The dim glow from a lone gaslight revealed one flea-bitten rat scampering down the main street of Dobbinsturn Parish, his bewhiskered nose sniffing for crumbs. The rodent’s ears perked forward at a strange new sound, then he raised his head to sniff an interesting aroma wafting to him on the breeze.
Given any common sense at all, the furry little beast would have kept running, but it was his fate that landed him in the knife sharp claws of the most glorious white dragon a rat may ever hope to see. If rats hoped for such things, that is.
The radiant white dragon spent the night soaring over the boroughs of London, his iridescent scales glowing under the gentlest cast of moonlight. The putrid stench of black death invaded his nostrils as he swooped down and grabbed the wriggling rat in his claws, tossing it in his mouth without chewing, and swallowing the gamey little thing whole.
One final act of goodwill. The White dragon wasn’t sure of his end, but he felt it closing in on his sickly body. He doubted he would even have the strength to fly after this eve.
As if on cue, the surrounding atmosphere changed, he felt the presence of his dark counterpart, like a fog that descended upon his beloved London. He sucked in a deep breath through his large scaly nostrils, wishing to savor this moment for all of eternity. There was no doubt he would miss the sights and smells of Earth.
His black enemy swooped down upon him, its massive horns and prismatic scales invisible to human eyes, against the backdrop of night.
The black dragon pulled up short of him, its glistening black scales in stark contrast with his white ones, giving a small hint at just how opposite they were. As if he was able to hear the gods speak of the end himself, his heart palpitated nervously. Once, long ago, he would have been strong enough to fight this foe, but that time had long since passed. Age and illness robbed him of the strength he once possessed.
As if in a dream, he watched the enemy dragon as it swooped to the street, attacking a staggering drunk whose only mistake was showing himself in the lamplight. He wanted to fight it. It was his job to do so, but he knew the beast would kill him before he was able to stop him, so he watched helplessly as the black monster gathered a mouthful of the man, its massive jaws closing over his body and mashing the drunk’s upper torso to juicy bits.
“Don’t do this!” The pearl white dragon called out, a tear squeezing from one wrinkled eye, as he watched the blood of the man, drip over the chin of his evil opposite. His dark counterpart, only chuckled to himself before he dropped what was left of the stranger’s body to the ground, making a squelching sound as it hit the cobblestones. The sight of it, would make anyone squeamish, including the pure hearted dragon, unable to stop the senseless slaughter.
The angry black beast flew towards him, eyes flashing crimson with hatred.
“Why must you take an innocent life?” The white dragon tried to reason, but his enemy merely opened his jaws wide, spewing a blast of fire in his direction. Too sick and too old to dodge the flames, he didn’t even try to avoid the inevitable impact, but instead allowed the fire to engulf him from horn to tail. His glorious body plummeted to the ground, hitting the road with crushing force, extinguishing most of the flames with the impact.
As the victor, and enemy chuckled to himself and flew out of sight, a small pocket watch device hanging on a chain around the white dragon’s neck, flipped open. A tiny, magical, bronze dragon with cloaking ability, crawled out, and dusted himself off. He scanned the area, worried that wakeful eyes may have heard the one-sided battle and been drawn to investigate. Seeing that the large white dragon was on fire, he blew a gust of wind from his tiny lips strong enough to create a small hurricane.
Once the fire was extinguished, the little bronze beast set about trying to heal his injured friend, but it was too late. The heartbeat grew weaker until it ceased altogether. As his friend breathed his last, a soft glow of blue essence rose from the body, like a tiny dancing flame, and shot through the night toward its human host. Meanwhile, the lifeless dragon body had disappeared altogether.
The tiny bronze dragon grew larger and flew after the blue light, until it entered a small dwelling in a rundown neighborhood. The tiny dancing flame came to rest on an aging man, who lay still as stone on a bed. When the flame entered the man’s body, his chest heaved with a deep breath, but it was his final one. The tiny dragon sat on the edge of the bed, his scaly clawed hand resting on the wrinkled human one. His deep emerald eyes wet with tears.
Goodbye dear friend, you have served the gods well.
He then returned to his place inside the pocket watch device, and willed the device to be magically transported back to its hiding place, until it was time to be revealed once more.
“Father, are you alright?” Wylie Petford had grown used to hearing her father call for her in the early morning, the absence of his voice sent her heart reeling. No, no! Please, not yet!
Wylie rushed to his room, fear taking precedence over rational thought. The past few weeks were hard on him as he clung tenuously to life. Heaven only knew how long the herbal treatments would continue working if they were working at all. She felt his forehead, which was damp with sweat and used a rag to dab it dry.
Nicholas Petford did not stir beneath her touch, and she assumed for the moment, that he was sleeping peacefully, until she realized there was something unnatural about his stillness.
