Sacred Logs and Crocodiles
by Walter G. Esselman
Gideon shot up into the trees easily as a spider monkey. He hopped up into the air over the treetop and almost hovered for a moment. He had been adopted by a dragon as a child and weaned on dragon's milk. It had had several odd side effects on him including the ability to alter his gravity as dragons themselves did (their wings being inadequate to the task of lifting their enormous weight). Now he hovered as if he weighed almost nothing.
"There it is!" cried Gideon pointing to the castle in the distance. He dropped back into the trees, hopping from branch to branch.
"It's about time," grumbled the young dragon, Pavataro, below him. Pavataro was walking in a sulk across the tree floor, flattening small trees and assorted wildlife as he went.
"Come on," said Gideon dropping next to the dragon. "It didn't take us that long to get here."
"You're slow," said Pavataro. "Like sick grandmother slow."
"And you could have flown ahead, blah-blah-blah," said Gideon.
"They better feed us when we get there," said Pavataro.
"No doubt," said Gideon. "We're...what's that fancy word for visitors...oh, emissaries. We're visiting emissaries."
"What we are is hungry," said Pavataro. "All this over one book."
The bushes exploded around them and out jumped a group of soldiers waving crossbows.
"Friend or foe!" demanded the first one. "I am Sergeant Spudd of Lord Fullo'it's Guard. Declare yourselves at once!"
Gideon looked at Pavataro, who shrugged, and then turned back to the soldier.
"Neither," said Gideon.
Spudd frowned. "What do you mean, 'neither'?"
"Not really a friend, definitely not a foe," said Gideon.
"I don't know," said Pavataro. "They keep waving those crossbows in my face..."
"That is making it hard to concentrate," said Gideon to Spudd.
"Um, tough!" said Spudd. "I ask the questions around here!"
"I didn't ask a question," said Gideon.
"Never mind," said Spudd. "Who are you?"
"I'm Gideon and this is Pavataro from Bon Su Pear and...," started Gideon.
"You got our message already!" said Spudd excitedly. "Where's the rest?"
"The rest what?" asked Pavataro.
"Never mind," said Spudd. "Come on, his lordship said to bring you to him right away."
"He did?" asked Gideon as they were whisked off.
"You must be the scouts, eh?" bellowed Lord Fullo'it. "When's the rest of the lads coming?"
"Or did you bring dragons?" asked Spudd excitedly looking at Pavataro.
"Um, we only needed two people for this one," said Gideon.
"Actually, he could've taken care of it on his own," said Pavataro. "I'm just here to keep him company."
"Like the netherhells," said Gideon to Pavataro. "It was your fault too that we're here."
"You started it," sniffed Pavataro.
"I never," said Gideon.
"Boys, boys!" said Lord Fullo'it. "I can't tell you how pleased I am to see you here. You must be the best of the best if they only sent two of you for one monster. And that one is a beaut. We might have to mount it when you're done with it."
Both of the boys turned and stared at him. They spoke as one. "Monster?"
Lord Fullo'it suddenly looked angry. "Of course! What did you think we were talking about?"
"Pterry Wintersmith's ‘Never Met A Turtle I Didn't Like'," said Gideon. "You borrowed it from Bon Su Pear library last year and it's overdue."
"You're here about an agripping book?" bellowed Lord Fullo'it.
"No," said Gideon. "We're here about an overdue agripping book."
"You're kidding me," said Lord Fullo'it.
Gideon just looked at him.
"Aw netherhells," said Lord Fullo'it.
"What're we going to do?" asked Spudd.
"Like I know," snapped Lord Fullo'it. "It's all Sir Nedrick's fault anyway."
"I thought you told him to get the log?" asked Spudd.
"Shut up, you," growled Lord Fullo'it.
"So, what is going on here?" asked Gideon.
"We have a bit of a problem..." said Lord Fullo'it.
Gideon looked around the makeshift camp that sat a mile outside of the castle. Everyone seemed to be here and no one was near the castle.
"Assume we worked that bit out," said Gideon.
"Is it me?" asked Pavataro as he peered on his long neck toward the castle. "Or is there no front door?"
"We are currently missing a front door," said Lord Fullo'it.
"It bashed it right in," said Spudd in an oddly hollow voice.
"You saw it?" asked Gideon to Spudd.
"I was standing next to the door when it happened," said Spudd. "It was big. Really big."
"But if you two great fighters go in there," said Lord Fullo'it, "you can kill the beastie, get back that book I borrowed, and we'll even feed you afterward. How does that sound?"
Pavataro started laughing uproariously. "Wow, you're bad at conning people. Not even I would fight a monster for nothing but a free meal."
"Neither of us would," said Gideon.
"We got some gold," said Spudd.
"Shut up," hissed Lord Fullo'it.
