|The Dragon Seeker
The talisman around his neck hummed and vibrated as Damien walked past the large display window of the Magician’s Toy Shop. Confused, he stopped and backed up a few steps to take a better look. He peered through the window, his breath fogging up the glass, and the crunch of snow beneath his black boots left him with a sharp reminder of the season. He rubbed his hands together and scratched his head. There was nothing unusual inside the shop, or at least nothing he could see from outside anyway.
That’s strange, thought Damien. He bit his bottom lip, and pressed his palm against the warm glass. It never does that, except… except… but it can’t be, can it? They were killed off centuries ago!
The inside of the window was illuminated by Christmas lights. A toy train circled around a small, white, Christmas tree that was decorated with blinking blue lights and silver and gold tinsel. Boxes of different sizes wrapped in brightly, colored wrapping paper beckoned him to take a peek. A huge stuffed polar bear sat in the corner of the display and smiled at him.Damien blinked his green eyes, startled.
Polar Bears don’t smile. Do they?
The sign on the wooden door was flipped to the green, curvy letters that read: "We’re Open!"
When he swung the door inward and stepped into the entrance, a bell tinkled overhead. He stood in place, mouth agape, as he looked at more toys than he'd ever seen in all his centuries of living.
“Merry Christmas,” greeted a jovial, husky voice. “How can I help you on this fine Christmas Eve? We have any toy a child could ever want!”
Shaking out of his reverie, Damien tugged his leather coat onto his shoulders even tighter. He didn’t trust men of any kind, whether they’re young or old. The talisman vibrated more wildly than before, but the hum was gone.
“Well,” gulped Damien, running his fingers through his black hair. “I am l-looking for a d-dragon.”
“A dragon, you say? We’ve got all kinds at the Magician’s Toy Shop! What kind of dragon you be looking for, young lad?”
The old man flashed a toothless grin behind his glass counter where an old register sat upon its clean surface.
“I won’t k-know until I see it,” said Damien.
The old man nodded. ”Feel free to look around. My name is Arthur, if you need me.”
Damien walked away. He shook his head, and chuckled. He found the old man amusing somehow and slightly familiar, too.
The more he walked around the shelves and barrels full of toys, the more he was certain there were dragons. His talisman never lied- that he knew for certain. As hard as he searched, he could not find a single dragon. Not even a toy dragon. He walked back to the counter where Arthur sat, sorting through a stack of papers.
No adult could find what they were looking for in this unorganized shop,, he thought with a heavy sigh
He tapped his foot, impatient. Arthur looked up from his paperwork. His spectacles slid down his gnarled nose.
“Find what you were looking for, lad?”
Damien shook his head. “I didn’t find a single dragon,” said Damien. He crossed his arms. “You said you had dragons.”
“I do, lad. I do. Don’t you see them?” asked Arthur, spreading his arms wide. “They’re everywhere, or have you no imagination?”
Damien clenched his fists. “I am looking for real dragons, not your imaginary ones!”he blurted. “My talisman never lies. There are real dragons here!”
Arthur nodded and stood up.
“I know. I know, lad. I knew you were looking for ‘em when you came in. You reek of magic. Anyone could smell it, if they knew what they were looking for. You’re one of them Dragon Seeker’s come to destroy my dragon’s. Well, I won’t have it!” spat Arthur, his face turning beet red. “If you’ve come here seeking their destruction, you can leave this shop now!”
Damien sighed, and shook his head again. A small headache was forming. He wished he had some of his DragonBerry Juice to soothe it.
“No, old man,” he said. He ran his hand through his hair. “I’ve not come to destroy your dragons as you claim. I’ve been seeking dragons for many centuries, hoping they weren’t killed off centuries ago. In my old age, I’ve haven’t had any success. I was walking by your shop, when something happened, that hasn’t happened for centuries.”
“Oh?” said Arthur, arching a white brow. “What happened?”
“My talisman began to hum and vibrate, just as I walked past your window. You’ve got dragons!”
Damien exclaimed with a flourish of his hand. “My talisman hasn’t so much as hummed since the
dragons disappeared centuries ago, but how is it they’ve returned?”
Damien scratched his head, and looked around.
A glimmer near the shelves full of brightly colored toys and wooden blocks caught his eye. He peered closer, and saw the outline of what looked to be a blue dragon. It was small. Its light, blue eyes twinkled into view, and its jagged scales materialized before him. Its long spiked tail was wrapped about its feet. There were many more like it throughout the shop. He gasped, and clutched the talisman hidden beneath his tunic.
The dragons have returned, or they never left. I can’t tell which, thought Damian. He frowned, perplexed by the complication of this new possibility. What would the humans of this century think of the dragon’s return?
