Modesty doesn’t seem a huge quality on blogs, so being a bestselling author myself, in that world of fractured publishers, the gauntlet’s thrown down to write the most entertaining serialized fantasy novel, online, as it comes out! So fire away with thoughts, comments and criticisms, and get ready for tomorrow’s installment of DRAGON POST
There was a brilliant fire in the London evening. It burned outside the kitchen window like a ribbon of blood-red light, cut with bruising purple clouds and smoking over the tower of that great building that Gareth’s dad had told him was called Parliament, with its boldly waving flag, and funny, pointy turrets. To Gareth it looked almost medieval, through the grimey window, though this was modern London, for sure, from the noisy police sirens he had just heard screeching and screaming through town, as if there had just been another horrible terrorist attack.
Gareth suddenly felt himself filling up with feeling, in front of that great sunset, like a tumbler overflowing, and as he thought of the horrid shouting match between his mum and step dad, yet another row, he wanted to cry. Why do adults talk to one another like that? But 12-year-old boys don’t cry, do they, and instead he bit his lip to stop himself swearing, and started bashing hard on the kitchen work top, with the lump of muck brown modelling clay, that had long dried out. He didn’t want to model anything, he wanted to break something, for all the hurt he was feeling now.
Gareth felt like a prisoner in the little flat, where he lived with his mum, now his step dad had moved out, with its one bedroom, and pull down bed for him, in the main room. She wasn’t in now, of course, always out to work, poor mum, and Gareth’s holidays had started with the blocked, sinking, almost exhausting feeling, that this would be as boring as the last one. His best friend Mac was going away, which they had no money for, and it was too rough around here for his mum to let him off the leash too easily. For fear of those other kids on the block. The kind that carry knives, or smoke cigarettes, the mugs, or do things like drugs. What was he going to do now?
But above all Gareth knew, that though he had wished with all his heart and soul, that his Dad might visit suddenly, and soon, it was just not going to happen. Gareth and his mum hadn’t seen him in three years, not least because he and his stupid step dad so disliked each other. Well his step dad was off again, thank heavens, after the horrid bust up yesterday, on some secret army thing or other, so at least if he did turn up there wouldn’t be a fight, or any horrid tension. But it hadn’t stopped mum breaking down again. Gareth felt something in his stomach he couldn’t understand. He missed his dad so much, hardly remembered him sometimes, except for the picture in his back pocket, but if he told the truth, sometimes Gareth almost hated him too, for ever going away.
The tall, dark haired twelve-year-old thumped hard again, as the bell rang, a muted chatter, because the cover didn’t fit and there was no one to fix it. It must be a very special delivery at this time in the evening, but when Gareth answered it, there was a thin black guy outside, in a UPS uniform, with one of those automatic signature things, with their electronic pens. They eyed each other warily, Gareth signed and took the large, well sealed box, with a rather resentful ‘thanks’, embarrassed to have been interrupted looking so sensitive. Back on the kitchen counter the enormous sunset was flaming even more, turning darker and threatening to pull the city into night, as Gareth tried to get a clue who it was from. In fact he got the clue immediately, from the Sender Label on the side, saying Curly Tail Press. There was a note too – to his mum. Jackie Marks – those eggs you wanted from the farm. Handle with care!
Gareth smiled, though the parcel wasn’t from him. His wild-haired Godfather, Pendelion, had sent them though, and Gareth liked Pendelion. He was his father’s mate, originally, from school, and ran a little publisher in the country, as well as a small farm, that Gareth always loved visiting. When they got the odd chance, that is. He gave Gareth the strangest presents too; rare glass bottles, hand-engraved bookmarks, carved, miniature elephants and once, a ship-in-a-bottle, he told him had been made by real prisoners. But more than presents, Pendelion, who his step dad hated and called an eccentric Nutter, always gave him his time, and interest, and the warmth of his clever smile.
