Reblogged on WordPress.com
Source: December’s Full Moon
Reblogged on WordPress.com
Source: December’s Full Moon
With the hammer of imagination, the fires of language skills (Sometimes I think I lack, or at least have low quality fuel) writers often come up with new words.
Sometimes they create a portmanteau of words. Motel (Motor Hotel) for example. The person that thought that up probably did not realize a whole new word that would be entered in the dictionary after that.
The accepted shortest words “I” “a” that are used as the words. “A bird” for example.
Then out of the length of accepted word list. The longest word “Antidisestablishmentarianism” is the longest non-coined word that is generally accepted.
But, we are at the forge. To coin a term for use in our novels is as important sometimes as the creation of the world itself. Tolkien was good for that, but he was a language creator and professor of language and literature. (But y’all knew that.) so maybe not a good example.
OH! There is a current creator of fantasy and loved by many. Ms. J. K. Rowling and Harry’s world. But..she is also educated in Classics… Hm..do we see a pattern here?
Still, both these well-educated people stood at the forge and with the hammer of imagination on the anvil of the soul, we create story, novel and whimsy.
So, what could be a need to create a word?
A person who infiltrates the society of Antidisestablishmentarianism, they do not really support the society, so are they a “Pseudoantidisestablismentarinism” spy? or do is there a counter-spy?
So a “Counterpseudoantidisestablishmentarinism” agent? (this was difficult to type, not counting how to read it). The point is, when you write, WHY you write, HOW you write. Nothing is out-of-bounds.
Creation of worlds, creation of words this is your canvas, you soul that lives, loves and stands in the WordSmith shop at the wordforge.
Pound out your stories, when someone reads it and says “Huh?” you can establish the meaning of it. If your person wears a bandolier (bandoller, bandoleer) look up the pictures of the ammo-belt and write it in! It is your hammer, your skills grow with each stroke of the key and research for your story–you do research, right?– each paragraph you build.
The story evolves. Perhaps you had a dream of a tsunami of walnuts in your house? When you finish the story, maybe it was a medical thriller of mass poisoning of bad food by a corrupt corporation. (Okay, been done, but I am just using it as an example) Evolution of the story, the building of the world is yours and yours alone. Many people may not understand it in the beginning.
The term Orc brings up an image. Professor Tolkien based the word on Orcus (orkus) the god retribution of broken promises and oaths. They were corrupt.
In another story I know of, an Orc was a judge and law-keeper. you have a complaint or conflict, the Orc-Judge had his or her law-book and followed the law. Rulings were binding. Wars avoided. It was a good story. But no one knew that an Orc could be a “good-guy” prior to this. Many still don’t.
So when someone looks at your work and is confused, do not be crushed, do not hit delete. Let it evolve! Explain, establish, and tell your story. JK Rowling created Avada Kedavra as a killing spell. Well..where could this have evolved from? Abracadabra? No..really. Could be? She took a known word and at the forge in her mind came up with a term I hear children at Halloween waving sticks at each other in tiny wizard duels. (I am Merlin, I catch and I eat the spells when they head my direction)
The world you build is always fun. Use the Technicolor of your mind to paint the glory of your story.
Be awesome! Be creative!
Be a writer.
~ your favorite cheerleader and future best-selling author,
Chapter 53. Singapore
After he left Hiroshima, Japan, Tom’s plane traveled over the expansive eastern Pacific Ocean, the early day was clear and broken clouds. The Pacific Wizard’s upgraded twin engines operated so smooth and so well-balanced, one would hardly know they pushed the big plan at hundreds of miles-per-hour as he wandered around the open expanse of the big jet alone.
Tom walked the length of the plane, using the restroom. At his designated altitude, he still flew slow compared to the commercial airliners.
Not meant for blistering speed, his craft and home was a yacht, after all, a flying boat. And even with the upgrades in the engines, it still traveled at a sedate speed of a little less than six-hundred kilometers-per-hour, about thirty-percent slower compared to commercial passenger jet.
But, it was his home.
He passed over the water, the autopilot followed the path programmed in the flight computer. The Japanese were sticklers about accuracy and with the unusual private jet, made good and sure that he had the proper data set logged into the computer.
He stood behind the pilot’s seat, he did not sit back down, just stood there and watched the machine fly on itself with the automatic guidance system engaged. He had spent a lot of time in the plane in recent weeks. Although his arm was no longer oozing blood, he kept applying new, clean dressings, if the air-pressure changes caused some unexpected problems. The last thing he wanted, to lose the use of his injured arm.
It would have a scar for some time that would be impressive to show off. But for now it was an angry line that crossed his forearm, as if someone hit him with an ax.
It was quite impressive to the unprepared, if he could show it off. But there was no one to show it to while being on the Pacific Wizard in mid-flight.
Tom took a deep breath and let it out in a controlled slow exhale, it felt so good, he stretched a second time before he went to his desk and picked up the tablet computer. It was the one he used so often to write on and sat back in the pilot seat, where he could keep an eye on the displays.
Radar indicated several aircraft above and below, a heavy jet was passing over him going the same direction. He read the display and looked the specs up on his computer and shook his head at the numbers it displayed on the size and speed of the larger plane.
Laughing, the engines on the passenger jet was larger by far than the two that powered the Wizard. Even with the engine upgrades when he purchased the big jet through his company, the specs made him a tiny bit envious.
If he could get another upgrade and put those on his yacht.
Laughing out loud again, he realized he would have to have the engines out on longer stalks or have divots pounded into the fuselage of the plane to fit the big fan-powered blowtorches.
A man could stand up inside the big airliner’s engines if he had a mind to.
He could spend all day in the air with Kaylee if he had the plane like those. Except for the cost, some twenty-five thousand US dollars per hour!
She would have to paint a lot to sell her creations to help offset the cost of flying a privately owned seven-eight-seven.
*Even if it is just a fantasy.* Tom shook his head. *There was no way to buy one of those wide-bodied birds.*
The memory of the woman echoed in his head.
His shoulders sagged. He had spent almost the last two hours not thinking of that raven-haired artist.
She had made him laugh, and even if she had not intended to do so, she had hurt him to the core of his heart.
More than he would ever admit to anyone except himself. It was important to him that she kept her promise to… He forgot the other man’s name except he was a congressional aide of some kind.
Shaking his head, he returned to his writing, trying to keep Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon and his friend Weeds, on a child’s level of understanding. This story had become one about keeping promises.
“A promise kept, makes a person’s word valued.” He typed on the screen in the word bubble of Wendel, the Weedy Sea Dragon.
Still, as he wrote the adventures of Leonard and Weeds his mind drifted to the mote of loneliness in his mind.
The autopilot computer chimed, it was time to make radio contact with Singapore and begin his descent.
Checking his fuel, he was still had a third of his operational fuel left. Traveling the way he had of late, the service techs in San Francisco had fitted his yacht with fuel cells and turned the luxury jet into a virtual gas-can with wings.
Tom, hopped from one city to the next from book-con to comic-con for signing of books and traveled alone, he had flown the great circle route with no one to talk to in the big plane.
Still, he had the computers and could video chat with anyone he chose. But he had no one to call. So he followed his schedule, his eyes settling on a the event that he had attended after Dr. Manga’s installation, the event where the sponsor set him up with a date-for-hire.
He laughed sadly at his perception of the date, that woman came from a company the organizer hired at the Frankfurt comic-con to escort him so that he would look even better with the beautiful woman on his arm.
Tom laughed as the night had progressed and the escort was in fact, more than an escort. With a Master’s Degree in biology and organic chemistry. She was wonderful to talk with an ability to see both sides of an argument, a quick wit and the ability to shut down the probing questions on her relationship with Tom.
Even when one person tried to prove that she was some gold-digger with no brains.
‟I hoped you would slap down that SOB from the vomit-rag tabloid, but jeeze!” Tom commented when they were alone and he laughed. The sight of the tabloid reporter made to look like an imbecile tickled him. “That was beyond good!”
She called herself Krystal with a slight Saxony-German accent, and Tom immediately doubted that was her real name. As far as her education, he could not prove she lied about a Master’s Degree, and she could talk with anyone about nearly any subject. Even the most recent journals of learned circles of chemistry.
When Tom started to talk to her the next morning, she picked up the phone called someone, then told him to get dressed.
‟We are going to breakfast.” She smiled. Taking him by the hand and led him out the door of the hotel.
‟Sorry about last night, I have a lot of things…”
‟Shhh… Mister Harte. Things happen, sometimes they don’t. You are awesome and you did a lot of public interaction at that event. In total, I am very impressed with your work.”
‟You have read my books?”
‟I’ll read the rest tonight, but I read all the children’s books while you slept.” She tapped her phone.
‟Wow. That’s a lot of books, I’ve written for a quite a few years now.”
‟I can read two-thousand words per minute. That’s measured, sir.” She smiled. ‟I can type one-hundred words-a-minute, and I speak five languages, there is little that gets by me.”
‟Anything else? Why are you with me, why not at your own convention?”
‟I’m still in debt for school and a chance compete for a place on the Olympic Archery team.” She said as they stepped into the elevator, alone. “I need to purchase some equipment to keep up with the other competitors.”
Tom laughed, then she kissed him deeply.
‟That’s for being wonderful.” She said softly, coughing with a guilty sound.
‟You said you couldn’t kiss me last night.”
‟Yes, I broke the rule. Sue me.” She chuckled as the doors opened. No one was there to snap pictures or talk to them. She knew the way around the crowded hotel.
‟You are good.” Tom said, looking around. They had come out of an elevator facing away from the foyer and walked out a side door.
‟Logistics and protection. Part of the job.” Only then did Tom notice that Krystal’s eyes were quick to take in everything.
‟We can walk out now. We have reservations at the Meadow. It is where we will meet some of your cohorts in crime.”
‟My cohort… What?” Tom looked sideways at her.
‟The other authors. Each one has an escort to get them there and on time.”
‟So you are a babysitter?”
Krystal laughed. It was a musical sound.
‟I am an escort, but our company requires special skills that is beyond the typecast Hollywood version.” She said softly. As they got into a dark-windowed limousine. ‟I am here to make you look good and to keep you safe.”
‟And I thought you were just smart.”
‟Not bad for a call girl?” Crystal said. ‟Don’t worry about my emotional state. I am well compensated to keep you safe.”
‟Who would want to hurt me? I’m just a storyteller.”
‟You don’t know?” Her face became serious, no longer a tall, Nordic beauty that graced the floor, but a military-esque hard look of a bodyguard. ‟There was a threat to the convention. Because of your novel and movie, it is felt that you are a high-value target.”
‟Oh crap…” Tom boggled. “So you are a bodyguard? But just not armed.”
“Oh yes, sir I am.”
“Please for the thousandth time? Call me Tom.” He said.
“Yes, Tom, I’m armed. I carry devices always within reach.” She slid up her skirt, where he could see she carried four knives and two small pistols with silencers in thigh holsters. “Point two-two caliber with sound suppressors. Power is not as important as placement.”
Tom could not get his mind off what was under her skirt for the rest of the trip in .
That was over a week ago. Today he stood inside the Wizard far above the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean descending into Singapore. Here, he was to meet with a local publisher and distributor for children’s books and he received an invitation to stay at a high-mountain villa. He would to try to get his stories published in the island country. A fresh market for him.
The autopilot chimed and returned control to the human pilot and Tom guided the big jet down into the approach lane.
Slow descent and a perfect touch down with mild weather, the Wizard rumbled down the taxiway to where the crews indicated with their long, bright-colored batons.
The engines powered down with the typical sound of jets and Tom stood out of his seat. Opening the door, and stepped out into the sunshine of the beautiful southeast Asia day.
A few hours later, Tom would wish to never see such a day again.
Reblogged on WordPress.com
Reblogged on WordPress.com
Source: Goth Decor
must always involve some Witchcraft ~KAREN BLIXEN~
Source: REAL ART
Chapter 18. Frantic Flight
“Hello,” The woman behind the counter said as Kaylee walked in. “You shouldn’t come in that way. Just so’s you know, that is access to the airplanes only. It is dangerous to cross that way and if the security were to catch you, they are a serious pain in the neck. They can arrest you or make you walk around.”
“Yeah, I have had a run-in with one on the way over here from the Pacific Wizard across the way.” She had learned that sometimes the dropping of the name would open doors for her in some cases. “So I just ran across.”
“Oh! You’re Kaylee .” The counter-woman did not make it a question. ”I just received a call from a limo company in Sacramento that you needed a flight. I must say, that was a surprise to hear about Tom being married.”
“I thought I was meeting a driver here? And… We are not supposed to be married, it was one of those things that happened when drinking. We are getting annulled in a few days.” She laughed as she said it. “We are just good friends that partied too much and did a bit of a dare game that went out of control.”
“Of course.” Counter-Woman said it in a way that it was something she could not quite swallow. “Considering who it is for and that the flight is an emergency need, our only wait is the crew. No on the driver, I have a plane that is ready to depart when you are.”
From The back room, walked a muscular, petite woman with more stripes on her sleeve than anyone else Kaylee had seen.
“My bird ready for flight?” The pilot asked Counter-Woman. “Fueled and serviced?”
“Yes ma’am.” Counter-Woman seemed to shrink a little. Even if the Captain was smaller than she was, the Captain carried the air of unquestioned authority with her.
“What is the ETA of my right seat?” The Captain said in a matter-of-fact way that she expected an immediate answer. “We leave as soon as they arrive.”
“Your first officer will be Rome Oldman today. He is driving time from his home. He called as he pulled out of the garage of his house.”
“Thank you, advise me when he arrives, leave when he walks in. We have a bonus for getting our VIP to destination in less than an hour.” The Captain looked at the clock. “We are going to push the envelope. Where is my VIP?”
“Right behind you.” The flight agent said.
“Oh. Hello.” The Captain extended her hand in a business like handshake. “I’m Captain R. M. Watson. We will be flying as soon as possible. I’ll walk you to my aircraft.”
As they walked through the door, the Captain continued talking as if she was giving a report. “Follow me, please, let’s step on board while I wait for my right seat driver. I received a call from Lettie Nesmith of the Discrete Limo service in Sacramento, Tom’s been in an accident and I’m hired to fly you to Hayward Executive and have you there to meet her limo at the top of the hour. I trust you packed light, you can store your carry-on where the signs indicate there and there.”
“Yes, I packed light, I brought nothing except my purse.”
“Perfect.” Captain Watson said. “Take a seat and settle in, you don’t need to use the seatbelt just yet and I am going to finish my pre-flight checks.”
Kaylee settled in to the closest seat, someone placed the seat belts for convenience to clip on and she did not wait for instruction to do so. She was impatient to fly out and arrive at the airport in the north and the snap of the clip satisfied her need for action. Kaylee could not recall the name of her destination, other than Lettie had set everything up and she wished they were already in the air when she heard Captain Watson’s voice raise while she verbally mauled her copilot.
“DAMMIT ROME! Stopping for a foo-foo coffee on a mission is not acceptable, we’re scheduled to arrive at our destination in fifty-minutes. We are going to push the envelope as it is.”
Kaylee could hear a male voice asking if the package had arrived.
“Package”? She was a package, not a passenger.
“The package is Thomas Harte’s wife.”
“Bullcrap, he’s not married. We would have heard about that.”
“Let’s go, we can talk on the way.”
“No way Mister Harte’s married.” Rome said as he stepped into the sleek jet. “Oh! Hello. You are a passenger, not a package. I’m Captain Oldman, I’ll be your co-captain in the right seat next to Captain Watson.”
“I’m Kaylee , Tom’s wife. Tom’s has had some kind of an accident and is in the hospital in San Francisco.”
“What happened to Mr. Harte?”
“I don’t know, something with his hand. Lettie, the owner of the limousine company called me and told me that he cut off his hand.”
“Oh no.” Captain Watson said, showing emotion for the first time. “Okay Missus Harte, strapped in? Good, hang on, we are pushing the limits of this jet. Our maximum rated speed is mach zero point eight-one, we will be doing all that.”
Moments later, the business jet taxied out to the runway and lined up. Kaylee could not hear what the pilots were saying, but moments later, it was as if someone pulled a trigger and shot them out of a gun, the chartered jet accelerated faster than either the Pacific Wizard or the Flying Sea Dragon. The wheels came off the ground quickly and it seemed as if the diminutive jet sat back on its tail and climbed steeply into the sky. This was a race car compared to Tom’s sky-yacht.
As the ground fell away, Captain Watson turned and spoke loudly for Kaylee to hear.
“Missus Harte, you have a phone call. The phone is on the wall next to you on a magnet mount so you just need to push the gold button next to it.”
“Thank you.” Kaylee said loudly back. Captain Watson nodded and turned back to her guidance of the winged missile as it banked and headed to a northerly course.
“Kaylee ! You made it, good. I have Kaikane, one of our newest drivers waiting for you. He’s a tall Hawaiian and is well-trained. He will drive you to the California Pacific Medical Center.” It was Lettie, her voice was uniquely embedded in Kaylee’s memory these days.
“The hospital will tell me nothing of Tom’s injury, but the rumor has it that he was carrying a tv out of the plane when he fell. The tv landed on his arm and broke, the glass cut him up.”
“Are you like Tom’s personal assistant or something?”
“Oh heck no, he can’t afford me. But we are good friends, and he is one of my best customers. Probably the best customer we have. All my family thinks the world of him.”
