The apples glowed with a soft, milky light that lapped against the skin in Kya’s palms. Soothing. Relaxing. Refreshing. But even more than that, the light from the apples awakened something deep inside her. Something whose first language is of dreams and who isn’t afraid to wish.
Her heart grew with this knowledge, warm at first, but slightly uncomfortable as it forced her heart to stretch beyond its natural boundaries.
“You will care for my apples,” the dragon said. Not a question.
Wordlessly, Kya gulped and nodded. She placed them gently in the pouch that also housed Hearthorne’s silver bowl. They were perfect and unblemished, and she aimed to keep them that way. With only the smallest hint of regret, she selected a single apple and held it up by way of offering and of keeping her word.
Despite the slightly new heart beating in her chest, Kya closed her eyes against the whoosh of the dragon head swooping in to claim its prize. The rough wetness of its tongue rubbed against her hand as it took the apple away, leaving behind the scent of burnt almonds and brown sugar.
When she opened her eyes, the dragon had its eyes closed with a look of delicious contentment spreading across its face. To her surprise, it chewed the apple delicately, savoring every bite of it. From her keeper’s tales, and the sheer enormity of scales and teeth in front of her, she’d always thought of dragons as too large to be careful. Too hungry to be gentle. She had never once considered that she might actually have something in common with one.
The thought perched uncomfortably in a corner of her heart that was rapidly becoming overcrowded. But before she could properly examine it, a speck of something dropped from the dragon’s mouth, glittering as it fell.
Without thinking, she scooped up the tiny teardrop-shaped objects that had fallen at her feet.
“Seeds,” she whispered. Of course they were seeds, yet it felt strange to see something so ordinary—albeit much shinier than normal—come from something as extraordinary as the dragon’s apples.
“Remember our bargain,” the dragon said, its eyes and scales brighter than they had been before. It nodded to the seeds in her hand. “I’ll be watching.”
Then, before she could reply, the dragon winked at her and blew a warm stream of vanilla-scented air at her. Kya squeezed her eyes closed against the rushing wind that blew so hard she could barely breathe. Then the wind stopped and she opened her eyes, finding herself not on the back of a dragon, but in a palace made of white stone that glowed and glimmered like the moon paths she’d seen outside.
“Welcome, child,” said a pale woman with long white hair streaming down to the floor. Her robes were woven of moonbeams and edged with moonlight, and her smile was the sort of serene usually found beneath still waters.
Kya dropped to an awkward curtsey, a blush rising on her cheeks, and even Hearthorne uncurled her petals enough to peer out at the Moon Queen. Kya fumbled with the pouch at her hip, and managed to retrieve the second apple without bruising it.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2014 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved. Originally published in Curiosities of the Moon.
I hope you’re enjoying the journey so far. Can you feel the call of another quest coming shortly? Join me next Monday to see how the Moon Queen responds to the gift the moon dragon has granted her and Kya has made good on delivering. Because it is never wise to accept a gift without both reading the fine print and having a gift of equal or greater value to give in return.
Come back tomorrow to journey with Gwyn as she fights her way through the Garden in The Faerie Thief.