April 21, 2022 · 2 comments · Categories: Stories

This is the fifth story in a series. Click here to read all parts from the beginning.

I wouldn’t have thought the sky could get any darker and gloomier above the dirt road that was, apparently, Main Street in downtown Dragonopolis. I was wrong, of course. Maybe not literally wrong, but everything around me looked darker through the visor of my fire suit than it had upon my arrival.

Now that I wasn’t running for my life or hurrying to get my fire suit in place before any dragons could swoop down and roast me, I had time to look more closely at my surroundings. They didn’t seem to offer much in the way of escape routes, unfortunately. Behind me was the lake or bay I’d come from, with its hungry sea serpents. Sheer cliffs full of dragon caves rose up on both sides of the road, which led only to a tunnel entering the mountain. Light gleamed faintly from deep within the tunnel as it curved to the left.

Photo of a tunnel entrance on a dirt road.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Other than the tunnel, nothing else broke the stark expanse of the cliffs at ground level. Well, unless I wanted to count a few dragon dens barely low enough to be reached by a climber more intrepid than myself. As a professional dragon-control specialist, I had climbed up to a nest on occasion to retrieve hatchlings after capturing their mother, but it hadn’t been my idea of fun.

A wisp of smoke curled up from the nearest of the low caves, off to my right. I heard a scrabbling of little paws, and then a fledgling dragon emerged from the den, eyeing me with curiosity. Spreading golden wings, it glided down to the road, only a few steps from me.

The fledgling wasn’t a threat—its head didn’t quite reach my knees. I was a lot more concerned about avoiding a close encounter with its mother, who surely had to be nearby. No more smoke came from the den, so perhaps she had gone in search of food.

Beating wings and a screech from behind me confirmed that guess. Mama Dragon, gripping an ugly snout-faced fish in her talons, went into a steep dive. I took a quick step toward the far edge of the road as she landed with a thud and a cloud of dust, halfway between me and Junior. Then she hissed at me, almost like a goose protecting a gosling—not that a goose would’ve breathed fire or been the size of a large cow. I was lucky she hadn’t decided to squash me.

I kept on walking toward the tunnel, slowly enough that I wouldn’t look like fleeing prey, and without taking my eyes off Mama. She watched me just as closely for a minute or so before turning to chatter angrily at her offspring. I was pretty sure this couldn’t be anything but a lecture on staying away from strangers.

After a few more steps, I started breathing a little easier. Mama and Junior went back into their den to chow down on the fish. The tunnel was closer now, and there was enough illumination to show me that no dragons lurked inside the entrance. Of course, there was no way of knowing what else might be in there, but I reminded myself that I didn’t exactly have a long list of choices.

Especially when I heard more wings beating above me. Dragons came out of their caves on both sides of the canyon, all of them flying in my direction. Turning around, I took a quick count—at least two dozen of them. Bad odds if they chose to attack; my fire suit wouldn’t last long against their sharp teeth and talons.

Staring up at the nearest dragon, I hissed as loudly as I could, trying to imitate the sound of a protective nesting mother. The dragon didn’t turn away, but it landed on the dirt road—followed by the others—and paused for a few seconds before advancing slowly toward me.

I hissed some more, bringing the dragons to a standstill again, and backed a few paces toward the tunnel. That went on for several minutes—hissing and backing, hissing and backing—until the rocky walls of the tunnel’s entrance rose around me. A quick glance over my shoulder revealed that the tunnel appeared to be empty of life.

An icy wind blew toward me along the tunnel. I backed up a few more steps, until it became clear that the dragons weren’t following, and proceeded to walk normally around the bend. The tunnel ended in an ordinary-looking door with a round metal knob. Or rather, the door would’ve been ordinary if it hadn’t been about three times the size of a human-built door. It obviously hadn’t been built by dragons either, given the fact that they didn’t have hands with opposable thumbs. Sunlight—but no warmth—came from a window set into the top of the door, which was far above my head.

I reached up and put both of my hands on the knob. It turned easily, and the door swung outward to reveal a very different landscape.

2 Comments

  1. HI Meg! I am going to have to get caught up on this series. It intrigues me.

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