I'm going to regret this but I can't turn down a prompt about Dragons, not even with a midterm next week. IN. Flash pls.
|# ? Apr 2, 2021 18:08|
|# ? Apr 11, 2021 04:38|
in, dragon me plz
|# ? Apr 2, 2021 19:19|
I'm going to regret this but I can't turn down a prompt about Dragons, not even with a midterm next week. IN. Flash pls.
Your dragon only hoards completely ruined things. It subsists on fungus, maggots, and ash.
in, dragon me plz
Your dragon practices brood parasitism, carefully disguising its eggs as precious treasures of many kinds.
|# ? Apr 2, 2021 23:29|
|# ? Apr 3, 2021 03:21|
Ok let's do a brawl judgement.
First, my understanding is that two of of you helped each other with your entries. You set aside your differences and worked together. So let's be clear, you're both winners.
But who's story wins? Little tougher.
Curlingiron's story suffers largely by ignoring the bomb under the table. In favor of a gripping suspenseful story, the story instead delivers a twist that doesn't really matter. If, on the other hand, we know that the bag has reason to worry from the jump, there's suddenly all of this lovely tendon to play with. The dialogue is competent and occasionally elevates to decent banter. But really, very little actually happens. This also isn't a societal punishment, it's a direct punishment from a seemingly pissed of magical entity.
Yoruichi's story did leave me feeling a bit toward the end but it's a clearly traumatized person getting enveloped in snakes. Feels a little easy. It also more directly dealt with the prompt. The characters are clearly defined and motivated and the length does indeed work. The ticking clock does provide tension and it doesn't overstay its welcome.
So between these two, I think yoruichi's story has more stuff happening in it, and is overall more efficient, economical, and evocative. But this was felt pretty drat close as both stories were very clearly written, had good dialogue, and well realized characters. So let's say Yoruichi claims two of the v's in the W and Curlingiron gets the ^.
Yoruichi takes it in a squeaker.
|# ? Apr 3, 2021 03:36|
In for dragon week.
|# ? Apr 3, 2021 04:22|
|# ? Apr 3, 2021 04:26|
|# ? Apr 3, 2021 06:47|
Signups closed! Happy dragoning.
One judge slot remains.
|# ? Apr 3, 2021 06:59|
Amona in the Waves
Your dragon's breath is always deadly, but it is never the same thing twice.
Oswalt stumbled over jagged rocks in the pitch dark and clutched at the mine shaft wall. Behind was the oppressive weight of stone and black, and ahead he felt wind on his face, and blacker beyond. The lantern burned low, the oil nearly gone. His feet ached from walking for hours. He’d never been so lost before.
Sweat rolled along his back. Hot, rancid air blasted from the mineshaft before him like waves. His tongue licked dry lips and came back tasting like ash and mineral. He smelled something charred and musky, as the tunnel ahead tightened into a cramped slit. He turned sideways, the lantern hanging behind him, the light blocked by his body, as he squeezed through, and each step made him think, oh gods if I get stuck here, as the stone tugged against his clothes. He inched forward, pushing, in thick silence, unsure what lay ahead, the dark like cotton on his face. He shoved his knee through, then his head, and his momentum carried him into an open cavern.
He fell onto his stomach and nearly lost the lantern. He rested, knees to chest, head hung forward, tasting the animal reek that suddenly assaulted him, the breeze even stronger now, hot on his face.
Lantern light glittered off—something. Silver ore, he thought at first, great, thick veins of it in the walls, until the ore began to move, slithering like muscle under skin.
Two great yellow beacons opened seemingly within arm’s reach of him. Pupils, black and the size of wagon wheels, set in the middle of sickly jaundiced irises as large as two houses.
A snout resolved beneath the eyes, massive holes for a nose, and the mouth opened to show teeth glistening with saliva. That wind buffeted him harder and reeked of rot and decay. He stared at the lizard scales, gray in the gloom. The eyes blinked, and the mouth pulled back further, revealing rows of teeth as large as children, ending in curved, horrible points.
He was going to die, and he tried to scream but nothing came out, until the creature released a sound like laughter, and it spoke to him in halting accented language as Oswalt scrambled back, knocking his lantern over, and felt the thing’s taste in his throat, and it kept speaking to him, again and again and again, and wouldn’t stop.
Oswalt leaned back in his chair in the brightly lit tavern, surrounded by laughing men and women, and he downed his third beer of the night. Barolf watched him, and Oswalt hated that look—ever since the incident, people looked at him with a mix of pity and fear.
“I’m glad you came out, cousin,” Barolf said with false cheer. “After Amona disappeared, you’ve been—“
“I don’t want to talk about Amona,” Oswalt said, cutting him off.
“Sure, sure,” Barolf said quickly. “I just mean, you’ve been holed up in that room of yours waiting for her, and cousin, I say this because I love you, but she ain’t coming back.”
Oswalt knew that. He also knew Barolf was an rear end in a top hat, but meant well, and nobody had the guts to say it straight to his face before, so he had to respect that at least.
It’d been three months since Amona went into the ocean. It was her habit—up with the dawn, swim for an hour, then back in time to cook breakfast, her hair still stiff from the salt. The morning it happened was like every other, and by the time Oswalt thought to worry, it was too late.
He swam her length of ocean every day for weeks afterward, hoping he’d find her somewhere—but she stayed gone. Oswalt still smelled the sand and ocean stink on his bedding.
Dragged under, they said. Eaten by some creature, some others thought. There were rumors, and he closed his ears to them. Amona was the reason he woke in the morning, the only woman that would have him after leaving the mining company in disgrace five years ago, and though she wasn’t beautiful and she wasn’t rich, she made him happier than he’d ever been, and in the night when he woke in darkness and thrashed, terrified, shaking and sweating, she was there to bring him back.
Now there was nobody, and the night broke him.
Barolf talked about his children, and Oswalt couldn’t remember their names. Oswalt held his mug to his mouth and scanned the room until he found Prond the paymaster, drinking alone near the door, with his hooked nose and narrow eyes. Oswalt stared at Prond, and felt hot breath on his face and heard impossible words, and tasted an animal rotting—
“Cousin?” Barolf said, pulling Oswalt’s attention back. “I asked, are you excited for the Gold Festival? I hear they’re bringing fireworks.”
Oswalt forced a smile. “It’ll be fun,” he said.
Barolf began to talk again, and Oswalt’s attention drifted back to Prond, and he thought of massive yellow eyes floating in the gloom.
The city glowed with hundreds of lanterns. Oswalt walked among the crowds of people drinking spiced beer and weak wine. They pressed against him like stone. Barolf wanted to meet near the fireworks, but Oswalt had one task first.
Ahead, Prond walked with his family, a dull little wife and three dull little children. He seemed happy, waving to folks he knew, and bought treats for the children.
Oswalt would never have a family. Amona was taken from him, and at night when he woke sweating with those grinding words buzzing in his skull and the dark pressing down, there was nobody to tell him where the dreams stopped and he began. Oswalt wanted to crawl out into sunlight, but he drifted further away without Amona to anchor him.
Prond’s family stopped and Oswalt waited in the shadow of a closed dye shop. Prond kissed his wife then strode off alone down a side street. Oswalt followed, keeping at least twenty paces back. Prond was tall, reed-thin, and wore a short sword in a gilded sheath at his hip and a brightly colored red-and-silver tunic. He was easy to spot in the crowd.
Oswalt felt sweaty and weak, and his heart was a stutter in his throat, but he kept hearing the words, over and over, and knew there was only one way to make them stop.
Prond turned down a side alley. Oswalt reached the alley mouth and stopped. Ahead, Prond stood with his back to Oswalt, and a steady stream of piss rolled down the wall.
“Paymaster,” Oswalt said, and Prond cursed, cut his stream off, then looked over his shoulder
“Oswalt,” he said. “You scared the piss out of me.”
Oswalt stepped closer. “What did you do with my wife?” he asked.
“What?” Prond turned to face him. “Are you okay? I know losing Amona was hard. I spoke with Barolf, I thought maybe we could get you a new job with the company, something above ground.”
“No,” Oswalt said, and he gripped the knife at his belt.
Prond’s eyes moved down to Oswalt’s hand, and he took a few steps back. The paymaster gripped the sword at his hip. “What are you doing?”
The words were like thunder in Oswalt’s ears, the creature’s voice a mountainous rumble, the sound of broken earth: He took your wife. He killed your wife. He took your wife. He killed your wife. Over and over, and Oswalt hadn’t understood what it meant back then, but he understood it now.
“Oswalt,” Prond said, drawing his sword, but Oswalt released the scream he’d held since that chamber, since those eyes and that breath broke him, and threw himself forward.
Prond reacted, thrust his sword out, and the point caught Oswalt in the chest. Oswalt felt something wet on his lips. Prond tried to back away but Oswalt’s momentum carried him down the blade and onto the paymaster—
He drove his knife into Prond’s neck as they crashed to the ground.
Prond gagged out something damp. Oswalt rolled away, gasping for breath. Mine dust filled his chest. He ripped out the sword with a grunt.
Blood poured from the wound. The stone walls of the buildings seemed to press down against him, and the words, ancient like a fault beneath the mantle, echoed in his head. He took your wife. He killed your wife.
Oswalt’s fingers dug into the dirt between the cobbled alley ground and felt the dark of that cave finally devour him.
|# ? Apr 4, 2021 10:42|
A Tale of Geldal
For weeks, smog rolled from the wastes of Jorvik, blanketing the village of Geldal. At sunset, the sky shone a violent crimson red, like the fire-breathing dragon Teinmoor herself. Imric was sleeping on his throne at Geldal hall, blanketed in his white wispy hair and beard. His youngest son, Vernon, laid on his side, with his head propped up by his arm. Brown ringlets spiralled from his head to the bench; he never bothered to cut them. Imric’s eldest son, Kellman, paced around the hearth, ranting about “uneducated idiots” who disagreed with him over this or that, while ale dripped down his graying beard.
“Teinmoor would be an idiot to raid Geldal,” said Kellman. “We have a mine, not a treasury.”
“You think the dragon is so patient?” said Vernon, who cocked his brow.
Kellman knocked back his ale. He gulped.
“The dragon is too large for mining,” said Kellman. “If she wants our gold, she needs us alive.”
“There’s no use saying that here,” said Vernon, "best go to mount Jotnar." He pointed his thumb to the distant mountain, whose road spiralled above the clouds, and whose summit lifted a vast cenotaph honouring the kings of the giants. Jotnar was one of few monuments left behind by giant kind, who were so tall that their ankles were level with a standing man’s eyes. Their kind built the cenotaph to be as grand to their people as this mead hall is to ours.
When Teinmoor stole the cenotaph, she could barely fit inside; she had to crawl through the giant entrance.
Vernon’s eyes did not leave Kellman’s face, but Kellman looked to the vent in the mead hall’s ceiling, where the hearth smoke was fleeing the room. The fire of the hearth spat at him, and he flinched.
"She might refuse,” Kellman said. “I can’t travel there: my cohort would beat a trail leading her here.”
Vernon’s shoulders bounced with his silent laughter.
“Then go alone!” Vernon grinned.
“I am not the woodsman here, Vernon,” said Kellman, ”I would not make it.”
“And the rest of us are not scholars,” said Vernon. “Us idiots can’t argue as persuasively as you.”
“I could write what needs to be said,” said Kellman, who paced out of the hall, toward his bedchamber.
“Good idea! Go prepare your speech,” said Vernon, as Kellman slid through the door.
It’s not known how long Imric had been awake and listening, but he yelled.
And the young man leapt.
“What are you doing to help, son?”
Vernon whimpered something about herbs and mushrooms from the forest. It was a bitter poison said to turn human flesh into stone, which Vernon brewed and drank each night, hoping to become fireproof. He offered Imric his vile mixture, but the jarl wasted no time pointing out that Vernon’s skin was still pink and soft. Vernon insisted it had worked: he plucked a glowing coal from the hearth, then placed it in his mouth.
“Any magician can do that trick,” said Imric. “Either jump into the fire right now, or lead your brother to Mount Jotnar at dawn.”
One week into their travel, the two brothers entered the scorchlands. The ground crunched underfoot, and smouldered where the charcoal trees met the white crust of ash. The brothers renewed their age old argument about a knotted stick the giant Albion carried in his depictions. Vernon insisted the stick was a cudgel. Kellman argued it was a staff for walking. As they bickered through the wastes, the ground’s heat cooked Kellman’s boots, and he began to walk apace. Vernon, however, was slowing. He moaned about how tired he felt, until he stopped.
“She’ll kill us,” said Vernon.
Kellman hopped from one foot to the other, while his brother remained still.
“Hurry up; my feet are burning,” Kellman said, but Vernon turned pale, like chalk.
“She’ll find Geldal eventually, Kellman,” said Vernon, and he shrugged. “We’re done for either way,” then he turned to limestone: a statue of himself, shrugging.
Kellman hurried away, leaving his brother in the wastes, but as the sun set, Kellman heard the sound of men tutting behind the ashen trees. He saw humanlike figures three feet tall jumping out of the smoke. Their skin was rough and gray like the burned wood, and their eyes were embers.
“Kellman, Kellman, Kellman,” said the little men, “would you abandon your family?”
Kellman was still, and silent, as he saw the men were dragging the statue of Vernon. More little men appeared from the ash, surrounding him entirely. They were giggling, dancing, and rubbing their hands.
“Ooo-hoo-hoo, yess!” said the little men. “He is silent, and under our spell. Now he will do as we say.”
“You will carry your brother” said the little men.
“I —I will not,” said Kellman, and he bolted like a horse, but one of the little men stuck out his foot, which tripped Kellman face first onto the scalding floor. The little men leapt on his arms and legs, so that he could not stand, and they heaved the statue of Vernon onto Kellman’s back. Their hands glittered with a strange magic, which fixed the statue’s arms around Kellman’s neck. The elves hopped off Kellman’s arms and legs, and Kellman pulled himself onto his feet, now carrying his brother.
“You did not carry him when we told you to” said the little men. “Now you have no choice over when or how you carry him.”
“Now we are telling you this, Kellman: You will face the dragon Teinmoor!”
