The Dragon’s Quest for Hopper starts off as any other low brow elf seeking a real place in life. He didn’t think the real place would be babysitter to a dragon. Part of him wishes the dragon mother decided on eating him instead of shoving him into this new role. What was he thinking getting involved with Linda or Hartliebe or thinking he deserved more in life than running a beer company. Beer is his life. Or it was. His life now seems a lot different. And scary.
Genres: Adventure, fantasy
Hartliebe and Dominik
Land has the crew disembark. I make sure to thank everyone for the trip. Especially Derrick. I promise him I’ll visit again. Alena gives me a hug that’s too big for her. Hopefully that will be quelled before I visit them.
My next task will be to head with Cyro, Kevin, and Tait to Dragon Hartliebe. Tait still has his dragon form, which has grown taller than the rest of us, but only barely so. Flying took little time to figure out. After a few hours of Tait slowing down, Cyro switches and offers his back to the baby. It really looks like Cyro is the big brother in the group. They look like a family. And if Hartliebe doesn’t destroy the trio, they will be.
We reach the cave Hartliebe stays at in no time at all. Cyro motions us forward as soon as he switches to human again. Not several feet into the cave, a human woman walks up to us. Cyro nods his head. “Hello, Mother.”
I flinch looking at the human. She was an elf when I met her the first time. Now she’s a human. The colors and size are nearly the same, but everything is also different. My mouth drops opens until she smiles my way.
“I see Dominik has come a long way since I forced him on this task.” She walks over to me looking me up and down. “How has it been? Did you teach him manners and respect?”
“He is definitely not the same dragon he was before. Terrick Isle Quest was probably the best thing for him. He may be able to pass his test.”
“So hopeful.” Hartliebe smiles softly turning to the other two in our group. “And who are these two babies? No parents to claim them?”
I answer for them, “They were born on Terrick Isle. No adult dragons there in any form. A clan of gnomes watched over the eggs. We brought them back to the mainland, but left them with the Mad Hatters.”
“Oh, pirates. So that’s how you reached the isle.” Hartliebe looks over Kevin first. “A pretty transformation. Did Cyro teach you?”
“Dominik did.” Kevin points at me. “It was transform or fly the entire distance to the land. The former was less energy, so I forced myself to figure it out.”
“Dominik taught you, huh?” Hartliebe nods touching his head. “You are so young to be so alone. We shall give you freedoms and some support. You’ll pass your test in no time.”
“Thank you, Dragon Hartliebe.”
“Call me Mother.” She smiles moving to Tait. Her hand reaches out for the white dragon’s face. “You’re a fresh birth. This form… You still stand. Most dragon crawl.”
“I have a long story. I’ve known Cyro and Dominik long before hatching.”
“One of the displaced ones, then. I will wish to hear your story.” She glances at Kevin. “Both of yours. But first I need to chat with my horde piece.” She takes my arm and walks me back to the sunshine. “The reason I came to meet you is because I don’t think you’re ready to see my den. It may turn you and you aren’t ready. Not yet. You have thoughts and concerns only an elf can have.” Hartliebe releases me in the sunshine. I stare up at the bright day half unaware when the day started. Was it during our flight here? Or was it during our time in her cave? “You are still lost and confused. Return to your home. See to your friends. Come back in three weeks time. By then I think you’ll be ready. And if you aren’t, I’ll send Cyro to meet you wherever you are.” She bows her head to me.
Shocked by her actions and her words, I stare. Just stare. The dragon walks back into her cave. The cave entrance disappears showing off only rock. I blink feeling half in a dream state. But nothing changes. I am not at home in my small village. I am not with Cyro travelling on an adventure. I’m not with Hartliebe, dragon of the world I know.
“I’m free?” My mind thinks of Ethan. He had time off. Six months of time off because of the quest he succeeded. Hartliebe is like that. She gives freedom in exchange for tasks completed. “Three weeks of freedom.”
My mind immediately thinks of home. Not bothering with any needs or wants, I set my compass for my house in the woods. What is everyone up to there? Did Jay become a mage and marry? Did Linda take on a mate for her position as Lord? Did Will and Grace finally complete all their vows? Did David get Jade? How long was I gone? I no longer see time. It’s passing by me, I know that. But I do not have needs as I once did, so days no longer matter. My goals are fluid or nonexistent.
It takes a while to reach the village. I look up to see the sun rise. Half a day and an entire night. I walk into the village trying not to think how different I’ve become. Or how much I prefer my body versus anyone else in the village. I am a dragon horde piece, but soon I will be a dragon. So soon, Hartliebe told me not to enter her den.
