Scalybark Hickory

Dim light filtered through the smoke that hung among the trees in the woods, piercing the smoggy veil in a fit of feeble rays. The air felt thick and close, dampening all sound and clinging to Camlen’s skin like a cool and sticky breath.

He walked through the woods, crushing fallen leaves and snapping twigs in careful, muted steps. The smoke grew thicker, stinging his throat as he breathed. Camlen squinted his watering eyes, peering through the haze until he finally came to a tall and looming tree. It had smooth and shiny bark, scored with tiny, diamond-shaped scales that shifted color in the dim light.

Camlen’s heart quickened. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a scale, soft in the middle yet jagged around the edges. Then he put a hand to the tree. Just like the scale, the bark was both sharp and soft, like hardened leather embossed with glass.

Camlen continued around it, running his hand along the bark until his finger snagged against the sharp edge of a scale. He gasped and sucked on his injured finger, the tang of blood metallic on his tongue.

Then the ground trembled, and the smoke grew so thick that Camlen could no longer see–it was all he could do breathe between fitful and ragged coughs. The soil beneath his feet shifted, and Camlen was pitched to the ground. He tried peering through the haze, but the tears streaming from his eyes rendered the world to a watery blur.

A shadow moved through the smoke, and a deep rumbling resonated through Camlen’s chest. And then, before he had a chance to get to his feet, a great head of a dragon brought its scaled snout to Camlen’s nose.

“Soft flesh,” the dragon rumbled. Smoke twined from its nostrils, smelling of burnt wood and rusted iron. “It wakes me from my slumber, though for what reason, I do not know.” It breathed out a puff of smoke in Camlen’s face. “Perhaps it wants to be eaten.”

Camlen cringed back as far as he dared, yet did not move away. “N-no. Not eaten, uh… Oh Great One.”

“Then why?”

Camlen waved a trembling hand in the air. “It’s t-the s-smoke, Oh Great One. It’s s-so thick it b-blocks the sunlight. Our c-c-crops are withering.”

“I care nothing for your crops.”

“I-I expect n-not, Oh Great One. B-but perhaps you c-care about this.” He opened his hand, showing a perfect, diamond-shaped scale.

The dragon growled, and Camlen cringed.

“What does it want?”

“N-nothing,” Camlen said. “They say a d-dragon can’t fly without all his s-scales. That dragons will g-guard them like the finest of treasures. If this is y-yours, then take it. P-please.”

The dragon watched him with a great, jewel-like eye and then, with a great claw, reached out and took the scale. The feeble light was blocked as a pair of massive bat-like wings stretched across the sky. The wind gusted, swirling the smoke and fallen leaves into a whirlwind. And then, almost as soon as it began, it was over.

Camlen peered up at the sky as the smoke slowly dissipated. For the first time in months, he could feel the sunlight on his face. He smiled a shaky grin, and then he passed out on the cool forest floor.


28 Comments

  1. Love it! Scalybark Hickory is such a good pairing of words.

  2. Well at least he passed out with a smile and he definitely deserves the rest. Brave young man that one. Love the idea.
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Tasha. And yeah, he definitely deserves to just lie there a while. 😉

  3. I can feel it in my lungs!

  4. I’ll be back again for more!
    A to Z blogger

  5. Ha! I love the visuals in this one! The smoke, the scaly tree, the jewel-eyed dragon… Very intense 🙂

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

  6. I love that you started calling it a tree and then showed us that it was a dragon. It’s a lovely short story.

  7. Oh, dragons!!! I love your take at it. The ending surprised me. It was very nice 🙂

  8. Oooo so special Sara thank you! I agree it ’twas good Camlen smiled. Brave young man. I love all your tree stories..

  9. Brave, brave man – and I like the idea of a dragon needing all its scales to fly 🙂
    Sophie
    Sophie’s Thoughts & Fumbles
    FB3X
    Wittegen Press

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks Sophie, I also thought the scale-thing was kind of interesting. 🙂

  10. How does an unsuspecting hero react to beating a dragon at a game of wits? He faints. Classic. 😀

  11. Hi Sara … fascinating to read and see how the story developed – wonderful the dragon realised he needed his scale back .. and then Camlen’s world would get better too .. cheers Hilary

  12. Scalybark Hickory, as Fee says, and Camlen. I love the name. I am inclined to comment as you did on Fee’s site — so right up my alley, both your site and Fee’s, I want to type in all caps. 🙂

    Great story. I was right there in the woods hearing the twigs snap. Excuse me. I’ve got to get a drink of water — my throat is burning from all that smoke.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks Samantha for such a great comment. Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  13. Wow this is the third in a row that I can see as picture books! T being the third. Complete awe here.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Djinnia. I was on a bit of a lighthearted, whimsy kick. 😉

  14. Lori Wing

    Wow! I was holding my breath, both for Camlen and because of the anticipation of what might happen next. I agree with Djinnia, this would make an excellent picture book, and so many of these would.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Lori. I’ll really have to think about writing some books for kids, perhaps. 😉

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