Married by Mistake Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

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Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

‟Tom! This. I mean you…!” Kaylee paced the length of the jet, laughing hysterically holding her hands to her face. ‟I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t want to talk about this. We can’t be having this talk.”

She tried to make herself relax.

‟It can happen,” Tom said with a smirk. “It would be a simple mistake if it were a small thing, but you made an error like that? You’re stuck as my wife. I’m sorry but that makes me smile. It’s your issue to deal with right now. We can fix it, besides I don’t mind being married to you.  It’s entertaining.”

‟Tom, it is my decision. A deeply personal decision! No one gets to tell me what my choice will be.” Kaylee stood for a moment. ‟I’m sorry. It is a frightening concept and, like you said, complicates matters.”

‟Well, I think you are jumping the gun a little. I am, and I always will be, a great supporter of your choices. First, you are my friend. I know I am not the first choice and we did do the deed and you had other plans. I accepted that fully, weeks ago.” Tom stood behind her and slid his arms around her, holding her back against his chest.

‟I hoped you would stay, and if you want, I will help you find your own life. I am old and I have a life of stories.” He said as she turned around in his arms and buried her face into his chest. “You need to build your own story, chapter by chapter. Child by child when you get there. For now, you make me smile and you are my muse.”

Tom chuckled when an a thought struck him. 

“You make me smile, because you are a precious gem, and you are a treasure that anyone would crawl over broken glass to have in their life.” He smiled. “But I laugh because I am your husband and you cannot do much about it just now.”

This made the tears that were welling up in her eyes turn into laughter.

‟Tom. You are the funniest man I know. I wanted an engagement ring from Glenn, ever since we were kids and you help me do that.”

‟Keeping you happy is my mandate.” Tom smiled. “I cannot keep you here and have you in misery. If I help you go, maybe you will return with all I have to offer.”

Sliding her arms around him, she pressed her breasts against his chest and kissed him.

‟Do not make me love you. You’d make me feel bad for all that has happened. But I promised…” Kaylee smiled softly.

‟Yes. The promise.” He smiled back, but it was a smile that did not reach in his eyes.

‟Don’t interrupt. That is rude and you will make me mad. But yes. I would like to get married and remember it.”

‟I understand.” Tom said as he laughed with a sad tone. ‟And we have had a good time this last month.”

“It is the weirdest month I’ve ever had.” Kaylee whispered.

*It’s been a summer to remember! I have seen both the good and bad sides of people. It’s as if some grand illusionist with  a twisted imagination has written my life. A perfect storm of adventures and perverts. Days with drugs…*

Kaylee gasped.

*What if this was all a dream? Could I be still in early June? After being attacked, when I beat the crap out of that serial rapist, wanted on at least ten different crimes. Am I going to wake up in my bed, alone?*

‟No.” She said it into the hollow of Tom’s neck.

‟No? No what?” Tom sounded worried. ‟You have not had a good time?”

‟Oh yes. I said a thought out-loud. There was a moment where I thought this might all be a drug dream from the first night, or someone has written my life on a word processor.” She shook her head. “Like I am in control, but he or she makes my words come out.”

‟Now you’re inspired by something. As a writer, I know how the thoughts might come. Maybe I have written about you and you are just…”

‟Tom, do not trivialize my moment of insanity. Please.” She bit his chest lightly. ‟You did not write me into existence like some Twilight Zone movie.

‟Funny that you know about that show.” Tom chided. “You are older than you look.”

‟I study all the time. I like to get to know my husbands.” She wiped her nose on his chest and laughed at his reaction.

‟How many husbands have you had?” He looked down at her when he flinched. “Ack! Brat.”

‟Are we going to do pillow talk standing up or would you like to cuddle?”

Taking by the hand, she pulled him to their bed and pushed him down.

He smiled, she had opened up to him more in those few moments than she had in the weeks of his hospitalization.

‟Well, I don’t know about you,” Tom said quietly, laying on his back with Kaylee laying on top of him, gazing into his eyes. ‟But I appreciate the author of your life putting you on my chest. This is nice.”

‟I don’t know. Maybe they would put this all into a book- a series even.” She laughed. “I could go on adventures with you until we made the coastal cities complain, we could be a husband-wife crime solving movie series.”

‟Naw, I couldn’t take that. I’m sad enough that you want an annulment to go marry someone else.” The writer of heart and passion looked down. “Keep this going as a series? We’d have to roll the clock back and live an hour-by-hour book.”

‟That would be a long series.” She nodded. “And a lot of fun.”

‟Okay. So let’s put that fantastic fantasy away and live what life we have left together. To use the story-writer vernacular, when you leave, I’ll close this chapter and move on into the world.” Tom followed her thoughts and wrote the story in his mind, letting his mind think out loud. “I was only going to be on the west coast for the summer anyway, then the speech at Doctor Manga’s installation. I might stay there for a few months. I have a few book-signings to do there for the next installation of Steamland.”

‟Next? How many are there?” She smiled. The first time she heard of the sequels.

‟Five as of this summer. The movie is from book-three. ‟Steamland: Heat”. And it violates more Steam-punk rules than it follows.” He made a soft chuckle.

‟Yeah, I have wanted to ask you about that. No Victorian-Age, you used Rome as the base for your civilization.”

‟Well, book-one started with Heron of Alexandria improving on Ctesibius’ inventions, that were already two-hundred years in development.”

‟Heron and who?”

‟Read the books.” Tom laughed, the force of his humor bouncing her up on down on his chest where she used him as a body-pillow.

‟Human technology was so close to having steam-power thousands of years ago, it is not funny, really.” Tom winked.

“Missed the steam age by that much.” Tom held up his thumb and forefinger so that little more than a finger’s width showed. ‟No telling where we would be if someone built steam trains or such back then. Christ could have traveled the lands of Nazareth in an airplane.”

‟Tom, you’ve an imagination like no other.” Kaylee said smiling widely. ‟You are my muse in your own way. When you were in the hospital, I did a lot of drawing. I have much more to do, I have the itch and you are all in me, making me need to draw.”

‟I enjoy being in you.” Came the lecherous remark.

‟What? OH! Tom, I’m being serious.”

He stroked her back with his good hand, the splinted and wrapped wounded-arm carefully placed on the pillow beside them.

‟I’m just being honest.” He smiled. ‟Besides, not to move too far off the subject, but, we have to do a paper-chase to get the filings done. You need to head home to go be with Glenn.”

‟I get the feeling you are pushing me away.” Kaylee said.

