A new friend…
Joe stood dumbstruck, the dragon looked friendly enough, or least-ways his head did. It smiled a toothy sort of grin as wisps of steam rose from its nostrils. “I…I…summoned you? I don’t remember summoning anything, least of all a bloody great shining gold dragon!” Joe stopped for a moment, could his saying I get to summon a bloody dragon to keep me company be considered an actual summons?
“Nevertheless magus you summoned me, or maybe it was your magic...you are using magic? It is part of an ancient contract…one might say a tradition…a dragon and a magus work together. I can sense when you use magic and can help you, so I came to offer my aid. The greater the magus...the greater the dragon!” The dragon, if dragon’s can look smug, looked smug.
“Oh great!” Joe thought, “not only a shining gold dragon but one with an ego!”
The dragon slowly turned its head to look at Joe’s small house, “Hmm! A curious tower of sorcery magus, where do your students learn and your magical laboratories operate? Ah but each to their own I suppose. Perhaps it is all underground...”
“Oh yes of course I can see that…a great wizard gets a great dragon sure!” Joe’s voice betrayed a huge level of sarcasm though he hadn’t intended it. Now not only hearing things but seeing them as well, he needed a long lie down somewhere dark. “So when you say much more of you…how much are we talking about?”
“At last measure?” The smug look returned, “My length from the tip of my snout to the tip of my tail was some four hundred feet with a wingspan of just over two hundred feet. I naturally have my wings folded at the moment so I may fit in this quaint lane of yours.”
“Four hundred feet long!” Joe was stunned, he’d known dragons could be big but that was colossal. Joe tried to do some mental calculations, how many airliners was that end to end? He knew a Boeing seven-oh-seven jet had a wingspan of one hundred and thirty something feet so two hundred would make it wider than a seven-oh-seven. A lizard that could dwarf a jet aircraft? “Oh man! And you say I summoned you?”
“Yes well…perhaps you could say I have been waiting for you. I think I have waited a considerable time too, what year is this now?”
“Err twenty seventeen why?”
“Two thousand and seventeen?” One eyebrow rose alarmingly.
“Yes err AD as opposed to BC.” Joe immediately wanted to slap himself, of course the dragon must know it is two thousand seventeen AD. Every fantasy book he’d read credited dragons with huge levels of intelligence.
“AD? BC? I’m sorry please explain the difference…” Joe let out a breath in relief!
“Err well when Jesus Christ was born they effectively restarted the calendar. AD means An-no Domini, which means…”
“Year of our Lord.” The dragon smiled a cat like smile proudly, his voice rolled with a deep bass. “Languages were something of a speciality with me magus.”
Joe stopped, “Yes…err you understand Latin but don’t know about AD and BC, I suppose that’s curious? Well this Jesus was supposed to be the son of God, the Christus or Christ, the prophesied Messiah, so believers call him Lord. I can’t say I really believe in all that myself. But it became the year of our Lord when he was born. Though some place his birth in four to six BC.” Joe stopped he sensed he was prattling. “You therefore had BC before AD, BC stands for Before Christ, so obviously refers to the years before he, being Jesus...the Christ, was born. With me so far?” the dragon’s head nodded slowly. “Now in BC the years counted up as you went back so fifty BC came before forty BC see though to those in BC times they wouldn’t have thought about it that way...” He smiled weakly, he felt he was now talking complete rubbish.
The dragon merely nodded again slowly, “Ah yes I think I see…so I take the year I fell asleep, add my age at the time and add that to two thousand and seventeen correct?”
“If you fell asleep BC then yes...close enough! There wasn’t a year zero between one BC and one AD so you’ll only be one year out.”
“Then let me see that would make me…” The dragon appeared to think as if mentally counting off the numbers, “I was two hundred and sixty when I went to sleep, middle aged for a dragon you understand…and that would have been…hmm…yes that would have been just over six thousand years ago…” The dragon stopped abruptly and raised its head “Oh My! Has it really been that long? Much has changed has it not?” The dragon raised its head higher and looked around as a car passed right underneath him. Joe felt an impulse to flag the driver down and say “Can you see my dragon?”
