Elsu woke up, like every morning. Hungry. Living in the winter pit houses during the harshest winter that he had ever experienced. The pit actually proved to be quite warm. He had dug the fifteen-foot pits with his tribe right before the storm hit. He got up and tried to find some food still left from before the storm hit. He found some small birds but nothing much. Unfortunately, the hunters could not find many animals while hunting this winter, so it was a challenging life.

He remembered running through the forest. Shooting his bow at everything that stood in his way. He was so carefree. He never thought that this day would come in his lifetime.

The only food source that they currently had was some soup and bread made from the acorn meal that was stored underground after the last winter. But with the tribe growing bigger, and the food supplies getting shorter, it was no longer a reliable food source. They needed to find food. And fast.

Elsu’s name translates to “flying falcon.” When he was a kid, Elsu was said to be very adventurous. He watched with wonder, as the hunters walked into the forest to hunt deer, black bears, elk, and fowl. The hunters were strong, fast men. Capable of shooting a running elk blindfolded. Just by hearing its footsteps! They used bows and knives to kill the animals. And ran so fast, they were a blur.

While Elsu’s mom was making clothes for the tribe, she remembered Elsu coming up to her and asking if he could hunt with the hunters. Not wanting to disappoint him, his mom gave him a little bow, and some of her friends dressed up as animals and had Elsu shoot them with an arrow that had a stub.

His mom remembered Elsu’s face that day. Filled with excitement, that made her smile.

But now that smile was gone. Replaced with a steely gaze as she fought to keep up with the tribe’s demands for clothing during this winter.

But like a brave falcon, Elsu was determined to save his tribe from this harsh winter.

Like every morning, Elsu woke up and went hunting with the hunters of the tribe. He managed to find a couple of small fowl. But he knew that they wouldn’t satisfy the tribe. He needed to do something about this winter problem. And fast. Elsu recalled an ancient tale about a dragon at the top of the Serra Peak.

This dragon was once a murderous beast. Destroying everything in its path. Until one day, one of the elders, Elsu’s great grandfather, successfully tamed the dragon. He said he would let the dragon be free. On two conditions. The dragon would not destroy their land anymore. The dragon would also warm the earth with its breath, allowing the Miwok tribe to live through the winter. But the dragon had not warmed the earth at all this year. The flowers were withered. The trees’ branches were breaking. Something must be wrong.

Elsu would go and find this great beast. And see why it was not warming the earth like it did every year.

As they were heading back to their tribe, Elsu distracted the hunters by throwing a rock into a nearby pond. Assuming it might have been salmon, the hunters ran to the pond. Hoping to be able to get it before it swam away. Elsu then ran in the opposite direction. He ran through the trees. Hearing his tribe yell for him.

“Elsu! Where are you?” they shouted. “Come back!”

His best friend yelled for him, “Elsu! We need you! Don’t go!”

But Elsu continued to run. The tears started pouring from his eyes. He could not stop. He was on a mission. A mission to save his tribe.

Elsu climbed up the mountain. The once plentiful deer and elk. Gone. All the crops that the Miwok had once thought was a reliable food source. Gone. It had been two days of no food and very little water. If he didn’t find this dragon soon. He, and his tribe, would perish.

But then. He saw it. An opening in a seemingly endless number of trees. Elsu ran for the opening.

At last. He had found the dragon.

A blue-and-green-scaled dragon. As big as a Redwood tree. And probably stronger than one, too.

It seemed… wounded. As if something had attacked it the night prior. It could barely muster a tiny ember. Its life force was faded.

The dragon looked at Elsu. As if to say, “No. Don’t come nearer. It’s too late for me.”

But Elsu wouldn’t listen. He ran towards the dragon. As he was tending to the dragon’s wounds, he heard a low growl come from behind him. He turned around. And his eyes widened.

Standing in front of him. Was a giant black bear. When the elder tamed the dragon, to ensure that he did not harm anyone else unless necessary, he took out the hate in the dragon. And turned it into the form of a black bear. The bear was not as big as the dragon. But Elsu could see why the dragon had lost against it.

Its claws were as sharp as arrowheads. Its fur smooth.

The animals weren’t there because the dragon was suffering. They weren’t there because the bear had eaten all of them!

The bear stood up on his hind legs. And roared. Elsu was about to become this bear’s next snack.

Elsu rolled to the side as the bear swiped at him. Its magnificent claws barely missing Elsu’s chest. Elsu took his makeshift spear and drove it into the bear’s stomach. The bear howled in pain. But didn’t really seem all that fazed. It was going to take more to kill that bear.

The bear turned around and kicked Elsu in the stomach. Knocking the wind out of him and sending him flying into a nearby tree. Elsu’s entire body ached from the impact. But he had to keep fighting.

The bear built up a charge and then attacked. Charging straight for Elsu, but Elsu jumped on the bear’s snout and jumped over the creature.

The bear turned around, confused on Elsu’s current position. So confused, in fact, that the bear ran straight into a tree. It let out a bigger howl than it had before. Elsu had struck a second hit.

The bear turned around. To find Elsu, standing there. Minor scratches and some cuts. But mostly unharmed. The bear let out a deep growl. And charged at Elsu again.

Elsu didn’t dodge in time.

The bear slammed into Elsu’s chest. Knocking the wind out of him and sending him spiralling towards the ground.

Elsu hit the ground with a thud. Unable to put up a fight.

The bear seized his opportunity. And struck at Elsu.

Inches from Elsu’s face, the bear collapsed.

Elsu looked up. And instead of seeing a giant claw. He saw a blue- and green-scaled head. The dragon had come to his aid. Elsu looked up at the creature. It was still bleeding but had just enough strength to let out a giant, red-hot flame.

Elsu tended to the dragon. And in a couple of days, the dragon was back to its old self. One day, the dragon bent over. Allowing Elsu to climb on its back. He knew he had to return to his tribe.

Like his name always suggested, Elsu flew back, like a falcon. The wind in his hair. He felt free. He felt some warmth when before, there was no warmth at all. He was greeted by familiar faces. And instead of seeing anger. He saw pride. Elsu had saved the tribe.

The season continued on as normal. But Elsu felt a little more proud of himself. When all seemed lost, he had saved his tribe.

He wondered if anyone after his tribe was gone would be able to tell this tale…


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