Gareth sat down on the little sofa in the London flat, with the huge book on his lap: THE VERY DANGEROUS BOOK. He shivered and very slowly, opened the cover. The boy thought he heard something move in the kitchen, but, as for the book, nothing jumped out at him; except the beautiful style and curling guilt lettering, in the strange tome. On the frontis page, Gareth was looking down at chapter headings now.
1. A Universal History of Dragons, since the dawn of spacetime, to before.
2. Dragon Lore, to Dragon War; a Tragic Tail.
3. Why Dragon spells Danger, even without an E.
4. Fire-Cutting; the way through to Blistag, and the Dark Wood. Dragons be here.
5. Beasts of the Sacred Realm; from Homunculi to Humans – or miraculous ones.
6. Dragon Naming – A sensitive psychic’s guide.
7. Feeding your Dragon? The Dangerous Do’s and Don’ts.
Feeding your dragon? Gareth looked at the page number and began to flick through immediately, towards the relevant section. It was a sumptuous volume, like an old world children’s fairytale book, filled with rich, colourful pictures of dragons, of all shapes and sizes; many rather elegant, some quite terrifying, others looking decidedly evil.
He saw other creatures there too, amazing mythical beasts, that Gareth could hardly remember the names of; Griffon and Chimera and Basilisks, which did strange things to his thoughts. There were pictures of odd-looking people as well, in the weirdest clothes. He vaguely heard his mum in the bathroom, and his eyes hovered over the pictures for ages, but at last Gareth came to a page that looked like one of his mum’s recipe books.
DRAGON FEEDING- THE DANGEROUS DOS AND DONTS
Like people, Dragons’ diets have changed over the centuries, and while modern Dragons have developed many bad habits, sometimes too horrible to mention, it’s all a question of educating yourself, and your Dragon, if you can, to the most nutritious and balanced diet available. That’s of course if you ever have a Dragon, which is impossible, since Dragons only exist in the Sacred Realm. Just as ordinary Humans cannot live in their world, and could never travel there anyway, without a Fire-Cutter. Fire-Cutters are exceptionally rare, and exceptionally dangerous. But for imagination’s sake, in tending to any Dragon, or trying to, remember that the joy of food is the joy of creativity. Put some love into it, some flare, some generosity, and above all have some fun. Incidentally, Celebrity Dragon Chefs may be on the rise, but they probably know little more than you do, even 3 Tail ones, and are always horrible to their staff.
Gareth settled back in the sofa, noticing the stone statuette of a dancer his dad had carved, standing on the carpet by one arm, and felt a strange tingling feeling, as if he was being spoken to by a friend. He thought of his father again, as he heard his mum climbing out of the bath. She had turned on the radio, to a music station, but there was a sharp thump on the wall. It was Mr Coombes, a loner and the local busy body, who was always complaining about noise.
Young Dragons are especially fond of ButterSqueak, Porgon’s liver, and Wordwort which, I’m afraid, is unavailable at Tesco, Sainsbury, Azda, or any major British Supermarket Chain – world gobbling dinosaurs that they are. Possible equivalents, in this realm, are the Ecuadorean Desert Cactus, Armadillo’s tail, or a very rare blue Japanese Jellyfish, but they are nigh impossible to find too, and probably illegal. DON’T DESPAIR. Dragons can be fussy eaters, especially the little ones, yet care is important and, with thought, and lovely presentation, you can entice them with things undiscovered, even by Pendelion Pumffrey. The key is trust and experimentation, since all life is an experiment. The author, though, has known them eat Roquet salad, pistachio nuts, blue cheese, Pretzels, raw rabbit, Boeuf en Croute and After Dinner Mints. When feeding them, always be careful they don’t eat YOU, but that’s often a question of size (see Sugar). The second biggest DON’T, however, especially to a newly hatched Dragon, is of course, feeding it LONG GRAINED RICE.
Gareth felt sick, although he could hardly believe there was any reality to these strange instructions, as he thought of what had really happened in the kitchen, when he had given the Dragon chick just that – rice. A long grain Pendelion had said something about seeing the universe in.
“Good book, love?”
