The Very Old Dragon

The 28th Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosial Dragon: A Children’s Fantasy Series

It was a Saturday morning and Landon wanted to sleep in, but his bladder was arguing with him and as usual, it won.

While everyone was asleep including Buddy, Landon got up to use the bathroom. After he finished, he washed his hands. The palm of his right hand was tingling so he looked at it. For a second, he saw the symbol of a dragon’s head glowing there and then it disappeared.

He returned to his room, opened the top drawer of his dresser, and pulled out the Soul Coin he had gotten in China from underneath his jeans. It felt a little heavier. Something was still inside.

It had been raining outside and the sky was covered with dark clouds making it seem as black as night, even though the Sun was slowly beginning to rise in the East.

Landon crawled back into bed, this time clutching the supposedly empty Soul Coin in his right hand. Buddy and all of the living stuffed animals sleepily readjusted where they were laying to cuddle closer to the eight-year-old boy. The pitter-patter of rain started its rhythmic pattern upon the roof and lulled the child back to sleep.

Landon was in a rain forest. It was dark but not night. He had some sort of poncho on with a hood over his head to keep him dry, well as dry as possible anyway. It was cold and humid, in spite of the fact that rain forests are typically warm and humid.

He was walking forward, moving between the trees, trying to keep his footing over uneven ground. Mud stuck to his shoes which were not meant for wet weather. His feet were soaked. How did he get here? Where was everybody? How was he ever going to get back home?

Then he saw a light ahead. It was coming out of a tree, but it was a very strange tree. It had a big, big trunk and its branches stretched up into the darkness and the clouds above.

The trunk had a door. It was an old-fashioned wooden door with a brass handle, knocker, and hinges. To the right of the door was a window. It was a round window with vertical and horizontal framing inside the glass. There was a golden light coming from the window that flickered like a flame.

This was Landon’s only hope to get out of this horrible weather. He was soaked through and through now. He was shivering. He was scared.

The boy knocked on the door three times, knock, knock, knock. He thought he heard a voice come from inside, but he wasn’t sure. He tried again, knock, knock, knock.

This time he could hear the muffled voice more clearly, “Coming, coming. I’m old. Don’t rush me.”

The door finally opened with a loud creaking and Landon was astonished to find it being answered by a dragon.

“Oh, a child. A human child. Come in, come in, dear boy. You must be soaked.”

The old dragon, ancient really, stepped aside and Landon rushed in. He was immediately confronted by a well with a long spiral staircase going down. To his right behind the dragon (for the door opened to the right from the outside), was a small table with a single oil lamp sitting on it, providing the flickering illumination.

“Please, downstairs, quickly. I have a fire going. We need to get you out of those wet clothes.”

Landon should have been astonished. Part of him was astonished. An old dragon wearing spectacles, a brown checkered waistcoat over a white shirt with black bow tie was ushering him down some stairs. The boy hesitated as the dragon smiled (revealing crooked and not entirely friendly teeth) and gestured down the stairwell. Then he took his first tentative steps down, while feeling the rush of warm air coming up.

He heard the door creak and close behind him with a slam. Whatever was about to happen to him, if it was bad, he was trapped.

Down, down, down, round, round, round went the boy as he heard the ponderous steps of the dragon behind him and felt the spiral staircase moan and shudder under his weight.

Finally he reached the bottom, a dirt floor but clean with no loose particles, as if it were rock, but softer.

“To the right, my boy. The fireplace is to the right.” He could hear the dragon speaking from behind and above him.

Sure enough, though an open doorway, it was round, all the doorways on this level were round, warmer air was coming through and there was more light, flickering like a flame.

Landon stepped across the threshold to find a rather charming stone fireplace with logs inside cheerily burning, set into the far wall. The room wasn’t large, but there was space enough for two plush easy chairs, a table in the middle with an ashtray holding a still smoldering pipe, and bookshelves, crammed to overflowing with very old books, lining each and every wall.

On the hearth above the fire, there sat two oil lamps burning low and adding a bit of light to what the fireplace was already providing. To the right of the hearth sat a box with more wood for burning, from small twigs to large logs.

