Part 2Click >HERE< for Part 1
In record time, Sam and Arthur had scrambled into Sam’s small car and sped toward the edge of town.
“How in the world could this happen?” Sam shrieked.
“I don’t know!” Arthur wailed, watching the real live dragon wag its head and roar.
“Oh man, oh man,” Sam veered off the exit that would take them to Echo Cave. “Half the city’s probably freaked out by now. The cops’ll be here before you know it.” He caught Arthur’s frantic gaze and glared at him.
“How is this my fault?” Arthur shrieked at his friend. “Believe me, I wish that thing was invisible just as much as you do!”
“Well, just goes to show you how effective wishes are, because it’s—“ Sam pointed to the massive beast just ahead as they pulled into Echo Cave Park. “Gone!” He slammed hard on the brakes, sending Arthur rocketing forward in his seat.
“Ow!” Arthur rubbed his head. “What was that for?”
Sam was still watching the huge dragon in horror. “Arthur, it’s gone! The dragon just disappeared!”
Arthur squinted at the massive claws digging up the ground less than a mile away. “What are you talking about, Sam, it’s right there.”
Sam shook his head. “No it’s not! It was there a minute ago—you and I both saw it—but now it’s completely gone, like one of those optical illusions or something.”
Arthur frowned at his friend. “How are you this dense?” He muttered. “It literally hasn’t moved. Keep driving!”
“You know what? No!” Sam took the keys out of the ignition and folded his arms. “I’m not moving. If you want to keep imagining that there’s a dragon there, go ahead and walk over there, and I’ll believe you!”
Arthur scowled and huffed out his nose. “Fine! I will!” He flung open the door and stepped out, slamming it hard behind him.
The dragon picked up its head and turned toward the sound. Arthur looked back toward his friend, but Sam shook his head.
Arthur felt his heart creep up into his throat as he stepped slowly and calmly through the trees, closer and closer to the dragon with dark-brown scales. It sat on its haunches, with its long tail curled against its legs. The long neck with the blunt head bent down over something in front of it. Just beyond the dragon’s bulk, Arthur could see what remained of Echo Cave: a charred husk, like a very deep crater, with shards of The Egg laying in huge pieces around it.
Guess it really was an egg, after all! Arthur thought. He reached the very edge of the clearing when he saw what absorbed the dragon’s attention: his dad’s truck, still parked just where he left it the day before.
The dragon made a breathy sound, sharp and hissing—and with a low growl, it turned its head and looked right at Arthur! He froze where he stood, not daring to move a muscle as the dragon’s head leaned closer. Arthur could feel the movement of its breath as it stopped and peered at him, its snout nearly touching him. It gave one small sniff, and then lunged so fast, Arthur was in the air by the time he screamed. The dragon caught his shirt between its teeth, and swung him through the air till he slammed down on the hood of his truck. Arthur tried to scoot backward, up the windshield and onto the roof, while the dragon waited with claws splayed, bracing itself for—Arthur didn’t quite know.
“Hungry!” a voice grunted.
Arthur looked behind him, only for the dragon to grunt again, prompting him to turn back to the creature almost salivating over him.
“Hungry!” said the voice again, but Arthur had no way of knowing who was speaking.
“Who’s there?” Arthur attempted to call over his shoulder.
“Arthur!” That voice was definitely Sam. The dragon didn’t turn away from Arthur sprawling on his truck, but it didn’t back off either.
“Be careful, Sam!” Arthur called. He could see his friend in his periphery, standing just inside the clearing, only a few steps away from the backside of the dragon.
“What’s wrong with you, man?” Sam paused uncertainly. “I saw you walking and then all of a sudden you went flying. Did you break something?” Sam scanned the ground at his feet as if he expected some kind of land mine or spring-loaded launch pad.
The dragon loomed closer, a steady growl building in its throat.
“Hungry!” said the voice again, so quiet it seemed to come from behind him. “Feed.”
Arthur hardly dared to breathe. “It… It’s the dragon,” he stammered to Sam. “It’s right here. Can’t you see it?”
