Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Hidden Path

a fairytale
by David Edgren

1 - The Goat Track
Once upon a time, in a village not so very far from here, there lived a nine year-old boy named Henry.
More than anything, Henry loved to explore new places. He had walked every street in his village many times. He knew who lived in each house and who worked in each shop. He even knew the names of everyone in the village.
One day Henry decided to follow one of the paths up the mountain.
He had been up the main road through the mountain pass many times. So he didn’t go up that road.
He had also been up the road to the lookout many times. From the lookout, you could see every house in the village. But Henry wanted to find something new. So he didn’t go up that road either.
Henry walked past the waterwheel that provided power and water for the town. He walked past the power station and crossed the bridge to the generator house. Then, where the main path turned right into the building, Henry went left onto a little path he had seen last time he visited the waterwheel.
It was a tiny little path. But it was a path nonetheless and Henry knew every path, no matter how small, goes somewhere. So, he let his feet take him up the little winding path. He ducked under a low hanging branch, pushed aside a curtain of vines and made his way up the side of the mountain.
I wonder what exciting things I will discover on this little goat track, Henry thought to himself. As he climbed higher and higher, he imagined all kinds of possibilities. Maybe it’s a secret way to the lookout. Maybe it just goes to some rocky crags and goats travel it often enough to make it look like a path.
Henry stopped and dropped to one knee. There was something shiny on the path. Curiously, he pinched a small golden flake between two fingers and held it close to inspect it.
“What is this?” Henry asked aloud. It looked like a tiny leaf—smaller than any leaf he had ever seen on a tree. And it was as gold as . . . well, it was as gold as gold!
“I think it is gold!” Henry laughed. “And where there is one flake of gold,” he said with anticipation, “there is usually more!”

2 - Treasure!
Henry scanned the ground. He moved leaves, turned over rocks and even dug a hole under the spot where he had found the flake. There wasn’t any more gold.
Henry looked again at the gold flake in his hand. “Well, one gold flake is awesome!” he sang triumphantly. Pulling on a cord around his neck, he lifted a small leather pouch out of his shirt. Carefully he loosened the string and dropped the gold flake in. Then he cinched up the cord and dropped the pouch back inside his shirt.
Henry stood and continued his journey up the path. It was spreading into a bit more of a track. It was wide enough now for a horse to walk on.
Henry carefully made his way along the path. He was walking slower than he had been before finding the gold. He didn’t want to miss anything important.  When he had been walking for about 15 minutes Henry emerged from the bushy green trees and walked into the direct sunlight. The path was getting rockier and the surroundings drier as he went up the mountain.
As Henry rounded a bend in the path, the sunlight shone brightly all around him. Something sparkled in distance. Henry put a hand to his forehead to shade his eyes. Had he really seen something?
Yes! There it was again, in the middle of the path far in front of him. It glimmered and shimmered as the sun beat down. It wasn’t shiny like the gold had been. It was a reddish colour and maybe a bit bigger than the gold flake.
Henry let out a whoop of joy and sprinted up the track, sliding the final metre on his knees, getting his pants dirty. He reached down and picked up a tiny red ruby. At least it looked like a ruby. Henry held it up to the sun. It lit up like a tiny fire.
“It is a Ruby!” Henry shouted with glee. Quickly he looked around himself for any more precious stones, but there were none. He dropped the ruby carefully into his pouch before getting to his feet and continuing up the path.
Carefully examining his surroundings with every step, Henry slowly made his way up the mountain. He had been walking for approximately 30 minutes since finding the ruby when he saw a dark hole in the mountainside.
Maybe it’s a cave, Henry thought. I wonder what’s inside the cave! As he got closer, Henry realised he was right. It was a cave.
He walked into the shade of the cave mouth and let his eyes adjust to the darkness. When he could see, he saw a pile of gold a few steps inside the cave.

