Brilliant... golden... bright... welcoming... soft... sunlight. That I can remember. I'm afraid that that is the only thing I can remember now. I can only recall the foliage along the forest ground as vibrant and as filled with life as her eyes. I remember the trees as tall and as proud as she was... and gods, I remember the sunlight when I first met her.
I was but a common blue hatchling at the time, superfluous in my innocence and my curiosity of the world. Pattering about the trees, I was searching for perhaps something tasty to hunt. I recalled how I had watched my older siblings hunt amongst the ancient forests of Teril'sya. I bowed my head, rolled my shoulders, and pounced around the corner-
-nose to nose with perhaps the most beautiful creature I had ever happened upon. A startled golden dragon hatchling looked up at me with wide, gorgeous green eyes. I recognized that she was a forest dragon for she was elegant and swift in her stride, her wings thin and webbed for leaping tree to tree.
I was only a hatchling. Thus, the only thing that I knew was that I didn't exactly want to pull away. I smiled a stupid toothy grin at her and she yanked her head back.
“I'm... terribly sorry...” She muttered, her eyes on the ground. Her voice was even magical. I sat, curling my thick wings at my shoulders.
“What are you sorry for?” I asked, tilting my head.
She blinked and looked up at me with crystal, emerald eyes. “I...”
I smiled wider, should it even be considered possible. “An apology is worthless if you don't really mean it.” said I, perching myself on a curved root. “I'm Asath.” I widened a blazing golden eye at her. “And what would you be called?”
She managed a soft smile, overcoming her shyness. “I'm Eliya.” She said quietly, pressing her forepaws together and drawing a claw through the bright forest grass.
I purred with approval, “Eliya... A gorgeous name for a gorgeous lady.”
Even as a hatchling, I had a knack for flirting.
She stared intensely at the ground, but she smiled nonetheless at my compliment. She shuffled some more in the leaves. I decided to help her and I hopped off of the root.
“Do you know any games?” I asked, trotting around her.
She blinked again in confusion. “Umm...”
I flicked my tail back and forth playfully. “You're a forest dragon! You all know games! Come on now...” I pursued.
“How about Hide and Seek?”
I paused and tilted my head at the thought. “Hmm...” I could work with that. I smiled and nodded, “Hide and Seek it is then!”
“You're it!” She giggled and disappeared.
When I turned around to look for her, she was gone. I didn't even get to count.
Forest dragon. Right.
I exhaled sharply through my nostrils, slightly annoyed that she had tricked me into playing her game. “No fair!” I shouted, loping endlessly through the trees. Minutes passed by, but in my head, it was hours. Hours of searching high and low. I flapped at the air with my heavy wings, clambering up branches and fumbling around trunks trying to find her. I was a mountain dragon, and my claws were not used to the brittle bark that crumbled between my toes.
I finally sat on a branch and sat there, staring sadly at the forest floor. I had lost her. I couldn't find her anywhere... and after what felt like endless searching, I felt defeated. Depression swelled up inside my lungs and I was forced to exhale it to stop it from swallowing my heart. A tear streaked down my cheek, and I closed my eyes in shame.
Quite suddenly, warmth flooded my cheek. Why was the sunlight so intense all of a sudden? I opened my eyes, and I stared into the eyes of the beautiful forest dragon as she licked my tear away. She nuzzled my cheek softly, smiled shyly, and pulled away. Happiness flooded my body as she comforted me.
Hours past, and we ran, played, laughed, and treasured the day in the playgrounds of Teril'sya. The golden trees were our shelters and gazed thoughtfully over us, their leaves shimmering like millions of brilliant golden stars dancing together in one motion. The spring flowers were blooming in explosions of rainbow colors, and the grasses were rejoicing in their new patches amongst the rich soils of the earth.
But like all things, time drew to an end. A deep rumble sounded through the forest and Eliya froze in place. We both stopped rolling around in the foliage, listening. Eliya stood up hurriedly.
“I need to go...” She said softly, ducking her head in embarrassment. She was already starting to run away when I rolled up onto all fours.
“Wait!” I yelled. She stopped hesitantly, turning her head. “When will I get to see you again?” I asked breathlessly.
She stared at me. Fear, sadness, and regret flashed across her eyes in a millisecond. She made a shuddering sigh. “I'm sorry, Asath... maybe I'll come back.” She said, and began to gallop away.
“...I'll be waiting.” I said, sitting on that spot as she flew away, clasping onto branches and flying freely through the air.
And wait I did. For you see, that day, I was left with a promise of her return. In the leaves, she had left behind a toy of hers. I supposed that she must have been looking for it before I bumped into her and distracted her.
