Snowed: The Weekend Trip

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Haunted Home, Spicer Dam Spur Road

Crime Scene Photo 1-A  24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

He took another swallow from the old whiskey bottle. Jason Best Ph.D. pulled on the wrench while he struggled to remove the cap that protected the fill valve. He swore when barked his knuckles for the third time.

The cabin, originally constructed in the era of the California Gold Rush over the horizontal entrance of a prospecter’s mine. A moderately successful mine that produced moderate amounts of gold until it played. The owner stayed with the cabin as a hermit until the elderly prospector died and ownership passed, in time, to Jason.

In the construction style of the era, the first owner built the cabin’s foundation out of charred cedar logs on bedrock that survived the elements better than modern foundations. Remodeled twice, the one floor shanty grew into a split-level two and a half story mountain chalet, steam from nearby hot springs powered a small turbine for electricity and radiators for heat.

Carefully he examined the dead system, he found the valve seal had failed. It appeared to have been overtightened, the seal developed a slow leak that took a toll over the years, and reduced the power generation slowly to zero. Now he paid the price for that seal with blood from his knuckles. He gave a heavy sigh as the blood dripped onto the ancient timbers of the wood and earth, it would be nice to have a nurse type who could get the first aid kit and bandage his knuckles up.

As it is I’ll  need to climb up three flights of stairs to get to the first aid kit so I could patch up my own scrapes, but I don’t have time to bleed. I’m on a roll.  His thoughts tried to interrupt his focus.

Doctor Best studied the concepts of the hot springs and geothermal power, he taught himself enough to rebuild the system that he now struggled with while he used language that his mother used to ground him for. He updated the electrical wire, plugs and cables in the cabin, it held many pleasant surprises that included one solid-gold nugget.  It was a beautiful place that he happily named “Mountain Home”.

With a final shrill squeak of surrender, the cap turned. Then became loose enough for him to spin it off with his fingers. The threads were in good shape, however the seal was in bad shape.

He used a specialized tool that he tracked down over the internet to a company that dealt with replacement parts of the ancient system, he was able to re-plumb the house. Along with the upgraded the control panel circuitry, Jason brought the house into the modern era.

Sweat and strain as he worked, his next part of the project was to dig out under the house for to expand his electrical panel and power generation center. He took advantage of the horizontal mine, and when he moved out a pile of debris he discovered, to his pleasure, a large underground room.

An added plus, the underground space was semi-finished into a wine-cellar of sorts. With wines he had found dated from just before the prohibition era, many stored on their sides.

A few sat upright with the corks exposed, those had dried out and the seals failed. Those bottles that laid on their sides, were all intact, but so few, Jason chose to drink only one. And it was excellent!

An even better discovery, however, some soul in the past had stashed a treasure-trove of rye whiskey. “Robert’s Rye”, and each onion-shaped flask had a layer of rye-seeds on the bottom.

He felt that it was the reason for the rye whiskey was excellent, and he had many bottles with seals intact.

He sampled some of the potent nectar, but he was hungry and the whiskey gave him a pleasant buzz. He wanted dinner, however he needed to recharge the heat-exchanger first to get heat into the house otherwise a cold night was in store for him.

He tightened the hose to the valve and turned the handle, he watched the gauge on the cylinder rise as the system pressure rose and became the home’s central heat source as it transported heat from the geothermal hot-spot to the house.

The smell of baked potatoes and roast meat reached his nose. Tessa, his colleague from the university, cooked upstairs in the modernized kitchen while she warmed the upper floors as a side benefit while the central-heat units were offline. They had seen each other outside of work a few times. They always kept it on the down-low, Tessa worried about the issue of staff fraternization. She was not yet tenured and did not want to lose her job because of her relationship with James.

But here, with the whiskey, wine, and snow so heavy on the ground no one would come by. A storm had dropped four-inches per hour for the last two hours on top of the six-feet of snow that fell before he had arrived Friday night and struggled long hours to get the big cylinder dragged through the basement door to the mouth of the mine.

The sweep needle on the pressure gauge was in the green pressure gauge. A flip of the breakers in order, green LED’s illuminated and made him smile. Electric power was now available.

He put the wrench away in his new toolbox, that Tessa bought him. He walked to the electric panel and read the displays. He pressed a switch on the wall and the lights in wall sconces blinked and flickered to life as electrical systems worked to perfection.

He wondered what might be wrong. It was too smooth. No project ever went that easy unless it was broken.

The Professor of Biochemistry laughed, with green lights on all power systems, he only needed to turn on the hot-tub on the patio at the wall switch. Tessa and he could sip ninety-year-old whiskey, sit in the bubbles of warm water and watch the snowstorm.

Maybe the weather might break and they could watch the stars dance in the heavens. Then showers and, he hoped, sleep with his arms around her.

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

“I have a surprise for you, up there!” He said, waited a heartbeat and flipped the circuit breaker to “On”.

The whole house lit up. LED rope lights he had wired in, illuminated with the effect of electronic icicles made the snow appear blue under the lights.

Tessa was impressed, breathless from the effect of the light show.

Tessa walked around with just a light work shirt, she had broken a sweat while she lifted boxes and cleaned in the old cabin, and made it more of a home with the triple-paned windows.

Which was fine in Jason’s point of view. With an oversized sleeveless shirt, sometimes he would get lucky and watch her accidentally flash him, her bare legs, smudged and dust-covered while she wore shorts and sandals, she was an impressive person. A brilliant Doctor of Anthropology, a competitor in the triathlon. A woman not afraid to get dirty. But then, she was a digger. She liked to dig up bones.  

He had just sat down with Tessa and she poured him more whiskey while they waited for the other couple to come down the stairs. They broke bread while they waited, his grandmother’s recipe that had baked all day with sprigs of fresh rosemary in the propane heated oven.

The conversation about the house, he apologized that she had to work when she should have relaxed and enjoyed the view.

Tessa’s smile was as bright as a sunrise. Tessa touched his cheek and kissed him deeply.

“It is my pleasure to help set up the cabin for him was her pleasure.

A rhythmic noise from upstairs, Doctor Lettie MacKay and her rebound boyfriend, Kevin Acker, from the School of Pharmacy were busy upstairs in the bedrooms. They were supposed to be upstairs to hang wallpaper, but the noise was not the sounds of paste and paper. Kevin always kept samples of ED drugs on his person and they were not yet downstairs for food.

“Can you two kids give it a break? You are not supposed to test the beds in each room! You are supposed to hang wallpaper!”

That was when the first scream, like a siren, echoed down the stairs.

Tessa and he ran upstairs into the arms of the half-naked Doctor MacKay who grabbed him and screamed in their faces that the wallpaper had come to life,

“It grew tenticles and grabbed at me! It tore my clothes when Kevin pulled me away and saved me!” She sobbed. “Oh my god, it grabbed and pulled him into the wallpaper!”

“Go down to the kitchen.” Jason said and looked into the room.

A lump on the wall looked as if some crazed paper-hanger covered an unfortunate person who stood there.

Jason grabbed a putty knife out of a plastic bucket to cut the paper-covered Kevin out, the colored wallpaper began to show details of Kevin’s face behind the branches and stylized birds printed on the wallpaper.

“Kevin!” Jason called.  And the associate professor looked at him from within the paper, then his image faded, and left the wallpaper flat and perfect and left Jason no place to cut.

He tried anyway, he scraped where Kevin was under the paper, but it was just a plaster wall. Kevin was no longer among the branches and trees of the wallpaper.

Screams again, downstairs. He ran down the stairs, Tessa was at the door, her eyes rolled around her head in abject terror.

Lettie, stuck to the wall held her hands out as the texture of the wallpaper crawled the length of her arms to her fingers while she clutched at the air in failed attempts to save herself.

Jason slashed at the paper with the sharp corner of the putty knife they used to spackle the walls for new paper.

A high-pitched sound from the wallpaper, higher than the screams of the women, sounded as the wallpaper tore while Jason slashed at it with the metal blade.

The wallpaper moved on its own, in an attempt to pull Lettie into a  giant wrinkle that grew until looked like a mouth.

He grabbed his coworker by her left arm, he pulled hard on her and used his right foot to stomp the wallpaper flat against the wall until he tore it away from Lettie’s body.

The wallpaper left traces of paste on Lettie’s arms when he freed her and pulled her into his arms, they did not stop to consider the slime, instead they ran towards the the front door where Tessa screamed at them to hurry.

When they got close, door slammed shut and locked Tessa outside. Try a he might, with all his strength and a screwdriver to pry with, the door refused to open.

Jason realized Tessa’s danger, she had worn only the light work clothes she wore while she worked in the cabin and outside it was a cold that could kill.

Jason pointed to the basement and Tessa nodded, he and Lettie ran down the stairs, her legs lacerated from the branches of the wallpaper. In the basement, stone walls seemed less dangerous.

Jason showed Lettie where to sit and ran towards the basement’s heavy-timber doors like a football tackle and hit them at full speed…

And bounced off.

The gold mine might be a safe haven, but the doors were part of the house.

Tessa’s voice called his name, she was cold.

His mind raced, if he didn’t know better, there was a malevolence that had awoke when they worked in the house.

Tessa yelled his name again, feeble sounds on the wood where she pounded on the thick planks, her plead to come in out of the cold.

In a near panic, he looked at his work table.

The table! His mind screamed. I used that old ore-cart! It is all iron and it still sits on the rails in the floor!

He released the brake and took a deep swallow from the whiskey bottle for luck and swallowed a few of the rye grains. Then pushed the half-ton cart as hard as he could.

He hit the doors hard at a near sprint and a gap opened from the impact.

Tessa’s hand came through the gap in the door and Jason grabbed Tessa and pulled.

Ice cold, she shivered as she struggled to get inside, halfway through, the doors began to close on her leg. Tessa screamed from the pain of her leg as the door crushed it.

Jason grabbed a shovel and shoved it against the door for a wedge.

He shoved and struggled against the door with his shoulder, It gave an inch, then he pushed the shovel forward with his foot and forced the door wider again. In one instant, he took the chance and pulled Tessa free of the heavy timber doors, she clung to him. She wept from the cold, begged him to tell her what happened.

Jason took her to sit with Lettie and began to explain. Lettie turned to look at him, her eyes haunted.

No, not haunted, not haunted at all. 

She had no eyes!

Her once beautiful face now was an eyeless horror with a mouth that formed a big “O” of a silent scream. A tendril extended down from above to Lettie’s head and sucked life from her. Her skin had become mottled and pale as the house stole the woman’s essence.

Jason grabbed a hatchet from his workbench and jumped at the thread that drew the life out of Lettie like a tentacle with a million mouths. Time slowed down, as he swung the sharp hand-ax.

And missed.

“OH God!” He screamed as white fluid leaked out of the wound in her skull instead of human blood. “Oh god, I’m so sorry!”

He was the only one that could make it to the car. But Tessa would be in this house alone. Even if she was safe for the moment, in the corner behind the work table, between two rolls of…

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

He turned to where Tessa sat and he could only see a ball of wallpaper where he left Tessa, he could see her outline had become less distinct under the wallpaper that had slid around her like a web.

He leaped over the table with a box-cutter in hand and slashed at the cocoon of wallpaper around her, and found…

Paper. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

He was the only one left and the doors were ajar, too small to allow escape.

He pulled on the work table and rolled it to the deepest part of the mine that he could reach.

“Last drink in this house!” He shouted and took a long, deep drink of the whiskey bottle and smashed the bottle against the house foundation. “Fuck you!”

James crouched and braced his hands on the table, he pushed as hard as he could and gained momentum

With a thirty-foot start with the thousand-pound ram to break through the doors, Jason and the cart hit the doors at a full run, the left door trembled and creaked open.

He took advantage of the gap that opened, Jason dove through the gap before the heavy timber door slammed on the table time and again, the house tried to claim another victim.

He collapsed in the snow, it was strangely quiet, illuminated by the beautiful LED icicle lights he spent so much time to hang along the edge of the roof around the patio.

A beautiful and deadly structure.

He fell face first in the snow, his hands felt like they were on fire.

Pain! He groaned in agony. Pain, so much pain! 

It has from the snow! He looked at his hands, they were pale. Very pale.  Is my skin mottled? Or am I the wallpaper?

He stood and ran through the snow slipped and fell, cut his knees and tore open his paper-hands. Logical, educated Dr. Best, crawled on his elbows and knees and left a bloody trail in the snow behind him. He covered the mile in nearly an hour when he fell and rolled out on to the asphalt of Spicer road.

The ground rumbled, he could feel it. It was the house! It chased him on cedar pillar legs, the ground trembled with the evil hunger that stalked him.

Too tired and cold to run, he lay on the lonely mountain road and screamed to whichever spirit that he was sorry as lights from the porch bore down and engulfed him.

****

Jason awoke to the glow of a cardiac monitor. He focused on the display of his heart waveform before he realized he was in a hospital and the heart that was monitored, was his.

After two weeks, the hospital discharged Jason and days where police questionedby him about the three deaths ended.

Detectives took notes, wrote down all the professor said and described with vivid detail. Police then interviewed the physicians who attended to Jason’s wounds.

Jason obtained a copy of the detective’s report, and read it three weeks later, while he sat at his breakfast table.

“Doctor Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by snowplow driver, Honey Gareth in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. The two days in question, where Doctor Best spent alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the events that transpired on the weekend in question, Doctor Best discovered an old wine cellar stocked with wine and rye whiskey. Tests of opened whiskey bottles showed high levels of ergot alkaloids, consistent with acute ergot toxicity that caused visual and auditory hallucinations, per the physicians and specialists who attended to Dr. Best. This results that Dr. Best became convinced that he was with three other people who died.

Subsequent interviews with the named people, Doctor Contessa AKA “Tessa” Pershing is alive and well, continues to work at Ocean Bay Community College. Doctor Best is familiar to Doctor Pershing in that they have attended same faculty continued-education and office functions but denies any relationship that might exist between Doctor Best and herself.

Doctor Lettie MacKay is friends with Doctor Best, but states no knowledge of anyone named Kevin. Her spouse, Michael MacKay, works at Ocean Bay University as a Fine Arts Professor. Further, no address, student record or employment record of Kevin Acker is found.

To date, no evidence of deaths at this address on the weekend in question exists.

Interior of 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road shows the wallpaper slashed and torn in the kitchen and third floor bedroom. The heavy timber barn door to the basement is off the hinge. Damage caused by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails used to batter the door open and a hatchet discovered imbedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos) it is to note: Where Dr. Best said he struck a woman in the head with a hatchet, the hatch found someone embedded into a can of ‘Cottage Girl’ paint.  The ax had struck the paper label of the logo of the woman on the paint can.

A horizontal gold mine, dug circa 1850’s shows evidence of modern reinforcements and extensive work in a power room. Adjacent to the power room is the previously mentioned wine cellar. (See attached photos)

Ninety-six onion shaped, clear to light-blue glass bottles of honey-colored  fluid were found with apparent rye grain in the bottom of the bottles. Original labels, dated from 1910 to 1919 of quart-size printed with “Robert’s Rye Whiskey”. In the course of the investigation, the crime-scene team discovered two bottles opened, one empty, the second appeared three-quarters full.(See attached photos)

It is the conclusion of the investigation that Dr. Best  suffered from accidental ergot intoxication per the attached pertinent physician’s notes.

No complaints will be filed.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigator.”

 © 2015 Dash McCallen all rights reserved

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Married by Mistake Chapte 49. The Good-Bye Girl

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Chapter 49. The Good-Bye Girl

Fourteen days at home flew past with a blur.

Kaylee in the meantime recharged, recovered from her shock at Glenn’s immature life choice, was packing for the return to Ocean Bay University.

Her dad made her laugh. She had sat with him on a home-made bean bag chair while she smoked a pipe for the first time with the man she always thought was without a clue about life for the young generation.

The old man had more on the ball than Kaylee ever gave him credit for. She always thought of him as an IT nerd-tech that was only involved with himself.

Instead, dad liked Steampunk music, knew a thousand things she never thought possible of his generation.

Funny, it seemed the older she got, the smarter he was. In fact she viewed her father, Charles Achilles “CAG” Grant, as brilliant, funny, talented and wise.

She didn’t tell him about Tom, however. She started a dozen times and Dad shushed her each time.

‟Your past is in your behind.” He said softly.

‟What?” Kaylee looked up at the man who was the standard she held all other men to. ‟Dad? What?”

‟Sorry, that’s good weed.” He gave a crooked smile. ‟Put your behind in your past, you don’t need to talk about it just now.”

‟You mean that I should put what on my butt?”

‟No.” Dad was trying for a serious moment but giggled. ‟What is done is history. Leave it there for now.”

‟Okay.” Kaylee smiled and took another hit off the pipe. Her parents always dealt with Anders Schroder with his home-grown. It was the best weed in the area.

Mr. Schroder grew enough of the best cannabis to sell to the retail outlets, but little more than that. Fully licensed and inspected, Mr. Schroder kept the businesses going with only enough income to keep his bills paid. The old man just liked the beauty of the plant and wished to make clothes out of the hemp fiber he grew from other species. Often telling Glenn and Kaylee that it was better than cotton.

The weed relaxed her and made the heartache of Glenn seem so much smaller than it was.

*At least I’m not pregnant! Pretty sure.* She laughed to herself.

She began to think of that last time on the plane after she came home.

Tom was weak from spending so much time in the hospital bed, she had grown protective of the soul that thought he was her protector. He cautioned her heart to avoid what Tom said in gentle words, ‟Complicate things”.

Another few days home.

An argument over who’s toe-sock was left out on the porch with her brother ended with mom telling them to go put on their socks.

Kaylee came out wearing hers and Mike, with one bare foot and looking sheepish.

While the kid-brother learned to do his own laundry, at dad’s insistence to prepare him for college. Another requirement of the patriarch of the family.

Dad did not care what each of the children wanted to do, but he did require that they earned the highest degree of education available for that interest.

A strong preference for a doctorate, and no one dared defy dad on this point.

Kaylee worried a lot about trying to earn a doctorate in fine arts, a tall order. But dad was motivational and insistent.

That afternoon, while she packed to return to Ocean Bay U., Glenn pulled up in his car.

Alone.

He walked up to the door, intercepted by Kaylee .

‟Don’t you have a life to attend to? Does Sam know you are here?”

‟Yes, she knows. Our mom’s were talking and she found out you were leaving today, she sent me with this.” Glenn held out a small gift, a compass with an email address taped to it.

“Sam wants to pursue a friendship with you.” Glenn’s voice was almost a whisper.

