In a dark, damp cave behind a waterfall lived a dragon. Scaly and winged, as dragons come, he could fly high and mightily roar, and his crimson flames could turn one into ash.
Like his father and grandfather and all who came before them, the dragon was a protector. He kept watch over a herd of unicorns in the meadows beyond the cave. By day, he stayed inside, so he wouldn’t scare the young. By night, he flew over the meadows under the light of the moon, his wings spread out like a blanket of shadows.
The dragon loved a unicorn mare, and she loved him back. They dreamt of life together, right there, in the sunny meadows, among the creatures of light.
Under a faint crescent moon, the mare gave birth to twins, dragon-unicorn foals. Winged and horned, the young breathed their father’s fire and glowed with their mother’s light. They had unicorn faces but sharp dragon teeth, and smooth patches of emerald scales among their short white hairs.
The dragon and the mare had never seen such beauty. Surely the unicorns, creatures of goodness and light, would welcome these sweet, gentle souls to their herd.
They did not.
Abominations! neighed herd elders. Monstrosities! cried old mares.
Under a bright midday sun, the herd descended upon the twins and their mother. They stomped and they skewered, again and again. The young fought, the blood of their father hot within, but they were too young, and the herd were too many. The foals’ fire breath was weak, their wings punctured raw…their flight impossible.
At night, the dragon found them slain.
He looked at the emerald scales atop his dead children’s coats, their tattered wings, their shattered horns. He looked at their beautiful equine faces, so much like their mother’s, but he dared not look at her, for if he had, he would not have been able to do what had to be done.
As grief clenched his throat, the dragon flew over the meadows under the light of the moon, his wings spread out like a blanket of shadows. With his crimson breath, he burned every blade of grass, every leaf, every branch…every unicorn. He burned everything and everyone, until all was gone but despair.
By day, the dragon roars across the scorched meadows and eats charred unicorn flesh. By night, in the cave dark and damp, his tears become drops in the waterfall.
Maura Yzmore writes short-form literary and speculative fiction, as well as humor. She lives with her family in the American Midwest and teaches subjects with a lot of math to college students. Her recent work has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, Ghost Parachute, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. You can find out more about her writing at https://maurayzmore.com or on Twitter @MauraYzmore.