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Nightshade and the moon festival (part 1)

by dragonight9

"Thok. Thok. Clang."

Nightshade woke to sunlight streaming in from the door of her tree house and a myriad of unfamiliar sounds ringing outside. She flicked out her tongue and breathed in the unfamiliar smell of many different creatures. For a moment she was puzzled at the size of the group that must have been just underneath her tree. Then she smiled as she remembered that tonight was the night of the moon festival. They must have arrived to set up for that evening.

It was just becoming evening and the actual festival wouldn’t be starting for another few hours at least so Nightshade snuggled down into her pillow and dreamt of what the festival would be like. There would probably be many foods she had never tried before and many songs she had never heard before.

If only it was a double full moon. Then she could sing so beautifully that all who heard her would fall into a soft trance. As it was, the villagers likely didn’t want her singing to interrupt their own, and if she tried to dance she worried that she might accidentally step on one of the smaller villagers.

Despite all that, she was still excited to see what the festival would be like and her dreams were filled with wonderful food and dancing with Nara under the moon.

The next time she awoke was to the sound of someone climbing her tree. She could tell immediately that it was Nara. Nightshade stretched and got up to greet her.

“Hello Nightshade.” Nara said in a happy whisper.

“We’ve finished setting up the festival and the other villagers are going to be arriving soon. The elders want to introduce you to everyone at the same time so stay here until then. At the start of the festival the elders give a short speech thanking the hard work of our hunters and the blessings of the jungle for providing for us. At the end of that speech, they will introduce you and then you can come out and show yourself to the rest of the villagers. Feel free to be as impressive as you want,” Nara whispered with a smile.

She knew how much her friend loved watching people’s awe at her. Probably even more so when it wasn’t immediately followed by sharp objects being hurled at her.

“I can’t wait,” Nightshade replied with a smile that showed off her teeth, before she laughed jokingly.

“Well, I’ll be down there with the other villagers. See you in a little bit.” Nara said, waving as she descended the tree once more. Nightshade nodded and looked around her small house wondering how she could prepare. When she met the other villagers she wanted to be looking her best.

In one corner of the small room, she had some wooden bowls which she had taken from the tree wing village during one of the times she sneaked in. In the bowls she had oil from a certain tree seed that not only felt wonderful on her scales during a hot jungle day, but also kept them beautiful and made them shine even more than usual.

Then on the back wall of her room she had her favorite jungle flower necklace. The blue, pink and purple flowers matched her glowing scales beautifully. She dipped her tail in the oil and started rubbing it on all her scales. It was almost like polishing and washing at the same time.

The cool oil felt nice on her scales, and she closed her eyes with a pleasant sigh. Then she picked up her flower necklace and placed it around her neck, making sure to untangle all the flowers as she did so. She smiled down at the necklace.

It was the only piece of jewelry she owned if you could call it that. She hardly ever wore it for fear of damaging it. It had been a gift from Ceiba before she left the village. He had used his plant magic to grow the flowers into a sturdy vine which hooked into itself so she could easily take it off or put it on. She stroked the flower petals as she thought of him. Then she walked to the door of her tree house and peered over the ledge to the clearing below. The festival was all set up.

There were glowing torches on sticks surrounding the clearing and a large pile of dead sticks on the sand near the water. In front of that was a small platform where the elders stood and in front of that was a large clear area which was filled with members of Nara and Lupita’s village. There must have been at least a few hundred of them.

Then Nightshade noticed a sweet smell and the glow of a smaller fire on the far side of the clearing. On some sort of stick hanging over the fire was a large piece of meat, dripping its juices into the flames which made the fire jump and flicker. The smell was more delicious than anything Nightshade had ever tried before. Beside the fire was a line of tables heaped with all kinds of food, some of which Nightshade recognised but many of which were unfamiliar to her.