Feeling suddenly unhappy, selfish, even a little unwanted. She took her head off Tom’s chest and got out of bed.

‟I think we should get going. You said you would be able to fly with your arm?”

‟Yes. I have feeling, the fingers are pink, I have a good pulse. I have taken my medications and we have redressed the injuries.” He ticked off the laundry list of things. “I have no numbness. I can type, slowly or hand write on the screens. I have multiple tablets I use for that. I cursive write on the screens all the time.”

‟Cursive?”

‟It is my form of entertainment. It tickles me to see the computer read and transfer it into text.”

‟So what are you saying?”

‟We can fly the Sea Dragon there. No waiting.”

‟Oh. Okay. I will have to think about that.”

‟Why?” Tom got serious as he pulled on black jeans and a black polo-shirt that had a sleeve removed to accept his bandaged arm. ‟We can leave now and you are suddenly pulling back on going?”

‟Well…”

‟Do you want to stay married to me or go be with Glenn?” Tom said gently and sat on the edge of the bed as Kaylee pulled on her shoes.

‟Two things. I care a great deal for you, Glenn would have never tolerated my quirks.” She said. “He would have blamed me for the Professor. And Glenn likes to keep me stoned. Loving him when we’re stoned is fun.”

‟When you can remember it. So according to him?” Tom winked.

Kaylee laughed.

‟I remember! Most of the time…” Blushing slightly, but Tom got closer to the truth than he knew. ‟Second thing is… I have really come to adore you. No. I don’t want to do it, but I made a promise and I don’t want to wake up in bed with you and keep saying ‟If only” even once.”

‟Do you say that now?” Tom sounded hurt.

‟Well, no. You have not given me the chance.” Kaylee held his hand. ‟Don’t be hurt. I would come back and marry you if my fantasy fails.”

‟So I am the consolation prize?”

Kaylee face-palmed, she did not mean it as an insult and an embarrassed laugh escaped her.

‟You weren’t any kind of prize. You are the kindest, bravest man I know to put up with me, my quirks and my promises.”

‟And the best friend you will ever have. I want to you go marry him. When you look out a window and see a jet fly by, think of me. When you have children, get them the Leonard Sea Dragon Series, and I’ll write about an artist in my Steamland books. I might even name her Kaylee with a sister named… Oh damn…” Tom had the look of a man who forgotten an important detail.

‟Melanie .”

‟Yes! Melanie .” Tom laughed. ‟Melanie would not be overlooked in the stories if I put your name in it.”

‟She would like that.”

‟But that would be your connection with me as you write your own story in life’s book.” Tom said, serious again. ‟I have my own explores to do in the world.”

‟You find someone?” Kaylee said. ‟Please? You should not be alone.”

‟No. I can’t promise that. I won’t be untruthful to you.” A small smile played on his lips.

“I have been alone a long time, you were a surprise.” Tom said. ‟A pleasant, exciting, twisted, funny and chocolate-flavored,” He licked her lips. ‟Surprise.”

‟You are not upset?”

‟I am a little hurt, but I am not a teenager and life-is-over crushed.” Tom gave a sad smile. ‟I knew you did not want to be married and you could have had a divorce that next day, but you wanted it annulled instead. So, I am well prepared.”

“Okay.” She looked him with suspicion, then changed the subject. ‟We can fly now?”

‟Let’s file a flight plan, check with the crews to prepare the Dragon and we can leave in an hour.”

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Married by MIstake Chapter 30. Tears and Smiles

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Chapter 30. Tears and Smiles

‟I’m glad you are out of the hospital, I couldn’t wait for us to get back to the Wizard.” Kaylee sat down on the floor, next to the chair he kept his arm on. ‟But, I signed the papers and sent them off when I was here. You had two sets, one to send and one to keep. I signed both sets so we can keep them on file here.”

With a sigh, he nodded.

‟So, we are no longer married as soon as the clerk of the court signs and stamps it. You did it how I told you to do it?”

‟I’m so sorry. But I have to get home outside of Portland, Glenn is asking for me. My sister says he is going to ask me to marry him.” Kaylee couldn’t help the tear that ran down her face as she sniffled.

‟Oh, poop.” She gave a sad laugh. “I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.”

‟Yeah.” Tom choked on the knot in his throat. ‟I knew this day would come. The month is up.”

Kaylee rested her chin on his knee.

‟If it makes you feel any better, I almost shredded the papers. You have been better than Glenn has ever been,” She took a big breath. “But I grew up with him and we have planned to marry each other as far back as I can remember. He asked me to marry him at my sixth birthday party. He wrote it in a birthday card, in crayon.”

Tom laughed. “Do you still have it?”

‟Don’t laugh. But yes.” Kaylee bit him gently on the knee. ‟It’s silly, I know. He has also been a bit of a butthead and stupid over all the years. Once he’d gotten drunk, fell into a pool,  sank like a stone and I had to save him. We have history.”

‟And we don’t?” Tom sounded more harsh than he intended. ‟In the last month, we have set new records that even newlyweds everywhere would dream of.”

‟Not fair. You have an advantage. Not many men get married and fly away on their own jet plane. Fewer still can write a children’s series like you have.” Kaylee shook her head as she named off Tom’s points. ‟You have more than most college students, and that is what Glenn is, a college student. That’s what I am. And you are a rogue, an explorer. You are a pirate! A Steam-Punk King Pirate who has stolen my heart, but I have a promise to keep.”

‟You made that promise when you were all of six-years-old. I’m not so sure that might count.” Tom nodded.

‟Does a promise have a lower age limit?”

‟Uh. No, I suppose not.” Tom was not wanting to pick a fight like that. “A promise is a promise.”

‟No. My father always told me a promise is something to keep. Things change, say if Glenn was gay or I died in a plan crash.” Kaylee gave him a  playful sock on the thigh. ‟Then that voids the promise. But we are still alive and I can assure you Glenn is hetero, fully hetero.”

‟Okay.” Tom slouched in the chair. The stress of the last eighteen-days exhausted him. ‟You have always been my first concern. I held on to the hope you would decide to give us more of a try. Even now, I see you are not sure.”

‟No… no. No, I’m not sure. You have made me mad a few times since the first morning. But it was an exciting mad. You are a maddening, wonderful, frustrating, crazy, super-smart guy that makes me want to pull out all your chest hair.” Kaylee and Tom laughed at the same time. ‟And I would love to stay here.”

‟But?”

‟But I have to at least try to keep my promise.”

