The Rose Dragon lived wherever vegetation was plentiful. She had no permanent settlement; for one month she may live in an open meadow full of asters, for the next she could be found in a field of mayflowers, and sometimes she would even take shelter in the garden of someone’s home; these occasions were few and far between. It was on one of these rare occasions, when the Rose Dragon was nesting in the garden of a pretty white cottage, that she formed a close friendship with a little girl named Aliss.
Aliss was the sole caretaker of this garden; though it had been planted by her father a while back, he was a busy man who didn’t have much time to tend to it, and it didn’t take long for him to grow tired of it. Her mother worked in a doctor’s office, and was too busy taking care of people to bother caring for flowers. But Aliss had all the time in the world for flowers. She loved them like she loved close friends. Every day just before school and just after school, Aliss would go out to the garden and tend to the flowers. After giving them their meal of water and fertilizer, she would spend extra time with them. She had a little table and chair that she set out in the center of the garden, and here she would sit and enjoy the company of the flowers until she was called away to one of her other commitments.
The Rose Dragon was distrustful of humans. She thought they were too loud, too wild, too prideful, and too irresponsible with nature to take any liking to them. Whenever she took shelter in a person’s garden, she would change her appearance to blend in with the surrounding vegetation. She would be mistaken for a tree or a patch of flowers and never discovered at all, until she moved off to another settlement. But in Aliss’ garden, she was discovered for the first time.
The Rose Dragon had taken a peculiar interest in Aliss, who was so gentle and so good to the flowers in the garden. Every morning and afternoon when she came out to tend to the flowers, the Rose Dragon couldn’t help but watch her as she kissed the flowers hello and engaged in cheerful one-sided conversation with them as she gave them their water. She did not match the Rose Dragon’s observations of other humans at all. Other children Aliss’ age were often very rough with flowers; they would yank them from the stalks or pick off their petals or even pull them from the ground. The Rose Dragon disliked children most of all for this reason.
She could not dislike the one child she knew who was kind to flowers. But she couldn’t entirely trust Aliss either—after all, she could harbor any other shameful qualities that humans possessed. She would spend her mornings and afternoons observing Aliss carefully, keeping one eye open and hoping that it would be mistaken for a sunflower or a black-eyed Susan. But when Aliss saw the dragon’s eye, gleaming and watching her intently, she let out a cry.
Immediately, the dragon abandoned her camouflage and rose to her full height. She spread out her wings, which looked like the petals of two giant roses, and she tilted her large, leafy head down to look right into the little girl’s eyes. Her bright green scales gleamed in the sun, and her fangs were bared. Aliss beheld this imposing sight in silent awe, then she finally stammered, “You’re…you’re beautiful.”
“I am as beautiful as I am dangerous to those who wish to harm me,” said the Rose Dragon. “I suggest you be very careful, child, for I have taken a bit of a liking to you. It is rare that I take a liking to a human, and ever rarer that I do so for a child. I advise you not to do anything that might change my mind.”
“Harm you?” said Aliss. “I think you’re lovely, and I would never harm a lovely thing.”
“You don’t think I’m so lovely that you might want to pick at my petals or pry off one of my scales, do you?” asked the Rose Dragon.
“Of course not,” said Aliss, shaking her head.
The dragon softened. She had been right that this was not a typical careless, wild human child. She hid her fangs and allowed herself to look a bit more gentle and sociable. “Then we can be friends,” she told Aliss. “But if we are going to be friends, you must ensure that no harm will come to me while I am here.”
“Who would harm you?” Aliss asked.
“What would your parents do if they saw a dragon in their garden?”
“They would be very surprised,” Aliss said. “And they might ask me how the dragon got here. But they wouldn’t harm you if they knew that you were so nice.”
The dragon shook her head slowly. “I don’t think we should take the risk of surprising them,” she told Aliss. “I think you need to let them know that I will be staying here for a while, and that we are friends.”
“I can tell them that,” said Aliss. “But they aren’t home right now.”
The Rose Dragon gently laid her head on the girl’s shoulder. “Will you promise to tell them as soon as they return home, then?” she asked.
“Yes,” said Aliss. I can do that.
“Yes,” said Aliss. I can do that.