A young boy writes himself an epic adventure...which starts to come true!
“When are you going to write the next story, Jayden?”
“Huh, if it wasn’t a school day, I’d be writing in it now. But I don’t know if it will make us late or not, and if it does, Mum will get angry at us for mucking around when we should be getting ready for school. What happens when we’re in the story? Are we in my bedroom? Are we gone? Does it seem like we’re gone and then back again in an instant so no one even realises we were gone?”
Caitlin shrugged. “I dunno.”
“Well, neither do I, so we can’t do it again until the weekend, just in case,” he announced in a gloomy tone.
Caitlin pouted but didn’t bother to argue with him. His logic made sense to her, and she could see that he was certainly no happier about it than she was.
At lunchtime, Caitlin popped over to Jayden’s class to see if he wanted to play on the monkey bars with her. It was her favourite pastime, but as the monkey bars were in the senior playground, if she didn’t have a friend to go with her, she sometimes sought out Jayden to accompany her. She’d been pushed over by a bigger kid in the senior playground once already, breaking her nose on one of the bars. Just an accident, but she was a bit more careful now.
“No, I’m going to go to the library and read about dragons. I’m trying to decide what sort of dragon to write about. I like the idea of seeing an ice dragon maybe, but first I’d really like to see a fire-breathing one, and I’m not sure exactly which dragons breath fire. I don’t want to write about a blue dragon and find out that they only do water. Although, any dragon would be cool,” he mused. “But yeah, I’m going to the library.”
“A fire breathing dragon sounds pretty dangerous.”
“Hmm, but we should be okay. I have the journal.”
“Yeah, so we’ll be all right!” Caitlin grinned, then spun on her heel and ran over to the senior playground.
Jayden watched her climb up the ladder to the monkey bars. She loved to climb and swing, and she was better at it than most of the senior kids, if he was honest. Mum said it was down to practice. She practised at the monkey bars like Jayden had practiced to learn to whistle – constantly. She had calluses on her palms and fingers from it, but that didn’t seem to bother her at all. He watched a moment longer, knowing she would look his way with a triumphant grin when she completed the first set, then after acknowledging her feat, he headed to the library.
Finally, it was Saturday. It was dark and quiet, with just a few early birds chirping outside. Jayden snuggled under his blankets and wondered if it was too early to start writing in the journal. A week had never passed so slowly. Normally Jayden enjoyed school – he wasn’t the most popular person at school, not like Caitlin. He rolled his eyes to himself. He had friends though, and he liked learning. These five days had felt like a lifetime though. At least he’d managed to research some dragons, so he was already to go as soon as it was time to start. Was it too early to start yet? He knew his dad would say it was too early – it was still dark outside. Jayden didn’t need to look at a clock to know it was well before 8am, which was when his dad had said he was allowed to get up and leave his room. Jayden didn’t like waiting until 8am. Everyone else usually woke up about then, well, except for Mum who slept as late as possible on the weekend. He liked his special quiet time in the early morning. Jayden wondered if it was even 7am yet, or if it was truly early. Ah, who cares? So long as he was quiet, no one would even know what time he woke up. No one ever did. He wasn’t going to leave his room. His dad only got angry if he woke up anyone else, but if he was quiet, Caitlin would sleep until at least 8am, and his mum and dad would hopefully sleep until 9am. They thought that was a treat, sleeping in until 9am on the weekends. Jayden thought it was a treat too, a treat for him, to have to some time without parents.
Jayden picked up the journal from his dresser beside the bed, his fingertips smoothing over the soft brown leather. Now, where had he put his pencil? Ah there it was, he could just the see the gnawed end of it sticking out from under the edge of his drawing pad. With both journal and pencil in hand, he arranged himself comfortably on the bed and prepared to write the first sentence of his next adventure.
Wait! He nearly forgot! Jayden put the journal and pencil down beside him and scrambled off the bed. He turned on the bedroom light and then slowly, trying not to make any noise that would his parents or his sister, he opened his dresser drawers and took out some clean clothes. He had almost forgotten about how he and Caitlin had ended up wearing their pajamas for the whole fairy adventure, but thankfully he’d remembered in time. He didn’t think pajamas were entirely appropriate for a fire-breathing dragon adventure. He pulled on a pair of black shorts and a black t-shirt with a slogan that read ‘The dog ate my homework’. Should he bother with shoes? He was quite happy to wander about without them, but if he needed to run fast or... Yeah, he would get some shoes on. He searched on his floor until he’d found two not-entirely-clean socks and his shoes. He sat down, put them on, then rearranged himself back on the bed with the journal and the pencil in hand.
