Chasing Dragons

A young boy goes adventuring out of bounds, and finds more than he bargained for ...

A low stone wall loomed ahead. Ivy crawled through the gaps. Moss and clover stippled the steep hillside beyond. Rocky, tooth-like peaks pierced the sky above.

The stone wall was the edge of the boy's world.

He was eight, keen on adventure. His father was proud of him, his mother was scared for him. Her words echoed in his head as he stared at the wall.

"Never cross that wall, son. If you do, there'd be no coming back."

The boy stood looking at the wall for some time, ignoring the stalks in his father's field, waving idly in the mountain breeze. He lodged one foot in the stone, then another, then reached out with a hand and firmly grabbed an ivy stalk.

In seconds he had climbed the ramshackle barrier, and stared out across the unknown world.

"Loam, he's a child. He's not invincible."

"He's carefree. Let him experiment."

The boy's raven hair flapped as he trekked up the path, no more of a dirt track picking its way up the foothills. His small feet pattered excitedly, his heart pounding as it always did when he went on a new adventure.

He delved into the heathered hillside, leaping bubbling brooks and climbing trees, looking back down onto his village, nestled into the valley below. He saw his father's house, standing at the top of his barley field, and laughed. It now looked no bigger than a tinderbox. He looked down at the stone wall, now an insignificant stripe across the landscape.

"You realise those feral beasts feed their young on our children? They say it's because infant bones are weaker ... easier for them to chew."

"Don't be such a killjoy, Resa. That's an old wives' tale."

The boy had reached the foot of a jagged cliff, its gnarled face checked with moss and algae. Sharp rocks scattered the floor, jutting up menacingly. The surrounding scree was too steep to climb.

The boy was content to sit on a wizened stump and watch the world go by.

Until he heard a rattling above him.

A shiny, scarlet object was teetering on a projection of the cliff. It was the shape of a knot in the table at home, but round, and hard. The boy wanted to reach the stone.

He braced his foot against a rock and leant up against the cliff, stretching, but before he could reach it, the stone toppled. Before the stone could break on the jagged rocks, the boy caught it and held it close.

It was very warm, almost too hot to touch. It was glowing. The boy felt the surface. Tiny veins crisscrossed and sparkled in the sunlight. It felt like the chicken eggs Uncle Tim gave them every week, only much thicker and tougher.

Then he heard his mother's voice.

"Gorod! What did I tell you about not crossing the wall?"

He turned to see his mother storming up the slope. He laughed happily at her furious expression and ran further up the hill, clutching the egg.

Then Resa's face changed.

"No! Gorod! Get away from there! Run!"

Shocked to see his mother's fury change to fear, the boy looked around - to see metallic talons reach out and seize him by his torso in an iron grip. Membranous wings swept down on either side, buffeting his face with air. His mother's shrieks were barely audible over the sound of the manic roaring of the beast. The boy felt his legs leaving the ground. and the talons grip him tightly. The beast snapped up the dropped egg in her jaws, and swept the boy away from his screaming mother, towards the mountains and her hidden cave.

The End

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