The Parting of The Ways: A Tale of Draco The Dragon
By Neil Beynon
For Ziggy on his 10th birthday

 “You’re getting so tall.” 

“I know, but I remember when you were so little I could hold you with one arm.”

“A picture? Oh, it’s been so long since you asked to see one of those.”

Huh? Sorry, son, I was thinking…never mind. I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of that, these here are the only ones I have. Why are you out here so late?”

“I know the stars are out, but it’s April, and it is freezing.”

“Ah, the firepit? I guess we could light it for a while.”

“There, heat enough for us not to need the doctor next week.”

“That star? It’s called Gamma Draconis, son. 154 light years away, which means the light you’re  seeing started its journey in 1869 when Dickens was still alive.”

“That’s right, it does mark where you were born, but more than that, it’s part of Draco, see.”

“A story? Oh. Gosh. I wasn’t really expecting that this year. Let’s have a think.”

“What’s that? The star furthest from us? Ah, I think that’s probably Earendel. He is 28 billion light years away and visible to us long after he faded away. Separated from us by more years than there are grains of sand on the beach.”

“You can? Well. I guess if you cover your eyes and listen carefully, you might hear the sea. It’s not that far away from where we are.”

“Waves? Oh, yeah, I can hear it now. Count? OK. One. Two. Three…”

“Ah yes, I remember, a long time ago, long ago, so long ago that Earendel was still physically in our universe…”

“…four, five, six…”

“…in a world beyond our visible universe but closer than the particles flying through us as we sit here…”


“Counting? The ninth is the gate, silly. Now listen:”


The waves lapped over the man as he lay on the sand. His clothes were soaked through, him having washed up on the shore after many days at sea, along with a collection of driftwood and seaweed. The man’s clothing was torn, his feet bare, his long wild brown hair matted and caked with dried salt from the sea. His beard strewn through with sand.

The sun rose in the sky.

Slowly, the man moved. He groaned and lifted himself up like a crab waking. He moaned louder. He looked around. The glare of the sun blinded him to what was around him. The man shielded his eyes with his hands.


Nothing was around him, just a beach that seemed to go on forever in both directions. Up the beach, landwards, were rolling green fields and beyond, faceless mountains that he had never seen before.

He looked around the scattered debris around him for anything he could use for shoes. Nothing. Perhaps he could use the wood as sandals, but the seaweed was not strong enough to use as binding. He remembered rivers lead to the sea. He remembered if he could find fresh water, he would be in better shape. He remembered rivers meant settlements and settlements meant shoes.

He just couldn’t remember his name.

There was the notion the hills were a little closer on one side of the beach than the other. And so that’s the direction he set off in. Barefoot and alone. Because to stay there and wait for something to happen was to invite death.

The man walked on through the day. And through the night. And through the day. Until. He came to a river. He risked walking up the waterway, clambering over rock and stone, despite his bare feet, until the water tasted fresh. It was almost sweet. He had never tasted the like.

He drank deep.

Sated, he sat on a rock and let the sun warm his aching limbs. He fell asleep.

When he woke, there was a tiger. It sat on its own rock, fifteen feet from him, staring at him as if waiting for him to feed him.


Waiting as if wanting him to move before the tiger would drink from the river. Our traveler felt he was in the tiger’s spot. The tiger carried on staring at the man. Our traveler stared at the tiger. He could not help but notice how orange the tiger’s stripes were, how ebony the dark fur was, how white his muzzle and red his maw. The tiger had a distinctive fleck in one iris.

The tiger and the man stayed like that for the longest time. The man nearly missed the old worn boots lying between the rocks. Almost.

When he decided the tiger would not eat him. And, equally, that he no longer cared if it did or not, he crept to the boots. He pulled them on. They were tight, but beggars could not be choosers.

Where had he heard that before?

He set off up the river again. In a wary and careful manner, he circled the tiger, breaking into a run once he felt he had enough distance for it to make a difference. He ran as fast as he could, as long as he could in tight footwear. His hair kept obscuring his vision and so, when he deemed himself safe enough, he stopped, tore a strip from his raggedy shirt, and tied his hair back in a simple ponytail.

He looked back at the way he had come and the sea in the distance, shining like polished glass. All was silent. He could no longer hear the waves. As the sun dove for the horizon in robes of pink and gold, darkness on its way like an old friend, the tiger padded into view once more.

