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Castles In The Air

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Chapter 1

 

“Be back before nightfall, John!”

“Okay, Mum!”

John ran out along the weathered path from his family’s simple cottage and down into the forest. He ran until he took a right at a path that he had created among his many adventures off of the trail. When he could no longer see the main trail, he stopped, strapping in tighter on his makeshift breastplate and putting on his fathers old battle helmet that was far too big for him. It flopped around as he moved but John didn’t care, he was in battle mode. 

John pulled out his wooden sword that his Mum had given him for his birthday two years prior. It was growing rather small as John continued to grow but he loved it all the same. John stalked forward quietly, his bare feet leaving little sound in its wake. He dodged around trees as if hiding from his enemy, having to adjust the helmet from falling over his eyes. This continued for some time before John saw fit that he was being attacked. He lunged and struck at the trees, crying out and growling at his foes. He was the fiercest warrior, like his father before him. He fought the savage beasts of Cathron, cutting off limbs left and right, making his way through to their king, Orthon. 

John rose through the forest, coming into a clearing with a steady stream making many pathways through the green. He clambered up the small incline, jumping from rock to rock. “There’s no where to turn, Orthon! It’s just you and me!” He made it to the highest boulder and brought his sword in front of him, preparing to fight. He swung and cried, rolling on to the ground, jumping down the rocks as Orthon followed and tried to attack. John yelped as he slipped and fell into the water but quickly recovered and jabbed his sword up as Orthron tried to pounce on top of him. 

His breath was laboured as he lay in the stream, pretending to push off the body of the beast and crawling back onto the shore. He wiped off the blood, dripping from his sword and placed it back in his belt loop. He flopped back on to a rock and let the warm sun soak into his cold skin, slowly drying his clothes. His mother would be upset that he dirtied his clothes again. He put aside the helmet and closed his eyes, being lulled by the warmth of the sun and the soft sound of the stream around him. Just as he was near sleep, John was startled awake by a terrible screech. He sat up, heart racing and picking up his helmet, pushed it on his head. He made his way down the rocks again, listening to the horrid noises just on the edge of the trees where the clearing ended. The brush shook and John moved towards it, sword clutched in his grasp. He stepped closer, a body’s length away when this invisible creature drew the most horrific noise of pain and John launched forward.

There was blood, a lot of it. John nearly dropped his sword in horror as he looked at the scene before him. Broken and dismantled wings, scales glittering the ground and in the middle of it all was a baby dragon. It was no bigger than John’s arm and it was curled up, whimpering in pain. Scratches and blood covered its white scales. John stood in shock, he had never seen a white dragon before, they were presumed to have been extinct ages ago. The dragon looked up from its placed sprawled on the ground, piercing eyes like blue gem turquoise with flecks of gold. The dragon gave a weak cry of protest, too tired to keep fighting.  It tried to move back from John but let out a cry of pain. John knelt before the dragon, taking off his helmet, his sandy blonde hair flat against his head. 

“It’s okay…I won’t hurt you.” He moved slowly as the dragon eyed him suspiciously. John reached out the rest of the way, the dragon sniffing at the air, centimetres from John’s fingers. The dragon hissed and tried to lash out at John, making the young boy jump and fall on to his backside. Exhausted after the exertion, the dragon tried to curl up, whimpering as the wounds continued to ooze. John sat up and tried again, “I just want to help…you’re bleeding. Please. Please, let me help.” He slowly reached out again, the dragon eyeing him warily but too exhausted to fight anymore. John carefully lifted the dragon into his arms, avoiding the wounds as best he could. “You’re heavier than I thought.” John brought the dragon over to the stream and tore apart the bottom of his trousers, washing and wrapping up the wounds with the upmost care. The white dragon was barely conscious but looked upon John as if he expected betrayal at any second. 

“What’s your name, hmm?” He continued to work dutifully, his small hands working with precision and care. “I’m John. John, Watson. I live in Strix with my Mum and sister…my father died. He was a warrior, fought in the Cathron war. I’m sure you know about that. You’re not from Cathron are you? I thought white dragons were…well. I’ve never met one before. What attacked you? I’m sorry I couldn’t stop whatever it was. Were you with friends? Or family? Where’s your family?” 

The dragon closed his eyes, John’s heart racing, “Oh…I’m sorry. I didn’t…I’m sorry.” He frowned and finished tying up the wounds. “Do you have anywhere to go?” The dragon didn’t move, John’s heart sank as he realised the dragon had just lost everything. “Well, you can come home with me!” The dragon opened its eyes and gave John a look as if he was insane. “I’ll take care of you!”

The dragon tried to stand and collapsed back on to the ground. John took him back into his arms and collected his helmet. “At least stay until you’re better and then you can leave, okay? Whatever did this to you is still out there.” The dragon nearly huffed and conceded, curling up in John’s arms and closing his eyes again. John made his way back through the forest, the night already closing in. He knew his mother would not be happy with him.

 

The white dragon had been asleep throughout the walk back but started awake when they approached John’s cottage, his mother already crying out at him. “John! I was so worried! I told you to be back before nightfall!”

“I know Mum, I’m sorry-“

“What is that?”

“I found him, Mum. In the forest. Something attacked him. I had to help.”

“What did I tell you about bringing strays home, John Hamish Watson?”

“But, Mum! He’s a white dragon!”

“I don’t care if he was the last dragon on earth, I told you to stop bringing strange animals home!”

“Mum! Please! He lost everyone…his family…they’re gone.” John’s eyes watered, the pain this dragon felt was close to home for him. His mother could see the tears starting to well and she sighed.

