III. The Road Home
Rumbling back over the road, the sun was no longer right overhead, quartering behind him, his headache was gone, no longer the flatulent ox made his belly flip-flop in his throat, he had began to look around more. Often the look around at the small birds now that flew from tree to tree and wheeled overhead.
One bird, fell from a tree, landing on the ground and Jona laughed slightly feeling sorry for the bird, but had no time to deal with the plight of the flying critter.
Jona trundled past the young bird, it made an odd noise, but then took wing, and Jona saw its shape appeared like no other bird he had ever seen.
It disappeared into a tree once again, Jona shook his head at the ugly bird, it must have been the power of the distilled spirits still messing with his eyes as he rode on in the wagon, the smell of the peat as he bounced down the path no longer bothering him as much as the time wore on.
Jona was feeling more like a person instead of the underside of the ox-hoof and promised himself no more drinking before finding out what the next day would bring. His ma and pa were known to have had tremendous parties and had a whole next day to rest— but had planned it far in advance.
A touch of wisdom, Jona nodded and heard a familiar sound. Turning his head, he saw that oddly shaped bird again as it flitted by, but Jona lost it in the sun as the erratic flying creature zipped past as he approached the harbor where the black ship docked.
The red hair of the captain was visible as it poked out from under a feathered cap as the blond-headed boy was standing on a pallet of goods, the crews used pulley’s and rope lifted into the ship. Oxen and men pulled on lines as Dana was making sure that the materials where staying on the platform. A netting, used to secure all the crates, while the captain stood below with his arms crossed and shook his head as he spoke to the raven haired woman standing next to him. She had secured the delivery and supervised the lading of the ship.
Looking over his shoulder, freedom of the sea seemed that it was an outstanding life. Positive that the boy, Dana, knew more and saw more than Jona ever would, stuck here on land with no prospects but to tinker on the metals. Even if it was a successful business, suddenly he wanted another life where he could make a change, effect something! Jona wanted a life that was greater than his dad’s.
Flitting by, the tiny bird once again drew Jona’s attention. He was positive it was the same creature, it had a pendulous tail and curious wings, longish neck.
But was fast!
Again, Jona lost it in the glare of the sun, it seemed to fly in big circles around the peat loaded wagon.
“Probably the bugs that seem to follow the smell, it’s catching and eating them.” Jona thought to himself. “At least there would be fewer flies when I offload this at the smite shop.”
Suddenly a sound behind him made him turn around. Pulling up on the reins, he stopped the ox which took that moment to rattle out its backside again with gas. Stupid ox, it snorted as much out its backside as it did out the nose.
Turning to look closely at the bird, it had its back to him. It was oddly colored, almost a purple-black color. Abruptly, It turned and looked at him. It had a lizard kind of face. Cat eyes that looked at him curiously.
It was a tiny DRAGON!
Jona stumbled backwards and fell off of the wagon and down into a puddle where the ox had just finished urinating. “UGH!” Jona yelled, the urine smelled worse than the gas that the ox put out. The ox snorted as if it knew and was laughing in the way that only an ox could.
The little dragon gave a squawk and took back to the air, munching on a beetle it found in the peat and sped off behind a bush.
Jona shook his head, distracted now as he scrambled away, once an ox urinated, the other was coming soon and Jona wanted no part of that on him. The urine smell was bad enough as he stood on his feet and shook the moisture off his hands and looked around. The little dragon was gone. No longer visible to the blinking Jona. How was he going to explain what he had seen to his parents?
“Maybe I will just not say a word, they will send me off to talk with the Draoi of the village. Ugh.” Jona commented to himself.
The Draoi were known to cure people from visions and bless things like crops. But it would always take days, often consuming bitter herbs to cure anything from constipation to diarrhea to people with headaches to swelling of feet.
Clambering back into the wagons bench seat, Jona kept an eye out for the little dragon, seeing it every once in a while, it was not bothering the ox or him, precisely, but it was very definitely following him. It was not a chance meeting, the dragon was just a baby, it looked like, but was not near a mother.
