Drake wrapped his tail around Seth’s neck and shoulders forming a scaly blue scarf catching the tears of his friend. His leathery wings stretched across his shoulders and his long neck and head nuzzled against Seth’s as if to hug and comfort him.
But nothing was going to comfort Seth today as he looked down at the body in front of him. He was dealing with the overwhelming sensation that he would never speak to his mother again which was something he had never contemplated in his 14 years of life. That is, not before she grew deathly ill a week before.
Drake too, felt an immense loss and looked as sad as any dracon ever could. Drake was a baby when he was given to Seth as a gift by his mother just over 4 years before she died. She taught Seth everything she could about handling and training Drake, as well as other wild creatures when the situations would arise.
He tried to make these situations arise as often as possible because he enjoyed these moments with his mom more than anything else. She would always compliment his abilities with the animals and say he had a gift with them that she had never seen before.
Now these moments were gone forever and he struggled to sort through the reality of what lay before him. His mind raced and jumped from memory to thought and thought to memory. For a few seconds he would remember something about his mom that would make him smile and another second later he would be overcome with sadness. The constant ebb and flow of emotions were affecting him so deeply he was getting nauseous.
But he just stood there staring at her as everyone passed around him. He vaguely noticed when people offered their condolences and occasionally picked up whisperings of other people saying, ‘poor boy, they were so close’. People offered food and gave little bits of wisdom such as, ‘everything happens for a reason’ and ‘it will get easier.’ Everyone had something to say about what had happened, everyone except for his dad.
His dad was not standing next to him which didn’t really offend him. What did offend him was that his dad wasn’t standing beside him frozen speechless and in tears over the loss.
‘How could he be chatting it up over there,’ Seth wondered in between the train of emotions he was riding, ‘when mom is laying here?’
Eventually he was pulled away and his mother was covered. He was vaguely aware of people talking about his mother and praying over her. He watched the covered body as more people came in and laid flowers beside it, only occasionally thinking the flowers being laid down were not extravagant enough to be a real offering for someone as great as his mom.
And he watched the body while the preacher spoke the words that he assumed preachers speak at everyone’s memorial. He watched the body and had fleeting thoughts that maybe this was some elaborate prank being played in him and his mom would suddenly jump up and surprise him.
These thoughts stuck with him for days after the funeral. He really had a hard time adjusting to the idea that she was gone. In some ways he would occasionally forget she was dead and just think she was on another trip away. His thoughts would wander in this way until he’d think about her coming home which would drag him back to reality, hitting harder each time.
At the end of the funeral his other was taken into the cave used for such situations. He had seen the process before when a local villager his dad was friends with had passed away. That had been shocking but seeing his mother go atop the pyre full of wood was making him want to scream out loud. As the fire was started he started to step forward to yell at them to stop hurting his mom.
But they weren’t hurting her, it was what they always did with their dead. This was the cycle of life and it always seemed to end abruptly. His dad took him home and they sat in their living room not talking to each other. They continued not talking to each other for a week. Here and there would be a grunt to indicate dinner was ready or something needed cleaning.
Seth caught his dad crying the second night they’d been home and finally saw that his dad was struggling just as he was. It was everyone else who didn’t seem to understand. It was everyone else who only knew to offer food so they wouldn’t have to cook and to say it would get easier and they were sorry. No one understood what they were going through except his father and what his father understood was that neither of them really knew how to handle the situation.
Seth’s dad was the first person to break the silence.
“I have to go do some work for Crazy Joe.”
Seth looked at him, slightly stunned as though he had just been woken from a deep sleep. After a short moment he finally worked some words out, “Oh, ok.”
“Do you want to come with me? Might do us good to get out of the house.”
Seth thought about it and for no reason he wanted to yell at his dad but wasn’t sure why, instead he answered, “No, I’d rather stay here.”
Seth’s dad didn’t know how to handle the situation or what to say or do to make his son feel better. All he knew was that nothing was making HIM feel better, so he didn’t figure anything would help Seth. He simply gathered his things and walked out the door saying, “If you need anything, come on down to Joes.”
Seth did not go to Joes and did almost nothing all day. Twice he let Drake fly around outside for a moment but even Drake tired of it quickly and flew back to be by his friends side. And once Seth got up to look for something to eat in the myriad of food that had been brought to them.
It was later in the day when Seth started to look through his mom’s book collection in the living room. His mom loved books and loved reading. When he was young she would read to him at night while he was falling asleep. She collected books from all over Agnos when she went on her travels and he would hear the most fantastic of stories.
His favorite stories were those of dragons, Drakes very distant cousins. While she had let him know many times that she had never seen a dragon and believed them to be long extinct, he always held out the childish hope that they were real.