Instead Joe’s mouth dropped open like someone had kicked him squarely in the groin, “Six thousand years? You’ve been waiting for me for six thousand years? I’m only forty seven how can you have waited for six thousand years?”
“I did say I was asleep magus. Please forgive me if I am a little late but it takes time to wake properly from such a long sleep. I should have been here when you used your first spell. But I would imagine your people gave up their reliance on magic. When we dragons sleep in a particular form we age very slowly, we are practically immortal in that form but to be so we must be asleep. I guess you could say I just waited out the dry spell. I just stayed in that form and waited until I was summoned…you’re using magic again...so here I am! How can I be of assistance?”
Joe was flummoxed, he stood for a long time doing an excellent impression of a goldfish his mouth opening to speak but no words coming out. With a shudder he roused himself, then he spoke cautiously “OK!” He felt he needed to get this conversation back on some sort of solid logical ground really quickly, “so let’s say I take all of what you just said as true. Assuming I’m not imagining this whole thing, so hypothetically of course, what the hell do you think I need a dragon as a pet for?”
“PET?” roared the dragon now visibly annoyed as his head reared up blowing a twenty foot flame jet from each nostril, “I AM NO PET magus!” His voice thundered and boomed, then his head tilted forward slightly as if in sympathy, “I am not some little pup of a hunting dog for you to pat and call a good boy. I do not roll over to let you tickle my stomach. I DO NOT DO TRICKS FOR TREATS! Do you not see I am here to help you…to achieve your potential.”
Joe had bolted for his front door as the dragon reared up, the last words brought him skidding to a halt, “Wait my what? If my life so far is any judge then you’ve had a wasted trip! My potential to date is a total unadulterated screw up! I’m broke, loveless, lonely, in constant pain I’ve got a grand total of nothing!”
“But do you not see magus? Magic can help change all that…”
“Oh yes...” Joe’s voice took on his sarcastic tone again, “like I can just wave a hand and a million pounds will rain from the sky…”
“If you wish it to happen it can, whatever item you wish to have a million pounds of can be summoned.”
“Yeah, yeah And if wishes were horses then beggars would ride, as my mother used to say.”
“Well then perhaps a demonstration would be in order…do you have any metal objects you do not wish to use again?”
“What?” The non-sequitur threw Joe for a curve. “What sort of metal?”
“Any…but steel is particularly effective for this.”
“Well I suppose…” Joe scratched his naked chin thoughtfully, he’d quite forgotten the clean shave and was trying to scratch his beard. “I do have some washers I never seem to use, I bought them as a job lot. I’ve got millions of the bloody things! Hulking great thick things that are designed for heavy duty bolts...that I don’t have!”
“Excellent they will suffice. Lay out five of these washers on your hand…”
“Hold on a moment. I don’t carry washers around with me.” Joe went back inside. He felt an excitement that he’d never felt before. It was true a good part of him wanted to lock the door go back to bed and wake up again tomorrow morning, finding this all to be a vivid dream. But that curious part of him that had possessed him the previous evening said, “Just get the washers OK Bud do as the dragon says...” He felt a strange sense of...reassurance. Unless he truly was going stark staring mad then maybe this was the change he’d so desperately wanted all his life. It was odd that it should come in the form of a four hundred foot long flying lizard that could imitate a plasma cutter but maybe he was being paid back in one huge lump sum?...and beggars couldn’t be picky! So somewhat confused he returned ten or twenty seconds later with five big thick steel washers clutched in his right hand. They were an inch in diameter and thick as two pound coins stacked on one another. He held out his hand flat and laid them one by one on his palm.
“Excellent! Now I want you to summon some mana, you don’t need much this is a simple enough spell to cast.”
“Summon some mana? Just like that?”
