The Dragon’s Key, part 1
Elanora ran to the front door of her house, shivering with cold. It had rained all day long today while she had been in school. The rain had made no exception for the unlucky teens who had to walk home
She gripped the door handle with one icy hand and froze. Not from cold though. Elanora stared dumbly at the door with astonishment in her brown eyes. The keyhole was glowing!
She dared not move in fear, but finally, her curiosity got the best of her. She cautiously turned the worn door handle. Immediately, the door flung itself open, almost inviting her inwards.
But Elanor couldn’t move. For the second time in 30 seconds, all she could do was stand in awe, staring.
Inside the house was not the ancient wooden staircase and the scarred tan sofa, but a bright and beautiful green valley, surrounded by huge elm trees that must have been hundreds of years old and carpeted with thousands of flowers of every color, shape and size. At the bottom of the valley flowed a wide and gentle river brimming with salmon and crayfish. On the far side of small vale, behind the towered trees, were huge craggy peaks covered in snow, jutting up into the sky like horns from some giant dragon.
Elanora heard a slam behind her and whirled around only to find a shut and locked door. It was a very strange door to, consisting of only a door and frame. There were no walls to speak of whatsoever. Nevertheless, she pounded at it sobbing furiously, trying to open it.
“Dear child, do not cry so. It will not help us or you,” a gentle voice chided.
Elanora turned around and sank to the crying never mind what the voice said. She couldn’t help it. She was tired, she was wet, cold, and sort of hungry. Bullies, like the rain, had not spared her her lunch today.
“Come child, do cease this nonsense. If you are tired you will rest. If you are hungry, you will eat. If you are wet or cold, you will be warm and dry. Now come,” the voice said a little sharper this time.
Hesitantly, Elanora looked up. In front of her stood a middle aged man dressed in a strange green tunic with a grey hood and cloak. On his belt was a green scabbard holding a short sword.
“Who-who are you?” she asked, unsure of whether to be afraid or not.
“I am Elgar, of her Majesty’s guard. Now come.” He extended a hand and helped her up. “We must present you to her Majesty at once. All strangers must be.”
“Oh,” was all she could get out. The sudden journey into this place, wherever it was, had seemingly drained all her words from her. Meekly she stood and followed Elgar, who was walking toward the river. I must find a way to get home. I must, she thought. Finally she managed to sum up enough courage to ask where they were.
“Why, in your home of course. 421 Applewood street to be exact. But we like to call it Andrania.” he answered so matter-o-factly that it seemed that she should already know this.
“But this isn’t my home. My home is just a house!”She stated firmly.
“No. A home is where you’re family is. That is a home”and he strode on.
Elanora stood still a moment, confused. Her home was a house. Not here! But finally she decided that the only way to find out how to open the door and get back home was to follow this man and talk to ‘her Majesty’. Maybe she would know how.
Elgar walked down to the river bank and into a large willow patch. He pulled back a curtain of vines to reveal a beautiful young girl not much older than Elanora herself seated on a golden and wood throne. She was dressed in the finest of snowy white furs that complemented her red-and-tan dress very well. To the right of her stood five ladies in waiting and a fan-bearer. But to the left stood a mighty beast, a dragon. Its purple and gold scales reflected sunlight in every direction and on its noble head were two long purple horns with golden bands like bracelets wrapped around them. All Elanora could do was stare in awe of this girl with her dress and her dragon.
Her Majesty beckoned Elgar forward with a careless wave of one of her bejeweled hands. He knelt to whisper in her ear. All Elanora caught was:“Never had I seen someone look so lost in their own home before. It is like she’s never been here.”
Elanora stepped forward. “Please, I just want to go home. Could you show me how?” she pleaded.
The girl looked up. “You are home. What are you talking about?”
“No, I mean my house. My real home. Not here. Out there.” She pointed up the hill at the mysterious door.
“You want to go back there? Why? Our home is so much nicer,” the girl said.
“I want to. Please, tell me how to,” Elanora begged. “Do I need something? Do I have to do something? I’ll do anything! How can I get back?!”
“Well, with a key of course!” her Majesty answered.
How could she have not noticed that? Of course it was a key! The keyhole had glowed for heaven’s sake and she thought it she had to go on a quest or something!
“Okay. Where’s the key?” she asked slowly. She didn’t want to make her Majesty angry so she wouldn’t give it to her.
