The superhero known as Leopard stepped carefully through the undergrowth. With no path to follow he looked through the misty air for broken branches or the acrid smell of scorched bark. Tracking a dragon took experience. Not that hard, once you’ve survived a few, he thought.
How do you track something that flies? The question struck him as silly but he didn’t laugh. Too much at stake.
An impossibly large bird rose before him. It flapped its broad wings in languorous fashion. Leopard envied the ease with which it maneuvered through the jungle. If only I could do that, he thought, but I can leap like no one else. That’s why I’m known as Leopard.
He paused to listen and detected the rumbling of the sleeping dragon nearby. It reminded him of the ominous chug of an ancient steam engine. He didn’t want spooked birds to betray his approach.
He waited and listened to the silence punctuated only by the dragon’s labored breath.
He stole his way closer and peered through the underbrush into the deep shadows of the narrow gorge. The dragon lay in slumber like an enormous scaly cat. And the woman he sought to rescue lay in the dragon’s grasp. One of the dragon’s enormous claws arched over her and pinioned her to the ground like a tent stake.
She appeared bedraggled but unhurt. Leopard lobbed a stone which landed near her and drew her attention. He stood and motioned for silence. Her expression of combined hope and panic at their mutual jeopardy touched his heart. Her indomitable spirit shone.
He crouched as he ran to her and saw how the dragon’s claw held her skirt. Leopard pulled his dagger and freed the maiden, slicing the fabric with one deft stroke. With his aid, she carefully pulled herself free. She stood and embraced him.
He signaled the plan to which she nodded enthusiastically.
She gestured for him to wait a moment and she ran to retrieve an oblong piece of wood. About two feet long, its ends were trimmed into an elongated oval. Lying flat, the ends also coved upward. The surface held a painting, the details of which Leopard could not take the time to appreciate at this moment. She returned with it and gave him a thumbs up.
Leopard mouthed, “Hang on.” She jumped onto his back and clung to him. He crouched and with a burst of energy, pushed off and soared with her to the top of the cliff.
“Wow! That was amazing!” she said as she hopped off his back.
Leopard shushed her. “We don’t want to wake him, Lady Glimmer.”
“Oh, right.” She looked at her skirt. “Did you have to cut my skirt?”
“It was that or leave you to the beast.”
They both turned to the shouting they heard from the far side of the gorge.
“Who is that?”
“That, my Lady, is my arch nemesis, Bolo.”
Leopard gestured, indicating the sleeping dragon far below. Bolo ignored him. He did not care.
“Unhand Lady Glimmer, Leopard. She is my prize.”
“That’s just stupid,” she said. “I’m no prize.”
Leopard nodded but did not respond. He took her arm. “We need to get out of here.”
“Wait, Leopard. Are you going to let him speak to me like that?”
“My Lady, the dragon is our current threat. Your bruised feelings will recover from that cur’s disrespect. But from being the dragon’s dinner, you will not.”
Her mouth dropped open in disbelief. “How dare you speak to me so…?”
The ground began to shake. Lady Glimmer screamed and threw herself into Leopard’s arms.
“He awakened the dragon!”
She nodded in terror.
The rumbling subsided as the dragon’s roar echoed away.
“Tell me, Bolo, what is the meaning of your name? Buy one, get one?”
“Your spelling is poor, Leopard. Be on the lookout!”
Lady Glimmer touched Leopard’s arm. “Must you?”
Leopard looked across the chasm at Bolo. “We’re leaving now, Bo. Your empty boasting leaves us cold. And the dragon doesn’t care.”
With a sweep of his arm Bolo began to spin his weapon over his head. The three stone weights on long tethers gained speed in their circular path. With a flash, the orbiting globes ignited into flame and trailed noxious smoke behind them.
“You are the Leopard! Leap over the abyss. Bring her to me now, or I will kill you both.”
Leopard glanced over the precipice to see the dragon pacing. It heard their voices and prepared to attack.
He looked at Lady Glimmer. “Hand me that painting.”
She pulled away defensively, “It is my prized art work.”
“It’s a skateboard,” he shouted, “Now!”
She released it to him. He stepped back from Lady Glimmer and watched as Bolo prepared to release the flaming bola.
At the moment Bolo let go Leopard spun the board over the gorge like a boomerang. Drawn by the movement, the dragon roared upward. The three intersected in one moment.
Just as the dragon chomped down on the board, the bola wrapped around its neck with such force, the stones snapped the dragon’s neck. The serpent’s eyes went dark as it collapsed and fell into the gorge dragging a cascade of debris behind it. It landed with a sickening thump and lay still.
Lady Glimmer said, “My painting…”
“Bolo! I’ll leave it to you to explain to Lord Thor why his favorite dragon lies dead.”
Bolo said nothing. Left with no recourse, he began picking his way down the cliff side.
Leopard turned to Lady Glimmer. “I can retrieve it but please know it may have sustained some damage.”
“I could not thank you enough, Mr. Leopard.”
He stepped into the abyss. A moment later, he reappeared, landing lightly with the painted board in hand. He offered it to Lady Glimmer with a flourish.
“Just needs a touch up and some epoxy.”
She examined where the dragon’s tooth had punctured the board.
“It adds character,” she said as she pushed her blond curls aside.
Leopard smiled. “I’m beginning to think your adventures are no accident, Lady Glimmer.”
“I can’t imagine your meaning, Mr. Leopard. You aren’t my personal body guard. You belong to the world.”
“It seems we always meet at the edge of a cliff, on a pirate ship or the lip of a simmering volcanic caldera.”
“It is my sad fate, Mr. Leopard. I am doomed to wander ‘til I find my dear departed father’s lost treasure.”
“You cannot stay here. Let me see you to a safe haven.”
She took his hand and off they went.
Gordy Leppard entered by the side door and stomped the dust off his feet.
His mother looked up from the stove with a smile. “There you are. Look at you! Have you been playing in a mine shaft? Go wash your filthy hands.”
Gordy looked at his hands and nodded.
His mother continued, “Oh, did you cross paths with the Glimmer girl in your adventures?”
“Yeah, Mom. Daisy got home just now. Why?”
“Her mother can never keep track of her. She called thinking you might have kidnapped her.”
“I wouldn’t do that.”
“I know.” Her smile became a frown. “Look at you. Dinner is ready and you haven’t washed yet.”
“You asked about Daisy, Mom. It would be rude to walk out when you asked me a question.”
“Of course. Go wash. Dinner’s getting cold.”
Gordy ran to wash his hands. He would have leaped but the bathroom lay round a corner.