The man no longer felt afraid. Oddly, he was calm, as if he were in good company. He nodded. He turned and carried on as the stars rose in the sky.

He woke the next morning on a cold patch of grass where he had half lay down and half fell when his energy had left him. He blinked in the silver light of dawn and sat up, trying to ignore the way his bones clicked.

A wolf howled.

The man froze. He looked round in the howl’s direction and saw the wolf. A she-wolf stood on the nearby hill, her fur a shining silver and white that was so clear against the blue sky she could have been a painting. She howled once more and looked straight over at the man.

The man turned to look at the tiger. Perhaps the tiger and the wolf would fight each other, and he could run away. He found, though, that he did not want to. The man got up. He still did not know his name. He could think of no other course of action but to carry on.

Our traveler walked through the day. He walked through the night. He walked through the day again.

And the tiger went with him.

And the wolf, too.

Our traveller followed the river as it wound into the hills. The weather grew colder. The traveller found the tiger and the wolf both drawing closer to him and were he a nervous man, he would have felt caught in a closing pincer.

They walked on.

In the end, the three: the man, the tiger, and the wolf, all walked together until they saw the light. Somewhere in the night, someone was burning a fire.

The man rested one hand on the wolf and one on the tiger. Fear had long since gone. These were his companions now.

“I must go on alone.”

He said out loud. It was the first time he had heard his own voice in a long time and it startled him, but not the tiger and not the wolf.

The tiger lay down in the shelter of a boulder. The wolf lay down in the tiger’s shelter.

“I will whistle when and if it is safe.”

The man set off for the fire. He did not have to walk for long.

The fire was halfway up a hill. It was of reasonable size to warm a small party of people, but there was only one person sitting at the fire, wrapped in a tatty grey cloak, a worn hood, and a wild beard. He looked as old as the sun. His hair was a dirty white and his cheek scarred, though our traveler could not say from what.

“Hello friend,” said the old man, standing. “What brings you here?”

The younger man, our traveler, did not know what to say. In the end, he was too tired to lie.

“I am lost,” he said. “Where am I?”

The old man sat down again, eyeing our traveler carefully. He poked the fire with a stick before pulling out a pipe and proceeding to knock out the contents of the bowl on a rock.

“Where are any of us?”

“Do you always speak in riddles?”

“Do you always travel with a tiger and a wolf for company?”

Our traveler felt a flash of anger. “You’ve been watching us?”

“Hard not to from here,” the old man gestured. Our traveler followed the man’s gesture, looking back along the way he had come. In the firelight, he saw his entire route had been visible from here and, clearly, the tiger and the wolf watching him from a safe distance.

“Hungry?” The old man gestured at the meat he was cooking on a makeshift spit over the fire. The younger man suddenly realised he could smell the meat, and it was as if paradise had split open and was spilling its bounty on him. His mouth was salivating at the thought of food. When had he eaten last?

He sat down.

The old man lifted the meat off the fire, cut it into pieces with a large knife and passed some over on a makeshift plate that was a smooth, flat rock. The younger man ate with a relish until he was full. He gladly took the wine skin when offered by the old man, drinking the wine with gusto. The wine was sweet and heady.

Our traveler could scarce believe his luck as he lent back, belly full and the fire warming his bones.

“You could swear you hadn’t eaten in weeks,” said the old man.

“I haven’t,” said our traveler. “Where did you find the meat? I’ve not seen anything but my companions since I got here.”

“I didn’t.”


The old man took a long pull of his pipe and blew a smoke ring into the sky. “The dragon did.”

“The what now?”

“The dragon,” said the old man, pointing to the hill.

The hill moved. It stood up. It unfurled, wings stretching wide like a range suddenly formed on the horizon and big golden eyes appear in the dark.

The man nearly lost his wine.

“Hello there,” said the dragon. “Do not be alarmed.”

“I…” said our traveler. “I don’t know what to say.”

“That’s a common reaction,” said the old man. “I said something similar.”

The old man seemed to find this very funny, though our traveler could not say why. Besides, there was the dragon to contend with and so it didn’t really matter. Did it?

“What is your name?” asked our traveler to the dragon.


“Oh,” said the younger man. “And why are you here?”

“I’m here for you.”

