I Would Walk Five Hundred Miles
Chapter 1: Flying without wings dinnae work
Silvyr sat in a grassy field, watching the birds, and completely bored out of his mind.
He’d finished his tasks for the day a little over an hour ago, and thus had nothing to really do, except become really, really bored.
There was a resounding thud as a large white dragon hurled itself off a hill and hit the ground. Hard.
Silvyr turned around to face the dragon.
‘Tyfoon, you daftie, don’t you realise by now that you cannot fly?’ Silvyr said.
Tyfoon gave a look that seemed to say ‘You lie, filthy mortal’ and ran back to the hill and attempted to fly again.
Tyfoon was a unique dragon. Not unique in colour or powers (he was much like all the other white dragons in the world) but for the fact that his dearest wish was to fly like the eagle-drags that soared overhead.
It was strange, even though he was a white dragon. Most other white dragons were simply content with running really fast and jumping as high as they could.
As a young dragon, growing up in the Ulstyr mountains, he had spent days simply staring up at the sky watching birds and other flying creatures. Somewhere along the line he had taken it into his head that he could fly if he really tried to. So thus he started to jump off steep hills.
The other dragons regarded him as completely nuts and generally steered well clear of the ‘crazy white fool’ as they called him. Not that Tyfoon really cared about what they had to say. As a result, none of the other dragons liked him, and for that matter, most of the humans as well.
Except for Silvyr MkNamera. Fifteen, ginger-haired, and slightly taller than average, he’d been friends with Tyfoon since their first meeting. The two shared the same frame of mind, except, of course, when it came to attempting to fly. Even though he knew Tyfoon would never be able to soar, he didn’t really try to talk his big friend out of it. You need something to aim for, even if it is impossible. Plus, Tyfoon never believed him, anyway.
Tyfoon attempted to fly a few hundred more times over the course of the afternoon, without success. Eventually he got bored of smashing into the ground at high velocity, so he flopped over on the grass and started to snooze.
Silvyr went over and lay down beside him.
Suddenly, a bright pinprick of light lit up on the horizon.
Neither human nor dragon was amazed by the sight, for it appeared unfailingly every evening.
It was not a bright star, nor a comet.
It was Dragon City.
Silvyr often dreamed about going to Dragon City and making a name for himself (his chances of making a name for himself here were about zilch, he calculated) on the dragon tracks that he had heard about from visiting gear traders. Compared to life in the Ulstyr Mountains, it seemed pretty darn exciting to zoom along a track jockeying with other dragon racers for supremacy. He generally kept this little thought to himself, as his parents (and indeed most people in the Mountains) had the mentality of a green dragon, i.e. Keep your head out of those clouds and help me plough, dammit, which didn’t help when it came to asking if you could go off to a far away place. So Silvyr only ever told Tyfoon about his dream.
‘You know, Tyfoon,’ said Silvyr. ‘If we could just go to Dragon City, we’d strike it big-time. We could have our names up in lights, and be more than this. But nooooooo, they don’t want us to go.’ He sighed, like he had many times before. ‘If only we could convince them otherwise.’
He got up. Tyfoon rolled over and snorted loudly.
‘Weeeell, I’ve got to go Tyfoon. Something special happens today, although I’m at a loss for what it happens to be.’
Silvyr began to trek back to the village from the field.
Tyfoon stared after him for a long time, thinking to himself about what Silvyr had said.
Halfway along the path, Silvyr remembered what was so special about today. It was so damn obvious that he kicked himself for forgetting.
It was his birthday.
But not just any usual one.
It was his sixteenth.
And sixteen was regarded in the Ulstyr Mountains as the age when someone became an adult, and then they became tattooed in blue to signify that fact.
Silvyr grinned to himself and picked up his pace.
Chapter 2: Pink with Blue Stripes
Silvyr got back home just as the sun was beginning to sink below the horizon.
Almost immediately his mother Fyonn grabbed him and pulled him inside.
He had no time to recover from his surprise (and shock; being pulled inside a house suddenly can do that to a man), as Fyonn thrust a neatly folded bundle at him.
‘Silvyr, go and put this on for the ceremony, please?’
