Page 1 of Hadley

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Long ago, at a time when all creatures—including large dragons—roamed the earth as only their true self, things were much different than they are today. Working with and helping humans in whatever way they could, the creatures, large and small, worked side by side with them, helping both the dragons and the humans. It was a place where magic was celebrated. And dragons darkened the skies every day. It was then man figured out there was magic in the dragons and hunted them to almost extinction. This is the story of one such family. The beginning, but never the end of the Manning Dragons.

“I’m afraid there is no hope for us.” No one made a sound as their leader continued. “Once the humans found out about us and what we can do for them dead, we have been doomed. I’m so terribly sorry.”

Coop looked around the room. There were so few of them now he could easily count them. When he had been younger, thousands of years ago, there would not be enough room for all of them to share this room. Now they were down to having a quarter of them share the space because so many, his own wife included, had been murdered so needlessly. Coop was saddened by it all. He was fearful that he’d see the end of his own family, his own children, if something wasn’t done and done soon. Turning to leave the large cave, he was stopped by his brother, Xavier.

“The boys, they are well?” He nodded and smiled. Coop felt it all the way to his heart. A place that had been dead for so long, it seemed. “You have the spell? Are you going to use it on them? I should so wish I had thought of this before my own family was taken from me, Coop. You are a brave man and a good father.”

“Thank you. And I shall use it tonight. It is the only way to save them.” Xavier nodded, his own heart heavy with the losses they had suffered. “You know I would have shared should I have had it sooner. I am so sorry, brother. All of my heart, it’s sorry for you.”

“I know that. I do. But they are all gone now. My other half, my children. Killed for things are not fair to our kind.” Coop knew all too well. “Ava was a good woman, Coop. A good woman and mother to your sons. She will be missed forever.”

“Aye, in my heart and that of my sons as well.” Xavier stood there for several seconds, and Coop told him he must go. “They’re waiting for word on what is to happen with us all.”

“One more thing, if you please. It will not take but a second. I have left them all I have. It is where you keep them hidden away, the boys. Deep within the cave, it’s all there.” Coop asked him what he meant. “I cannot go on, brother. I cannot. There is too much grief in my heart for me to live. I have left my things for them there. They might survive this; with the magic, you have to give to them. And if so, they’ll need more than you have to help them.”

“Xavier, please, you mustn’t do this. They’ll miss you as much as I.” Xavier nodded and said it had begun. “You can come and stay with us. You’ll live with us in the caves.”

“Nay. I cannot. I must go. Just tell them I love them. With all of my heart.” There would be no stopping him once his heart was made up, Coop knew this, but it made his heart no less full for it. “Good bye, my brother. Take care you are not caught by the humans.”

Coop made his way back to his hidden cave and sat before the fire. The boys, he knew, were resting, their bodies getting stronger daily with their age. Soon they would be as big as him, a dragon of worth and size. When his eldest son came to him, his eyes full of fear, Coop knew it was well past time he did what he had been practicing. The magic would keep them safe.

Gathering his sons, six of them of varying shades of blues and greens, he asked them to have a seat. He had a story to tell them. It was not a story, not truly, but a tale that would, hopefully, keep them safe.

“I have been studying things—a witch told me once of a great magic only few can do. It takes a loving heart and a strong dragon to make it work. I have asked her, and she has told me how to make it so. In this magic, it will keep you all safe from the humans.” They nodded, each of them knowing it was a human blade that took the life of their dear mother, and they were fearful daily that the same fate awaited himself and them as well. “I will perform this upon you, each of you, at the same time and give you some magic you will use when you need it. This magic, strong and powerful magic, will let you roam with the humans, learning and teaching them, I hope, and they’ll not know your true self is just below your flesh.”

“You mean we’ll be humans as well?” He nodded, then shook his head at Cooper, his oldest. “I don’t understand, father. Will you explain?”

“Yes. The magic I will give you will let you change into your true self when you are alone. But when you are out in the world, you will need to be a human. A man.” Cooper looked at his brothers and then back at him as he continued. “With this magic, I will also give you a gift. Something you will need to keep yourself safe should they find out. A stronger armor than any other dragon before you as well as the same immortality you have now, as man or dragon. That does not mean that you can be foolhardy with the humans. You will still need to keep yourselves safe from them at all times.”

