Return of the Dragons First Chapter

Here’s the first chapter from my new book, Return of the Dragons. If you want to see more, you can find the whole book on amazon for just £2.99.

(Note: the formatting in this post is how the chapter looked best on this website, but isn’t indicative of how the paperback or ebook version is formatted)

Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1 – Daniel

Dan Watson was an average guy. Unfortunately, that sentence doesn’t quite convey everything it should, because Dan wasn’t just an average guy – he was the average guy. Everything about Dan, from his appearance, to his demeanour and attitude, even to his job and friends, was painfully average. Dan didn’t have any interesting hobbies, or spend time with interesting people, nor did he dream of grand adventures or greener pastures. Dan was an average guy with an average life, and he was quite content with it.

Generally speaking, people like Dan aren’t the sort of people that stories are told about. Heroes are always bold and brave, villains are deceitful and nasty. Dan was certainly none of these things. It had always been the same for him. Everyone knew someone like him at school that just sort of blended into the background. Dan was the kind of guy you’d happily invite to a party, but not notice if he didn’t turn up.

Now, at the age of nineteen, things were no different. His look was the same as it had ever been; black hair cut short, clean shaven, and a face that was neither ugly nor handsome and wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. He held a low-level position at an incredibly boring company, and seemed to have the same experiences and stories as anyone else; a horrible boss, funny friends, a crush on the pretty girl in accounts that he’d never had the courage to speak to. He lived in a flat from which he commuted; not bad, but nothing fancy, and certainly nothing interesting related to it. A bookshelf full of popular literature, a shelf stacked with popular films on DVD, walls lined with photos of similarly uninteresting events or people.

You might hope that looking at Dan’s family would prove him to be more interesting. You’d quickly be disappointed. If you persisted, you’d slowly be disappointed. Dan father’s was a civil servant who didn’t talk about his work (or anything else, for that matter) and his mother was a stay at home mum who drank slightly too much. Dan didn’t see them often; normally at Christmas when everyone did their best to avoid fighting, ended up fighting anyway, and then agreed to do the same thing next year.

You may even be wondering, by this point, why you’re being told about him at all, and you’d be right to wonder. Dan was a dull, uninteresting character, and would have happily stayed that way, had it not been for a meeting with some people thankfully much more intriguing one Wednesday afternoon.

It was a warm autumn day in London; the sun was shining and there were even more people about than usual, shopping, meeting friends or just enjoying the last of the year’s sun. Dan was sat in the corner of his favourite coffee shop lazily browsing social media on his phone, a fresh cup of tea sat in front of him (milk, one sugar; even Dan’s tea was average). There was nothing particularly worth mentioning as Dan sat enjoying his tea for ten minutes, but then the door of the coffee shop opened and a dragon walked in.

Now, this statement sounds rather more dramatic than the actual event. The dragon didn’t swoop through the open door breathing fire, destroying cheap furniture and sending people running for their lives. The dragon walked in, quite casually, as she was disguised as a human. The woman still caught a few stares as she walked up to the counter, however, as she was extraordinarily pretty. She had long, wavy red hair and wore casual yet elegant clothes that showed off her slim figure.

After ordering a coffee (black, no sugar), she purposefully strode over to the corner table where Dan was sitting and took a seat directly opposite him. Dan looked up from his phone and sat stunned as this beautiful woman was staring directly at him. He glanced around the coffee shop and saw there were plenty of free tables. Maybe the woman had mistaken him for someone else?

“Er… hi?” Dan began, feeling very awkward as the woman sat there staring straight at him.

“Hi there,” she replied, her voice soft yet powerful. Dan glanced around again and fidgeted in his seat. He was trying to think of something to say, but couldn’t think of anything less blunt than ‘Do I know you?’ Perhaps they had met before, at school or work, and he didn’t want to be rude. As Dan wracked his brains about where he might have met this woman before, she broke the silence.

“My name’s Sabina. What’s yours?” she said.

Well, this made it clear that they hadn’t met before, but only raised more questions. Why on Earth is this woman talking to me? He was pretty confident he knew what a woman looked like when she was flirting (he’d read about it), and this wasn’t it.

“I’m Daniel. Daniel Watson.” He said it without really thinking. Why did he say Daniel? Nobody called him Daniel except his parents. He supposed this woman had just caught him off guard, like it was some sort of official interview he’d been unprepared for. She leaned forward to speak.