Arthur smiled, and his almost white eyes twinkled behind his wired-rimmed spectacles. The wrinkles around his eyes deepened. He tugged the silver clasp of his dusty, tattered cloak about his shoulders, and rearranged the stacks of papers. He pushed his glasses back onto his crooked nose.
“The dragons have always been, lad. But now they are forced to hide, feeding upon children’s imagination for sustenance. They can’t go out to hunt in the open, so they’ve evolved to find a way to live like we, humans, have evolved over the centuries to live.'
'I fear for them when they are discovered by the humans of this age,” said Arthur. He walked past his glass counter, and strode to the tiny, blue dragon. “When or if discovered, I believe the humans will react like they always have… out of fear.”
“Surely they won’t harm them? That one right there looks smaller than a dog. It couldn’t harm a fly.”
The small dragon yawned. When it did, it revealed white, pointed teeth that could gnash through alligator skin- if it was hungry enough or felt threatened. It flew onto Arthur’s shoulder, blinked one, and nodded off to sleep. A puff off black smoke escaped from its nostril, as it hiccupped.
“This is only a baby dragon, lad. It has a name. This is Dagon. It was born from a blue egg a hundred years ago. It’s only a hatchling. It’ll grow bigger in time. Bigger dragons reside mostly in toy factories where the imagination and creativity are the strongest.'
'They stay hidden with magic, and at night they come into view to stretch their cramped wings and re-energize themselves, but with technology coming into existence. Their supply of imagination grows weaker every year. What will they do to feed themselves?”
“Evolve,” queried Damien, uncertain.
“We shall see.”
The toy factory was silent. It was barely lit with only a few fluorescent lights, lighting the large steel room. The large conveyor belt rested from a day of hard work. Newly made toys gleamed where they were left. Sepphirius-a large, black dragon with blue eyes-materialized into view and stretched his membranous, gray wings. They were transparent, and veins crisscrossed over each other. Some were large, while others were small. Other dragons who also took refuge in the Toys for Tot’s factory materialized into view.
“I’m tired of hiding,” said an over plumped, green dragon named Zantar. “I want to fly the skies like we used too.”
The other dragons hummed and nodded. They rocked back and forth on clawed feet.
“What can we do Sephirrius?” asked a smaller, red dragon. “Can’t we do something to gain our freedom back?”
Sepphrius knew that his dragons were restless. He’d been expecting this questioning for some time now.
“I have an idea. I’ve been planning it for Christmas Morning.” A wisp of smoke curled from Sepphirius’ snout. "If we work together, it just might work.”
The dragons roared in approval.
Arthur, Damien, and the baby dragon Dagon sat in the back of the shop, away from peering eyes. Though it was Christmas Eve, they couldn’t be certain if everyone was finished shopping. Arthur seemed expect more business. Damien only shook his head.
“I sense that trouble is brewing, but where-I do not know. “
Damien shrugged his shoulders, as they peered over an old, tattered map. It crinkled at the edges. Though, it was old, Arthur claimed that it was still as accurate as any new map could be.
“It’s a magic map, lad. It can find things that regular maps cannot.”
“What are we looking for?” asked Damien with a yawn.
“Dragons,” said Arthur, sliding his tapered fingers across the pale, yellow map. “With this map, no matter if we’re in America or London, it will change to fit our purposes.”
On top of the map in curvy black letters was the name of the United States of America. A little dragon flapped its wing over the Magical Toy Shop. Just above that was a dot that read: New York City. In other spots of the map, more animated dragons hovered over toy factories and any other place where imagination ran rampant. There were dragons everywhere!
Why has my talisman not reacted before?
“Whoa, is that where the dragon’s stay?” asked Damien. He leaned over the map for a closer look. “Since there are many dragons, why hasn’t my talisman reacted before?”
“Yes,” said Arthur. “They are restless. If they weren’t, the dragons on the maps wouldn’t be flapping their wings. I suspect the reason it hasn’t gone off until now is because they have decided to come out of hiding. Magic, my dear lad, blocks out magic. That’s my best guess.”
That does make sense, thought Damien, rubbing his chin.
"Why have they decided to come out of hiding?" asked Damien. He rubbed his tired eyes.
"As I said, they are restless. Christmas for them is the perfect to make their presence known because of the expectancy of Christmas magic. Christmas magic gives them more strength to feed and materialize."
Dagon looked up with sleep filled eyes and squeaked. Its eyes looked around in alarm. It stretched its wings and flew to the map. It stomped its clawed feet on the dragon that hovered over Toys for Tots. Its location was not far from where they were.
“What is it, Dagon?”