“Go in, go in, lad. Make yourself comfortable. I’ll bring a change of clothes and refreshments.”

Landon walked past the chairs and sat as close to the fire as he could without getting burned. He took off the poncho, pulling it over his head. He was wearing what he normally would wear to school, a regular t-shirt, jeans, socks, and shoes.

Presently, the old dragon returned. Landon turned completely around to face him.

fireplace

Found at standout-fireplace-designs.com

In addition to what the boy noticed about him before, he saw that the dragon’s scales were gray, medium gray, neither very dark but not approaching white. There was a high ridge of scales starting nearly between his eyes and extending backward across his head forming a crest.

Like a person, he had opposable thumbs, which came in handy, because he was holding a set of dry clothing in his left hand while grasping a cup and saucer in his right. He put the clothing down on the chair to Landon’s left (now that the boy’s back was to the fire) and put the cup and saucer on the table between the two chairs.

“The tea should warm you up once you change. There’s a clothes rack to the left of the fire. Put your wet clothing upon it to dry. I’ll be back with biscuits and jam. Oh, just let me remove my pipe and ashtray. I’d just finished my smoke anyway.”

With that, the dragon picked up the smoking apparatus (which for some reason, didn’t smell all that bad) and departed once again, turning right down the hallway.

Landon quickly got out of his wet clothes, hanging them on the rack as instructed, and put on the dry set. The shirt was a light grey, long-sleeved, buttons from the collarless top to a quarter-way down the shirt. The pants were a soft dark green material, very warm and cozy. He also put on the socks which were thick and comfortable. Then he sat on the chair the clothes previously had occupied and tried the tea.

He could taste the honey but the tea itself was unfamiliar. It was good, slightly “woody” in flavor. He gingerly sipped it as it was still quite hot.

Presently, the dragon returned and occupied the chair next to Landon. He set down a small plate of biscuits covered with what looked like strawberry jam.

“I was just about to have a snack myself so the tea and biscuits were already prepared. Please, help yourself.”

“Thank you,” he said to the dragon. Landon reached out for one of the biscuits, It was round and flat and warm. It smelled delicious. The child took a bite and suddenly realized how hungry he was. He downed the rest of the biscuit in one gulp and reached for another.

Landon looked at the dragon and saw he was gently nibbling at his first biscuit, taking delicate little bites with the teeth at the tip of his snout. The boy caught a glimpse of a long, tapering pink tongue inside the dragon’s mouth.

Once the dragon finished his biscuit, “Oh forgive me, dear boy. Where are my manners. I am Gerlilanum. As you can see, I am a dragon. As you also can no doubt see, I am very old. In fact…” the dragon looked left and right seeming to look for anyone who might overhear, “…I am the very first dragon.” He had whispered that last part while leaning toward the boy. Then he straightened up in his seat again.

“Now, who might you be?”

Landon had just finished his third biscuit and was feeling better, his tummy fuller and his body warmer. “I’m Landon. I don’t know how I got here.”

“Well Landon, I expect you’re here to solve a mystery of sorts and maybe even get ready for your first lesson.”

“Lesson in what?” The boy lifted his teacup to his lips.

“Oh dear me, I forgot my cup and the teapot. Please excuse me. I’ll return in a thrice.”

Gerlilanum stood and began to walk out of the room. “If you’d be a good boy and put another log on the fire while I’m in the kitchen.” The dragon turned to leave.

“Wait? What mystery? What lesson?”

“Landon, ouchie ouch.”

“What?” The child was still sleepy and it was so warm in bed.

“Landon kick. Landon kick.”

He realized he must have kicked Buddy, his friend the Ambrosial dragon, who was on top of the bed at his feet.

“Oh, sorry Buddy. I must have been dreaming.”

Landon moved his tongue around inside of his mouth. He tasted bad breath but just for an instant, he also tasted a woody-flavored tea as well as warm biscuits and strawberry jam.

It had been a dream, hadn’t it? Then he felt the Soul Coin in his right hand. He’d never let go of it when he fell asleep.

