The Discovery of the Dragon’s Scale

There once was a man who lived on the Congo River, in a house on stilts.  He traveled up and down the river in his boat often, he knew every root and every vine.  He knew the sandbar where the crocodiles would sun themselves, and he knew where the ibis perched on the highest tree by a sharp bend in the river.  However, there was one tributary he had never traveled up, as it was legend among his tribe that this stream was haunted.  However, one day in his canoe he witnessed a crocodile leap up to a low-hanging branch and snag the ibis, dragging it down into a swirl of brown water until there were only a few feathers bobbing on the surface.  He took this as a portent, and as he paddled home his mind wandered, he was distracted.  Only until he was a kilometer up the turbid stream did he hear the keening cry of a bird he had never heard before, and then it dawned upon him he was on the cursed tributary.  He stopped paddling; the canoe drifted into the shore and stopped with a muffled crunch.  The man’s eyes met those of an okapi, huddled in the shadows of the jungle.  The okapi looked deep into the man’s soul, never wavering its liquid gaze.  After a few moments that felt like an eternity, the okapi turned its head, and walked away into the jungle, blending into the darkness of the foliage.  The man looked down, his head pounding.  In the sand, there was an enormous emerald, rough and uncut.  It was the Dragon’s Scale.

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