"Are you all right?" Jake heard the woman who had pulled him out of the river ask. He shook his head to clear the water out of his eyes and nodded.
"Who're you?" Jake asked as he stood up, trying to shake off at least some of the water.
"She is the leader of the river nymphs in the U.S., kid. Her name is Crystal," Jake heard Fu say and he looked down to see the dog at his feet. "Nice landing," he added dryly.
"My landing was fine," Jake told Fu, "except for the falling into the river part."
"Most dragons I know don't enjoy flying into a river," the white haired lady said with a wry smile on her lips.
Jake shrugged, clearly not impressed with the mocking of his recently acquired flight skills. "It's not like I did it on purpose," he muttered.
"Sorry," she said with a small laugh. "But, I am wondering why the new American Dragon is outside and flying when I remember Lao Shi saying something at today's meeting along the lines of 'he needs to control his magic before he can use it outside in the city. Fu," she finished, eying the dog.
Fu shrugged sheepishly. "Hey, we've been indoors for days," Fu said breezily.
"It's dangerous," Crystal insisted. "You could get into trouble for letting him out here," she said in a quieter voice but Jake still heard every word clearly.
"Hey," he said, causing Crystal and Fu to both look up at him. "Don't yell at Fu, kay? I asked him to go out."
Crystal looked a little surprised and Fu sighed. "Kid, you shouldn't admit to someone when it's your fault when you can get into the most trouble."
"You could have said no," Crystal told Fu a little angrily.
"We had everything under control, except the river part. That… that wasn't really on the plan for today," Fu admitted.
"I just wanted get out for a bit," Jake told her. "It's not going so hot with the whole magic thing," he admitted.
Crystal eyed his wings and tail and pursed her lips together. "I imagine, your wingspan is huge for someone who hasn't even completely controlled his powers yet."
"That's what I said," Fu told her. "Unfortunately the hardest part is a little harder because of it."
Crystal sighed and looked at Jake and Fu. "Come with me, we'll get you cleaned up and call your grandfather."
"G?" Jake asked and immediately took a few steps away from Crystal. "Um, we don't have to, I mean…"
"Lao Shi needs to know where you are," Crystal told him. "I'll say that I wanted to show the new dragon around, if it makes you feel any better. But we need to leave, the human lunch hour is coming up and it will be harder to sneak out of central park when there are even more humans about."
Jake glanced down at Fu who shrugged then nodded. He then trotted up to Crystal who motioned for Jake to follow them and began to walk toward a different part of the park that Jake didn't even realize was there until he had walked into it. Fu spoke quietly while Jake began to look around, wondering where the heck they were. "Don't be too overwhelming," he murmured. "He just learned about himself and there are definitely some who are not happy about this country getting a dragon. We need to stick to the nymph's fields and the council areas."
"I'm not going to put him in any danger," Crystal promised. "But I've wanted to meet him for awhile and so has Ivy and some others. Lao Shi can come over once we call him, but I at least want to know what we're getting into."
Fu chuckled. "You have no idea," he said.
After walking for a good twenty minutes, Jake followed Crystal out of a grove of trees. He didn't think he would be tired but he was exhausted after walking that long in a part of the city he didn't even know existed. That was, if they were still in the city. "Why so far?" Jake asked, trying to catch his breath a little.
"Some are illusions, some of it is real. It's all just a precaution, we don't want humans stumbling upon us when they shouldn't," Crystal murmured.
"You don't like humans?" Jake asked as he wrung the last of the river water out of his shirt.
"I don't…trust humans," Crystal replied delicately. "I really don't have any reason to, either."
Jake looked as if he was about to reply but he felt a nudge from behind and he looked down to see Fu shaking his head furiously. Jake wisely made the decision to keep his comment to himself. Even he could tell that upsetting the woman in front of him would probably be a bad idea. Even so, as he followed her into a hidden passageway, he could help but say, "Not all humans are bad."
Fu groaned and Crystal turned around sharply and eyed the preteen dragon. "I'm aware of that, but it's somewhat difficult to tell who can and cannot be trusted, isn't it? Better to distrust everyone then take a chance that might endanger an entire population that's living under the city. If one of us is found, you can bet that the humans won't rest until everyone is found."
Jake bit his lower lip. It wasn't very often when he truly understood what an adult had to say to him but this was one of those times. He didn't really understand his mom's lectures about only skating a few times a week, because he would fall, no matter what. Why not just skate board all the time, it was almost like… how did his dad put it? Delaying the inevitable. Whatever that meant. But for some reason the words from Crystal stuck with him and he knew full well that one mistake really could mean such a thing and that only made him even more nervous.
Fu felt Jake shift nervously as they walked down the long corridor towards some kind of building and sighed quietly. He knew it was important for the kid to know about what being a dragon meant but at this rate he was going to be terrified from doing anything, let alone becoming the American dragon. What twelve year old wants to know that the fate of an entire underground population rested on his shoulders. Crystal's heart in the right place, but after living for several millennia, she had obviously lost her ability to talk to anyone younger than six hundred.
Crystal opened a final door and motioned for the two behind her to go inside. Jake went in first and Fu trotted behind him. They both heard Crystal close and lock the door behind them but Jake was too busy starting at everything and Fu was too busy keeping an eye on him to truly care what the Nymph was doing.
