Mavrik rolled onto his back and stretched his 30-foot body out on the warm grass beside the hedge. He closed his eyes and sucked on the thighbone of his most recent kill. "Ah, cattle," he sighed contentedly. "So stupid, and so big." As he lay dozing a sense of danger came upon him. He rolled onto his stomach and sniffed the air. There was a faint smell of humans, but it was not close. He raised his head over the hedge to spy out the surrounding fields.
    Crack! He snapped his head around to see what made the noise, but could see nothing but a black speck against the sky. He frowned, then gasped with horror. In an instant he was leaping into the air, his powerful wings pushing him higher.
    Too late; the ballista shot passed easily through the wing membrane, shattered the small bones that gave his wings their shape in flight, and buried itself in the ground where Mavrik had lay and instant before. He roared in pain and tumbled to the ground. Flight was impossible.
    Across the field came the angry shouts of the humans. He raised his head again and could see the ballista crew reloading the weapon. Nearer were many farmers with pointed tools. They were running toward the hedge. Mavrik considered his options; he could apologise for invading their land, or he could flame them.
    He ran, long bounding leaps that carried him away from the humans. A quick glance over his shoulder made him redouble his efforts. Mounted Knights! They had jumped the hedge and were riding in a line toward him. Each bound made his injured wing hurt abominably but he dare not slow. A hedge loomed before him and he leapt. To his horror there was no ground on the other side, just a short cliff and the icy waters of the Whelming River.
    He fell in with a great splash, swallowed a mouthful of water and felt the heat of his flame vanish. The last time this happened it took him days to get it back, but right now he had more pressing problems. He surfaced and looked at the knights standing at the top of the cliff. Mavrik knew he could not out run them, but as long as he stayed in the river they could not attack.
    The cold water soothed his wing but he knew he could not stay there. Archers would be called up soon. He needed help fast. He ran through his mind all those who would aid him, but they were all too far away to be of any help, except for one. But would that wizard be home? He turned and swam downstream.
    The knights trotted along the bank beside him, shouting and jeering. "Coward!" called one.
    "Bugger off!" shouted Mavrik without stopping. "I haven't done anything."
    "Come on! I can do you with one arm!" laughed the knight.
    Cocky bastards, thought Mavrik. We'll see how they cope with this. The river emptied suddenly into the huge fens that surrounded his destination. A short drop that divided dry land from the bogs stopped the knights. Mavrik swam a short distance and turned to face them. He made a rude gesture but they simply laughed and pointed at the boats rounding the last bend before the fens. He sighed and swam faster, the noise of oars not far behind.
    He wriggled his way between the rafts of flowering irises and ran over the small islands, always heading in a straight line. As he moved away from the fresh stream of the Whelming, the water went dark and started to stink. Not even the giant tides of the sea reached this far inland. He moved through mud so liquid he had to swim. His passage stirred up a long, grey ribbon to mark his path and caused bubbles of foul gas to rise to the surface. The boats fell behind, but they did not stop.
    The water became clean again as he swam into the stream of another river, but it was still the colour of old tea. Mavrik guessed this was the stream of the River Erskine, which flowed from the button-grass peat highlands to the south. Not far to go now. Finally he could see his refuge: a large island with a stand of tall trees surrounding a tiny stone hut. He splashed ashore and ran to the hut.
    "Pen!" he shouted, banging on the door with both fists. "Pen! Help!" The noise of the boats grounding on the shore sounded loud in his ears. He pounded a rapid tattoo on the door. "Help! Helphelphelp!"
    A middle-aged man wearing a faded green cloak and faded brown trousers opened the door. "Yeah, all right. I'm here!" he said. "Now shut up." He sniffed at Mavrik. "Pooh, Mav! Have you been swimming in the fens? Why didn't you fly?"
    "I can't," wailed Mavrik. "They broke my wing." He indicated with a nod the approaching men.
    Pen looked at the men, then said, "Show me your wing." Mavrik stretched it out, wincing as he did so. Pen examined the ragged holes in the membrane. "Nasty. You've got some broken bones there. Oh no!" he breathed, and turned to Mavrik with a worried frown. "Your main wing-tip bone is fractured."
    "Can you fix it?" asked Mavrik in alarm.
    "No. It'll take weeks of serious medication I don't have," muttered Pen. He turned to the gathering men. "Good morning," he said brightly.
    "You leave that dragon to us, Wizard," said one. "He owes us a debt."
    "All I did was eat a stupid cow," said Mavrik.
    "That was our best bull," said the spokesman. The others murmured angrily.
    Pen looked at the dragon. "Oh, Mav! I can't believe you ate a bull."
    "Bull... Cow... What's the difference?"
    Pen stared at him for a few seconds. "You're very young, aren't you?"
    Mavrik started to argue but the men advanced on them shouting angrily. He cowered down behind his friend.
    Pen spun to face the mob and gestured at them. They stopped instantly, frozen in time. "I'm going to send you to when someone can help."
