To begin, no child expects to find much of legendary creatures in the middle of a desert just west of Albuquerque. It’s none too interesting, and it’s far more irritating than any possible sibling or curfew could ever be. Then again, most children consider anything larger than either of their hands and enough like refuse (especially that which traumatizes a particular motherly figure) of astronomical importance. Perhaps that is why the irony of the duo’s meeting was of such a magnitude that one could only think it scripted; the magnificence of a dragon encountered wandering the land of enchantment is lost to a vein of such meager growth only because it is neither an object with which to rebel against authority or an artifact to display to at the schoolyard (because what person, no less what child, would believe that their friend, even the best friend they’d take to Pluto and back, saw a dragon in the middle of nowhere?).
Either that, or perhaps the child was far too tired to be concerned with such things like enormity and lethality and seven-hundred year old legend stored at the local library.
But regardless, the two had met, and because they had met, the pair was given an ultimatum of sorts; either depart in opposite directions, forgetting the encounter an odd number of years down the road, or, be far more exciting, and interact.
Like they so commonly do, the child rushed toward the opportunity, though perhaps sauntered was a more apropos description, given the rather brief bit of conversation that followed.
“What are you?” the child rightfully inquired.
The dragon arced its neck, raised his head and replied, “Child, I am no being you should dare to converse with.”
“Why?” the child responded, lagging from the abrasive heat of the day as it washed over the scarce amount of bearability the child still retained.
“If you knew why, you would no longer be standing be me, nor I before you.”
“You sound like my dad with his con-whatever he calls it…” the child replied with a shrug like a gila’s brow.
“Constituents, child.” The dragon quickly corrected. “He has his reasons for wanting solitude.” A bronze shaft found its way into the sand, the needle-point shadow that followed reaching for the crevices and cracks, creeping towards whatever little beasties laid inside, inching along the land ever so slowly, much like anyone out in the desert heat. “And I have my reasons for wanting to leave. Now-“
“Where’d you get that?” came the cut-and-dry question, the pygmy interrogator inching towards the shimmering pillar that stood far taller than any adult he’d ever seen.
The dragon’s answer came with a soft chorus of steel chimes, stapled in silence immediately by, “None of you concern, boy.” and a thin puff of steam.
The boy rubbed the tufts and puffs of thick wind from his vision, noticing only too late the whiplash of gold rapidly snaking towards him. The impact merely grazed the child, but it lasted for longer than what should’ve been a peck or graze. The golden tail of the dragon nearly wrapped around the minute collection of black hair and swat that set atop the child, the scales keying their way beneath the innocent’s skin and stealing a blade-thin quill of blood from the child’s veins.
A stifled cry escaped the boy’s lips, joined by a hand clawing at the cut and the watery arms of self-protection to placate the searing crack int the child’s skin.
The dragon’s claws pounded away at the earth, his wings unfurling with dry stains in their membranes. At the first flap of his wings, strangled and infested with pulsating veins and tarnished scales, his mind had begun to engage in the rein vision of his destination.
His claws digging further into the earth, ready to launch the dragon into the soft pelt of the sky, the beast suddenly stopped. The dragon’s tail struck the air behind him, the rest of the body following as the dragon unclenched his maw. The guttural inferno had just been kindled, ready to blacken another sheet of the earth. This was not what the dragon saw in the end.
Instead, still standing before him was the child, his hands far bloodier than he could care to remember, and a collection of rocks - pebbles actually - in his hands, shaking and clattering all the while. The child coiled his arm, releasing whatever form of venom he could muster if he could keep the dragon in front of him.
The rocks vanished before a tempest of flame, their forms whited away by a ruby red death sentence.
I explained before, child that I have a destination to reach,” the dragon began, his voice, brow and body much lower than before. “I’m sure your guardian taught you not to interrupt someone mid-sentence, so it should make no difference with I’m talking or walking.”
‘Preferably, away from here.’
“Say you’re sorry.” The child replied, his eyes locked with the dim glare of the beast before him.
“Excuse me?” the behemoth replied.
