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       Stone and the Flower Dragon, p.1

           JG Parker
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Stone and the Flower Dragon
Stone and the Flower Dragon: An Elementals Story


  JG Parker

  First published in 2013 by Stonewood Press

  Tel: 0044 (0)845 456 4838

  Email: [email protected]


  Copyright JG Parker, 2013. The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  ISBN: 978-0-9569122-7-5

  All rights reserved

  Cover illustration by Martin Parker at Silbercow





  A Prologue of Sorts

  Stone and the Flower Dragon



  For M

  A Prologue of Sorts

  Stone and the Flower Dragon originally comes from a scene in the novel Dark Peak: The First Elemental. It was deleted from the original because we (me and the powers that be) felt that it slowed down the flow and pace of the story too much.

  It was a difficult scene to delete because it gave so much of Stone’s vulnerability to the reader in such a simple and understated way, and so much about his developing relationship with Jake, that I couldn’t think how else to do it without hammering the reader over the head. I did find a way, but I still mourned the loss of this piece. A friend suggested I should keep it for another book, but I’m not great at shoe-horning things into narratives and I think this way is more honest.

  For those of you who don’t yet know Dark Peak or its characters, you might need a bit of ‘backfill’, as they say in the trade. Here it is:

  Jake Walker is thirteen years old and on holiday in England’s Derbyshire Peak District with his sister and mother. His father died just over a year ago. Within days of arriving he is visited by a creature known as the limestone elemental, who comes to Jake in the shape of a dragon made from carboniferous limestone. The elementals are many in number, spread across the globe and take on the attributes of the elements from which they’re made – but don’t think Periodic Table, think more ‘Earth, Fire, Wind’ type elements. In Dark Peak we mainly encounter just one elemental, Limestone (who Jake names ‘Stone’). There’s a smattering of some of the others but, as they’re cameo roles, they don’t get a credit listing here.

  The elementals protect the Earth from an entity called ‘The Beast’, a nebulous being that travels from one world to another filling it with selfishness, apathy and pollution, then feeding off the results. Did I mention the multiple worlds? Well, there are many Earths all slightly different, all in various states of evolution and destruction. On one of them, for instance, Jake’s father is still alive. Why is this important? Well, because Jake has inherited from his father the role of Companion to the limestone elemental. Unfortunately his father declined to mention this while he was alive, and now, with the end of the world just around the corner, Jake thinks it’s just the sort of thing he could have done with knowing about.

  What happens once Jake does find out is the meat and bones of Dark Peak (and another story!). In this one – Stone and the Flower Dragon – we find out what happens when an elemental is killed. It’s a sad story, and one to make us think, but I hope you enjoy it.

  JG Parker, Northamptonshire, 2013

  Stone and the Flower Dragon: An Elementals Story

  Stone’s tail curled over the boy’s shoulder as he sat down beside him. Jake leaned back, the dragon’s limestone hide cool and soothing on his neck. The creature smelled of the night sky. Elemental. Jake smiled to himself and settled in.

  A millennia of stars shone down on them.

  In all their billions, Jake thought, and all their brilliance, why is it that they look so lonely? That they need to cluster together?

  ‘It is not the stars that are lonely,’ came the rumbling voice of the dragon.

  Jake looked up. ‘Hey, you can’t read minds! You said!’

  The elemental rumbled and chuckled and carried on, ‘Man formed the constellations, Jacob. Man needed heroes and gods – gave animals a home in the sky. It is a need of man’s.’ Then he added in hushed tones, ‘Perhaps it is you who is lonely.’

  ‘Nah, there’s millions of us.’

  ‘You, Jacob. You.’

  A moment, awkward and sharp as new snow, passed between them. Jake, to cover his embarrassment, reached into his pocket and, more out of habit than anything else, brought out his father’s watch. It was the one thing the man had ever truly given him. And now he was dead. Jake didn’t know how, but somehow the watch was connected to all of this – this elemental dragon stuff. In the moonlight, the watch’s face and numbers glowed like the limestone dragon’s eyes. Golden and bright.