“Welcome!” I know that face. Yet, it looks far older now that when I left. Did the Mad Hatters age much while we adventured? I guess, they did. Have I been gone a year?
“Hi, Leonard.” I wave at him.
He drops his basket of rolls gaping at me. “Dominik? You’re… back?”
“Yeah. Dragon quest complete, so I was given a little free time.”
He sinks as if he would pick up his things. “I can’t believe it… Your father… Mother… They’re…”
“They’re what?” My eyes thin. What good could come of that statement?
Leonard stands up holding his basket in shaking hands. “They died. The beer business disappeared soon after you left. Not that it was your fault. Your mother became ill while picking the plants needed for survival. Your father cared for her for weeks before she succumbed. And he went off never to return again. Someone found his battered corpse in the river downstream. Some say a bear got him, I find it doubtful, but something did get him.”
“They died…” I pause blinking back tears. My family is dead. My life here is gone. I have nothing to turn to in the village. “I didn’t think everything would fall apart. What about Jay? And Will? And David? And John?”
“Your friends?” Leonard looks at the village. “Jay left to pursue his magic. He had to. John went to the city with him. As far as I know they’re still there. Will married Grace not long after you left. And David was his best man. Grace is pregnant now. But most in the village believe it’s David’s baby.” Leonard leans forward with a finger to his lips. “But you didn’t hear that from me.”
Gossip. Easy common gossip. Jay and John moved on from the village just like I did. Although for different reasons. Will and David have stayed together, so much so, they are gossiped like this. “Thanks, Leonard.”
“Yeah. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”
“No, this is good news.” I slap his back and watch him fall to the ground coughing like mad. I help him up. I’m so used to dragons and pirates I forgot how weak most are. “I’m so sorry.”
“Nah, forget it.” He limbs. “Dragon pieces can do anything after all.”
I press my lips tightly closed. There is no way I’m telling him I’m a dragon blood. I refuse to say I’m about to turn into a dragon baby. That can be hidden for now. I need it hidden for now. I want to see my friends as Dominik.
After leaving Leonard, I head off to find David and Will. The pair should be somewhere nearby. They do not get an upper level treehouse. They are not mages or important. They work like a normal elf in the village.
I turn to see Linda. Her piercing smile has all the confidence that was lost before. She’s Lord here. She controls and protects the village. I’m glad she didn’t get stuck with Jay. “Linda…”
“Dominik.” Her eyes soften. “I can’t believe you returned.”
“Hartliebe’s quest was over, so I have a few weeks of freedom. Is it true? Are my parents gone?”
“Yes.” She bows her head. “I’m sorry.”
I sigh knowing at some point soon I’ll cry over them. But if I turned to dragon and they didn’t, our lives would be different anyway. Elves die long before dragons do. “No need. I’m still in shock about that. Do you know where David and Will live?”
“Ah, yes. This way.” Linda motions her hand. Her closeness has me want to back off. The smooth calm walk of the Lord would tell something. I feel that something is not allowed anymore.
“You haven’t married, yet.”
“I’m still young. I was waiting for someone to return.”
“I expect nothing of you. I just… I need to thank you. For everything. If you could, would you…” She stops before a house. I can tell Will lives there. “Never mind. I’m glad you are alive and well, Dominik.”
“Linda?” I grab her arm gaining soft sad eyes at me. “I… I’m a dragon blood. Always was. And after my adventure with Cyro, I’m about to turn. I’m going to be a dragon. There is no chance for us.”
Linda’s eyes drop. “I… I hope your future is as bright as you make it to be.”
Offering a weak smile, I can only give my good byes as the lord of the village flies back to her home safe and sound. I turn to the house before me. Will, David, and Grace live here. Could the rumors be true?
My knock gains sight of my friend. David stands there blinking rapidly for a few moments. Then he grins motioning me inside. “Dominik! You look different. Has being a dragon piece been good for you?”
“Seems that way. It changed me that’s for sure.” I look about the house. As a group we rarely visited each others houses. It was meet ups in the woods or at the parties. What I do know this matches Will’s position in the village more than David. What is David’s position? “How are you, David?”
“Bad. I mean I work. And we don’t party like we used to. Can’t be surprised with the baby on the way, you know. And Jay, the big partier moved to the big city. John followed him soon after saying something like we’re pussies.” David waves it off.
