American Dragon: The Third Evanescence
James Wright, ©2016
Obligatory Disclaimer: I do not own American Dragon: Jake Long or any of its creative material aside from original characters and plots.
Welcome everyone, regular visitors and newcomers alike.
Before you begin, I wish to make one thing clear: this story is intended for everyone. Regardless of how acquainted you are with the American Dragon cartoon, this story has been written with the goal of being enjoyable for anyone with a passion for fantasy. It requires no foreknowledge or expectations, only an enthusiasm for adventure. For those who are familiar with American Dragon, this story will delve into a subject that has thus far been avoided: the final collision of the human and magical worlds. It is a topic filled with wild possibilities that I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy.
I also feel obliged to warn that I hope to write the majority (if not all) of the complete story before publishing further chapters. In other words, updates may not be in for some time but they'll be consistent when they do arrive.
Now, I don't want to detract any further from the story itself. Follow the story or my account if you want to stay updated when I put out new material, review or PM me with any opinions, suggestions, or criticisms you may have, and favorite the story to give it publicity if you enjoy it!
Chapter One: It's Raining Men
Monsters thrived unseen in the depths of New York City, and that was just the way they liked it.
In truth this infestation was not unique to the Big Apple; tales around the world have told of creatures sneaking beneath beds and going bump in the night for millennia. In the modern age of rationality, however, demons were more often known by human names and faces. They could be seen, captured, punished, and while many slunk by unnoticed their existence was well known and simply accepted as a hazard of urban society. Now and then the evening news would parade a drugstore thief or corrupt official, and that was enough to satisfy the skeptics of the world who reveled in knowing all they thought lay beneath the belly of their concrete beast.
It was this perplexing combination of confidence and utter obliviousness that gave the rest of New York City's discrete populace true anonymity. They were those beings who had long been discarded as the stuff of legends, whose mere presence was beyond the imagination of all but the most deranged and eccentric. They were admired by the whimsical and romanticized throughout the arts, yet their revelation would single handedly shake the very foundations of society. They were everywhere and nowhere, universal yet impossible.
They were creatures of magic.
And as with all world-threatening secrets, these creatures had their protectors. One such sentinel was a young man of eighteen, who if you happened to pass on the street would seem nothing more than a somewhat short Asian skater with flashy clothes and a cocky grin. He was perfectly ordinary, except perhaps for the spiky black hair with green highlights, and on an early summer's day was hidden away in the dusty living room of a north Brooklyn townhome. Lying back on a couch wrapped in plastic, he held a stiff pillow over his eyes and blocked out the waning evening sunlight as the smell of mingled mothballs and wood polish hung over him.
His name was Jake Long, and today was a very important day.
"Mm-hmm, here's a good one Jakey." There was a playful chuckle and a smooth, stern girl's voice snapped out. "McDonnegy Concord of 1365, go!"
"Treaty signed by the warring Leprechaun clans of Europe, ending the Great Shamrock Crisis of the fourteenth century."
"Uh-uh, need more than that, playa. How did it end the crisis?"
"It uh…" Jake bit his lip and pressed the pillow to his face until he could taste its starchy lint. Then he remembered. "Oh! They agreed to start putting their magic into gold instead of clovers!"
A deeper voice whistled off to his side. "Bro, you're killing it! All that studying totally paid off, even though you missed out on a ton of skating, video games, hanging out-"
Jake sat up to the squeaking of plastic and tossed his pillow aside. "Yo Spud, kind of on a tight schedule remember? Less torture, more questions."
Slouching at the foot of a covered recliner, Arthur Spudinski was surrounded by a mess of thick weathered books and staring into space with his mouth sagging open. Jake had first met the boy when he was a lanky boy addicted to baggy clothes, rock music, and computers, and he had since remained unchanged but for an even more exaggerated height and his chin-worth of scraggly peach fuzz.
"Relax, Jakey. It's all good." A dark skinned young woman lounged to Jake's right, a tome open in her lap while she focused on the screen of her phone. Trixie Carter was her name, and it was largely because of her mature and determined attitude that they had all been such good friends since childhood, even though her punk clothes and demeanor suggested an entirely different persona. "It's only been a month since we graduated, there's still plenty of summer vacation left to go around."
Jake nodded to her glowing device. "What could there be left to look up? I brought every book I could find in Grandpa's shop!"
