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The Return

by Mary Haynes 4 months ago in Fantasy · updated 4 months ago
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Bringer of Lights and Dragons

The Return
Photo by v2osk on Unsplash

There weren't always dragons in the Valley. There were stories, of course, passed down through the generations. Books were written, movies made, some sweet children's fantasies, and others terrifying bloody battles. Most folks wanted to believe in dragons and unicorns, although most adults didn't admit that. Ember wasn't your typical adult.

When Ember was born, the sky lit up almost as bright as daylight. The Aurora Borealis strobed over the cottage where she lay newly swaddled. The lights shone in the window and twinkled over her fine red hair. The tired but happy parents gazed upon her with love and concern. Ember's father drew the shade, fearing the dancing lights would wake the new babe. Ember startled awake and cried loudly. She could not be comforted. Having tried everything, her exasperated mother opened the shade and let the light play upon the child. Ember stopped crying, stretched, and fell asleep.

As Ember grew from a baby to a young woman, her fascination with the evening sky grew. Her parents had given up on insisting that she sleep an entire night; they were content if she slept a few hours at dusk and at dawn. The curtains were never closed in Ember's room. She spent the darkest part of the night staring at the sky, waiting for the lights to return.

By the time Ember was in her twenties, there wasn't a book in the library she hadn't checked out. She didn't always read them but perused them, looking for clues. Although she was highly gifted, folks regarded her as different. It didn't seem like she could fit into any useful job.

Ember started visiting the museum with her mother when she was still in the stroller. When she was a toddler, she insisted on going at least once a week, a tradition she and her mother continued. Her fascination with ancient things was odd. She delighted in examining all the artifacts, but old bones and mummified parts were the most exciting. Ember developed a relationship with the elderly curator, Arthur Birch. When she finished her Batchelor's in Archeology, he offered her a job.

"I'm glad you have a job to use your skills, her mother said. It will be good to give you a focus other than staring out the window at night. Maybe you'll develop a better schedule and get some proper sleep. I'm glad you'll still be living at home, so I won't worry so much."

Ember's dad rolled his eyes. "You have to let the girl grow up and pursue whatever her passion is. Even if you think it's crazy, her dreams are her dreams. Let it go!"

In the beginning, Ember kept the museum organized and tidy. She also led tours and answered questions about the displays. For a while, that was adequate, then the same tours, the same uninformed questions, started bothering her. She asked Arthur if there was anything else she could help with.

Arthur sighed, "Well, it's a mess down there, but the basement could use some clearing out. When old lady Margo died, her family donated almost everything from her house to the museum. Frankly, it's just too overwhelming for me, and I doubt there is anything of value amongst her tchotchkes. It needs to be all cataloged, though, so have at it if you want."

Ember raced to the door and turned the knob. "It's locked!" Ember jerked on the door.

"Whoa, go easy on my door. I'll get the key." Arthur retrieved the key from his desk and opened the door. He stood at the bottom of the stairs watching her touch all the boxes and plastic-covered items. "Ember, it's almost closing time, wait and get a fresh start tomorrow morning. I insist."

Reluctantly Ember obeyed and went home for the evening. About two in the morning, a gust of wind blew a red-tinged leaf against the windowpane. Ember opened the window and leaned out. The fall breeze was cool against her face. A short flash of green light lit the night sky but faded as fast as it appeared. She waited until just before dawn, but it didn't reappear.

The museum was quiet, so Ember was able to go to the basement and start the job of meticulously logging everything that had been donated to the museum. It all had to be logged, even if it was going to the junk pile. Starting with some of the bigger items under plastic seemed to make sense so she could clear some space to work.

"Well, I don't think the museum needs another Christmas Story leg lamp, but it will do well at auction and help with museum expenses." Ember chatted aloud to herself as she tagged the items. "Man, she certainly had a thing for lights. It will be a journey trying to figure out which ones are important pieces and which ones go in the sale."

Arthur could hear her faint chatter, but he was used to it, so he continued his own work. He knew she could yell loudly enough if she needed him.

By the end of the day, she had cataloged three hundred and twenty-two lights. She had them roughly separated into three categories. The largest group was for sale to raise money. The middle section was to be appraised. The last was a set of twelve lamps she set aside because they seemed industrial or scientific. "Hmmm, a couple of these might be helpful to find the markings on some of the smaller stuff."

She was pleased with her progress. All the tabletops and bureau tops were ready to place smaller items on top of the next day. She grabbed some mover's blankets to protect the surfaces and covered them all before leaving.

After a small meal, she went to her room and sat staring out the window. At midnight there was a flash of green and a faint reddish glow. Again, it was gone so quickly,

Ember doubted anyone else had noticed it. She fell asleep at about two in the morning and dreamt of the shimmering lights in the sky. This was typical for Ember, but she saw tiny dragons twirling in the bright colors this time.

