Upcoming: RCM Roughnecks in 2h 58m
Upcoming: RCM Roughnecks in 1d 4h
Upcoming: Baron's Wolfpack Friday in 2d 2h
Mary and the Second Dragon
Mary and the Second Dragon, a tale by Umamor Hunter, is one of a series of stories about a time-traveler finding herself in a magical realm of ancient Scotland.

Near the mountain was Arumdas's cave, but just beyond that there was the forest that I almost ran into on my first day here. Catherine had told me that for most people it was certain death to venture into the wooded thicket that was known to house all kinds of the supernatural, but then again I also wasn't most people. Sometimes I'd walk in there, just to listen to the trees and the wind blow through them. I was hoping I'd run into some fairies or at least a ley line to make contact. Finding a way to end the war between Onin, the dragons, and humans seemed to revolve around the Sidhe.

Weird things did happen in the forest though. I didn't need to be under the tutelage of a dragon to know that, but at least the lessons helped me defend myself if I ever needed it. Unfortunately I also happened to be in the middle of what I called "weird things." Whether it was because of bad luck or not, I was an anomaly and an attractant, and it was annoying.

That was the day I met my second dragon. Catherine spoke of would-be dragon slayers in passing at times when she gave me lectures about the area. They were far and few in between, but they were out there – some even lived in the village below the castle. I never saw any, but then again I never saw any dragons and I knew they were there on the mountain. So, in that case, it was safe to assume there were dragon slayers.

Of course there were hunters and trappers about as well. My cousins were hunters, so I was familiar with modern hunting concepts, but Ancient Scottish hunters were a whole other story. I'd never nun into any, but I didn't want to start today.

I heard thrashing and heaving ahead of me. I immediately started to turn around, but something inside stopped me. Arumdas had told me I needed to stop running from everything and start investigating. Well, that was the gist of it anyway. He made it sound all wise-like coming from a dragon and all.

Drawing Coir Eolas, I slowly crouched around a group of trees and walked up an incline to give myself a better view of the ground below me. There was a blue dragon caught in a snare in the middle of the clearing, and it was clear he felled some trees on the way down. I found that strange because Arumdas had told me most dragons usually avoid the forest in order to avoid the Sidhe. Of course, he'd want to know about this particular dragon, though, so I made up my mind to investigate.

"Time to see if all dragons are as intolerable as Arumdas," I muttered with a sigh as I sheathed my sword. Taking a quick glance around to make sure no one was around, I started to climb down my little hill of earth and tree roots. I stumbled a couple times and was grabbing wildly around me to hold onto something for balance. My antics got the dragon's attention because he stilled and tried to turn his tangled head towards me.

Fixing my skirts around me and making sure everything was in place, I drew my sword again, strode forward, and held it arms-length in front of me facing downward in a dagger like fashion. I wanted to show no threat. The dragon reared his neck like a snake and took a breath in. Immediately I dodged to the side behind a tree, sword still in hand, screaming all the while.

"WHOA!"

The flames were intense and part of me wondered why I was even bothering trying to help something that was trying to kill me. The other part was forcing me to be the hero and do what I thought was right, and trying to reach out to the dragon community was indeed the right thing. I had to be brave, though I wondered what was braver – telling Arumdas I saw a younger dragon in the forest and did nothing about it, or risking life and limb to help one.

"People do more for cows..." I thought aloud. Then, mustering up my courage, "All right! Let's try this again!" I shouted out to my side. "I'm going to come out and you're not going to flame. Got it?"
There was a choking sound – I recognized it as laughter because Arumdas scoffed at me half the time when he wasn't rebuking me for something stupid I said. He was laughing at me! He – yes, I was sure it was definitely a he by how the laughter sounded. That annoyed me. I could take one dragon laughing at me, but two? I was nothing to laugh at.

Slowly, I picked up a rock and threw it across the clearing. The dragon thrashed and I felt the heat of flame from farther away. It was too easy, almost. Peering around the opposite side of the tree, I was able to look at the dragon without him seeing me.

