Jade always loved it when her mother took her and her siblings out for a swim. She was more excited than usual, since her mother had promised to take them to a different lake this time, one she had never been to before. She couldn't wait to explore the wonders of this new location, far away from the rocky 'oasis' of boredom known as home. Family activities like these were rare. Normally the dragons were cooped up inside their cave. The wyrmlings played and napped while the parents lazed the days away. Jade looked over to her siblings, who were bugging each other as usual. The mother paid it no heed.
"Hold on tight, we're about to land!" She spoke in her deep, yet feminine voice, the vibrations of it resonating through the quintuplets.
With formidable grace, the menacing creature touched down onto the shore of a lake surrounded by forest. It was stunning. Jade couldn't wait to delve into the place and see what interesting things she could find. But she knew her mother and knew she wouldn't let the five scamper off without laying down the rules first.
"Before I let you go..."
Here it comes...
"... I want a few things to be very clear..." the mother started. She pointed at a patch of lily pads and continued, "you will not go beyond those lilies and you will stay within sight. Any one of you who disobeys me will be banned from the water for the rest of the day. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes, ma'am!" her children said in unison. Satisfied with this answer, she smiled and lowered her wing, allowing them to climb down safely.
"Have fun, my dears! I'll be right here." Before the last word was uttered, the baby dragons had already found their way to the water.
Hours passed as the wyrmlings played in the water, while their mother basked in the sun. Delighted by the happy cries of her children, as well as the fact that they had behaved the entire time, she closed her eyes and let out a sigh of contentment. Meanwhile, her children were splashing each other vigorously to the point they could no longer see in front of them. Jade, however, had grown bored of this game and was about to join her mother ashore, when something else caught her interest. Along the edges of the lake stood tall reeds and from these reeds came a sound she did not hear often.
A frog! That was much more interesting than getting water up her nose! It was in the reeds, though. She looked over to her mother, who still had her eyes closed. Surely it was okay. She was only going to be in there for a moment and the water was shallow enough. Again the frog made its presence clear, practically beckoning for her to come closer.
I bet mom will be proud if I manage to catch it, she thought, unintentionally reminding herself that she was in fact the slowest of the five.
She shot her mother another look, just in case, but the giantess hadn’t stirred. She then glanced at her siblings, who were still spattering water into each other’s eyes, rendering them unable to observe their surroundings and more importantly, snitch. Deciding the coast was clear, Jade stepped into the dense water foliage, embarking on her quest for the amphibian.
Darn, she must’ve got too close! How was she supposed to find it now? No matter, she was going to catch this thing. She went this far and wasn’t about to go back empty-clawed.
Jade stopped and figured, that if she remained perfectly still, the frog would eventually resurface.
And then it will be mine, she thought callously.
She waited and waited, but the frog had left without a trace. She had already lost track of how long she had stayed in that position. She listened intently. It had been a good while since her prey had made a sound, but what she heard next filled her with dread.
She recognized that voice anywhere. The pitch was unmistakable and it was oozing with inauspiciousness. Her mother was clearly unhappy.
“Jade?” the massive dragoness repeated in a more menacing tone. She rose from her lounging spot and addressed her other four offspring.
“Where is your sister?” she asked impatiently. To her annoyance they did not know.
“Come out, Jade!” her mother called out, entering the lake. Though still very irritated, there was a hint of affliction in her voice.
Jade kept as quiet as she could. She dared not make a peep or she was in deep trouble, she knew that. She backed away out of the reeds and onto the shore, immediately into the woods, away from the ominous noise.
Okay, she can’t see me here. Good! Now I just have to come up with an excuse, she thought.
Jade’s mother grew more worried. She instructed the other baby dragons to wait ashore and submerged her head under water, scanning the bottom of the lake. As she did so, the four siblings got themselves to dry land. Not much later an ear-piercing scream came from the woods. That was obviously their sister, but now that their mother was out of reach and unable to hear them, they had no choice but to wait for her to emerge.
Meanwhile, Jade was running as fast as her little legs could carry her. The trouble she was in before did not compare to her current predicament. Whereas receiving a flick was the worst case scenario before, she now ran the risk of becoming lunch. She could almost feel the hot, heaving breaths of the manticore on her neck as it was closing in on her. She had to dodge all kinds of obstacles, such as branches, bushes and exposed roots. She zigzagged several times to increase the distance between the two, until there was suddenly no dirt under her feet anymore and she plunged a few feet. She had fallen into a burrow she overlooked. It proved to be her rescue. She saw the manticore jump right over it. If she tried to be quiet before, she was as silent as the dead now. She had to, or she literally would be.
The manticore seemed confused. It looked around for a bit until it decided to give up and do what it was originally going to do, before the delectable bipedal treat crossed its path; drink. Jade heard the distance between her and the sauntering beast increase, but she stayed put.
Her mother was now frantically searching the reeds. The moment she had emerged from the water, Jade’s siblings had told her about the scream and pointed her into its general direction. Visibly distraught, she ransacked the plants, while calling out for her. When she was convinced she would not find her daughter amidst the sticks and leaves, the dragoness moved on to the shore behind them. There she found small footprints, no doubt belonging to a baby dragon. She also found a manticore… but no baby dragon. Her face contorted. Her expression changing from perturbed to one of sheer animosity. She bore her teeth at the petrified creature. Her inner blaze was rising so high, its light could be seen through the gaps between her teeth and in her nostrils. With a mighty roar she blasted the manticore with fire. It never stood a chance.
Whoa, mom’s furious!, thought Jade, that… thing may be gone, but I should probably wait until she’s calmed down a bit.
Her mother had intimidated her before, but she never thought she could be this terrifying. She had never heard her mother so upset before. There was no way she was showing her face any time soon after hearing that outburst. Unbeknownst to her, her siblings were sharing similar sentiments.
“Mom..?” one of them uttered weakly.
The titanic matriarch put on a stoic face before approaching them.
“We’re leaving.” she stated and lowered her wing for her surviving offspring to climb on.
“But what about Jade?” another asked.
“Just get on my back!” their mother snapped.
Taken aback and fearful of their mother’s demeanor they complied. Soon the large dragoness and her precious cargo were airborne and soared off into the distance.