“My dad says that you’re supposed to say you’re sorry after hurting someone. So,” the boy’s feet pounded the heart, his arms releasing his small army of stones. “Say you’re sorry.”
“If my words happened to hurt you, that’s no fault but your own.” the dragon replied, pushing the boy back with the tip of his talon. “Now, as I was say-“ the beast murmured, his eyes signaled to the fresh crimson coat on the boy’s hands.
The dragon lifted his claw to the wound, droplets of blood staining the gray sheen of his skin.
His claw was nudge by the child, who hurriedly retreated from the beast as his arms held sentry of the cut.
“Why won’t you let me inspect it?” the dragon bellowed. “If I can’t see it, I won’t know how to heal it!”
“Then can you do it without touching it?” the child screeched in reply. “It hurts to touch it!”
“Which is precisely why I need to touch it! I can’t gauge the severity of the wound without physically examining it!”
But the child still shied, aggressively reticent, even if he knew it would only cause more harm. The child lowered himself, dusting away the blush of the earth, resting his hands on his pants, now that they had been dirtied.
The dragon shook his head, his claws stroking the scales beneath his jaw. “Ignorant thing,” The dragon hissed, lurching over tot he child, careful to lee his distance. Five feet from the boy, the dragon lowered his head, leveling it to the height of the pitiful thing that hadn’t a brownie’s worth of sense or logic.
“What do they call you?” the dragon grained beside the boy.
A yelp tripped on its way out of the boy’s throat, both of them about to claw a crevice in which to hide like some sort of dragon that had shrunk to the point where it wasn’t a dragon at all.
“I will say again,” he coninued, his tone rising and his body still. “What do they call you?”
“What do you mean ‘they’?” the boy replied, his face still away from the beast.
“Your guardians, allies, sires. Whoever surrounds you socially or domestically. What do they call you?”
The gaze of the child fell lower, frightened by the ever-ascending vocabulary of the stranger-still-stranger.
“My mom calls me names I’m not supposed to repeat, but my dad calls my Phillup.”
“Is that all?” the dragon tested, eding his head closer to the boy.
“Yeah, the boy shakily replied. “Phillup, short for Bellerophon.”
For the first time, the dragon chuckled. It was brief, shaky, and quite possibly the most unpleasant thing one could compare to a laugh that still was a laugh, but the dragon most certainly did so. It ran thick like the gold on his scales, but towards the end, it held the faintest bit of silk gaiety. It wasn’t particularly loud, but it was welcome, much like the starting firework of a parade of performance.
“it’s not polite to laugh at somebody’s name, you know…” Phillup whispered, “And you say I don’t have manners.”
“Forgive me, child.” the dragon replied, taking a shallow breath and exhaling twin steam stacks from his nostrils. “I believe the hilarity and appropriateness of your name exceeds your expectations, but do not take my noticing as an insult.”
“Then what’s so interesting about my name?” Phillup asked, his hand inching away from the small red river on his cheek.
“If you agree to let me examine your wound, then I shall tell you.”
Phillup turned his gaze upward, lowering his head every few moments as he pondered the limited choices he had been given. Bellerophon; even Phillup knew it was no name to be found where he lived, where he was surrounded by ors and Stews and Sarahs and Sonias.
“You promise it won’t hurt?” Phillup whimpered.
“I can only guarantee that I can heal you,” the dragon replied, a claw being dragged towards Phillup’s chest. “But I will reduce your discomfort to my greatest ability.”
After a gathering of silence, screaming with deliberation, Phillup froze, starring into the great yonder above and replied with a sullen “Okay.”
Gurgling with relief and content, the dragon retrieved two vials and a spool of twine, as if form beneath his many, many scales. The glass itself seemed tot fester, containing a mucus foul but requisite, as if fizzing thick liquids are the essences of the process of healing.
“Bellerophon,” the dragon began, unwinding the spool and snapping strands with his front two claws, “Is among the oldest names that have ever been given to young men, as you will be. Though faint, much like the beginning goof his title, Bellerophon remains one of the most courages heroes of oral repetition.”
Five strands had been cut, their tips dipped into the vial who’s liquid seemed more like melted beetles rather than an elixir or syrup.
