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The Alchemist Calypso
It is common knowledge that dragons rarely give away their eggs. Yet high into the mountains climbs a young alchemist who searches for just that. Her journey has taken her across the ocean, through the plains, and into the jungles for three demanding months. Now she braves the sky, desperate to acquire this exclusive item.
The mountains are a treacherous landscape, their surface scarred by jagged stones. Speckles of dry yellow grass spot the cliffs causing mountian goats to gather around the scarce food. A storm stretches over the peaks, releasing a flood of water to pour down the mountain side. Calypso rushes into a cave, a large yawning hole carved by centuries of erosion. She watches lightning electrocute the clouds, for a second illuminating her surroundings before the darkness takes hold once again. To pass the time Calypso sorts through her bags, recounting ingredients for what must have been the hundredth time. Three white hairs from a unicorn’s mane, the stolen scale of a mermaid, a vial of sunlight, and a black rose. Her fingers gently caress each object, placing all her hope into each atom. A deafening clap of thunder rattles the mountain, followed by another burst of lightning.
“My oh my, what a storm.” A voice whispers in Calypso’s ear, sending her into a scramble away from the sound. She peers into the darkness, eyes frantically searching for a figure. But the cave is empty. Shaking her head, she ignores the sound, deciding it to be only a figment of her imagination.
“But it has been years since a human entered by cave.”
This time Calypso knows it is real, she can feel its hot breath on the nape of her neck. “Who is there?” She calls into the void, nervous fingers fumbling through her bag for a torch. Striking it on the rough stone, she illuminates the hollow space. A glorious pile of glittering jewels, gems, and coins covers the cavern floor. She would have begun to grab handfuls of the treasure were it not for the beast that laid at the top of the pile. Dull red scales cover its enormous body. Two crooked black horns erupt from its colossal head. Hot steam billows from its nostrils as it fixes its beady yellow eyes on Calypso.
“What do you want human?” Its voice is smoother than its appearance, reminding Calypso of an overbearing mother.
“I...I want your egg.” The flame quivers on the walls as her body shakes with it.
Its eyes narrow. “What does a human need my egg for?”
She bows her head to the dragon, causing greasy brown hair to fall over her face, “I need it for a potion. I am an alchemist and have traveled very far to ask for your egg.”
The dragon chuckles, its gleaming claws tightening around the treasures. “What sort of potion is this human? I should like to know.”
Calypso hesitates. While her intentions for the potion are noble, the reasoning is humiliating.
“Human. Answer me.” The dragon growls, the rumble causing loose coins to rattle on the floor.
“I am brewing a love potion.”
“Love potion? My egg will not go to such a trivial matter. Be gone with you.” A robust roar extinguishes the flame and sends Calypso’s ragged clothes into a tizzy.
“Wait! The love potion is not for a lonely heart. Rather, I wish to use it on myself.” She races closer to the pile, blinding tripping in the dark.
A new flame, this time from the dragon’s mouth illuminates the cavern. “What do you mean by this human?”
Calypso hangs her head in shame, already fighting tears. “I do not love myself. For years I have looked in the mirror to only see ugliness staring back at me. If I had a love potion, I could love myself.”
The dragon contemplates this, studying Calypso’s soul with glowing eyes. “This is a noble plan human. I shall grant you my egg.”
With a flick of its scaly tail, the egg rolls down to Calypso’s feet. She picks it up in wonder; the egg is darker than the night sky, speckled with flecks of gold brighter than the stars.
“Thank you!” She cries, hopping up and down with glee. “I shall make the potion right now if you don’t mind.”
The dragon merely nods, and so Calypso goes to work. She cracks open the egg, cleaning out the gooey insides. Carefully, she grinds up the petals of the black rose in her palm, sprinkling them into her dragon egg bowl. She burns the three white unicorn hairs, mixing the ashes with the crushed petals. Finally, she pours the vial of sunlight into the bowl, watches in awe as the mixture turns a red deeper than blood. Taking a nervous breath, she scoops out the potion with the mermaid scale. She looks at her reflection in the pool, at the features she has known all her life. The bushy eyebrows that connect in the middle of her wrinkled forehead. The pudgy nose that takes up too much of her square face. The grey thin lips with a split down the center. Calypso closes her eyes, bringing the potion to her mouth. It tastes bitter, like black coffee and unsweetened cocoa. Her eyes remain closed as she takes out a mirror from her bag. The dragon watches as she opens her eyes, stares at her features, waits to fall in love.
“I...I’m still ugly.” She turns to the dragon, eyes glassy. “I don’t understand, I followed the recipe perfectly. Why didn’t it work?”
“Love is not that easy human. You look in the mirror and look only for faults.” It shakes its head, ashes flying from its nostrils. “Can you not see one beautiful feature when you glance into that mirror?”
Calypso is silent, stunned by the dragon’s words. Outside the cave the storm has subsided, the sun reclaiming its sky. Goats slowly emerge from their hideouts, taking tentative steps before exploding into a prance across the cliffs.
Calypso dares to look back into the mirror, dares to look for beauty in her ugly face. Her eyes stare back, a startling feature she’s never fully appreciated. The left is a bright green, the right a deep grey. From that she notices her next beauty; her full cheeks and their soft blush that bask her face in warmth. She notices the gentle wave of her hair, and the shades of red that hide within it. And while the ugliness remains, Calypso can only see her beauty.