“Well, I’m afraid I don’t have it. As far as we know it’s in Zagdarez. The very heart of the evil Darx’s kingdom.He stole it many years ago in my father’s time and has kept it ever since. There is no way you’ll get it back.” When she mentioned her father, tears came to her eyes briefly.
Elanora’s heart sank. How would she ever get home now?
The Dragon’s Key, part 2
Elanora’s heart sank. How would she ever get home now? She thought of home, trying to preserve every memory in her brain forever, for she knew she would never see it again. Then she happened to glance at her watch. It was almost 5:30! Her mother got off at six. What would happen if her mother came home to an empty house? She would call the police, and they would search for days for a girl who was already home. But not the right home. Suddenly all her self-pity vanished into a hot, protective anger. She would go home to her mother. And she would get the key.
“I will get the key. Just show me the way,” she stated firmly. To prove it, she crossed her arms and stood solidly. She thought she had won when her Majesty spoke.
“No! Darx would kill you without a second thought. I will not send children to their deaths. You are not going and that is final. Now leave me.” And with a wave of her hand, everyone turned to go.
Everyone except Elanora. She stood where she was, fuming mad at being called a child. Who was the girl, anyways, who thought she could tell me what to do?
“I will get the key!” She repeated, yelling at the top of her lungs. “You just wait! I’m going home to my mother, whether you want me to or not!”Everyone turned to stare at her. But her Majesty just sat, astounded that anyone dare defy her. A look of anger passed over her pretty face, but then she composed herself. Elanora, satisfied with her Majesty’s obvious anger, turned to go. But then her Majesty stood to her feet and cried:
“I, Queen Helenara, forbid you to go!”Then she sank back into her throne, looking exhausted. She waved her hand to one of the ladies-in-waiting. The younger woman leaned down as Helenara whispered something in her ear. The woman turned to Elanora and said softly, “Come with me. I am to show you to a tent.”
Elanora followed her out of the willow grove and back into the green valley. The lady-in-waiting led her farther down the riverbank to 10 or 12 red and gold or red and blue tents staked out near a ferry crossing. The tents and the river where very beautiful, but what caught Elanora’s eye was the beasts tied to hitching posts outside the tents. They weren’t horses or camels or mules, but dragons. Dragons of all shapes, sizes, and colors. They all wore saddles and had long horns and spikes and teeth and claws to match. She gazed up at their 15ft height, astounded.
The lady in waiting walked straight past them, but Elanora circled around. She had no wish to be near a beast who could easily eat her whole, plus could breath fire. The young woman lifted the flap of one of the smaller tents, revealing where Elanora was supposed to stay. Boxes and barrels littered the floor, and sacks labeled ‘beans’ or ‘flour’ were strewn about the dirt floor.
Elanora flipped her elbow length wavy brown hair out of her matching brown eyes. Obviously Queen Helenara hadn’t taken any liking to her. The woman was sorting through a box of old clothing, it seemed. Finally she found whatever she was looking for and turned back to Elanora. She held out a bundle of tan-and-white clothing to her.
“It gets rather cold at night now, so you might want these,” she explained kindly. “Oh, and there’s blankets in that crate over there. I must get back to my mistress. Dinners when the bell sounds.”
Elanora looked down at the bundle in her arms. It was a simple, yet beautiful tan dress with poofy white sleeves. A reckless plan was forming in her head. She slipped it over her head and cautiously lifted the tent flap and peeked out. All was clear. She ducked back inside and snatched a leather knapsack, stuffing it full with jerky, dried fruit, 3 loaves of hard,flat bread, and ugh-salt pork! Oh well, she thought. I need all the food I can get. she glanced at the stacks of swords and turned to leave. But after a second thought, she chose a small knife with a belt and sheath. Then she crept out into the coming dark.
She had snuck past the last tents, carefully avoiding the servants scurrying everywhere, when she glanced over her shoulder. Wham! She fell backwards, the whole world spinning before her eyes. Then her brain clicked back on and she stuck out her arms to block her fall.
She looked up into the surly face of a royal guard.
“What are you doing out, little miss? Who are you?” He demanded of her.
She sucked in a breath. What now, she thought. She sprang past him and ran into the woods. She could them yelling after her. They called her a traitor. Maybe she was. All she knew was that she did what she had to do.