When his mother brought Drake home he had first said, “you got me a dragon!” But she corrected him explaining that it was a ‘dray-cone’ and would never get larger than a hawk. His favorite story was about a man who was studying a large dragon in the north that had the ability to make itself invisible. He attempted to ride the dragon by throwing a rope around it’s neck, however since it was invisible at the time he had accidentally roped around it’s tail and was subsequently tossed into a tree.
Seth ran his finger across the various spines sticking out like a kid running down a picket fence with a stick. He stopped on a ratty worn spine with words that were unrecognizable from years of use. He pulled out the book and sat down in the big chair by the fire. He ran his fingers over the leather cover and felt the stitched in symbol on the front. It was an ornate circle of interweaving lines with two letters “S” in the middle that crossed each other. When he was younger Seth had thought them to be snakes giving each other a hug.
He opened the book and started flipping through it’s pages carefully. The paper was old and brittle and the smell that wafted out of it reminded him of winters that his mother would set reading the book to herself by the fire in the very chair he was now sitting.
Most of the book had always seemed rather boring to him what with it’s lack of pictures and dragons. In fact, it lacked wild creatures entirely which was odd for her collection given that she was a creature handler. No, most of the book was about a group of people who had a secret society of fighters and adventurers. While that part was always interesting to him most of the book was sets of rules that the group held themselves to. There was hardly anything about actual adventuring or fighting anywhere to be found in there.
He stopped on one page marked by a piece of paper stuck rather haphazardly into the book with a bible passage scrawled across it in rough handwriting. He recognized his mother’s writing immediately as she had never learned the art of calligraphy like his dad had. Hers always looked hurried as though if she didn’t get it on paper quick enough the thought would leave her forever. The paper read, “We love, because He loved us. John 1 4:19” He held it for a second in a clinched fist before easing and setting it beside him.
He started looking at the pages it had marked, skimming the words and trying to focus, something that had been hard since his mother died. The pages spoke of a charter that the group was to hold itself to. Most of it, again, was rather boring to him and he was about to flip some more pages when a sentence caught his eye.
‘It shall be at the forefront of our constant thoughts that the group never grows stale. When we see the world changing, we must change with it, yet when the world does not change sufficiently we will create change ourselves.’
Immediately Seth’s mind was driven back in time to when he was just 7 years old. He had been growing taller and was thrilled to show his mother just how tall one night when she came in to read to him.
“LOOK MOM!” he nearly yelled in excitement as she came in. He was touching his head to the top of his bed and stretching his toes just as far as he could, just barely touching the foot of the bed. “I’m almost too big for my bed,” he added with a big grin on his face, proud of growing tall.
His mother, however, didn’t smile at this but rather retorted without missing a beat in a peculiarly serious tone, “You know, when you grow up and you get too big for your bed you have to build your own.”
She had then gone on to read to him though he wasn’t able to concentrate and indeed didn’t get much sleep that night. He was kept up wondering how he would ever be able to build a bed. Would his dad teach him? Would he be given wood or instructions? Would he be able to ask for help? What if he got too big tomorrow? He was only seven and couldn’t imagine being able to build a bed by himself.
He had forgotten about it a few weeks later until he had looked at that book. Reading those lines he realized what she had actually meant. The bed was not a bed, but the world around him, and building it meant he had to change it. Tears started to stream down his face as he realized his mother was still teaching him things, even after she had gone.
Drake stood up on the ottoman where he had been laying between Seth’s legs. He stretched a bit and then walked in a circle a few times before settling back down. Seth closed the book and held it close for a few minutes before scanning the shelves for another one to look at.
His eyes dropped their gaze closer to the fireplace where the books were overflowing off of the shelves and into small stacks around the room. He picked one up that was right beside the chair. It was one he had seen before but had never seen his mom actually reading. Opening up he found out why. The first page had more of her scribbles on it and read, “Nita Bakers Journal: 475-”. Seth realized this was recent, started just the year before, and got goosebumps at all the possible things that could be written in these pages. He was not disappointed when he flipped to the next page and saw that it was a journal entry from one of her jobs away.
Feb 2, 475 – The trip north from Forge was uneventful despite all the talk of bandits on the highway. When I got into Anchorton and met with Tiny Tom he was frantic over something that had shown up in his yard the week before. I asked him what it was but he continued to say I just had to see it. When we got to his house he directed me to the back but then didn’t follow. Cautiously I walked over the fence and looked around. I was about to let him know whatever had been there was gone when I saw the bush in the far corner of the yard move. Only it wasn’t a bush, and it kept moving towards me.