“MOTHER!” He gasped in panic. Oh no, if the baby dragon had a mother, Jona was in dire trouble. All they might find of Jona and the ox would be charred bones or might not even find them at all. The boy began to look around rapidly for the telltale signs of impending attack. Birds taking wing or no sounds in the world as the lesser animals would hide from an attacking dragon.
Jona had never seen an attack, only in stories and legends were they told about. His dad, Aed would tell of how the dragons had nearly been driven into extinction by openly living with the humans who would hunt many for the actions of a few.
“Dragons are intelligent” Aed would tell Jona, “They learn and know, they are by and large, peaceful, like a raptor of the sky– they will eat fish or, in the cases of large dragons, oxen or whales of the sea. They had to learn to avoid humans, thus some needed teaching. It was humans that helped teach dragons of how humans lived and how they can see. These men and women became known as Dragon Masters.”
Jona once dreamed of being a Dragon Master, but in time grew up and figured out that all that his dad told him were stories to entertain a child. He had even stopped believing in dragons. But here, a small one was following his very steps as he made his way back home.
Jona took a moment and thought about heading back to the harbor and the black ship for protection, but that would have taken nearly as long as the remaining trip back home. Nowhere was there a sign of a mother dragon to follow the baby or make an attack. People worked in the fields, birds were flitting behind them, eating worms that would be tilled up or to eat the bugs on the grain.
As he entered the home village, he kept an eye out for the small dragon, he had not seen it for nearly an hour, the sun had angled down and the shadows were long. He could hear the hammer blows of his dad’s shop as he drew closer. Curly reddish hair, two bright blue eyes that looked out from a soot smeared face as Aed laughed as Jona made his way to the back of the shop. Always happy to see his son, the smiter directed the apprentices to continue the rough work of the current project.
“Da’, the seller says he owes you two more loads, it would be ready when you are to pick it up.” Jona told his father. “There was no problems, but ma was not in a good mood this morning, she woke me up too early”
The senior Samhain laughed, his hair shook with the good humor of a father with his only son learning how the world really works with the mother in charge.
“Okay, let’s off load the peat over there, Jona, I will send out the apprentices to help you, I have a gold torque to make for someone and I trust no one to do it, I have the idea what they want on the band.” Aed said as he turned away to go back into the shop.
A flit across the sky, Jona decided now was as good of a time as ever.
“Dad, I have seen something you need to know, I think it is serious.” Jona said loudly after his father.
Aed motioned to the junior apprentices who mounted the wagon and began offload bricks of the fuel and walked over to his son and sat down on a mandrel he had made years before. Motioning his son to sit, the elder no longer laughed, taking in his son’s look as a young man with something that was serious in his mind to tell his father.
“I am kind of afraid to tell you, but..” Jona trailed off.
“Spit it out boy, I have known you all your days, you never tell me to wait unless it is serious and important to your heart.” Suddenly a concerned father than a laughing friend.
“Dad, on the way back, I think I saw a dragon– a baby dragon. I’m worried that the stories you told me of the mother dragon that might attack for stealing her baby might come true.” Jona said quietly, he did not want to let the other boys hear him and laugh.
Aed looked at him for a moment, then with wide-eyed concern his father asked. “What did the dragon do?”
Jona, shocked that there was no question of whether he had even seen– just what the actions of the baby did.
“He, well, he ate some bugs as we traveled, took them out of the load of peat.” Jona said slowly.
Aed Samhain began to smile. “Jona, you may not know what this means, but by the good grace of fates, you are going to have a life that you never dreamed of! The dragon chose you to go to a school I once went to.”
Standing up and walking to a bucket of water, his father washed his arms clean of soot and sweat. cleaning the tattoos that entertained him as a boy were still in bright relief.
“These are the marks of a graduate of the school of dragon masters.” Aed told Jona who gaped at his dad’s words.
His father was a Dragon Master!
A teacher of dragons, a group of storied and legendary people who hid and protected dragons since the dawn of stories. Who had taught the dragons how to hide, how to tell the difference between those that would help and those who would harm or seek to harm any of their kind.
They were the go between’s of the world of dragons and the world of man.
“You?” Jona had trouble getting his thoughts to gather in one statement. “You? Taught? Dragons?”
He shook his head at the thought of his dad as a Dragon Master?