The Great Wyrm paced. Time and time again, she circled the copse of date palms. Her huge, clawed feet and her long, bulky tail dredged a trench in the sand around the grove.
In the shade of the palm trees, Dragon remained comatose, unaware of the passage of time. It had been more than three days, and still she had not stirred.
The Great Wyrm ceased her pacing and studied her unresponsive companion. The smaller wyrm’s color was starting to return, although her scales remained dull and drab. Her breathing, so shallow and irregular three days past, was returning to normal.
The Great Wyrm reached down and stroked Dragon’s cheek with the back of one talon. Another day, maybe two, little one. Then, if you have not revived, I am afraid I must attempt to awaken you. Forgive me, but time is of the essence. She sighed. If only I had my powers, I could heal you without delay. Then again, if I had my powers, I doubt we would be here in this predicament.
The huge beast sighed again, and resumed pacing, going around and around and around. Suddenly she stopped and her head jerked up. Flying toward the stand of trees was another wyrm, this one just a hair smaller than Dragon. Its brilliant scales sparkled in the desert sun. It almost looked like a flying jewel.
The newcomer landed nearby, on the other side of the grove of trees. The Great Wyrm was by its side in an instant. The ancient behemoth tilted her head and studied the strange dragon. Something about the creature looked odd. It appeared to the Great Wyrm to be almost two-dimensional, something between illusion and reality.
Trying to shrug off the feeling that something was amiss, the Great Wyrm reached out telepathically and greeted the other dragon in their ancient tongue, as was the custom of her species. There was no response. The Great Wyrm frowned. Not only did this newcomer not reply, the Great Wyrm could sense nothing from it. The creature’s mind was a total blank.
The intruder started to walk toward the trees and the Great Wyrm followed. The ancient wyrm reached out and touched the dragon, but recoiled. The beast felt strange, somewhat insubstantial.
The creature continued walking. The Great Wyrm tapped it on the shoulder, expecting some reaction, but the other creature totally ignored her. The Great Wyrm narrowed her eyes, and a growl rumbled deep in her throat. She reached out and shoved the dragon. The other creature caught its balance and continued walking toward the trees. It was heading straight toward the comatose Dragon.
The Great Wyrm moved ahead of the interloper and stood between it and Dragon. Stop! I will not allow you to harm her! When she got no response from her telepathic message, she repeated it aloud. Then she grabbed the unresponsive creature and held it fast, in spite of the feeling that her hands were about to go right through the insubstantial body.
Still the dragon did not react. Its legs continued to move, and had the Great Wyrm not been holding it, the dragon would have continued walking along its previous course.
The Great Wyrm turned the dragon around and faced it in the opposite direction, then released it. The dragon took a few steps, then pivoted and resumed its original course, faltering just a bit as it negotiated the trench left by the Great Wyrm’s pacing. It never acknowledged the presence of the Great Wyrm and never seemed to notice Dragon’s still form beneath the trees.
A faint voice in the Great Wyrm’s mind caused her to jump. Do not worry. It will do us no harm. Although we can touch the denizens of this world, I do not think them capable of interacting with us.
The Great Wyrm turned toward her ailing companion, a smile brightening her face. Little One! You are awake!
Am I? Yes, I suppose I am, although I do not feel very alert yet. She looked around. It is hard for me to believe we made it safely into the manuscript. I really did not believe you when you said I had the power to bring you here! Dragon smiled warmly at the Great Wyrm. She shifted her position to relieve a cramp in one of her wings, but made no attempt to rise. How long have I been unconscious?
The Great Wyrm stooped down and took Dragon’s hand in hers. It has been three days.
“Three days?” Dragon’s eyes flew open, and she forgot all about communicating telepathically. “Three days here?”
Her companion nodded.
Dragon blanched. “With the time we already spent in Mistress Writer’s world, how long have we been gone from your world?”
“I am not certain. As you know, time passes differently in the different worlds. We have either been gone 50 years, or it is two weeks before we left my world.” The Great Wyrm winked.
Dragon chuckled at that. She struggled to sit, but found she was still too weak. “Is there any food or water left?” Having remembered that everything in the manuscript world was insubstantial, Dragon had packed food and water for the trip, and had asked the Great Wyrm to bring it along.
“Of course! I should have offered it straight away!”
Dragon drank deeply, emptying two of the four large water skins. Then she wolfed down an entire roast she had pilfered from Mistress Writer’s kitchen. Finally, she leaned back and sighed. “Thank you! I feel a bit stronger now.”
“Now that your stomach is full, and your thirst slaked, you should sleep again. You need to regain your strength. The next leg of the journey may be even more arduous than the first.” The Great Wyrm could not disguise her look of concern, and Dragon swallowed a large lump in her throat.
“But we must make haste in returning to your world! Time is running out!”
The Great Wyrm nodded. “It is true, time will not wait for us. But if you attempt the spell before you have recovered sufficiently, all the time in the world will do us no good. We have but one chance to make this journey. Let us be sure you are up to the task.”
Dragon reluctantly agreed. As the sun began to sink below the horizon, the large beast rolled over and closed her eyes. She sighed, inwardly relieved that she would have more time to recuperate and prepare, but worried about the consequence of any further delay. Sleep was a long time coming that night.
It was another two days before Dragon dared to attempt the difficult crossing from the world inside Mistress Writer’s manuscript to the Great Wyrm’s world, the world about which Mistress Writer had written in her manuscript. Even though she felt as if she had recovered all of her power and strength, Dragon hesitated. She remembered the last time she had made this journey, and she had been alone then. Now, she had to transfer another being besides herself. She was not sure all of her power and strength would be sufficient. But she could not risk further delay. Time marched on.
Dragon sat with her back against the rough bark of a date palm. She firmly grasped the hand of the Great Wyrm, who sat beside her. The two wyrms gripped each other tightly; they dared not consider what would happen if they became separated.
Dragon concentrated as hard as a dragon can, putting every ounce of her considerable mental prowess and supernatural power into her endeavor. She intoned an ancient incantation in an archaic language, trying hard to remember the changes recently imparted by the Great Wyrm, changes that would – hopefully – transfer the ancient beast along with Dragon.
Time seemed to stand still. Ever so slowly, the two wyrms began to shimmer. Bit by bit by tiny bit, their great bulk faded from the shadow world of the manuscript until, finally, they disappeared altogether.
It seemed to Dragon an eternity passed before she started taking shape again. As she slowly solidified, she realized she was no longer holding the Great Wyrm’s hand. Dragon struggled to look around at her surroundings, frantically searching the landscape for her companion; but there was no time to find her before Dragon lost consciousness, her enormous power drained completely.
Did the Great Wyrm safely make the journey between worlds, or does she remain stranded within the pages of a manuscript? Is Dragon merely exhausted, or has her time run out? Has her lifeforce been drained away along with her power? Be sure to return next week to find the answers. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.