The Knights of Splendor stood around Bob's table. The Knights were made up of a trio of old men with white hairs and beards, Baxter and his father. The older men were Baxter's grandfather and two great uncles. All of them stood solemnly staring at the cake with the unlit candles. Eight of them. Each one signifying a hundred years.
Bob wondered why they hadn't lit the candles and was about to snort them into little flames when the eldest of the geriatric trio spoke.
"When we light these candles Bob, everything will be revealed to you - and our job of watching over you... Of our families watching over you, will be done."
Bob's heart beat fast in his scaled chest. What? Done? No more stewards from the Knights? Wait a minute.
"And when we give you the scroll, we ask that you take your time reading it and allow us to say our goodbyes." The old man continued.
"Wait a minute. What do you mean goodbyes?" Bob looked at them in disbelief. His dragon snout quivering in worry.
The old man sighed and looked at the others for confirmation. They nodded and he continued.
"Our job was to guarantee your safety until your 800th birthday. We have done what was asked of us. You must now become an adult on your own. You must choose your own path and we cannot interfere."
Panic settled into Bob's chest. What would he do without the only human contact he had been allowed? What would happen to him? Where would he go?
"What about Baxter?" His panicked eyes sought out each of the smiling Knights.
The middle old man stepped forward with a military precision and spoke. "Baxter may choose to stay or go. The Knights of Splendor will officially be over once your history is revealed." The second Great Uncle bowed his head, having spoken.
This meeting was so formal compared to all the previous meetings and especially compared to a birthday party. This felt like judge and jury instead of family. His blood raced through him as he began to feel insecurities weigh down on him. Icy tingles walked up his spine as he wondered what he would do without the Knights.
Bob risked a glance at Baxter who had his head bowed like the rest of the Knights of Splendor.
"What will happen to you all?" He asked quietly.
The last old man stepped closer to the table.
"We will all go back to our families and spend the rest of our lives, knowing we have done all that we could do to save you, like all of our forefathers before us." The third Great Uncle bowed his head and did not speak any further.
"What will I do without you all to take care of me?" Tears welled up in Bob's golden eyes.
"You will be fine Mr. Scaley," Bax spoke up, much to his great uncle's consternation. He quickly cleared his throat and bowed his head solmenly before anyone reached out and smacked him on the back of his head.
With nothing left to do, Bob reached for the cannister holding the scroll. For a moment, the world tunneled in on him but he forced himself to stand proud. His fingers hovered for a moment above the golden case. He steeled himself and touched it.
The moment his fingers touched the cannister, the candles on his birthday cake flared to life. Involuntarily his fingers closed around the cannister at the bizarre lighting. Surprised he clutched the cannister to his chest and looked at the candles curiously.
"What kind of trick is this, you guys?" He looked over at the Knights.
Baxter's father walked over to Bob.
"It is done my child." He patted Bob on the shoulder in a grandfatherly fashion. "Read and then make a wish and blow out the candles... They will stay lit until you have made your wish."
"I do hope he hurries," the middle uncle said. "I've been dying to try Elvira's chocolate cake."
"Oh do be quiet Thomas," The Eldest chided.
Bob stared down at the cannister in his hands and then back to the cake with the candles. He supposed it was now or never. He stalked over to a comfortable chair and held his breath for a moment. 800 years he had waited for this - and now, losing the Knights would be his reward. Some damn fine reward that was. He untied the crumbling leather lacings with reverence.
The Elder Knights and Baxter's father all quietly left the main room and stood outside the cavern, sipping mugs of tea or taking quick snatches from flasks. They had patience. And they would wait until his wish was taken.
Baxter looked back with a smile at his friend and charge for the last twenty years. He walked outside with the rest and stretched in the warm sunlight.
Bob barely noticed them leaving. His eyes focused on the intricate carvings on the gold. Detailed pictures of dragons. Like him. He'd only seen them online when he'd tried to find someone like himself out in the world. But no one had answered and the only other dragons he had found were fantasy creatures... myths... pieces of imagination. Where he was true flesh and blood dragon.
He slid the leather casing completely away from the golden tube. He carefully looked at the tube and then glanced at the candles. They were still burning and didn't appear to be losing any height, so he assumed that there was something special about them, but that would warrant a closer look when he was finished with this tube in front of him.
What's done is done, he thought and pulled the cannister open. He held it up to slide the leather parchment out. Eight perfectly cut 10 carat diamonds and two large blue sapphires fell into his hand as well. Bob carefully slid the jewels back into the cannister and closed it, placing it beside him in the chair.
He unfolded the parchment with reverence, afraid to tear it or damage it. He closed his eyes before it was completely open and held his breath for just one more moment. This was it. This was what he had waited all of his life for.
He opened his eyes and looked.
The words were scrawled in an elegant script.
To my Dearest child:
I am Lithay, the last female of the Splendor Dragons. The last dragon race of all. We were once a bountiful race, frolicking beside humans and working together.
But greed overtook those who hold such a short life
and those that fell into greed committed great crimes against the Dragons.
They destroyed the last of the magic in the world -
wanting no other force to be greater than they.
Not all humans are of this kind. Most humans are good, decent and of honor.
They are worthy of your love, your respect and of your protection.
But those that are not, have decided to destroy all dragons, for all time.
They come for me now, when you are just hatched and I must protect you.
I spoke with the Oracle Divine.
She advised me to send you to the future so that you may live a life free
of this hatred and menace and that you may continue on, where I leave off -
but in the future, where you may have a better chance of doing so.
I have entrusted your care to the Knights of Splendor -
they will take care of you through time.
I have left them instructions on how to find you in the future
and how to care for you until you reach your adulthood.
Toliver has written these instructions and I am sure that they will be followed.
My child of love I come to you on your 800th birthday to welcome you
into your adulthood.
Your very beginings were made from love and you will continue to be surrounded by love.
You are the last of your kind.
You hold the key to the survival of Dragons forever and
I believe in the Oracle when she says that you will be the greatest of all Dragons.
She says that you will overcome great obstacles and be an asset to the world.
I am already swelling with pride, my child.
With your 800th birthday, you will be given a wish.
One of magic.
Real magic, my son.
One where anything you wish for can happen.
Use this wish wisely to guarantee your safety and happiness.
Would I that I could be with you and watch you learn
how to talk and how to run and fly.
I will always be with you in spirit.
The Knights will be free to go and are no
longer to be servants for you as of this point on.
But treat them well, for they have been
everything to you that I could not be.
They are magnificent men and have
risked life and limb throughout history
to make sure you reached your 800th birthday.
A birthday marked by magic and splendor.
They are to leave you 10 gems so that you can live comfortably.
They have been paid and have been
instructed on how to make money grow in your world time,
so they should have amassed a fortune for you by now.
Be sure to reward them generously.
My son, I may be far away from you,
but you will always be in my heart of hearts.
Know that Toliver loves you as well.
Please ask the Knights someday soon for the stories
they have had to keep to themselves until now.
Make your wish son - and remember I love you.
Dragon Splendor Queen of Trenton - Your loving mother
Bob reached up to wipe the tears from his cheeks as he held the parchment closer. It crumbled into dust against his chest. He did not cry more tears for this, since as he read, he had committed it to memory.
Each loving stroke.
He glanced over at the candles and closed his eyes for a moment. He stood up and walked over to the table.
His wish was held firmly in his mind as he blew out the candles.