“Well Daniel,” (damn it!), “I’ve been looking for someone for a long time, and I think you may be exactly what I’ve been looking for.” Dan opened his mouth to respond, but realised he had no idea how to reply to that, so instead sat there with his mouth slightly open, looking rather stupid.

“There’s no need to be nervous, Daniel,” she continued, “I realise I’m quite attractive, but I’m not here for anything like that. Let’s just say that you’re, um, not my type.”

Dan didn’t know whether to feel relieved or offended. “Well… Sabina, what exactly do you want from me, exactly?” Dan asked, trying to keep his voice calm, like he was politely interested, but realising he’d used the word exactly too many times for one sentence. She smiled, which seemed to make Dan feel oddly better about the situation.

“It’s a lovely day outside,” she said, glancing towards the door. “A friend and I have a table outside. Would you care to join us?”

Dan’s immediate thought was no, as he was deeply confused and much preferred the idea of going back to his phone. However, as she continued to gaze at him he supposed it would be quite rude to decline, so found himself agreeing out of politeness. I’m too English for my own good. Sabina led him outside to a small table with three chairs, one of which was already filled by a man.

He had been sat watching the crowds of people pass by, but stood up as they approached and smiled warmly at Dan.

“This is my friend Miguel,” Sabina explained to Dan, before turning to the man, “and this is Daniel Watson.”

“Everyone calls me Dan,” he said, with a hopeful glance at Sabina.

Miguel shook his hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Dan. Please have a seat.”

Dan sat down and took a good look at Miguel. Despite his unaccented English, he was clearly not originally from London. His tanned skin indicated he lived somewhere much hotter, and judging by the name Dan guessed Spain, or perhaps further away… the Middle East maybe? His clothing certainly suggested something quite different. He was wearing robes of a satin like material that fell almost to his feet, different shades of yellow melded together into something that looked very elegant, if unusual. He had long black hair, which was tied back into a ponytail, and a small goatee that ended in a point. His expression was youthful, and it was obvious that he took good care of himself, but a few telltale signs showed some age, and Dan guessed he was older than he looked. Late forties, perhaps?

“Tell me, Dan,” Miguel began, “what exactly do you know about dragons?”

The question was so out of left field that it seemed to break Dan’s ability to think, so that he sat there gaping at him for several seconds. If he’d had a lifetime to guess what this was going to be about, something about dragons wouldn’t have been on the list. He tried to scramble his brain into something resembling cognitive thought and forced himself to answer.

“Um, dragons? Well, uh, not much really. They’re… mythical creatures that look like flying lizards, and they breathe fire. I don’t think I know much else…”

Miguel nodded along to his words, while Sabina sat sipping her coffee and staring at him as if he was telling some grand tale around a campfire.

“As much as I expected,” said Miguel. “I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but would you care to listen to my thoughts on the subject?”

Dan nodded, certain he definitely wanted to know what on Earth was going on. Miguel leaned back in his chair, placing his hands together, and began.

“Like most mythical creatures, you’ll find tales and pictures of varying sort about dragons going back hundreds, even thousands of years back. Ancient civilisations wrote about them alongside Cyclops and mermaids, and the exploits of dragons and the men brave enough to fight them are scattered throughout the dark ages.”

Sabina had been sipping her coffee, but seemed to snort at Miguel’s words. The man either didn’t hear, or ignored it.

“The stories disappear about the same time as all other myths and legends. Around the time of the enlightenment, the human race began to embrace science and rational thought, and the idea of magic and mythical creatures became nothing more than stories for children.

“In almost every respect, the idea of dragons is as absurd as any other myth – unicorns, leprechauns, centaurs – all ideas invented by humans for the purpose of amusement. However, if you trace the origins of these myths, you will always find one society, one place on Earth where the stories first appeared. Except for dragons.

“Stories of dragons date back as far as recorded human history, and from almost every society. These humans were isolated from each other since before they could speak, and yet the same tales and paintings appear everywhere. Certainly, the dragons powers and appearance varies slightly, but always the tales talk of large, scaled, winged beasts that breathe fire. Quite a coincidence, don’t you agree?”

“I guess so,” said Dan, taking everything in, “but if you’re suggesting that dragons were real, why did stories of them disappear along with tales of fairies and goblins?”

“An excellent question,” Miguel replied. “If we can make the assumption that dragons really did exist, then it is entirely possible that dragons died out prior to the enlightenment. Perhaps the humans killed them all (another audible snort from Sabina), perhaps they died from something else. Or, is it perhaps possible, that as human society grew and developed, the dragons made the decision to go into hiding, to ensure their continued existence?”

