The doorbell rang again.
“Just a minute.”
The seventeen-year-old boy went to the front door, and looking through the peep-hole, saw a mail carrier holding a package. Turning the deadbolt, he opened the door, and then, in a breathtaking fashion, his world ceased to exist.
“Landon.” His master’s voice came from behind him. He turned, and the full ten-meter length of the great golden dragon’s spectral image rushed through the house like a frigid wind, chilling the boy’s flesh as the serpent passed through his body and into the brilliant void outside the front door.
“Buddy!” He had to scream now to be heard above the sudden gale which carried him away after the dragon, who was already receding into the distance.
“Help me, Landon.” The dragon’s voice was a soft, still whisper he could barely hear within the roar of an arctic-cold hurricane, and then it was gone.
Chapter 6: Thus did the great golden dragon Xendrizdelian Nygardia Chyz, Shadow Master, Lord of Abibligon, of the Order of Zin become unmade, being swiftly ushered down the vortex of icy white mist at an impossible velocity. As he helplessly fell into an unknown distance, his body shrank, not in the manner of merely becoming smaller, but becoming younger, less developed, adolescent, and then younger still. And while his form regressed, so did his mind, his memories, his emotions, his spirit.
Then he was alone in the darkness, in the space between spaces and he was terrified. He was after him, a mighty ruler, a relentless king. Xian, King of the Shadow Dragons. The tiny Xen was exhausted, defenseless. One more strike by the King and he would be dead. Only one thing left to do. It was forbidden, but his only haven now was the human world. If he could open a portal in time.
The diminutive dragon, now about the size of a small collie, was just crossing the threshold into the realm of the one reality no dragon was ever to witness, when a bolt of blood-red energy smashed into him. He cried out in fiery anguish as his right wing was shattered, and he passed out while plummeting downward into the night sky.
Morning. Xen was lying in tall, wet grass. He was cold and in pain. Then there were footsteps. Someone or something two-legged was approaching. The dragon looked up with pained blue eyes. There stood an old man who was a stranger and yet familiar.
“Gramps?” For an instant, he recalled a kind man who had helped him, tended his wounds, gave him a home and a family when he was lost and alone.
The man turned and called over his shoulder. “He’s over here, David. Give me a hand.”
A tall, younger man arrived a few seconds later. “Sure, Pops. Anything you say.” His grin carried a message of menace, and when Xen looked back, the older man was glaring at him in the same manner.
“Let’s go, you.” Gramps and David roughly hoisted the dragon off the ground, causing him to cry out in pain again.
“Oh, that’s just a taste of what you’re in for, dragon,” Gramps snarled. Then, as if transporting an unfeeling sack of potatoes, they carelessly carried him to a house in the distance, which was to become Xen’s chamber of horrors.
When he could sleep, he dreamed of a little boy of seven and his baby sister. He laughed when he played with them, when he sang and danced with them, under the kindly watch of their Dad and Grandpa. They were his family once, but that was long ago, and as Gramps and David kept telling him, it was all an illusion. It never happened. They made sure his one wing had never healed and then they broke the other. He was kept in a cold, damp space under the house, given barely enough food and water to keep him alive, but they did want him kept alive.
“How long will we have to put up with him?” It was David’s voice but not David. It couldn’t be. He could hear them through the floor, through the concrete above him.
“Until the Nameless One tells us what the next step is.” Gramps but not Gramps was always in a bad mood, and didn’t seem to like “David” anymore than he did the dragon.
“He’s got a name, you moron.”
“Yes, and we’re forbidden to say it or even think it, lest his enemies realize that he’s still alive.”
“I say to heck with all that. Kill the dragon so we can go home.”
“Are you insane? Not only would he slay the both of us slowly and with searing pain, but it is rumored that if the dragon died without revealing his secrets, the very multiverse could be imperiled.”
“How can he reveal secrets if his memory is wiped?”
“Not wiped, just suppressed. Think, you fool,” The old man sounded as if he slapped at the younger. “How would he remember his apprentice and the others from the human world if his mind was truly regressed.”
“If only he knew. If he could summon his true being, he could destroy us and this ridiculous fiction in seconds.”
“Which is why we keep in injured and weak.”
“I still say we should have cut his tongue out. He keeps calling for the boy, who is now powerful. What if the apprentice should hear?”
“I doubt he could find his way here alone, and the Nameless One’s spells around this pocket universe would kill even one such as he. It would take an army to break in, and he hasn’t got one, not even all of the soldiers in those ridiculous games he was forced to play would be enough. We must keep the dragon here until the Nameless One’s arcane spells of preparation are complete, which we’ve been told is soon. Then he will come and drain dangerous and sinister secrets from the creation of reality out of this ‘Buddy.’ Then we will be allowed to finish the golden one.
“Oh, Landon. I need you so much. If only I could make you hear me.” Buddy whimpered as he once again tested broken, misshapen wings. He was covered with spider bites, and along with the lack of food, water, and his injuries, the venom took the dragon to the threshold of death without allowing him to cross.
“What makes you think I would help you?” It was the boy’s voice, the way he sounded when they first met so many years ago, at least he thought it was him.
“You are crazy, dragon. I never existed, and even if I did, I never loved you.”
“No, Landon. I love, love, love you.”
Vicious red eyes glowed in the dark. “Well I don’t love you.”
Buddy raised his head for a moment to stared at the crimson glow. Was it Landon, or perhaps it was another demon like the two above? Maybe he had lost his mind and everything he thought he remembered was an unreal dream.