She licked her lips in anticipation. She had hunted the previous night, but this smell was making her hungry all over again. One of the elders seemed to be saying something from their podium. Nightshade was pretty sure this elder’s name was Wolof.

“...so thanks once again to those who have struggled to bring prosperity to our village. Tonight, is a night of feasting and freedom so let us all dance and sing like our beast ancestors until the sun rises once again!” He called and a great cheer went up from the crowd. Many roars and howls joining in. Then Wolof raised a hand, and everyone quieted down.

“This moon festival is even more special than usual, however, for tonight we have invited a special guest who has been a friend to a few members of our village for some time now. We wish to invite this guest to join us in our revelry and become a close friend of our village. She has also graciously allowed us to use this place for our festival. So please welcome and be open to our guest as we show her the hospitality of the beast people. Now, please join me in welcoming our new friend. The tree wing dragon, Nightshade!” Wolof called as he gestured to Nightshade’s tree.

Nightshade smiled and stepped up to the ledge opening her wings wide and lighting up all the colors on her wings and body. At first everybody just stared in shock and awe at her. Perhaps even fear. The silence quickly became awkward, and Nightshade wasn’t sure what to do.

Then Nara, Lupita and the elders began clapping and it quickly caught on. The faces in the crowd relaxed and some even became happy and excited to see her. Nightshade breathed out the tension and awkwardness she had felt as she gave everyone a bright toothy grin and leapt down to the ground in a clear spot. She let the glow of her wings fade a bit (she didn’t want to accidentally hypnotise anyone who stared at her too long after all) and looked around at all the villagers.

There many different beasts represented in the crowd and all ages as well. The only thing was that there were few beast men as old as the elders. It seemed that even this area of the jungle wasn’t kind to the weak and disabled regardless of race. The adults seemed a bit more wary of her which made sense, but the young ones seemed to have no fear at all. Many of them raced over to get a look at her, their faces filled with awe and excitement.

Back in the tree wing village Nightshade had enjoyed playing with the hatchlings and dragonets. Mostly because they hadn’t figured out she was different and thus didn’t judge her like the others did. These little one had eyes that sparkled with endless curiosity and wonder.

“Well, hello little ones. I am Nightshade the tree wing.” Nightshade said welcomingly and gently.

“Are you a big lizard?” One of the little wolf boys asked. His mother immediately hushed him, fearing that Nightshade would take offence at the comment, but she simply laughed.

“Ha, ha, ha! No little one. I am not a big lizard. I am a dragon. I have wings…” She said spreading her wings again for emphasis. “...and I am also a lot smarter than a lizard. Though I bet you’re a lot smarter than a lizard too right?”

“You bet. I’m the best at knowing things. I ask all the questions.” The little wolf boy said proudly.

“I bet you do.” Nightshade chuckled. Then she nodded to his mother and looked around for Nara. She would probably know what to do at a festival like this.

“Um, excuse me?” A small voice asked. Nightshade looked down to find a fox girl standing by her left foreleg.

“Yes?” Nightshade said, leaning down.

“C-could I, please, feel your scales?” She asked timidly.

Nightshade smiled. No one had ever asked to feel her scales so innocently before.

“Certainly. You can touch them, but if I tell you to stop you have to stop,” Nightshade replied as she laid down so the little fox girl could pet her scales. Her face brightened and she reached forward slowly and carefully to gently touch Nightshade’s scales before withdrawing her hand quickly with a giggle. Then she reached out more confidently and began petting her scales.

Apparently the other children took this as a sign that it was ok to pet her scales and all the children rushed forward with giggles to pet her scales. Nightshade sighed tolerantly as she endured their petting. After a few minutes Nara found her still laying there while the children had started climbing all over her.

“Come on kids get off Nightshade. She is our guest, not a jungle tree, and she has other things to see during the festival.”

The kids groaned but clambered down off Nightshade who stood and shook herself a little.

“Thanks for that Nara. I might have missed the whole festival if you hadn’t come along.” Nightshade said jokingly. Nara smiled brightly.

