The wyr lifted his nose in delight. Sun-kissed water sparkled over his powerful head, down his lean neck, and tumbled across furled wings as he darted under the falling joy of the fountain. He glimmered like a butterfly’s silver wing, with little else of that creature about him. The fountain loomed far taller than he in the circular clearing, watering the grass. Wide as the trunk of an ancient tree, icy blue, it held every creature of the young world carved upon its sides.

The silver wyr danced from foot to foot, chasing his long tail with happy chirks far deeper than a bird’s. He did not know war was coming. He opened his mouth. A hum rolled out, shaking a bee as it flew.

The queen watched, graceful in her seat beside the king’s under the Alopa tree that towered over woman, wyr, and fountain alike. The wyr walked from the glad water, shaking its exuberance into muscle and ebony claw. He snorted the water’s scent of warm grass, cool pine, and clean ice from his nostrils.

His queen smiled as he half glided up and put his head in her lap. Or tried to. Only the end of his nose fit. He cocked an eye at her, depthless dark encircled by wise amber. She stroked his nose. He huffed a pleading breath and looked over her head.

The purple and yellow Alopa fruit growing heavy above surpassed every sweet melon and mild banyana. His stomach rumbled. Only his king or queen were allowed to touch the tree, or give the fruit to any creature who asked. Just as the fountain and its water were not to be touched by them. The Giver of all sent a wyr to them every morning with some of the water.

His queen smiled. “You are unfailing, my wyr.” She reached up and tugged free an Alopa fruit.

It was gone in a single bite. He chased gold-purple bits across her hands with a curling tongue. “That tickles, you great beast!” He hummed and shoved his head under her arm, lifting her to her feet. “My hands . . .” Laughing, she rubbed her sticky fingers up the bony horns extending from his head until he snorted. She glanced at the fountain, which also laughed, and her smile dimmed.

If only . . . Her thought faded from the wyr’s mind as the king stepped from the trees. “There you are, my lady.”

“My lord!” The queen reached for him with a glad cry.

He strode to her side, hale and panting. “I’ve looked over our lands where the Giver says to build. Come, we will make our house glorious!” He cupped her cheek tenderly then reached to stroke the wyr. “My friend, it is a place as breathtaking as yourself. Far beyond the glittering cave, the highest mountain, the wide plain, and the green sea.”

The wyr bowed his head at the king’s panoramic mind-picture. His roaring hum of approval blasted leaves from the trees. Then he stopped short — and snapped around. Something tickled his senses. Past the great Alopa, beyond the fountain, some creature watched them. Or was it two?

With a slap of leaves, a green wyr who often accompanied the king ambled out of the bushes and under the fountain with a snort of enjoyment. The silver wyr grunted. The disturbing sense was gone.

Soon after, too distant to catch their thoughts, the king and queen walked toward the river with a last glance at the shimmering fountain.

The wyr was still hungry. He leaped into the air and winged toward his favorite fruit grove. Under the shade of an apple tree, he was deep in a watermelon large as a young bull, when a stick snapped. The wyr backed away from the melon, lifting his head.

Another creature like the king, though shorter, with a round face and slightly offset eyes stared at him, openmouthed. “You’re . . . a dragon.”

The wyr stared, frozen by the boy’s mind.

He yearned for dragons to be real. For something to dull the pain of his lost career he would have entered next year. For something to be real beyond the red roundness of the apple he ate, beyond the hard-cornered Legos with which he built skyscrapers and castles and spaceships. Real beyond the wheelchair rough against his back that both imprisoned him and kept him from falling flat. He yearned for the tears in his father’s eyes when he looked at him every day not to be the end of the world.

The wyr sniffed him. I am a wyr. Not this creature you call a dragon.

The boy hardly breathed. His thought was sad. I wanted dragons.

A bit of melon fell from the wyr’s jaws and hit the boy’s chin with a splat. That was when something else hit the wyr — through him. The boy could feel his legs, and they were strong. The wyr felt him grin so wide his face hurt. He felt familiar. Who are you?