Gareth jumped, as his mum came back into the sitting room, drying her wet red hair on a towel. She was out of her nurse’s uniform, in jeans and a sweater, and smiled warmly at him, wondering sadly what he was going to get up to this holidays.
“Er Yeah, I suppose.”
“So nice of Pendelion to remember. And thanks for making the coffee, it smells yummy. But silly Mr Coombes is complaining again.”
Coffee? Gareth could smell it too, filling the room, the rich, burnt aroma, that always wafted from the coffee maker, when it was ready on the gas ring. The problem was Gareth had forgotten to put any coffee on at all, so what was cooking now? Oh no! Sally Marks was already moving towards the kitchen door, as he slammed the fabulous Dragon book shut, sprang up and made a dash to intercept her, before she discovered his amazing secret.
“No, Mum, er, you’re tired,” he cried, grinning and barring the way, “Sit down and I’ll do it.” Again that suspicious look flashed across Mrs Mark’s weary face, but she shrugged and turned. “Thanks, Gareth, darling. You’re a honey.”
Mrs Mark’s son pulled the sliding kitchen door half-shut, as unobtrusively as he could, and looked about. The four white jars were still there, in a row, bearing their legends, but the air was rich with roasted coffee now. Rather too rich. As soon as he reached up and touched the Coffee jar, Gareth suppressed a sharp cry of pain. The porcelain was scalding.
He grabbed the oven gloves and lifted the whole thing down, careful not to shake it too much. When he pulled off the lid, a little cloud of steam came out, and there was his real live Dragon, inside, standing in a mound of melted coffee, completely stuck together, trying to lift its webbed feet from the goo, as it looked up hopefully, and burped. Gareth was startled. He hadn’t noticed before, but on its scaly chest were two little claws. It was beginning a kind of dragon chirrup too, and Gareth held his forefinger to his lips.“Shhhhh.”
Gareth was too touched by the extraordinary blue winged thing to be angry, but he had to think quickly now. He ran some water loudly into the sink, with the plug in, then started humming, flipped the switch on the kettle, and opened the cupboard, to find some Instant coffee. The real stuff was ruined. “Milk, mum?” he called, with a gulp, pulling down a pot and clattering the draws ostentatiously. “You know I don’t have milk, love,” answered his mum. “Just sugar.”
As Gareth turned off the tap and pulled down a large orange cup and saucer, along with the sugar jar, he saw that the Dragon had hopped up onto the edge of the coffee and was swinging its clubbed tail, watching him intently. Now the boy felt rather embarrassed himself, as the Dragon’s long lashes fluttered at him, but he stopped and stroked it again, surprised its little head was as cool as stone, after all that melted coffee.
The blasted kettle seemed to take an age to boil, but at last it was steaming, and careful not to knock his dragon off its perch, he dug out a little of the melted coffee on a spoon and added it to the cup, to make it look really fresh, then a spoonful of sugar, stirring rapidly. Gareth felt awful to be doing all this to hide his dragon. It felt like lying. As he worked though, something extraordinary happened. It was as if he heard a voice in his head. “Hello, Gareth, be calm,” it whispered. He swung to face his Dragon, still staring at the boy, with those deep, dark, rather large eyes, but its beak or mouth was tight shut. Baby chickens don’t speak, let alone dragons.
“It’s very beautiful, Gareth, Pendelion’s book”
As he heard his mum approaching the kitchen door, Gareth found himself spinning like a break-dancer, and nearly knocked over the coffee cup, as he grabbed the squeaking Dragon chick, rather more roughly than before. “But don’t you think it’s all a bit…”
Both the lids to the Coffee and Sugar were back in place, the empty coffee jar back on the shelf too, Gareth’s dragon in its new sugary hiding place, by the time she reached him. Gareth held out the cup blithely, his palms stinging, and trying not to tremble.
“Think it’s a bit young?” finished Sally Marks. Gareth blinked and tilted his head.“I mean you’ve grown out of that sort of thing by now, haven’t you? Fairy Tales. Pendelion wouldn’t understand.”
“Sure, mum,” said Gareth, swallowing hard and trying to look tough.
