Saturday Snippet: Dragon of Sunset

I was reminded of this the other night, when we had our first brilliant winter-like sunset since last spring.


Rachel gave General Rahoul Khan as much of a sideways look as she could with him standing on her blind side. “Sir?” He can’t know about my little outing last week, and nothing’s set off the smoke detectors recently that I know of. And I had nothing to do with the minor disturbance in the NCOs mess.

“Why is my daughter insisting on going to Lands’ End to see the dragon?”

“What?” She turned so she could see him clearly.

He had a very familiar look of wary curiosity on his face, arms folded, not patting his foot but giving the impression of it. “Sita wants her mother to take her to Lands’ End to see the dragon. What dragon?”

Rachel tried to recall if she knew any True-dragons, HalfDragons, Houses, or grumpy librarians in Cornwall. “Ah, I have no—Belay that.” Rachel smiled. “She wants to see the dragon of sunset.”

After this long, all Rahoul did was raise his eyebrows. “The dragon of sunset.”

Rachel took the stereoscopic vison adapter off and swiveled on her lab stool. “The last time I visited, we had a fantastic sunset. And so I told Sita and Robin about the dragon of sunset. I didn’t think she’d want to visit.”

“Apparently your story made quite an impression, because she’s pestering to go to see the dragon.” Rahoul smiled just a titch bit. He’d been concerned that Rachel meant a real reptile, like Dr. Fujimori. “Care to share?”

“Can I tell the story later, sir? I want to get this specimen identified and catalogued before it decomposes further.”

That took absolute priority. “Very well. But I will hear the story.”

“Yes, sir.”


And so it was that three nights later, Rachel folded herself into her favorite place in the Officers’ Lounge, sitting on the hearth rug, back to the fire. Rahoul and most of the staff officers had settled into their usual seats, drinks in hand, and a few junior officers lurked in the background. Rachel noticed Lt. Chow giving the Aspidistra a wide berth and hid a smile. Apparently the rumor about the potted plant’s having devoured someone remained in circulation. The moose/elk head stared morosely down from the wall opposite the giant fox pelt.

“About that dragon,” Rahoul prompted, gesturing with his whiskey glass.

Rachel took a deep breath, drawing on the winter energy flowing around her. “We’d been out for a walk, and it grew late, the hour of the lamps,” she began. “And the sky began shifting color, from blue-grey and white to violet and rose. The southwestern sky turned fiery red, then orange, centered on a ball of orange red flame. The children were quite impressed, and Sita asked ‘What makes it do that?’

“The dragon of sunset. He’s the only dragon you’ll ever see who changes colors. You can’t spot him by daylight because his blue belly disappears against the sky, but come evening, sometimes you may be lucky enough to watch him as he dives into his home in the far western sea.”

Rachel paused to take a sip of water and noticed that she had the rapt attention of the humans. She drew a little more power and began spinning a picture for those willing to see. “The dragon of sunset is very, very old, as old as the sky, older than the hills, younger than the stars. His long white whiskers stretch across the sky like skeins of wool or sweeps of cloud. His sister is the queen of the noontide, and dawn is their mother. By day the dragon races across the arch of the sky, trying to get to the west so he can chase the sun and put it to bed.

“We rarely see him unless he wants us to. Most nights he slips behind the hills and into the sea, quiet and stealthy. But some evenings,” she pitched her voice lower. “Ah, some evenings, when the skies are fair and the veils of cloud soften the edges of the world, you see him.

“He dances across the arc of the sky, spreading great shimmering wings. At first he is blue and white, but as he gets closer to the sun, he dives faster and faster, shifting color. Pink tints his scales, then lavender, then in a burst like flame crimson flashes, turning him into a ruby brighter than any gem. His tail sparks orange and the clouds reflect his colors, spreading them farther across the sky.

“The dragon of sunset races down, down toward the sun and the sea, down into the hills. His wings spread open and once again salmon pink and rose cover the horizon as his body darkens to lavender and ash-of-roses. As soon as the sun disappears, the dragon of sunset soars up, up, in a great, glorious burst of every orange and red and gold you can imagine, then he plunges into the sea.” Rachel stopped.

After a long silence, a hoarse voice from the shadows half-whispered, “I want to see the dragon of sunset.”

Rachel smiled. “You can go to the end of the world, but you won’t find him. You see, his horde are the stars, the silvery coin of night, the diamonds and rubies that cover the sky. He’s laid them out in a trail, lining the path he takes back to his mother’s house, the house made of dawn. Sometimes one falls free, dropping in a glitter of sparks across the sky before he can catch it. He’s jealous, guarding his horde carefully, counting the stars as he flies past them, stopping to touch his favorites. Some nights he hides them completely, other times, when he feels safe and proud, he shows them for all the world to see.”

Rahoul glanced around and noted which of his officers remained spell bound. Damn it, Rada, he thought behind his shields. You are wasted as a xenologist. A little part of him, a very small, almost lost bit of boy, yearned to rush out and hop on the first train to Cornwall, or far western Wales, and stand on the shore to catch a glimpse of the dragon of sunset.

(C) 2015, 2019 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved





12 thoughts on “Saturday Snippet: Dragon of Sunset

  1. VERY nice tale, and well illustrated.

    I have photographed this extraordinary dragon a few times … with his kind permission. The other times I was transfixed with wonder like the audience.

  2. O/T – I finished the latest Shikhari, and submitted a review. (There are currently no reviews showing.) My review is listed as “In processing. This may take up to two weeks.” I’ve never seen anything like that on Amazon before.

    • Back when Chet Raymo was still doing scientific and natural history writing, he waxed very lyrical a few times. _365 Starry Nights_ is a wonderful book for the amateur astronomer, and _The Soul of the Night_ and _Honey from Stone_ are collections of his natural history and astronomy essays.

  3. One step away from poetry. A beautiful word painting of the world as metaphor.
    I want to go see the dragon of sunset too.

  4. Wonderful story. I love the word painting.

    The homophone fairy struck again, though. A horde of imps stole the dragon’s hoard.

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