The Shadeback

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Chapter 7: Grairos

"GRAIROS!” Thomas screeched.

The curtains’ fibers rewove themselves. Shed glass flew to the window and merged with the remaining pieces seamlessly. The screen was magically repaired. The dust vanished. The bookcase floated back up into the bedroom from the first floor and settled into its corner as the tomes (most of them newly mended) shot over to it, each taking their designated place on the shelves. Next returned the bed, which was now fixed and no longer unstable. It landed softly on the recently-patched hole in the floor (the shattered floorboards seemed to rebuild themselves as flawlessly as the window had) and remade itself. The carpet was cleaned (and yes, it was white). The door stood up and was reattached to its hinges and locks, and for the final touch, the long-lost doorknob rolled out from under the rug and jumped back into the gap where it had once been placed centuries ago.

Zenatheus stood up, dazed, and stared at his apprentice incredulously. “You just -- you just used a huge spell?!”

Thomas stared back. “You wear curlers in your goatee?!”

Zenatheus coughed, rapidly undid them, and threw them over his shoulder. “Umm… no?”

“I can’t say that I’m too surprised you do. You’re an odd man,” Thomas smirked, causing his master to smile. Thomas gestured exaggeratedly at the surrounding room. “A moment ago, this place was a dump,” he continued. “What on earth happened to make it get that way?”

“It was Shadeback’s fault,” said Zenatheus innocently. “Somehow he got outside and came exploding through my window while I was asleep. When I woke up, he was sitting on me.”

Thomas pantomimed him sleeping. “No wonder you stopped snoring and I was able to close my eyes for once!” he teased.

Again, Zenatheus swiftly changed the subject. “ANYWAY, boy, I am astounded. You just successfully used a spell – one of the hardest – and, to boot, you had enough power to not die! Where did you get the energy to do that?”

Thomas looked down at his deerskin slippers. “I was shocked, and, uhh… worried about you.”

Zenatheus lifted an eyebrow, but on the inside he secretly felt warm. “I appreciate the help, Thomas, but you know as perfectly well as I do that I am more than capable of taking care of myself.”

Thomas managed an ashamed nod.

“Urgh, boy, quit it with the soppy eyes; I can’t stand it! I said that I appreciated your help.”

His apprentice grinned up at him. “Sorry, Master.” Suddenly his smile faded. “Wait – you say that Shadeback was here? I only saw Ragwort leave.”

Zenatheus scanned the room, and then looked up. He pointed. Alas, there sat the terrified, quivering Shadeback, digging his claws into a rafter and chewing on a bat like it was a stress toy.

“Poor little guy! Shadeback, come down here!” Thomas cried.

Shadeback looked down at him, squeezed his eyes shut, and scuffled backward out of sight.

“I have bats in my room?!” Zenatheus muttered incredulously, crossing his arms in indignation while Thomas kept futilely calling to his dragon.

Finally, the youth elbowed him in the side. “Don’t just stand there! Rescue him!”

Zenatheus snapped out of his bat-ridden daze and frowned at Thomas. “But he’s a dragon! Don’t tell me he’s afraid of heights!”

Thomas gave him the soppy eyes. “He was probably hurt when he smashed the window.”

“He was,” Zenatheus confirmed, “but you healed us when you spoke the ‘fix’ spell.” He defiantly refused to look at his apprentice while he was begging.

“PLEASE,” Thomas implored, clasping his hands together.

Zenatheus gave him a dirty glance. “Fine,” he grumbled, Thomas tried his best to make an “I’m more than worth it” kid expression as his master cast out his mind until it found Shadeback’s.

Get down here, Zenatheus growled in mindspeak.

For the umpteenth time, Shadeback did not respond.

Zenatheus was forced to send the dragon some lulling dragonsong.

That got the youngling’s attention. Shadeback reemerged from the shadows and stared down at them again. Mysteriously, the bat had disappeared from his jaws.

Zenatheus made a cruel smile. Serves the little bugger right for sleeping in my roof, he thought to himself with satisfaction.

“Come down,” Thomas invited again.

Shadeback shook his head.

“Jump,” Zenatheus insisted. “I’ll catch you.”

Shadeback squeaked forlornly.

Zenatheus growled impatiently. “You’re going to get hungry again sometime, you know!”

Shadeback needed no more persuasion after that. He spread his wings and spiraled to the floor like an improbable maple seed. He landed softly, looked up at them, and mewled pitifully as if he was a poor little starving kitten that had lost his way. He even leaned slightly to the right and raised his left forepaw pathetically.

Zenatheus scoffed.

Thomas dashed over and threw himself onto the carpet, cradling the little dragon. “Don’t come in this room ever again. Promise me.”

I promise.

“Good,” said Thomas. “Now let’s go take you downstairs. Would you like to help us find Ragwort?”

Shadeback bobbed his head (a bit of a clever look in his naughty silver eyes) and Thomas stood with the hatchling in his arms, and then left the room.

“You spoil that dragon, you know,” Zenatheus muttered. He got dressed, put on his boots, and then followed them out, closing the door behind him.


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