By Jim Willett
Grimscale slithered slowly through the near darkness being careful not to jostle any of the resting tribe of dragons. The arrival of seven small hatchlings this spring had brought joy to their parents but an added strain to the already crowded denizens of this cave set high up in a mountain peak on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Grimscale made his way to the narrow opening to the outside and onto the flat granite slab beyond. The sun was just adding an orangey pinkness to the blue of the early morning Spring sky and he could see it would be another beautiful high mountain Spring Day.
The good weather should help Amythistle and Stonehorn in their search, if they were still alright. They had departed early the previous morning to scout the surrounding mountainsides for possible new sites for the tribe to move to, and left Grimscale in charge of his grandson Timidthy. For most of the first day Grimscale had been able to catch brief mind glimpses of what they were seeing but late in the afternoon there had been a startled flash of red and white, a brief hint of pain in his mind’s eye and then nothing. He attributed the lack of any more thought messages to distance, yet the suddenness with which he had lost communication did have him worried. Timidthy had asked at bed time if Grimscale knew how his mother and father were and he had been deliberately vague and maybe a little gruffer than he needed to be when he said, “They’re fine, now get to sleep.”
As Grimscale sat at his usual vantage point on a very comfortable pile of stones just outside the cave entrance, he unfurled his wings and stretched them high to catch the first direct rays of the rising sun. As the warmth of the sun touched his spread wings he felt a surge of energy and wakefulness and an increase in the strength of his magic sense. Immediately he cast his mind far and wide and looked and listened and………silence. Nowhere could he find even a hint of a thought from his daughter and her companion. It was as if the earth had just opened up and swallowed them. Grimscale vowed to keep his worries to himself and went back into the cave to roust out the Rockheads, Ocswes, and Herdsmen to begin another day of looking after the Dragons.
Young Timidthy came sliding to a halt right in front of his granddad and almost shouting asked, ‘Did you hear from Mom and Dad yet? Have they found a new cave? Where are they? How far away?”
Grimscale pulled his “Old Grumpski” personality out of hiding and said in his grumpiest gruffest way, “No I haven’t heard any thing since last night and I’m much too busy right now to take time away from my duties to try and talk to them.”
“Now you go and play, find a nice sunny spot and watch for some juicy bugs for breakfast.” And with that he slithered off into the depths of the cave.
In spite of his familiarity with his grand father and the sometimes gruff way he spoke Timidthy was a tiny bit frightened by this response and so he hurried off to do as Grimscale had suggested. Boy, grownups were sure hard to understand sometimes.
Amythistle awoke with a start, and winced as pain cut through her head. It felt as if she had run into a rock wall at full speed. She struggled to make out her surroundings. She appeared to be in some kind of enclosure with bars of a shiny material she believed she had once heard called metal. From the far side of the cage she heard a rustle and peering through the gloom she could make out the outstretched form of her mate Stonehorn. He too appeared to be struggling to wake and his eyes were fluttering as he moaned softly, “Thistle, are you there?”
“Yes Stonie, I’m right here”.
“What happened to us? The last thing I remember was our thinking ourselves over the ridge line to get back and tell the band the big news and then, bang! nothing! My head feels like a rock dropped on it and is still sitting there!”
Amythistle moved to touch Stonehorn and reassure him. “There is no rock on your head, you still have all your horns, and as near as I can tell other than that big lump right between your eyes you are the same big tough guy I’ve always loved.”
Stonehorn opened his eyes, squinted and said,”Hey there are two of you!” He shook his head, closed his eyes, and then one by one opened them again. “Oh wait, I must have been seeing double. Now there is just one of you, and you have the same bump on your pretty head, right above your eyes.”
With a sense of relief that they were both apparently all right they began to survey their surroundings. They were definitely locked in some sort of enclosure. Stonehorn tried to think himself to the shelf on the outside of the cage. Nothing happened. He tried harder, and other than aggravating his head ache, again nothing happened. Amythistle tried too, and she also got nowhere. They were definitely trapped. Stonehorn confirmed what Amythistle had thought, the bars were indeed made of metal and no dragon had ever been able to think themselves through metal. Worse yet, it looked as though they were in a wooden cave room with no way for the sunlight to get in. Their efforts to escape had exhausted their Magic sense and until they were able to reach the sunlight again they were powerless, and defenseless. There was a small dish with some stale foul tasting water in it in one corner of the cage, and some pellets of what may once have been vegetation in a pile beside the water. There did not appear to be any food; no crisp bugs or soft wildflowers any where.
“On Thistle, I’m so sorry I asked you to come with me on this journey”, said Stonehorn.
“Don’t be ridiculous, you know we do everything together. My Father is looking after Tim, and we’ll figure a way out of here. I’m just going to have a little nap and then I’ll help you think of something.”
Stonehorn watched lovingly as she leaned against him and closed her eyes. A nap did sound like a good idea at that. Just a short one and then they would be able to plan their escape. And with that thought the big Rocky Mountain Dragon laid his head down, closed his eyes and drifted away to sleep.
Both dragons were deep in sleep when the door to the storage room opened and a man’s head appeared .
From the light of the hallway Frank Badlea could see the two occupants of the cage were not stirring. Since he and Bob Dunn had picked the two strange snakes up off the ground he had not seen them awake. It had been the weirdest thing. Just as he and Bob raised the big metal Proposed Development Site sign up in the air to drop the pole in the hole they had dug in the ground, there was a double “thump” and the two creatures dropped to the ground at their feet, almost as if they had been flying. Frank had retrieved an old hamster cage from the back of his SUV and put the two flying snakes in it.
They had finished packing the dirt around the sign post, then put the cage in the back seat and driven back down the mountain, passed the old mine , and into town. Frank had an acquaintance at the University in the City 200 miles to the east, and he planned on taking the snakes which he laughingly now called sleepy time dragons to him sometime next week if they were still alive, and see if they were worth a few dollars.
Frank closed the storeroom door, turned out the hall light, and walked up the basement stairs and into his office to start another day of work. As usual Bob hadn’t showed up yet, and with that thought he remembered he’d better phone his own house and make sure his son was up and on his way to school.
He picked up the phone and dialed. The phone rang and rang and just as he was about to hang up he heard a muffled “hello” from the other end. “Milton, I told you to be on time for class for the whole week. It’s Friday but you can’t slack off and be late today. Get your stuff together and get to school. If you make it on time I’ll let you come and see those sleepy time dragons I was telling you about.” “Yeah sure dad, dragons,. Cool. I bet they are just some dumb snakes. I’m going right now. Anyway the only reason you want me to come to the office is to put me to work.” And with that Milton, who would tell anyone else “My name is Tony” hung up the phone and dashed out the door with most of his schoolwork crammed in his backpack, and a slab of toast folded up in one hand................................................(To be Continued)