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not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

Tales of Light and Darkness

by Ariadne

1. Light

It was a dark, stormy night and the five-year-old boy had got lost in the tangled woods. Scary, he had thought at first, but the boy already knew his way through the old oak groves and across the flowery meadows. His mother, the beautiful Lady Chasez, had taught him that those trees were his friends and in his child-like way, he had always believed it. His father had always tried to make him disregard such rubbish, as he used to call it, yet, when his son and wife ran along the prairie trails on Summer days, he would smile and forget about everything else. Both of them had the most genuine smiles he had ever seen. For Joshua, being outdoors with his mother, meant he could get to know those friends better. That was why he was not too scared that night. The problem was that he had never been in the forest at night, and although he could recognise some of the trees, he could not tell which way was home.

It was a special night, a night of prophecy. Old forgotten oracles told tales of those who could heal with their bare hands. Other stories mentioned the little ones, whose hearts were so innocent, that nature would not deny them anything. The bluntest ones spoke of a blessed one, a boy who would find his future, a man who would live it and a wise man who would survive his own life. Unseen owls hooted now and then, interrupted only by the faint howling of distant wolves. The sky was pitch black, and there was no moonlight to help him find his way through the woods and back to his house.

Still, Joshua did not flinch as he walked in the dark. He prayed to the gods. He prayed for his father to appear somewhere, behind the next tree, next to the closest bushes, but nothing happened. He kept looking up, peering into the darkness, and when he saw the familiar shape of a twisted tree he had already passed more than an hour before, he stopped a moment. He was about to start crying and he blamed himself for not having listened. He clenched his fists and kept walking. Why was not the moon out? He wondered, if she were, at least he had be able to find his way back home. He walked quickly, and then started to run.

But there were more than just owls and wolves around him. Someone was running along with him; someone he could not see, but the other would run when he did, and stop when he stopped. The being walked if Joshua walked. That scared the young boy to death.

He could only hear laughter. High pitched laughter.

His breathing was heavy as he turned to look around. Darkness, nothing more. The trees were taller than he would ever get to be, and for a second his will faltered, and he fell on his knees. He wanted his father’s strong arms to carry him while his sweet mother waited for him at the front door of their house. He closed his eyes, remembering them.

Joshua let himself go and started to cry.

“It is you...” a voice said, perhaps the same voice that owned the laughter he had heard just a few minutes before, and that same sound made him freeze. There was not a soul in more than a mile around him, and the sudden company scared him. “It is you.” It repeated.

“Who...who are you?” Joshua asked, his own voice trembling. He was turning around, looking everywhere, as the world swirled and finding nothing. For the first time in his life he started to hate the night.

“You...” the voice whispered in his ear, startling him and making him scream, “are the one I’ve been looking for...the one who can save the sacred eggs from their doomed fate.” It was a strange voice with an unfamiliar accent.

As Joshua fell on the ground, he realised the voice had an owner, a small man that matched his own height and had pointed ears. The man even had a beard and Joshua swallowed his tears despite being as afraid as he was, for the little man was funny, and oddly dressed. He had silver earrings and necklaces, bracelets that covered half his small arms—and his eyes—Joshua had never seen such sweet, harmless eyes as the brown ones the little man had. His clothes belonged to those people preferred not to talk about. Dark leather boots, and trousers; a yellowish shirt that might have been white many moons ago, and a leather vest on top of it. Buttons made of bone and another thinner piece of leather pulling them together, from left to right and backwards. He swallowed hard. These people were the ones who lived in the mountains. The inhabitants of the small town always disregarded any conversation that might have included them. Some people said they were sacred; some others said they were doomed. To Joshua, the man looked like any other person he had ever seen. Still he was afraid.

“Who are you?” Little Joshua asked again, no more tears marking his cheeks as he approached the unusual man.

“Me?” he responded, taking his arms to his chest and smiling broadly. “I am Christopher.” It surprised Joshua when Christopher took him by the hand abruptly and made him run with him. Joshua never knew how far he had run or for how long. The only indication he had was that of the night itself; cold and stern. Christopher’s hand on his arms felt warm, despite the rain still falling on him. “Come with me.” The man said to him; and Joshua followed him, trying to trust in the calmed steady pace of the man, for Christopher knew where he was going, and when he had get lost, Joshua noticed Christopher would smell the air and twist his nose in a funny way.

Sooner than he could have imagined, they had left the trees behind, and were entering a cave that was engraved on the side of a rugged mountain Christopher had made him climb. He trembled, taking one last look upwards before the cave swallowed them. He could just make out the shape of the mountain, black against the dark sky. His house was far from the mountains, and they were on the other side of the woods, which meant he was farther than ever from home. Joshua almost started to cry, but he held back the tears, for he was starting to trust this little man, and did not want to appear to be a snivelling child. He was a grown boy.