“You don’t know…how to summon mana?” The dragon looked astounded. He was silent for a moment then smiled and with a sigh like a parent talking to a young child he looked Joe in the face, “Tell me you feel a thumping, thudding in your head and can hear voices yes?”
“Yes…” Joe nodded uncertainly, “I thought it was just a bad headache. It feels like the band of the coldstream guards has moved in to troop the colour, while the household cavalry have brought their horses with them...” His voice sounded plaintive and child like compared to the deep bass of the dragon.
“No magus...it is not a headache. That is mana coming to you. Mana you see is created by all living things and will naturally accumulate around you. The more you accumulate the louder that thudding will become.”
“Oh what? Fan bloody tastic! So I get to have a stinking migraine from now on?”
“It will only be noticeable in the beginning magus, as you acquire your skills the thudding will become barely noticeable. So let that thudding build and then channel it to your right hand as you pass it over your outstretched palm.”
“And then what?”
“As you pass your right hand over your left say the words in auris transmutio and watch those five washers of yours.” The dragon smiled his smug cat like grin again.
With a sense of some incredulity and more than a trace of reluctance Joe did as the dragon asked, he drew in a breath and concentrated on the thumping headache. He felt the thumping ratchet up as the voices calling him got louder, the marching band struck up a tune that banged and crashed like the 1812 overture. He winced visibly waiting for the cannons, the noise felt like it would split his skull open. “Is this going to hurt?”
“No magus...you’ll be fine...trust me! Good that should be enough, now pass your hand over the other while saying in auris transmutio.”
Joe passed his right hand over his left to the fingertips, “In auris… transmutio” he said in a half stutter. As he uttered the last syllable the pounding in his head suddenly quieted, vanishing to a barely heard whisper, like the voices were looking on in fascination. His left palm then started to feel warm, he looked down and his jaw promptly dropped open. In a warm glowing field of orange light the five steel washers were glowing softly. The glow increased and the warmth in his hand rose, just a nice sensation of warmth on a cold day. Gradually the orange light then started to fade and the steel washers started to cool again. But wait…where were the five steel washers? In their place on his palm were five curiously shaped and intricately carved golden coins, each with a hole through the centre like an old Oriental coin.
“Oh my God!” Joe was so shocked he almost dropped the coins.
“See!” The dragon took on that cat like look again, “You have transmuted the steel into gold…well done! Not bad for a first go! Any metal can be changed thus and usually the coin you get is a rough guide to the original objects weight. As I say steel is best but any metal will change thus. Handy no?”
“Handy yes! But why the holes through the centre?”
“There were holes in your washers, you merely changed the metal parts from steel to gold.”
“Ah!” Joe smiled and then looked down again, “yes of course I did!”…take the pill dear the doctor will come see you really soon. “But wait these coins aren’t any use here, I can’t spend them...”
“No…” the dragon replied thoughtfully, “but are there any people who might collect such items? People you could consider selling them to?”
Joe looked again at the coins and slowly the thought permeated through to his reasoning mind, a smile spread uncertainly across his face until he was beaming with delight “YES!” He shouted, “of course there are...rare coin collectors. I can go see Lin, he’ll know if they’re worth anything. Then I can sell these and get some real money behind me for once.” Joe looked up at the dragon’s face, he could have kissed it! “Thank you…err dragon… do you have a name? I’d rather not keep calling you dragon all the time if you’re going to be staying.”
“My name in your tongue is practically unpronounceable but you can call me by the name Draco if you wish magus…”
“Draco? Kind of fitting, OK Draco it is. I take it you will be staying?”
“Of course magus…I said dragon and magus work together we are supposed to be a team, and since you seem to have forgotten even the fundamental basics to spell crafting I will serve as your teacher. I am schooled in most forms of magic and can teach you a great deal about magic and the use of spells.”
Joe was suddenly struck by a vision of his bank manager as a pile of smoking ash. “Oh yeah!” he said with a broad smile, “I think this is going to be something really special!”