[The following is from Chapter 3, as currently planned, which is tentatively titled, "Arrival of Dragon and Hero." Let me know: would you be interested in reading more of this story? Any suggestions?]
Before the rebellion, the
Whitefield Villa was a place of light. Located in a broad clearing midway up a
softly ascending mountain, the Villa was an enormous white rectangle with eight
tremendous columns holding up a slanting green roof above a red brick porch.
Rows of well-tended brilliantly yellow rose bushes bordered the porch. A
geyser-like fountain sparkled in the front lawn. Entering the Villa through
ornate polished bronze doors, guests found themselves in a spacious hall,
suitable for formal dances. A series of large windows allowed sunlight to flood
the hall. Directly across from the front door was a white marble staircase,
which was broad enough that two carriages could have ascended it side-by-side.
Before the rebellion, the Whitefield Villa was not much like a cave at all.
It was a bright, sunny day when
news of the rebellion reached the Whitefield Villa. As reports of battle came
in over the next few days, the weather remained fair, but spirits in the Villa
were overwhelmingly gloomy. Due to the summer heat, the servants had been
performing their duties rather casually, but with the great tension and
uncertainly brought about by rumors of war, the servants began to work with
rigid formality and attention to detail (as if each well-polished piece of
silver could somehow help maintain order in the world), even though the master
and mistress of the house–consumed with trying to determine the best way they
might help protect their region from being ravaged– were now even less
concerned than usual over the minutiae of orderliness.
When Lord and Lady Whitefield found
it necessary to leave for the Imperial Capitol with their son, the servants
continued to carry out their tasks like clockwork. Anderson– the Villa Chief of
Staff, a thin, elderly gentleman whose family had worked at the Villa for
generations– expected the Whitefields to be gone for about a month. When six
weeks passed with no word from his employers, Anderson sent a messenger to the
sheriff, who sent back word to Anderson that getting any information from the
Capitol had become impossible. On the heels of this communication with the
sheriff, Anderson received word that the Winding-Redfern Estate, whose lord and
lady were similarly away on business, had been plundered by villagers,
therefore Anderson decided to try and keep the Whitefields’ extended absence as
quiet as possible, and so he refrained from contacting anyone else to
investigate what might have become of them.
But the charade could only last for
so long. Eventually, the money that Anderson had been given to buy supplies ran
out, and then the supplies themselves became scarce. Systematically, various
rooms were closed off, with drapes placed over the furniture. Over time, groups
of servants began tendering their resignations to Anderson. When the first
group resigned, Anderson marked them as faithless traitors. By the time the
last group of servants left, provisions had become so scant and starvation
loomed so large that Anderson bade them a heartfelt, compassionate farewell. So
it came about that Anderson was left in the house alone. He broke protocol and,
over time, ate the remaining perishables from the food closet set aside for the
Whitefields themselves. Then Anderson realized that he too must leave. Before
he went, old Anderson carefully boarded up the windows with the thought of
hopefully preserving the glass from being broken and the house from being
invaded. As he drove each nail into the windowsills, he felt that he was
driving a nail into his own soul. Anderson then took all of the Whitefields’
valuables– everything from the silver candlesticks to the family sword, which
had been hanging in the master bedroom– and he locked them in the basement
vault. As he locked the Villa doors for the last time, Anderson prayed that
Lord and Lady Whitefield would safely return someday soon.
Once Anderson had left, the boarded
up interior of the Whitefield Villa– with drapes over all the furniture– looked
very much like a cave indeed. It became even more cave-like as bats, which had
always been a problem, now took complete control of the attic; rats and all
manner of bugs took the lower floors for their own.
Now, it is important to note that
while dragons would never inhabit elegant mountain villas, they would often
inhabit dank mountain caves.
stormy night, three months after Anderson had left the Whitefield Villa, a
wounded dragon plummeted down from the dark, low-hanging clouds about the
house, crashing through the green roof. As the wood of the roof cracked and
splintered, the bats that had been nesting in the attic screeched and took
flight. A puff of green-yellow fire escaped from the bloody slit in the
dragon’s throat, and the winged, horned green-gray beast collapsed upon the
grand marble staircase, surrounded by a dozen burning bats. Jade shingles from
the roof rained down upon the dragon’s quivering form.
dragon lay upon the stairs until the first light of dawn, when it dragged
itself down the stairs and circled around to move between the columns
supporting the staircase. Under the staircase, in the dark, the dragon seethed
and healed, drinking rainwater that flowed down from the hole in the roof and
eating burned bats, bugs, and rats.
it slowly regained strength, the beast began to sense silver. Now, it is common
knowledge that dragons were covetous creatures, hoarding precious metals, which
they could not spend and would not display to others, simply for the enjoyment
of withholding something shiny from others who desired it. Dragons had
developed a sixth sense by which they could perceive the presence of gold,
silver, copper, and the like. These precious metals “sang” out to dragons; it
was as if the dragons could hear or feel or taste or smell the silver, etc. Now
in the Whitefield Villa, the dragon lay with knowledge of silver burning in the
back of its brain. Finally, it heaved itself off the floor, stumbled toward the
basement door, and then burst through, slithering down the basement stairs. The
dragon clawed at the door to the vault, diamond-hard talons sending up sparks
as they scratched against the iron. Tearing through the door, the dragon
carelessly broke the elegant glassware and ripped the famous paintings; it
piled up the metal valuables and then contentedly curled up in front of them.
vermin that had previously settled at the Whitefield Villa soon all scurried
away, lest they become part of the vile worm’s buffet. And so, once it was
fully healed, the dragon began leaving its new “cave” in the middle of the
night in order to hunt amongst the nearby hills, always returning to its
treasure trove before the sun arose. People from the town would occasionally
catch glimpses of phantasmal green-yellow light (actually the dragon’s fire)
shining in the direction of the Whitefield Villa, and so it became common
knowledge that the place was haunted.