What stood before him could not possibly exist. It just couldn’t. Yet, from out of myth it appeared. A gargantuan creature, deceptively so, for Zerosta knew deep down that it possessed a quickness that no creature of its size could possibly have. Suddenly he understood how truthful the creature was when it had said it could ‘crush him where he stood’.
Rising nearly twenty feet from the floor, its eyes peered down upon him. Deep cobalt orbs that seemed nearly as big as his head. But that was the least amazing part. The feeble light seemed to gleam off of its skin a brilliant crimson. Upon further examination it wasn’t skin, but scales, yet scales that were so finely interwoven that they appeared seamless. A ridge of spikes stretched from the tip of its head down the back of its long, sinewy neck, coming to an end right where its front legs met its body. The creature was easily three times as long as it was tall. Suddenly it cracked its lips into what could only be described as a grin, though a grin of such terrifying proportions. Smoke drifted up between jagged teeth that were easily as long as Zerosta’s arm.
“You seem shocked human. You shouldn’t; not after what I have already revealed to you. Yes…I am a dragon! Where did you think all of the legends came from? Certainly so many stories from all over the world could not have risen from nothing. Dragons, like magic, have always existed in this world. Of course that means other myths are true too, but that is another story.”
“But how? How have dragons existed, but remained unknown for so long? It doesn’t make sense.”
“Many centuries ago, before the legends were born, dragons lived amongst humans. Yes, many of the stories about rampaging dragons were true, yet we were only seeking to exist, just like every other creature. Back then humans feared dragons, and dragons ignored humans. Sadly, that is what led to the legends and the ‘vanishing’ of dragons. Humans began to hunt us down, one by one. Though many humans would perish in the attacks, they were so prevalent, persisting in their assaults. Eventually many of my brethren died.”
“Those of us who remained sought shelter within the earth. It wasn’t without cost though. We could not hunt for our food. We became trapped in our own shelter and the only way to survive was to enter the deep sleep. Dragons ‘vanished’ from the earth and the legends were born. Perhaps it would have remained that way forever, but then humans brought about the Great Wars. Not only did these wars ravage the land, destroying so much life, it also awoke the dragons from the deep sleep. We returned to the surface to find so much changed. Food was scarce, but so too were humans. We knew that if we were careful, we could reclaim our place on this land.”
Zerosta stood transfixed. The story seemed so incredible yet he knew instinctively what the dragon told him was the truth.
“If that is the case then why have you shown yourself to me? Why, if all you want is to live in peace, have you made your presence known to humans again?”
“My brethren may call me brash. I have no doubt that many will second guess my decision, but it was my decision. I sense that in this new world, we must not remain hidden. To do so would only lead to disaster, perhaps another time when all remaining dragons would be annihilated. Instead, I feel we must join with humans, or more precisely, specific humans. Together we are stronger than we would be alone. Plus, it is not as if the possibility hasn’t been mentioned in the legends as well. Think of all the stories of men riding dragons.”
“I have sensed something in you. Perhaps I shall be the only dragon to sense this, but it is so. I have sensed a greatness and a kinship in you. I cannot explain it otherwise. What I can say is that no other human, in this age or in the age long past, has evoked this feeling in me. What I propose is we, dragon and human, unite as dragon and rider. I, Baobab, shall transport you where you need to go. I shall fight with you in your battles. You must promise to fight my battles too. We shall merge our magic, perhaps learning an even more potent magic in the process. What say you, human?”
“I’m Zero. I agree. Together we just may be able to change the world.”
Baobab began to smile again, yet paused. Sniffing the air briefly, he spoke again.
“Someone comes. We must hide.”
With that pronouncement, he slipped back into the shadows of the cavern. Zero, instinctively became invisible again, fading from sight where he stood. Even then he could hear the faint sounds of approaching footsteps.
As he stood there motionless in the half-light, Zero began to think back on all he had learned from Baobab. Such a marvelous creature he was. It was amazing that something so very huge could simply vanish in that cavern. But was it really that amazing? After all, dragons had ‘vanished’ before, fading from sight and mostly from memories of man. It was only through legends and myths that any knowledge of the magnificent creatures was known.
That brought him back to what he had learned. What did Baobab mean by other legends and myths were true too? What other creatures were real? Or, were all legends based in fact? Could it be that all other legends and fairy tales were based upon fact as well? Were sprites and fairies and elves and dwarves, the list seemed endless, real? For that matter, were the Others one of these myths turned real? Or were they just some mutated race of humans? A result of the devastation that occurred through the Great War?
Somehow Zero felt he was only beginning to reach true wisdom. Even though he had learned so much already during his journey into the Wastelands, he felt there was so much more to learn. Dragons existed and, thinking back upon when he first entered the Wasteland, he remembered Oingo and Boingo. They were something different. Were they a forgotten legend, or perhaps something new as well? Certainly they hadn’t been human, yet they acted something like humans. What other beings would he encounter here?
All while he was pondering these truths that seemed to hang just on the edge of his understanding, Zero listened as the footsteps slowly grew closer. Realizing just how long it was taking for the unknown visitors to appear, Zero wondered how far they were when Baobab warned of them. It had to have been when they first entered the cave, which meant that Zero should never have heard the footsteps, no matter what strange acoustics existed in this place. His hearing just was not that good. So, how had he been able to? Had he gained some ability just from being ‘chosen’ by Baobab? What had he meant by merging? Would they share abilities? Would they develop new abilities? He just didn’t know.
What he did know was the footsteps were very close now. Soon he would know who was making them. That knowledge did not prepare him for the revelations to come.
He watched the entrance to the cavern as the footsteps steadily grew nearer. He watched, with shock as the two appeared from out of the darkness. What were they doing here? How had they even gotten here? There was only one way to find out, so slowly Zero let his invisibility fade away.