The man felt cold despite the fire. “You will not eat me, will you?”

“No, I prefer lamb.”

The man stared at the dragon.

“That was a joke,” said the dragon. “I mean you are safe. And I do prefer lamb. But. Look. The point is I’m here to help you. Both of you.”

Our traveler looked at the older man.

“Don’t look at me kid,” said the older. “Lizard’s been talking like this since I got here.”

“When was that?”

“No idea,” he replied cheerily.

The old man was annoying our traveler. He raised his finger to say something, but a new arrival interrupted him. They ran to the fire, grabbed a burning piece of wood, and brandished it in front of him.

The third man had a streak of grey in his beard. His hair was shorter but completely wild. He was wearing a mix of boiled leather armour and chain mail and carried a sword, chipped and worn, hanging from his belt.

“Get away from them, worm!” yelled the intruder.

“Ah, we’ve been expecting you,” said the old man. “Please calm down.”

“Quiet, deceiver!” yelled the man.

“Really?” said the old man. “We’re fine. Rest your  bones, friend, and eat.”

The wild-eyed man stared at them. He looked back at the dragon. He carefully dropped the burning stick back on the fire.

“What sorcery is this? You a wizard?” asked the wild-eyed man.

The old man laughed. “No, I am no wizard. This is Draco’s show.”

“That’s me,” said the dragon. “This is great. We can get started with the three of you. The others can be summoned.”

“What are you talking about?” asked our traveler. He of the tight shoes and the tiger and the wolf.

“Dawn,” said the old man, emptying his pipe and standing. “Shall we?” he asked Draco.

“Yes,” said the dragon, kneeling. “You should all climb on my back. We need to fly to be there in time.”

“What?” asked the wild-eyed man.

“We need to fly,” said Draco, impatience in his voice. “Climb on. We need to get to the cave first.”

“The cave?” asked our traveler.

“Do you want to know who you are?” asked Draco.

“Yes,” said all three men.

“Then climb on.”

The men clambered onto the dragon’s back. Now the sun was rising. Our traveler could see Draco was red like fine wine and his belly was golden like the richest crowns. He was a good size, which meant he could carry all of them with ease. The dragon’s wings beat powerful slow strokes that felt like the dragon was pulling them into the air with the wing’s claws. They gathered momentum as the dragon leaned forward. They shot through the air like a fish through water.

Our traveler had felt nothing like this and whooped and yelled with joy. The dragon laughed with the delight of the wind.

They climbed far into the mountains until they came to a steep ledge on a slate grey rock. The shadows at the edge of the ledge actually led into a core that was as black as an ogre’s mouth. The shelf of rock was big enough for the dragon to land.

The men slid off the back of the dragon and onto the ledge. Our traveler was confused. What was the purpose of this?

“Why are we here?” asked the wild-eyed man.

“For answers,” said the old man.

It startled our traveler. The old man sounded like he had aged on the flight and was leaning on his stick as if he might fall over at any point.

A gust of wind blew through and out of the cave, carrying with it a sharp smell that our traveler recognised. He didn’t know why. It was not a pleasant smell. Somewhere, deep in the mountain, someone screamed.

“I…” he said. “I don’t want to.”

“I know,” said the dragon.

“But you must,” said a woman, emerging from the cave. She had hair the colour of night and eyes the colour of the sea.

“Hello, son,” she said to the dragon.

“Hello mother,” said Draco. “This is Caerwen. She has prepared the way for us.”

“Why?” asked the wild-eyed man, brandishing his sword. “Why should we go in there?”

Caerwen frowned. She looked at the wild-eyed man with genuine concern.

“This one has done well to find us. He is closer to the future. He remembers more.”

“You must,” said the Draco, stepping forward towards the wild man. “Please trust me. Everything depends on it. Well. For you.”

“I do not understand,” said our traveler. “You must give us more time than this.”

Draco sighed.

“Very well.”

The dragon closed his eyes. The dragon seemed to grow smaller, his colours faded, the scales grew small, until the dragon rose on his hind legs and his wings became arms. A man with dark hair almost the colour of night, his eyes as brown as pools of chocolate and still the transformation was not done. The man grew younger, grew shorter. He became a boy. Dressed in blue trousers and a black short-sleeved t-shirt.

“I will go with you.”

