As Elsa comfortably started snoring (which sounded sing-song too, just like when she spoke), Jason told me to get my lunch out.
“Let’s eat while we speak to Esme and Wilson. I don’t know about you, but I’m starved!”
In the excitement of meeting the dragons, I’d forgotten all about food, but I was still ravenous.
“Good plan,” Wilson nodded. “You humans get so grumpy when you don’t eat.”
“Excellent plan,” I agreed and laughed at Wilson. He and Esme were sitting a little further away from us, studying us with an interested look on their faces. But there was something else showing in their faces too — kindness. I had a feeling they were happy Jason had brought a friend and were trying to give us some space while we did “human things.”
“What did you bring?” I asked Jason. I was curious to find out what his dad and grandpa had made him. In my family food is a big thing and I always think you can tell a lot about a person from their cooking. Well, as any mentalist would tell you: you can tell a lot about a person from everything they do and cooking is simply one part of the bigger picture. It’s just, growing up in a foodie family, I like people who can cook.
“They made me some drop scones.”
I looked at Jason, then I burst out laughing and he shot me a confused glance.
“What’s so funny?”
“Drop scones! I thought my family were the only ones to bake those. I mean most people have never heard of them. It’s like pancakes right, but the Scottish version. And the reason I know of them is because Jenna spent time in Britain when she was younger. So she adapted some weird accent and vocabulary where half the time she sounds like something out of a Jane Austen novel and the other half like a modern Londoner with an American twang. Which is why I use strange words too.”
I’d felt weird ever since I was a kid because I knew more words than other kids and used slang no one understood. I had too big a vocabulary, basically, plus I used old fashioned terms AND weird British words Jenna had taught me.
Jason smiled at me.
“My grandad’s dad was Scottish, that’s why we make drop scones. You’ve always used a lot of words others don’t use, but I never thought of the British association. Just took you for someone who reads a lot of books.”
“I do,” I nodded. I wondered if him noticing my weird vocabulary was a good thing, or a bad thing? “I read lots of books and plays. I love stories. But they didn’t teach me to say blooming bananas when I’m upset — Jenna did! She’s seriously ruined the whole family’s vocabulary. I guess growing up with her also made me use old fashioned words.”
“Yeah, but at least it makes you original.”
Jason gave me a look I couldn’t quite interpret…but it looked like admiration? I felt butterflies gently flapping their wings in my stomach, making me want to giggle from the tickling sensation.
“I am, I guess.” I started unwrapping my food and suddenly remembered the other reason I’d laughed. “Oh and I brought pancakes too. Mine are more like crèpes. And I’ve got homemade jam, cream and some chopped nuts for topping.”
“Cool. I brought some fruit and chocolate sauce for the topping. We’re gonna have a feast!” Jason rubbed his hands together, looking pleased.
As we chatted, Wilson and Esme were still watching us, while Elsa kept snoring behind me. I’d been so distracted chatting to Jason I’d momentarily forgotten I was in a cave filled with dragons. Which totally proved that Jason is the world’s biggest distraction.
“It’s nice to see you interact with another human, Jason,” Wilson said, when we finally fell silent as we focused on getting the last pieces of food unpacked. Wilson sounded so…polite.
Jason looked up at him.
“It’s nice to be here with another human. I don’t often get to show you off,” Jason replied with a wink that made both Wilson and Esme laugh. “But you have known other humans over the years. There’s grandpa.”
I thought if the dragons knew his grandpa maybe they were really old? Maybe that’s why they sounded so formal and old fashioned?
“Yes,” Esme nodded. “But, usually those who can see dragons are few and far in between. That’s why we don’t come visit you. We only see you from afar. We visit those places where you build your nests in complicated infrastructures, but we keep our distance. You know that.”
Nests! I had to smile at that. I was also busy stuffing my mouth with my first bite of Jason’s drop scones — they were good!
