They awoke to the tumult of morning birds.  The fireflies of the night before were replaced by clouds of insects rising from the meadow in a living mist, and countless shimmering dragonflies glinted in the low-hanging sun as they hunted within the mist.  Three hummingbirds sat on a nearby bush and watched Aithan stir, then flew off as one in a dazzle of color.  As Aithan arose he felt himself renewed by the energetic life of the meadow and the promise of the rising sun.  Then he remembered the new dream he had dreamed in the night and he smiled.

The magician arose not long after, supporting himself with his staff and complaining in his way of the treacheries of old age.  Aithan listened to it all and felt complete happiness as he packed up their camp.  The magician noticed he was being genially ignored.

“You seem in fine spirits today, boy.”

Aithan welcomed the invitation to speak.  “Yes, I had a new dream last night.”

The magician waited, but Aithan said no more.  His face became serious.

“Tell me, if you would be so kind, what was this new dream?”

“I dreamed of the dragon again, like every night.  It has hard sharp scales and evil red eyes, you know that.  It was looking for me, as always, and this time it found me.”  The magician watched a flash of dread shoot across the boy’s face.  He had heard the tale of this dream many times, but never before had the dragon found its prey.  For an instant he shared the boy’s dread.  Aithan finally went on.

“But when it started to come towards me, was almost upon me, another dragon appeared by my side.  It was soft and warm, not scaly, and it had eyes made of pure gold, and it was as strong as the world, and the evil dragon was angry and afraid and would not come near it.  Then the warm dragon turned to me and said ‘Do not fear these demons, for the King guards you from their wickedness.’”  As Aithan spoke of this soft dragon and its soothing words, peace returned to his features.  After another pause, he added, “I hope I have the dream again tonight,” and there was longing in his voice.

The magician pondered this man-boy whom villagers called the Baby Bull.  The magician had never been a big man, and now Aithan was a full head taller than him, and with the strength to be worthy of his nickname.  But he was still the boy, the orphan, the child afraid of bad dreams.  He would have to grow up very quickly now.  The magician blinked and turned away.  Soon Aithan had loaded their belongings onto the donkey and they were headed through the final mountain pass that would bring them to the sea, eating carrots and dried beef as they walked along the road in the silence of their thoughts.

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