Jayden stood under the shade of a tree, in a small town in Scotland, waiting for his cousin Callum to arrive.
He’d decided to include his cousin Callum in this adventure and set it in Scotland. Callum was a good Scottish name, wasn’t it? And Jayden was pretty sure they had old castles and things in Scotland, where dragons were likely to be.
Ah, there he was. Jayden could just see him coming along a stony path towards him.
“Hi Callum!” he called out. “I’ve come to see the dragon!’
His cousin Callum smiled at him. “Ye picked a barry day for it, dinnae ye?”
Jayden looked up in astonishment at the thick Scottish accent coming out of Callum’s mouth. He certainly hadn’t written that!
Callum looked just as surprised as Jayden. “Och, I’ve got meself a Scottish brogue, Jayden! I didnae ken that wuid be happening! That’s verra stoatin, that is.” The more he spoke, the more surprised he looked, his eyebrows flying up high on his forehead.
Jayden burst out laughing. “Ha ha! You sound very funny. Verra funny,” he smirked. “Oh, I didn’t know that was going to happen either. Oh, that’s classic.”
The two boys chatted for a bit longer, trying out different phrases to see how they’d turn out in Callum’s newly-discovered accent. It seemed Callum could understand what he said, but didn’t know exactly which words he was going to speak until he said them. Both boys were highly amused by the whole thing.
“Weel, I guess we should go and keek for yer dragon,” Callum finally suggested. “The castle isn’t far, ye’ll see it as soon as we get to the top of the hill.”
He gestured and Jayden’s gaze followed the little path as it wound its way up the hill and over to whatever lay beyond. The castle, Jayden hoped, and the dragon.
“Let’s go!” Jayden agreed, starting off down the path.
Jayden glanced around as they walked, appreciating his first glimpse of Scotland. He’d never been out of New Zealand before. The gravel that made up the stony path they were walking on was nothing special, and as far as Jayden could tell, the grass and even the daisies and buttercups growing wild were the same. He saw a clump of thistles. He thought thistles were supposed to Scottish, but he knew he’d seen those before in New Zealand too. He lifted his gaze, searching the trees and skies for any wildlife. The sky was a bright, vivid blue, but empty except for a few puffy clouds that floated gently at the edges. He could hear bumble bees droning, but couldn’t see or hear any birds. Well, he could just write one in, couldn’t he?
Just then, Jayden looked up and spotted a...
“Callum, what’s a Scottish bird that I could see? I’m going to write it in the journal so I can see one.”
Callum thought for a moment, then suggested “Weel, ye could see a ptarmigan, which is unique to Scotland. Or a golden eagle, ye don’t get those in New Zealand.”
“I like the sound of a golden eagle. What’s a ptarmigan?”
“Och, a wee bird that’s white in winter and grey in summer. It loiks the snow. Go with yer golden eagle, they’re muckle more interesting.”
“Okay. A golden eagle.”
Just then, Jayden looked up and spotted a golden eagle.
He looked up, and sure enough, there was a bird flying far above them. It was hard to see details, but it looked rather like a brown hawk or falcon. Jayden supposed that many of the predator birds had a similar look, especially from a distance.
“Very cool,” he pronounced as he and Callum continued up the hill. “Not as cool as a dragon, but still, I can say I saw a golden eagle.”
“Me too!” agreed Callum cheerfully. “And just about now….”
They stepped up to the crest of the hill, and Jayden got his first look at what lay beyond.
The castle was just as Jayden had imagined it. Dark grey stone sat solidly amidst the lush green grass. It reigned over the landscape, dominating all the scenery. The few trees near it appeared tiny, like small plastic trees from a Lego playset. The sun was high in the east as it was morning, and Jayden could see a dark shadow on the western side of the castle where the sun wouldn’t reach until probably late afternoon. Further in the distance, quite a way from the castle on the far side from where Jayden and Callum stood, there were more hills and mountains. Jayden could see trees and bushes, and some sort of purple flower growing on them. Beyond the shadowed western side, to Jayden’s left, was some sort of forest, lots and lots of green trees, and off to his right he could see a small lake which looked dark blue, even in the sunshine. It was all quite beautiful, Jayden thought. His eyes wandered from forest to lake, castle to mountains, trying to take it all in. He wondered where his golden eagle had got to, and looked up but couldn’t see it anymore. There didn’t seem to be any other birds either, none that he could see or hear. Was it because of the dragon? Was it frightening away all the birds?
“That is awesome,” said Jayden as his feet finally started moving forwards again.
Callum kept pace, nodding his head in agreement.