“We don’t spend much time in your cities,” Wilson added. “If someone who wasn’t taught about dragons would see us…it would result in chaos. Or they’d think they’d gone mad like you just did.” He nodded at me. “That’s why we come to your town at dusk. In the silvery light of twilight, we’re practically invisible even to those who can see us. Especially on foggy nights.”
“That’s right,” Esme agreed. “Normally, people who see us are ones that have learned about our existence from family members. We don’t know if seeing otherworldly creatures is genetic or something you simply learn to do if you’re told how to. Like, what you call meditating: reaching another level of consciousness where you see other kinds of energy.”
As I was eating the food and letting their melodious voices wash over me I felt relaxed in a way I hadn’t in a long while. Calm. I didn’t know if it was the dragons’ energy that relaxed me, or that I’d found someone like Jason who saw otherworldly things too. Discovering you can see ghosts and that most people around you can’t, makes you feel lonely. Sure, Josephine could materialize so others could see her, but how many of my friends would I ever be able to speak to about ghosts? Few, very few. And even fewer would actually be able to understand. Still, it was strange being so relaxed given I was surrounded by dragons!
“Mmm, this is delicious,” Jason grunted as he swallowed down some more of my pancakes.
“Thanks, not such a bad cook, am I?” I replied with a grin.
“No, you’re not,” Jason agreed. Looking at him eating happily I realized this was the most chilled I’d ever seen him too — even more relaxed than when he’d visited Windgate Cottage. For once he wasn’t a mystery, he was just someone enjoying himself. Then again, he had a curious depth to those brown eyes… OK, so maybe still a mystery somehow. A gorgeous mystery. And I wanted to ask him a thousand questions to find out more about him, but instead, after briefly drooling over how one lock of his hair kept falling into his eye in a way that was totally sexy, I turned my attention back to the dragons.
“What do you eat?” I asked Wilson and Esme.
“We feed off energy,” Esme replied with a smile. “Like sunbeams. We can even turn the cold into energy we can use. It’s hard for you humans to grasp.”
“I guess you’re like solar panels,” I said.
“Yes,” Wilson agreed, “but we can feed off almost any energy. Though only pure energy makes us feel good.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We could feed off the energy coming from you when you have an argument with someone, but that would make us feel bad. Like eating food that’s gone off,” Wilson explained.
I nodded. I understood, or so I thought — I wasn’t entirely sure.
“So you don’t have stomachs?” I enquired.
“Yes and no. We have stomachs but they only contain energy and we give off excess energy through our breath. To us it seems so strange to eat,” Esme replied with a smile on her face, but with a wrinkled brow, as if trying to understand how anyone could put food into their mouths and chew.
“And fire,” I said, “do you breathe fire?”
Hearing this question Wilson smiled and blew gently in my direction. A mist of blueberry flavored scent enveloped me. It was a cold breath.
“We can make our breath hot, or cold, but that requires energy. It never gets so hot flames come out.”
Jason nodded at this.
“They keep snow, or water, depending on the temperature, here that they freeze into ice blocks if needed to keep the entry safe,” Jason said.
Tentatively I put a hand on Elsa’s back as she snored — I could have sworn she was the same temperature as the air.
“What body temperature do you normally have?” I asked.
“Our skin generally has the same temperature as the air around us, but inside we have energy that makes us feel what you call warm. At least, that’s the only way we can explain it. We can make our skin warm the same way we do with our breath. We just don’t feel the cold or the heat the way you do — to us it’s all energy. Very hot and very cold climates generate more energy, that’s why dragons often live in such places.”
I was still trying to take it all in — it was pretty fantastical. A whole world existed that I hadn’t discovered until only a few days ago (ghosts) and today (dragons). I wondered what more was out there that I didn’t know about? I was going to ask, but as I thought back over what the dragons had said, something hit me.
“Wait, hold on. You say you visit our villages and towns at dusk on foggy nights?”