The Dragon’s Key, part 3
Two days later found Elanora deep in the woods with no idea as to where she was or where she was going. Finally, frustrated with getting nowhere, she climbed a large needle tree hoping to see the end of this terrible wood. The tree was over one-hundred feet tall, and its branches were spaced far apart, but vines grew thickly on them to help her up. Determined, she reached up and grabbed the first branch and pulled herself up. One down, about a hundred to go.
An hour later, she was still climbing. The sun was directly overhead, soaking her in sweat that caused her hands to slip, time and time again, putting her at every moment at risk to fall. Down. Really far. Don’t look down, she told herself for what must have been the fiftieth time that day. Just keep going. Finally, Elanora reached the top. She pulled her aching arms and legs onto a large branch and sat, happy to be alive.
Happy to be alive. That was what she had said to her best friend, back in Portland. Elanora was always trying something new. Something exciting. She and her girlfriends back home were always getting into trouble, whether it was daring each other to skate in the ‘experienced’ section of the skate-park or just trying to balance standing up in a small canoe at the park pond. After one bad skateboarding accident that landed Elanora in the hospital with a broken arm, she had told her best friend, “Sometimes I wake, and take a moment to appreciate the fact that I am alive.”
Elanora sighed and stood to her feet, cautiously walking along the massive branch as far as she could go. No time for a crying session over missing her friends. She had to find the key so she could get back to them. She crossed her fingers, took a deep breath, and stuck her head through the branches to view the world. Nothing. Nothing but endless treetops. Everywhere she could see, the hills and valleys where cloaked with dark, uninviting woods. She started to cry.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Finally, she rose and grabbed a vine. Not caring if it were dangerous or not, she slid downwards, hopping from limb to limb like a monkey. She hit the ground within ten minutes, due to the speed of her descent. Still sobbing, Elanora sank to a hopeless heap on the ground.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Not far from where Elanora sat crying her heart out, just over a low ridge, a boy sat on log before a dying campfire, hand on chin. He was deep in thought, despising his appointed task. Why did he, of all the riders have to be chosen for this task? Why did Count Archinan and that meddling captain Elgar dislike him so much?
Out of nowhere, a black dragon pounced upon the boy. It had been watching him for some time, stalking closer and closer silently and swiftly. Now, he leaped on his poor victim with no mercy in his eyes. The boy fought valiantly, but the beast proved to strong, and wrestled him so the ground, pinning him down with one of his huge paws. The dragon emitted a low growl form his throat, charging himself in order to breath fire.
“Oh, please don’t eat me,” the boy begged and pleaded from the dragon. Then, almost betraying a hint of a smile, he added, “I’m sorry if I didn’t catch any western trout for supper last night. And that I didn’t want to go for a ride at 2 o’clock in the morning!”
The dragon let out a almost laugh-like sound and climbed off the boy. “Thanks Ice.” The boy told the big black dragon. Indeed, the dragon was big. 6 and a half feet tall from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, with a 50 ft wingspan and 23 ft long from the tip of his tail to the end of his nose. He was pure black except for 3 white stripes on his left ‘ear’ and his two ice-blue eyes. Right now he was watching the boy through those ice-blue eyes.
The boy looked up at the sky to the northeast of them. He saw something. Smoke. “Time to go Ice,” he told the dragon. “We’ve got her now.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Elanora had managed to light a small campfire to heat up her salt-ugh-pork. She looked up at the ever-darkening sky at the smoke wafting upwards, ever upwards.
What was that?! A high pitched screech, much like an eagle’s, came from the terrifying darkness beyond the tree-tops. There it was again! Elanora ducked under the shelter of a low bush and put her hand on her knife hilt. Whatever it was, it wasn’t going away.
A dark shape drifted down among the trees and landed across the campfire from her. Darn Elanora. You should have put water on that. Now it knows I’m here, she reprimanded herself silently. Oh well, maybe it’s afraid of fire and will go away. But the creature didn’t go away. Instead, it came closer, snuffling along the ground with its huge nose. Elanora held her breath, sure it could hear her frantically beating heart that was pounding against her rib cage like a trapped animal.
Then the beast stepped into the light. It was a dragon. A huge black dragon with rows of razor-sharp teeth and claws, complemented by its short, narrow spines. Wait, what was that? On the dragon’s back was the form of a person. Oh God, please help me, Elanora prayed desperately. If the queen had sent this rider, she would never get home.
