The traveler tipped his head back and checked the position of the sun. It would be time to set up camp soon. The terrain was suitably rocky. Perhaps there would be a small cave nearby where he could find some shelter for the night.
He checked the sky again. It might rain in the night. He’d better start looking for a nice cave now. So, he stepped off the path and began to pick his way around the side of the mountain. It was a slow process. If there weren’t so many trees, he’d try flying.
The traveler paused and perched on a tall boulder and scanned the area. There had to be a faster way to do this. He sat still for a moment to think. A cool breeze blew by, and it carried with it the faint sound of someone crying. He decided to follow the sound. Perhaps if he found a way to help them, they’d be grateful enough to point out a place for him to stay for the night.
He picked up his bag in his talons and swung it over his shoulder. He followed the sound through the woods to a pretty meadow on the other side. A dragaina was hunched over, wings limp, sobbing. “Hey pretty lady, why are you crying?” the traveler asked.
“A horrible human princess stole my baby,” the dragaina said. “I tried to rescue him, but a knight held me off until another could sneak up and hit me in the head with a metal club. When I awoke, they were gone and I don’t know how to find them.”
“Don’t cry. I will help you find him,” the traveler said.
The dragaina’s wings perked up and her eyes were wide with hope. “Really? Could you find him?”
“I’ll do my best,” he said. “Dragon’s honor.”
“Oh, thank you!” she said. “He’s all that I have left of my husband who was killed by those evil knights. They stole all our hoard too.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Ma’am. Tell me where the nearest river is and I’ll start looking for your little one,” the traveler said. Unfortunately, he had heard many stories like this in his travels. It was fortunate that in this case some of the family had survived.
He followed the dragaina’s directions to the river and began to walk downstream. Human settlements needed water, and they didn’t like to work hard to get it if they didn’t have to. Sure enough, he soon found a bridge spanning the river. On either side was a wide human road.
He followed the road away from the woods into a valley. In the center of the valley, a human town was settled snugly inside a stone wall with a large keep at its center. That was probably where the fledgling was being held captive.
He waited until night. The storm cloud rolled in and blotted out the moonlight. A fine misty rain put out the torches and sent the guards to huddle inside their guardhouses. The traveler glided in silently without being seen. They never looked up.
He flew around the keep and peeked into the windows. It wasn’t too hard to spot the princess’s room. Her enormous bed was draped with embroidered silks. The fledgling was curled up on the rug beside the bed, shivering. He was collared and chained to the wall. Humans were always so barbaric.
The traveler used his claws to slowly pry the window open. The princess didn’t stir, but the fledgling lifted his head and looked around, sniffing the air. When he saw the traveler he stood and raised his wings in greeting. The traveler smiled.
He bit through the leather collar and helped the fledgling out the window. The fledgling perched on the window ledge while the traveler closed the window, careful to make as little noise as possible.
Unfortunately, the princess woke up. “Stop!” she shrieked, racing towards the window. The fledgling froze. The traveler scooped him up and jumped, just as the window burst open and the princess called to the guards. He spiraled up, higher and higher, pushing through the heavy rain and avoiding the arrows. Then he flew through the clouds back to the dragaina.
Mother and son hugged each other and cried. “Thank you,” the dragaina said. “I don’t know how to repay you.”
“Do you know of somewhere I can stay out of the rain tonight?” he asked.
“Of course. Let me feed you a meal as well,” she said.
He followed her to her cave. They ate a quick meal, and then the fledgling fell asleep, curled against his mother’s side. The traveler sighed and looked out into the dark night outside the cave. “You can’t stay here any longer you know,” he said. “It’s not safe.”
“But where will we go?” she asked. “We don’t have any other family.”
“I don’t know,” the traveler said. “I’ve been looking for a safe place for long time.”
“I’ll come with you,” she said. “There’s nothing left for us here. We can leave in the morning.”
The traveler thought for a moment of the danger of traveling in groups. But he knew that she could use the help, and it would be nice to not be alone. “All right,” he said at last. “Perhaps together we can find a place where our people will be safe and humans can’t find us.”
“I think we will,” she said. “And maybe the humans will forget about us and stop looking for us. It would be nice if my son didn’t have to grow up in fear.”
“If we do find a place, we can gather our people,” the traveler said. “And maybe their grandchildren will someday believe that humans only exist in stories.”
“I will do all I can to make it happen,” the dragaina said. And together, they did.