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The Guardian

Some friendships will last a lifetime.

By Mark GagnonPublished 6 months ago Updated 5 months ago 6 min read

Chapter I

The marauding hordes of Jikininki, dead humans who still had partial brain function, were approaching. They possessed an insatiable hunger for living flesh. The Jikininki throng, driven forward by humans called Beast Masters who controlled them, crested the hills protecting Tranquility. Only the Indestructible Legion was powerful enough to repel the Army of the Soulless, and no one had seen them near Tranquility in decades.

The war had been raging for over a hundred years, but in the farming community of Tranquility, life carried on in much the same way as it had for centuries—until today. Villagers, armed only with pitchforks and other farming tools, were hopelessly outnumbered. They fought the soulless hoard valiantly, but the inevitable could not be denied. The Beast Masters spent the evening celebrating their victory while the Jikininki gorged themselves on the dead and dying villagers. It was a vision of horror that would remain burned into three-year-old Alexander’s mind for the rest of his life.

When the battle began, Alexander’s mother was told to hide him in a root cellar with the other children, but trapping him in a hole in the ground made no sense to her. Instead, she ran to a large barn close to town, and they hid in the hayloft. From there, Alexander and his mother watched the battle and the gut-wrenching feast that followed. Her decision to hide in the loft was justified. She watched as the children in the cellar were discovered and taken away by the Beast Masters to be used as slaves. The weak ones were given to the Jikininki. They had to escape the village now or suffer a similar fate.

Alexander and his mother lay in the loft until just before sunrise. Jikininki don’t sleep. They enter a period of inactivity while the Beast Masters rest. The valiant mother, with her son, clutched close to her chest, ran for all she was worth. She knew this would be their only chance to dash for freedom.

The forest was just feet away when a high-pitched, whooshing sound broke the silence. She heard a heavy thud followed by an unknown force pushing her to the ground. Then came the white-hot pain as the arrow penetrated her back, propelling forward and piercing her heart. Her last words to Alexander were, “Run! Don’t stop running until the trees can protect you!”

Alexander could hear the Beast Master guard running towards his fresh kill. A blinding fear overcame him. He cried out, "Mommy get up! Please mommy get up!" When she didn't move he ran into the forest. He ran until his little legs could run no more. The young boy collapsed with exhaustion and dropped into a deep sleep on the forest floor. He had escaped the carnage that overwhelmed his village but now had to survive a new set of dangers.

When Alexander finally awoke, the sun had already started its descent into the western sky. His first thought was to look for his mother. "Mommy where are you? I'm scared." Then the horrific memory of her death forced its way into his mind. He wept uncontrollably. Slowly, his grief was replaced by hunger.

The boy scanned his surroundings, looking for something to eat and drink. On the other side of a clearing, Alexander spotted a bush with berries. They looked like the ones his mother gave him for breakfast, so he walked toward them. Midway through the clearing, the rustling of bushes followed by low growls made him freeze. Entering the clearing from the other side slinked a pack of dire wolves. His three-year-old mind first thought ‘dog’ and he smiled at the approaching pack. His smile turned into a worried frown as the alpha male let out a low, menacing growl.

Alexander walked backward slowly as the pack approached. He was about to break into a futile run when a powerful gust of wind blew him to the ground. The surrounding earth shook and the sky above him darkened as a beast, gigantic and terrifying, landed between him and the dire wolves. They snarled and howled at the interloper, but none of the pack advanced on the beast. The dragon raised to its full height. It inhaled a massive breath of air and spewed fire in an arch separating the wolves from himself and the boy. The dire wolves knew they could not fight a creature of such magnitude and ran back into the woods; the alpha letting out one last growl at the dragon as he left.

The massive dragon turned and lowered his head in a gesture of friendship to the quaking three-year-old. Alexander had seen a picture of a dragon once but never saw a real one. Dragons are incapable of speaking verbally, but if a person has an open mind, they can communicate telepathically. No one has a more open mind than a young child.

A deep baritone voice seemed to wrap around Alexander like the warm blanket his mother used to fend off the chilly night air.

“My name is Draco. I will not harm you. What are you called?”

A meek voice replied, “I’m Alexander. I’m three.”

"Speak up child! You have nothing to fear."

Feeling more confident Alexander asked, "Will you be my friend?"

Draco reflected on how most animals reach maturity in several months to a year, but humans take several decades to reach adulthood. He would need to sleep a dragon sleep of many years soon and could not care for this child.

“Alexander, I will be your friend always as long as you are a good person. Now I want to take you to a place where you will be well cared for until you are big enough to care for yourself. It’s far from here and we’ll need to fly to this place. Will that be alright with you?”

The boy looked puzzled, then stood and flapped his arms like a bird. “You can teach me to fly?”

“No, but you can ride on me as I fly. Are you ready to go?”

“The man hurt my mother!” whimpered Alexander. “She never got up!”

Thinking about his mother lying in the dirt caused him to cry again.

“I’m sorry that happened, my friend. I am taking you to a place that will teach you many things, including how to fight bad people. Come, we must go now. It’s a long way away.”

Draco lowered one wing. Alexander wiped his eyes and scrambled up the leathery wing onto the dragon’s back. He found a secure place where he could wedge his body between the armor-plated scales as Draco took to the air. At first, Alexander was terrified, watching the ground shrink below him. His three-year-old mind quickly transitioned from fear to elation as his new adventure began.

“You will always be able to talk to me no matter how far apart we are,” said Draco. “Our bond is strong. All you have to do is call out to me in your mind and I’ll hear you.”

Alexander didn’t fully understand what Draco meant, but it didn’t matter. He was flying like a dragon on his way to a new home.

This was the beginning of a long and complicated friendship.


About the Creator

Mark Gagnon

I have spent most of my life traveling around the US and the globe. Now it's time to draw on these experiences and create what I hope are interesting fictional stories. Only you, the reader, can tell me if I've achieved my goal.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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