The Dragon's Heir
Author's note: The plot was originally a simple "boy meets dragon and goes on a random quest whee" started as a... Show full author's note »
Upside-down Newspapers and Life-threatening MissionsDawn.
It’s the best time of day, in my opinion. When the sun is still making its sluggish way up from the horizon and a cool, peaceful morning resides over the busy streets of Rhuana, a person can finally think. This was my relaxing time, where only the soft coo of pigeons penetrated the tranquility and silence. I arranged my legs into the lotus position and began to meditate, closing my eyes to shut out the rest of the world. Moments later, I opened them in annoyance when something poked
Half past four is my usual time for morning meal and
Until you arrive, I can’t have breakfast, so
Read this letter carefully, like I’ve taught you and
Remember to buy some coffee for me on the way.
You better not get me caramel, you know I like mocha.
I carefully scanned the note again and easily found the hidden message. It was simple, really, actually being the first code I have ever learned. The trick was to read the first letters of each line, which spelled out the real message. This was a very simple code, and I was surprised that the professor hadn’t challenged me with a harder one, which probably meant that he was in a rush when he wrote this. This just made it all the more urgent to get there because if the professor was rushing through a secret message, then something was definitely wrong. With a final glance around, I sent the pigeon on its way, watching its ascent until it became a tiny dot in the sky.
I left my comfortable bench under the willows and briskly walked down the street towards the only coffee shop in town, at the corner of First and Second Street. Anxiously scanning the streets for suspicious looking bystanders, I gently tore the note into tiny scraps and nonchalantly tossed the scraps into a couple of different trash cans, also down a few drains.
Finally reaching the corner of First and Second Street, I glanced around for the familiar face of Professor Travis. He was nowhere to be seen. With a frown, I realized that the professor must be in disguise. After all, he was always telling me that I needed a “keen eye” to see through disguises. I carefully studied all the people on the street but found no familiarity. There was a teen girl talking eagerly to her friend, a mother with a baby stroller, a group of men discussing the news of a recent earthquake, three businessmen waiting for the bus at the corner, and a man reading a newspaper. Upside down.
Involuntarily, a grin spread over my face as I resisted the urge to chuckle. The professor was always a serious man, and the sight of him sitting cross-legged on a bench, reading a newspaper upside down was downright hilarious. I walked by him briskly, purposely bumping into him, and muttered a quick apology, before turning the corner towards the coffee shop. Only a few moments later, the man had joined me and we walked silently into the shop.
The inside of the coffee shop was quiet and only a few customers sat at the tables, sipping steaming espressos and scanning the headline news. The professor strolled casually to the “Employees Only” door and I followed him in. Inside was a small corridor lined with doors, ending at a solid brick wall. As we walked down the hallway, Professor Travis swiftly pulled off his fake beard, neatly stowing it within the folds of his suit in seconds. “Ah, that feels better,” he said with a chuckle. “The hair was itching like crazy.” Then, with a small spray bottle he produced from his sleeve, he sprayed his hair. A spray of powder shot out onto his hair and covered it with fine silver dust. Instantly, the gray began to fade, replaced with the professor’s natural dark brown. Within a minute, Professor Travis looked like himself again, a young man with a mop of dark brown hair and wise green eyes, inspecting me from behind his tortoiseshell spectacles. He studied me fondly. Nine years ago, he had taken me in as his apprentice at the age of seven and began to train me to be a secret agent. Being one of the most skilled, experienced agents around, he was the perfect mentor. During the nine years of his mentoring, the professor loved me as if I were his own child. He was the only father I’d ever known and the greatest teacher I’ve ever had. “Embroll, this is your disguise?” asked the professor, raising an eyebrow in amusement.
I bit my lip. I hadn’t taken precautions to disguise myself and if I had been being followed, an enemy agent would have easily recognized me. “Well, I was in the middle of… something,” I said tersely, thinking abashedly of how minutes ago, I was lounging in the park. “Anyways, isn't there something wrong? That’s why I got the “hurry” letter, isn’t it?” I said quickly, changing the subject.
