The beautiful blue dragon slowly opened his eyes and peered at the world around him. The crate containing his traveling nest shivered under the hands of the men who worked it open, and the boat beneath them rocked gently as water lapped at its sides.
There were thick, heavy ropes tethering the barge to the shore, and thick, heavy hands took the sides of his crate away.
The dragon remained motionless, letting the sun warm his scales and infuse his spikes with golden light.
He blinked sleepily.
There were many people there on the shore, and a handful of them gathered close around the barge. The dragon closed his eyes again, feigning continued sleep, as he peered at them all through his long, glittering lashes.
There was a dwarf, short, fat, and extremely unpleasing to look at, along with two men who appeared to be very ordinary in nature. A woman with long red hair and a beguiling smile tempted the dragon into opening his eyes all the way. Her smile softened into satisfaction when he did.
Stretching his neck lazily, the dragon gathered his thoughts. When he was sure all eyes were on him, he slowly began to unfurl his majestic wings, anticipating the gasps of admiration from the appreciative crowd with great pleasure.
The dwarf became impatient and sent one of the ordinary-looking men to poke the beautiful blue dragon with a stick.
That was not to be tolerated. The dragon reared his magnificent head and hissed, steam shooting out to envelope the unfortunate man with the stick, who jumped back so quickly he fell off the barge and into the canal with a gratifying splash.
The beautiful blue dragon snickered quietly to himself, and somewhere he felt an answering push of amusement.
When he had finished stretching to his satisfaction, the beautiful blue dragon – for he was very beautiful and he knew it – started regally in the direction of the shore.
He was quite displeased when he was brought up short by the silken ropes that still bound him to the barge. More steam escaped his nostrils and more people backed a little farther away.
Soothed by this show of fear and respect, the dragon disdainfully ignored the food in the dwarf's hands, which had to stretch as far as the dwarf could make them to come anywhere near the dragon's head. The dwarf squinted at him with speculation, while the beautiful blue dragon stared loftily into the distant sky.
The ropes holding him fell away into the dwarf's hands, and still the dragon remained motionless. He was waiting for something.
The approaching rush of wings filled his ears with welcome sound. Silver-blue scales dazzled in the sunlight and his heart-mate landed with a soft whump beside him. Their necks entwined in a joyful greeting before they took off for the lake and the rest of the dragons, who were scattered across the grassy field like sparkling jewels in the sun.
They did not look back at the people below them.
Somewhere, the dragon could feel a boy smiling.
The beautiful blue dragon and his heart-mate flew together in flawless formation, born of eons of coming together. Separation could not be helped, and the rejoining was inevitable. The first was never a cause for sadness, and the second was always reason to exult.
An unending cycle.
Far below, in the soft grass near the lake, two red dragons nudged at a boy, stealing treats and sniffing him all over. They, too, were part of the never-ending cycle, and the beautiful blue dragon beat his wings with joy to be with them all once again.
The boy left a stone, a smooth, white oval that completed the nest, the old pattern reworked for the present-day time, telling tales of the future. The four dragons all smiled with pleasure and were content to be patient.
The reds were to either side of the beautiful blue dragon, and they surged through the sky, formation not yet attaining its old level of perfection, but it was enough for now that the dragon felt the wind rushing beneath his wings as they flew together.
Far below, like a pale blue light upon the grass, the beautiful blue dragon's heart-mate sat with the boy. Pure love reached through the clouds, enveloping them all, and the scarlet dragon looped around them, laughing with it, sun dancing like flames on the tips of his wings.
Soon, the beautiful blue dragon said. Soon.
The cranberry dragon swooped in happy agreement as the silver-blue rose from the ground to join them, leaving the boy behind.
Not for much longer, now.
The beautiful blue dragon soared above his mates, and the people below looked on in awe. He dipped into a daring dive, shooting towards the earth before pulling up into a perfect spiral. The cranberry dragon laughed at him, and the silver-blue heart-mate matched his movements flawlessly.
Dream with the boy. Fly with him. Show him.
The boy laughed as he held out his hand, blueberry treats resting in his palm. The cranberry dragon stretched his neck towards the candy, but the beautiful blue dragon nudged him aside.
Yours, the boy agreed with a laugh. He startled suddenly and watched the dwarf come up over the hill. The beautiful blue dragon sensed his fear.
Come. The scarlet dragon sprang to his feet.
The beautiful blue dragon blinked at the boy. No fear.
It was time for them to be complete once again, to fly as if one.
The dwarf and all the people stared in amazed wonder as five dragons soared over the earth, and the beautiful blue dragon beat his wings fiercely. The silver-blue heart-mate harmonized with him beat for beat and together they flashed brilliant in the sunshine.
Between the two reds, a gleaming green dragon flew on wings of jade.
The noise of the crowed faded as they flew in concert, the ground falling away behind them, joy and love and finally the only sound in the rush of the wind and the heat of the sun.