He climbed the spiralling path of mount Jotnar, with his brother on his back, and arrived at the cenotaph. Human guards in twinkling armor, whose helms bore red plumage, shoved open the vast gates. Several piles of gold shone inside the limestone hall, each as tall as a tumulus. Statues of old giants had been torn from their places on the walls: they stood in piles of gold, at Teinmoor’s leisure. On the top of the largest pile was Teinmoor, who curled around herself, as she was touching three of the four walls in this vast hall. Her back shone with bright red scales, and her soft underbelly glittered with coins and emblems from her hoard. Her wings folded to her back, where they touched the ceiling. She prowled on four clawed limbs like a hunting cat, and her growl shook the mountain, causing her mounds of gold to rattle and spill.
“I’m sure you came here with a purpose.”
Kellman knelt before the great beast, and gave his most convincing speech. He pleaded with her to leave the people of his home alive so that they could mine their gold for her. As he spoke, she petted a statue of the giant Albion as though it were a lap dog.
“Where have you come from?” she growled.
Kellman was brought to the ground by the weight of his brother on his back, and the dragon showed her teeth, each one like an ivory greatsword.
“I need to know where this mine is, if I’m to spare it,” said the dragon, and the guards’ laughter reverberated through the hall.
Kellman said, “I was thinking I could—”
“SILENCE!” Teinmoor bellowed.
“I care not for the pathetic thoughts of a puny human!” and she flicked her claw at the statue of Albion, which toppled down on Kellman, striking with his cudgel first.
Teinmoor took great pleasure in barking at her men,
“Go clean that up,” she said.
“Don’t use a crane; just lift the statue!” she said.
“And you lot: Go find this man's homeland!” she said.
Though he was immobile, Vernon sheltered his brother. He was a lever, lifting Albion’s staff: When Kellman pushed himself off the floor, the Albion statue stood upright. Teinmoor’s claw crunched under Albion’s base. She yelped and leapt to the ceiling, which snapped her wings. She drew her breath, which washed over the room like a flood of flame. Her guards burned into wisps of ash and bone meal, but Kellman turned his back, and was sheltered by his brother. Vernon glowed white as the sun. His heart melted. Kellman could feel it beating again. Vernon’s stone limbs moved, and he pushed toward Teinmoor’s maw, then tore her tonsils from her throat. She was fireless, unable to fly, and walking with a limp, when she fled the cenotaph. Then Vernon cooled, and he was motionless again.
Some say Teinmoor crawled through the valleys, where hunters finished her off. Others say the giant Albion rose from his statue and crushed her skull. Then Kellman asked him,
“Sir, is that a cudgel or a staff you have?”
Albion said, “It is a cudgel when it needs to be, and a staff when it needs to be. Most importantly, it stirs the hops into my ale, which makes everything else worthwhile.”
Either way, the people of Geldal —who all drank to the tale— put their ale to Vernon’s lips, and his flesh became soft again.
|# ? Apr 4, 2021 12:46|
I look at my boy all laid up in the hospital bed, face wrapped and ribs broke and one knee in a brace, and I can't do nothing but shake my head. I've been in this room a lot lately.
“They let me ride again.”
"Bruh," I say. "What the gently caress?"
TaPharaoh just closes his eyes and grins.
"Nah, for real," I say. "I'm tired of loving phone calls saying you hurt and I'm tired of coming here seeing you hurt. I'm tired. Of. It. The gently caress you doing with this white people poo poo, bruh?"
He purses his lips. "That's ignorant," he says. "You're being ignorant." And then he launches into a tirade I've heard a thousand times about historical indigenous practices and the evolution of the sport from Mexican charreada and jaripeo and, like, I get it, aight? I understand. But the fact of the matter is that rodeo is white now and some black kid out of Breux Bridge shouldn't be swamping it up in the bayou looking for hippos to break just so white folk can gently caress around in stupid looking outfits, good rear end money be damned. It’s hella dangerous. But the goddamn loving craziest poo poo is: my boy ain’t even doing for the money! If he does real good, if he brings in a real feisty loving bull hipp, if the head dude is in a real loving charitable mood, they’ll maybe let him ride once or twice in front of a crowd. That’s the motivation. And maybe that’s more dangerous than going out in the bayou! TaPharaoh bangs his fist against the metal railing of his bed, emphasizing some point I'm not listening to.
"poo poo," I say. "You know that kid outta Atchafalaya got eaten, right? All they found in the swamp was his arm."
TaPharaoh pauses. "Yeah," he says softly. "Yeah. That was- that was hosed up. I went to his service. He was my friend. Name was Arthur. Good dude. loving sad, man. But at least the Rodeo Association paid for the funeral. That’s something."
"I'm sure his family appreciated it." Just as sure as I am they'd rather have him alive.
TaPharaoh drums his fingers on the metal railing. He starts to say something but stops. Starts again. Stops. Starts again. Stops. And I'm already getting upset because I know where this is going. Finally, "It... wasn't a hippo, though."
"gently caress off," I say. "Don't."
"Don't loving- don't you loving dare-"
"It was Big Daddy Tooth."
"Goddamn it!" I say. "Shut the gently caress up! Wasn't no loving goddamn ancient dragon! And it especially wasn’t some Confederate eating motherfucker that’s been asleep in a hidden cave for a hundred loving years!”
"I saw the bite marks myself."
"A gator! You think about that, ‘Ro? An old rear end gator?"
He shakes his head. “I saw the bite marks, man.”
“And how the gently caress would you even know what that looks like?” I ask. “Huh? Tell me that. You come at me about being ignorant, poo poo, and you out there breaking bones for a bunch of racist-rear end crackers who don’t give a poo poo if you live or die. gently caress you think they always put you on the wild ones, huh? They sit you on some mean rear end bull with tusks as big as my dick and get you to dreaming about some kinda acceptance that ain’t gonna happen. That’s being ignorant. Bitch.”
TaPharaoh gets real quiet.
I sigh. “Look, man…”
He stares at the ceiling in silence.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I shouldn’t have- I’m just tired of seeing you hurt, bruh. You’re my boy.”
He doesn’t say another word.
I sop up the rest of the barbecue sauce with some cornbread as TaPharaoh works through his physical therapy. His knee is all kinds of hosed up. There he is, though, shirtless and muscular and covered in sweat, squatting up and down against the exposed brick wall of our tiny rear end apartment.
“Bruh,” I say. “I been thinking.”
“Dangerous,” he says.
“I been thinking,” I repeat, “that nothing’s really keeping us here in Breux Bridge, ya know? No family. No girls. We could go in anywhere we want. California. Florida. Pop’s got that cousin in Atlanta running that furniture repair business and we could-”
“So go then,” he says.
I fold my paper plate and walk past him to the trashbag hanging off a drawer handle. “Pop’s ain’t even here anymore,” I say. “He’s buried with his people in Delcambre.”
“Go,” he says. “Nothing’s stopping you.”
“I mean… you are.”
TaPharaoh picks up a towel and wipes the sweat from his eyes. “Just because we got the same daddy don’t mean we brothers, man.”
I look at him. “Uh, yes, the gently caress it does? That’s science and poo poo, bruh.”
“Nah,” he says. “If we were really brothers then you’d understand me.”
Once, twice, three times, I bang my forehead against the doorframe. “I do understand you,” I say. “I just also understand that you’re being really loving dumb. You’re trying to be the Jackie Robinson of rodeo and break barriers and poo poo but Jackie didn’t have to worry about a baseball crushing him up against a wall or stepping on his head or eating him. And Jackie wasn’t in loving Louisiana either. We got a whole different breed of white folk here. You could go find Big Daddy Tooth himself, break him, and ride his dragony rear end right into the middle of a rodeo and they still wouldn’t accept you. poo poo, they’d probably be pissed seeing as he swallowed up Robert E. Lee.”
TaPharaoh grins. “So you’re saying there is a dragon.”
“Nope,” I shake my head. “Nope. Not my point at all.”
And he’s looking at me but he’s really looking through me.
“No,” I say. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no…”
“The Seminoles rode a dragon,” he says quietly. “That’s how they stayed independent. Not even government arbalists couldn’t pierce the scales. Took ‘em like five years to it but by the end it would purr like a kitten for ‘em. And if they could do it…”
“One time,” I say. “One time in human history. Never repeated before or since. And how many Seminoles died desperately trying to pull off the impossible?”
“If they could do it…”
“You’re not Seminole, TaPharaoh!”
“Neither was John Horse. Not all the way.” He licks his lips. “But, yeah, I mean, you’re right. I see that. I get it. I won’t be accepted by being good or even by being great. I gotta be special.”
“You’re not, though,” I say. “You’re just a normal loving dude.”
“If you were my brother, you’d believe in me.”
I don’t say another word. Because what’s the point?
The picture that’s next to the casket is one of TaPharaoh riding an angry hippo. And the beast looks crazed, wild-eyed, foaming at the mouth, the photo capturing it mid-snap. My boy looks happy, though. Like it’s the greatest moment of his life. The Rodeo Association picked it out. They paid for the funeral, too. Which was something. Especially given that the casket was empty. They couldn’t even find his loving arm.
I politely glad-hand a bunch of folks I don’t know all wearing cowboy hats and bolo ties. I make small talk about poo poo I don’t care about. I’m asked what I plan on doing next and I mention Pop’s cousin in Atlanta like that’s the plan.
It’s not the plan.
I mean, it took the Seminoles five loving years to break their dragon, right? My boy’s only been gone for two loving months. And, yeah, maybe I’m dreaming about some kinda miracle that ain’t gonna happen, I get it, aight, but TaPharaoh always told me I was ignorant. So I’m going to wait a while and kick it at some rodeos with these loving racist white folk because I know if my boy rides in on a dragon that that’s where he’ll be headed. And I know Big Daddy Tooth is gonna be hungry. poo poo. Now that would be something special.
|# ? Apr 4, 2021 17:43|
There was once a dragon who drowned the whole world and became crushingly lonely. But this dragon was a storm dragon, and the rain covered up his tears.
“Storm dragon, why are you always crying? You have brought joy to the fishes, for our world has expanded beyond our wildest dreams.”
“I was not always a storm dragon,” the dragon said. “I was a cloud dragon once.”
For many years, the cloud dragon floated aimlessly through the vast blue sky. Below him was a desert that reflected the heat of the sun, and the dragon was warm and carefree. In the sky with the dragon was the wind, and the dragon saw many things happen in his many years. One day, the dragon floated by a mountain, deep in the heart of the desert.
“I see you up there, dragon, and I curse your name!” a farmer shouted from the top of the mountain. This was the first time any man had ever spoken to the dragon.
“Me? I have done nothing to you, farmer,” the dragon said.
“Can you not see that we are dry and dying down here in our desert? You float by and by and never give rain, but the men and the women and the children all pray to you for rain. But I see you dragon, you are no rain cloud, you are nothing but a phantom!”
The cloud dragon had never considered that it should be a rain dragon. The dragon thought about what the farmer had said and decided to ask the mountain dragon for a wish.
“Mountain dragon, please grant me a wish, and give me your spring water to turn me into a rain dragon,” the cloud dragon asked.
The mountain dragon thought about it for a long time, as mountain dragons are wont to do.
“Cloud dragon, because you once saved me from the underworld valley buzzards, I will grant you this wish.”
And with the wish granted the mountain dragon died and the cloud dragon became the rain dragon and began to rain on the mountain and the desert and the farmer’s land.
One day, a farmer came back to the top of the mountain and called out to the rain dragon.
“Rain dragon, you have been bountiful, and plentiful, and you have made my family very happy.”
“Farmer, I do not recognize you,” the rain dragon said. “Where is the farmer who asked for the rain?”
“That was my grandfather, it has been many years, and he has died. But he told us stories of you when we were little, and I came to ask you for another wish. If you could rain over the entire desert, you would save all the farms, and all of the children.”
The rain dragon thought about this and asked an air dragon for a wish.
“Air dragon, could you give me the wind you hold, and turn me into a storm dragon that can reach all over the desert?”
The air dragon did not take long to respond at all.
“Because you once saved me from flames and fires of heaven, I will grant you this wish,” the air dragon said.
The wind swept through the rain dragon, spreading the rainclouds far and wide. The air dragon died, and the rain dragon became the storm dragon.
The rain continued to pour and pour and pour, and one day a sailor came to the top of the mountain.
“Dragon, I have heard stories and tales from my great grandfather, and his grandfather before him. Please, you must stop this rain, the land has become flooded, and many people are dying.”
The storm dragon noticed that the mountain was no longer as tall as it used to be. In fact, the seas had risen around the mountain, and the storm dragon could see no more farms or deserts or land. The dragon listened to the sailor and agreed.
But the dragon could find no other dragon who would grant him his wish. They said they had seen what happened to the mountain dragon, and what happened to the air dragon, and every other dragon said no to the storm dragon.
“That is how everyone died, and I have been alone, and that is why I was so sad. But now thanks to you, I am not,” the storm dragon told the fish.
“I see,” the fish said. “I am sorry to ask this of you, but you please must stop the rain.”
“I don’t understand,” the dragon said. “Did you not just tell me how much you loved the rain?”
“That was my great, great grandfather,” the fish said. “Your rain has diluted all of the salt water, and soon we will also drown.”
“But what of the freshwater fish? Where are they?” the dragon asked.
“They died when the saltwater first touched the freshwater. Now, there is only my family, everyone else is gone.”
The dragon heard these words and became despondent.
“Tell me your wish, and I will grant it myself,” the dragon said.
And that is the story of every dragon in every raincloud. Breaking apart, from cloud to rain to storm to rain to cloud, forever to happen again and again.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 01:56|
You’re Watching the Dragon Channel
Your dragon only hoards completely ruined things. It subsists on fungus, maggots, and ash.
There’s an old saying that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
You may be surprised to learn the saying holds true for dragons as well.
Pongo is a North American Speckled Spineback. Like all North American dragons, the Speckled Spineback is endangered. Pongo is one of only a hundred Spinebacks still living in the wilds of the American Northeast.
At only two and a half meters long from his red-speckled nose to the tip of his whip-like tail, the Speckled Spineback is one of the smallest varieties of “true dragon” left in the world.