3 - The Cave
It was a small pile. But as far as piles of gold went, it was the biggest one Henry had ever seen.
He covered the distance in a quick sprint and fell to his knees to explore his find. I can’t believe my luck! Henry thought to himself. I’m finding treasure everywhere.
Henry scooped up the little pile of gold nuggets. They all fit in the palm of one hand. He shifted them from one hand to the other, letting them drop one at a time into the opposite palm. They felt cool. And heavy.
He counted them – five.
“Five gold nuggets!” Henry said with glee. “Five gold nuggets! Five gold nuggets!” He began to chant his new favourite phrase, “Five gold nuggets! Five gold nuggets!”
From the darkness, deep in the back of the cave, a rumbling voice boomed, “WHO DARES ENTER MY CAVE?!?!”
Henry spun toward the voice.
Then he spun toward the cave entrance.
He tried to run to the light, but he was still kneeling. He lurched forward, spun to his right and toppled onto his side.
Henry was so scared; he couldn’t think what to do—or how to control his body. He continued trying to run, but he was lying on his side, and running only made him spin in circles on the ground.
Calm down, you fool! he thought to himself. You’ve got to get out of here. Henry rolled onto his stomach, pulled his legs and arms underneath himself and got onto his knuckles and knees. He was still clenching the gold nuggets, three in one fist and two in the other, which made it hard to use his hands. But he managed to get to his feet.
It seemed like this had all taken a very long time, but it was only a second or two. Following the booming voice a fireball flew above Henry from the darkness into the sunlight.
Henry fell back to the ground, covering his head with his hands. That was hot and really bright! Henry thought as he shook in panic. And it nearly hit me!
It was only then, when he thought about the fireball, that Henry realised where he was. He was in a dragon’s cave.
This realisation caused Henry to go from scared to terrified. He had heard the stories. People who entered a dragon’s cave never left alive. They were dinner for the dragon. But Henry had always thought dragons were make believe—not real.
The ground shook with sound of huge footsteps. Deep in the cave, an angry beast moved toward Henry.

4 - The Dragon
Henry was on his knees again, seconds after a fireball nearly cooked him. He peered into the darkness at the back of the cave. He didn’t know what to do.
After a few thunderous footsteps, the outline of something huge started to take shape. A deep voice roared, “MY GOLD! WHERE IS MY GOLD?”
Another fireball flew above Henry. The voice continued, “HOW DARE YOU STEAL MY HOARD!”
Henry clenched his fists, tightening his grip on the gold nuggets. It’s only five nuggets, Henry thought. Surely a dragon’s hoard would be much bigger.
The ground-shaking footsteps increased in speed. The dragon—if it was a dragon—was getting closer.
Henry realised he was still sitting. He should be running! He jumped to his feet and ran toward the cave entrance.
“OH NO YOU DON’T!” the voice erupted behind him. Another fireball rolled along the ceiling of the cave not far above Henry’s head and disappeared into the sunlight.
The fireball had barely missed him. The cave ceiling was lower near the entrance.
Running now, Henry’s feet picked up speed as he emerged from the cave. He spun around a rock outcrop at the cave entrance and slammed himself against the rough wall outside. Another fireball shot past and disappeared into a puff of smoke in the distance.
“COME BACK, THIEF!” roared the voice from inside the cave.
Henry turned toward the path he had walked up so slowly just a few minutes ago and ran faster than he had ever run in his life — along the wide rocky path, into the trees, down the narrow path through the forest, through the vines and across the bridge.
Only when he reached the waterwheel did Henry stop to look back. There was nothing to see. No dragon. No fireball. He was safe!
Slowly Henry opened his clenched fists. There, to his relief, were all five gold nuggets! He hadn’t dropped any of them in the mad dash down the mountain.
He piled the nuggets into one hand and pulled his little leather pouch out of his shirt with the other. Opening his pouch, he dropped the nuggets inside. Then he went home to tell his story.

