The Boy and the Sea Dragon
The Library and Lake
Gunthar and Petra left the house for the shop, the next morning. Hans stayed home with Zuangeng. He showed him the rest of the house. He used some scissors to cut all of Zuangeng’s nails. He finished with clippers and file.
The last room they entered was the library. Two gas lamp chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Hans lit both of them. Zuangeng looked around the room. Cases lined two walls. They contained shelves of books, both fictional and nonfictional. In the far wall were large windows. Five cases of books and magazines sat in the middle of the floor. The floor was polished cedar slats. Tables with chairs were scattered around the room. Some cushioned chairs sat in one corner. Another low glass topped rectangular table sat in the middle of these chairs. It had some magazines and a couple of books on top.
They spent the better part of the day here. Hans found the book he had been reading. It was on the table surrounded by the cushion chairs. He picked it up. He sat in a cushioned chair. He opened the book to the bookmark. He read.
Zuangeng roamed the library. He looked at the books. He pulled some out. He leafed through them. He put them back. He found some picture books. He took them to a nearby table. He knelt on a chair. He looked through the books. He looked for some more. He found several picture books on sea life. He took them to a different table. He got engrossed in them.
He found a picture story book. He became interested in it. He carried the book to Hans. The book was written in Hans’ language. He asked Hans, through his hands, to read to him. Hans put his book down. He took Zuangeng’s book. Zuangeng sat in his lap. He leaned against Hans. Hans read the book to Zuangeng. Zuangeng followed the story through the pictures. Hans would pause to identify elements of the pictures for Zuangeng.Hans had Zuangeng repeat the words several times.
Gunthar and Petra returned home that evening. They found Hans and Zuangeng in the den. They were playing chess. Gunthar said, surprised, “I didn’t know you played chess, Zuangeng!”
“I’ve played many a game on the Serikua. Esiada and Iyoseching have taught me well,” Zuangeng replied.
“He’s beating me,” Hans said. Zuangeng eventually check mated Hans.
A day later was a beautiful day for a picnic. The sun was shining brightly. The blue sky had some wispy cirrus clouds. Gunthar and Petra went out for a while. Hans stayed home with Zuangeng. He rummaged through the old clothing in the attic. He found a day outfit for Zuangeng. Zuangeng changed from the night clothes he had been wearing all this time to the new outfit. He wore the shoes he had stolen before.
They went into the kitchen. Together, they made some sandwiches. Hans made up a picnic basket.
Petra drove a horse drawn buggy back. Gunthar rode beside him. Petra parked in front of the door. Petra stayed with the buggy; while, Gunthar walked inside.
Hans and Zuangeng were heading his way. Hans carried the basket. Zuangeng carried his goggles in his right hand. Gunthar asked Hans, “Is everything ready?”
“Everything is ready,” Hans replied. They walked outside. Gunthar turned around. He locked the door. Hans and Zuangeng continued on to the buggy. Gunthar caught up with them half way there.
They reached the buggy. Zuangeng saw it and hesitated. The benches were covered with red velvet cloth. Gunthar noticed the hesitation. He said, “Zuangeng, never seen one of these before?”
Zuangeng replied, “Yes, I’ve seen them before. Never been on one, though. I’m used to walking.”
“You’ll enjoy it,” Gunthar reassured him. He helped Zuangeng into the buggy’s back seat. Zuangeng slid to the far side. Hans set the basket on the floorboard beside Zuangeng. He got in the back seat. Gunthar got in the front seat by Petra. Petra flicked the reins. The horse took off pulling the buggy.
Petra drove down the street until they were out of town. Nobody was outside. Petra turned right onto a dirt road that led to a lake. Zuangeng turned around to look behind them. Dirt floated in the air behind them.
They arrived at the lake. It was surrounded by sand and grass. A rectangular table with benches sat on the grass. The legs of the table and benches were concrete. The top and seats were weathered oak. It had been there for some time. Petra unhitched the horse so it could graze. Gunthar and Hans set up the picnic at the table. Zuangeng watched them. Petra took a pitcher to a hand pump set in the ground. He pumped filtered lake water into the pitcher. He filled cups with the water. Zuangeng held onto his goggles. They sat at the table. Zuangeng set his goggles on the bench next to him. The sandwiches were distributed. Hans had made some potato salad a while ago. Some of it was put on plates. They ate.
They got ready to swim. Gunthar, Petra and Hans stripped down to their swimming suits. They had been wearing them under their clothes. Zuangeng, on the other hand, stripped completely. Gunthar watched him. He said, “You’re going swimming like that? What happened to the suit we gave you?”
Zuangeng said, “Yea. What’s wrong with that? I usually swim naked. I’m used to going around the ship naked. I forgot to bring the suit.”
Gunthar said, “I don’t know about your country; but, in this country, we do not go naked. Next time, wear the suit.”
They put their clothes on the table. Zuangeng picked up his goggles. He carried them with him. They walked down to the shore. Zuangeng looked at the water. He commented, “It’s brown instead of greenish blue like the ocean.”
Gunthar explained, “The lake is not as deep as the ocean. The lake bed is mud. Some of it gets stirred into the water. It’s safe to swim in. Just don’t drink it.”