Like nearly all true dragons, Speckled Spinebacks collect treasures to add to their hoards. But it’s not gold or gems Pongo is looking for. It’s trash.
And what better place to find it, than Green Rivers Waste Disposal Park in New Jersey?
Green Rivers takes in, on average, eight thousand tons of garbage a day and spans over two thousand acres. It’s the perfect scavenging ground for Pongo. There are mountains of trash as far as a dragon’s eye can see.
But not just any trash will do.
Pongo collects only completely ruined things. If it’s even remotely salvageable, Pongo isn’t interested.
Perhaps this discarded pram? It’s quite rusty and a bit dented… but apparently still too serviceable for Pongo’s discerning tastes.
Ah here we go: a torn umbrella. There’s no chance of anyone fixing this. Pongo adds the treasure to the growing pile he carries on his back. The specially-curved spines from whence the Spineback draws its name act as a sort of natural Velcro, keeping Pongo’s treasures in places as he roams the trash piles. In conjunction with their wings and tail for stability, a Spineback can carry a pile up to three meters in height.
All day long, Pongo roams the peaks and valleys of trash. The vast majority of the litter he finds will be rejected. Humans are so quick to discard as waste items that are still useful or repairable. Look here! This chair is practically brand new! Pongo tosses it aside with obvious disgust. Imagine how much smaller the world’s landfills would be if people were as discerning as Spinebacks when it came to throwing things out.
It’s now midday, and Pongo has accumulated quite a trove of valuable junk. It’s too much to carry, so he piles his treasure up in a safe place to retrieve later. With each trip, the pile grows larger. Pongo is doing very well for himself.
A little too well.
Pongo’s treasure trove has now grown so large; it’s attracted the attention of a rival male.
Pongo curls defensively around his treasure. He flares his brightly-colored neck flaps and raises his wings to show off the bright red eyespots for a threat display.
The rival flares his. It’s a showdown.
The Spineback’s diet of fungus, maggots and ash gives them a toxic bite; moreover, specialized glands in a Spineback’s throat allow it to spit acid up to twenty meters.
The rival douses Pongo with a spray of acid. The corrosive liquid leaves smoking holes in Pongo’s treasures, but it largely ineffective against Pongo’s tough, oily scales.
Pongo answers back with a spray of his own, but the rival shrugs it off just as easily.
Clearly this contest will come down to brute strength.
The rival charges.
It’s a brutal struggle. Pongo quickly finds himself trapped between his opponent’s powerful jaws. A nasty bite!
But Pongo gets his own back, raking his claws across his rival’s delicate underbelly.
Pongo struggles valiantly, but the rival is bigger and stronger than he is and Pongo is forced to withdraw.
Pongo retreats behind a trash pile to lick his wounds. He’s received a few scratches but he’ll live.
To the victor go the spoils.
With the day almost over and Pongo now back where he started, he scavenges what little he can in the remaining daylight.
It’s a meager haul, but at least he doesn’t return home completely empty-handed.
Pongo’s hoard is a sizable pile of detritus, junk and litter gathered together over years and sculpted with meticulous attention to detail. Everything has its place, arranged in an eye-catching mosaic of color and shape.
With mating season right around the corner, the eye Pongo most wants to catch is that of a female Spineback. To do that, Pongo needs the best and biggest hoard on the block. There are no prizes given for congeniality in the contest of survival.
Spring comes quickly for Pongo. The little dragon has been working tirelessly to build up his hoard, but lately most of his time is spent arranging and rearranging… and rearranging! He can’t afford to be away for long. Any day now, a female Spineback might happen along, and rival males are quick to sabotage an unattended hoard.
When Pongo isn’t out hunting, he’s minding the store.
And it looks like he finally has a customer.
Meet Linda. She’s a female Spineback. She enjoys long walks through the dump, and men with big hoards of trash.
Looks like Pongo’s hoard has caught her eye.
If dragons could sweat, Pongo would be sweating buckets right now.
He frets on the sidelines as Linda has a look ‘round.
Each female’s criteria are different. Some prize volume over substance, others are looking for unique shapes or artistic color combinations.
Whatever it is, Pongo’s hoard has got it. She climbs on top of the hoard and wraps her tail around to signify she approves.
But it’s not a sure thing yet.
All this means is she’s ready to see Pongo’s mating dance.
The North American Speckled Spineback has one of the most elaborate mating displays of all dragons.
He flares his neck flaps and raises his wings up high.
A Spineback’s dance can continue for up to forty minutes.
Unfortunately, Linda doesn’t even stay through the first act. She’s seen enough.
Pongo watches her disappear into the forest.
Perhaps it was just opening night jitters. It’s only the first day of the mating season after all.
The next day, Pongo is still forlorn. He barely seems to have the energy to tidy up his hoard.
With the shrinking number of Spinebacks in North America, Pongo’s chances of finding a mate get smaller every year. If nothing is done about mankind’s intrusion into the dragons’ natural habitats, it won’t be long before Pongo and the rest of the Speckled Spinebacks disappear forever.
Pongo sits in long contemplation of his hoard. The meticulously arranged pile has been painstakingly curated from the most broken and completely ruined things humanity has ever discarded.
And right now Pongo is feeling broken and completely ruined himself. He burrows into his hoard and settles down for a long depression nap.
Pongo is awakened by the sound of falling debris.
It’s the male from before, come to raid Pongo’s hoard! The rival male thinks Pongo has left his treasures unattended.
This time, Pongo has the element of surprise. He leaps out of his burrow, fangs bared for combat!
The rival’s superior size and strength aren’t enough to overcome Pongo’s home field advantage. The pair tussle and thrash, but Pongo has the rival male by the throat and he’s not about to let go.
Pongo is triumphant!
But it is a pyrrhic victory. The struggle has completely demolished Pongo’s trash sculpture. Garbage is strewn all over the clearing. Months of work, completely obliterated.
Pongo stares in shock.
Piece by piece, Pongo starts tidying up. Maybe this disaster was a blessing in disguise. Now Pongo has a chance to rebuild his hoard better and more beautiful than before.
There’s still a few months left in the mating season. If he works hard, he may just catch the tail end.
Not to mention he has a new treasure to add to his collection: the bones of his vanquished rival.
Most of us would probably balk at hanging a rotting dragon corpse up over our mantelpiece, but as they say, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Good luck, Pongo!
Join us next week when we take a trip to the jungles of Argentina where we’ll meet the largest dragon in the Southern Hemisphere.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 02:46|
Your dragon is made of fire and breathes blood and bile.
Shall We Slay Dragons Together?
The ghost dragon flew low through the Singapore streets, three stories above the pavement. Its body of purple flame reflected on and gently melted the glass building fronts into permanent waves: from above, drone's-eye there were three translucent dragons, the center unchanging as the two flanking it warped and distorted. The oldest neon fixtures burst. The dragon dove nearly to the road, igniting the alcohol puddles on the sidewalk, then turned upward, spiraling around the Kemhatsu building. As it reared, hovered, flame-wings slowly rising and falling, it turned to the cameras and spat acidic blood into them. The signals turned to static, one by one.
"You understand why we've contacted you," said the man in the white suit.
"Not sure," I said. "Looks like you need a ghostbreaker instead."
His thin lips bend into a smile. "The ghostbreaker said we needed a dragonslayer. We can afford to hire both."
I didn't like it. I worked alone.
She stepped into the room, tall red hat first. I knew the hat, knew the face beneath it. Both belonged to Fiona. "Hey Alex," she said. "It's been a minute or two." Five years.
"Is Claire, ah," I asked.
"Not right now," she said.
The suit continued. "The Kemhatsu datacenter. Probably five billion dollars in encrypted data: wallet keys and unique unlocks for datastores. About that much in raw transaction data found nowhere else in the world. And now it's a pile of rust and silicon slag."
"So that's how a ghost dragon builds a hoard." I said.
"Indeed," he said. "My client operates a similar facility. The location is secret, but it is a matter of time before this beast will sniff it out."
"Is this a defense job?" asked Fiona, frowning.
"No. Corporate oracles have identified the ghost dragon's lair." The screen went live again, now with a map and coordinates and old satellite footage. An island offshore, a flyspeck piece of rock. Recent drone footage showed a new cavern formed out of freshly melted rock.
The contract arrived on my tablet. I pressed my thumbprint on it to sign acceptance. Good money, like we got in the old days.
"Black Dragon," said Claire. "Nasty on it's own, and this one has a rider." She slide a photo into the screen. "Ivan Veskin. Ex-FSB. Suspect in a dozen assassinations across Europe."
"An old friend?" I asked. Claire came from a similar background. Her passport was under Klara Bocharoc.
"We met," said Claire, her hand moving absently to her neck.
"What's my angle on this one?" asked Fiona.
"Prevention," said Claire. "Client's paying extra to make sure he doesn't haunt him. Or maybe just to make sure his secrets stay in the grave. Either way you make sure he goes through the gate."
This was five years earlier, when the mystical arts were still esoteric, when we could work five days a year and live like middle managers on holiday the rest. Before Stanford and Duke started graduation classes full of Thaumatology and Necromancy degrees. The same kind of deal as this one, nasty dragon on a little sea rock. We got there while they were away and set up a sniper's nest observing the entrance.
Way it was supposed to go was that Claire took care of killing humans and I handled the dragons. I thought I had a line, even though a lot of dragons are as smart as any human, talkative as hell when they're not trying to burn down a city block. That's how it was supposed to go, had always gone before.
Claire's shot hit low, hit the dragon in the neck. If I'd enchanted the shells it would have been over right then. As it was the beast was hurt, enraged, needed to reach ground. Claire fired again, without time to aim. Missed by meters. Ivan had a pistol and started shooting bacj. I raised a runic shield. It stopped the bullets, but he was prepared, used trick shells. The bullets exploded on the shield in a blast of blinding light and heat.
I was on my back. My face hurt, felt liquid. Purple spots filled more of my field of view than the world. I heard the roar. I pulled myself to my feet and reached for my bow. Broken. The sword was sturdier, I drew it instead.
The dragon had a gap where its left eye should be. Another good shot from Claire. It wouldn't be hard to finish. It was out of the fight. Not so much for Ivan.
I started charging just as he took the shot, and most of Claire wasn't there any more. My ears rang and fell silent. Ivan turned the pistol on me, and nothing happened. Jammed? Or just out of ammunition? Either way, I closed the distance.
An enchanted titanium steel blade with a synthetic diamond edge will cleave dragonhide like paper. It did much the same to leather, flesh, and bone.
Two doors. Two ghosts, fresh out their bodies, confused. One was white, the door to peace Claire had earned. The other was red, and went to a different place. Fiona had done the spell, rendered them visible.
But Ivan was faster, walking and then running for the white door while Claire just looked at me and what was left of her body.
Ivan's shade touched the white door and vanished, the door closing with it. The red door gaped wider and Claire drifted toward it, a silent scream on her face.
Fiona snapped her fingers and white necromantic threads bloomed. She pulled back her hand and the red door slammed shut, vanished into the ground.
We crept into the new shaft. I had my equipment ready. I still used the bow. You can't get complicated enchantments to survive the inside of a gun. Fiona shared her sight with me, and I could see the parts of the dragon's growing hoard of spectral servers and digital wealth, numbers and NFTs rendered in ectoplasm.
I could see its purple flame head. I drew back full and loosed the arrow. It went right through the ghost dragon. The shaft caught fire and burned. The enchanted head clattered onto the stone floor. The air was uncomfortably hot.
Fiona's turn. She chanted a rite of sending, of exorcism. The white threads appeared, weaving a pentagram.
The dragon spat blood and bile at it. It unravelled and Fiona dove away to safety.
That's when I saw Claire, floating into the range of Fiona's sight. She stood up before the dragon. It saw her, too. It breathed acid blood, which passed through Claire.
She needed a weapon. I had weapons to spare. I heaved my bow and quiver in their direction. The heat caught wood and cloth and string afire, and the ghost of the bow fell before Claire. She picked it up,scrambled for a spectral arrow, and drew.
The dragon charged. Claire loosed and the arrow struck, lodging into a flaming claw. The other front claw swiped and tossed Claire's ghostly form across the room, into the stone walls. She slumped against the rock, hand and back of head passing a few centimeters through. The ghost bow was still in the middle of the chamber. The dragon moved toward her, dragging the left claw.
Ghosts can kill each other, send each other to the place of pain. Fiona explained it to me, when we were on the team. Every ghostly weapon is a red door. I could see the red at the back of the ghost dragon's purple flaming mouth.
I stepped forward, flinching, feeling sunburn from the purple flames. I drew another weapon. The sword might take too long to melt, too long to join the hoard. The poles, then, copper-clad escrima sticks charmed for damage. I stepped forward again and gritted my teeth as my flesh burned away. I saw Fiona, near tears as she worked her threads to make sure I did not leave this world with my body.
I was ready for death, for existence as a ghost. I hit the ground running, scooping up the sticks and climbing the dragon's back, the purple flame now solid as rock, maybe more so. I struck blows where I knew there would be nerves and organs as I ran to the head, as I bashed ear and eye with ghost copper and wood. It threw me off and turned away from Claire. I landed, just a few steps from where the arrows had spilled into the rock. I rolled toward them, grabbing a few in each hand, and when it lunged to bite me I slammed the points of a half dozen arrows through its skull.
It's not so bad, being a ghost. Better than the alternative. Necromancy can only open red doors, only send to the place of pain. Reaching the place of peace takes work, at least if you won't steal some other poor soul's white door. Claire and I are doing the work together, for now.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 02:55|
The Return of the Four Dragons
Your dragon cannot tolerate the touch of solid matter. It is liquid, and it turns any environment it dwells in to liquid as well, heating solids and cooling gases.
Once upon a time, four dragons lived in the Eastern Sea: the Long Dragon, the Yellow Dragon, the Black Dragon, and the Pearl Dragon. They pitied the humans who were suffering from lack of rain and defied the Jade Emperor, who rules over the heavens and the earth, to bring water to the people. For their disobedience, the Jade Emperor imprisoned the dragons under a mountain. However, they used their power to escape and became the four great rivers: the Changjiang, the Huanghe, the Heilongjian, and the Zhujiang.