Kaylee was still unsure, her heart still ached after that day. She had found a kindred spirit in Samantha Schroder, but still envious at the same time.

She took the offered present with a smile that she did not feel in her heart.

‟I know I hurt you, if I say it was an accident, it would be an insult to everyone. But it was not planned, I wanted to stay with you.”

‟Do not tell me that, do not let Sam hear you say that.” Kaylee on the verge of rage shook her finger in his face. ‟You want to work as a member of congress élite and a senator’s aide? You put on a face of a happy husband and proud father. You did this with her without thought or precaution, now you have a child. You had better love that baby, or I swear I will kick you so hard you it will take a year for your breastbone to heal. And you know I can. If you ever break up with Sam, I will use you for my flow-drills. You don’t get a stick, you just have to stand there and take it.”

‟Then I’ll send my dad after you, he’s pissed at you as well.” She added.

‟I can see that. He’s standing in the window, looking at me.” Glenn voice trembled with more than a little fear.

Charles Grant stood in the picture window with his arms crossed, a stare like a cougar lining up for a kill for a full minute then stepped out of sight.

For a single moment of shining terror, Glenn thought the old man was coming out.

‟I’ll keep in touch.” He told Kaylee. ‟Maybe we can get together then.”

‟No.” She shook her head. ‟We have our own lives, lived our own way and our own adventures. Good-bye Glenn. I’m sorry this is how it ended.”

She hugged him awkwardly and walked back to the house and closed the door quietly behind her.

And leaned up against it and caught her breath. It was the single hardest thing she had ever done in her life.

And she was still standing strong.

‟Everything all to rights, sweetheart?” The measured tones of her dad entered her world, the old man was sitting in his chair. Two glasses and a bottle of his favorite fifty-year-old rum sitting on the end-table.

‟Oh. Daddy…”

She sat in his lap for the first time in over a decade, the twenty-something woman left the room while the broken-hearted child wept on her father’s shoulder.

Pouring a splash of rum in each glass, he handed one to his sniffling princess.

‟A toast to accidents. Without them, we’d never know where we are in life and where our strength lies. Some are happy, some are sad, a toast to them all.”

‟A happy accident?” Kaylee said after she took a sip of the spiced amber liquid and coughed. The ethanol burning her throat.

‟Yes, if it was not for an accident, I’d never have met your mom.” Her dad said with a wink.

‟She said she met you standing in line at a store.”

‟Pharmacy, for pain medication.”

‟Same thing.” She sipped more of her dad’s treasured rum.

‟Who do you think gave me the pain.”

‟What?”

‟She worked as a bookkeeper at an office and I was running cable for a network. Wireless networking was unheard of in those days. While I crawled by a desk, she opened a drawer over my head.” He rubbed his head of the memory of it. ‟I broke the drawer when I stood up, scalded myself when a coffee cup on the desk spilled down my back.”

Kaylee broke out laughing.

‟Oh my god. She never told me that.”

‟And I wished he never did either!” Mom hid her face in her hand, she had walked in from the back of the house. ‟I nearly killed your dad with a concussion and wrecked our new computer system at the same time.”

‟The coffee went into the server.” Her dad added. ‟It was awful, blood and coffee everywhere.”

‟It looked like someone got slaughtered by a coffee machine.” Mom admitted.

‟I was talking about my shirt.”

‟I was, too.” Linda laughed.

Parents and offspring talked for over an hour, mom and dad told secrets on each other from the time before children while they shared the bottle of rum until it was all gone.

It was a good end to an otherwise miserable day. With three hours to go, the Grant family took their eldest princess to the airport to return to her life back in Ocean Bay University.

Not for the first time in her life, she was looking forward to seeing her sister.

*Wait until Melanie hears the news of how Glenn really changed his life up, never to return to the house without a wife and child in tow.* She shook her head.

During the drive to the airport, Kaylee spent most of the trip looking out the window of the car to the trees that lined the highway. Lost in thought over the last two-weeks.

She wondered if she could just take double classes and never leave the school. It would take a meeting with her mentor and class coördinator.

The world was rainy when she arrived, but it was a rain of promise and excitement, it washed away her doubts from the summer.

Now, it was just grey and wet.

Married by Mistake Chapter 39. Suite and Shower

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Chapter 39. Suite and Shower

Tom knew how to get to the hotel and told Kaylee not to follow the GPS.

‟That thing is taking you around the long way. I don’t know that route, and through a neighborhood?! That’s nuts. Take the next left, go to the highway on-ramp. Three exits, and left. It’s easy to find.”

‟You have been there before?” She said, after slowing for a slightly wobbly street person who walked across the street in the middle of the block and waved thanks at her.

‟He should know better,” She growled at the scraggly man. ‟That is a good way to die and that would just screw up my day.”

‟Well, deep breath. We have a nice room waiting for us.”

‟It’s just a room.”

‟You used the married name? My name?”

‟Well, yeah.” She nodded. ”I used the card you gave me.”

She thought a moment.

‟I suppose I should give it back to you.”

‟No, keep it. Let it expire in three years and use it for emergencies, getting married, paying rent.” Tom smiled. ‟Especially if you buy books. My books.”

‟Drumming up business, are you?” Kaylee laughed.

‟Well, that would be self-defeating. My, money buying my book? Then I’d pay commission, there is no profit in that.” Tom chuckled. ‟Consider it a gift if you buy one.”

‟I’d buy a bunch and give them away, try to drum up business for you.” Kaylee winked as she merged on to the highway.

A small smile crossed his lips, then a far away look settled in his eyes and Tom looked out the window and remained quiet for a few minutes.

‟I’ll miss you.” She said softly. ‟I know you are unhappy.”

‟You know me pretty well, already.” He said in a soft voice and turned back to look out the window. ‟You will go back to school this fall, probably with an engagement ring. Melanie will stop coming to my movies, she will stop buying books and hold a grudge. The world will end and I’ll drown my sorrows in an overdose of rum and painkillers and fly the Pacific Wizard to a bad landing on the ocean with no survivors.”

‟What? Tom!”

‟Kidding, just poking at the pity-pot for a moment.” Tom gave a crooked smile. But there was some truth that glinted in his eyes. A sadness that he didn’t cover up quickly enough for Kaylee to miss.

It was a horrid sadness of soul, a soul that she cared for.

‟On the subject of the hotel, have you been there before?” She changed the subject back.

‟A time or two for book-signings. They wanted me to play, too. I have a minor weakness for blackjack. I win more than I lose, as well. The casino is always interested in winning back some that I have taken from their tables. Roulette is good, too, but I lose more there.”

‟I like dollar machines.” She smiled. “I might ask you for a few rolls”

‟I bet.” Tom laughed at his own joke.

Kaylee gave him a sideways look.

‟That was terrible.” She said with a crooked smile shaking her head.

‟Made you grin.”

Guiding the electric SUV to a parking slot, she overshot the painted line of the parking stall and began to struggle slightly getting it straight.

Outside, a woman got out of her small hybrid and started to berate them though the glass of the Tesla.

‟You people need to get over your small penis envy! That car is an abomination, sucking down more gas than you are worth! This is what will wreck the world for us all in twenty years! Selfish, stupid whore.”

Kaylee got a look in her eye that Tom had seen once before.

He had seen the look when she stomped a man twice her size nearly to death, and this look was just the same, but this time, he saw it up close along with the white knuckles of the warrior woman.

‟NO! No, Kay! No!” He grabbed at her hand.

‟Lady, go into the casino where you belong. You no clue what you are talking about.” Kaylee’s temper was a nuclear furnace. 

‟I do, you drive that gas-pig around and the rest of us pay for the global warming filth that you create, that movie showed it to us. Inconvenient isn’t it? You drive gas guzzler’s with all your careless abuse of fossil fuels.”

‟Lady,” Kaylee hissed. ‟You get in your fossil-fueled car, take your attitude and get the hell away from my husband…” Kaylee choked. ‟And me.”

‟My car is an all green hybrid. I get fifty-miles per gallon, how much does your pig get?”

‟I can’t tell you, it doesn’t take gas.”

‟Diesel! Foul, nasty, penis envy…”

‟It does not use any kind of oil. No diesel, no gas, no propane.” Tom said.

‟What?” The woman pronounced it ‟wut” and blinked in confusion.

‟It’s all electric, no hybrid. It gets an electric equivalent of over two-hundred miles per gallon.” Kaylee clenched her fists. She was an artist about to paint her version of Dante’s Inferno on this woman. ‟So. Kiss-off.”

Taken aback, the woman shook her head.

‟You lie. There is no such thing.” She looked at the back of the Model X.

‟No tailpipe, witch.” Kaylee called over her shoulder while they left her looking at the dark windowed car with the electric-car tag hanging on the mirror.

“I was this close,” Kaylee held up her thumb and forefinger. “She was about to have a problem.”

“Yeah, I know, she is still looking over the Tesla.” Tom laughed as they walked across the parking lot.

They made their way into the casino and to the check-in desk.

The clerk did not bother to look up when Kaylee stepped up to the counter.

‟Reservation for Harte.”

‟One moment please.”

Another voice from around the corner.

‟Harte? Kaylee and Thomas Harte?”

‟Yes.” Kaylee nodded.

‟Steve, go over there, I have this.” It was a dapper woman with a the air of Captain Watson, all professional.

‟What? Why?”

‟Remember I said of the VIP coming in?”

‟Oh.” And moved off.

‟I apologize for that. I was watching for your limo to come in.”

‟We came by rental car. Miss…?”

‟I have this Kaylee .”

‟Erika, thank you for watching, but we are in a rental car this time. Might go driving later.”

‟Very good. Do you need the rental returned for you and we will arrange a limo for your use later, on the house.” Erika said.

‟That would be most excellent.” Tom nodded. ‟My usual company I use here?”

‟Desert Limo? I’m sorry, but they are out of business.”

‟Oh? Since when?”

‟About three weeks ago, IRS came in and shut them down, the tax-man took out a lot of limo companies. There are only two in town now. A few gypsy limos, but the two that stayed operating for the moment is Deviance Limousine and Gemini Limousine are still in business. Until the IRS gets to them.”

‟Why is the IRS involved?”

‟They are cleaning house around here. It is causing trouble for everyone.”

‟I can understand. In any event, we will be changing and heading out in a bit.”

‟A limo will be on standby for you, Mister Harte. A moment’s notice will be all that is all we will need.”

‟Very good, as you can see, I have a small problem with my arm. Could I get a porter?”

‟Right away.” Erika said, dialing a number. ‟Where are your bags now?”

‟Black Tesla rental, in the electric only parking stall.” Kaylee said.

‟Very good,” Erika nodded to a young man who was standing within earshot, who walked up and took the key from Kaylee and headed out to the car.

‟Your bags will be up at your suite momentarily.”

‟Thank you, Erika. We will wait for the bags in our room.”

‟I will trust you will find the lodgings to your pleasure. You have a panoramic view, the gaming table on the floor is available at any time. You also have access to our private gaming area as you see fit. And as always, this will be comp. Your VIP code was not entered when the clerk took the call, so I will deduct the reservation charges now.”

‟Thank you.”

‟Mister Harte? This way, please.” It was an impeccably dressed man with a Mid-Atlantic accent wearing a name tag Gene Childs, Hotel Manager.

‟Tom. Please, call me Tom.” He smiled. ‟I ask you that every time I arrive.

‟Yes, sir. Tom.” The manager smiled. ‟It’s an old habit.”

Riding the elevator up, Kaylee looked over in front of Tom and tapped his hand.

‟We are going to the top?”

‟Yes, ma’am. This is Mister… er… Tom’s regular place when he stays. I can say that Tom does not bring his family members here often, we are always pleased to serve you in any wishes you might have.”

‟Tom’s family…” She thought for a moment and looked down.

The doors opened, there was no hallway. They stepped out directly into a frosted glass foyer with a wooden door.

‟The normal full security precautions, four-inch-thick glass and polycarbonate panels with electronic privacy. It converts from clear to frost with a press of a button on the remote control and at several panels around the room. The door is all but breach proof. The whole floor is a panic room.” Gene walked around and pointed the features. ‟Limited access to the elevator, staff and the key-holder for this floor only.”

‟Thank you, Gene.” Tom said as the elevator chimed and the young man walked in with their bags.

‟Of course, please call me directly if there is anything you need. Twenty-four hours.” Gene said as he handed Tom his card. ‟The number on the back is my direct line.”

‟Thank you, again.” Tom smiled.

Two hotel staff members stepped inside the elevator and the doors slid silently shut.

‟I thought they would never leave!” Kaylee said. ‟I’m *family*?”

‟He was being circumspect. He could have gone the other way and asked if you were a working girl.”

‟That’s just wrong to assume.”

‟Agreed. But you must admit, we are an odd couple. You are young, beautiful and vibrant. I’m OFU.”

‟Oh-Eff-You?”

‟Old, fat and ugly.” He said as he walked to the door and pressed the button on the key and unlocked the door to the suite.

She kicked Tom in the backside.

‟You stop that.” She started to make a growl then gasped. ‟Shut-up! This is not our room? Oh-my-gawd!”

The walls moved on command when Tom tapped the buttons on the remote control.

Three hundred-sixty degree views of Las Vegas and the surrounding mountains took her breath away.

‟Tom, I swear, I only wanted to get a nice room. I didn’t book a penthouse.”

‟You forget my name carries some influence. They may have thought you were just some any Kaylee Harte, and I wager they mulled that over, and did not clue on it.”

‟How many times have you been here?”

‟A few, I don’t count. Usually, I stay on the Pacific Wizard.” Tom said as he sat down in a sculpted leather chair that looked out over the landscape.

‟Is the bar open?”

‟Everything is. You heard Erika said that it was comp.” Tom said, grunting slightly as he moved his wounded arm to a comfortable position.”

‟Wow. Macallen whiskey!” Kaylee balked. “What? This one is thirty-years!”

‟They should have the full spectrum.” Tom nodded, looking out the window.

‟Holy crap! Do you know how much this is? I saw some in the locked case at the Tower of Liquor in Ocean Bay.” She turned it around in her hand slowly. ‟And I can open it?”

‟If you want. But if you open it, you better drink it. That is about three-hundred dollars you have in your hand.” He said as he kicked his shoes off.

‟I’m going to put it back, I have never held anything that expensive in a bottle.” She poked around in the refrigerator. “I can’t read this except for chocolate.”

“Oh, that would be the old world Luxemburg or German-made chocolates.” He chuckled. “Impossible to say, wonderful on the tongue. Except I don’t like chocolate.”

Kaylee laughed at that. 

‟What are you up to, hun?” She asked while he pulled off his shirt.

‟Thinking about jumping into the pool.” Tom said.

‟There’s a pool?” She turned around, nearly dropping a full bottle of Pyrate Rum, with ‟Cask Special” on the label.

‟Let’s go swimming!”

‟You didn’t bring a suit. Remember?”

‟Skinny dip!” She yelled as she ran through the suite peeling off clothes. ”After that I am going to have a cuddle with you until you cry for a mommy!”

Tom watched her jump in the penthouse pool, her skin shimmered in the ripples of the clear pool water. He didn’t laugh, in fact, it saddened him on a deep level. Until a little while ago, she was his wife.

This troubled him on so many levels, he was not sure he could count them all.

But he was going to have one last night of love with a twenty-two-year-old art student and martial arts master with the moves of a gymnast.

‟You know, you’ll need a shower after this. This is a salt pool.”

‟I’ll give you a body shampoo, before we go to bed.” She yelled from the far end of the pool while he sat in the shallow end, with his arm perched above the water.

Tom chuckled, that was a plus. He had spots he could not reach.

It was a lesson about how important each of his hands were.

*A serious lesson.* He pulled at his earlobe with his good hand while he watched the young woman swim in the private pool forty stories in the air.

Married by Mistake Chapter 26. Papers

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Chapter 26. Papers

Kaylee left the medical center after they settled Tom back his room. He had been in a bit of pain as the nurses bathed him and gave medications to help him sleep.

She walked across the macadam surface of the airport to the hangar where the Flying Sea Dragon sat, she could barely keep from sobbing the trip from the hospital.

It hurt so much to even think of those papers that sat somewhere inside the plane, waiting.

She rode in silence in a taxi she caught at random to the airport, she did not want to ride with anyone who knew Tom, knew of Tom or had even heard about his books.

She had a serious need to sit and drink wine and smoke a bowl with her sister and talk.

She missed the afternoons with Melanie like they had in their teens. They had barely graduated from high school, but as the best of friends and the worst of enemies, they would be in a furious scream-fest fight for minutes, then would be the best of friends as they settled down for a toke.

But no outsider dare make either of them cry.

Woe be unto the person that faced the wrath of the Grant sisters. It would make for an epic bad day when both sisters would turn on the offending person with fury that only sisters, family, and those of the same heart and soul have.

As they grew older, and although they took different classes and their lives were on different paths, they became closer still.

Opening the door of the big jet, she looked down at the broken glass that still lay on the floor.

And blood! Everywhere, large black clots that cemented fibers of the carpet into a mat with choking copper-smell. It surprised her the amount that soaked into the carpet on the floor. A body-trail in the glass where he crawled to the door and yelled for help at the plane’s technicans and engineers.

She stepped past the gore and glass that almost ended Tom’s life and perhaps did end his life as a writer.

She sat at the chair and looked where the papers in the manila envelope waited, filed in the cubby-hole that Tom told her about.

She thought of Melanie and all the fights they had while she sat in the Flying Sea Dragon and held the annulment papers in her hands.

*Tom said I just had to sign on the lines in the document and mail it with…*

With…

She slumped in the chair and a wept.

*It’s strange, this is just what I wanted four-weeks ago! Now I have a serious temptation to put it in the washing machine, somewhere on the plane. Except, damn, I’m not sure where it is, hidden behind some cabinet door.* Kaylee took a heavy breath, *I’m not sure if this is wise.*

Her hands trembled when she found the place to sign in the back of the document.

She slipped the papers into the manilla envelope they were paper-clipped to, she closed and sealed the package and walked out the door of the big flying yacht.

*The Flying Sea Dragon is not as big as the Pacific Wizard is inside, it’s more cluttered with furniture, bulky items to make it feel close. Still, a comfortable plane to live in.*

*A flying yacht.* She reminded herself as she walked across the airport to the main offices.

She nearly didn’t get to mail it, the woman behind the counter almost gave it back because of Kaylee ’s facial expressions and the slumped-sad way she carried herself.

“Miss, I don’t know what you have in this, and it’s not my place to say. But do you really want to send this?” She looked as if she might have known Ben Franklin when she started for the post-office. Not a trace of color in the great-grandmotherly hair.