“Does anyone live there? Where is the dragon?”
“No one lives there. No one’s been inside for hundreds of years. They say that the dragon’s treasure is hidden inside and no one has ever been able to go in and see what the treasure looks like.”
“Dragon treasure? Ooh, I wonder what it is. Gold? Jewels?”
Callum shrugged. “I dinnae ken. Some say the dragon lives in the forest, and some say he lives in the loch. I’ve nae seen him meself, so I’m nae really sure.”
Jayden thought that over and nodded to himself. “What can you tell me about the dragon? What do you know about it?”
“Weel, he’s a verra big, orange dragon. He can talk. He can fly...” Callum stopped short as Jayden interrupted him.
“He can talk? Like, in English?” Jayden’s eyes widened in surprised pleasure. “So we’ll be able to have an actual conversation with a dragon?”
“Aye, that’s what I ken. I think he can speak any language, not just English.”
“Coooool,” Jayden said, drawing the word out in appreciation. “Does he breathe fire? Please say he breathes fire!”
Callum grinned up at his cousin. “Much cooler than fire. Much cooler.” He laughed at Jayden’s expression of frustrated anticipation.
“He breathes lava.”
Jayden almost stumbled over his own feet, but managed to regain his footing. He stopped walking and turned to look at his younger cousin.
“You’re kidding me! Lava?”
Callum laughed, delighted to have surprised his older cousin. “Aye, that’s what the locals say.”
“Ohhhh. That is awesome. You’re right, that is much cooler than fire. Lava!”
Callum started walking down the path towards the castle again, and Jayden fell in to step, still exclaiming to himself.
The castle was far bigger than anything Jayden had ever seen before. Standing next to it, he tipped his head backwards and looked up to the top of the wall, nearly falling over backwards it was so high. The grey, weathered stone felt rough under his fingertips as he walked a few steps with one hand on the wall and the other hand clutching the journal and pencil. Jayden looked at the textured stone and mused that he would have expected time and weather to smooth it, but it seemed almost like an elderly person’s skin, wrinkling and roughening over time. He had no doubt it was old, it had that kind of atmosphere to it. His feet kicked through the knee-high grass as he walked along to the doors. They were enormous, perhaps two or three times as tall as his dad and big enough that Jayden thought two elephants could walk through, side by side. He wondered how thick the wood was.
“So, no one can open these doors? You said no one has been able to get inside?”
“Aye, I think it’s sealed with magic, cos they reckon that over the years people have tried all sorts of things to get them open.”
Jayden nodded and kept walking, his fingers trailing over the wood and the metal hinges. Then he suddenly spun around and stared at Callum with excitement clear on his face.
“Callum!” He shook the journal at the other boy. “We have the journal! We could write ourselves inside the castle! We could see the treasure!”
Callum’s eyes widened. “I never thought of that. We could find out what the treasure is!”
The two boys stood, staring at each other for a moment, before Jayden opened up the journal and chewed the end of his pencil as he paused briefly to make sure he used the right words.
Callum came to his side and peered over to see the page. “Och, it’s written everything we’ve said and done! I didnae ken it did that! That’s pretty clever.”
Jayden smiled, his thoughts still on the best way to write them inside the castle.
Suddenly, Jayden and Callum found themselves standing inside the dragon’s treasure room, deep inside the castle.
Jayden wanted the dragon’s treasure to be a surprise, not to be decided by what he’d written, so he was trying very hard not to write too much. Just as he went to put pencil to paper again, Callum nudged him, nearly causing him to scribble a line across the page.
“Jayden,” he whispered loudly. “Ye did it! Look!”
Jayden looked up and realised they were already in the treasure room. It was much cooler than outside and the dim light made it hard for his eyes to focus for a moment after the bright sunshine outside. Neither he nor Callum had a torch or any form of lighting, so they waited a moment for their eyes to adjust before carefully, cautiously stepping forwards in to the room. Slowly, their mouths dropped open in wonder as they surveyed the riches in the room.
“Holy cow. Are you seeing what I’m seeing, Callum?”
“Uh huh,” Callum managed. “I think so. Is that gold?” His voice held a tone of awe as his eyes continuously flitted across the room, drawn by one treasure after another.
Jayden stepped forward, leaving dusty footprints on the stone floor. He carefully picked up a thick, round coin, and brushed the dust and grime off the top. It wasn’t like any coin he’d seen before, certainly nothing like the gold $1 and $2 coins they used in New Zealand. It was larger, and not as perfectly round. He couldn’t quite make out what the image imprinted on it was supposed to be. He placed it back on the pile and selected another coin. This one was much smaller, but just as grimy. Jayden rubbed his fingers over the surface of the coin as he mentally tried to calculate how many coins were in the pile. He gave up, realising it was as hopeless as trying to count the stars, or grains of sand on the beach.