That was then, this is now.
The Long Dragon swam through his river, bemoaning its state. His body was made of pure water but the river was murky from foul-tasting chemicals and choked by disgusting garbage. He hated the feeling of dirty water on his body and he hated navigating around human trash while swimming in his own river. The dragons had vowed not to regret helping the humans thousands of years ago, but that vow got more difficult to uphold each decade.
Finally, the Long Dragon reached his destination: a small pool on one of the last untouched sections of the river. He stretched from bank to bank, letting the clean water run through him. Rejuvenated, he curled up in the pool for a nap under the pine trees, hoping to dream of the Eastern Sea. He heard some humans nearby, no doubt here to enjoy the area's natural beauty. Maybe they would honor him with a poem about the river, like the old days.
The bicycle hit the Long Dragon on the head and sank through him to the bottom of the pool. He thrashed in revulsion and reared up to confront the culprit. "Who dares defile my river?" he roared.
Two teenage children stared at him, frozen in terror at the sight of an angry dragon made of churning water. The Long Dragon was furious: even the young disrespected him! Growling as he touched the metal, he hurled their bicycle over their heads into the forest, then turned to scold the teenagers. As he began to speak they screamed and ran away, leaving his pool quiet once again.
However, the Long Dragon's nap had been thoroughly ruined. The bicycle was the last straw: nowhere on the river was safe from the humans anymore. This lack of respect is intolerable, he thought; the humans must be shown the error of their ways. Gathering his power, he rushed upriver and pulled all the water behind him, leaving only a muddy riverbed from the mountain to the sea. Since his water form couldn't go underground, The Long Dragon melted the rock around him to become lava, coiled in the heart of the mountain.
The Mountain God soon noticed his visitor. He asked, "Long Dragon. You were once imprisoned here. Yet now you return?"
"Yes," the Long Dragon responded. "Those ungrateful humans have abused me for too long. They throw their trash into the river, assuming it disappears when it leaves their sight. They took me for granted, so I removed the river. Let them deal with their own garbage now!"
The Mountain God rumbled sympathetically, as he too knew the pain of human pollution. The Long Dragon's lava warmed the mountain and so the god welcomed his presence, but they weren't alone for long. The other three dragons had heard of the Long Dragon's actions and done the same, their lava forms flowing under the earth to join him.
"I still love the humans, but I cannot bear their ugly garbage," whined the Pearl Dragon.
"The dams and power plants sap all of my energy," moaned the Yellow Dragon.
"I cannot stand how close the humans built to my banks, I just want to be left alone," groused the Black Dragon.
"I appreciate your solidarity," the Long Dragon said. "Let us not return the rivers until the humans respect us once again."
They sat gossiping under the mountain as the humans began to suffer. Without the rivers, crops were not irrigated, dams generated no power, and people were thirsty. The humans' lamentations reached all the way to the Jade Emperor. Annoyed at the disturbance, he charged the Celestial Dragon– who was made of air just as the other dragons were made of water– with returning the dragons and thus the rivers.
The Mountain God informed them of the Celestial Dragon's arrival. The Long Dragon poked his lava head out of the top of the mountain.
"Oh esteemed dragon," said the Celestial Dragon. "Long ago you helped the humans by creating a river. Kindly do the same now. The Jade Emperor tires of their complaints; they interrupt his beloved fairy music."
"We will not, the humans no longer deserve our rivers," the Long Dragon said. Ignoring the Celestial Dragon's pleading, he retreated back into the mountain.
However, the Celestial Dragon did not give up so easily. He soon returned to address all four dragons. "Fearsome dragons, I have good tidings! The humans have cleared the riverbeds of garbage. The effort is led by the nation's youth, perhaps there is hope for the humans after all."
"Oh, that is wonderful!" said the Pearl Dragon. "Now that the ugliness is gone, I will return my river. The humans have suffered enough." Flowing from lava to water, she left to restore the Zhujiang.
Before long the Celestial Dragon returned again. "More good news, mighty dragons. Without the river's power, the humans have no use for dams and so have dismantled them."
"Good news indeed," said the Yellow Dragon. "Now I can swim freely in my own river." And he left to restore the Huanghe.
The Celestial Dragon returned again soon after. "Honored dragons, with the riverbeds free and clear, herds of fuzhu deer have made them their new home."
"Fuzhu trampling through my riverbed?" said the Black Dragon. "I must go chase them away." And she left to restore the Heilongjian.
Yet the Celestial Dragon still could not convince the Long Dragon. "I will not return until the humans show me respect," the Long Dragon huffed. "The Jade Emperor cannot punish me as I already dwell under the mountain. Now, leave me alone!"
“It is not you whose punishment I worry about,” muttered the Celestial Dragon as he left. Yet he did not return.
The Long Dragon was sleeping when the Mountain God informed him of more visitors. "Are they envoys from the Jade Emperor?" the Long Dragon asked suspiciously. "If so, I will burn them with my lava breath."
"No. They are humans," the Mountain God said.
The Long Dragon emerged from the top of the mountain to confront the humans. It was the two teenagers from the pond, and though they were face to snout with a dragon made of lava, they did not run. The Long Dragon admired their courage.
"Great dragon, we've come to ask you to bring back the Changjiang," said the older one. "We felt so bad after we threw the bicycle in your river that we organized a cleanup of the riverbed at our school."
"After the other rivers disappeared as well, we promoted the cleanup program nationwide," said the younger one. "One of the rivers returned but the others didn't, so we knew we hadn't done enough."
"We petitioned the government to decommission the dams and make the riverbeds protected areas, which brought back the other rivers," said the elder. "But the people along the Changjiang still suffer."
"We didn't know what else to do, but a wind shaped like a dragon came to us. It whispered that we should travel here and ask you in person," said the younger.
"Our grandmother knows all the old stories and told us to bring you a present, so here it is," said the elder. "A jar of water from the Eastern Sea. Please remember your kindness back then and return the river now."
Both humans bowed to the fiery dragon. "On behalf of all humans, we're sorry."
An apology! That's what he had been missing. The Long Dragon's anger towards humans was tempered. Maybe they weren't irredeemable; after all, these teenagers proved humans were capable of change. And they'd brought him a thoughtful gift.
"On behalf of the dragons, I accept your apology. You humans have learned to respect the mighty rivers," he said. He broke open the jar and, as he touched the seawater, turned from lava into water. Scooping the two teenagers onto his horns, he rushed down the riverbed, all the way from the mountain to the sea, refilling it with life-giving water. Once the mighty Changjiang flowed again, the Long Dragon traveled back upriver to deposit the teenagers at their home.
"Thank you, thank you!" they said.
"Remember, your work is not done," warned the Long Dragon. "Keep the rivers clean and tell your story so that the dragons and humans may live together happily." He bared his teeth, reminding the teenagers of his lava form. "Or else."
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 03:11|
Roll to Save Against Personal Growth
Your dragon is a master of a human trade or craft, and practices it for the joy of it, although it requires an appropriate price for its services.
King Lygas, having hammered his last piton, gazed at the slow falling snow as he rose to the peak. His perfect hair fell to his shoulders like waterfalls as he cast his helmet into the soft powder at his feet. The king reached for his greatsword and plunged it into the mountain as his entourage which, had climbed not too far behind him, announced his arrival with a fanfare of trumpets. A squire rushed the king a hollowed-out horn, and King Lygas said, “Belphod Irontooth, it is I, King Lygas, here upon the appointed hour when the suns and winds bless the sacred groves of Arcadia. I am late, but I have arrived!”
“See? This is exactly what I’m talking about! Me and his children, let the mages teleport us here so we could arrive on time. Lygas always has to do things the hard way. ‘I can climb it, just watch. No need to use magic, it’s a waste of good sorcery.’ Well, have a look here, late and with a retinue of nearly a hundred men.” Queen Illdryth said as she shook her head and rolled her eyes at her husband.
Belphod’s scaly lips bent upwards until his reptilian visage could pass for pleasant, or at the very least, unintimidating. “King Lygas, glad you could make it. Come and get seated. While we waited, Queen Illdryth was telling me about how you’ve been showing little Axallius techniques with the sword.”
Lygas glared at Illdryth reprovingly. She returned his gaze with a derisive snort and turned her nose up at him. “This. Again?” Lygas asked looking at Belphod while speaking to Illdryth. “Yes. This. Again. And for the record, it was never over to begin with!” Illdryth shouted. “He’s eight Illdryth!, And eight is the age of a boy who’s nearly a man grown. When I was his age, I was scaling the ramparts of my father’s war camps and studying field tactics with the battle ministers. At nine, I had killed a man.” Lygas said smugly.
“Oh, and what about Gaoren?” Illdryth said, pointing to Lygas’s first-born son who was smoking dryad’s herb and tuning a lute on a nearby boulder. Lygas ran a hand over his face and started to explain how it was different, when Belphod interrupted with a plume of smoke from his snout.
“Now, now. Things are getting heated, and we’ll have a time to air out these grievances, but for now. I’d actually like to hear from Axallius about how he feels. Go on, Axallius. Tell us how you feel.” The boy answered bashfully, “Well, I do like the sword, but I’ve seen how father gets about swords and battle. I’d be lying if I said I had the same passion he does for it.” Lygas wanted to respond, but Belphod flapped his wings gently to signal silence.
“Good. There’s a compromise here and we’ll work on that. Now, Lygas, I have asked you before that you join your family in your arrival, and that you not bring soldiers or scribes, to these private meetings.” Belphod said prompting Lygas to sigh. He was displeased with how this session had turned out, and after he dismissed his soldiers, he crossed his arms to pout.
“Now that this has been settled, I’d really like to talk about what’s going on with Gaoren.” Belphod said, before waving the youth from his perch. “Would you mind joining us over here?” Gaoren slung his lute onto his back and walked in front of his family and sat on the couch. “You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not exactly enthusiastic about being here oh, great, ancient, Dragon.” Gaoren said. “Belphod is fine, and is there any particular reason why?”
“Well, let’s not mince words about it… My father only has me here in the hopes that you’ll accept me as payment for our repeated sessions instead of asking for half the livestock the land can spare in any given year.”
Belphod gave a genuinely startled look at Lygas who shifted his eyes conspicuously. “Seriously?” Belphod asked. “What? Everyone knows dragon’s terrorize villages for their first-borns and gold… you never know.” Lygas answered. “That’s specist, sir.” Belphod replied curtly. “Ah, sorry, I didn’t – “ stammered Lygas. “We’ll work on it.” Belphod interrupted putting a pin on the subject before massaging his brow briefly. “I don’t think I should have to point out how unhealthy that dynamic between you and Gaoren is, but I will, and not because I’m the least bit upset about you calling me a first-born eater. You can’t just give your children off to be eaten without a second thought.” Belphod said.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to say!” Illdryth said leering at King Lygas. “Alright, I don’t need this.” Lygas said tossing his hands into the air. He stood and marched towards his plunged sword and wrestled to free it from the mountain in his anger. “You’re free to go Lygas, but you’ve got another fifteen minutes in the session that we could spend talking about this reactionary anger you’re dealing with.” Belphod said trying to goad a reaction out of the king. Lygas hearing the jab in the dragon's words let his attitude flare. “Hard pass, dragon. I’ve no cattle for you either because you’re not very much help. Wisest council in all the kingdom? Nonsense! I’ve had wiser council from my chamber pot droppings. I bid you good day.” The king said. The Queen raised her eyebrows at Belphod and the corner of her mouth turned upward into a half-grin as she shrugged.
“You know, Lygas, I think I could make an exception for you.” Belphod said. The king who was about to start climbing back down the mountain turned and faced the dragon incredulously. “Oh, an exception? For what? Your advice isn’t wanted.” Belphod chuckled. “No, no more advice. I’m talking about your balance due.” Lygas cocked his head amused, "this will be rich." Belphod nodded and began to speak, "Oh, it most certainly will be rich. While I’ve never known a single dragon in all my centuries, to take a first-born son of man, I’d be happy to oblige you this once.”
“Oh, really? Fantastic! Finally, can put that good for nothing son of mine to use. Gaoren, I wish I could say it’s been a pleasure, but you know how these things go.” Lygas said turning his back on his family.
Belphod snorted bemused laughter. “Not Gaoren, Lygas. He’s not the only first-born son here, and his meat is far tender and bitter for my tastes,” Belphod said clearing the distance between him and the king with a powerful thrust of his wings.
“Spoiled meat tastes sweeter,” Belphod said as he cooked the king in a conflagration of flame before swallowing down the remains.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 03:37|
To Expect Any Different
High in the stony peaks of Kwohn-Venshäli, where mountain and atmosphere thin, there lived a dragon made of rose quartz. Finest of creatures to soar among violet skies, The Rose Quartz Dragon bowed substance to mode, and therewith worked marvels for the betterment of mortal pilgrims.
One morning, Peter, a doleful pilgrim, and his brother Edmond, who was also called John, tethered themselves together and slowly climbed Kwohn-Venshäli’s rocky base. They sought The Rose Quartz Dragon, that they might petition him to grant Peter relief from his melancholy.
But on the brothers’ second night of climbing, Edmond’s veins began to chill. He spoke nothing of it to Peter, for he did not wish to delay his brother’s petition. Edmond froze to death before daybreak, yet Peter could not bear to untether his brother’s body from his own.
After four days, Peter crested the mountain, dragging Edmond’s remains along. Atop the peak, he found The Rose Quartz Dragon engraving stones with numbers, each the sum of the previous two.
Peter spoke: “O magnificent dragon, my mind oppresses me. Into all conceptions it carves a border, and through those fierce grooves which limn thought and thought, I tumble to despair. Cure me, I beg you.”
The dragon replied. “I’d prefer not, thank you.” He kept his focus on the numbers.
Peter took a moment to dampen his searing disappointment. Then he said, “I was led to believe that you honor hopeful pilgrim’s petitions.”
“You were misinformed,” said the dragon. “The matter is at my discretion.”
Peter crouched beside Edmond’s remains and fought the urge to weep. “But I have journeyed far and sacrificed much for the pilgrimage,” he said. “I have lost even my brother Edmond, who was my tether.”
