Draco had been flying for several hours when he felt his young passenger stir. Alexander fell asleep shortly after Draco had taken to the sky, but now he was refreshed.
“Are we there yet, Draco?”
“No boy. We still have two hours to go. Relax and watch the clouds or the ocean below.”
Several minutes passed. “Draco, I need to go to the privy.”
Draco knew from experience how annoying human adults could be, but caring for a three-year-old human was a novel experience for him.
“Can’t you wait? It’s not much further. Dragons can wait far longer than that.”
“I’m not a dragon. Can you stop there?” said Alexander, pointing. “We can stop there. Please, please, please!”
Draco dipped a wing and veered toward what appeared to be a small island. He couldn’t recall ever seeing an island here before, but it had been several hundred years since he passed this way. He swooped in for a closer look. It wasn’t much of an island, more of a sandbar with seaweed strewn over the top. Draco decided to take a second pass, just to be safe.
Deep in the bowels of the island was a chamber festooned with brightly colored shells and seabird feathers. Poised on a throne of claws sat Crustus, king of the floating island. His kind had created the island with floating debris and seaweed to lure in sea birds. Occasionally, a shipwrecked mariner would find his way onto the shore, thinking he was safe. The crab-like creatures would wait in ambush until just the right moment, then attack. They would swarm the misfortunate visitor, slicing and tearing his flesh until only the skeleton remained.
“King Crustus, we’ve spotted a dragon circling the island, and it looks like he has a human child riding on him,” said the lookout.
“A dragon! Are you sure?”
“I am, my lord, and I think he’s about to land.”
“Our clan could feast for a year on a creature that large. I must see this beast for myself. If he lands, it will take the entire colony to subdue him. Sound the alarm!”
“Yes, my lord.”
Draco finished his second pass. Finding nothing unusual, he decided it was time to land as Alexander’s fidgeting increased. Draco selected a spot in the center of the island, pitched his wings to slow his forward airspeed and bent his legs slightly to absorb the impact of landing. Several minutes later, his feet were on the ground. But was it ground?
What looked like sand from the air was sloshing like water in a bucket below his feet. Something was wrong. Every instinct told him to fly. Unfortunately, every instinct in Alexander told him to jump off Draco and take care of business; which he did.
“Alexander, get back now! Hurry!”
“But I’m not done yet, Draco. Ouch, something bit me!”
Draco felt them too. First, only one or two bites were under his armor-plated scales, but the volume was increasing. In a flash, Draco understood what was happening. Although he had never seen a colony of Killer Crustations, he had heard stories about them. There was no time to waste. Alexander was already partially covered in the ravenous creatures.
Thrashing his tail back and forth, the dragon dislodged the small creatures that had swarmed him. He wrapped his tail securely around Alexander and swiftly launched into the sky, clearing the marauding creatures. Now safely airborne, Draco unleashed a stream of fire on the counterfeit island, engulfing it in fire and boiling the surrounding waters. When the fire died out and the water cooled, all that was left were dead crustations drifting to the ocean floor where schools of fish were waiting.
A traumatized Alexander twisted and squirmed, trying to clear the remaining crustations from his body. He was hurting from the pincer wounds and wanted nothing more than to be back on the farm with his parents.; parents and a farm that no longer existed. Draco felt his pain and despair and spoke to the young orphan in his mind.
“Alexander, my friend, because our minds are linked, I feel what you are feeling. It’s terrible that someone your age has had to endure so many hardships. I promise you that this will all change when we arrive at our destination.”
Sobbing both on the outside and in his mind, Alexander asked, “What is this place called?”
“The Citadel is our destination. It’s built on an actual island, not like the one we just left. The people there are teachers of science, philosophy, and self-defense. You will learn much while I sleep, but we will always be just a thought apart. Try to rest now.”
Alexander reluctantly settled in and slept once again. Draco continued his journey to The Citadel. When the island was in sight, the dragon, using his mind, gently nudged the child awake.
“Your new home is just ahead, Alexander. There are many children at The Citadel for you to play with.”
“Do they have dogs and cats there? I had a dog back at Tranquility. His name was Jack. Mommy said he couldn’t come hide with us because he might bark and let the bad people know where we were. I miss Jack.”
“There are dogs and cats and cows and many other animals. You’ll see for yourself soon. How are your bites?”
“Some are all right, but some hurt a lot. They were mean to me. I’m glad you hurt them too, Draco!”
“We did what we had to, to survive. Hang on tight, I’m landing.”
Draco landed smoothly on a field just outside the Citadel walls. Immediately, a massive drawbridge was lowered, and several elderly men in ornately designed robes walked out to greet their guests.
“Draco, my dear friend, you have stayed away too long. I hope your journey was a pleasant one?”
“Unfortunately, as much as I would like this visit to be about old friends catching up, I’m here to ask for your help,” said Draco. “My young friend Alexander has been made an orphan by the Beast Masters and their hoard. Would you have a place in The Citadel for him to live and learn?”
Alexander was confused. He knew Draco and the man were talking with their minds, but he could not hear what they were saying. The eldest of the men turned toward him, knelt down on one knee, and extended his hand.
Speaking not with his mind but with his voice, “Hello young man! My name is Aetos. What’s yours?”
Momentarily startled at hearing someone speak out loud, the boy hesitated, then answered, “I’m Alexander and I’m three. Draco says I’m going to live here. Do you have a dog?”
Aetos had to grin at the boy’s impetuousness. “Yes, my boy, you will stay with us for as long as you wish; and yes, I have a dog.”
“Aetos, I must leave now. My rest period is upon me. Once again, I am in your debt.”
“There is no debt, Draco. We are all brothers in spirit. Rest comfortably knowing that your ward is in excellent hands.”
Draco turned to Alexander. “I must leave now to rest. Aetos is a wise and caring man who will teach you many things. Remember, I’m only a thought away.”
Alexander reached out his small arms and did his best to hug his friend. Draco turned and launched into the sky.
“Come, my young apprentice, it’s time we get to know each other better.
Aetos and Alexander watched Draco fly off to his resting place, then turned toward The Citadel. They walked across the lowered drawbridge in silence, followed by Leandro and Lonnie. A feeling of deep despair washed over Alexander. His father died fighting the Jikininki. His mother was killed by a Beast Master as they tried to escape, and now his best friend and guardian was flying away to a distant place. There was only so much his three-year-old mind could handle. Tears began welling up in Alexander’s eyes as he passed beneath the stone archway and into The Citadel.
His despair was immediately replaced by delight and amazement. People of The Citadel lined the road and cheered! Children his age, mothers in tow, ran to him asking what it was like to ride a dragon. Older children looked at him with a mix of envy and annoyance. Even the village reminded him of Tranquility. Could this be his new home? Only time would tell.
About the Creator
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.
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.