He was turned around and facing away, but I noticed both his tail and his leg were tied together and there was a net around him. It was small and thin, but there was a lot of it. The dragon's thrashing had it entangled to the point that he couldn't move any of his limbs. The netting was even around his head, though he had burned through most of it with his fire breath. I noticed that he had his eyes covered. In all the dragon's twisting and thrashing, the net had bunched up around the horns and had draped over the eyes. I felt sorry for the dragon, as much as it was trying to scorch me to death. He looked like a snared crocodile from the Croc Hunter Diaries. I then stepped from that same side of the tree and crept towards the dragon. He was too tangled up to maneuver at this point. His breathing was ragged and he still tried to struggle in his bondage. Each attempt tightened the group between leg and tail, and I noticed the net was starting to cut into flesh.

"Stop! Stop! Stop moving!" I cried as the ropes cut even further into the foreleg. Blue scales had been stripped away to reveal soft grey flesh underneath. The ropes were slicing through with the friction. Any further stress and wither ligament would be rendered useless or the ankle would be broken or maybe even crushed.

The dragon stilled at my words and tried to turn his neck towards me; probably to send another jet of flame.

"I said stop! There's too much pressure on your leg!" I practically jumped on him and started sawing at the net with the dagger I concealed in my boots. Amazingly, the dragon stilled as I did this. I knew he could understand me, but whether he listened or not was up to him. I'd hoped by now he would realize I was a friend and not a foe.

The rope became free and the dragon let out a groan ... or a growl. I wasn't really quite sure. There was a snare on the ankle, so I cut that too. The net twisted around the tail and was entangled around the jutting spines along the back. "I can't tell if you're more like a crocodile or a sea turtle with the amount of netting you got yourself into," I managed in between cuts. "Man, I wish I had some scissors. Do they even have scissors here yet? Ah, you wouldn't know. You're not human."

After I freed the back legs and the tail, I threw my cloak on the bloody right leg in order to try to staunch the bleeding. "It's not sterile, but I have a feeling dragons have more antibodies to fight off infections than humans do in this time period. It'll help instead of licking it... for a while at least."

The dragon said nothing, just huffed.

Eventually I freed the wings with Coir Eolas and all that was left were the front arms and the dragon's head. I was scared to take the blindfold off the horns because the dragon couldn't now roll over and free himself at that point. However, he remained still as if he wanted me to finish the job.

In the end, I took a deep breath – which sounded more like a shaky sigh – and tugged at the netting. It didn't come off all the way on the first tug, but I pulled enough to reveal the dragon's eyes. They were bright yellow orbs with a telltale reptilian slit. The eye fixed on me. It studied my face; it registered me; it recognized me.

"Please... be honor bound," I said slowly as I unwound the netting around each of the three horns. I pulled the net down the neck at the base of the shoulders. His head was free and he peered at me. I froze and turned my head slowly to the left. In response, he put his head back down in front of him and left me alone. Eventually, once I was able to stop shaking, I cut the last of the net and dragged it off the blue dragon and away from him, placing it in a heap. Arumdas could dispose of it, or at least it'd be safer there in his claws than in another hunters hands. I wasn't even sure if anyone was smart – or dumb rather – to even attempt to hunt a dragon, let alone in the forest.

"How do you know I won't kill you?" he finally asked when my back was turned to him from fiddling with the net. "I could."

"I'm hoping you're honor bound," I replied, trying to now untangle myself from the strange netting and making myself look like an idiot. "And you need medical attention," I added as I got myself situated and pushed back some stray hairs from my face.

"I'm fine. I'm a dragon," he answered proudly.

I looked back at him for an instant. I doubted he'd hurt me at this point. He'd had plenty of chances. I gave him a puzzling look and then went back to folding up the net. "Dragons," I muttered. "Always proud." I didn't realize I said that aloud, however, and that proved to be a mistake.

All of a sudden there was a flash of blue to my right, and I was forced on my back by the dragon's claws pinning my chest to the ground. They weren't nearly as big as Arumdas's, who could very easily cage me with just one, but this dragon's entire hand was big enough to cover my torso.