David sinks showing droopy eyes and downturned mouth. His long drawn out sigh relates more than his first statement. “Jade got married.”
So that’s it. The girl he pined after finally completely made him give up. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. It was nonsense after all. Jade and I were never an item. It was a joke to most. I was a joke to….” He stops recalling bad memories.
“Hey, hey. At least you still have Will. He’s…”
“Oh…” David hisses. “I guess I should tell you before some weird rumor gets to you. I’m in a relationship with Will and Grace. I mean I am the third wheel, but we still are together. It’s weird. But we sleep together. And I might be the real father to the baby.”
“So the rumor’s true?” I sit up trying to wrap my head around this new development. “How’d it…? I mean, I knew the two of you were close; I didn’t think this close.”
“After Jade’s wedding, it started. Grace actually pulled me into their bed the first time. Will didn’t mind. And I was a little out of it. A lot out of it. One day I’ll leave them. And it’s not like I’ll be anything besides Uncle to their new baby. When they come home after their date, you’ll see how close they are.”
“They were close before. Will had chosen before I left remember.”
“Yeah. You missed their wedding. They wanted to wait, but after a week or two, they went for it. Jade married soon after.”
“I missed it, huh.” I sink into a chair glancing to the door. “It’s a nice place.”
“I’ll move out to the woods. I’m on leave right now.” David rolls his shoulder letting all his sadness and tension disappear. “I joined the Rangers. They had recruitment after….” He stops head bowing. “After your father was killed.”
“I heard that already too. You don’t have to apologize. I hate to think my parents are gone, but I’m in shock.”
“I would be too. Your old house has been turned into a ranger’s station. The beer business is gone.”
Knowing my life prior is completely gone hurts. My parents were there for me. Always supportive of me. They didn’t care I failed my schooling. They didn’t care if I was big or little. They taught me the business patiently. Now I have Hartliebe and her crowd. “Sucks. But I have a new life with Dragon Hartliebe.”
“I still can’t believe it. I know you’ve been gone on her tasks for a year and I still cannot believe you were taken. The odd ball? I thought as an elf you would be deemed too… I don’t know different, and get eaten.”
“Thanks, David.” I give him the finger.
“Hey, hey. I don’t mean it like that. You’ve always been a good friend. I could rely on you for lots of things. I trusted you. We all did. We knew Dominik had our back. Always. But how are we to know that that dragon would see what we see?”
I stare at him surprised by the words. “She saw a lot more, actually. She saw I was a dragon blood. My entire life. That’s why I look so different. I’m about ready to change into a dragon. A real dragon.”
Now it’s David’s turn to show shock. He stands knocking a chair over. “I’m gonna make something to drink.”
Snickering to myself, I relax in his chair. The noise in the kitchen does not end before the door opens. Grace and Will walk in. I cough to draw attention of the lovebirds. They stare confused for a long while. “Hi, Will, Grace.”
“Dominik, remember?” I touch my chest. Do I look that different?
“You look… different. Almost shining. Personally I thought you carried a black cloud around with you. I never thought it suited you, but this light… It’s… Odd.”
“Thanks.” I stand. I’m not sure if they can see my gold flecks. If that’s what’s making the difference, I got nothing. “How’s life?”
“Well, I’m doing well. Grace carries. David lives with us…” he pauses looking at the kitchen.
David leans in. “He knows. I told him out right.”
Will shrugs. “Well, you know about the insanity here, then. No one exactly disagrees with our trio, but they show concern anyway. David will be the uncle, not a dad.”
“Good to know. I probably will not be able to return until the baby is born and grown some.” I turn to Grace. She looks half terrified of me. I look a lot different. “Hey, I was going to check on my parents’ house. Then head off to visit with Jay and John.”
David walks in with a tray filled with drinks. “I can take him. I should check my schedule for next week anyway.”
“Good. While you’re gone, I’m going to de-stress Grace.” Will ushers his wife down a hallway.
David chuckles ignoring the new drinks on a side table. “Well, that’s our cue to leave. De-stressing Grace normally leads to sex. And it’s a type I don’t get involved with.” He helps me leave the house. I glance at the pretty building. Will and Grace will grow old here. I catch up with David still concerned by the third wheel as he calls himself.
“You seem happy right now.”
“I’m a bold faced liar.” David grins. “Have to when I work. It’s slipped into my private life. Grace and Will took pity on me. At least Jay didn’t.”
“Yeah.” I follow the path to my house. The beer containers that I should already see are gone. “I miss this place.”