The dragon continued to scratch arithmetic into the stones. After a few moments, he said, “Already I have told you no. Do not seek to manipulate me.”
“Would it not be better of you to help?” asked Peter.
“It would,” said the dragon.
“Then why won’t you?”
“I’m not sure what makes you think I owe you a reason.”
Concluding he could do no more, Peter resolved to climb down from Kwohn-Venshäli. But he was despairing of his soul and found even a footstep too much to muster.
Just then, four fingers gripped the far edge of the mountain peak. It was a pilgrim, whose name defies reckoning.
“Oh magnificent dragon,” said the freshly arrived pilgrim. “I seek to become a billy goat.”
In response, The Rose Quartz Dragon looked up from his number etchings and reached into the wispy air. There he took grasp of reality’s fabric and fashioned it with pinches, folds, and undulations. Then he shook the air and released it, and when he was finished the pilgrim had transformed into a billy goat.
“The magnificent dragon is arbitrary,” said Peter.
The dragon responded, “to suggest I am arbitrary implies that you are entitled to my care. I assure you, you are not.”
But Peter insisted. “My mind is broken. Is there no concern in your heart? I languish in despair!”
“If you will but imagine an experience built around fielding petitions and all the asymmetries entailed therein, you may speak on despair with authority. Or do you at all think of anyone but yourself?”
“Then might I compensate you in some way for your care?” asked Peter.
“No,” said the dragon. Then he finished his tabulations, looked up at the doleful pilgrim and said “begone.”
But Peter continued on. “My plight is not so different from if I were drowning in a lake. If you saw me thus imperiled, would you have no obligation to rescue me?”
“No,” said the dragon. “But I might wish to stand at the shore and rebuke your feelings of entitlement.”
With that, Peter surrendered. He took Edmond’s remains, reflected a moment on how to give him rites of proper burial, then started back down the mountain. The billy goat baaed. Thereafter, Peter spent most of his days deeply bitter.
The Rose Quartz Dragon continued to grant hopeful pilgrims’ petitions, save for the growing occasions in which he did not.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 03:39|
Your dragon was man-made and does not know it.
The True Story of Georgia Jenkins and Harold Jumpington 999 words
Molly Jenkins had been told that if she believed hard enough, anything was possible.
When Molly made her clay dragon (named Georgia Jenkins. Georgia on account of it was a cute name, Jenkins on account of she was her mum because she’d made her) she believed very hard that she would come to life. This was probably not what was meant by ‘anything was possible’.
I mean really, it’s very bad advice. No matter how hard you believe, there’s a bunch of stuff that you will never be able to do.
Except if your best friend is an actual wish granting genie, which Molly’s best friend Raoul was, on his dad’s side. This was not common knowledge, in fact even Molly herself was unaware of Raoul’s genie heritage.
Their teacher, Ms Mackintosh, put the clay creations into the kiln. Raoul had made a frog, named Harold Jumpington, who was also going to come to life. The rest of the class had made mugs, because that was the actual task they’d been given. The mugs would not be coming to life, but they would work as actual mugs, so when you think about it, was any transformation weirder than another?
Molly stared at the kiln and said, ‘I can’t wait to bring my pet dragon home’, and Raoul nodded and stroked his beard. He was the only one in their year with a beard. The only one in the school, for that matter. It was a good beard.
Georgia and Harold were not yet alive when they came out of the kiln. Molly was briefly concerned, but Raoul suggested they should paint them first, because a clay coloured dragon and frog isn’t that fun. Raoul painted Harold an extremely bright green, and Molly painted Georgia purple, then added glitter. They looked at each other’s creations, nodded solemnly and agreed that of all the clay creations, theirs was most certainly the best dragon and the best frog, whereas only one of the other ones could possibly be the best mug, and which one was entirely up for debate.
So really, all those mug making chumps looked very silly, now.
The bell rang for lunch. All the other kids scattered to the various corners of the school, but Molly and Raoul sat next to the creations with their lunch, and watched Georgia’s and Harold’s paint dry, so as to make sure that they were ready for when they both came to life.
Harold came to life first, which makes sense because frogs are less complex critters than dragons, as well as actually existing, and also Georgia’s glitter added an extra layer of complication that probably mattered in some way. Harold ribbited in the way frogs do, then slowly hippity hopped his way over to Raoul and sat on his shoulder, because what’s the point of being a half genie if the things you bring to life don’t treat you like their buddy.
“What do frogs eat?” asked Molly.
“Harold will probably find flies and stuff,” said Raoul, “and live in my backyard on a lily pad and ribbit all the time.”
Molly nodded. That certainly sounded like what a frog ought to do.
Then Georgia came to life, slowly unfurled her wings and flip flapped over to Molly, perching on her head and blowing fireballs into the air near her, but harmless fireballs that went a few inches then dissipated without burning down the school or anything like that.
“What do dragons eat?” asked Raoul.
Molly scrunched her face in thought for a moment. “I think dragons usually eat humans and cows and things, but Georgia is small and my friend, so she will eat mice and rats and mosquitoes and snakes.”
“Well, she’ll probably eat a snake over several days, because they’re quite big, or maybe she’ll just scare them away with her fireballs.”
Raoul nodded. What was the point of having a pet dragon if you couldn’t use her to keep snakes away, after all?
The bell rang, and Ms Mackintosh came back to the classroom. She sighed. “This isn’t ‘bring your pet to school’ day,” she said.
“We didn’t,” said Raoul.
“They were here already, we’re doing the opposite, we’re taking them home,” said Molly.
Ms Mackintosh sighed again. “Fine. What is that anyway, some kind of lizard?”
“A dragon,” said Molly. “Her name is Georgia.”
“All right,” said Ms Mackintosh. “Well just make sure she doesn’t kidnap any princesses or whatever dragons do.”
“She’s not that kind of dragon,” said Molly. “She’s a small and friendly dragon, who scares off snakes.”
Ms Mackintosh sighed a third time. “Wouldn’t that be nice? Mr Blooples only ever catches native birds, and leaves them my back porch.”
“Who’s Mr Blooples?” asked Molly.
“My cat,” said Ms Mackintosh. “Here, I’ll show you a photo.”
She showed them a photo of a black cat.
“That’s a good cat,” said Molly.
“Thanks,” said Ms Mackintosh, “but I really wish he’d leave the native birds alone and stick to eating pests, and not leave them on my porch.”
“If you believe hard enough,” said Raoul, “anything is possible.”
Ms Mackintosh shrugged. “I don’t think I can believe hard enough for that.”
“I’ll believe for both of us,” said Molly.
That night, Molly brought Georgia over to Raoul’s house. Since Raoul and Molly were best friends, it stood to reason that Harold and Georgia had to be friends, and Georgia had to know not to eat any frogs. Plus, her parents would probably have to be eased into the idea of a pet dragon.
Also that night, Mr Blooples exclusively killed and ate cockroaches and mice and left the birds alone, because Raoul liked Ms Mackintosh, even though she was sometimes bossy, because she didn’t yell at them or get angry when they did things like make a living dragon and frog out of clay instead of a mug like she told them to do.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 03:59|
Flash: Your dragon is incapable of hate, even under duress.
Three Lies(1500 words)
“The Dragon Evercrume was your best friend, right?”
Metheus looked at the massive red dragon next to him. The dragon, Herudo, appeared as if Metheus created him with a blink. At one moment was a blank, dry land, and next, Herudo. Herudo blinked at Metheus’ lies.
“Yes. He...she? No, ‘he’, you’re right, he was my best friend. I called him Eve.”
“Was his hobby of sharing food the reason why he’s the kindest dragon?” Metheus lied. He smelled ash. Maybe Herudo was born out of an explosion within a blink.
“Yes, yes! I still remembered those giant mammoths he hunted. He would cook it with his fire, and then cut it with his massive claws! He would give some to me, and to this other dragon named Interrup-”
“And to humans too,” Metheus lied. “In fact, that’s how I met him.” Metheus created in his own mind a heartwarming image: the white of a dragon’s claw stabbing brown burnt dripping meat and handing it to him. All to make a more convincing lie.
“He gave you the mammoths’ meat? But they’re hard,” Herudo said.
“They’re juicy and soft.” Herudo stared at Metheus, the dragon’s eyes as wide as the man’s head. In it was conviction of a true believer.
“Yeah, he would give meat to humans, which is why no humans lived next to him. They’re afraid of getting too fat!” Herudo laughed.
“I gave him some meat in return. A human giving the Dragon of Endercome food? Unheard of. But he grew to love it.”
“That’s Endercome! I must have misheard him when he said his favourite food is humans. He meant his favourite food is ‘human’s’,” Herudo said. He closed his eyes and giggled.
Metheus smiled. “That is how I killed him.”
Herudo looked at Metheus. Metheus glared back at Herudo’s massive black void of a left eye, waiting for that brilliant flash of hate to appear.
“Every single bit of meat I gave him is toxic.”
“Of course, the poison merely weakened him. Over years he descended from a mighty dragon that could crunch mountains to this mere freak of a lizard to weak too open his eyelids.”
Herudo gulped. Metheus laughed.
“Those were the best years of my life! Esterflame used to roar, right, and the stink of mammoth meat just go through me. But as years go by, his muscles shrink, his wings constantly furled, and I can hear him crying!” Metheus’ laugh turned rapturous. “He said, ‘oh I wish I hadn’t aged so quickly,’, he said ‘Metheus, your meals were the only bright moments of my life, thank you for bringing it to this old me,’. It took all I had to stop laughing.”
Herudo held his breath.
“And then I stabbed him,” Metheus said. He imagined the white of a knife’s edge piercing brown dragon flesh, and he described that to Herudo. A liquid began seeping out of those black orbs.
“Oh Est! Est, my dearest friend, my company in scales, my generous love! For you to have ended like this!” Herudo looked at Metheus. “Are you proud?”
Metheus grunted. “I’m sorry?”
“A human, barely as big as his thumbs, destroyed Esterflame. But are you proud? You stole his magnificence, and killed a mere husk. You killed my best friend, but you didn’t kill a divine dragon.”
“I don’t need pride! Is this how you react to your best friend’s death?”
“I’m crying, aren’t I?”
Metheus glared. “You could kill me! You should hate me!”
Herudo was silent, no sound coming out of this dragon except for the sound of tears dripping onto the dry land. “It just hurts.”
“Do you remember your egg?” Metheus deceived. “Dragons’ eggs must be surrounded by pure draconic energy to ensure safe hatching and a strong juveniles, right?”
Herudo inhaled. “Egg? Mine? B-but...no, yes you’re right. I kept it underwater…”
“In a cave on Mountain Bheibl, yes. I was there.”
“What were you doing inside my nest?”
“I threw horse poo poo on your egg,” Metheus said, with delight. “Not just once. I did it every day, for years.”
Herudo looked at Metheus. The gears in Herudo’s brain spun. “You corrupted the, the pure draconic energy.”
“And that’s why your hatchling died in its first day,” Metheus said. Images now came to his head like punches. A baby’s cries roared through his skull. “Your child failed to cry, didn’t it?” As if real, he felt a weak grip of small fingers on the tip of his fingers. “All you can focus on is its disgusting hue.” Cold white stabbed pale pink, drenched in deep red.
Herudo cried. “My child! Oh, my child! What have I done?” Metheus felt both of Herudo’s giant eyes staring at him. “What have you done?”
“A hateful thing,” Metheus said. His smile faded a little.
Herudo’s head repeatedly slammed to the ground. The force was enough to make Metheus tremble, but the dry ground under it remained unscathed. Eventually Herudo stopped and looked at Metheus. The red scales now were stained by dirt. “How should I thank you?”
Metheus blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“You’ve brought back my greatest sin to me. I’ve long deserted it, and here you are, throwing it right at my face. True atonement starts at staring down my own sins, to feel it eat you,” Herudo said.
Metheus stared at Herudo’s eyes. They were black not with fury, but with resignation. He looked away before shadows of his past appeared on those black mirrors. “I know the magic to restraint dragons like you,”
Before Herudo could say anything, green chains appeared around his limbs and pulled it in various directions. The dragon’s mighty strength meant nothing and soon Herudo was tangled with his own limbs, unable to move.
“This is how I enslaved your kind,” Metheus said. “Don’t you remember this?” Metheus pointed at a spot on the ground. With a blink, a piece of a dragon’s bone laid on it, freshly white, unaffected by the black dust of the desert. “It’s your mother’s bone. I killed her and used her bones as accessories.” Metheus ripped open his shirt and revealed a necklace made out of bones above the multiple stab wounds, still bleeding, on his stomach.
Herudo closed his eyes and sighed, long and noisy.
“I remember it!” Images now came as if a memory. Soulless cold chains stood stark against skin. “I sold your kin on messy dirty markets.” Strange sounds seep into the scorching sky. “I told my fellow men of your worth.” Men lifted his arms and probed his thighs while looking at the crowd. Hands went up. “You were objects.”
Metheus looked at Herudo. He saw terror, frustration, despair, but no hate. “What would make you hate me? What lie would do it? I killed your friend and ruined your offspring, how far do I have to go?”
“Wait,” Herudo said, opening his eyes. “You were lying! I was never sold in a market! That bone necklace of yours has nothing to do with me!” Seemingly revitalized, he blinked and looked at Metheus. “Why are you lying to me?”
“If I make you hate me, I can leave this place.”
“Who told you that?”
Metheus tried to remember the Thing who said it, how It stood there, where Herudo was, a humanoid with similar shape to him. However, what he could remember was that he was looking at himself. That Thing was himself, telling himself that if the dragon were to hate him, he could leave. “Why are you here in this place, Dragon?”
“I just travel to places like these. I’m a Hell Dragon.”
“Wait, was it all a lie? My best friend? My child?” Herudo asked.
“If I lie, this place will make it so that you’ll completely believe it.”
“Then why don’t you lie about me hating you? Say that you’re my most hated enemy.”
“That wouldn’t work,” Metheus lied.
“Why not just say ‘you’re supposed to take me out of this place’? I’ll bring you out of here.”
“That wouldn’t work,” Metheus lied.