"Humans," he said in a very precise tone, "don't act the way you just did. Or talk like you do."

"You're supposed to be honor bound!" I squeaked, wondering if I had been wrong about the friendliness.

"And I am, though how you know about that rule intrigues me," he rebutted.

What was I supposed to say? Arumdas wanted to be left alone. He could barely put up with me as it was, and I didn't want to draw any more attention to me than already. Though, I suppose I should have thought of that before I literally risked life and limb to free this particular dragon from the netting.

"How do you know about dragons, human?" he said slowly.

"Could you let me up please? I think I just saved your life," I calmly said.

"Answer my question," he replied.

"I'm a traveler and I study dragons," I quickly said. He did let me up after that, but his eyes never left me.

"You're a terrible liar," he hissed. "And it's very unwise to lie to a dragon." He clawed at the ground as if he were trying to make a point.

I, however, wasn't fooled. This was for show. Arumdas sometimes acted like this, too. It was for intimidation. I watched enough Animal Planet documentaries about reptiles to know that.

"You're the one stuck in a net, YOU'RE the one flaming at me, and yet I still help you. Could you attack me? Yes, but you're not going to because I just saved you and you're honor bound. I'm no threat to you – a mighty and powerful dragon!" I said mockingly, which I admit may have been a bit risky, but my sarcastic tongue had not been in check. "You're a juvenile by your size and you're trying to intimidate me. It's in your nature. I get that. You're hot headed like me. You get yourself into trouble like I do," I continued.

"You have a sword," he flatly said, using a claw to point at it on my hip.

I sighed and slowly drew it from the scabbard. The dragon growled menacingly and took a step back. I held the sword so it tilted it towards the dragon with the tip of it facing the ground. I wanted to show him the runes that were etched that no one could apparently translate for me.

"Does this look like a dragon slayer to you? With the way this is crafted and etched with runes; the way it gleams and shines? This sword is special. I don't even know what the runes say. No one I've met even knows." I added quickly, "Girls aren't supposed to have swords anyway. Or think. Or have an opinion. Or be brave enough to go venture out on our own. At least here that's how it is. Where I'm from it's not."

He leaned in curiously. "It truly is a magnificent sword. Where did one as strange as you get such a gift?" The dragon was suspicious. "It seems... too good to be made by human hands."

"I... don't remember, actually," I fumbled. Quickly I sheathed the sword and my interrogator. "Its name is Coir Eolas and I'm its protector. That's all I really know. I have a hunch the Sidhe made it. That's why I'm out here. I'm trying to find them. I'm trying to return the sword. I think that's what I have to do. Then, I just run into you, which I also find strange because dragons are supposed to be confined to the mountain from what I know."

"Are all humans like you?" the dragon genuinely asked. He cocked his head and studied me.

I scoffed, more to myself than to the dragon. "You would know. Humans trapped you. No, I'm an anomaly. Strange things happen to follow me wherever I go."

"Humans are strange," the dragon blatantly put. "Why were lesser beings entrusted to that?" he said to himself shaking his head. I didn't understand what he meant by that.

"And what do you know about humans?" I asked in a hot headed retort.

"What do you know about dragons?" he shot back.

"That they're quite rude! And prejudiced to humans, and very quick to judge with all their intelligence. The only people worth having conversations with are too arrogant to talk to! You're exactly like us!" I retorted, and then sadly admitted, "It's quite disappointing."

He pinned me down again, practically stepping on me this time. "Don't ever compare us. We are nothing alike."

"Are you sure about that?" I asked defiantly from under his claws. "And now you're going to bully me? Dragons are supposed to be honorable. Dragons are supposed to protect life. Dragons are formidable opponents, but they're loyal to their values and kin. Humans can be like that too!"

"And humans attack my kind just as well. They attack me whenever they see me. They scream in terror. They slaughter my kind in the old tales. They say my kind are evil and that we bring death and destruction. That all we care for is to hear their screams from the chaos we cause," the dragon roared, though what he had said almost sounded poetic.

