Through an entrance, into a secret room, hidden from most peoples' eyes, this white, circular room with its domed ceiling was filled with the fantastic shapes of great, scaly creatures. All of them were large in comparison to a man. They had large wings, horns, scales, claws and long, serpentine bodies and tails. Many people have called these creatures by different names. Many people have known them in awe, in fear, or in curious amusement. They are unmistakably what our culture calls a dragon. They whisper to each other in cold, bemused, frustrated tones.
"It's not this one."
"Well, don't just sit there… there's another volume for you"
"Um… I hate to ask this, but…"
"What," snaps the red creature.
Some of them sat, some were laid here and there throughout the room. Each of them had stacks of books nearby. Every inch of the floor in the room was covered either with stacks of books, or with studious reptiles. They all faced the center of this circle, focused only on turning page after page in one volume after another.
"Here! On this page look… well no."
The marine-colored dragon who spoke ran his claws through his course mane as his lips took a subtle downturn. A large blood-red dragon breathed heavily and his eyes snapped to look at the marine creature, glaring at him through his orange pupils. He was sitting in a tense, awkward position. The marine dragon just kept looking through the book, barely giving a sideways glance to the red one and focusing hard on his reading. He continued skimming page after page, then set his volume aside with a sigh, and picked up another. Further around the room, a large, slender, grey serpent muttered to himself as he glanced down one page then another, tilting his head a little.
On one side of the room, opposite most of the others, there was one reptilian creature larger than the rest. He towered over them, filling the visible expanse at the head of the gathering, sitting on his haunches. His scales were golden without variation. He did not look through any of the volumes strewn or stacked along the floor. Instead, he watched the rest as they toiled through page after page. An observant creature would see tiny movements, hints of observations as the gold one looked on. Instead of observing each of the others separately, this he watched them all at the same time, taking in each sight and sound in the entire room without changing his stance.
No one seemed to see her, though. She was just a little one compared to the rest. She had come in through the door to the left of the gold one, and she had climbed onto one of the volumes. Her little blue eyes were open wide as she looked this way and that. Her little tail was almost still as she stood there, watching the reptilian congress and the great gold sitting against the wall. Her feathered ears twitched slightly, pointing forward as she listened to the things said as these larger dragons poured over the pages. Some were muttering. Some were growling. Some were looking a little nervous. Some were casually reading, flickering their tongues as their eyes took on a glazed, sleepy look. She even saw a dumpy-looking grey creature hazarding a yawn as he turned the pages. He was not even looking that closely at them as he flipped one after another. She climbed from the stack of beige-paged volumes upon which she had been sitting and onto the thick, dull-yellow cover of a musty-smelling book. It was quite a step down for the little brown dragoness. She looked up once again at the large, lumbering circle of dragons as they continued to read.
"Maybe you were right," the marine-colored dragon said, looking in the direction of the dumpy grey serpent.
The marine suddenly looked startled and glanced towards the red creature. The red one was giving him a nasty glare.
The little brown dragoness, known as Kasy, sunk a little where she stood. She sidestepped towards the wall, away from the tense, crowded volumes where the large dragons' heads spoke in low, hushed tones and stole along quietly behind their large tails. She stepped over the Marine-toned dragon's smooth tail, then passed the spike of a blue dragon who wore a small gold ring on his tail tip. After that, she took extra care as she stepped over the red dragon's tail. Even then, she could still hear him growling something to one of the others. She stepped gingerly over the dumpy grey serpent's tail, jumping a little as it twitched under her. Her head turned to look back only to see that nothing else of him had moved at all. She gave a tiny, cat-like snort as she started walking again, her gaze lingering in the bulky grey one's direction a moment longer. By now little Kasy had passed all of the other dragons, and she looked in front of her to see several more stacks of books. They were thick books with a sweet, musty smell about them. The bindings were broad and hardy, and all were of faded, dull colors. She came to the first small stack of volumes and reached up to pull herself onto it.
"You know, if I didn't believe your every word," Said the red serpent. He had put a lot of emphasis on the word, believe. "That there was some commonality, some quintessence all could find if they just looked in the right place, I would start to wonder at this point if our search really is for naught…"
He was staring straight as an arrow in the direction of the gold one opposite them as he spoke. The gold made no movement. He was completely still. Not even the finely-tuned senses of the dragons could feel any movement in his mind or his body. The red watched the great gold, glancing away every now and then. After about a minute of watching, waiting for a hint, the red creature looked away. He sneered as he looked downward to a thick book lying between his claws and gave a miniscule growl.