“But how do you spend his money like the chartered plane?”
“Get-Jet, the company that owns the plane you are on, also thinks highly of Tom. I know the company president and I just gave him a call. It seems weird, but we are all pretty friendly, so we watch out for each other. Tom has had a hand in getting more than a few of us in business, so we all owe him.”
“Wow. You are all friends and do this for each other?”
“Kaylee, Tom’s a tremendous person who spends far too much time alone. Even a philanthropist needs to have friends, even if he doesn’t think he does.”
“Lettie, I don’t know him like you do.”
“You will learn about him.” She could almost hear Lettie smile at the other end of the phone. ”He is someone who had his heart torn out and his soul shattered at one time. I don’t know his history except for what he has told me. But I know what he is like now. When we started the company, we had one limousine, he contracted and invested with us and allowed us to buy our next two limo’s in less than a year. We’ll buy out his investment in eighteen months. Not that we want to distance our company from him, but we, my family and me, we want the company to ourselves.”
“You have Tom.” Lettie said softly. ”Kaylee . Keep him. Like it or not I’ll put some pressure on you. He is going to self-destruct if he has no muse to show the world he builds.”
“Lettie, you are a meddler.”
“Yes, I always have been, according to my sister.” Lettie laughed. “I’m not proud of it, but I will always do what is right.”
“Everyone’s mother?” Kaylee asked with a laugh.
“Hah! Yeah, but I can’t have my own kids. So I adopt everyone.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Oh no, not that there is anything wrong. I don’t date men.” Lettie laughed. “You’re a good person, too. Compassionate. You match Tom’s spirit, you both are like eagles. You fly together in your souls.”
“I’m not as good as you would think.”
“Well, don’t doubt yourself. You have what it takes.” Then Lettie broke the connection and Kaylee put the phone back in its cradle.
Moments passed while Kaylee looked out the window watching the green of the long state pass by.
*Do I have what it takes to fill the shoes of a wife? The annulment, that’s my goal.*
Then again. There was something about how people stood up to help Tom.
*Maybe.* She pulled at some lint on her shirt. *Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong.*
Chapter 17. Tom’s Thumb
Finals over, Doctor Manga and his staff looked at the image she created from a blank canvas, talked to her at length in the middle of a classroom of other students who needed make-up testing. The written sections were long, but she knew every answer.
Four hours later, she was back at the Wizard, a great weight off her soul while she traced her fingers over the computer and built-in phone charger that Tom would put his mobile phone in and then forget where he put the electronic equipment.
Kaylee sat on the sofa and pondered, her mind she thought would be clear with the finals test over. Was as conflicted as anyone ever could be.
*Ugh. One one hand, he was the most wonderful person I have ever met, all that history on the net even stands up for him.* She rubbed her forehead. *But he is not Glenn, and I have a life to live on my own.*
“Ugh!” The scream and clenched fists, and she felt no better.
She gave herself a five-minute cry and a few minutes to recover. After she caught her breath, Kaylee walked to her car to drive to the bar and ask if she could get her job back. She hated to go in and beg with her bottom lip poked out and her hat in hand. If that would not work, she knew that another pub down the street that had just opened, only they had already staffed up their positions. It would be difficult to talk her way into the next pub if they had no open positions.
But in the next few minutes, all the plans of job-hunting would soon be forgotten.
The moment she walked out of the metal hanger, her cell phone started ringing. The number was the same one on the business card that Lettie, the owner and driver of the limousine that had taken her to the Stockton airport had given her.
“Hello, this is Lettie Nesmith, I’m calling for Kaylee .”
“Hi Lettie! This is Kaylee .”
“Kaylee! Hey! Listen, Tom’s been hurt. They took him to the hospital about six-hours ago. Rumor has it that he hurt his hand and they are talking about flying him to San Francisco in a helicopter.”
“Ohmygod” Kaylee said it as if it was a single word. “What happened?”
“My cousin says he hurt his hand. They are sending him to a hospital in San Francisco that specializes in sewing on hands and stuff.”
“Sewing on … His hand? What happened.”
“I don’t know, but no one called you?”
“No, but I have not been getting service. I was in the plane that is inside the hangar.”
“Okay, anyway. You should charter a flight back to Sacramento.” Lettie sounded stressed. ”The sooner the better.”
“I don’t know how to do that.” Kaylee said.
Kaylee could hear papers get shuffled on the other end.
“Okay, don’t worry about it, I will take care of the details. Did you say he had given you a charge card?”
“Oh! Yes! But how do I…”
“Kaylee, I’ll find somebody to call you. I know who Tom deals with when he’s not flying his own planes.”
“I don’t know, I was kind of bitchy to him when I spoke to him last time.”
“It’s up to you. But I saw how you act when you talk about him. Your husband is hurt, it might be serious, and you will to kick yourself later.” Lettie’s voice was like another sister giving support. “I have a driver that is available.”
“Okay. Tell him my number, I’m at the South Harbor Airport.”
“He will pick you up right away, he’s at that same airport.”
She looked out over the tarmac towards the executive jet airlines and started walking to the office.
“Excuse me, miss. But you cannot walk here, are you lost?” It was an airport security officer driving up in an electric cart.
“I’m leaving on a plane, I just left the Pacific Wizard and I received a call to meet a chartered plane here. I’m running over to the office now.”
“Sorry, still, you not allowed to walk here. Walk around on the marked walkway.” He pointed to red, blue, green and yellow painted lines on the ground. “Follow the green line and it will take you to the executive charter lobby.”
“Can I ride with you over there?”
“No ma’am.” He said as he drove off, an alarm sounded on his radio of unauthorized access of the grounds by a car on the far side of the terminals.
Grumbling at how it was that the rules forced her to walk around when she was only had a hundred feet or so in a straight line. It would mean heading in the opposite direction and around.
Looking over her shoulder as she headed out to the walkway gate, the security car sped off after the car trying to enter a clearly marked “Do not enter” area.
She paused for a heartbeat, watching the golf cart race off at the top speed of a fast walk for a few minutes. The guard never looked back.
She took two, then four tentative steps to follow the painted line. Then turned and ran in the straight line to the executive charter office as fast as she could.
* This is an emergency, I can’t stop.*
She skidded to a stop at the back door of the charter office and quickly composed herself.
She put her hand on the door, took a breath and walked in as if she had not just broke the rules.
Chapter 14. At The Wizard
Bumps and sounds from the flaps and landing gear extending gave her thoughts that the flying hunk of metal was falling apart. She hated this part of any flight, it always felt like a semi-controlled crash. The sound of air rushing over the flaps unnerved her, the drift of the executive commuter on each little puff of wind was sharp and sudden.
Profanity was on the tip of her tongue every moment. When the shriek of tires touched the runway, she matched the tone for a split second with a small scream of her own.
As the speedy jet slowed down, she let go of the arms of the seat and noticed her knuckles had gone white. Not that Captain Adanna was a poor pilot, but the diminutive airplane was not a comfortable as the Pacific Wizard or the Flying Sea Dragon, the jet was all business like the pilot.
Under the expert guidance of Adanna, the winged race-car taxied near the hangar where the Pacific Wizard sat while service techs milled about, the Olympic-swimming-pool sized doors of the huge structure were open and she could see the size differences between the jet she rode in and the Pacific Wizard.
The great plane’s engine hatches were open and technicians and mechanics climbed up and down ladders as they worked on the flying yacht. Kaylee worried that the workers might stop her from going into the Pacific Wizard to retrieve her belongings she had left when she went north with Tom.
The Captain opened the door and stepped out on to the asphalt-concrete of the airport. “Missus Harte, you may deplane now. Please watch your step, the Pacific Wizard is over there and the employees are expecting you.”
“They’re expecting…?” Kaylee suddenly felt like she was in a spy movie and big brother, in the name of Tom was watching.
“Yes, it is your home they are working on, is it not? I radioed ahead while we were in the air and notified them of our impending arrival. The service crew is returning with us to assess the damage to the Sea Dragon.” Adanna nodded. “Have a pleasant day, ma’am. Stephen here will take you to your plane.”
“But it’s not my plane, it belongs to Tom.”
“You are married to him, and as this is a community property state, so it is yours, too.”
Kaylee let out a long breath. *This married crap is not what I want.*
But as she thought further on it, he was a considerate, kind, thoughtful and caring man. Not at all like Glenn, not that Glenn was uncaring.
But in relative terms, he was as if he was a bear wearing boxing gloves trying to open a jar. Awkward, clumsy and did not have a clue what to do.
Kaylee smiled at that thought of Glenn. She wondered if he would change his last name to hers?
*It isn’t tradition.* She smiled, *But I’m anything but traditional.*
This made her laugh at herself. She had proven that beyond a doubt in the last week. Still, if he changed his name it would be Glenn Greggory Grant. His house was on Amber-Elm Boulevard in her home town, elm trees in the yard. He could be an ass, but she enjoyed his company after all these years.
Often talking in the night about getting married after they graduated, they had grown up together and would spend all their lives with each other. Her with a PhD. in fine arts and him with a degrees in political sciences. He wanted to serve in Congress.
But now, as she walked towards the Pacific Wizard in its odd paint job with a wizard flying on a broom on the engine cover. A touch of whimsy that showed the heart of the man who wrote children’s books, then used the premise to live his life.
And yet she was so angry at him on so many levels. Not the least of which, he was making her fond of him. She liked the way he smiled, his view of the world. The quirky jokes he made now and again. She loved his smell, how his kisses tasted and his attentiveness when they were together.
And the sights she had seen? The excitement and passion of discovery that Tom had? They had sparked her artistic imagination and tickled her heart, maybe she could…
That thought made her pause, was she falling in love with him? Married first and love second?
*No! It. Can. Not. Be! I need that annulment when it comes time to go home!* Her heart belonged to Glenn!
She loved Glenn, not this man who was an accidental husband from a night of – okay, that was a blank, but a wonderful weekend – of party.
Sadly, she could not remember the one important part of it.
She still was angry over that. He could have said no. She would have never been married and then not worry about Glenn finding out.
*Oh Glenn!* She let out a heavy sigh.
*He will never accept this if he ever finds out. But we agreed that we would be free to date other people, so there would be no cheating.* She rubbed her eyes. *But getting married is so wrong.*
Kaylee climbed the steps into the Pacific Wizard, although it felt like a wonderful sky-palace, she felt odd. It was like…
*No, it can’t be. It’s like…* She gritted her teeth against the emotion.
She was home.
This made her angry again. Her home and life was with the blond, slightly arrogant boy that snorted when he laughed and became embarrassed by the sound when he did, she laughed at the memory of that laugh.
*And then there’s Tom. A special kind of man, but not someone I planned on. He is… Just not in my plans.*
*This is just horrid. The drinking, that ugly Friday, a few hits off a bong and I have a new husband who is so kind and irritating at the same time.*
*It could have been much worse, I suppose.* She sat in a seat and pulled her legs up. *I have awakened in beds that I’ve had no clue where I was, like at Gramma’s house when I was ten.* She sat and pondered for a moment, looking around.
*And this is mine? I could attend school, not need to work forty-hours a week. Instead I could study and practice my art.*
*I could find happiness here… Wait! NO!*
No. She wanted Glenn.
*Maybe.* A sigh.
She was angry with Tom again. He was more caring about her than any other man she had dated or been with. He never tried to force her to do anything, she volunteered.
She remembered that one of his rules as far as her body went.
“No means no.”
This was unusual among her friends. Kris and Crystal had often made demands of each others attentions, even at parties. Thinking back, it was disrespectful to each other. When Crystal told people what she was going to do to Kristoph, even if he would try to say he would be getting ready for work or school. This would not deter the wife.
Kristoph of course, would brag about what he did with Crystal if she passed out after a party.
Both ways, Kaylee laughed at them when they talked about it.
Now, she found it offensive. She would tease Tom, but never tell him “Or else” or dismiss his objections.
*Dang, I’m getting spoiled.* Tom treated her with respect, it felt proper and good.
Tom cared for her and she liked it.
*That’s irritating, too.* She huffed to herself.
Great resource for research. Thank you for sharing!
Greetings and salivations:
Yeah, that’s no typo, but it got you to smile, I hope. As of yesterday, the first edit of “Shock and Awe” came to a close. There is a third in the offing but it will be a couple months before I revisit it. The good police need to have their points of view told.
Plus, I started a romance in it, if anyone noticed.
Radio Check and his team will return in an expanded story, cleaned up and more intense. No technology was used in the story that does not exist. … Well… mostly. I expanded on some things. heh.
In the next few days we pick up on another story. Perhaps dragons, perhaps cell phones.
A few other threads of stories.
I sit now and ponder my next moments. A French Pressed coffee and a new coffee cup that was a gift of father’s day. A small model of “Red Jacket”, a clipper ship of the 19th century.
In a steampunk kind of twist, features of the ship will appear in the next story of the stolen children who returned home in the first book. “Hellions” is in evolution.
In the last few days, we have had a minor heat wave, so in temperatures hot enough to make tar on the street soft? Honey the honey-colored dog goes out into the middle of the yard and naps in full sunlight.
“Recharging her solar power.” I laugh at her.
It makes for a desire to write her into the story. So keep an eye for the broad-headed dog that loves her humans, but with jaws strong enough to crack a coconut. (it took a few hours, but she got it. I lost that bet, after all, coconuts are HARD.)
Looking for some beta readers, we have multiple authors with some very awesome story types looking for an honest reveiw so that the story may achieve its grace and beauty that the author intends for it to be.
If you are interested in being a beta reader/critique officer, send me a private message on Google Plus and we’ll get you squared away and you too can be a part of something larger than large. 😀 Imagine being the JK Rowlings beta reader for the first book in her wizarding fantasy book. Kinda dorky, different from anything that came before, but interesting and constantly busy. How much would that raw, unpublished work be worth to your grandchildren and their grandchildren (assuming she let you keep it) as the beta manuscript before publishing?
I have a couple, over the years. As fate would have it? The unpublished words in a beta reader book are unsearchable in all of the internet. But I will keep the 1980’s version of the manuscript books for the sake of interest.
But I have drifted off point. Giving ice-cubes to the overheated dogs after they ran in the back yard and barked, protecting their home from someone, so they now have ice-cube treats. They love their ice cubes. (AND those treats are cheap.)
So questions for you writers:
When you are stuck, as someone has said “Blocked” what do you do when this happens? What do you do to break through?
In my case, walk away, roll around on the floor with a “Who pins who” match between Honey the Dog and myself, shoot some archery.
So far, a note to you, my followers and readers. Keep reading! I’ll keep writing.
For now, Live, laugh, love, let the adventures begin- again.
Chapter 39. Summer in Spring
Yawning and stretching in his bed the next morning, Jona sighed. He felt exhausted the night before and went to bed while Kolo, her brother and Professor Vale sat up and talked late into the night.
The first class in the spring quarter began with social studies of dragons and humans, something at first that Jona felt was boring, but while the tall human woman instructed, she spoke of wars and prejudice.
Dragons, older and wiser than the human race, the humans had one thing more.
They had determination to live.
Like siblings, respected and at times hated each other, the human and dragon populations drifted apart in some ways and merged in others.
A complex relationship that developed since before the dawn of history.
And Professor Altair was already talking about homework.
A whisper at Jona’s shoulder.
“We can study together.” It was Summer. “You have that look people get before they scream and run away from something.”
Jona stifled a laugh, he would have denied it, but she was correct, the social history of humans and dragons promised to be a difficult class.
“We will meet in the library, no one will bother us there.” She said softly while the professor droned on about the good natures of man and dragon were often lost in the passage of time.
He nodded, Professor Altair spoke of how legends in dragon lore and human mythology remembered the relationship between a dragon and an intelligent girl that grows up, turning away from the great friendship they had developed.
The dragon, who stood next to the young human during great raids by great robbers from the sea that sailed in great ships.
Only when the dragon Kl’qlpff, who humans called “Puff” told the Pirate King of the raids, who then forced the rogue corsairs to lower their flags and leave forever.
Songs and legends, bards wrote about it all, then faded from even that.
“One day, the story will return,” She said. “It will come by way of bards and storytellers.”
It struck a chord in Jona, like the baby dragon Sprite who adopted him when he drove a cart of smelly peat behind a flatulent ox the previous summer.
Summer walked with him down the path to the library and they talked of how dragons had existed for so long, why they were so long-lived and if there would fully be peace.
She sat at a broad stone table, polished by a thousand years of forelegs and arms rubbing on it. Padded stone seats, wicker chairs, and a myriad of other perches surrounded the giant round disk to accommodate the different clans and species.
Kola sat in with them, his studies of human laws confused him.
Eva lounged, reading an architecture textbook for her classes, but it kept hitting her in the face as she dozed while trying to read it. Looking around to see if anyone noticed, she would go back to reading the same page.
“Summer,” Jona whispered. “What page are we on?”
She giggle quietly.
“You keep looking at Eva. She will give herself a brain injury if she keeps hitting herself with the book.”
Kola laughed, overhearing the whisper and looked at the dozing race dragon.
“Jona, I think you ran her too hard yesterday, she is not used to the exercise after being off the team when she dropped her grades.” Kola nudged him.
“Kola, shush.” The librarian, a human adult male with a heavy leather tunic studded with metal book-shaped rivets in different colors. “You are keeping others from studying. Eva, if you need sleep, go to your room, you are starting to snore and are being a disturbance.”