“There must be millions of dollars here!” he whispered to Callum.
He wasn’t sure why they were whispering, whether it was because they didn’t want to be found by the dragon in his treasure room, or whether it simply felt right in a place where no one had been for many years, maybe thousands of years.
Callum moved around a pile of coins on the floor and headed for a chest he had spotted. It was about the size of a loaf of bread, quite small. Callum tried to open it, but the lid wouldn’t budge. It had some kind of strange writing on the top, but Callum couldn’t read it. Giving up on that chest, he moved to another much larger one that stood nearly to his waist. When he tried to lift the lid, it moved but the sheer weight of the lid surprised Callum and he let it drop closed again, the thud disturbing a layer of dust. Callum sneezed, once, then twice.
“Bless you,” Jayden said automatically as he came over to have a look. “Let’s try together and see if we can open it.”
It took a lot of effort, but finally, breathless, the two boys managed to open the lid, letting it fall back to bang against the back of the chest. There wasn’t as much dust inside the chest as on the treasures that lay open and uncovered in the room, and the contrast of the bright jewels to the dusty golden coins was almost as startling as the very jewels themselves.
“Oh, look,” breathed Jayden. “These are beautiful!”
Callum nodded, reaching out one finger to brush over a blue jewel that he thought must be a sapphire. It was about as long as his index finger. He carefully, gently picked it up. There was little light in the room, but he thought it would be stunning in the sunshine outside. His mum would like that one, he thought. Sapphires were her favourite. He wished he could take it home for her. He poked around in the chest some more, spotting green and purple jewels, red ones and even black and white pearls. Everything in the chest looked perfect and beautiful. There was even a black jewel that was smaller, maybe about twice the size of a pea. Callum had never seen a black jewel before, and wasn’t sure what it was called, but he thought maybe his dad would like it.
“Oh, Mum would love this!” Jayden announced, showing Callum a pretty pink gem that lay in the palm of his hand. It was similar in size to the black one Callum had been looking at. “Ooh, and look at this pretty purple one! I could take this home for Caitie! She likes purple.”
Callum looked at Jayden in alarm. “We cannae take them home, Jayden! They dinnae belong to us! They belong to the dragon! I think he’d get muckle angry with ye if ye took some of his treasure.”
Jayden frowned at him. “He has lots. I don’t think he’d miss a couple of these. And wouldn’t you love to own some real dragon treasure?”
“Aye, but I don’t think we should. I think it’s a bad idea, Jayden.”
“Which ones were you looking at?”
Callum pointed somewhat reluctantly to the beautiful sapphire and the black gem that had caught his eye.
Jayden commented appreciatively on them, then noticing the frown on Callum’s face, he sought to distract his cousin. “Let’s see what else is in here.”
The two boys spent quite a while looking over all the treasure in the room, exclaiming over different finds. Most of the treasure was gold, in coins and bars of all sizes, some quite small and some of the bars so heavy and large that the boys struggled to lift them. Neither boy had a watch on, but they eventually looked at each other and acknowledged that they’d lingered long enough.
“Right, I suppose it’s time to go home, huh?” Jayden commented, as he looked around the room for the journal. He had placed it down earlier to free his hands for the search, but where had he put it? Then he spotted the brown leather and went over to pick it up. It was a little grimier than before, having collected some of the dust from the floor, but he brushed it off and picked up his pencil.
Callum looked on as Jayden wrote carefully in the journal, smiling when he saw that Jayden had stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth in concentration. Callum did that too, he knew. So did his mum, he thought, and Aunty Elle. Must be a family thing.
Suddenly he was standing outside the castle in the sunshine again, blinking in the brilliant light. He presumed Jayden had written them outside. It didn’t look much later in the day, perhaps they hadn’t spent as long in the treasure room as they’d thought. Callum dearly wished he could have taken some of the treasure home, but he would have to content himself with telling his mum all about the adventure. She’d enjoy hearing about the treasure, he thought.
“Well, shall we walk back up to where we met, or shall I just write us both back home?” Jayden asked cheerfully.
Callum frowned. “Dinnae you want to meet Blue? Ye havenae even seen him yet.”
“Well, we’ve been a long time already,” Jayden said, waving his hand airily at Callum’s comment. “We don’t want to... Blue? The dragon is called Blue?”
“Aye. Dinnae I say that before?”
