(It's story time again. So put on your jammies, cuddle up in your favorite chair and be ready to embark on a journey through the surreal landscape of my inner mind.)
The morning sun exploded onto the sleeping boy's eyelids forcing him to awaken from his dreams. He squeezed his eyes shut tight craving the escaping serenity of his sleep. He did not wish to wake up. Instead, the new day encompassed his every being; he felt the sun warming his skin, heard the birds singing in the distance, smelled the dew covered grass upon which he had slept, and tasted the dry nastiness of his morning mouth. He squinted open his eyes to see his dragon obediently sitting on it's haunches waiting for the master to rise. The dragon had not slept; it did not need sleep. It had spent the night guarding the boy, vigilant for any intrusion to the boy's rest.
"Good morning, Ambernia. I need some water."
The dragon, Ambernia, turned to where their belongings were piled, grabbed the canteen from inside the saddlebags and offered it to the boy. The boy drank in quick gulps until the canteen was empty. He tossed the canteen back to the pile. He got to his knees and folded the blanket on which he had slept. "How we doing on supplies?" he asked Ambernia.
The dragon looked over at the saddlebags again. It wasn't necessary. Ambernia already knew they had to replenish their food. He looked back to the master and shook its giant head nay.
The boy stood up and placed the folded blanket in the saddlebag. He did a three-sixty, taking in the clearing, searching for the stream he had seen last night. Spotting it, he picked up the canteen and headed towards the water. Taking only a few steps, he stopped and turned back to the dragon. "How about getting us something to eat?"
Ambernia happily agreed, stood, shook out its massive wings and flew up to a height just above the treetops. It began circling in an outward spiral searching for edible vegetation or perhaps a tasty rabbit. The master loved barbecue rabbit. Ambernia could barbecue a rabbit to perfection with one fiery blast through its nose.
The dragons of the world were almost extinct. The last dragons could not reproduce. They were sexless, neither male nor female. They should never have had life. They were born of the abandoned eggs that had sat dormant for eons. The creatures that had laid the eggs were the prehistoric mix of Tyrannosaurus rex and Pterosaurs. A multitude of eggs were buried deep in the earth at Mount Vesuvius. When the volcano erupted in the year 79 AD, the eggs were pushed by lava to the surface. The intense heat revitalized the embryos into incubation and within weeks four hundred and seven dragons were hatched.
The dragons were as easily trained as dogs, but man initially feared the new creatures and killed over half of them before learning that the beasts posed no threat. By the time man was willing to befriend dragons, dragons feared man. Seeing their number so greatly reduced, the dragons shied away from any further contact with man. They broke off into packs of ten or twelve and took to deserted high grounds and desolate caves. The only time they came close to were men might be was when they needed food. They were herbivores with a preference for black olives. When scavenging for food, only one dragon would do so, bringing back whatever booty it found to share with its clan.
The day before Ambernia was named, it was its turn to gather food. It left its cave at dawn with the pack's watchful eyes following its flight as it disappeared into the distance. After two hours of flying, the dragon spotted an overturned olive cart on a remote road. It could not believe its luck; thousands of black olives spilled in one big pile ready to be gathered up and flown back home. It glided down to earth landing atop the overturned wagon.
"Owwwww," came a cry from below.
The dragon looked down and saw a boy was trapped under the cart; the boy's right leg was pinned by the wooden wagon and the dragon's weight had increased his pain. The dragon quickly jumped off the cart and pushed it upright freeing the lad. The boy was unconscious yet still moaned in pain. The dragon noted the unusual bend in the boy's leg. It sensed the bone broken, which was quite a remarkable trick for a dragon who had never studied human anatomy. In fact, it had never encountered a human close up before now. It felt a strange sympathy for the boy and knew it could not abandon the injured youth. The dragon sat down and watched the boy. While waiting for the boy to come around, it helped itself to the black olives, eating them a dozen at a time.
After an hour without seeing the boy wake, the dragon decided to straighten the leg. It took the leg in its hands and pulled and turned until the broken leg looked the same shape as the other leg. The dragon was so intent in the chore that it did not notice the increased sobs of agony the boy emitted. When the dragon looked at the boys face it saw the lad was drenched in sweat but his breathing was not labored anymore, a calm had come over the boy. The dragon took back its place watching over the boy and ate more olives waiting for the human to either rise or die.