"We're not that interested in gold," said Gideon, and Pavataro just shrugged. "I mean, it makes some things easier..."
"Like eating," said Pavataro.
"But too much of the stuff warps your brain," said Gideon.
"Books then," said Lord Fullo'it in a flat voice, and Gideon smiled.
"Twenty books from your castle," said Gideon. "My choice."
"Outrageous!" cried Lord Fullo'it.
"Okay," said Gideon and he and Pavataro turned to go.
"Wait, wait!" cried Lord Fullo'it. "Two books."
"Fifteen," said Gideon.
"Five," said Lord Fullo'it.
"Ten," said Gideon.
"Seven," said Lord Fullo'it.
"Eight," said Gideon.
"Fine! Eight books," said Lord Fullo'it.
"And my choice. I don't want any doorstops," said Gideon. He had been amazed at some of the things that monks and scribes thought worthy of copying, and had no desire to carry unreadable trash all the way home.
Lord Fullo'it ground his teeth.
"Fine," he said finally.
"Okay," said Gideon. "Oh, and you do still have to feed us afterward. I hate to book hunt on an empty stomach."
"I agree!" snapped Lord Fullo'it.
"Right," said Gideon and he and Pavataro headed down toward the castle.
Lord Fullo'it glared at Spudd. "Get your squad and follow them," he barked. "Hurry!"
As the boys walked down a slight hill toward the castle, Pavataro looked at Gideon.
"I can't believe you went down to eight books," said the dragon.
Gideon shrugged. "I would've been happy with two or three new books. But he was being such a jerk."
"At least we got dinner out of it," said Pavataro.
"I don't know," said Gideon. "Don't start counting your bread rolls until we've seen what we're dealing with."
Spudd's squad clanked behind them as they caught up to the boys.
"You guys should've taken notes from Lord Fullo'it," said Spudd to Gideon and Pavataro. "The way he schooled you in the art of negotiating."
Gideon and Pavataro smiled.
"He really was something," said Gideon. "So, Spudd wasn't it?"
"Yessir, Sergeant Spudd," said Spudd.
"What the netherhells happened here?" asked Gideon.
"Well, we was having a trade dispute with the Mao'ri people over that way," said Spudd as he waved in a Southwesterly direction. "An' they were being really tough. I mean we only wanted a few of their farmlands."
"Is that all?" asked Gideon flatly.
But Spudd missed the tone. "I know, right?" he said. "Well, Sir Nedrick skewered a few, and they was startin' to see reason when this big lizard came out of nowhere and scattered his knights. Well, it turns out that lizard is their guardian or something an' it really likes this sacred, er, log."
"Seriously, a sacred log?" asked Pavataro.
"Log," confirmed Spudd. "Well, Lord Fullo'it gets the great idea to have Sir Nedrick steal the log and bring it back here. But then, it wouldn't burn. They couldn't even chop it up."
"And you had it in the castle," said Gideon.
"That's right," said Spudd.
"And that's when the big lizard guardian showed up," said Gideon.
"That's the long and the short of it," said Spudd. "It ate Sir Nedrick and his knights. So how're you going to kill it?"
"I don't know," said Gideon. "We might not even have to."
"I don't know if you heard me," said Spudd. "It ate Sir Nedrick. It deserves what's coming to it."
"Right now," said Gideon, "Let's get it out of the castle and then figure out what to do with it."
"Sure," said Spudd. "I can see that."
Gideon looked ahead and he now saw an old man sitting in front of the drawbridge. He was skinny with a dark complexion and ceremonial tattoos on his face.
"And who is that?" asked Gideon to Spudd.
"What the netherhells is that guy doing there?" asked Spudd.
"''I don't know', would have sufficed," said Gideon.
"He looks like one of those Mao'ri people that Sir Nedrick fought," said Spudd.
"It's about blinkin' time," said the man when they were within earshot. Gideon stopped in front of him and the old man grinned at him. "I suppose you're the cavalry?"
"I'm afraid so," said Gideon and he introduced himself and Pavataro.
"I'm Happy Bright Ray of the Tanga Mao'ri clan," said the old man.
"What are you doing here?" asked Gideon.
"Want Alice back but she won't listen to me," said the old man Happy Bright Ray and he glared at the soldiers. "Not since these idiots stole her Nummi."
"Alice?" asked Gideon.
"Nummi?" asked Pavataro.
"Alice, yay," said Happy Bright Ray. "That big girl in there. Well, she's a Huru-Kareo, but I call her Alice and she hasn't bitten off my head yet. And that sacred log of hers is her Nummi. Darn thing's so heavy I can't even roll it."
"So, if we just return the log," said Gideon. "Alice will follow it?"