“No, I thought you said he was an orange dragon. I thought blue dragons were water dragons, and you said this one breathed lava.”
“Aye, he is orange. But his name is Blue.” Callum shrugged. “Dinnae ask me, I dinnae ken why he’s called Blue, he just is.”
“Oh. How strange. Okay, well, anyway, we should probably be off.” Jayden started walking up the path, leaving Callum to look after him in bewilderment.
“But...the whole point of coming here was to see the dragon, wasnae it?” He couldn’t fathom his cousin’s strange behaviour after all his talk of wanting to see the dragon.
Just as Jayden walked past the corner of the castle, an enormous roar thundered through the air. The sheer volume and power knocked Jayden off his feet and left Callum clutching at the stone wall for support as the ground vibrated beneath his feet.
Jayden looked up and fear filled his face as he met the yellow eyes of an enormous orange dragon. Uh oh.
“You thought you could just sneak off, boy?” the dragon asked in a deep, menacing rumble.
Jayden lay where he’d fallen and stared up at the enormous head, not daring to speak. There was a smell a bit like smoke and a bit like rotten eggs that seemed to come from the dragon. It certainly hadn’t smelled when they had been outside the first time, except of grass and fresh air. The rotten egg smell reminded Jayden a bit of the odour in Rotorua and Taupo, popular geothermal tourist areas in New Zealand, and despite his fear, he wrinkled his nose.
“Answer me, boy!” boomed the dragon. “Did you seriously think you could just sneak off and no one would be the wiser? You think that because you cannot see the dragon, the dragon cannot see you? You clearly do not have much experience with dragons for all your trickery.” The yellow eyes narrowed, demanding an answer.
Jayden felt himself hyperventilating, breathing faster and faster in his fear. Oh dear, he was really in trouble now. He felt for his journal and pencil, but he must have dropped them when he was knocked over. He looked up again and tried to think of what to say that might not make the situation worse.
“You say sorry like it is a question. It does not sound like you are truly sorry.” The dragon, to Jayden’s horror, took a large step forward and swung his head around the corner to peer at Callum.
The other boy looked bravely back the dragon.
“Your friend does not know what you have done, I think,” the dragon rumbled, looking back to Jayden.
Jayden gulped. “N...No. I didn’t tell him.”
The enormous head nodded slowly up and down. “Tell him.”
Jayden bit his lip, and glanced to Callum who frowned in confusion. “I….” He stopped and looked back to the dragon. He really didn’t want to confess. In his experience, after admitting what you’d done wrong, then came the punishment. And while his parents were constantly lecturing him that admitting the truth meant the punishment would be less, he really didn’t want any punishment at all from that enormous dragon. He didn’t want to be burnt alive in a lava flow. He wasn’t ready to die. “I...” He took another deep breath. “I….took some things.”
Jayden wouldn’t have thought it was possible for a dragon’s head, with its snout much like an alligator's except so much more enormous, to sneer but it seemed like that’s what it did. He didn’t much like being sneered at by a dragon, but he supposed he deserved it.
“You stole from me!”
Jayden flinched at the pronouncement.
“You stole some of my treasure!”
Jayden glanced quickly back to Callum whose eyes were wide in surprise, then focused all his attention on the yellow eyes that were glaring down at him.
“I’m sorry! I’m really sorry!” he said quickly. “I didn’t think you’d know,” he muttered, then quickly regretted his comment when the dragon heard him.
“And that makes stealing okay? You think if you take what does not belong to you, but no one knows, then it does not matter?” The dragon moved away from Jayden, his enormous feet and legs shaking the ground with every step.
Jayden swivelled around on the ground to keep him in sight. As he did, he spotted the journal in the grass next to him and quickly picked it up. He tried to look for the pencil, but he couldn’t see it straight away and he really needed to keep an eye on the dragon.
“Tell me, boy, what do you know about consequences?”
Jayden groaned inwardly. He hated talking about consequences and….what was that other word his dad liked to use? Oh yeah, repercussions. He mumbled something in answer to the dragon’s question.
The dragon leaned in close, so near that Jayden felt the heat radiating off the enormous head.
Jayden could practically see up the dragon’s nostrils but was too busy leaning further and further backwards, worrying more about the massive, sharp teeth and the orange forked tongue than the nostrils. Jayden tried desperately not to think about the smoke and sulphur smell that meant bad things, hot things, could come out of that mouth.
“This is your last chance, boy. I expect an explanation, an apology, and a return of the things you stole. Then I shall decide your punishment. Be warned, if I don’t get an explanation, an apology and a return of the things you stole, the punishment will be swift and severe, and you probably won’t survive. And best you speak up – if I cannot hear it, I might think you did not answer at all.”
