In the last few days, I’ve had quite a few adventures up in the forest above the village. Here’s an abridged version to give you taste of what has happened.
I have caught several glimpses of the Fire Dragon. A tail here. Smoke there. Tip of a wing there. All usually through thick brush or the canopy of trees. Never did I see his full form, but at least I knew it wasn’t just my imagination.
I realized, though, that I had misinterpreted the 7th-born Rabbit’s message. I thought that it meant the Fire Dragon only appears when it is silent. In fact, it appears frequently in the presence of noise, even when people are around. But to ENCOUNTER the Fire Dragon in its true form, I would need to find its cave, which he said was behind a waterfall. And if I did found it, I would have to be absolutely quiet.
I’ve walked the entire length of Redwood Creek, from the beginning on the west slope of the ridge down and southward until it empties into Upper San Leandro Reservoir. Along the way I met an owl, a heron, a snake, a little lizard with a dragonfly in its mouth, beautiful horsetail ferns, the leg bone of some animal, and the largest madrone tree I’ve ever seen. So sexy.
You know what they say, if you’re not turned on by a madrone, you can’t be turned on by anything.
But nowhere did I see a cave of any kind. Saw a few hollows along the banks of the creek, but no cave, let alone one big enough for some dragon the size of an elephant. Am I in the right place? Maybe 7th-Born meant some other place? Afterall, a dragon can cover territories much larger than this park, as large as it is.
This morning I sauntered once again along Redwood Creek. Lo and behold I encountered 14 more rabbits and 6 little yellow golden birds. I’ve never seen yellow birds here before, so I took it as a sign. Maybe I should go to the Great Sea, as 7th-Born Bunny recommended. Whether I would find the HeartSeer or not, or find some clue to how to enter the depths of the water and recover the Obsidian Key on the Golden Ring, I had no idea.
With that I resolved to at least try. But in order to do that I felt I had to find the Dragon and to keep looking for its cave.
I have been learning from the redwoods that it is in silence that i can hear the true things.
I sat down next to a grandmother circle of redwoods and closed my eyes. For what seemed like hours, I settled into the ancient dialect of the forest. When I finally opened my eyes, I saw a yellow bird hovering directly in front of me. A seventh?! That can’t be a coincidence.
Out of curiosity I stood up and began to follow it.
From branch to branch it flitted forward, deeper into the forest. Clearly aware I was following it, it waited each time so I could catch up.
I heard it before I saw it: water. Hopping up on a large moss-covered boulder, I saw a water fall, 15 or so feet, tumbling down from a tributary of Redwood Creek, into a wide and deep pool formed by sandstone on all sides.
Aha! So it IS here!
The yellow bird fluttered up beside the falls and perched on a bay laurel branch that extended just to the edge of the water.
With my adrenaline pumping, I leaped from one boulder to the other up the sides, grabbing fists of rock and gnarled root and branches, until I was almost to the top. Seeing a slight ledge led behind the falls, I took off my daypack, took out my headlamp and knife, and proceded to inch along. The force of the water was fierce, and I grabbed on tight to whatever I could feel, as I couldn’t see, having to keep my eyes closed from the water pressure.
Soon I was completely soaked, but instead of a solid cliff, my hands felt emptiness, so with a trust in leaping, I threw myself into the cavity and found myself in the dimly-lit entrance to a cave.
“Well, I’m here. Nothing to do but keep going,” I thought to myself, making sure I was as quiet as possible.
I had only a knife for protection. But what could a knife possibly do to the mail-plated skin (I’m assuming) of a dragon? Neverless, I resolved to keep my knife.
I entered the cave. Taking a few steps, and turning a corner, what remained of the daylight world beyond the waterfall began to disapear. I pressed the button on my headlamp.
Nothing. Now, of all times, the batteries are dead!
It’s too dark. And I hear what sounds like low roar, echoing from deep within the mountain. Only a fool what go into a cave without a light!
I lost my nerve and rushed out towards the water. In the process, I hit my hand on a jutting rock, knocking my knife out of my hands, hearing it drop with a thud on the cave floor.
So much for silence.
What am I doing?! I have no idea what kind of creature this is. I’m only looking for this damn dragon because I was told by a woman I didn’t even know that I needed to ride it to the edge of Always to find my Rainbow Home. Under the full moon of all things.
But the full moon is past now, come and gone without incident. Or, according to 7th-Born Rabbit, I have to visit HeartSeer by the Great Sea to recover the Obsidian Key. Either way, I have no mode of transportation.
How am I to fly to the Great Sea, let alone to the edge of Always? I could walk instead, like I do. I don’t mind Walking. But How far is it?