‟Agreed.” Tom nodded. Upset as he was, it actually helped to talk to her.

Kaylee also nodded.

First and always she would be friends with Tom and she knew he put her first. She would always put him first, except for the promise she made Glenn.

The promise of a six-year-old girl to the boy she grew up with.

Taking Tom by his good arm, she pulled him to the bedroom in the back of the plane.

‟For now, however, I am STILL your wife and you have neglected me.”

‟Oh! Doctor Kaylee , I’ve been occupied. Perhaps you have heard of this minor wound I suffered. I had to take a stitch or three to get a smaller scar.”

‟Well, I have the cure for you to forget that ache for a while.” Winking and pulling him as she walked backwards.

In the last few days, she had not realized that the tension she had building in her was a jet engine about to blow a gasket.

Now that she thought of it, there was more than a gasket she was going to blow.

The night in the plane was somewhat louder than it had been in the last ten days.

The world would envy, and sometimes pity, the husband that night. Kaylee did things to Thomas Harrison Harte that became legend in his mind and illegal in forty states and Washington, D.C.

In the end, Kaylee laughed harder than she had in the last few days.

Married by Mistake Chapter 29. Georgia off His Mind

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Chapter 29. Georgia Off His Mind

Lettie sat in the driver’s seat of the limousine, and explained that Kaikane was off the clock, by state law.

They rode in the limo quietly for a few minutes, while Tom looked out the window.

Finally he spoke.

‟First time I have ever fired someone.” He pulled at his earlobe as he thought. “Georgia has been with me for three years as an agent, she was assistant to Fred Granger for seven years before that.”

‟Why not call Fred and talk with him about being your agent.”

‟That’d be a long distance call.” Tom gave a wistful smile. ‟He passed away a few years ago. That’s how Georgia got my account. Originally, she called me her “minimal account” and rarely took my calls. She wanted little to do with me and getting events scheduled was difficult at best.”

‟Then the first of the children’s books were finally published at a startup Aussie book publisher and put in limited circulation in the south. They didn’t sell well in the first few months. Then Christmas hit.” Tom chuckled with the memory of it. “Someone’s grandmother or dad or maybe even a child picked one up in Melbourne and after that they vanished off shelves like bread-crumbs to ducks.”

“It was a good Christmas right at that point. The stats began to pick up before Thanksgiving.” He smiled.

“A second printing went forward and it sold out in less than a week. I had the second book written and it sat in Georgia’s email for so long that the system purged the email. I had to send a second file and she said she never got it. I found it in her junk file folder when I helped her with a few files.” Tom smiled wryly. ‟I’m kind of adept at computer networks.”

‟She had me listed as junk and spam until the first check arrived with more than two figures on it.” Tom stroked Kaylee ’s hand as he walked her through his memories. “The first few checks were less than a c-note. The next? I think it was around two-grand, then she said I got lucky and not to get used to it.”

“But,” Tom laughed out loud. “The next book sold out again, same with the fourth and fifth. I suggested that we make a set, she resisted and I insisted.” Tom’s confession to the relationship was one of strain. ‟The sales were geometric, I expanded my scope of subjects — against her advice — and Steamland the movie is one of that results.”

“One subject I like to write about is steampunk. The other is the children’s books. So, it is time for her to depart,” Tom had a look of a beaten dog who had just been freed. “I didn’t realize I was so far under her control. I’ve assumed it was a kind of partnership and I was just one of many clients.”

‟Honey, you might be only one of a group, but she is the one that got you to this point. Good or bad.” Kaylee stroked a stray hair out of his face. ‟The reason I reacted, I didn’t know book agents got paid so well. I mean, she spends a few minutes a day on your business and you pay her thousands.”

“Well, she takes her cut, then pays me. She cashes the check.”

Kaylee thought a minute with her mouth hanging open. 

“No, that is so not a good idea. She gets a check, cashes it and then pays you?‟ She tried to process this upside down information. “AND! If you sold more stories? She could make millions from you by only a few minutes work per day and you’d never know it. Who is to say she is not skimming more than she’s allowed? I’m saying she could be ripping you off.”

‟I don’t think that it works like that.”

‟Maybe not, business is not my major. Art is. But I can balance a checkbook. You should have a cap on the commission you pay, in my opinion.”

‟Like keep it below ten-percent?”

‟Like keep it to a flat fee. If an agent makes a quarter-million dollars a year from you, you could be their only client, exclusively.”

‟Well,” Tom slipped back into thought. “That’s all well and good, but honestly. You don’t know the business.”

‟No, I don’t.” Kaylee admitted with grumble under her breath. *That irritates me for him, and I’m irritated at him, too! He is paying out a huge amount of money and he is okay with it.* ‟Do you know how the business works?”

‟Not really. I have had a tax accountant handle that. Two years ago he suggested change agents or renegotiate the contract, anyway.” Tom said and shook his head. ‟That means I have to hire a lawyer or some such and I am not sure I want to deal with those people after my last run-in with them.”

‟I think you should call someone from all the friends you have made. Doctor Manga might even know a few good experts.” Kaylee the wife said in a thoughtful tone.

Tom pondered a moment as Lettie piloted the limo through the Bay Area traffic.

‟Lettie is driving, she owns the limo business here in the state.” Tom said. “Sometimes I talk to her, she has a lot of friends in Los Angeles that are attorneys. She has an uncle who is a judge in Sacramento.”

‟I have talked with Lettie, she has wisdom.” Kaylee smiled.

‟She has learned a lot from her contacts.” Tom nodded. ‟She was one of those that said it was time to change from Georgia a few months ago.”

‟She’s right.” Kaylee stroked his arm. ‟Tom, you can get like an advance before you finish. I have heard of that.”

‟Well, I figure it would come in time. It is not free money, it comes out of the back-end of royalties.”

‟Well, that comes to a lawyer then.” Kaylee nodded.

‟Right.” Tom nodded as they pulled into the parking area of the hanger. ‟Oh, it looks like they have finished working on the Dragon.”

“I had to ask someone to clean up where you got cut, honey.” Kaylee said. The term of endearment coming out without her meaning to say it. “You left quite a mess, it had all dried and turned black and glass. No one had gotten the idea to clean up where you bled. You lost a lot of blood.”

“Yikes, that had to be nasty, good idea for getting that clean-up ordered.”

Another limousine sat parked near the Sea Dragon, the tall Hawai’an Kaikane stood there with his arms crossed, waiting for them to arrive.