He took the bundle and started up to his room to change into whatever the bundle happened to be (he suspected it was some sort of shirt)
On the way up he ran into his older brother Hamysh.
‘Well, well,’ he said, playfully giving his younger brother a poke in the chest. ‘Whose special day is it today? Hmm, let me think.’
Hamysh set his face in a look of deep thought, his finger on his chin.
‘Ah, I know!’ he said after a few seconds. ‘It’s your birthday, isn’t it? Th’ big one-six, am I right? I know I’m right.’
‘Yes, you are.’ said Silvyr with a grin.
‘I won! I won! Now I get a prize!’
He pressed himself flat against the wall to let Silvyr get to his room (Silvyr’s, not Hamysh’s, although they had shared a bedroom at times).
Once he’d closed the door behind him (seriously, no-one likes to have a door wide open when they’re getting changed, if you do, please tell me), and unfolded the bundle to reveal…
A very long strip of cloth.
Silvyr was confused.
This, in his perspective, was not something you could wear, except as a headband. Or possibly…
‘Mum!’ he yelled. ‘D’you seriously expect me to wear just this tonight?’
‘Yes!’ she answered back. ‘Otherwise they wouldnae be able to paint the tattoos on you!’
That made sense.
There was only one little thing that still confused him.
‘Say, how do I get this on, then?’
‘Oh, let me come up and do it.’
Several incredibly embarrassing minutes later, Silvyr came down in his new clothes (to be precise, just a loincloth to preserve any shred of decency he had).
Hamysh found his appearance amusing, and fell about laughing.
Silvyr glared at his brother.
‘Didn’t you have to go through the same process when you turned sixteen?’
‘Yeah, but it was not funny then as it is to see YOU in the same position right now!’
Silvyr noticed an absence.
‘Mum, where’s Dad?’
‘He’s helping organize things.’ answered Fyonn.
Things hit a minor snag when Silvyr refused point-blank to go outside in front of nearly everyone. He had a good reason, too. I mean, how would you like to be outside with not that much on in front of lots of people? Well, I don’t know about a few of you, but I’d say you wouldn’t really want to. Silvyr felt the same.
Fyonn came up with a quick solution, and thus they arrived at the place of ceremony with Fyonn dragging her son by his ear.
Hamysh couldn’t stop smirking the whole way.
The elders of the village were waiting for him in the middle of the crowd of people.
Silvyr noticed that all the eyes in the crowd-and those of the elders, too (which was unnerving, because they were all around 40 and readily accusable of pedophilia)-were fixated on him.
He didn’t know whether they were admiring him (to tell the truth, a few of the girls were, but that’s beside the point) or waiting for something to happen.
It was apparently the latter.
Fyonn gave her son a gentle nudge.
‘Go on, then,’ she whispered encouragingly.
Silvyr eventually got his feet the work, and managed to walk forwards until he was in front of the elders.
They were standing around a large metal cauldron. A fire blazed in front of it. By the flickering light, one could just make out the contents of the cauldron.
As soon as Silvyr was in front of all this, everything started to happen.
A low rhythmic beat started up, and the elders (not the ones who were playing the music) dipped ceremonial paint sticks into the cauldron and started to paint Silvyr all over with wild patterns of swirls, lines and dots.
The paint used was a blue dye made from plants and the sap of a certain tree. The mixture was used for ceremonial tattooing as, after a few hours, it sunk into the skin permanently. Fortunately, the people responsible for painting up the newest adults were not sloppy, and if there was an accident (which there almost never was), it was a simple matter to wipe the paint off and fix it up.
They worked upwards, painting as they went. In a matter of minutes Silvyr’s body was covered in intricate blue patterns.
Finally, they got up to his face, where they painted the clan symbol of MkNamara-two stripes beneath each eye.
There was silence after this had taken place. Then a low chant started, softly at first, but rising in volume, accompanied by the instruments already in play. The music and chant swelled and grew, rising and rising until it reached a climax. Then the assembled people yelled the last words, stopping it abruptly.
There was total silence.
Then everyone started to cheer.
Over from the hills where the dragons lived, Tyfoon sat on a low hill, watching the spectacle.