The dragon stomped again. When it did, they could hear a roar that resounded throughout the shop. It came from outside. Damien and Arthur glanced at each other with alarm.
“Oh no,” said Arthur, his brows drew together with concern. Then, a look of fear fell upon his face.
Before they ran out of the shop, Arthur grabbed a plain, silver sword that he kept hidden behind his counter. He unsheathed it from its leather scabbard. When he did, it clanged and vibrated like his talisman.
Who is this old man? thought Damien, as they barreled out of the toy shop.
Dagon squeaked, as a large shadow soared overhead. The silvery moon was blocked from sight. They were enveloped in darkness. The great dragon roared again, jetting out a flame of orange and red fire. The air became warmer, Damien shuddered.
People ran out screaming and crying in groups, dressed only in night clothes. Several men came out of their condos with guns or pistols. Babies cried. Chaos filled the streets of New York City.
“This is not good, not good at all,” said Arthur with a shake of his head.
Damien’s talisman hummed and vibrated, more than it did before. He brought it out of his cloak. It glowed blue like the jewel that was held in its clasp.
The dragon’s sent out a fiery flame over tall buildings. Smoke and flames curled into the starry sky. There were more dragon’s than his eyes could see.
“Men will die before we are finished,” shouted Sepphirius with a roar. “We will no longer hide.”
“Sephhirius, you leave those humans alone!” shouted Arthur over the screams and cries of men, women, and children. “Leave them alone, fight me instead! They’ve done nothing to you.”
The black dragon slithered his head down to look at Arthur and Damien. A great, big eye peered at them. A gun shot rang, and Sepphirius was propelled backwards. He roared in pain. His wings flapped, but one wing was bent and flapped with awkwardness.
“A human will die for this,” roared Sepphirius.
He let out another jet of fire across more buildings. The dragons swooped at the humans that ran in the open and swatted at them with their clawed feet. One human was knocked to the side and slammed backwards into a bricked building. He crumpled into the snow and didn’t move.
“Sepphirius, you tell your dragons to leave them alone. I will fight you! If I lose, you may ravage the city! Is that a deal?”
Sepphirius blinked. Then he soared downward and landed on the ground in front of Damien and Arthur. His claws dug into the snow and dirt.
Arthur charged at the great dragon with speed, and jumped over the flame with inhuman strength. He ran up to the belly of the dragon, the tender part, and slashed. Sepphirius swatted the old man, as if he were nothing more than a small fly. Arthur buckled to his knees, and gasped. The dragon grunted.
The other dragons hovered above them and watched; a flapping of wings thundered in the air.
How can we defeat them when there are so many? Perhaps if we defeat Sepphirius that will be their down fall?
Damien charged at the dragon, and the dragon popped out of view.
"The Dragon Seeker must stay out of this, if I'm to keep my end of the bargain," roared Sepphirius. He was no where to be seen.
"You heard him Damien, only one old man can fight this dragon. So stay out of the way!"
Arthur stood and winced. He clutched his stomach. Blood seeped from the deep scratches onto the snow. He charged again. He jabbed his sword at the dragon’s belly, near the heart. It stuck- and the dragon roared in pain.
It rose on its hind legs, pushed itself into the air with a huff, and flapped away. It flew with its tail tucked like a wounded dog. Sepphirius and the other dragons flew out of sight, before another dragon was wounded from the gun shots that rang out into the air.
As they did, the blurry sun peeked out behind the burning building. Sirens wailed in the distance. Smoke curled above the buildings. Several people screamed in pain, while others cheered.
Damien ran over to Arthur who was curled in the snow, clutching his stomach. Dagon flew next to the old man, and whimpered. It poked its snout into Arthur’s neck.
“I believe I am dying lad,” mumbled Arthur. “That dragon did me good.”
Damien shook his head. “You can’t die! I won’t allow it,” he said, fighting back the tears that were about to shed.
“Everyone must die someday, even you. I’ve lived many centuries like you, lad. Thanks to Merlin. Now, you must protect the humans. Do whatever you must. They will gather armies to fight back. The dragons must be kept alive,” mumbled Arthur. His eyes closed. “Now, let me rest in peace, lad. You have other things to take care of.”
Damien gulped and nodded. A hard lump formed in his throat. It was difficult to swallow. The baby dragon flapped toward him and rested on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry, Arthur. I will do what I can to protect the dragons and humanity.”
Damien turned and walked away. Anger and sorrow exploded inside his chest. He had much to do. It was Christmas Morning, he would rest for now. Tomorrow he would go on his quest.
As he lay on the bare floor of the toy shop, he realized why the old man had looked familiar. His eyes grew wide.
“May you finally rest in peace, King Arthur, and may the blessings of God be upon you. Merry Christmas, old man”