Waking comes slowly, rolling over me in soft waves of sensation that tease me into consciousness… blissful heat, a scent that means safety, a hint of fecund greenery not far from where I lay… and a gentle nudging that lifts me until my eyes pop open to find her soft amber eyes gazing at me from above, “Time to get up, sleepy head…,” the rumbling voice chuckles as she settles me to my haunches and moves slightly away.
She is a marvel of shimmering green, my mother. Wings neatly folded over lithe shoulders, she sits with a curious and amused look as she waits….
‘I’m hungry!’ I mewl to the room at large. The amusement on her face spreads to full humor as she nods, “You wouldn’t be much of a dragon if you weren’t, dear…” and from nowhere, she whisks a platter to rest in front of me.
The smell rising from the heap brings a strange cramping to my middle, and my mouth is like a river as I scoot forward to snatch up the meal, nature teaching me by need as the bones and hearty meat spread over my tongue, bringing a sense of delight much the same as finding warmth. The incredible size of the meal seems much less so now… over half eaten and reaching hungrily for the rest, I slant a gaze to her, ‘Is there more?’
She laughs and it sounds like music, such harmonics one might not expect from something so massive and solid, “In time, little one, in time. There are other things to tend to this day besides the eternal growling of a hatchling’s belly.”
Now it is my turn to look curious as I gaze about the room, ‘Like what, mother?’ Her chuckle is my only answer, “Come with me and see for yourself, dear…” Torn between licking the platter and being left behind, I stand alone in the empty room before a loud noise outside the window spooks me… skittering over the straw-strewn floor, I bolt from the room and down the large, arched hallway to catch up with her. She has not altered her step, but her low chuckle drifts back to me as I match her pace and try to school my features into calmness.
There are sounds in the distance, low and resonant chimes. We seem to be moving toward them, along the corridor and out the front door into a huge courtyard flanked by towering marble walls. In the middle of the yard, a shallow pool ripples and lush vegetation drapes luxuriously over edge and wall alike. The smells of flora and earth, the wavering chimes drifting upon the air, the warmth of the sun upon my scales… I take it all in as we walk sedately across the expanse to the ornate building that lies ahead.
From all sides come dragons. Amazed and slightly awed, I watch them moving… slow and noble, somber and graceful, color upon color and each strikingly beautiful in its own way. I see other hatchlings, each walking behind a female, most goggling as freely as I, some nodding and smiling to me.
‘Mother, what is this place?’ I whisper curiously. “Hush, little one,” her voice drifts down to me, “This is the naming day and we go to the temple to bestow true names and common names upon the hatchlings.” She smiles to me before continuing, “Today you choose your common name and give it to the scribes for their histories. And you choose for yourself your ‘true name’ — the name that will be bond and gift to others as you travel through the world, the name that means your honor, and upon which you are bound to act on behalf of whomever calls you.”
The whispers of the ancestors rose about me as she spoke, each in our line imparting to me an insight about the naming traditions and the duty of the Helian to the world and to dragon-kind. Others spoke of those who came before, their deeds, good and bad… giving me as many chances to be namesake as ever a hatchling could ask. Mother fell silent… almost as if she knew the many words I would be hearing at this moment.
The surrounding world, temporarily unimportant as I saw in image or heard in whispers my ancestors and honored their memories by my attention. From furthest memory to the sharing of our world with newcomers to the great schism to the onslaught of the Withered Aegis, my forebearers passes through my mind to share their wisdom with me.
As we finally approached the temple, the whisperings faded to silence… turning to my mother, I sighed, ‘How will I ever choose? There is so much from which to select…’
Her smile was soft and filled with understanding, “Little one, there is within each of us a shared gem of racial memory. What it will mean to us is as individual a thing as we are… think upon the words of our ancestors, contemplate your place in time, and let your spirit guide you to the your naming.”
Moving behind me, she gently pressed me forward, toward the doorway. All around me, I witnessed the ancients sending their young forward to discover their names and their place in the world. Drawing a deep breath to steady myself, I lifted my head and stepped through the doorway into the temple… onto sacred ground….