With the postage stamped on the envelope, the woman gave Kaylee one more look, a last chance to change her mind, then slowly it into the slot behind her and it was in the US mail with a required a signature on delivery at the court.

Once the clerk of the court received and signed for the papers, in the eyes of the government, it never happened.

It would be as if she was never married.

While Kaylee walked out to the sidewalk she dialed the number on the business card that the Chauffeur Kaikane had given her and told her to call anytime she needed a ride. This time it would be to the hospital. She would tell Tom that she signed the papers, but she was not sure about how she felt.

After breaking the line with Kaikane and his peaceful voice, she hit speed-dial and called Melanie .

‟KAY!” Melanie was always excited to hear from her sister. ‟Where are you?”

‟San Francisco. Tom has had a good run of luck with the doctors since his accident.”

‟You need to come home quick as you can. Glenn is here and he has asked for you, he said it’s important.” Melanie said in a conspiratorial tone. ‟I think he is going to ask the question.”

‟Oh.” Her heart finished the phrase. *Damn.*

‟You don’t sound excited.” Melanie became quiet, shocked at the response. “This is what you have waited for since you were kids.”

‟I just signed the papers and sent them off to Nevada. I stop being married and never was according to the state once the papers arrive.”

‟Oh sis. But this is what you want, right?”

‟I don’t know. Tom needs me.” Kaylee was quiet as she waited for the limo. “You should see his eyes. Mellie, he is a good man, he cares for so many things and he’s in pain because of me.”

‟But he was alone before he met you, and it’s only been a month.” Melanie said helpfully. ‟And you said he nearly crashed the plane with you in it.”

‟He showed the wine country off to me from the plane.” She was defensive all of a sudden. “Melanie , it was beautiful, right up until we hit the birds, scared me so bad I think I nearly peed myself.”

At the other end, her best friend and sister laughed, knowing Kaylee the way she did, for her to say something like that was funny.

They talked as sisters do over the phone. Switching to video chat while she waited for the contract limousine to pick her up.

‟Why don’t you take a cab?” Melanie asked as Kaylee sat on a bench and waited in the shade of a tree.

‟No. If this is my last limo ride I don’t have to pay for, I want to enjoy it as much as I can. Besides, there is a hot Hawaiian that drives it. You’d love him. Surfer type, intelligent as any professor, knows more about sensemilla than a DEA cop.”

Melanie laughed so hard she snorted, then held her hand over the lens while she composed herself.

‟Stringbean? You know I can still hear you.” Kaylee took her turn of laughter, using the nickname that they worked out as children. This only made Melanie laugh that much harder.

Melanie Grant was the only person in the world that could make Kaylee laugh when things were at their darkest.

Kaylee hated her for that…

Which made her laugh all the harder, she loved her sister more than anyone else in her generation. They were, after all…

Sisters.

Married by Mistake Chapter 17. Tom’s Thumb

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Chapter 17. Tom’s Thumb

Finals over, Doctor Manga and his staff looked at the image she created from a blank canvas, talked to her at length in the middle of a classroom of other students who needed make-up testing. The written sections were long, but she knew every answer.

Four hours later, she was back at the Wizard, a great weight off her soul while she traced her fingers over the computer and built-in phone charger that Tom would put his mobile phone in and then forget where he put the electronic equipment.

Kaylee sat on the sofa and pondered, her mind she thought would be clear with the finals test over. Was as conflicted as anyone ever could be.

*Ugh. One one hand, he was the most wonderful person I have ever met, all that history on the net even stands up for him.* She rubbed her forehead. *But he is not Glenn, and I have a life to live on my own.*

“Ugh!” The scream and clenched fists,  and she felt no better.

She gave herself a five-minute cry and a few minutes to recover. After she caught her breath, Kaylee walked to her car to drive to the bar and ask if she could get her job back. She hated to go in and beg with her bottom lip poked out and her hat in hand. If that would not work, she knew that another pub down the street that had just opened, only they had already staffed up their positions. It would be difficult to talk her way into the next pub if they had no open positions.

But in the next few minutes, all the plans of job-hunting would soon be forgotten.

The moment she walked out of the metal hanger, her cell phone started ringing. The number was the same one on the business card that Lettie, the owner and driver of the limousine that had taken her to the Stockton airport had given her.

“Hello?”

“Hello, this is Lettie Nesmith, I’m calling for Kaylee .”

“Hi Lettie! This is Kaylee .”

“Kaylee! Hey! Listen, Tom’s been hurt. They took him to the hospital about six-hours ago. Rumor has it that he hurt his hand and they are talking about flying him to San Francisco in a helicopter.”

“Ohmygod” Kaylee said it as if it was a single word. “What happened?”

“My cousin says he hurt his hand. They are sending him to a hospital in San Francisco that specializes in sewing on hands and stuff.”

“Sewing on … His hand? What happened.”

“I don’t know, but no one called you?”

“No, but I have not been getting service. I was in the plane that is inside the hangar.”

“Okay, anyway. You should charter a flight back to Sacramento.” Lettie sounded stressed. ”The sooner the better.”

“I don’t know how to do that.” Kaylee said.

Kaylee could hear papers get shuffled on the other end.

“Okay, don’t worry about it, I will take care of the details. Did you say he had given you a charge card?”

“Oh! Yes! But how do I…”

“Kaylee, I’ll find somebody to call you. I know who Tom deals with when he’s not flying his own planes.”

“I don’t know, I was kind of bitchy to him when I spoke to him last time.”

“It’s up to you. But I saw how you act when you talk about him. Your husband is hurt, it might be serious, and you will to kick yourself later.” Lettie’s voice was like another sister giving support. “I have a driver that is available.”

“Okay. Tell him my number, I’m at the South Harbor Airport.”

“He will pick you up right away, he’s at that same airport.”

She looked out over the tarmac towards the executive jet airlines and started walking to the office.

“Excuse me, miss. But you cannot walk here, are you lost?” It was an airport security officer driving up in an electric cart.

“I’m leaving on a plane, I just left the Pacific Wizard and I received a call to meet a chartered plane here. I’m running over to the office now.”

“Sorry, still, you not allowed to walk here. Walk around on the marked walkway.” He pointed to red, blue, green and yellow painted lines on the ground. “Follow the green line and it will take you to the executive charter lobby.”

“Can I ride with you over there?”

“No ma’am.” He said as he drove off, an alarm sounded on his radio of unauthorized access of the grounds by a car on the far side of the terminals.

Grumbling at how it was that the rules forced her to walk around when she was only had a hundred feet or so in a straight line. It would mean heading in the opposite direction and around.

Looking over her shoulder as she headed out to the walkway gate, the security car sped off after the car trying to enter a clearly marked “Do not enter” area.

She paused for a heartbeat, watching the golf cart race off at the top speed of a fast walk for a few minutes. The guard never looked back.

She took two, then four tentative steps to follow the painted line. Then turned and ran in the straight line to the executive charter office as fast as she could.

* This is an emergency, I can’t stop.*

She skidded to a stop at the back door of the charter office and quickly composed herself.

She put her hand on the door, took a breath and walked in as if she had not just broke the rules.

Married by Mistake Chapter 8. In The Apartment

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Chapter 8. In The Apartment

Kaylee walked softly up the stairs of the building, the well-worn stairs showed glints of steel polished to a sheen by countless footsteps.

Curious she had not noticed that before, the webs in the corner and the way the stairs vibrated with each step, sounding vaguely like an out-of-tune violin with the cacophony of squeaks.

Opening her door. The familiar creak of the door announced her presence to the empty room sounded louder than the last time she was there.

Kaylee stood before stepping over the threshold, it felt different. Like a stranger in her own apartment. It was weird, as if something changed in how it smelled.

The odors of paint, chalk, her watercolor art hung on the walls that she created when not studying the masters.

The charcoal sticks sat patiently by a covered canvas that she had sketched on just five days before, but smelled… Lonely.

She walked to her bedroom, the blankets pulled up in the OCD way she liked. More of her art adorned the walls of her room, this was her inner sanctuary.

She allowed few people inside this fortress of her soul, those that did she chased out quickly in the morning before they could take in the emotion and pain she put in these images of charcoal, oil and watercolor on canvas and paper.

She pulled out the same suitcase she had used on her move in at autumn start of the school year, she packed her clothes carefully, and snapped her fingers with a sudden memory and put her phone charger in the side-pocket.

From the front room, someone knocked at the door.

*Not now!* Kaylee did not want the landlord to remind her that rent was overdue.

Not that she was broke, but she had no job now. So what savings she had, she was stretching out to the collector that called her the worst names or threatened her the most until she got a new job.

Instead, to her relief it was her sister Melanie . Also attending the university, she majored in computer-graphics design with a minor in architecture.

“Tiny! Where have you been?  You worried me to death, I almost called the cops!” Blinking at the activity going on around the room and all the tossed drawers. “Why are you packing?”

Kaylee hugged her sister and pulled her in.

“Oh my gawd!” Melanie gasped as she saw the ring on her sister’s finger. “How? When? Who? Talk!”

Kaylee laughed.

“I was a little wasted and we took his jet to Vegas and I woke up married to him.”

“But. But… Butbut…” Melanie was speechless for, perhaps, only the second time in her life while her mouth opened and closed like a fish without words coming out.

“But what about Glenn?“ Melanie finally was able to speak.

Glenn, the casual boyfriend who attended Mt. Mazama University. Kaylee and Glenn stayed together every time they were at home the same time, they were inseparable.

Kaylee told Melanie that she and Glenn had talked about getting married and it would be nice to have a baby, and this was not in her plans.

“It just happened, I got baked and did a little Zee. I woke up Saturday wearing this ring.” She held up her hand. “He is quite wonderful.”

“Jesus, Sis! Who is he?”

“You know that big airplane floating out in the bay?” Kaylee said, Melanie nodded her eyes grew big.

“That’s where I have been. I married that guy that owns that plane.”

“Oh. My. God!” Melanie’s eyes wide as plates. “You married the author, Thunder Harte? Who wrote “Steamland” the book and the movie?”

“He did…” Kaylee gasped, froze in mid-fold of a pair of patched jeans and struggled to find a word. “He did …W-WHAT?”

“NO! No. Oh no.” Kaylee denied this news. “He said he wrote children’s books that sold in Australia and some in the United States.”

“Well, yeah, he does that, too. You remember we saw that movie three times last year? It’s still in the theater downtown for five-dollar-Friday matinée. My fave movie! And you married the writer!” Melanie laughed and sat down. “You gotta tell! Talk! TALK! Say what you did! Where did you go? What did you do? How did you get there?”

The sisters talked as sisters do, Kaylee told the story to her sister and best friend about the cut tires, the failure of doing finals, the teacher and his offer for a chance to make up the score.

An alarm tone went off on her phone, she realized that they had talked over the sound of the alarm in two earlier chimes. She was on her third chime in fifteen minutes.

“Oh my god! I Gotta run! He said I could do my finals if I posed for a class. I need to run!”

“Sissy! Please! I want to meet him! Please? I’d die for a chance to talk to the writer of my favorite movie!”

“Thank you for the compliment.” It was Tom, he was standing at the door.

Melanie turned around, squeaked once and fell off the couch where she sat next to Kaylee.

“Ohmygod!” She said it as one word.

Tom laughed softly and Kaylee had to hang on the television while she laughed until her sides hurt.

“Sorry. But you left the car keys and your driver’s license.” He said to Kaylee after she was able to catch her breath, pointed his thumb at Melanie. “Is she okay?”

Melanie just sat on the floor with her mouth open, his green eyes and red hair looked the same as when had performed the cameo in his own movie.

“She looks like she’s had a stroke.” Tom smiled, that made Kaylee laughed and Melanie punched her in the thigh.

“Oh my god. He startled me.” She squeaked out. She still had not blinked, looking at the new, no longer mythical, husband.

“Thomas Harte, this is my sister Melanie Grant.” Kaylee introduced them. “Thomas is who I married on Friday. If you both would excuse me, I need to change so I can leave to take my finals.”

“I wish she could remember it, it was fun.”

“She, what?” Melanie asked. “You don’t remember?”

“She took a pill and smoked a full bowl and a chub during the night. I had some wine and one conversation led to another as we joked. It became a dare and then we jumped on my plane and took off to Vegas. She picked out the number one, single most expensive ring she could find on the walk to the chapel. She has worn it ever since.” Tom smiled. “She won’t take it off.”

“Oh my…”

“God. Yes, you have said that a few times now.” Tom chuckled and winked.

“Well, I’m heading to school and do my finals.“ Kaylee said as she came out of the bedroom wearing a pull-over black shirt with blue jeans. Her hair pulled back into a bun.

“I’ll come, too.” Melanie said. “I need to talk with Professor Ostrogoth about changing my major to architectural engineering. Not that I want to, but she says that I have an eye for it. She’s been sending me links in my email.”

Tom nodded, taking his clue that the sisters wanted some alone-time to talk.

“I have some business to do in town as well. I need to meet with someone, he asked me to do a keynote speech.”

“Wait, how are you getting around?” Kaylee stopped with her hand on the doorknob.

“I rented a car.” Tom smiled. “A few quirks about owning a flying boat. I need to rent land transport.”

“Well, you head on. I’ll call you when I’m done.” Kaylee said softly as she kissed him goodbye.

“Monster, will you be around here later?” Using an old, sister shared nickname. “I want to have this done as soon as possible. When I come back, I’ll show you the floating plane!”

“Flying boat.” Tom corrected, smiling.

Married by Mistake: Chapter 1. Broken Morning Breaks

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Chapter 1: Broken Morning Breaks

Beep! Beepbeepbeep. Her phone squealed to life, cacophony of lights and alarms to alert that her day had begun.

Annoying damned electronic, cruel, noisy gift from her sister.

She already had a headache from her studies until well after midnight. She even studied in her dreams with books and notepads that chased her.

Frustration.

This was today’s name for Kaylee Grant.

Then, her day went from bad to worse.

“Oh, god.” She was out of coffee. No tea, either. What a miserable day.

But then, she hated all mornings that started before noon.

Next experience part of the pre-coffee day, a broken shoelace.

She retied the lace on her work-shoe took more time than she had allowed and was now late, Kaylee stumbled to her car with a loose shoelace and discovered that someone had gone down the block and slashed everyone’s tires.

Vandalism that included her tires.

Two flat tires! Twenty minutes drive, no car and now she was late for work.

Even Melanie, her sister who lived in the apartment below her had already left for school. Finals week, and Melanie ate breakfast at school while she studied up to the last-minute.

Kaylee had final scheduled before noon and needed to go to work to get a few hours on the clock.

Even when she called in, the manager told her that there was no one to cover her tables for the breakfast rush and she had to make it – or else.

Even if she showed up late, was not enough, he paid her cash and invited her to find employment elsewhere as a waitress, barista and bartender.

Being fired just Set the mood for the day, and Melanie still did not answer her phone, so she needed to walk the five miles to class at Ocean Bay University for the Arts and was unable to focus on her finals, time and again she tried to name off the six traits that identify the Severe Style and only sigh. It was a lost cause, she could name off the pages and chapters of the book where the traits where documents, even the paragraphs. But the traits were a blank spot in her memory.

Of the two pages of essay test, she could only answer half of them. The Professor walked slowly around the room and watched the students write – and professor became curious to her anxiety and told her to put the test down and to see him later.

*Yeah, later.* She hated that thought.

In his office he would grant that she passed the test, but only after she agreed to pose for him.

“To paint you.” he said.

*Oh, Yeah. I bet.*

A nude pose, while she held a phallic symbol of a banana was the probable setup.

She passed on that offer.

Early in the day, it was still before noon, so she chose to take her frustrations out at the academy of martial arts and get some time in practice for her Guru Level in Eskrima Serrada.

While she warmed up, she dropped her rattan stick three times, fell twice and tossed the weapon across the room once. The Guru of the school gave a gentle laughed and worked out with her.

The flow drill was awful. She could not get the speed at first, at last she achieved what she considered a proper workout, and she disarmed the Guru after an hour. Still and all, her performance was below her level and she was not able to focus.

“Go home and relax. You are way off today.”

His words, meant to comfort her, only served to enrage her soul further.

“To hell with it, I’ll go to the beach!” She said to herself and took her bag with towels and swimsuit out of the closet and a bottle of water to drink from the fridge.

One job termination, one failed test at the university that her parents paid a hefty price for and now the Guru all but patted her on the head and told her it would be all right.

THAT pissed her off.

Patronized by the Guru that she respected above anyone in the academy, well, except for the GrandMaster when he came to town.

She hiked the two miles to the beach and she moved through the angles of her martial art in her thoughts. Angry as she was, she imagined using her bare hands to beat someone into submission for a change.

She should beat anyone who took advantage of her unfortunate moments.

Sitting at the top of the to-do list, she wanted to find and beat the dirt-bag that cut her tires.

Everyone’s tires and left her with no one to even ask for a favor in that early hour. It promised to be a lot of money she did not have to replace those tires, now without a job, she would have to call dad. Not even her sister had money she could borrow to buy tires.

She took a deep breath and let it out in a slow controlled exhale. Maybe she could buy used tires? At fraction of the cost of new treads on the car, it still took a bite out of her budget.

And budget woes brought her back. Back to the thoughts to inflict pain on selected people.

Pain to people who cut the tires of her car, pain to professors that wanted little more than to have her stand on a stage, naked.

She wanted time with the Guru who – Well, she liked him, he always treated her well and she did not want to cause pain to him. Still, she wanted to disarm him and toss him around the padded floor for a change, like he had done with her at the Academy of the Filippino Martial Art.

Kaylee Grant, waitress, barista, bartender, sun-worshipper, peaceful college student wanted to beat someone with her fists, sticks and feet until they cried.

She walked along the sidewalk to the beach more than ten-thousand feet distant. Her mind worked out the math, while her artist’s soul sought the beauty in the world while she thought and measured of how she might draw or paint this tree or that mall.

The walk to the beach had the effect to sooth her spirit and gave her time to become introspective, she pondered about a change in her major. Three years in this school and change?

*Unwise.* She shook her head. *Better to stick it out, now. If I have to tell Pops that he was up for an extra couple years of tuition for studies? That would create a family storm I have no desire to cause.*

Dad, a good man, but she had seen him lose his temper with people over the years. A rare occurrence, but even the mayor of her home town backed down at a council’s open forum while her dad (Then the city manager.) and the mayor clashed.

Kaylee walked on, her white-knuckled hold on her beach-bag slowly relaxing to something less than a death-grip, the sunshine and beach already having the effect of calm and relaxation she needed.