"She said it came from the Whoo'oni Tree that holds up the world," said Happy Bright Ray. "Chela got angry and hurled a lightning bolt at the tree and knocked off a branch. Apparently that's just a sliver of the real branch. She keeps it for good luck."
"And you believe that?" asked Spudd.
"Who am I to say?" shrugged Happy Bright Ray. "But some days I wonder if she ain't just got a brain the size of a walnut, know what I mean." The old man stood, and turned to enter the castle. "Well, come on!" he shouted, waving for them to follow.
Spudd just looked at Gideon in puzzlement.
"You heard the man," shrugged Gideon as he walked into the castle with Pavataro. Reluctantly, the soldiers followed.
Gideon moved to walk beside Happy Bright Ray.
"I assume you have a plan," said Gideon.
"Probably the same one you did," said Happy Bright Ray. "Saw it on your face as you were coming in."
"Me and Pavataro might be able to lift the log but we're not going to be moving fast," said Gideon.
"I really don't want to be eaten by a lizard," commented the dragon.
"She's just going to be twitchy right near her new nest," said Happy Bright Ray. "We get her out into the open and maybe she don't eat us."
"How're we going to distract her?" asked Pavataro.
"That's where I'm hoping those boys will come in handy," said Happy Bright Ray as he nodded back to the soldiers, who looked worried.
Alice the giant lizard looked up from where she curled around her log. Someone was loudly banging like swords on metal shields. Alice snarled and moved toward the sound.
"That's big," said Gideon as the giant lizard moved away.
"Like big as a full size dragon big," agreed Pavataro. "Maybe bigger than my old Dad, and he's considered quite impressive."
"Let's not hang about," said Happy Bright Ray as he ran toward the log. Gideon and Pavataro circled it trying to find a good angle. They touched the log. The boy and the dragon were not only able to change their gravity but anything they were immediately touching. They tried to lift it as a test run. After a moment they set it down heavily. Happy Bright Ray winced at the boom. "Don't be messing around. Hurry."
"Heavy," said Pavataro.
"Really heavy," agreed Gideon.
Pavataro winced. "If we put it on my back, it'll be easier to carry."
"You okay with that?" asked Gideon.
"No," said Pavataro. "Let's do it before I change my mind."
Gideon turned to Happy Bright Ray and offered his staff. "Can you hold this?"
"My old bones would like a walking stick," said Happy Bright Ray and he leaned on it.
Hunching down, Gideon managed to move the log carefully over Pavataro's left wing and on to his back. As soon as the log touched the dragon's body it became lighter but they both needed to hold it lest it become too heavy. Standing next to the dragon, Gideon put both hands on the log.
"We good?" asked Gideon.
"Let's get his done quickly," huffed Pavataro. Slowly, he began to make his way toward the castle entrance. "This book better be worth it."
"Well, books," Gideon said. "The one we came to collect, and eight more. But yes, they had better not all be doorstops."
"We really appreciate this," said Happy Bright Ray.
The castle entrance was only a short distance away but to Gideon, and especially Pavataro, it felt like they were walking toward the moons.
"Just a little bit farther," encouraged Happy Bright Ray.
A clanking came from the left and suddenly a knight in filthy armor barred their way. The knight waved a sword at them unsteadily and his eyes glinted with madness.
"Where do you think you're going?" demanded the knight.
"That way," said Gideon nodding with his chin toward the entrance.
"No you're not," said the knight. "You can't take that away."
"Who are you?" asked Gideon.
"I am Sir Nedrick," said the knight.
"Please, we don't have much time," said Happy Bright Ray and Sir Nedrick focused on him.
"One of them!" snarled Nedrick. "Come to steal my prize!"
Nedrick lunged at Happy Bright Ray.
Gideon let go of the log and Pavataro groaned as it suddenly doubled in weight.
Jumping to Ray's side, Gideon grabbed his staff from the old man's hands and parried Nedrick's sword. Gideon swept his staff at Nedrick's legs, but the knight dodged away.
"Gideon" moaned Pavataro. "I'm gonna rupture!"
"I'm trying," said Gideon.
The boy started swinging at Nedrick quickly for no other reason than to shift his focus. Pavataro saw the opening and reluctantly started to walk towards the entrance. Behind them, there was a loud reptilian cry.
"Oh no," said Happy Bright Ray as he ran past the dragon.
Alice was bearing down on the log and Pavataro.
Happy Bright Ray tried to wave the giant lizard aside, but the creature just flicked its head to one side hitting the old man. Ray was knocked head over teakettle across the floor, dazed but alive.
Pavataro could almost feel the sunlight from the entrance but Alice was closing.
"Gideon?" called out Pavataro but the boy was trying to keep Nedrick at bay.
The giant lizard snapped at Pavataro's tail. The dragon only pulled it away at the last moment.