“Of course. I’ll always come to your aid when you’re being assaulted by adorable little kids,” She chuckled. Then she waved for Nightshade to follow her.

“Come on. You were so excited about the food weren’t you? We’d better get some before the really tasty stuff gets eaten.” She said excitedly as she weaved through the crowd.

Nightshade initially found it hard to navigate the crowd. As large as she was, it was hard for people to make space for her. Then she heard a whistle and it was as if the crowd parted before her. Lupita stood at the end of the small lane that had formed, shaking her head at Nara.

“You should have told them to make way for Nightshade, Nara. You could have at least noticed she couldn’t follow you. Seriously, sometimes it’s easy to forget just how smart you are,” Lupita sighed. Then she smiled at Nightshade and gestured to the long tables full of food. Nightshade smiled back and quickly walked over to them, the crowd closing behind her.

“So, what would you like to try first?” Lupita asked. Nightshade couldn’t see any way of possibly choosing just one thing. The smells that wafted into her nose were so varied and wonderful she couldn’t even tell what was giving off any particular smell.

“Here, try this one. It’s one of my favorites.” Nara suggested holding up a piece of dark meat covered in some bits of plant. Nightshade wasn’t sure what plant it was but assumed it was edible.

“Ok,” Nightshade agreed, picking up the piece Nara offered and tossing it in her mouth. Her eyes widened at first then closed in pleasure at the delicious, sweet taste of the meat. It was so warm, as if it had only just been killed or was even still alive. There wasn’t the tang of blood either but instead the rich fat and fresh bits of plant on top complimented the deep meaty taste.

“Mmmmm…” Nightshade sighed. This was so much better than eating prey normally. She knew she probably wouldn’t get meals like this very often and should savor it, but she couldn’t help wanting to move on to see what else there was on the table.

“That one’s good but I think this one is the best.” Lupita said, holding up a piece of what looked like a ball of near black meat in a pile of white strings on a flat piece of wood.

Nightshade dumped everything on the plate into her mouth and was surprised once again by the taste. This meat was a lot juicier and though it was less meaty it had a sweet saltiness that far surpassed the sweetness of the first piece of meat. The strings were a bit chewy and dull, but the meat was so sweet that they actually helped tone it down just right.

“And this is the best salad.” Nara said, holding up a bowl of leaves, berries and fruit with some kind of liquid drizzled on top.

“I have to agree with you on this one. Nothing tops a jungle fruit salad.” Lupita agreed.

Nightshade didn’t know what a salad was but she eagerly tried the food in the bowl. The plant leaves were bland and reminded her of some foods the other tree wings liked to eat. Ewww.

But the fruit made up for it and the liquid seemed to be both tangy and sweet. All together it was quite refreshing. They went on like that for almost an hour, with Nara and Lupita getting Nightshade to try all their favorite foods.

Eventually Nightshade had eaten enough food and then she noticed some drinks at the end of the table along with a basket of berries sitting next to a barrel of water. Curious Nightshade left Nara and Lupita who were trying some of the food themselves to see what kind of berries they were. She walked over to the basket and popped a few of the berries in her mouth. They were very sweet, like candy, but they also had a strong bitter aftertaste and made her breath smell a bit strange.

“What are those berries?” Nightshade asked as rejoined Nara and Lupita.

“Those are sweet dream berries. They are almost pure alcohol, so we dilute one of them into an entire barrel of water to make a drink for festivals. I’m sure it probably won’t affect you very much since you’re a dragon but don’t have too much ok?” Lupita replied.

Nightshade didn’t know what alcohol was but she liked the berries so she decided she would save a few for later that night.

Then they all heard a loud voice call above the crowd.

“Hello everyone! I hope you’ve enjoyed your food. Now it’s time for some music and dancing. Please make your way to the clearing for some dancing and revelry. Invite your children and your elders for now is the time for family dances!”

