Tale of the Dragon Egg, Part 2
…….Continued from Tale of the Dragon Egg, Part 1…..
Hash awakened slowly, her eyes having difficulty adjusting to the strange light around her. Red and green, green and red…she felt her body moving through space, like she was dancing to some silent tune. Twisting and curling, dim lights swirling around her…where was she, she wondered? Where had she been? Something about an egg flitted through her memory, and was lost behind in her wake. That’s what it felt like, she realized…liquid. She was moving through liquid. Or perhaps she was liquid? There was some great force nearby by which she was being pulled along, some oar in a pond, and she was caught in its eddies.
As she turned, more by luck than by will, the blurry shape of the oar was there. It was the size of a tree trunk, and had a point, she saw, with black liquid flowing from its end. Not an oar, but a quill, Hash realized with sleepy amusement as she fell into the flow alongside the massive pen. Spinning and smiling, she could see the stream that had been traced behind her. It was a cursive scrawl of ink on a field of white parchment. She realized she could feel the tiny bumps of fibers beneath her as she was drawn across the page.
“Oh, it’s this book dream again,” she thought vaguely.
She felt as though she was being drained of energy ever so slightly, maybe by a third of a percent…but dancing could be tiring! She bravely decided to enjoy the process, come what may. She felt a modicum of control returning to her body, like she was slowly being lifted up and out of molasses. Now she was high enough above the page to make out most of what was being written by her movement. It was her full name! She giggled soundlessly.
The quill spun back into view. Hash’s field of vision was steadily expanding, and above her she could now see massive skeletal fingers gripping the ink-laden feather. She thought she should be scared, but wasn’t. The quill pulled away into the sky, and her motion slowly spun to a stop.
She felt as though she had emerged fully from the page, and she decided to continue to dance in place for a bit, because she could. Her surroundings were finally coming into view. The book was on a vast ornate desk as wide as her house, and the desk was in the center of a massive circular room, the size of her entire village or larger. It was walled with a spiral bookshelf that vanished off into the distance above. Built into the foot of the shelf was an endless array of randomly arranged candles, either red or green. The red candles were behaving normally, other than not producing any smoke… but the green ones were getting longer as she looked, like they were melting in reverse. What a strange dream!
A figure seated at the desk loomed over her, quill in hand. It’s face was almost entirely shrouded beneath an embroidered cowl, but Hash could just barely make out the outline of a shadowy skinless smile. It stood slowly with a bony creak, and Hash could feel musty air sweep by her. She felt a little sleepier. The ink of her name was drying, she noticed, and she was sinking back into the page as it did. She felt a yawn coming on, but wasn’t sure if she had a mouth with which to do so, in this dream. A nap in the book seemed like a nice idea.
The librarian spun some strange contraption. With an ancient mechanical groan the entire bookshelf rotated clockwise, and the books above rotated down to its level. It selected one and returned to the desk. The spine on the book was turned so that Hash could read the title. “POLYGON”. There was an inscription on either side of the title: two six-sided shapes aside each other and joined at their intersection into one snake-like symbol.
The figure dipped the first quill into a glass inkpot engraved with an ax, and drew a second quill from an inkpot full of a mysterious green glowing liquid. Grasping both pens at once in its bony fingers, it opened the book of Polygon and began to write, the black and green ink merging as they soaked into the parchment. Hash could see the first letter was an “H”, the second was an “A”…but she was getting so sleepy. As the twin text was laid down in the distance, she could see a greenish ghost emerging from the page, twisting and turning with the flow of the ink.
“She looks a lot like me,” Hash thought as she dried into the page.
A girl awoke on a cool stone floor. She was confused and a little scared, as she couldn’t remember who she was or how she had gotten here. A muddled memory of a written name stumbled clumsily through her mind.
“Hax…or Drax…Hash?” Better to be sure than not, she decided. She nodded to no one but herself, and said aloud softly “I am Hash.” That felt right, and maybe it was. She noticed her skin was made of scales, which seemed odd, but so much was odd these days. As she watched, the scales seemed to melt and fade into her skin until there was no trace of them.
She found herself in a corridor, four times as wide as she was tall. The light was coming from a jagged seam that meandered down the vault of the ceiling. A patternless drip from the natural skylight broke the silence. The floor and walls were built of close-fit stones, she saw. The smoothness of the floor’s surface reminded her of the stones she found in stream beds, but there was no stream here, not any more at least.
It seemed like a cold draft was coming from behind her. The girl turned slowly to see the source, and had to stifle a gasp with her little hands. There was a strangely shaped opening there, glowing with greenish mist covering a silvery vertical pond. Memories came flooding back of a Dragon egg, a tiny scampery dragling, and a little girl who should have known better. Frozen with indecision, the girl curled up against a wall and waited for some time to gather courage.
A tiny squeak from further down the corridor startled her. There were two little shining eyes off in the darkness. With another squeak, they vanished. The dragling! She decided she trusted the little creature more than the doorway, and set off down the hallway in cautious pursuit.