Eva shook herself awake and apologized, for the fifth time tried to read the same page.
“Jona, we are on page four, paragraph five.” She flipped the pages for him. “This is what the professor will test on in a couple of days. It is easy to memorize if you follow this trick to keep it in mind.”
She taught him a mnemonic to keep the lesson in his head.
“My brother took Professor Altair’s class, she goes in order, always. It is how history happened, it is how she teaches, so this memoria technica trick will help you in the test.” Summer smiled at him.
Memorizing the pattern she taught him, he looked up and saw the librarian standing there with his arms crossed. For a moment, Jona swore the librarian would make good on his threats of ouster from the study area but the man nodded with a small smile, the long beard swung with the movement when the barrel chested keeper of the books turned away and moved across the floor towards other students.
In two hours, Jona watched the big hour-glass turn again in the mechanical teamwork of dragon and human timekeeper in the front of the library. He felt more interested after every discussion that Summer, Kola (despite it not being his subject. Jona suspected Kola had a crush on her and wanted her to notice him.)and he had, the history of dragonkind was more than just words, Jona felt them.
The history resonated with the young Dragon Master, more than his parents imagined might happen.
Jona was learning.
They spent hours in the library, Summer, Jona and Kola, joined by Eva who studied long hours to keep her grades up.
Eva was happiest when flying, her studies were marginal when she flew and failed to study, but it was no more or less than what all the friends and students went through daily.
But as professors universally instructed, they were not there to fail anyone, neither were they there to pass without teaching.
Eva worked hard at both of her skills and kept talking to professors who would help.
The summer break was coming up in short order and finals were intense. Professor Vale, Professor Cush, and especially the Green Man wizard were all driving points home with verbal hammers.
Homework was coming fast and furious, Summer and Jona continued to study with a singular thought. The Csu and Gorgons were far from the minds of dragon and human students alike.
Races were a regular topic, the teams of the intraschool competitors complained they were not ready for the speeds they needed to win not only the school championship but to outspeed any other teams from other schools around the world.
Jona pointed out that other schools were having the same problems. Rumors came from visitors to the other schools.
All students, everywhere lacked free time to just relax and play.
All was study and learn.
By the equinox of spring, they were feeling ready. Lessons were familiar, preparatory tests were easier each passing week.
Jona felt ready for the next chapter of the year.
Looking at his grades on the great central post, Jona smiled.
His grades were good enough, Jona Samhain had new rivets that the school awarded him for his tunic. Two silver, three gold, one emerald-green.
He wondered what the green meant and made note to ask Professor Vale of his house.
It was a year of mind-boggling, life changing lessons.
Jona the future dragon master smiled and walked back to his room.
Chapter 2. University Lab
“Professor, all the remote cameras we put out have taken precisely zero night time images.” Gil sighed as he clicked through the computer files. “Day time images are the same way. Nothing is triggering the equipment.”
“Are you connected?” Professor Ng asked. “Perhaps your using IP4 instead of IP6 addressing?”
“Yes, Professor, I sent an acknowledge signal, I can get a battery check, I can turn it on and scan the area, but there is nothing to pick up.”
“Check the other camera stations.” The long salt-and-pepper hair swayed with his nod. “See there are no images in any of the cameras.”
The graduate student clicked through the different files, swearing when he could not remember the different passwords and looking them up.
“Professor Ng? There are images in camera’s in region 3-A and 3-C and three-D. 3-B has no images, Regions 1 and 2, all regions are without images. It is like a wildlife desert, nothing for the camera’s to capture. There has been nothing for a few days, at least, I’m checking dates now.”
“Call Andre, find where he’s at. Have him get in touch with the rest of the team and prepare for a drone for a flyover. After last field trip, this will be the thing I will authorize, unless I can get the university to pay for bodyguards, pair of armed hunting guides and a National Guard helicopter.”
Gil chuckled as he dialed the team captain of the month and started the files for video they could analyzed later.
Reedah Wilson walked in while Gil spoke to Andre on the phone, Gil informed Andre that she arrived and broke the connection.
Explaining the situation to Reedah, she pulled at her ear for a moment. A tell she had when she was thinking something over.
“I have a friend that is a Ranger in the area. I’ll call him and see if there are any strange things they have noticed in the areas we are looking at.”
“Ooh! Reedah. An old flame?” Andre entered the room, putting away his mobile phone.
“I don’t do men, I’ve told you.” She punched Andre in the shoulder.
“Well, exclusively.” She added.
Heads together, they prepared three remote-controlled vehicles to lift off from the back of the roof of the research truck, specially fitted with a rack to carry the extended range quad-copter powered drones. Cameras fitted to the undersides, tops and tested. Specially fitted with UV and IR cameras, they planned to see as many things they could.
“How late are we going to stay out?”
“Only about an hour, we will bring them back about dusk and get back here.” Andre looked at them, “I do not want to stay out there after dark. Something has chased the animals out of the valley, I don’t want to find out what it is the hard way.”
“What do you think it is?” Gil asked, walking up with print-outs of authorization signatures for the professor.
“I don’t know, could be volcanic off-gassing or something. I saw something like that in Yellowstone when I was a kid, they said it was a gas eruption and was driving the wildlife out of the area.” Andre said.
“There is no volcanic activity this far north.” Reedah told him. “You are stretching that theory a lot.”
“Well, let’s overfly the area with these two toys and see what we can see and record it all.
Slipping fingernail-sized chips into the removable media slot and snapped the cap over the chips, locking them into place.
“These are the largest capacity on the market and I broke the seal on them for our use.” Gil said. “We have plenty of recording space.”
“Why are we using memory stick tech when we can network-send the information back to the lab?” Reedah asked.
“Signals get messed up, corrupted. This is just a cover to prevent any loss.”
“Good idea.” Professor Ng said as he walked in again. “Gil, do you have the request paper..Oh good. Thank you.” The Professor said, taking them from the graduate student. “We head out in ten-minutes. We are not leaving the black top, and we are keeping the engines running. If, in the unlikely event there is a gas in the valley, I do not want to wait around, we will launch and then head up to the nearest paved high-point.”
“Yes Professor.” The students said.
The team went to work. They were Idaho’s Natural University of Technical Studies.
Chapter 36. Spring Break
“Kolo?” Jona tapped on her door and slowly opened it. It was dark in her room, that alone was unusual, she disliked the dark. “Kolo?”
“Jona, she left.” It was Professor Vale. “There was an emergency call to her and her brother. It came by way of Dragon Corps.”
“What was the news?”
“I’m sorry Jona, I do not know, even if I did, I would not be at liberty to divulge the information.”
Jona sagged a little. The Professor was correct, he could not tell Jona anything.
But Jona could ask. First, he needed to change his clothes to rider uniform. Get a little riding practice in, maybe find where she lived at the same time.
Walking to the door that led to the long curving stairs, he saw a note on his bed when he walked by the open door.
Breaking the seal and unfolding the neatly folded parchment, he read in the swooping quill-style that was uniquely Kolo’s.
”I am sorry I did not get to say good-bye. I will be back soon. There was a family event that the leader of our clan called all the swimmers together. I will watch for your name in the race postings for the school newsletter.
I will be back before you graduate.
I am joking. I will be back in two weeks on the first of the month.
She knew she would alarm him with the first part.
He would pay her back for that little trick and started to set up the payback.
Walking out into the courtyard, he found his normal ride had failed finals and was on Academic Probation, including sports, until she made the test up and the grades improved and considered worthy of a dragon of her age.
Not wanting to try to connect with another, he turned and walked back to the common area, wearing his armor, to look for his ride and give Eva a little abuse, his first year he had all the tests taken care of, he never thought he would outshine his ride.
”Eva?” he spoke to a familiar shape, but the face when the dragon turned around was not her.
“Oh, excuse me.” Shaking his head. He was getting too distracted and did not recognize his own friends.
“Eva is in the caves, studying, she is not taking visitors, especially your kind.” A wyvern hissed. “She failed because of you. She should have been flying with a dragon rider. Not a pink-skinned biped-human.”
Derisive laughter followed him when Jona walked away. A small, green pine cone sailed past him. When he was fifteen-paces away.
“Hey!” Jona turned around, but the dragons were all engaged in conversation with their backs to him.
Not seeing the culprit, he walked off with the sounds of subtle snickering and comment of “Human” following him.
Humiliated, he just walked to the student store, a couple of half-dragons were inside buying snacks nodded at him.
“I saw what happened.” The one called Summer looked down as she spoke. She was a pretty girl who often hid in the library and read every chance she had, her golden eyes blinked in bright light when she had to focus on distances greater than her arm’s length.
“The one with the silver rosettes threw the pine cone at you from his far side.” She blinked behind a set of glasses. “They are not dragons of honor like they say they are. They would not pass any test if they are ever investigated for their contempt for humans. I know, they don’t like me either.”
“Why don’t they like you?” Jona blinked. “You are pretty.”
“They are racers, and don’t think anyone is worthy unless they are riders or rides.” She looked at Jona. “Like you. But you talk to me. Why?”
“Because I think you are nice.” Jona said. “I have seen you in the library helping others.”
“That’s because they asked. I don’t go outside much. I don’t ever know what to say to people.” Summer looked down. “I am not as pretty as some girls. Like Kolo, I have seen you hang around her. Are you mated to her?”
“ME? Hah… no. I have to study in school, I have a few studies to catch up on. My mom and dad are off in trade somewhere. My dad is an artisan of iron and copper, they are in another country getting trade.” Jona said. “I am going to stay here for the spring break and study and practice racing.”
“Eva has been grounded for grades by Professor Vale. She has to study her human history.” Summer giggled. “Humans have a short history, too.”
“Can you help her study? I would study with you, she is my ride and I need her to race after spring break.”
“You would study with me?” Summer gasped. No one ever asked her. “Why would you study with me?”
“Well, the last time, Kolo helped me study, another dragon friend in my dorm helped point me the right way to study for Professor Krular and his tests.”
“Was that Obon?” Summer smiled when Jona nodded. “I like him, he cuddled with me once when I had a bad week. He is studying for a healer’s title, you know.”
Summer blushed lightly.
“No, I didn’t. But, yes, it was Obon who helped me.” Jona smiled. “I never thought a dragon could blush.”
“I am not all dragon.” She looked down. “I am neither human or dragon according to some of the clans, except my mom and dad.”
Summer Set, the part-human, part-dragon, looked at the floor as if the tile would do something.
Jona pondered a moment, the way his father treated other people, strangers that came into his shop, people from far places.
Tall, short, thin as blades of grass or as stout as a barrel, Aed Samhain believed they were all worth to pay the best attention he could give.
Jona knew that was the right thing to do. And Summer had fallen to the crime of the family that told her she was worth less than that.
“Summer,” Jona smiled. “Kolo and I are not mates.”
Jona paused and thought a moment as she looked at him.
“You are as bright as the sun in the sky and twice as warm. I think I would like to be your friend.” He said.
Summer smiled widely, something Jona would remember for years later. The day he made a friend who had a deep fear of others.
Together they sat, she told him of the guides to study for the different professors.
“In here, this library, all the answers to all the tests of all the professors are just sitting here to be looked at.” Summer smiled. “This is where they store past tests and get the questions for the next ones.”
They studied for weeks, Jona and Eve sat with Summer and studied with the shy student, and Professor Vale nodded each time the pair came in late, almost on the last grain of the hour-glass before curfew.
Each test that followed in the spring, Jona remembered. He had just seen the answers, talked about them with Summer and Eve.
His grades became the pride of his house, Professor Vale wrote his parents who sent care packages with letters of pride and toys for Sprite.
Kolo wrote, saying she was proud of him as well and would be returning within the week.
For the first time in his life, Jona felt he had something to make him happy.
The Green Man sat one afternoon and poured Jona a large ale of the newest vintage, giggling slightly.(He had already consumed two bottles himself.) Pointing out something to the young DragonMaster.
No one just gave the happiness to him, Jona did it for himself.
Dragonmaster University Chapter 34.The Morning after with laughter.
Jona slowly became aware of the sound of a heartbeat. Sprite moved around in his arms on the verge of wakefulness.
He had hoped to sleep late, after yesterday, but the school had burned into his brain the need to be at class, on time, every time.
Professor Vale, he thought, had used the power of the suggestion, to make an alarm clock in his head.
Kolo woke with her hand over Jona’s heart feeling the beat of the muscle all night long. The healing nature of dragons helped the human’s overtired muscles as he slept all night without moving.
Jona slowly tried to extricate himself from Sprite and Kolo, then he became aware that Kolo was awake and watching him try to move Sprite to the pillow covered in a curly, soft hair that reminded him of a Llamadoodle, a hypoallergenic hybrid of a camalid and a wool-bearing canine.
Dreading his exit from Kolo’s bed, he hurt so bad the night before. His feet hit the floor…
And it was as if he had done nothing strenuous at Professor Vuul’s class!
He stretched, a glorious, long, tingling stretch that made his whole body feel ready for anything. The robe caressed his skin as he moved, it was the most comfortable morning to wake up he ever experienced.
“Feel better?” Kolo asked in a soft voice.
Jona held a finger up to his lips, pointing at Sprite. Who promptly jumped up and crawled up his arm with lightning speed, squeaking “Mo-da! Mo-da!”
“Da?” Jona asked.
“Dad.” Kolo laughed.
“OKay, I need to go to my room, any way I can go there without being seen?” Jona looked out the door self-consciously.
“No one cares, at this level.” Kolo opened the door and walked out wearing her nightclothes. “You do not need to worry about the whispers and embarrassment. That is a human invention in some societies. In the dragon society, we sleep together often. Or have you not paid attention to your dragon studies?”
“Well, yeah, I just.” Jona looked out the window. “I never had this happen to me.”
“Jona.” Kolo caressed his cheek. “Nothing happened, you were in a healing cuddle. Dragons do it all the time, how do you think we live so long? Two dragons can heal each other better than one dragon can. If alone, a single dragon spins a cocoon and sleeps, the healing happens there, and we can share the healing touch.”
“I know.” Jona smiled. “I felt no pain when I got up, as bad as I hurt last night, this morning was great.”
“Good, we can do it again more often?” Kolo tilted her head to the side. Her eyes, more human than many dragons, still glittered like cut glass when she was enjoying something. “We could, y’know, see each other daily.”
“I… Uh…” Jona looked like a child caught sneaking one of his mothers fresh cookies.
“Go on, you.” Kolo laughed. “You cannot tell when you are having your mind messed with.”
Jona laughed nervously and walked out into the hall, towards his room, some thirty steps away.
His classes started in an hour, he still should eat breakfast before heading to his class on human-dragon history, then back to Professor Vuul’s smite shop and his turn back at the bellows.
The bellows, buried in his memory cells, was a full body workout. The Professor let him heat up and beat on some metal, but the Professor chose the hammer, a hammer nearly as long as Jona’s forearm. It was another three-hour workout scheduled that proscribed by Hephaestus in his textbook of metal sciences.
It would be a shower again tonight, maybe Kolo was right. Cuddling with her to heal would prepare him for the class five days a week.
THAT was something Jona would look forward to.
(Note, this is a rewrite. There was a missing chunk out of the last third. So I leave this non-repost for your repast, re-read, review and reply if you care. So this non-repost will replace a non-reblog of the re-imaged rewrite. )
Chapter 33. After Metal Shop
Metallurgical class from the autumn semester was not easy, but this semester, they put to action the chapters they had read out of the Book of Smites and the workbook “Alloy Allies”, written by some hammer-slinging maniac named Hephaestus.
Jona came back to the dorms on the Emerald floor covered in soot and sore to the bones, going straight to the showers, he barely had the strength to take off his clothes and stand there in the hot water as it cascaded over his shoulders.
He hurt so bad, even swear words were not enough to describe the all-day torture. Several minutes passed before he was able to scrub with a sponge that grew on a stick and struggled with that when he saw that the oversized pool of water that served as a bath for larger swimming dragons and thought that it would be enjoyable to just sit in the warm waters.
But it was so far to walk on his sore legs. Professor Vuul, the fire-drake from the south had him pumping the bellows for the forge for the last two hours— after he had swung a hammer on different metals that he learned to heat from barely able to hold it in his hand, to sparkling white-hot.
He shook his head, he had to fill the great tub and even with the massive-multiple faucet, it would take longer than he wanted to wait, and he had hot water now.
With the hot water running over his shoulders and cascading down his body, he felt a great deal better.
He was standing there with his eyes closed, letting the water do the magic of bringing a soul back to the comfort zone when he felt a soft hand slide over his left shoulder.
It was Kolo, the teaching assistant to Professor Vale.
“Let me wash your back. You look like you are in pain.”
Jona covered up as much as he could, yipping like a startled puppy.
“You… I mean… me… I’m…”
“You are naked, yes, and so am I. But relax, I was watching you and you need someone to wash you. We are on the same team, right? We take care of each other.” She smiled, her tail slowly sliding over his hip while the girl dragon rubbed his back with a fibrous sponge that a dragon-team harvested from halfway around the world.
Kona’s hands, covered in human like skin on the palm, had a slightly coarse texture, like the paw of a cat. It was very sensual, but Jona was not ready for sensual.
He was in too much pain with overused muscles that he never thought he had, understanding now, more than ever, why his dad was so strong.
