I’ve been living in the pine, madrone, bay, oak, and redwood forests in the hills above the village. Walking, I’ve come to know the land quite a but. Also, I’ve been tracking a fire dragon.
Not to kill, but to catch a ride. This isn’t your typical dragon like Pete had, fluffy with moon eyes. But the kind with steel talons that can rip you in two and burn you to ashes with eyes of fire.
I caught a glimpse of his hard-plated tail yesterday. If I see him again, my plan was to attempt to ride him tonight under the Full Thunder Moon and fly to the edge of Always to reclaim my Rainbow Home.
However, yesterday I was informed by a circle of 6 wild bunnies (neighbors of mine), that the edge of Always is also the edge of Never, and it’s filled with impenetrable darkness and dryness.
“No one can survive that long without light or water.”
Besides, they added, even if I manage to find the Fire Dragon, and even if I somehow survived the encounter, and even if I somehow was able to ride it, I would not be able to just walk into my Rainbow Home anyway, as a lock has been installed.
They said the key to the lock, the Obsidian Key on the Golden Ring, was lost. Last they heard, it had been thrown into the Great Sea, and by now surely it had drifted far below and sunken to depths of the deep trench at the bottom of the sea, never to be recovered again.
How my rainbow home was originally lost is a different tale, but suffice it to say that it was stolen by an Evil King of Pain, a twisted one-eyed dwarf who is a genius of fear in his own right. The circle of rabbits knew of this Evil King and said some say that he is not a dwarf at all, but an undead spirit with the mask of a one-eyed dwarf. Some say he has a thousand masks, for himself and for those who would wish to hide from their true selves. No one knows his true face. He merely collects homes and masks, not to live in or wear himself, but to entice other people for exorbitant piles of gold. Some say he gets an obscene amusement from scaring people into getting houses and masks that are not their own, and watching them writhe in struggle trying to get out of the house or get the masks off. No one knows where he really lives. Yet others say he is just a legend.
All this about the Key and the Dwarf King I learned from the circle of bunnies.
As you can imagine, I felt stunned and deflated. I resolved to just enjoy what was in front of me, namely dragonflies, the lesser known distant relatives of dragons. They had come out at dusk to dance over the rattlesnake grass on the warm winds of the east.
They shouted at me, “Come out and play!”
Shouted is an exaggeration – in reality, it was a whisper. And dragonflies’ whsipers are particularly sweet and high. I could barely hear them at first, but once my ears were opened by the wind, it was all I could hear.
So with my grand plans halted, with a shrug I got out my flute and ukelele and we danced and played and we all drank sunset and moonrise until we had our fill.
At one minute before midnight, the almost-full moon cast a gorgeous haunting light upon the forest. Then it halted, suspended midair, an eye on the world.
Suddenly a rabbit hopped out from behind the blackberry brush.
“Some of what my dear family told you was mostly true. But there is far more to the story than that. Excuse them, for they don’t know, because they don’t get much beyond this patch of land.”
Honestly, I was tired and not really in the mood for more tall tales.
“I don’t know what to believe. All I know is I saw the dragon’s tail today and I’m determined to find my Rainbow Home,” I said. Then ventured to ask, “Why are you not in the circle with your six siblings?”
“It is true, the Fire Dragon will take you. It can be found, but not caught. It can be ridden, but not owned. It will melt you or you will melt it. He oft sleeps in the cave behind the waterfall. If you find him there, you must not make a sound. Not a single footstep or breath. Silence is his abode. If you startle it, before you know it, he will be aflight beyond your grasp. However, while it is true that the edge of Always is also the edge of Never, it is not impenetrable darkness and dryness. Rather, it is nearly unbearable light. For those without eyes of power, it must seem to be pure darkness, for fear that one’s eyes will burn away. It is also true that a lock has been installed on the Rainbow Home. Even if you find it, you can merely see it, but not enter inside. As my brothers and sisters told you, the Obsidian Key on the Golden Ring was thrown into the Great Sea. But it CAN be recovered. For a price.” He explained, whiskers whiskering.
He added, “I was the 7th born. There was not enough to eat in the patch where I was raised. I have roamed ever wider circles since I was but a bunny pup. Besides, there is but One Circle.”
“But I’m from the flat lands,” I said. “I know nothing of the Great Sea! Let alone the bottom of the sea. Let alone one circle or edges and golden rings and eyes burning up. Over many years, I have learned to be a man of the mountain, but of the ocean, I am a stranger,” I said. “Even if I could swim underwater, I have no gold to give. If the key is there, it must remain. And I will resolve to live without my Rainbow Home. I have survived long enough and happily enough without it.”
“You can learn the sea, as you learned the mountains. And soon, you will also learn the heat and emptiness of the desert,” the 7th-Born Bunny said.
“What!? How do you know me or what I will do?! I will not go to the sea. I am not…”
But he continued, “That is up to you. But should your Rainbow Home still beckon to you, Go to the edge of the West and find the HeartSeer, a creature equal parts water, fire, earth, and air. There you will find the next step to discovering the key to reclaiming your Rainbow Home.
But you must bring gifts: A gift unmade, a gift unplayed, a gift undone, a gift unstrung.”
“What?!!!” I yelped.
With that, the rabbit disappeared into the rattlesnake grass and the moon resumed its course. I went to sleep in a hot wind from the valley from the east invading my dreams and the cooling winds of the sea calling.
(All this to say, I’ve been getting to know the land pretty well.)