The Amazing Adventures of PonytailGirl, Chapter 9: The Air Dragons

The journeyman wizards were all for going right back to Thessaly. “Fogged out by Fog dragons!” Yogo snorted. “Well now we know! They can't do that again!”

But the masters were more cautious. “Maybe they can,” said Mohs. “They've been doing it for hundreds of years. Would it be any different this time? We need a better way to locate the shrines."

"I was thinking about Torbin," Tim said. "He found that statue. The power crystals touched it and fused and exploded! Or did Torbin fuse them first? Did he know the statue would be there?"

“I don't think he did; it was an accident,” returned Olivine, “but maybe he fused the crystals. If we could reproduce what he did, we might put together a detector of some kind. How would he have fused... no explosions this time, Tim.” she said, seeing his face.

“I'm worried about that statue,” said Tessa. “There's something unsettling about it, but I can't put my finger on it. For one thing, there are eight elemental dragons, but nine statues.”

“This one could be a marker,” Mohs said. “To set us looking for the others.” The Earth, Fire, Lightning, and Metal masters began work on a detector.

"Who would like to come with me to collect eggs?" asked  Air Dragon Master Lewis Dodoson, poking his head into the station office. He got several takers, including all the children. The first place they visited was a remote area with powerful winds blowing straight up through massive sinkholes. "Air dragons spend their days on the air currents and seldom come to land, but of course they have to, well, leave their eggs somewhere, he explained."  Journeyman Aiden Strongarm showed how to look for ground nests near the blowholes, and Spiderdog got too close to one and was lifted off his feet.

“Yow! U-u-uh whoa!” he yelled, as he was bounced around. Then he figured out how to balance in the air stream, and of course everyone had to try it. BlazeDragon felt that the fun of air-riding made up for missing out on ceiling-walking. They held hands with Aiden, walked into the current, and linked up into a circle in the air.

Trouble came when Bending Chalice tried a solo. He was small enough to get blown away, and Lewis had quick work to do to change the air currents and get him back. “Did you see me?” he exulted when his feet hit dirt, “Just like Curious George and the balloons!” Against his protests, the parents nixed any more air-riding.

After that they went to Moretoss Island in the Indian Ocean. It was an irregular pear shape, with white sandy beaches and rugged pointed mountains that looked like giant children had been dribbling handfuls of wet sand into piles. Lewis had a special goal; when he had been there before he had found cave paintings of the Dodo, a dragon thought to be extinct. He wanted to find it.

He went with BlazeDragon and Bending Chalice and their mom to the forested valleys of the island interior. They found an extinct volcano filled with water, a beautiful waterfall that fell three hundred feet in four narrow ribbons, and sand dunes with seven colors of sand swirled together in patterns. But they didn't find any dragons. “Why would they be down here anyway?” asked BlazeDragon. “If they're Air dragons, shouldn't they be up in the air?”

“Well, they're known to be flightless,” Lewis explained. "Historians think they are clumsy and just, uh, run around on the ground and eat fruit that falls from the trees.”

“Even if they're not flying,” said BlazeDragon, “I'll bet they are in an airy place, or somewhere in the wind. We should look on the mountaintops.” They checked PurpleLink for the tallest, strangest, most twisted mountain, and went there. And indeed they found Dodos. Not quite as fat and clumsy as the cave paintings had suggested, but moving around the high places like mountain sheep.

Aiden took the others to the rough volcanic cliffs at the south end of the island. Rain dragons frequented the Indian Ocean, and he thought Moretoss was a likely place for them. They liked sea cliffs, but didn't spend much time there. They swam in the sea or flew over it, causing – so said old sailors – rainstorms on sunny days. After clambering around for an hour and finding nothing but petrel nests, PonytailGirl began to think about the arches and tumbled boulders that extended out into the sea, “Why don't we look out there?” she asked Aiden.

“These are Air dragons, they wouldn't like rocks that are wet all the time, getting washed over by the sea,” Aiden replied.

“Maybe they would; they are Air and Water. They like swimming.”

“You may be right,” he replied. “The large arch looks like a good place, but be careful. The currents here are very strong and swimming is not allowed anywhere near these cliffs.”

They transported over and walked the length gingerly, stopping every now and then to check for ledges or overhangs. PonytailGirl looked thoughtfully at an unusual tangle of seaweed just below her in the water. “Look at this,” she said, “how strange. It's too smooth and round to have floated together by itself. I don't think we can reach it. I wish we had a friendly dragon to go look. If that's a nest, can you transport the eggs out?”