“This is dangerous,” said Caerwen to Draco.

“It is necessary,” said the boy, Draco.

The boy came over and took our traveler’s hand in one and the old man’s in the other. He nodded at the wild-eyed man. “Let’s go.”

“I don’t know what witchcraft this is,” said the man. “But I’ll not walk meekly to my death.”

He raised his sword. And charged into the cave with his blade held high.

“Well,” said the old man. “That’s an approach.”

“Come on,” said the boy. “He’ll be fine. But the magic only lasts a little while”


They walked into the dark.


Into what felt like the centre of the earth. As if they had walked for years, for centuries, into the burning heart of our planet. They could feel the sweat dripping from themselves like rain in a storm. Until.

They weren’t.

They emerged into a chamber that reached high above them and which was lit by phosphor that ran like veins through the rock. In places, crystals as big as doors poked through the granite.

The wild-eyed man was there and someone else too. Someone worse. They both had swords and they were trying very hard to kill each other. The wild-eyed man’s opponent was a touch taller, but he had no beard and looked like he had not slept in a month. Scars covered his pasty skin, and he was thin — nothing more than skin and bone. He carried a curved sword that was polished like a mirror and had a hilt made of bone.

“I chased you across the desert,” hissed the wild-eyed man. “Trickster.”

“You’re pathetic,” said the bone-sword wielder. “I will eat your heart.”

The boy sighed, letting go of the other two men’s hands. He stepped into the duel.


Our traveler went to pull the boy out of danger, but to his surprise, the two fighters stopped.

“Move, kid,” hissed the bone-sword wielder.


“So be it,” said the man, lunging before our traveler could react.

The bone-sword shattered.

The man looked down at the sword.

“You cannot kill a dragon with a blade,” said the boy, almost with pity. Then, harder: “And I am still a dragon, this is just a shape.”

“You have to show them,” said the old man, leaning hard on his staff.

Draco nodded.

Our traveler looked round at the men in the cave. His skin was itching. There was something in the air, something oppressive, and the humidity had returned. Another scream. Where it came from, he could not say.

“What was that?”

“Pain,” said the boy. “Echoes.”

“Should we help?” asked our traveler.

“He is helping,” said the old man.

“Look around you,” said the boy. “Really look.”

Our traveler frowned. Looked up at the walls and saw the crystals were giving off light. There were figures trapped in the crystal. The tiger stared back at him from one, like a fly in amber. In another, the wolf stood in perpetual howl.

“What is this?” asked our traveler, frightened.

“Keep looking.”

The man continued to gaze around the cave and he saw a woman frozen in another crystal. She was holding something. He felt cold. His stomach felt like it had turned into a tiny dragon—an angry and violent dragon. He moved to the next crystal. It looked like him. The man appeared confused and was holding some kind of square package as if searching for something or someone to pass it to, as if – should he hold it too long – it might explode. He moved on to the next crystal, a simple bear, a toy such as a child might have. In the next crystal, a cherry tree bloomed, forever spring. He was so confused.

He found he could not balance. He dropped to his knees. The chamber was spinning.

“What is this?” he demanded.

“What is your name?” asked Draco, the boy, coming over to him.

“I don’t remember.”

“You do,” said the boy. “You just don’t want to think about it. Who are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yes,” said the old man. “You do. You’re me.”

Our traveler shook his head. “No.”

“You can’t keep doing this,” said the boy, taking his hand once more. “Look around you. You’re not killing them off, you’re just creating fractures, shades, and soon—if you’re as careless as you have been — there will be nothing else left.”

“I don’t want to!” shouted our traveler.

“Why?” asked the boy.

“Because you’ll leave!”

The boy dropped our traveler’  hand. Our traveler wanted more than anything for the dragon to reach out once more.

“Oh, fy nhad,” said the boy. “I’ll never do that.”

“You can’t know that,” said the man.

Another scream from the depths.

“I know,” said the boy. “This will end badly if we don’t fix this.”

One crystal cracked. The mountain rumbled.

“What is happening?” asked our traveler.

“Everything here,” said the boy. “In this reality, is breaking down. Someone sliced the foundations too thin to support it.”

“And the wolf? And the tiger?”

“Everything,” said the boy. “Is at risk.”

“What must we do?” asked our traveler, wiping his eyes.