“The sea is safe to swim in as long as you stay close to the ship or shore. Like you said of this water, don’t drink sea water. I heard it’s too salty,” Zuangeng said. He put his goggles on over his eyes. A gentle wind blew. He looked out over the lake as they waded. Small waves flowed in the water. They swam for several hours. The Von Davildaas watched Zuangeng. Zuangeng swam different strokes. He floated on his back for a while. He swam underwater as well. Gunthar commented, “I’ve seen six year olds swim before.. None of them compare to you. You swim pretty well for a six year old.”
“I’ve been swimming in the ocean ever since I can remember. This is the first time, I’ve swam in water that wasn’t the ocean,” Zuangeng said.
“The ocean is pretty deep, isn’t it? Aren’t they worried about you swimming in it,” Gunthar asked.
“Yes, deeper than any human can go. They were worried at first. They have become accustomed to it, though. Besides, I never swim alone anyway. We usually stayed near the ship,” Zuangeng said.
“That’s very wise. That’s one thing I taught the boys. Never swim alone. You never know if you’ll need help,” Gunthar said.
They swam a while longer. They got out. They dried themselves off with the towels they brought. They got dressed. Petra got the horse. He hitched it to the buggy. Hans repacked the basket. Gunthar folded the towels. Zuangeng took his goggles off. They climbed into the buggy. Petra drove them home. Petra returned the horse and buggy. Everybody else stayed home.
The next day, Zuangeng was by himself in the library. He perused the shelves. He looked for a picture book. He found one that had a strange design on the binder. It had some letters on it. He could not read it. It seemed to beckon him to look in it. He pulled it out. He carried it in both hands to a table. He put the book down on the table. He knelt in the chair in front of it. He looked at the cover. The same design and letters adorned it. The design was of a stylized pentagram. Inside the pentagram were lines forming a five point star. Inside the spaces were of objects of different designs.
He opened the book. He leafed through the pages. They had strange pictures and writing on them.
He came to a particularly interesting page. It had drawings of objects. Some had arrows between them, pointing to one object. Again, there was strange writing.
He was studying it when Gunthar walked in. Gunthar saw him. He walked up to the boy. He looked down at the page. A shadow came over the page. Zuangeng raised his head. He turned it around. He found Gunthar looking over his right shoulder. He pointed to the page. He said, “What is this?”
Gunthar moved to Zuangeng’s left side. He reached down with his left hand. He took a hold of the cover and pages. He placed his right hand on the page. He flipped the cover over. He looked at the cover. He reopened the book. He said, “That is a book on magic. You should not be looking at it at your age!”
Zuangeng thought that he sounded a little upset. He said out of curiosity, “What is on this page?”
Gunthar said, “Those are spells of transformation.”
“Why shouldn’t I be looking at this book? I can’t read,” Zuangeng said defensively.
“This book is for older, more mature, responsible people who can understand magic and its consequences,” Gunthar esplained.
“Teach me these spells. I want to learn to transform myself. When I was with the dragon, there were times when I wished I could transform myself into something more suitable to water,” Zuangeng pleaded.
“I am loathe to teach you any kind of magic. You’re too young to understand the magic and what you are doing,” Gunthar said.
“Just these spells, please. I’ll be careful,” Zuangeng pleaded.
Gunthar sighed. He warned him, “Any other spells you may learn will have to wait until you are much older!”
“All right, all right! I just want to learn the transformation spells anyway,” Zuangeng promised.
Gunthar said, “There are basically two spells. You need both. There are derivatives of the spells. I will teach you the basic spells. There are certain rules you must adhere to. That is for all spells.
“In this case, the first rule is:
“You can not change the size and weight of the object you are transforming. If you do, you’ll upset the balance of nature. To upset the balance is inviting trouble.
“You can not change a living object into a non-living object. If you do, you kill it. That includes yourself.
“You can not change an animal into a plant. If you do, you, also, kill it. Even the plant would be dead.
“You can not change a non-living object into a living one. If you try to, the living object will be dead.
“You need to practice on inanimate objects before you do anything living. Don’t practice without one of us with you!”
“Yes, sir,” Zuangeng said.
Gunthar said, “The two spells I’ll teach you go hand in hand. The first spell transform an object into something else. The other spell transform it back to its original form. Now, listen carefully. Repeat what I say.”
Gunthar said the words to the two spells. Zuangeng repeated them. Gunthar further said, “When you want to change on object, think of or imagine what you want it to change into. You do not need to if you change it back to its original form. Now, watch.”
Gunthar gave him a demonstration. He got a small book. He set it on the table. He said, “I will turn this book into a cube and back.”
Gunthar said the first spell. The book became a cube. He said the second spell. The book returned. He had Zuangeng practice the words first before using them. After practicing for a while, Gunthar said, “If you learn any more spells, you will need to learn to read. It’s lunch time, now. We’ll continue after we eat.”
They exited the library. They walked to the kitchen. Petra and Hans were already getting something to eat. Gunthar got something for Zuangeng and himself. While they ate, Gunthar said, “Petra, Hans, Zuangeng is learning the spell of transformation. I want you two to be with him when I can’t when he practices.”
The boys nodded. For days, Zuangeng practiced the two spells. He was always in the presence of Gunthar, Petra or Hans. They repeated the rules to Zuangeng. When he finally got to try it on himself, they only allowed small, subtle changes. He got good enough that Gunthar allowed him to use them to disguise himself when he went out.