“This next procedure may be a bit more painful. I shall only continue at your signal.” the dragon warned.
“Tensing his body, the boy inhaled deeply and asked, “What did Bellerophon do that was so brave?”
The storyteller continued, laying one of the strings along the length of Phillup’s wound, pressing it into places with the flat of his claw.
“As legend would say, Bellerophon conquered one of the most threatening beasts to crawl on stomach, paw or skin, from any crypt, mausoleum or cavern without light. The creature with breath of fire and body of poison; the Chimera.”
“Wow…” the boy whispered, his legs lifting slightly off the ground. “Was it even scarier than you?” Phillup turned his head a bit too quickly, loosening the hold the strings had on the closed points of his skin.
“Be still, child!” the dragon ordered with a raspy cry. “My treatments will not work of you flail about like a barbarian warlord.”
The boy winced, muttering an skin-deep apology and turning his head to its original position. Resetting the strings, the dragon replied, “Yes. Very few creatures do not fear the Chimera, and those that do not are either foolish beyond redemption or truly more fearsome than anyone’s imagining. But Bellerophon saw the Chimera as another creature to be slain, but not without good reason, and certainly not without the proper armaments.”
Finally, the wound had been covered by the wires, two running the length and breadth of the cut, another pair across the corners of the first pair, and a final around the edge of the wound itself.
“I thought you said this was going to hurt.” the boy wondered, reminding himself to remain still.
The dragon dipped the tips of his claws into the second vial, letting the points soak in the twilight violet liquid inside. Lifting this claws from the vial, the dragon exhaled a cruel wind of invisible fire, burning the liquid that coated his claws into a fine crystal patina.
Without warning, the dragon struck the wires across Phillup’s wound, snapping his claws and breaking the glass remedy, leaving the shards to coat the shallow within and the scab outside. Taken aback by the jolt, the patient let loose a cry of seething rage, falling his has back as his fingers tried to scamper back into the pigeonhole.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to do that?!” Phillup shrieked, his voice too occupied by the begging sting in his cheeks.
“I warned you that the treatment would be painful,” the dragon replied. “You only let your guard down; the preparations set the stage for my arts.” The dragon chuckled once more. “You really are like Bellerophon. Adamant, but thicker than the pillars of the Parthenon.”
Phillup gave a harrumph in reply, sitting cross-legged and back-turned to his momentary protector. His fingers started to squirm and pad at the shards in his face, pulling back nothing more than quickly drying blood. Before he knew it, Phillup was feeling the plush exterior of a healthy face, untouched by a wayward dragon tail.
“How did you do that?” the child asked, touching his only slightly-moist finger to his dry, pink face, rubbing the area where the cut had been.
“I have my methods.” the dragon replied, plainly an without hesitation. “And I also have somewhere to be. As I’m sure you do as well. Why on earth are you even here, child?”
Phillup grew silent, even more so than before.
“I’m here because I ran way… from home.”
The wind hissed as it ground against the earth, the sharp burning of a fuse echoing off the breeze. For a mere few seconds, it burned, and all went silent. Phillup was running before the figure rose, bolting for the horizon as the dragon reared it’s body and began to stamped towards to child, blasting bolts of fire to the left and right of the child.
“You insolent whelp!” the dragon rage, spitting another blast at Phillup’s feet, singeing his shoes. “You take your life, a life that has barely even begun, and put it into the hands of this?!” His voiced ripped open the winds overhead, crimson monsters of pure flame screaming in chorus with the draconic bellows of the alpha beast. Quite possibly the most dangerous plane on the planet?!”
A great plume of flame erupted from the dragon’s very body, launching Phillup forward, leaving him to cower before the enraged beast.
“It’s not my fault!” The child cried, rushing to his feet, tears mixing with sweat, tickling towards the edge of his chin. “What would you done?!”
“I would’ve stayed where it was safe! Where I could remain strong until I was either larger than whatever might slay me or stand in solitude without threat after crushing the creature that dared to underestimate me!”
“It’s not like I wasn’t already in solitude!”