Music started to float over from the party.
The beat was infectious. Being a few tons too heavy to do any sort of actual dancing, however, Tyfoon had to be content with tapping a foot to the rhythm.
The other dragons watched him from a distance.
‘That one is going to end up rubbish, I know it.’ said one of them.
The party went on all night.
Around two in the morning it started to wind down, and people started leaving.
Half an hour later Fyonn, along with her husband Cameryn and oldest son Hamysh, decided to leave.
But there was just one problem: Where was Silvyr?
They eventually found him fast asleep a fair distance away from the actual party.
Fyonn picked her son up and together they went home.
Chapter 3: The Morning After
‘Ouch.’ was Silvyr’s first thought when he woke up the morning afterwards.
The amount of alcohol he had the previous night hade done absoloutely nothing towards a peaceful state of mind. Ulstyr drink (known as ‘skoosh’ for some bizarre reason involving two men and a dragon) was infamous in these parts for being incredibly strong. A couple of drops were all that was needed to give someone a splitting hangover when they woke up the morning after.
Silvyr tried to remember what had happened the night before, despite the pain that came like a massive tsunami when he tried to think.
Sooo, he thought. Night before…Oh yes! It was my birthday, and I’m officially a man right now. Argh! How did I end up with this splitting pain? Hmmm… (Ouch) Ah yes, it was the drink, now I remember. Note to self: never drink the MkAllistyr brand of skoosh ever again.
He lay in bed for a while until the pain started to ebb. Once he was able to think without his head exploding with pain, he became aware that his body felt somewhat itchy.
He pulled his arm from under the sheets and looked at it. It was covered in blue stripes.
Silvyr nearly yelled in surprise until his mind pointed out that this was perfectly normal.
His brain, annoyed at being wrong, stormed off and sat in its office, fuming quietly.
His mind chalked up another victory, and set about devising another cunning plan.
Silvyr, unaware of this epic battle, got out of bed and pulled on some clothes.
When he came down, everybody (that is, his parents and Hamysh.) was in the large multi-purpose central room.
‘Well, well,’ said Cameryn. ‘You’re the big one-six now, aren’t you? You’re an adult. Now’s the time to decide: What are you going to do with your life?’
Silvyr didn’t meet his father’s eyes.
It was a while before he could say anything.
‘Um…I...I think I’ll need a bit of time to…to think about it.’
‘Very well, then.’ replied Cameryn. ‘Go have a think about it. You have the entire day; after all, boys who have just become men traditionally get a free day after their birthday in commemoration of youthful innocence.’
Silvyr practically raced out the door.
He headed straight for the place where he did most of his thinking: the dragon fields.
In a small community, dragons that are nearly the size of the houses generally get in the way quite a bit. So they lived some way from the village.
As soon as he entered the large area, he became aware of a large patch of shade growing alarmingly quickly around him.
He neatly sidestepped away just as Tyfoon smashed heavily into the ground with a loud thud.
‘You just never learn anything, don’t you?’ he said to the dragon.
Tyfoon gave what could only be described as a lopsided draconic grin at Silvyr.
The boy-wait, no, correction, man-sighed (for what was probably the hundredth time, but was actually the five thousandth time) and headed up to a tall hill. At the top he sat down and stared off into the distance of the horizon.
Tyfoon got up and sat down with him.
They both sat there for the rest of the day.
Silvyr left when night started to fall, as naturally he wanted to get home, inside, and nice and warm in the bed.
He also had something to tell his family.
It was a big something.
A very big something.
The talk at dinner that night was naturally about what Silvyr was going to do with his life. His father was especially wanting to know, because his first child, Hamysh, hadn’t exactly done anything about it (though he always said he was trying to), and he was hopeful that his second son would not go down that path.
After everyone had finished, he started up the conversation.
‘Well, my boy,’ he said. ‘You’ve had a day to think about what I asked you about this morning. What are you going to do?’
‘Look, I-we’re all anxious-‘ he cast an eye on Hamysh, who recoiled slightly-‘to hear about your big life-changing decision. Now, please, out with it ‘
He gulped nervously.
‘I don’t want to stay here…I-I want to go to Dragon City.’