“I called ahead to help us get Tom settled in.” Lettie smiled. “Kaikane can help Tom get up the steps and into the plane, the more bodies to help, the better.”

“I can walk.” Tom protested weakly.

“She’s right.” Kaylee poked at her husband. “Right now, I bet my grandmother could push you down.”

“She’s right. You are in need of help this time, Tom. Just go with it.” Lettie nodded, standing by her sister of soul and spirit.

Tom was a little woozy still, getting out of limo and moved unsteadily to the jet with Kaikane helping Tom walk. For the first time, Kaylee noticed that Kaikane’s hands. Long fingers and finely boned like a musicians, but exerting a grip on Tom’s shoulders, he was not about to let Tom fall to the ground.

Sitting Tom at his desk, on the arm-rest of the seat, Kaikane let Tom lay his arm gently on the padded support.

‟Brudda, this works for you? You let me know what you need. You have done me well, and I always take care of ohana.”

From the door, Lettie leaned in and smiled.

‟Is this the spot where you got hurt?” Lettie asked, Kaylee nodding.

“It was hideous, there was blood caked on the floor and broken glass everywhere.” Kaylee pointed out the new flooring and carpet was.

“Well, at least he is home where he belongs.” Lettie nodded.

“He can get some work done.” Kaikane agreed. “Mister Tom, you are keeping my little sister eight-years-old at home in Kōloa, is excited with all the books. She tells me to call you ohana and if you come to the islands you must stop by for meals. So keep on writing, you have one fan that would miss it if you stopped.”

Tom grimaced as he tried to wiggle fingers.

‟No matter what, the fingers hurt and it will be a challenge to write.” Tom groaned.

‟I have access to voice to text, if you like.” Lettie said. ‟I used to date the coder for that program. He is still sweet on me, I bet I can get you his latest code.”

‟Maybe, I don’t work like that. I get lost in the sound of my voice, I like to pause my fingers. Even backspace is my best friend and gives me time to review what I was writing.” Tom smiled. “I sound like an idiot when dictating.”

‟I can type for you anytime, Brah. I have to type my papers all the time.” Kaikane said. ‟Plus you have your lady here to help you.”

Kaylee laughed.

*For a loner who traveled so much in his jet to avoid people, he draws a lot of attention from friends that will do things for him.* Kaylee laughed. *It is hard to think that Tom thinks of himself as unfriendly with so many friends that would go out of their way to help him out.*

Kaikane and Lettie bid their farewells, her black limousine followed by Kaikane’s blue limousine disappeared out the big doors of the hangar.

Kaylee closed the door of the big plane and sat down. Alone for the first time in weeks with the sparkling green-eyes that occupied such a large chunk of her summer.

‟Tom, do you want any pain-medication now? The discharge instructions read that you should take them as needed, but no more than every four-hours.”

‟No,” He sounded tired. ‟I’m okay for now. Just glad being home. But, you know what I would like? PIZZA!”

Kaylee laughed.

*They say hospital food was never as good as the real world. But this stay,* she noted, *The hospital food was not just good, but great. Chef-restaurant great. And then he goes and orders pizza for the entire floor, eight nurses stations, eight pizza’s each. I do not feel like arguing with him about his food choices. And now Tom wants a pizza, again. A San Francisco pizza from the Italian district.*

She started looking up pizza on her phone.

After she ordered the pizza delivery, Kaylee hung up the phone and turned, looking him in the eye.

‟Tom, I have to talk to you.”

‟Uh-oh. That sounds like THE TALK.”

‟Yeah. I guess I can talk about it now.” She sat and held his good hand, taking a deep breath.

She began to talk to her husband about annulment papers.

Married by Mistake Chapter 22. Treatment Course

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Chapter 22. Treatment Course

Richard Tribbing, MD, Microsurgeon, specialist in the field that saved both Tom’s life, his professional life and his arm walked in with the team of doctors who all worked to answer their calling as microsurgeons while they made their afternoon rounds.

Looking at Kaylee , he smiled as he and the seven other doctors and fellows entered and filled the room.

Describing the injuries,commenting that the wound was ‟Large shard of glass left the wound clean as if a large scalpel had cut through the soft-tissues leaving the wound with no appreciable tearing or avulsion mid-shaft radius. The weight of the glass was sufficient to cut through the bone without deflection. There were eight-slivers of glass removed during the procedure. Imaging did not reveal any other glass in the arm.”

Kaylee sat and listened, twice she tried to leave as the surgical team made notes, questioned, and spoke in terms that sounded like Greek to her.

Doctor Tribbing chuckled when they spoke later and she referred to the conversations.

‟So how long do you think it will be before he comes home?” Kaylee asked. ‟We live on a flying yacht, there is not much room for putting a hospital bed in the plane, he told me last week he has a deadline to finish writing for.”

‟Well, he won’t be going home until the danger of… ” The Doctor paused and pulled at his chin. “How should I put this? If anything should go sideways against any of our plans to get him home and whole and functioning.”

‟How long?”

‟Depending on how his healing responds, probably two to three weeks, we have not had any problems thus far so maybe on the shorter side of that.”

‟Three weeks.” Kaylee said quietly, thanked Doctor Tribbing and sat next to the sleeping Tom and held his hand again while the Doctor left the room to continue his business.

‟Kaylee ?” It was Randy the nurse at the door. ‟There is someone who wants to see you in the waiting room.”

‟Me? Okay.” This puzzled her as no one of her friends or family knew she was at the hospital with Tom.

Kaylee walked out to the waiting room where sat a middle-aged woman with a quick eye who sat ramrod straight. She was the only one in the room.

‟I am Kaylee .”

‟You? You are Tom’s new wife?” She looked down and bit her lip in a grimace. ‟I am Georgia Hershey, Tom’s agent. I am the one that gets him published and I have been with him for the last decade. I don’t know you.”

She looked as if someone had spit on her.

“How did a young… lady… as yourself marry to Tom? That is so classic. How did you meet?” It was a near accusation tone of voice, followed with a sigh. “No no..never mind. I am here to check on him, there is an installment on the series due on the Weedy Sea Dragon, but you won’t know about that I’m sure. But I will ask anyway. Do you know if he has finished it?”

‟First, I am Tom’s wife. Second, I have heard about you and how you have pushed him to write, I’m not sure of his view of you gnawing on him to get things done.” Kaylee felt something inside of her, an anger that she last felt when she broke a man’s arm. “He has told me that you said it was due at the end of the month, but the contract I’ve read specifies no such deadline. It reads simply ‟As finished.” And third, he has one completed in the last month, I have read it and it is complete but unedited. It will get to you when it he finishes the edit.”