"Hm? Oh, this ain't for magic review. Just looking at classes for-" Trixie paused before flicking her phone back to black and sitting up with a dismissive wave. "Ah forget it. I gotta think of another question anyway, that is if someone would stop holding up the line..."
"Right, my bad." Spud scratched at the beanie covering his lengthy brown hair and flipped through one of the dusty books. "Uh huh...hm...oh that's neat…"
Jake rolled his eyes. "Spud!"
"Okay, okay, here's one." He flattened out one of the pages and cleared his throat. "What's the difference between a centaur, a satyr, and a faun?"
"Pft, piece of cake. Centaurs are human on top and whole horse on bottom. Satyrs and fauns are basically the same thing, but their legs are from goats and they've only got two."
"For real, step up your game Spud." Trixie leaned toward Jake and perked her eyebrow. "You ready? What's the governing body for all magical creatures?"
"Oh, so you get to ask easy questions," Spud snapped.
"Seriously Trix," Jake agreed. "It's the Dragon Order. That's like Magic 101."
"And what are the three pillars of the Dragon Order?" she persisted.
Jake groaned. "This again? We've been over them like ten times already-"
"-and I see them every time I open one of these books, even that one about gargoyle diets. That means they're important, Jakey." She snapped her fingers impatiently. "C'mon already, you'll thank me later."
What she wanted was a mantra Jake had repeated countless times and knew by heart, just like the rest of his fellow magical protectors, but he also knew there was no refusing Trixie. Reluctantly, he held up a hand and counted off on his fingers. "Judgment, to serve all creatures equally; courage, to never falter in duty; and wisdom, to find serenity in strife."
Spud tapped the spine of a book against his head, his look of puzzled curiosity returned. "You know, I never really got the wisdom part. It's like they're telling you to be happy by making trouble or something. Doesn't sound all that wise when you think about it."
"It doesn't mean to go looking for problems," Jake said. "It's more like learning to deal with stuff you can't fix. Keep a cool head, you know? Gramps always said-"
There was the sound of a door creaking open and the smacking of feet on hard floor. The teens craned their necks toward the home's entryway to see two adults, one a squat woman with copiously styled hair and the other a tall man with all of Spud's thin length and none of his casual bearing.
Spud clambered up as they walked in through the room, rubbing his neck and calling in an innocent tone, "Mom! Dad! I, uh, didn't think you'd be home so-"
"Arthur, where on Earth did you get all of these dirty...what are they, textbooks?" Mr. Spudinsky picked up one of the volumes by his feet and sniffed at the wrinkled leather cover. "Don't tell me these are for your studies in the fall?"
Spud blinked at the man with a dumb look before smiling broadly. "Yes, that! Textbooks! For college! That's exactly what these are for, just school. Books for college, college books! Nothing else, no sir, heh..."
They waited for Mr. Spudinsky to give Spud a single nod and set the book down with a grimace. "Well they're absolutely ragged, and overpriced no doubt. I told you that Harvard or Yale were much better options, but you refused to listen."
Spud sighed and moved to guide his parents out of the room. "Thank you for the reminder, dad. It's awesome having this conversation three times a day-"
The man brushed past his exasperated son and stepped further into the room. "Trixie, good to see you again. How are things? You must be excited, I'm sure."
"Same as always, Mr. S," she smiled tentatively. "And it's kinda nerve-racking to be honest."
He flashed her a grin before turning to Jake. "And you Mr. Long? How goes the job hunt? You know we always have positions open at the restaurant, or have you decided on a trade school?"
"Dad, this really isn't a good time-"
Jake bit back his irritation and forced a smile. "S'all good. I've got some things in the works, but thanks anyway Papa Spud."
"I only mean that it's important to-"
Spud gasped dramatically. "Mom, I almost forgot! There's, like, a ton of huge cockroaches in the kitchen! They're everywhere, crawling all over the pots and counters with their hairy little feet and stuff!"
The short woman gaped in horror at her son. She dropped her purse and dragged Mr. Spudinsky out of the room by his elbow, shouting, "Bugs in my house, oh no sirree! Come on, Stew, we're going to war! So help me if they so much as sniffed that casserole…"
The two whirled out behind the kitchen door. Trixie shook her head in their wake. "They're cool and all Spud, but I still can't believe those peeps are your legit parents."
