The Soul Coin

frozen

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The 24th Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosial Dragon: A Children’s Fantasy Series

Eight-year-old Landon was freezing, clinging to an icy mountain peak high in the Kunlun mountains in central China. Something had gone wrong with his plan to “piggy back” onto Yao Jin’s and Buddy’s teleportation spell. They had materialized inside the Sanctuary of an ancient mystic known as the Nameless One, while the child had come back into being over a mile away and hundreds of meters higher.

Buddy instantly sensed Landon’s presence and that he was once again in mortal danger. One rapid spell later and he had shot through the walls of the Sanctuary as if he was smoke and then was rocketing across the skies to save his best friend. Buddy felt like his heart was breaking inside. Landon and his family had been Buddy’s family for the past year, and as much as he tried to protect the boy, it seemed like he was always putting him in danger, even when he didn’t mean to. His wings were beating so fast that they were a blur. In an instant, the dragon found Landon.

The child had just fallen unconscious. He let go of the mountain peak and started tumbling down its steep side. As Landon passed out, he thought he’d landed on something.

There where tears in Buddy’s crystal blue eyes as he flew Landon back to the Sanctuary. He remembered how an evil Shadow Dragon had almost killed the boy and Grandpa when the Ambrosial Dragon first started living with them. Buddy nearly sacrificed his life to save theirs. As Buddy soared over the Sanctuary preparing to land, he was remembering that night vividly. He was so much smaller than his adversary, much less powerful, but if he had failed, Landon and Grandpa would have died. “No, no, no. Love, love. love,” he murmured, his emotions consumed by the past:

He prepared for one last strike against the Shadow Dragon, the most powerful of spells. It would have to work or the little dragon would die, and if he died, the world of humans would be helpless.

“No, no, no. Love, love, love.” The brave but tiny dragon was crying with anger and frustration. He couldn’t let his new family die like he did the first one.

The Shadow Dragon struck first and the little dragon’s wings could no longer keep him in the air. As he started to fall, he heard a loud boom that wasn’t thunder. He tumbled end over end and caught a glimpse of the children’s Dad, of David. He was holding something long, pointing it at the nemesis. It’s front end flashed with light and there was another loud explosion.

The golden dragon was barely able to slow its fall so that it skidded into the grass and mud on its belly rather than crash head first at full speed.

Half conscious, the dragon looked up. There were two holes in the side of the Shadow Dragon. The weapon David used wasn’t magic and the dark creature was taken by surprise. In a brilliant flash of purple light, much brighter than the lightning, the evil one vanished, escaping back into the place between worlds.

“I can’t risk losing you, Landon. Not again.” The giant golden dragon alighted in front of the Sanctuary with the boy on his back, but when the servants of the Nameless One opened the large front doors, it was Buddy, who was about the same size as the child, holding Landon with his front limbs.

Hours later, Landon woke up. He was in a small room in bed and covered with warm blankets. He felt tired and weak. Then he remembered that it must have been Buddy who found him. This wasn’t his bedroom, so Buddy and Yao Jin hadn’t sent him home…yet.

“How do you feel, little Master?”

The room was dark with only a little light coming in from one small window high on the wall. Landon could just barely see a figure sitting on the floor near the wall to his right. “Who are you?”

The figure stood. “I am Jinpa. I have been watching over you.” He was bald, wearing some sort of robes, he couldn’t tell the color in the darkness.

Then he felt something moving under the covers. A head peeked out. It was his living stuffed giraffe Baby. “Baby!” Landon gave him a big hug and the stuffed animal hugged back.

“I missed you, Landon,” he said in his tiny voice.

“I missed you too, Baby.”

“I will fetch some soup. You must be hungry.” Jinpa bowed and then turned toward the door.

Landon realized he really was hungry. He also had no idea what time it was or what Buddy and Yao Jin were doing.

Landon had two bowls of some sort of thick vegetable soup. He still thought matzo ball soup was better, but this was pretty good.

Baby was magical and didn’t need to eat, but he did lap up a little bit just to see what it tasted like.

Landon got really tired again and dozed off without meaning to. When he woke up, the light from the window of his room was very bright. Jinpa was just walking in.

“I see you are awake, young Master.”

Landon could see better now and he felt a lot stronger, though he was still hungry. He was glad to see Jinpa had a bowl of what looked like hot oatmeal with him.

“Breakfast.”

“Breakfast? How long have I been here?”

“All of yesterday and last night.”

Landon sat up in bed and took the bowl Jinpa offered along with a spoon. It was oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon in it. It was good, but he missed Grandpa’s pancakes. He hoped Grandpa and Daddy weren’t too worried about him. After all, he left after being back at home just one night.

After he finished breakfast, Jinpa showed him the bathroom. He was a little surprised to find this place had indoor plumbing, but better that than having to go in a bucket like he did in ancient K’un-Lun thousands of years ago.

Landon’s clothes had been cleaned and were sitting at the foot of his bed. He got dressed and noticed that his backpack was next to the door. The boy checked and saw his glove and invisibility cloak were inside. Baby hopped back in.

Jinpa said, “If you are strong enough, we have something to tell you.”

“What?”

“Come with me.”