‟And I know that Leonard the Leafy SeaDragon is a series, your attempt to misdirect me is offensive.” Kaylee kept even voice, hiding her mounting rage.

‟I would like to see him.” Ms. Hershey said, matching Kaylee ’s tone.

‟The answer is no. He needs rest, he will contact you when he is ready and not before. He has endured a horrid injury and still might lose his arm. His access is limited while he is on polypharmecutical therapy and external fixation to hold the bones in the normal anatomic positions. ” Kaylee had to clench her fist on her drawing hand until the knuckles cracked. She chose her words with care to show the woman that she was not a simple girl. “You go back to your office, and tell the truth to who ever needs to hear it, Tom has been injured and is now with family in the intensive care department of the finest institution that can be found.” Kaylee felt heat building in her chest. “So you go back to your office or whatever crack you crawled out of and he will send it in.”

‟Well.” Ms. Hershey backed up a step. ‟Tell him to call when it is convenient, but please make it soon.”

The agent walked out amid scattered applause.

An RN smiled at Kaylee as she walked past.

‟That was awesome, she called when you and Tom were asleep, then came in and was treating us like trash. It was good to see her taken down a few notches.” The name badge said ‟Trish” on it. ‟She demanded entry. Then she told us she was Tom’s closest thing to family.” Trish frowned with the memory of the event. “We told her that security would escort her out.”

‟We got married earlier this month. Kind of a surprise for both of us.”

‟What does he write? You said something about a dragon?”

‟That’s a children’s book, he has written stories that have made it to the movies. ‟ Kaylee took a deep breath, she was suddenly cold, not realizing she had started to perspire during the confrontation. ‟His movie, Steamland that is in the theaters now.”

‟Oh? Oh WOW! I have seen that twice! It is a great movie, he wrote that?” Trish’s eyes widened.

‟Yup, he’s the author.”

‟Missus Harte, anything you need. No one will get in without your say-so.” Randy said from the door as he let both women in. Kaylee felt a bit like royalty after that. The young woman with an iron will who took no crap from anyone.

Kaylee smiled, returning to Tom’s side feeling accomplished. She had done something that she felt was worthy of the title of “Mrs. Tom”.

Married by Mistake Chapter 19. At The Hospital

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Chapter 19. At the Hospital

The trip by air to the north state was the fastest she had ever traveled, they were there in less than an hour when the Captain announced they were descending.

A quick touchdown in the sports car of the heavens and they taxied to the private area, coming to a complete stop in less time than Tom could get the Flying Sea Dragon out of the sky. The little business jet was faster in all categories, compared to the yacht that she had been on. But nowhere near as comfortable.

After the jets engines wound down, Kaylee stepped forward to the door when Captain Watson opened the door.

“There is a limo waiting for you Mrs. Harte.”

“Where are we?”

“Hayward Airport. This is the closest I can get you with the traffic tonight. The limo will take you directly to the hospital. Tom is in room 3418, it’s here on this paper. He might still be in surgery, I don’t know.”

“Thank you.” Kaylee answered taking the yellow notepad paper from Captain Watson.

The limo rocketed along at a fast walk as the chauffeur navigated through stop and go traffic in the Maze to cross the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

“Oh crap, someone’s grandma just past us with her walker! What is the hold up?” Kaylee called up through the open window.

The driver, Kaikane, laughed, then spoke with a pronounced Hawaiian accent.

“It is another one of those things about the local traffic in the Maze. You would do well by opening one of the bottles in the back, the green ones are good. They don’t taste like much to me, but they would put you in a mood. The one that says Absinthe.”

“Oh, hell no.” Kaylee laughed. “I have been on that stuff before, then I woke up two towns away with people who still think my name is Stacy. Absinthe is wicked magic in a bottle.”

“You should move to my home.” Kaikane laughed. “We have a drink, okolehao, that can do that, but you cannot be that far from where you live.”

Kaylee laughed at the tall Hawaiian, built like a giant “V”, she wondered if he tailored his driver’s uniform to show his build off or if it was a trick of how the jacket was cut.

They drove through the toll booths without stopping, the lane was a cash free lane, no fee collector occupied the booth. Kaikane lifted his foot off the pedal a little and rolled past the sensors at the perfect speed.

“Just like surfing.” Kaikane said, looking over his shoulder. “You do it right, it is easy.”

“Eyes on the road!” Kaylee gave a squeaky nervous laughed. The dark hair of the islander barely hung to his collar, except for islanders with shaved heads, his hair was shorter than of any Hawaiian she had ever met.

The white limousine was not stretched as she had seen others, and it was a solid ride, unlike her own rattle-trap of a car. She named her old girl, “Spot”, a car that would continue making spooky noises after hitting a bump for several dozen yards down a street. Her friends would say that the only reason it held together was habit.  

The expert hands of the college age chauffeur guided them to the main entrance of the medical center.

“Here we are Missus Harte.” Kaikane opened the door for Kaylee and handed her a business card. “Take this, I have his room number written on the back of my card. Good luck, Missus! I hope Tom is doing well.”

“Doesn’t anyone call him “Mister”?” She asked. “And when did you find out about what room he was in?”

“Oh no! He won’t allow it. If you are formal to him, he won’t consider you worthy of his business, Tom is quite insistent on that.” Kaikane smiled. “And I have an earphone, I wrote it down while sitting in traffic.”

“Oh my.” Kaylee pulled at her ear. She had learned more about Tom in the last few days than she had in the last three weeks sitting in his lap.

“Call the number anytime you need me back Missus…”

“Kaylee , please. If you call him Tom, you call me Kaylee .”

“Yes, ma’am. Kaylee .” His eyes sparkled with that calm soul that some people have. Kaylee wondered if it had to do something with the beauty of his home that gave him that ineffable contentment that showed in his actions.

Bidding him farewell, Kaylee walked through the sliding glass doors and to the information desk.

She had to be with Tom, even if she was not positive why this was important.

*I am his wife, it is in the rules somewhere. I am a good person too.* Kaylee laughed to herself.

And that made all the difference. Except it felt more than a duty, she was fond of him in different ways, with each passing day, she found another facet she adored of this man who she called “husband”.

The man who loved his solitude, but touched lives everywhere he went. Everyone called him by his first name, and for a man who even described himself in misanthropic terms and, except for tabloids, everyone liked him.