Even with her ministrations of creams and perfect pressure of her fingers, Jona’s body punished him with cramps and heavy, aching arms that could not shut the water off to the shower, his fingers didn’t want to close tightly enough without cramping.
“Jona, you need a cuddle for the night.” Kolo said matter-of-factly as she turned the hammered-bronze and emerald water control to “off” and draped a large towel around his shoulders and tied the belt at his waist, creating a large tunic of soft brushed cloth against his skin.
“What? Are you trying to get me in your bed?”
“You can keep your clothes on, but you should know by now, dragons like to touch and be touched. I will let you sleep in my arms, it will be a help heal your muscles and you can go back to class.” She smiled, her eyes sparkled like nothing else. Kolo did not have faceted eyes like full-blooded dragons, but she had the glint that stopped conversations. “Besides, the cloth in that robe you wear has medicines in the fibers, they do the most work. I will just help you sleep.”
“Aw, I can’t do that, Sprite would not understand with another body in the bed.”
“Sprite is a dragon.” She smiled. “This is what she will desire most as she grows, the more the better in her mind. Dragons sleep together.”
Jona hurt in all his muscles. The thought of having the gentle touch of this dragon that he had a crush on sleeping with her arms and tail around him was beyond his dreams of desire.
“And I have a special nightshirt to wear to bed.” Jona said. “My mom made it for me.”
“Sprite has told me she loves cuddling with you and that shirt a great deal. It’s made of the finest fibers that could be found of Honeytree thread.” Kolo nodded. “When I was little, I had a sleep-ball made of Honeytree thread.
“Honeytree thread?” Jona blinked, it was the first time he had heard of the name.
“It grows in a valley two days’ flight from here. Think of the fur of a long-haired kitten, only as long as your arm and twice as soft.”
“How? I mean…” Jona stuttered.
“I have studied a great deal. I am still learning every day.” Kolo said softly, sitting on his bed, pulling him to her arms.
She was absolutely correct. His aching muscles needed to rest, the girl dragon laying with him, with her arms around him. The three of them lay in her huge bed, Sprite against his chest, Kolo spooned to his back, it was nothing like what he expected, it was like being in a giant kitten hug, without being overheated.
For all their scales, dragons were able to give an immersive sleep. And Jona slept without dreams, in the medicated toga, Kolo’s healing touch, Sprite’s love, his body healed far more quickly than if he slept alone.
Kolo watched the Jona sleep, her parents would fart flames to have a daughter curled up with a first-year student, and not wait until he was ready to graduate.
But he made her smile widely. For all his flaws for being a young human, he had the pheromones of a dragon, the brilliant mind of the best of humans and the heart of a master.
She just had to mentor him into being what he could be. She had to talk with the Green Man.
For now, however, Kolo the youngest, of the water clan of swimming dragons, closed all three eyelids on both her eyes and slept with the human in her arms who slept against her chest in a wonderful, warm snore.
(Setup: Beli O’Danu, shot with an arrow and is bleeding to death. The knowledge of the Draoithe (Irish Druid) are what stands between him and death.)
20. Old School Medicine
Donal continued to help his old friend down the path to the river. Conn with his father’s arm around his neck helped to partly carry and partly drag the elder O’Danu to where the two men directed.
“Here! Put me down, here.” Beli grunted painfully, as they came to a clearing.
Beli’s shirt was sticky with clotted blood and matted with a paste of moss and herbs he had smeared on his own chest. Putting the poultice where the arrow protruded, the herbs had slowed the bleeding.
“Conn, collect some wide-flat rocks and build a small fire.” Said Donal as he went down to the riverside and began selecting plants with a critical eye. “Clean and heat the rocks over the fire until the water cooks off.” The High-Priest directed while he searched for those plants needed to save his friend’s life.
Beli wheezed out orders to Conn on what rocks to look for. Donal returned with an armful of roots, twigs and herbs with fleshy leaves, setting them down on the ground, he began to wash his hands in the clear water of the stream, cleaning the mud off his fingers.
Conn collected several large, flat rocks, about the size of his two spread hands, he cleaned them well with clean water and placed them near the pile of twigs and leaves.
While Donal was sweating from his exertions of grinding the leaves and the moisture from the herbs had mixed with the bark that he had collected in a small mortar and pestle into a smooth dough like texture. Time was short and his friend’s life hung in the balance. The longer they took, the weaker Beli was getting.
Conn started the fire with the use of flints, gently blew on the ember that he had been able to spark. With the growing fire. Conn began to wash two stones near the stream, cleaning the stones with a soapwort rub, then washed with water until it was clear. Then, with the fire burning hotly, Conn put the two stones near the flames to dry.
Conn’s father-in-law made himself as comfortable as possible, kneeling near the fire, putting a collection of bark and herbs on one of the rocks that had a concave surface, then began to press the medicines together with a small well used silver rolling-pin.
As Donal pressed the juices from the succulent greens he had just picked, chosen with an expert eye, Conn watched closely as the elder Draoi crushed and mixed the ingredients with the experience that would let him watch for the proper texture and color of ingredients.
Placing more herbs, Donal continued to grind the organic bits together on the hot rock, the mixture sizzled and put off a strong smoke that made him blink and cough.
“It is better at an alter, the smoke does not drift into my face so I can use it for bandages and not choke or blind me.” Donal coughed again. His voice quavered slightly and he cleared his throat, getting back to his task.
Conn suspected, however, that not all the tears were from the smoke.
Conn helped Donal by slowly pouring water over the tops of the rocks with a small silver cup that the elder Draoi handed him. While Donal tore a leaf apart and began to mix it with water, heating it until it bubbled.
Donal touched a branch taken from a willow tree to the mixture, the thick, hot viscous liquor coated it cooled on the smoothed carved twig.
Beli, who had been watching this turned his eyes down the path, Gael, Conn’s mother and teacher walked towards them from the ocean where they had taken refuge from the advancing armies of Parliament.
Several of the women burst out in tears at the sight of the wounded Beli laying on his back, only to have the Gael silence them with a wave of her hand.
“Time now is not for tears! Now is the time to repair and save a life. We need the finest, clean linen that anyone has.”
Gael invoked her title as a High Priestess, the Ard-Draoi. The Baker family who were Druid Priests and Priestesses of the Scots, the name of Baker had a huge influence wherever they walked and Gael was not to trifle with when it came to her knowledge of the Draoithe.
From within a pouch she carried at all times, Gael produced smaller bags of salts and knelt by Donal who looked up and nodded. Taking several small bags laid them next to the fresh herbs that Donal had collected.
Niamh, Conn’s mother-in-law and High Priestess in her own right, directed the women to gather strips of clothing to prepare for dressings. Setting down her own bag of collected medicinal herbs that exceeded Gael’s in the form of infection control herbs.
Niamh took a handful of linen from Anne MacNamara, who had grabbed anything she could while running from the advancing troops. The clothing was the best she had, giving it up to the priestess who had the intense look and a sense of urgency not seen before. Anne was not about to cross Niamh the healer.
Walking with the armful of dresses, Niamh stopped and pulled up some roots of a nearby plant. At the stream, tearing strips out of the clothing that Anne had given her, Niamh began to wash the makeshift bandages in the clear water of the river while she ordered the other women to build a fire nearby.
Gael nodded to herself as she directed what kinds of plants to use for the fire. The three Draoi worked together with intensity to save the life of their friend and mate, for what was about to come was the hardest and most difficult part for them to do.
Beating the strips furiously with a stick over one of the rocks that Conn had gathered, the plants and cloth formed a thick lather that Niamh instructed the helping women, including her friend Gael to rinse out in the flowing clear water for some minutes until all the water flowed clear of the strips. One after another Gael and Niamh inspected the linen strips carefully. Those that passed inspection were hung to dry in the smoke of the slow fire that they built using bundles of incense gathered by the remaining women and children. The smoke of the herbs, they explained, prevented infection later.
These treated linens Gael handed Conn, instructing her son to hold them by the corners and not to interrupt her while she was explaining how to do what he needed to do.
Detached from the activities that would save his life, Beli laughed silently, no matter how old her son was, he was still Gael’s child and would follow her directions.
Conn, used to giving orders and being in charge bowed to his mothers sharp tongue and the father-in-law’s orders of what to do and how to do it.
As Beli lay on the ground, weakly moving his hands as if to guide the operation. A dozen of the villagers that had found refuge among the bluffs of the shore worked furiously to gather herbs under the directions of Donal and the Priestesses. Few had time to stand and watch, praying for the injured elder while they foraged for the needed herbs. So many had died that day, no one wanted to watch another one of their own also pass at the hands of the Parliament’s Agents.
“By the stones!” Beli wheezed out, his agitation growing with the pain. “This is beginning to seriously hurt!”
“It is going to hurt more before it gets better old friend, “Donal knelt next to Beli, “this might have been easier if I had the Spoon of Diokles with me, but that all burned with the village.”
Beli tried to interrupt but Donal shushed him.
“Yes, I have the Saultis Ominus nearly ready. Yes, our wives have the dressings nearly dry over the fire and clear of bad airs. Yes, we have the proper herbs.” Donal pressed a finger to the wounded man’s lips. “Shut up and rest.” There was no appeal to Donal’s command.
Then Donal’s tone softened as he touched his friend on the shoulder.
“Beli, to take this spike out of your chest will be difficult and the wound is deep.”
“I have made it this far,” Beli looked slowly around at the mountains and then the sky. “I’m ready to do this. This is hurting more with each breath. But I am not coughing up blood, my fingers are not white at the nails, if it has caused a hole where the blood flows, it is plugging it up now. When you pull it out, it will unplug the hole like a bung from a barrel. Then I would be dead before you could stop the bleeding.” Beli wheezed painfully.
“Beli,” Donal said softly.
“I know…” Grimacing against the pain he interrupted as he grabbed at his old friend’s chest, “I cannot live with this in and every moment it is in me, the more damage and the more pain it causes. It must come out, one way or another. It is good that it is you, you have the best knowledge to do this. You have pulled these out of men before during battles.”
Donal nodded, mixing the dried and powdered herbal potion with the smallest amount of water to mix a paste on the cleaned linens. Conn brought some powdered leaf over on the warm rock with the willow branch, now cut by Gael who carefully heated the twig over the fire until it turned color, she was careful as not to burn the wood as it would be ruined, and Gael did not have time to prepare a new branch.
Taking the remaining uncooked paste, Donal smeared the pungent mixture over his hands. Donal who wrinkled his nose at the smell.
“It tingles my hands and burns my nose — Aye, it is a strong mix. This will either cure you or kill you old friend!”
“Where is my bite rag?” Beli groaned. “Be good and sure it has the medicine in it.”
Conn brought the linen pouches that they made up for the procedure. One, moist but light in weight and green, the other that was heavier but dry and colored tan. Careful to kneel next to his mother as he held them out to Gael on a cleaned rock, who took the light one and handed the larger, heavier tan wrap to Donal who set it along on the edge of the heated rock.
Donal nodded at Gael and Beli, everything was ready.
“Put it in your mouth. Beli, bite down a few times.”. Gael gave no room for debate as she looked down at her husband, holding the thumb sized green rag to his lips.
“I know what to do!” Said Beli, with his voice muffled by the green linen bag.
“Shush and chew, husband.” She kissed his forehead. “Before I thump you.” The threat was without weight of malice. The only emotion she let be obvious, sharp she might be, he was the love of her life.
Donal looked at Conn, “I will need you to pack the wound with the flat of the willow-branch there. Scoop up the powder and dump it in and around the hole after I remove the spike until the bleeding stops or there is a pile over it. If he bleeds too much, your father will not stand a chance. But I venture an opinion that it has missed his vitals.”
One last breath Donal braced himself, wrapping his hand around the iron neck of the arrow-bolt, he held it for a moment, looking into the eyes of his friend and son-in-law’s father. Beli had become quiet. He had a familiar, dreamy look on his face and an odd glazed look in his eye that showed that he was already in an induced sleep.
“No pulsations from the shaft, this is a promising sign. Okay, straight out and easy.” Donal said quietly.
“Niamh, Conn hold on to his arms. Gael, keep him calm.” Drawing a deep breath, he looked at his old friend. “Beli, see you on the other side my brother.”
A gentle pull and Beli became wide-eyed with a grunt as the pain exploded through him. Gripping the green grass underneath him tightly.
“Keegan! Keegan! Tá brón orm! Fill ar ais go dom mo garmhac! Tar ar ais chugam!*” Beli screamed.
(*Keegan! Keegan! I am sorry! Return to me my grandson! Come back to me!)
Gael, kneeling at Beli’s head squeezed red juice from a cloth with bark and berries into her husband’s mouth, the extra plant extract calming him further. Taking care that Beli would not stop breathing under the narcotic effects of the herbal medicines, the effects were rapid and predictable.
Donal kept pulling, not letting up and not letting go for worry that it would do more damage as it returned to its resting place. But, if he pulled too hard it would cause a suction that could kill his patient.
Moments passed and the shaft did not move. Then slowly as Donal applied a little more pull on the arrow, it began to back out. Imperceptibly at first as sweat beaded on Donal’s forehead, then the arrow shaft started to move steadily backwards out of the chest of his best friend and family member.
It was out the length of a fingernail. Dried blood on the shaft was the marker how deep it had been.
“Pour some powder around the base of the shaft.” Donal told Conn.
“Keep him from moving his head as much, he flexes his muscles here and in his back when he moves. It is making it difficult and more painful.” Donal admonished Gael as he kept the tension on the shaft.
Width of a finger out.
The dart began to slide out of the wound more easily, the tapered shaft, Donal thanked the Gods it was not a broad head. Built with socket-fitted tip on the wooden arrow. They forged the tip to penetrate armor and then wedge in the metal skin with the wood fibers, made for piercing armor and disabling but it was not efficient at killing.
Wisdom held that it took more men of the enemy to remove the wounded from the field of battle than to tend the dead. Those that were left then would have the archers come down and the killing would be done with knife, sword or ax on the battlefield.
Two fingers width of arrow withdrawn.
“More powder, get the cloth ready to staunch the bleeding.” A small trickle of blood was visible. Donal had one hand on the patients chest, pushing while the other hand pulled on the iron neck of the arrowhead.
With a wet sucking sound, the needle sharp arrowhead came out of Beli’s chest.
“Now, pour some powder in the hole and cover it up with the cloth and press firmly, until I tell you to stop.” Donal told Conn, “Not TO hard! Don’t break your father’s ribs. He won’t like that.”
His hand firmly over the hole and watching the blood soak into the cloth as he pressed directly on the wound, Conn was now sure that the old man was going to live. Donal carefully put down the blood-slicked spike. It was well made, fortune was with them, no barbs or splinters anywhere on the edges and no bleeding salts had been on the shaft. Donal did not cause more damage with the removal. The arrow did all the insult to the body at the moment when it entered his chest.
Turning back, “You can take your hand away,” Donal covered Conn’s hands and smiled. “apprentice, you have done well! You teach us how to build ships, we will teach you, yet, about herbs, medicines and how to heal.” Donal said as he dressed the wound with the bandages prepared by the women.
Conn chuckled, it had been a long time since anyone dared call him an apprentice, but here? Here he was well outside of his normal circles. Looking at his mother, she smiled at him, making him feel young again.
“You did well, Conn.” Croaked Beli, “Don’t you agree, Gael?”
“Shush, you old shoe.” Gael looked down at him. “You made me a near widow, when you are fit I will make you fear me more than death, enough to step away from any arrow. I will not do this again with you! I’ll find me a handsome young man and toss you out!”
Tears were in her eyes as she spoke, there was no conviction in the words. He might be an old shoe, but he was hers and she took care of all her belongings. She was the queen of collecting in the family and her family was her prize collection, Conn her only child and Beli her only mate. They taught and treated together many children and people, every day it was another family that needed to help a child born into the world or a negotiation between clans. Gael’s family was her soul.
Donal opened a pouch withdrew a couple of stones, setting one aside, then another.
“No, wrong effect. This one is wrong, too. There! This one.” Then with a skilled touch, Donal began to grind a small chip into a powder.
Conn looked and recognized a few of the stones in the pouch, many he did not.
“Bloodstone, feldspar, rubháid bairestone. What is this?”
“That, my son, is ‘Sruthfola’, it can cause severe bleeding. Only used in scant amounts to keep blood thin to promote healing on some injuries.” Beli whispered, “Or stuck into someone to cause them bleed for a long, long time without stopping.”
Conn looked at his father, he was still glassy-eyed from the herbal cloth that Gael pushed into his mouth, but he was still awake and able to talk.
“Dittany, is a plant that stops bleeding and promotes healing. I’ll be well enough in a day.” Moaned Beli, his voice a bit stronger now.
“NO! Beli! I will thump you!” Growled Gael, pulling her husband of so many seasons down to his back by an ear. “You will heal and rest.”
“She’s right. No herb or magic can take the place of healing. Magic can fix the problem, but the body must go back in balance.” Donal said to Beli, he would not dare oppose Gael now in any case.
“Then catch up with my son. He is walking with that look in his eye again. He is thinking of something.”
Chapter 31. In the Showers.
Sprite was laying against Jona’s back, stealing the blankets like all girls everywhere do. Jona woke up cold.
But he had time for a shower in his new semi-private room, the only problem was the lack of privacy between human and dragon and genders.
