I drove up the Elliot Highway this evening at sunset to Whitefish Campground (about mile 6 or 7) just to get out for a while. As I started back, I saw this small lake or slough with mist rising off it, so thick and white that it looked like it was smoking. Very beautiful and weird!
I parked on the shoulder of the highway and walked down to the shoreline to take some pictures, and was cheerfully doing this when I looked up and situational awareness kicked in and I realized there was a moose watching me from really not all that far away.
Quietly I walked backwards up to the car and continued to watch her for a while, and eventually spotted what I guess was her calf deeper in the swamp. No pictures of that one; it was too mist-cloaked to see very well, but I could definitely tell that it was another moose, especially when she turned and sloshed toward it, making those little grunting noises they sometimes do.
It was completely magical, one of those joyous moments that reminds me why I love living here.
Remember when I used to have guests posts, back in the day? I have one this week! Maria Schneider of Bear Mountain Books has been wonderfully supportive of the Keeley series, and I thought her magical, genre-crossing books might be interesting to some of you, so I asked her to give me something special. Over to you, Maria!
It’s gardening season again! I go out every morning to water and plant. Had just started the sprinkler, when I realized a bird had become tangled in the support strings hanging off the tomato cages used to prop up large tomato vines.
Upon closer inspection the fluttering, frantic “bird” was actually a baby dragon. “Not again,” I muttered. Dragons were so temperamental. Birds couldn’t singe me while I freed them either.
“Okay, you. Hold still.” I shut the water off, leaving the poor baby dripping. His dark blue head feathers hadn’t yet hardened into spines. Most of his iridescent scales were a mix of brown, light yellow and white. Later in life he’d probably turn more beige and sage to match the desert terrain.
I retrieved clippers from my garden cart, an old rag that used to be a kitchen towel and approached slowly. The dragon’s eyes were huge, wide orbs staring piteously up at me.
“You’re gonna hafta hold still,” I ordered. “I’ll cut you free.” Scissors would be a better tool, but I hated to leave him there, dripping, sad, and at his young age, vulnerable.
“Do not flame me,” I instructed, cutting at string behind him. This particular piece of twine wasn’t holding him at all, but he needed to adjust to my intent. Snip, Snip. The string frayed instead of cutting clean, but I kept at it. The dragon’s snout was wide open in distress.
“Gimme a couple of minutes and you’ll be free.” I ran the old towel down his back, squeegeeing his scales and accidentally smashing down a few feathers. He looked worse for it, but he barely dripped anymore. I finally freed one clawed foot. Predictably, he tried to fly, but his wing still had a cotton string running under and around. I latched onto it and half pulled, half cut the threads. He shredded the rest of the string and left a pretty good sized trench in the back of my hand from a toothy, smokey strike.
“Dammit!” I snatched my hand back. “Ease up, little one!” More cutting and suddenly he squawked, much like a bird, and bounced off the wire gate. He was still pathetically wet and in such a hurry, he splatted rather ungracefully onto the ground face-first.
A large shadow covered the sun, putting me and the little dragon in a gloomy, dark shade. The baby bobbed onto clawed feet, trilled an excited call and stared over my shoulder.
I swallowed hard, still leaning over the little guy. The clippers were a visible, threatening, but inadequate weapon.
With my heart making more noise than the baby dragon, I dared turn my head and only my head. Like a giant scaled bear sitting on her haunches, there was mom dragon. Her gray snout wound between two juniper trees, easily capable of taking a chunk out of my butt, which was inconveniently still high in the air. I knew the rules. Humans who saw what they weren’t supposed to see had to die, lest the magical others be discovered. “Never saw a thing,” I said. “Wouldn’t dream of telling a soul.”
Her diamond eyes seemed small compared to those of the baby dragon, but that was because her head was longer than my leg. She didn’t blink, letting slit, golden eyes convey a very nasty threat. She didn’t let loose with flame, even though a mysterious forest fire that cindered me, my house and my garden would likely be blamed on an errant lightning strike. Her gaze did search the sky hopefully, but the desert of New Mexico is often devoid of clouds.
“Not a soul,” I repeated, while baby dragon fluttered, fluffed and hopped over to his mother.
A tail many times larger than the largest of rattlesnakes snaked out from behind a pinon pine, gathering junior dragon inside protective scales and muscles. His protesting squawk was a direct result of her hurry and displeasure.
I straightened. No sense dying in a bad position.
She regarded me with solemn focus before one giant, black talon stepped back. Scales rippled with desert colors, reflecting gray-brown tree limbs mixed with mottled green and blue sage speckled with chamisa yellow.
“Nary a word,” a dry, hot wind boomed.
My hair blew straight back, and the ends split from the sudden heat. “Not a word,” I agreed with a very emphatic nod.
Of course I was lying. In the dark of the night, behind closed doors, I write about dragons all the time. Dragons of Wendal is the first book of one such series. Sure, it’s billed as fiction. No need to have mom dragon come back looking for me!