Sam glanced around the sky, as if the dragon hovered over the treetops. “I’m telling you, man, that thing is one hundred percent—“
Just then, the dragon slammed its claws down on either side of the truck, causing a small earthquake.
“HUNGRY. MUST. FEED!” Snarled the voice.
The dragon looked about ready to eat him; Arthur threw up his hands protectively. “Okay, okay!” He squeaked. “Don’t hurt me!”
The dragon actually backed up a few feet. It tilted its head to regard Arthur.
“Protect Master. Keep Master safe. Master feed.”
The voice was gentler, not as insistent now.
“All right, whoever you are!” Arthur called to the hungry person behind his truck. “I’m going over there.”
Sam began walking toward him. “Dude, what are you talking about?”
Arthur’s voice caught in his throat as he watched the dragon swing around to confront Sam, who kept right on walking. The dragon opened its mouth and roared.
“KEEP MASTER SAFE!” the voice declared.
“WHOA!” Arthur tumbled off the truck and scrambled around to put himself between the dragon and his friend. “Sam, stop! SAM, STOP! WAIT! NO!”
Sam squinted at him. “What the heck, man?”
“Wait!” Arthur addressed the dragon now. It sat and watched him, amber-colored eyes blinking slowly. “You… you talk?”
The dragon huffed and shuffled its foreclaws. “Master speaks. Master hears the voice of his hatchling.”
Arthur felt his knees wobble and buckle. “Master…” he gasped. “You… you mean me? I am your master?”
Sam snorted behind him. “What’s going on, Arthur? What are you master over?”
“Shut up, Sam!” Arthur snapped. “I just saved your life, so just hang on a sec while I figure this out!”
The dragon lolled its head over to the truck, cradling it protectively between its claws.
“Thing has scent of Master. Master loves thing, imprinted on thing. Hatchling has imprinted on Master’s scent, will serve and obey Master.”
“Saved my life?” Sam was muttering behind him. “From what? That would be the first time I’ve seen you take initiative. What’s out there that could have killed me, huh?”
Arthur ignored Sam as he watched the dragon. “Say, are you invisible right now? Why can I see you?”
“Master wished Hatchling to be invisible, but not even Dragon cannot hide from Master. Master will always know where Dragon is.”
A slow smile unfolded on Arthur’s face as Sam still complained and rambled on behind him. “Do me a favor,” he said to the dragon. “Make yourself visible, but only to my friend here.”
The dragon turned his head to regard the taunting fellow behind Arthur. “Is friend? Is kind to Master?”
Arthur nodded. “Yes; he’s a butthead sometimes, but he’s nice to me. Please, could you do it?”
“I obey Master.” The dragon sat up, planting its claws in front of him.
Arthur knew exactly the moment Sam could see him because the jabbering ceased. “I take you in, give you a bed, and it turns out all you give me is trouble because now we’re way out here and Echo Cave looks like it had a bomb go off and—HOLY WHAT?”
Arthur turned around to face Sam. His friend stood, staring over his head as if his eyes would roll right out of his skull.
“Wha… tha—ho-ly…Wh-what??” Sam spluttered.
“Now do you believe me?” Arthur needled, even though he had to admit, it was a little bit strange to go from having nothing at all to having a dragon who would obey and protect him.
Sam—after he had sufficiently recovered from the shock of actually seeing the dragon materialize right in front of him—wasted no time in pointing out, “What are you going to do with a dragon?”
Arthur shrugged. “I don’t know; anything I want, I guess?”
Sam climbed into the bed of the truck, while the dragon regarded him in a manner not unlike suspicion. “I mean, no offense—but it’s not like the dragon can find you food or a steady job or anything that you really need.”
A churning, wet rumble erupted from the spot just underneath the dragon’s seat. It bent its head to rest its snout gently against the windshield, so that Arthur could stroke its smooth head-plates from his perch on the roof of the vehicle.
“Is hungry,” it murmured to him. “Master will feed now?”