“And if you were here, we’d still have a beer supply. I can’t believe it fell so fast.”
“No workers does that.”
David laughs patting my back. The weakness of it reminds me to be wary of my own strength. “Funny guy. You definitely came out of your box with the dragon.”
“I wandered the entire country with the dragon’s baby son.” I take out the wand. “I even have this. I can do dragon magic. Even before I realized I can do dragon magic without the wand.”
“Scary.” David points ahead. Several guys are running behind the building. “Training. We have a high turn over. Something’s out there. Not sure what, but the weaker cadets get spooked and turn back to their families.”
“And you? Have you seen it?”
“The marks and footprints. Not it, though. Few has seen it and lived. Your pa was killed by it.”
I nod thinking of my father’s power. Whatever it is, the rangers will have a hard time taking it down. “You work as groups?”
“Most of us go out in groups of three. Some squads go up to six, though. And occasionally, solo journeys work through upper trees. We know it cannot climb.” David knocks on the door. He opens it. “Hey, Sir. I’m here to see my schedule. And Dominik’s back.”
The captain is a man I knew. Back a full year. He was a good buyer of beer. And the last year has made things settle poorly. Stress has done it’s toll. Whatever it is strains even this man. “Welcome home, Dominik.”
“Hello, Captain Daniel.” I nod my head to him. “Things have gotten dicey, huh?”
“Would be nice if you stayed a while. Maybe you can get this thing to settle down.” Daniel shakes it off. “Forget I said it. If the father died, of course the son would.”
“Actually… I have added strength as a dragon piece.” I finger my wand. “Maybe I’ll take a walk through. David can point out where the thing’s busy.”
David’s eyes widen. “Ah… I’m not on call right now… And…”
“I thought you were afraid of it.” I chuckle. “Hey, can you let me know…?”
“I’m not scared.” David pounds his chest. “I’m a true ranger. I don’t back down from a battle.”
“That’s called asking for death, David.” I shake my head. “We can head out when you’re ready David.”
“Tsk.” David grinds his teeth. “Fine. I’ll show you. Let me get my gear.” He slips into the barracks. He comes out with a hide jerkin. He settles his quiver and bow on his back. “You better be a good flyer, Dominik.”
“Got better than a normal elf.” I take off slipping between trees for several feet, then stop to look back. David is still at the house staring in awe. “David?”
“I couldn’t see you.” He takes off going far slower than me. “Stay with me. I don’t want to be left behind.”
After flying around the forest for a few hours, we see nothing. We return to the captain and then back to the house. I am given a bedroom marked for a child. I rest, but do not sleep. Come morning, I begin my journey to the city where Jay and John are. I leave a note not wanting to wait for the trio to wake up.
Before I can reach the city, I am attacked. The rolling on the ground reads elf. I disengage from the tangle to see Cat grinning above me. “Hi.”
“Hi, yourself.” She does not get off wiggling. “I heard the good news. You are ready to turn. Getting ahead of me.” Her eyes thin, but her mouth widens.
“Cat, I didn’t…”
“Training dragons; helping one birth. How can I be surprised by you turning so quickly?” Cat twirls her hair in a finger. “I want to see you in dragon form.” She leans forward letting her body rub against mine. “Can I?”
“I haven’t turned yet. I’m on break. I was going to see my friends who moved to the city and…”
Cat pouts. “Come on.” She tugs me up, although she’s the reason I cannot stand. “Let’s go see Hartliebe. We can be dragons together.”
“Wait… You can turn too?”
She places a finger to my lips. “Shhh. Secrets are not meant to be said out loud.”
“Cat. This is… I mean…”
“The training I was on was by Hartliebe’s request. To make me progress from elf to dragon. There are ways to quicken the pace after all. Cyro wasn’t helping me.” She pauses looking me over and rubbing my new flecks. “He helped you.”
“It was more than just him.”
“I heard. More babies.” She flies off me. “So, how about we begin our new journey. And this time together?”
“Please?” Cat begs. Before I can answer, she grabs my arm and begins flying. I follow at her brisk pace. She gives me no choice in the matter. She has always been a take charge type of woman. At times that’s a good thing. I don’t know if dealing with her all the time will make us closer or fall apart. “I can’t wait.”
“Ah… yeah… Neither can I.” Inside my head I apologize to Jay and John. Next time I get a break, I’ll go see them. For now, knowing my past is history, becoming a dragon sounds like the next best step.
(And that ends the first book. I hope you liked it.)