The Dragon's Promise

Tue Apr 02 2019

In a time too far gone to remember, the dragon of ice and obsidian hatched from the darkness of space. As young and starving as it was, the dragon's wings still could touch neither head nor tail of a frozen comet in these eons, and its red eyes hungered for food. Sailing across the cosmos on the winds of the night, the growling of his stomach beget the first thunders of the young universe. And then -- a flicker. A flicker, and then a white flash. The first stars emblazoned the inkwell, hurling into the sky a majestic glow. When the dragon first felt the patchy glow of these newborn stars on his back, its frozen vessels expanded.

No longer restrained by the coldness of ice, the dragon's hunger grew all the more insatiable, and so the growing beast wrapped itself like a snake around these stars and consumed their heat. The smoldering orbs whistled piercingly as the dragon drained their color until the silence of space once more deafened the galaxy. From solar system to solar system, the dragon lurched like a powerful comet, growing bigger and all the more venomous as its grip strangled starlight into dust -- and with it, neighboring lifeforms.

As fading stars crippled the constellations, the surviving stars whispered amongst themselves in secret. At first, however, the dissent was not unanimous: some voices rallied for revolution, while others simply bided their time. With each passing phase of the moon, the squabbling continued. But by the time night and day had fallen into one, the souls reached a consensus: the dragon must stop. Against the concerns of the skeptics, the creatures arranged for a confrontation with the beast of the night, and his blackened shadow soon engulfed the galaxy when his wings flapped above.

"I have heard your cries," the dragon mused.

"Oh, mighty dragon, your flights have consumed light, and your ravage threatens life itself. At once, we beg of you -- cease your conquest!" the choir pleaded at the sky.

The dragon's back straightened, and a single white claw stroked across its chin. For a time, the dragon was quiet, but its eye soon narrowed at the embers below. "Precious stars," it whispered, "must I not eat as well? Have I not the same birthright as you?" Perhaps considerate or frozen by its frosty words, the stars considered its logic as the beast launched itself into the ocean above to feed on more lights.

His reign persisted, and stone had rolled into mountain. The smoldering ashes of the beautiful flames that once illuminated the breadth of space thus suffocated galaxies. The universe continued to expand faster than sunrays could race into the beyond, but the dragon -- whose webbed, fleshly wings swatted asteroids and whose twisted skull carved rocks from planets -- lurked comfortably behind, swimming across starlight. Behind the universe, an ever-growing leviathan. And behind the darkness, ash and dust. The newest stars knew nothing but this time of death and decay. But as the temperature dropped and matter slowed, a planet from a spiraling galaxy rang bells with its voice. "Great dragon! You forgot about me."

A terrible shadow once more towered over that solar system. "Again I say to you, it is from your light and from your light only that I have been raised to life," and his tail began to coil tightly around the planet.

"But dragon, I am no star. See with your eyes that from my body light radiates not, see that my ice could not warm this beast!"

And as the dragon drew closer, the planet came to tremor in awe, for with its tail alone the dragon could flick forward a third of the stars in the sky. But the planet stayed resolute yet.

For another small eon, the dragon was quiet; its obsidian scales bristled with each deep breath. After an eternity before a twinkle shined in its old eyes, the dragon responded. "You are no star, and from you I may draw no heat. But will you not die a cold, silent death when I ravage your star? Remember, too, that I must live as well." The planet did not respond, but its unbreaking gaze provoked the dragon to continue. "Very well, but there will come a day when I eat your star, which will soon grow red and delicious. And though I may never thirst from your oceans or feast on your pastures, I will swallow your star whole." And the black dragon flew away into the void.

The dragon once threatened to engulf the universe into nothingness. For reasons known not to that small planet, the dragon flew away but its words affixed a terrible sigil unto the black sky: a narrowing spiral arranged permanently between the four corners of space and time. From its first cry to final breath, the planet has survived the dragon, who neither by will nor fate may threaten the planet again, though its wings still soar above. This sigil scarred the universe, forever reminding the planet, whose rivers still run with blue water, of a danger neither here nor there.

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