******

Monday morning at school. He stood in line with the other kids waiting to go into class. They were in alphabetical order, so he couldn’t be right by any of his friends. Then they were given the signal to go inside. Landon put his backpack and jacket (it had gotten cold and rainy here recently) in his cubicle and then took his seat. He got out his folder along with the rest of the students and then looked up at the teacher.

“This morning, we’ll be studying the ancient history of magic and how the first dragon brought the multi-verse into being.”

Landon couldn’t believe his eyes or ears. Gerlilanum was their teacher today?

He blinked several more times and then he saw his normal teacher. One of the kids on his right whispered to him while the teacher’s back was turned, “Landon, are you okay?”

******

Landon wanted to ask Buddy what was happening to him, but he knew it had something to do with the Soul Coin. Buddy thought the Soul Coin was empty and that the Emperor Dragon was trapped in the magical sword Demonslayer in the care of Arioch, Lord of Chaos, who existed a universe away.

dragon coin

Image found at eBay

If he told Buddy what he was experiencing, he might take the coin away. Then how would he find out anything more about Gerlilanum?

Landon didn’t have the dream for the rest of the week. He woke up, had breakfast, walked to school, studied in class, played with his friends, ate lunch, went home, did homework, and ate dinner. He played with his sister Dani. He played with Buddy as well as Baby and the other living stuffed animals, he played “the game” with Grandpa, and he went to bed each night.

After homework and dinner, sometimes Buddy would take him to his room and teach him more magic. He hadn’t taught Landon any new spells in a while, but instead was focusing on helping the boy refine the magic he already knew. He also taught Landon about the magic amulet or talisman he wore on a small chain around his neck. It was in the shape of a tiny, old-fashioned railroad lantern. It amplified the magic Landon could use and added a protection spell which is probably what had kept the little boy alive through experiences that would have killed a normal child.

But the light from the lantern could be made to reveal what was hidden, even from normal detection and divination spells, even from dragon magic like what Buddy used.

Landon sometimes used the lantern on Buddy when he thought the dragon wasn’t paying attention. Through the lantern, the boy could see his friend in his perfected form, the majestic, magnificent, powerful golden dragon. A few times he could even hear a name, Buddy’s real name, but it was hard to understand. Buddy had said it a few times but it was difficult for the human brain to figure it out and impossible for the human tongue to pronounce, at least for now.

He used the lantern to look at his sister. That was really strange. She was random, chaotic energy slowly beginning to take shape, form, and order. Some was sweet and nice and kind, but some was driven, wanting what she wanted and when she didn’t get it right away, the chaos took over and the energy overflowed and struck like lightning. That’s when she lost her temper and threw a fit.

He started to use the lantern to look at Daddy, but Buddy caught him at it. “Uh, uh, uh, Landon. Not good to see people, especially grown-ups as really are. You child. Not understand grown-up stuff. You wait. You wait.”

“Okay, Buddy.”

Landon was getting tired of always waiting. Why couldn’t he do more now?

******

Landon woke up with a start. Someone was knocking on the door upstairs.

Upstairs? They didn’t have an upst…

The boy realized he had fallen asleep in the cozy, comfy chair in front of the fireplace at Gerlilanum’s home in the tree. That must mean he’s dreaming again. That must mean he’s still asleep in his own bed back at home. He relaxed a little bit.

Above him, he could hear the old dragon grousing as he approached the door in answer to the incessant knocking. “Coming, coming. I’m old. Don’t rush me.”

He could hear the door creaking open and a wind rushed up from the fireplace, out the door, and up the spiral staircase. He had a blanket over him. The old dragon must have “tucked him in” when he fell asleep. Landon pulled it tighter around him now.

He could hear voices above him, the dragon’s and someone else’s.

“Alright, alright, a moment,” he could hear the dragon complaining. “Here. I haven’t got much.” Then, “Fine, fine. Thank you. Good day.”

The door creaked and clamoured shut and the draft mercifully ceased. Landon could hear Gerlilanum clunking, clacking back down the stairs. As the dragon got closer, Landon decided to pretend to be asleep just to see what would happen next. He heard Gerlilanum enter the room behind him.