Instantly, his amused expression faded, replaced with seriousness. “Follow me, Embroll. This is why you’ve been called.”
The professor led to me to the brick wall, where only an old, electric panel hung crookedly off to the right. I watched in amazement as the professor pressed a silver button on the electricity panel and the panel slid open to reveal a circular slot. With a wink at me, the professor slid a silver disk from his breast pocket and pressed it into the slot.
Suddenly, there was a faint humming noise and the next thing I knew, the brick wall had opened up into a round metal elevator. Professor Travis smiled at my stunned expression and we walked in.
The elevator traveled down for what seemed like, forever, before a resounding ding shattered the silence, causing me to jump in surprise. The elevator doors opened, and I stepped into the largest secret agent headquarters known in the history of secret agent headquarters.
I ran inside eagerly, drinking in my surroundings. I hadn’t been here in weeks and I was eager to be back in this amazing room. In the center of the room sat a glass table complete with a set of eight chairs, a cup of coffee teetering at the edge. Over to the left, a cluster of crazy gadgets and machines caught my eye and I dashed over.
“What is this stuff?” I marveled, examining the assortment of metal and glass objects that I could make no sense of.
“Some of our inventions. They’re a work in progress so be careful,” the professor said, waving me over to a massive computer that towered over my head. He sat down at the control panel off to the right and typed in some passwords. I sat down beside him as he typed code after code into the control panel, while glancing around in wonder, still mesmerized by the futuristic feel of the place as glinting metal machines winked at me from all around.
“Embroll, what do you see?” asked the professor, pulling my attention back to the large screen of the computer. I watched as the black screen fizzled to life and an image began to form.
“It’s a wheat field… and there seems to be a huge chunk of wheat missing from the center.” I said hesitantly, leaning in to look closer. “No, wait. Not missing, flattened. By something very large,” I finished confidently.
“Yes, “said Professor Travis. “This is the largest wheat field in Arphonage. Something has been destroying essential amounts of their crops for weeks. A few cows, pigs, and sheep have disappeared, too. Some of our agents went over to check it out but they didn’t find any leads. Until yesterday.” The professor began typing again, so fast that his fingers were a blur. “This is a picture taken from yesterday by one of our agents patrolling the field. According to him, he was pacing along the field when a huge creature fell from the sky and landed with an earthshaking thump. It proceeded to snatch away a few of the cows that were grazing and flew off again. But not before our agents got a picture.” Professor Travis clicked a button and a blurry picture of something large and gold appeared on the screen. “The monster attacked him before it left and apparently blew fire at him. Our agent is now being treated for burns but his pictures were put to good use.” I squinted at the blurry picture and suddenly realized what the large gold creature was. The professor saw my realization and nodded gravely. “Yes Embroll, what you are seeing is one of the last living specimens of the Draconis occidentalis, otherwise known as a dragon.”
I stuffed another pack of trail mix into my backpack and hefted it onto my back. It felt surprisingly light and I bounced it a little, glad that it was so comfortable.
“This is a communication device in case anything goes wrong,” said the professor, handing me a small metal walkie-talkie like machine. I clipped it onto my belt and stood up straight, proudly displaying my new look. The professor looked over me thoughtfully. “Embroll, though this is your first major mission and it is a pretty serious, not to mention dangerous, one. I believe you are ready for it. I have taught you all I can and you have done immensely well in the training I have given you.”
“Thank you, Professor,” I said, zipping up my black leather jacket which was coated in a flame-resistant spray. “Just in case,” the professor had said. “I promise I’ll find out what the dragon wants and get back to you in one piece.”
The professor beamed. “That’s my boy, “he said fondly. As I stepped into the elevator, the professor called after me, “Oh, and Embroll?”
I turned to look at the professor again, and my throat tightened with emotion as I gazed at the father figure of my life. He was sitting in the chair in front of his computer and strangely enough, he looked tired and old, though he was only in his late thirties. He smiled up at me, his green eyes twinkling behind his spectacles. “I’m proud to call you my son.” And with that, the elevator doors closed and the professor’s smiling face disappeared.