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  • Francis Liu

James and the Dragons

Part 1: The Dragons and the DNA

I awoke to the sound of a glass shattering in the distance. My mind already knew it was Steel-claws, the Ironback dragon I had rescued a few years ago. I jumped out of bed and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Just as I came out he pounced on me, acting like a puppy, though making sure not to get his semi-venomous saliva on my skin as he licked my prosthetic arm.

“Steel-Claws!” I laughed, “Okay, it tickles. Stop, stop, stop! Thank you.”

We walked to the lab. It was clean, except for a broken cup on the floor with a soft boiled egg beside it. I had prepared that last night for my breakfast. Not again. Guess I have to go on with the day without breakfast.

After the mess was cleaned up, we both headed to the sanctuary. It was an absolute mad-house, as usual. All the animals there were doing something noisy, if not simply vocalising.

“Aquamarine!” I called.

An Asian Fin-tail dragon with scales as shiny as beryl jewels ran over to the place that we were standing at and greeted us with a joyful snort, and Steel-Claws replied back with a grunt. I grabbed some American Lobsters, and the two dragons immediately chomped down on the tasty crustaceans. Even after that, though, Steel-claws was still hungry, so he ran over to the Arowana and Arapaima tank, and he jumped in. But just as he was about to bite one of the Black Arowanas, Aquamarine jumped in as well, and knocked him away. They had a bit of a quarrel before Steel-Claws decided to jump out and eat lobsters instead.

When we were done feeding all the animals, I headed back to the lab with the two dragons following me. I started off with today’s work by getting DNA samples from both of my Asian Fin-tail dragons. It was the first time I had ever tried to clone a dragon, and not just any dragon, but a species that had gone extinct in the wild. Aquamarine stood still through the whole process, but the other dragon, named Rainfall, was a bit more boisterous. In the end, I had to cover him with water to make him still. I had researched how to clone animals on the internet, but even after I followed complex instructions, a few days later, the cells always died. I tried and tried through an amount of days, but after that, my bucket was so full of dead cells that I had to dump them all out.

Did I do something wrong? I wondered. I guessed that I had the wrong tools or materials, since I followed all the steps. I checked the labels of the materials used. All of them had mentioned contents, except for one: the material used to store the DNA for future use was actually unsafe for the cells, and so they passed. It had the needed ingredients, I remembered. I wonder why this happened? I was so worried, as hunters and dealers were everywhere in the world. If I can’t get this to work, then I will lose a chance at saving a very rare species, I worried.

A few days later, I decided to try one last time. I checked that the ingredients were good, and I went and followed all the instructions one last time. And guess what? A few days later, a young egg had been made!

I rushed out to share the news and celebrate with my dragons, but when I went there, they were all gone!

Who could have done this? I thought. I felt so distressed.

At first I wanted to ask all the neighbours, but I remembered what my dad said to me: “Never trust dragon hunters. They may seem like normal people, but ever since their boss, my brother, was defeated, they have gone on their own missions, striving to collect all of the dragons in the world.” I’d need to go after the hunters immediately.

I sprinted to my dad’s room to collect the map of the old hunter base and went back to the sanctuary to announce the bad news. “Everybody!” I shouted in the creature language. All the animals, even the fish, turned to me.

“I have bad news. The hunters have captured the dragons.”

But after I said “dragons”, the whole sanctuary started protesting. They knew I was going to ask for help. They were shouting things like, “There are only three of us missing!”, “Why should we care?” and “The dragons were never even respected here, and we can’t change that!”

I walked away, extremely sad that nobody felt like they had to help me. But as I walked out of the door, two birds flew up to me. I turned around and noticed them, just as the door closed. I recognised one as a male Great Horned Owl named Silent-Feather, also known as Hoot by my dad, and the other one being Amber, a young female Black Kite. “We want to help, but we don’t know how,” They said. Then Silent-Feather himself added, “I am retired from missions like these, but Amber could help.”

I agreed, and told them that they could return to their area. I then headed toward my room to find out what the location of the nearest base was, since dragons can’t travel very far without bursting out of impatience, which is what I learned when I first took Steel-Claws for a trip. It turned out that my dad had marked where the hunters had been heading after their defeat, in case they ever returned to wreak havoc on the land. I then thought of a plan, but I thought about it for so long that when I came to make dinner and prepare breakfast, It was already nine in the evening. I ate my fill, and then went to bed.

The next morning, I woke up feeling exhausted from the night before. I came out to hear my breakfast, and saw that Amber was pecking at my chicken pie. “Good morning,” I mumbled.

“Good morning,” She screeched back. “So what’s the plan?”

I explained the plan to follow my dad’s map, and after the daily routine (which felt weird without the dragons and instead a pair of talons grasping onto my shoulder), We set off on my bike to the hunters’ mountain. That night, we found a large grass area to set my absolutely heavy sleeping bag. I was so tired that I could barely open my eyes.