But Eggs! Gareth was sure it couldn’t be eggs, not in the post. He grabbed a little knife from the kitchen block and sliced through the tape and cardboard. Inside a mound of crepe paper, and plastic bubble wrap, was nothing but an ordinary egg box; Class A, organic, admittedly, but an egg box all right, for half a dozen, although with a slight bulge in the top. Gareth lifted it out very carefully, placed it on the counter, by the clay, and opened the lid. Gareth’s disappointment could not have been greater if someone had phoned to say the holidays were cancelled forever. Not lovely chocolate eggs. Not gold covered duck eggs, from some Royal Crested culinary emporium, but plain, supermarket-style chickens eggs, and one with a mouldy feather stuck to the top.
Gareth fumbled in the UPS box, but all he found was a note, though this one was to him. Tell your mum to make an omelette Gareth, and break a few. They’re delicious. Sorry I missed your birthday. I was going to ask you to a boy’s camp I’m doing down here, but things a bit hectic. Perhaps another time. Your Godfather. P
Gareth sighed and wondered about this boy’s camp. He had heard of the training weekends before, and it all sounded a bit heavy, though his stepfather wanted him to go to ‘toughen him up’. Besides, he would no doubt get into a fight, which he often did at school, and why some of the idiots muttered he had ‘special needs’. But words about missing his birthday just made Gareth more sullen, and made him think again, not of presents, but his dad. Three whole birthdays he had missed now. Gareth suddenly grabbed the lump of clay and started banging again. Blast and damn him. Thump. Thump. Thump.
Through the window the whole sky was glowing with fire and Gareth suddenly felt horribly alone. Horribly angry too. It was at that moment that some little gremlin seemed to wake in him. Gareth noticed one of the eggs was a little outsized, and slightly bluer than the rest, off to one side, tilting stupidly, and took a vicious swipe at the thing. WHACK. Gareth felt the pain shoot up his arm, as if he’d hit concrete, and was amazed as the hard block of moulding clay snapped in two.
He had expected a wonderful explosion of yellow gloop, a lovely, defeated crunch, but the larger egg was perfectly undamaged, and now knocked neatly upright. Perhaps it was a hard-boiled one, he thought, that his nutty Godfather had put in by mistake, but no one was making an omelette with this. Gareth was going to try smashing another one, when suddenly, before his startled eyes, the large egg twitched. Then it wobbled, and a crack went running right down the centre, and Gareth almost jumped out of his skin, as something sharp and pointing pushed out of the shell.
Gareth was going to hit it again, as the cracks ran everywhere, and with a kind of gruff chirrup, a head suddenly came out. The chick that had arrived through the post had a beak, all right, but Gareth’s fascination, and vague fear, was compounded by the fact the little, bird-like head was perfectly blue, and looking straight up at him. What astonished Gareth though was the size of its eyes, and the fact that they were glowing bright red, like the fiery sunset outside the window.
Gareth could have fallen over, when the thing seemed to burp, a little puff of smoke came out of its beak, and then, as if it was swelling, it shrugged off its casing, in a shower of breaking shell, and stood up in the brown egg box, and the remains of its broken home. The little creature raised its beak as if to sing, and uncurling a pair of blue, leathery wings, only slightly sticky with a glistening slime, it unfurled a tiny, club ended tail too, that waved like that flag on the House of Commons. In the Class A, organic egg box, Gareth Marks was suddenly looking down at a real, live dragon.
Gareth stepped back in total astonishment. A baby dragon, in an egg box, here in London, in 2010? It was impossible, and yet something about the note from his strange Godfather made him believe it immediately. Besides, he was looking down at the little thing, here, in his kitchen, peering up at him. He suddenly saw little flecks of red light, like electricity, ripple across its veined wings, or under the blue skin itself, and as it tilted its head, and looked up at the boy, he had the strangest sensation this was a girl dragon. It was something about the length of the long eye lashes, which, on stone like lids, around large, searching eyes, were blinking back at him.