I jumped over the fence and watched as it got closer. It’s shape changed as it moved in a blob-like rolling fashion. It had no legs and no arms that I could see. Really, it just looked like a pile of green goo, about three feet tall, with two enormous eyes. It got to the fence and stopped I saw that it’s eyes were sad longing for attention and I realized it was not trying to be aggressive but just wanted out. However it had gotten into his yard it had not been able to find a way back out.
Slowly I reached my open palm out to the goo-ball, stopping just a few inches away from it. It bent forward, or shifted itself, or whatever it did it came closer to my hand and decided I was no threat when it surrounded a portion of it’s goo around my hand. The sensation was scary yet amazing and unlike anything I’d ever encountered before. Like 10 dog tongues licking my hand at the same time it seemed to caress my hand and explore it. It lasted a few seconds and the creature let go. When my hand came out it was not covered in goo or sticky, though it did have a feeling of having something new on it as though I had just washed my hands and not quite gotten all of the soap off.
I jumped back over the fence and, well I guess I took it’s hand. I held my hand out and took a few steps forward to show my intention. It sort of leaned into it and engulfed it again at which point I started slowly walking forward. To my amazement it not only started ‘walking’ with me but also gave some amount of pressure to my hand, almost squeezing it, much like Seth did when he was little.
I led it to the gate, opening it to lead the creature out. When I let go, however, it just continued to look at me with sad eyes. I walked around the yard to find Tiny Tom and the creature followed. I don’t know who was more freaked out, Tom or the creature. It was rather funny to see the 6’7” tall Tiny Tom scream at me to get rid of it while the creature seemed to hide behind my legs. I assured Tom I would make sure it didn’t come back into his yard and I walked back behind his house again, looking into the woods that were there.
Going on the assumption that the creature had to have come from somewhere I started walking it into the forest. The little creature stayed close to me and as we got into the more dense part of the forest it actually reached out for my hand which I gladly gave. It squeezed tighter than before and shook at the littlest of noises.
I was actually getting worried that I’d made a mistake. While I was sure the little guy had come out of the forest I had no way of knowing exactly which direction to head. As it started getting dark I reached a clearing in the woods. In the middle of the clearing was a large felled tree stump that looked to be mostly hollow. At the sight of it the creature let go of my hand and ran, or rolled or whatever it does towards the tree.
I started to yell out to it when out of the log another goo ball twice it’s size came out. It was also green with two big eyes and these eyes were not sad but worried turned to joy when it saw the little guy coming towards it. I had found mommy goo. I was absentmindedly walking towards her to get a better look when her gaze turned towards me and it was a look of anger. She obviously assumed I had interfered and she started towards me at a strong pace.
I reeled backwards but tripped and fell as she started to overtake me. That’s when the little guy jumped in front of her. She stopped and looked at him and they just stared at each others eyes for a few moments. She looked at me again and her gaze softened and suddenly, four more little goo balls emerged from her, separating themselves out and surrounding their little brother.
The mother came towards me and reached out as her child had done before. I reached my hand out and she squeezed and rolled backwards, pulling me up. She gave me a sort of bow and I bowed back to her as she started to ‘walk’ back towards their home. Her children all followed except for the little guy I had bonded with. He came up to me and wrapped his body around my leg. His goo warmed my leg and I reached down and patted his head. His mother turned around and looked toward us for a moment before he finally let go and walked back towards her.
I must remember to talk to Wise Willie and see if he has ever heard of such a creature. I hope to come back soon and study them closer but for now, I am needed back in Forge in two nights.
Seth looked over the pages and wanted to know more about the creature his mom had seen. This was one she had never told him about but then, she had been busier than ever over the last year and was home less and less. He wondered who Wise Willie was as he couldn’t think of any Willie in their small village.
The sound of the front door opening startled him back to reality and he quickly closed and tucked the book away. He didn’t want to share what he’d found with anyone, not even his father who walked in covered in dirt and grease.
“So Crazy Joe is making something I think you’d be interested to see,” Seth’s dad offered to his son.
“Oh yeah?” Drake got up and stretched again and upon seeing Seth’s dad walked over to him and began sniffing whatever smells he may have picked up while he was away.
“Yeah, you wanna go with me tomorrow? He needs some more help and is paying pretty good,” he asked hopefully.
“I don’t think so.”
Seth’s dad lost the hopeful look and gained a defeated one. “Alright, well I’m going to get cleaned up. Why don’t you get us something for dinner ready?”
Seth got up and looked through the foods that people had brought again and settled on a pot of chili which he threw over the fire to warm. He then went and hid the journal in his room so he could read it later. This was how he would spend the next few days, struggling to stay close to his mother and learn about her last days.