“Don’t say that.”
Another voice, familiar and older than his unseen tormentor.
“I hate you, too. I hate you all, and if I could kill you, I would,” said the boy’s voice cruelly.
“How can you kill yourself, that is, if you really are supposed to be me.”
“Shut up, apprentice.”
“Landon?” For the first time in months, the dragon felt a tiny glimmer of hope.
“Shut up both of you!” Something struck Buddy in the face. He didn’t have the strength to scream as hot agony coursed through his jaw, but in his mind he released all the pain and suffering into the void, his last desperate cry for help.
“I’m coming,” said the older boy’s voice, and the flaring scarlet eyes vanished.
“Pops, get out here quick.” David raced out the backdoor of the house and stared up into the night sky. Gramps followed a few seconds later and both of them gazed in terror as the entire eastern horizon exploded in deep violet light.
The two shadow demons instantly reverted to their repulsive forms, each standing maybe five feet tall, skin a dark, leathery gray, jagged and twisted claws and fangs, a night-black obsidian.
“Something’s breaking through, Pops. It must be the boy.”
“Stop calling me that. How in the merit of the Nameless One could he, unless…”
“Call for reinforcements. We can’t possibly repel them all.”
“It’s too late.”
Then they came, thousand and thousands of them, diving out of a portal fully half the size of the sky above, myriads of dragons, each with a rider bearing shield and staff, and at the lead, the great golden dragon Shay. Her rider was a girl barely fifteen, a spear in her right hand at the ready. Sitting just behind her, the apprentice Landon, and in his hand, a staff made of dull gray metal with a wooden handle, a gift from a dead friend, and the cane was glowing.
The battle was over quickly, because a mere two shadow demons were no match for the exiled dragon horde of lost Vovin.
Shay circled overhead of the now ruined house, reduced to smoldering ashes by the fire of hundreds of dragons. Thousands more soared higher, guarding the others as Shay and her mate Kaleen landed, his rider Aiden, remaining on his back.
“Stay here,” Landon told the girl Danijel. I can see him under the rubble.” The teen leapt to the ground, and with a wave of his staff left and right, burnt wood, metal, and plastic was thrown half a mile in both directions, and the cavern beneath revealed to the boy’s tear filled eyes. The third demon tormentor was a smoldering corpse, but what of the dragon?
“Oh, Buddy.” He jumped down into the lair and gently embraced his best friend, someone closer than a brother. “I’m so sorry.” Landon sobbed as he held the dragon.
“Landon,” he whispered. “You came.” Somehow Buddy was still able to speak with a broken jaw.
“Of course I came. I love you.”
“Buddy, love, love, love.” And then with a sigh, the tiny dragon’s body went limp.
“No.” Tears freely running down his cheeks, the seventeen-year-old put his staff across his back, and then tenderly lifted the dragon in his arms. A warm breeze pulled them both out of the pit.
“Is he…” Danijel was crying over Landon’s loss.
“There is still time,” declared Shay. She lifted her massive head skyward. “Kaleen! Aiden! Prepare the way back. We are out of time.”
“We are indeed, my love,” Shay’s mate cried back. The curse is upon us. We cannot be out of Vovin any longer. The portal is pulling us back.”
A swirling whirlwind of purple and green pulled violently at dragon and rider, all the thousands of them, most of the riders being children, up, up and back. Landon, still holding the limp form of Buddy, sheltered behind Danijel’s back as mighty amber wings took flight back toward both safety and imprisonment. In mere minutes, a sky once filled with dragons of every shape, color and size was again empty of everything except clouds and stars.
But then, only moments later, something else came, something horrible, and when it witnessed the abject destruction of the pocket realm, it cried out in rage, swearing horrible curses, and vowing revenge.
“We will care for him, but I’m afraid I cannot know if he will survive, Landon.” The teen stood with Aidan, his senior by four years, and yet so much like him, and his younger sister Danijel, as well as dozens of younger children, as Shay addressed him just outside the amazing forest city of Vovin.
“I know you’ll do your best. I just wish I could say goodbye.”
“We have induced a deep sleep. Xen must use all of his energy to heal if there is any hope for him. There are dragons and children among us who have healing gifts, including Amanda here.” The mother dragon twisted the tip of one wing indicating a thirteen-year-old girl, dressed in earth tone linens like most of the others. “She’s the eldest sister of Zooey, the animal talker.”
Landon looked over at the nearest tree and the five-year-old girl was sitting in almost the same position he’s seen her in when he last visited, albeit briefly. This time she was talking to a crow named Jack, and it seemed as if Jack was talking back.
“Thank you for all you and the others have done, Shay. I’ll return as soon as I can, but the danger isn’t over yet. There’s a dark power behind all of this, and if I don’t discover what it is and defeat it, I fear even Vovin is in danger, as well as the other realms, including my own.”
“Then may the spirit of the great dragon go with you, my son. We will guard Xendrizdelian, and with all of our powers, endeavor to save his life and restore his being.”
The teen stood for another moment looking into Shay’s eyes. Then he glanced around at all the others, the dragons and children of the hidden city. And then he vanished.
Here’s the table of contents so far:
I’m writing these tales for my nine-year-old grandson, and he’s been appearing in a series of stories about him and the golden dragon for over two years now. Yesterday, he suggested an extension to these adventures, which I shall pursue starting in the next chapter.
Oh, and I’ve included characters and places featured in the first draft of my novel, which I sorely need to get back to editing.
The next chapter is Dark Quest.