Jayden was so terrified he was shaking, literally shaking from head to toe. He was genuinely afraid he might wet himself, and that was horrifically embarrassing for an eleven year old boy, especially in front of his nine year old cousin, but not nearly as bad as being burnt alive by a dragon. Jayden wasn’t a particularly naughty boy, as far as boys went, but he’d sat through enough lectures on bad behaviour to know that this was the point to give up and take the punishment before things got worse.
“I saw the treasure, and I’ve never seen treasure like that before,” he blurted out, nearly running his words together in an effort to get them out of his mouth as quickly as possible. “I thought you had so much you wouldn’t miss one or two, and I thought you’d never find out, but it was wrong and I’m really sorry, and I’ll never steal again, and I’ll make it up to you if I can and I’m sorry and I’m really really sorry and I’ll never do it again...”
“Enough!” snapped the dragon.
Jayden shut his mouth and sat quietly, still shaking, waiting to see what the dragon would do. He really didn’t want a punishment. He really really didn’t want a punishment.
Jayden glanced over at Callum. The younger boy was still standing by the castle wall, looking very worried. Jayden smiled weakly at him but Callum didn’t look particularly reassured.
Finally the dragon spoke again. “How did you get in to the castle? No one has been able to do that since I sealed it many many years ago.”
“Uh, I used a magic journal,” he said. He lifted his left hand, indicating the brown leather journal he was clutching.
“So, as you took something of mine, perhaps I should take something of yours. I shall take the magic journal.”
Jayden’s eyes opened wide in horror. But... If the dragon took the journal, how would Jayden get home? He and Callum would be stuck here in the adventure forever. Would he ever see his parents again? His sister Caitlin? His dog Emma or his cat Smudge? He wanted to see them all again, but he didn’t know enough about how the journal worked. Could he catch a plane from Scotland back home to New Zealand or was he in some alternative time? He didn’t like to take the chance.
The dragon’s yellow eyes narrowed.
Jayden was fairly sure he’d seen an orange scaly tail twitch behind the dragon, much like Smudge twitched her tail when she was cross. He gulped.
“I need the journal. Callum and I need the journal. Could we give you something else instead?”
“What else do you have that I could possibly want?”
Oh yeah, that was a point. Jayden realised that he and Callum had nothing else to bargain with.
The dragon lifted one of its enormous feet and brought the sharp claws closer and closer to Jayden.
He watched it with fear, not daring to move, unsure of what the dragon was going to do.
Then, before Jayden could react, the dragon snatched the journal, tossing it several meters away in to a patch of grass.
Jayden leapt to his feet and when the dragon sent a stream of molten lava pouring from his mouth towards the precious journal, a journal Jayden knew was filled with highly flammable paper, Jayden ran. He ran as fast as he could, trying desperately to avoid the searing orange rock that threatened to burn everything in its path. Just as Jayden reached the journal, so did the lava, and tears came to Jayden’s eyes as one page caught fire. Oh, please don't let him be too late! He snatched up the burning journal and dove to the side, to a patch of green grass out of the way of the lava flow, squashing the journal into the ground and laying his body over the top. The flame was extinguished, but Jayden was unsure how much damage had been done. He lay there, panting, waiting for something else to happen, but nothing seemed to. Finally, he lifted his head and looked around.
The dragon and Callum both watched Jayden.
Slowly he stood up, clutching the journal carefully to his chest. With one hand, he reached into his pocket and drew out three jewels which he presented in the palm of his hand to the dragon.
“Here is your treasure back. I’m really sorry that I took them, but please, you can’t destroy the journal. Callum and I need it to get back home again, I...I’m happy to make it up to you in another way, or take a different punishment.”
One moment Jayden was holding out the three jewels, the next they were gone. He looked down at his palm, but they were definitely not there anymore. He looked up at the dragon.
The dragon stared at him for a moment, then lowered his bulk to the ground, avoiding the smoking patch of grass where the lava lay.
“What is your name, boy?” he asked Jayden.
“Jayden,” repeated the dragon. “And you are Callum?” he asked, turning his head towards the boy still standing by the castle wall.
“Aye, I am.”
“I am Thot.”
Jayden frowned, and so did Callum. “But….I thought your name...” Jayden stopped, suddenly realising he didn’t want to annoy the dragon any more than he already had.
The dragon, Thot, chuckled, at least Jayden thought he did. He made a funny rumbling noise that Jayden thought sounded a bit like a dragon chuckle.
Jayden shook his head in confusion.
