The Dragon and the Faerie

By Roland Capalbo

Fantasy, Young adult, General fiction

Paperback, eBook

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4 mins


Andy idly walked along the path next to the railroad tracks, skipping rocks on the river. He was tall for his sixteen years but not gangly. His body moved with a fluid grace, skimming across the ground like a snake sliding along the sand. The wind coming off the river blew his sandy brown hair in all directions. His hawk-like hazel eyes looked out at the water where bright sunlight reflected off its rippling surface. He tried to imagine those bygone years when tall-mast ships ply the Hudson River on a daily basis, when the land on either shore was inhabited by Indians. That was a time to be alive, he thought, where freedom and adventure were the order of the day. Or so he believed.

Andy lived in a house not far from the river, so making his way down to shore was an easy task. He spent hours walking the trails, hoping to discover something that no one had seen before, like a hidden cove or a game trail where no human had walked. Excitement was his air and adventures, his bread. Some of Andy’s escapades could easily have caused his death, but the idea that death was even a possible outcome never entered his mind. As Andy walked farther up the path, the air seemed to compress around him. Something buzzed deep inside his mind, like a thought dancing out of reach. He looked out across the water again and found himself staring at the ruins of Bannerman’s Castle. The castle never ceased to fascinate him. He couldn’t help but wonder what secrets were hidden inside its walls. The blood in his veins would race in excitement as he pictured himself scrambling along the rocks and rubble.

Andy had collected bits and pieces of the castle’s history over the years. In actuality, it was a warehouse built in the style of a Scottish castle to house surplus munitions from the Spanish-American war. A short path up the hill led to a house, erected in the same Scottish style as the castle. Almost forty years ago, a fire had ravaged the island and left the house and castle in ruins, leaving only the walls of brick standing; without its wooden supports, it had started to collapse in places.

“I wonder what really happened there,” Andy said aloud to himself for perhaps the thousandth time. No one knew the origins of the fire, which had led to all sorts of speculation. He had heard all the ghost stories that surrounded the place and couldn’t help but imagine that some spirit or god of the island would not suffer anyone on its shores.

He remembered a tale his dad had told him of an English war ship that was able to sail beyond the West Point cannons during the Revolutionary War and came to drop anchor near the island. It was dead calm when they put their dories into the water and rowed to the beach on its east side. As soon as their feet touched dry ground, the river became a rolling tempest. The wind rose to gale force and caught the sails, causing the ship to lurch violently and break up on the rocks hidden below the surface. Everyone on the ship perished. Those still on the island jumped into their boats and tried to row for the nearest shore, only to capsize and drown. Andy found it a fascinating tale, but he believed there might have been some duplicity on his father’s part, since history did not record such an event.

As Andy stood looking at the castle, his sister seemed to float as she walked up the trail and stood beside him. Emilia was slightly taller and two years older than her brother, and though she had a delicate air about her, she was tough as steel. Her long black hair cascaded down her back, and her dark green eyes reflected the mysteries of a forest pool.

“What are you doing?” she asked her brother.

“Just staring at the castle,” Andy replied.

“You always stare at that place whenever we walk here. Why?”

“I don’t know,” he responded. “I just feel a kind of pull whenever I walk past it. It’s like I can hear someone whispering my name. Nuts, I know, but I don’t know how else to explain it.” Andy was close to his sister, even though she could sometimes be extremely bothersome. He could always share these kinds of thoughts with her, when any other person really would think he was nuts.

“Well, it gives me the creeps,” she said. “Let’s go.”

“Wait! I need to try to get a rock through the entrance arch.”

“You always try that, and you can never reach it. I keep telling you, it’s too far from shore.”

“Yeah, but this time I have the slingshot Dad made for me.”

Picking up a good-sized, but not too heavy, stone from the bank, Andy loaded the slingshot and took aim for the stone arch, the entranceway to a brick path that led to the castle and the house. Pulling the rubber band back to his ear, he took a breath and held it, then released the stone, tracing its graceful arc over the river toward its destination.

The sun had just set behind the hills, not yet night but no longer daytime. The dusky light made it seem like the world was in flux and almost anything might happen. That day, something did. The rock fell just short of the arch, but it had enough momentum that it skipped on the ground once and bounced through the opening.

Andy and Emilia stood with open mouths, not because the rock had made it through the arch but because of what happened when it passed beneath the opening. It was as if the rock had passed through a shimmering transparent curtain, igniting colors and sparks, the likes of which neither had ever seen.

“Did you see that?” Andy exclaimed.

“Yes! And now I want to get out of here as quickly as possible.”

Andy could tell she was visibly shaken by what she’d seen. It was like something out of an adventure movie, and she wanted no part of it.

“Wait!” he said. “We need to go check it out.” He loved a good adventure, and once he had the scent of one, he would not let up until his curiosity was satisfied.

“Are you crazy? First of all, you are not allowed on that island. Second, whatever caused that is likely to be extremely dangerous. And last, you have no way to get out there.”

Andy disregarded the first two arguments, because adventurers were not held to such rules; her third point, however, pointed out an obstacle he hadn’t considered. The island was not far from shore, and the section of water between the island and the east bank of the river was shallow at low tide—but not shallow enough that you could wade through it. Andy didn’t like to swim in the Hudson because of the stories he had heard about the unexpectedly treacherous currents.

The Hudson is what is known as a flooded river. It has an incoming current during high tide from the ocean, as well as its natural north-to-south current. It is sometimes called the river that flows both ways. He had heard of swimmers being sucked under by the current and never resurfacing. This was going to take some thought. He did not own a boat, and he didn’t want to ask any of his friends, because that might make their parents suspicious. He didn’t want to just float out on a tube, given his fear of the currents. This was maddening. A great escapade lay waiting just across a small strip of water, and he couldn’t think of a good way to get out there. This will take some serious planning, he thought.

“Okay,” he said. “I guess you’re right. Let’s head back.”

“Great. Let’s go,” she said, relieved.

As they walked away, a pair of golden eyes peered out at them from beneath the arch. The time was fast approaching.



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