The Dragon Outside, Part 1

The cold, morning air felt like a godsend to Naima after having almost melted in the over-heated house. Her mother was anemic and always needed the heat to be on a few degrees higher than normal. She loved her mother and would live in a one-thousand degree home if that’s what was necessary for her mother to be comfortable. Stepping out into the cold was the gift the universe gave her for being understanding, at least that’s what she told herself. It was all okay in the end. Naima was well-cared for and her mother was happy.

As she ventured off into the forest behind their cottage, Naima remember the words of her mother: “Don’t go off too far and make sure to come back before the dusk settles.” She smiled at the advice of her dear mama. One day she would realize that Naima was 19-years-old, no longer a child, and that she’d already had her fair share of brushes with danger, though she’d never tell her mother that. In the land of Basab, unless one stayed inside all day, one would have had at least one meeting with death. The land was not so friendly to those that wished not to explore and learn its defenses and offenses. It would be the unsuspecting, mindless wanderer that would succumb to the vices of the Earth with no mercy granted.

Thick patches of moss grew on the trunks of the trees throughout the forest. Naima liked to get up close and wiggle her nose in them to take in the moist, earthy smell. She enjoyed breathing on them and creating clouds of condensation even more, feeling as though she were creating a kind of communication with the tiny ecosystem, as though she was its queen and gave it her blessing to make sure the inhabitants were treated fairly and kindly. She imagined a world of tiny people there having a party, dancing in the vapors.

Despite her tiny adventures around her home, there wasn’t much for her to do those days. After the king set off for a trip to a land they didn’t even have a name for, the people were made to wait for his return until they could press on with their daily affairs. While the soldiers that did not accompany the king were busy guarding the kingdom, the rest of the people busy being wary of potential intruders. No one wanted to attend their lessons, no one wanted to work full days. Naima would have normally worked in the seamstress shop, but she was placed on leave until the king’s return.

That left Naima to roam as she pleased, anywhere within the walls of the kingdom. There was one problem, and that was the fact that at one end of the Kingdom there wasn’t a clear boundary, but instead, a thick, deep, dark forest that most would not dare to explore unless they had the proper equipment and a team. Thick walls of bushes with sharp thorns, quicksand pits, and swamps covered in leaves made to look like simple forest floor were the defenses that acted as a trap to unsuspecting explorers. Naima’s cottage was already close to that area that many in the Kingdom called the Devil’s Foyer.

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