    "Good." Mavrik thought for a few moments. "'When?' Don't you mean 'where'?"
    "No." The wizard sighed and stared at the ground. "Your wing is bad. I don't think you'll fly again if the bones aren't set properly." He sighed again. "There's one more thing."
    Mavrik's head sank to the ground, but his heart felt as if it had sunk even lower. "Just one?"
    "I can send you, but I can't bring you back." Pen looked down at the miserable dragon. "You'll have to find a wizard to send you back."
    "Back? 'Back' as in Back In Time?" Mavrik blinked. "What time distance are you talking about?"
    Pen shrugged. "I can't say for sure. The spell will take you to the point you can get help. I don't know how far that will be." He squatted beside his friend. "It's either this or never fly again. No one here can help."
    "You're very definite about that!"
    "Yes," said Pen. "Name the people who will help you."
    Mavrik looked at him in surprise. "Of course the Elves-" He paused, remembering his most recent dealings with Elves. "Oh yeah. All right then, the Dwaves- Ah. The men... jeez, the men hate Dragons." He looked at Pen "What about the Wizards?"
    Pen just raised his eyebrows. "Besides me?"
    Mavrik sighed deeply. "I tell you what, when this is over I'll not be touching meat again. I'll turn vegetarian." He paused in thought. "And chickens."
    "Why chickens?"
    "I hate chickens. They have beady eyes."
    Pen smiled slightly, then gathered the magic. "Are you ready?"
    "No." Mavrik closed his eyes and sat up. "I'll see you later."
    Pen concentrated and felt the cold blast of the Winds Of Time blow through the clearing. The ethereal breeze stopped, and a second later there was a noise like thunder. Pen saw the figure of his friend flash briefly and was gone, leaving behind an insubstantial figure like an after-image made of fog. It dissipated rapidly and left a circle of frosted grass.
    "Good luck, my friend," he sighed as he turned to the frozen farmers.

Mitch looked around the little valley, feeling like he was doing this for the last time. He examined each tree, noted the shading on the smooth, white bark, and listened to the soft rustle of the leaves. He looked up at the 300 metre high sandstone cliffs that walled him in on three sides. He turned again to the data-pad in his hand and once more read the message.
    "Dear Mr. Day, We are pleased to accept your application to the next intake of the Sector Law Enforcement academy. We feel that it should be pointed out that you are the first applicant from your planet..." He turned the pad off and the letters disappeared, leaving behind a featureless grey surface. He tossed the pad carelessly into the tent and stirred the campfire with a stick. The billy was starting to steam, so to pass the time waiting he put a slice of bread on a forked stick and began toasting it.
    He considered his future here on Galprax. The planetary council had already indicated that if he took the job off-planet he would be 'banned' and not permitted back. If he left now, he'd never finish the biology degree at Wellington University. If he left now, he'd never- never- um... He couldn't remember what it was that was supposed to stop him from accepting. He frowned at the fire. There was nothing on this planet that could hold him here.
    An icy wind sprang up from nowhere and stopped just as suddenly, followed an instant later by an ear-shattering peal of thunder. Mitch jumped in fright, the sudden movement caused the bread to fall into the fire. He ignored it.
    "Bloody hell! That was close!" he muttered. He looked at the sky but the dense tree canopy mostly obscured the view. He stood and walked to the little clearing beside the Welling River. The forest grew lighter as the sun peeked over the tall cliffs. He looked up through the thinning trees but could only see a clear blue sky, then turned to look at the cliff tops where the top of the sun was just showing. He walked backwards into the clearing, turned, and felt his heart skip a beat.
    There was a huge animal lying there, facing him. Mitch's first instinct was to run, but the animal didn't move. Then Mitch saw the layer of frost covering it and realized it must have died there last night. He walked forward slowly, wondering what it was. It looked like a 10 metre long lizard caught up in the wreckage of a hang-glider. Instead of scales it had a smooth grey skin. Each toe ended in a sharp talon the colour of ebony.
    He circled the body slowly and examined it. It looked familiar somehow, but he was sure he'd never seen one before.
    He stood by the large head and stared down at it, deep in thought. A shiver ran up his spine when an eyelid twitched. It was still alive! Mitch started to creep back to the forest as quietly as he could, hoping to leave the animal undisturbed. He mentally added up the number of talons, twenty, and estimated the number of teeth. That made sixty sharp things. If I am lucky, he thought, it won't tear me to shreds.
    The creature groaned and stirred. Mitch froze on the spot, heart pounding loudly in his ears. He stared at it, hardly daring to blink in case it attacked. It groaned again as it moved its head to look at him.
    "Oh shit," whispered Mitch to himself.
    "Help," said the creature softly.
    "I must be going mad," he muttered.
    "Help me," it said again. The voice was like a sigh. "I don't want to die."
    If I am going to go mad I might as well play along until I talk myself out of it, Mitch thought. "Neither do I," he said aloud. "This is why I'm going to run away."