“Father… Father are you well?” Panic setting in, she began fervently pressing his chest. The rise and fall that should be occurring naturally as he breathed in and out, was absent.
“Father, please, wake up!” She slapped his face lightly, several times in rapid succession, willing that he would wake and get cross with her for doing such a thing. When there was no response, and even his cheek felt cold to her touch, she realized that her worst fears had been realized.
She gently stroked his whiskered cheek, her heart screaming silently at his cold, still form. Any minute now he would awaken, and ask for fresh biscuits and jam, as he did every morning, but she knew there was no use fighting it.
He had been sick for such a long time, and Dr. Antony Flack’s medicine more effective than promised. It had kept her father alive for much longer than most patients. She would have to thank him personally for the miracle provided through his tinctures.
A million thoughts assaulted Wylie’s mind, as she cried. There was no doubt about the difficulty of the past few months. The continuous need for medications for her father and loss of wages had taken their toll. Though it was no doubt better than the alternative which was now a reality. She would have to find the strength to ask her employer to take time away from work to lay her father to rest. Her employer, very gracious until now, would surely understand that even the poor grieve their dead.
She did not expect kindness, but she indeed hoped for it. She lay on the cold stone floor, her face buried in her arms as the tears fell, until she finally drifted off to sleep.
As one life left Earth and ascended into heaven, another being was rising into the night sky in glorious form. Its wingspan as long as three men laid from head to toe. It opened its magnificent jaws, and an inferno of fire and sulfurous smells blazed forth like a volcano giving birth. Though it was the dead of night, the dark shadow that now took to the skies was not unseen by the local pet population. Afar off, the lowing of cattle as they milled about frantically, afraid for their lives.
Near the border of upper Dobbinsturn and Kinnemore, a newly purchased and renovated tavern was alive with raucous laughter and cheers from its new inhabitants and patrons. In a rather unusual move, the tavern had been named after its financier, Lord Jameston Ukridge, rather than its owner. Ukridge Tavern was an establishment that the owner, Dorian Gilligan, hoped would be passed down for generations.
The elaborate interior boasted of its owner’s airship travels, with strong stone beams and rustic archways reminiscent of the stone chapels in France and Germany. A former first mate, and man with excellent taste, Dorian made sure the Ukridge tavern represented the life he once lived.
Between the elegant stone archways the walls held a vast array of art and design; glorious pieces collected during Dorian’s airship travels around the world with his friend and Captain, Daggert Kingsley. The floor had been expertly laid with the richest of mahogany wood, and the glasses that slid across the freshly polished wood counter, were full to the brim of the best homemade ale the patrons from Dobbinsturn, and Kinnemore had ever tasted.
As proud as Dorian Gilligan was of his new business venture, he was even more proud of his friend Captain Daggert. For it was that very night that Captain Daggert traded in his captain’s hat for a more dapper one. He’d recently sold his fabulous airship to the highest bidder, and in celebration, he’d bought a round of drinks for all those in attendance at the tavern that eve.
“Twenty years, have I been a Captain. Seventeen of those years I’ve been honored and privileged to sail with one of the best first mates who ever crewed an airship, my first mate Dorian Gilligan.” He raised his mug to toast him. “You’re a fine man and a hell of a partner, and I wish you the best on your new venture. Now, it’s high time I invested in a new undertaking. That is why I am taking my purse and heading to the Strand. Perhaps I will attend the Queen’s court, or perhaps I will live in the streets… a penniless artist, begging for alms! Either way, the winds have changed for me.” He raised his glass to the crowd of patrons. “Drinks for one and all, on me!”
“Here! Here!” The sounds of clinking glass followed the salute, as he tossed a clinking coin purse on the counter for payment. The echoes of the men’s ‘hurrahs’ followed the former captain as he wobbled out onto the street full as a tick, and pockets flush with a coin.
A flask of celebration still in hand, he ambled carelessly down the cobblestones, hardly able to make out the stones of the road ahead of him until he collided head-on with a sturdy metal lamp post, its dim light barely casting a shadow about him.
“Excuse me, m’Lady.” He laughed, patting the post tenderly and tipping his hat before continuing to walk along the cobbled avenue. Overhead the flapping of great wings caught his ear. Though he was not in his clearest mindset, and his eyes not fully adjusted to the darkness he did raise his head to look upward, barely making out the shape of something so black that its form temporarily blocked the light of the moon. So, it was, that the moment he saw the black form, it was too late.
The new wind that carried him was a cruel one indeed. For no sooner had he traded in his Captain’s hat, than he now joined the ranks of the deceased. His murderer leaving the lower half of his body on the cobblestones only to be discovered the next morning, by the one person who would be able to identify the coin purse and boots that were left behind; his former first mate Dorian Gilligan.