Chapter 30 – A Blossom in the Heart
Together we had overcome all the trials and tribulations to come our way. It was a very satisfying feeling to see my lizards being so capable and able to care for themselves. While still able to give them guidance, they were quite adept at discovering things on their own thanks to their natural curiosity and willingness to try new things.
While I focused on finishing the wings that had been put on pause, I watched as my lizards began adjusting to their new homes. Unlike in their home forest, there were no cliffs separating the shores from the forest of refuge, and relations between the shore colonies and other colonies greatly increased. Trade became more abundant than ever, and the shore colonies were able to help supplement the food of the forest with fish and seaweed in much greater amounts than before.
The influence of the shore colonies, in particular their competitive games of strength of agility, led to a certain discovery one day during a hunt for the agile leaping antelope-beasts of the forest. The lizards referred to the animals as Quick Springs for their ability to move quickly and spring high into the air to get away from danger. Their short ribbed horns that pointed backwards were rarely cause for concern as long as a lizard didn’t stand in front of one, and often they would leap over the lizards and avoid physical contact if possible. A group of hunters was setting up an ambush both around the target area and above it, the technique given to them by the hunters of the great snake beast.
After scaring the Quick Springs toward the ambush point, the hunters jumped from their positions, spears out, to impale the beasts for their meat and hide. One of the tree ambushers, however, missed his target, landing himself instead of the spear on the back of a Quick Spring. Not knowing what to do by the unexpected turn of events, the lizard held on tightly as the Quick Spring attempted to dislodge the predator atop its back. It ran, jumped, and bucked until eventually the lizard could hold on no more and was flung to the side, the beast escaping into the trees.
The failed ambusher was laughed at by the hunting party as several others confirmed their own successful kills, and although embarrassed and sporting new bruises, he laughed with them. The ride had been scary but also exhilerating. The adrenaline rush made him want to try again, and see how long he could last. Inspired by the games of the shore lizards, he sparked the idea of a competition to see who could stay on the back of a Quick Spring the longest. Amused and intrigued, the hunting party agreed after they brought back their spoils.
They again set up another ambush, but this time they did not use their spears, and the ground ambushers’ jobs were just to herd the Quick Springs to the right area, while the tree ambushers would attempt to stay atop the bucking Quick Springs. As another herd of Quick Springs came into view, the first rider’s adrenaline rose with anticipation at the coming thrill. The Thrill Seeker now timed his jump for landing on top of the beast rather than trying to spear it, a difficulty in and of itself, but he did manage another fantastic ride, along with several other members, before being thrown tail first to the ground.
Ripples of color in laughter filled his scales. He had lasted even longer that time, and much longer than any of the other lizards that tried. Everyone seemed to enjoy the new game. Though it did not give them any food or materials, it did give them a fun thrill. Their fun game sparked a memory within me of my people on the backs of great beasts of burden, riding like the wind, faster than their legs could carry them. The beasts that had once been wild were tamed and trained to follow the commands of its rider. Image after image flashed through my memory of the great achievements the beasts allowed, completely changing our history. I had remembered about crop farming, but the memories of animal domestication didn’t come to me until now. When the memory ceased, I looked upon the Quick Springs as my lizards did, and saw in them the lizards’ future.
To the Thrill Seeker who was already enamored with the beasts, it did not take much convincing from me to make him see the same future I did. All he needed was a single image of himself upon the back of a Quick Spring, not hanging on for dear life, but instead riding with the beast. Although just an image, the feeling of synergy between lizard and beast was carried with it, riding off into a future of untold possibilities. It made me smile to see the glittering colors of pleasant dreams dance across his scales as he slept and dreamed into the night.
The next day, the Thrill Seeker thought long about how to capture a Quick Spring. He knew how to kill one and how jump on its back, but as far as taking it into his custody, he was at a loss. The beast would not simply follow him because he desired it, and they were very skittish, particularly since they were hunted by the lizards. That he could now see the beast as both a source of food and companionship was an odd feeling for him, and he decided to give proper thought to those strange, seemingly conflicting, feelings.