    "No! Please, don't run," said the creature plaintively. "I won't hurt you." It groaned again and lay still. Mitch crept forward slowly, ready to run in an instant. "So cold," muttered the animal.
    "The sun will be over the cliffs in a few minutes," said Mitch. "It'll be warmer then." He hesitated. "Er... what are you? If you don't mind me asking," he added hastily.
    "Haven't you seen a dragon before?" asked Mavrik.
    "No. I mean, we have lizards around here we call dragons, like the frilled dragon and the water dragon, but they're only forty centimetres long, and... uh..." Mitch realised he was babbling. "You...? You're a dragon?"
    Mavrik stared at the frightened human standing before him. He smiled slightly when the man took a backward step. "I won't eat you, if that's what you're wondering."
    "It isn't," lied Mitch. He felt dizzy. "A real dragon? That's..." The phases 'amazing' and 'impossible' fought to come out at the same time, rendering him speechless. He jumped back as Mavrik stretched his wings to expose their surface to the warmth. All he could say was "Wow."
    "Are you a healer?" asked Mavrik suddenly.
    Mitch was caught off balance. "I usually get better-" he began.
    "No! I mean, do you heal others?"
    "Oh. No, I'm just a biological sciences student. Why?"
    "Have a look at my right wing." Mavrik slowly extended the wing fully but Mitch hung back. "Come closer! You won't see much from there."
    Mitch moved hesitantly closer and looked at the wing. When he saw the ragged hole in the membrane he forgot himself and knelt to get a better look. "There's been a lot of bleeding," he said. "It's stopped now, but it looks like it could open up in an instant." He reached out, then paused and looked up to see the dragon staring at him. "Can I touch?"
    Mavrik nodded. "Softly!" he added as he felt the fingers. "Ow!"
    "Sorry." Mitch ran his fingers along the ridges of the support bones inside the membrane, noting where the dragon twitched in pain. "What's your name?" he asked suddenly.
    "My name is Mitch."
    "You shouldn't go telling just anyone your name!" spluttered Mavrik. "It's dangerous!"
    "Is it?" said Mitch absently. "You just told me yours'"
    Mavrik stared off into the distance but said nothing. He couldn't believe he had been so stupid as to reveal his name. He winced as Mitch carefully moved the edges of the ragged tear together.
    "That tear starts near the wing elbow and runs right to the edge," said Mitch. "It'll have to be stitched, and the bones will have to be set."
    "The wizard said the main bone was fractured, too."
    "Hm?" Mitch ran a hand over the leading edge. "Yeah, I think can feel some bone-chips-" Mavrik roared in pain. "Sorry. So how is it dangerous?"
    "What?" gasped Mavrik.
    Mavrik felt faint. "If you know the name of a thing, you have power over it," he said softly.
    Mitch looked up. "What, like I can say 'Hey Mavrik, look at this' or 'Hey Mavrik, Come and eat dinner'?" He ducked his head and pretended to look at the wing.
    "No!" said Mavrik. "Don't you know anything about magic?"
    "There's no such thing as magic," said Mitch with a laughed.
    Mavrik sniffed the air. He could smell the magic all around him, a vast reserve untouched and unused for centuries. "Of course there's magic," said the dragon softly. He looked at Mitch. "You just don't know how to see it."
    "The stories say there were wizards, but they're just fragments of half remembered tales from the Dreamtime," said Mitch as he straightened. "I'll have to strap up your wing until we get a vet- uh- a doctor to have a look at it. There's a medkit at the camp."
    They walked back to Mitch's campsite in silence. The sun now shone into the little valley, the long beams showing in the slightly misty air. Mavrik looked around in approval and nodded.
    "Are you hungry?" asked Mitch as he stirred the fire. He suddenly became wary.
    "No, I've just eaten." Mavrik noticed Mitch's attitude. "It's against the Law to eat thinking beings," he said. "I think you should know that."
    "That's a relief."
    Mavrik smiled slightly. "However, just killing them-"
    "I know your name!" said Mitch quickly. He went into the tent and emerged a few seconds later with a silver ground sheet and a medkit. He looked at the plastic box and realised it was very small.
    Mavrik chuckled, then winced when his damaged wing moved. "You don't believe in magic."
    "I can start. Even wizards had to start somewhere." He found a tube of antiseptic cream in the kit. "I suppose this will help with the tear, but setting the bones will be a problem."
    Mavrik opened his wing again and Mitch applied the cream to the bloody edges. It felt cool, and the pain grew less. When that was done Mitch tore the ground sheet into long strips.
    "Can you bend your wing so the tip is laying along the main bit?" Mavrik nodded and did so carefully. "Right," said Mitch. "I'm going to strap them together so you can't move them." He paused. "It'll hurt."
    Mavrik nodded again and braced himself. Mitch was right; it did hurt. In an effort to think about something else he asked, "What was this Dreamtime you spoke of?"