Dan’s mind reeled. This was, without a doubt, the strangest conversation he’d ever had. “I guess that’s possible,” he said, scratching his head, “but it seems a little… farfetched, to say the least.”

“I’m certain it does,” said Miguel, nodding. “For instance, where on this planet could such beings hide without being found? It seems practically impossible, until you consider a slightly different possibility.”

Miguel sat forward, a gleam in his eye, and began to stroke his beard as he stared out across the street. “Consider this: I got up from this table and moved out into the crowd. You might be able to keep track of me for a little while, but soon I would disappear amongst the hundreds of other people. After that, I could change my clothes and my hair, and a day from now I could walk straight past you and you would never even notice. From your point of view, I would have completely disappeared, and yet I would be no further away from you than before.”

Dan thought about this for a moment while Miguel and Sabina continued to gaze at him. “So… what are you suggesting?”

“Think about it, Dan. If you were a being of immense power and knowledge, and you wanted to disappear, would you flee to the edge of the world and wait to be discovered, or would you hide in the one place that no-one would think to look?”

Dan looked out over the crowds of shoppers, and realised that Miguel was right. If he wanted to disappear, a crowd of people is a good place to hide. “It’s a cool idea,” he admitted, “but if you’re actually suggesting that it’s true, you’d need some pretty big proof.”

“You are open to the possibility of dragons being real, however unlikely the idea may seem,” said Miguel. “What if I were to tell you that Sabina and I have the proof that you mentioned.”

“Er, okay,” said Dan, wondering where this was going. “What proof would that be, exactly?”

“It is rather simple, Dan. Sabina and I know that dragons really exist, because we are both dragons.”

Dan looked at them both, half expecting one of them to crack a smile or pull out a hidden camera. Neither of them did, though, and instead both stared at him nervously, as if expecting him to spontaneously combust.

“The two of you are dragons?”

“That’s right,” said Miguel calmly.

“The mythical creatures?”

“Yes”.

“Giant, fire-breathing dragons?”

“Yes.”

Miguel looked deeply sincere, but Dan wasn’t convinced. “Okay, well, not saying I don’t believe you or anything, but you don’t exactly look like dragons.”

“That is because we are very well concealed,” said Miguel, gesturing towards his body. “Hiding in plain sight only works if you don’t stand out.”

Dan’s mind churned. All of this was nonsense, and yet it all seemed to make far too much sense. “Okay then, assuming you are dragons, could you maybe… show me?” he asked hopefully.

“Yes,” said Miguel, “but not here. We have approached you today, Dan, because we feel you could help us. The dragons went into hiding five hundred years ago, and we intended to stay hidden for some time to come, but events have dictated that things must change. If you are interested in what I have said, if you want proof of the story I have spun you, then we shall meet again. If not, then I apologise for taking up your time, and wish you a happy life.”

Miguel got to his feet, shook Dan’s hand with a warm smile on his face, and then walked out into the crowd. Sabina put a hand inside her coat and pulled out a generic looking business card, and placed it on the table next to Dan’s drink. She then leaned in close and whispered “Tomorrow night, six o’clock.” She got to her feet and, without another word, followed Miguel’s path and disappeared into the mass of shoppers.

Dan looked down at the business card and saw it had an address, not far from where he worked, underneath a logo for ‘Goodman’s Industrial Cleaners’. Feeling incredibly confused, he glanced at his watch and saw he only had a few minutes left of his lunch break, so he downed the last of his tea. As he stood up to leave, he looked down at the table and, not entirely sure why he was doing it, pocketed the card before heading back to work.

*

The rest of the work day passed without incident, and Dan soon forgot about his strange meeting at lunch, his mind occupied with the usual emails, memos and reports that filled his day. Later that evening, when he was sat bored in front of the TV, flicking between a talent show and a football match (he switched over to check the score every time the acts finished so he didn’t have to listen to them talk), the events of the afternoon came drifting back to him.

What on Earth had it all been about? Was it some practical joke at his expense? This seemed unlikely, as he was fairly certain that none of his friends were big practical jokers. And besides, practical jokes were normally over pretty quickly – it hardly seemed worth the effort to arrange a meeting for him a day later that he might not even turn up to, just for a weak joke.