Suddenly, out of the fierce river, a great dragon rose from the water, along with a whole horde of smaller dragons about twice the size of an Asian Fin-tail. I recognised the large green dragon as a Sharp-toothed Sea Serpent, and the smaller dragons as Giant Fin-tails. I saw a gleaming hook the size of an anchor in the Sea Serpent, and nets around the necks of some of the Fin-tails. No fisherman would target a dragon that size on purpose, I thought. This was an act of hunters, no doubt. And I was right, because just as I calmed myself down, a giant harpoon shot from a plane above was heading straight toward one of the smaller dragons. Luckily, it missed, but it was still dangerous. I turned on my invisibility sleeping bag, and watched as the plane tried to shoot the dragons, until it finally gave up. We went back to our ‘beds’, and I finally had a good night’s rest.

The next day, early in the morning, we went off to the mountains. We brought oxygen water (Water that has more oxygen than hydrogen) to help us during the journey, because it would be hard to breathe up there. I rode my Jet-bike, and with Amber flying close behind me, we would be able to reach the mountains easily. If we could get there fast enough, Then we would be finished in no time, I thought. But little did I know that it would be a lot harder than that…

Part 2: The Hunters

We had reached the halfway point when Amber spotted a suspicious-looking rock lying on a cliff. We flew closer, and spotted a small rock-like lever next to the giant boulder that, when the lever was pulled, turned out to be an entrance. And not just any entrance, but the lair of the hunters, I realised. I told Amber to make no noise at all, and we walked in, only to be knocked out by one of the guards.

When I woke up, I was tied to the wall. I tried to break free, but stopped as soon as I heard a voice. “Hello, James.” The voice said. Whoever was saying this must’ve found out my name, I thought with a shudder. The aura that he or she was giving off was much like how my dad had described his brother, and so I kept still in fear of my demise.

Suddenly, out of the cloud of red smoke in front of me, a man with a suit of dragon scales appeared, followed by two henchmen. He took off his mask to reveal a face not unlike any other. But something was different. He had a prosthetic eye, which I guessed was the outcome of a recent fight with an Ironback. He was carrying a large birdcage, and I spotted Amber inside, her head drooping in submission.

“So, you seem to be the son of Merlin, I suppose,” The man said. “And it’s a pity that he’s not here to save you.”

“Leave the dragons alone!” I shouted, anger and sadness in my voice.

“No way,” The man replied. “You see, dragons do give quite a lot of good resources, if you can get them. “Follow me,” He added.

We went into a dark room, and I instantly spotted large cages, with dragons inside. “Do you notice your belongings?” He asked with a bit of mock. I instantly noticed my dragons, banging to get out.

“Have fun,” He mocked, and instantly, the door slammed behind him. I noticed Amber beside me, and started to talk to her. “Seriously?” She screamed. “This wasn’t part of the plan!”

“Look, I’m sorry that this happened, but I still prepared a Plan B just in case,” I reassured her.

I shared my plan with her, and after hesitating for a bit, she finally agreed, as she thought it was a better idea to free the dragons right now, and the hunters wouldn't have weapons, as we would’ve hidden them at the very back. We opened the cages, and every cage we opened contained dragons who were now following me around. I told them to attack the hunters as soon as they could see them, and they went to their positions to lay in wait.

When the man came back, he was shocked to see all the cages had been unlocked by someone. He suspected that it was me who unlocked them, and so he sent many guards into the room, or as I thought, from the amount of footsteps and the many times I heard them rushing out screaming because a dragon bit them.

After the last guard rushed out, we still stayed quiet, because I heard heavy footsteps a few seconds after, and assumed it was the leader again. And I was right, because, speaking with the same voice, I heard, “I guess I’ll have to deal with them myself.” I peeped from a tiny hole carved in the mounds of rock behind the cages, and immediately I saw the man, and I was relieved to find that he had no weapons.

Suddenly, he turned to one of the Celestial Wyrms and ran towards it, grabbing it by the neck, but even with all his brawn, he was no match for the power of this type of dragon, and it shook him off as if he were a tiny bug. The dragon roared, “Get Him!” in the creature language, and suddenly, all of them revealed themselves from their spots and charged toward him. He dodged the stronger dragons, shook off the weaker ones, and charged out the back exit. I ran as fast as I could after him, and when I caught up, he was standing on the edge of a waterside cliff, surrounded by the ocean.

“You caught me,” He said shakily, “But how about this?” He shot a grapple at me, but I dodged it with ease. I ran towards him, and ordered an Ocean Wyrm to attack him. They wrestled for a long time, until the man was hit hard in the stomach by the snakelike tail of the dragon he was wrestling. He turned unconscious, and toppled straight off the edge of the cliff. But we were just about to celebrate when the other hunters came running after their master, only to find themselves in the same position as him because of their brainlessness.

I rode my Jet-Bike back home, but as soon as I came off the mountain, I went back to the road due to Steel-Claws being a land dragon. I was relieved not just because I had defeated the hunters, but because I had earned the title of a hero that my dad once had.

That night, we celebrated the success of a cloned egg and defeating the enemy, and after the giant party, after I sent the creatures to bed, especially Amber and the dragons, I finally had an actual good night’s rest, for once.

The End

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