The room that the threesome had just walked into was huge and grandiose. The ceiling was almost invisible, it was so high up and the circular shape of the room just added to its size. Through the room ran a small stream down natural looking rapids. There was also several large oak trees to one side, some large boulders to another side and an empty, darkened hollow in one wall. Parts of the room were completely natural to the point where Jake wondered if they ever left Central Park but there were other parts of the room that were decorated and furnished for meetings or gatherings. There were some tables, many chairs, a few sitting cushions and some furnishings that Jake couldn't have guessed their functions even if he wanted to.
"This," Crystal said, breaking Jake's concentration. "Is the Camarilla's Meeting Hall."
"Who's meeting hall?" Jake asked, confused.
"Not who, what. Camarilla is a word that means a group of people under a leader, like a council or something like that. We call ourselves the Camarilla. The leaders of the United States Magical Underground," Crystal explained. "The Elven leader has a fondness for strange words and insisted we use that name. He is a bit odd, but very nice."
"Elven?" Jake asked. "Like, elves?"
"That would be the idea," Crystal said with a tiny smile. "We'll stay here for the time being, seeing as how this is one of the safest places in the United States. I am one of seven people with access to this room, so you don't need to worry, Fu."
Fu chuckled softly. "I've only been here once myself. Even gramps can't come into this room without someone's permission."
Jake looked surprised. "Even G? I thought he was the bossman around here."
Crystal smiled wryly. "No, Lao Shi is not our leader. Surely this has been explained to you," she asked.
"Yeah, kinda," Jake replied. "I mean I know something about being the American Dragon and stuff but I haven't really heard much else. I've been more keen on getting back to normal," he said with a nod towards his wings.
"Believe it or not," Crystal said as she pulled some water out of the river with a flick of her hand. "That is about as natural a form as you're ever going to have."
"Say wha?" Jake asked.
Crystal directed the small sphere of water until it rested between her palms without actually touching her hands. She walked over to a small box like structure and pulled out what was unmistakably a tea kettle. She streamed the water inside and set it on top of what now Jake guessed was a stove. "Come here," Crystal said, ignoring Jake's question.
Jake glanced down at Fu, who shrugged then nodded. Jake walked over to her and Crystal took a long look at him, as if really taking in his appearance for the first time. Jake squirmed under the unwanted scrutiny. "Yes?" he asked, a little rudely.
A smile quirked Crystal's lips. "Can you breathe fire yet?" she asked.
"I don't think…" Fu started but quieted down when Crystal gave him a piercing stare.
"No…" Jake said slowly. "Why?"
"Elemental magic is what comes most naturally. Perhaps if you learn to control your element, you'll be able to understand how to stop the chi flow more easily," Crystal explained.
"Okay," Jake said. "How?"
"Well, you naturally have the ability to breathe fire. In fact I would be shocked if you haven't accidentally done it already. You may not realize it but you probably have. Mostly it's about trusting what you want to happen to actually happen," Crystal explained.
"What?" Jake asked.
"Inhale and exhale while thinking that you'll actually be able to breathe fire," Crystal said with a small sigh.
"Last time I tried something like that I was stuck inside for two days," Jake said crossly.
"This will be easier, I promise. Not only that but if you catch it, you'll be able to hold your fire. Just like I did with water," Crystal explained.
Jake glanced at Fu again who nodded. "She's right, actually. I mean, gramps wouldn't explain it any differently. I don't know about trying any new magic without him around though."
"Oh, come now," Crystal said and turned back to the stove and pulled out a clear stone. "Let's see how powerful our new dragon is."
Something about the way Crystal said things made Jake uncomfortable but he bristled at the implication that he might be avoiding something because he couldn't do it. He could do anything if he wanted to. Before Fu could outright say no, Jake did exactly as Crystal said and inhaled into his hands. He shut it eyes and exhaled and pulled his hands away. He opened one eye slowly to see several flames dancing merrily in his palms. "Ha!" he said glaring at Crystal with a triumphant look.
Crystal looked a little surprised. "I can't say I've seen many to get it on the first try," she said quietly. Then she gave Jake a genuine smile. "Nice work." She held out the stone and placed it into Jakes palms and soon the fire vanished and the stone glowed orange. "Nice color too," she said. "Your fire is quite strong, Lao Shi will be proud."
"Um," Jake said slowly as she took the stone out of his hands. "What's that?"
"A special stone that can take on the powers of a magical element for a limited amount of time. Watch," she said and placed it into a small groove in the black box that her kettle full of water was on top of. The entire structure glowed red briefly then the stone simply continued to glow. "Now all we need is Ivy and we can have some tea."
"I learned how to breathe fire so you could make tea?" Jake asked, annoyed.
"Don't scoff at tea made by nymphs," Crystal said while waving her finger in Jake's face. "I'll go call Ivy."
Jake glared at her as she walked away, he was unsure if he liked her or not. She was so condescending it drove him crazy but he felt that somehow she was being amazingly protective and considerate and even though he had no real reason to think so, deep down he was truly flattered.
"Ivy should be here soon," Crystal said with a smile. "Then we'll call Lao Shi."
Jake decided that he didn't like her very much.
I am soooooo sorry it's taken forever to update. I had some insanely bad writer's block on this fic. But now I kinda have more of a direction I want to pull it in so yay for that. Thank you do much for sticking with me after all this. Cookies and hugs to my reviewers and the next chapter should come out much quicker.