Landon followed Jinpa out of the room, down a hallway, and down many flights of stairs which seemed to extend up and down the center of the building. Landon could see men and women going about their business. Some were servants and others were probably disciples of the Nameless One. Who would they be learning from now that their Master was dead, he wondered?

Finally, Jinpa and Landon arrived at the entrance of a large room on the ground floor.

“This was the Master’s study. It was here that he and Xun Qin died. Their bodies were consumed by an unknown dark force and only ashes were left. Yesterday, when the Sorceress and the small Dragon walked in to perform their investigation, even the ashes were gone, though we had kept the room closed and locked until their arrival. Now I must give you some disturbing news.”

“What is it?” Landon started to feel worried and the bottom of his stomach felt like it was sinking.

“Yao Jin and the Dragon have vanished. They walked into the room yesterday after making sure you were taken care of. They closed the door behind them. An hour passed, then two. Finally, as the Sun approached the western horizon, I decided to knock on the door. There was no answer, so I opened it. The room was completely empty.”

“Maybe they decided to teleport somewhere.”

“I doubt they would have departed so suddenly and not let anyone know. The Dragon seemed very upset about your being here and the danger you had been in.”

“Then were are they?”

“Even the Master’s most advanced students have been unable to discover this. Xun Qin was going to take the Nameless One’s place as Master of this Sanctuary, but now that he is gone as well, we are without guidance.

“However…” Jinpa reached into a pocket of his baggy pants. “…I did find this on the floor. It was the only thing unusual in the entire chamber.”

The bald monk produced a coin, but it wasn’t American money.

“What is it?”

“An old coin. Once of the students whose hobby is Numismatics said that it is a Guangxu Rupee dating back over a century. It is somewhat difficult to find but not actually rare. This is money from Tibet, a nation to the south of us, and the Master was not known to carry currency of any type.”

“Can I see?”

coin

© Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Jinpa put the coin in Landon’s open palm. It felt kind of warm, but that was probably because it had been in the monk’s pocket. Landon turned the coin over and over in his fingers. It looked kind of interesting, but he didn’t see what it had to do with where Buddy and Yao Jin had gone.

Then he felt a cold wind at his back. He and Jinpa turned. They were looking at the great entrance hall and someone had just come in from outside.

“Wait here a moment.” Jinpa left Landon to see to the visitor or whoever he was.

Landon looked back into the Master’s study. He walked a few steps inside. It was a big room. He was facing north toward the large high windows covering that wall and which had a breathtaking view of the mountains outside. The other three walls were lined with bookshelves floor to ceiling, and there were a few tall ladders on wheels that he thought were probably for reaching the really high books.

There were other tables and shelves in the room too, seemingly placed at random. Landon couldn’t figure out what some of the objects were, but Jinpa said the coin was the only unusual thing they found in here. Then the boy noticed he had continued to walk further into the chamber, though he hadn’t meant to. The coin in his closed hand seemed to be getting warmer and then he noticed the tiny lantern he always wore on a chain around his neck was beginning to glow.

Baby was stirring in the pack that the child was wearing on his back, reminding Landon he wasn’t alone.

He opened his hand. The coin was glowing slightly just as his lantern was. On a hunch, Landon took off his backpack and opened it. He found the black glove he got from Illanipi in the old west. He put the coin on the floor for a second and put the glove on, then picked it up again with his gloved right hand.

The palm of the glove turned the same color as the glow of the coin. He could feel his hand tingling and then heard a whisper. “Hungry.”

Startled, he tried to drop the coin but it was stuck to the glove. He tried to take off the glove, but it was stuck to his hand and arm like there was glue inside. Now his whole body was tingling.

“Hungry.” The voice was louder this time.

There was pounding on the door to the chamber and Landon realized the door was closed. He hadn’t noticed that before. “Child. Open the door.” It was Jinpa.

Landon opened his mouth to yell back, but no sound came out. He was disappearing. He could see through his own body. Quickly, he grabbed his backpack and put it on. Baby and his invisibility cloak were still inside. Then he ran back toward the door, but it was like one of those dreams where you can only run in slow motion, like trying to run in a swimming pool.

“Open the door, boy.” Jinpa was yelling louder.

Landon tried yelling himself but he’d lost his voice. He was running slower and slower, getting more and more transparent. The light around him was getting dimmer. The only thing he could see clearly was the light from this gloved hand and from his lantern. It was like light made of syrup. It flowed up his arm and around his body. Landon thought he was going to drown. He couldn’t breathe. He tried to think of a spell that would help him escape, but he was so scared, nothing came to mind.

It got darker and darker except for the light now coming from the syrup around his body. Then everything was blackness and he was gone.

This story immediately follows Beginning the Quest of Jao Jin in which she and the Ambrosial Dragon Buddy attempt to solve the murder of her grandfather Xun Qin and his Master known as the Nameless One.

This is the 24th story in a series I started for my grandson one year ago. I went back to the beginning to attempt to recapture the original mood since I’ve been pretty good at writing adventure stories for an eight-year-old boy but not so good at retaining the affection between Landon and Buddy.

To read that first adventure, go to The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. That story has a link that leads to the next and so on. Click enough links, and eventually you’ll get back here.

To read the next chapter and the conclusion of this quest, go to Return to the Mysterious Island.

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