Stella gazed up at the stars, her eyes flitting from constellation to constellation. She sat on a tree branch, smiling the smile that only comes out when the stars do. This was the time for her to lurk, to scavenge, and to feed. She slipped down from the tree and stalked toward the city. Keeping to the shadows, Stella crept closer to her favorite bread stand. The fat seller was always asleep by brandy or another drink by this time, and she loved his bread. She grabbed a couple loaves and stuffed them in her black canvas bag and rummaged for her black marker. Glaring around her to make sure no snoops were looking, she slipped behind the stand. The man was snoring very loudly, and Stella got a nose full of the smell of alcohol. She wrinkled her freckled face and quickly drew a moustache under the breadman’s large nose. He twitched and coughed. Stella ducked under the stand, watching him closely. After a moment, he kept on snoring, so Stella finished her artwork and left the man with a new pair of aviators.  

   She strutted down the middle of the dirty London street, chewing mouthfuls of her stolen bread. She stopped to pick up twelve pence laying in the middle of the street, thinking how careless rich people are. They just drop their money and don’t care. Good for her, though. She tucked the coin in her pocket and kept on with her moonlit stroll.  


   Stella jumped up into her tree, sitting on her favorite branch. This was her favorite branch because she had a perfect view of Big Ben, so she could know precisely when this scheduled city wakes up. She swung her legs on the branch, glad that she had the freedom of her heart’s desire and not the prison of a city folk. She looked in her bag, studying her night’s work and loot. Three loaves of bread, twelve pence, a rusty pocket watch, and a strange object that she found near the gutter. It was a circular marble-like object, with swirling blue designs and a hole through the middle. She held it up to the light, closing one eye to look through it. She could see the moon through the hole, bright and beautiful. When she took the marble away from her eye, the light around her looked brighter. She set the marble down, which had a very faint aura to it, and looked around, trying to find the source of the extra light. Then she looked at the sky. Then she shook her head and looked again. She counted one, two moons in the sky. Everything else was the same. She jumped to her feet and scrambled higher up the tree. She held onto the trunk tightly, peering through the leaves at the unnaturally bright sky. Then she looked down to the city, but there was no more city. Just miles of luscious green hills, dotted with flowers and trees. She looked back at the moons, staring hard at them as if they would go back to normal if she looked at them hard enough.  

   Stella wasn’t sure how long she’d looked at the sky, but she needed to find out what was happening. She leapt to her branch, pondering the possibilities. Was she dreaming? Had she somehow fallen asleep on her branch? Or did she knock her head and was unconscious? She slipped down the tree and grabbed her bag. It was empty. She narrowed her eyes, thinking. She had no idea what was happening, what this marble was, and why her bread was gone. She picked up the marble, and her city came back. Out of surprise, she dropped the marble onto the grass and the hills and trees came back. Ok, she thought. If I’m holding the marble, London is visible. If I’m not, then London disappears. But why wouldn’t London have always been here if I never had this marble in the first place? She wondered about how she’d gotten into this strange situation, but all the options seemed completely unrealistic.  

   She thought a walk might clear her head a bit.  Realistically, she knew there had to be an explanation to this madness. Just before she left the cover of her tree, she told herself that she must be more careful here than in the city because she knew the city very well, but she knew nothing about this new land. She wanted to find something in this place, something that might give her a clue to what was happening and where she was.   

   She walked along the line of the edge of the trees, running her hand along the rough bark. Her canvas bag bounced lifelessly against her hip, as if longing for the bread to be back in it, filling it up and giving it purpose. She walked aimlessly until her breath became short and her calves started to ache. Her walk seemed to be becoming monotonous-the same tree after tree until they kissed the horizon line.  She flopped down and rested her back against one of the thousands of silver birch trees. She gazed mournfully down the path she was headed, wishing she could just go back to her home. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the rough bark.  

   Now that she wasn’t trudging along the grass, making loud noises with her tired feet, she could hear a faint sound in the distance. It was a periodical thumping sound, like a large animal slowly walking, but it was slightly different. Almost like the large animal was walking in the air or on the clouds, for the sound was coming from above Stella’s head. She looked up, but she saw only the star-spattered night sky. Then a patch of the stars disappeared, and moments later reappeared, but another patch next to it disappeared. Then came a hot wind from the sky. Something enormous was flying high, blocking out patches of the stars as it flew along. Stella stood cautiously and backed around behind the tree she was sitting against, just to be safe. She squinted at the stars, trying to spot the almost invisible creature in the sky.  

   She didn’t have to look for it long, because it suddenly flew in front of one of the moons. Stella stifled a gasp. It was an enormous creature, with a large head with razor-sharp horns, connected to a long neck which was attached to a strong body with large bat-like wings protruding from its spiny back, long, sharp talons on the ends of muscled legs, and a whip-thin tail. Stella pressed her back against the tree, facing away from the moons. She closed her eyes, sucking in deep breaths to replace the breath that her lungs suddenly didn’t have. Her heart beat wildly, and her mind was racing, for she knew what this creature was. She’d only seen glimpses of them in storybooks, and she didn’t ever think that they were even remotely real. For this was a Dragon, creature of the Sky, King of the Animals, and Once-Upon-A-Time, Leader of the Earth. Stella sank to the forest floor, partly from exhaustion, partly from fear. And there, she promptly fell asleep.  