    "It's the time before the history of this planet starts," explained Mitch. "Something happened and wiped out all evidence of civilization. Our history starts after that. Before then, nothing." He tied off the strip and started another lower down. "It's like we just appeared here, but there are stories from a time before. That's the Dreamtime."
    "There are stories of dragons from then?"
    "And Wizards?"
    Mitch nodded and tied off that strip. Mavrik gasped. "Sorry. Yes, and elves and dwarfs."
    "Dwarves," corrected Mavrik. He had a sudden feeling of dread. "How long ago was this Dreamtime?"
    Mitch paused in thought. "Ooh... Archaeologists say it was about ten thousand years ago, give or take a millennium." He tied off the last strip. "That should hold it." He glanced up and saw the look on Mavrik's face. "Are you all right?"
    "I am more than ten millennia away from home," said Mavrik softly. "And there is no one who can send me back."

The late afternoon sun slanted through the tall ever-leaved trees, their new green leaves of spring glowed brightly in contrast to the old red leaves of winter. Mavrik basked at the edge of the clearing and watched the shadow from the trees creep toward him. Soon he would have to find shelter for the night.
    He sniffed at the magic again. It had an unused feel to it, but it hadn't been forgotten. It was as if the wizards no longer used it but the magic was waiting for them. His head jerked up suddenly. That meant a wizard still lived! All Mavrik had to do was find him. He'd discuss it with Mitch when he returns.
    He stood and paced around the clearing, and thought about his new acquaintance. Apart from the wizard Pen Mithdae, Mitch was the first human who didn't try to insert sharp things into Mavrik. He certainly had the weapons; that crossbow without the bow which threw a hot, blue bolt. What did he call it? Something that sounded like 'razor.' Mavrik had watched Mitch kill a kangaroo earlier, and marvelled firstly at how easily Mitch had done it, and secondly at how selective the human was in choosing which animal to kill.
    "I would have just dropped down onto the group and killed one," he said to the empty clearing. "Like I did with that cow. Bull." He sighed and lay in the sun again, one arm covering his eyes. "And wasn't that a success." he mumbled bitterly. A soft "shoosh" sounded through the trees and he sat up. Mitch rode into the clearing on that curious machine of his, and brought it to a stop. It silently floated there when he jumped off, held off the ground by some force Mavrik didn't know. It certainly wasn't magic.
    "I brought you a tarpaulin," said Mitch, patting at the bundle on the back of the bike. "That'll keep you warm tonight." He took a look at the bindings of Mavrik's wing. "And I persuaded a friend of mine to come out. She's a vet, so she can look at your wing." Mitch smirked. "I told her I found an injured animal out here and couldn't bring it into town. She doesn't know who she'll be looking at."
    "This 'vet' is a healer?"
    "Yes. She usually heals animals."
    Mavrik narrowed his eyes. "Is that how you see me? As an animal?"
    Mitch looked up at Mavrik's scowl. "No! Vets know how to heal many different bodies, but people doctors only know about people." Mitch scowled himself. "Anyway, I wouldn't trust any of the local doctors."
    Mavrik growled low in his throat. "I suppose I'll have to trust this animal healer." He sighed deeply. A thin cloud of acrid, white smoke followed his breath and he looked at it in surprise.
    "Oh, pooh!" exclaimed Mitch, his hand covering his mouth and nose. "Ugh! Jeez, what is that?" He backed off a few paces.
    "My flame is coming back!" Mavrik took a deep breath and blew out. The clearing filled with smoke but there was no flame. He looked at the white plumes and frowned.
    Mitch's eyes were watering as he ran into the forest. "Stop that!" he coughed. He waited for the air to clear before coming closer. "You'll attract attention if you blow smoke like that." He sniffled and rubbed his eyes. "How do you blow flames?"
    Mavrik thought for a few minutes before answering. "I breathe in and it comes out when I want it. I've never really thought about it beyond that."
    "That smoke smelled pretty flammable, I can tell you," said Mitch. "Don't go breathing it on our camp fire or you'll explode." They both looked up as the sun disappeared behind the cliffs at the far end of the valley. "Let's get your shelter up before it gets dark."
    Later, they lay in their tents with their heads outside, and looked at the stars through the leaves. Mavrik's shelter was the tarpaulin thrown over a rope strung between two trees, with the end tied shut with rope. He glanced over at Mitch who was lying on his back with his hands behind his head. "Where is the moon?"
    Mitch looked at him. "What moon?"
    "THE moon."
    "There isn't a moon," said Mitch. "You see that band of bright stars?" He pointed through a gap in the trees. "That's a ring of rocky debris around the planet. That's all the moon we have."
    "There should be a moon," insisted Mavrik.
    "Are you sure you're on the same world?"
    "The wizard said I would be travelling in time. He didn't mention another place. There is a wizard," he added when Mitch snorted.
    Mitch stared at the stars without moving. "So you keep saying."
    "I have to find him."
    "Then I can go home."