Both parties were locked in an ever-rising shouting contest, one where the position in their words might be ignited by the heat of the day and instantly become a war of fire and blood, more than it already was to begin.
“You told me yourself you had a father! What might he say to you if he discovered you here, in the wastes?!” the dragon roared, his words running rampant, branding themselves across the lobes of the boy’s ears and choking his own meager tinders in the blaze. “How might he react? What do you believe he’s going to say when he find out, boy?!”
“He’s not going to say anything because he’s dead, you asshole!”
The cold word of bile - a word so foul very few children know of its being, purpose, or usage, save for when pain is mean to be dealt in severe magnitude - was vomited from Phillup’s maw with such a staunch odor of vile bodily refusal that the boy immediately latched his mooch shut, guarding its entrance with his petite, dirtied hands, hoping that no further morass would spill forth and leak out of his body.
The dragon watched in silence, his nostrils still flaring from the blow he had taken. The boy’s audacity; such arrogance! Such an inflation of the skull! Such a fattening of the soul with who know what fats that lead to a refute of such basic nature.
“I’m sorry…” the boy stammered, his meager whispers muffled by his clasped fingers, gripping his cheeks. “I’m not supposed to say that word…”
Twin bodies, their ellipsoid bodies dragging along the crimson front of Phillup’s face and falling into the crevices between his cracked fingers, broke from the edge of his eyes. More followed; battalions, armies of tears began to plummet, their will mocked by the victory cries of the invaders, their screeches echoed in the sullen chirps of the lone remaining soldier, his will draining into the blood and bones of his fallen comrades.
The dragon observed, his brow arched and his lips upturned. His claws itched for a chin which to stroke, the instinct that perhaps it might brush against a sound conclusion as to the location where the vibrantly aggravated child had stormed off to, not this puddle of melted scraps and rubbish. Instead, the dragon kept his claws tapping at the earth, forgetting too quickly that hides were much like oil or fire; all it took was the proper point of impact.
“Child- Phillup,” the dragon began, his tone rising to a sound like that of ice melting on gravel; rough, clean, perhaps longing for something that no-one can see. “What happened to your father? How did he die?”
Phillup angrily whipped away his sniveling worms of phlegm, replying “Why should I tell you? You’ve done nothing but talk down to me like I’m a-“
“Child?” The dragon finished, snapping into the sentence without any difficulty. “And if that’s the only reason you can manufacture, then allow me to reply with an answer of similarly tawdry craftsmanship. Because I’d like to know.”
Stumped is how most people would find themselves. Locked and caged by an answer so mockingly simple that it was wholly inarguable. Waiting for recognition, the dragon stroked the broken bits of the earth, clawing at the chains that held the answer aloft in Phillup’s throat, each and every stoke chipping away at link after slowly breaking link. Of course, Phillup could easily weld back his resolve, but his fire was meager, and his fuel was low.
“He got bitten.” Phillup replied, sighing in defeat and partial relief. “My mom and him were on their way back from vacation when their car overheated. While my dad was tying to fix the engine, a snake snapped him on the ankle and wouldn’t let go. He died before they could reach the hospital.” Phillup’s sobs grew louder, the child swallowing to keep them from becoming full cries. “They said he was too excited after he got bit, which is why the poison acted much faster than usual.”
His knees spilled the anguish that they could no longer contain; his hands tore at the dust, dragging back what little repose could be salvage, could be mined. His face feel, his eyes searching for the days where his best friend didn’t have more tan five holes in his body; where his name was dad instead of markings on a stone; where he kept his promise of coming back after every time he left.
“Well,” Phillup chocked, his throat clenching his voice, desperate to keep still. “You got what you wanted.”
“No,” the dragon rebuked. “I didn’t.”
Suddenly, in the mix of dirtied claws, tainted scales and wrinkled, scrying eyes, there were tears. Small, slow, heavy tears that feel at the rate which the world seemed to spin. Undesirably fast, and incomprehensibly slow.
“Child, I am about to confess to you that which I have not even confessed to myself. I am, in away, about to commit suicide, for it wounds me beyond resuscitation to speak that which I am about to speak.” The dragon raised his body once more, unfurling his wings, his limbs, his tail; his neck extended, unfurling between the tips of his wings to finalize the stage to be set.
