Prestor’s tea had gone cold. It was, of course, the fault of Mrs. Audley, a silver ridgeback with a finlike tail and a ghastly northern accent. She’d taken the liberty of invading his private study to inform him of the recent dragon raids on Evecott tower in the lower marshes of Switch (a subject he was not so very interested in as she assumed). For twenty minutes she lectured him on how dragons should respond to other dragons who acted so abominably and what Evecott tower should do to prevent further raids. All time lost, in his opinion. Evecott was so very far away, more than a hundred miles from their province. But now, thankfully, the library’s head archivist (for so Mrs. Audley was) had flown out and he could get back to his book.
But first, the tea. He nestled his mug on a small bed of coals, then breathed on them so that they glowed orange. The tea jumped into a boil, no doubt shaking itself from boredom. With heat and silence restored, Prestor returned his spectacles to his nose and the mug to his lips. He was in the middle of a particularly interesting biography—or what parts of it he had carefully pasted together from the dusty archives. The biography was that of a human by the name of C.S. Lewis, a children’s author (purportedly). Prestor was particularly fond of Lewis. The man, if he ever existed, had written a series of books titled The Chronicles of Narnia in which magic and even, at times, a dragon, took center stage. Disappointingly, Prestor had never come across a copy of any of these rumored books. But he had hope.
Prestor flipped his tail absentmindedly as he ran his eyes over a fragment of the biography, pondering a few lines in which Lewis described a small event during his childhood that ended up having a large impact. The lines read like this:
“Once in those very early days my brother brought into the nursery the lid of a biscuit tin which he had covered with moss and garnished with twigs and flowers so as to make it a toy garden or a toy forest. That was the first beauty I ever knew. What the real garden had failed to do, the toy garden did. It made me aware of nature—”
Prestor had to guess how the paragraph ended, for the parchment was torn. Still, what to make of this biscuit tin? Lewis (or some dragon forging a human biography) said the little plaything had effectively woken him up to the existence of real gardens, as if they hadn’t existed until he saw them from this new perspective. But surely that made no sense? Do humans in fact not see gardens when looking directly at them? Do they indeed need the fabricated to recognize the real?
Humans were odd.
Regardless, the idea intrigued Prestor. His yellow-green eyes sought out the lid of a cookie jar across the room. He flicked his wings (a tick he had when honing in on an idea). He wanted to understand humans. He wanted to understand their magic, magic that, for some frustrating reason, could lay dormant for years and then suddenly be awoken by the tiniest of stimuli. When Lewis saw the toy garden, what magic was it that touched him? What was it he saw? Most importantly, could he, Prestor, see it as well? Could there be something more to gardens that even he, a well-traveled and well-read dragon, had failed to recognize?
There was nothing else for it. He’d have to try the thing himself. It might reveal nothing. But it might also provide one more key to the complex lock between humans and dragons. This lock needed many keys, all of them hidden in shadow and buried deep. But he had hope.