Kasy was hiking along the covers of the carpet of books. She stepped up one book, down two, then padded around a tall stack. Her small feet made very little sound. Her footfalls were soft. She still stayed close to the outer edge of the room, riding close to its circumference. She turned her head one way then another as she walked, looking at the dragons with their books. She turned again to look at the great Gold dragon. He was sitting there motionless. She watched his chest cavity. His breaths were slow and even. She could almost think he had noticed her as she came closer to his side of the room, but she could never be sure. She stopped for a moment and flickered out her tongue.
Her thoughts were interrupted as the whispering of the others had escalated from low and hushed to a normal conversational volume. The red one was speaking.
"You've looked through volumes eight through seventeen of this series, here," he said, gesturing with a wing towards several stacks on the floor that seemed to be loosely separate from the others.
"Agamid's got the nihilistic volumes over there," The marine dragon said, gesturing to another stack of books near the grey, dumpy dragon.
"That means that we have looked through all of them. Every last one. Again." The red one concluded, looking up towards the great gold.
The red's eyes were narrow as he addressed him. The gold dragon did not move or speak. He showed no signs he was even listening.
"We have been looking now for a very long time," the red one said, leaning further in the direction of gold one.
"It's true. We've looked over all of them, now," the marine-colored dragon said in a more muted tone.
"Each and every one of them, and nothing at all. I know nothing's been overlooked."
There was a moment of silence as the dragons began to look up towards the great gold, all still and waiting.
"It's here," a voice said from the east side of the room, "We may not have figured out what we're looking for yet, but knowing we were this close is a joy."
The speaker was a blue dragoness, one who sat on her haunches amid the books, looking to the gold one. Her voice was very solid. It never wavered as she spoke. She was larger in size than the rest of the other dragons. Her head protruded above theirs in the room like a periscope in a bobbing wave of heads and horns. The most distinguishing features on her body were the horns on her head, which split near the tips, and her dark, almost black, underbelly. There was something different about her. Kasy could not tell what it was, but she could feel it.
"Well, it's very nice for you to be so studious," the red dragon said with a jeer to the blue one, "but some of us are here in search of answers. Answers! And we have not seen a single answer all this time since we began our search here."
He looked all around the room, giving a soft, low growl. His narrowed eyes shifted, looking in the direction first of the blue one who had spoken, then to the golden one.
"Please consider that before you attempt to speak for the whole room," he said, looking in the direction of the blue one.
She stood there, never moving a muscle. The red one continued.
"Who is satisfied only with the notion of being puffed up with knowledge? Knowledge, I might add, that never leads beyond the satisfaction of knowing that you played the game for which you were drawn here."
His cheek seemed to twinge a little as he mentioned that last part.
The blue dragoness cocked her head to the side slightly, looking at the red one opposite her. One corner of her mouth turned upwards just a little as she watched him.
"I think you misunderstand me," she said in a soft, even voice.
"It's not about the knowledge at all for me. I want answers, too. And I know we may not have found the answers here, right now. But I feel like I'm a part of something bigger than finding the answer."
Her voice rose in pitch and became more even in tone as she made this last mention.
"It's hard to put into words."
"It's as if in searching," a elderly green male said from opposite the great gold one, "We are reminded that whether we find an answer or not, we can still trust that the answer exists."
Kasy turned to look at this green male who had just spoken. He had a grey, silvery beard that flopped and waved whenever his jaw moved. Her eyes followed his great antlers, which branched out many times above his wrinkled forehead. If he had been sitting on his haunches like the blue dragoness instead of sprawled on the floor lengthwise, he also would have towered over the rest of the creatures present.
"Yes!" The blue dragoness said, leaning forward towards the new speaker. "Yes, exactly."
Her eyes had widened a little as she spoke.
Murmurs traveled around the room in softly echoing rounds. The air in the room seemed a little tense. Several serpents were shuffling around uncomfortably. Others hunkered down over their volumes and lowered their ears in annoyance as the sound rose. Finally, as the murmur in the room reached a low, grumbly climax, something made Kasy jump. It was the golden one. He had spoken, and his voice was so deep, she could feel it going through her body. She arched her back and looked to him with wide eyes.
"All of you may stop looking," he had said. "I have made my decision."
It was at that moment, Kasy made a startling realization. Her eyes had been looking over the great gold one as he had spoken. She was fascinated by him. However, she could not bring herself to look up into his face. Her eyes travelled along the floor around his feet, then along his legs, and tucked under his right foreleg she saw something that made her flick her ears forward in astonishment. There under his arm, pressed against his side, was a little book. Her eyes widened a little as she had a realization. This had to be the book they were all looking for. The gold one had been keeping the book under his arm this whole time the others had been searching. She let her mouth fall open and turned to the other dragons, scanning the room to see if anyone else had noticed what she had seen.