The dragon suddenly gave a low growl and headed her way again. He had her scent. Elanora turned and ran through the bush and into the dark.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Crack! The boy turned and saw a dark form retreating into the woods. The chase was on. Ice bounded over the low shrub she had been hiding in and lifted silently into the sky. His wings made no sound as he drew nearer and nearer.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Elanora ran as fast as she could and faster. Whoosh! Over a log. Under that branch. Come on girl, you can do it! He can’t fly very well in these trees! Duck! Jump over that rock. Up this hill! Run girl, run! She tore up the hill at a tremendous speed, grabbing vines and bushes to pull herself up. What!! Something grabbed her and the ground seemed to pull away from her feet. Fight, Elanora. Kick. Bite! Do something! Anything, her brain screamed. But it was to late. The ground was already 30 ft below her. A hand reached down and grabbed her, plopping her on the dragon’s back behind the him. She grabbed onto him for dear life as the beast took a sharp right turn and headed northwest.
The rider laughed. “You can let go now,” he said, his voice full of laughter. “Ice won’t dump you.”
“Ice?! I’m afraid of heights! Get me down!” Elanora begged him. Out of all the things she could do, she couldn’t stand heights. Sure, she’d jump off a bridge if someone dared her, but she was scared. Terrified. She got sick on airplanes and even cliffs in movies scared her. But this,this was worse than anything she had ever done or imagined.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that this instant,” he replied quietly, looking down. All his laughter vanished as he said: “You must come with me now.”
“Who are you?” Elanora demanded hotly. She didn’t want any tag-a-longs that could slow her down. And she definitely didn’t want anyone from the queen with her. Helenara certainly didn’t like her and might have sent this boy to hunt her down and stop her. And nobody was going to stop her from getting home.
“I’m Jay. And this dragon here is my good friend, Ice. And I thought you could use some help.” He turned and met her eyes for the first time. Flash! A purple line passed over her and his eyes. He blinked and ran a hand through his dark brown hair. “Whoa. That was weird,” he exclaimed.
“Ya,” she agreed. But her mind was a million miles away. She was thinking of a time when she had been very young, and her mother was telling her a fairy tale. And in the tale, when the prince and princess met and their eyes met for the first time, a purple flash swiped over their eyes. “When someone meets their true love Elanora, it is said that a purple line passes over both their eyes. It rarely happens anymore, but once in a great while, it does,” her mother had said. This can’t be right, Elanora thought. I’m in a-different world. I can’t stay here. Then her mind snapped back to the present. There was something she had to know. “Are you from the queen?”
Jay shifted slightly, then looked back at her and said calmly, “No. I just happened to see you yesterday, walking around in circles. So I thought I should help you at least get out of the wood. By the way, where are you trying to go?”
Elanora paused for a moment. Should she trust him? She had just met this boy, but he seemed honest enough. “If you’re not from the queen, why were you chasing me?” She questioned him.
“I didn’t mean to,” He answered slowly. “Sorry if I scared you. I just wanted to help.” He sounded sincere enough. Finally, she crossed her fingers, sighed, and said, “Southeast. I need to go southeast.”
The dragon’s smooth flight faltered slightly.”Southeast? That’s Darx’s kingdom. Why would you want to go there?”Jay fixed her with an accusing look. “You’re not a spy, are you?,” he asked uncertainly.
“No! I’m not a spy for Darx. I–” She struggled to come up with an excuse. She didn’t trust this boy with the reason for her mission into Darx’s kingdom. “I just have…family near there! Poor unfortunate souls. They are taxed and robbed from by Darx’s soldiers. I’m going to,-uh-, help them move away from there to a better kingdom.”
“Oh.” Was all Jay said. “Okay then Ice. Southeast it is.” The dragon gave an affectionate growl and veered to the left. They were on their way.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jay sighed inwardly to himself. He didn’t like this business. Betraying people to Queen Helenara and that evil Count Archinan was not his favorite job in the queens undercover agents. And this girl, Elanora she had said was her name, seemed like a decent person. He knew that she wasn’t really going to see family by Darx’s kingdom. Still, he thought to himself, I don’t see why the Queen and Count hate her so much.
He looked to the southeast over the dragon’s head. Tomorrow, he thought, it’ll all be over and I can leave Helenara and the Count in the past. He turned to look back at the sleeping girl, who had tied a rope around her waist in case she slipped of. Tomorrow, he thought, I’m free.
The Dragon’s Key, part 4
Jay pointed to a clearing in the woods and Ice dove into it. The dragon landed gracefully, hardly shaking the sleeping girl on his back. Jay leaped off and shook Elanora awake frantically.