And she did not even have her toes in the sand yet.

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

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Haunted Home, Spicer Dam Spur Road

Crime Scene Photo 1-A  24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

He took another swallow from the old whiskey bottle. Jason Best Ph.D. pulled on the wrench while he struggled to remove the cap that protected the fill valve. He swore when barked his knuckles for the third time.

The cabin, originally constructed in the era of the California Gold Rush over the horizontal entrance of a prospecter’s mine. A moderately successful mine that produced moderate amounts of gold until it played. The owner stayed with the cabin as a hermit until the elderly prospector died and ownership passed, in time, to Jason.

In the construction style of the era, the first owner built the cabin’s foundation out of charred cedar logs on bedrock that survived the elements better than modern foundations. Remodeled twice, the one floor shanty grew into a split-level two and a half story mountain chalet, steam from nearby hot springs powered a small turbine for electricity and radiators for heat.

Carefully he examined the dead system, he found the valve seal had failed. It appeared to have been overtightened, the seal developed a slow leak that took a toll over the years, and reduced the power generation slowly to zero. Now he paid the price for that seal with blood from his knuckles. He gave a heavy sigh as the blood dripped onto the ancient timbers of the wood and earth, it would be nice to have a nurse type who could get the first aid kit and bandage his knuckles up.

As it is I’ll  need to climb up three flights of stairs to get to the first aid kit so I could patch up my own scrapes, but I don’t have time to bleed. I’m on a roll.  His thoughts thoughts tried to interrupt his focus.

Doctor Best studied the concepts of the hot springs and geothermal power, he taught himself enough to rebuild the system that he now struggled with while he used language that his mother used to ground him for. He updated the electrical wire, plugs and cables in the cabin, it held many pleasant surprises that included one solid-gold nugget.  It was a beautiful place that he happily named “Mountain Home”.

With a final shrill squeak of surrender, the cap turned. Then became loose enough for him to spin it off with his fingers. The threads were in good shape, however the seal was in bad shape.

He used a specialized tool that he tracked down over the internet to a company that dealt with replacement parts of the ancient system, he was able to re-plumb the house. Along with the upgraded the control panel circuitry, Jason brought the house into the modern era.

Sweat and strain as he worked, his next part of the project was to dig out under the house for to expand his electrical panel and power generation center. He took advantage of the horizontal mine, and when he moved out a pile of debris he discovered, to his pleasure, a large underground room.

An added plus, the underground space was semi-finished into a wine-cellar of sorts. With wines he had found dated from just before the prohibition era, many stored on their sides.

A few sat upright with the corks exposed, those had dried out and the seals failed. Those bottles that laid on their sides, were all intact, but so few, Jason chose to drink only one. And it was excellent!

An even better discovery, however, some soul in the past had stashed a treasure-trove of rye whiskey. “Robert’s Rye”, and each onion-shaped flask had a layer of rye-seeds on the bottom.

He felt that it was the reason for the rye whiskey was excellent, and he had many bottles with seals intact.

He sampled some of the potent nectar, but he was hungry and the whiskey gave him a pleasant buzz. He wanted dinner, however he needed to recharge the heat-exchanger first to get heat into the house otherwise a cold night was in store for him.

He tightened the hose to the valve and turned the handle, he watched the gauge on the cylinder rise as the system pressure rose and became the home’s central heat source as it transported heat from the geothermal hot-spot to the house.

The smell of baked potatoes and roast meat reached his nose. Tessa, his colleague from the university, cooked upstairs in the modernized kitchen while she warmed the upper floors as a side benefit while the central-heat units were offline. They had seen each other outside of work a few times. They always kept it on the down-low, Tessa was worried about the issue of staff fraternization. She was not yet tenured and did not want to lose her job because of her relationship with James.

But here, with the whiskey, wine, and snow so heavy on the ground no one would come by. A storm had dropped four-inches per hour for the last two hours on top of the six-feet of snow that fell before he had arrived Friday night and struggled long hours to get the big cylinder dragged through the basement door to the mouth of the mine.

The sweep needle on the pressure gauge was in the green pressure gauge. A flip of the breakers in order, green LED’s illuminated and made him smile. Electric power was now available.

He put the wrench away in his new toolbox, that Tessa bought him. He walked to the electric panel and read the displays. He pressed a switch on the wall and the lights in wall sconces blinked and flickered to life as electrical systems worked to perfection.

He wondered what might be wrong. It was too smooth. No project ever went that easy unless it was broken.

The Professor of Biochemistry laughed, with green lights on all power systems, he only needed to turn on the hot-tub on the patio at the wall switch. Tessa and he could sip ninety-year-old whiskey, sit in the bubbles of warm water and watch the snowstorm.

Maybe the weather might break and they could watch the stars dance in the heavens. Then showers and, he hoped, sleep with his arms around her.

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

“I have a surprise for you, up there!” He said, waited a heartbeat and flipped the circuit breaker to “On”.

The whole house lit up. LED rope lights he had wired in, illuminated with the effect of electronic icicles made the snow appear blue under the lights.

Tessa was impressed, breathless with the effect of the light show.

Tessa walked around with just a light work shirt, she had broken a sweat while she lifted boxes and cleaned in the old cabin, and made it more of a home with the triple-paned windows.

Which was fine in Jason’s point of view. With an oversized sleeveless shirt, sometimes he would get lucky and watch her accidentally flash him, her bare legs were smudged and dust covered while she wore shorts and sandals, she was an impressive person. A brilliant Doctor of Anthropology, a comptitor in the triathlon. A woman not afraid to get dirty. But then, she was a digger. She liked to dig up bones.  

He had just sat down with Tessa and she poured him more whiskey while they waited for the other couple to come down the stairs. They broke bread while they waited, his grandmother’s recipe that had baked all day with sprigs of fresh rosemary in the propane heated oven.

The conversation about the house, he apologized that she had to work when she should have relaxed and enjoyed the view.

Tessa’s smile was as bright as a sunrise. Tessa touched his cheek and kissed him deeply.

“It is my pleasure to help set up the cabin for him was her pleasure.

A rhythmic noise from upstairs, Doctor Lettie MacKay and her rebound boyfriend, Kevin Acker, from the School of Pharmacy were busy upstairs in the bedrooms. They were supposed to be upstairs to hang wallpaper, but the noise was not the sounds of paste and paper. Kevin always kept samples of ED drugs on his person and they were not yet downstairs for food.

“Can you two kids give it a break? You are not supposed to test the beds in each room! You are supposed to hang wallpaper!”

That was when the first scream, like a siren, echoed down the stairs.

Tessa and he ran upstairs into the arms of the half-naked Doctor MacKay who grabbed him and screamed in their faces that the wallpaper had come to life,

“It grew tenticles and grabbed at me! It tore my clothes when Kevin pulled me away and saved me!” She sobbed. “Oh my god, it grabbed and pulled him into the wallpaper!”

“Go down to the kitchen.” Jason said and looked into the room.

A lump on the wall looked as if some crazed paper-hanger covered an unfortunate person who stood there.

Jason grabbed a putty knife out of a plastic bucket to cut the paper-covered Kevin out, the colored wallpaper began to show details of Kevin’s face behind the branches and stylized birds printed on the wallpaper.

“Kevin!” Jason called.  And the associate professor looked at him for a moment from within the paper, then his image faded, and left the wallpaper flat and perfect and left Jason no place to cut.

He tried anyway, he scraped where Kevin was under the paper, but it was just a plaster wall. Kevin was no longer among the branches and trees of the wallpaper.

Screams again, downstairs. He ran down down the stairs, Tessa was at the door, her eyes rolled around her head in abject terror.

Lettie, stuck to the wall held her hands out as the texture of the wallpaper crawled the length of her arms to her fingers while she clutched at the air in failed attempts to save herself.

Jason slashed at the paper with the sharp corner of the putty knife they used to spackle the walls for new paper.

A high-pitched sound from the wallpaper, higher than the screams of the women, sounded as the wallpaper tore while Jason slashed at it with the metal blade.

The wallpaper moved on its own, in an attempt to pull Lettie into a  giant wrinkle that grew until looked like a mouth.

He grabbed his coworker by her left arm, he pulled hard on her and used his right foot to stomp the wallpaper flat against the wall until he tore it away from Lettie’s body.

The wallpaper left traces of paste on Lettie’s arms when he freed her and pulled her into his arms, they did not stop to consider the slime, instead they ran towards the the front door where Tessa screamed at them to hurry.

When they got close, door slammed shut and locked Tessa outside. Try a he might, with all his strength and a screwdriver to pry with, the door refused to open.

Jason realized Tessa’s danger, she had worn only the light work clothes she wore while she worked in the cabin and outside it was a cold that could kill.

Jason pointed to the basement and Tessa nodded, he and Lettie ran down the stairs, her legs lacerated from the branches of the wallpaper. In the basement, stone walls seemed less dangerous.

Jason showed Lettie where to sit and ran towards the basement’s heavy-timber doors like a football tackle and hit them at full speed…

And bounced off.

The gold mine might be a safe haven, but the doors were part of the house.

Tessa’s voice called his name, she was cold.

His mind raced, if he didn’t know better, there was a malevolence that had awoke when they worked in the house.

Tessa yelled his name again, feeble sounds on the wood where she pounded on the thick planks, her plead to come in out of the cold.

In a near panic, he looked at his work table.

The table! His mind screamed. I used that old ore-cart! It is all iron and it still sits on the rails in the floor!

He released the brake and took a deep swallow from the whiskey bottle for luck and swallowed a few of the rye grains. Then pushed the half-ton cart as hard as he could.

He hit the doors hard at a near sprint and a gap opened from the impact.

Tessa’s hand came through the gap in the door and Jason grabbed Tessa and pulled.

Ice cold, she shivered as she struggled to get inside, halfway through, the doors began to close on her leg. Tessa screamed from the pain of her leg as the door crushed it.

Jason grabbed a shovel and shoved it against the door for a wedge.

He shoved and struggled against the door with his shoulder, It gave an inch, then he pushed the shovel forward with his foot and forced the door wider agian. In one instant, he had a chance and he pulled Tessa free of the heavy timber doors, she clung to him. She wept from the cold, begged him to tell her what happened.

Jason took her to sit with Lettie and began to explain. Lettie turned to look at him, her eyes haunted.

No, not haunted, not haunted at all. 

She had no eyes!

Her once beautiful face now was an eyeless horror with a mouth that formed a big “O” of a silent scream. A tendril extended down from above to Lettie’s head and sucked life from her. Her skin had become mottled and pale as the house stole the woman’s essence.

Jason grabbed a hatchet from his workbench and jumped at the thread that drew the life out of Lettie like a tentacle with a million mouths. Time slowed down, as he swung the sharp hand-ax.

And missed.

“OH God!” He screamed as white fluid leaked out of the wound in her skull instead of human blood. “Oh god, I’m so sorry!”

He was the only one that could make it to the car. But Tessa would be in this house alone. Even if she was safe for the moment, in the corner behind the work table, between two rolls of…

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

He turned to where Tessa sat and he could only see a ball of wallpaper where he left Tessa, he could see her outline had become less distinct under the wallpaper that had slid around her like a web.

He leaped over the table with a box-cutter in hand and slashed at the cocoon of wallpaper around her, and found…

Paper. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

He was the only one left and the doors were ajar, too small to allow escape.

He pulled on the work table and rolled it to the deepest part of the mine that he could reach.

“Last drink in this house!” He shouted and took a long, deep drink of the whiskey bottle and smashed the bottle against the house foundation. “Fuck you!”

James crouched and braced his hands on the table, he pushed as hard as he could and gained momentum

With a thirty-foot start with the thousand-pound ram to break through the doors, Jason and the cart hit the doors at a full run, the left door trembled and creaked open.

He took advantage of the gap that opened, Jason dove through the gap before the heavy timber door slammed on the table time and again, the house tried to claim another victim.

He collapsed in the snow, it was strangely quiet, illuminated by the beautiful LED icicle lights he spent so much time to hang along the edge of the roof around the patio.

A beautiful and deadly structure.

He fell face first in the snow, his hands felt like they were on fire.

Pain! He groaned in agony. Pain, so much pain! 

It has from the snow! He looked at his hands, they were pale. Very pale.  Is my skin mottled? Or am I the wallpaper?

He stood and ran through the snow slipped and fell, cut his knees and tore open his paper-hands. Logical, educated Dr. Best, crawled on his elbows and knees and left a bloody trail in the snow behind him. He covered the mile in nearly an hour when he fell and rolled out on to the asphalt of Spicer road.

The ground rumbled, he could feel it. It was the house! It chased him on cedar pillar legs, the ground trembled with the evil hunger that stalked him.

Too tired and cold to run, he lay on the lonely mountain road and screamed to whichever spirit that he was sorry as lights from the porch bore down and engulfed him.

****

Jason awoke to the glow of a cardiac monitor. He focused on the display of his heart waveform before he realized he was in a hospital and the heart that was monitored, was his.

After two weeks, the hospital discharged Jason and days where police questionedby him about the three deaths ended.

Detectives took notes, wrote down all the professor said and described with vivid detail. Police then interviewed the physicians who attended to Jason’s wounds.

Jason obtained a copy of the detective’s report, and read it three weeks later, while he sat at his breakfast table.

“Doctor Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by snowplow driver, Honey Gareth in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. The two days in question, where Doctor Best spent alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the events that transpired on the weekend in question, Doctor Best discovered an old wine cellar stocked with wine and rye whiskey. Tests of opened whiskey bottles showed high levels of ergot alkaloids, consistent with acute ergot toxicity that caused visual and auditory hallucinations, per the physicians and specialists who attended to Dr. Best. This results that Dr. Best became convinced that he was with three other people who died.

Subsequent interviews with the named people, Doctor Contessa AKA “Tessa” Pershing is alive and well, continues to work at Ocean Bay Community College. Doctor Best is familiar to Doctor Pershing in that they have attended same faculty continued-education and office functions but denies any relationship that might exist between Doctor Best and herself.

Doctor Lettie MacKay is friends with Doctor Best, but states no knowledge of anyone named Kevin. Her spouse, Michael MacKay, works at Ocean Bay University as a Fine Arts Professor. Further, no address, student record or employment record of Kevin Acker is found.

To date, no evidence of deaths at this address on the weekend in question exists.

Interior of 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road shows the wallpaper slashed and torn in the kitchen and third floor bedroom. The heavy timber barn door to the basement is off the hinge. Damage caused by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails used to batter the door open and a hatchet discovered imbedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos) it is to note: Where Dr. Best said he struck a woman in the head with a hatchet, the hatch found someone embedded into a can of ‘Cottage Girl’ paint.  The ax had struck the paper label of the logo of the woman on the paint can.

A horizontal gold mine, dug circa 1850’s shows evidence of modern reinforcements and extensive work in a power room. Adjacent to the power room is the previously mentioned wine cellar. (See attached photos)

Ninety-six onion shaped, clear to light-blue glass bottles of honey-colored  fluid were found with apparent rye grain in the bottom of the bottles. Original labels, dated from 1910 to 1919 of quart-size printed with “Robert’s Rye Whiskey”. In the course of the investigation, the crime-scene team discovered two bottles opened, one empty, the second appeared three-quarters full.(See attached photos)

It is the conclusion of the investigation that Dr. Best  suffered from accidental ergot intoxication per the attached pertinent physician’s notes.

No complaints will be filed.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigator.”

 © 2015 Dash McCallen all rights reserved

Married By Accident Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

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Married By Accident Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

‟Tom! This. I mean you… I am… We did… Unprotected!” Barbara paced the length of the jet, laughing hysterically holding her hands to her face. ‟I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t want to bomb my body with a morning-after pill. But, one does not get knocked-up with one time unsafe sex.”

She tried to make herself relax.

‟It can happen,” Tom said with a smirk. “And if you can’t do that, if it happens, we could consider adoption or something.”

‟Tom, it is my decision. A deeply personal decision! No one gets to tell me what my choice will be.” Barbara stood for a moment. ‟I’m sorry. It is a frightening concept and, like you said, complicates matters.”

‟Well, I think you are jumping the gun a little. I have, and I always will, support your choices. First, you are my friend. I know I am not the first choice and we did do the deed and you had other plans. I accepted that fully, weeks ago.” Tom stood behind her and slid his arms around her nude body, holding her back against his chest.

‟I hoped you would stay, but I will help you find your own life. I am old and I have a life of stories.” He said as she turned around in his arms and buried her face into his chest. “You need to build your own story, chapter by chapter. Child by child when you get there. For now, you make me smile and you are my muse.”

Tom chuckled when he was struck by a thought.

“You make me smile, because you are a precious gem, and you are a treasure that anyone would crawl over broken glass to have in their life.” He smiled. “But I laugh because I am your husband and you cannot do much about it just now.”

This made the tears that were welling up in her eyes turn into laughter.

‟Tom. You are the funniest man I know. I wanted an engagement ring from Glenn, ever since we were kids and you help me do that.”

‟Keeping you happy is my mandate.” Tom smiled. “I cannot keep you here and have you in misery. If I help you go, maybe you will return with all I have to offer.”

Sliding her arms around him, she pressed her breasts against his chest and kissed him.

‟Do not make me love you. You’d make me feel bad for all that has happened. But I promised…” Barbara smiled softly.

‟Yes. The promise.” He smiled back, but it was a smile that did not reach in his eyes.

‟Don’t interrupt. That is rude and will make me mad. But yes. I would like to get married and remember it.”

‟I understand.”Tom said as he laughed softly. ‟And we have had a good time this last month.”

“It is the weirdest time I’ve ever had.” Barbara whispered.

It had been one summer to remember. She had seen both the good and bad sides of people. It was as if her life was some grand illusion written by someone with only a one-dimensional imagination. A perfect storm of adventures and perverts. Days with drugs…

A thought occurred.

What if this were all a dream? She was still in early June, after being attacked and then beat the crap out of the serial rapist, wanted on at least ten different crimes.

‟No.” She said it into the hollow of Tom’s neck.

‟No? No what?” Tom sounded worried. ‟You have not had a good time?”

‟Oh yes. I said a thought out-loud. There was a moment where I thought this might all be a drug dream from the first night, or someone was just writing my life on a word processor.” She shook her head. “Like I am in control, but he or she makes my words come out.”

‟Now you’re inspired by something. As a writer, I know how the thoughts might come. Maybe I have written about you and you are just…”

‟Tom, do not trivialize my moment of insanity. Please.” She bit his chest lightly. ‟You did not write me into existence like some Twilight Zone movie.

‟Funny that you know about that show.” Tom chided. “You are older than you look.”