“I am Chad — Rylan.” He stumbled, flushing. Chad’s thought was penetrating as a silver blade, but somehow softened about the edges, like moonlight. The wyr pulled at his memory. His teacher had sent him from a place called Earth, and Stormpoint School. At his other school the kids’ laughter had been cruel. “Stupid! Mongoloid moron!” Then after the accident, “Dorky cripple.” Chad was afraid the wyr, too, would think him stupid. Even as he gazed up in awe, the boy shrank, whispering, “You are — big.”

The wyr wanted to shield him. He hummed a chuckle. We grow, Chad Rylan. I am glad to meet

“Hah! Should I even call you human? Puny little man! You think this wyr powerful? He could be far greater.” The voice was lofty, and a presence prickled at the wyr’s back.

The wyr whipped around. His eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared. He saw nothing.

He smelled no one but the boy, who carried the rulers’ scent of salt and flowers, but also thoughts of spaghetti, and tomatoes and meat sauce. Cows. Dead cows. The wyr recoiled and spread his wings with a snap. The boy stumbled back.

Don’t go. The wyr stretched out his head, and Chad retreated further.

“Never mind the human, we have something we must speak of.”

The boy shivered at the dismissal. The silver wyr followed Chad’s gaze, his own eyes fastening on — air. The unseen creature sounded like a bright one, but something was off. Maybe it was the lack of scent. Though invisible, the Maker’s bright ones that the wyr sensed about their errands always smelled of the waters, the Alopa, and something else that he could breathe forever and not get enough of.

There was also fog where the creature’s mind should be. It parted. A sudden picture overwhelmed the wyr.

Lord of the Wyr, he gave the water of life to every creature who bowed before him. He paraded the queen to the fountain. She slid from his back, a hand on his shoulder. “You are my king of beasts. For you showed me how to make all my desire.” And she gave him the Alopa tree. He hovered over it protectively, and it was all his own.

The silver wyr quivered.

If this creature touched him, he would grow and see the world the king spoke of. Great cities, kingdoms, and endless lives. All would follow him — if he used the pattern the unseen creature showed him. If he made the queen a beautiful cistern for the water of the fountain, to drink when she chose.

“Such a small thing, a very little thing, will bring you the thanks of your rulers and gain you — all.”

But the fountain in the unseen creature’s vision – the water no longer laughed. It smelled of wyr, its sparkle dull. He sensed nothing of the Maker, the Giver, the Illuminator. Where was he in every powerful step through the waters of the fountain, in ruling the Wyr, in all the Alopa he could eat? He was nowhere.

“I mean no harm.” The voice was soft, and the mind-fog thickened. Could the creature be mind-deaf?

Chad choked a word, his eyes huge. The wyr looked through Chad, then. And saw a glowing creature very like himself, but with scales white as pearl. It lifted its head in a grand gesture, scattering glints of purple, blue, and green. “Who can better rule your people than one of their own? You could be like me. The strongest, the wisest —”

The wyr asked Chad, and the boy spoke for him, his thin voice strengthening. “Strongest? Most wise? Those name our Maker.”

The creature’s voice was honey. “Such can also name you.” It did not look at Chad.

Something flowered in the wyr then, alive as the fountain, stronger than the waters, sweet as the Alopa. Without the Maker, every fruit was tasteless. “No. Not without him.”

The pearly creature abruptly smelled of horror, of a hunger never filled. The stench of death without end.

A shudder rippled through the wyr. Who are you? He stared through Chad at the glorious source of the deadly scent, where the wind nosed against the grass but did not stir it.

Chad’s thought was clear. Bad dragon.

“Very well. I will leave you to sink into dim beast thoughts of mating and warmth and food.” The creature at last turned to look at Chad. “As for you, you are already stupid.” Its voice faded as the dragon turned away. “Your desire for the Giver makes you weak. I will find another who wishes to be wise.”

Chad’s treble rose with the wyr’s roar. “How can I be wiser than the one who made me? It is not wisdom to seek the sun in a cave.”

The dragon’s voice was venom. “Fool!”