He spoke with his bachelor group about his thoughts. They wondered what he would do with the beast if he would not eat it. To them, it seemed a waste of food and hide. To the lizards that hadn’t tried to hang onto the backs of the Quick Springs, it was difficult to explain. They wished him well with his odd endeavor as he went to seek out the other members of his hunting party to see if they also thought his idea was strange.
His hunting party, while they didn’t share the same zeal about the idea as the Thrill Seeker, they did at least understand his concept for desiring to ride on the back of one for longer than a few seconds. ‘What will you do if you capture one?’ one member shimmered on her scales in question. He responded, ‘I would go many places.’ When asked where he would go, his eyes took on a very far away look, one full of dreams, hopes, ambitions, and wonder. ‘I would go anywhere. Everywhere. To the edge of the world and beyond.’
Giggling glimmers of color spread across the faces and arms of the party at his enthusiasm, not in jest, but out of being impressed and amused. To them, the day before yesterday the Thrill Seeker had just been a youth full of energy but no where to use it. He had been put into a hunting party as a way to release that unending energy, but now he was driven, like he had found his purpose. Although they could not understand the scope of his dreams, as the edge of the world sounded very far away, they were glad for him that he at last had a goal.
As they discussed how he would capture one, a member wondered where he would keep it. You couldn’t keep it in one of their pit shelter homes, and they were able to leap high enough to clear any kind of wall you might build around them. That realization put a damper on the Thrill Seeker’s mood, bringing him back from the edge of the world to reality. But, in a typical youthful consequence-free manner, the Thrill Seeker concluded he would think about that when the time came. It caused another uproarious laugh through the group as some of the older members reminisced their own youthful endeavors.
At the very least, more than housing the beast, more than capturing it, the Thrill Seeker came to realize one thing. He first had to stay on its back. Before visions of grandeur could completely cloud his vision, he wanted to make the image from his dream a reality and stay on the back of a Quick Spring long enough to feel the wind on his scales, not the ground on his back. Although today was not one of their hunting days, the party agreed to accompany him out to the forest and help him get onto the back of another Quick Spring.
The first two attempts to ride a Quick Spring landed the Thrill Seeker on the ground in a matter of seconds, but by the third attempt he was finally getting the hang of it. Through trial and error, he learned that the placement of his weight to maintain balance was key, and a good hold on the coarse fur on the neck or shoulders made it a little easier to hold his posture. Having his legs straddling the back of the beast like in his dream made his ride attempts last much longer as he was able to shift his weight around following the motions of the beast. His party mates were impressed with how quickly he improved, inspiring some to give it another go as well using the Thrill Seeker’s newly discovered methods. None could last as long as he, but if nothing else, it was a good bit of fun.
After losing count of how many beasts he’d attempted to ride, the Thrill Seeker finally got on the back of a Quick Spring that after futilely trying to buck him off a couple times, changed tactics and instead sprinted for the trees. The Thrill Seeker clung to the fur for all he was worth, hugging his legs as tight as he could to the sides of the beast. It was scary, but more than that it was thrilling. Forcing himself to keep his eyes open, he saw as the trees flew by with the Quick Spring running and leaping between them. He felt like he was faster than the wind that rushed across his body. He wished the journey would never end, thinking he may just reach the edge of the world, but that trip was cut short as the Quick Spring again changed tactics back to bucking. The Thrill Seeker was unprepared for the sudden shift and was promptly thrown into the air, landing on his back hard enough to knock the wind out of him. The Quick Spring then took off again, eager to get away from the creature that had tried to claim its back.
Trying to regain his breath, the Thrill Seeker looked upwards through the trees, seeing hints of blue skies dotting through the green boughs. What a ride. He reminisced that feeling, capturing it so that he may recall it later. The sight of the trees blurring as they ran by, the sound of the wind across his ear holes, the sensation of the furry body he gripped combined with the rush of wind over his scales. It was exhilerating. He never wanted to forget, and hoped he’d have many more experiences like that.
Finally he heard vocal calls from his party mates that were searching for him after the beast had dashed away. He responded to their calls a bit hoarsely as his lungs still burned from the crash. His party found him still on his back on the forest floor. They were worried as they bent down to check on him, but the colors forming on his scales were ones of pleasure and satisfaction. Apparently there had been no need to worry. They picked him up and put him back on his wobbly feet and he tried to remember how to walk. When he mentioned he wanted another go, the party stared at him and his audacity, then after a moment burst again into laughter at this cheeky fellow who was not only not discouraged, but immediately wanted to try again. His fighting spirit emanating from his family heart sparked a fire in theirs. The Thrill Seeker only wished he could convey those same feelings to the beast as he rode on its back.
