A Dragonson story
By: Walter G. Esselman
"Oh-no-no-no-no-no!" shrieked Brianna as she ran.
The water nymph knew that they were close behind and gaining quickly.
Arms encircled her waist, and she cried out as teeth nibbled on her shoulder.
"Just don't tickle me!" squealed Brianna joyfully as Gideon pretended to gnaw on her.
"Too slow," exclaimed Pavataro. The black and blue dragon grinned as he ran past. Since he was the same age as Gideon and Brianna, the dragon's head only reached to six feet off the ground.
"Quick! We have to get him!" cried out Brianna, and she and Gideon began to chase after the young dragon.
The fifteen-year old kids swarmed towards the beach, which was just outside of the city-state of Bon Su Pear.
Pavataro glanced condescendingly at Gideon. "You're such a prey. Razor deer are tougher."
"Oh yeah?" retorted the boy, and Gideon leapt upon the dragon's back.
Pavataro immediately started to buck up and down.
"Hey! Get off!" wailed the dragon indignantly. "I'm not a pack mule."
Gideon jumped off and he and Brianna ran ahead, laughing.
"That wasn't funny!" cried Pavataro, but he scrambled after them.
They reached the edge of the sandy beach. The sun was bright and glinted off the royal blue water. Gideon and Pavataro went right out onto the sand, but Brianna yipped and jumped back. The boy screeched to a halt and looked back.
"You okay?" asked Gideon, casually standing on the beach.
Brianna grumbled. "Oh, that's right. You guys don't feel heat like the rest of us."
"Is the sand hot?" asked Gideon, and he looked down at it.
"Only as hot as the surface of the sun," said Brianna with a roll of her eyes. "I guess if I run quickly "
"Nonsense," said Gideon and he walked up to her.
"What're you doing?" asked Brianna uncertainly. Gideon was only a hair taller than the redheaded water nymph. He picked her up in his arms. "Oh! You don't "
Gideon walked out onto the blazing sand as she put her arms around his neck. He held her close as they looked for a good spot.
"You know, a girl could get used to this," murmured Brianna with amusement, and Gideon's heart raced quicker.
They found a good patch of sand near a rocky outcropping called Tovell's Caves. Gideon put down Brianna, who quickly put out a blanket from her small backpack.
"Ouch, ouch, ouch," she cried before jumping onto the blanket. She set the backpack aside. "Mental note, need sandals next time."
Gideon lay on the hot sand next to her as Pavataro reached the water and plowed into an oncoming wave. Taking a deep breath, the dragon dove under the water.
"I'm surprised that you're not out there yet," said Gideon as he nodded from the water nymph to the ocean. "I'm surprised that you can lay on the hot sand," retorted Brianna. With a delicate finger, she prodded the hot sand experimentally from the safety of her blanket. "I'm surprised your mother fed you dragon's milk."
As a baby, Gideon had been adopted by a dragon, who had just lost her first child.
"Well, from what she says," replied Gideon. "It was kinda an accident. She was saving me from getting eaten by a dragon and pulled me protectively close to herself. And she was ready to start nursing, so my baby brain um well "
Gideon started to blush because this whole topic was getting really embarrassing. He did not want to think of his Mom nursing. Eew!
"Which allows you to do your whole changing-your-own-gravity thing," said Brianna. She looked at him critically. "So, how much power did you use to lift me up?"
"None," said Gideon quickly.
"Good answer," smiled Brianna. She looked off at the water wistfully.
Gideon jumped up. "Come on. I'll race you."
And Brianna braved a few feet of hot sand as they ran into the cool water.
The predator slid through the water, closing in on Brianna as she looked around.
"Gideon?" she called out.
Brianna did not see as it moved closer and closer to her.
It struck at her tickle spots. She dropped underwater as Gideon tickled her sides. Her hands began to glow blue and the watermage created a wall of water between the two. Gideon kicked up to the surface.
"Hey! No fair," complained Gideon with a grin when she surfaced.
"I hate to be tickled," sniffed Brianna, but with a little smile. "But revenge is sweet."
"Wha ?" started Gideon. Under the surface, Brianna's hands glowed blue again, and a large watergolem rose out of the water next to him.
"No fair," muttered Gideon.
The watergolem dropped on top of him and pushed the boy under the water. He swam away from it andundeterredwent after Brianna's tickle spots again. She swam quickly towards the shore, followed by him.