“Thanks love,” said Sally, taking the cup off him. “I’ll have this, then do supper. I told Jill I’d have a drink with her later though, down the pub. Still want an omelette. With what?”
“Pistachios,” answered Gareth, thinking selflessly of a Dragon Diet.
“I mean, er, blue cheese. Pistachio’s are nuts, aren’t they? Maybe I meant Parmesan. That funny stuff.”
“There’s cheddar, I think. What on earth’s got into you, today?”
“Got into me?” said Gareth, as if Buttersqueak wouldn’t melt in his mouth, whatever that was, but blushing deeply. “What do you mean, mum?”
“Oh nothing. Look, I don’t suppose….I mean, Jill’s going through stuff too, and it might be nice to…”
“Have supper with her,” said Gareth eagerly, since they often did. “In the pub. Sure. No problem. I’ll make myself an omelette, mum. Don’t worry. I’m not really hungry anyhow.”
“You are funny, love,” said Sally softly, “But if you really don’t mind.”
“It’s fine,” said Gareth, urging his mum back through the door. “Honest. I’ll have something, then go to bed and read.”
Gareth was looking across the room at Pendelion’s book, which was open on the glass table. Sally’s nose twitched a little, as she sipped the rather bitter coffee, and wondered if her son was having some crisis, with all this talk of reading and going quietly to bed. But she suddenly needed a drink, and though guilty at leaving him, was still so upset herself by the argument with Gareth’s step-dad, she badly wanted to talk to a friend.
“Mum,” said Gareth though, and he hardly knew why, “Do you ever miss Dad? Really miss him.”
Sally Marks stopped in her tracks but rather than answer, she just shook her head. A pained look came over her gentle features, and Gareth knew she was thinking of that horrid argument the day before. It had frightened her. She carried the coffee into her bedroom though, to finish changing, as Gareth sat down in front of the great book again. THE DANGEROUS BOOK OF DRAGONS AND UNIVERSAL DRAGON LORE.
As he looked down at the picture in front of him, the boy shivered slightly, because it was as if he was half in the room, and half inside the book. In front of him was a tangled wall of trees, ancient and wrapped in vines and creepers, and from the immense shadows, that seemed to loom at him from the pages, he thought he could see eyes, peering at him angrily. Gareth wondered where he was, and noticed the sunset had turned to a dark, sodium-lit night, as he looked out of the window at the sweeping streets of modern London. It had started to rain.
Something was in Gareth’s mind though, something he had read on those dietary pages about size – See Sugar. Gareth flicked back to the right pages and now he saw this:
DRAGON STEW – A PUMMFREY FAMILY RECIPE
Dragon Stew should be prepared well in advance and will feed a full Sized Dragon for a week, not to mention you, though don’t eat too much, it’s very rich.
I Ox, humanely dealt with.
Onions, Carrots, Potatoes, Garlic, Babbage – 300 kilos
Salt and Pepper – five bushels
Tarmagon blood, a barrel of beer, and plenty of river water.
Chop the lot, pop in a pot, and get your Dragon to do the cooking. Four breaths, low heat, and don’t use a Fire-Cutter. Simple and delicious. PP
Gareth almost laughed, wondering who this weird book was written for, until he read what was written underneath.
SUGAR – THE ULTIMATE NO-NO
Little Dragons should NEVER be given sugar, because not only does it rot their teeth, make them hyperactive, and eventually lead to obesity and sometimes heart problems, but it makes them grow at the most improbable speed. This naturally adds to the general difficulty, indeed near impossibility, OF EVER HIDING YOUR DRAGON.
In the little London flat, Gareth Marks felt a sinking in is gut, heard a strange rattling from the kitchen, as his mum appeared in the hall, in her coat and carrying her purse. The boy was at the front door in an instant, smiling, reassuring her and nearly thrusting his mother straight out of the flat again, as the twelve-year-old slammed the front door after her, and behind him there was a shattering crash, as the sugar jar exploded everywhere.
David Clement-Davies Copyright 2010 – All Rights Reserved Published by Phoenix Ark Press
The rights of David Clement-Davies to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988
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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