“Now,” the dragon continued, hesitation only for a wind’s whisper. “Are you listening?”
Phillup sat, wiping away his tears, raising his head, and replying with a confirming nod and him, waiting for the dragon to begin.
“Very well the. I said before that I had a destination at which to arrive, and that you, of all things to possibly be imagined, prevented me from doing so. I do not mean to reprimand, but I feel that I should clarify all issues you might happen to question. Are you still listening?” the dragon asked, still keeping his grand, if not prophetically ruinous stature.
Phillup replied with a fervent nod, straightening his back and clasping his hands shut.
The dragon gave a subtle nod, continue with his story.
“Phillup, I have lied to you. I have arrived precisely where I desired; a quiet place to alight upon the land and die.”
Phillup watched, meanwhile scrambling to his feet, as the dragon’s head dropped to his dust be speckled barrel. His wings began to close, as his tail began to coil around his now-trembling legs; his entire body, so poised for immortalization and glory, now began to lock itself, shamed now that the spirit controlling it had let slip that which kept itself going.
“No!” the dragon commanded, spraying a tuft of fire to force Phillup to retreat. “Let me lie. Let me stand on my own terms, as you chose to stand before me.”
The dragon did rise; like a dried cactus his limbs cracked, trembling like the waters of an oasis as their life-juices were drained by incompatible waves of heat.
“But why?” Phillup asked, stuffing his hands into his pockets to avoid further altercation. “You’re a dragon! I thought they couldn’t die.”
“Oh, we die.” the dragon groaned, muttering the last word with the same putrid taste that Phillup has so loosely spat. “It is legendary when it occurs, but yes. We do die.”
“But why would you want to? You don’t look that old…”
“No, I am far from ancient, but my wings are not as wondrous as others that I have seen. To answer your question, allow me to ask one of my own.”
The dragon’s neck began to coil around the idle boy, the monstrous crest eclipsing even the most unkempt hairs that stood rigid atop the sun.
“Do you know what you intend to do with your life? How you’ll carry on once you’ve left whatever monument of wood and stone you call home?”
“N-no.” Phillup muttered, his eyes tearing aback to the dragon’s leer very time he would avert his attention elsewhere.
“As expected. You are a child; children either learn or grow to fit into their proper place in life. As for myself, however, this is not a matter of growing to fit, but rather have a place to grow into to begin with.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean to say there is no point in me living, Phillup!” the dragon roared, his voice blasting away bits of stone and dust, even dazing Phillup, the boy locking his hands to his ears as he wobbled about, trying to regain his already shaky stature. “My existence no longer serves any use to the world’s fellow inhabitants, so, as is to be expected of anything that holds no use to anyone, I have chosen to leave, and never return.”
The winds of the desert - winds that felt far more like fire than a legitimate breeze - snared the proclamation in it’s finely woven filigree of sand and rage, delivering it to their master - no one, as the wind is certainly no being to be controlled - and let the words simply vanish and evaporate. Let the testament of a creature beyond words die with everything else that entered such a land of perpetual loss.
‘Why did I choose here of all planes to die?’ the dragon asked himself. “I have suffered torment beyond even what I thought capable of myself, and yet I chose a barren field of dust and fire.’
The dragon snorted, spitting a simmering wad of spittle before curling into a tarnished boulder of gold.
‘As the saying goes, I suppose. Ash to ash, dust to dust…’
His eyes began to close, the dragon refusing the challenge the sun offered; a chance to outlast the greatest fire every sparked. Given the choice, he would consume the sun, if only so he could be the one to bring light and warmth to the world; to live with purpose for a day beyond counting and listing and predicting and everything. For now, he would at least settle for letting the greater consume the lesser. There, if any hope was to be found, eh would be a part of whatever light continued to shine after had so slowly and suddenly ceased to burn…
“That’s not true,” Phillup’s spoke, recursing to leave or be left in silence. “You do have a purpose.”
“And what might that be?” the dragon replied, hoping that by answering the final request of the voice he himself might get his final hours alone.