Gareth’s mouth dropped open and he wanted to say something stupid like who, or why or what, when the dragon gave a kind of hiccup, and a mix of steam and sparks came out of its mouth, then vanished. It looked even more coy, curled in its clubbed tail, then opened its wings, as if to take off. But the little dragon didn’t take off, instead it stood there, foolishly, among the bits of broken dragon egg shell, looking rather embarrassed, not to mention helpless.
Something strange came over Gareth Marks. He had always longed for a pet of his own, like a hamster, or even a dog, but the flat was far too small, and his mum didn’t like dogs. But a Dragon! Gareth felt oddly paternal, even at his age, and he wanted to pick it up in his palm, or wrap it in some kitchen roll, or something, as it seemed to shiver at a gust of cool air from a chink of open window. What do you do with baby Dragons that suddenly arrive in the post?
Feed it, that’s what you do. Still hardly able to believe it, the boy wondered if dragons drink saucers of milk, as, very carefully he reached out with his forefinger, and, hardly daring to touch the delicate blue creature, wondering if it would bite him, he started to stroke its little head. It ducked at first, stretching out its wings, but some recognition seemed to come into its large eyes, which had now turned a misty brown, and it let him, nuzzling his finger back with the top of its head. It was the strangest feeling, against Gareth’s forefinger, like stroking sand at the beach, but the creature seemed almost to purr, and its tail uncurled happily.
Gareth’s heart could have melted, but now he noticed that his mum had left a pack of rice on the counter, and some of the grains had spilled out around the sides. Do baby dragons eat rice? It was long grain, stuff his mother was always saying was good for you, or something annoying. The boy picked up one of the grains, between a thumb and forefinger, and very gingerly he proffered it to the little beak, standing in the egg box. The dragon chick tilted its head, closed its rather large eyes, and opening its mouth, a green tongue came out, that seemed to stick to the food, and pull it back in sharply, like one of those tree frogs, catching flies.
It flicked its beak upwards, then most definitely swallowed the grain, and opening its eyes again, seemed pleased too, when something extraordinary happened. The dragon shivered violently and as Gareth blinked, the creature seemed to grow visibly, right there before his eyes, to swell and almost double in size. Not only that, but it lifted its wings and took to the air, then hovered there, like a Humming Bird, right at eye level, in front of Gareth’s nose. It was hardly moving its wings though, floating, in parallel with that flag waving in the distance, through the kitchen window, wrapped in that fading sunset of darkening red clouds.
Gareth felt a strange longing, when the little creature swung its head and let out a tiny jet of fire, like the flame on his step dad’s army cigarette lighter. This time though it wasn’t weak, or mixed with smoke, it was clear and strong; a tiny fire jet. That may have been extraordinary enough, in his own kitchen, if the flame itself, separated now from the flaoting beak, hadn’t hung there, swirled in a vortex, like water going down a plughole, then seemed to open a little window, right in front of the real kitchen window. It grew, like a tear in a painting, or the mouth of an opening cave, in some dream, and suddenly Gareth was not looking at that funny medieval building, Parliament, or the modern London skyline, at all.
Just for a moment, it was as if his thoughts were travelling out, at speed, as if he was flying, through that vortex, to meet what he saw now, somewhere far beyond, yet nowhere at all; sweeping, rich green pastures, a great curling forest in the distance, dark with giant, tangled trees, but another impossible creature, breaking from the wood and racing straight towards him, as if in flight, wild and white, bucking its clearly frightened head. Gareth blinked hard at the horse, that seemed to be running in terror, but it was still there and he most definitely caught the flash of a twisting horn, right in the middle of its forehead. But now there was almost a terrified squark, if dragons can squark, the fire window closed again, in a puff of smoke, the vision vanished, and the little dragon fell out of the air, straight back into the egg box.