“You thought my name was Blue? No, no. My name is Thot, but a wise old man once told me that we do not get to choose our nickname, and Blue was the nickname that old man gave to me.”
“It’s a strange nickname for an orange dragon,” Callum offered with a tentative smile.
That strange rumbling chuckle came again. “Indeed it is. So, Callum. For your honesty, you may have the jewels I know you admired. Take them with my blessing. You will find them in your pockets. A sapphire and a black diamond, excellent choices. Every time you see them, you remember that honesty brings more rewards than crime.”
Callum felt in his pocket and withdraw the two hard lumps that he found there. He stared in astonishment at the beautiful blue sapphire that sparkled in the sunlight just as he’d known it would. The black diamond had a beauty that was quite different but just as remarkable. He looked towards the dragon and smiled. “Thank ye so much.”
“You are welcome.” The dragon turned his gaze back on Jayden. “You will not be so fortunate, for you must learn that crime does not pay. I have chores for you.”
Chores? Jayden hated chores!
The dragon leaned in close. “I suggest you remember that there are worse things than cleaning out dragon manure and brushing dragon teeth, Jayden. That journal you hold so precious could easily take the place of the chores.”
Jayden nodded, trying desperately not to think about how much manure such an enormous dragon would make. Dragon poop. Oh joy.
Jayden used a large stick, more of a branch really, to push another enormous ball of dragon manure on to the large leaf he was using to drag the manure away. The dragon wanted the manure spread around the base of various trees and bushes, and it was back-breaking work. Sweat rolled in to Jayden’s eyes and he blinked furiously, trying to wipe his brow with the sleeve of his t-shirt.
“This is the last one,” Jayden panted to Callum.
The other boy nodded and grabbed an edge of the large flat leaf to help Jayden pull it to the specified location. When the two boys had puffed and groaned their way to the tree the dragon had indicated, Callum let go of the leaf and Jayden went about pushing the manure in to place with the stick.
Jayden hadn’t seen a lot of animal poop in his time, but he thought that dragon poop was probably like a much bigger version of horse poop. Much, much bigger. The ball of manure Jayden was currently shoving off the leaf reached to Jayden’s waist. It didn’t smell too good either, but after several hours of this work, he didn’t really notice the smell anymore.
Finally, the job was done and the two boys walked slowly back to where the dragon lay watching them.
“You need to clean up before you do your next job, Jayden. I do not want those dirty hands going anywhere near my mouth.”
Jayden didn’t like the thought of another job, or his hands being anywhere near the dragon’s mouth, but he supposed anything was better than losing the journal.
“Can you swim?”
The question surprised Jayden and he answered without thinking. “Yes.”
“Right. Go and clean off in the lake. When you are properly clean, you can come back and finish your next task. Then you can go home.”
The idea of a swim in the cool lake was amazing, and the thought of going home was good too. Jayden turned to look at Callum, then both boys sprinted for the lake, pausing only to take off their shoes at the water's edge.
The water was gloriously cool against hot, sweaty skin, and both boys appreciated the opportunity to wash off the scent of dragon manure.
Jayden was floating on his back when Callum started giggling and pointed to his face.
“Ye have a muckle dirty streak down the side of yer face,” he giggled. “I think ye need some more washing!” With that, Callum sent a spray of water splashing in to Jayden’s face.
No eleven year old boy can resist a water fight, and the cousins spent the next few minutes shrieking and giggling hysterically as they smacked water towards each other.
Finally they tired and hauled themselves out of the water, walking slowly back to the dragon with their shoes in their hands. The warm sun felt good on their shoulders now, but they were still dripping when they reached the dragon.
As the big orange head moved to watch their approach, Callum had an idea. “Hey Blue, I mean...” He tried to remember what the dragon’s real name was, but couldn’t think of it.
“Blue is fine.”
“Oh, good. I was wondering if ye were able to dry us. With yer breath or something. Not lava,” he quickly added, “but something not as...painful.” Callum frowned, wondering if it had been such a good idea after all.
Blue extended a claw, pointing to a patch of ground in front of him. “Stand there, both of you.”
The boys looked at each other, then moved to stand in front of the dragon. He hadn’t done anything to hurt them so far, had he?
Just as they got in to position, Blue opened his huge mouth and sent a wave of hot dry air over both of them.
“Holy cow,” Jayden exclaimed as he looked down at himself. “That was like standing in front of a super sized hand dryer!”
“Turn around,” Blue instructed.
Both boys turned their backs to him and Blue repeated the process and almost before they knew it, Jayden and Callum were standing in dry clothes and even their hair was dry, albeit standing up on end.