“Well,” Phillup continued, “What did you do before you came here?”
The dragon’s skull twisted, tick by tick, letting his the stiffness in his neck. “I was a craftsman, and a fine one at that. Most of my people had no need for what I created, but those that did… Your jaw might simply vanish into the earth if you ever witnessed my clients.”
Phillup could already see the dragon’s head rising, a grin cracking across his crusted lips. “Who were your clients? And what did you make?” Phillup continued, remembering to keep his pace mellow and soft.
“Why not show you instead? Then, you can witness what awesome marvels I learned to forge.”
A claw dragged its way down the belly of the dragon’s neck, a cord apparently released with a soft click. From the dragon’s back, a lace cloak of gold and violet fell to the earth, yet what appeared was something to be found never lying atop the back of any creature, no matter what the scale. Steel tongs, glimmering with runes that looked very much alike to what Phillup had seen in the books his father would always show him, gold sheets and silver bell-cups hung from clasps and chains tethering anvils and hammers, the hangings rattling in the wind and chiming ever so softly. Even transparent lines of glass filled with crystal, wisps of blue and green and dark, dark black seeping from their covers.
“What is all this?” Phillup asked all too quickly, though he would’ve had to been so quick if to even have a chance of ogling at the fantastical wares atop the back of a fantastical creature.
“These, Phillup, are my creations. My novelties, my tools, sometimes even my pledged services, were the coveted treasures of many a kingdom. Nearly all of what you see is of my own design, and no replication can ever capture my own mastery.”
Reaching into the shimmering armory of affluence and wealth, the dragon slipped through the orbs of orbs and encampments of clamps, a stream of wisps rising between chains between rustles. The tail, now fettered by the fetters, grasped onto it’s prize, lashing out of the heap and revealing a sack tinged with soot and dirt.
“These are the remains of one apprentice’s attempt to replicate my work. Needless to say, he failed, and as punishment, he was no longer permitted my tutelage.”
Phillup untied the knot noosed ‘round the sack, his hands too lively snatching at knowledge that too freely offered it’s services. The hand that sought to feed instantly came back, it’s end finger marked with a scarce but still important lesson.
“Once again I urge caution, Phillup. Too quickly are we to grasp and what is free before considering what other prices are… in store, so to speak.” the dragon warned, chuckling lowly at his hand of profusely rotten humor.
Popping his lips from his pinkie – and shooting a quick glare at the dragon for failing to give proper forewarning – Phillup reached back into the bag, twirling in his fingertips what had cut him: a broken garden of glass. However, as his fingers were skimming over the edges, be sure to pet where it was rough, a new sensation swam into questioning. The surface was not particularly smooth like the glass, but it was still alike the shards he had found. It was broken and shattered as well, but it wasn’t… coherent. It bent and split at odd areas, as if it’s shape was more naturally convincing of its fragmented stature.
Taking hold of the new piece of the puzzle by his nails, Phillup lifted his find out into the light to find it was a bright violet crystal, split down the middle to create a forked set of edges and a crackling surface, in far more than one way. As Phillup forced the crystal closer to his gaze, his fingers began to fall numb. He felt as if his clothes would simply vanish; that feeling in his body would leave him and he would be left standing in complete still for a while, maybe…
The crystal hit the ground, thrown back into the sack with such force that a crack rang upon impact, a flash of light no greater than a marble emitting from the petite mouth of the pack. Phillup looked toward the dragon, wondering whether his hand would return if he dared to put it back into the bag. After all, crystals don’t usually explode, nor do they put people in mysterious trances. Then again, deserts don’t usually hide suicidal dragons, either.
“Allow me.” the dragon answered, taking the base of the sack by his claw and spilling the contents onto the ground. Plinking into the glass and their brothers and sisters, the remains of the stone fell forth, trembling uncontrollably, Phillup blinking rapidly to clear his vision. Were they moving toward each other? No way. Rocks don’t move, even if they do explode…
“What was that? Phillup asked, still checking to be sure his eyes hadn’t simply been burned out of utility.
