Canto 67 – Scaling the Dragon (This Canto has been re-ordered in the re-write.)
The Dragon Gate of the city of Kiro, Gaijin, was a huge carving of an oriental dragon’s head which allowed a fairly good sized caravan to pass through its open mouth and into the city all at once. The shoulders of the dragon were carved from the south side of the gate in the immense city wall that, like a coiled serpent, circled the city and ended in a gigantic tail that rose up like a tower on the northern side of the gate. The carved dragon itself snarled in that crazed oriental manner and was colored red with gold trim edging each and every individual scale.
Ged and his students walked there and stood looking up at the edifice.
“Is it hollow?” blond Rocket Rogers asked from under the brim of his white cowboy hat.
“No, stupid, it’s obviously one solid piece,” sneered Alec Songh.
“Shut up, Alec!” shouted Friashqazatla. Freddy had become Rocket’s shadow, following him everywhere and imitating everything about him. His worshipful friendship had become indispensable to Rocket.
“How will we get inside?” asked Shu Kwai, ignoring the bickering and concentrating on the problem at hand.
“Can Jadalaqstbr do it for us?” asked Hassan Parker innocently. Hassan was still nude in protest for the group’s rejection of his Classical Worlds’ notions. He wore only the blue felt fez he always had on his head.
“She might teleport inside a solid part, not being able to see inside,” said Sensei Aero. “We don’t want to lose her.”
Jackie stood close beside Alec Songh, blushing as they talked about her, in spite of her dark brown skin.
“Can a clairvoyant look inside?” asked Billy Iowa, pushing up the front of the brim of his own cowboy hat.
“Maybe…” murmured Phoenix. His green snake eyes glazed over for a moment, and then he awoke from his brief trance. “No. I can’t see through some sort of fog inside this dragon.”
“What is it that we think is here?” asked Sarah Smith. The Gaijinese sunshine made her blond hair and snow-white body suit glow with reflected light.
“An alien artifact from the time of the Ancients,” said Ged distractedly, studying the eyes of the great beast.
“Possibly a space ship,” offered Phoenix.
“Some of the other artifacts we’ve encountered had a sort of mind of their own,” stated Ged, more to himself than to his students.
“Should I try to detect a mind?” asked Sarah sweetly.
“She’s a powerful telepath,” added Junior Aero.
While Ged was thinking, Alec Songh put his hands on Jadalaqstbr once again. She melted up against him and began to softly coo with pleasure.
“Alec!” said Shu Kwai sternly. Alec let go of her, both body and mind. He and Shu had talked at length about what was acceptable White Spider behavior in a public place. Seducing someone was not one of things that Shu was willing to allow.
“All right, Sarah. Perhaps that is a good idea,” said Ged at last. He remembered how telepathic Tara had been able to use the Hammer to create an entire downport on Don’t Go Here.
Sarah put her forefingers to her temples and began to concentrate. “Oh!” she said, almost immediately. “It is a dark and powerful mind! I can’t even get close to it!”
Junior took hold of her shoulders, concerned that she might somehow be hurt. His intentions, however, were turned inside out by the dark red mind that came flooding into his inner eye. Swirling patterns of circuitry and resistors flooded into his brain. A series of controls formed in his mind. Stunned, Junior blinked at the others and said, “I have it.”
“What do you mean?” asked Ged.
“It is a machine,” said Junior. “I can make it work by telepathy.” He concentrated for a moment on the controls arrayed before him in his inner eye. Red-gold-green-red. The mechanisms awoke for the first time in a million years.
With a rumble, the carven upper jaw of the dragon splintered and the roof of the huge mouth fell out, shattering on the pavement below. A long, thin lower jaw dropped down from the great carven head. The tongue rippled itself into a sort of stairway leading up into the dark throat. The dragon had come to life and now was offering to swallow them if they only decided to take the stairway.
Cautiously, Ged led the way. Rocket Rogers, then Shu Kwai followed him. Looking slightly panicked, Taffy King scanned the others and then followed Rocket up the tongue-stair. Friashqazatla went next. Then Billy Iowa and timid Gyro. Holding hands, Alec Songh and Jadalaqstbr went up. Phoenix, Hassan Parker, and little Mai Ling followed. Finally, Sarah looked at Junior Aero, who had opened this hatch, smiled, and led him, too, up the stair.