It broke one of the other eggs, in a tiny spurt of yellow egg yoke, and gave a defeated chirp, as it slapped its tail against the cardboard, and bowed its head. Gareth could have laughed, if he hadn’t wondered what he had just seen, and suddenly heard the rattle of keys outside the front door, and his mum’s tired voice. ‘HOME, LOVE.” The boy had to think like lightening. Hide. Hide the dragon. But where? In an instant, his eyes flashed right around the kitchen, took in the three big storage jars on the shelf, and slipping his hand under the littler creature, he scooped it up, as carefully as he could.
There it was, right in the palm of his hand, as big as his palm, wings, and tail, and scaly egg covered back, while Gareth could feel the imprint of bird like feet, as it stood upright, and the door began to open behind him. Gareth looked up and read the Legends on the jars: COFFEE, SUGAR, CEREAL, RICE. Something told him not to go for the last, so, reaching out, he snatched the lid off the Coffee, and, almost apologetically, popped his dragon inside. He heard a tiny muffled moan, as it fell into the coffee granuals, smoke came out, and he snapped the lid back on, tight.
“Hi darling, sorry I’m home so late, have you had any…”
Gareth’s cheeks were blazing, as he swung to face his mum, and as he did so, his right hand reached out and clipped the egg box, accidently on purpose, and the whole lot came flying off the counter. They upturned and there was a horrible crunch, as they landed at his feet and Gareth let out a forced ‘blast.’ Jackie Marks stood there enquiringly. She was in her nurse’s uniform, had a work bag slung over her arm and looked exhausted.
“Love, what’s wrong, did I startle you? I’m sorry.”
Already he was apologising, as he bent down, with a ‘no problem’, talking of eggs from his Godfather’s farm, UPS deliveries, and making omelettes for their supper.
‘Your Godfather,” said his mum, as she watched him, “what is that funny man playing at now?”
‘Playing at, mum?” said Gareth innocently, scooping up some of the shell and gloop, hiding the dragon bits among the other pieces, as he stood again and grinned. He put the box and its broken contents to one side, but held two unbroken eggs in his left hand, saved from the six. He felt idiotic.
“Yes, love. Pendelion sent something to the hospital too, but addressed to you. My staff nurse has been eyeing it jealously, all day. For your birthday. I think it’s a book.”
“Oh,” said Gareth, his face as red as the dying sunset, balancing the hen’s eggs on the counter by the messy box now, and trying to look interested, or not so guilty.
“Don’t you want to see?” asked his mum, as she pulled something out of her bag and held it out. It was also in a UPS package.
“Sure,” answered Gareth, wiping his hands on his trousers, and blushing even deeper.
“I’m beat,” said Jackie, as he took it, “I’ll have a bath quickly, then make some supper. Cheese omelettes, if you like. Clean up for me though, love, and make me some coffee, there’s a dear. How nice of Pendelion.”
His mum looked at Gareth rather suspiciously, smiled and turned to go into her room. Gareth swung his head back to the coffee jar, but all seemed quiet and peaceful, just four white, porcelain jars, in a row, so he looked down at what was obviously a large book, heavy in his hands. You can always tell, but it was quite a day for surprises already. The note scrawled under the address label to St Thomas’s, said. Happy Birthday, Gareth. Better late than never. Hope with this you might see the universe in a grain of rice! Pendelion.
Gareth tore at the wrapping, as he heard his mum beginning to run her bath, and when he pulled it out, the twelve year old was as delighted and amazed, as if he had just seen a mythical creature in his own kitchen, and hidden it in a coffee jar, which of course, he had. It was the size of one of those fancy coffee table books, but bound in old leather, edged with delicate green felt, all around the borders, and the title scored in large gothic gold on the front read: THE VERY DANGEROUS BOOK OF DRAGONS, AND UNIVERSAL DRAGON LORE by PENDELION PUMMFREY
David Clement-Davies Copyright 2010 – All Rights Reserved Published by Phoenix Ark Press
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First Published on WordPress.Com, 2010, by Phoenix Ark Press. All Rights Reserved. This extract is given free subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise be sold, altered, or otherwise circulated, except for personal enjoyment, or without the publisher’s consent be reproduced in any form, other than which it is now published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent publisher.
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