‟I study all the time. I like to get to know my husbands.” She wiped her nose on his chest and laughed at his reaction.

‟How many husbands have you had?” He looked down. “Brat.”

‟Are we going to do pillow talk standing up or would you like to cuddle?”

Taking by the hand, she pulled him to their bed and pushed him down.

He smiled, she had opened up to him more in those few moments than she had in the weeks of his hospitalization.

‟Well, I don’t know about you,” Tom said quietly, laying on his back with Barbara laying on top of him, gazing into his eyes. ‟But I appreciate the author of your life putting you on my chest. This is nice.”

‟I don’t know. Maybe they would put this all into a book- a series even.” She laughed. “I could bang you until we made the coastal cities complain, we could be a porn movie.”

‟Naw, I couldn’t take that. I’m depressed enough that you want an annulment to go marry someone else. Keeping this going as a series? We’d have to roll the clock back and live an hour-by-hour book.”

‟That would be a long time.” She nodded.

‟Okay. So let’s put that fantastic fantasy away and live what life we have left together. To use the story-writer vernacular, when you leave, I’ll close this chapter and move on into the world.” Tom followed her thoughts and wrote the story in his mind, letting his mind think out loud. “I was only going to live on the west coast for the summer anyway, then the speech at Doctor Manga’s installation. I might stay there for a few months. I have a few book-signings to do there for the next installation of Steamland.”

‟Next? How many are there?” She smiled. The first time she heard of the sequels.

‟Five as of this summer. The movie is from book-three. ‟Steamland: Heat”. And it violates more Steam-punk rules than it follows.”

‟Yeah, I have wanted to ask you about that. No Victorian-Age, you used Rome as the base for your civilization.”

‟Well, book-one started with Heron of Alexandria improving on Ctesibius’ inventions, that were already two-hundred years in development.”

‟Heron and who?”

‟Read the books.” Tom laughed, the force of the humor bouncing her up on down on his chest where she used him as a body-pillow.

‟Human technology was so close to having steam-power thousands of years ago, it is not funny, really.” Tom winked.

“Missed the steam age by that much.” Tom held up his thumb and forefinger so that little more than a finger’s width showed. ‟No telling where we would be if someone built steam trains or such back then. Christ could have traveled the lands of Nazareth in an airliner.”

‟Tom, you’ve an imagination like no other.” Barbara said smiling widely. ‟You are my muse in your own way. When you were in the hospital, I did a lot of drawing. I have much more to do, I have the itch and you are all in me, making me need to draw.”

‟I enjoy being in you.” Came the lecherous remark.

‟What? OH! Tom, I’m being serious.”

He stroked her back with his good hand, the splinted and wrapped wounded-arm carefully placed on the pillow beside them.

‟I’m just being honest.” He smiled. ‟Besides, not to move too far off the subject, but, we have to do a paper-chase to get the filings done. You need to head home to go be with Glenn.”

‟I get the feeling you are pushing me away.” Barbara said.

Feeling suddenly unhappy, selfish, even a little unwanted. She sat back, dismounted Tom and started to get dressed.

‟I think I want to get dressed. You said you would be able to fly with your arm?”

‟Yes. I have feeling, the fingers are pink, I have a good pulse. I have taken my medications and we have redressed the injuries.” He ticked off the laundry list of things. “I have no numbness. I can type, slowly or hand write on the screens. I have multiple tablets I use for that. I cursive write on the screens all the time.”

‟Cursive?”

‟It is my form of entertainment. It tickles me to see the computer read and transfer it into text.”

‟So what are you saying?”

‟We can fly the Sea Dragon there. No waiting.”

‟Oh. Okay. I will have to think about that.”

‟Why?” Tom got serious as he pulled on black jeans and a black polo-shirt that had a sleeve removed to accept his bandaged arm. ‟We can leave now and you are suddenly pulling back on going?”

‟Well…”

‟Do you want to stay married to me or go be with Glenn?” Tom said gently and sat on the edge of the bed as Barbara pulled on her shoes.

‟Two things. I care a great deal for you, Glenn would have never tolerated my quirks.” She said. “He would have blamed me for the Professor. And Glenn likes to keep me stoned. Sex is great with him after we smoked a bowl full.”

‟When you can remember it.” Tom winked.  “Or according to him?” 

Barbara laughed.

‟I remember! Most of the time…” Blushing slightly, but Tom got closer to the truth than he knew. ‟Second thing is… I have really come to adore you. No. I don’t want to do it, but I made a promise and I don’t want to wake up in bed with you and keep saying ‟If only” every so often.”

‟Do you say that now?” Tom sounded hurt.

‟Well, no. You have not given me the chance.” Barbara held his hand. ‟Don’t be hurt. I would come back and marry you if my fantasy fails.”

‟So I am the consolation prize?”

Barbara face-palmed.

‟You weren’t any kind of prize. You are the kindest, bravest man I know to put up with me, my quirks and my promises.”

‟And the best friend you will ever have. I want to you go marry him. When you look out a window and see a jet fly by, think of me. When you have children, get them the Leonard Sea Dragon Series, and I’ll write about an artist in my Steamland books. I might even name her Barbara with a sister named… Oh damn…” Tom had the look of a man who forgot something important.

‟Sandy.”

‟Yes! Sandy.” Tom laughed. ‟Sandy would not be overlooked in the stories if I put your name in it.”

‟She would like that.”

‟But that would be your connection with me as you write your own story in life’s book.” Tom said, serious again. ‟I have my own explores to do in the world.”

‟Tell me you would find someone to love?” Barbara said. ‟Please?”

‟No. I cannot promise that. I won’t be untruthful to you. I have been alone a long time, you were a surprise.” Tom said.

‟A pleasant, exciting, twisted, funny and chocolate-flavored,”  He licked her lips. ‟Surprise.” 

‟You are not upset?”

‟I am a little hurt, but I am not a teenager and life-is-over crushed.” Tom smiled softly. ‟I knew you didn’t want to be married and you could have had a divorce that next day, but you wanted it annulled instead. So, I am well prepared.”

‟We can fly now?”

‟Let’s file a flight plan, check with the crews to prepare the Dragon and we can leave in an hour.”

Dragon Master University Chapter 31. In The Showers.

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Chapter 31. In the Showers.

Sprite was laying against Jona’s back, stealing the blankets like all girls everywhere do. Jona woke up cold.

But he had time for a shower in his new semi-private room, the only problem was the lack of privacy between human and dragon and genders.

His first experience with this upper level shower room was when his hair was full of soap when someone came in.

This alone was not out of the ordinary, the bathrooms were huge and built to fit all sizes of beings.

But the voices nearly made him slip on the smooth, snowflake obsidian floors.

“Can I use your hair soap?” A female voice said.

Two female dragons had walked in and were showering and talking together.

“Careful, human-boy.” The gold dragon said, she smiled. “I know you. You’re in the Dawn Room alone, which is very cool in my opinion. But a lot of students hate being alone here.”

“My name is Starr, my parents are Polaris ice-dragons. But I am a kind of throwback, I don’t like the cold, I like warm showers.”

The redheaded human girl who stripped down had put golden scaled boots next to her clothes and stepped into the shower, borrowed Starr’s shampoo.

“This is my roommate, Beulah Kate Archi Baker.”

“Call me Kate.” She said dangerously. “I don’t know why you introduce me like that.”

“It’s that or as Boots. You wear that collection of footwear you have all the time.” Starr said.

“I just like my shoes.” Then turning to Jona. “You can stop looking now, yes, I am human, yes, I am redhead, yes, the water is cold. Make no mistake, I am willing and able to throw you out of here.”

“Kate is a member of the Wild Witch Warrior club. They perform caged magic battles.”

“Caged ..what?” For a moment, Jona forgot he was standing naked in a shower in front fo two girls. “I don’t understand.”

Starr sighed happily as she let hot water flow over her head of fine golden feathers and down her armored back. The scales she had here fine, almost skin-like on most of her body, but the dorsal scales were overlapping armor, each scale the size of his thumb with, what looked like, dentations that interlocked, giving her a silvery metallic stripe down her back.

“That’s unique coloring you have on your spine.” Jona became more comfortable with being naked in front of the girls. They paid him no mind as each one went to the job of preparing for the day.

“It is my adult scales coming out, it starts on the spine and eventually I will have all these covering me. My mom is the color of the moon. Dad looks like a setting sun. He is all copper.”

“They look smooth.” Jona said.

“Do you want to touch them?”

“Careful, what is your name?” Kate asked, leaning back to rinse out her hair. She had freckles down her body that looked like she was the victim of someone with a small marker and put dots all over her body.

“My name is Jona.”

“Jona! Don’t stroke her back, you will lose whatever dignity you have. She likes humans.” Kate winked.

“He won’t lose any dignity, he will know what dragon loving is like!” Starr said with a wink.

“As I said.” Kate laughed.

Jona felt his ears burn at the flirty women as he dressed.

The two girls finished while he was dressing and he could understand why Starr called Kate “Boots” for the colorful footwear she pulled on.

Starr did not get dressed, just wrapping up in a towel then stepping close to Jona.

“She is right, I do like humans, males and females both.” Starr winked. “I’m quarter-human myself.”

Before Jona realized it, Starr’s prehensile tail slid up the back of his leg, touching every part of his back and shoulders.

“Mmm. Nice.” Starr winked a jeweled eye at him. “Come see me if you ever cannot sleep.”

“Jona, take my word, once you do ice, nothing is never as nice.” Kate said. “And you can call me Boots.”

“Thanks, Boots.”

“Byeee.” Starr whispered as she slipped out of the room.

“Sorry about her. She has a heat cycle, when she needs to take hot showers, no one is safe.” Boots smiled and waved as she left.

Jona laughed and walked back to his room. This floor was far different from “The Mine”.

Cellular Justice Chapter 9. What Price Justice

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Chapter 9. What Price Justice?

“Lethal.”

Stephen Pelon’s only comment to Rachel Mendez, the senior lab tech that had been there longer than the rest of the crew. Any of them.

“This damned thing is a personal killing device. You dial the number, whoever is holding it, has a very bad day, becoming an obliterated red-stain instead of a human.”

“What makes it so dangerous?”

“If this thing had not been damaged from being dropped and then immersed in oil contaminated with metallic shavings and who knows what all, it is a broken bit of electronic artwork.”

“Artwork?”

“Oh yeah. Even the battery is unique, I have not got it figured out just yet, but it is heavy. Like a chunk of steel.” He nodded. “But I got the wiring in a mass spec and I got copper-two. Copper acetylide, conducts electricity like a champ, but once detonated, all this becomes a bomb.”

“Can you disassemble it?” Rachel asked.

“Without blowing it up? Maybe. But we better not take it out of the containment box. If that goes off, anyone in a meter circle is in danger of being shredded.” Stephen said. “I want to cut off a small bit of the case and put it in the spec-analyzer, but we need to cut it carefully, if any part of this phone-looking thing goes off, it all will poof.”

“Or bang?” Rachel laughed.

“Don’t laugh, but yes.” Stephen sipped coffee out of a steel-and-glass cup designed to look like a test tube.

“Stephen, who would build something like this?”

“Not my concern, I can tell you, this is a fricken work of destructive art?” The scientist said as he looked at the mounted phone under the thick ALON blast shield. “I am afraid to even clean it off. Without the battery, I still worry about a backup detonator. This design means to hurt, a lot. But why only one person? The person that would be holding it would be the sole victim, is someone out for revenge?”

Rachel looked at a screen on her handheld gauss meter.

“It doesn’t have any measurable current that I can pick up, there is no field.” She observed. “It looks inert.”

“Everything is inert until it kills you.” He said. 

“You’re a cynic for a surfer.”

“I’m not the surfer, that is another novel by the writing god of this world.”

“What?” Rachel looked confused.

“Never mind, just talking while I’m thinking.” He pulled at his left ear. “The destruction of the flesh and bone in the reports shows that the range seems to be about the length of an arm in the air, much shorter if it hits any solid object, up to and including drapes, leaves of plants and heavy cloth, it is an expensive way to kill someone.”

“Could it go through the transparent aluminum?” Rachel said. “if it’s designed to kill, maybe it could blow a hole through the glass.”

“This stuff? Nah. We’ve tested this to the best of our ability. As this as this is, it would stop five pounds of C4. The floor, not so much, it would blow a big ol’ hole there.”

“What about it flying across the room?”

“Well, yeah, that would go into the bad-column.” Stephen chuckled. “Well, let’s shave a bit of the case off and do a scan in the mass spec.”

“Okay.” Rachel nodded.

“We can use the cheese knife and scrape it a bit.” Rachel smiled, referring to a flat, diamond bladed tool for scraping surface samples. She was enjoying this little puzzle. 

“Good, make it so and let’s get the test done.”

Dragon Master University Chapter 30. New Year, New Session

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Chapter 30. New Year Session

Tired, sore muscles, a continual headache from boggling at history, teamwork and predicted future, not counting the lessons in magic taught by Cranndair the Green Wizard, the students walked, crawled and a few fluttered back to their rooms in the various houses they belonged to. All were bone-tired.

If anything, the Green Wizard taught with the students in a practical application, humans and dragons and those that had a bit of both, hugged and smiled as they parted company, instead of being in separate houses, they all knew they were of one house.

The House of The Green Man.

Sprite had grown even longer, although she had gained some length, her weight had not increased, she continued to grow longer but, like all children, she started to stretch out into a willow of a creäture.

Back in the house of Garnet, Jona walked to his room and found Sam-Sam had already returned and unpacked.

“Hi Jona! Are you back, visiting the lower side a bit with us? You don’t have a room on the brown garnet level, anymore. You have gone up on the scale. They should place you at least in blue, if not green, I’d say. You spent winter’s break with the Green Man. So you would have a room there.”

“I didn’t know. Where would I have found that change?”

“Professor Vale posted it on pillar by the front door.”

“Oh, ugh. I was too tired, the Green Wizard is about killed us all.”

“Yeah, he does that. He is spry for an old guy, a thousand years old and he can move a mountain with a finger. Not even Professor Vale is more powerful.” Sam said.

“That is because the Green Wizard lives with Nature.”

“Yeah, always in that mountain.” Sam nodded. “He has more power from the trees and rocks that he cares for.”

“No, it’s not that, his mate is Nature.” Jona laughed. “She is his spouse.”

“What?”

“Dude, didn’t you go to study with him once?”

“No, I was more interested in racing and never went, I learned all I wanted about him from those that have went there and came back all broken down and dirty.” Sam shook his head. “Teamwork, what good is that in a race with one-on-one paired rider and ride?”

“When the world has floods, fires, or earthquake, how do we help each other?”

“Well, how do…” A familiar voice interrupted Jona.

“Well, I thought you might be lost.” It was Kolo. “Well, sexy human, you do not live here anymore, your room is in another level, since you came back from the Green Man’s mentor program. Did you learn a lot?”

“Oh HI Kolo! Oh wow, did I ever!” Jona said.

“You lost weight.” She traced her finger over Jona’s left shoulder. “You look good. You could be ridden, looking like that. You would be a good training for a racer girl.”

“What?” Jona boggled.

“Never mind. You are sexy looking, just saying.” Kolo winked. “Come with me, we need to find your new room.”

“Okay.” Jona was still trying to get his mind around the flirt he had just gotten. Dragons were a strange group. They loved like no other, but loved one after another.

“Sam.” Kolo turned to Jona’s ex-roomie. “Come with me, you are on the Blue floor. It appears you did not check either.”

“I did! The color was brown.”

“You did not have a color until this morning. Your grades have improved and the professors were talking about keeping you and Jona together. Jona is a good influence on you it seems.”

“He just showed me around.” Jona said.

“Jona, you got him to attend class. Attendance is the single most important thing in school, even if you don’t work, the professors feel that you absorb information by sitting there with your eyes open. Sam has been at ever class last session.”

“Well, I’ll have to pack.”

“I’ll send Wynter for you.”

“AH! I’ll be packed in two minutes! Don’t send the Wyvern for me!” Sam jumped up and was immediately stuffing clothes into a pillow-slip and wrapping the rest up in his big wool blanket he brought from home.

“Why is he worried about Wynter?”

“Wynter is a wyvern, and he has no patience for lower level students. He is especially angry with Sam-Sam, they’re related and he bragged about Sam being smarter than most everyone around before this little hatchling arrived.” Kolo laughed. “I think Wynter would roll Sam up in the blanket and play football down the hallway with him.”

“Football?”

“Yeah, you kick it, until it gets to where you want it to go.”

“Ooooh!” Jona laughed, imagining Sam-Sam the Dragon, already in hot water with his family, being used as a sports toy.

“Here we are. Green level.” Kolo said, her tail swaying in a more serpentine way when she was walking in front of Jona. Jona could hear the other men whisper to each other when they walked in.

“Kolo, why is he here? This is a Brown Level Garnet.” A red dragon with vestigial-black wings and eye-brow scales said. Chain mail that glittered in the light when the dragon moved, they had arms like some other people had legs.

Very muscular legs.

“Mars, this is Jona, he just came back from winter break with the Green Wizard. He passed with the wizard giving him a pat on the back and an invitation to come back.”

“Well! That is different, welcome Jona. I am Mars, the senior leader of the game-players club. Do you play Drake and Hunter?”

“I never heard of it.”

“Awesome, you are human? If you get to enjoy this and want to play a lot, you can join our club. The only requirements are good grades and play at least a bit every day.” Mars nodded, his scales glistened like polished jewels. If one did not know that he was a dragon, one would thing he was human dressed in fine scale armor.

“Mars,” Kolo smiled and traced her finger over his ear (Mars’ eyes dialated and Jona swore he could hear the scales shake.) “Would you ask that Jona have a tutor to keep his grades up? Professor Vale has requested that Jona keep his studies going from the Green Man. Jona is a racer and a good one at that.”

“You do can keep doing that, Kolo, but so that you know I’d do it anyway.” Mars laughed. Turning to Jona. “She is the one that keeps Garnet house going. And she is cute.”

Mars shook his head to clear his vision.

“You know how to touch my feelers,” Mars sighed and Kolo laughed softly.

Jona laughed awkwardly as the pretty girl dragon flirted with the brawny leader of the Green level.

“Where is my room?” Jona asked.

“This way,” Kolo smiled. “You have a choice, Green Level has had a change in tenants here. A few have not kept up their grades, another has aced her studies and has moved up from Emerald to Gold level.”

“What is Emerald level?”

“This one. We call it green informally, but the official term is Emerald. Blue is Sapphire, Brown is Rough.”

“Rough?”

“As in unpolished and dirty.”

