This is the story that started it all...
"Gee, I wish griffins and dragons were real, "mused Don as he sat with his chair tilted back and his feet on the desk.
"Don't we all?" grinned Krys. His eyes sparkled. "But don't give up hope just yet."
"It's no use trying to cheer me up this time, "Don said, suddenly morose. "We REALLY blew it."
"Um," Krys replied noncommittally, then he said, "If you had taken my advice and not insisted on such a high speed motor for the Van de Graaff in the Wizard's Wand none of this would have happened."
"Well, if YOU had kept a ground wire handy like I suggested, none of this would have happened either!" Don countered sulkily.
"Don! How can you say that!?" cried Krys. "You know as well as I do that a ground wire wouldn't have helped much."
"Yeah, but...oh boy!" He gave the clock a startled gaze. "Look at the time! I guess I've made you late again."
"Nonsense. I do have to hurry though." The wizard paused, pulled a paper from the dog-eared sheaf he carried, and handed it to Don. "This spell should cheer you up." He picked his way across the rubble that had, only a short while ago, been Don's two-story mountain refuge and called back, "Fare thee well!"
"Thanks...Bye," Don said finally, not knowing which fancy farewell to use. He watched moodily as Krys scaled the wall of the fifty-foot crater they were in, then called out as an afterthought, "I still can't figure out how we survived that blast!"
Krys had just reached the rim and stood, vaguely silhouetted against the waning sunset. He raised his arms to the sky in a sweeping gesture and said mysteriously, "Magic!" and disappeared in a flash of greenish-blue smoke.
Late that night, Don considered the paper Krys had given him, "On the Transmutation of Griffins".
"How ridiculous!" he mumbled tiredly. "The power of the subconscious mind...and all that energy!"
He stifled a yawn.
"Where in the world could one get that kind of energy?...and the time factor..."
He continued to murmur for a few minutes more. then all was silent.
He could not have heard, even had he wanted to, the faint humming from among the ruins.
The next morning, Don was awakened by a loud knock.
'Strange,' he thought, 'There aren't any doors left around here to knock on.'
Again the knock sounded.
Don, remembering that Krys was due, called, "Come in! Wherever you are!" as loud as he could.
A cloud of white smoke instantly appeared before him, but just as he was about to speak, it disappeared in a blast of scarlet flame. When the air cleared, a most singed-looking wizard stood stiffly before him.
"Aaaak!" croaked Krys, his eyes like saucers.
"What are you staring at?...Ulp!" Don gulped as he flapped a strange appendage in front of his own face.
"Is that any way to treat a guest?! Krys questioned uncertainly, trying to maintain a sound, logical frame-of-mind as he gathered the burnt remnants of his cape.
"I...uh...don't think I quite make it to a griffin, Krys," said the beautiful green-golden northern-European dragon.
"That's okay, Don," the wizard consoled him.
It need scarcely be stated that the existence of a dragon in the world created a terrific furor, and the wizard and his apprentice were quite engulfed by it. Scientists and laymen the world over sought a glimpse of the phenomenon and his agent (a Wizard of the Flame, no less, though few realized its true importance).
One bright, sunny day, our intrepid heroes lounged on the brow of a park-like hill and discussed the day's doings, unmindful of the murmurings, of the wind through the trees...and of the crowds that ranged about them. "Ach! These apprentices!" Krys grumbled distastefully.
"I didn't see any warnings on the label," Don shot back brightly.
"Don! You ought to know the safety measures by now. You haven't been practicing your wizardly disciplines!" accused the wizard.
"Can't a guy goof off once in a while...?"
Krys turned livid, muttered unintelligibly, but restrained himself.
"...Anyway, I was sore from head to tail after those government zombies from the hospital got through with me!"
"It's for the good of Science," Krys reprimanded.
"Even so," said Don evilly, "I'd like to EAT that intern who did the blood test and made that crack about A POSITIVE dragon. Life is rough enough without someone making fun of your blood type." He glared and flicked his tail at a youngster who was diligently attempting to remove a scale for a souvenir.
