The Flower of Six Petals: A Darid Folktale
Once, in the buttes of Darid, there lived a Lambrose dragon and her husband. Neither of them were of great beauty, but they were honest farmers, spreading seed far and wide with their great wings.
One day, the husband fell gravely ill. His scales were so dry they cracked, but his nose and eyes wept with mucus. His great body racked with shivers as if he was buried in Mount Artesh’s deep snows. Yet, with a touch, the sun’s heat seemed to radiate off of him. The dragon couldn’t breathe a simple flame, let alone use his magic to ease his own suffering. To the wife’s horror, he grew worse by the day, and soon the husband did not recognize her, but murmured incoherently about strange visions.
The wife knew that if she did not act fast, then her husband would die. Yet, no matter what doctor she brought to their humble cottage, none could heal him. Desperate, the wife flew to the Feylands, where there were rumors that the monsters, the Fey, had ancient knowledge that they were willing to share – for a price.
Through the Artesh Pass she flew, soaring over the empty, wild plains of the Barrier, past the stone Obelisks that bordered the Feylands. The Obelisks, like towering spears threatening to piece the sky, struck terror at her heart, but the wife, holding firm to her hope, flew on. Just as her wings were growing heavy, and it seemed that the northern cold would frost her feathers with ice, the wife saw a glimmering fire in the night black forest. Nearly delirious with exhaustion, the wife descended.
Hoping for safety, for warmth, for kindness, and most of all answers, she landed in the fire’s small grove. Faces rose to greet hers, but, to her mounting horror, she didn’t recognize a single creature. Snarling beasts, with gleaming saber teeth, circled around the campfire, seeming to grow, shift, morph with each flicker of the fire. Nearly hidden in their hazy coats of shadow were eyes that held the world’s deepest secrets. Eyes that were as old as the world itself.
The wife felt as if she would melt in front of their hatred, pull apart at her seams from the magic that seemed to breathe from their smoke bodies. Her heart threatening to fly from her chest, the wife spread her wings, preparing to take off again, to flee or to fight for her life.
Yet, as she felt the southern wind tease her feathers, pulling her homeward, the wife looked into the fire and saw her husband’s red scales. A sob burst from her unbidden, and tears streamed down her jawbone. Despite her shaking legs, the wife stood firm, and although fear gripped her every bone, she looked upon the Fey.
“Please,” she cried, bowing her full length in front of the figures, “Please, save my husband. I cannot live without him.”
The beasts halted, although their forms still flickered in the night. Then, with the sound of wind over the fields, the Fey gathered, melting into one another. The wife’s wide eyes followed as the monsters became one.
A LIFE CANNOT BE SAVED WITHOUT A LIFE GIVEN. The Fey’s voice thundered, echoing in her skull, shaking the trees. The fire blew over, nearly dying, and the Fey half melted into the night.
“Please,” the wife cried, “I will give my life. Just save my husband.”
NO. The wife’s tears pooled beneath her at the Fey’s answer. NOT YOUR LIFE. TOO FREELY GIVEN. I WILL TAKE THE LIVES OF EVERY CREATURE IN YOUR VILLAGE IN EXCHANGE FOR YOUR HUSBAND’S LIFE.
The wife could not speak. She stared into those eyes, eyes like stars, and just as old. Just as careless. Just as cruel.
With a whisper heard by the stars alone, the wife said, “Deal.“
The Fey nodded once.
The fire melted, coursing down into the soil, creating lines and angles around its pit. Ancient runes, one after another, formed. Magic choked the air.
The wife hissed as one of her feathers plucked itself and soared over to the fire’s ashes. With a twirl, the feather speared itself into the embers, becoming long and slender.
Beneath her claws, her fallen tears rose up, glittering, and merged onto the feather’s stem.
From her throat, a flame was pulled, and it came to the stem, burning like the sun.
Her right wing rose unbidden, and from her feathers came the summer winds, dry as a drought. They condensed, coming to the stem.
The winter’s snowy winds flew from her left wing, bringing the mountain’s wrath upon them. With the fury of a storm, the winds tangled, joining the stem.
The stars themselves seemed to melt from the heavens, and a drop, containing all of Ravieka’s wonder, molded itself to the stem.
Then the Fey themself plucked a piece of their own body, a piece of smoke that became diamond dust as it fit onto the stem.
The Fey gestured to the wife, who came forward to the otherworldly Flower.
A PETAL FOR WATER, FOR MOISTURE. A PETAL FOR THE SUN, AND ITS HEAT. A PETAL FOR THE DRIEST OF SUMMERS. A PETAL FOR THE COLDEST OF WINTERS. A PETAL FOR THE FAITHFUL, AND THE SPARK INSIDE EACH OF US. A PETAL FOR THE MAGIC, WHICH BINDS THIS WORLD TOGETHER.
A FLOWER OF SIX PETALS.
At the last crashing word, the Fey vanished as if they had never been. All that was left before the wife was the Flower, burning brightly like a beacon. Gently, the wife took the Flower up in her claws, and flew towards home. Towards her husband.
Darid rose below her as the morning sun lit her left wing. She soared down to her village, but no one greeted her. Instead, the bodies of her friends and neighbors lay in their beds, their lives taken by shadows in the night. Grief choked her, but the wife flew to her own home.
Her husband lay as she had left him, delirious, tremoring. She settled over him, and gently plucked each petal before placing it on his tongue.
“A petal for water, for moisture.” His scales began to lose their cracks, their shine returning.
“A petal for the sun, and its heat.” His shivers ceased, and his muscles relaxed.
“A petal for the driest of summers.” The mucus around his nose cleared and vanished.
“A petal for the coldest of winters.” The heat radiating off his body cooled.
“A petal for the faithful, and the spark inside all of us.” His murmurs ended, his visions disappeared.
“A petal for the magic, which binds this world together.” Like electricity in the air, his magic flooded his body.
“A Flower of Six Petals.” She finished, and waved the stem over his body. At his tailtip, the stem disintegrated into ashes.
The husband’s eyes opened. As the Fey promised, he was healed. They both cried tears of joy.
However, for all that her husband was alive, they were both aware of the burden that had fallen across their wings. Their village was gone, every home and shop a coffin, ringing empty with the wind.
Although they could never repay the lives that were lost, the wife and husband chose to travel across Themble, bringing their newfound knowledge of medicine to the ill, from the smallest cough to the greatest fever. And so the knowledge of the Flower of Six Petals was not lost, but was born, and spread its seeds in the hearts and minds of doctors everywhere.