    Mavrik lifted his head off the ground and scowled at Mitch. "You don't understand how important this is, human!" He spat the last word as an insult. "We must find that wizard!"
    Mitch blinked at him. "Well, we can't do it now. We are a long way from anywhere and it's dark. I think we should get some sleep. Tomorrow, we will have our wings mended. Then we will think about the wizard."
    Mavrik was annoyed by Mitch's logic. The human was right, of course. They couldn't do anything right now, but that didn't improve his mood.
    "You're muttering to yourself."
    "Shut up. You're too noisy."
    Mavrik growled then blew a plume of white smoke at the fire. The smoke ignited with a deep whump and sent a fireball upwards. They watched it dissipate in the treetops, the green leaves sizzling as it passed. The two exchanged a surprised look, then Mavrik snickered.
    "Happy now?" asked Mitch. Mavrik nodded. "Good night." Mitch fell asleep to the sounds of the bush being broken occasionally by the low chuckles of the dragon.

Mavrik woke in the grey light before the sun rose above the cliffs. The forest was full of the tinkle of bellbirds, the warbling calls of currawongs, and Mitch's swearing as he tried to get the fire going.
    He had piled dry bark onto the embers and was blowing vigorously. There was a lot of smoke, then a slight crackle and a tiny flame sprang up He sat back on his heels and swayed slightly.
    "Are you all right?" asked Mavrik.
    "A bit dizzy, is all."
    "Stand back." Mitch moved away as Mavrik took a deep breath, shaped his lips into an 'o' and sent a thin stream of greasy smoke into the flame. There was a soft 'whuff' and Mavrik had a small flame hanging off the end of his muzzle. He blew harder until there was a long blast of blue-white fire playing over the fire pit. Mitch covered his face. Mavrik blew hard for a few seconds then stopped.
    Mitch looked at the brightly burning fire in a ring of blackened grass. "Wow."
    "My throat is sore."
    "I am not surprised," said Mitch in awe.
    "It isn't that," said Mavrik. "I think that is what stops me from flaming."
    Mitch looked at him incredulously, but said nothing.
    "What I mean is," explained Mavrik patiently, "I can't start my own fire."
    Mitch said a small "Oh," and stared at the fire. He stood slowly and said, "I'll get breakfast." He took his laser-rifle from the tent and disappeared into the bush.
    Mavrik shivered and threw some heavy logs onto the fire. A few seconds later he had them all blazing brightly. For some time he experimented by breathing on the fire and trying to suck in the flame, but he couldn't sustain the internal fire. In the end he lay and waited for Mitch to return. His wing ached.
    The sun peeked into the valley and melted the frost on the treetops, causing a brief fall of water, like rain, which drove Mavrik under cover. Mitch jogged in, jumped on his bike and rode off. Half an hour later he dragged a huge male 'roo into the camp. "One for you," he said, then threw a little, common wallaby known as a pademelon beside it. "And one for me." He sniffed at the air, then drew a knife and began dressing the little animal. "Been playing with fire again?"
    Mavrik took a big bite out of the carcass. "When will this healer arrive?" he asked around the mouthful.
    "Soon." Mitch cut some steaks off and threw them into a pan. "I've been thinking. If she can't do anything here we'll have to sneak you into town." He turned the steaks over. "That means I'll have to borrow the truck from the crazy old gardener at the University."
    "Why him? Are you going to eat that?" added Mavrik, pointing to the tiny carcass.
    "He is the only one who will not ask questions," said Mitch as he tossed the remains of the pademelon to Mavrik, who caught it in his mouth and swallowed it without chewing. "And even if I did tell him, he'd say 'Oh, Dragons. That's nice.'" Mitch chuckled. "That Pen is a crazy old fart."
    Mavrik choked on the mouthful.
    Mitch's bike chimed. Mavrik watched him walk over and speak briefly into something small and black. "The doctor is almost here," he said as he came back to the fire. "You'd better hide in the tent until I explain the situation to her." Mavrik retreated into the tent as Mitch walked back to the clearing.
    By the time he reached the glade, the driver had alighted and was waiting for him, a black carry-bag in one hand. He called and she turned toward him.
    "Listen, Mitch," she said as she walked over. "If this isn't an endangered species I will endanger you."
    "Hi Alex. Great to see you, too. It's in the camp," he added, and indicated the way.
    "So what is it?" asked Alex as she followed Mitch around the tree trunks.
    "He has a fractured wing and a nasty cut." They reached the camp and Mitch pointed at Mavrik's tent. "In there."
    Alex walked quietly to the tarpaulin, moved the flap aside slightly and looked through the crack. Without warning she opened the tent fully. "Gosh! An empty tent!" she said in mock surprise. "Looks like your bird has- has- uh- flown." Her voice trailed off and she went pale.
    Mitch shivered but smiled. He knew well the feeling that someone had run the point of a knife down his spine. They turned in unison. Mavrik was sitting up, staring at them across the fire. "I think the urge to run away is genetic," said Mitch.