Arthur suddenly became very aware of how hungry he was. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t think there are many animals left in these woods anymore. You probably don’t eat trees or leaves or things like that.”
“Is new hatchling. Does Master give Hatchling trees to eat?”
Arthur shrugged. “If you’re hungry enough, go ahead—“
Before he had finished speaking, the dragon leaned over and wrapped its large jaws around the trunk of a nearby tree. With a small jerk of its head, it snapped the trunk in two pieces, leaving the jagged stump behind and chomping chunks off the end of the felled tree, exactly in the manner of someone biting off the end of a carrot. Very soon, it had consumed the trunk and munched happily on the foliage till all that was left was a scattering of debris.
“Tree is good,” the dragon murmured.
Arthur chuckled. “Well, that was easy enough! Don’t eat all the trees, though,” he warned the beast, “because if you do, you’ll have nowhere to hide.”
“What else does Master give Hatchling to eat?”
Arthur glanced around. Besides the trees, there wasn’t much in the area—and with the destruction of Echo Cave, it wouldn’t be long till people started to wonder how it came to be that way—and as soon as the wondering began, discovery of his secret wouldn’t be far behind. What he needed was a way to dispose of the evidence, to remove any kind of motivation for people to come to this area.
He turned back to the dragon. “Umm, what else can you eat?”
The dragon swung its head around, prompting Arthur and Sam to dodge out of its way as it surveyed the area with wide, blinking eyes.
“All things looks tasty,” it murmured. Opening its mouth wide, it bit off a chunk of Echo Cave. The sound it made as it chewed was like sitting too close to an industrial-grade jackhammer. Arthur covered his ears until the beast swallowed.
“Master gives Hatchling stone to eat?” it asked, glancing sidelong at the shards of polished rock piled off to the side.
Arthur was only half-listening to the voice in his head. Sam’s cell phone jingled, and he went back to answer it. “Huh?” he said to the dragon. “Oh… sure, I guess.”
The dragon hatchling attacked the pile of rubble with vigor. Arthur saw Sam waving to him, so he slipped out of the truck bed and joined his friend.
Sam wagged his head as he watched the dragon. “Man, that is beyond cool, right there!”
“Yeah,” Arthur responded lamely, scratching the back of his head. “I just hope nothing happens to it while I’m not here.”
“Which might be longer than either of us like,” Sam waved his cell phone. “That was your mom. She’s worried about you being gone all day, especially when you didn’t come home last night.”
Arthur winced. For as angry Esther tended to get at her son, she also fretted over him with equal ferocity. “Yeah, I’ll just… Lemme say goodbye to the dragon.”
He trudged back to the clearing. His new pet had polished off the shards of Egg in the time it had taken him to talk to Sam.
“Hey,” he said, not quite sure how to address the animal.
The dragon swung its head around to look at him. “What Master wish for Hatchling to serve him?”
“Huh?” Arthur had a difficult time following the roundabout sentence. “Oh, er, no, it’s nothing I want—well, except… have you got another name besides Hatchling?”
The dragon swung its tail, splitting a crevice into the side of Echo Cave.
“Hatchlings have no names. Master must give Hatchling his name.”
Arthur raised his eyebrows. “Really? So… You wouldn’t want to be called Spike or Flame or anything like that…” He scratched the top of his head.
Over by the car, he heard Sam holler, “Arthur! We need to go now!”
Arthur looked up at the hatchling. “What do you want to be called?” he asked abruptly.
The young dragon fidgeted with its claws, raking furrows in the dirt. It bent its head down to nudge the truck gently.
“Hatchling only wants Master to love as much as Master loves this thing. Hatchling will take the name of this thing.”
Arthur squinted. “Wait, well—that’s a truck…”
The dragon perked up right away, laying its head down in front of Arthur. “Master will give the name Truck?”
The young man scuffed his sneaker in the dirt and wagged his head. “You’re kidding me; you want to be called Truck?”
“Yes; if Master wills it.”
“All right, then,” Arthur responded with a shrug. “I’ll call you Truck.”
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