“That was the failed experiment of my failed student.” Before continuing, the dragon took a glass bottle, robust and spacious, filled with a similarly shaped crystal, though crimson in color. “What you saw, or rather its remains, was an attempt to replicate Mind Mirror. I was commissioned by a mourning lord who longed to see his beloved on final time before seeking a new mate. I warned him that it would likely be complete far beyond his threshold for patience, but he allowed me to work, and diligently, too. Within the month of his request, I gave him a bottle very similar to this, and with it, granted his request.”
Phillup’s mind went into a sprint, his heart quickly following. Pictures, moving pictures, memories being kept in bottles. In crystals charged with… something, he didn’t care. It was a door to the past. A way back…
“Phillup, I already know what you’re thinking.” The dragon struck, learning his neck towards the boy. “I must warn you. While that particular customer was satisfied by my result, there are those that would seek to abuse my works, even if they do not hold such intentions. It not evil to dwell on past events, Phillup. I have done so, and so have you. It is the neglect of the future that will inevitably foil us, and that is why I must warn you. These Mirrors have trapped many a man, and I mean that quite literally.”
Phillup gulped instantly. Even more visions began to rush forth, but these were not so… ambivalent. Oh, much more chilling, instead. Where might he finally land if he had kept staring into that crystal? Had other fallen to such a cursed fate? Were those that were still alive, even if the crystal had exploded? Phillup dug into the dark if his mind to bury the thoughts, if not to keep them from clawing back into being.
“I presume this conversation is going somewhere, Phillup. If it is not, then perhaps you could leave me to the rest of my matters.”
“Y-yeah! It’s going somewhere! I want you to do something for me! Make something, I mean.” Phillup blurted, fumbling over his dry and rather unconvincing words.
“Oh?” The dragon questioned, curling his tail around the boy. “I do not believe you have payment for my services, much less a decent idea on how long it shall take.”
Oh man. Phillup whined. There’s gotta be something to keep him talking. I already at my lunch, and I left my backpack at home. Phillup’s hands began breaching his pockets, raiding every home they could find, but coming back with nothing to prove the dragon could be kept here. Shifting to his rear pockets, Phillup felt the head of the only thing he had brought with him graze his pinkie. Man, is this really the best I can do?
“Well, I don’t have any money, but do you think you can fix this?” Phillup replied, taking his hands from his pockets and revealing a quaint, half-tarnished whistle, beaten and battered with dents and holes.
The surface was sickly black, hardened into a patina that likely was the fault of the craftsman, the dragon mused. Fool hardly knew how to cast metal into such a petite form, or even how to properly store it. The ashen mesh had grown over the very blowhole of the whistle. The rear cap had been knocked away, the wind producing nothing even close to a chirp note a chime when rushing through the walls of the instrument.
The dragon continued to eye the trinket, closely, just so that the tips of his forked tongue felt what clean areas were left on the tube.
Pure silver. The dragon realized, coiling back at the taste of such a magnificently refined metal. Where on earth did a child receive an instrument like that? No matter. The dragon surmised. Such information was irrelevant compared to the item before him. A true challenge for any forge-man. Only used for instruments, and even when used, it was more than likely ruined, forging a viable tool from pure silver was a feat beyond even the most prestigious crafters of both his own age and before him. He knew of only five that had succeeded in the task, two going missing beyond the skill of the most navigators, and one sickly guarding a hoard in the Alps. The other, however, had been bathing in sunlight and fame and magnificence and items of all enormities for the past two centuries, even though his methods for achieving such status were blacker than any iron or precious stone the dragon had dared to used.
Must I do this to myself again? Attempt another folly simply to reaffirm my identity? the dragon wondered, wondered and debated and argued within the mirror of the face of the silver whistle. The dragon could feel the child squirming in the grip of his tale. Decision had to be made, for unsettled children do not make for easy company.
To the thunders if this ruins me. I can be right again if it doesn’t.
“Give it here, Phillup.” the dragon replied, unfurling his tail and keeping it before Phillup. The child capped the whistle on the tip, watching as the dragon gathered a collection of tools and weapons that he had only seem replicated in museums and books. But in the books, they were nothing more than make-believe. Reality, when given such items, became far more excited.