   Stella woke to see her own beautiful city of London standing before her. Something didn’t seem right; some stores were missing, the cathedral in the distance was gone, but Stella didn’t care. She smiled a warm, dreamy smile, and stood. She walked toward it, wanting to kiss the ground and recognize that the dragon had been a dream. But she kept walking, and walking, and walking. She started to frown. She was walking toward her city, but it kept the same distance away from her. She glanced behind her to see an enormous ditch, inching closer and closer, swallowing all the trees in its path. Stella’s eyes widened, and she started to run. She ran harder and harder, but she never moved. The canyon, looking like a giant mouth ruggedly cut into the earth, kept moving closer to her. She ran full speed, but the ditch was gaining on her. In moments, she was at the edge. She took one last look at the city of London. The Big Ben, the honking cars, and the storefronts. Then, everything faded, and she fell into the ditch, reaching up towards the light and screaming her last breath until everything went black.  

   Stella shot straight up, her heart pounding and her forehead beading with sweat. It took her several minutes to get her wits about her. She peeked around the tree, praying the dragon was gone. She cautiously looked around, and seeing that it was no longer there, she stood and grabbed her bag. Then she ran. She wasn’t sure what she was running from, but she just ran. She ran until her chest heaved and her throat was parched. Her stomach growled, which wasn’t unusual for a London street rat, but this got her thinking about a food and water supply. She only had her bag, the strange marble, and her courage. Even that was running low. The more she thought about it, the more she despaired. She was about to curl up on the ground and wait for a dragon to come and eat her (If that was even what she saw) when she saw smoke rising from the treetops. Smoke meant fire, and fire usually meant a house! Sometimes it meant an evil witch trying to eat some helpless kids, but Stella didn’t really care at this point. 

   Stella ran towards the smoke, which was deeper into the forest, stumbling over roots and rocks, her knees buckling every few feet. Eventually, after what seemed like hours, she reached the source of the fire. It was not a house, nor a witch’s candy cottage. Instead, it looked like a construction site. A large ditch was filled with bustling workers and building supplies. And instead of humans, the workers were dragons. They hauled enormous boulder into place, carried dripping cauldrons of wet cement here and there, and they dragged many logs. She slowly turned around, hoping to not attract any attention to herself. But when she turned around, she was faced with an enormous pile of angry scales and smoky breath. Stella felt the blood drain from her face. She looked up at the cruel eyes staring down a scaly nose at her, and she took a step back. The dragon took two steps forward. Stella took two steps back; the dragon took four steps forward. It leaned its magnificent head down to eye level with Stella. He growled; the scariest noise Stella had heard in her life. She took a large step back, forgetting where she was. She swung her arms wildly, but it was too late. She rolled down the hill, getting dirt in her mouth and hearing angry, surprised roars fill the air. Then, her head smacked against a log and everything went black.  

   Stella half-woke up, but still felt like she was dreaming. Or maybe she was dead. She opened her eyes all the way to find herself in a large, marbled room with gigantic pillars lining the walls and a skylight with dazzling moonlight shining through. She looked around, her theory of being dead becoming more and more likely in her head. She sat in a large velvet chair, about five times too big for her, with a long purple robe and a heavy object on her head. She shakily reached her arms up to take off the burden on her head. Then, with a great shock, she realized it was a crown. She set the crown on the seat and fumbled with the latch on the robes. She quickly looked around, hoping nobody thought she was trying to impose upon whoever's throne this was. She stopped in her tracks when she noticed a dragon coming into the room. A real life, huge dragon. Stella froze, wondering how much it hurt to get eaten by a dragon. Noticing her, the dragon spoke, which was the last thing that Stella would’ve expected from it. 

“Your Majesty! We were beginning to worry about you! That was a nasty fall,” He said with a genuine laugh. Stella looked behind her to see who he was talking to. Then he gestured to a table in the middle of the room.  

“That thing saved your life, I ought to say! I think we all had given up on this prophecy by now, but here you are!” He kept blabbing on, but Stella was looking at the table. A large cake plate sat on it, with her marble elevated in the center. She focused on the dragon.  

“Excuse me, but what prophecy? And what does it have to do with me?” she asked skeptically. 

The dragon chuckled. Then he recited, 

“The one who is of skin,  

The one who has human hands,  

The one who holds the Moonhin, 

This one will rule the lands. That’s you! You are to rule the lands.” 


“Hush, young one, and let us meet your subjects,” He said, leading her to a balcony with stained glass doors. He pushed them open to reveal thousands of multicolored dragons, all bowing at the sound of the doors opening. Stella backed away, but her new friend pulled her forward. Then, he addressed the crowd.  

“Dragons of Tenlan!” he bellowed. “Your long-awaited Queen!” Then, a thunder sounded, and Stella realized the dragons were slamming their wings on the ground. A salute to her, of all people. Seeing her puzzled face, the dragon explained that the prophecy said the one who holds the Moonhin, the marble that she had held, is the new ruler of the Tenlan Dragons. He quickly explained the rest, filling her in with the bare minimum. Then he made a welcoming speech for the newly crowned Queen Stella, and all the dragons united their fire in one hot blast into the sky. Stella watched at the sky exploded in a red- orange burst, illuminating the two moons and the stars. 

May 01, 2020 02:34

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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