His first experience with this upper level shower room was when his hair was full of soap when someone came in.
This alone was not out of the ordinary, the bathrooms were huge and built to fit all sizes of beings.
But the voices nearly made him slip on the smooth, snowflake obsidian floors.
“Can I use your hair soap?” A female voice said.
Two female dragons had walked in and were showering and talking together.
“Careful, human-boy.” The gold dragon said, she smiled. “I know you. You’re in the Dawn Room alone, which is very cool in my opinion. But a lot of students hate being alone here.”
“My name is Starr, my parents are Polaris ice-dragons. But I am a kind of throwback, I don’t like the cold, I like warm showers.”
The redheaded human girl who stripped down had put golden scaled boots next to her clothes and stepped into the shower, borrowed Starr’s shampoo.
“This is my roommate, Beulah Kate Archi Baker.”
“Call me Kate.” She said dangerously. “I don’t know why you introduce me like that.”
“It’s that or as Boots. You wear that collection of footwear you have all the time.” Starr said.
“I just like my shoes.” Then turning to Jona. “You can stop looking now, yes, I am human, yes, I am redhead, yes, the water is cold. Make no mistake, I am willing and able to throw you out of here.”
“Kate is a member of the Wild Witch Warrior club. They perform caged magic battles.”
“Caged ..what?” For a moment, Jona forgot he was standing naked in a shower in front fo two girls. “I don’t understand.”
Starr sighed happily as she let hot water flow over her head of fine golden feathers and down her armored back. The scales she had here fine, almost skin-like on most of her body, but the dorsal scales were overlapping armor, each scale the size of his thumb with, what looked like, dentations that interlocked, giving her a silvery metallic stripe down her back.
“That’s unique coloring you have on your spine.” Jona became more comfortable with being naked in front of the girls. They paid him no mind as each one went to the job of preparing for the day.
“It is my adult scales coming out, it starts on the spine and eventually I will have all these covering me. My mom is the color of the moon. Dad looks like a setting sun. He is all copper.”
“They look smooth.” Jona said.
“Do you want to touch them?”
“Careful, what is your name?” Kate asked, leaning back to rinse out her hair. She had freckles down her body that looked like she was the victim of someone with a small marker and put dots all over her body.
“My name is Jona.”
“Jona! Don’t stroke her back, you will lose whatever dignity you have. She likes humans.” Kate winked.
“He won’t lose any dignity, he will know what dragon loving is like!” Starr said with a wink.
“As I said.” Kate laughed.
Jona felt his ears burn at the flirty women as he dressed.
The two girls finished while he was dressing and he could understand why Starr called Kate “Boots” for the colorful footwear she pulled on.
Starr did not get dressed, just wrapping up in a towel then stepping close to Jona.
“She is right, I do like humans, males and females both.” Starr winked. “I’m quarter-human myself.”
Before Jona realized it, Starr’s prehensile tail slid up the back of his leg, touching every part of his back and shoulders.
“Mmm. Nice.” Starr winked a jeweled eye at him. “Come see me if you ever cannot sleep.”
“Jona, take my word, once you do ice, nothing is never as nice.” Kate said. “And you can call me Boots.”
“Byeee.” Starr whispered as she slipped out of the room.
“Sorry about her. She has a heat cycle, when she needs to take hot showers, no one is safe.” Boots smiled and waved as she left.
Jona laughed and walked back to his room. This floor was far different from “The Mine”.
Chapter 30. New Year Session
Tired, sore muscles, a continual headache from boggling at history, teamwork and predicted future, not counting the lessons in magic taught by Cranndair the Green Wizard, the students walked, crawled and a few fluttered back to their rooms in the various houses they belonged to. All were bone-tired.
If anything, the Green Wizard taught with the students in a practical application, humans and dragons and those that had a bit of both, hugged and smiled as they parted company, instead of being in separate houses, they all knew they were of one house.
The House of The Green Man.
Sprite had grown even longer, although she had gained some length, her weight had not increased, she continued to grow longer but, like all children, she started to stretch out into a willow of a creäture.
Back in the house of Garnet, Jona walked to his room and found Sam-Sam had already returned and unpacked.
“Hi Jona! Are you back, visiting the lower side a bit with us? You don’t have a room on the brown garnet level, anymore. You have gone up on the scale. They should place you at least in blue, if not green, I’d say. You spent winter’s break with the Green Man. So you would have a room there.”
“I didn’t know. Where would I have found that change?”
“Professor Vale posted it on pillar by the front door.”
“Oh, ugh. I was too tired, the Green Wizard is about killed us all.”
“Yeah, he does that. He is spry for an old guy, a thousand years old and he can move a mountain with a finger. Not even Professor Vale is more powerful.” Sam said.
“That is because the Green Wizard lives with Nature.”
“Yeah, always in that mountain.” Sam nodded. “He has more power from the trees and rocks that he cares for.”
“No, it’s not that, his mate is Nature.” Jona laughed. “She is his spouse.”
“Dude, didn’t you go to study with him once?”
“No, I was more interested in racing and never went, I learned all I wanted about him from those that have went there and came back all broken down and dirty.” Sam shook his head. “Teamwork, what good is that in a race with one-on-one paired rider and ride?”
“When the world has floods, fires, or earthquake, how do we help each other?”
“Well, how do…” A familiar voice interrupted Jona.
“Well, I thought you might be lost.” It was Kolo. “Well, sexy human, you do not live here anymore, your room is in another level, since you came back from the Green Man’s mentor program. Did you learn a lot?”
“Oh HI Kolo! Oh wow, did I ever!” Jona said.
“You lost weight.” She traced her finger over Jona’s left shoulder. “You look good. You could be ridden, looking like that. You would be a good training for a racer girl.”
“What?” Jona boggled.
“Never mind. You are sexy looking, just saying.” Kolo winked. “Come with me, we need to find your new room.”
“Okay.” Jona was still trying to get his mind around the flirt he had just gotten. Dragons were a strange group. They loved like no other, but loved one after another.
“Sam.” Kolo turned to Jona’s ex-roomie. “Come with me, you are on the Blue floor. It appears you did not check either.”
“I did! The color was brown.”
“You did not have a color until this morning. Your grades have improved and the professors were talking about keeping you and Jona together. Jona is a good influence on you it seems.”
“He just showed me around.” Jona said.
“Jona, you got him to attend class. Attendance is the single most important thing in school, even if you don’t work, the professors feel that you absorb information by sitting there with your eyes open. Sam has been at ever class last session.”
“Well, I’ll have to pack.”
“I’ll send Wynter for you.”
“AH! I’ll be packed in two minutes! Don’t send the Wyvern for me!” Sam jumped up and was immediately stuffing clothes into a pillow-slip and wrapping the rest up in his big wool blanket he brought from home.
“Why is he worried about Wynter?”
“Wynter is a wyvern, and he has no patience for lower level students. He is especially angry with Sam-Sam, they’re related and he bragged about Sam being smarter than most everyone around before this little hatchling arrived.” Kolo laughed. “I think Wynter would roll Sam up in the blanket and play football down the hallway with him.”
“Yeah, you kick it, until it gets to where you want it to go.”
“Ooooh!” Jona laughed, imagining Sam-Sam the Dragon, already in hot water with his family, being used as a sports toy.
“Here we are. Green level.” Kolo said, her tail swaying in a more serpentine way when she was walking in front of Jona. Jona could hear the other men whisper to each other when they walked in.
“Kolo, why is he here? This is a Brown Level Garnet.” A red dragon with vestigial-black wings and eye-brow scales said. Chain mail that glittered in the light when the dragon moved, they had arms like some other people had legs.
Very muscular legs.
“Mars, this is Jona, he just came back from winter break with the Green Wizard. He passed with the wizard giving him a pat on the back and an invitation to come back.”
“Well! That is different, welcome Jona. I am Mars, the senior leader of the game-players club. Do you play Drake and Hunter?”
“I never heard of it.”
“Awesome, you are human? If you get to enjoy this and want to play a lot, you can join our club. The only requirements are good grades and play at least a bit every day.” Mars nodded, his scales glistened like polished jewels. If one did not know that he was a dragon, one would thing he was human dressed in fine scale armor.
“Mars,” Kolo smiled and traced her finger over his ear (Mars’ eyes dialated and Jona swore he could hear the scales shake.) “Would you ask that Jona have a tutor to keep his grades up? Professor Vale has requested that Jona keep his studies going from the Green Man. Jona is a racer and a good one at that.”
“You do can keep doing that, Kolo, but so that you know I’d do it anyway.” Mars laughed. Turning to Jona. “She is the one that keeps Garnet house going. And she is cute.”
Mars shook his head to clear his vision.
“You know how to touch my feelers,” Mars sighed and Kolo laughed softly.
Jona laughed awkwardly as the pretty girl dragon flirted with the brawny leader of the Green level.
“Where is my room?” Jona asked.
“This way,” Kolo smiled. “You have a choice, Green Level has had a change in tenants here. A few have not kept up their grades, another has aced her studies and has moved up from Emerald to Gold level.”
“What is Emerald level?”
“This one. We call it green informally, but the official term is Emerald. Blue is Sapphire, Brown is Rough.”
“As in unpolished and dirty.”
“Oooh!” Jona said as Kolo led him to his room.
“Here is where you will stay. Mars’ is at the end of the hall, he has a private room, most of his club members meet there. You will have no one else in this room for a while. So I will check on you from time to time to make sure you are keeping your studies up.”
“Mars will, too?”
“Yes, it is important to the house that we keep our ratings up. It is a contest between each house who has the highest ranked students. It will also give you a chance to study with the Green Wizard once again.”
“I’m not sure I can survive another round with him.” Jona laughed.
“It will do you good. You will find studying here is easier than with that old man.”
A soft voice behind Jona, a human girl with tight curly hair and dark skin whispered to the new arrival.
“That is for sure, the Green Wizard made me want to come back so much, I made sure my grades were high enough I could go again.”
“I did not see you there.” Jona said.
“Part of my skills, I’m a member of the Fae.”
“No, that is a music group in about a hundred centuries, I am fae.” She smiled, probing eyes looked into his eyes to see if he understood the joke. “My family are more magical than dragons.”
“No, well, in a stretch of the sense, I suppose, I can change size.”
“You can get bigger?”
“Ohh, no. I am at my largest now, I can get smaller, a lot smaller.” She smiled. “My name is Retta. This is my last year.”
“Pleased to meet you.”
Watching her walk away, she wore her armor like it someone painted it on and then oiled over the leathery parts until she shimmered when she walked.
“Human boys are so much fun. Brain damaged since puberty and it takes years to have enough blood to run all your parts at the same time.”
Laughing at himself, Jona moved into his new room that he had no one to share with.
The second session in the main school of Dragon Master University was going to be fascinating.
Chapter 27. Jona Hates Logs
Every one, dragon and human, male or female dragged in after six hours to eat lunch.
The Green Wizard stood in the door with his arms crossed, having watched the chaos that was the effort to put the logs in the holes.
They had pushed, pulled, used ropes and the water dragon- twice the size of a normal full grown male human and named after his ancestor, Kraken- used knots to keep the ropes from slipping.
Big levers made from saplings the students rolled, dragged, sledged, wedged the logs into place.
Each one of the students were tired to their core, on the eating tables behind the Green Wizard, piles of mashed potatos, vegetables that steamed with fresh salted butter sitting in bowls, large meat-plates with fish and roast-beast.
“Stop!” The green leaves in his beard trembled with the force of his command. “You have failed the test. Only six of twelve I see are in place as directed.”
“But sir,” Jona spoke. “They are larger than all of us.”
Jona spoke the truth. One log was so large across that he could stand at the cut end and rest his chin on the bark, and his toes would barely be at the ground.
And for a human, Jona grew into a tall youth. The tree, the Wizard alluded that it was a branch off the main trunk in his lectures, was enormous.
And yet, the Green Man tapped his leaf-sprouting staff on the ground, and the succulent foods… vanished.
Replaced with pitchers of ice water, weak teas and bread. Cheeses on plates, but only just enough.
In the glen, each log lifted out of their respective holes and floated up to the landing on the hill above and neatly stacked themselves.
The old man did not need them to do the work, it was a test, as he said.
“I instructed each of you to work as a team, to use your strengths. And yet?” He looked to each and every one of the small class of students. “You spend all your time crawling around in the mud like children, getting aches and pains, covered in slime, bugs, fungus.”
The Wizard plucked a mushroom out of the hair of a human girl, Zeva, and sniffed it.
“Death’s head mushroom. Very deadly. But not ready for class. That’s next week.” He said, tossing it to the earth, where it walked back to where it came from.
“Precocious young fruit, that was. Rather persnickety.” Then looking back at the class. “You will eat what is on your plates and no more. Then return to the hill again. There will be a six-hour test again, no breaks. Twelve logs, one in to each hole. Then you can eat the meals of champions, but not until you have finished to my satisfaction.”
The eyes of the Green Wizard passed over each grimy and exhausted face of the students.
“But mister Wizard, the day has been long now.”
“Then go home. You wish to learn about each other, every dragon lives on the wish of human, every human lives as long as a dragon wills it. No one can live without the other in this world, some humans have taken upon themselves to rid the world of dragon-kind. They will kill other humans in the hunt for dragon. You must find a way to work together. “ He looked around “Go eat. I will lecture while you are in there.”
They all filed in. The bread was fresh and warm with a crackly crust of herbs and salt crystals. A woman came in and carried plates of bread, putting a large slice on each plate in front of the humans and dragons. Two large slices for the larger dragons, a whole loaf for Kraken, the largest of the students.
While they ate, the Green Wizard, the wise man of the mountain began to walk along the tables.
“You all dragged the logs down that hill.” He looked around. “Koan, why did you use ropes to drag?”
“Sir, we could not roll them all the way, there is no room to do so, we would flatten the entire forest.”
“Aye, that would be true. What options did you have?”
“We could have carried them.”
“Ach! No!” The grandfatherly eyes beneath the white eyebrows got big. “One of you slip, the log comes down and I have no more class.”
“We cannot make them float as you do.” Jona said.
“No?” The old man stroked his beard. “I must be teaching wrongly. I thought I taught medicine and critical thinking.”
“Sir.” Kraken spoke up after stuffing a loaf of bread with the scant, cold meat that was on his plate. “We pushed and tried to lift.”
“Did you?” He stroked his beard again. “Did you try to lift it together?”
“That was dangerous, like you said.” Jona said.
“Aye,” The old man nodded. “But you have both ropes and some of you have wings?”
The entire room went quiet.
The Green Wizard smiled softly.
“A dragon has lifting power well beyond what even they know. That small dragon on your shoulder, Jona, could lift you off your feet if she had to.”
“I think Sprite is male.” Jona corrected.
“Oh. Well, still the truth is there.” The old man nodded. “How many flyers of your size or larger is in this room?”
Again, the room went silent.
“You have six hours.” The mentor said and stood in the room. “By my calculations, if you do it correctly, you will finish in less than one-hour. The food you saw before, will be waiting for you and the day finished. You will be free for the next two days.”
Never had Jona eaten so quickly, and still he was not the first to finish as dragons and humans gathered outside to plan their mission.
As predicted by their mentor, they were done in less than an hour.
Chapter 26. The Logs, The Holes And The Challenge
The old mentor was exhausting in his teachings. Six-days of classes, one day off to study the notes he lectured about. It was as if the Green Wizard expected them to learn a sport.
If they did something, they did it together.
Plus, any comments made to each other that the wizard considered off-color, weird things happened to remind the offending student that it was unacceptable behavior. Never could a boy or a dragon say that someone could not do this or that because being a weaker gender or species.
A chair would fail suddenly, or disappeared entirely, dumping the offending student on the floor or the old man was right there, like a ghost breathing in the students ear, handing him or her a broom or shovel to go clean some miserable corner of the forest glen.
Then a miserable chore to build the teacher’s house.
Early in the morning on the first day of the weekly class cycle, the Green clad and bearded instructor appeared in the rooms and banged his staff on the floor.
Not hard, but the sound was as if an explosion in a volcano erupted.
Even the deepest, sleeping dragon sat straight up on cue in their bed.
And it’s said that a dragon could sleep for centuries, through anything a humans might do.
This morning, however, each dragon was up, humans ran about gathering clothes. Following the green-clad wizard appeared to wear leaves in his beard and hair today.
“Shoes and footwear today, each one of you must dress accordingly. Even dragon’s scaled feet and claws may be injured.” The voice of distant thunder echoed in the clearing.
“Your challenge is a simple one. A circle of pillars, made of the logs that sit on a landing on the hill, there.” The Green Man pointed. “Each of the timbers are from an immortal tree and each one is alive and waiting for planting in fertile soil. Each of these you will carefully place in the holes indicated by the sunspark that dances above it.”
Walking around inside the circle of students.
“You are few, but you have knowledge on how to plant growing things.” The Wizard said. “Be honest with yourselves. Work together and create a cathedral here that would stand against the tests of time and weather. There are six-hours to do this challenge in. You will eat afterwards. There will be no breaks until you have completed your task.” The Green leaf-covered slave-driver looked around. “Fail? Then you will return to the school as lower class students to repeat the year before.”
The whispers of shock moved through their ranks with the speed of thought.
“I can’t go back as lower caste!”
“What would my parents say?”
