The Ice Dragon
Published: May 5, 2022 by Maria Gwyn McDowell
The explosion shot her out, spinning her head over tail as the sound of rocks cracking and fire crackling filled her ears. Without thinking, as if she had done this a million ages over, she unfurled her wings, their tender lacy filaments indistuinguisable from the molten red liquid that spewed her into the sky. Catching a gust of hot air, rising with it above the jagged hole forming beneath her, she pumped her wings hard. Suddenly, she broke free of the tower of ash and molten flame into the cold, glistening night. She swooped and soared, beating hard to stay aflight, sometimes gliding as hot and cold slid against one another under the starry sky, the volcanic heat meeting the icy air which blew off the glacier that had so long capped her molten home.
But she grew cold, and her young wings grew tired. Circling around,lower and lower, perhaps it was the flames reflected in the glistening surface that drew her, an illusion of warmth and safety.
Steam rose as her molten claws skittered along the ice until she caught herself on a bolder, and skidded to a rather clumsy halt. Heaving a sigh of relief, folding her wings next to her to warm them, she shut her eyes, blocking out the rivers of flame, the tumbling rocks, and the ice that reflected it all back in a cracked and jagged mirror. Had she been older, had she had more time to learn about fire and ice, perhaps she would have known to pay attention to the sounds around her. To wonder at the shudder that ran through the ice at her feet. But she knew nothing of how quickly molten lava rising from the earth could turn ancient ice into a resevoir of water high above her; or how a small crack, created ages ago when a jolt deep in the earth shifted the ice on its surface, could suddenly give way, releasing a flood of icy water to tumble and rush down the mountainside, picking up bolders and trees. And her.
The wall of icy water picked her up without pause, steam erupting as water met fire, turning her head over tail yet again. This time, no gust of hot air lifted her. Instead, as happens anywhere molten lave meets icy water, stone forms. Everywhere the water met her flaming scales, they hardened. Wings outstretched to catch her balance, her molten scales hardened instantly. Swept down the mountain by the torrent, it carried her right into a boulder which caughter her wing, spun her around with current, and jammed her against another, holding her fast as the water drowned her in ice and debris, burying her in cold, icy dark.
But dragons, they aren’t like us. The don’t end like we end. Being made of the world itself, they can be remade by the world. Born of fire, frozen in stone made of the meeting of fire and ice, our young friend slowly but surely became that which surrounded her. Little by little, the ice, warmed by her fire melted, seeped into her brittle stone shell, met her inner fire, and added a new layer of stone. Outside, the stone forced the ice into its own shape even as the ice ground away the stone. From the outside in, layer by layer, she went from fire, to stone, to ice.
Likewise, the glacier grew adding layers of ice and snow, slowly sliding down the mountain with the weight of all it was carrying, all that it had gathered over the centuries, everything in its path.
But even ice cannot outlast everything. As the earth warmed, the glacier retreated, calving chunks of itself into a lagoon at the edge of the earth. And one day, finally, the sheet which broke off the glacier was that one bit of ice that held her tight. Plunging into the water, swept towards the ocean, she felt her prison melt away.
And there she floats, letting salt and spray clean away the debris of centuries, waiting for the right moment to spread her wings.