“In fact, just tell me you want to leave, and we’ll leave.” Herudo smiled.
“I will not fall in your trap,” Metheus said. He looked again at the red dragon, his supposed salvation: Red horns, sable eyes. “It was you. You were the one who lied to me, giving me an impossible challenge! You’ll take me away from this place to a worse place! Perhaps there the black dust will be red, and these wounds will not close. Begone!”
“I’m not lying!”
Metheus closed his eyes. “You have something to do. Something so important-”
“Don’t do this,” Herudo said.
“Something so important, you’ll be gone when this sentence ends!”
Herudo disappeared. Metheus stared at the place where the great lizard was no longer was. All he could feel now was the whiff of dust, a scent of desert and his own blood.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 04:18|
Gossolix’s Happy Birthday
The dragon put down the human skulls she was playing with and sighed. They were yellow, and most of the teeth had fallen out; it has been a long time since her last visitor. She rolled awkwardly onto her side. She had grown so huge over the last century that her body barely fit into the space between her mound of gems and the roof of her cave.
“Happy birthday to me~,” she sang quietly.
“Shouldn’t we be taking the dragon a present?” said Morry.
“Don’t be daft.” Rennie adjusted the weight of his pack and hefted his ax. “We’re going to kill it and steal its treasure, what would be the point of taking it a present?”
Portly Dorve was 20 paces behind others, doubled over with his hands on his knees. “But it’s her birthday,” he called.
“Dragons don’t have birthdays. And how do you know it’s a her?” said Rennie.
“They say she’s guarded this mountain for a hundred years.” Morry dropped his pack and plonked his leather-armoured backside onto a log. “And dragons mate once a century. Ipso facto, if a male dragon shows up to woo her tonight, then our beauty is a girl.”
“Stop anthropomorphising the dragon!” Rennie tightened his grip on his ax and pointed at his comrades. “You swore an oath to help me kill it!”
“Honestly, Rennie, last night’s a bit of a blur...” said Dorve.
Rennie shoved his hand under his wool-lined helmet and rubbed his sweating pate, but before he could launch into his help-me-kill-the-dragon-and-we’ll-all-get-insanely-rich speech again, a glittering red and gold male dragon woomphed onto the ground next to him.
Dorve made a sound like a horse inhaling a bee and Morry fell off his log. Rennie hefted his ax, but the dragon yanked it from his hands with a foreclaw and tossed it off the mountainside. He nosed at Morry’s pack, which was full of hard tack.
“Didn’t you get her anything good?” the male dragon said.
“Rennie says dragons don’t have birthdays!” Morry shouted from behind his log.
Rennie shot him a filthy look.
The male dragon rolled his eyes. “Bet he wants to kill her and steal her treasure, too, ha ha ha.”
A gust of wind rattled up the mountainside through the branches of the withered trees. Somewhere far away a raven cawed.
“Run!” screamed Rennie, as the male dragon opened his mouth and let out a great gout of flame.
The dragon lifted her head and sniffed the air. There was smoke on the wind. She cocked her head. And the distant sound of running feet! That could only mean one thing: visitors! On her birthday!! Her tail wump-wumped and gems scattered around the cave. Heart thumping with excitement, she belly-wriggled off her mound and up to the cave’s entrance.
“That drat fool Rennie is going to get them all killed,” said Dorvette, Dorve’s wife. She hadn’t wanted to take Dorve’s name when they married, but she’d been too young, back then, to believe she could stand up to patriarchal traditions, and these days she told herself she was used to it. “Spoon.”
Morreena, her apron covered in flour, handed Dorvette the mixing spoon and wiped her brow, leaving a smear of cake batter above her eyebrow. “If we take Rennietta’s broom we can make it in time,” she said.
Dorvette crossed herself. “We swore after what happened to Rennietta that no one would touch it again. We’re taking the horse, I’ll brook no argument.”
Outside the cottage a sturdy chestnut with more belly than leg lifted his head and peered through the kitchen window.
“No. Nope. Absolutely not,” he said. “I’ll never make it. The dragon will eat me. This is an emergency. Rennietta would understand. Hell, Rennietta would have wanted you to take it.”
Morreena raised her eyebrows at her old friend. Hiding her consternation by peering into the oven at the golden-brown cake, Dorvette was forced to concede that the horse had a point.
“Ok,” she said, yanking open the oven door. “It’s done. Let’s ride.”
The male dragon spread his bejewelled wings so that they reflected the setting sunlight for maximum dramatic effect. Golden light played across the cliff-top platform outside the mouth of the dragon’s lair. He had travelled a long way for this night.
Rennie wriggled against the dragon’s claws. His arms were smooshed against Dorve’s belly.
“Stop wriggling, you’re going to get us killed!” said Morry, looking down through his dangling boots at the distant treetops.
Inside the cavemouth the dragon squinted as the light reflecting off the male’s wings shone unpleasantly into her eyes.
Morry peered at the trees. “Hey Dorve,” he said. “Isn’t that your wife?”
The broomstick shot straight up in an uncontrolled corkscrew, forcing the male to flap out of its way and relieving the dragon of his blinding display. She squeezed out of her cave just in time to watch the broom reach the apex of its climb, stall in the air, and then drop like a stone. The dragon sat up, thrust out her forelimbs, and caught Dorvette and Morreena just before they splatted onto the granite.
“Oopsie daisies!” said the dragon, and set the two woman down.
Dorvette, always quick to recover in a crisis, curtseyed, while Morreena floomped to the ground, cake box still clutched to her chest.
“Thank you,” said Dorvette. “May I ask your name?”
“Oh!” The dragon unfurled her blue-green wings with a snap, and shivered them a little. “I’ve Gossolix.”
“Happy birthday, Gossolix!” said Morreena. Her legs still felt like jelly, so she held up the cake box for Gossolix from her position on the ground.
“Hey!” said the male dragon. “I brought you a present too!” He shook the three unfortunate men at her.
“So, are you going to mate with him and make lots of dragon babies?” said Dorvette, always straight to the point.
“God no,” said Gossolix. “I’ll just clone myself. Who can be bothered with the patriarchy these days?” She peeled open the cake box with one claw, and breathed deeply of the banana and chocolate aroma within. “This. Smells. Amazing. What should I call you?”
Dorvette hesitated. She looked across the platform to the edge of the cliff, where Dorve was hanging from the male dragon’s claws. He meant well, even if he did let Rennie put stupid ideas in his head.
“Kara,” she said. She drew the vowels out just a fraction, enjoying the feeling of the sounds in her mouth.
“Would you like some cake, Kārā?” Gossolix held out claw, ready to cut a slice.
“Wait!” said Morreena. She fished in the pocket of her apron and brought out a fistful of candles. “First, we have to sing you happy birthday.” She patted her other pockets, then frowned, realising she’d dropped her matches.
“Let me!” said the male dragon. He deposited Rennie, Dorve and Morry on the rocky ground and trotted over, desperate to be useful.
Kara pursed her lips as she noticed Rennie turn his back on the party. He knelt next to Rennietta’s discarded broomstick.
“It was an emergency, Ren,” she said.
Rennie looked up at her. His lips quivered. “I promised her I’d find a way to make us rich, give her the life she’d always wanted,” he said. He reached out with one hand and gently stroked the broom’s bristles.
“Rennietta lived exactly the kind of life she wanted,” said Kara. Tears pricked her eyes, too, as she pictured her friend doing loop the loops on the broom, her skirts and hair streaming behind her. “Come on.” She gave Rennie’s shoulder a squeeze. “This is a birthday party.”
And so the sun set over Dragonlair Mountain, and on Gossolix’s first hundred years of life, and they all sang happy birthday and had cake, and no one got rich, but then no one got killed, either.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 06:13|
Clutch and Kindle
Minka had just given birth to her first litter when she heard the sound, echoing out from the forest. It sounded so much like her kittens that Minka became convinced that one of them must have escaped. She struggled to her feet, shedding kittens as she stood, and went to go investigate.
It wasn’t long before she found the source of the sound. It was half her size, and had no fur at all, its skin covered by translucent scales. It had two strange-looking ears atop its head, and what seemed like an extra pair of legs on its back. It looked so little like a kitten, that Minka was momentarily convinced that it wasn’t a cat at all.
But then the kitten opened its toothless mouth and gave that plaintive, miserable cry again, and Minka came back to her senses. Of course this was a kitten, what else could it possibly be? And kittens need caring for, so she would do just that.
Minka had made her nest in a secluded corner of the barn, a cave among the hay bales filled with soft straw and stolen laundry. She’d managed to drag the kitten back home without too much trouble, and as soon as she lay down, it settled in and started happily nursing beside its new siblings. It was a little crowded, but after all the stress of giving birth and rescuing the strange kitten, Minka was content to drift off to sleep.
The weeks passed as they usually did, with Minka hunting rodents and charming the farmhouse residents. She was an excellent hunter, and they often showed their appreciation for her by leaving saucers of cream or table scraps, something she was particularly grateful for now that she had six more mouths to feed, one of them three times the size of the others. Five of the kittens opened their eyes, and began to toddle about, climbing over each other and around the hollow in the hay bales. Soon they were venturing out to the rest of the barn, and playing with the farmhouse children.
The sixth kitten, of course, did not open its eyes when the others did, and despite its size seemed far less capable than its siblings. Minka continued to care for it, of course, and the kitten at least made some progress in moving on to solid food, which Minka was quite grateful for.
In the blink of an eye, five kittens were rangy young cats, and one by one went to different homes. Minka was a bit wistful to see them go, but they had become quite capable by then, and she still had the sixth to care for.
It had been several months by now, and still the giant kitten seemed as defenseless as it had the day she found it. It did worry her sometimes that its poor eyes were still shut after so long, but it seemed perfectly healthy otherwise. It happily devoured any prey she brought it - so much, in fact, that she often had to go quite a way to find enough - and snuggled up close to Minka whenever she came near it. So she groomed the kitten, and made sure it had everything it needed, waiting patiently for the day it would grow into a fine cat.
At this point, the family in the farmhouse suspected there might be something amiss. Minka spent a lot of time in the nest she had birthed the kittens in, and despite all her kittens being gone she still wasn’t putting on any weight. The youngest also claimed that she still heard a kitten crying in the barn, but Minka had shown no signs of a second heat, let alone pregnancy.
The children eventually decided they would go look in Minka’s nest and find out what was there. The youngest was chosen to go inside, as she was the only one small enough to get through the hay bales, and she was the one who had heard the kitten.
The girl came back out less than a minute later, straw in her hair and panic on her face. The other children could barely understand what she was saying, and when they did they almost couldn’t believe her. But the older ones decided after a few tearful minutes that whether their sister was mistaken or not, they needed to tell someone about it.
Dragons are a particularly terrifying danger on a farm, where livestock make for easy meals and an entire year’s worth of hard labor could disappear with the smoke of a single field. This family had fended off wild beasts before, but the mountains where dragons lived were many miles off, and they had never been seen in the area. But likely or not, the children’s father was willing to take no chances, so he took up his sickle and armed his oldest with a long-tined pitchfork, then went to find Minka’s dragon.
Minka, meanwhile, was dragging back an entire rabbit from the forest, when she heard a cry, that same plaintive, howling cry that had sent her running off into the woods those many months ago. Her fur stood up on end as terror ran through her, and she dropped the rabbit carcass and sprinted as fast as she could back to the barn.
When she arrived, the farmer and his oldest were standing on the last few hay bales left around her nest, staring down at the kitten below. The oldest, a boy who had always saved special scraps for Minka, was standing with his back to the barn door, the wicked pitchfork in his hands. Minka threw herself at the boy, screaming at the top of her lungs, and clawed her way up the back of his shirt, biting and scratching at the boy’s neck.
The farmer tried to grab Minka, but she fought like a demon, digging her claws into the boy’s back and swiping viciously at the farmer as he tried to get near her. The boy went down on his knees, trying to protect his head and face from Minka, and she launched herself towards the kitten. She rounded on the humans, her back arched and her long fur on end, and let out an unearthly yowl at the farmer and his son.
His face full of rage, the farmer took the pitchfork from where his son had dropped it and advanced on Minka. She hissed and spat at him, but the farmer swiped the pitchfork towards her and launched her bodily against the wall of the barn. Minka felt the breath rush out of her as she hit, and she landed stunned on the ground.
The kitten was still crying, louder than even when Minka had heard it that first time. Minka willed her body to move, to leap at the farmer, to grab the kitten and escape into the woods, to do anything. But her lungs refused to take in air, and her head swam, her vision blurry as she watched the farmer advance on the tiny creature, raising the pitchfork above his head.
A scream rent the air, and the roof of the barn peeled back like a rug. A huge winged creature peered down into the barn, and the farmer looked up in terror before turning to flee, snatching his son by the shirt collar and tripping over himself as he ran.
Minka managed to stagger to her feet at last as the creature made its way down from the roof and into the barn. It was the biggest living being Minka had ever seen, easily triple the size of the farmer’s plowhorse. Nevertheless, Minka hurried as best she could to protect her kitten, putting her battered body between it and the creature.
The creature looked down at her with great golden eyes, and Minka realized for the first time that it looked remarkably like the kitten she had been raising these many months. Or, perhaps, the not-kitten.
She gazed into the creature’s eyes and images popped into her head. A vast cavern in the mountains. A nest of eggs deep in the caverns. Eggs taken by human hands. Humans escaping the caves and traveling through the forest. A single egg, dropped carelessly, rolling away into the brush, its shell cracking open to show… a kitten. Her kitten.
Behind her, the kitten mewled again, and the creature made an answering sound, melodic and strange. The creature kept Minka’s gaze with its own, and one final image appeared in Minka’s mind: a vast treasure room, filled with gold and tapestries, antiques and books. Then… mice creeping along the edges, chewing at the fabric and paper, ruining them.
In the end, the dragon left without doing anything beyond the damage to the barn, which the family considered quite lucky, given the circumstances. The next barn cat they kept wasn’t nearly as good a hunter as Minka had been, but it never brought home anything worse than a mole.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 06:15|
Don't Go Chasing Space Refrigerators
These days, Finn had trouble settling for less in life. She found herself struggling to ignore those Marshall notices that hit her comm deck between jumps. It was always poo poo work. Dangerous work. Work they only sent to desperate scavenger types, or so she’d overheard once at a watering hole at port. They knew eventually, someone would cave. The money was never good enough for reputable spacers.
