He was blinded by the brightness of the sun as he looked around at all the children running around. It was a large plot of land fenced in with thick green grass growing throughout, except where there was hard stone around the pale blue pool of water.
The banner said “Happy 10th Birthday!” and the hats and dishes all said "party". He recognized that it was a birthday celebration, apparently for the boy over by the gate to the pool. His mother was there with something in her hands. She was following him around with it quickly, but with smooth moves, often turning it back towards herself and speaking a message for the boy to get later when he watches it again.
All of the children around him had looks of pure joy on their faces, even when they began to swing a club at a strange looking object hung from a tree near the corner of the fence.
He looked up at the yellow sun, confused, and was blinded again. This time when he opened his eyes, he was in his own bed in his own dark room just beginning to lighten with the rising sun.
He gave a shiver at the memory of the dream. What a strange world that was. He rubbed at burn he seemed to feel on his face and neck from that weird sun. When he encountered the leather that held his necklace to his throat, he paused. He took it off to look at again, which he did with rapture.
It was a tradition for a father to carve a pendant with the clan crest and the son’s name on it to present his son on his eighth birthday. It was a very private ritual to be observed by family alone to recognize that the son was strong, on his way to becoming a man. He’d gotten his just last year. You grew up quickly in a land such as theirs, and children never just run around playing games like those in his dream.
As the room got lighter with the red sunshine coming through his little window, he shook of his reverie, retied the leather at his neck, and began dressing for his day. Normally he wouldn’t worry about what he wore, because he would just be in the fields, but today was the day of the week that all the village kids had to tend to the large moat that surrounded their immediate land, clearing debris and rearranging the smooth stones the lined its shoreline.
He kept his clothing light as it would only get heavier when it got wet, but made sure not to forget his pistol. All children over the age of six was taught how to shoot and urged to carry one. The adults couldn’t be there every minute of every day, and while the moat kept most things out of the village, a dragon could simply fly over. If it spotted you and decided you looked like a decent meal, a pistol might be your only hope, if only to delay until help arrived.
Everyone over 16 learned magic, so they always tried to keep an eye to the sky, but they weren’t always effective when they did come to the rescue because they just wanted to use their magic, even if they weren’t any good at it. It was men like his father that are the real heroes. He was a highly skilled wizard and he just transforms the dragon or any other assaulting creature into something smaller for me to deal with. Unfortunately, his father was across the moat, checking the borders of the outlaying lands for any breach.
He headed out the door, ignoring the meat that was on the table probably meant for him and started heading toward the South side of the village where he and the others his age would start. He heard his mother call out to him. “Be careful at the large pools under the bridges. You know that’s where they gather and I don’t want you coming home bloody again!”
He called out his acknowledgement and went on his way. She was referring to the black carnivorous fish that swam the moat. They didn’t like the narrower channels much, but the sections under the bridges were wider, though just as deep. They weren’t very big, but they had a nasty bite that really hurt and would leave your flesh in ragged shreds. It wasn’t pretty last week, and the skin was healed but still stung a tiny bit sometimes when cold or hot water touched it.
He arrived at the usual meeting spot of the South bridge to find others getting started already. He was happy to see that. He had high hopes that if they got done with everything early enough they could get some fishing in.
He’d barely gotten to the edge of the water before he heard it; that intake of breath just before the blaze of green fire that came from the mouth of a dragon. He didn’t even look before he dove as far into the murky water as he could only to feel the bites of the congregation of fish he’d landed in.
He managed to thrash his way to the surface hoping to get to shore and pull out his pistol, thankful his father had imbued it with magic so that water wouldn’t make a difference to its use. As he looked up, he realized the fish were the least of his worries and his pistol wouldn’t be enough. There were three dragons swooping down on his group. One of them took his friend, a girl that lived just a few huts away from him, into its clawed foot and flew away.
The last thing he heard from her would haunt his nightmares for the rest of his life, “Guntherrrrrr!” in a bloodcurdling scream.