“Oooh!” Jona said as Kolo led him to his room.

“Here is where you will stay. Mars’ is at the end of the hall, he has a private room, most of his club members meet there. You will have no one else in this room for a while. So I will check on you from time to time to make sure you are keeping your studies up.”

“Mars will, too?”

“Yes, it is important to the house that we keep our ratings up. It is a contest between each house who has the highest ranked students. It will also give you a chance to study with the Green Wizard once again.”

“I’m not sure I can survive another round with him.” Jona laughed.

“It will do you good. You will find studying here is easier than with that old man.”

A soft voice behind Jona, a human girl with tight curly hair and dark skin whispered to the new arrival.

“That is for sure, the Green Wizard made me want to come back so much, I made sure my grades were high enough I could go again.”

“I did not see you there.” Jona said.

“Part of my skills, I’m a member of the Fae.”

“The who?”

“No, that is a music group in about a hundred centuries, I am fae.” She smiled, probing eyes looked into his eyes to see if he understood the joke. “My family are more magical than dragons.”

“A fairy?”

“No, well, in a stretch of the sense, I suppose, I can change size.”

“You can get bigger?”

“Ohh, no. I am at my largest now, I can get smaller, a lot smaller.” She smiled. “My name is Retta. This is my last year.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

Watching her walk away, she wore her armor like it someone painted it on and then oiled over the leathery parts until she shimmered when she walked.

Kolo laughed.

“Human boys are so much fun. Brain damaged since puberty and it takes years to have enough blood to run all your parts at the same time.”

Laughing at himself, Jona moved into his new room that he had no one to share with.

The second session in the main school of Dragon Master University was going to be fascinating.

Instructive, anyway.

Dragon Master University Chapter. 29. Gorgons. Myth or Fact?

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Chapter 29. The Gorgon, Myth or Fact?

 

 

Walking up and down between the chairs, the Green Wizard showed signs of the last of the green leaves that sprouted from his beard and hat where turning brown in the dead of winter.

Known for his ability with the plants, his were the last to die back, the first to sprout anew.

He was the Green Man.

“The cycle of life in the forest changes with the place on this world. In two places, not a tree grows, the sun in winter never rises, in summer it never sets. Here, where I hold sway, snow falls last, although around us, snow piles up during the winter and feeds the streams and ponds you see around the mountain. Life goes on and renews.“ He walked slowly, the hat he wore had cocoons in various places, one hibernating furry creäture that no one could identify, curled up on the moss lined brim. “In the spring, six weeks from now, you will be back here to study if your professors believe you’re ready for that level.”

Standing in the middle of the classroom, the Wizard eschewed the traditional straight lines of how most classrooms at the University taught. Teaching instead that, nature abhors straight lines. A tap with his staff on the middle of the floor, the Green Wizard displayed the night sky on the ceiling of the room.

“In an age past, dragons roamed the sky like the birds of today. They are descendants of a great civilization, destroyed by a group of small dragons and humans that worshiped destruction and death. They title of the leaders of this group was the Csu.” The Green Wizard looked around. “Remember this, those who seek a single solution to life, a single rule, death is the result. Life is a chorus, man, dragon, woman, swimmer, flyer. All the others that we have spoken of in the past weeks. The steps each takes is different and follows, will follow, and has followed a slightly different path.”

Smiling, as he paused for effect.

“Whether you have skin or scale, each has a life to live and the creative ability to impress the world.” Turning a slow circle, the stars changing. “The Csu did not believe this. One answer, one voice to the deity they spoke to. Death and destruction was their answer to it all. Trees fell, whole communities wiped from the earth. Then they met the Gorgon in battle.”

A hand raised up. T’sing’s eyes were bright with curiosity,the small dragon from the far side of the world was willow thin and beautiful. Her side of the world, dragons are good luck to have in a family. A dragon that graduated from school such as DragonMaster U, was doubly so. Human graduates in the same family, members considered them as the seed of a dynasty.

One such family, had sent a human son, Qin, with T’sing to attend together. Together they promised to build a country that would last forever.

“Sir, who is Gorgon? My mother told me when I was very young to stay indoors, because Gorgon would eat small dragons and humans alike.”

“Good question, T’sing.” The Green Man said. “The proper term is they are the Gorgon, it is a group of Gorgon, the race of the amphibian creatures are as different as Gorilla and Human, but without the gulf of intelligence. They have their own society, and while they do not fear dragonkind, they do avoid them. It was not until the Csu got involved with the Gorgon, at great cost, that the leadership of the Gorgon converted to the Csu religion. We will discuss the Csu religion another time, but the Gorgon are something to cover now.”

Another tap of his staff on the floor of the room, images ran across the ceiling.

“The Csu with the Gorgon army now under their control, swept out of the warm seas of the lower latitudes, catching dragons and humans alike unaware and unprepared. Humans were given a choice to convert to the way of the Csu book of laws, or die. Dragons received no such consideration, called instead as throwbacks to an age where great lizards walked the earth, cousins to Gorgon who tolerated no competition for skies and sea for food. They slaughtered dragons everywhere they found them.”

A gasp from the classroom.

“I was but in my fiftieth summer then. Professor Vale was, and still is, my son and protoge’.”

“Sir, did you have a name during that time?” Jona asked.

“Aye, I did. Though I scarcely remember it. Cranndair, if I recall.” The mentor stroked his beaded facial hair in thought. “No matter. Regardless, the Csu fell only when there was a rise in a sect within their own ranks. Sensing the division, The Gorgon as a body rebelled against the law of the Csu.”

Waving his staff, the huge Gorgon armies stopped chasing dragons and humans, turning instead on their masters.

“The Csu are the single most effective lesson on domination. People of any kind, Dragon, Human or Gorgon give their loyalty voluntarily. Force of threat, of death to family or self always ends up in failure.” He looked at the class. “Call it what you will, but the force of fealty at the point of sword, tooth or claw is bound for failure.”

“But Sir, if you hold by force, they cannot break it.”

“No empire has ever stood on force alone.” Cranndair the Mentor said. “In my studies, I see a human empire that will rise and last for over a thousand-year period and become the greatest civilization that the humans will ever know. What we learn here, will allow dragons to also be a part of that. If we are not fully successful, Dragonkind hide in the cracks of human society, but Dragons will survive. In those days after the wars and the fall of the Csu, The Gorgon did what they do. They withdrew from all societies and to their caves. Content to hibernate and only come out on rare occasions to forage.”

“It is their way to devastate an area, many humans put it down to demons, Dragonkind however, blame such things as natural disasters and storms.” Rubbing his nose. “Often it is the Gorgon causing storms, floods and volcanic destruction. Some human societies still blame dragons.”

“How does a society endure for a long time?” They asked nearly as a body of students. Everyone of the large group nodding. He rarely took this many, but his son, Vale, talked him into it, saying that the students this year were exceptional.

The old man smiled. Hunger for knowledge had started today.

No longer lecturing to bland minds that could not care less for law and lore, or math and science, these seeds of the future now wanted to know where they came from, so they could see where they were going in their growth.

Much as he hated teaching, he loved when children learned.

It would be another age, an age of ages into the future, that the “Light Bulb” would illuminate in their minds.

(*Author’s Note To Pronounce The Following Word:

Csu: “Chew” is closest that a human can say.)

 

 

Dragon Master University Chapter 26. The Logs, The Holes And The Challenge

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Chapter 26. The Logs, The Holes And The Challenge

The old mentor was exhausting in his teachings. Six-days of classes, one day off to study the notes he lectured about. It was as if the Green Wizard expected them to learn a sport.

If they did something, they did it together.

Plus, any comments made to each other that the wizard considered off-color, weird things happened to remind the offending student that it was unacceptable behavior. Never could a boy or a dragon say that someone could not do this or that because being a weaker gender or species. 

A chair would fail suddenly, or disappeared entirely, dumping the offending student on the floor or the old man was right there, like a ghost breathing in the students ear, handing him or her a broom or shovel to go clean some miserable corner of the forest glen. 

Then a miserable chore to build the teacher’s house.

Like today.

Early in the morning on the first day of the weekly class cycle, the Green clad and bearded instructor appeared in the rooms and banged his staff on the floor.

Not hard, but the sound was as if an explosion in a volcano erupted.

Even the deepest, sleeping dragon sat straight up on cue in their bed.

And it’s said that a dragon could sleep for centuries, through anything a humans might do.

This morning, however, each dragon was up, humans ran about gathering clothes. Following the green-clad wizard appeared to wear leaves in his beard and hair today.

“Shoes and footwear today, each one of you must dress accordingly. Even dragon’s scaled feet and claws may be injured.” The voice of distant thunder echoed in the clearing.

“Your challenge is a simple one. A circle of pillars, made of the logs that sit on a landing on the hill, there.” The Green Man pointed. “Each of the timbers are from an immortal tree and each one is alive and waiting for planting in fertile soil. Each of these you will carefully place in the holes indicated by the sunspark that dances above it.”

Walking around inside the circle of students.

“You are few, but you have knowledge on how to plant growing things.” The Wizard said. “Be honest with yourselves. Work together and create a cathedral here that would stand against the tests of time and weather. There are six-hours to do this challenge in. You will eat afterwards. There will be no breaks until you have completed your task.” The Green leaf-covered slave-driver looked around. “Fail? Then you will return to the school as lower class students to repeat the year before.”

The whispers of shock moved through their ranks with the speed of thought. 

“I can’t go back as lower caste!”

“What would my parents say?”

“This is my first year.” Jona thought. “How can I get lower?”

“Go!” The Green Wizard’s voice echoed in the forest and their heads.

It was a long…

Long…

Long day.

Jona never missed Sprite nearly so much as he did that day. 

DragonMaster University Chapter 25. The Green Man

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Chapter 25. The Green Man

Professor Vale did not tell tall tales about the Green Wizard.

Born before hair! It was true!

Jona nearly broke out laughing, the Green Wizard’s beard was as white as a snowfall, but the moment the wizard took his hat off and bowed to his new students, the gleam from his head would have blinded an earthworm.

Remembering the warning that the Professor had given, Jona would never. Ever.

‟Never talk about the bare skinned head.”

Such a shine that resided under the peaked hat, Jona had no doubt that he could track the head in the dark if he had no hat on.

‟Ah, now we have you all here. Tonight, find your rooms, you will see your names on each room in the tower.” The beard, tied and retied in a maze of beads and knotted and colored silk, moved in complex ways when the Green Wizard spoke. The effect was slightly hypnotic.

Jona walked up the wide stairs to the second level of the cavernous home. Set into the side of a mountain, the small cabin opened up into the cliff face, an area wide enough to seat a hundred students in the amphitheater inside.

‟And he only takes a few at once.” Jona said to himself as he found his room.

Walking inside, the room was an efficient design, a single bed with two pillows and a small blanket with Sprite’s name embroidered on it.

Sprite, riding on Jona’s shoulder— nearly both shoulders these days, since being with larger dragons, Sprite had grown rapidly. Something he had learned in Dragon Health and Growth class. Dragons grew faster and larger when around larger dragons, Sprite was now maturing at a phenomenal rate.

The days would be insufferable without the little guy. A hard day with the Green Man in a jokingly distant relation to a kitchen, the thunderous voice rated them on their knowledge and skills. Today was medicines and pain-killers from the twigs of a willow tree.

The tea that Jona produced would curl the spines of the largest dragon, but, the Green Wizard said it was good medicine for many ailments and pains.

“Just be carefull when using this tea. In concentrated form, it can cause more harm than good.” The old man said with a frown as he imposed the intense lessons into the class while the students stood around the tables.

Glass jars, sharp knives, Koan the human who was a quarter dragon, it was a full classroom.

Jona liked to stand so that she was always in sight. Koan’s hair was brilliantly red and orange, giving clues to her family heritage. Her black eyes were counterpoint to the lighter skin, an inherited trait of the dragon that was her ancestor.

“Tsing! You are cooking down this batch of tea too strongly! It will cause bleeding, you will have a greater problem than a mild fever or ache.”

“But, sir,” The slender dragon from the east nodded. “But it was not the right color.”

“You have boiled the liquid down by half, you have doubled the strength. This will make it dangerous for dragon or human alike to partake, unless you dilute it. If you concentrate it any more, it will become toxic to the touch for dragons.”

“Toxic to the touch?”

“Aye. A concentration in the right proportions helps for pain and fever for dragons. Too much, if it’s concentrated, will soak in through the dragon’s skin, underneath the scales. This will cause effects from bleeding to madness and death.”

“Yes, professor.”

“ACH! I am not a professor. I am your mentor, teacher and foster-father if need. I am not one of those passive spewing, race course, long-winded politician want-to-be’s. More than half of those professors there, human and dragon alike, would run from a fight. They have no clue what it is to sacrifice for anyone. They teach, they have not done anything.” His eyes sparkled with repressed fury.

Jona was taken aback, the Green Wizard was not joking. Remembering that Professor Vale said that the Green Wizard was his father. That Vale had sacrificed his humanity for the village of people and his wife.

That was the reference about not knowing what it was like to sacrifice.

The Green Wizard taught in different ways.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

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T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

 

LucilleMay Adler born to George and Ethel grew up in Chicago on the poorest side of town. George was a warehouseman and had never had much time for his family. A heavy drinker by the time that Lucy was in her mid-teens. He died when he drove into a tree on his way home. Ejected from the overturning car, the intoxicated father struck his head on the hard ground and never woke from his injuries.

Lucy and her mother moved to California on suggestion of her aunt Lewellyn where she became involved with a young man who went to school. He impressed Lucy with his clear blue eyes and aspirations. The young man often would take Lucy on rides in the country as they sat with picnics under his favorite trees along the Marin headlands.

Trying his hand at farming, Joshua Sprecks was a failure. Buying the land around the hills in the southern bay area, they fought and struggled for years until a builder spoke with them about selling land so a home could be built.

Pausing to think, Joshua refused the offer. Instead, he spoke with an employee who helped him and in turn they looked into building a few houses which sold quickly.

In the years that followed, Joshua found he had talents in the business of home and subdivision design. With a good relationship with the local inspectors, Joshua Sprecks made his life comfortable for his growing family. His plans for schools that the children would attend were set as father blazed the trail by going back to school himself, becoming an architect of some renown in the area.

Shortly after the first of Lucy’s four children were born. Lucy developed an addiction to Valium, a common problem in the early years of the drug. Most of the women in her church were very much addicted to the Valium family of medications, and an active trade developed within the group as the hoarders would sell among the women that needed it at the moment.

One springtime afternoon, everyone had arrived at home from school and after finishing chores. The day was warm and beautiful and a wonderful time for the young. Joshua Junior promised he would be careful, Lucy’s smiled and allowed her eldest son to take the family car and drive his younger brother and two sisters to the store for sodas. Joshua Junior was always very careful at the wheel of the car, Lucy was always careful to teach him of his responsibilities. Teachings that he took to heart, always.

Alas the drunk driver that collided with them had no such guidance.

The light in Lucy’s eyes dimmed as she never quite recovered burying four of her five children. The only survivor of the accident that took the lives of all the children was the youngest who had to stay home to do homework.

Josh Sr. took the next offer of his three-hundred acre ranch and bought land in the Lake Tahoe area away from the metropolitan growing around their orchards. Houses built haphazardly without the plans that Joshua tried to include with his developments, and the effect was, to him, untenable.  

It was not fair to Joshua Sprecks, who had no wish to stay in the area where his children died at the hands of a man who paid only a month’s worth of salary in fines.

And the patriarch of his surviving family could not suffer living in the shadow of the four headstones that marked the graves of his children, moved to the mountains, never to return willingly to the lands of his shattered dreams.

Two Seconds Chapter 1. T-Minus 5.4×10^12 seconds

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TWO SECONDS…

 

T-Minus 5.4×10^12 seconds

Near the core of the stellar object, in a later age called Sol, eight-hundred billion tons of hydrogen reacted in the pressure and the heat fusing the nuclei together creating helium and gamma rays. The high energy photons created began the random walk to the surface. Absorbed and re-emitted at a slightly lower energy each time, the photons slowly made the way to the surface of the sun.

In the times before the creations of humankind orbited the earth, flew the sky or rolled along roads. Before a man or woman’s foot pressed its shape into the mud along a shoreline or in the dust of an arid land. The energy packets called gamma rays struggled their way through the dense interior of the star.

T-Minus 4,162,752,000 Seconds

Night in the year 1880, hours after the sun had gone down, a woman moaned in pain. Midwives walked about doing their assigned duties or speaking to the mother-to-be as the birth pains continued. William Harley paced outside the door. A few times he dared to pull on the handle to peek inside, only to have his life threatened by the women inside.

One of the three men that stood watch with the soon-to-be father, Rev. Frances Knight patted William on the shoulder. “Will be over soon, by the sound of it. The babe is nearly here.”

“It was a good Christmas, this will top the holidays.”

Robert Valance joked, “She’ll never let you back in the bedchambers Will, less than twelve years and five children. She will do you such harm as to make a new chapter in the Good Book.”

“I doubt that, Robert, she is a good church woman.” Frances laughed.

The sound of a crying baby announced the arrival of a new life to the men outside the door.

“Congratulations William.” Francis smiled  moment more.

The opening of the door interrupted the Reverend as a woman stepped out with the newborn.

“It’s a boy.”

William smiled widely. “William Sylvester will be his name. I have named him after myself and Mary’s father.”

In the growing of the child into a youth, William Sylvester met another young man with a curious mind and an active imagination with the talent to design and build what he had in his mind.

Inventions of fish-line winders were always in the young Arthur’s mind. Love of fishing and laughter, the two boys were best of friends always. Even the times they argued, it always ended up with respect and laughter as they shared their lives and secrets between each other.

Excitement occurred when the boys were standing as a man rode up and down the street on a noisy contraption, a “Motor Cycle” he called it.

The boys became excited at the sight and sounds of the two-wheeled infernal machine inspired the boys with a passion for things to come.

In years of college that came, the younger William impressed his professors and teachers of his knack with the engineering skills above many of his peers. The dream from what he had seen with his best friend, Arthur, still lived in his heart.

Together the boys grew into intelligent and daring men and started a company that would inspire heroes and villains alike on the way to becoming legend.

Dragon Master University Chapter 20. Dinner

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Chapter 20. Dinner and a show.

In his room’s study area, Kolo helped Jona understand some of the traits of Dragons, the times when they were once wild and uncivilized, then how they evolved to a council based culture.

They sat in a dragonbag, a large resin-coated bag filled with smooth-roasted seeds of a fire-fern, smooth and round, the dense seeds filled a bag and made a comfortable nest for a dragon to settle down in.