    "Why would you want to run away?" asked Mavrik as he stood and walked around the fire. He sniffed at Alex.
    Alex blinked at him a few times before her voice returned. "Jeez! It's a dragon!"
    Mavrik nodded. "Good morning, m'lady."
    Alex sat on the ground. "I think I am going mad," she muttered.
    "I thought that too!" said Mitch. "Don't worry, it'll pass."
    "My name is Dreao," said Mavrik. Mitch looked at him in surprise, then nodded.
    "I'm Alex," said Alex. "'Dreao' isn't really your name, is it? That's just Old Galpraxian for 'Dragon'." She looked at Mitch and added, "They used to think that names held the power of the thing."
    "I knew that," said Mitch quickly.
    "Your friend is learned," said Mavrik to Mitch. "I hope she can heal my wing."
    "Give me a look at it," said Alex. She nodded approvingly at Mitch's ministrations as she undid the bindings. Mitch ate his over-done steaks and watched in silence. The examination took fifteen minutes. Finally Alex sighed and said "I can stitch the membrane here, but those bones need setting and the main bone has to be pinned." She took a large jar of antiseptic cream and applied it to the ragged cut. "How fast do you heal?"
    "Ow. Fairly- ooh- quickly," said Mavrik. He caught his breath for a few seconds, then added "It is necessary when you are hunted all the time."
    "We'll have to get you into town so I can operate on that wing," said Alex. "My office has old stables behind it. You can stay there."
    "I'll have a chat to Pen" said Mitch.
    Alex froze briefly, then began applying the cream again. "Why old Pen?" she asked lightly.
    "He has a truck." Mitch saw Alex and Mavrik exchange a glance. He had missed something. "What's wrong with him?"
    "You know who he is, don't you?" Alex asked Mavrik.
    "I suspect."
    "Suspect what who is?" demanded Mitch.
    You'll find out," said Alex. She concentrated on the wing and wouldn't answer any more of Mitch's questions.

The battered six-wheeled vehicle came to a halt, and Mitch jumped out. He saw the old man hobbling toward him, leaning heavily on a cane. "Thanks!" called Mitch. "I'll be off now."
    "Not so fast," said the old gardener. "Not so fast. Fast, no." he added. "I want to see if you damaged my truck. My truck it is. And it might be damaged. Yes. My P38, it is. I bought it new," he rambled. Mitch sighed and waited while the old fellow hobbled around the truck and poked randomly at it with the cane. He looked up at the cover over the rear tray and indicated a tear in the green canvas. "Torn! New hole. That's a new hole. It is. It is, and torn. Yes."
    Mitch looked at the three-cornered tear. That bloody dragon must have done it. "Sorry. I'll get you a new cover."
    The old man wasn't listening. He shuffled around to the rear of the vehicle and lifted the flap. He looked inside, then sniffed. Mitch knew he could smell the tang of Mavrik's smoke. "Hmm. It smells like smoke. Yes, fire. Yes. Reminds of something," he mumbled. "Reminds me of..." He spun surprisingly quickly and pinned Mitch with his grey eyes. "Where is he?" demanded Pen.
    Mitch blinked in confusion. In seconds the doddering old fart had vanished to be replaced by this wiry old man. "Who?" He backed away.
    Pen advanced on Mitch and pushed him against the side of the truck. "Don't give me that! You will take me there. Now!" He opened the driver's door and climbed in, indicating to Mitch that he should get in the left-hand side.
    As Mitch climbed in, Pen was re-starting the engines. The turbo wound up to speed, then the power system cut in with a rumble. The 'available power' gauge flashed green. Instead of moving off, Pen opened a hidden panel. Inside was just one switch. Pen flicked it down and the gauge went off the scale. Mitch boggled.
    "What the hell is that?"
    "Steam!" said Pen. He engaged the transmission and stamped on the accelerator. They roared onto the main road and sped rapidly up to 160kph.
    "Steam?" asked Mitch eventually.
    "Water is injected into the compressed air that spins the generator turbine." Pen concentrated on driving for a few seconds. "You know air gets hot when you compress it? Well, that's where you inject the water. It increases power out-put by 30 percent." He chuckled to himself. "My own little modification, that."
    "Cool!" exclaimed Mitch. "Can you show me how to do it?"
    "Later. Where are we going?"
    Mitch gave the directions, and twenty minutes later they were stopping in front of the stables. As they jumped out Mitch realised Pen no longer needed the walking stick. Who is he? he wondered.
    Alex appeared at a door and peeled off a pair of gloves. Pen waved and called "Hello my dear!"
    "Hello you patronizing old wizard."
    "How is the patient?"
    "Mavrik is asleep." Alex closed the door quietly, and noticed their looks. "He told me his real name just before I started working. I'm sure I did the wing properly, but it was a bit of guess-work." She gazed at Pen for a while. "Did you send him here?"
    "Hang on!" said Mitch. "Mavrik said he came from the Dreamtime! If that was ten thousand years ago, then..." He looked at Pen. "Nah!"