"I'm gonna get you!" cried Gideon, and Brianna squealed in delight. Suddenly, she froze, and he almost ran into her.
"What're you ?" asked Gideon in confusion.
Brianna pointed urgently towards the sand.
"Save the boy!" she said quickly.
A little boy was tottering towards Tovell's Caves. Behind him, cutting through the sand, was the fin of a sand shark, ghosting the child.
"What the ," started Gideon.
"Sand shark!" cried Brianna. "Go! Hurry! Hurry!"
Gideon stopped thinking and moved. He lowered his gravity and leapt past Brianna, clearing the water. He started to jump at great lengths across the beach. He might get to the boy first, maybe. He poured on the speed. The boy turned and saw the fin cutting through the sand.
The child froze.
Dropping in front of the boy, Gideon grabbed him, lowered their gravity and then leapt high up into the air. The shark leapt out sand, its jaws extending to snap at Gideon, who only just pulled his feet away at the last moment. The sand shark fell away from them as they descended slowly towards the caves. When he hit the beach, Gideon sprinted over the last bit of sand and jumped onto the cave's rocky exterior. The shark used multiple hard fins, like blades, to dig back into the sand and swiftly disappeared from view.
"Again!" cried the boy happily.
"What was that?" cried the boy's mother as she started to walk towards her child and Gideon.
Brianna focused on the group of beachgoers, who were drawing closer to the caves.
"Stay back," commanded Brianna. She ran towards the looky-loos, who were ignoring the hot sand. Glancing left, she saw Gideon and the boy. "Gideon?"
"We're good," replied Gideon. Carrying the boy, he followed the stone caves to the grasslands, while still giving the sand a wide berth.
"Right," said Brianna as she reached the beachgoers. "Everyone needs to leave the sand right now."
"Listen little girl," said a condescending man as he thrust out his hairy chest. "You can't just order people to leave a public beach."
"Duchess," said Brianna as she looked him right in the eyes.
"What?" he asked in a confusion.
"I'm not a ‘little girl'," said Brianna with steel in her voice. "I am the Duchess Brianna Sur of the Nymphari nation. That was a sand shark, and if you want to stay on the beach, that's fine. It's probably very hungry. But everyone else, I suggest you Get Off The Sand!"
The condescending man blinked first, and the crowd slowly shuffled away to the grasslands. The mother had already run over to Gideon, who put the boy right into her arms. The child, for his part, burbled happily about sharks while she squeezed him close.
Gideon walked back over to Brianna.
"Well, that's one way to get the beach to ourselves," suggested Gideon. "But what's that thing doing here?"
"I don't know," said Brianna. "But I have an idea."
Gideon followed Brianna as they carefully walked from the grasslands and on to Tovell's Caves. Over the rocks, they stopped close to the site where Gideon had first picked up the boy.
"Sand sharks don't usually bother humans," said Brianna. "If they see a human, they tend to avoid it."
"That would've been nice," murmured Gideon.
"But they can become territorial during the year," said Brianna.
"How do you know about this?" asked Gideon.
"My Uncle Regent studied them," said Brianna. "And he's going to be so jealous when I tell him about this."
They found a cave entrance near the water. Moving into the cave, she saw what she had been looking for. She squatted next to a small pool of water sunk into the floor of the cave. Gideon peered over her shoulder in surprise.
"Is that ?" asked Gideon.
"Exactly," replied Brianna in a smug tone, when Gideon suddenly grabbed her shoulder, hard. "Ow, that "
"Shh," said Gideon urgently. She stopped and glanced up.
The sand shark stood in the entrance to the cave with a look that was neither vicious nor cruel, but it would kill, if necessary. Underneath the sand shark, it stood with hard fins, that it used to dig through sand. Brianna slowly got up pressing back against Gideon.
The sand shark moved awkwardly into the cave. Its gills were closed, and its middle expanded and contracted as it breathed air. Gideon and Brianna moved carefully away until they hit the back of the cave. The sand shark came over to the pool and then lay on top of it while eyeballing them.
"This is not good," said Brianna.
"We're not dead yet," said Gideon. He pointed to the left where a little light showed through a hole in the ceiling of the cave. "Up for some rock climbing?"
Brianna went first on the logic that Gideon might be able to jump around the creature if it attacked.
Also, he was being a dumb, macho, protective male and had insisted that she go first. Brianna shook her head indulgently and started to climb up towards the hole.