I didn't know that it would be many years later before I met her again. I was a proud mountain dragon as an adolescent, and I had shed my blue scales and donned my silver ones. Even as an adolescent, I flew down to the forests of Teril'sya in the hope of seeing Eliya once again, whose name I refused to forget.
Flying below the massive canopies of Teril'sya, I was on my way to that exact spot where Eliya had left me, like I always did. It was an automatic thing. I tilted my wings to the right, gliding my larger body toward the glade-
-and crashed into another dragon. We tumbled through the air, fumbling and flapping both of our wings desperately to level out. Instead, we smashed into the glade, and I, feeling rather threatened, spanned my wings to their full length as a horrible growl rumbled across my chest and up my throat. The dragon shrieked in reply, twisting and pulling away from my grasp. I pinned the dragon down, and found myself staring into a pair of bright green eyes.
It took me a while to understand that Eliya would indeed be older. What I wasn't prepared for was how even more lovely she had grown to be.
“Hello, gorgeous lady.” I said, smiling that still stupid, toothy smile.
She stared up at me, blinking as her gaze flared with recognition. “You!” She gasped.
“Me?” I asked sarcastically.
“I have been waiting for you forever!” She said breathlessly, panting as her face contorted with frustration.
I tilted my head in confusion, matching her annoyed tone, “As have I for you! Where have you been?”
Eliya sighed. “I could only come out at night.”
I stared. All these years, I had been missing her by an hour or more. “Oh...” I said quite stupidly. I frowned then. “How is it that you come out at this time of day, then?”
“...I've run away from home.”
I tilted my head at her. “Home can't be all that bad.”
Eliya snorted, “So you say... Em... would you mind releasing me?”
I smiled again. “I don't really know... would I?”
She narrowed her eyes at me. Before I knew it, I was on my back and she instead had me pinned in the grass. I blinked at her. She smiled playfully and pulled away. I rolled to my feet, shaking my head where heavier, ebony horns grew out the back of my head. Two little horns grew on top of my snout, and longer much thinner spikes ran along my spine and tail.
She, herself, was absolutely stunning. Her eyes hadn't changed a bit, and were still as lively and as green as the grass that first day I met her. Her scales were as sparkling gold as the fall leaves of Teril'sya, and her wings were a glittering translucent gold. Vines were growing along her back and the arms of her wings. Slim tree-like horns grew and curled elegantly from her head, where leaves and small pastel pink flowers were blooming, just like that first spring day.
“Oh... last I saw you, you left this...” I trotted over to the old grove where we had crashed landed, and from behind a tree, hidden in the growth and the crevice of the roots where I first perched and bumped into her, I pulled the old thing out. “I don't know if you still want it after all of these years...”
Eliya's eyes widened at her old toy. She immediately snatched it up into her jaws and she gripped it tightly in her claws. I blinked at how fast she was. She looked up in embarrassment.
“Oh... I know, it must be a silly thing for me to still want this old thing...”
I smiled. “If it makes you happy, it's not silly.”
She looked up at me with wide eyes. “You think so?”
I chuckled. “Of course. The smiles are all I care about. They're so refreshing.” I winked at her and she looked down again. Hey. She smiled at least.
Since then, Eliya and I met in the woods of Teril'sya. She cuddled with her toy as I told her stories and legends of my homeland. We practically lived in the woods, pleasant in each other's company, day after day, and year after year... one day, she arrived greatly disturbed and upset. She had lost her precious toy again, and it was only then that I learned that the toy was given to her by her now deceased mother. Compassionate as I was, I comforted her the best that I could.
I'm not afraid to admit, that I hoped one day to replace her toy. Years still passed and we grew older together... and finally, FINALLY... we had a nest of our own.
As an adult, it is truly quite a gift to hear an extra pair of pitter-pattering feet every morning. As our sons and daughters grew older into proud, young dragons, Eliya and I grew older too. Teril'sya was still has timeless as the day we first met.
It was a saddening fact and a smacking realization that we are not as timeless as these woods.
“Asath?” My mate called softly next to me.
I took my eyes away from the sun sinking toward the horizon and instead focused my blurry vision on her. She lay curled up beside me and looked up at me with a tilted head. “What's wrong, love?” She asked gently.
I smiled weakly toward her with a not-so-toothy smile, “Just trying to remember...” I said wearily, nuzzling her gently. She managed a soft purr and lowered her head.
“Remember what, love?”