The strength inside the wyr rose, scalded the back of his tongue. He rose to his full height, arching his neck. Almost the heat boiled into his mouth — it would destroy. He hesitated.

The dragon did not. A lashing stream of blue incandescent fire, flickering with cold poison, struck at him. There was a “whoomp!” and a crackling hiss. The silver wyr fell back.  Then he leaped forward, wings mantled, staring wildly. The dragon was gone. Sniffing, the wyr strained for sight or sound. He blinked.

Where he faced the dragon lay a wide, slagged sheet of colored glass, shot with swirls of gold. As if the blast thrust the grass from the earth even as it unmade them both. Under it, like water beneath ice, moved a shining stuff. What did Chad call it? Mercury, mixed with something else lethal neither of them knew. What had stopped it? Chad touched the wyr’s damp side with a warm hand, and the wyr shivered. Water. When the poison fire hit him, the water of life repelled it, the Maker fusing it into this glass. The wyr lifted his head. This was a matter for the Maker.

Behind them a voice said, “I am here.” Beside the wyr, the boy fell to his knees. The air was full of life and light like water, but more. Closer the Giver came, with so much life that it might unmake him, in a last terrifying strength of bright beauty. “My wyr.”

Head bowed, the wyr turned. If he could gaze at him forever, if he could watch with him the unfolding of every heart in the universe, far beyond the fountain and the Alopa tree, he would.

“You have done well.” The Giver’s voice filled him. “Come, my world has need of us.”

The wyr understood. He set the boy behind his head, where Chad clung to his bony horns, then sprang into the air. They flew swiftly.

When they neared the fountain, they saw the queen sitting at the top, kicking her feet in the falling water. The wyr had never heard that thin desperation in her laughter. He dropped from the sky, and landed with a thud. Chad tumbled off.

At the queen’s side, the green wyr cocked his head, watching them. He opened his mouth and his laugh roared out, thick and heavy, horrible with chains of knowledge. The queen scrambled down the green wyr’s back to the king. He knelt at the fountain’s edge, catching the water in a cistern of the dragon’s poison glass. The king looked up.

The wyr could see it in their faces. Their rulership was gone from them. Refusing their Maker, the water was cut off from its source. It was dead. They were dead, worse than Chad’s cows.

The Giver stood before the fountain. “Come.” Flesh and spirit shook at his call. Deer-kind, bear-kind, and every cat trotted to stand in a furry wall before the Maker, at the edge of the fountain’s reach. Fish lifted their heads from the stream. Frogs and salamanders and water-kind goggled from the lip of the fountain above the crowd. Every leaf and patch of dirt moved with butterflies, ants, stick insects, and creeping things. The Alopa tree bent under a rainbow of birds. An earthjumper poked his small head from a clump of grass, whiskers twitching.

Chad gasped when the wings of fifty more wyr stirred the air with storm. The silver wyr slipped a wing around him. The king and queen approached through the silent throng, wet and shivering.

Visible to all, the dragon reclined opposite them like a king, and curled his tail around him. He eyed the Maker in triumph. “They are mine, now.”

“You bring death.”

“And now?” The black eyes gleamed, darkly amused.

“They are cursed with the fountain until the mending of the waters.”

“And who will heal them?”

The Maker said, “To every wyr who chooses me, I give a second name. Lightwing. My lightwings will bring living water from the one to come. He will crush you.”

“Ah. And this one who serves me?” The dragon gestured to the green wyr, crouched at his tail.

“The Coldwyrms are known by their poison. Those who can see them, yet follow me, will defeat you.”

“I can see them.” Chad bowed jerkily. Every eye turned to him. “I — can help.”

The Maker smiled. “Yes, you know me in your world, and you know me here. Well done, Stormpoint Rider.”

The first lightwing of the Wyr gathered Chad close. First Rider, the war of the Wyr begins.

The boy hugged his broad chest. This war is for everything. For all that is good and real, in both our worlds.

He was right.

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Citation Information

Azalea Dabill, “The Forbidden Fountain,” An Unexpected Journal: Dragons 5, no. 1. (Summer 2022), 129-138.