    "He was injured by a ballista shot," said Pen. "Sending him here was the only way to save him."
    "Why?" asked Alex. "I know it's hard, but wouldn't it be better if he- you know- in the past?"
    "At the time I didn't know why, but it turned out for the best," said Pen.
    "Why?" blurted Mitch. Pen raised his eyebrows at him but said nothing. Mitch shook his head. "Whoa! This is assuming you've been here- what? Ten millennia?" He shook his head again. "It's not possible."
    "Like talking to a dragon?"
    "Yes. No! I mean-" Mitch stopped in confusion. "How's Mav?" he sighed eventually.
    Alex led them inside. Mavrik was stretched out on large plastic sheets. He lay along the aisle, his damaged wing stretched into one of the stalls. The vet had immobilized it with a metal frame fixed between pins fastened through the skin and into the bone on either side of the break. "He'll have to stay here for a few days. He was right when he said he'd heal fast," she added. "It's quite amazing."
    Mavrik stirred. "Shut up. You're too noisy," he rumbled.
    They gathered around his head. "How do you feel, kid?" asked Mitch.
    Mavrik looked at him with one eye then let it close. "If I could reach you, I would hurt you." He sighed. "All right, Healer, fix my flame."
    "Later," said Alex. "Get some sleep." The dragon sighed and relaxed.
    Next morning, Mavrik watched as Mitch and Pen rigged a pulley and counterweight for his damaged wing. The system was to take the weight off the wing-muscles in his shoulder. They had almost finished when Alex walked in. She carried a flashlight and her medical bag.
    "Open up," she said to Mavrik. He blinked at her. "Open your mouth." He did so, and she peered down his throat for a long minute. She went to her bag and pulled out a swab. "You have three holes close together in your throat," she explained. "Two large ones and a small one in the middle. The two are secreting a fluid that looks like it's smoking, but the middle one looks swollen. My guess is some sort of organic napalm comes from the outer glands with an initiator injected into the flow from the centre gland." She paused then added "Like bombardier beetles, only in a sustained flow."
    Mavrik stared at her. Eventually he said "Oh."
    "I'm going to take a swab," continued Alex. "This means reaching right in." She looked at him. "So no naughty biting off the Human's arm, okay?"
    The dragon nodded and opened his mouth again. Alex had her swab in a second. As she withdrew her hand the cotton burst into flames. She swore and dropped it. "Damn! That stuff is really corrosive," she said as she stamped out the flames.
    "I don't think you should do that again," said Mitch from his place in the rafters. "I mean, if there is a reflex action and you get squirted..." He left the sentence unfinished and climbed down the ladder.
    "We've finished the sling," said Pen. "I agree with Mitch. Don't go for a second swab."
    Alex sighed, walked under Mavrik's head and began to rub his neck. He shivered slightly and stretched his head out, and began to purr. She was concentrating on the massage. "I think I can feel the lump," she said and rubbed deeper. "I can! Mitch, hand me the tennis balls." Mitch took the two balls from the bag and handed them to her. She used them to press deep into the muscle of the neck and rolled them around. "I use these to massage horses," she explained, "So they should work on a delicate little dragon."
    Mavrik chuckled, then gasped. "Stand back!" he warned, took a deep breath and blew a long flame through the length of the stables and into the yard. "That felt good," he sighed. He exposed the underside of his neck to Alex and said, "Keep rubbing." Soon the stable was rumbling to his purrs.

"Don't throw it in the dirt!" said Mavrik urgently. Mitch was about to let go of the sheep carcass, but he dragged it away from the edge instead. He jumped from the tray of the battered old truck and hefted the meat onto his shoulder.
    "I hope I don't do my back in," he muttered, then threw it onto the sheet beside the other carcass. "Dinner is served," he said with a deep bow.
    Mavrik eyed the two small, dressed carcasses. "That doesn't look like much."
    "Alex says you're getting fat from eating and not moving."
    "There's nothing wrong with that."
    Mitch opened his mouth, but a noise overhead distracted him. They looked up and saw an oddly shaped aircraft pass over on its way to the airport. It disappeared behind a row of trees and Mitch sighed. "Shuttle from an interplanetary freighter."
    Mavrik had no idea what Mitch meant, but he knew that look. "You'll be following one." Mitch looked at him in surprise. "Alex told me you're thinking of leaving your home. It is a hard thing to do, this travelling with no hope of return. You don't realise how hard it is until you reach your destination."
    "You found your way back, so I won't have a problem."
    "A week ago I knew I wasn't going back."
    "Are you ready for your trip?"
    Mavrik flexed his wing and looked at the scar. "It feels stiff, but the pains have gone. That's an impressive scar."
    "Will it impress the lady dragons?"