Gideon followed and they barely squeezed through the small space. Outside, they hugged each other in terror past.
"I didn't think we were going to make it out of there," breathed Brianna, head bowed against his skinny chest.
"It was a close one," said Gideon as he kissed the top of her head.
Brianna straightened and looked back towards the beach. "Do you hear that?"
"My heart?" smiled Gideon.
"No," she said and smacked him playfully on the chest. "Over there."
Brianna broke their embrace and headed across the top of the caves.
"Oh no!" said Brianna pointing towards the people on the grass. She turned to Gideon. "Can you get me there quick?"
Gideon picked her up and lowered their gravity. He sprang off in great leaping bounds.
"There!" said Brianna pointing to the ground and he stopped where she had indicated.
This set them right before the mob of angry citizens and worried soldiers. The little boy's mother was out in front, screaming for blood. Captain Doyle of the Royal army was right behind her with his squad, carrying spears.
"There she is!" said the little boy's mother. "She was the one who ordered us off the beach."
"Give me a moment," said Captain Doyle to the woman, and he walked over to Brianna and Gideon. "You kids alright?"
"We're fine," assured Brianna and Doyle relaxed at that. He liked these kids.
"This is a right mess," said Captain Doyle in a low voice. "Everyone's scared out of their wits."
"As well they should be," said Brianna. "That sand shark will eat anyone who comes near its cave."
Doyle sighed. "I guess I have no choice."
"You're going to go in and kill it?" asked Brianna.
"Is there another option?" asked Doyle hopefully. "I don't want to risk my people in fighting that thing "
Doyle unconsciously glanced towards his beautiful lieutenant, Glory.
"Actually," said Brianna. "I think there might be a different way. We saw something in the cave."
"You went in there, what ?" asked Doyle sharply, but then he stopped himself with a smile. "What am I saying, of course you did. Okay, I'm really glad you're alright."
"Can you get me a bucket of water?" asked Brianna.
A child's play-bucket was brought to the front of the crowd.
"What are we waiting for?" cried the little boy's mother. "Go in there and kill it."
"Please everyone," said Brianna. "A moment of your time. I know something about sand sharks, which is what you have." And she looked directly at the boy's mother. "They do seem like frightening creatures, especially when they come after our young. But, that's the heart of the issue. Ma'am, you love your child, correct?"
"Of course," sniffed the little boy's mother.
"And you would do anything to protect him?" asked Brianna.
"Yes," said the little boy's mother fiercely.
"Sand sharks tend to shy away from people, except under one circumstance," said Brianna. Gideon held up the bucket next to her. "Me and Gideon went in the sand shark's cave, and this is what we saw."
Brianna touched the water.
The watermage's hand glowed blue so that the bones stood out. She began to reform the water in the shape of the cave. In the tableau, the figure of Gideon was standing over Brianna who was squatting over a pool of little swimming sand sharks.
"Are those ?" asked Doyle.
The scene changed to show when the sand shark came in the cave and sat over to the babies to protect them.
"It's just a mother protecting its young," said Brianna. "And as such, we should give it its space."
"But our beach?" whined someone in the crowd.
"As I recall," said Brianna. "The babies grow quick. I'll check on the caves every day, but I'm hoping we'll have our beaches back within the week."
"But what if it comes back?" asked the little boy's mother.
"That's a good question," said Brianna. "One that we're going to have to look into."
Brianna changed the scene to just show a larger representation of the baby sand sharks chasing each other through the water.
At the edge of the grass, something huge thudded down. Everyone turned quickly to look at Pavataro. The dragon grinned as he stood over a huge eight-foot fighting tuna that he had caught.
"This one picked a fight with the wrong dragon," purred Pavataro. "How ‘bout we grill'em up?"
And the thought of grilled fighting tuna broke the spine of the mob.
Pavataro was kind enough to share his meal with everyone, as long as he got the biggest share. Gideon and Pavataro set up a roaring bonfire on the edge of the sand. People went back into town and brought back more food making it a nice party. Captain Doyle and his squad had to stay and stand guard and enjoy some grilled tuna as a consequence.
Later, Gideon walked over to the edge of the sand where Brianna stood. He wrapped his arms around her.
"You okay?" asked Gideon.
"Yea," she replied happily as she leaned back into him. "Definitely an interesting day at the beach."