“Hush, little one.” Christopher began to tell him softly. “There are beings that live here and wouldn’t want us to bother them.” Christopher put his finger on Joshua’s lips calming the boy, who nodded at him. The dwarf looked at him with tenderness. A fragile little boy with the power they needed. “Come with me.” He spoke again, grabbing the boy by his hand and taking him through the dark, twisting cave. They walked for a long time, and then Joshua noticed that the cave was getting brighter, that there was light ahead. He could make out strange rocks and formations, which he would have liked to examine, but Christopher kept pulling him on until they reached the other side of the mountain, where they emerged into a blinding light. A vast meadow presented itself to them. However, as they observed the place, Joshua realised that it was not a regular meadow. It was brightly illuminated and a strange aura was shining over it, contrasting to the darkness outside the place, which Joshua could perceive when he lifted a hand to shade his eyes and look upwards. “A magic place”, Christopher murmured in Joshua’s ear as he felt the child’s fear. “Do not be afraid.” He squeezed the boy’s hand.

They emerged from the cave and started to descend the gentle grassy slope that led to the green and rolling meadow. There were tall trees gathered in clumps here and there, and flowers of every shape and colour. Christopher sure of the path they were walking, Joshua feeling tired and starting to lose track of time. It was all too much for him to take. They climbed a gentle hill and Joshua stopped when they reached the top. There were flowers everywhere, their colours melting into each other, yet in the middle of all that beauty, there was a brown and barren piece of land. An enormous dragon was curled up there, the body of the animal protecting something. Its huge blue wings rose and fell slowly, casting a moving shadow around it. Joshua noticed how the creature’s scales scintillated in the magical light, sparkling like jewels, and he smiled in wonder, forgetting his tiredness and fear.

“This is Svana...” Christopher began to say slowly and quietly, his small hands stretched before of them as if trying to soothe the lady dragon’s pain. “She’s wounded... and she has come here to protect her hatchlings...” the dwarf continued, then he started chanting songs long ago forgotten.

Svana snorted annoyed—she was in pain. The dragon could have attacked them, hurt as she was, her eggs scattered, surrounded by her tail. Another dragon lay behind her; his eyes closed, his broad sides covered with blood. Joshua stared at them, his own eyes opened wide, scared and ashamed at the same time. Why was he there when he should be home?

The other dragon was breathing with difficulties, Joshua could see it. It shocked him to see the size of the animal, and the weakness that was so evident in him. A puddle of blood was forming below him and was spreading to his sides, making Joshua’s heart shrink with hurt. The dragon was deadly wounded himself. The colours of his scales were fading and his whole body was turning darker. It saddened Joshua deeply. His mother used to tell him that when dragons were dying, they lost their colours and became barren mountains in which, with time, nature would come to live.

“Here...” Christopher forced the boy to look at him, while he walked him next to the dragoness. The dwarf carefully placed himself between the boy and the dragons, concealing Joshua from the other dragon’s sight, “they need you...come to them...only you can save them...”

Joshua’s eyes opened more. There were six large eggs; all of them cracked here and there, all of them being protected by Svana. He whispered her name; it was kind and familiar making the dragoness relax. She let her head fall on her front paws, tired as she must have been and let him approach her hatchlings. She snorted one more time when she tried to look at her partner. Her efforts to try to save her family had been in vain. If Örn was dead then—what was she to do? And her hatchlings—

“Chris! What are you doing?!” Another dwarf approached them running. Svana jumped on her paws and faced him, snorting, while she opened her huge blue wings and spread them, telling the newcomer not to come any closer to them.

“Howard!” Christopher yelled as soon as he realised what was happening. His friend meant to intervene and separate Joshua from what the child was about to do. He knew Howard was worried. It was their duty as mountain dwarves to take care of the dragons, to help them from the instant they were born until the one in which they departed from it. It was worry what was in Howard’s eyes, nothing more than that; but Christopher could not let him interfere. But it was too late for Howard to stop either one of them. Joshua had already knelt before the eggs, and Svana was moving her body to cover them. Hope shone in Christopher’s heart. That family of dragons belonged to the highest hierarchy among the sacred animals. As Howard, his brother dwarf hurried to him, Christopher blocked his way to the dragons.