Spud made an annoyed grunt, knuckle deep in scratching his armpit. "I know, right? I mean cockroaches are adorable, like what's there to freak out about? And just ignore my dad, Jake. He's probably just got his extra small whitey tighties on today or something."
Jake waved him off. "It's cool Spud. I've got other things to worry about anyway. Speaking of, how much time we got left? Fu?"
The three looked between each other and realized that none of them had in fact seen the fourth member of their group in some time. Trixie squinted at the other two. "He was here, wasn't he?"
"Fu? Fu! Fu, where are you?" Jake bent down off of his couch and dug through the piles of books around them. Metal clanged from the room over to the commanding shouts of Spud's frantic mother while Trixie and Spud joined Jake in his search.
"Come out, come out Fu!" Spud called.
Trixie came out from her hunt behind the TV. She tapped a finger on her chin and wondered aloud, "He's gotta be here somewhere. Think...if I were Fu, where would I…"
They all stopped and shared a knowing look. "The kitchen."
"Wah! What in the - is that a DOG?"
"Please don't be the casserole, please don't be the casserole-" Spud sped out of the room and into the kitchen. Jake and Trixie listened to the following commotion of shouts and what sounded like flying cookware until Spud backed into the living room, dragging a flabby gray Chinese shar pei by his mass of folded skin.
"Ruff, ruff - but I wasn't finished!" the dog whined after the door closed again.
Trixie glared at him with her hands on her hips. "Boy, you are an 800 year old animal guardian. Work up some self-control!"
Spud let go of Fu Dog, whose rump fell to the ground with a thump. The dog pointed a paw at Trixie and snapped, "Hey sister, you try living on diet Kibbles 'n Bits and see how long you go without a snack!"
Jake sighed. "Fu, we'll talk about how messed up this is later. How are we doing on time?"
Fu shrugged, standing upright on his hind legs and brushing out his endless wrinkles. "How should I know? I'm a dog, kid."
"Yeah, a talking dog that we agreed would keep an eye on the clock while we studied!"
"Alright, alright, sheesh. I've been looking after your family since before you were born, and when have I ever let you down? Actually, don't answer that." Fu felt around his belly, dug a paw into his cavernous folds, and pulled out a small wristwatch in his claws. "We haven't been here that long, I'm sure we've got plenty of...oh boy."
The shar pei tugged at his collar and coughed. "Heh, say, uh, what time was it at again? And are we on Daylight Savings, or-?"
"Give me that." Jake snatched the watch away and read the face thrice over before finally letting his stomach plummet.
"So how bad is it exactly? Kid?"
A rush of thoughts and emotions was flooding Jake's mind, and none of it was in the least bit helpful. "Fifteen minutes. We have to make it to Grand Central in fifteen minutes." He closed his eyes and thumped his knuckles against his head trying to concentrate. "Skateboard's too slow, traffic's gonna be jammed, and the sub's never on time. There's no way, unless…"
"Unless what? You don't mean…" Fu backed away from him and folded his arms. "No way, nuh-uh, not in broad daylight! And you know how I hate being - hugh!"
Jake hefted the shar pei up and slung him over his shoulder. "Well suck it up, we're out of time. Sorry Spud, promise I'll come back and get this place cleaned up after I'm done!"
"Who cares?" Spud leaned out and gave him a parting fist bump. "You go kick some serious butt, bud!"
Trixie jumped around the furniture and wrapped them both in a brief hug. "Knock 'em dead, you hear?"
"Thanks guys." Jake broke away and hurried to throw open the front door and charge outside. "I'll be back before you know it! Holla!"
"Just a - heads up - kid," Fu bounced on Jake's shoulder to the rhythm of his gait. "I'm not - really sure - what I ate - or if it - was even - really food."
"Puke on the jacket, Fu, and I'll drop you." After passing only a few relatively quiet streets, Jake had reached the East River waterfront at the edge of Brooklyn. The rest of New York awaited them just beyond the stretch of water, and Jake already knew how they'd get there. "Check it: we'll go under the Manhattan Bridge, cut through the subway tunnels, and bam, Grand Central baby."
Fu pushed back to look him in the face. "You know the rules, kid, no flying during daytime unless it's an emergency. You're gonna be seen!"