Jona curled up with Kolo as they studied as is the habit of dragons. Her scales, small and glistened in the light like tiny jewels while she relaxed in her soft-fleece sleep shirt that covered half-way to her tummy and knee-length pants with a draw string.

A standard study position for dragons that Jona found strange, but comfortable. Kolo, wrapped around Jona the way that dragons only could. Smaller dragons liked warmth, Jona was a mammal and warm.

Kolo also thought he smelled good.

A gong sounded, announcing dinner in the main hall of the Garnet House.

Jona, Sam, Spirat and Kola walked up the spiral stairs with Kolo and sat at the long tables with the younger classmates.

Several older classmates passed by when a couple slapped Kola on the back, he gained honors for Garnet House by passing a test with high marks. His name forever placed on a list of notable students with the Garnet House.

“You didn’t tell me!” Kolo stared at her brother.

“You were out riding,” Kola smiled. ‟I didn’t even know I had passed it that high until Professor Vale came down and took me to his office. There will be some kind of an awards dinner, for all the high scoring students,  near the end of term. Just before your races with the other schools.”

“I know you will do well, in the races.” Kolo looked at Jona. ‟Sprite has been racing around the room telling stories in his way. You are a good racer, according to your baby.”

Jona laughed.

“Sprite is not MY baby, I’m just the adopted father.”

“No, he is yours as if you had a real son,” Kolo shook her head. ‟When he gets to talk, you will find out just how much a dragon’s heart can love.”

“But, I did not choose that. It was just chance I happened upon Sprite when the little guy was looking for someone.” Jona protested weakly. “But I like having him around. It was better than having to ride behind my papa’s ox while the old stinker snorts from both ends.”

“Snorted from both ends?” Spirat looked at Jona and raised an eyebrow.

They all got the image at the same time and laughed as they sat and ate, trying to snort out their backsides like the old ox.

Kolo just shook her head and held her nose.

“Boys!” She said in exasperation.

Looking around Jona noted that Kelly was staring at him and she made an ugly face at him, then turned to Stixx and said something in his ear. Stixx looked at Jona and smiled, leaning over to another upperclassman and soon the end of the table the clique of older students were whispering and looking in Jona’s direction.

“This is not good,” Jona muttered. ‟They are planning something.” Indicating the far end of the table of how the blue-eyed Kelly whispered in conspiratorial tones, trying to instigate something. She took a dislike to anyone that was not under her thumb, including the newer students that did not give her the respect she felt she deserved.

As they tried not to look at the whispering group, when a large scaled hand gently pressed on Sam’s shoulder.

“You kids look worried, what is the problem?” Asked a tall, heavily built dragon that was easily taller than Jona by half and built like a big “V” from his shoulders to his waist.

Sam looked up and choked on his food, nearly making his drink come out his nose.

“Koord! You came back!”

“Coming back was difficult,” Koord got down on his knee and nodded. ‟But, the healer’s all said I was good to go.”

“Jona, this is Koord, he was a great rider for a few years here.”

Koord nodded and spoke quietly, with a voice like a rumble of distant thunder.

“Pleased to meet you.” Koord gave a toothy grin. “Yes, I just got too large, curses of my father and mother for being tall themselves, then I outgrew them. My brothers and sisters are all smaller, and sadly, none like to ride like I do.”

“Koord was hurt in a terrible hit two years ago, his ride was never the same, either.” Sam said, “But good to see you back, brother!”

“So what’s giving you trouble?” Koord smiled.

Jona and the others quietly explained what was seemingly going on and Koord nodded.

“I have a few friends to talk to over there,” Indicating another of the tables. “I think we can do interference if need.”

Slipping back to the table where he previously sat, Koord talked with the other humans and dragons at the far end with his back to Jona and his friends.

“Koord is a member of my clan, we are cousins,” Sam said, “That group he is talking with was the best winning team before they withdrew from racing and retired  for different reasons. Koord was hurt and outgrew his ride. Cookie had to withdraw because his grades were too low, which sucks because he was an awesome rider. All the rides wanted him, he had the feel and good eyes, he could read a map better than anyone night or day. Crocus, she is sweet, but a ferocious competitor, her rides gave her more than she asked for, always.”

“They are their own group then?” Jona asked. “Like the others?”

“In schools there are always certain circles that hold together.” Kolo nodded. ”The professors and schools try to keep it minimal, using only the houses to keep the feeling of unity, every year you have to go to a different house. This way they feel it keeps from having too much of a separation in ‘favorites’. It doesn’t always work. Those over there with Stixx have been together too long, and no one seems to have success in breaking them up.”

“They have called themselves as the Royals of the Sky.” Kola said, “They have pushed a few of the younger students around telling them to bow to the Royals.”

“We shall be Pirates of the Sky then!” Jona laughed, taking a thought of the blood-haired human pirate that had been at the school earlier the year.”

Spirat shook his head. “You might get in trouble with the word Pirate in the name. How about Rebels?”

“No, I like what Jona said, Sky Pirates, we will steal the cup away from other schools and victory away from the stupid Stixx.” Sam grinned. “They won’t know what to do… uh-oh… Speaking of Stixx, here he comes.”

Stixx had made his way around the far side of the room, carrying two full plates of half eaten food, looking like he was lost while on his way to the trash and was heading their way, slowly. Two others of the clique had gone in another direction, talking with students while circulating around the room towards Kolo, Kola, Sam, Jona and Spirat.

Jona looked around, Koord and several of his friends were gone. There was no help coming and Stixx was talking with several other older students but his eyes were on Jona as Stixx was carrying the plates of food that had several drinks poured over the food making it a drippy sticky soup of half eaten meal.

Walking up to the group, Stixx looked down at the plate, Jona looked to the left and saw that Gorm, the half dragon, a small and quick friend of Stixx was coming from the other direction, the trap was set, and there was no way out.

Stixx smiled as if he had just won a contest when he bumped into first Koord, and then another smaller dragon of Koord’s group. Gorm was suddenly cornered by an unfriendly face of a large rider that had him by the shoulder.

“Where are you going with all that food you have there? You must be extra hungry?” Koord asked Stixx, in a dangerous sounding voice. “You would not be looking to share that meal with some of the younger students now, would you?”

“Just being friendly, Koord.” Stixx nodded. ‟This is not any of your concern, just a friendly chat we are going to have. This food? This is nothing, I was taking it back to the table.”

Stixx looked around, Gorm,  cornered by three other retired racer team members and unable to carry out his mission.

Seeing that he needed more muscle, Stixx  motioned with his head and several of his clique stood up— then suddenly and forcibly sat back down by the surrounding retired racer team. Outnumbered and out flanked, the little clique of the house became suddenly meek and sat quietly.

“You might want to take that back to your seat and eat quietly, I was chatting with my friends and family there first.”

Stixx paled at the thought. Looking at the slop of his plate and back at the table where his friends sat, corralled. Stixx walked directly back to the table and sat with his friends.

A small obsidianite colored dragon, leaned in and with a voice far deeper than would be expected, sounding much like a foghorn smiled and suggested in a dangerous tone.

“I think the rest of your crew is also hungry, you might want to serve them as well, you got thirds,” The glistening green dragon said,”You might want to serve them as well, don’t be stingy! Share!”

The clique of Stixx, Kelly and the others dug into the slop and took slow bites. Others of the table first gagged at the sight of the others eating the mess and then began to clap as the bullies themselves, became the bullied.

Professor Vale walked into the dining room, Koord and his friends stood up and began to socialize, innocently, making their way back to the corner of the tables. The little clique sighed relief of the entry of the Professor who smiled and waved at the students, stopping and speaking with different students.

Stopping at the table and looking at the pile of muck that Stixx and company were in mid bite. “You can take all you can eat,” Professor Vale said, shaking his head, ‟But eat all you take. We must not waste food, please be sure you eat all that.”

Vale made a face adding, “It does look like a balanced meal, but I would question the mix of flavors. Eat up.”

Entertained, all the students in the room watched in quiet amusement as the bullies choked down the slop that Stixx had made before Koord intercepted him.

Jona thought it was one of the best dinners he ever had as they all watched the bullies choke down their own mix of beets, milk, banana, coffee, cheese, meat, fish and other unidentifiable food. Jona suspected that Vale had known what went on and timed his entry to do the most effect.

College, Jona decided, was a great place to learn.

Dragon Master University Chapter 13. Classes

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XIII. Classes

A gong sounded in the house somewhere and jolted Jona a`wake. Sam made a squealing noise in his room and staggered out in the hallway to the study room. “Ugh, I hate that! I had forgotten how loud that wake up alarm is. “

“Does that happen all the time?” Jona yawned as he noticed sweet breads, grains and a serving dish of scrambled eggs was sitting at the table in the study room.

“Only during the class days.’ Sam laughed “Nearly made me jump out of my skin all last year. My species only molts once a year on average. I think I nearly shed five times.”

Jona cackled in good early morning humor.

As he walked up the stairs, Jona saw that Professor Vale was there, supervising book bags being handed out.

“Keep these and do not throw them away. They’ll be checked back in at the end of the year.”

Jona hurried out of the Garnet house and headed to where his schedule indicated his class. Dragon lore and law.

Finding the right place after several stops to ask older students where the classroom was. Each one having the look of fear on their faces.

“You have Professor Koos. Good luck.” several of them said.

Walking into the class, just on time for class to start. A short human with a long mustache, pulled back just so, merging into his gray hair, looked up and then down at the seating. Jona was obviously the last to arrive.

“Mr.” Professor Koos paused, puzzling over the name. “Sam- hain? Please take seat twelve-dee”

“It is pronounced Sah-wain in my country, Professor.” Jona corrected the old human.

“Indeed? I shall endeavor to correct my pronunciation in the future.” Professor Vale said quietly.

Professor Vale began to hand out papers, “This will be a timed quiz, you have fifteen minutes to the end of the test.”

“Sir? Professor? I was unaware of a test today? This is the first day of school- what could be the subject?” Jona asked.

“You picked up the schedule before today— otherwise you would not know where the classroom is. By extension you then know where my office is, the lessons for study I posted  two weeks ago on my office door, failure to study or to look for the lesson plan is no excuse. Please do your best on the test. Good luck.” And Professor Koos turned and walked away back to his desk.

Turning at his desk, he leaned against it and crossed his arms, for a teacher, Jona noticed for the first time, he had huge arms.

Professor Koos Spoke. “You come to me with heads full of sawdust and mush, in my class— if you survive— you will leave with minds of Masters. Masters of your Destiny and the earth’s.”

Thus the test began, Jona was already lost, thinking that the only thing he had gotten right was his name. Some of the questions he knew from his parents talking with him. Some questions he knew from his recent contacts with the school.

“Define a Dragon Hunter.” he read and wrote his answer with a quill.

Fifteen minutes later, Professor Koos collected the papers and began to lecture on the lore of the relationship of dragons and men.

Jona’s second class, fundamentals of flying was no less difficult. The instructor, Professor Vale, stood in the middle of the meadow outside of the volcano core. It was cool, even at the late morning, the red dragon shape of the professor paced back and forth in front of the class.

“Riding, not like a horse. The relationship between flying dragon and rider.” Vale said in a gentle voice unlike his voice at bed time the night before, “You will know, feel and see what it is like as a rider. No matter of your race. Whether you be Elf, Human or Dragon of your own that can ride another. The relationship is all important, there are those, humans mostly, that will hunt your ride. As a rider, you must know where to go. And there are things even in the air that will hunt a dragon.”

Several smaller dragon students nodded. Even the biggest of Dragons, it was known, the unspeakable terror that can come from below or above. Men with weapons that can reach out, wizards with magic and chains. A Dragon’s freedom was always under assault.

“First, you must know the speed at which a dragon can fly.” The armored head of the red-dragon nodded. ‟I can fly faster than an arrow can fly, and I can fly at that speed for all day. This is a typical speed, my friend here,” A huge gust of wind as a large gleaming purple dragon landed as light as a feather, “Has been known to create thunder during a dive. This makes it all but impossible to ride, unless you are hiding behind his horns out of the wind he produces.”

A rough voice, as if burned by fire, “I fly faster than sound when in a dive, I can fly past an observer before the sound of my passing reaches them.”

The class murmured in disbelief. One boy, a new student by the lack of rosettes on his leather armor, spoke. “My father says there is nothing that a dragon can do that a man can’t. Flying faster than sound is impossible.”

“Why are you here, if you have such a feeling?” Professor Vale asked. “Surely you have no wish to lean more, because you know all you need to know from your father?”

“I thought that this was a place of learning facts, not of stories. The earth is eternal, we will need to control and dominate it if we are to control the destiny of the earth.” the Brown haired boy said.

“Mister Gallo, please see me after class? You may attend the rest of the class as it goes on today.” Vale said.

Gallo crossed his arms,

“My parents give more money to this school than any other.” Gallow said as he stood with his arms crossed. He had muttured, but still just loud enough for Jona to hear him.

Sprite landed on Jona’s shoulder and clicked happily.

“Mister Samhain, you seem to have a connection to dragons, if I remember you have two parents that are masters themselves?” Vale asked.

“Yes, Professor. I found out just this summer that they are far more than they seem.”

“You might wish to tell me how to ride a dragon?” Vale asked, “What would keep you from falling off?”

“Um… Hang on?” Jona was not able to think of anything else.

The class laughed as if on cue.

“Knew I was going to like you as a roommate.” An unfamiliar dragon slapped him the shoulder as the purple dragon snorted in laughter and nodded.

`

“Vale, the boy is right, as much as it’s a melding of minds, to hold on is important.” The flying dragon nodded.

“Jona, would you come and sit on Wivern, show how you would hold on?”

Jona walked up to Wivern and crawled up on his back, finding a spot that he fit in perfectly and settled into what seemed like a saddle.

Wivern settled forward and flapped his wings, not taking off.

“He has a natural feel on the saddle.” Wivern spoke in his gravelly voice.

Wivern walked around in the meadow, Jona held on at first, as Vale was explaining the theory of how to sit with balance and keeping an eye out on for location. Communication between rider and ridden, explained by Wivern, performed by body language as often a dragon at speed may not hear the words of the rider.

“Some of us can hear through our scales, simply by speaking while we fly, we can understood without great difficulty.” Wivern advised.

Class continued, questions and answers, how to fly. Dragons were not steeds but simply friends that would allow riders. Jona learned that dragons came in more sizes and shapes than he had so far discovered.

Then the professor mention of the other, more frightening things that hunted dragons.

“Read up on dragon flight, the Gorgon is the subject of the written test two weeks from today. Flight styles and escapes in the past, I want a paper written due on the first day of next week, class dismissed.” Vale smiled as he watched the students leave.

“Gorgon, what is that?” Walking up the path back to the volcano, Jona asked Sam.

Sam shuddered. “I always thought it was a kids story to keep us home at night. The Gorgon is an ancient threat, there are more of them than one.”

“Hi!” Said another young man, “I am your roommate, came in at the beginning of classes this morning with Spirat, I saw you on the dragon at class. That was good! Wasn’t it? It was awesome to see!”

“Kola? Shut up.” Said a second boy. “He can never say just hello, he has to make a story out of it. I am Spirat, We will be staying in the room with you at Garnet house.”

“Say, you have a dragon on your shoulder!” Kola said “He looks like..”

“Kola, shut up.” Sam said and Kola became quiet.

“Kola comes from a Yak family, all they do is talk. Make good politicians, but seem to always take up all the air.”

Walking as they spoke, Spirat and Kola continued to introduce themselves. Kola was the younger brother of Kolo who Jona had already met. Kola explained for the thousandth time that the females of his family were very attracted to humans and were known to attract the best of the Dragon Masters.

“Half dragons are more common these days. Starting with a Professor here at the school.” Kola said as they walked to the next classes.

“Math!” Jona moaned. “I hate math.” It was always his worst subject. “I can never get it, my dad had to save my grades more than one time. Showing me how to do it, but still after all that time I was so happy to get away from the class and the instructor.”

“I like math” Kola interrupted, “The dragon math is different from what you know! It’s all about flight, angles and landings. Very involved, dragons don’t know it right off, many have been hurt with wrong landings. I’m not even allowed to fly.” Kola blushed blue.

Spirat laughed “He told me the problem, he keeps hurting himself, so they don’t allow him to try to fly, he does look a bit like a wounded bird in flight.”

Jona and Sam looked at Spirat, “You known him long?” Jona asked.

“We grew up together, we are second cousins on my father’s side and we grew up together.” Spirat grinned, “I take care of him, he takes care of me. Our family way.” Then he whispered, “He is the only biped fire-puffing dragon I know of.” Spirat laughed.

“Fire puffing?” Sam asked, “Not fire-breathing?”

“No, I don’t just breath fire, I have to focus a bit and then try, but I do okay at it.” Kola grinned.

The students walked back to their room and sat down to study during the night when the bell sounded in the house.

Dinner was served.

Dragon Master University Chapter 12. Class Schedule

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XII. Class Schedule

“Here you go, Professor Vale’s office, each student’s schedule is on the door. He’s a red dragon and rumor has it that he was once a human. He had a magic spell go as wrong as it could possibly go wrong, now he can’t turn back.” Sam said, then added with a tinge of fear in his voice, ‟His wife is the Red Witch. So don’t try to cheat on anything, those two will KNOW.”

Jona pulled a folded parchment from the door with his name scribed on the folded-over flap and opened it. “Dragon lore and law, dragon speak one-oh-one, basics of flight, mathematics— MATH?” Jona gasped, “Math was not my best subject, why do I need math here?”

“They always stick me in math. Hate it, but it has to be passed.” Sam shrugged.

Jona kept reading.

“Health: Pathogens of Dragons and Humans, Communicable  Diseases and Interspecies Transmission. I do not even know what the title MEANS, how can I even pass the class if I cannot understand even the title?” Jona had a note of panic in his voice.

“You’ll learn.” Sam laughed, “As a dragon, I have had classes that instruct about the jealousy of humans, ‘human emotions’ that is a class that is a real pain. All the mammal humans I know are okay. I have considered that they’re talking about old humans.”

Jona smiled and kept going down the list.

“Fundamental relationships of rider and ride”, Jona blinked “Rider and ride? Like horses?”

Sam laughed again as they walked down the stairs.

“No, some dragons you ride. NOT like horses, they give rides if it is a bond of trust or friendship between the human and dragon. Like your baby dragon that rides on your shoulder and head. Someday he’ll become large enough to give you rides.”

Jona thought of sprite, had not seen him in a while and was being a little worried.

‟Well, right now, the little guy wouldnt’ be much of a squish if someone stepped on him.”