Chapter 4: On a One Way Ticket Outta Loserville
There was complete silence in the room after this latest stunning revelation.
‘What did you just say?’ asked Cameryn, with a hint of disbelief in his voice.
‘I said,’ replied Silvyr, a little more confidently ‘that I want to go to Dragon City. Because, well, I really want to become famous, Dad. I know you’ll hate me for saying this, but I just find it incredibly dull here. I want to get out of here, and see my name up in lights. What do you think?’
‘Come on, Dad.’ said Hamysh. ‘You have to agree that he has a point.’
‘…Unfortunately, I don’t see why I should let you.’ replied his father.
Silvyr was dumbfounded.
‘Why not?’ he asked.
‘First off,’ began Cameryn. ‘I don’t want you going off to a strange place that none of us-and that means you-have ever been before.’
‘Who knows what could happen in Dragon City? You could be captured, held to ransom…killed, even!’
‘Come on now, Dad. You’re obviously being a tad paranoid about this. I don’t see why anyone would want to kill me, let alone capture and hold me to ransom.’
‘LOOK, SILVYR!’ Cameryn suddenly yelled. ‘I don’t know for sure if any of that could possibly happen to you. It’s just that I’m concerned for you, like any decent parent would be. That and I want you to have a safe life, which obviously would be here, with us, continuing the family business, marrying a nice girl, settling down somewhere in the mountains and having children. That’s what I want for my sons, and that’s what I want for you.’
‘But I don’t want any of that!’ exclaimed Silvyr. ‘I want to feel the wind rush past me as I shoot down a winding track way on the back of a dragon. I want to have the adrenaline rush that only can be provided by such an experience. And I want my name to be remembered for all eternity as one of the greatest racers in the history of the world. Please, Dad, let me fulfill my dream. I promise I’ll come back and visit you.’
‘Do you even KNOW how far Dragon City is from our little village? It’s something like five hundred miles! You’ll never want to come back after you get there because of the distance involved AND the temptations of their advanced society!’ yelled Cameryn at his son.
‘No buts, Silvyr! We’re finished with this matter! You’re staying here!’
Silvyr saw his dream slowly shatter and fall to the ground. He looked at his mother for support.
Fyonn slowly shook her head.
‘I’m sorry, Silvyr, but I have to agree with your father on this one. It’s simply too far and too dangerous to let me want you to go.’
Hamysh sat in his seat, saying nothing.
The evening passed in silence, with Silvyr giving everyone the cold shoulder, especially his father.
Then it was time for bed.
For a while after all the lights in the house were extinguished, Silvyr sat on his bed, staring out the window and dreaming about what could possibly happen if Cameryn had let him go.
Then it hit him.
He didn’t need his parent’s permission to go.
He could go there himself.
Silvyr felt bad just thinking about running off, especially when he was running away from everything he knew and loved. But he knew that it was the only way for him to fulfill his dream, and that desire overruled everything else.
He started to pack everything he’d need into his large bag.
It was a little past midnight when Silvyr peeked out of the door to his room.
Deeming the coast to be clear, he began to climb down the steps to the front door, and then his journey would begin.
Halfway down, however, one of the steps made a sudden creak.
He hesitated, then nearly jumped out of his skin when a voice piped up out of the darkness.
‘Shhh! You don’t want to wake them up, and then where would you be if they did?’
It was Hamysh. He was sitting right in a patch of shadow, dressed in his night clothes (which consisted of a large shirt and pants).
‘Hamysh!’ exclaimed Silvyr very quietly (which brings the problem of how one exclaims quietly to mind). ‘But what are you doing up at this hour? I thought you’d be fast asleep having pleasant dreams about that girl from the next town over and then wetting the-‘
Hamysh shushed him.
‘I don’t need to be reminded of that!’ he snapped. ‘And if you’re wondering what I’m doing up this late…well, I’m seeing you off.’
‘But how did you know I’d be trying to escape?’
‘Simple logic. I know you too well, Silvyr. I knew you would attempt to set out on your own journey, and so I decided to help you.’
‘Help me how?’
‘Well, for starters I put something in Mum and Dad’s evening drink. They’ll be sleeping like hibernating dragons all night.’