“Oh good, you’re awake. I may need your help.”

Seems you couldn’t fool an old dragon. The ancient serpentine creature sat heavily in the seat to Landon’s left. “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. And I haven’t even begun your lessons yet.”

“What do you mean, Gerlilanum? Landon turned in his chair and saw the dragon was looking down at a note he was holding in his paws, reading it carefully and fretting.

“It’s a summons, a secret one. Normally I wouldn’t breathe a word of it to you or anyone, but I’m getting too old for this.” The dragon turned his head toward the boy. “I’m afraid I’ll need your help.”

He adjusted his spectacles so he could see more clearly. Twin puffs of smoke issued from his nostrils. His reptilian eyes dilated. He seemed most distressed.

“What are you talking about, Gerlilanum? What summons? What help? My help? Doing what?”

“Well…” As the dragon began to speak, he placed the notice and the envelope it came in on the table between them. Landon saw it was written in a language he didn’t understand or even recognize, including the magical languages Buddy had been teaching him. The dragon sat up in his seat and began.

“Well, before your world was born, before the universe existed as you have been taught in school, there was nothingness. Not just empty space without stars and planets, but true nothingness, non-existence.

“That is non-existence except for the great creative force which has always been and will always be, so strange and different that it has no beginning and no end and is not in the multi-verse or of it.

“Then, because the creative force always had done it and always will do it, and is always about to do it, the creative force created.

“First all was chaos, form without substance, energy without order. Then slowly law emerged from chaos and after a vast amount of time passed, chaos and law reached a balance, but they could not co-mingle. In chaos it was absolute chaos and no order or law could exist, no matter how small. In law it was absolute law and no bit of disorder no matter how small could exist.

“But then there was the place where chaos and law met and it was always mutual annihilation between then.

“The ultimate creative force saw that no life could exist, since life must be made of both order and chaos together, so he created the first of us who could live in both and in between both. He created the primordial dragon…

…me.”

Landon could see that Gerlilanum was serious but he still wanted to laugh. It was impossible to imagine the old, frail, nearsighted dragon with a taste for tea along with his biscuits and jam, who lived inside of an old tree in the middle of a rainy forest as being the primordial dragon, the first, the model for all dragons to come after him.

egg

The primordial egg

“I can see that you don’t believe me, Landon. I can understand why. Thirteen-and-a-half billion years, give or take a few hundred million, is a long time. I’m not the dragon I once was. If I were, I’d not have retired to this quaint little home in this quaint little wood that neither exists nor doesn’t exist, and you wouldn’t be here with me.”

Landon reminded himself that he was dreaming, so he guessed it wouldn’t hurt to go along with whatever Gerlilanum had in mind.

“What do you want me to do, Gerlilanum?”

“I need you to come with me to protect the egg. Something wants kill it and if the egg is broken before its ready to hatch, there will be no multi-verse, only order and chaos at war for all eternity, or at least until the final annihilation between them and the heat death of the multi-verse.”

“Wait. What egg?”

“Why mine, of course. How do you think I brought the multi-verse into being? I laid an egg, protected it, nurtured it, and then when it was time, it hatched and out came the beginning of the multi-verse that allowed both order and chaos to co-exist, making all living things possible.”

“But you’re a boy. I thought only girl dragons could lay eggs.”

“When you are the only dragon, the first and only dragon, you do what you have to do. I laid the primordial egg, the one that spawned the multi-verse.”

“But we’re alive now. The egg hatched a long, long time ago.”

“Yes, but remember what I said about the ultimate creative force. It has always created, it is always creating, it is always about to create. No beginning, no end. That’s where the egg is, in the place of no beginning and end, the place without time and space. When it hatched, out came time and space.”

“So even though the egg hatched a long time ago, it is always still an egg and always about to hatch.”

“Now you’re getting it.”

Landon didn’t think he was anywhere near getting it.

