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The Dragon Tamer

Part Two

Dinner time later that day was only slightly delayed, and by that time Miko felt that her mother had already forgotten the incident with the stranger from earlier. Maybe because Miko herself had forgotten it the moment meal preparations started.

The barbequed cheese was just as squidgy as Miko liked it, tasted wonderfully paired with the baked aubergines Orma bought from Abdia and the apple pie was just a dream. The pomegranates were turned into juice, and Miko got a belly full of it. Life was good. No need to worry about strangers dressed in fancy robes and eerie face tattoos.

Not a lot would darken Miko’s mood, not even her mother’s scolding when she did something naughty. Which was rather often.

She loved to watch her mother prepare food and she most loved eating it, she loved being with her family and listening to the desert wind whisper its stories to the sand dunes. Not many things outside of that circle held Miko’s thoughts for long, and she was certain that life was always going to be like that, it would always come down to how good your dinner was at the end of the day.

‘We saw one of the Ezekhari today.’

Orma and her husband were washing the dinner dishes in a terracotta pot that sat over the freshly lit fire pit where earlier dinner was prepared. Orma was wearing her camel-wool shawl and steam was coming out of her mouth. The stars were very bright that night, which meant the temperature was very low.

The desert got cold after sunset. One could easily get hypothermia if they spent the night out wearing nothing but their daytime garments. It had happened to Uncle Hazim, about two years before.

Orma always said that his love for the booze was going to get him killed, and Miko deduced that he must have been terribly drunk the night he decided to go visit a woman named Rahel who lived in the neighbouring village only wearing his cotton robe. Not even the shirt and trousers that customary went underneath the robe, which Miko found most bizarre. Apparently, he did that often when he paid a visit to his lady friends. Anyway, long story shortened…they found him not far away from his home, blue as a bluebell and stiff as a board.

‘He always was a libertine…’ Orma would add during the meal given after his funeral, and Miko never thought that sounded like a compliment, but she did not know what libertine meant and was embarrassed to ask.

Miko was eavesdropping now on her parents’ conversation. It was not her intention, but she came back to ask for more pomegranate juice before bed and hadn’t dared interrupt them.

She could not see her father from where she was hiding, right behind the entrance to their yurt, but she could see his hand passing on plates to Orma for washing.

‘The Ezekhari? Impossible.’ he replied.

‘Believe it.’ Orma said, nodding her head in certainty.

‘They don’t normally travel so far into these parts.’ Her father’s voice continued.

Orma did not say anything.

‘Do you think it has anything to do with the dragon they found dead near the Red Sea?’

Miko was shocked by the news. Who or what would be able to kill a dragon? A human being? Another dragon, maybe?

She had never seen a dragon up close, but she saw one once, when she was three, circling their village, high, high in the sky. Since then, she had always wondered how big they were and if they could really speak to you, like she’d heard.

A sudden wind gust almost put the fire out and sent chills down Miko’s spine inside the yurt. The last thing she saw before she decided to go back to bed was Orma looking back at her husband, an icy gleam in her eyes. Again, she said nothing, but Miko felt deeply disturbed by that silence.

The next morning brought the sun tumbling down the village, like every other morning.

The market day had passed, and no one brought up word of the dead dragon or the Ezekhari again.  The days turned into weeks and those turned into months, and then before Orma knew she’d blinked, her little Miko had almost become a young woman.

Tabahir was a full-grown antelope now and her horns had curled inwards, like old roots on a tree. She had had two babies, but neither of them survived past the first hours of life. Orma cried next to Tabahir for hours that night and eventually fell asleep next to the animal in her stable.

‘There’s nothing like the loss of a child in this world, my sweet girl. I hope you never get to learn that yourself.’ Orma said to Miko the following morning, caressing the frail Tabahir. Miko knew that Tabahir went on to heal from that experience, but suspected Orma never did.

Miko had followed in her father’s footsteps, and she too became a bookkeeper for the copper mine in Takhesi. She might have been a restless child and spirited teenager, but she had a head for numbers.

And numbers were going through her mind now, while she and her father were traversing the desert on their way to work.

The camel she was on was exceptionally stinky, and she could not help but get distracted by it and also worry that she was going to smell of it all day.

‘I wish I had brought some spare clothes’ she growled, identifying Takhesi in the close distance, shading her eyes from the sun with her hand.

Although they did not live too far from Takhesi and the journey back and forth lasted around an hour, Miko and her father were dependent on the camels because there was no other way of getting across the dunes in between the two settlements.

‘I always have a spare set of clothes in the chamber on the first floor’ her father explained.

‘Wise.’ Miko growled some more. ‘That’s why you’re the old one…’

They could feel it before they could hear it. Strong winds coming from behind them, blowing the sand over them, making the camels unsettled.

When Miko turned around, she could see the horizon darkened by an impossibly large creature.

‘Is that a bird?’ she wondered out loud.

‘No. It’s a dragon.’

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