Among the vials of plant and stone and sparks and bottle fire, what came loose sang with excitement as they came into the grip of the dragon. A dagger that seemed to shine even brighter than the sun, followed by a hammer that rang when it struck the dust above the earth. Power could be felt in the dragon’s bones by Phillup, and the boy felt equally awed and afraid.
Taking the whistle from his tail, the dragon laid the instrument across the earth, breaking the bottle of fire and pouring it of the dagger he had taken. As it was poured over the edge of the knife, the flames began to turn blue, then violet, then white, until they vanished, the air around it blurred and uneven. Laying the sword across the whistle, the dragon took the vial of stones, spilling them around the gurgling pit as it bubbled and stewed. Across the stones, the shreds of plant-life were strewn, the vial broken in two and tossed out to the side.
Continuing, the dragon took his hammer, raising it above his head, gripping the bludgeon with both of his might, golden hand. And for a moment, again, he paused. The winds barely blew; they merely showered over the land, taking wisps of the words that the dragon whispered in the silence, carrying them to the boy who watched like an eager servant. An incantation, was he muttering? A prayer, or merely a collation nonsense? The boy knew not, but he began to mimic the words, hoping that perhaps their repetition would win success rather than rubble.
Unleashing the shadow of his gargantuan wings, the dragon fell forward, unleashing the mass of his hammer as it plummeted towards the ring. It all went down in an instant, very little of anything following. A draconic cry, like that of a tumbling bell-tower, was sent out and across the earth, fires of white, green and violet burning within the ring, never breaching, never breaking. Flailing about in its enclosure, raising a hellishly, unnaturally beautiful cataclysm in microcosm, as if one was viewing the eruption of a volcano descending upon a lush forest in the east.
As the flames died down, Phillup inched closer towards the results, the dragon keeping him from the border with the flat of his hammer. “Do not break the ring,” the dragon warned. “It’s power is not yet sealed by your trinket, and I do not believe I have anything that would relieve you of the trauma a breakage would cause.”
Swallowing the lump of cold steel building in his throat, Phillup decided to edge back, leaning just over the length of the mallet to watch the final tinders flicker and sink into the whistle, their nearly blinding light dying faster with each second. As the glare continued to fade, Phillup nearly leapt over the stones the dragon had placed. The finished product was nothing short of spectacular; the leather-wrapped hilt of the dagger was all that remained of the weapon, none of its silvery gleam remaining attached to the guard. Instead, a brightly polished, unfractured silver captain’s whistle lay beside it. No black or grey scrapes of tarnished metal were left on its surface. Not even a spec of dust from the earth was set on its based; stainless did no justice to the sheen of the whistle.
Phillup was left standing beside the dragon, his breath quickening and his eyes beginning to water. His feet began banging their heels into the earth, growing ever-more impatient and restless as the final cinders were whisked into the desert heat.
“Go. Claim what is yours.” the dragon spoke, his labor complete.
Not even bother to wait till the dragon removed his hammer, the boy raced over the stones, scattering a trifle few, tripping over his trembling feet and taking the whistle from where it rested. The speckless surface was paid no mind to; Phillup only noticed its complete body, completely flawless and untainted by time. Within seconds the shrill trilling of a child with his most adored possession filled the air, the dragon laughing all the while as Phillup was left in hysterics, giggling and very-nearly collapsing from the notorious lack of breath.
“I’d suggest you stop to collect yourself Phillup!” The dragon called. “I would hate to have to revive you and incur further payment.”
But Phillup didn’t care. He had his whistle; his bright, shiny whistle, and he was happy. And the dragon watched the boy, happy and writhing in joy and ecstasy.
“Perhaps this child has convinced me…” the dragon mused. “Perhaps it’s time that I passed on to something much more… adventurous. Boy!”
Phillup sat up, still half-hiccuping between what little breath he could muster. “What?”
The dragon smiled. ‘Still as thick as Bellopheron. You’ll make a fine student, Phillup. Indeed, you will.’
And the dragon continued to chuckle, Phillup waiting for a response, wondering what the dragon found so very funny.