Benlogen Mountain woke from the Winter and reached to the sky. With a necklace of fresh, coloured flowers encircling her throat and winding down her side, she sent the fragrance of Spring into her rocks and caves and new green trees. The birds and insects, and nesting ground creatures stirred from their slumber as the mountain sang to them,
‘The Winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land….’
The Mountain offered berries and flowers and clear running water as she threw off the last of the Winter sleep singing… ’the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtle dove has been heard in our land…’
In a Forest clearing, children of the Ecclesian Chapter House and White Oak village, sang as they played,
‘The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance.’
As Andra gathered yellow daisies, blue cornflowers and red pansies, she hummed the final line of their song, ‘Arise my darling, my beautiful one and come along.’
She sat in the cool grass and formed her clutch of flowers into a chain, breathing of the forest air. It reached the depths of her being and blew out the thick musk of the winter, expelling the damp from her bones.
She had been able to elude her guardian, although she suspected Ingrid had allowed her to ‘disappear’, wanting time to herself. In the five years they had stayed at the Chapter House, her constant, faithful and vigilant family servant had always been there. Always, until always became a binding thread Andra desired to break. She expelled her disquiet with her next breath and placed the crown of flowers into the red curls on her head as Dax plopped down beside her.
‘What’s in the clouds today,’ he asked. He lay looking up to the sky and brushed his long white hair from his eyes.
‘Oh, Hi Dax.’
Together they watched the passing flotilla of clouds morphing and rotating on the breeze, folding around themselves, transforming into shapes and pictures, framed by the branches of the trees in the clearing.
‘They look like unfinished statues. But they look like they’re going to be men of valour like on the Chapter House.’ Dax said.
‘And that one is horses running, see?’
They contemplated the clouds in silence until Dax sat up and pointed.
‘Really, which one?’ Andra asked, searching the sky.
‘Not the clouds. Over there, a real one. Look.’
Their friends joined them. Bryn pointed to the sky while Lizzie put her hands over her ears as the air was pierced with the squeal of a mother fire lizard. It circled the canopy and then dove into the trees. Dax jumped up and entered the forest.
‘Wait.’ Andra called. She tossed off her floral crown as she and Lizzie followed.
At the fire lizard’s nest was a slobbering, brown haired creature with short legs. It bared its sharp teeth at the owner of the nest and the yolk of an egg drooled out from its sneering mouth. Shattered shell lay strewn about the nest. The fire lizard darted and swiped its tail toward the predator which leapt back and forth in its dual attempt to gain the remaining egg and keep itself clear of the barb that was thrashing toward it. The fire lizard’s tail found its mark and the animal yowled. Bryn threw a rock at the wounded beast. Lizzie squealed and ran into Andra’s arms, sobbing.
Then amongst it was Dax. He circled the brown mass writhing on the ground. As he reached for the creature, he was rewarded for his efforts with a crunching bite to his forearm. The fire lizard stepped toward them both, her nostrils flaring.
‘Dax, look out,’ called Bryn. But Dax, distracted by the wound on his arm, could not react, and the same flare that turned the beast into a blackened mark against the stone, singed Dax’s hair and clothing.
The victorious fire lizard returned to her nest. She nudged one egg which rolled away to reveal its other side. Shattered. She nudged another, sniffing it as she turned it over. Then with a cry that sent shivers to Andra’s toes, she rose high and disappeared from view.
As her lament faded beyond the canopy, Andra was aware of another sound. Dax called from his place beside the scorched rock. ‘Help me.’ She released Lizzie and picked her way over the undergrowth to him.
‘I’m here, Dax.’
His hair, down his cheek and the top of his shoulder was burned. Andra snapped off a nearby plant and smeared the sap over his body. Then she lifted his arm to inspect the bite. It sat on his forearm like a crater, raised edges, raw flesh circled with bite marks. Where the sharp teeth of the creature had torn away, there was a gash, bleeding freely down his arm. He rose to sit nursing it as he rocked, groaning with the rhythm of his backward and forward motion. His face was screwed up tight.
Andra spat into her handkerchief and wiped Dax’s arm of blood. Then she tore a corner from her blouse and wrapped the wound.
‘We need to get you home,’ she said, tying the cloth up as she finished.
Lizzie hesitated at the nest. ‘It’s alive,’ she called.
When Dax was securely on his feet, Andra stepped into the nest and crouched to watch the egg struggle to its side. The shell was cracked and a piece of it was missing, enough to see the baby fire lizard inside.
‘Bring it, Andra.’ Dax said. His face was flushed, whether from excitement or the fever, she could not tell. But his thought was hers too. She lifted the wriggling bundle and stepped from the nest.
As they stood around Andra’s cupped hand containing the egg, more pieces of the shell fell into her palm and a soggy claw emerged from the side of the egg.
‘It’s being born’, gasped Lizzie.
‘Sssh,’ said Andra but her words were unnecessary as silence descend on the friends. All eyes were on the little miracle that was taking place within her hand.
And then there it was. The sticky, clumsy baby fire lizard stretched its moist wings, its neck and then gave a mewling cry which shattered the silence and they all laughed in relief.
‘Is it okay?’ asked Dax. ‘It’s not damaged or anything?’ He screwed up his nose and sucked in his breath, rubbing his forearm.
Andra reached for the bronze head of the lizard to lift off the last of some yolk and as she did the creature’s claw lashed out at her. She yelled as the talons connected to the top of her wrist. She let go of the lizard and it fell towards the ground but its fresh wings caught the air in time and it rose to circle their heads. Bryn reached to catch it but it rose higher eluding his flailing arms.
Then the little fire lizard landed on Andra’s shoulder and settled there. She reached out to stroke the creature’s leg and the fire lizard breathed on the wound at her wrist. The skin seared. Andra gasped but then the pain went away and the skin fused over. She was left with three golden lines from the base of her thumb to the bone at her wrist. It glowed bright then faded leaving three pink lines in her flesh.