Silvyr playfully gave his older brother an affectionate punch in the arm.
‘Now get along, little brother. My support’s with you. May your name be up in lights across the world!’
‘Thanks!’ he said, then he shot down the stairs, out of the door, and across to the dragon field.
His first port of call was the large shed which held all the gear that the villagers had bought off the gear traders over the years.
It was mostly full of farming equipment and saddles for green or brown dragons, but among it was a saddle meant for all other types of dragons.
It looked a bit out of place among the mostly dark-coloured gear, mainly because it was white and blue in colour.
Silvyr picked it up (which was no easy task, seeing as it was rather heavy), and carried it out of the shed.
He arrived at the dragon field.
The dark forms of the giant dragons dominated the moonlit landscape. Sometimes one of the behemoths would snuffle in its sleep.
Silvyr walked among them until he came to a much smaller and slimmer mound.
‘Tyfoon!’ he whispered to the sleeping dragon. ‘Tyfoon, wake up now! Please?’
Tyfoon snorted and woke up. He was a little groggy owing to having been woken up from a deep sleep, but he was soon wide awake when Silvyr magged the saddle to him.
‘We’re going on a journey, Tyfoon!’ said Silvyr as he climbed onto the back of the dragon and into the saddle. ‘Off we go to Dragon City!’
Tyfoon gave a draconic grin. He knew Silvyr had wanted to go to Dragon City, and it pleased him to see that he was going too.
But there was a deeper reason to be pleased about it.
Tyfoon had hope in his heart that somewhere, in Dragon City or somewhere along the way, he would find a way to fly and soar among the clouds.
He shook himself out of his dreams and galloped down the pathway that led down the mountain.
‘We have to get very far away, Tyfoon,’ said Silvyr as they raced down the path. ‘I don’t want to be anywhere near home in the morning.’
A thought gripped him, and he pushed the brake on his saddle, causing Tyfoon to stop.
Silvyr looked back over his shoulder, to the world he had grown up in, now looking beautiful as it was bathed in the soft moonlight.
He kept staring at it for a while.
Then he let go of the brake and they galloped away from their home.
Chapter 5: Loch’d and Loaded
At first Tyfoon ran down the wide path that linked the mountain with the rest of the world, jumping over potholes and letting the moon light the way.
Then the moons were covered from view by several enormous clouds, shrouding the mountain in darkness.
‘Careful, Tyfoon,’ Silvyr said to the dragon. ‘We don’t want to risk you breaking a leg or something awful like that. Go slowly.’
Tyfoon slowed down immediately, and began to walk along at a pace fast enough to go along quickly, but slow enough to detect any obstacles or dangers in time to avoid them.
They continued like this for some time, carefully picking their way along the dark path.
Suddenly, the clouds obscuring the moons parted, allowing their light to illuminate the mountain path.
The light revealed that the rest of the path was smooth as a dirt path can be smooth. There was a bend just a short distance ahead, turning to accommodate for the large cliff edge.
A spark of information (the cliff ahead) made its way from Tyfoon’s eyes to his brain, where it was processed. Once the information of the cliff’s existence was made evident to Tyfoon, he had a thought.
It would if this thought did not concern Tyfoon jumping off the cliff in his ill-fated quest of flight.
Unfortunately, that was exactly what it did concern.
Silvyr was startled when Tyfoon suddenly broke into full-pelt towards the cliff.
‘What the-OH NOOOOOOOO!!!’
With no regards for his or his rider’s safety, Tyfoon hurled himself off the edge.
The large height between them and the bottom of the cliff made the bottom drop out of Silvyr’s stomach.
The two shot downwards at tremendous speed, Tyfoon’s aerodynamic body enabling them to reach terminal velocity much faster than usual.
Silvyr was terrified, but he also felt strangely exhilarated. It was puzzling how an experience that meant certain death could thrill and terrify at the same time.
As they neared the bottom, Silvyr noticed that there was a lake right where they were going to land. He tried to thank his lucky stars, but he was interrupted when they hit the surface of the lake and ploughed under.
The two floated in the dark water, momentarily stunned by the collision. Tyfoon recovered first, and he swam up to the surface, breaking it and gasping for air.
