The fire gleamed a pale orange as Mother Iwilanga fed it, as if contended with the dry bundles of grass and the gentle breeze that nourished its hot fingers. However, as Iwilanga sat down, humming an ancient lullaby, the fire grew angry. She straightened and watched it in consternation. The fire flared and grew in height, flames curling in red tongues. Images in the flame danced in front of the old healer. She quickly grabbed handfuls of earth.
“What do you see?” Lysander asked, shuffling closer to the flame. Iwilanga tossed a handful of red dirt on the fire. It hissed in reply.
“Brother, do not test the flame's reach.”
Lysander returned to his original position as the blaze began to burn blue. Iwilanga's voice grew in volume as her lullaby morphed into a different song, using gutteral incantations to calm the chaos of the flames. Suddenly a large gust of wind blew in and the fire burst into hot white flame. Lysander gasped and sheilded his eyes but Iwilanga sat still and watched the fire until it died low and settled in a contented dull orange.
Mother Iwilanga stood up and brushed aside the canvas door. Lysander soon followed her from her hut. She stood on her hill with a solemn expression as she watched the plumes of dust rise from the trail of nomads that were now migrating slowly to the east. She looked at the patches of dead grass that dotted her land from where the tents were set up and nodded to herself, grateful the tribe had moved on.
“It would be best if you went inside, penmaster,” Mother said as she looked to the skies. “A friend of mine is coming to visit. It is best if you do not look directly into the sun. It will burn you.”
“In all manner of respect, Mother, I think I'd rather face the dangers of burning by the sun than by the fire in your hut,” Lysander answered.
Mother did not speak for a long while, watching the sky in silence. Finally she noticed the gleam in the sky she had been waiting for. In broad daylight the gleam looked like nothing more than a wisp of silver cloud, but if one looked close enough, they would see it moved too fast. It twisted and writhed in the sky until it seemed to disappear altogether. Mother Iwilanga shielded her eyes, trying to see past the sun. Suddenly great white wings unfurled, blocking the light of the sun and revealing the beautiful body of a large white dragon.
The dragon landed on the grass on its hind legs before digging its foot-long fore-talons into the soft earth. Mother Iwilanga did not cringe as the dragon lowered its muzzle to brush her head. Its warm breath rustled her hair, smelling strongly of apples and black tea.
“My eyes deceive me.”
The dragon suddenly lifted its head and snorted hot air as Mother Iwilanga turned to look at Lysander. The thin man wore a look of utter bewilderment. The dragon pawed the ground and roared aggresively. Iwilanga sighed as she took a couple of steps toward the ivory dragon to put a steady hand on its heaving chest.
“Come hatchling, do not fear the beetle when it fears more of you. Hide yourself so I may speak to you eye to eye," Mother spoke in a gentle, rumbling voice. The dragon rumbled in reply.
The white dragon scanned one emerald eye over Lysander before arching its neck and spreading its wings wide. The dragon seemed to fold in upon itself until eventually only a woman dressed in white robes remained.
"I trusted you," the woman snarled.
Mother Iwilanga shook her head and folded hands in solemn expression. "I'm afraid many things are about to change, but trust should not be one of them. Come, hatchling. There is much we must discuss."