[flash fiction; 450 words]
The miniature dragon shivered. A fish had grabbed him by the spaded end of his tail as the dragon had zoomed along the river surface chasing a fast moving beetle and dragged him under the water. It wasn’t a big fish, so a few snaps of his sharp fangs on the beast’s nose had convinced it to release him and he had escaped. He now perched in a tree and coughed and spat out a gooey glob of ashes and mucus.
He tried to spit fire, but only managed another wet hacking cough. He slid along a branch into the sunlight to warm up. It didn’t help and he was distressed to see that his gleaming bronze scales were dull and faded. A shiver racked his body again. He couldn’t start his own fire, so he would have to find fire somewhere to dry out and restart his own burner in his belly. He flapped his ashen wings and weakly flew through the leaves out to the prairie looking for a wild fire. None was visible. Not even a wisp of smoke on the horizon. Now he was worried.
He flew on and what were normally gentle breezes to play in buffeted him and randomly changed his path. His color became ashen and he had trouble maintaining altitude. He wobbled across the top of the grasses and finally fell to the ground. He couldn’t flap anymore. He lay in the damp soil at the base of the grass stems with the ants and the worms and wanted only to sleep. He walked on, trying to scent smoke and ashes amidst the grasses. He could find nothing and eventually collapsed and slept.
He awoke and it was dark. He could see stars up above through the grass stalks.The obvious scent of smoke and the feel of heat drew him to his feet and he crept through the grasses toward a flickering light. Fire! There were voices and he paused. He noticed that his forepaws were a light grey, almost white. That was very bad. He crept up some more and saw humans gathered around a fire. Two were awake and speaking softly to one other and all the others were sleeping. They were completely oblivious to the natural world around them, nothing new there. It was good for him because he could thread his way through the shadows and creep into the fire without them noticing.
The warmth was wonderful! He found a hot coal and wrapped himself around it. After tucking his nose under his tail, he looked just like all the other ashes surrounding the coal. He was safe now and the humans would never know he was there.