The Pewter Dragon
The shelf above the radiator was warm - a good enough reason for the small
pewter dragon to have a hot belly. It snoozed comfortably, one eye showing
a narrow slit of gold, long nose resting on extended paws. It looked for all
the world like an ornament. And for all the world it was. But it was more
than that. Or perhaps less. As the Peculiar of the White Goblin it was
difficult to be sure.
The air in the room was full of winter sunlight, and sparkling motes of dust
hung heavy in the quiet somnolence of the afternoon. The golden slit almost
A distant bang. A murmur of voices. The dust motes moved, swirled in a
sudden draught. The bedroom door opened, letting in a bustle of muted
The golden eye-slit widened again, and a small wisp of smoke, like a
filament of cotton, trailed from the minute pewter nostrils.
He was an ugly child, even thinking kindly of him. His flesh had a bloodless
pallor, and his wide, thick-lipped mouth exposed discoloured teeth, widely
spaced. The lips themselves were a pale, leaden blue. His head was hairless,
he had no eyebrows, and no lashes fringed the heavy-lidded pale blue eyes.
The nakedness made him look uglier, but vulnerable. He lay propped on
pillows in the bed; as limp and unmoving as an abandoned rag doll. He was 12
years old, and far from stupid. He knew he had been brought home to die. And
that his death was imminent.
His pale eyes moved slowly, studying the familiar things in the room - HIS
things - but neatly arranged in a way he had never left them. The small TV;
the games console; a neat pile of boxed games discs that should have been
scattered all over his homework desk; the posters on the walls that no
longer made any sense - Homer Simpson, Jurassic Park, Toy Soldiers, South
Park; - his picture of a white tiger; his models on the radiator shelf; the
neatly arranged books in the bookcase that should have been lying open on
the floor; the shameful Disneyland clock he had been given by an aunt on his
8th birthday, his mother, silent and sad on a chair beside him, one hand
resting lightly over one of his.... His eyes travelled back to the models
on the radiator shelf..... to his mother.... "Dragon". The voice was faint,
husky, the word slurred.
His eyes moved slowly from hers, to the models on the radiator shelf,
leading her gaze.
"Oh." She got up softly and went to look.
"I wonder where this came from.. Itís lovely. Ow! Itís quite hot!" She
touched the other models, but they were only a little warm. "Odd." She
carried the pewter Dragon to the bed and laid it on the quilt where he
could see it.
"Donít touch it Ďtil its cooled. Pewter must absorb heat faster than other
things, I suppose..? I think grandma or auntie must have brought it for
you. But no-one said..."
He smiled at her faintly, but the effort wearied him, and he let his eyes
fall to the dragon. One hand moved heavily and slowly to touch it. "Mine."
he said, and one finger gently stroked the little head, then the hand fell
away. His eyes closed.
A sudden golden gleam from the near eye of the dragon caught and held the
attention of the mother.
The dragon lay quietly on the childís breast, on the bare pallid skin;
rising and falling with the shallow, hesitant breath. The mother was
drowsing in the chair.
A rosy glow suffused the body of the dragon, gradually brightening, burning,
until it spread from the body of the dragon to the body of the child; until
the pallid child burned deep rose, and the dragon faded to almost black.
Then tiny golden claws emerged, like a catís, from each pewter foot, and
sank as far as they could into the childís unresponsive skin. There was a
glitter, and a sigh of movement, as the quilt collapsed around the limp
white mannikin on the bed.
He had been spinning downwards into darkness; into a nothingness devoid of
sensation. Then a searing pain; a wrenching aside, from, apart....
And he could feel every cell in his body; feel with every cell in his body.
An effervescence of life, of energy..... a sparking clarity of sensation:
the fine weave of the bedlinen shouted on his skin; a heavy scent of roses
and polish, and a sweetly acrid smoke of burning wood, overwhelmed his
nostrils; the rustle of a curtain at an open window was almost deafening in
its comfortable familiarity; and the coolness of fresh air on his face as
invigorating as ice on a hot day. He had never felt so alive!
He waited for a moment for the familiar leaden dullness to return. It did
not. He opened his eyes.
"Welcome home, My Lord."
His head snapped round and abruptly he sat up, staring, and the pewter
dragon slid unheeded from his breast. An old man sat beside his bed, where
his mother had been. An old man clad in a floor-length red robe ornamented
with silver stars and sickle moons. On his flowing white locks was set a
tall cone of a hat, decorated like the robe. He held a staff in his left
hand, and his beard and moustache flowed over his breast.
Suddenly the boyís gaptoothed mouth opened and he started to laugh.
"Oh, no! Now I know I am dreaming! But I hope I never wake! Oh! hahahaha oh!
"No." The voice was flat and dry. The old man bent and retrieved the little
dragon, caressing it tenderly. "No. he repeated, and gazed steadily into
the pale eyes of the ugly, pallid child, until his mirth dried up in his
"No?" he whispered.
"Use your brain, my Lord. Do you feel as though you dream?"
"You were dying. Do you feel, still, that you die?"
