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part four.

Part Four

The scream feels like it’s been wrenched from Ewan’s lungs; pain and fear causes his eyes to well up, and for once panic overrides this shame. He’s managed to wedge himself firmly down between two large rocks, but he’s not sure how much longer this hiding place will last – the terrifying creature hell-bent on destroying him is scraping its claws across the rock as if it’s made of cheese. The rock-dragon came from nowhere, ignored every other petrified being in the Silver Cove and made directly for him - him, little Ewan, who never did anybody any harm in his life! What could it possibly want with him? Sick and shaking, the young boy pushes his body down as far as it will go, barely noticing as a stone below slices one of his bare feet open. The monster is huge – bigger than Ewan’s comprehension – and it’s like no living creature he’s ever seen before. He’s not even sure if it’s alive – it seems to be made from rock and stone, and it makes a terrible grinding noise whenever it moves.

The beast slices off a piece of the rock just about his head – Ewan can actually feel the flutter of the breeze as those humungous claws sweep past his hair. These last moments before death aren’t how Ewan had imagined them to be, all heroic and graceful. Instead he’s fighting to keep his tears and nausea down and he feels like his bones are rattling against the sharp-edged rocks encasing him in what will soon become his tomb. Not very romantic.

Then, all of a sudden, it stops. Everything. It’s like someone has just hit the ‘pause’ button. Ewan looks up fearfully and feels the hair on the back of his neck stand on end as he sees the rock-dragon poised in mid-air, preparing to strike its final, lethal blow. There’s a scrabbling sound and the most welcome sight in the world greets his eyes – Elle pokes her shaggy face into the hole. In his relief, Ewan lets the tears fall from his eyes as he reaches up to grab the Newfoundland who easily pulls him out of his hiding place.

“Come on,” she says in a soft voice which doesn’t match the fire blazing in her eyes.

Ewan knows better than to do what his heart is screaming to do – which is to run into his father’s arms. Joel is standing with his legs apart, breathing heavily and radiating such a fury that, in that moment, he seems more terrifying to Ewan than the rock-dragon had been. He almost pities the creature which will soon know the carpenter’s wrath for daring to try and harm his only son.
Elle pushes Ewan back out of harm’s way as Joel strides forward, emanating more rage than either the young fairy or the familiar imagined could come from one man.

He doesn’t unfreeze time – not intending, after all, for the creature to have any sort of a chance – but a loud cracking noise indicates that something is severely wrong. The rock-dragon quivers, pushing forward with all the magic it possesses to try and break free of its time-lock; Joel stands firm on the ground, a vein standing out on his temple, struggling ferociously to keep this protection in place. Quickly, he recognises the uselessness of spending all his energy trying to hold the creature still and releases it, already reaching for his strongest and most used power – telekinesis. No sooner does the rock-dragon shake itself and roar furiously than Joel wrenches its body apart, shattering and scattering the stones far over the beach. Satisfied that the monster is well and truly destroyed, he turns his back on it.

His first mistake.

Such a manoeuvre would work more than adequately on any normal, living animal – unfortunately for Joel, this monster does not fit into that category. As it is composed entirely of rock, it is not alive in the usual sense. Across the beach, the thousands of rock shards glow gently, lift into the air and start to rearrange themselves; following the horrified expression on Ewan’s face, Joel spins round just in time to see the rock-dragon entirely reassembled. Livid, it roars at him, and this time a gush of red-hot magma explodes from its lips and shoots directly at him – only by telekinetically pushing it aside (reaching for this power is now so automatic it’s almost a reflex) does he prevent himself from being buried alive under a ton of hot, angry lava. Without pausing to think, Joel hoists a large rock into the air using telekinesis and hurls it at the rock-dragon – it shatters against the monster’s body, barely making a scratch. A bead of sweat appears on Joel’s brow. How do you stop an indestructible fiend?

He’s been still a moment too long. The rock-dragon hurls a clawed arm at him, which he ducks to avoid and ends up rolling down the large stone he’d been standing on. Springing to his feet, the carpenter dodges another stream of lava and sprints towards his son and dog. Elle quivers. Joel skids to a halt at her paws and whips around to face the beast, throwing his arms out.

“STOP!” He roars, employing his final trick: persuasion. The rock-dragon hesitates, and Joel takes advantage of the momentary confusion to address it, his voice pulsing with rage. “This boy is protected. Leave now. Leave.”

There’s a brief pause in which the dragon seems to struggles to decide whether to continue its mission or listen to the persuasive tone in the defender’s voice. A fairy would not be affected in such a way, since persuasion is an extremely weak form of hypnosis – but the rock-dragon has no intelligence of its own and is much easier to sway. After what can only be a few seconds (but what feels like hours to Ewan and Joel), it crouches down and spirals into the air, heading further inland.

Ewan relaxes. Letting his tears of relief fall, he rushes to his father and hugs him. Elle gives a soft woof of joy.
Joel ignores them both, following the rock-dragon’s path through the clouds with narrowed eyes. He has a hunch it won’t give up on its quest so easily – and another hunch that its quest was not the death of Ewan, whatever its intention may have been.

The rock-dragon turns south. Joel’s hunch is correct.

“Stay here, Ewan. Elle, stay.”

“But dad – ”

“Joel – ”

“STAY!” He thunders with such force that he knocks the words back down their throats. Trusting in Elle to protect Ewan, Joel tears up the beach and through the trees.

The race is on. The only question is, who will get to Epitome Jungle first – its protector, or its destructor?

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