A lot.

The doors of the huge hospital opened to a small foyer that led to a security desk and a locked door.

“I’m here to see Tom Harte?” She asked the buzz-cut middle-aged man behind the thick glass who eyed her up and down.

“Open your purse please?” He had not even looked at the screen when he typed the name she gave him- he kept his eyes locked on her while he typed out everything.

Satisfied for whatever inspection that he performed when he shined an intense palm-sized light into her purse through the glass.

“Through the door, third elevator doors to the right side of the hallway, thirty-forth floor.” The directions were well rehearsed and spoken with a too-bored voice.

The door buzzed open and she walked down the hallway. The hallway at this time of day reminded her of the… What did the driver call it? What was the driver’s name? Kai, something, Kaikane. He called it “the Maze” on the approach to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The Maze had a little brother and she was in the middle of it.

Nearly losing count of elevators, Kaylee stopped, recounted behind her and found she was spot on at the correct elevator doors.

“First floor.” An electronic generated voice of a woman intoned.

Kaylee stepped into the elevator car with five other people.

“… Finally after all that, surgery went well, we re-established circulation with a Gore-Tex graft with good return of…” A young woman with an intense gaze told her fellow surgeon. She sounded exhausted as if she had been in surgery for a long time.

The male companion, touched her on the shoulder and the speaking woman looked at Kaylee and smiled, but spoke no more. The conversation continued as soon as the elevator doors opened on the tenth floor and they stepped out.

Finally with people getting on, and exiting, Kaylee arrived at the thirty-forth floor.

She immediately saw the sign she needed to direct her to her destination.

ICU.

Holding her breath, she picked up the phone next to the door.

“Here for Thomas Harte.” Her voice squeaked.

The door lock buzzed and she walked in to a new world.

Married by Mistake Chapter16. Week Three

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Chapter 16. Week Three

She sat in the morning, alone on her balcony, Melanie had left with her visiting boyfriend and went to a theme park. Sipping the tea of MariMint, a recipe of her own mixing of spearmint and marijuana teas.

*Twenty-one days! Sheesh, it has been three weeks since I woke up with this ring on my finger, happy, hung over. Only twenty days and it seems like a lifetime ago.*

She laughed at the memory while looking at her ring.

*A wonderful lifetime ago.*

Still, all had not been without problems, not that the start was smooth as satin sheets, either.

The last week Tom had spent in northern California supervising the repairs on the crash-landed Dragon. He asked her to come back up north, while they towed the plane out into a larger channel, where they could pull the flying boat up on land and disassemble its wings and put the body of the plane on a truck and move it to a hanger for repairs at an airport.

Yeah… No. Tom told her to stay on the Pacific Wizard at the Bay, that she would be bored to watch the process and be reminded of the near disaster that was their date of wine tasting.

*That plane was an accident and no one tells me what I must do. I choose my destiny. He needs a partner if any part of the computer files are true.*

She did not ask him if she could come be with him, that would be a waste of effort.  She had studies left to finish and needed to meet with Professor Manga to assure her grades were intact.

*I will not let the last two years of classes be flushed down the toilet.* She gritted her teeth. *I know more than enough to pass this years classes.*

She stopped being angry at him and had began to miss Tom’s quick wit and the curve of his shoulders where she rested her hand on him at night, when she slept.

Shaking her head, she brought herself out of those thoughts of a life with Tom that danced in her head.

*I will spend my life with Glenn.* She reminded herself, *I head home in a few weeks and we’re was cutting it close with the annulment from this drunken, Las Vegas fiasco.*

*I wish Tom was an ass, just a truly hateful person.* She shook her head while she took another sip of her tea. *Not a hero who frightened the crap out of me while avoiding a crash of the plane and made me angry. I should not have blamed him, it was an accident.*

She gave a heavy sigh. *I’m not angry over what he did, he saved our lives with that heroic effort that has my deep respect.* She began to adore this man.

*His life was a tapestry that I could paint and muse with for years.* She could feel the urge to draw and paint. He was such a large point in her life that he gave her inspiration to draw.

Kaylee sighed. *It’s not fair. I should charge Tom with taking advantage of me while I was wasted. But I thought I knew what I was doing that night. Besides, I love all that Tom has done, even saving us.*

*Love? Oh, Crap.* She began to cry again. She would be out of the mess of it all if she just walked away.

*If I did, me and Tom could date as normal people do and start over. Not this backwards, life-destroying maze of confusion.*

Except, Glenn. She needed to spend time with him and his beautiful eyes. Back to the life that she had dreamed of as a girl in grade school, that life was the one she would live. She enjoyed being married to Tom, still, it was not the life she planned.

What was she thinking? It weighed her down, heavy in the feeling, and still, although it was a burden, it energized her imagination, it gave her wings in her heart. Tom’s bright soul illuminated hers with the urge to begin drawing.

Her fingers began drawing on a paper with a pencil, working feverishly, she decided she needed her sketchpad.

Dr. Manga! She knew she required a good performance in what ever test she would need to pass, even if he had all but promised her a passing grade. She knew her art history backwards and forwards. And yet? A charcoal sketch is always subjective grading.

*Unless I draw like a first year student with crayon, and cannot say the names of Victorian era art, the Headmaster will give it a hight grade.*

Coming out of her funk, Kaylee stood up to find her phone.

*I need to call Melanie.*

 

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Chapter 5. A Doctor Awakens

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 Chapter 5. A Doctor Awakens

A smaller of the bots raced up to the exploring humans as they continued their tour of New Town.

The name made Fae and Amsi laugh, the New Town, Old Town dynamic was often used.

“You’d think if they had a bot that felt it could fly, they would have more imagination for place names.”

“I noticed that. They numbered and did not name craters, there are no towns, really, until we asked.”

Thea flitted close, listening to the exchange.

“Bots do not have the drive to gather when it is dark. Machines do not care if the outside world is light or dark, it is all the same to us, there are no predators on bots.”

“That.” Amsi paused and looked at Fae. “Did you know of any predators?”

“Um. This is the first time I’ve been outside, I never thought to ask.”

“When humans went into the hibernation chambers, the selected zoological genome of every living creature was also preserved, both in DNA samples and in living samples, enough to repopulate the known species if the need arose.”

Fae blinked with the unasked question. *Repopulate*?

“The caution expressed by the human director of zoological preservation we discovered was unfounded.”

“So we have wildlife that wanders around?”