The group did take a small break to let the Thrill Seeker rest up a bit before continuing on, and after having a little breather, a couple split off to again search for the herd they had been terrorizing all day. As the stench of blood and death was absent from the area, the herd didn’t travel too terribly far in between their trials and stayed fairly easy to locate. The rest of the party set up at the predetermined area, and the Thrill Seeker readied himself on a low branch near the ground.
He heard the clicking of hooves on the black rock as the Quick Springs ran from their pursuers. The Thrill Seeker became hyperfocused as several beasts came into view, and his world for a brief moment only consisted of himself and them. He watched them as they leapt about, waiting for the right moment, then he jumped. It felt as if time slowed down as he watched his legs aim for the right position on the beast now in slowmotion. When he landed, he quickly adjusted his balance, gripped hard with his legs and his hands, and like last time, clung for dear life as the animal began bucking. The Thrill Seeker constantly shifted his weight, paying close attention to the movements of the Quick Spring, and using all the experience he had gained that day about their habits to remain upright. After a while of jumping and leaping about, this Quick Spring also changed to the tactic of sprinting to dislodge the interloper upon its back. Again the Thrill Seeker let his balance fall in line with the motions from the Quick Spring.
They took off through the trees, dodging thick trunks and leaping over bushes, but the Thrill Seeker held on. He was better at thinking on the fly than formulating large complex plans of action, but flying through the forest did not even afford him that luxury. He wanted to tell the Quick Spring of his desire, and wanted to know if it too wanted to see the edge of the world. But the beast did not understand the colors swirling on his scales.
I came to him in that moment when his desire reached its peak, about to break under the stress of being unable to release it and calling out to me. I fell in line with the Thrill Seeker as if I too were trying to ride on the back of the Quick Spring. The memories of history and my own personal experience atop a riding beast calmly flowed into the lizard. And with one last push, both of us desiring to ride the beast together, our two hearts and minds as one, a voiceless cry resounded.
It was like a soundless thunder that rippled and blossomed over the three of us. The place in the middle of the Thrill Seeker’s chest where the family heart resided sent a light blue wave of color across his skin. To my limitless eyes, it seemed as if the blue color also washed over the Quick Spring from where the lizard and beast were connected.
Silence came over the area by a small stream where the Quick Beast had halted. As if coming out of a trance, the echo of the shared pulse between rider and beast faded as his heart settled and the sound of the world around him returned. His half-lidded eyes spring open as he came to realize he was no longer moving, the beast beneath him stopped in its tracks. Its chest rose and fell with heavy breaths as it regained its energy from the tiring sprint. I disconnected myself from the Thrill Seeker and watched as it finally dawned on him that the beast was no longer trying to remove him from its back.
His heartbeat rapidly increased, a strange unbelievable happiness spread over his scales and through his family heart. Adrenaline filled his body, his goal of riding a beast complete. But now he was at a loss. He didn’t know what to do. The memories I’d shared with him when we were connected were hazy at best, but he recognized that rider and beast moved as one unit. He did not know how to urge the Quick Spring forward now that he had accomplished his first goal. Just like the moment he desperately committed to memory of his first real ride on the beast, he now fell into that same state of mind, trying to recall every detail of his experience.
After reliving his own memory, on a whim, he focused on his family heart and the beast. Through his heart he shared his desire to travel, to run together again, to reach new heights and the farthest edges of the world. He resonated with the beast, sharing his emotions and dreams. And then, through the heart, he willed his new partner forward. The Quick Spring then took the first step towards their now shared future.
That day, both the Thrill Seeker and I learned something new about ourselves. I could connect with the lizards on a much deeper level than I ever imagined, and if their desire was great enough, the lizards themselves could connect and share their family heart with not only their family, but other creatures as well. It was a future I could not have imagined being set into motion, and I eagerly awaited to see the result of the Thrill Seeker’s efforts and the realization of his dreams.