* Author : Cat Sparks
* Narrator : Dawn Meredith
* Host : Graeme Dunlop
* Audio Producer : Peter Wood
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First published in The Never Never Land.
By Cat Sparks
I fell in love with a dragon boy when I was seventeen. The dragon train—five creatures long—camped near Grimpiper in the days before it crossed the Great Divide. Beyond the stones lay the Dead Red Heart. Our ’stead nestled in amongst the shadow dunes. Close enough to the Sand Road, not too close to its bandits and its warlords.
We’d been pushing our water wheels across miles of stone when the kite went up. Blue tail flags might mean many things but this time blue meant dragons. We dropped the wheels and ran up Puckers Ridge. Right to the top and there they were, five dragons chewing through wild melon fields below. Thick-set creatures, bellies low to the ground.
We risked a whipping, abandoning our wheels like that, but dragons were too tempting to pass up. Nothing ever happened out Grimpiper way. We could not know then that the train would camp for three full days, and when it left, I would be leaving too.
The youngest of his tribe, he was. His beast trod last in line. His dragon smaller than the others by a head. Broad, flat teeth ripping through dune melon stems.
“Does it bite?” I asked.
Iago (I didn’t know his name back then) shot me a playful grin. Tossed me one of the loose dune melons. I held it coyly, watching him stand so close to that chomping mouth. Close enough to make the other girls shriek. He tossed the melon. The dragon snapped it up. “You try,” he said and so I did, dallying with the beast for hours, until Carlina and her Noahan witches came streaming down the dunesides, waggling their palm frond shades, weighted down with baskets of throwing stones. Chanting lists of animals that had been rescued by the boat and how no dragons were written on that list. Dragons were abominations, made by human hands. The same dab hands that brought the Ruin down. All misborn beasts must be driven across the Great Divide, was what they preached. That, and a host of other, darker things.
I didn’t care about what Noahan witches said. Their praying and their whining never rose the water table or brought the rain or caused the crops to grow.
Iago’s people were tall and dark, dressed in sand cloaks, deep blue like the night. Merchentman—or so I thought—with ancient rifles slung across their shoulders. For show, they were, not fighting guns, but you never could be sure with Heartland folks.
Carlina stared with big wide eyes when she saw that thunderstick, all chipped and grey and mounted on spindle legs. A fearsome thing, even with its fire drained.
“For serpente hunting,” Iago told me.
Iago’s uncle never said a word. He stared me down as the Noahan’s chanting drove the other girls away. I ignored them all, keeping up the melon game, watching lithe, brown-skinned Iago unwrap his turban and shake his long hair free.
Couldn’t keep my eyes off him. We fucked in the shade of a withered copse of palms. Didn’t care who saw us. Didn’t even wait for night to fall.
“I’m not afraid of your uncle,” I told him.
“You should be,” his reply. Later, he told me how the dragons were not really dragons. Lizards, more like. Creatures bred in glass. True dragons were supposed to have had wings, their bones turned hard and trapped in stone for centuries.