By Johnny Briggs on Unsplash

Arriving at the museum promptly at ten, she brought a coffee over for Arthur. He smiled at her and asked. "Did you see the lights last night?"

Ember paused before asking. "The lights? You saw the green and red flash too?"

Arthur nodded enthusiastically, "It's been so very long!"

"Do you think they're returning, Arthur? I've been waiting to see them. My parents told me they were the brightest at the time of my birth, and then we've not seen them in this Valley since."

"I believe they are returning, dear, and then the dragons will return!" Arthur's eyes were glassy behind his round spectacles.

"What? Do you believe in dragons too? I'm not the only one? Arthur, did you dream of the dragons last night?"

"I believe in dragons, but I don't dream of them. Only the gifted can dream of such things." He winked at her.

Ember wasn't sure if he was serious or making fun of her. She put on her white coat, grabbed her gloves, and headed for the basement. "I'm going to start to work on Margo's donations. There's lots of work to be done."

While she pondered where to start today, she thought of their odd discussion about lights and dragons. Was it possible that Arthur was serious?

Ember decided to start with the most intriguing thing in the collection. She dragged an old wooden chest over to where she could put the contents onto a table to examine. The intricately carved clasp was locked. As curious as she was, she couldn't break the lock because it would seriously affect the value of the chest. She'd have to wait until an expert locksmith was found.

Turning to the next piece that intrigued her, she opened the small drawer on a marble-topped chest of drawers. It was full of postcards depicting auroras, both Borealis and Australis. "How fascinating and coincidental. Another person who shared my passion for the lights. I want to go to every location on these cards!" She emptied the drawer onto the marble top and started organizing them. She heard something jangle, and looked down and saw that a key had fallen from the pile of cards. She picked it up and knew. "This is the key to the old chest!"

The old lock creaked and gave way. Inside the velvet-lined chest were twelve large rocks that looked to be geodes. Ember desperately wanted to get her hammer and chisel and open one, but she knew that wasn't proper protocol. She tried to get a better look, so she grabbed one of the scientific-looking lamps and set it up on the examining table. She carefully placed one of the geodes under the light. The external surface had a multicolored shine to it. "Well, this is very unusual; most geodes are ugly on the outside and hide all the beauty within. I wonder what the inside of this will look like?"

Arthur called from the stairs, "Sorry to bother you, but we have a tour coming through. I need your expertise. You'll have to continue your work on Margo's things tomorrow."

Reluctantly, Ember led the tour. A group of teachers wanted to include the museum in their curriculum but needed to make sure it fit into the new guidelines. Arthur was waiting at the door with his coat when they all left. He walked Ember outside.

"Sweet dreams tonight! I hope it's full of visions of lights and dragons." He winked again.

At home, she had a bowl of Froot Loops for dinner and stared at the shades in her bowl. She couldn't decide if Arthur thought she was a Froot Loop or if he was a true believer.

Sitting in front of her bedroom window, she nodded off and dreamt about shining rocks that split open, revealing glowing lights that lit up the room. Dragons danced and flew about, looking for a way out. They started hitting the walls trying to find an exit. She woke with a start. Outside, a curtain of colors undulated in the dark sky. They were brighter and lasted longer. Ember was sure the aurora was returning to the Valley.

By Jene Yeo on Unsplash

Arthur was waiting in front of the door for her with a coffee. "My turn, he grinned. So, I assume you saw the lights last night? It won't be long now until the dragons return."

"You didn't wink that time. Are you serious about the existence of dragons, or are you just making fun of me?" Ember sipped her coffee and searched his eyes for signs of mockery.

"I'm quite serious, my dear. I've believed in dragons my whole life. I just couldn't reach them. I don't have your abilities; I wasn't born under the lights."

"What are you talking about. What abilities? People think I'm eccentric at best; most think I'm crazy. I'm intelligent, but I've no special powers or whatever you think I have."

"I disagree. I saw it in your eyes the first time your mother brought you in as a babe in the stroller. Your eyes held the lights in them. When the time was right, I knew you would find a way to bring them back." Arthur looked like he was gazing upon an angel.

"Okay, please stop looking at me like I'm special. And how is my being born under the lights connected to dragons?"

Arthur took her hand and led her to his desk. He motioned for her to sit, took a book out of the bottom drawer, and opened it to a brightly colored page. He turned the book toward her. She scanned the page, stopping at the woman with the bright red hair holding a column of lights in one hand and a tiny dragon in the other.

"See, it's you! I saw your bright red hair and the lights in your eyes and knew that someday you would find your potential."

Ember pushed the book away. "Arthur, it's just a storybook. I'm going to the basement. There's a lot of work to do."

When she opened the door, she saw there was a light on. "Oh, crap! I forgot to turn off the light I was using to look at the geode. It's a wonder I didn't burn the place down with that odd lamp."

She switched the overhead lights on and walked over to the exam table. The geode was cracked in half, and between the shiny purple crystals were flakes of a thin white substance. She picked a small piece up and rubbed it between her fingers. "Hmmm, that's odd. It feels like an eggshell."