A moment later, Silvyr recovered.
He was not happy.
If you happened to be in the same area as the now rapidly falling dragon, you would hear a very loud yell.
It would go something like this:
‘TYFOON, YOU EEJIT!’
That would have been Silvyr yelling at Tyfoon for nearly killing them.
‘YOU COULD HAVE KILLED US BOTH WITH YOUR CRAZY ANTICS!’ yelled Silvyr.
Tyfoon looked as sheepish as a dragon could look.
‘NEVER, AND I MEAN NEVER, TRY THAT SORT OF INSANE THING AGAIN!’
Tyfoon hung his head in shame.
Silvyr breathed heavily for a moment as the feelings of rage cleared up. Then he began to look around his surroundings.
They were beside the lake in which they had landed. The shore was mostly bare, with large bushes growing sparsely on the grassy area surrounding it. Ahead was mostly grass, with some small bushes, ferns and trees growing in isolated pockets here and there.
Silvyr suddenly felt tired, his limbs heavy and aching.
He sat down and opened his pack. He rummaged around inside it for a few seconds, and then pulled out his sleeping mat and blanket.
He rolled them out, lay down, and fell asleep almost instantaneously.
A minute later, Tyfoon did the same.
They were both unaware of the two large eyes that had been watching them from below the surface of the lake.
Silvyr woke with a start. He thought he had heard a low rumble coming from the lake.
He looked towards it. It looked fairly innocent, apart from a set of ripples that were steadily getting larger.
Steadily getting larger?
The thought jolted Silvyr awake in a second, alert for any potential danger.
Tyfoon was already up and ready, growling at the direction of the disturbance.
They stood very still, waiting for whatever it was to reveal itself.
Sure enough, a large head broke the water, soon followed by a sinuous neck, a large body, and a long tail. Four large feet (which resembled flippers slightly) propelled the gigantic monster along.
It was an aquatic hydrag!
Silvyr had heard stories about these monsters that lived in lake and devoured unfortunate passers-by. He wondered why they hadn’t been eaten immediately when they fell in.
His brain postulated that it may have been asleep, and was now looking for a midnight snack (despite that it was several hours past midnight).
Silvyr told his brain to be quiet.
The hydrag roared at them.
Silvyr felt a warm wetness in his pants.
Oh darn, he thought. I’m going to have to wash those tomorrow, and Mum only washed them a few days ago!
He ran off as fast as he could, Tyfoon quickly following him.
Surprisingly, the hydrag made no attempt to pursue them. It simply took a sniff at the sleeping mat and made its way to a bush, making quiet whuffling noises as it went.
From where they were hiding, Silvyr and Tyfoon had a clear view of what the hydrag was looking at. This view was made even clearer when the hydrag ripped the bush clean out of the ground, exposing a clutch of eggs.
We must have been too close to the nest for comfort, thought Silvyr.
The hydrag nosed the eggs, which made a faint squeaking sound. The (presumed) mother hydrag responded in kind with her own sounds, although they could not be described as ‘squeaking’ in any way.
One of the eggs began to move. A crack appeared in the shell, and soon enough a small miniature hydrag broke out of the egg, wet with yolk. The other eggs did the same, until there was a small swarm of small, damp baby hydrags tumbling over one another.
The mother hydrag bent down and shoveled the babies into her open mouth.
‘What is she-‘ wondered Silvyr. ‘Oh!’
Once at the water’s edge, the hydrag opened her mouth and dumped the babies in the shallows, where they floundered about as they swam for the first time in their lives. The mother looked over them, making sure that none of them drowned.
Silvyr saw his sleeping mat and blanket where they had been when he had run off. He began to creep slowly towards them with the intent of getting them.
He had just grabbed them when the hydrag turned around and growled menacingly at him.
‘Run, Tyfoon!’ he yelled as he ran off.
Like before, the hydrag was more concerned with her babies than Silvyr, as she turned back to the young hydrags, concerned with one who had gotten tangled in some weed.
Silvyr and Tyfoon made sure that they were some distance from the lake when they finally made camp and fell asleep.
There were no more disturbances that night.