“This is my first year.” Jona thought. “How can I get lower?”
“Go!” The Green Wizard’s voice echoed in the forest and their heads.
It was a long…
Jona never missed Sprite nearly so much as he did that day.
Chapter 25. The Green Man
Professor Vale did not tell tall tales about the Green Wizard.
Born before hair! It was true!
Jona nearly broke out laughing, the Green Wizard’s beard was as white as a snowfall, but the moment the wizard took his hat off and bowed to his new students, the gleam from his head would have blinded an earthworm.
Remembering the warning that the Professor had given, Jona would never. Ever.
‟Never talk about the bare skinned head.”
Such a shine that resided under the peaked hat, Jona had no doubt that he could track the head in the dark if he had no hat on.
‟Ah, now we have you all here. Tonight, find your rooms, you will see your names on each room in the tower.” The beard, tied and retied in a maze of beads and knotted and colored silk, moved in complex ways when the Green Wizard spoke. The effect was slightly hypnotic.
Jona walked up the wide stairs to the second level of the cavernous home. Set into the side of a mountain, the small cabin opened up into the cliff face, an area wide enough to seat a hundred students in the amphitheater inside.
‟And he only takes a few at once.” Jona said to himself as he found his room.
Walking inside, the room was an efficient design, a single bed with two pillows and a small blanket with Sprite’s name embroidered on it.
Sprite, riding on Jona’s shoulder— nearly both shoulders these days, since being with larger dragons, Sprite had grown rapidly. Something he had learned in Dragon Health and Growth class. Dragons grew faster and larger when around larger dragons, Sprite was now maturing at a phenomenal rate.
The days would be insufferable without the little guy. A hard day with the Green Man in a jokingly distant relation to a kitchen, the thunderous voice rated them on their knowledge and skills. Today was medicines and pain-killers from the twigs of a willow tree.
The tea that Jona produced would curl the spines of the largest dragon, but, the Green Wizard said it was good medicine for many ailments and pains.
“Just be carefull when using this tea. In concentrated form, it can cause more harm than good.” The old man said with a frown as he imposed the intense lessons into the class while the students stood around the tables.
Glass jars, sharp knives, Koan the human who was a quarter dragon, it was a full classroom.
Jona liked to stand so that she was always in sight. Koan’s hair was brilliantly red and orange, giving clues to her family heritage. Her black eyes were counterpoint to the lighter skin, an inherited trait of the dragon that was her ancestor.
“Tsing! You are cooking down this batch of tea too strongly! It will cause bleeding, you will have a greater problem than a mild fever or ache.”
“But, sir,” The slender dragon from the east nodded. “But it was not the right color.”
“You have boiled the liquid down by half, you have doubled the strength. This will make it dangerous for dragon or human alike to partake, unless you dilute it. If you concentrate it any more, it will become toxic to the touch for dragons.”
“Toxic to the touch?”
“Aye. A concentration in the right proportions helps for pain and fever for dragons. Too much, if it’s concentrated, will soak in through the dragon’s skin, underneath the scales. This will cause effects from bleeding to madness and death.”
“ACH! I am not a professor. I am your mentor, teacher and foster-father if need. I am not one of those passive spewing, race course, long-winded politician want-to-be’s. More than half of those professors there, human and dragon alike, would run from a fight. They have no clue what it is to sacrifice for anyone. They teach, they have not done anything.” His eyes sparkled with repressed fury.
Jona was taken aback, the Green Wizard was not joking. Remembering that Professor Vale said that the Green Wizard was his father. That Vale had sacrificed his humanity for the village of people and his wife.
That was the reference about not knowing what it was like to sacrifice.
The Green Wizard taught in different ways.
2. Be Continued
Smoke was heavy as the ‟helo” came in for a landing on the mountaintop. Winds were unpredictable, but the hand crew deployed quickly as they expertly handed out the tools of their trade.
Brush hooks – a kind of curve-bladed ax that looks like a shepard’s staff with a razor’s edge that they used to cut and drag brush out of the fire break
Pulaski grubbing tools – An ax on one side and a trenching and grubbing tool on the other. Looks like a cousin to a pick.
McLeod – a hoe and rake combination built on the toughest proportions. Probably the least favorite tool that the crews used, but the most useful.
The R-5 Fire shovel. A short-handled round nose shovel with a sharpened edge for cutting through roots and digging quickly. Used for scraping ground and throwing dirt on fire for direct suppression. Often used to do final clean up by the firefighter crew and are last in line of a firefight often called the drag shovel.
Firefighter bodies were ready for this. Trained, hardened by repeated morning abuse called ‟Physical Training”. The team of men and woman would perform a series of stretches and aerobic exercises that ended with a five-mile run. All before sunrise and breakfast.
All summer, they would sweat more before breakfast than most people did all day. Polishing and sharpening their tools, checking equipment, then a half hour after breakfast they would load up and head to scheduled projects for inspection or maintenance of brush clearing on roadways in the back-country. Gloves and hard-hats worn, they would test or inspect construction areas. There was little area of the mountainous terrain that they did not step foot in, a thousand square-miles that they protected with their brethren of other operational bases or centers. Dad often called her “Princess” and told her of things he did during the days he was away in his letters.
‟Continuing: It is twelve-hours later, we have cut almost five-kilometers of line in an area that is too hazardous for bulldozers. I’m seriously tired, but we need to eat here in a bit, the sun has gone down and we are now in a parking lot-sized area where the helicopters land. I see a comfy rock that we are going to sleep on in a little while. In the meantime, my meal is cooking in a can. Someone brought some spam (Yes, I know, but when you are hungry and tired, everything is a banquet!) and we are cooking it over a candle powered stove in its own can.”
‟We need to eat and then get back to the line, we are to join up with another crew that is cutting towards us. The fire is about two miles off.. probably you use metric when you are reading this so that would be a little over three kilometers and moving in our direction. We are cutting this line below the ridge top and backfiring as we go. (That is, we are burning it up to the ridge.) Food! Be back later. Don’t go away.”
She laughed. Writing on paper and he puts her on hold. ‟Don’t go away.” Once again, reminded that he was always next to her in her heart.
She remembered and loved his sense of humor.
‟Back! It is now another ten-hours later, I’m making a hike out with the rest of the crew. We had crews airlifted in, but we were out of position to get a ride, so… While we are on a break from our walk out I need to catch you up, quick. We cut a line around this old hill and hooked up with the Pine Mountaineers crew, your mom’s old party station. My crew, Iron Canyon Kings were with them when the USFS did a backfire that became a giant operation. It was not planned. (HAHAHA!) the small backfire kinda backfired. But it stopped the main front in the end. It was USFS’s game plan, but the vegetation was dryer than predicted and a bit of an uphill wind did more than expected. No one was hurt, but I don’t think the US Forest Ranger will handle a drip-torch like that again. HAHA! The backfire flared a bit more than planned and there were a few moments of a significant pucker-factor.”
She laughed. His stories of the fireline were always an adventure.
‟Anyway, we’re hiking again. We have three hours of steady walking to go, after that? I get on a bus and head back to the deployment area. We have been out here for two-weeks now and I expect the fire will be fully contained by the end of our down-time. Three days before this all started, your mom said we were expecting you to join us in less than a year. This is simply awesome! Anyway. Not much to write as far as a letter goes. This little bit o’paper will get stuffed into a file somewhere along with many others I hope to write. Anyway. Love you, (baby boy or baby girl!) Dad.
PS. Need to get used to that now, don’t I?”
She missed him, wherever he was. The advertisement in the magazine for wildland firefighters to go to a third world country that was suffering from a severe drought and fires that were threatening to devastate the ecology and economy.
The large salary offered was too tempting to pass up. So Dad went when it was winter in the northern hemisphere to fight fires at the bottom of the world for six months.
And never came home.
A year later, a the government sent a half-dozen boxes back. The helicopter transporting firefighters crashed with only one broken radio call for help. The helicopter identifier called with ‟Mayday!” then silence. Destruction of the air transport was complete, some of the local war-clans had stripped the damaged aircraft and burned the rest without thought of reporting or even admission of involvement.
Of a dozen-firefighters and two pilots in the flight, the charred remains of the only ones that could be identified were in coffins.
The search and rescue reported that the area around the Blackhawk transport was:
‟Complete combustion of airframe and personnel.”
Official speak for nothing was left.
So she stood with a file folder of hand-written letters tucked into a handwritten book of spells, looking over the rail of the bridge and the (now empty) jar of ashes that an investigator liaison had collected at the scene and sent to the families. Five years since the helicopter went down, mom still talked as if he were just about to walk through the door.
When she was younger, it made an odd sense of being closer to him and she was wishing she was a witch practicing “white magic” and had said a spell over a few hairs she had recovered from his bristle brush he used and some glitter that she scraped from the family portrait frame he made years ago. She and mom had a huge fight over that.
It was disrespectful, mom said through her tears.
It was the last time she tried any kind of magic, until now. Now it was in the water, the final act of the complex spell. She had one last thing to do, it was an immature effort, perhaps, but it was all she had.
Cassiopeia O’Danu dropped a yellow rose into the waters as they flowed out into the Pacific ocean with the second part of the complex spell spoken in Old Irish.
While Cassi watched the rose of remembrance float away to its destination. She included one wish after she finished with the spell she had read from the pages of her book.
The wish? She had said it before, but anything to help increase the force of the spell of return.
‟Dad, come home.”
Chapter 24. Autumn Winds
Professor Ghoti walked through the classroom, her wings pulled up tightly against her body as she walked among the desks. Her prehensile tail Holding her clipboard in front of her as she passed out papers for taking notes on environment stresses.
‟Remember the lectures, each dragon and human lives on the land and in the water. Destruction of any of these alters the destiny of the future and those that live in it. Great dragons that abused their skills and powers and found themselves opposed by great humans who had altruistic goals, only then subsumed by those that followed that would destroy the lands in the name of wealth.” She looked around. ‟Greed, it is an illness that possesses dragon and human alike. Take notes well, my young souls, you must know the history of those that wished to have power and wealth over everyone to the destruction of themselves.”
‟Professor.” It was a young dragon from the north, sitting behind Jona, he barely came up to Jona’s shoulder, his sapphire-blue eyes sparked with high intelligence. ‟Isn’t greed a cause of conflict between all the people of the earth?”
Jona looked at him, his pupils where six pointed, re-enforcing the look of eyes made from star-sapphires.
‟A lust for power and wealth, yes. Two ambitious souls, whether they have scale or hair, will end in conflict. Coexistence is what we learn, contest and struggle is how we entertain ourselves, but that is a class for another time. Today, we are talking about humans that cut whole forests to build, dragons that will dig great holes to strip a mountain of its wealth in gold and silver. Even minds as bright as yours in this room, find attraction to things that glitter. It is the nature of human and dragon, and the point of conflict. Humans have a talent as hunters and creators of wealth. Dragons have abilities to smell gold and silver, able to create works of art so large that the human eye cannot see them for the scale they are on. Only from above where the eyes of the dragonkind are common, humankind must fly with cooperation of dragons to see what they have created.”
‟Professor, I don’t understand.” Kalam, a sand-dragon, slender and athletic. An outcast of a flying-dragon family, he preferred to swim than fly. ‟I missed your point. Why do dragons create such large works of art that it cannot be seen from the ground?”
‟Why do some artists paint? Why do others sculpt? Still others write with a touch of a brush to make words look like beautiful images but still tell a story?” Professor Ghoti smiled. ‟We are all different, a dragon may live longer than a human, but a human can create such things of beauty as to capture the heart of a dragon. This is where the conflict happens. To a human, an area that has gold just laying on the ground where no one has tread a foot for hundreds of years, the human will pick up the gold to create something, unknowingly violating a dragon-artist’s creation. To the dragon, a hundred years is but a night’s sleep, it is an insult to their ambitious work.”
The entire class nodded, understanding.
‟In the places of the world where dragon and human have come in conflict, whole ranges of mountains are denuded, weather changes, the land dies.” The Professor frowned. ‟A land, once of verdant trees and life. Now is a devastated and desiccated desert. Nothing grows, humans and dragons alike avoid the area. The only thing that lives there are scorpions and small insects.”
Rapt attention by those that sat in attendance, hung on her words. Love of the earth, care for one and another. tolerance to all living things, was given as lessons.
Some took Professor Ghoti’s words to heart, others, like rain on the leaves of the trees, just slid off to the ground.
Those would be the students who returned the next year until they passed the Professor’s exit interviews for her classes.
A fortnight gone past, the shortest day was upon the high-mountain college that overlooked the lake with the waters so clear, the ice was nearly as blue as the deep water.
In the common room, Professor Vale spoke to the gathered students.
‟Winter break is upon us. Those dragons who are of the desert regions will be departing in the afternoon after tomorrow. The great black dragon of Sempervirens House will be departing with a flight, those that cannot fly the distance or speed and those swimmers of tropical nature may ride in the coach.” Vale nodded. ‟Humans will be met by their parents or guardians. Jona, please see me after this.”
A collective ‟Oo!” raced through the nearly two-hundred hearts of the common room.
Jona’s heart fell. This would be the time that a student would be ‟uninvited” to return.
With great trepidation he stayed behind after the announcements, Vale was kind, but as a dragon, he followed rules to a fault. As a professor, he had the power to flex the rules somewhat.
Then, Vale spoke. The words were quite different from what he worried about.
‟Jona, I have written your parents and I have informed them of your schooling.” Professor Vale inspected the claws of his forepaw.”You have done well for a child-human of less than twenty-summers. Not perfect, but quite well, better than your mother had predicted.” Professor Vale nodded. ‟I give credit to Kolo for that. You remind me of myself when I was learning these lessons. Seems like it was just last year I started here as a human.”
‟Professor.” Jona interrupted. ‟Was there a school back then?”
‟I see you need to take the class for your timing on humor, still.” Vale gave Jona a sideways glance. ‟You, young master, will be studying some makeup classes you are weak on with a special tutor.”
Professor Vale gave Jona a wink.
‟You and four others get to study with the Green-Wizard.” Vale puffed out his chest. ‟My father.”
‟Your… HUMAN father?” Jona said. ‟I thought he was old?”
‟He is older than hair. But do not ever mention that or you will find out how difficult life can be.” Vale laughed softly. ‟Still, you will attend his training, but know this! He takes very few students, he teaches in serious words. In his opinion, you will come to him with a head full of sawdust, and if you survive his lessons, you will come back thinking like an upperclassman.”
Jona felt a pang of fear and curiosity.
How does an upperclassman think?
Chapter 23. Baby Talk
The weekend. Racing with Eva, Kolo and Qo’noS, he’d gotten chilled and was so terribly exhausted. So much so that he felt like a party lizard (A term he had picked up in the day-room) crawling in after a weekend binge.
He collapsed on to his bed and felt a lump under his pillow struggle.
Sprite crawled out and complained in a whiny voice, then saw who it was.
‟Papa! Papa papa papa papa papa!” Sprite squeaked while bouncing up and down. Eventually settling into the crook of Jona’s arm, licking the neck and ear of Sprite’s favorite human.
Jona shushed Sprite while he drifted off to sleep. If anyone could slur a shush, Jona did it as his eyes closed.
Then the papa’s eyes popped open.
‟SPRITE!” Jona jumped up. ‟You talked!”
‟Papa! Papa papa!” The little dragon fluttered and hovered in the air in front of Jona, over the bed.
Laughing, Jona knew Sprite would learn to talk eventually. Still, not comfortable with the fact he was the dad, everyone else in the school took it as a right of passage. Many had, what Jona thought at first as pets, but found out that small dragons reflected that the heart of dragons loved at least as deep as humans.
Just longer. Much, much longer.
After a few minutes to recover from the shock, he held Sprite in his arms and stroked the glass smooth scales that covered the small winged-body.
Settling down, Jona smiled as the little body curled up under his chin, licking a few times, then going into a slumber that, curiously, sounded like a snore.
Only a pint-sized snore.
It was quite relaxing, and Jona slipped off to sleep with Sprite in his arms.
Together, they slept in similar poses.
Jona and Sprite performed a slow, synchronised sleeping ballet in the blankets.
Later, when the sun would rise, Jona would be roused out of bed by his friends. Although he would wonder if they were indeed his friends, for now all Jona wanted, was sleep.
Chapter 21. Night Riders
Garnet house was late in ending the dinner, after Professor Vale would not dismiss anyone until all students finished eating — that included the newly christened “Slop Eaters” of Stixx, Kelly, Gorm and their small group.
Getting to the meadow, the sun had slipped behind the mountains, the dragons and riders gathered for the night-time ride. Jona laughed with Kolo as they stood with the rides who were now aware of how a slop-filled attack failed and admitted to by one of the clique that had stated that she did not agree with what the leaders had planned. Vale had taken the statement and decided that eating of the slop was punishment enough for this time. Calaise had gotten away without eating the slop that Kelly, Stixx and the others had to consume.
Stixx was looking several pale shades of green as he stood next to his ride. Kanus was looking bemused, still angry at his rider of the collision earlier in the day. Teva gave instructions about the route in the dark, although it looked like the only thing that Stixx and Kelly were going to do in the dark was some recycling of their last meal.
Mounting the rides, each rider donned their helmets and put on goggles, waiting for the captain of the racer to give the command for the night race to start.
Jona asked “Why do we fly at night?”