Joshua knelt in front of the eggs, but did not flinch when Svana moved her tail to surround him as she had been doing with her eggs. She was staring at him, sadness filling her eyes, her lungs lacking air. If the little boy the dwarf had brought with him could not help them—Svana cried. Örn was not moving and his breathing had stopped. He would soon be hard and unrecognisable, even for her. The eggs had been damaged. Life was abandoning her, and her offspring would never know about their parents.

The child started to move his hands over the eggs. It was strange for him to be doing something so suddenly and without knowing why. Instinctively, he feather-touched each one of the eggs, sensing coldness from some, which he forlornly disregarded. Joshua wanted to cry, afraid of what he was doing—uncertain of his own actions. Sooner than he had thought, he was almost done. One more egg to go, the smallest one. It was warm. Joshua opened his eyes and stared at Christopher, who kept reminding himself Joshua was just a child.

“This...” Joshua began to say, hesitant of their reactions. He had felt the despair in the dragoness because he was so close to her, and Christopher, his own eyes and the other dwarf’s...“this one is warm...” he ended, staring at the fragile object before him. The child breathed deep and placed his hands on the egg, which was almost half his size. Christopher realised Joshua was acting following his instinct. No one who knew what he was doing would have approached the dragons as he was doing it, or would have held one of those eggs such a natural and yet respectful manner.

Howard gasped and covered his mouth with his hand. Joshua was reciting old scriptures that had been lost for countless years. He had closed his eyes, and his body was resting over the egg, covering it, as it shone and the light covered them. Howard wanted to come over, touch that same light and perhaps try to understand it, but he could not move. The child was singing the old prayers, and performing an ancient ritual no dwarf under two hundred had ever seen.

Svana seemed to be sleeping, but they knew much better. As soon as Joshua had finished the chants and the egg had hatched, she had closed her eyes and let a deep breath out. Her last one. The dragoness and her partner, Örn, lay next to each other, and now, Christopher and Howard were helping open the other eggs and put the hatchlings next to their parents. Other dwarves Joshua hadn’t seen before appeared and helped set fire to the family of dragons while silence covered them all.

Joshua was holding the surviving baby dragon in his arms.

A female dwarf, chubby and blond had come to help him with it. She had brought clothes and warm water to clean him, and warm blankets to keep him comfortable. Joshua had held him the same way he had held the babies of his cat when she had given birth to them, though this dragon was a lot bigger than a kitten and well, a lot heavier as well. However, Joshua was already talking to him, telling him how beautiful he was, and how round and puffed his paws seemed. He was delighted with his tiny reddish wings, which merely showed up on his back.

An infant, Christopher thought yet again, as he stopped to look at him, playing with the little being who had just been saved from eternity. “He seems to like you.” Christopher said as he walked to him and pointed at the dragon, who opened his eyes and turned to look at him, as if recognising the voice.

“He’s cute.” Was all Joshua said while he shrugged. Christopher also noticed the way the child was looking at the fire.

“I’m Chris.” The dwarf said stretching his hand to touch the child’s shoulder. “And you are...”

“Josh...Joshua Chasez.”

Chris repeated the name and smiled. “Do you want to go home now, Joshua?”

The child nodded, remembering his family, and the anguish that he had forgotten returned to torment him, tears about to roll down his cheeks. He was tired, Chris thought as he observed him; the way he walked, the way in which he was holding the newlyborn dragon against his chest. Howard finally moved from where he had been standing and walked to Chris and Joshua.

“Chris, the dragon...” he began to speak, making Joshua freeze and hold the dragon tighter against his body.

“He’s not the one, Howard. This is fire, see? Though he’s mostly white, look at his reddish wings and paws. I’m sorry my friend. The one we were looking for died with his parents.”

Howard nodded sadly. “And the child?”

“It’s not for us to decide, Howie.” Chris had sentenced, a hint of sadness in his voice, motioning to the boy so that he could follow him.

Howard knew Chris better than the latter ever knew. Chris was up to something with the boy. It was true; the dragon had not been the one they were looking for. They needed a black dragon. One with the power to defend the others, but Svana and Örn had been attacked by the hideous family of dragon slayers that had been terrifying the region. Those last eggs had meant hope for dwarves and dragons. Hope that the reign of terror their world was living was to come to an end. That balance was to be brought. Yet that hope had just been banished. The last egg that had been laid, had been the one that survived, by the grace of a child who did not even know who he was, or what he was doing. No wonder, Howard had thought. At his short age, there hadn’t been anything Joshua could’ve done to save all of them.

He was nothing but a child after all.

“Take him home, then.” Howard told Chris in his ear and walked back through the same path he had walked to find them, “I’ll be waiting for you.”