But for scrap like Finn, it was just good enough to tempt her to do something stupid.
That’s how she ended up where she was, hurtling through space on her way to a backwater world in search of a lost autonomous frigate transporting frozen goods. TAU-4B-5920, the space freezer to end all space freezers. Find it, grab its data box, and get the heck out. Easy enough.
What could go wrong?
Finn clapped a stabilizer around her elbow where the matte black of her prosthesis met skin and plodded down the ramp onto the dusty orange surface of the alien world FT-65. It was the fifth planet in the system and too far away from the galaxy’s core and too useless to warrant being named. There wasn’t much data on it either save a preliminary geological report. The whole of the planet’s brittle surface was covered in craters, and it seemed to have a system of massive caves beneath them.
Scanners showed no signs of life, but confirmed the presence of metals below the surface unlikely to be a natural formation. Finn though that seemed like an awful good place to start. A ship as big as the TAU may very well have shot through the planet’s crust like a torpedo and ended up in one of those caves. She buckled the straps of her backpack across her chest, tightened the bands of her oxygen mask, and set off toward the big red mass on her scanner.
She walked for hours. At least, it felt like hours. There was a gap of unmarked time between stepping off her ship and the moment the sun disappeared from overhead. Finn was underground now, that much was certain. When or how she’d arrived there remained a mystery. She ground to a halt and spun around, realizing she stood in a tunnel wide enough for her ship to pass through. The wan glow of her scanner was the only source of light to speak of, and it was barely enough to illuminate the ground five feet in front of her. How had she made it this far in complete dark?
A giant pair of glacial blue eyes with slitted pupils as black as the void of space materialized in front of her. A second, smaller pair split open above those.
In that moment, Finn forgot how to exist. How to breathe. How to move, how to run. She wanted to scream, but she didn’t know how to make that sound. She stood frozen in place by a gaze so alien and terrible that tears fell from her eyes unbidden.
Waves of blue light suddenly illuminated the cave, revealing the head belonging to a creature big enough to eat her ship if it so desired. A horned serpent, ghostly pale in places, angular and metallic in others. The ground shook as it rose on four taloned feet. It opened its maw to bare row after row of vicious, needle-like teeth nearly as tall as Finn. As its jaws separated, tendrils of electricity slithered between its fangs. It made a sound she immediately perceived as a laugh, but it struck her like an electrical storm. Her nostrils flared as the smell of ozone filled the cavern. Her skin prickled with static while her inorganic limb seized violently at her side.
Then she saw them: Wings. Bigger than anything she’d seen on a man-made vessel, and folded almost like a bird.
Her eyes flicked up as she registered the sight before her. The creature was covered in layers of metal. Not just any metal. Parts. Some she recognized, like the old fuselage that had somehow split in two and now covered what she supposed was its spine. Some bore scorch marks she knew too well; the hull of her own ship had plenty of those. When the beast breathed, their electrical systems flickered to life, igniting lights of all colors, and promptly died along the crest of its wings as the current rolled over the veritable graveyard of machinery that adorned its gargantuan form. When the current subsided, the lights went out.
She gaped at the creature whose mouth did not move, but whose voice she was certain she now heard in her mind. A sound like thunder and static.
It returns to us at last.
Her first impulse was to reply, but the pulse was so thick in her throat that she coughed and sputtered when she tried.
The creature made an amused sound in her mind that brought with it another wave of static. Again, the lights along its back flared to life and died. Tiny bolts of electricity wove through her hair and down her manufactured arm. Her fingers moved of their own volition. It hurt, made her grasp at the limb to hold it still.
Has it no words for us? Has it forgotten how to kneel?
“I don’t-” She stuttered as took an unsteady step backward. Its words made her head spin. What was she supposed to say? “I don’t know-... I-I mean you no harm-”
The creature tossed its head back sharply. Again it laughed and the sound of it tore through her like a shockwave. The tips of her fingers felt like they were on fire.
Harm? It thinks itself so capable that we would look upon it and know fear? This is the hubris we have so missed.
“I didn’t mean-”
The words dissolved on her tongue as she looked, really looked at the beast before her, bathed in blue light. For a moment, fear released its hold of her so that she could actually think. She recognized the wreckage adorning the monster. In the wan light of the cavern, she could make out the designation emblazoned along the hull this beast now wore like armor: TAU-4B-5920.
The creature’s head tilted sideways, affording her a fleeting glance of a patch of bare skin spanning the underside of its neck. White, leathery skin peeked out from behind intersecting plates of scored steel. She could just barely make out the faint web of purple and blue veins beneath the translucent surface of its flesh.
Has it come to pay tribute? Or does it return to us merely to die? The dragon’s question rang through her with an unmistakable note of irritation. Tread carefully, that little voice of hers urged as bile churned in her stomach. A little late for that, she thought in reply.
“W-where did you get those-”
Finn fell to her knees clutching her head as it bellowed inside her skull.
We called to them! When we called, they came to us! They are OURS.
The roaring inside her ears slowly subsided. Finn looked up to find that the monster’s head now hovered mere feet in front of her own. She barely trusted herself to speak, but it was all she could think to do.
“Ok! That’s fine! That’s-... A gift! I brought you a gift. Please, accept it and… let me go? It’s all I have.”
Again, it parted its jaws and filled the cavern with crackling energy. It leapt around her, through her, set her nerves aflame. The creature stared at her with eyes Finn knew somehow had witnessed eons. She swallowed thickly as it craned its head closer.
Finn sprinted across the arid desert toward the lump of metal she called a ship. She sobbed between gasping breaths and hoped with all her being that her heart would refrain from exploding before she boarded. She looked back once, just once. And once was enough to make her trip and fall. Though it seemed nothing pursued her, she didn’t trust her eyes. It took her a few attempts to get back on her feet; she’d forgotten how difficult a task it was with just one arm.
As useless as her stump was, she eventually managed to get herself upright and took off for her ship again with reckless abandon, not daring to look back again until her feet finally touched the solid metal of the landing ramp.
It wasn’t until she broke through the atmosphere and saw stars that she dared believe she was safe. Once she’d set coordinates for a much more hospitable corner of space, she slumped back in her chair, shut her eyes, and heaved a woeful sigh as she absently rubbed at the empty space where her prosthetic arm once was.
She remained blissfully unaware of the tiny tendrils of blue static weaving between her fingertips as she stared into the darkness behind her eyelids.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 06:38|
They called it "Eiffel's monster", at first as a joke. The giant metal sculpture simply appeared one day at the base of the observation tower in the harbor, all welded steel plates and girders, strung through with inexplicable wires. The creature had six legs, a huge head like a metallic skull, a sinuous tail studded with rusty nails and spikes, and eight pairs of wings, small and large, with forms ranging from a butterfly's to a dragonfly's to a bat's, running down the length of its back. It was truly ugly, an ungainly black and silver affront to the senses. Most offensive of all, though, it had no points of articulation or apparent source of energy or motivation, and yet it insisted on moving, snapping at any who ventured too close.
Mothers warned children to sway away, lest they become the dragon's next meal. This admonition lost its half-joking unease in favor of sharp urgency after one day when a small boy wandered too close and was not seen again. Then, engineers went at it with welder's torches at the end of long rods, dynamite, even high-powered lasers, all to no avail. The creature was impervious, or too clever to remain in the blast, or too reflective to absorb the light. Soldiers followed and shot at it, succeeding only in slightly denting its frame and hitting one of their own with an unlucky ricochet.
The artist was called, implored to do something, begged to bring his creature to heel, to tame it, to undo what he had done, to unwrite what he had wrought. He refused. The thing was made, and it was content, and it was maybe alive, even, and certainly it was unwilling to cooperate, and who was he to tell it otherwise? Maybe he could communicate with it, the concerned citizens told him. It's a sculpture, he said, go away. Leave it alone. Live with it, and eventually it will grow on you.
The creature merely paced, restless, at the base of the viewing tower. The city tourism department complained of lost revenue. (In fact, attendance was up 30% over the year before.) People just needed to watch their step and not come too close when it neared the entrance.
The odd person attempted to talk to the dragon, or sing to it, or lecture it, or ask it questions. It ignored all such speech. Sign language proved equally fruitless, in three different dialects. One enterprising individual attempted morse code with the use of a flashing light. It let out a gout of oily black flame, scorching the lamp and incinerating the bulb.
Some took to writing letters to the creature, mailed to an address at the tower itself. And they received replies, eventually, every one, though no one ever saw it compose a response. The staff working in the tower claimed they were not the authors of any such letters.
The letters the writers received were brusque and literal, at first, answering only and precisely those questions they had asked. But these responses eventually grew longer, more expansive, more thoughtful and sophisticated. Some took this as a sign that the dragon was losing its fierce touch. As if to prove otherwise, it nearly ripped the arm off a child that week. (She needed twenty-one stitches and wide-spectrum antibiotics and a tetanus booster, and doctors said she was lucky to keep the arm.)
It's becoming a nuisance, people said to the artist. It's going to kill someone. Maybe it already did.
He said, only, no. I can't. I won't. It is its own being.
The city tried to negotiate with the dragon, sending a team to offer a hoard of gemstones (synthetic, not conflict) and relocation to the rooftop of a large structure on the outskirts of the city (a replica of a thirteenth century Scottish castle, built by an eccentric billionaire two decades earlier) where it could pace and guard to its heart's desire.
It yawned and blew the hat off the first one with a puff of flame. The others turned and ran.
The city then tried to annoy and cajole it to convince it to move on, bombarding it with loudspeakers blaring deafening rock music and laser beams and radar signals and x-rays. The dragon blasted those machines it could see and ignored those it couldn't, taking refuge on the opposite side of the tower or wedged inside the sliding glass doors when necessary.
It curled up on its side and tried to act like it wasn't bothered.
Then, the city lost their patience. They declared war on the inconveniently animate inanimate object. Soldiers shot bazookas. Helicopters fired rockets. A cruise missile was almost launched from a nearby silo until cooler heads prevailed, worrying about collateral damage to surrounding property and the risk to people inside the tower or nearby structures.
The dragon paced around in a circle and went to sleep, and the truce resumed.
Five months to the day after the dragon first began to move, five months and one week after the artist installed it outside the observation tower as a guerrilla declaration, the old man who had assembled it over the preceding fourteen months died. That day, for the first time, the dragon began to climb the tower, its titanium claws digging rivets into the concrete walls and sliding into the grooves between the windows. The people inside scrambled away from the windows.
When it reached the top, it spread its many wings, and they caught the wind that buffeted the tower, threatening to knock it off the edge. Scientists had examined the creature—from afar—and declared that all its wings were too flimsy and poorly attached to support its weight. It would never fly. Now it stood on the precipice, took its last few steps, and plummeted, with its great bat wings outstretched—and they caught the rising air from the structure and the creature curved outwards, stabilizing, gliding out to sea, angling towards the water.
A boat of returning fishermen coming in that morning reported the last known sighting.
The final letter, sent to an amateur telescope operator the next town over, read:
Yes, I have watched the night sky as it restlessly turns itself over, again and again. I think one day I would like to see where it is going.
Researchers continued to debate their authenticity, even then, after they ceased.
When the dragon began its climb, it left behind a few metal bolts and a long shard of metal, possibly a spike from its tail. Fanatics collected them and wrapped them in a package to be sent to join the artist's other possessions.
In his will, the artist asked for all that he owned to be destroyed, but the executor was poorly chosen and abandoned the task within days. The artist's outstanding works, finished and unfinished, popped up in collections and museums for years afterwards.
All but one.
Your dragon has a dozen pairs of wings, but it is flightless.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 06:58|
Kreust was really busy sorting his precious rocks by color and size for the hundredth time. He was forced to stop this important matter when a bell rang in his hoard cave. An intruder, likely to be a wandering bear or some kind of monster, unsuited for the kind of spirited discussion he was longing for. Still, it wouldn't hurt to check. It ended up being a pleasant surprise, as he could see a human near the entrance through his crystal ball, and one that had neat clothes and neither armor nor weapons.
Kreust opened the large door with a little magic. The human didn't have the decency to get startled by the sudden rumble and movement. Disappointing.
No. That one was different. As he entered the tunnel that formed the entrance to Kreust's lair, his gaze was focused on his host. His look was almost... an appraising one. Both let the silence linger for a bit.
"I was told there was a dragon here, are you the one?" the intruder finally said in a condescending voice.
Kreust was too stunned to reply. The dragon knew that his appearance was not what was expected of his kind, but still, he was double the height of his visitor and muscular at that. He had scales that shined like so many coppery stars. It was not this human's place to judge his short legs and crooked back. What did he know about dragons anyway?
"Do I look like something else to you, human?" the dragon growled. "Is your purpose here to mock me, or do you have something else in mind? Be quick about it."
"Well, I guess that you'll be impressive enough in flight. My name is Walther and I speak for the city of Shadaki. They're on the verge of being attacked by marauders and they asked me to find someone or something dangerous enough to help. There's even a reward attached."
"This is the first time in 100 years I've talked to a human and the second thing to leave your mouth is you asking me to kill your own species? I really can't understand you people."
"I'm not asking you to kill them, just to frighten them. My job is to make everybody to win in this situation. The city doesn't get burned and pillaged, you get rewarded for your time, my reputation as negotiator grows and the pillagers keep their life."
Kreust fell silent. This pompous insect's lack of manners made him want to refuse. But on the other hand, making some human army flee in terror was on his cauldron list. He might also be able to kill more than one bird with that stone.
"Very well. I'll help you, but there is one more condition. You'll reward me, and you have to tell me a joke right now. Any joke will do."
"Hmm, I'm not good at jokes, but I'll bite. Let's see. Why is a dragon never alone?"
"Because he's got a horde!"
Kreust groaned, and the sound resonated in the narrow tunnel. The smug smile on Walther's face did not make the pun any better.
"I should dissolve you for that, but I guess I asked for it. Very well, I accept your terms to act as deterrent. I'll make sure that the city doesn't burn and bolster your reputation."
