Once upon a time, at the foot of a mountain, there stood a small town known as Dragonsbreath. It was an unusual place to settle brought on by even more unusual circumstance. A nomadic tribe, the Kulates, had founded Dragonsbreath after wandering lost in a blizzard for four days without water or food. Most would have perished. The Kulates, however, against all odds emerged from the frozen tundra to find green grass and trees.
They picked fruits and laughed together, marveling at how good fortune had finally, at long last, shined down on them. But their joy was short lived. The blue sky they had thought to herald triumph suddenly became a dark, dark red. An immense flapping caused all to cover ears. Loud, shrill cries took place of laughter as what little there was left of sun became eclipsed with massive wings.
In the spirit of their ancestors who had lived to face far worse, none fled. They stood their ground as three enormous dragons descended down in front of them. The men, bows strung up towards the mighty heads, guarded women and children behind. They would block the path of the dragons in as great defense as they could make.
“People of Kulate,” one of the beasts said approaching. Arrows released but were quickly incinerated midair. “My sisters and I mean you no harm,” the voice continued, “our fires have long kept this valley warm and vibrant. We offer its sanctuary to you who have bore so much in way of trial.”
The other two dragons did not speak. They merely bowed as the speaker stepped back and flew away leaving the people stunned in wonderment.
Generations passed and the exchange became legend. Debatable passages were added to the speech as it was continually retold. The dragons, some said, came from a distant land, disgusted with the excesses of their kind. They arrived to live above the Kulate whom they envied and admired.
A select few still claimed to feel the Sister’s warmth within the valley, or within them, even as outside the world remained a frozen wasteland. But the more rational of the Kulates discounted such nonsense as religious hocus pocus. The weather, they said, was clearly a force apart from any Gods.
Children through the ages did not take philosophy into account. They often told stories, sang songs and drew pictures for the mighty dragons. Bolder ones would climb onto the mountain itself and leave their offerings. Occasionally the offerings were found to have disappeared the next day. Parents were seen suspect by those most astute.
Little changed in this way for many centuries. One day, however in the 635th year was very different. The climate, always so temperate took on the opposite extreme from outside its boundaries. Grass dried. Sun burned. Children played outside less and less and always early in the day. Something in the air was different. Had the dragons grown upset? The town, despite those faithless, still delivered its yearly offering of livestock. Did they want more?
The elders approved an emergency sacrifice. A quarter of all livestock were burned high up in the mountain. Still… nothing. The temperatures continued to climb.
Was it a freak heat wave? The logical said yes. Too much manure was being burned in fires. The townspeople had to cut back. The solution, however, did not resonate with those in panic, seeking blame.
These early alchemists were strung up and left to wilt. Disbelievers were to blame! The elders did nothing to stop the onslaught of mob violence. If sacrifice had not worked, they surmised, the dragons must have been irate at those doubting their grandeur and those suffering their sacrilegious thoughts as well.
It only got worse. Soldiers were sent up into the mountains in attempt to reason with the dragons. Children themselves were given in tribute. Every family surrendered their youngest for the greater good.
No soldiers returned. Those scaling the brutal rocks, however, were forced to endure the smell of burning flesh – sometimes, most assuredly from children of their own. Bodies of a great many were seen mangled at the base, as if they had leaped in anguish to their death. They were ignored and left to rot in the ever hotter sun with disbelievers.
Hope dwindled and the sweet winds took hold. Outside air was no longer safe for human habitation. The breeze seared flesh, leaving corpses that no longer reeked. They smelled appetizing and were seen as much worse. The Kulate had long been without food and some gave into the unforgivable temptation that presented itself.
The conditions of myth and legend appeared to be returning. The sky was dark red fire once again. If ever it appeared the dragons were returning it was then. Every noise began to sound as flapping to those delirious with thirst. The remaining hardly trusted their own eyes when the three dragons finally returned.
“People of Kulate,” the now ancient voice spoke “we have returned. I gather few of you remain. This is for the best. Over the past six centuries my sisters and I have watched you murder in our name. This was never our intent. We are not Gods but you have made us into them. It seems today that role is fulfilled.”
The heat lifted as those left emerged. A young man, thin and filthy spoke “What have you done to us?”
“My sisters and I are cooking you. You have offered us your faithless and children and now we want more!”
“We only sought to appease you!” An older woman yelled.
“That is a strange way of doing so. Your faithless were right, it was a heat wave, and your children were pure. They alone showed us true faith and love. And your gift to us is killing them?”
“It wasn’t an easy choice – at all!” Another said.
“Yet you still made it. We will leave you now. May the winds marinate your flesh, so that we may have a worthy meal, lest we return, which we sincerely doubt.”
The heat began to rise again. One or two people raced back inside but the rest remained. There was no fighting the reality. Their ancestors, who had risked everything and more defending the Kulate people, had been brought to shame. Why hadn’t they lived up the great legacy passed down? None had answers.
In the distance the three dragons could be seen. They were carrying something – somethings! Those left of the children and faithless were finding a new home. Those remaining in the heat felt marred bliss watching from afar as their last breaths withered and their eyes closed.
Nature reclaimed the town in years after. White snow fell year round making the plateau no different from the rest of the icy tundra surrounding it. No green grass returned, no blue skies could be deciphered. Yet, if you were lost and weary you might spot stones. They would be severely cracked as writing stood out perfectly; each inscription dedicated to the most noble of Kulates.