"No. You are filled to overflowing with life, are you not? It buzzes in
your veins and fizzes in your belly, does it not, and stirs all your limbs
The boy laughed again and leapt to his feet, all naked as he was, and spun
about the serene, unfamiliar, lofty room in an excess of exultation.
"Yes! yes! yes!"
He spun back to stand quivering before the old man, still laughing for the
sheer joy of the life he felt within himself.
"Yes! Oh, Yes!"
"It is not your own life", said the wizard, unsmiling. "Not your own. Your
own life is a mere thread. A moment, and it would have gone. Pouff!" He
snapped his dry old fingers in the boyís face, rising to his feet to tower
over him, glaring down into his face.
"Not your life, boy! My Lord."
"I donít.... I donít understand...."
"Oh, sit! Sit! Sit! Here - into the bed with you for now, though you need
it not...... Good!" And he seated himself, thumping the floor with his
staff as he did so, then laying it beside him on the floor. On his lap he
laid the little pewter dragon, touching it with gentle fingers, looking down
on it with tenderness. Then he sighed heavily.
"You do not understand. Of course you do not. I will explain. But you need
now food and drink, for your body is famished from illness. And do not
mistake, boy. You are still sick, though you do not feel it. Only the life
of a dragon sustains you. This dragon."
There was a tapping at the door, and it opened silently to admit a small man
with a covered tray. Well, perhaps not a man. He was as ugly as the boy, and
as hairless, but rather shorter, and his skin had a somewhat greenish hue.
He set the tray on a carved table beside the bed, bowed deeply to the boy,
and rather less deeply to the wizard, and withdrew. The wizard set the tray
in the boyís lap and removed the cover to reveal the repast.
"Porridge, of a sort, with thin cream and honey. Enough, for now. Your body
is on the verge of death: you cannot stuff it, no matter how hungry you
think you feel. You will find it suffices. And fresh water, besides. Eat!"
While the child ate, the old wizard busied himself about the room, opening
and closing drawers and a wardrobe, all of a dark, carved wood, softly
polished and very handsome. He came to the bed laden with garments fit for
He clad the boy in white. White underlinen, white hose and tunic, white
leather boots; all fitting so well they might have been made for him. As
indeed they were. And they were scarcely more white than the childís skin. A
round hat there was, also, of white fur, adorned with one small pale blue
feather. And round his neck was hung a thin gold chain, set with a diamond
pendant that flashed, as it caught the light, with glittering rainbow
sparks. When he was done, he let the boy survey himself in a long mirror,
hung on the wall.
"Um. I look very fine. But .... but I donít think white......" his voice
trailed off as he caught the wizardís eye in the glass.
"A veritable goblin Lord, you look, My Lord. A goblin Lord."
"Goblin!" the boy swung round angrily, "Iím no goblin, even in play! Goblins
are always the bad guys! Iím a human being, I am!"
"Nevertheless, it is now your destiny to be a goblin...."
"Ha! Not me!"
".... perhaps the greatest goblin this world will ever know. But now you
must learn how you came here, and who you are. For your former life - or
death in life - has ended. Come, let us sit by the window, and I will tell
you a little about the pewter dragon.
"Yes. ....her name is Melnir. She is a great and mighty creature; white and
gold, she is, with flashing diamond eyes, and her wingspan ... I do not know
the measure in your past world .... but her wingspan is greater than the
length of this room, and her body, from nose to tailtip, is even greater,
but slender, slender. She is beautiful"
"Ha! That little pewter dragon?"
"This little pewter dragon. She is your Peculiar. Hm. Familiar? Mm?" The boy
nodded understanding of the term. "Familiar, then. That will do. She was
hatched many years, many years, ago. And she was hatched knowing that she
was yours. But she could not find you, though she knew you. And she searched
untiring through all times and all worlds, in her thought, and I was with
her often, but she was comfortless. She yearned for you, alone. And I loved
her and pitied her for her long pain.
And then she found you in her searching thought. And you were dying. Then
she begged me to help her and you, since she could not reach you alone, for
you dwelt not in this world.
"I was the wizard Athlanius. A very powerful mage. Yet it took all my power,
and all her love, to send her to you and to bring you both back.
I spent all of my power - or most of it - for love of her. And she spent
all her life - or most of it - for love of you. All heedless as you were."
"But ..... but why? Why bring me here to be with her if she was to die doing
it? What Ďcomfortí was that to her?"
Athlanius lifted the little dragon from his lap and stroked it gently. Then
he closed his cupped hands about it. Briefly, his long fingers glowed red,
as if he held a light between his palms. The glow faded and he opened his
hands. Sitting in the cupped palms was now no pewter dragon, but a large,
softly glowing egg: white, but lightly mottled with gold.
He smiled at the egg, and at the boy.
"I have not exhausted quite all my power. And she did not give quite all her
life. She kept enough to sustain a seed. She is here. She will be reborn.
You are hers, for her life sustains you. She is yours, for your love must
She is the Dragon Melnir, Peculiar of The White Goblin.
You are The White Goblin.
Welcome home, My Lord."