5 - Susie's Ruby
When Henry walked into his house, he saw his big sister sitting at the table.
Susie was flipping through a magazine and talking to a friend on the phone. She was a teenager and that’s what teenagers do—talk on the phone. And read magazines. And talk on the phone. And read magazines… To Henry, that seemed to be the only things his sister did, aside from eat, sleep and boss him around.
Henry sat down at the far end of the table from his sister. He pulled the leather pouch out of his shirt and took the strap from around his neck. He stretched the mouth of the bag as wide as it would go and loudly dumped the contents on the table.
He wanted to get Susie’s attention. It worked. She looked up from her magazine as the gold nuggets bounced on the tabletop. The ruby rolled half way across the table toward her.
Susie’s eyes went as big as dinner plates and her voice caught in her throat—she actually stopped talking! Then she said, “Uh, Jaz, I gotta go. Talk to you later.”
She pressed the off button on the phone and then reached out for the ruby. “Where did you get this stuff?” Susie asked in amazement as she examined the shiny red stone. “You are going to be in so much trouble if you stole it.”
“I didn’t steal it,” Henry said, wondering for a moment if he was telling the truth. “I mean, I found it. In a cave on the mountain and on a little path that nobody walks up anymore.”
“Where?” His sister questioned, raising her eyebrows. She didn’t believe him.
“On a hidden path that goes up behind the waterwheel,” Henry said defensively. “Honest. I found the stuff. It’s mine!”
“Well, I don’t think you’re telling the truth,” Susie said, holding the ruby up to the light. “This is a real ruby! Nobody leaves this kind of stuff just lying around on the ground!”
Henry didn’t want to tell his sister about the dragon—or whatever it was—because then she definitely wouldn’t believe him.
“Well, it’s true!” He said in a big voice. “I found the ruby on the path. And,” he pushed his finger into the gold flake and lifted it up, pointing it at his sister, “I found this gold flake on the path, too. Then I found a cave and these five nuggets were in a little pile. That’s the truth!”
Susie was quiet for an entire minute. She was enamoured with the ruby. “It is so beautiful,” she said.
Henry saw his opportunity to get his sister on side. “You can have it, Susie,” he said quietly. He didn’t like the idea of giving away his only ruby, but he thought it might help. “You can have it, if you promise not to say I stole this stuff. I didn’t and I don’t want Mom and Dad to take it away.”
Susie lifted here eyes and met Henry’s gaze. She studied his face for a few moments.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” she asked. “You really just found this stuff outside?”
“Yup,” he said, nodding. “I did.”
Susie looked back at the ruby. Her eyes looked a bit teary as she said, “You would really let me have this? It is so pretty.”
“So are you!” Henry said with a twinkle in his eye, “A pretty ruby for a pretty girl!”
“You’re a little charmer!” Susie said, shaking her head and smirking at her little brother. “Thank you, Henry. I think I might get it made into a necklace or something.”
“Cool!” Henry said with a wide smile. He actually felt good about giving the ruby to Susie. She was really happy and that made Henry happy. “Well, I’m gonna put my gold nuggets in my money jar,” Henry said. “And one day, I will spend them on something really nice.”
Henry and Susie went to their rooms and imagined what they could do with their new treasure.

6 - The Story
Soon it was time for dinner. Henry repeated his story for Mom and Dad. They both listened only paying half-attention—until Henry and Susie showed them the nuggets and ruby. Then they were much more interested.
“Where did you say you got these things?” Dad asked.
“He found them, on the mountain!” Susie answered quickly—not wanting to loose her ruby.
“Yeah, I was walking on a little goat track and I saw the sun reflect on this,” Henry held up the speck of gold on the tip of his finger. “And then, a little further up the path I saw the ruby.”
Susie cut in, “And he gave it to me!” She smiled and held the ruby out between two fingers, “Because he is the best brother in the whole world!”
Henry nodded really big and continued, “And then I saw this cave and I went in and saw a little pile of gold nuggets just sitting there. So, I grabbed them and brought them home!”
Mom was looking at the ruby in Susie’s hand. “That is beautiful,” she said admiringly. “Can I hold it?” As Mom held the ruby up to the light, she asked, “Are you sure these things don’t belong to someone else?”
Something else, Henry thought to himself, but not someone else. “Um, yeah,” he said, a bit flustered, “I mean, who would leave gold nuggets in a cave?” He looked up at his parents with big eyes—as innocent as he could make them.
They both stared at him for a long moment, then Dad spoke. “Well, you best keep this cave a secret or the whole town will be up there looking for gold!”
Henry nodded vigorously, “Yeah, good point.” Then he paused for a moment, remembering the fire-breathing beast. “But, I had a good look around. I don’t think there is any more gold or anything.”
“That’s probably for the best,” Mom said. “You’ve had a bit of good fortune today—and a fun adventure. Count yourself lucky!”
“Yup, I do!” Henry answered. Lucky to be alive! He thought, remembering the fireball that just missed his head.