Hudson, his second son, stared at him for long moments. He was the thinker, and if he could think of a reason for this not to work, he would voice it loudly. He was much like his mother in that. She would be the first to say when she did or did not like something. And the first to say the plan was perfect. He only hoped she would have approved of this.

“I think you are very smart, father. To try and keep us safe. But I can only think this will not work on you. Or is your plan?” The boy was much too smart, Coop thought. “If you change us, who will change you?”

“There will be no one to change me, son. I will... It is my wish to join your mother in this earth.” He watched them, seeing if they understood the love he would loss when she had been murdered. “Giving you this magic, it will be something I can tell her I’ve done for her sons. You know as well as I that she loved you more than anything on this earth, including herself.”

“She died saving us.” Coop nodded at Lincoln. “I’m not happy you’re going to die, Father, but I understand wanting to be with mother. I miss her more every day. There are times even now that I have to think on it to hear what her voice sounded like. The color of her eyes, the green that they were, eludes me too.”

“As it does me as well.” He looked at his sons, all of them growing into dragons of worth. “I must have an agreement from you all. Even if one of you does not want this, then it will not work. I would say you should think on this hard. For once, I have given this to you. There will be no going back.”

“I wish to have it.” He knew Cooper would be the first. Not that he did not love his father, but Cooper would see things in a way most would not. To not have this done would mean a certain death for them all. Dragons were too valuable dead not to be hunted for all time. “I will do whatever it takes to make sure you are proud of me as well.”

“I am already, Cooper. Forever.” The others nodded too. They were ready for this as much as he was dreading it. Because once he started the process of changing his sons into men, then he would begin to die. It would take all he was to change them. Not that he would ever regret what he was doing for them. Not ever, but he would miss them very much.

Standing up, spreading his wings out behind him, Coop told them about the things their uncle had left them. They knew where the family jewels were, the things their mother had left them as well. Once they were standing, their bodies strong and healthy, he felt his heart swell and break for what he was about to do.

“I, Cooper Manning, of the Manning Dragons of the earth, give to my sons, Cooper, Hudson, Lincoln, Lucas, Tristan and Xavier, all I am. Each of you will take a part of the earth with you when you are converted. The part of you that is unique in all ways will be strengthened and enhanced. You will be immortal, forever, and those you take to your heart will also be.” His sons bowed before him when he told them to. He said the words over them that would change them into men. Coop could feel his body shutting down, his heart beating a little less. But he had one more thing he wished to bless them with and held himself upright to give it from his own dying heart. “One day, true love will come to you. And you will have more than you have ever known. It will fill you in ways you cannot ever imagine. Love will be yours for all times. For only then will you become a true dragon, a Manning Dragon.”


Cooper sat with his brothers while their father lay dying. His heart was weak from what he had done, and it was tearing him apart. Father was weak, yes, but he continued to tell them tales of their mother, of their adventures when they were only small dragons in whispered words that touched each of them in different ways. They were going to be alone soon; their father was so close to joining their mother that it hurt Cooper in ways he had not expected.

“What shall we do with his body?” Cooper looked at Tristan, the fifth child of his parents and asked him what he meant. “He will not be able to lie here. If the humans were to find him, they would surely cut him up into pieces. I do not want that for him. We were never able to bury mother in the proper way after what they did to her. I don’t want to think of his body being picked over like meat in a spit. We must be able to do something for him.”

“We could burn his body.” Cooper wondered how it would work when Hudson continued. “His scales will be worthless to them should they come upon his body. The magic he held within him also will be useless to them. He will be nothing more than a carcass. They’ll leave alone.”

Burn his body. It was something to think about. But he did not want to, not while he was still breathing, his body still alive. Even if it was just for a few more hours. Anytime spent with him was more than precious for the six of them. When he laid his head upon his father’s chest, hearing his heart beating slower and slower, Cooper wondered what his father would think if he knew the magic he had given them had not worked. They were all still as dragons.