"What have you done? This is not what we agreed upon!"
This time, the smug on Walther's face had been replaced by anger. His face was a nice shade of red and he was pacing around.
"Oh, human! How nice to see you again. Did your masters like my performance?"
"You stole the marble statue off the city's plaza! And whatever you did while flying above Shadaki somehow managed to turn half its citizens into intoxicated messes!"
"Only half? That's a low score. Still, I would have given up my largest gem just to see the look on your face at that moment!"
"This is an outrage! I want the statue back! I also demand reparations for the damage you've done to my reputation!"
"Do you really think you're in any position to demand anything from me? That statue was nice, so I took it as payment. The city is safe, and its citizens should be back to normal in a week or two. Be thankful that those are the only consequences of your pathetic negotiation." The dragon said in a low hum
Walther opened his mouth again, but Kreust had stopped listening. This lanky human only had smug and protest in him, and it was no longer amusing.
"You don't understand. I only accepted your little quest with mischief in mind. If you ever see a creature, dragon or otherwise, with a hunched back or a clubfoot, you'll remember Kreust the deformed and hopefully learn some humility. Now go away before I decide to turn you into Walther the forever-drunk.”
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 07:00|
Submissions are closed!
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 07:17|
The dragons have all went home!
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 07:19|
TD WEEK 452 RESULTS: What a Drag(on)
Lots of ennui in the judge chambers this week, folks. This was kind of a disappointing lot, with lots of disagreements, but all settling at "meh." After some not-particularly-spirited debate, here are your results:
Winner: curlingiron, "Clutch and Kindle"
HMs: Tyrannosaurus, "wild one"; Fuschia tude, "Rook"
DMs: Azza Bamboo, "A Tale of Geldal"; Idle Amalgam, "Roll to Save Against Personal Growth"; Gorka, "Malicious Compliance"
Loser: toanoradian, "Three Lies"
curlingiron, it's your show!
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 21:53|
Thunderdome 453: You’re Out of Order!
Ha ha, I tricked you into reading fanfiction about my cat! ...and now I have to run a week. ._. Truly, a fitting punishment.
So if there’s one thing that I like in this world (besides dragons and cats), it’s nonlinear narratives. Time travel, perspective switch, backwards stories, I can’t get enough of them. So now you get to
No stipulations beyond that. Write whatever genre you want, with the usual exceptions: no erotica, political screeds, Google Docs, or fanfic (unless it’s about your cat).
Signup Deadline: 11:59 PM PDT Friday April 9th
Submission Deadline: 11:59 PM PDT Sunday, April 11th.
Word Count: 1500 words
Azza Bamboo c
Idle Amalgam r
angel opportunity a
curlingiron fucked around with this message at 17:34 on Apr 10, 2021
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 23:06|
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 23:09|
I volunteer to read the words as co-judge.
|# ? Apr 5, 2021 23:19|
|# ? Apr 6, 2021 00:00|
|# ? Apr 6, 2021 00:34|
I volunteer to read the words as co-judge.
I can do this
|# ? Apr 6, 2021 00:55|
I knew I shouldn't mess with dragons. Anyway, I'm in for the last time before Ramadhan.
|# ? Apr 6, 2021 01:11|
|# ? Apr 6, 2021 05:33|
Dragon Week Crits
Amona in the Waves
There’s a fair bit of plot to cram in here, but despite that this story seems to have very little sense of economy and efficiency when it comes to working through those plot points. The primary victim here is characterization -- for a story about a grief-set miner and tragic widow driven to a crime of passion by a dragon-whispered rumour in the dark, every single person in this story is wet cardboard draped across needlessly bloviated scene and action descriptions.
A Tale of Geldal
I’m just going to start by pointing out that in no way is this “a tale of Geldal”, unless in the sense of it being a tale that is told in Geldal, and either way it’s boring as titles go. The rest of the story is exhausting, like listening to a teenager who’s had too much sugar explain their fan fic in chaotic detail. The story starts out a bit wobbly, but with a classic recipe: crusty dad has two sons, a smart one and a dreamy one, and sends them out to save the village from a dragon. Now, the way this recipe usually goes is that the two sons go on their journey, and they learn more about each other and gain new respect for one another, and then realize that it is through the combination of their talents that they might ultimately triumph over their common foe and win the approval of their crusty dad. Instead, the dreamy one turns himself into a statue in a throwaway sentence that’s delivered so nonchalantly that I suspect most readers will miss it the first time around, and then the smart one uses his big brains to… carry the statue to the dragon, where he then manages to completely whiff the “reasoning with the dragon” plan. Then statue brother, the dreamy one, who loves herbs and mushrooms, solves the dragon puzzle by giving the dragon a tonsillectomy. Crusty dad is not mentioned again. Good fiction is often described as promises made and kept -- I’d encourage you to marinate on that one.
Although we do learn in the process that dragon fire is stored in the tonsils, so there’s that.
This is pretty good -- the dynamic between the brothers is well established from the beginning, and the voicing through the dialogue is strong. The line “Just because we got the same daddy don’t mean we brothers, man.” is great, and it’s well positioned at the peak of the build. From there the story coasts out to a satisfying albeit predictable ending. I like a lot of things about this story -- I like that it’s never explained why there are wild ferocious hippos infesting the swamps of Alabama, and that of course the hippo rodeo scene is racist as hell. I like the idea that Seminoles were aided in their resistance by a dragon named Big Daddy Tooth, and that that legend would be irresistible to TaPharaoh. It’s not without its flaws: the back end of the story is a little rushed, and the brother’s conversion from full-blown skepticism to secret believer isn’t quite earned. I think that a scene description of TaPharaoh, alive and under the bright lights atop a rampaging bull hippo, would help to flesh out his attraction to the sport that’s otherwise still a little baffling. And I don’t think you’d necessarily need much more in the way of word count to bring it in -- I think you’ve got room to condense down some of the early dialogue to bring it down to fight weight. Also, Breaux Bridge needs an ‘a’ in it. But a strong contender nonetheless.
This probably won’t come as much of a compliment, but there are some genuinely funny moments in this story. I love this farmer, who lives in a desert, who climbs up a mountain to yell at a cloud, and curses the name (which he presumably does not know) of the cloud dragon, and that this was the first time any person had ever spoken to the dragon. I kind of wish you would have just leaned into the Grandpa Simpson vibes of it all, because the rest of it is a My First Creation Mythology coloring book that’s been scribbled over with weird crayons.
You’re Watching the Dragon Channel
There are some good lines here and there that nail that Attenborough voicing, but it’s not entirely consistent across the board, and for my tastes the story goes on a bit too long -- something around half the word count feels more appropriate for the setup you’re working with. Part of the problem is that nature doc dialogue is by definition designed to accompany supporting visuals, which you don’t have, and the longer the piece goes on the more obvious that lack becomes. Towards the end, the dialogue loses sight of the voicing and becomes more plainly expository, which unfortunately erodes some of the goodwill established earlier on. Still, not at all an unenjoyable read, and there’s potential in the concept, just needs some tightening.
Shall We Slay Dragons Together?
The idea of dragons hoarding ghost buttcoins is genuinely great, and if it was given room to draw focus it could easily carry a short story like this one, but it’s crowded out by overstuffing. There are too many characters with too many technomagical superpowers to keep straight, at least for me, and I started to glaze over when the climactic final battle started to kick into gear, which is not a great sign. I didn’t really need the flashback with Ivan and Claire -- would’ve been better to just allude to it in passing and keep the momentum of the main story going.
The Return of the Four Dragons
Another one with some presumably unintentional yet very funny lines -- I especially enjoyed that the dragons all made a solemn vow to never regret helping humans thousands of years ago, and that the Long Dragon got super mad because some youths threw a bicycle at it. There’s a lot of after-school-special energy going on here, what with trash-happy humans learning the error of their ways and apologizing for throwing their bicycles in the river, which is fine if you’re going for Captain Planet. It’s a bit over-complicated for that to land well, though. I don’t particularly understand or care why the story needs there to be four dragons when they all have the exact same problem and thus fails to differentiate them significantly, nor do I much care about a Jade Emperor or a Celestial Dragon or a Mountain God who are all there just to be there, it seems.
Roll to Save Against Personal Growth
You’ve got a decent ear for dialogue, but you need to learn how to format it -- there are several places where you’ve got multiple characters talking past each other within a single paragraph and an almost breathtaking nonchalance with regard to the use of attribution tags, and it doesn’t do comedy any favours if the readers is having to go back and forth over a paragraph trying to unpick which character is saying what. Plot-wise, I’d say you’ve got all the right pieces laid out, and you start the story at the right point. I think that giving Belphod a family therapist voicing was a smart move, and I think that the story would have been better if you had committed to that more fully, and given us a fearsome dragon trying to help a dysfunctional royal family get to the bottom of their intergenerational trust issues -- I mean, having the dragon eat the king at the end is fine, but it’s kind of expected.
To Expect Any Different
My reaction after reading the first paragraph was “oh boy, this is going to be a loving chore”, but it ended up being a much breezier read than the opening promised (for which I am grateful, to be clear). I think there’s an interesting wind-up here, but it feels like you put a bunch of pieces in motion and then couldn’t figure out how to bring them together -- I’m not clear on why this dragon, deft manipulator of the material manifold, is so invested in his Excel spreadsheet of added numbers, or why it was important that we know that Edmond was also known as John, or why/how the name of the billy-goat-to-be defies reckoning.
The True Story of Georgia Jenkins and Harold Jumpington
My parents were big on handmade gifts, but by the time I was thirteen I had begun to realize that my traditional gifting medium of felt pen inexpertly applied to printer paper was disappointingly amenable to being stuffed into a filing cabinet shortly after presentation. I decided that the problem was not that my drawings were terrible, but rather that they simply weren’t three dimensional enough, and as luck would have it we also had a pottery elective that year. Not content with a standard mug, and not cool enough to make a “vase” like the stoner kids, I instead birthed a five kilogram clay monstrosity of a dragon that took an ungodly amount of time to fire. It survives to this day, looks like it’s taking an angry dump, and most importantly does not fit in any of our filing cabinets. I was no stranger to the art of disappointing my parents by this point in life, but the expression that came over my mother’s face as she unwrapped that clay dragon on her birthday is one I will never forget.
Anyway, that’s my clay dragon story, I liked this one too. It was cute and light and didn’t go much of anywhere but sometimes that’s fine.
Huh. This is a difficult one to parse. It took me a while to work out that Metheus was human, and a bit more investment into early description and a few more dialogue attribution tags could have cleared that up. Seeing as how you’re bang on the word count, I’m going to guess that you got yourself under par by scraping out as many dialogue attribution tags as you could, and I think there’s been some damage. I’m also not sure what’s going on with Evercrume / Endercome / Esterflame; it’s confusing as a reader, and if the point is just that Metheus is lying, well, you already said that. The one question you did really need to answer was “why is Metheus lying to Herudo?”, and you don’t do that: if Herudo is the key to Metheus’s freedom, then why would Metheus make Herudo disappear? If Metheus is lying when he says “That wouldn’t work”, how does he know that it’s a lie? I don’t get it. Also, I wasn’t counting but I think there were more than three lies.
Gossolix’s Happy Birthday
This is charmingly batty. There’s a lot of great little snippets of language throughout; I especially enjoyed Dorve making “a sound like a horse inhaling a bee” -- I have no idea what that sounds like, but I imagine it’s impressive. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, but it took me a beat to work out that Rennietta’s broom was a flying broom, and that the two ladies were sitting on it as it was falling out of the sky post-stall. That’s probably me just being dense after reading a lot of dragon stories, but I think a little extra description wouldn’t have gone amiss for those seated in the attentive cheap seats. Anyway: very cute, very fun, the male dragon living his bejewelled sunset fantasy was primo chef kiss, and who indeed can be bothered with the patriarchy when there’s cake?
Clutch and Kindle
The “one of these kittens is not like the others” gambit is a good one, and I was very much on board to see what happened with a dragon raised by a barn cat, but I don’t think you did as much with the setup as you could have. The other kittens don’t get any characterization for the dragon kitten to play against, and they disappear quickly without having contributed much, and then the action between the humans on the farm and the dragon happens mostly off-screen, with Minka in the forest chasing rabbits. “Momma dragon shows up and takes her baby home” is fine as endings go, if a bit predictable -- I was hoping for something more like “dragon kitten teaches the mean rats in the kitchen a lesson and becomes beloved family pet” or “dragon kitten wins best cat in show at the county fair”. But I think the story instincts are good here, and I think this could be a cool little children’s story with a bit more polish.
Don’t Go Chasing Space Refrigerators
I think your title promised more fun than the story delivered, which is always a bit of a shame -- what we’ve got here is a standard dragon story with a coat of sci-fi paint, and you could have taken these parts and done something a bit more interesting with them. I’m also a little confused about why the story is so coy around its ending -- I’m assuming we’re supposed to understand that Finn gave the dragon her prosthetic arm so that she could escape, but I don’t know why the story leaves that scene out, given that it’s one of the more interesting scenes in the story. Instead, there’s a lot of description that paints a generic sci-fi world without adding much -- I would have cut these more heavily to leave more space for the climactic encounter part. I also think the voicing on the dragon was a bit generic, and that’s a shame because the general concept of an electrical dragon formed from hoarded bits of spaceships is undeniably badass. Plenty of potential here, but needs more work.
As concepts go, a giant sculpture of a dragon coming to life and causing consternation to a city isn’t bad, but this story is missing any real sense of stakes or characterization -- for all the hand-wringing and bazookas, the dragon basically just hangs out, occasionally chomps a child, and writes letters to its pen pals (allegedly), and then one day it leaves. The artist, who probably smokes clove cigarettes, is all “what business is it of mine if my art eats people?” and somehow that line works. Much like this story, he sets up something cool and then maddeningly refuses to do anything with it.
The fact that Kreust didn’t kill Walther for that awful horde pun is the least credible bit of storytelling in this entire week. “Cauldron list” was marginally better. The rest of the story smacks of last minute submission squeakery, and it needed more time in the oven.
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Dragon Week Crits
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