“Come on kid, get up!” He cried at her. She sat up groggily, fighting the urge to ignore him. Satisfied that she was awake, he thrust a short sword into her hand.
Elanora came alive when she saw the sword. “What’s going on?” She asked Jay.
“Trolls.They sighted us when we where flying. They might try to attack,” he replied hastily. “Just start a fire. Ice and I will scout around for a minute. Be back in a second.” He tossed her the flint and steel and flew off.
“Well that was nice of him,” she told a tree trunk. “Just leave me to fight trolls by myself.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * ** * * *
Jay circled for a while, trying to get the exact location of his employer. Finally he saw a dragon’s tail poking out from a giant bush.
“There they are Ice,” he told the dragon. Then, more to himself than Ice, he muttered, “Darx’s men.”
Ice took them in, and as soon as they landed, several armed men jumped out of the bushes, pointing glowing red and orange swords at Jay and Ice.
Then a man stepped out of the bush. He must have been at least six and a half feet tall, with a chest the size of a barrel and huge, meaty hands. He carried a curved red saber, and wore red and black armor to match it.
“Well. Our little fly has decided to check in for once.” The big man laughed, sending chills up Jay’s back and making Ice growl.
“Aright, Merschalz. You’ve had your laugh. Now what’s up that you called me here,” Jay replied stiffly.
Merschalz apparently was smarter than he looked, and got right to the point. “There’s been a delay. Queen Helenara won’t be able to meet us till next week.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” Jay asked.
Merschalz leaned close in to him and growled in his ear. “Watch the girl. Keep her safe. See that she doesn’t wander into any other worlds. And most importantly, don’t let her get to the dragon. He holds the Key.”
Jay froze. The Key? “You mean the Key?The Dragon’s Key?”
“Yes, boy! What do you think I was talking about? You know what I mean. Tell her about the Key. Then lead her in circles on a ‘quest’ to find the Key.”
“Yes sir,” Jay replied. In his mind, he was thinking. This is all bigger than I thought. It’s not just about capturing the kingdom, Darx is messing with the Dragon’s Key as well!
“Now, you’d better get going. The girl will wonder what has happened to you. Go!” Merschalz cried.
Jay leaped upon Ice’s back and took off back towards camp.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Elanora looked up at the faint sound of approaching wings. Jay and Ice flew in and landed. Elanora was always amazed at how gracefully the huge dragon could land. She’d expected his flight to be swerving and terrifying, and his landing to be rough and hard, but they had both been smooth and wonderful.
“Good news,” Jay said walking up to her. “The trolls decided to go west, away from us.” Elanora sighed with relief. “I’m so glad. But why would trolls attack us?”
“Because we’re in their territory. And because of the Key.” Jay said.
“The Key? You mean the Dragon’s Key?” Elanora asked, curious.
“Yes. You see, this world, Andrania, is your world-”
“- my world?”
“Yes. It was created by you, by your dreams. Your hopes. You see, whenever you see something, you remember it. As a child, you watched a film about a princess. That is how the line of Queen Helenara came about. For, you see, one year to you is 30 years to us.”
“But what about the key?”
“I’m getting there. Every person’s world is connected through portals. A person or creature can ‘jump’ worlds when they feel like it. Take me for example. I was ‘jumped’ into this world as a baby, and have remained here ever since. Now, as for the key, Long ago, when your world had just began, the guardians of all worlds met and decided to create a key for you, so that once you had it, you could come into this world and go back into your own world. They forged the key in the dragon Gereth’s fire, and that is why it is called the Dragon’s Key. But one of the council of guardians was a traitor, and he took the key and kept it as his own. Count Darx was his name. For the key not only allowed one to come and go between worlds, but also held great power, giving its owner all he wished and making him unstoppable.
“Darx took the key for his own, and marched against the Elves and Katarians with a vast army of trolls and lava beasts called Magmadons. But the Elves and Kat-people fought back, forming the Last Alliance of Elves an Katarians, and drove Darx back into the wasteland of Emin Muil, where he resides to this day, gathering his powers and a vast army it is said, to conquer the world.
“Legend says someone will come and save us, and that they alone will be able to control the great power of the Key and destroy Darx.”
“Wow,” Elanora gasped. “That all happened because of one key?”
“Yes,” Jay replied, “All because of one key.”