The boy did not awaken that day. The dragon knew it was suppose to be back to its cave by nightfall, but it could not bring itself to abandon the boy. It stood guard throughout the night. At daybreak, the boy still had not stirred, yet he no longer moaned and he looked more at ease than the previous day. The dragon knew the boy would awaken, he would not die, so it decided it was time to leave, to gather the olives and bring them to the cave. It hoped the others would be so happy at getting the black olives that they would not scold the dragon for missing its curfew.
There was one thing that the dragon should have known. The pack would abandon their lair at first light. They would fear that the food gatherer who did not return had been captured and would divulge their location to the humans. They would take no chances and be gone at first light. When the dragon finally arrived at its home, its mates had been gone two hours. It then realized what had occurred. It did not have any notion in what direction or how far they may have gone. It would not see the pack again. The dragon cried.
By the afternoon, the boy was stirring. The dragon had returned and was watching him with curious eyes. The first words the boy spoke upon awakening was, "Ow, my leg hurts."
What few humans and dragons knew was the accelerated healing touch dragons possessed. In less than thirty hours, the boy's broken leg had mended as if two months had passed. Also, by straightening the boy's leg, a bond was created between the two. They could sense each others thoughts and emotions. Even though the dragon did not know the language of the boy, it could tell the boy had pain in his leg but it was insignificant, more like a phantom memory of the pain that he had slept through.
The boy was startled when he noticed the dragon. "Wow," he said, "you're huge!" The boy was not frightened in the least. He instinctively knew that the dragon had fixed his leg. He also knew that, even though the dragon was five times his size, he would have to be the one in charge, the protector of the creature. The boy was also struck by the golden coloring of the dragon. So beautiful a shade, a shine of yellow, a rich amber shade. "Amber," the boy said. Then, "Ambernia! That's the perfect name. Do you mind if I call you Ambernia?"
The dragon understood it was being named and readily agreed. It would have a name. How marvelous. It was the only dragon to have one. Ambernia. Yes, that felt right. It would be Ambernia from now until its days on earth were over. It never occurred that the dragon had a name but the boy did not. If the boy did have one, he never revealed it.
Over the next two years, Ambernia and the boy learned each other's story as they traveled across the backwoods of Europe and into Asia. Along the way, the boy, quite talented, made a canteen, a saddle, saddlebags, clothes and other supplies from the hides of animals that he had eaten. Ambernia never ate meat, but was more than happy to catch and cook animals for the boy. Ambernia survived on all sorts of vegetation. It was content to eat grass and leaves if fruit or vegetables were not to be found. It did miss the black olives when they traversed territories where the fruit did not grow.
The reason they traveled backwoods and entered Asia was because the boy was being sought for the murder of two Roman officers. Ambernia understood that the boy had committed a crime, yet it admired the boy for doing so. It wished the aftermath would have been different. The two officers had raped his mother and sister on the day of his sister's wedding. The mistake the boy made was killing the two in front of several soldiers. He had shot the one officer with an arrow through his heart. The other was shot in the neck and slowly bled out. As the soldiers decided to either chase the boy or try to save their bleeding superior, the boy escaped into the olive groves of his parents farm. He hid out for several days before the soldiers finally gave up the search. When he returned to his parents home, he found his entire family dead. His parents and sister had been brutally slashed many times over by the soldier's swords. So were his sister's husband and his brother. Remarkably the groom lingered on. His arms and legs cut off near the torso. They had been amputated with such force that the arteries were pinched shut in the remaining stumps. How he lasted three days was short of a miracle. The last words the groom told the boy were, "Run. Run as far as possible. Six soldiers did all this. They went to get more help to find you. Run..." Then, mercifully, the groom joined his bride in the afterlife.
The boy placed his parents into their bed. He put his sister and new husband in her bed. He put the groom's brother in his bed. The boy would no longer need it. He kissed his parents and sister and set fire to the home. He fled his home in a wagon pulled by the old family horse. The wagon was filled with black olives. His sister had filled this cart. She was fourteen years old and would never be fifteen. The boy was eleven.
(This story will conclude the next time. I need my sleep.)