“Often, in town, in the forests, many were just released from the zoos to fend for themselves and they have done well in the time without humans.” Thea pointed to some tracks in the soil.

“This is a hoofed animal, but it is huge.”

“Equines and camelids have evolved to larger sizes because of the higher oxygen levels and the amount of foods available. Nano and microbots have allowed growth without injury, but have not inhibited evolution.” Beekan Luc rode up on a large moth-like ride, barely in control. “This moth design needs modification. No one has worked well for rides, although the can life ten-times their weight.”

“I thought it was a dragon for a moment.” Amsi laughed. “You have it stretched out front-to-back it doesn’t really look like a moth, if you are trying to copy nature.”

“A what? A dragon? What is that?” He shook his head, nearly falling off the oddly shaped moth. “May I introduce myself, I am Beekan Luc, inventor and designer. You can call me Luc. Now about dragons?”

“Mythical creature, you may be better designing a Pegasus kind of creature. They look like winged horses.” Fae suggested to the inventor bot.

“I don’t ever recall seeing DNA of either one. Mythical you say? I can redesign from descriptions, I’ll look in the historical database from human stories. Thank you.” Turning to Thea “Oh! I nearly forgot. Doctor Ofir wants you to return with the humans, the next one is awake.”

“Thank you, Luc.”

Unsteadily, the inventor flew off, yelling at the unstable moth, threatening to recycle it into a floor-tile.

In the recovery room, Doctor Igari Shimona, MD, spoke in deep conversation with the small bot that claimed to be a doctor.

Doctor Ofir Bhabel repeated that such a long time had passed, that Doctor Shimona was not the first awakened because the Core System felt there was a danger, thus selected humans, chosen for reanimation that were more appropriate.

“I still cannot believe that we have been in stasis for longer than the history of humankind prior to our preservation.” He pulled at his lower lip. “Has any communication from Earth ever been received?”

“Doctor Shimona?” Amsi’s voice was louder than he expected in the small recovery room.

“Yes?” The smile widened. It was the first two humans he had seen since he awoke.

“I am Amsi Itt-Tejo and this is engineer Fae MacLir. Welcome to what seems to be paradise.” He held out his hand.

“Thank you.” He took the hand. “Igari Shimona, director of Federal Medical University. Although I don’t imagine there are many classes at the moment.”

Fae shook his hand.

“You’re correct. But there will be. We have thousands of people to wake up and some to save.” Fae smiled.

Amsi nodded.

“There have been some system failures, we have people who have lost a large margin of their anti-icing fluids, the Core System…”

“Excuse me, Core System?”

“The main computer area. There is no single computer anymore, the computers operate independent from each other and have evolved AI beyond anything programmed by us humans.”

“I have found that out by arguing with Doctor Bhabel here.

“Ahem. Doctor Ofir.” A glittering eye showed the offense that the human doctor apologized for.

“The part that amazes me of this all is the lack of wear on everything, anything.” Doctor Shimona looked around. “Nothing is rubbed off, scratched or rusted.

“You will learn that nanobots are highly effective.” A red colored minibot, taller than most, rode in on what looked like a sparrow-hawk. “Doctor Ofir, I expected a report by the time humans awakened.”

“Officially, they are not. These are the evaluators that decide whether the rest will be so treated or they will return back to hibernation. Core System has determined the first two, the third, Doctor Shimona here, just awakened and is proving to be fully functional. There is no report to file yet.”

“Hm.” Red-bot sounded unconvinced. “Humans. Greetings. I am Ireama Bitemi, I am the oversight and safety control for your reanimation. Are there any questions you may have for my team?”

“Yes, I have one.” Amsi stepped forward.

“This is for your leader to ask. Not for subjects of the one who makes choices. He is director, according to the file.” Bitemi looked at a display in his hand. “You have no rank I can see for administration, you are an engineer.”

“That is rude.” Doctor Ofir gasped.

“I am not the leader you think I am. I am a director of a school, let him ask the question.”

Unaccustomed to being treated in such a manner, the bureaucrat capitulated to the small majority.

“A percentage of pods with helium at preservation temperatures, but over the years, they have lost the preservation liquid.  No logs exist, anywhere, for reason why.”

“There has been a minor percentage that have lost fluids, but there has been no loss in systemic function. They are a minor loss.”

“Not so minor to those who lose their stasis vitrification stand a better-than-fair chance of never being reanimated.”

“Perhaps you can ask your doctor to explain it to you.” Administrator Bitemi climbed on his sparrowhawk. “I will check in later, I have important matters to attend to. Be well.”

Watching the bureaucrat leave, the three humans looked at each other for a moment.

“I have served in administrative categories all my life. The official term for someone like that?” Doctor Shimona shook his head. “Is an ass.”

Even Doctor Ofir laughed.

Dragon Master University Chapter 38. Spring Quarter Begins

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Chapter 38. Spring Quarter Begins

Kolo walked slowly with Jona and talked about why she left.

“My family had to move, the Csu are in the area.”

“The chew?” Jona asked.

“Csu, C-S-U, no one knows where they came from, but they are a human-like kind of creature, but aggressive, hateful. They have drawn upon something that no one wishes to believe.” She shuddered. “Gorgons.”

“You are speaking in riddles.” He looked sideways at his friend.

“Paying attention in next years classes on dragon and human relationships will help. But for now, I’ll explain it is a kind of religion. The Csu follow a book, interpreted by the High-Priestess and their queen.”

“And what are gorgons?” They mounted the curving steps to the emerald level, to the dorms of their level.

“Gorgons are dragons that have fallen under the spell of the Csu, they have an anger that is corrupts their bodies, humans are favorite target, but an attack by a gorgon the humans view as an attack by a dragon. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes, like humans.” She held his hand. “We have hearts and skin, each of us are as different as two humans. Gorgons cannot be spotted from dragons, humans then hunt every single dragon to pay the price of the few malevolent creatures.”

“Do we have those here in school?”

“Oh no!” She shook her head. “Professors and even the Green Wizard have a sense about that, dragons and humans that are too dangerous to live with each other are not brought here. They go to a different school.”

“What kind of school?” Jona asked, still learning about the nuances about the university. “Like a school for dunces?”

“More like how to teach peace. Humans and Dragons do not associate at that school.”

“Where is it?”

“Other side of the world. It would take the fastest flier almost a day to get there.” Her slid around his waist and pulled him close to her as they topped the stairs and walked down the hallway. “I have missed you.”

Jona smiled, color rising to his cheeks.