Jake ignored his animal guardian and set him down before edging toward the concealed alley of a nearby store. He checked for witnesses one last time and turned his attention inward. Within him, somewhere around where he expected his heart would be, he could feel a ball of soothing warmth. It was something that he'd been born with, a special power passed on in his family. Since turning thirteen it had given him extraordinary abilities, far beyond those of any normal human, and in exchange he was charged to watch over all magical creatures. It was a blessing and a curse, a gift and a burden.
Yet in moments when Jake tapped into that warmth as he did now, he felt no spite or grief. There was only ecstasy.
The little ball of warmth erupted, shooting torrents of burning strength throughout Jake's body. He could feel flames covering him entirely as reality blurred around him, but instead of smoldering into ash he was transformed in an instant. Where the unassuming teen had stood only seconds ago, there now towered a flesh and blood dragon. The beast looked as though it were borne straight from Arthurian legend; brilliant red scales covered its hide with yellow running the length of its underbelly, ferocious claws tipped its hands and feet, black and green flares ran along its spine, and its face protruded with a broad maw and pointed ears.
The crimson dragon that was now Jake Long flexed his wings and cradled Fu Dog in his sturdy arms. "Chill, Fu. I'll be careful. Not that I'd have to be careful if someone had kept time like they were supposed to."
"I get it already! Oh brother, just make it fast will ya?"
"Dawg, fast is my specialty."
"How did I know you were gonna say th-aaaAHAAH!"
Rushing wind drowned out Fu's shouts as Jake hurled into the air and sped along the waterfront. He kept low and close behind the buildings along the river, sticking to the shadows and streaking through breaks in his cover with powerful beats of his wings. In no time at all they had reached the Manhattan Bridge, and Jake banked hard to soar just below the massive structure. Rush hour traffic roared above them, and now and then Jake would roll or dive through gaps in the expressway supports with shouts of exhilaration.
He tumbled through another row of beams and felt a pinch as Fu tried digging into his scales. "I get the feeling that - hrghbr - you're trying to make me sick here!"
Wailing sirens overhead made Jake perk his ears up, and he picked up what sounded like the churning blades of a helicopter. He sped on and focused on the end of the bridge. "Now why would I do that, Fu? It's not like you almost ruined the single most important day of my life or anything!"
"Give me a break, alright? How many times am I gonna have to say I'm - GAAH! HEADS UP KID!"
Fu's outburst came late, for Jake had already seen it. A blue object had appeared from beyond the edge of the bridge's scaffolding and was plummeting toward the East River. Jake halted in surprise and curiously watched the strange blur, until he realized it was in fact a man flailing about as he screamed into the empty air.
Before he'd had a chance to think, Jake was falling in a steep dive. He tucked Fu beneath one arm and held the other out, reaching toward the tumbling man. Hitting the water from this height would be like smacking into concrete, but Jake managed to snare his claws into the man's belt and pitch upward long before that happened.
He shifted the frankly overweight stranger beneath his other arm and careened back beneath the bridge. Fu was trembling on Jake's other side and pulled his paws away from his eyes to gasp at the man. "Oh for the love of - look at what you did now!"
"Don't you give me that!" Jake snapped over the struggling man's yells. "What, I shoulda just let him decorate the East River?!"
"Out of all the people you coulda caught, did it have to be a cop?!"
Confused, Jake looked down at his passenger and indeed found the blue uniform, black holsters, and gleaming badge of one of New York's finest. The man had gone quiet, choosing now to stare up at the dragon, his plump face contorted with speechless terror.
Jake turned forward as they reached the banks of Manhattan, flying up and into the dark depths of the subway tunnels. "Aw man."
"Well what are we gonna do?" Fu's voice echoed in the poorly lit passages. "You can't just show up with some copper, we've gotta ditch this guy!"
"I know, I know! Give me a sec! I'm trying to think...here!"
Jake stopped beside a small side corridor and set his patrons down in its grimy confines. Flames consumed him with a thought, and he returned his human body. "Alright Fu, you know the drill. EXCON level one."
"Way ahead of you kid." He stood up and again dug through his wrinkles, this time producing a corked vial of green sludge. "This is all I've got on me, so no more fishing for bystanders. Capisce?"