The creature was almost at his back legs.
Suddenly, Alice let out a roar as it reared back and turned. The giant lizard squinted at Spudd who had just hit it in the tail with his sword.
"Oh heck," said Spudd, realizing that he had just made a Very Large Mistake. He turned to run, and the creature spun in place and bounded after him.
"Help!" Spudd cried.
Pavataro kept moving. The sunlight lit up his nose and the drawbridge groaned as he went. He made it out to the grass and his legs gave out. Pulling in his right wing, he tipped the log off his back on to the grass and then collapsed.
The knight fought desperately with Gideon, who dodged away just trying to keep from getting hurt.
Happy Bright Ray shook the cobwebs from his head and sat up. He saw Gideon fighting and suddenly moved. On his hands and knees, he stopped behind the knight and looked at Gideon.
The boy realized what he was doing.
Jumping forward, Gideon used his staff to push Nedrick back.
The backs of Nedrick's knees collided with the old man. The knight lost his balance and tumbled backwards and hit the ground in a huge clatter.
Gideon helped Happy Bright Ray up as they turned to the knight.
Nedrick tried to move but his armor was too heavy and awkward to get up in. He was trapped like a turtle on its back.
"Curse you," cried Nedrick. "Help me up!"
"I think we'll leave you there for the moment," said Gideon, but Happy Bright Ray kicked the knight's foot.
"That's for stealing our property," said Ray.
"HELP!" cried Spudd from farther into the castle.
Gideon and Happy Bright Ray turned and ran toward the cry. Actually, Gideon ran and Ray walked very quickly because his old knees were hurting, to say nothing of the foot he had bruised on Nedrick's armor. They found that Spudd, in armor, had climbed a table and managed to get hold of the bottom of a chandelier.
The table was now smashed and Alice, the giant lizard stood patiently under Spudd, licking her lips. She seemed to know that he would drop soon enough like an armor-plated apple from the tree.
"Oh, snail burgers," said Gideon as he girded himself to charge the lizard.
"Wait!" said Happy Bright Ray. Gideon just looked at him for a moment and then stepped aside. The old man stepped closer to the lizard.
"Hey Alice!" cried Happy Bright Ray. The lizard stopped and then looked at the old man. "Where's your Nummi?"
The lizard made a noise as it looked around suddenly.
"Where's your Nummi? Come on! Follow me!" said Happy Bright Ray as he walked toward the entrance. "It's right over here."
Alice started to follow and Gideon moved around her to help Spudd down. He came down with a clatter, but unharmed. Then Gideon went to follow the old man and the lizard. When he got outside, he saw Pavataro backing quickly away from the beast.
"Here's your log," said Happy Bright Ray motioning toward the sacred log. The lizard made a happy noise and picked it up easily in her teeth. "Let's go home."
The old man waved to Gideon and Pavataro and then he and the lizard walked off.
Pavataro slowly walked over to Gideon, all four knees quivering from the burden they had carried. "We're going straight home," he said.
"Library first," said Gideon.
"Fine. But you can carry the books."
"You molycots!" cried a voice from the main library.
Pavataro was having a snooze and Gideon just ignored the voice. He had several books tucked under his arm.
"How did you find this?"
Gideon looked back at Lord Fullo'it, who stood framed in the secret door off the library.
"It was not hard to find," said Gideon. "The wood that makes the shelves for the secret doorway is a different color for one thing."
"And the scrape marks on the floor from when the door had swung open in the past," said Pavataro without opening his eyes.
"But...but...," started Lord Fullo'it.
"Any eight books from the castle, my choice, and the borrowed book as well." said Gideon and then he turned giving lord a hard look. "If you're true to your word."
The lord paused for a second and then relented. "Eight books, your choice and the borrowed book."
"Did you find Nedrick?" asked Gideon as he turned back to scouring Lord Fullo'it's secret stash. Honestly, it wasn't that good. Maybe he'd take only five at the most.
"Nedrick will survive," said the lord.
"Pity," said Pavataro.
"I think you would be wise not to mess with those people again," said Gideon in warning tone.
"I think you're right," said Lord Fullo'it, defeated. "Dinner will be at six."
© 2010 Walter G. Esselman
Bio: Walter G. Esselman has been writing for many years and would not say no to a Banana Daiquiri. Several Dragonson stories (featuring Gideon, the hero of this piece) have been published. Residential Aliens (Resaliens.com) has published: “Sharp Stick” (March, 2010), “Fur Flying” (August, 2010), and “In Hot Water” (October, 2010). Conceit Magazine has also published “Shooting Star” in their September 2010 issue of the Ultimate Writer. Visit the Dragonson Fan Facebook page at Dragonson for more about the series.
E-mail: Walter G. Esselman
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.