7 - Chasing Susie
The next morning, after getting out of bed and getting dressed, Henry went to the kitchen to have breakfast. He went to his chair and sat down.
Mom was busy in the kitchen. “Good morning, little explorer!” she said with a smile.
“Morning, Mom,” Henry said, smiling.
Mom put a plate of toast and jam in the middle of the table. Henry spread some jam on a piece of toast as Mom sat in her chair.
“What are your plans for today,” Mom asked as she reached for a piece of toast.
“Dunno,” Henry replied as he looked into the kitchen. He leaned back on his chair and looked around the corner in to the lounge room. “Where’s Susie?” he asked.
“She left a few minutes ago,” Mom answered. “She said she had places to go and people to see.”
“Weird,” Henry said half to himself. “She always sleeps later than me.”
“Yes,” Mom said, “She was very excited and ready for a busy day. She seemed to have something on her mind.”
Henry hoped he was wrong, but he was guessing Suzie had his cave on her mind. She wants more rubies. That was his guess. Oh boy, he thought to himself, I hope she doesn’t get cooked by the fire-breathing dragon! I better go help her!
Henry shoved the remaining chunk of toast into his mouth, pushed his chair back from the table and stood quickly.
“What’s got you in such a sudden hurry?” Mom asked.
Henry tried to talk, but his mouth was too full. He managed a couple of big chews and then said in a garbled voice, “I’m gonna go find Susie.”
“Ok,” Mom said. “Have fun and be careful.”
“I will, Mom,” Henry said. I just hope Susie was careful enough not to get fried.
Henry checked to see that his pouch was hanging around his neck as he rushed out the door. He navigated his way through town taking the shortest route possible to the waterwheel.
He didn’t want to run, because then people would wonder where he was going in such a hurry. And, knowing his friends, somebody would follow him. So, he tried to walk quickly but still look at shop windows and smile at people as he walked through town.

8 - Gracie's Jewelers
As Henry passed “Gracie’s Jewellers” he heard his name being shouted out. He slowed to a halt and looked in through the window. Gracie was waving at him, “Come in!” she shouted through the glass.
Henry went back a few steps to the door and entered the shop. He didn’t want to waste time, but it was rude to run off when an adult called you.
Gracie was standing behind the sales counter. “You sister was just here,” she said. As Henry approached the counter, Gracie looked furtively around the shop and leaned forward to whisper, “Lovely ruby!”
Henry was both amazed and angered at once. He could not believe Susie would be dumb enough to show off her new ruby. Everyone will want to know where it came from! And she showed it to the jeweller! Henry brooded. Of all the people! Gracie will be talking about it to every jewel collector in town!
“Oh, don’t worry,” Gracie winked, “Your secret is safe with me!”
My secret? Henry’s jaw nearly dropped. Gracie knows about the cave! Wait until I get a hold of Susie. She is going to pay!
The look of concern that crossed Henry’s face caused Gracie to pause. “I promise, Henry,” she said. “It will be a lovely gift for your Mom. I will set it in the nicest necklace I can find. And I won’t tell a soul! Susie made me promise. And I always keep my promises… And my secrets!”
Henry couldn’t hide the relief he felt. “So you … um…” Henry caught his breath and started again. He had almost said, “So you don’t know about the cave?” but caught himself just in time. “Is that all Susie told you?”
“Yes,” Gracie said putting her finger to her chin. “She said your mom had seen the ruby and fell in love with it.”
Well, that is true! Henry nearly laughed but converted it into a big smile just in time. “She sure did!” he said.
“Have a nice day, Henry,” Gracie said with a wide smile.
“I will,” Henry replied as he turned toward the door.
I need to hurry, Henry worried. She could be at the cave by now!
As Henry rushed out of the shop, Gracie called after him, “What’s the rush? My shop’s not on fire!”
“I know,” Henry said, turning to face the jeweller. “I just need to find Susie.”
“Well, she told me she was headed over to the powerstation,” Gracie said.
So she is going to the cave! Henry knew he had get there as fast as possible. I should have told her about the dragon! If she’s cooked, it’s my fault.
Gracie added, “You kids all seem to love that waterwheel!”
“Yeah, it’s, um, cool,” Henry replied just before he burst into an all-out run.
“Wow!” Gracie said to no one in particular. “Somebody’s got a bee in their bonnet!”

