Higher they flew, the dragon giving slow, steady beats, the winds generated did not seem as severe as when they were first lifting off. Into the clouds they flew, even birds fell behind as the tail of the dragon slowly began to clear of the stowaway passengers that sat on the dragon’s tail.
“Birds sit on dragons all the time?” Jona asked, finally having enough wits about him to ask.
“Often they do, birds help clean in between the scales and folds of the wings. The dragon in turn keeps predators at bay. Few things hunt dragons.” his mother said softly.
“Uh, ‘few things’? What hunts dragons?” Jona asked, then thought “Besides men.”
Aed turned and looked out the window, the shutter was held back with a gold hook. “There are things far darker and more dangerous than a dragon, even the most short-tempered and wild of dragons have things to fear, you will learn these things of the world at the school. You will do well.” Turning back, Aed was back to his smiling and proud self as they flew on in the wicker coach of the gathering light of the day.
Breaking out of the low clouds, into the bright sunlight, Jona unbuttoned his overcoat in the warmth. “Why do I have to wear this?”
“You’re warm now, but just wait.” Aed said as he motioned ahead of them to a dark line of clouds that towered high into the air. “That for instance!”
Jona looked at the clouds and down to the ground, they were already so far up that not even villages were visible and the edge of the world seemed curved.
“Higher we go!” his mother smiled, “Now it gets cold, you will want to keep your hat on, there are ear flaps on the inside– and button up your coat for your health! Have I not taught you anything?”
Jona chuckled, he had been in the cold back home, once even the lake nearby had frozen almost completely over. He knew what cold was, they had gone swimming in that icy lake that year.
As soon as he finished that thought, he noticed his breath was coming out in fog puffs and his ears popped, looked as though his dad was smoking like the old man who lived down the road when he sat on his stump with a pipe. Jona pulled his hat down over his head, the ear flaps, lined with fur that was far warmer than he would have believed.
As his ears warmed, he realized that he had a slight headache from the cold wind pressing in on his face.
Jona looked around, both of his parents had buttoned up tight, with the collars turned up, all he could see of their faces were the eyes showing through slits in the leather and fur, their eyes glittering as they had more fun than Jona had thought possible in an over-sized wicker basket, that was hanging from the claws of a creature that until just last night he thought was only in stories.
Something cold hit Jona right in the nose, then another, as they skirted along the edge of the high cloud, the sky was full of this white soft stuff.
“Snow.” Aed laughed. “There will be more of it before we land.” His words were cut off by a clap of thunder that made Jona’s heart stop for a moment. The dragon snorted with a sonorous voice, that his dad nodded to and answered in the same snoring sound and closed the roof of the basket.
“She said that she is going to go back to the north a little bit, the lightning is too dangerous for us. It is no danger to the dragon, but us? We would be charred to bones in a moment.”
The glittering tiger striped dragon banked to the left and got away from the thunder cloud, finding clear air as they moved into slightly warmer air and away from the storm line.
“If she understands human talk, can she speak in human?” Jona asked his mother, moving close. For in the first time in years, Jona felt very small and needed to hold his ma’s hand. His mother pulled him close, putting her arms around her only child.
“YES.” the voice was as deep as the clap of thunder, but understandable, even kindly sounding even if it was so loud as to make him jump while in Dearbhail’s arms.
Jona had never been so cold as he was right now, even in the arms of his parents, bundled in layers of clothing- except for the over pants his mom had set in the corner, slowly his eyes closed, for the first time in years, he slept in his mom’s arms, no longer a man out of school of eighteen summers, but a child of his mother.
His dreams were exciting and saturated with colorful dragons and adventure.
Excited, even in his dreams.