January 25, 2003
Once upon a time, a long time ago, before the Great Tree was great, a small dragon and a pixie lived in its trunk and called it home.
On one particular autumn day, the pixie walked up the path to her home with mail in her hand. She opened the door to find the small dragon scorching the mold spots that kept appearing on the walls of their home in the Great Tree.
"Any mail for me?" the dragon asked between snorts and plumes of flames.
"You're going to burn out place down," she said. "Please let me use my pixie magic. And yes, there is something for you," she added.
The dragon bounced down from the chair he was standing on and held out his talon.
"Is it? It is! It's my acceptance into the Dragon Flight School!"
The dragon was so excited that he belched, and the third page of the form caught on fire. The pixie quickly grabbed it, stomped on it, and handed it back to him.
"Most of it is ok," she said. "Just a few spots are missing."
"You would think they would put this on something other than plain parchment, like a dragon scale, he said.
The dragon scanned the acceptance and registration forms.
"It shouldn't be too hard to fill these out," he said as he sat down at the table.
"What's our address again?" he asked.
"101 Great Tree," the pixie said over her shoulder.
"Can they contact you in case of an emergency?" he asked.
"Sure," she said, and she smiled at his furious scribbling.
"That about does it, last page now. I'm supposed to take only what I can get into a backpack and be there on Thursday. That's today!" the small dragon cried, and he began to run in circles.
"Sit," the pixie ordered, "I'll pack for you."
She picked up the last page, scanned it and quickly packed all the suggested items in his pack.
"There's still a little room in here," she said. "Anything else you want to take?"
The little dragon went to the fireplace, picked up his favorite rug, which she had woven for him, and handed it to her.
"Will this fit too?" he asked.
"I believe so. Just let me give it a good shake first," she said.
Several dragon scales and a twig fell out of it. The dragon reached down and snagged the twig with his talon and dropped it into the backpack.
"What was that?" the pixie asked as she folded the rug and put it in on top.
"That was just my glowing twig," he said.
"Your what?" she asked again.
"It's just a twig that glows when I get very close to magic in the realm," he said. "I've had it since - well, I guess forever. Yes, it's been forever. I'm sure. I think I'm sure. Am I packed? Where are the forms?"
His nose began drizzling, and he sneezed, blowing the pixie right out the door and onto the path.
"I believe you're catching a cold," she said as she struggled to her feet. "And you had best be on your way."
She handed him his backpack, the forms, and a clean hankie. "Come back to see me whenever you can," she said.
The little dragon sneezed again and singed two of the lower branches of the Great Tree. It rustled its leaves at him.
"I know, I'm sorry," he sniffled.
Something about the forms didn't feel right, but he couldn't put his talon on it. It niggled at his heart, but he didn't have the time right then to figure it out, so he set off toward the castle.
He passed through the eastern gate, waved a hello to Famar the town crier, and stopped at the fountain to get a drink.
"Blacehk! Yuk! That has got to be the worst tasting water in the whole of the realm," he said to Scruff, who stood there drooling and wagging his tail. "But you wouldn't know about that, would you? I've seen the watering spots you drink at."
Dragon families were already milling about the fountain. Moms were hugging their offspring, and Dads were trying to drag their spouses back to the eastern gate. A queue of young dragons was forming, and our small dragon fell into it at the end. He turned and waved at Scruff, who did his best impression of 'dead dog' for him.
The line marched up and up the castle stairs, past the moat, past the guardhouse, and into the courtyard where a table had been set up for registration. The largest bronze dragon the little dragon had ever seen was taking the application forms.
"Next," the bronze dragon bellowed while he searched for a pair of glasses that were hidden under the papers.
The little dragon sneezed, and the forms on the table blew around for a bit before they settled back into neat piles.
"Name," the bronze dragon bellowed.
"Theo," our small dragon answered from behind his hankie.
"Spell that," the bronze demanded.
"The o," came the reply.
"Family lair name?" the bronze bellowed.
The small dragon thought, and thought, and thought. What is my family lair name? He stood on one foot and thought. He scratched his head and thought. He blew his nose and thought. He couldn't think of it.
"Head cold has you all addled, eh?" asked the bronze, peering over the top of his glasses. "I can find out. One sec, don't move from that spot."
He flicked his talon at a silver plate in the center of the table. There were a few sparks, a tiny puff of blue smoke, and when the air cleared, a small crystal orb sat in the middle of the plate.
He peered into the orb and said, "Family lair name for one dragon named Theo please."
The ball swirled blue, then green, then orange, and finally cleared.
"Hmmmm," he said, looking up, "the orb tells me that you have no family lair name and that you are 'The Orphan', hence the name Theo. I take it that you did not know of this."
Theo sneezed again and said, "I suppose I would have if I would have thought about it. But, you know what? I have so many friends, like the pixie and Famar, the town crier, and the guards out in the guard house who guard the great golden one, and I could just go on and on. I guess I knew, but there was nothing I could do about it, now was there? Furthermore, the pixie always says, 'If life hands you lemons, make lemonade.'"
"You are quite the philosopher," said the bronze dragon. "I am truly impressed. Now, since your papers are all in order, you may join the rest of the group in the forest. Just go through the door and follow the instructions that are on that third sheet. The judges will collect them tonight." Having said that, the bespectacled dragon spread his wings and took flight.