"Do they call you by your name, or call you 'Dragon number two?' Dragons attack humans too. I'm not saying either side is a saint. I've heard enough stories myself, but I've also heard other stories. Cooperation. Partnership. Friendship. Tutelage. And you know what? It's from all different cultures around the world, not just here. There are others. And will you quit pinning me down! It's getting annoying!" I was getting tired of this. I'd just take what information I had and tell Arumdas about a petulant dragon I met in the forest.

"They don't know my name..." he lessened his grip. "What do they call you?' He let me up and seemed more relaxed. Calmed, or at least deep in thought.

"My name," I said propping myself up on my elbows, "is Marri—" I stopped short at the mention of my full name. "They call me Mary here. Just Mary. My full name is Marianne Spelling, but it's safer to call me something that fits in and --"
"Tixesamund," the dragon cut in.

"—it sounds... Tixesamund?"

"You're Mary and I'm Tixes. I certainly hope all humans don't talk as incessantly as you..." Tixes said in a tired or annoyed voice. I couldn't tell.

"Only the inquisitive ones. Here, usually girls are supposed to be quiet and are just utterly useless. At least at the high class side of things. Otherwise they work themselves to death usually on farms. No one asks questions, but I find that's what keeps me alive. I'm sort of... lost, and I'm trying to get back. Funny thing is, I don't know how."

"And that's why you're trying to find the Sidhe," Tixes said as if that answered a question he had. "Humans don't call them that, by the way. Dragons do. Your kind call them 'fairies.'" He scoffed and examined the claws on one of his forelegs. "Obviously you are not like other humans, and you know more about dragons than you are letting onto," Tixes said in a voice that told me he wasn't fooled by my antics.

"How's your leg?" I quickly asked in attempt to change the conversation.

"It's fine. I'm a dragon. We rarely show weakness or pain." He tore off my bloodstained cloak and threw it at me, and then he started licking his leg.

"I'll keep that in mind..." I said, a little disgusted as I tried to fold the now heavy cloak. It was warm, not cold. Dragons apparently had hot blood even though they were reptiles. His comment made me think of how Arumdas would creak and groan with every movement, but he never complained. I suppose what Tixes said was true, all dragons suffered silently, not just Mr. Grumpy.

Apparently my fascination caught his attention because he added: "Why do you care about my leg?" as I turned to leave.

"Um... you were about to crush it. It doesn't matter what you are, enough force can break anything. It's physics."

"Physics?" Tixes asked, puzzled.

"Science," I restated. "Proven science. And it doesn't take science to figure out how little chance of survival a crippled dragon – let alone a young dragon – has in the wild. I watch enough Discovery Channel for that."

"And your experiences with dragons have proven this?"
That caught me off guard. Honestly, I was surprised he didn't question what the "Discovery Channel" even was.

"I haven't had many experiences with dragons." It wasn't a lie, but I didn't want to tell him about Arumdas.

Tixes continued licking his leg without looking at me. "I told you it's unwise to lie to a dragon, Mary."

"I'm not lying," I answered honestly in a retort as I gathered the falling net again.

"I'm not your first dragon. You're not afraid of me. You invoked my honor," Tixes said calmly, still not looking at me.

"I'm strange for a human. You said it yourself."

"You act more like a dragon," he murmured, finally looking up at me after he said this.

"That's a first," I said surprised. "Never thought I'd be compared to a dragon by another dragon."

"It's a frightening concept," the blue dragon said sardonically. Then, he stood up spread his wings for the first time and analyzed the sky. "I assume if the hunters haven't come yet, they never will. I wish you luck in finding the Sidhe. The trees tell me this won't be the last time we meet."

And with that, he was in the sky before I could say anything. I was left dumbfounded and half soaked in blood, but I had made a friend. "At least I think I made a friend," I muttered. "That was strange," and I then proceeded to gather up the net.
Comments
Comment thread »
No comments!