A dark mass caught her eye about halfway down the corridor. What the girl thought was a shadow stretched beyond the misshapen lump turned out to be a scorch mark on the ground. The pile of cracking blackness was about the size of a man. She shuddered and began to move on, but noticed a gray knapsack was nestled against the wall, at the end of a trail of soot that she hoped was not once an arm. She bent to inspect the contents, and some bright silver coins spilled out! She did not recognize the coin itself, but filled the pockets of her coat with handfuls to help her mark her path as she explored.
She returned to the green gate, and put a small pile of coins there, to get the attention of anyone who came through after her, if they ever did. As she moved forward, she dropped a coin every Dragon’s foot or so. The corridor was a bit warmer further away from the gate. At the end was a stairwell leading both up and down. She wasn’t sure which way the hatchling went, but up felt better than down…she placed a silver piece on each step as she ascended.
At the top was a bulkhead door which the little girl had to struggle to open. She was not prepared for the landscape that lay beyond. She emerged aboveground into the largely leveled ruins of a stone fort set in a simply monstrous mountain side. She was just above a nearly uninterrupted sheet of clouds, and poking above this fluffy white sea were the most jagged mountains she could imagine. They seemed to go on forever, poking out proudly into the sharp sunglow. It was like they had been beaten into existence by a giant who hated flat surfaces.
She turned to look behind her. Rising from the edge of the ruins was a gigantic carved shape, half buried in the landscape, but still twice as high as the Mayor’s house in her village. It spanned the entire length of the fort. It was of a shape that she found familiar, but could not place…like a segmented “S” that had tilted over and sank, the two curls forming voids filled with the same greenish mist as the gate in the corridor. Clouds streamed into the lower opening like they were being sucked into it from beyond. The orange sun in the distance seemed far too large, and the little girl wondered if it looked odd because she was so far up in the mountains. Strange sunlight streamed through the greenish mist, casting odd aquatic ripples across the courtyard.
The calm was ripped open by a distant rasping scream, and the girl ducked back into the stairhole, breathing heavily. She propped open the bulkhead door with a rock and watched nervously through the gap. Before long, the sound of slowly beating wings reached her ears. The view she had was limited, but she saw a dark winged shape streak past the ruins and vanish into one of the voids. Was that…a Dragon?
The little girl decided she liked her Dragons small. She picked up the coins that she had left on the stairs, and began that trail anew as she descended. There was a weird green light flickering below. After a couple of landings the brightness grew, and she could see a torch burning with green fire in a sconce on the wall. There was a wooden box just beneath it. She noticed the box had recently been dragged roughly through the dust from a storage space under the last set of stairs. It seemed her dragling was quite smart! She stood on the box to retrieve the torch. The girl had never seen green fire before, and it was a bit frightening…but darkness was far worse.
To the right of the sconce was an open doorway, and beyond that was an intersection of two hallways. In the torchlight she could clearly see little footprints divided by a squiggling line leading off to the left. The ghostly green shadows of the corridor receded as she advanced. She followed the little dragon’s dusty scrapes through many twists and turns, and through an old storeroom filled with remnants of grain. Here she found some blood on the floor, and a severed rat tail. Her little face screwed into a grimace. She supposed that the dragling needed to eat.
The tracks led through the storeroom to a kitchen, and through the kitchen was a dining hall. The floor at the far end of the hall had collapsed, and the dragling’s tracks became impossible to discern as the jumbled stones spilled into the earthen yawn. She could see water down there, or at least something shining like water…the torch’s light made her unsure. She gingerly eased into the recess beneath her, feeling her heart beat in her chest.
The girl could see now that the dusty dining hall had not collapsed into another room below it, it was more like some great worm had tunneled up from the depths and broken through the floor. The shine she had seen was a continuous sheet of gold, silver, and bronze coins carpeting the cavern floor. The coins that she was holding fell from her hands unconsciously as she took in the sheer amount of candy that this wealth represented. It was mind boggling. She took a few steps into the room, looking around her in awe.
In the distance was the little dragling, with a lumpy sack hanging out of its mouth. It looked up at her and cocked its head. The dragling reared up on its hindlegs, and then onto its toes, waddling forward carefully, but somewhat awkwardly. It gently placed the sack at the girl’s feet, holding it from falling over with its beak. She opened the sack, and gasped. It was full of Dragon eggs! Each one was unique, and invaluable. In gratitude, the little girl reached and patted the little dragling. It looked surprised and pulled back suddenly, dropping its side of the sack. One of the eggs rolled out onto the ground and skittered across the coins, before coming to rest against a wooden chest with a “thunk”.
The dragling’s eyes widened and it stared at the girl. A squeak sneaked out, and it covered its mouth with both forelimbs, and then both wings.
Beyond in the greenish gloam, there was a low rumbling from a throat that was part bird, part lizard. A call and a croak at once, and clearly unhappy. The girl took a step back towards the entrance, heart racing. The owner of the lair slithered out of the dark of the cavern, scales lined with green torchlight. It was a juvenile Dragon of one of the tribes the Emerald looked down upon, for low morals and poor adherence to the Old Laws.
This was no place for little girls, she realized, perhaps too late. In the back of her mind, she heard her father scolding her.
The Dragon’s eyes were lit with malicious and cold-blooded outrage. The little girl closed her eyes and waited for the end as it slowly inhaled and a green spark lit the back of its throat.
The story continues……