Eva laughed quietly “If we can do it in the dark, we can do it when it’s cloudy or any other bad weather, or even at night. The only thing we have to worry about is having other schools running the same course”
“I thought that we had the route.” Jona said “It was on the sly?”
“The route is not truly secret,” Kolo leaned over and shook her head. “It is up to each school to do with the information that they get. Most of them practice the route for weeks ahead of time.”
“Wow, we could have them in the canyons with us?” Jona asked.
Eva flexed her wings “I hope so, a small unplanned race would give us a clue on how things might stand.”
Qo’noS shook his head. “No, I am not sure about that, that would give the other school a chance to plan how to bump us out or crowd the way into the wining circle.”
“Dragon Lords are notorious for cutting off and blocking racers of other schools, the Drakensberg’s are known to just bump you out of the sky. That’s what happened to Koord.” Kolo said. “Killed his ride. Koord was lucky to land on his ride, but Rhodes was not as lucky he landed on the top of a snag- a dead tree- and a broken branch pierced his heart. It was a very sad day.”
“LAUNCH!” Ordered Teva as he streaked into the sky.
Eva, Qo’noS, Kolo and Jona rose it the sky after Teva, the other riders also flew, but Kanus was off-balance and was struggling more to keep Stixx on her back while Sol had not yet launched, Kelly had gotten off and was on her knees behind a bush.
“Not a great start for them.” Kolo laughed as she flew ahead.”
Laughing Eva and Jona streaked off into the night chasing the Captain of the Racers.
XVIII. The veil of Vale
Jona walked into the courtyard, Professor Vale was once again shifted his shape to a smaller dragon, basking in a shaft of sunlight that glistened off his ruby scales.
“Professor? I would like to ask a few things.” Jona asked, his head full of questions on what he had just seen. How much was history, how much was fiction and how much was truth.
“Yes, Jona, speak your mind.” The Old dragon looked at him with good humor, he liked Jona it pleased the professor to help or answer any questions.
“Professor Koos was lecturing me on lore and law, gave me a view of some lore.” You were once human and had to change into a dragon to save your wife?”
Vale nodded, “Yes, no one bothers to ask me, but the one time that the historians did, they used the crystal to record what had happened. The lady with gray and red hair that assists me now and again?”
“Yes, professor, she is you wife?” Jona asked.
Professor Vale looked at Jona for a second and continued while clearing his throat, “Well, now we know you have attended “Obvious Recognition 101″ at one time or another, what I was going to say, she has spent many years looking for the single spell I used. Rumor has it that I cannot speak the spell due to magic, but the only magic was that I could not speak any human speech at first and by the time I was able to, the spell I thought I used was incorrect.” Vale sighed, “So now she uses her knowledge of magic to stay young as possible, she ages about one year for every one hundred.”
Jona stopped and thought for a moment. “The story I saw from the crystal showed you and her as a young couple.”
“Indeed,” Vale nodded, “We had not yet started a family, no children. In fact it took me years to learn how to change size, I can do a little shape change now, but I am always dragon.”
Doing the math at first, “The story then is very long ago.” Then adding, “You had children since then?”
Vale nodded “Yes, it was long before the current history, many years have passed. She was only twenty-two summers old and beautiful as a sunrise on a snowy day.” then nodding again, “We had a number of children that have had both qualities of the race of dragon and man. Kolo and Kola are both related to me, although many times removed, twenty-five generations or so.”
“My friend Kolo and her brother?” Jona asked
“Yes, not all dragons lay eggs, depending on the clans or branch of the family tree.” Nodded the Professor.
“This is my break time,” the professor said, sitting up. “but as you want to learn, let’s go to the master room of the Garnet House. Climb aboard.” Vale said as he swelled in size, a four-winged dragon as he changed size, Jona climbed on his back into the saddle area– that was not fully developed as in the racer dragons, but then, Vale was a much older dragon and racing had not been a sport back then.
At the top of Professor’s aerie. There was stone tables of granite and soapstone of verdigris color, with a full view in all directions, Jona gaped at out the lead glass windows, mountainous peaks from all his view were magnificent.
“Dragons are family oriented, mothers are as protective as any human parent. Old stories of virgin sacrifices were simply overstated and elaborately told stories of rogue drakes that were just like any
other being on this earth with prejudices and hatred to others. Some were equal opportunity hate mongers. Ultimately, the councils of dragons gathered and the first peaceful meetings with humans happened.” Vale opened a very wide scroll as it lay over a wide table of intricately carved soapstone. “The first meetings you see marked here on the time line were with the Pirate High Council, perhaps the most free and dangerous group of humans to empire or govern.”
“Pirates? Robbers of the sea, correct?” Jona asked, he knew the stories of the seagoing raiders. “They come ashore, burn and pillage. I have had teachings of such things.”
Vale nodded, “In the most basic sense, they are barbarians and robbers, those are the ones you hear about that are the most unskilled at the bottom of the pirate food chain. They are not they pirates that were here. The pirates that put on the show are those that live outside of the government’s influence and do not pay taxes to an entity that gives diminishing returns. Instead, they donate funds, goods and services when they wish. This is outside of the control of government– another irksome thing for those that desire power above all. They call these men and women pirates as a result, it is easier to prosecute a ban on trading with the people.”
Vale continued, “These are the people in the early days the dragon councils met. It was the pirates that suggested a school, first for just dragons to learn, but then to bring forward a school for teaching the teachers. This is why you are here. A teacher must understand the relationship and be able to teach past the prejudices of both dragon and human. You will be a Master of dragon knowledge to dragons and humans. You will be a Dragon Master, but I digress, you must know what you ask.”
Jona nodded, lost in the history time line as it was laid out before him.
“Dragons live for a very long time, some say forever but that is not the case, they do age and become elderly, but the length of a dragon’s lifespan has not yet been firmly established. No deaths of natural causes as of yet, that have been recorded.’
Vale corrected himself “All but for one, not long after the first peaceful contact with humans there was a dragon named Koshenkpough, a fire dragon. He befriended a human orphan boy when his mother was a victim of a governments abuse of power. His father was a bookmaker and was never around. The child learned much from the dragon and was unable to ever speak his name properly and he nicknamed the dragon, who liked the name and has since been known as “Puff”. Puff was the first Dragon Master to a human, though they did not have the title at the time.”
Jona nodded, “I saw a column with the name of Puff on it. I wondered why such a strange name for a Dragon. So it was a nickname?”
“History is known for renaming people and dragons,” Vale nodded, “Places and events that did not reflect the real names at the time. Let’s continue. Dragons, and although I am one, I am human inside by thought and feeling, but after living as a dragon for so many years, I have learned a few things.” Vale smiled, “One of which as you know I can change size, but not quite shape or I’d be human in a heartbeat.” Vale chuckled. “It would make sitting by the fireplace with RedNova– that’s my wife’s name– Possible. Or go visit her father.”
“He is still alive?” Jona asked.
“Yeah, he is REALLY old.” Vale winked. “He is studying spells for all this time to break what I cast that day.”
“Wow, there is so much more to the world.” Jona was looking over the scroll and the time line that was drawn upon it.
“More than you know now, even.” Vale nodded. “Dragons have developed close ties with humans over the years. The biggest heartbreak that any of them have is that, although dragons live forever, humans do not. Remember Puff and his human friend, the boy grew up and left to live his human life in time, Puff returned to his cave. Some say Puff was the boy’s mother who had been transfigured, somehow, like I have been. Others say that Puff changed his name and just disappeared into the crowds and might be among us today. We have never established what happened.”
“So if, say a human and dragon were married, they could raise a family?” Jona asked.
“With the right kind of healer and medicine, yes. It might be odd for both of them as the offspring are usually a blend of traits. The curiosity and inventive nature of the human side, the long life and learning capacity of the dragon, occasionally there are different results, some good, and some — well to say evil might be too harsh, but the outcome has been…” Vale paused, “Unfortunate.”
“What is this notation here about vampires and lycan?” Jona asked while reading small print on a time line.
“That, my young protegé, is for later studies. Just keep in mind, any mix of dragons and the other two is fraught with disaster. Already between lycan and vampire exists a war as the two are diametrically opposed.” Tracing his crimson colored hand down the page, ” Here, lists how clans of dragons exist. Some indicate live births, others the day they have had eggs hatch. No one is to say which is better, but smaller dragons tend to have live births and the laying of clutches of eggs seemingly is on the wane over the years. It seems to make a stronger bond to the parent-child relationship in the dragons.”
“How many clans are there?” Jona asked as he traced his finger over the parchment.
“How many clans are there in humans? No one knows.” Vale chuckled. “It has only the main course of history, this does not detail clans and the branches. That would be like trying to follow a drop of water in an ocean.”
“Why do humans hunt dragons?” Jona asked, “Seems that it would be better if the two races would work together.”
“It is the same way on both sides,” Professor Vale nodded grimly. “A few make it impossible for the many. That is why you are here at the school, to help survival of both.”
Jona tingled with the thought of that. A huge responsibility, but a lot to learn still.
“Thank you Professor, I have a lot to learn.”
“Homework, Jona, without it, your grades will not improve.”
“Yes, sir. And I need to practice with Eva on racing, we are working out in a full team race, four of us are doing the course today.”
“Good luck, Jona, do not fall off.” Vale smiled softly.
XII. Class Schedule
“Here you go, Professor Vale’s office, each student’s schedule is on the door. He’s a red dragon and rumor has it that he was once a human. He had a magic spell go as wrong as it could possibly go wrong, now he can’t turn back.” Sam said, then added with a tinge of fear in his voice, ‟His wife is the Red Witch. So don’t try to cheat on anything, those two will KNOW.”
Jona pulled a folded parchment from the door with his name scribed on the folded-over flap and opened it. “Dragon lore and law, dragon speak one-oh-one, basics of flight, mathematics— MATH?” Jona gasped, “Math was not my best subject, why do I need math here?”
“They always stick me in math. Hate it, but it has to be passed.” Sam shrugged.
Jona kept reading.
“Health: Pathogens of Dragons and Humans, Communicable Diseases and Interspecies Transmission. I do not even know what the title MEANS, how can I even pass the class if I cannot understand even the title?” Jona had a note of panic in his voice.
“You’ll learn.” Sam laughed, “As a dragon, I have had classes that instruct about the jealousy of humans, ‘human emotions’ that is a class that is a real pain. All the mammal humans I know are okay. I have considered that they’re talking about old humans.”
Jona smiled and kept going down the list.
“Fundamental relationships of rider and ride”, Jona blinked “Rider and ride? Like horses?”
Sam laughed again as they walked down the stairs.
“No, some dragons you ride. NOT like horses, they give rides if it is a bond of trust or friendship between the human and dragon. Like your baby dragon that rides on your shoulder and head. Someday he’ll become large enough to give you rides.”
Jona thought of sprite, had not seen him in a while and was being a little worried.
‟Well, right now, the little guy wouldnt’ be much of a squish if someone stepped on him.”
Back in their rooms they settled in for the night, Professor Vale, on the main floor, called that lights out time was nearly upon them, now the sun was down. Classes started early in the morning and all were to be in bed.
“Good night, students.” The voice was like soft thunder that echoed in Jona’s head long after he settled into the soft bed.
IX. Tour of the University
Jona’s mother gave him the lecture about behaving around pretty girls, especially around those that he had no idea what they really were.
“She is a dragon and probably older than all of us put together.” Aed laughed, “Still, she was pretty. I remember her when I first came. She went steady with the champion racer at the time. Most of us were in love with her.”
“Most of you boys,” Dearbhail interrupted, “were in love with her, she has no affect on females.”
Aed whispered to Jona when his mother stopped to talk to a professor and ask directions to the dorms and library.
“The girls are also affected, mostly as jealousy. Kolo is one of the most beautiful of her species, but they are all pretty. I dated one of her sisters, Soisal. We had a good time until I met your mother, then it was all history then.” Aed chuckled. “I loved your mum from the day I met her.”
“This way” She led her family to the dormitory area. Along the way, the red dragon Jona had seen before was basking in a shaft of sunlight, his size was smaller than Jona remembered, but they were in shadows and Jona had looked around.
“Professor.” Dearbhail said gently, “I would like you to meet Jona, my son. You remember Aed, my husband?”
The dragon opened an eye. Where many of the eyes of dragons were cat-like with slits, or like an owl’s that where wide and bright, taking in everything. This dragon had eyes like a human, deep blue, with the look of someone who has had seen and taught much, with a touch of sadness in his eyes.
But those sad eyes crinkled into a smile– as much as a dragon can smile.
“Why yes!” His voice sounded strangely like a cross between a human and a thunder-clap echoing backwards. “I remember you Aed! You had a knack for using hammers to make art out of metal. I still have the chain you made for me as an end of school present. A great treasure of my personal cache.”
Jona cringed slightly as the tusked face turned to him.
“You will be attending here then in the next cycle? You will like it, there is the renew festival in the autumn, where all the spirits of the year come to greet us. It becomes a trick or treat week of fun and spooks.” Winking at Jona as if it were a secret.
“We make it all month though. Always fun. We also have visiting wizards and witches now and again during that time.”
“I would like to attend here. My dad says you were once human?” Jona reached out and touched the nose dragon lightly.
“Yes, but one must recite the words and said exactly and with passion. I cannot repeat them as the same magic that made me as I am does not allow a dragon to speak such words of reversal. How I came to be like this was to save the most precious treasure I have ever had in my possession or held in my hands.” With a slow nod, the dragon finished his thought. “That treasure was, is and remains my best treasure, my wife. I will see you in class, Young Jona, you will be how dragons think and feel. And you can check with my scales anytime.”
Looking at Aed and Dearbhail, the big dragon took a deep breath. An intense look filled the eyes of the red-dragon.
“His touch is that of a healer, I have seen into his mind’s eye. Aed, Dearbhail, he has the soul of a teacher and a smiter, but most– he is a healer if we can get him past his play.”
“And do not stare so much at Kolo, she might think you like her.” The red dragon chuckled. The sound was if someone had struck a large drum. Then the old wizard dragon closed his eyes and sighed as the the pleasant feeling of the sun shining on his body and warming his scales.
They got a ride on a tram that rode on wheels of wrought iron, pulled by a young dragon that wore a sign on the side of one of his horns. It was in a language that Jona could not read.
“What does that say?” he asked his mother.
“Public service for failing class. All donations to this tram go to the university’s charity for delinquent dragons.” His mother read. “Not much has changed since we attended here. I wonder if they still make humans do the same thing?”
Aed shook his head and shrugged.
“I would’nt be surprised, I spent more than one school week pulling people haulers for not doing my work on time or getting caught in a bad situation. I always got dragons that wanted rides, too.”
“I never had to do that.” Dearbhail laughed lightly as she put her arms around her husband and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you for that, too. I would have hated to have pulled a wheeled cab for my friends when they were going out and I was doing penance.”
Jona looked at his mom “You were going to be punished?”
“No” Aed said, “I would not let that happen, so I took the blame.”
“I had to marry your father after that, he was such my hero, very gallant.” She blushed slightly and kissed Aed again, no longer the finger waving, loud voiced matriarch that shook the earth with her stomps, but looked more like a caught school girl.
“I hung all the boy’s underwear between the buildings. We raided their rooms when they were in the showers.”
“You took the blame for that?” Jona looked at his father incredulously.
“Got me the nickname of ‘Odd Aed’ for awhile. But it was worth it, they figured it out in time, but the debt had been paid.”
His small dragon woke and started crawling around the inside of his tunic and Jona wiggled around then complained loudly that the small creature just pulled out what little chest hair he had. Finally getting free, the small creature flew around in circles over his head before landing on the edge of the tram and watched the world go by.
“This happens often?” Jona asked
“Only with chosen ones. I was not chosen,” his father said. “Your grandfather had a run in with a dragon and a Dragon Master came to arbitrate, the result was the dragon apologized with the agreement I came here to study. One of the best agreements we ever did as a clan.”
Jona looked at his mum “What about you?” with a quirked look.
“I was chosen, I had a small dragon follow me home, my parents were always trying to kill it until a Dragon Master came and spoke with them. You have no idea how much of a dragon hater your Grandfather was. He resented it, your grandma— she secretly liked the idea I could save things that lived in and over the earth. But your grandpa, if he had the chance, he would hunt dragons to the ends of the earth without a thought.”
“Is that why we lived so far away from Grandpa and grandma?” Jona asked
“Yes, partly due to that, but also because he did not like your father much. Because I had met him here, your grandpa did not want to even talk to him.” His mother shook her head sadly. “But what he did not know was that your Grandma is also a Dragon Master. She has never told him.”
Once again, his life shook. Schools end, he was free and knew it all, now he found that all he learned in school— was how to learn.
The tram rumbled on, the farther they went, the larger the school looked. “Everything is school here?” he asked while looking out.
“Yes, last count I remember that they had almost forty- thousand students of all kinds. A large city. They will all live here, away from dragon hunters, kings that look to have a prize on the castle or a name as King Dragon Killer or some stupid thing.” Aed said unhappily. “The best part, however is that the dragon council pays for it all. Humans only get in if chosen, arbitrated or otherwise selected carefully. All dragons come here no matter what.”
“All dragons? Do they all live here?” Jona asked as they stopped in front of a very tall spire.