“So I propose we go on a metaphorical journey.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a quest, if you will, between time and substance, between imagination and ideas. Nothing will be as it appears, but it will appear as something we can go to and walk through and be in so we can reach and protect the egg.”

“What wants to destroy it?”

“My other self.”

“What other self?”

“Remember the Soul Coin?”

“The Emperor Dragon was in the Soul Coin. But he’s in Demonslayer now. He can’t hurt anyone.”

“He left something behind in the Soul Coin, the part of him that is pure evil, who wants not chaos or law but to rule both and neither, just as he tried once before. Now, if he can destroy the egg, nothing will ever exist that existed before. In fact, there will be no before, no during, and no after. Nothing.”

Landon was really confused, but this was just a dream and he’d be glad to help the friendly old dream dragon.

In addition to the clothes Landon was now wearing, Gerlilanum managed to produce a heavy, waterproof (and a few other things “proof”) cloak and hood, sturdy boots, a sword and scabbard just Landon’s size, a pack full of supplies, and a donkey to carry it. The dragon himself also put on a cloak, being so old he got cold easily, boots for his feet so as not to get dirt and mud between the scales of his toes, and a handkerchief should he get the sniffles.

They allowed the fire to die and at the top of the spiral staircase, he filled the oil lamp and then turned down the wick so it barely shone any light.

“It is my express hope dear boy, that we will return to my sweet home having defeated the evil and thus preserving the multi-verse. If we fail, you shall never exist and never know, but I being the first, will face a fate so unspeakable I cannot utter it in your presence.”

Before Landon could respond, Gerlilanum threw open the door. It was raining, but only a light drizzle. The dragon stepped out first then moved to one side allowing the boy egress.

The child pulled his cloak tight around him. The dragon pulled the reluctant donkey out of the doorway and then turned back to close the door.

“Come, lad. We start the journey. May the ultimate creative power be our protector and guide, for only we are assigned the awesome and majestic task of protecting the egg, the mother of all existence. Here, boy. Take the donkey’s reins.” The dragon put them in Landon’s hands and the boy followed the dragon down the watery path away from Gerlilanum’s tree, the donkey trailing behind him. The adventure, however humbly, had begun.

******

Sunday morning. Buddy stretched and yawned. He saw that all of the stuffed animals were still sleeping but Landon wasn’t among them. The dragon would have supposed that he’d already gotten up but then he saw several things.

First, it looked like the blankets hadn’t been disturbed, as if Landon hadn’t been in his bed at all last night. That was ridiculous, since all of them had gone to bed together.

The second and third were in the boy’s place were two objects, the Soul Coin, and the railroad lantern, still on its chain.

Landon never took off the lantern and chain.

dragon's eye

The dragon’s eye

Buddy put his eyes close to the lantern and looked inside. He was looking into the wee lantern and through it into the Coin. Inside the coin was a vast expanse. Inside the expanse was a huge green rain forest. Inside the huge green rain forest was a huge tree that seemed to go up to heaven. The tree had a door and a window, and there was a tiny, tiny light coming out the window.

Two figures were leaving the tree. One was a dragon. The other was Landon holding the reins of a donkey that was following behind him.

Somehow, Landon was inside the Soul Coin and if Buddy couldn’t figure out what to do about it, Landon could be trapped inside forever.

This tale follows Bastet’s Fearful Symmetry but isn’t necessarily a direct sequel. It does continue the saga of the Soul Coin, even though the coin has (supposedly) been relieved of the spirit of the Emperor Dragon. However, there does seem to be something else inside, and it’s looking for Landon.

I decided to try my hand at a story that’s a little more child friendly. Even Landon says that these tales are often too violent for a typical kid, so I thought I’d imbue this one with a little more fantasy, hence the old dragon in the tree. I’m also playing fast and loose with the creation of the “multi-verse,” but like I said, this is a fantasy and it’s been written for an eight-year-old boy.

To read the series of stories I’ve written for my grandson from the beginning, go to The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. At the bottom of that story is a link to the next. Each subsequent story has a link to the subsequent chapter, so all you have to do is keep reading and clicking and you’ll eventually get back here.

The next story is called Saving the Egg.

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