“...What it is to be young again.” I said sadly, looking down at the young couples below, giving gifts and presents on this special day. I smiled slyly to myself. I may not remember a lot of things... but I remember what it feels like to make Eliya smile.
“Eliya...?” I asked, turning my head slowly.
“Hmm?” She answered, stirring.
“Many years ago, on this very day, I stumbled upon that very special grove of ours over there, down below... you remember?”
“Of course, love.” She said softly.
“Would you walk with me there?” I asked gently.
She inhaled heavily and lifted her head. “Certainly.” She began to painfully stand. I fumbled to stand with her, and I placed my head against her to help her up. I smiled a smile of encouragement, and we both strode slowly downhill. She stumbled most of the way, and I did all I could to help her.
“I'm afraid I'm not as agile as I once was...” She said wearily.
I looked up in concern. “Do you want to stop?”
“No, no, love. I want to. Let's keep going.” She said.
I followed her every step of the way. My overwhelming excitement made my heart pound in my chest. I couldn't wait to get to the grove to give her my anniversary gift. We walked under the shadows of the trees of Teril'sya as the sun poured forth sunlight through the canopies. Birds sung delightfully and the wind chanted unknown words of happiness. I sighed the afternoon air as bright fireflies began to dance about the tree trunks.
After a while, we turned, and the grove came into view. Flowers were blooming along the bushes and the green grass. A sudden burst of energy flooded into my old legs, and I surged forward with excitement. “Come on, Eliya!”
“Coming, love.” She chuckled.
I pranced about the grove. “Hurry!” I called, fumbling on my frail toes. “Just a little further!” I limped toward an old tree, and reached for something hidden in the growth and the crevice of the roots where I first perched and bumped into her...
I stopped and turned around. Eliya stood there, her body stiff.
“...Eliya?” I called softly. She was struggling to walk and she eventually collapsed to the ground. My eyes widened as I spun around, stumbling to get to her. “Eliya!” I cried desperately. I cursed myself for being old. Everything screamed that I needed to get to her, but my body refused and I, too, tripped and fell into the ground a couple of inches away from her. “Eliya, get up.” I called, clawing at the ground to get up. My voice was hoarse. My body may be old, but the spirit of a young mountain dragon still churned and resided within me. I willed myself to stand. When I did, I already knew what I would find. My brain just wouldn't accept it.
And no matter how much I cried for her to get up, she still laid there, staring blankly up into the sky. I suppose I could say that she looked happy...
I'm an old dragon. I don't remember many things. But I remember that sunlight.
I remember the grass... the trees... the flowers...
I remember the wind... the rivers... the grove...
I remember the pain... the anger... the sorrow...
I remember the love... the forgiveness... the happiness...
And gods help me, I will always remember that smile that I strove so hard to get every day of my life. Even as I sit here in the grove, staring at that spot where my anniversary gift sat untouched, I remember.
As old as I was, I needed to see it one last time. Even months later after she had left. For Eliya.
I stood up painfully, waddling slowly but surely toward the edge of the grove. I reached down into the crevice of the roots, hidden underneath the roots, and pulled Eliya's old toy out of the branches. I set the old thing in between my paws.
It wasn't much. It was a rock. Nothing more, nothing less. I never understood it, but Eliya told me that if you used your imagination, it could be anything that I asked for.
I stared at the old thing. What was so special about it? Why did I strive to replace this old rock? This toy?
I sat there for hours before I began to understand.
But the point was... there was nothing to understand. I closed my eyes as I bowed my head, understanding Eliya's point. So I asked for her smile... one last time.
I can't recall the last time I cried. But I didn't mind so much when a tear streaked down my cheek. Despite how childish I felt, I wished that it was all just some kind of sick joke... It wasn't fair. I wished it was just a stupid Hide and Seek game and at any moment, she would pop out and tell me that everything was alright... but at this moment, she was it, and I was the lost one, hoping to be found.
...Quite suddenly, warmth flooded my cheek. Why was the sunlight so intense all of a sudden? I opened my eyes, and I stared into the eyes of a beautiful forest dragon as she licked my tears away. She nuzzled my cheek softly, smiled shyly, and pulled away.
I blinked in surprise. Surely, I was dreaming. A sick trick of the sunlight. But Eliya sat there, beautiful eyes and all, and gave me the most warming, beautiful, and biggest smile I have ever been given the privilege to see.
I closed my eyes again and began to laugh.
For it was in that moment that I realized something very important.
You see... love never truly ever dies. Take it from an old dragon. Love lives. It breathes. It fades. It grows. It smiles. It laughs.
And most of all, love remembers.
And, that, I can say, is enough for this old dragon and his stupid rock.