Chris hugged his friend for a second, and hurried Joshua to leave the place. It was better if the child took the dragon with him. The air was telling him that the dragon slayers were near them. He needed to rush, otherwise...

This time, Joshua did not pay any attention to time, or to whatever was happening around him. It was all about the dragon with him, and the path Chris was showing him. They raced back through the winding tunnels of the cave. Sooner than he thought possible, they were out the cavern and it was pitch black again, as if time hadn’t really passed. As if nothing had actually changed at all. But that dragon with him was proof that it had happened.

Chris did not say much as they walked through the forest and onto the prairie where Joshua lived. Chris simply looked at him sideways, trying to fathom what it was about that boy that hadn’t let him make other decisions. “Joshua,” Chris stopped abruptly, and the child turned to look at him, still afraid, “No one should ever know what happened here, alright?” Joshua nodded slowly; “Good.” Chris began to say to him as he turned to restart his way into the woods. “Good.” He muttered.

Before Joshua even noticed, they were exiting the old oak grove. He could have said that some of the oaks were whispering to him, telling him that it was all going to be all right. That he was to find his way back home. He trusted Chris. There was no explanation for it whatsoever, still he held tight to Chris’s hands with one of his own, while the other one carried his little dragon tight against his chest.

“’Tis here, right?” Chris’s mellow voice brought him back from his own thoughts, and yet again, light hit his face, forcing him to let go of the man’s hand and putting it over his eyes to cover them from it. Joshua could recognise his house in the distance, and wondered whether his parents were worried about him or not. However, he remembered Svana, and how she had tried to protect her own children, and knew that his parents might have been equally worried. He nodded to Chris, not being truly able to say something, still overwhelmed by the events of the night and most of all, exhausted for he had not rested at all. Joshua felt compelled to close his eyes and fall asleep right there. He felt like crying again, for he wanted his mama to be with him, and he wanted to believe he had been dreaming all night.

“Josh...JC!” Chris snapped his fingers right before his eyes, making him open them wide.

“My name is not JC.” He rebuked, frowning.

“I know, but I’ll be calling you like that from now on...Only I will call you that, and when you hear it, even if it’s in the middle of the night, you’ll know it’s me.” Chris responded. He was also tired; he could see the same sensation reflected in the deep blue of Joshua’s eyes. It had been a hard night for them all; they had lost more in that single evening than in years living underneath the mountains, serving the dragons. “I’ll come back to you, JC, because you have something precious you have to take care of,” Chris continued, pointing at the little dragon, “and I want to see what you’re going to do with him.”

“Joshua!” Someone screamed somewhere near them, startling the child and the dwarf. Chris bid his farewell hurriedly, not wanting anyone to see him; he ran back into the grove. As Joshua turned, he could see his father and mother running towards him. The stern look in his father’s face made him withdraw a little, afraid of whatever thing he could say, but it was his mother’s embrace, her tears rolling down his cheeks what made him let loose and finally cry. They asked him where he had been; Roy even shook him in desperation for his silence, making him sob harder until they noticed the small bundle in Joshua’s arms. It moved, Karen said, her hand on her mouth.

“It’s Adair...my dragon.” Joshua’s words came out naturally; he stretched his arms so that his parents would see it.

“I think we’d better go home, son. You have some explaining to do.” Roy said in a lower voice, his eyes trying to find any stranger who might have been around them. Joshua had a dragon! And was calling him his own! The man debated himself between being utterly happy for Joshua had finally appeared or punish him for not showing any regrets for the kind of night they had just spent. The roosters sang, announcing the arrival of the morning as the Chasez family entered their house in the outskirts of the town. It was going to be a long day, if they wanted Joshua to explain anything to them.

That was why; on stormy nights like the one that was worsen that very night, Joshua always remembered his parents. They had long gone to a different part of the country along with their other children, but Joshua had remained in that place, and had moved to his cabin near the old oak trees grove. Since that night, lost in the woods, he and Chris had become friends, he had known truths about himself no one could have ever made him believe if he had not lived them himself.

It had also been on that night that Joshua had learnt that compassion was the way through life. And that the gods had blessed him by bringing Adair to him and through time, they had bonded to each other.

“Adair?” Joshua called his dragon in a whisper. The animal moved slowly to him, his enormous body was still overwhelming to the man. Although Adair was outside, and the air was musky and cold, it was as if he felt fine with it. Adair opened his big red wings with pride, showing Joshua he was all right. “Keep yourself near the house and under the tent, you hear me?” Joshua said from the door before walking calmly to his dragon; he took Adair’s head with his hands and rested his forehead on his, “I don’t want you to get sick, Little Cat."

Adair simply grunted.

on to 2. Darkness


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