flashfic

A Single Pebble

The ruined palace of the ancient sea queen was bright and hard with treasures: ropes of shark’s teeth and flawed tourmalines woven in webs that spiders would have wept over; the keels of ancient ships with the fates of nations written upon them in the language of barnacles; crowns set with mirrors instead of gems so that the wise would see their own wisdom reflected back to them.  But although each treasure had been wrought under the sun’s eye and the moon’s smile, none held any warmth.

Nevertheless, a daughter of the island dragons journeyed to the palace, which had stood uninhabited for many generations.  We do not know what trouble took her there, but she thought she might find some balm for it in the ruins.  All she brought with her was a single pebble from the black beaches of her home, a blessing-piece from her mother.

She met other travelers in the ruins, which is to say that she met their bones.  But bones tell stories, especially to predators, and for all their benevolence, dragons are predators.  From the bones she learned that each traveler had found some answer to his or her desire, yet none of them had departed with it.

Still, she had come a long way, so she lingered a little while among the swan-curved knives of obsidian and chalices that had once tasted the tears of kings and dictionaries stitched in corroded wire upon funeral shrouds.  She looked and looked, but found nothing to ease her heart.

At last, not wishing to join the bones, she journeyed back home.  There she confessed that she had not taken any of the cold and glittering treasures for herself.  Her mother said she was sorry to hear of her failure.

Not at all, the dragon said.  For in the cold currents of the ruins, she had found herself meditating on the pebble, a reminder of black sands and night winds sweet with the yearning of flowers, dragon-games of raindrop poetry and pearl riddles, stormcloud praises encrypted in foam.  She had not found the heartsease she sought amid those great and grim treasures, but she had found the one she had brought with her from the very beginning.

for Jonquil, a gift courtesy of Anonymous