Theo sneezed and looked at the third sheet. Most of it was there. Some of it was not.
He could make out - After you are in the forest, take a left at the oak, go east for a while until you get to the gate, go north from the gate to the bo --, (small portion of the page scorched here) and open it. After it opens you'll see the signs -- (more scorched parts here).
He blew his nose, shouldered his backpack and set out for the forest. He looked around for the rest of the young dragons, but they had already disappeared into the trees. He found the oak and turned east toward the sun. He passed through a grove of corkscrew willows and came upon a hut made of sticks and bark. He peeked inside and saw a big box mounted on a board with a sign above it that said, "Open box and push button to disengage."
"The 'bo' on my instructions must mean 'box,'" he thought, "and it does say to open it."
Without a moments hesitation, he opened the box and pushed the button, and unbeknownst to him, the fountains in the City of Medievia dried up. Needless to say, the population was not happy.
From Theo's perspective, not a thing had happened. He looked around, and everything looked the same. It was then that his nose began to tickle, and he not only sneezed, but he belched. The small puff of fire was just enough to set the hut ablaze.
Alarms were going off in the castle as Theo fled east back into the corkscrew willows. He would have noticed the hole in the ground if he had not been looking back over his shoulder at all the guards that had hurried to the fire, but he didn't and he was, and so it follows that he found himself on his backside in an immense cavern below ground.
His backpack had fallen from his back, its contents strewn all around him. As he was gathering up all his belongings, he noticed his twig. It was glowing. He picked it up. It was humming, and it made his talons vibrate.
Far above him he could make out a hole and a tiny speck of sunlight.
"That is not an option," he thought. "But there must be another way out through this cavern."
He wandered through tunnels, a swampy area, more caverns, a small grove of blackened corkscrew willows and into another tunnel. The further he went into the caverns, the brighter the twig glowed. Most of the walls were charred. He would not have been able to see had it not been for his twig. His nose began to twitch again. He sneezed.
"BRING ME THAT TWIG," a voice commanded as it resonated through the tunnel.
Theo stopped dead in his tracks.
Again the voice boomed, "BRING ME THAT TWIG NOW!"
Theo hurried forward, took a sharp left turn and found himself in an enormous cavern facing the one and only Golden Wyrm. He sneezed.
The Golden One snatched the twig from Theo and began to pace. Theo backed up until he was against a wall.
"This will probably be my only chance to really look at the wondrous dragon," he thought, "and if I could live to tell about it, that would be even better."
But before he could even blink, the dragon whirled about in midstride and faced Theo.
"How did you come by this twig, young dragon?" he asked in a very nice voice for someone who had moments ago been blasting rocks.
"I - I've - I've had it forever, Your Highness, Sir Golden One, Sir," Theo stammered.
"Sit down, Theo," the Golden One said, in quite a gentle voice.
Theo immediately sat down and sneezed. The Golden flicked a talon, and a large stack of hankies appeared next to Theo.
"There are a few things I need to tell you, and then we will fix the mess you made in getting here," the dragon said with a smile, if you could call showing all those teeth a smile.
"A long time ago, a certain dragon lair was raided by hideous beasts. They were defeated, but during the battle, many good and kind dragons died. I was in that battle, and so were you. I found you tucked into a crevice with that twig clutched in your talon. I was the one who gave you the name of 'Theo'."
The Golden One stood, stretched his neck and walked to a grotto in the cavern.
"Come here Theo, it seems you have been creating a small stir in the realm."
The grotto was filled with flowering lemon trees, and in the center was a large crystal egg.
"The pixie would love it here!" said Theo.
"She does," the dragon said, and he gave Theo another rare smile. "Now, look in the crystal."
Theo looked into the crystal and saw the guards standing next to the smoking remains of the hut.
"Oh dear," said Theo, "I'm so sorry about that. I sneezed, and it just went up in flames."
"That's not the worst of it," the Golden One said. "Look again."
Theo wiped his nose and took another look. He saw angry folks milling around the fountain in the City of Medievia. The fountain was dry.
"What happened?" asked Theo.
"Remember that button you pushed?" the dragon asked. "It turned off the fountain."
Theo nearly fainted. It was probably the closest he ever came to shedding a dragon tear.
"I am so very, very sorry. How can we fix it? I burned down the hut and probably destroyed the button. Oh dear, oh woe is me."
"Now be calm, or you'll start sneezing again," the golden dragon said.
He pointed a talon at the crystal and some colors swirled and cleared.
"That should fix the hut," he said. "Now to cure your cold."
"No, no, forget my cold. The fountain, you need to fix the fountain!"
"I'll fix both," the Golden One said and pointed at the crystal again. It swirled and cleared.
Theo sneezed and didn't feel fixed at all. He looked into the crystal and saw that the fountain had a golden liquid flowing into it. He was puzzled.
"Lemonade, Theo! It's the best thing in the realm to cure a small sneezy dragon."
Theo grinned at the Golden Wyrm.
"I can never thank you enough," he said.
The Wyrm reached out a talon and touched the twig Theo was holding. Gold sparks flew around it and a bud appeared at the end.
"Never lose that Theo. It's important to keep it with you always," the dragon said. "And now you need to find the rest of your class and get back to the business of the realm, as do I."
And with that, the Golden Wyrm disappeared.
The voice boomed once again, "Be well Theo. I am proud of you."
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