Norton was a dragon.
He wasn't a great green giant of a dragon like his father. He wasn't a swift, graceful blue dragon like his mother. He wasn't even a reflective dragon, with scales that sparkled with all the colors of the ocean in the sun, like his sister Lea.
Norton was a drab, olive-green dragon. If he stayed very still, sometimes his family would mistake him for an oddly-shaped boulder in their cave. Then one of his orange ear-tufts would twitch, or the light would glint off his glasses, and he was just Norton again.
Then there was Norton's tail. No matter how hard he tried to keep his tail wrapped around his claws like a proper dragon, when he stopped thinking about it his tail would slowly creep up, up, until it arched over his back and the tip hung down between his eyes. His mother told him that when he was a tiny hatchling, he used to suck his tail-tip at night to go to sleep. He didn't tell her that sometimes he still did.
Every day, Norton would go to the back of his cave and practice breathing fire. He would look at the seventeen trophies his father had won for fire-breathing at the the DragonFair, plant his feet wide, think hard about the natural fire in his belly, drawn in a deep breath... and blow a perfect smoke ring. Sometimes he'd puff out four smoke rings in a row, each a little smaller than the last so they made lovely cones. Sometimes the smoke rings looked like flowers, or hearts, or even a herd of horses galloping around the back of the cave. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get the smallest flicker of flame.
At night, his father would ask him, "How's the fire coming along, sport?"
Norton would sigh and his stomach would knot up. "Still can't get it, dad."
His father would shake his great dark green head sadly. "You know how important this is, Norton. It's every dragon's duty to defend our homeland from those barbaric humans, and the only weapons we have are fire, tooth and claw. And quite frankly, Norton, you aren't any prize in the tooth and claw department. You have got to stop this lollygagging around and get that fire of yours working, son. I know you can do it! By the time I was your age, I'd already won my first trophy, breathing against a big red three times my size! If I can do it, so can you."
Norton knew every word by heart, and as his father talked his ear tufts would droop lower and lower. It only ended when he excused himself to go to the back of the cave, where he would blow smoke rings until he fell asleep. In the morning he'd wake up in a puddle of drool, sucking on his tail tip again.
Sometimes Norton would run away for the afternoon, to his secret cave. It was bare and windy, facing out of a bluff over the ocean, not a proper dragon-cave at all. But it was his private place, where he would keep pretty stones and shells he found on the beach, and the soft feathers he picked up in the forest. He even made some shelves out of shed deer antlers and driftwood, just right for showing shiny bits of mica in the light of the setting sun.
He was on his way there one afternoon when he found himself surrounded by a clutch of tarragons, the young, popular girl dragons. Of course, Lea was heading them up.
"Where do you think you're going, Snort?" she asked, pokig him with a wingtip. "All of the real
drakes are going lightning dancing today."
"And we're going to watch," added a pretty gold dragon. She carefully studied the glittery pink polish on her claws. "Why aren't you
going? Maybe you could learn something."
"He can't lightning-dance," Lea said nastily. "You have to breath fire to do that, don't you, Snort? And freaks aren't welcome."
A small red let out a gasp of mock surprise. "You mean he's emberly-challeneged?" The tarragons all laughed. They all knew Norton couldn't breathe fire.
"Leave me alone, Lea," Norton said, trying not to let tears well up in his eyes. Dragon tears turned to crystal as they fell, and Lea already had a collection of his.
"Like we'd want to spend time with you, Snort," Lea replied. You aren't a dragon, you're a smokehouse!"
"More like an outhouse," the red said, daintily waving a wingtip in front of her nose. And with that, the tarragons flew off, laughing and discussing which drake would do the best lightning dance of the day.
Norton waited til they were out of sight before entering his cave. The last thing he wanted was Lea finding his hiding spot. He knew she'd wreck it, just out to be mean.
"Stupid Lea," he muttered, looking out over the sun sparkling on the ocean waves. "Stupid lightning dances."
Then he noticed something black creeping across the waves. Long, and thin, with many leg-like sticks poking out from the sides and digging into the water. Lots of them.
"Humans!" Norton gasped.
Norton knew if he stayed hidden in his cave, the humans would never find him. but what about the other dragons? They would rampage through the caves, tearing up everything they could get their hands on, smashing eggs and attacking hatchlings that couldn't fly. But if Norton flew off to the lightning-dances to warn the other dragons, he wouldn't know where the humans landed. What if no one believed him?
No, Norton needed to take care of this, and take care of it now.
He flew to a little rock outcropping downwind from the ship. He set his feet, concentrated on the fire in his belly, took a deep breath and started blowing smoke rings.he puffed and puffed, the smoke blowing out to wreath around the humans in their ships. He blew smoke until he felt faint, then kept growing. He blew out enough smoke that he couldn't see the humans or their ships at all. From the sounds he was hearing, the shouts and the crunch of wood on wood, the humans couldn't see so well either. Finally, when his throat was so dry he could barely cough, he flew up high enough to see over the smoke bank he'd made.
The human ships were sailing the other way.
Norton was so happy he flew straight to the lightning cloud where the drakes were dancing. He found his father and told him what had happened.
Norton's father gathered up some of the other older drakes, and they flew out to make sure the human ships wouldn't come back. On the way, they had a DrakeMoot concerning Norton and his smoke rings.
Norton lives in his cavern by the sea now. The older dragons helped fix it into a proper dragon cave, with a smokehole to keep the air from getting too heavy to breath, and barriers to keep the wind from whistling in. Norton's job is to look out over the sea and watch for the ships to come back.
Sometimes Lea comes by, and Noton pretends to be a boulder until she goes away. And Norton is just fine with that.This is my entry for Week One of LJ Idol. The topic is Here There Be Dragons. I originally wrote this story as a part of a series of dragon stories for my kids when they were small. When they heard the topic for this week, they suggested I dust Norton off and bring him out for the competition. I hope you enjoyed reading about him!