“We mainly go to visit Jason and then fly over nearby villages to find out what’s happening. Humans live strange lives. They create lots of inventions, they change the way the world is. It’s fascinating to watch. Sometimes scary. We need to know if war is coming, or if there is some new invention that will threaten our kind. And we can hear much better than you do, so we pick things up on the wind. We also feel the energy you generate and know if it’s good, or bad.”
That was all fascinating (especially as I conjured up images of dragons hanging out by the White House, spying on the President), but I wanted to know something else.
“Where exactly do you meet Jason in Rocky Creek?” I asked.
“In the library park.”
I smiled triumphantly — I’d been right. Moments earlier when I’d thought back over what the dragons had said I’d remembered the night in the park when Jason had stood hidden away in some bushes.
“The streetlights in the park are carved to look like dragons breathing fire,” I said. “I could have sworn one of them moved the other night.”
Suddenly Wilson, Esme and Jason burst into laughter.
“Yes, it moved, alright,” Jason said. “Elsa flew straight into it. She’s just learned to fly and it was only her second visit to the park. As dragons are more ethereal than regular creatures they vibrate at a level where they are invisible to the human eye, well you know with a few exceptions, but they aren’t like ghosts that can completely dematerialize.”
Wilson was still chuckling and added: “Think of us like the wind — it can’t be seen, but it can be felt!”
So I had been right — there really had been something in the air that night!
Then another thought hit me.
“How do you handle all the poison humans put in nature?” I asked.
Esme shrugged her shoulders.
“Poison creates bad energy as many people and animals get sick from it. It doesn’t destroy us directly, like it does other animals, but we become distressed from their distress. It’s worse for us that humans keep taking over so much nature. In the end, where will we live?”
“I don’t know,” I said and sadly shook my head. Jenna used to love to attend demonstrations in San Fran dressed like a New Age hippy protesting overpopulation. She didn’t think the demonstrations would do much good, but she liked meeting likeminded people and have an excuse to dress up… Hetty sometimes joined her for the same reason — handing out cakes to increase the morale of the demonstrators. But in general, my aunts were more into direct measures. Like sex education and condoms instead of pro-birth control demonstrations… Actually, Jenna used to tour high schools giving sex ed lectures and handing out as many condoms as she could. She stopped at around the age of 85, when she felt the traveling was getting too much.
“Do other animals see you?” I asked.
“No,” Wilson replied. “But they feel our energy the way you feel the wind and we can understand them. We can communicate on a basic level through emotions, but we don’t seek each other’s friendship. Most animals just register a presence. Maybe they will come to lie next to us to feel our energy. We are a bit different from Earthly creatures because we don’t kill plants or animals. And our kind only feed on good energy.”
I assumed that’s why the dragons made me feel so calm.
“There are other dragons,” Jason said between mouthfuls, “that aren’t so nice. They create energy they can feed off. Bad energy.” He wiped his mouth with a tissue he’d fished out of his pocket. With some amusement I saw that it was made of cotton — the kind of tissue people would have kept back in the day when the paper ones didn’t exist. It was sweet. He was probably just trying to save the trees, but it reminded me of a true gentleman. Because true gentlemen always carry a nice clean tissue to dry the tears of a lady. Well, at least in my fairytale world. And really, the rest of the world should take note of my imagination because things would be so much greater!
“Bad energy?” I asked.
“Yes,” Esme nodded. “There are dragons that for one reason or another leave the pack to go and create bad things to feed off, or simply live near areas that are filled with bad energy. It’s rare, but it happens. It could be a cub that grew up close to war and got used to the energy. Like the alcohol you humans use. It’s a strong energy and it can be addictive, even if it will make you feel bad at first. It’s very sad when dragons get addicted to negative energy. Most of the time you can reform them by moving them to a place where there is only good energy and keeping them there for some time. But sometimes…” Her voice faded and she looked sad.
“As Esme said, it’s very rare,” Wilson added. “The big world wars created a few such dragons. Most dragons move somewhere else when war starts, but some can’t bear to leave the energy of the place they call home, even when it gets polluted by bad energy. War is a horrible, horrible thing.”