  Nearly half past ten.

  'I’m alright,' he said as if to himself, then much louder, 'Stone, I’ve heard stories about dragons.'

  ‘Have you, lad?’ laughed the dragon, gladly aware the moment had been broken.

  ‘Yeah. They were evil and knights killed them. St George…’

  Stone laughed again, a rich laugh, heavy as treacle. Jake felt it in his stomach. It made him think of the feeling you got when you drank hot chocolate on a winter’s day; happy, full and safe, and slightly sick.

  ‘Evil?’ chuckled Stone. ‘Killed? No, lad, not dragons. No elemental dragon has been killed directly by man.’

  ‘I think they have, you know. There are paintings…’

  ‘No. Some poor starved cave-bears who could barely defend themselves perhaps, but no dragons. No elementals.’ Stone suddenly brought his face up to Jake. Jake tried to match the gaze. It was like trying to follow two spinning planets at the same time.

  ‘Jacob,’ Stone said, and there was now a quality to his voice that made Jake’s stomach dip and sough. It was as if all the sadness in the mountains had poured into it.

  ‘The history of man and elemental is both simple and complex, lad. There was a time when much of mankind could see us. Many cherished us and understood our ways… To see the sun dawning over the land you love, Jacob, and to know those who inhabit it see the same thing… this is harmony.’ The dragon smiled a strange, distant smile and glanced out across the dark sky.

  ‘The moon up there is your moon, lad, as it is this flower’s moon,’ he plucked a small blossom of night-stock from a patch by the nearby path. ‘This is what mankind once understood.’

  Jake’s gaze followed the flower as it wove gently through the night air. It smelled like marzipan and syrup.

  ‘What happened?’ he asked, eventually.

  ‘What always happens with man? Some…were afraid. They saw in us mystery and gave back misunderstanding. We are many and vast. You think I have mass, Jacob? Imagine Fire? Imagine Water? Great elementals, both. They towered over these men who misunderstood, and so the men saw us as demons or night creatures – even though we walked in daylight. Others saw us as wolves or hyaenas, predators and scavengers, even though we ate nothing of the flesh. They were foolish, foolish…’ his voice ran off into the mournful gutters of history.

  ‘The stories, though?’ Jake reminded him.

  ‘Yes,’ the dragon pulled himself back from wherever his memories had washed up. ‘The stories. They tried to find us, these foolish ones, tried to kill us. And so your stories were given birth.’

  Jake’s face was a careful blank. ‘Did they succeed?’ he asked.

  ‘Not all stories are as they are told, Jacob,’ growled Stone. He stood up and flicked Jake onto his feet with his tail. As they walked a night cloud, sultry and fat, pulled itself across the moon. The air was still and full of secrets. Jake shuddered. Stone continued:

  ‘Much is required to kill an elemental dragon, Jacob. While even the slightest trac
e of our element survives, so shall we.’

  “You’re immortal!?” gasped Jake.

  Stone stopped in his tracks and stared at the boy as if he were a new creature; strange and unpredictable.

  ‘You ask many questions,’ he growled, then, smacking his lips, added, ‘and I have no more answers. Now then, it is getting late and you must get your rest.’

  Jake folded his arms and said, ‘Hang on, I asked you if you were immortal! I need an answer. How do you kill an elemental?’

  Stone sighed, ‘You must find and obliterate every trace, every single trace, of the element, Jacob. And only then can any one of us be destroyed.’

  ‘So you are immortal!’ laughed Jake.

  ‘Nothing lasts forever, lad.’ Stone’s voice was suddenly sharp and cold as tombstones. ‘It is possible to destroy an elemental. I have seen it happen.’

  Jake opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it. In the changeable moonlight the dragon’s face took on dark and sober qualities.

  ‘Her element,’ said Stone, as if talking to himself, ‘was a single flower from a vast rainforest on a small island.’

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