Occasionally we all get lost. We think we know the way, we launch out, and we get turned around, and we lose the path we were on. That’s common. Sometimes though, we never knew the way.
Solan was a young dragon when I first met her, bumping outside my window on a fall night. I welcome anything that comes to me. She was cold and tired and the size of a house cat. She was my first dragon. Dragons aren’t common cryptids in the US or Canada. Lake serpents, yes. We have a lot of those. She told me she was searching for her home. I asked where she was from, and she thought, Solan. Her name? No, a place she was named for. I put her a soft pillow near the fire and sat down with her. I didn’t know what to feed her, but she said she liked pennies. She was obviously some sort of metal dragon. I raided my change jar and washed the pennies off and she ate them from a small bowl. She told me that she lived near here, but she didn’t want to. She’d been adopted as a pet, which is illegal. Her “family” had recently started to take her scales off. They said they were real gold. Every morning she’d awaken and find more scales taken. I was horrified. She’d heard them talking about declawing her, hoping her nails were solid gold. She slipped through a window screen, flown for several nights. She was looking for Solan, she believed to be her “real home”. I got out my laptop, and we sat down to look up lots of stuff.
Solan turned out to be a city in India. We looked up dragons in India. We discovered there weren’t a lot of dragons in India, only a few in mythologies (standard records of fact for cryptids and magical creatures). She knew she was a gold dragon, but that was it. “They restricted what I was allowed to read.” So we looked up “gold dragons” online. Thank you, Internet, for having information inaccessible any other way for some folks. “But how do I find others like me?” That was harder. Dragons don’t have a Group Facebook page. That’s not the way Hidden creatures work. I’d never gone to look for a Hidden I didn’t already know —they’d usually find me. “I want to learn more about who and what I am.” I told her I would do my best to find some group of dragons for her. Until then she could stay here. She’d be safe here and have all the pennies she wanted.
“It says here I might like to eat gemstones. Do you have any of those?” I said I would look. Who did I know who might know about dragons around here? “I could be from China! They have gold dragons there. Is China near here?” If I were a flying dragon, I’d want to hide out in a place where people weren’t. Deserts, mountains, deep forests, caves. “Do I have to hoard treasure?” she asked. She was absorbing everything on the Internet. “I think you get to be the kind of dragon you want to be. I would not take any of that as rules on how to be a dragon, okay?” She needed dragon mentors, fast. “It says I might be able to produce fire!” She immediately lit up the pillow. I ran over, “Amazing! That’s awesome!” and stamped out the flame with my shoes. “I think you should practice aiming at the fireplace.” I went out to a forest to ask a friend who might know. I came back and she was crying. What happened? I asked her. “Do you know how many stories there are of slaying dragons? So many pictures. It’s everywhere. No wonder my family hurt me! Maybe I deserved it. Those stories have evil dragons—and I don’t know if I’m evil.” I went down to the burnt pillow and held her and said, “No, Solan, you did nothing wrong, you are nothing bad. You didn’t deserve to be treated badly. Dragons are like anything else—neither bad nor good. Certainly not inherently evil.” I took her cradled in my arms to a mirror, “Just look at you.” I said, “You are not evil. We’re going to find you a new family, okay?” She seemed comforted, “Are we going to China?” We were not.
But three days later, we did drive for about 5 hours till we came to a set of bluffs and cliffs near a river. Here was a group of magical creatures, not all of them dragons, but a few. My friend had sent birds to ask if we could meet up with this hidden enclave. I brought hiking and climbing gear because getting there was not easy. She flew up, resting ahead of me. “I think I want to change my name,” she said. Huffing and puffing I told her that sounded perfectly fine. “I hope they like me.” I assured her they would, and secretly hoped I was right. I was right. At the mouth of a cave near the bluffs, a much bigger dragon greeted us. He was winged, a deep green, with a kind, toothy smile, and I was humbled to meet him. “And I’m humbled to meet you,” he said. “Thank you for rescuing one of us and bringing her to safety. We are eager to meet her.” I saw other Hiddens behind him, some of them very young like her. I said, “Well, then, I am very pleased to introduce my friend, a gold dragon named Penny.”