“Humans are strange sometimes,” Esme said.
“Tell me about it,” I agreed. I mused for a while, then added: “Then again, they’re not that different from dragons, really. Growing up with bad energy makes people addicted to bad energy and as adults, they create that energy themselves. At least, that’s what Agatha would say. Or, well, she’d say that your childhood shapes you and unless you’re willing to change, you’ll end up the way it taught you to be. It’s kind of like being addicted to a certain sort of energy, I guess. And some areas, like slum areas, are really badly polluted with nasty energy.”
Jason had been listening to what I was saying, while eating at the same time. I had a feeling he was assessing me. As if to see if I made valid points. Sometimes his smarts unnerved me. As if it wasn’t enough he was so gorgeous your legs turned to jelly when you looked at him — he’d also just stare at you and do some sort of evaluation of your brain, which made you nervous on a whole other level. Or, he’d say something so clever it made you feel really stupid. It was quite weird — both he and Elb were like super smart and super popular. If Jason hadn’t been so damn good looking I wasn’t sure people would like him that much. But the good looks and the aloofness made every girl eat out of his hand. Plus, Elb eased his way socially, because Elb made friends with everyone and all Jason had to do was show up while Elb did all the talking.
“Cities are too big, that’s why. People don’t look after each other anymore, because there are too many of us.”
I wasn’t sure I agreed with that.
“Even when people lived in tribes there were wars. All the time.”
“Sure, but at least within the tribe, well, the non-cannibal or crazy kind, people looked out for one another. There were no slum areas, or stupid pollution from factories that make things we don’t need,” Jason muttered. “Just imagine how much more resources we’d have if there was only half of the number of people we are today. And how much less pollution there’d be. I can’t believe people don’t think about these things. We are losing nature in favor of ugly cities.” Jason shook his head sadly, a frown appearing on his forehead. His beautiful eyes had a tinge of melancholy in them.
Esme seemed to notice Jason’s mood too.
“It’s OK Jason, no one will take over this mountain any time soon. You’re too worried about us.” Esme’s tone of voice was soothing — there was something very motherly about her. Her green eyes were filled with kindness and warmth. And to think I had imagined the dragons would kill me with fire!
“But it’s not just you. There are dragons living all over the world. Dragons who constantly have to move because people build bigger cities. It’s stupid. People could settle for two kids each, but no, they need to have five. Humans need to wake up to the fact that we aren’t alone on this planet before it’s too late and we do end up alone.”
As I looked at the beautiful dragons I could feel Jason’s sadness. People always wanting to build cities right across other animals’ nests. And, of course, the fact that he really cared about animals tugged at my heartstrings. He tugged at my heartstrings. Why was it that every nice thing he did made me go all gooey inside? Suddenly something hit me.
“Jason,” I said, “I have been receiving some, erm, ghost notes. I mean notes from ghosts. But they’re sort of ghostly too as they disintegrate. And I’ve heard this voice… Anyway, they all talk about gold in the mountain. Something about dragons and gold in the mountain. I don’t know if there’s gold in this mountain, but I have a feeling someone might try to extract it if there is. And then your dragon friends here are in trouble.”
It wasn’t Jason that replied to me, but Wilson.
“Yes, there is gold in the mountain, but it’s so little no one will make their fortune that way.”
I looked at Wilson, stunned.
“In that case, I think someone needs to tell Mr Crawley and Mr Eastwind because I’m pretty sure they’re about to do something dodgy to get to the gold.”
Suddenly everything became clear to me — Mr Crawley owned the mountain and wanted to get to the gold, but the skiing slopes were in the way. Mr Eastwind was a lawyer who advised him what to do. And, I was guessing, giving pretty dodgy advice at that. From what I’d heard he’d given him the go-ahead to dig for gold! Which meant…I looked around the beautiful creatures in the cave: they were all in danger of losing their home!