The boy smiled. “There you are.”

The old man put his arm around our traveler.

“You must be in contact,” said the boy.

“Come on,” said the traveler. “What do you have to lose?”

The wild-eyed man looked down at his sword. He looked up at the others.

“You know the sword is heavy and nearly blunt,” said the boy. “Let it go.”

The wild-eyed man dropped the blade. He walked over to our traveler’s free side and put his arm around him.

“And what of you?” asked the boy to the bone-sword wielder.


“We’ll kill each other after all this,” said the wild-eyed man. “If it doesn’t work. There’s always tomorrow.”

“Until there isn’t,” whispered the oldest of them.

The bone-sword wielder staggered over and threw his arm around the old man.

“Now what?” asked our traveler.

“We must call the others,” said the boy.

“Others?” asked the old man.

The boy wasn’t listening anymore. He was whistling, a strange lilting tune and yet it was familiar to our traveler. It echoed around the chamber as if made to fill the space. The other men emerged from the tunnel, from the walls, from all around. Some were old, some were young, some were in between. The huddle grew ever larger.

It was claustrophobic. Our traveler felt panic rising deep inside. He wanted out. Draco, the boy was gone. The dragon Draco stood in his place, away from the crowd.

“Now what?!” he called out.

“We must reforge what was broken,” said the dragon.


“With fire,” said the dragon.

Draco roared before our traveler could react, and the flames billowed out like a blooming cherry tree. The heat engulfed them. All was light. All was heat.

There was no pain.

The second dragon unfurled his ancient wings. He filled the chamber with his presence and stretched his long neck. He was as red as Draco, but his belly was silver and his whiskers hung low.

It had been such a long time since he had felt his wings stretch or his belly full of fire. He lifted his head. He belched fire into the top of the roof, detonating the top of the mountain.

The night sky beckoned. The plough shining bright alongside the crescent moon as the two dragons took flight. They went high into the sky in a dance of joy. We have not seen the like of which in this realm. They flew until the dawn was rising once more and their wings grew weary.

They came to rest on the broken mountain near the wolf and the tiger. The two animals had been watching since the mountain shattered.

The older dragon found the shape of the man once more, but it did not feel quite the same. He felt for his ponytail, it was gone, the hair sheared closer. He could feel the pull of fresh scars on his face.

“Who am I?” he asked.

“That is up to you,” said the boy. “They were all you.”

The man looked at his son.

“But I cannot stay.”

The boy shook his head.

“I don’t want to leave you.”

“And that is where we started,” said the boy.

The sun rose. Golden light that brought warmth and bathed everything in honey. Draco changed back into a dragon again.

“I’m everywhere and anywhere,” said Draco. “In every blade of grass, every sunrise, every sunset. You can hear me on every breath of wind or ring of laughter. And if you want to talk to me, you just need to find the stars and look to the plough.”

“It’s the only magic I know…” whispered the older dragon.

“And I know it is not enough,” said Draco.

“But it helps a little…” said the older dragon.

He looked for the wolf and the tiger, but there were two dragons there instead—one silver and one with orange and black stripes that seemed to shift colour in the sunrise.

“Ready?” asked Draco.

“Where will you go?” asked the older dragon.

“Wherever I can,” said Draco. “It’s a big universe. Wherever I am needed.”

The older dragon nodded. “Caru ti, fy nhariad, cysgu dda.”

“Cari ti, fy nhad,” replied Draco.

The three dragons took flight as Draco looked on. They faded as the sunrise became day and Draco looked to the skies for a while longer after they had faded. Then he went to find Caerwen. After all. There were more lands to explore, more adventures to be had, and more folks in need of a friendly dragon.


Author’s note: I think this is the last Dragonstar/Tale of Draco The Dragon. I can’t promise I won’t write more for sure or create other stories for Ziggy, but – for now at least – if I do, they will be just for me. For a while. This story is not subtle—the blender is on low—but Draco has kept me sane for the last decade, taught me things I had not appreciated at the time I was writing the stories and that I only saw after in rereads. A not dissimilar journey to parenthood in all honesty. Anyway, I hope this offers a suitable diversion to whoever may need it. Thanks for walking the path with me for a little while.



Like what I do? Sign up for my latest updates and receive occasional free fiction.

The form you have selected does not exist.