“Very well. Let’s get him cleaned properly.” John sniffed and breathed back the tears that still threatened. He held the white dragon protectively as he brought him inside and started to show him around. The creature in his arms looked up at the boy, hardly paying attention to John’s tour. He didn’t understand the human. He was kind and gentle…he wanted to help, as if they were friends.

John cleaned up the dragon properly and bandaged him with his mothers help. He made a nest out of blankets and pillows on his bed and placed the dragon inside. John watched as the small creature tried to stay awake, looking at John as if he was everything in the entire world. John laid next to the dragon, smiling as he watched him fall asleep. John watched the dragon a while longer before his own eyes closed and he slipped into slumber. 

***

 

There was a heavy weight on John when he woke up the next morning. His eyes fluttered open to investigate, only to stare in shock as the source of the weight turned out to be the white dragon he had rescued the night before. It’s wings were tucked in close, the tail wrapped around one of John’s legs and the head buried into his neck. John’s heart raced for a moment before he calmed down and watched the white dragon sleep. The only sign that the dragon was still asleep was the small rise of its body as it took in deep breaths. John had no idea when the dragon had decided to leave the nest. 

He moved slowly, trying to move the dragon without waking him but it stirred nonetheless, its eyes opening slowly and looking down at John. It moved so quickly John could barely process it. The dragon was just as startled being so close to John and tried to take off across the room. Forgetting its wounds, the dragon cried out as it fell to the ground, off of John’s bed. “Wait! Stop!” John scrambled out of bed, nearly falling in a twist of sheets as he tried to calm the dragon down. The creature cried out and scattered across the floor, knocking over a chair as it slithered between the legs and up on to a table. John’s pursuit drove the dragon on as it knocked off a mug which clattered to the ground and shattered, startling the dragon even more. “Stop moving! It’s okay!” John tried to catch the dragon, earning an attempt at biting his hand and a hiss as the dragon jumped up on to a curtain and climbed to the very top. He curled up around the pole, looking down at John with rows of sharp teeth bared. A low rumbled escaped the dragon, warning John to stay away. 

“I’m not going to hurt you. Remember me? I’m John. I found you in the forest. Please come down…you’re bleeding again.” He sighed and sank down on to his knees, hoping he would seem less threatening. The dragon watched him, his tail flickering against the curtain. His Mum would be angry when she returned from the market. There were claw marks and holes in the curtain, shattered mug pieces all over the floor, the chair was probably broken too. John waited for ten minutes, the dragon refused to move, glaring down at the boy menacingly. John sighed and stood, starting to clean up the mess as the dragon watched from his perch. When he was done cleaning, John looked up at the dragon, “I bet you’re hungry, hmm?” That didn’t make him move but John walked over to the kitchen and pulled out some fish that his Mum had cooked that morning before she left. John sat on the floor by the window, a plate of fish and bread in his lap, looking up at the dragon. “Mmm, this is delicious.”

The dragon growled at him, wanting the food desperately, its stomach aching for food. He tried to refuse but his instincts got the better of him. He started down the curtain again, it ripped loudly as he sank to the floor, tearing a huge hole in the fabric. He sniffed at the air, taking careful strides over to the boy. John stood stalk still as the dragon moved in closer, a hairbreadth away from the plate. The dragon watched him carefully, moving in as close as he dared before sinking its teeth into the fish and darting away, back into the nest on John’s bed. John sighed and got up, placing the plate on the table before going to sit on his bed. He was stopped by a vicious snarl from the dragon. “It’s my bed!” He protested and tried to sit again, the dragon snapping at him with his teeth. “You don’t own it!” John huffed and moved to sit on the floor instead. The dragon sat in its nest, chewing at the fish, watching John and making sure he stayed away. 

The fish was gone in minutes, the dragon ravenously eating the entirety, even the bones. They crunched horribly and made John cringe with each bite. “I need to give you new bandages, will you let me?” John sat up on his knees, slowly reaching out. The dragon studied John again, deciding if he should trust him or not, he had no evidence as to why he shouldn’t. The dragon allowed John to pick him up and carry him over to a basin where he removed the bandages before cleaning the wounds and applying new ones. John was gentle and careful not to hurt the creature, before either of them realised, the dragon started to almost purr in delight. He nudged up into John’s hand, climbing up the boys arm and encircling himself upon John’s shoulders. He buried his cold scaly face into John’s neck which made him shiver. 

“What’s your name then? Maybe I can guess?” John started to clean up the bandages as the dragon purred out happily against his neck. “Is it…Snow?” The dragon growled and smacked his tail against John’s cheek. “Ow! Sorry! Not snow. How about Diamond?” The tail smacked him again, “Oi! Stop it! I’m just trying to figure out what to call you.” The dragon huffed and clambered off of John’s shoulders, landing ungracefully onto the floor. He wandered around looking for something before he jumped up on to the table and pushed a book at John with a claw. John came over and opened the book, “What about it?” The dragon glared at John and looked down at the pages, a single claw stabbing at an ’S.’ 

“S?” John frowned, watching as the dragon searched down at the page, “h…e…r…l. Your name is Sherl?” The dragon snarled and continued, “o…c…k…” The dragon sat back and looked expectantly up at John. “Sher…lock. Sherlock. Is that your name?” The dragon moved and climbed up John’s arm again to wrap around his shoulders. “Sherlock. It’s nice to meet you.” John stroked a hand down Sherlock’s tail and smiled as he buried his face in John’s neck and fell back asleep.