9 - Dragon's Hoard
It seemed like it only took seconds for Henry to race past the waterwheel, the powerstation, across the bridge and up the hidden path opposite the generator house.
He was half way up the path before he slowed to catch his breath.
“Susie! Susie?” Henry called, hoping she hadn’t reached the cave yet.
There was no response.
What have I done? Henry thought. I should have been honest with Susie. Why did I lie?
He kept walking as fast as he could up the steep rocky path.
Then again, if I had told her about the dragon… she wouldn’t have believed me!
The trees were thinning. Henry realised he was nearly to the cliff side. He would be at the cave soon.
I still should have told her the cave was dangerous. Really Dangerous! Then, maybe she would have stayed away. Henry wasn’t too sure of that. Susie was stubborn. If she wanted to do something, she would do it—no matter what other people said. She probably would have just thought I was trying to keep more gold and jewels for myself.
Henry was so lost in his raging storm of thought and argument that he nearly ran straight into Susie as she came running around a corner in the path.
Susie spun sideways to miss crashing into her brother and continued running down the path. With one hand she grabbed Henry’s arm, pulling him after her.
“RUN!” she shouted.
She’s seen the dragon! Henry thought with a rush of relief. And she’s alive!
As Henry started to run after his sister there was an earth-shaking roar behind them followed by an odd sounding cry, “COME BACK!”
Henry grabbed Susie’s arm and pulled her to a stop. “Did you hear that?” he asked.
Susie took three big breaths, recovering from her sprint. “Yes,” she said, “The dragon is very upset that you took his hoard.” Susie took two more long breaths. “He thought I was you. He shot a fireball over my head from the back of his cave. Then he shouted that I should bring back his gold.”
Henry thought for a moment. “do you think it is really a dragon?”
“What else would it be?” Susie asked.
“Well,” Henry said, “Five little chunks of gold isn’t much of a hoard for a fire-breathing dragon. Shouldn’t he have a massive treasure trove?”
“Maybe he does,” Susie said. “Maybe you just found a tiny bit of it. Maybe it was bait, to get you to go in the cave.”
“And maybe the Ruby and gold flake were bait to keep me going up the trail!” Henry added.
Susie had a new look in her eyes and rubbed her hands together. “Let’s sneak back, real quiet, and see if we can find anything else.”
“YES!” Henry said.
Quickly, but quietly, they made their way back up the trail and stood just outside the cave. They paused and listened for any sounds of the dragon. From inside the cave, they heard a noise very different to what they were expecting.
“What is that?” Henry whispered.
Susie took a step forward and listened. Finally she stepped back and said, “It sounds like someone crying.”

