The following is a fictionalized version of natural and human history. All that is not solid fact is a product of the author’s imagination.
66 million years ago…
The Late Cretaceous…
Three years later…
The volcanic hills of Montana gleamed a strange copper in the light of the sun. The sky was a deep blue and there were very few clouds. 66 million years from now, the skies of Montana will be dominated by colossal commercial airliners. But for now, they were ruled by reptiles.
The warm air whooshed past his face, his leathery wings flapping slightly as they were stretched to their maximum in an optimal gliding posture. The young dragon, now a subadult, looked down at the landscape of hills and streams below him. He was now nearly the size of an elephant, nearly double his size when he lost his mother. He had large horns and had the signature crimson stripes of a youthful and healthy male. But there was a slight nagging at the back of his mind, a small voice that told him to turn back before he found out.
The young male had knowingly wandered right into the territory of another male, an act that could have lethal consequences. Male prehistoric dragons are extremely territorial and will only allow females. Any other males will be met with a loud and toothy response. But he had to do this. If our male didn’t claim a territory, the likelihood of starvation would increase drastically. But if he didn’t turn back, his chances of being mauled to death would increase just as much.
Suddenly his nose was filled with a strange scent. It was like a mix of the smell of rain and ash. He sniffed the air, trying to pinpoint the source. He looked down and realized what it was: other dragons. And they were females. His eyes widened and his heart soared.
He dove down to the creek where they were drinking, trying to appear as calm and regal as possible. He extended his wings to their maximum and puffed out his chest while keeping his head held high. He landed on a nearby ledge at the top of a hill that overlooked the creek. The two females, who drank side-by-side, turned around lazily to look at him.
He let out a loud roar, a signal of his might. Yet the females didn’t react. They just glared at him nonchalantly. This was worrisome. He wasn’t doing enough. He began to flap his wings and swing his head left and right, showing off his horns and vibrant wing patterns.
Suddenly there was a loud shriek from some other large animal. The young looked behind him only to see two huge taloned feet screaming towards him. He ducked just in time, feeling the wind fly over him in the wake of his assailant. He looked up, his teeth bared in aggression. Not far away another dragon was circling back. Another bull: far older than ours. His horns were far longer and his colors were duller and darker, a sign of his great age. The young male let out a thunderous screech and flapped his wings before taking to the air. The females on the ground, though, had also joined in. They flapped their wings and roared and screeched at the newcomer, trying to fend him off. But the young male had already left and was flying off into the sunset. As he flew, rage welled up in him, giving him the fuel he needed to start crafting a plan.
Two hours later, the young male had arrived at the base of a mountain. He walked around, sniffing constantly like a dog. He had to find it. It was here, he knew it. Bing!
Suddenly he smelled it, the one thing he needed to secure his chances of victory. He looked up at a small ledge and saw it: A huge dent in the side of the mountain that was black as night. Yet it shined in the light of the sun. He flew up to it and investigated it. For such a prized resource, it was rather unremarkable. But what mattered was its purpose, not its appearance. He locked his mouth on a large node and crushed it with his jaws, the black crystal shattering. Large quantities of it landed on his back teeth, precisely what he needed. His back teeth were located on his lower jaw and were similar to the teeth of stingrays. They use them to crush the shells of small animals. But dragons used them differently. His back teeth on the upper jaw were like daggers, sharp and pointed and menacing as the swords of samurais. The young male continued to munch away at the black mineral, more and more gathering on his back teeth until they were almost covered in black shards. Some managed to land on his tongue. It was bitter and almost sour, a foul taste that stung and singed. But he would have to fight through it. Plus, it would all be worth it.
The next day…
The old male continued to rest, and sat upon the ledge that overlooked the creek. Below, his two mates slept in the shade of the ravine’s walls, the heat of the Mesozoic sun seemingly draining their energy even as they slept.
They may have fallen head over heels for the bull, but he didn’t feel the same way. He liked them, sure, but he never truly loved them. To him, they were just this year’s wave of breeders. Just another set of girls to add to his stable. His regal, cocky and suave nature reflected this. But this would be his last successful season.
A deep screech rang out, a brash scream like the sound of lightning. The old bull stood up quickly, his muscles tensing and his heart beating faster. His eyes darted everywhere, looking for the source. He sniffed the air, trying to locate the challenger. Suddenly he saw it, a tiny speck over the hills. Another male.
He took to the sky, leaping off the ledge and flying towards the other dragon. His eyes were narrowed and filled with rage. The challenger simply circled over a small hill, his posture nonchalant and relaxed.
