, most haunting dream

and give it the brightest hue.


Sleep, child, sleep,

your night-protector

will wrap you deep

in his soft-souled ember.


Dream, child, dream,

of flying through the skies

with a bright gleam

in your hope-filled eyes.”


Adelaide smiled. Old Man Henric.


Adelaide landed above the spot where she’d heard the man crooning. A small avalanche of dirt and rocks cascaded down the mountain from her impact. She hoped the rocks and dirt didn’t harm the man.

Once the debris settled, she heard nothing but the hooting of an owl.

Adelaide morphed back into a human so as not to terrify the man. Even though he seemed to love and long for dragons, it’d probably stop his old heart if one appeared right in front of him. Odo could wait a little longer.

She crept down through the pines. As she drew close to the spot where she had heard Henric, she heard the rushing of water and saw several lichen-licked boulders. This was the same place she had first seen him. Her kidnappers had stopped here for a drink of water and rest, and a man had come out of the boulders asking if the dragons had returned.

The memory brought back the feeling of rope biting her flesh, constant gnawing hunger, and the uncertainty of what would happen to her. She reached back for her dagger. But no thieves waited in the shadows to blind and gag her and drag her to the Gyndilians.

You look like a terrified rabbit, Cyr said from a branch above her.

Adelaide clambered closer to the boulders. “Henric? Old man Henric? Are you here?” She called.

No sound. She walked between the rocks and found the old man lying with his head outside of a crack between two boulders, his legs hidden behind him.

He was as filthy as she remembered and seemed to have shrunk even more since the last time she’d seen him: his bones protruded sharply against his skin which hung off him like melting wax. He stared up at the bursting moon.

Adelaide knelt beside Henric and realized the man was shaking like a shivering dog. “Henric? Are you alright?”

“It’s time to sleep now, no doubt,” he said in a faint voice as he still gazed up at the moon. “And I missed them. I missed them, oh yes.”

Adelaide didn’t think he spoke of a night’s sleep. She squeezed his hand. “You didn’t miss them, Henric.”

Emma or Elias would have been much better at comforting a dying person than she; Emma, for her love of the sick and needy, and Elias because he always knew what to say or sing.

Adelaide held Henric’s hand awkwardly while he murmured over and over again, “I missed them. They will return, but I missed them,” his voice growing weaker and his breath more laborious.

Eventually Adelaide couldn’t take the wistful resignation in his voice anymore. She withdrew her hand from his and walked a good distance away. It didn’t matter if she terrified him; he was going to die soon anyway.

When Adelaide transformed, she splintered a branch that creaked and fell to the ground with a thud. But still Old Man Henric gazed up at the moon, as if he already no longer belonged to this world. Only when Adelaide gently, ever so gently, nudged him with her snout, did he turn and look at her.

His eyes grew as wide as the moon and his grin even wider. “Ah, yes. That is a dragon, no doubt. There is now hope at last.” He took a rattling breath, closed his eyes, and fell into a sleep he’d never wake from.

Adelaide burned the body. It seemed the most fitting, since it was the dragon way. As the red and orange flames devoured his body, giving it back to the earth while his soul flew free with dragons, Adelaide sang his song while in her dragon form, changing a few of the words.


Sleep, Henric, sleep,

            your night-protector

            will wrap you deep

            in his soft-soul ember. 


            Dream, Henric, dream,

            of flying through the skies,

            with a bright gleam

            in your fully-opened eyes.