“Right,” said Blue, “one last task, then you are free to return home.”
“Okay,” said Jayden.
Moving all the dragon poop had been hard work, but it hadn’t hurt or anything. And he knew he deserved a punishment for stealing. It had been a stupid thing to do. They’d ended up spending quite a bit of time with Blue and the dragon was pretty friendly when you weren’t making him angry.
“I want you to gather handfuls of moss, and use them to scrub my teeth.”
Uh, what? Jayden looked at the sharp teeth that were each about as long as his forearm and grimaced. Maybe his thought about the dragon being harmless had come too soon.
“You want me to...”
“Scrub my teeth. It is hard for me to do it myself, I do not have hands like you do, nor do I have a toothbrush the right size.”
Oh, good point. Jayden shrugged and started to look for moss.
Callum helped, and it didn’t take long before they both had armfuls of the green plant. They placed the moss near Blue’s head and the dragon rested his head on the ground and opened his mouth wide.
Jayden grabbed a handful of the moss and started scrubbing the enormous white tooth closest to him.
Callum watched for a moment before grabbing a handful of moss and joining in.
It wasn’t long before both boys were laughing and scrubbing, almost having a teeth-cleaning race. The way the dragon’s mouth was shaped, they were able to reach all his teeth without having to climb in Blue’s mouth. By the time they finished, the boys thought nothing of being so close to a mouth full of large, sharp teeth that belonged to a dragon who had already showed his temper.
The boys slumped down next to Blue’s right front leg and leaned against back against his scales.
“Why are you so warm?” asked Jayden curiously.
“I am an orange dragon. I breathe molten rock. Would it not be more strange if I were cold?”
“I thought all reptiles were cold blooded.”
“But I am not just a reptile. I am a dragon.”
“True,” Jayden agreed cheerfully.
“What do ye eat?” asked Callum.
“Sheep, cattle… Much the same as you do. I like lamb and I like beef. Of course, small boys are my favourite food.”
Jayden and Callum looked at each other with wide eyed horror until they realised the rumbling roar was Blue laughing at them.
When the noise finally slowed to what they presumed was a chuckle, Blue said “Oh, you should have seen the look on your faces. Very funny.”
Jayden looked sheepishly at Callum.
“Indeed. Well, I think it is time for you two to be heading home. Thank you for your help. Jayden, I hope you have learned a lesson about taking what does not belong to you.”
Jayden nodded solemnly, his gaze on the ground. He felt pretty stupid now for having done it, but it had seemed like a good idea at the time.
“So you don't go home empty handed, Jayden, a small souvenir.” He gestured to Jayden's pocket. “It's not valuable, per se, but it might remind you of Scotland and perhaps even remind you that you earn more with good deeds than bad.”
Jayden reached into his pocket and pulled out an intricately woven silver ring.
“It's called a puzzle ring. It comes apart, but I suggest you leave that until you're safely home.”
“Wow,” breathed Jayden. “Thank you so much! I know I don't deserve this, but... I will truly cherish having a souvenir of my adventure. And it was lovely to meet you.”
“Aye, it was nice to meet ye, Blue!” called Callum as he strode towards the path that would lead them back up over the hill.
Jayden tucked the ring in his pocket and picked up the journal from the base of a tree where he’d set it earlier, then waved goodbye to the dragon. “See you, Blue.”
When they got back to the tree where they’d started their adventure, Jayden realised he’d never found the pencil he’d dropped. Uh oh, how was he going to write them back home?
“Maybe ye could use a piece of charcoal or...a piece of chalk?” Callum suggested when Jayden asked the question. “Let’s have a keek and see what we can find.”
Finally the boys ended up agreeing that dipping a bird feather in a berry and using that to write was the best they were going to come up with.
It wasn’t as neat as Jayden would have liked, but he managed to get the sentence written.
Jayden was back in his bedroom.
He kept it short because it was a lot harder to write with a feather than he had expected. When he looked up and found himself in his bedroom, he realised he was still holding the feather and it had obviously travelled back with him. He supposed that made sense, since the pencil and journal had always travelled with him. He felt in his pocket for the puzzle ring, and drew it out to look at it. He hoped the jewels had travelled home with Callum too. He would ring him later and check.
Jayden realised at that point that it was still dark, and supposed that answered the question to how time passed while he was in an adventure. It seemed he came back to the same time he left. That was good to know.
Jayden yawned. It was early morning, probably not even 7am and he was exhausted from doing all the chores for Blue. Jayden decided to go back to sleep for a few hours before the rest of the family woke up. Tomorrow maybe he’d write about some elves.