10 - The Invitation
Susie peered carefully around the corner and into the cave. The sunlight cast a hard shadow a few metres into the cave making it nearly impossible to see inside. Susie focused into the depth of the cave and let her eyes adjust. What took shape before her was beyond belief. Laying just past the line of shadow, blocking the entire cave entrance, was a huge dragon. His head was by the far wall and turned into the cave. His tail was in front of Susie, curled in an S-shape, its tip just inside the cave shadow.
A huge sniffing sound came from the dragon. A sorrowful sob of sadness rattled down the dragon from his head to the tip of his tail. Each scale shook gently, giving the sound of a thousand shields clattering against each other. The dragon took in a slow deep laboured breath and then sneezed.
Suddenly the cave lit up with a burst of fire. The dragon’s sneeze had been accompanied with a fireball snort! In the burst of firelight, Susie saw the entire dragon. Like a camera flash, the fireball burnt an image into Susie’s mind causing her to jump back around the corner.
“It’s a huge golden dragon!” She shouted with excitement. As soon as she spoke she clapped her hand to her mouth. Then she whispered, “He’s sitting just inside the cave!”
“You could see him?” Henry said in amazement.
“He sneezed a fireball!” Susie laughed, her eyes wide with excitement. “I saw his entire golden body!”
An impossibly deep voice, far too close, rumbled, “Bronze, actually.”
Henry, who was facing Susie, saw it first.
Behind Susie a huge snout came into the sunlight. The dragon had heard Susie shout and now he was staring at both of them.
Susie saw Henry’s eyes before she heard the dragon’s voice. Henry stared above Susie’s head and turned white enough to pass for a piece of chalk.
Susie spun around and took in a shocked breath. The dragon’s head was completely out of the cave, one huge eye looking directly at the children. Sussie stared directly into the dragon’s eye. Divided into fractals, like a diamond, the eye stared back at her unblinking.
Henry and Susie were too petrified to move. Like thousand year-old trees, they stood rooted in place. What could they do?
Just then, the eye slammed shut and the dragon sneezed again. A fireball shot out of his nose and over the valley floor below the cave entrance. Susie felt the heat of it as if she had been standing close to a bonfire for too long.
The dragon’s eye opened wide, in what looked like a brief moment of panic. “Sorry,” he said. “Accident.”
The dragon pulled his head away from the children, making an opening into the cave.
“Do come in,” he said. It was both a request and, clearly, a command.
Susie looked at Henry, took his hand, and the two children walked into the Dragon’s cave.

11 - Fireballs
As the children passed into the cave, the dragon’s tail slid into position along the wall next to them, his head followed them into the cave. As he drew his head back inside, he used it to block the cave entrance. His huge bronze body, now in a huge C-shape, filled most of the cave. As the children passed the end of his tail the dragon flicked it behind them and laid his head on it. Now they were trapped inside a huge circle of dragon.
“Have a seat,” The dragon rumbled. “Sit on my tail at whatever height suits you.”
Susie walked along the tail of the dragon until she reached a spot as high as a chair. She felt the dragon’s huge scales and sat in the middle of one. Henry sat next to her.
The dragon let out a huge sigh of relief. “Ahh, It feels so good to have some friends, again!”
Henry looked at Susie and mouthed the word, “Friends?” Susie shrugged.
“I used to have a princess,” the dragon continued. “She was so beautiful! Her hair was like strings of gold and her eyes were as blue as sapphires. She was a sight to behold. She was proud and confident. And she was smart. Oh, the conversations! We had a couple of wonderful years together.” The dragon’s huge eye half closed as he got lost in his thoughts.
Susie looked over at Henry and raised her hands, as if to say, “What now?”
Henry said, “We are not royalty. We’re just village kids.”
“I know who you are,” The dragon said. “I’ve been watching you just like I watched the princess before she came to live with me.”
“What happened to the princess,” Susie said in a scared whisper.
The dragon breathed a rapid ragged breath and whimpered a tiny sob. Then he coughed trying to cover the sob. When he coughed, a fireball burst from his nose and flared against the wall in front of his face. His eye flew open and darted around the room until it found Henry and Susie. Seeing them, the dragon let out another sigh of relief.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to make fire. It just happens, these days,” the dragon said. “It was a knight. Shiniest armour I ever saw. He came raging in here like he owned the place. The sun was just setting outside the cave and his armour lit up like a thousands diamonds in the sun. I was blinded, just for a moment. But, that was long enough for him to grab the princess and run.” The dragon went quiet for a couple of seconds, then added, “She was my best friend, ever. She was mine, and he just took her.” The dragon’s eye glistened wetly until a massive tear fell to the ground. His huge eyelid, like a warriors shield, closed over his eye.
Susie grimaced at Henry, she’d obviously hit a sore spot in his story. “Are you lonely?” Susie asked the dragon.
The dragon remained quiet and unresponsive.
Henry thought a change of topic might be good. “Why do you keep sneezing fireballs?”
The eye opened and focused on Henry. “I’m just getting old.” The dragon said. “In my warrior years, I would save up my fire and scare entire armies of men with huge bursts that covered an entire valley. Now, I just snort and sneeze fireballs without meaning to.”
“That must be embarrassing!”  Henry said.
“Yes, but it’s worse than embarrassing,” the dragon said. “I had a pet frog a few months back. He told me a joke that made me laugh and I fried him to a crisp.”
“Awww, that’s sad!” Susie said. “Is that why you never face us? You always look at us with just one eye.”
“Exactly,” the dragon said. “I keep my head above or to the side of whoever I’m with. I don’t want any more accidentally fried friends.”
“Thanks for that,” Henry said.
The Dragon laughed a small fireball. “You’re welcome, kid.”