Back in their rooms they settled in for the night, Professor Vale, on the main floor, called that lights out time was nearly upon them, now the sun was down. Classes started early in the morning and all were to be in bed.

“Good night, students.” The voice was like soft thunder that echoed in Jona’s head long after he settled into the soft bed.

Dragon Master University Chapter 8. The DragonMaster University

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VIII. The DragonMaster University

Jona looked at the lady, she had beautiful eyes, her ears were elegant with a slight point to them, elf for sure! Jona had never met an elf, but he was sure this was one. She was not nearly as old as his parents.

“Professor, this is our son, Jona, he has been chosen by the dragons, one follows him still.” Mother Samhain said softly. “Jona, this is Professor Melian Jewell, she is one of the senior teachers here in the university. She teaches dragon language, the only person I know that speaks all the known dialects of dragons, including the dead languages that no one speaks even now.

“She, I mean, you ma’am speak all dragon languages?” Jona followed his mothers finger as she pointed to the professor, to who he was to address the question.

“I was around when the dragons first encountered men, I helped set up the school, many winters ago.” Melian stated with an air of simple fact. Jona was getting the ongoing feeling that his school back home might be over, learning how many bushels would fit in a cart to today of dragons, elves, snow. His education was about to start. All that he had learned before was to practice for what was going to come now.

Professor Jewell looked up and down at Jona and nodded, “You have a dragon upon your person now, he is sleeping in the fold of your cloak. You may name him if you like because his real name would take you years to learn how to say it correctly.”

The professor was correct, the little dragon had found a loose fold in his sweater and was no longer moving, instead, it had warmed up and gone to sleep against the skin of Jona’s arm. If Jona did not know any better, it felt like the little dragon was purring.

The professor nodded curtly and excused herself as the Samhain family walked to the office, men and women walked by in many kinds of armor, many were gold, some were obviously a gray metal of iron. Dozens of beings, of humans and species that Jona had never dreamed of that existed passed him wearing laminated leather and metal decorations passed by every minute.

Jona began to notice that there was a subtle meaning to all the different types of decorations all over the leather that in many cases was a heavy weave of strips held in place by the metal rivets engraved into various flower shapes, then gilded with different colors.

He assumed that each color and shape meant something. Flowers, hands, what looked like ropes, crossed knives and either feathers or leaves, Jona could not tell which, embellished the shoulders and chests of humans, elves and— someone who looked like human, but was not.

Jona walked behind his parents looking about when a larger youth with raven-black hair collided with him, knocking Jona sideways and making Jona stumble and bump into another student who was gazing at the sky.

“You be careful! I am a DragonMaster.” The youth shoved back and growled at Jona.

The color of the jerkin was thin and worn, well used or poorly made, Jona could not decide. The aggressive stand of the student, however, flamed anger in Jona.

“Stop killing people for once, do not pull out your gutting knife just now. Let him live and come with me, please.” Aed turned and called to Jona. Shocking the other youth with the deadly reputation that the older generation recognized.

The other boy stood wide-eyed and looked on as Jona walked to his father, smiling to himself and in a way that no one else, but his father could see.

A wink the elder gave his son as the boy caught up and they walked off together.

“Thanks, Da'” Jona whewed quietly, “He’s bigger than I am. I did not want to have a fight so soon after getting here.”

“A father’s skill, I got you out of a fight without needing to raise my voice or get involved directly. But, be warned, it may just have put off what you will need to do later. He’ll want to test you.” Aed told him. “I recognize the forged flower on the leather vest he has on. A good family that has fallen on hard times. His own father suffered an attack by a dire wolf and nearly died. That boy’s father is now touched. Sometimes I find him in my shop wondering over common items. They live on the coast and are good people.”

‟Does the pirate king know him?”

‟Oh yes. Keegan O’Danu has gone out of his way to take care of the family. That is why the boy is here. The O’Danu scholarship, designed just for him. No one else can qualify, all Kacra had to do was apply”

‟Kacra?”

‟That’s the boy I warned you not to kill.”

‟Oh.” Jona thought about Kacra’s father wandering around the countryside.

From the coast to the shop would be at least a full days ride, two days to walk. How would Jona’s father get him home?

“Wagon mostly, and using an apprentice. Sometimes, I have given him a ride home on the dragon.” Aed leaned in whispering “I think that is why he keeps coming back.”

“So he takes it out on me?” Jona asked “I will have to avoid him or beat him.”

His mother shook her head at the her men talking.

“You will teach him how to teach dragons. By teaching you will learn, by learning from each other, you will teach.” She said.

”I do not want you to be fighting, I will be sorely upset if you get in trouble and I have to come by way of dragon— and I will come by fast dragon— to get you out of trouble from the school.” Her eyes flashed, “Then you will be in trouble with ME!”

Jona shuddered, somehow trouble with his mother, against the trouble in school? He feared his mother far more than anything the school might throw at him, including dragons.

Walking by a large door, several staff were moving bucket of fish in front of a large door to one of the dragon’s rooms. Barely they had time to get the door open when a tongue snaked out and wrapped itself around the leg of one of the faculty. Screaming for help, several of the bucket movers fought with the tongue until it let loose and returned inside the room— but only for a moment.

Out snaked the tongue again, finding the bucket, it dragged the container inside the room where a sound of sloshing could be heard.

Then the heavy bucket was airborn out and bounced off the door with a loud BONG. Jona could make out the shape of an armored dog, more than twice his height, possibly bigger than even the dragon that had brought them here.

Jona shook down to his bones when the bucket, big as ten men standing shoulder to shoulder, bounced as if it was the ball that Jona had seen the red-headed merchant had thrown for his son, Dana.

Jona looked up, it seemed like spires of a castle towered overhead on the inside of the old volcano, the heat and smoke that came from the bottom of the hole warmed the buildings, the fires were great stones that were heated by fire-breathing dragons that were being taught how to use their powers without burning things down. Jona was not sure who were teachers or who were students.

It seemed as if there were dragons that were professors as they ambled by with great medallions around their neck and others would bow to the dragons.

“The Dragons teach?” Jona could not stop his mouth from echoing his thoughts.

Aed chuckled and nodded, “Yes, you don’t find many students that daydream in those classes.”

Jona gaped at a red dragon that sat before an old lady professor. Her hair was blood-red, salted with white hair. Around the neck of the graceful, scaled neck of the dragon hung a medallion, battered and scarred, was a medallion engraved with runes around its edge, dwarfed by the size of the dragon, it seemed to be meant for someone of a different size. The dragon bowed it’s great head, as the professor kissed the scaled head and hugged (as much as she could wrap her arms around the huge head) the dragon.

Dearbhail looked at her son as he looked at the odd couple while they walked.

“Careful you will bump into a column.” She laughed quietly, “Those are the two most senior professors here. She is a witch, half-elf and her husband is a powerful wizard that gave up his human form to save her life, once upon a time during a battle with invading barbarians. But he did it in a way that no one can ever turn him back to his old shape. Someone has to say the proper spell, the proper ways with the proper words. No one knows how he did it and he cannot say how it was. He speaks rough human language, but not enough to undo the spell he made.”

Jona thought about this as they walked on, looking around. “Is this a castle?”

He looked around. “It is so large!”

“No, this is a village,” Aed laughed. ‟Really, a collection of schools that have banded together to make a more protected place to teach. This old volcano is long stopped being a danger, the only heat comes from deep underground or the dragons themselves.”

“We lived here a long time before you were born.” His mother added.

“Hatched, is better said. We found you under a rock.” his dad laughed as they walked. “Watch it!”

Jona nearly walked into a tree trunk sized leg as he was looking around, the dragon looked down and sounded like it snorted angrily at him while it moved past.

“She apologized,” Dearbhail translated for him. “This school was built inside the this old volcano, it can storm outside with a blizzard and all you will get in here is a soft rain.”

“Unless he has a class in the outside area” Aed added. “You will need to learn how to ride on dragons as well. It takes practice and a bit of luck— and a lot of understanding on how a dragon moves, thinks and lives.”

“This way,” his mother said as they turned into a beautiful building. A column of dragon images, each with a name under it.

“Puff?” Jona read, “What kind of name is that for a dragon? That seem silly.”

“Heh,” His dad laughed softly. ‟He was a legendary dragon that made one of the first contacts with humans that did not end in one or the other being killed.” Aed nodded, “It was the beginning of understanding between dragons and other creatures of the world.”

“Where do we go from here?” Jona asked

“Inside, come.” His parents escorted him in and he met the second smallest dragon he had seen so far.

Jona watched her as she moved around, she had a short tail, and she was in a same moment, color shifting from sky blue to forest green, performing complex paperwork quickly as she concentrated. She was so pretty that the young man nearly forgot to breathe.

Jona’s mom smacked him in back of the head and brought him out of his own little world of fantasy as the girl sized dragon smiled and looked down at her work.

“Happens all the time with new students.” She said with a musical voice. “It happens with dragons, elves and humans all the same.” She sighed and went back to a folder and opened it, pulling out several documents.

‟Clan Samhain, one child, Jona” She looked up at the gape-mouthed teenager “That must be you.”

Aed chuckled as his mom hid her face in the palm of her hand as she tried to stifle a laugh. Jona continued to stare, compared to the other dragons he had seen in the school, there was nothing like her.

“My name is Kolo and you can stop staring now, I am here to help you get through your first years, I will be your mentor and teacher of language arts of the first order. I also teach sports, I am a swimming dragon, but I also can fly. Do you swim?” Kolo looked at Jona with a soft smile and a wink.

Jona only made a momentary sound and then Kolo tapped him on the forehead.

“Are you okay? Did you eat a sleep berry?” Kolo giggled, “Here, just give these to you folks and then come back when you have your brain in your head instead of my shirt.”

Walking away Kolo looked over her shoulder at Jona who was being led out of the room by his father as they went to the desks to fill out the proper paperwork.

Dragon Master University Chapter 5. The Ride

Standard

Chapter 5. The Ride

 

“This insulated armor is for harsh environments, you better be getting yours on, too. You will stick out like a wart if you don’t wear the proper garments.” chuckled Aed.

Watching closely as his father picked up the over sized knife, his father looked him in the eye and then hit the side of his leg with the cruel cutting edge of the sword. Not so much as a dent in the material was left by the cutting edge. Smiling at his son at the strength of the armor that he had kept quiet for lo’ the many years that the son had come to join them. He helped Jona dress in his student armor.

Jona dressed, the leather smelled newly tanned, the touch of it made him feel like a warrior of his own, slightly taller than his auburn haired mother, his jerkin fit him perfectly, as if it was known that he would be wearing it.

“Come, son! Time to get going!” Dearbhail said. Her strong will reasserting itself once again. The family hiked out into a meadow outside of the village, past the Crannog used since as long as anyone could remember, should the wild men of the sea invade.

In the middle of the field, dimly lit by the two torches carried by the adults, Jona had the dubious task of carrying the heavy gold griddle, stood a large wicker basket, enough to carry perhaps as many as ten people and all their food, bedding and still have room left over for any animals they might want to bring.

The wicker was tightly woven, enclosed but for shuttered holes that served as windows to the outside. Aed opened the stout, side door and Jona could see the reclining seats inside. Just sitting there, Jona looked around for the cart or wagon that had brought it. Not quite understanding, he looked for a place to put down the bag that carried the heavy, gold cookware.

“What is this?” Jona asked, learning not to make comments, because the truth of the last few days made his wildest imagination pale in comparison.

“This, Jona, is our way to get to the school, we ride in it.” Aed said as he and Dearbhail climbed in. “Get comfortable, you will find your first lesson in dragons.”

Opening the top of the basket with a lever that telescoped the apex of the basket back to the sides so they could see out, his dad made a sound like he did when he was snoring, Aed seemed to make a whole sentence from the snorting and snoring sound.

Jona began to laugh at his dad, when there was the sound wind coming from the sky, no clouds, but as Jona looked up, the something blotted out the stars.  It… He could not believe it… It was the biggest flying thing that Jona had ever put his eyes on.

Jona squealed like a cat with its tail stepped on and he fell over backwards when he craned his neck to look up, great orange eyes looked down on them from the sky and wings that went from edge to edge of his vision he had to turn his head to see all the wingspan of the huge dragon that hovered over them as it sat down on the grass as lightly at a bird.

His face and eyes twitching as the lips of his mouth formed a big “O” without a sound when great orange eyes looked down on them from the sky and wings that went from edge to edge of his vision, he had to turn his head to see all the wingspan of the huge dragon that hovered over them as it sat down on the grass as lightly at a bird.

His face and eyes twitching as the lips of his mouth formed a big “O” without a sound.

After a few minutes, the only sound he heard was the rush of blood in his ears and a small funny sounding squeak like a squirrel made when caught in the claws of a hawk, only to come and realize that the squeak was coming from his own mouth, echoing laughter from far away was his own mother and father.

Aed stood over his spasm-riddled son and looked down with laughter as his wife roared with laughter, all the first time students that had seen their first full-sized dragon had same reactions— normally they passed out or ran away in panic.

“Jona, you did better than most kids! You at least stood your ground the first time you met the transport, even if you did a very good apoplexy dance before you fell, were you frozen or did you find it curious?” Aed laughed as he spoke to his son.

“Wahh-wahh-wahh-wahh-wahh…” Jona repeated for several minutes, until finally he complained that the weight of the gold platter was holding him down.

“Let go, son, let the bag go.” Dearbhail said, “It is not holding you down, you are holding yourself back from standing up.”

Jona suddenly realized he had a death grip on the bag that held the heavy gold platter to his shoulder, releasing it, he stood up with his eyes still fixed on the winged beast that sat quietly in front of him, A thought that struck Jona in his mind and he turned to his father with eyes as big as dinner plates.

“Y-y-y-y-” his voice faded away and he cleared his throat.

“Spit it out!” smiled Aed, “What are you trying to say, son?”

Jona looked around, the sun was breaking over the horizon, coloring the clouds crimson putting the dark, shimmering dragon that looked down at him with a bemused expression, its orange eyes still glowed in the early light.

“You speak dragon!?” Jona finally got out.

Aed chuckled as his mother rocked back and forth on the edge of the giant wicker basket.

“Of course we do. Yes! Both of us speak dragon, all two – hundred dialects. Your grandpa spoke more, but many dragons have disappeared out of the world.” Aed said.

The great dragon overhead nodded slowly and sadly. Seemingly to understand human speech.

“IT understands our language?” Jona choked out. His eyes looking at the shimmering creature.

“She does, as most dragons do. It takes years for us to learn their language, but they know ours easily. I will explain as we go, now IN the basket with you, we are losing our cover.” his father said with a smile. ‟The reclining seats. Keep the fur blankets close at hand.”

“Jona, get this jacket on, you will catch your death of cold otherwise.” His mother reverted back to her concern about her only son. “Hat on, too.”

A small cap that seemed familiar, but could not recall just where, he pulled it on. It was the same kind as the hat both his mother and father wore, with the exception that theirs had feathers in it. His mother’s was a white feather, his father’s was shimmering green.

“What are we going to do in this basket?” as they sat on snug, tightly woven reclining seats with odd metal hook and eye fastened straps that wrapped around their waist. “What are these for?”

“My own addition, we have had a few people fall out of the chairs over the years, this is my answer and seems to have been a good one.” his father answered.

“How do they fall out? What are weeeeeeee……” Jona never finished his question as he instead screamed while the great drago took flight and latched its massive claws on the crossbar of the great wicker basket and took flight lifting them off the ground rapidly, going up into the sky.

The elder Samhain’s laughed and their eyes shined with excitement as they gained altitude, the dragon lifted them up into the air and into the clouds. Their hair flying behind them as they held hands and enjoyed the ride.

“If you are going to regurgitate your breakfast, son, please lean out the window. ” Aed said with a laugh.

“I did not bring any change of under clothes for you, so you better keep control of your bodily functions!” Dearbhail yelled as she slapped her husband as she pointed down over the edge of the open window.

Below the sun shown on the harbor, the black ship of the day before was still at dock– high tide was not due for several hours, the crew of the ship was seemingly gathered on the breakwater with many of the locals standing around them as they seemed to entertain the people in the early morning light.

“That Master O’Danu has his crew out again.” Aed said. “I always like listening to them when I have time.”

“W-what?” Jona asked as he peeked over the side at the group of men on the ground far below.

“The sailors on the ship are also poets and artists. Often the sing at dockside a cappella at the end and beginning of the day. Sailors work hard during the day, morning and night in the slack tides they have time to show their stuff. Here, this morning they are singing on the docks.

‟Is he a Dragon Master?” Jona asked as he looked over the edge. His knuckles white as he gripped the wicker rail tightly.

‟Captain O’Danu? Yes. He was a few years behind us. That son of his will have a great surprise on his own, like you.” Dad said. ‟They spend a great deal of time on the water, Captain O’Danu trains water-dragons, water horses, sea nymphs and mer-folk. He keeps all the pirates in the area away from our harbor and makes sure we are left alone.”

‟He keeps pirates away?” Jona shook his head in disbelief. ‟How?”

‟Son, you noticed they had the ship painted differently?”

‟Yes, it was all black with some white.”

‟Yes, that is the ship Orca. Captain O’Danu is the Pirate King on our side of the world.”

‟On our side of the world?” Jona blinked. He had seen the red-headed captain several times as he had grown up. Never thinking that the ship that he was on was a pirate ship, or the crew who sang and brought smiles to merchants were all pirates.

‟Well, not a pirate in the typical sense. The Empire that has hunted him and his crew for years has labeled him that. He took the title after his ship defeated a pirate fleet in a three-on-one disadvantaged battle, pirates in the area called him King. He takes tribute from all of them, a few gold pieces each, but there are many of those that ply their trade on seas. A good man to have on your side.”

‟What about his son, is… I think his name is odd. Dana I think.

‟Oh yes, his boy Dana is too young yet, I would say. Unless he understands how to train puppies and has an open mind. Some children and adults cannot wrap their minds around a school with dragons.” Mom said. ‟It’s an old story on both sides. Those with limited education are given to hate more. It is what we try to change as a Dragon Masters.”

‟Why are you called Dragon Master if you are teacher?” Jona asked as the big wings of the orange dragon as it took a now-rare flap of leathery wings. The blast of wind was shocking, but bearable.

‟We have mastered the subjects to teach the two worlds how to live together.”

Quaint?  Did he ever think of his mom and dad as quaint?

They flew in a covered basket carried by a huge dragon without blinking an eye.  This was…

Jona decided he had a lot to learn.

By a large margin.

This was nothing like school was over the last few years.