All the faces of the others were looking in the direction of the golden one. They all seemed to be focused and somber, listening to him. Her ears flickered back and forth as she looked with her eyes to see if anyone else had seen the book. She turned her attention again just in time to see the gold one standing up from his haunches, the book still tucked under his foreleg. Kasy watched as the gold strode from where he sat. He made his path through the center of the room, then to the wall opposite him. He nosed the wall low near the floor, and as he did, the wall gave to his touch. A portion of the wall receded towards the ceiling into a small bundle like a scroll. The gold one went through the opening. Kasy got a glimpse of a hallway, and she thought for a moment she saw something written on the wall in some sort of reptilian language so ancient, it took the shape of claw-prints. It seemed like just as soon as he had left, the great gold emerged, and the roll of wall unfurled to its normal shape behind him. Kasy craned her neck upwards and to the side, and she saw that the book was gone from under his foreleg. She tilted her head, and her little brow became furrowed. Her lips turned downward as she watched the great gold one stride slowly to his former place in the room.
All heads in the room turned to face him.
"Two of you have been chosen."
"Wait just a moment," said the voice of the red one.
He was sitting up, and his snout was wrinkled into a subtle snarl.
"No one has found a bloody thing thus far! How can you make your choice without…"
"I choose…" The gold one said thundering. His voice made Kasy jump. His words thereafter were in the same even tone in which he had previously been speaking. "…on a basis which is higher than a simple list of facts or achievements."
The red one sat quietly, scowling. His spiked tail-tip moved slowly, in sharp, slow arcs. The golden one turned to the ancient green creature.
"You," he said, looking into his surprised eyes.
"And you," the gold one said, looking now to the blue dragoness, who's ears wilted a little as she looked behind her for a second, her head bowed as she took a small step back.
That was when Kasy noticed a large bowl sitting before the gold one. She could not remember if it had been there before or not. Heat was rising from its contents, which seemed to give off a warm, yellowish glow. The two who had been chosen came forward in slow, bowed steps until they were standing before him, now with the bowl between them. The dragoness took a deep breath. The green elder was smiling very broadly. The two chosen ones bowed and lifted each their right foreleg. The great gold one placed in each claw what appeared to Kasy to be a talon, or a tooth. Slowly, each of the two dipped their given talon into the bowl, and each came out bright and glowing, dripping with liquid light. In a moment, the light froze around the talons, leaving a coating of the purest gold Kasy had ever seen. After this, the two took a large step back and bowed low once more, then started slowly in the direction of the door, taking the plated talons with them. The green elder was still smiling so broadly. His antlered-horns were at the same height as the tops of his wings. The blue dragoness was looking down at the golden talon resting in her fore-claw. Her eyes were wider than normal, and she was taking deep breaths, one after another as they walked. She might have been shaking a little. It was hard to tell from where Kasy stood. She turned her head to look at the green elder.
"Did you ever imagine?" She said softly, almost in a whisper. Her words echoed on the hard walls in the room.
"Never in a lifetime," the green elder said. He laughed. It was a raspy, elated cackle. The two continued towards the door and disappeared into the light outside. There was dead silence in the room. The golden one was still seated in his place. Kasy noticed that the bowl of molten gold was no longer there before him.
Kasy could feel her form a little tense. Her lip curled outward and her eyes narrowed. One voice echoed low in the room, then another. Dragon after dragon spoke softly until the conversation rose from all sides of the room.
"This is unacceptable…" The red one was saying to the adipose grey dragon. "In all my years of coming here time after time…" He continued to speak in a low, emphatic hiss.
The marine dragon was the first to get up. He slowly strolled to the door across the room from Kasy. The slender blue followed slowly. One of them spoke, and the other laughed. They kept talking as they exited the door. One by one, each of the dragons left their volumes strewn on the floor, stepping over them or on them as they made their way out the door. The red one left, still hissing and muttering to the large grey one, who was staring into space with a very blank expression on his face as he walked. Only Kasy and the great golden one were left in the room. He was still motionless, still sitting as he had the entire time, taking in the room with his eyes.
Kasy's tail twitched in sharp, angular curves. She parted her lips and drew a quick breath. All at once, she took a deep breath and ran forward towards the place where the golden one stood. She could feel her little heartbeat pattering faster in her chest. She frowned as she looked at him. He was so immensely larger than any of the other dragons that had been in the room. He sat there in the same position, completely motionless. She could feel him sensing her, though. It was the strangest feeling, of being observed without seeing his eyes. She could feel her little heart pattering even faster, now. She stopped in front of him, about the size of his forefoot in comparison.