"You'd better curb those carnivorous tendencies," Krys warned, "or you're liable to find yourself stored in formaldehyde for posterity."
The wizard mounted the dragon's back, iridescent in the sunlight, and they rose with an impotent-looking flap of wings. A faint exchange was heard on the breeze.
"Who's running this ship, you or me?"
"Watch out for that plane!" Don yelped. "Are you trying to kill the both of us? Slow down...that bird has the right-of-way..."
"If there's anything I can't stand it's a back-seat driver," Krys said with authority in his voice.
"Eek!" Don screeched, covering his eyes with his wings as they zoomed through a mass of power lines.
"We've got to hurry if we're to be at the fair in time for the opening ceremonies."
"Why can't I take over for a while?"
"Because you've got the aerodynamic stability of a brick, that's why!"
There was a streak of flashing gold as the pair arced over the verdant hills.
"There it is!" Krys burst out eagerly.
"I can't look," replied the reluctant dragon. "At least make the landing look good," said Krys.
"Oh, all right," Don said with a half-hearted flapping of wings.
The green-golden dragon came over the hill breathing and trailing fire. He circled low over the fairgrounds once and settled on the flat hilltop above in a great plume of yellow and scarlet flame. He folded his great wings and gazed cryptically down upon the lively ascent of the gay column of marchers. When they had reached the hilltop, the marchers stared with surprise and wonder as they beheld a great puff of red smoke which appeared next to the vast creature, out of which stepped the celebrated grey wizard himself!
"We're out of period, you know," Don observed.
"Not really," Krys whispered back. "Don't quibble over a couple of years."
"Shhh!" Then to the crowd, Krys said, "Gentles, and all good people across the land! I give you greeting on this fine May morning!"
"On behalf of this land," replied the Master of Ceremonies, "I extend salutations to you both, who are most welcome to pleasure faire!"
A great cheer went up from the assemblage; caps flew, and bright banners waved high in the air. The wizard scrambled nimbly back onto the dragon and the march was on, with the two of them bringing up the rear of the procession.
The morning passed quickly, and was the happiest that the two had experienced in a long while. Krys, however, seemed particularly pleased and Don asked for the source of his merriment. No matter how hard he begged and entreated, however, Krys would merely say that he had a surprise for him, and a show for all, right after the midday march. This, of course, was more beguiling than ever, and Don could scarcely contain himself until the allotted time.
It came, finally when everyone was assembled on the hilltop. Both wizard and dragon stood in an open area at the center. Krys raised his arms and said, "Good people, you are about to witness one of my greatest feats: The transmutation of a dragon back into a man!"
The audience roared its approval and Don's heart fairly leapt to his throat. And Krys had kept this to himself! He fidgeted, kicking up small clouds of dust.
His thoughts became murky during the next few minutes as the wizard drew cabalistic signs in the dust, made passes through the air with his hands, and mumbled a spell in a strange tongue. Occasionally, he would toss something to the ground which burst into myriad colors. A fog began to form in front of Don, and as it coalesced he experienced the odd perception of double vision. One scene took precedence over the other and he felt himself momentarily drained. Shrugging off this temporary weakness, he tried to think clearly and squinted at a raised forelimb. With a shock, Don realized that it had five human fingers. He was human again!
Krys wiped beads of sweat from his forehead and observed his handiwork as the mist cleared. 'Success!' he thought, and breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
"Wonderful! I'm completely normal again."
"Great! What about...?" Krys cut himself off in mid-sentence as a shadow fell across him. "What on Earth?" He spun about and stared, horrified.
The monstrous green-golden dragon glared hungrily back.
"What do we do now?" gasped Krys in a hoarse whisper.
"You're the wizard," said Don hopefully.
F I N I S
© 1977, 1999 by Donald Jon Cox
Interlace bars from IconBAZAAR.
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