12 - Saying Goodbye
 “Oh, no” Susie said. “I totally forgot, I promised Mom I’d help her prepare for tonight’s special dinner.” She stood to leave.
Henry looked at her like she was forgetting something really obvious. “Susie, I don’t think we are going anywhere. We are prisoners.”
“Prisoners?” The dragon said, almost crying. “You came to see me!”
“Then we can leave?” Henry asked.
“Leave?” The dragon’s voice took a steely tone. “Why would you want to leave?”
Henry looked at Susie. “See,” he said. “Told you.”
Susie walked up to the dragon’s cheek and patted it. “I promise to come back, and when I do, I’ll bring the ruby Henry found on the path.”
Henry, understanding what Susie was doing, pulled the pouch off his neck. “You can have these back, too!” he dumped the five nuggets into his palm. “Here are the five gold nuggets I took yesterday.”
The dragon purred like a huge cat at seeing his gold again. “My hoard!” He said, “Please just drop them there.”
Henry dropped the nuggets. The dragon pulled his head away from the cave entrance. As the two children headed out of the cave, the dragon said, “Can I ask you one last favour?”
Susie and Henry stopped and looked at the dragon, waiting for his request.
“Show me your town,” the dragon said. “I would love to see all the happy people laughing and talking to each other.”
“How can we do that?” Henry said, “If we bring you down there, people will be terrified and try to kill you!”
“With the ruby,” the dragon said. “I can see all the ruby sees.”
“You can?" the children said together, completely surprised.
“Yes, that’s why I’m letting you go,” the dragon said. “Henry, I saw you share the ruby with your sister. And Susie, I saw you take the ruby to the jewelers to have a necklace made for your mother. You are the kind of friends I would love to have!”
Susie looked at Henry. “He’s telling the truth about the ruby,” she said. “How else would he know those things happened?” Henry nodded in agreement.
“Please keep the ruby and ask your mother to wear it wherever she goes,” the dragon said. “Then I will know the stories of the many friends in my new village!”
“We will,” Henry said.
“We promise,” Susie added.
The two children walked out of the dragon’s cave and on to the path. A gentle rain was starting to fall.
“I would also love a visit, now and then,” the old dragon said from behind them. “If you can spare the time.”
“We will definitely come back!” Henry said.
“We’re your friends, now,” Susie said. “We will be back as often as we can.”
“Thank you,” the dragon said. “I’ll be waiting here and watching all you show me. Bye, my friends.”
“Bye!” Henry and Susie said together.



I wrote this story and posted it a chapter a day as a fun writing exercise during the September - October 2014 school holidays. Here it is chapter by chapter, as originally posted.


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