Jake took the vial and yanked out the stopper. He walked over to the officer where he was sitting against the wall, hugging his knees and eyeing him uncertainly. "W-who are you? Where am I? Wha...where did that th-thing go?"
"Easy there, big guy. You just fell off a bridge." Jake kneeled down by the man and pointed to a ladder a few feet behind him. It was harder seeing in the darkness without the keen sensitivity of his dragon eyes, something he realized was probably contributing to his captive's apprehension. "We're in a service hatch, somewhere on Houston Street I think. Here, you look like you could use a drink. Just don't tell my moms, okay?"
The officer didn't budge. He was shaking, covered in sweat, and looked on the verge of snapping. Just when Jake felt certain things were headed south, the man suddenly sighed and unfolded himself. His hand shot out and grabbed the vial from Jake, and he tossed back its contents in a single gulp.
"Oh Christ-" The officer grimaced with disgust and fell into a coughing fit. "That's awful - the hell are kids drinking these days?!"
"Not what you were expecting, huh?" Jake helped him to his feet and guided him toward the ladder as he continued to heave from the concoction. "That was a Memory Potion, not booze. It'll make you forget everything magical you've seen over the past day or two, and don't worry, it's completely safe. I've given it to tons of people, no wack side effects."
They reached the ladder and the officer grabbed onto its dirty rungs. A lost expression came over him as he turned back to Jake. "Uh...who are you? What are you doing in my office?" He looked around blearily at their murky surroundings. "This...isn't my office…"
"That's what I like to hear. One more thing." Jake poked the blue button-up pulled taut over his rotund belly. "Cut back on the donuts, dude, I've carried pianos that weren't as heavy. Only bad guys you're catching are chairs."
"Well for your information I'm on a diet - wait, kid!"
"Not a kid!" Jake cleared out of the passageway and took off down the tunnel, Fu panting along at his heels. "Same goes for you Fu," he added over his shoulder. "Totally not a kid anymore. Not after today."
"You'll always be a kid to me - huff - kid. Now are we walking all the way to Central - huff - or what?"
Bright flames scattered light over the tunnel walls, and Jake picked Fu up by the collar in his claws. "Okay, now you're just asking for it."
"You know you love me."
A beat of Jake's wings lifted them off the ground and they took off down the railways. Fu held his eyes shut again, though there wasn't much to see besides scattered emergency lights, occasional rodents, and endless dirt. Even with so few landmarks, Jake had flown the lines enough to know which passages were vacant and which to avoid. Their trip was brief at his speed, and before long their gloomy background began giving way to light and commotion.
"Made it." Jake landed just before the station's platform and transformed back into a human. He lifted Fu out of the tracks and jumped up himself, looking around the crowded terminal. "Alright, from here it should be...or is it…?"
Fu vanished into the throng on all fours. "Come on, kid! This way!"
The shar pei bounded off the platform, through a turnstile, and up the stairs beyond. Jake chased him through the terminal, shoving through pedestrians and avoiding luggage as well as could be expected, until he came to the main floor. There he found a horde of businessmen, tourists, families, even street performers, but not a single shar pei was in sight.
"Fu!" Jake wheeled around in a circle, scanning every inch of the crowd for his guide. "Yo Fu Dog! FU!"
Turning at the summons, Jake spotted a short old Asian man with blue robes and flowing white hair. Unsurprisingly, the sight was not as comforting as he would have hoped. "Grandpa! I was just looking for - ow, OW! Cut it out!"
His grandfather smacked him a few more times with his rolled up newspaper, hurling what Jake could only assume were obscenities at him in Cantonese. "Of all the selfish, irresponsible, childish things you have done!"
"Gramps, if you just listen-"
"YOU ARE FIVE MINUTES LATE!" He rang his makeshift weapon against Jake a few more times to the baffled looks of passersby. "And why have you not answered your phone? Grandpa has been calling you!"
"G, my phone wasn't going off! Fu and me were in the subway tunnels, I probably didn't have any bars!"
"And why were you in the tunnels?!"
"Uh...that's kind of a long story, see - ow!" Jake swatted away the newspaper and bent down closer to his grandfather. "Seriously gramps, I'm already late! Help me find Fu and...Fu?"
Looking supremely unconcerned, Fu wandered up to them through the crowd, a wrapped hotdog caught in his jaws.