“OUT!” The dragon called in front, his voice was very small for his size, until Jona realized it was a girl dragon, and that he had a lot to learn of how to tell gender from male and female dragons. Except for Kolo, she still danced in his recent memory with the swish of the tail and move of her legs.
A slap on the back of his head again as his mother brought him back to the here and now.
“Jona, you need to look around. There are different dorms. Many are houses that have a brotherhood of dragon and masters. The girls have a sorority but can and do also belong to the fraternity of Dragon Masters. That is where the tattoo’s come from. Only those that achieve that status can have the never ending knot of dragons on their arms.” She reminded him.
A small dragon of a pale blue— white hue walked up to him. “I am Ramases, I will guide you around the dormitory, this is the house of the Frost Dragons, you may find that it is a bit cold in some area’s. But we study hard to keep warm. Do you like to ski?”
“Um, no.” Jona said as they mounted gilt stairs up to the upper floors. The slim dragon bounded on two legs while giving occasional flaps.
“I’m in my second year here, they have moved me into the guide status because my grades are so high. I already speak most human languages.” Ramases laughed as he stepped up the stairs.
Jona looked at the guide as the three Samhain’s followed, “Do all dragons come in different sizes or will he grow to be like some of the big ones that are flying outside?”
Aed shook his head “Most dragons are of adult size in one or two years. By the time they get here, they are done growing, after that, they just age. Like Kolo, she will never get any bigger– even though she looks like she might have gained a little weight.”
Dearbhail shook her head, “She has matured, the vamp.” Jona’s mother shook her head. ‟Dragon girls never seem to get dumpy. Look at Professor Olly. She looks as if she was still a bride when she got married. That was when I was a student here!” Jona’s mother sighed, “and she has four children!”
Aed leaned over, “That’s because you don’t have scale-armored boobs like they do.” And tried to kiss Dearbhail while Jona complained.
“Stop it dad! That’s just … ugh.” Jona walked further ahead rolling his eyes while Ramases laughed quietly.
The young dragon and the human boy began to talk as the parents laughed behind them at Jona’s discomfort.
“Parents.” Jona rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, I have troubles with mine, too. My dad is a desert dragon, mom is from the far north. They are always wrapping tails around each other— it’s gross. I have ten brothers and sisters, I’m the youngest.” Ramases said, “The smartest, too. I can’t get any bigger, I’m kind of the runt of the nest.”
“That must have been hard.” Jona said, “I have a friend that has a few bigger brothers. One brother captured a lúchorpáin and made it give them a bottle of youth. One drop would make you one year younger. “
“Oh very nice, they would have gotten rich off that!” Ramases smiled.
“Not really, they gave Boru ten drops and he was only nine! They made him minus one!”
Ramases laughed, “Pour kid!”
“He had to repeat basic school until the potion wore off the next spring.” Jona added, “I’m an only kid. I just have sprite here that is my dragon I guess.”
“Ooh, he is not yours— you are his, he chose you.” Ramases corrected him. “He looks to be an orphan, must have just hatched very close to you.”
Ramases snorted something, then growled. Sprite just looked at him a few times, then Ramases puckered up and whistled low with some clicking, the little dragon clicked back.
“Said he has spent the last two weeks alone, all the other eggs were smashed, no sign of mother. You are his mother now.”
“Here we are. These are sample rooms, no one lives in these, but it gives you an idea on what you might have available.” Opening the door, Ramases stepped back and let Jona step in. His parents just looked in.
“Do you not want to see the rooms?” Ramases asked Aed.
“I have lived in these rooms with the Fire Dragon fraternity. They are much the same.”
“OH! You are alumnus! Is Jona second or third generation or more?”
“Jona is actually fifth generation candidate, but I have no doubts he will make a fine teacher and, maybe a healer.” Dearbhail said.
“My father was no Dragon Master, but I think my grandfather was. But my father and grandfather did not speak much to each other.” Aed said.
Walls of polished obsidian stone made up the walls of the room, Jona had never seen the like of such a grand room.
“I get a room like this?” Jona gaped.
“Not alone, you would share this size of room with five others.” Ramases nodded.
‟Five? I don’t get to be alone?”
‟No first years do.” Aed said. ‟That is tradition.”
‟I’m going to hate the first year.”
‟You,” His mother pinned him with a deadly look that Jona knew well. ‟Young man, will learn. Study or I will come and teach you in each and every class.”
If Jona thought it was cold when he walked into the dorms, the chill that came from his mother could have cracked ice.
The Red Witch’s Dragon
Smoke of the burning ships drifted across the hills.
They had come.
The warriors from the north and east to the verdant land. Of the people, even the Green Wizard had summed up his advice in one word.
Even the Green Wizard had told the younger, more volatile Red Wizard of the west to leave the area. They could return to the land after the raiders had left.
The Red Witch and Wizard taught the artisans the ways to perform their own brand of magic on ingots of gold, silver, copper and other metals. As they traded for and wide for the raw materials that they brought back to the village, both the husband and wife of the mountain felt they owed the village the best protection they could do.
“The best protection, my son, is to lead them to safety.”
Safety from the Dubh-Gall. Ferocious warriors that the world had not before seen. They came out of the north in high prow-ships, rowing like madmen. Swift, unstoppable and terrifying. In another age and language they went by another name.
“Move along! Quickly! The sooner we are through the hills…”
A scream echoed down the line of people. In the distance, the glint of steel shown through the forest.
They were coming.
“RUN! Drop everything that you are not wearing, carry the children and run!”
Oengus, the Red Wizard turned to his wife and they both knew what they had to do.
“Come with me.” The Red Wizard said to the most well armed of the men that did duty as the rear guard.
“Flank guard, come with me!” Assa the Red Witch said loudly. ignoring the irritated look from the Green Wizard as he herded the people through the gap.
Taking a group of adults to the rear, the plan quickly evolved to keep the Dubh-Gall from crossing the stream. They lined up in two rows, forming a giant V to keep the raiders from crossing the water ford and away from the escaping people.
The plan was to force the raiders to think they had broken through, only to cross at the deepest part of the stream where the swift waters flowed into a cataract.
Confident in their plan they deployed their under-armed and untrained warriors, painted the ruddy color of blood, they took finely forged weapons meant for trade and selling to princes and kings. This time, the people used the fine weapons to defend children, and those that could not defend themselves.
These were not soldiers, the was the leader, but the Wizard himself was no soldier.
Still, he had read the books of Alexander and Hannibal.
The rending of wood and metal upon flesh. The battle of the artisans against those of the raiders was decidedly one-sided.
Battle hardened from their many raids where the people ran like sheep. They were not ready for the she-wolf in red hair in the form of Assa, The Red Witch.
Their attack faltered as they surged forward against the raiders, the bright red hair and furious scream of a wild-eyed warrior woman bent on protecting those that have asked for it— fell.
Of all the things to happen to a person with arrows flying both directions, spears thrown and sharp instruments swung like scythes in the field.
Stepping sideways to dodge a swinging ax, she moved in front of a charging horse that killed the murderous berserker with its massive hooves and knocked her down in the process, stepping on her foot as it charged forward.
Two-hundred fifty paces from the front of the lines, she was not in the lead and her line began to falter.
Fighting and falling back, the line of home protectors, elders and the crazy aunt that everyone has, stood between the fleeing line of family and the bloodthirsty men from the sea.
In the clearing of bodies, Assa’s head bobbed up and down as she tried to make a splint out of a dropped battle club. Too far away, Oengus the Red saw his wife laying on the ground in harm’s way.
The line had moved away from her as his line was putting pressure on the raiders with archers and running battles.
But Assa was alone. Without a leader, her line began to fall back.
One-hundred fifty paces between her and the fighting line of death.
Arrows fell around her, the Wed Ritch without a weapon or tool, dragged herself to a broad shield dropped in the heat of battle and pulled it over her as three arrows hit nearby. Using it thick leather, wood and metal as an umbrella to protect her from the steel rain.
And the viking archers were finding her range.
Pulling the shield over her, broad as two men, an arrow struck the shield at a dangerous angle. This archer was spot on target and she was the bullseye.
Looking about, Oengus sought a volunteer to become a protector of his wife. Try as he might as they pushed towards where Assa was, the raiders were too strong and pushed back.
One-hundred twenty-five paces, the line grew closer to her. The defenders were retreating inexorably back, no one stopped to help her, they were all too busy fighting. Those that fell were on their own.
Such are the costs of war.
Oengus continued to search, but no one could break away, his own line unable to make headway.
Her line of defense was enough to keep safe the lives of the fleeing villagers that had moved out ahead of the landing of the high-prowed ships. Little did they realize that the well planned invasion had come in three parts, each raiding party had landed ten miles apart, north to south to cut off the refugees escape route.
The line had to reform as the fighters fell back from a wedge attack the raiders had formed.
The vikings were trying to punch through the lines and nearly did so, but Nial had other plans, half his family had yet to cross the water ford and de was not about to let the line closest to them break and endanger the people he is trying to protect.
Failure was not an option for any of them.
Seventy-five paces away from Assa.
Looking about at the melee of furious fighting, Oengus saw his love and reason for living now only steps from capture, hiding under broad shield, even from here, Oengus could see that her left foot was not in the anatomic normal position. It was badly broken by the warhorse stepping on her, the pain would be excruciating. It was no small wonder that she had not cast some spell of hiding or concealment, the agony of her broken foot kept her from focusing.
No one was able to take the time, everyone was defending to their utmost
Assa could see the individual hairs in the beard of the pig-tailed, pig nosed man who carried a sword nearly as long as he stood tall.
Two thin lines of defenders, one defender deep stood between her and death, like mighty trees standing against the storm. Screaming berserkers, by the twos and half-dozens, charged time and again against the smiths, tinkerers, carpenters and farmers, crashing like waves against stone. Steel upon steel and bronze upon leather, the screams of the dying and the momentary victorious sounded along the battle line, it all blended in an awful din.
Oengus knew that they could not keep up the defense, the archers left alive were running low on arrows. Youthful runners sprinted, some never returned, a small few returned bringing arrows in hand and in body before collapsing in death, giving the arrows that had pierced them as they had run. Each man bled to hold his line next to his brother or cousin. None of the villagers would give a willing inch to the biting axes and hissing arrows.
Their own archers gave the raiders something to respect. Time and again, even as their own had fallen to arrows that came in, they outdistanced the Viking archers with their long bows.
Thirty paces. The wounded men stood against the charging invaders of the land, like time and waves on rock, it was wearing them down.
The line retreated, but at a hideous cost to the men of the east, dozens fell with arrows jutting out of their eyes and stuck in their throats.
Oengus was in a panic, he needed a subject, someone who would willingly endure a temporary transformation and be the hero of the day.
None could turn to even engage the question. Everyone was committed to the battle.
He was the wizard of harvest, he could bring a flood and storm. But here in the vale, they were all in the floodplain. He had one spell, ten-thousand spells for the same effect, ten-thousand ways to cast each one and he had to undo what he was about to do. Once done, anyone else would be hard pressed to cast a counterspell on changes he wrought with his words.
Out of time. Oengus knew who would do the heroic deed. But the return would be so much longer than the first transformation.
Sliding his sword into the scabbard and dropping it against a tree. He readied himself for the power to flow and transform.
Oengus, Wizard of the Red Dragon of the Westland was ready.
He imaged in his mind his subject and began chanting the five-keys of spells in a specific pattern.
He awoke the land and called upon its power.
Assa the Red Witch of the Setting Sun, hid under the broad viking shield, dropped by a raider when her defenders surged forward out of the narrows where the water flowed, her ankle hurt so bad, she screamed when she moved it. Remaining still was not an option.
“Protect the Red!” The artisians yelled. A gravelly voice of the singularly talented smith in seven villages, he called himself “The Smite”, bellowed that no one would be allowed to take the Red Witch.
“Gather her! Pick her up and take her away!” As his great hammer inverted yet another Norse shield into the unfortunate wielder.
But no one came.
She was alone. In a sea of friends and family, of those she had healed, the only help could be had were those that were fighting to protect her untenable place under the broad disk of bronze and iron.
Using a sprig of a spice she dug from the ground, Assa chewed on it for the narcotic, albeit minimal, effect it had.
She needed greater magic than she had with her, her bag, torn from her body by Ulain and his bronze-armored steed when she was ran over by the thundering hooves that stepped on her ankle.
“HERE! Assa!” It was Ulain’s son with the armored horse holding out his hand whilst holding onto the reigns of the angry warhorse with the other.
They were in a semi-circle of a path, a lane really, two rows of fighters, archers on one side shooting between the ranks of the defenders on the other, into the bodies and heads of the raiders that surged to drive the villagers into the water.
It was the plan all along, to draw the heavily armored invaders into a white water grave in the rapids, but with the falling of their leader, she now needed more protection than any of them.
A loud sound, like that of a gong, sounded loud and the great black horse fell, Ulain was gone, Assa did not know if Ulain died somewhere or unhorsed and was fighting on foot. His son now lay crushed under the horse that had an embossed mark like a hammer on the side of the horse-helmet, struggled.
Assa could feel the horse remained alive, but instead of shifting emotions and feelings of the animal, it was a soft blur, the horse was unconscious.
Then Assa spied an object that made her heart leap for hope— Her medicine bag, lost in the early part of the fighting. In it she could heal a broken ankle in moments, give strength to the fighters defending their homes and heal herself.
Now she needed Oengus and he was a thousand paces away and the killers of women and children were…
The villagers would shove and battle, gaining ten steps and be driven back eleven.
If viewed from above, the line moved as a snake, writhing, biting, killing— pain.
Her bag, was fifteen paces behind her, she struggled towards it, putting distance between herself and the inexorable retreat of the line to the river.
An ax banged against the shield and bounced away.
The battle was twelve paces distant. She was getting hit with debris that flew about during battles.
A blast of wind blew her bag towards her hand, almost into her grip, but paused.
Not waiting, she lunged and grabbed the soft leather and pulled it under her makeshift roof.
Focusing as she pulled out a stone, spit on it — which was a challenge as her mouth was dry — she only needed a little moisture to have the powder stick to the stone.
And … A sound that grew louder…
The battle seemed different.
Sounds of the rage of war had changed, becoming screams of fear.
Lifting up the shield that was her savior several times in the last few minutes, she saw what looked like ruby-red tree trunks just to the battle side.
The roar of the furies combined with the sound of a thousand storms were no match for ruby-red dragons voice.
The roar echoed off the distant mountains and rolled back along the battle line.
Although in legend and by fire they bragged about being brave, but on this day, the raiders had a collective loss of bladder control at once… Then ran.
Snarling with fury the great dragon launched itself against the fleeing hoard and continued to roar and snarl as they dropped weapons to run faster. The raiders of the lands did not feel they had to outrun the dragon, just the man next to him.
Sure victory had become a race of retreat to the boats.
In legends down time, the people told and re-told the story that the roars of the dragon echoed in the hills around the vale for three days after the battle.
Those raiders fallen behind were left by their brothers, the Dubh-Gall that fought and drove the farthest inland were now the most far behind when the running began, finding themselves abandoned by the hoard of now frightened men who sailed away on the ships they arrived in. The abandoned warriors settled peacefully, never wishing to draw the ire of the red dragon of the west ever again.
In the vale, where the villagers returned, blood that had seeped into the ground from the defenders that would give their lives for the loved one named Assa that taught them all how to live, love and laugh.
In the days that followed, leaders looked for Oengus. After weeks of searching, finally identified him by his medallion of a Red Dragon hanging around his neck. No help could be rendered in by any artesian or even the great Green Wizard of the east.
Oengus had changed himself into the dragon, but unable to speak any human tongue in his condition, no one knew the spell he performed.
Finn of the White Water, where he lived on the river, was able to perform the mathematics to figure out the time needed to change Oengus back to his normal self.
One-hundred million ways to cast the spell, each one taking a half-minute to recite in a rush without mistakes.
Assa would age, pass, then be dead and gone if she had to go to the end and try every spell to get her husband back.
Such was the price of a hero.
He won the respect of every day the villagers lived in peace, but had no part in the celebration, he could never know the hugs of the children that he saved.
For dragons live forever, men and women do not.
Even witches and wizards.
In the decades that followed, if one stopped and listened in the far end of the vale, one could hear the red witch yelling at her husband, calling him names for using a spell that no one could reproduce.
Early one fine spring day, about two years after the battle, Granuaile walked to the mountain of the dragon and announced herself.
The Red Witch, always enjoying company, yelled at the husband.
Once they called her Assa, the Red. The Gentle Red Witch.
Now, she called herself Nessa, meaning “Ungentle”, she became Nessa the Red, the Warrior Witch of the Westland.
“Dragon! Show yourself! It is the girl from the village.”
Pointing to the vale, Granuaile told them of the trees that the Green Wizard had planted.
“Come see. A monument to the day you saved us all.” With that she ran off down the path, waving at the Red Witch.
In the lane, near the ford, trees now lined the path that followed where the dragon had stood and walked until the fighters and defenders that held their ground in defense of the Red Witch of the Mountain, was safe.
In the times that followed, the stream silted up and moved, the ford became a meadow, but the trees remained. When they died or fell, there were people of the land to replant the trees, eventually becoming giants, growing over the path with a protective canopy along the section where once stood a dragon that was a man who gave his life as a human to protect the jewel of his heart.
In time the vikings would return, forgetting the Red Dragon that lived in the Westland.
They would not forget for long.