The older male began the process, heating up the acids in his stomach incredibly fast with the gas, an “identical twin” of sulfur, began to accumulate and was channeled into two chambers. Those chambers led to a pair of glands located in his gums, one on each side of his mouth. He opened his mouth wide and opened the glands causing the gas to be released. Finally, with a single chomp, he began to spew fire. When he bit down, he did it in a special way. His back teeth on his upper jaw, sharp as knives and shaped like needles, grinded against his bottom back teeth which were like the teeth of a stingray. They were flat and were covered in shards of the special black crystal. And when the teeth were scraped against one another, this ignited a spark. A spark that set the huge cloud of invisible gas, which had gathered around the dragon’s entire face, alight. This short yet complex process was a remarkable feat of biological engineering. One that resulted in only “fire breathing” animals on the face of the Earth.
A huge stream of flame erupted from the dragon’s mouth, an orange ribbon of fire that shot out of the animal’s jaws with the explosiveness of a shotgun. Finally, he stopped and the flame subsided. He had used one of his rounds, a sign of his cockiness.
Dragons can only produce so much gas and burn so much of the mineral before it all runs dry. Typically, dragons only use flame in extreme cases of self defense and attack. An aimless shot like that is supposed to be a sign of confidence. A sign that you weren’t worried and were willing to waste your rounds on warning shots.
The younger male let out a low chuckle. Everything was going just as he had foreseen. The older male’s overconfidence would cause him to waste his rounds, giving the newcomer the opportunity to make him run for the hills. The younger male descended, getting just below the older male’s altitude before bolting towards him like a fighter jet. Finally, when he was right under the older bull, he flew right up to him, slamming into his underbelly. The bull roared in shock and anguish before giving chase.
The youngster flew into the ravine, flying between its distant and golden walls. The old bull followed right behind, spitting out another jet of flame. This one, its duration longer than any the youngster had ever seen, would be the bull’s downfall. The smaller dragon flipped and doubled back, placing himself right above his rival. Finally, with all the rage-fueled energy he could muster, he spit out a huge ribbon of fire. It was short and precise. Best of all, it was aimed. It landed exactly where he wanted, right on the back of the bull’s head, scorching his mighty horns.
The older male roared in rage. This fueled the challenger, giving him the mental and emotional advantage he needed. He dove at the colossus and went berserk. He scratched and slashed at one of the older male’s shoulders, tearing out chunks of scaly skin and flesh causing blood to come gushing out.
The young male let out a thunderous scream before finally, with all the energy and fury in his body, he let out a huge jet of flame. It was like a ribbon of pure heat that scorched and seared flesh. The older male, now unable to fly, plummeted to the ground, screeching until he finally landed. A huge cloud of dust rose up from the impact site while a thunderous slamming sound rang out.
The young male didn't even look at his burning foe and only continued to fly into the sunset, victory and pride swelling in him.
Two weeks later…
The female nuzzled the bull lovingly while ruffling her wings and letting out a low cooing sound, a sign of affection. The bull replied with his own growl. He looked right next to her and saw his greatest accomplishment: a nest full of eggs.
They were black as night yet had crimson spots all over. He sniffed them, breathing in the smell that brought him the most joy. These eggs, the size of footballs, were the embodiment of the future of the bull’s bloodline. And even though he didn’t know it, it would all be for nothing. Even the fiery and toothy battle two weeks ago would be for nothing. Soon, the world would end.
The world would explode and fire would rain from the sky. The land would be torn apart and would crumble and tremble. The seas would swallow the land and obliterate forests and valleys. And then the world would be plunged into darkness, the only light being that of the blazing fires. Unbeknownst to the dragons and the dinosaurs, the ultimate doomsday weapon was looming just overhead in the infinity of space.
Right! So that was fun. Let’s review a bit.
The (successful) life cycle of a male dragon involves growing up, finding territory, finding a mate, passing on his genes and defending his turf until he dies. This is why the young male (the same one from episodes one and two) challenges the old bull for his territory and the chicks. Now, like most things in this series, the fire breathing mechanic is made up. Something that I didn’t mention is that dragon fire smells like vomit because the gas comes from the dragon’s superheated stomach acids. Quick tangent, I was alluding to the Cretaceous extinction in that last paragraph. And don’t try and look up wherever the mystery mineral was because, like 90% of the stuff in this series, I made it up. And to not shake you up too much, I’m gonna let you know that this is the last episode in the “prehistoric” arc. The next episode takes place 66 million years later. I won’t say exactly when or where but I’ll tell you that the prehistoric dragons are gone.