Perhaps he’d misread the entire conversation, and ‘dragon’ was some sort of code word for something else. Dan considered it for a while, but the theory didn’t hold together very well. If they had thought he was someone else, and were speaking in some kind of code, they would have quickly worked out that he had no idea what they were talking about. On the other hand, if the conversation was supposed to be alluding to something else, perhaps something illegal, they had done a very poor job of hinting at what it was.

Neither of these scenarios seemed likely, and yet Dan could think of no other reason they would have approached him. They certainly hadn’t seemed unbalanced or confused; everything they had said had been carefully planned, and it was said with such purpose and vigour. Miguel had known exactly what he was talking about and why. And the way they had looked at Dan, like they had been evaluating his very existence with a stare, and the way they analysed every unimportant word that came out of his mouth.

But if they weren’t insinuating something else, and this wasn’t just some joke, Dan had no idea what could possibly be going on. They couldn’t really be dragons, could they? He had no doubt that there were people out there who thought dragons were real; the same kind of people who believed the moon landing was faked and toothpaste was a form of mind control created by the government. Neither Miguel nor Sabina seemed like one of those people. Even if they were, what did a conspiracy theory involving dragons have to do with him? He certainly didn’t believe in them. He was just an average guy, so what could either of them think he was ‘perfect’ for?

He considered whether what Miguel had said could be true, but as he did the idea seemed to become more and more ridiculous. He supposed he must be mad to even consider it, and for a worried moment he considered that he had dreamt or invented the whole thing. If he was considering this offer at all, was he really as normal as he thought he was? Maybe he was working too hard, and was starting to lose it…

He looked up at the TV and saw a middle-aged woman crammed into skin tight Lycra singing along, rather poorly, to an old Abba track. He grinned and, getting to his feet, turned off the TV. He was definitely more normal than most. The thought cheered him up considerably, and he walked off to bed.

*

Dan’s alarm clock went off the next morning with the usual irritating buzzing, and he stumbled out of bed. He never really remembered his dreams, but seemed to have an odd scene of a shady drug dealer walking up to him in an alley, pulling open his coat and saying ‘Hey kid! Wanna buy some dragons?’

He pushed the image, comical as it was, out of his head and went and took a shower. After a rushed breakfast and a quick commute, Dan was back at work and the events of the day before were soon forgotten. During his lunch break, he entered the coffee shop with some trepidation, but nobody bothered him and he was able to enjoy his tea in peace. By the time half past five had rolled around and Dan had clocked out, the events of the day before seemed the distant past. A small hiccough in his regular, everyday life.

And yet, curiosity burned in the back of his mind. He was sure that if he didn’t turn up, he’d soon forget about the whole thing. But part of him wanted to know who these people really were. A small voice in his head said ‘curiosity killed the cat’, and it was certainly true that plenty of bad things could happen if he decided to investigate. Did he really need this extra level of excitement in his life? No, truthfully he was quite happy. But deep down a part of him knew that if he didn’t go to this meeting, he’d never discover what it had all been about.

With the fleeting thought of Sabina’s enigmatic gaze, he hailed down a cab and told the driver the address on the business card.

*

The cab pulled up five minutes later, and Dan paid the driver and hopped out. He thought for a moment about asking the driver to wait around, but before he knew it the cab had driven away, leaving him completely alone in the middle of a deserted street. One side was lined with old, Victorian style houses that stretched up several stories, while the other was a grass bank that led down to an estuary, the usual mess of weeds and graffiti strewn bridges running over the top. The few lampposts that actually worked flickered occasionally, threatening to plunge Dan into darkness. A couple of cars were parked on the street, but they looked rusted over and abandoned. Dan really couldn’t understand why he’d chosen to come here when right now he could be safe at home, but figured there was no point of turning back now.

He walked slowly down the street, filled with grubby looking houses, some of which had been converted into offices or oddball shops, the sort of places that never seemed to have customers and yet always seemed to stay open. Eventually he stumbled across a sign reading ‘Goodman’s Industrial Cleaning’, and glanced around. The building blended into its surroundings, and like everything else on the street looked quite deserted, the windows either covered up or encrusted with dirt. Dan walked up to the entrance and, seeing no doorbell, knocked twice on the door. He was fairly certain that he’d get no response, and just as he was beginning to feel like this had all been a massive waste of time, the door creaked open.

In the doorway, illuminated by a small light coming from behind her, stood Sabina, as beautiful as the day before.

“Well, well, well,” she said, eyeing Dan up and down. “Looks like I owe Miguel a drink.”

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