Clarion West Write-a-thon 2021

Lester D. Crawford

June 7, 2021 - July 31, 2021

Lester D. Crawford Speculative Fiction

I write speculative fiction; therefore, I speculate.

My Writing Goals

I'm editing a collection of five stories to create a single work to publish.
Working title: The Dragon Universe: Utopia Origins

Writing Sample

Luke believed more dragons with dragon eggs lived in the foothills, but after four days systematically searching, checking eight caves marked on his map and ten smaller ones not on the map, all he had found were empty caves.

His food was dwindling.  He'd expected to find fruits and roots, but only dry grass covered this stretch of slope.  Earlier, he'd found a berry bush that turned out to be spike berries.  The angry red berries were inedible and they had spikes that stuck in your skin.  If he didn't find forage soon, he might have to return home with his quest unfulfilled.  Despite his growing despair, he remained determined to continue his quest sure that today would bring success.  The next cave would contain a dragon egg.

The cave was empty.  As was the next.  And the next.

Not all of the caves looked suitable for dragons, but the larger ones looked much like Squawk's cave.  What if Squawk's family were the only dragon family in the foothills?  He refused to believe that.  More dragons had to live in the foothills.

A small stream, banks covered with honeystar flowers, provided a refill for his canteen and a slab shaped boulder provided a resting place with a view.  He could see out over the Lurean River Valley with its mixture of golden, late-season prairie grass, patches of shadowy green and brown forests, and farm fields where people were harvesting grain.  Moving away from the river, the land made a series of steps each rising higher until meeting the foothills bordering the mountains.  The Village of Darmok where Luke lived was on the highest step just before the foothills took over.  He was higher in the foothills than he'd ever been.  The idea of going farther into the mountains was daunting.  He worried his quest for a dragon egg was hopeless.

A shadow drew his attention skyward where a hawk's silhouette circled, coming closer.  Then he realized it was not a hawk; it was a dragon.  He'd never seen a dragon in flight before.  Instincts brought primal fear: A monster was coming.  He jumped down and ducked behind the boulder.  Around him, a dusty gust stirred the grass and from the other side of the boulder came the crunch of dry grass crushed.

A lilting voice said, "What were you doing on my rock?"

Taking deep breaths, Luke calmed himself.  It was only a dragon.  A dragon wouldn't harm a person.  The Paladins' Peace said so.  He would not let this dragon frighten or intimidate him.  He stood and faced the dragon.  She stood on all fours, her tail held high, her head held low, her wings spread wide, and appearing ready to pounce.

Luke struck his confidence pose -- feet apart, fists on hips with elbows akimbo, chin held high -- and said, "This isn't your rock.  It's a public rock."  He sat on his end of the boulder and faced the valley.

The dragon closed her wings, climbed on the other end of the boulder, sat on her haunches supporting herself with her arms, and wrapped her tail around her hands and feet.  After a glance at Luke, she bent her ears back, and with the chin on the end of her wedge-shaped snout held high as Luke had his, she stared out at the valley in the same manner as Luke.

Yellow highlights indicated the dragon was female, but she was not as large as Squawk's parents who were seven times longer than Luke was tall.  This dragon was only five times longer.

After listening a while to the wind whispering through the grass, a wind that carried the scent of honeystar flowers that made him long for home, Luke felt compelled to speak, but didn't.  Dragons were patient, but he was determined to outwait the dragon.  It was a matter of pride, and stubbornness.

Finally, the dragon said, "This rock is my rock."

Luke responded with, "It is not."

After a while, the dragon spoke again.  "I have seen the humans at a distance, but I have never met a human."

"I've met dragons, three of them."

The dragon glanced at Luke.  "You are smaller than I expected a human to be."

"You're smaller than what I expect a dragon to be.  Well, you're larger than Squawk, but he's just a baby dragon.  You're smaller than his parents, though."

The dragon wiggled.  "I am ten years old.  I will grow larger."

"Ten?  So am I.  But I'm almost eleven."

The dragon spoke a short, musical "Oh," and said, "You are a human child.  Now I understand why you are small."

"You too are a child.  That's why you're small."

"I am not a child."  She sounded offended.

"You're ten.  We're not much different from each other."

The dragon looked at her hands, extending her talons to examine them.  Then she looked over her shoulder at her wings, which she fluttered.

She turned to Luke and tilted her head for a moment as she examined him before she said, "We are a lot different."

"That's not what I mean.  You're ten and I'm ten."

"Ten years old is old enough to live on my own.  And I too am almost eleven years old."

Jake cocked his head.  "Dragons move away from home when they're ten?"

"Normally, dragons do not begin their Emancipation Cycle before they are twelve years old, if the dragon is mature enough.  I am mature enough now, but my parents disagree.  I come to my rock to be angry."

"Angry?"

"I am angry with my parents.  I am not angry with you, even though you are sitting on my rock."

"It's not your rock."

"My parents say children are to be in the weyr at night."

The dragon snapped open her wings, and with a mighty wing stroke and a powerful push of her legs, launched herself into the air, veered south, and sped away.

Her sudden departure had surprised Luke, but he was glad she'd left.  He was encouraged by the meeting, though.  The world really was changing if he could talk to a strange dragon, and it was proof other dragons did live in the foothills.  Donning his backpack, he continued his quest by seeking a dragon egg in the next cave.

Writing Progress

Progress update for 2021-07-31

I completed a couple of editing passes on my The Dragon Universe: Utopia Origins collection of stories, participated in a couple of Write-a-thon classes on Zoom, and watched several other presentations. The Write-a-thon has been a skill building and inspiring event. Thank you Clarion West.

Now I continue with the final editing pass of Utopia Origins before sending it to beta readers.

What I Write

I enjoy creating science fiction and fantasy stories that explore relationships between contrasting characters and the struggles that bring them together.

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