There were cheers and clapping from all over the clearing as the people made their way to the open space in the middle. Suddenly some music started playing and Nightshade looked over the heads of the villagers to the raised platform to see a group of beast men and women playing all kinds of strange and beautiful instruments. The sound was jovial and made her want to stomp the ground and jump around, but she didn’t want to accidentally hit anyone, so she just nodded her head to the beat and tapped her foot.

“Come on Nightshade. Dance with us!” Nara said as she hopped and twirled along with the other villagers.

“I can’t do that without hitting someone.” Nightshade replied. “I’ll just watch, you should have fun though so don’t worry about me.”

“Give me a few seconds then.” Nara said as she raced through the crowd of dancers to the raised platform.

“How about we give our guest some space by the water to join us in our dancing? Let’s see what she can do, right guys?!” She cheered and the crowd cheered back.

They opened a path down to the lake and cleared some space for her. Nightshade was a bit embarrassed to be in the spotlight, but she wanted to dance as well so she made her way down to the little lake’s edge. Once there she took a deep breath and let the beat of the music start her feet tapping and her tail swinging. Then she truly began to dance. She hadn’t danced in so long, yet the motions came back to her as if she’d danced in the tree wing village just the night before.

She folded in her wings and let her tail flow with the beat like a ribbon on a string as she spun around letting her arms create beautiful fluid motions. She hopped and jumped to the beat of the music as she danced in a small circle. She hummed along with the music and even clapped a few times on the bigger beats. Then as the song reached its climax Nightshade leapt into the air spreading her wings and looking over her shoulder as the full moon rose over the jungle with half the other moon showing behind it. In that moment of elation, she realised how truly wonderful it was to be free to enjoy herself like this. 

The crowd cheered and clapped for her performance. Nightshade smiled and bowed. The rest of this festival night was sure to be a wondrous occasion.

Work I commissioned from FrostieGreen for this story depicting Nightshade dancing at the begining of the moon festival.

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229 Reviews

Points: 9163
Reviews: 229

Sun Mar 12, 2023 10:57 pm
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foxmaster wrote a review...

Hello! Foxmaster here for a review!
Once again, I really like this and how Nightshade just seems to fit in with everyone and enjoy herself. Definitely different than the tree wing village!
Nightshade dumped everything on the plate into her mouth and was surprised once again by the taste. This meat was a lot juicier and though it was less meaty it had a sweet saltiness that far surpassed the sweetness of the first piece of meat. The strings were a bit chewy and dull, but the meat was so sweet that they actually helped tone it down just right.
When it comes to the description of the food you do a really good job showing just how it tastes and how much Nightshade enjoys this.
“C-could I, please, feel your scales?” She asked timidly.

Nightshade smiled. No one had ever asked to feel her scales so innocently before.

“Certainly. You can touch them but if I tell you to stop you have to stop,” Nightshade replied as she laid down so the little fox girl could pet her scales. Her face brightened and she reached forward slowly and carefully to gently touch Nightshade’s scales before withdrawing her hand quickly with a giggle. Then she reached out more confidently and began petting her scales.
Aw it's really sweet how all the kids in this are so nice, and it really shows how everyone in this village is much nicer than everyone else at nightshade's old village.

Anyway, that is all, and I will be definitely continuing this! Also, the art on the bottom of this is really cool and I like how colorful Nightshade is. That is all! :)


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1079 Reviews

Points: 198
Reviews: 1079

Wed Mar 08, 2023 12:34 am
vampricone6783 wrote a review...

Glad to see Nightshade enjoying herself! This moon festival sounds pretty cool. The flower necklace matches Nightshade’s scales really well. The villagers seem nice so far. I’ve got two more chapters to read, so I’ll see how this all comes down to. I look forward to more on Nightshade and her adventures. I liked this chapter of the series.

Good job! I hope that you have a wonderful day and night.

What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.
— Albert Pines