“No, it doesn't work that way,” Aiden replied, “I have to see something to be able to transport it. Maybe if I get Yogo over here as a spotter I can climb down and see."

Suddenly a Water dragon popped its head above the waves. “Lady!” PonytailGirl cried. “That has to be Lady! Hey, girl, how'd you get here? Did you know I was thinking about you?” She took her backpack off and hunted in it for the container of zazzberries she had brought for the Rain dragons. “Here! You'll like these.” She tossed them one by one and Lady picked them up as they splashed. “What do you think, Lady? Is this a nest? Can you look?”

Lady tossed her head once and dove under the seaweed. It bounced and jostled for a minute and then she came back up rolling and pushing a purple and blue striped egg. “You did it!” PonytailGirl yelled. “Smart girl!”

“Yahoo! I would never have believed it,” Aiden called. “Even Water dragons make nests on shore.”

By then the sun was going down; only a thin line showed above the edge of the earth. The statue Torbin had found stood in a grassy triangle between the Colosseum, the Cold habitat, and Tim's little half-timbered house by the Fire dragons. In the station office under the Colosseum, Tim was putting away most of the crystals he had been experimenting with, but taking a few fused ones home for the night. "Only these are not really fused," he said. "It's more like the atoms are entangled."

Tessa had been uneasy all day. “What is it about that statue?” she asked. “It feels dangerous.”

“It is odd,” said Rudna. “But you're an oracle. You can't ignore impressions you get.”

“Maybe we are expected to know,” Olivine mused. “Maybe when the statue was made, it was so famous everyone knew all about it.”

“We found it in Greece,” said Mohs. “There are Greek myths about dragons and things. But it is just a statue, and has sat doing nothing for 2500 years.” The sun was gone, but there was still enough light to see color. They went out to the statue and made scans of it, but it seemed inert. As they left for their quarters, the last light faded to blacks and grays.

The ruby eyes of the statue began to glow. As full dark settled, the wings moved and it lifted off its pedestal.

Tim had put his crystals on a shelf by the door. He heard an odd rattling noise, and looking back saw that they were glowing and rocking back and forth. Then he heard a roar, and the orange light of fire came in the windows as a blast shook them and broke the glass. "No!" He charged outside in time to see a dragon slowly rising into the air, spewing fire. As it turned, it scorched the Colosseum and grazed the Cold habitat. Dravin came running as the dragon turned full circle, and Tim's house went up in flames.

The little Cold dragons were spooked. They panicked and belched blue fire as their habitat began to melt. Tim's Fire dragons rose to attack and belched red. Fluffy singed Nippy and got hit himself as the much larger stranger blew past him.

“Stop them!” yelled Dravin, “Get them away from that thing! No, Nippy!” He shot white light at the intruder, and it sent one more bolt of fire at him before wheeling and heading for the Lightning habitat. As the long erudine crystals sparked and exploded, Olivine, Franklin, and Vander appeared.

Instead of going to her quarters, Tessa had gone to the Earth habitat to check on her babies. Her attention was caught by the Earth boost statue, the large carnelian set in the top softly glowing in the last light of the sun.  Sensing its power pulse as she grew closer, she lay both hands on it and tried to clear her mind. Golden fireworks faded into a view of the ancient oracle of Delphi. It had been a shrine to the Earth goddess Gaia, with a dragon called Python as its guardian. As Tessa watched, she heard distant explosions. She opened her eyes. “The dragon statue! It's Python!”

The fight went on all night. They could hold the dragon for a while, but it always got away from them. And yet at the first touch of the sun it started slowing down and went back to its pedestal. All the wizards were exhausted and some were injured. The Lightning babies had been the only ones to enjoy themselves; Norbert and ShockWave had fought the enemy and were too fast to get caught in the crossfire. Everybody met back at the statue.

“What can we do without destroying this thing?” asked Dickinson. We can't fight it every night."

“I have an idea,” Tessa offered. “This is a statue of Python, the dragon that guarded the Delphi Oracle. In the myth it was killed by Apollo, the sun god. We just saw that it turns off when the sun comes up. Let's put it next to the Sun habitat.”

“Python,” mused Tim the Enchanter. “Who would have thought? And now for something completely different. Entangled crystals wake up the statue. We'll have to keep them away from Python.”