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a movement behind the rock. She moved the rock and found a lizard staring at her. "How on earth did you get in here?" She extended her hand toward it

The lizard hopped out, sat on top of the geode, and unfolded its tiny wings! Then it flew up and landed on Ember's hand. "Oh my, I must be still dreaming. This is bizarre; I need to wake up!" The lizard bent its long neck and gave her finger a nibble. "Ouch! Okay, well, I felt that. I'm not dreaming, and I don't think you're a lizard. Arthur! Get down here. I need you now!"

Arthur almost tumbled down the steps, trying to get to Ember. "What's wrong? Are you hurt?" He ran over to her with his phone, ready to dial 911.

Ember slowly turned toward him and held out her hand. "Arthur, she said. Do you see a tiny dragon, or am I still dreaming?"

"You are not dreaming; you're holding a little dragon. It's true, you are the chosen one. The bringer of the lights and the dragons. But how did you do it? Where did it come from?"

Amber showed him the split-open rock and the eggshells resting inside the crystals. "I accidentally left this odd lamp on last night with the rock underneath. I was using it to look at the shiny patterns on the outside of it. The heat from the lamp must have allowed the dragon to hatch. How the geode split open and released it is beyond my comprehension. There are more rocks over there in that old chest. There's also more of these lamps on that table."

"Well, put your little friend down, and let's find it some playmates!" Arthur dragged another table over and set the lamps up. He found an industrial power bar and plugged them all in.

Ember placed each of the remaining eleven geodes under each lamp. The dragon hopped around the tables sniffing each rock. "What are we supposed to feed you? I always believed you were real, but I have no idea how to take care of a baby dragon. I guess I better figure it out because we hopefully will have eleven more of you tomorrow morning." The dragon responded by snapping up a spider that dropped from a strand of its web onto the table. "Well, I guess you can take care of yourself. There's plenty of spiders down here."

Arthur and Ember stayed in the museum after it closed. Neither one of them could sleep. They munched on Arthur's snack stash and drank many cups of coffee. They heard a popping noise, close to midnight, followed by another ten cracking sounds. All the geodes had split open, and the eggs were rolling side to side against the crystals, trying to break the shell. Slowly, eleven dragons emerged and flapped their tiny wings. The first dragon nuzzled each one.

Suddenly the basement was flooded with radiant lights beaming in the windows. All the colors of the rainbow dance outside. The first hatchling unfurled his wings and flew toward the window. He bounced off the pane and landed in front of Ember. She picked him up and examined him. He shook it off and was about to try again.

"Arthur, hurry and open the window. He will hurt himself if he flies into it again."

Arthur opened the window just in time for the dragon to fly out toward the shimmering lights. He hovered just in front and let out a tiny roar and a little puff of smoke. The other dragons spread their wings, and soon all the dragons had flown out of the basement.

"Quick, let's go outside and see where they went!" Ember grabbed Arthur's hand and tried to hurry him up the stairs.

"My dear, you go on. I don't want to fall and break a hip. I'll be right behind you!" Arthur was still huffing from rushing to open the window.

There were people outside in their pajamas, admiring the dazzling light show. It had been twenty-five years since the lights shone in the night sky. People had lost hope they would return.

"But where are the dragons, Arthur? Where did they fly off to? Ember was concerned. "Maybe they're too little to be on their own?"

The lights began to pulse in an undulating breeze. The tip of a large wing emerged from the aurora, followed by the rest of an enormous dragon. People were too mesmerized by the dazzling beauty of the dragon to run. The whole town watched as the dragon opened its wings wide, and twelve tiny dragons flew up to be embraced. The dragon swooped down and locked eyes with Ember.

Ember blew it a kiss and said, "You're welcome!"

The dragon and her little ones flew back into the aurora and disappeared.

Arthur grabbed Ember's arm and guided her to the museum. "Let's go. We need the townspeople to process this. This is not the time to reveal your secrets."

Ember noticed that the lights stayed. Will the lights disappear again, Arthur? Will the dragons come back?"

Arthur took his book from his desk and turned the page. The image was the town bathed in lights with dragons flying over a happy village. There was a statue of a girl with very red hair holding a baby dragon.

"They will return when the need arrives, and you call them back. Right now, you should go home and try to get some sleep. Tomorrow, you need to start figuring out where old lady Margo hid the unicorn babies.!" He winked.

Ember reached for the book, but Arthur slammed it shut and locked it in his desk. "Not yet, my dear, but soon we'll turn the page."

By Ryan Coisson on Unsplash

Fantasy

About the author

Mary Haynes

Mary Haynes splits her time between a romantic old sailboat in tropical waters and a beach home in Ontario. A wanderer, by fate, she embraces wherever she roams! Mary recently completed her first children’s book, “Who Ate My Peppers?”

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