The evil dragon whose false name was Grotiss bid that Aron would climb on it's back.
“There is no place to hold, I will fall off in flight.” Aron protested. He was also not looking forward to riding in the skies.
The dragon seemed a bit put off, it projected its thought, 'I'm not a mule, human Aron. You will be as safe there as if sitting in a chair.'.
Then its massive wings unfurled and began beating the air furiously enough that grass, leaves and pebbles flew off as if a storm had struck. Before Aron knew it the ground fell away quickly, as if in a dream. He did not feel acceleration or wind, it was as if the whole world was moving but he was not budging an inch.
“That is amazing!” he said out loud.
'What would be the point of being an inter-dimensional being, if there wasn't a little magic in the mix?' The dragon thought towards him.
Once in the sky and moving impossibly fast, Aron was able to see the village of Grantwood. It looked like the whole place had burnt down, his stomach lurched. He closed his eyes and looked away, trying to remove the thoughts from his mind. No doubt the dragon had fed well the previous night.
Brother Aron also knew where the dragon was headed; the Monastery. It was sickening but he knew he had no power to stop Grotiss, or whatever his real name was. The best he could do was to continue to be the pawn of the dragon and live long enough to find the beasts weakness.
Soon, far too soon, the community of the Monastic Order of Santa deCosta with its tall central building, domes, spires and walls came into view. Situated on an island in the center of a wide river connected to both sides by long wooden bridges, the monastery was quite an impressive site.
'Just as Brother Benjamin remembered it.' The dragon projected to his mind. Then the dragon flew over and around the island, before flying lower and lower toward the river. Aron braced himself as much as he could for what the dragon was about to do and found it impossible. As they approached the wooden bridge on the eastern side the dragon opened its mouth and a pillar of red light erupted, everything it touched became an inferno.
Then the dragon rose again and repeated the attack on the western wooden bridge. Unless there was a boat that Aron hadn't seen, everyone on the island was trapped. The dragon landed in the biggest open area of the island, the central square. Monks were fleeing and some were shouting.
The dragon laughed, and shouted “Your fortress has become your tomb this day!”
The dragon reached out and pawed a passing monk who flew high into the air and landed with a thud far to the other side of the island. The dragon then swiped its tail and took down a small building near one of the thick walls.
“Bring me the Monsignor!”
Very soon several older men approached, the white haired Monsignor Bruno n the lead, carrying a heavy illuminated Holy Bible in front of him like a shield.
“Grotiss!” Bruno shouted, “Return to your own realm, I command thee in the name of The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost!”
The dragon lowered its head to directly in front of the assemblage, most of whom flinched. The head of the dragon was larger than all of them together. The Grotiss said, “That spell has already been broken, Monsignor, and more importantly it was one of your people who has become my liberator!”
The Monignor now looked up onto the shoulders of the foul beast, far above and saw Brother Aron. He would not be able to explain what had happened. “You have released the most foul beast to darken the skies this world has seen since Lucifer! I curse thee, Brother Aron, I curse thee for all eternity!”
The Monsignor was not finished, “Centuries of darkness will come the world. This calamity has doomed us to misery and death for generations!”
The dragon's face showed a hideous smile, all of those sharp teeth showing, “Yes, these will be memorable times. Pity you will have to miss it, Monsignor Bruno!”
As Aron watched from high above, the dragon opened its maw and the Monsignor flew off of his feet and into the jaws of the beast. The men who had been with Bruno fell to their knees holding their heads and screaming in agony. They crawled away and vomited repeatedly in what seemed familiar bad memories for Aron.
Monks on a wall were throwing stones at Grotiss' back, the dragon didn't even notice them. Suddenly the dragon spun around and fired the evil beam of fire from its mouth, and as it lifted into the sky Arn could see the Monastery was in flames.
'That was fun,' the dragon projected. 'Now I want to see this new dark age for myself, let us travel to the future human.'