Could I hitchhike? Steal a horse? LYFT it? As an absolute last resort, I could take Greyhound.
None of those sounded very appealing. Some, rather far-fetched.
No, it must be this way or no way. I’ve done the easy thing before. No, it’s time for the neccessary thing. 7th-Born had said it will either melt me or I will melt it.
I steel myself, take a deep breath, and head back in to the cave.
Without weapon. Without light. Unadorned and vulnerable and scared out of my mind. The time has come.
As I turn the first corner into darkness, I hear that awful sound again. sounds less like a roar than a combination of a snore and groan. Perhaps it is sleeping. Could I be so lucky?
It’s pitch black. I turn another corner, with only my hands on the cold, clammy cave walls to guide me. For all I know, I could be walking into a bottomless abyss, a nest of brown recluses, or get irretrievably lost. No one would ever find me! My pack would be found someday by intrepid explores. Perhaps.
But what are those risks in comparison with facing a Fire Dragon! I can’t believe I just said that. Perhaps this is all a wild goose chase. Or wild dragon chase, as it were.
Then, suddenly two glowing red-orange embers the size of volleyballs appear before me.
I’m flooded simultaneously with as much awe as fear, as much fascination as pure dread.
It’s here! I’m here! I froze.
The eyes cast an eerie flicker across the walls of the cave, causing shadows to dance.
I see that the narrow cave tunnel had opened up into a stone chamber the size of a cabin.
And then I realize, what I hear is not a roar or a snore, but a cry. A dragon cry. It is wounded.
From the red-orange ember-eye light reflecting off the walls, I see the source of the pain: A dagger pierced it, just below where the wing attaches to its torso.
Suddenly, whatever fear I had disappears.
Now what? I’m here. I made it. I’m not torn to pieces. I’m not melted. Yet.
I could do nothing but just be there with it in its pain.
I slowly reached my hand out and lay it near the wound.
I whisper in its ear.
“I’m sorry you’re hurting.”
As powerful as it was, as big as it was, it was apparent that it could not reach the area where the dagger went in with its talons nor its mouth.
I knew that I had to pull the dagger out.
I grabbed the black ornate handle with both hands.
“This is going to hurt. I’m here to help.”
A pulled back as hard as I could and with a grunt and one full action, yanked the dagger out.
The dragon jumped and hissed in burnt steel agony. Fire and smoke filled the chamber,
The heat seemed to sear my flesh. I cowered in the corner, but couldn’t escape it and began to choke on the smoke filling my lungs.
Then, I had the idea: The pool at the base of the cave.
Before I could think about it too much, I yelled, “Follow me!!” And began running out.
I headed back towards the entrance, this time with the aid of the glow of dragon eyes lighting the way close behind me.
It was following me. I saw my knife on the floor from earlier. I quickly bent down to pick it up and kept running. Taking a big gulp of hot air, I ran and jumped straight through the back of the falls. In a split second, I plunged directly in the pool below, knife in one hand, dagger in the other.
When I came up for air and was relieved to find that I still had skin. The cool water felt invigorating. And the cool air was a welcome relief in my lungs. I looked back up, and saw just a long dragon head sticking out through the waterfall. Almost comical if it wasn’t so freaking bizarre.
I encouraged it: “Jump!”
“Dragons don’t go in water!” It spoke, in a language I didn’t know but somehow understood.
“Well, grown ass human beings don’t hunt fire dragons!” I screamed back.
Evidently convincing, the remainder of his giant body emerged through the falls, and not without grace for such an unwieldly large body, landed in the pool with an explosion of water.
It sent me reeling, and forced me back below the water for longer than even my jump had. When I came up, rather than seeing a dragon in the pool beside me, I saw a little boy. Brown hair with bright brown eyes.
“Thank you for coming,” he said with a smile, seemingly unaware of what just happened.
You can imagine the trouble I had finding words in response.
“And for pulling the dagger out,” he said.
Still stunned at what had happened in the previous hour, I said nothing. My face no doubt revealed my shock.
“And for not trying to kill me with that knife of yours.”
“No problem?” I managed.
With that, the boy, who I estimated to be about 12 or 13 years old, began diving and splashing and playing.
“Hey!” I yelled. I had too many questions, which I rattled off, one falling on top of the other. “Who are you? What happened to the dragon? Who stabbed you? How long have you had that sticking in you? What is going on?!”
He just laughed and began splashing me.
“A story for the sky, perhaps?”
“What?” My eyes must have widened even more than they already had.
In an instant the boy transformed back into a dragon, flapped his enormous translucent wings, picked me up in its talons, and took to flight.
To the Great Sea it is then.