    "Males!" exclaimed Alex from the door. Mitch and Mavrik started guiltily. "You're the same across species! I don't believe it." She stalked into the stable. "Wing," she demanded. Mavrik unfurled his wing again so she could examine it. "Does this hurt? This?" Mavrik answered 'no' each time she pressed at a point. "Good. You're ready to go back," she pronounced. "Eat."
    Mavrik started on the two carcasses in a subdued manner.
    Alex joined Mitch outside. He was pretending to look at something in the distance so he wouldn't have to meet her eye. "Are you definite about leaving?"
    "Yes." He was relieved that she wasn't going to go on about what he had said in the stable. "There's nothing to keep me here."
    He looked at her silently, then said "No, but this came from the Planetary Council yesterday." He pulled a letter from his pocket and handed it to her.
    She read it and gaped at him. "Banned? They can't do that! You haven't even accepted the job with Sector Law. 'Affected by alien influences' indeed." She screwed the letter into a ball. "Xenophobic bastards."
    "Looks like I have to leave even if I don't take the job." Mitch took the letter from her. "Mav! We need some fire out here." A long tongue of blue flame shot from the door. Mitch threw the paper ball into the flame. It vanished in an instant. "Thanks!" They stood silently in the sun and listened to Mavrik eat.
    Pen rode into the yard and brought Mitch's bike to a stop in front of them. "This thing is fun! I should buy one."
    "You'll lose your 'crazy old gardener' image," said Mitch.
    Pen sighed and nodded. "Ah well. How is the patient?"
    "He's fine," said Alex. "All he needs is a week of rest, then he'll be 100 percent, apart from the scar," she turned to Mitch, "which will impress the women."
    Mitch coughed and looked away.
    "Good!" said Pen. He paused in thought. "Yes," he said slowly. "I remember looking after him."
    Mavrik appeared at the door, munching on the last of the meat. "How can you remember what is yet to happen?"
    "It hasn't happened to you, but it has happened to me," explained Pen. "Getting your head around it is one of the problems with time travel. One more thing," he added. "You must never tell me-then about me-now."
    The three just blinked at him. Finally Mavrik said "What?"
    "When you get back," explained Pen patiently, "Don't talk about what you have seen here."
    "Oh," said Mavrik eventually. "Why?"
    "It will be bad."
    "Time paradoxes!" said Mitch suddenly.
    "Exactly!" exclaimed Pen. "This is why I can't tell... No, sorry. Forget that."
    "Forget what?" asked Alex.
    "Time paradoxes?" asked Mavrik.
    "Hang on-" began Mitch.
    Pen waved them to silence. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Right. Are you ready Mavrik?"
    "Yes." He turned to Mitch and Alex. "Thank you for your help. Usually I would give you a gift, but I have nothing here."
    "Just seeing a real dragon was pretty good," said Mitch.
    Alex stepped forward and rubbed his neck. "Look after yourself, and avoid ballistas." She turned to Pen. "Do you have all your stuff?"
    "What stuff?" wondered Pen.
    "Staff, cloak, pointy hat- stuff like that."
    "Oh! I don't need those any more," said Pen dismissively. "That was just stuff. Stand away, Alex."
    Alex and Mitch moved away from the wizard and the dragon. "Good luck," said Mitch. Alex waved silently.
    A cold wind sprang up from nowhere and was gone in an instant. Mavrik leapt in the air with his wings outstretched and roared. He flashed with light and was gone, leaving behind a sculpture of fog that dissipated in the warm air. There was a loud peal of thunder.
    The last echoes rumbled away long before anyone spoke. "I wish I could see dragons again," said Mitch.
    "Yeah," sighed Alex.
    Pen went to the truck and retrieved his walking stick. He hunched over and leaned on the cane. The crazy old gardener was back. "Dragons, yes. That's nice. Dragons there used to be. I saw one once, I did. Me. Hee hee hee."
    "Shut up," said Mitch. He smiled suddenly. "We know your name."

The mid-day sun heated the parade ground of the keep. People dozed in the shade; some knights sat beside a ballista and chatted idly, their armour on the ground near their feet.
    An icy wind sprang up, blowing dust, straw and frightened chickens away from the centre of the yard. There was a crack of thunder and from nowhere came a dragon roaring with its wings outstretched. It dropped to the ground and shook frost from its body, then looked around the yard. The frightened people huddled against the keep walls.
    Mavrik saw the knights and the ballista, and stalked over to them. One knight grabbed for a sword, but Mavrik was too fast for him. He knocked the human down and pinned him there with a hand. "Move away," he said to the others and drew a deep breath. They ran as he flamed the ballista until it was blazing.
    He picked up the frightened knight and looked at him. "I know you! You're the one who called me a coward."
    The knight swallowed. "Ah-ha ha!"
    Mavrik put him down, and gestured at the ruined ballista. "You call me a coward, yet you tried to kill me with that." He scowled at the rest of the knights. "Well, I'm back," he growled. "And I am pissed off!"
    Without another word he leaped into the air and flew off, heading for a small island in the middle of the fens.

copyright Den Whitton 1996

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