"Hey, you found Lao Shi!" He sat between them, peeled the foil off of his prize, and ate half of the frank in a single bite. "So...what'd I miss?"
"There is no time Jake!" Lao Shi caught him by the sleeve of his jacket and pulled him through the terminal. "The Dragon Council is expecting you, though I doubt your tardiness will be a surprise."
They broke free of the bustling traffic and came to a rest area with elevators lining the walls. Lao Shi walked to the silver doors at the farthest end and, after discretely looking over his shoulder, pressed the call buttons in an absurdly complex sequence. A soft chime sounded, and the arrows above the door lit up an unnatural green.
"This is it young dragon. Remember, you have only one chance." His grandfather's tone was serious, devoid of all of his previous irritation. "Do your best, trust in your training, and know that no matter what happens I am proud of you."
Strangely, his words only served to make Jake queasy. "No worries, G. I've got this puppy in the bag, ya heard?"
Fu was licking ketchup off of his paw. "Oh yeah, he's scared alright."
"What?! Please, yo, the Am-Drag is anything BUT scared!"
"Uh-huh, keep telling yourself that. A little confidence never hurt." The elevator doors slid open and Fu spun Jake around and toward the compartment. "You'll do great kid! Just remember, I'm putting all my biscuits on you!"
Jake stepped into the elevator, wincing at the antiquated wallpaper, shag carpeting on the floor and ceiling, and short green creature working the controls in the corner. The scenery alone was enough to make him dizzy.
The goblin yawned and welcomed him with a wheezing voice. "Welcome to Enchanted Elevators, where service-"
"Yeah-yeah-yeah, can we skip all that? Isle of Draco, kind of in a hurry."
The operator shrugged and started playing with the dials and knobs on his panel. Jake looked back at Lao Shi and wore the best grin he could muster. "Any last words for your star pupil?"
His grandfather smiled back and pointed a finger to his own heart. "All that you need is right here, young dragon. But if you insist, remember this: a gem is not polished without friction-"
"-nor a man perfected without trials," Jake hummed, now grinning sincerely. "I remember."
Without warning the doors slammed shut. A tingling spread over Jake's feet as they became anchored to the floor, and the goblin cranked a lever with a sigh. "Enjoy your ride, I guess."
Jake flung his hands over his head, which did little as the elevator box launched straight down into the bowels of the Earth at neck breaking speed. Like dropping on a roller coaster, his stomach flew into his throat and he lost all sense of direction. Unlike a roller coaster, however, his discomfort persisted for what felt like ages, refusing to subside as they hurtled on and on. It may have been the quickest way of travelling to an island on the other side of the world, but that didn't mean Jake had to enjoy it.
As fast as their departure had been, their journey came to an abrupt and jarring end. No time for adjustment was given to Jake, however, as the enchantment binding his feet to what was now the ceiling vanished, dropping him head-first to the ground. He tumbled forward, landed on a knee, and fought to keep in his lunch.
"Thank you for choosing Enchanted Elevators," droned the goblin, still glued upside-down to the ceiling. "We know you have many choices-"
"Dawg, seriously," Jake begged as he climbed to his feet. "Your elevator's about to get some new interior designing, if you catch my drift."
The goblin lazily pulled another lever. "It wouldn't be the first time."
The doors slid open, and Jake stepped out into a warm salty breeze. Temple-like columns and stonework surrounded him, and through the gaps he could see peaceful shores and a pristine dawning sky outside. He had arrived at his destination, and beyond the reception building where he now stood awaited the Isle of Draco, the ancestral seat of power for the entire Dragon Order.
Yet the seemingly calm sight only twisted Jake's stomach into even tighter knots. The island itself wasn't to blame for his nerves, as Jake had travelled here dozens of times over the years. Even when those visits were conducted under the worst of circumstances, he always had his friends and his Dragon Master to see him through to the end. Today, however, was a day unlike any other, and for once Jake would have to face it alone.
Today, Jake was going to take a test, his final test. Today the Dragon Council would determine if he would finally become a world dragon and be a student no more.
"Crikey, would you look at that!"
Jake jumped at the voice and spun around. His shoulders slumped, however, when he found the approaching yellow scaled dragon with orange stripes and horns. "You've got to be joking…"
"Well I'll be stuffed. If it isn't Jake Long, the American Dragon!"