Brother Aron had no concept of seeing the future. Would not understand that the dragon did not mean tomorrow or next week. Aron had no idea how to even conceive of such a thing. The sun came up and the sun went down, not even a dragon could make the sun move any faster.
Suddenly everything looked strange. Many different colors invaded his eyes and he could not tell up from down. The dragon seemed to be several dragons occupying the same space, for Aron could see wings, feet and head in more than one place at a time.
Aron looked down at his own hand and moved it to hold in front of his face. Yet there was still a hand down there, and several more in between his knee and where he felt his arm to be in reality. Then Aron decided that there must be other Aron's, in the same position in different... “dimensions”. He had heard that word used in relation to the dragon and by the dragon, could this be what the word meant?
A larger village was ahead and the dragon slowed down. 'I smell the stench of death,' it projected and soon pointed Aron's attention at a man pulling a wagon with bodies piled on it. Brother Arons gut lurched.
'I suppose this is the darkness that the monsignor mentioned.' The dragon projected, 'I like it.'
Aron supposed they must be invisible as they hovered overhead and he could hear the man who pulled the wagon saying, “Bring out your dead!”
'Plague would be my guess. Maybe they'll name it for me.' The dragon gloated. Then they flew higher and faster and soon came upon a larger city near the sea. Large wooden ships were tied to docks, a few looked rotted and disused. The city was larger than Aron had ever seen, but there was open sewage in the center of the cobblestone streets, he spied a dead horse lying on one corner.
'Even here, far from the pit, they suffer the same plague.' The dragon thought, 'Everything seems to be the same, the ships are no better, the population has declined sharply. Humans might as well move back to the caves and trees.'
“Humans will get past this, we always do.” Aron told the dragon.
Brother Aron had thought this plague would keep those people safe. Yet the dragon landed at the nearest Guild Hall and punched off the roof. Then the beast lowered its head inside and Aron could hear the screams and the crunching of bones. He dared not look down.
'I don't think you understand,' the dragon told Aron, “We are a century past your time. A century! You should be quite impressed with traveling into the future.'
A century! Brother Aron was aghast. Everything he had known was gone. His siblings would have all died of old age, his nieces and nephews as well. Generations had passed in the time it had taken the dragon to fly to this place. Aron was astonished at that kind of magic.
“Humans have been dying and falling backwards for a century. Stagnation. There is no progress here, only disease and privation. Shameful,' The dragon projection, 'It is glorious to me, though. I long to see humans returned to their wild and animal past.'
Brother Aron shot back, “Lies. God created humans in his image!”
The dragon chuckled, “Who created my species? Certainly not Satan, since he was a fallen angel. Or do you think angels look like me? I'd like to see that worked into your gospel somehow.”
On they flew, over oceans, islands and the occasional fishing boat staying within visual distance of the coast. 'Humans moving backward, may God save their souls.' Aron told himself, and then he prayed a silent prayer.
The dragon landed on a small, uninhabited island and Aron was able to get off and walk around. The dragon watched as the human washed himself in a stream and hunt the crabs that crawled along the beach.
“The crabs must see you as humans see me.” The dragon said, amused.
Aron said nothing as he built a fire in wish to roast the crabs next to.
The dragon stretched and then laid down, still watching Aron.
“Shall we see how humans fare in the farther future?” Grotiss asked, “A hundred more years? A thousand?”
Brother Aron could still not understand how it was possible, but he was beginning to wonder of there was a point to what the dragon was doing. He also noticed the dragon had said nothing about moving backwards in time. Of course, to Aron, he was thinking more along the lines of returning to the proper time and not “backward”.
“I would like to go to wherever they know how to hunt dragons.” Brother Aron said casually while eating one of the crabs he had roasted on a stone next to the fire. The dragon hissed at him, which shook Aron's stomach, and then chuckled.
'We shall stay here tonight, I will have made my decision by morning,' Grotiss projected to the human.
----------------------- Chapter Four