"I don't understand." She said to him.
"You knew where the book was," Kasy said, louder.
She could feel blood rushing to her cheeks. Her little form was getting tense, now. She was huffing.
"You had the book, the one that everyone was looking for. Why didn't you say anything?" she said.
"You saw the book?" The Golden one said. His voice was deep, but his tone was soft.
"Yes…" Kasy said. "You had it under your arm the whole time."
Her tiny breaths were quick now. She could feel the corners of her mouth pointing downward. She almost wrinkled her nose.
"And why do you think I did that?" The golden one said, still in the same gentle tone.
"I dunno…" Kasy said. "Why would you keep something so important from them? It sounds like some of them are giving up on you…"
"Many have already." he said.
"Yeah?" Kasy said in a high tone. "When you have what they're looking for right there the whole time, and never tell them?"
She paused, as if to wait for him to speak, but when he seemed to have nothing to say, she added,
"That would make me upset."
"It would appear to you as if I am cheating them?" The gold one asked.
"Um…" Kasy's tail sunk, and she lowered her head a little.
"It's alright," he said softly. "I will not be angry."
"Yeah." Kasy said slowly. "That's what it feels like."
She bowed her head as she looked up at him.
"Have you ever pondered why I might choose only to reveal myself to a select few?" The gold one asked.
"When you listen to them while they look, you find out what they are really searching for. One is searching for his own personal gain. Some are only attempting to satisfy a requirement. All of these reasons are beneath the intent of the search. They keep the search from remaining pure."
"Pure?" Kasy repeated to him slowly.
"The motive behind the motive behind the motive must be purely for the knowledge of the truth itself. Anything less betrays that they are not ready who are seeking."
Kasy sat down. Her tail twitched back and forth. She looked downward.
"So, if they can't be happy just knowing… you can't show them the rest."
"This is correct." The golden one said, smiling a little.
He bent downward, and for the first time, Kasy saw his face. It was a gentle face, full of warmth, life, and fierce fire. His eyes were inexplicably stern and beautiful.
"There is one question more you should ask," he added.
"Huh?" Kasy said, tilting her head. "Which one?"
"You should ask yourself why I allowed you to see the book." He said.
Kasy ducked a little and her ears folded down behind her head.
"In time, you will learn everything within its pages," he said, growing more somber.
"In time you will know them all by heart, and you will tell them to everyone you meet."
Kasy whispered shyly, "I don't understand…"
"In time, young dragoness," the elder said, "You will understand."
Kasy was standing completely still, unable to move now. She was transfixed. She felt as though she were peering over the edge of a great precipice, spreading her wings to fly for the first time.
"You are too young to receive the traditional symbol of rank," the gold said.
"But you will receive my mark to wear for all time. Everyone who sees it may not know me, but they will know that you are different. Those who do know me will see that you are set apart."
At that moment, Kasy felt a shot of fiery pain flow down her left shoulder. She gasped and looked to see the very tips of the golden one's talons, hot with fiery molten light, leaving a gold color steaming on her hide. She could hardly hold still, the pain was so great, but she stood there nonetheless, quivering. She breathed quick, labored breaths as the searing pain sunk into her shoulder, leaving the pure color of gold there.
"There can never be doubt about who you are," the gold one said to her.
She looked up again to peer at him.
"You are to be my ambassador, to keep watch over many in this world. Always remember you bear my mark, and there is nothing anyone can do to change that."
Kasy gasped slowly and sighed. Her small sounds seemed very loud in the silent room.
"Go now, Kasy." The golden one said in a tender tone. "I will be with you."
Kasy bowed, then turned around slowly. She could feel her shoulder burning intensely when still and worse when she took a step. She was still breathing deep breaths. She started for the door, walking very stiffly, trying as best she could to minimize the pain with each step. Even though she was hurting, she stood tall. Her neck was straight and held her head as high as it could. It was hard, but she felt the incredible weight of the honor of that wound. As she passed through the door, everything seemed to fade around her into pure, white light.
"What is that?"
A large man with a thick moustache was leaning over Kasy's shoulder as she strode through a crowded street. People were everywhere. Voices rose from every direction and meddled into a dull roar, punctuated every now and then by a shout or a laugh. So these were the people Kasy was to look after. It was just like the great golden one had said. They knew something was different about this dragoness.
"This?" Kasy said to the man. "This is my mark. Let me tell you about the one who gave it to me…"