“Oh, I forgot, you are sensitive to that.” She laughed softly. “Humans don’t touch like dragons.”

“I think you just like to touch me.” He grinned at her.

“Well, you smell good, especially after you have showered. You use that cedar oil soap. There is only one other I like more, but I don’t want you to try it.”

“What scent is that?”

“Fish.” She winked. “Specifically, salmon.”

“Um, yeah. No.” He laughed.

“Well, I’m thirsty. I am going to get some tea and study. I will tell you more about the Csu when I sit down.”

Jona shook his head.

“I just finished flying with Eva, I need to shower, if she gets in before me, she uses all the hot water.”

Kolo laughed and nodded.

“I’ll be on a cushion when you come out. I have studying to do, come sit with me.” She looked at him sideways. “You do still like to sit with me?”

“Oh, of course!”

“Summer enjoyed herself. You should invite her here sometime and come cuddle.” She smiled. “She would like that. Her clan are known cuddlers and raise families with humans.”

“Maybe later, right now? A shower.” Jona shook his head.

“Use that cedar soap.” She laughed and called after the human that tickled her heart.

She sat there with a large cup of steaming tea when Kola came and sat next to her.

“Did you tell the professors what happened at home?”

His sister shook her head.

“I have had enough trouble telling Jona. If the Csu have moved into the swimmer clan’s area, they are moving everywhere, the school would know before I told them.”

“Tell us what?”

It was Professor Vale, he walked on soft, cat-like feet when he wanted to. He walked to the golden tea-pot and turned the handle at the bottom, filling a cup with the fragrant steaming brew.

“Sir, the Csu forced my clan to move. They imposed their kind of law and it is a horrid version of law, worse than anything archaic humans have ever thought up.” Kolo looked down and went quiet.

Kola spoke up.

“Professor, they are using Gorgons.”

The tea-cup stopped in mid-air between the saucer and the Professor’s lips for a count of five before he took a sip.

“Gorgon.” He muttered as he took a sip while looking straight at Kola. “Are you sure?”

“They have the markings, carved into their scales.” Kola said.

“Professor.” Jona walked in wearing a thick, brushed cotton robe, his hair wet. “What is a gorgon?”

“They are a group of dragons that the Csu twisted and corrupted within and without by the magic of Csu.” Professor Vale started slowly. “They submit with free will, or captured and forced to convert, either way, they change.” He shook his head, sipped his tea, took a breath and continued. “The heart of the dragon is resilient and the scales of a dragon reflect what is in the heart. This is why you see dragons here as you do. Even those that are…”

Professor Vale trailed off and sipped his tea.

“Sorry, I lost the word.” He paused. “Bully. That’s it. Their heart reflects the violent fear that is in the core of their heart. They feel that it is the only way for them to achieve salvation and all that stand in their way they destroy. Human, dragon, young, old, statue, memories. And they will destroy all history to make way for only one leader and religion.”

“The Csu.” Jona said.

“Very good, I do not know where you have been doing your social studies, but you have been paying attention.” The Professor said.

“The serious threat that the Csu have for the world, where they raid, they use a scorched earth policy in society and physically. Humans are wiped out, dragons join or die.”

“Dragons do not submit.” Kola said.

“No, that means for a severe battle when swimmers, runners and flyers band together and fight against a creeping evil that is the insanity named Csu.” Vale shook his head. “Csu must be nearly two-thousand winter’s old by now.”

“Who is Csu?” Jona asked, his blue eyes locked on Vales gold.

“Csu was a student here, but dropped out when a judge caught her cheating during a race. The school transferred her to the segregated school for humans to learn peace and acceptance of dragons.” Vale took another swallow of tea. “She nearly killed a human boy. I do not know all the circumstances, but she used an object that she keeps with her. An antler of an animal.”

“She wrote a book about that time, claiming that it was the word of the Dragon Lord, Gamon.” Vale’s voice was soft as he thought. “Gamon has not been spoken of before, no one knows where it came from. But she gathered followers of like-minded dragons. She might be half-dragon herself, no one knows for sure, but her appearance has changed. Perhaps reflecting her heart and soul, buy in any way you wish to look at it, the group she has started has taken on her name. She is Csu, they are the Csu.”

“Corruption of the inside, corrupts the outside?” Jona asked.

“Not entirely accurate, but essentially, yes.” Vale nodded. “Dragons when angered over a long time, their bodies prepare for battles, claws get longer, scales get coarser and thicker. In mixed races with humans, elves and others, the effect is still observable.”

“So she builds a following. How can the world stop this?” Kola asked.

“Dragons, by and large, are peaceful with given exceptions.” Vale was still pondering. “My suggestion to you students, do not seek anything out on this. Stay within the range of the school.”

Jona looked around wide-eyed.

“I don’t think I want to leave the house.”

“Do not stress young human, we have protocols in place.” Vale tried to smile.

“Nothing can happen.”

Dragonmaster University Chapter 35. AHH! Homework! AHH!

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Chapter 35. AHH! Homework! AHH!

Jona staggered into the common room of the dorms, in his arms were four books, each the size of his head thick. Weighing half as much as he did. He put the books down on his table with a bang.

“Ugh, those are heavy. Three classes and we move into these books to study.” He griped to no one in particular. “I think I pulled a muscle.”

Jona rubbed the cramp out of his arm and sat.

Obon, a water dragon from a different clan than Kolo, held on book in his clawed upper hand, the faceted eyes of the undergrad glittered in the bright lights of the common room.

“Problem Jona?” Obon asked without looking up.

“Dragon law, the charter of human and dragon agreements of the seven kingdoms.” Jona rubbed his face with both hands. “The title is even complex!”

Obon laughed in a knowing way.

“Been there, done that.” The water dragon picked up a box and upended it, the crunching sound made Jona think of crackers until one of the things fell out of the box and crawled across the floor.

A hermit-crab! Jona made a face, at least his snacks never tried to run away.

Obon offered Jona his box.

“Crabs?”

“Ah… No. Thanks.” Jona laughed. “That’s not something I care to eat.”

“Suit yourself.” Obon laughed, scooping up the side-scuttling shell with tiny legs and popped it into his mouth. “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

“I think I might like it that way, ignorance is bliss and all.”

Obon laughed again, stood up and stretched. He was only up to Jona’s shoulder, but one of the fastest riders in years past, legend had it that he crashed, his ride was badly hurt. Obon was afraid to go in the air again. He was a swimmer and joined the water-ball team, excelling at that as he did with the sky-riding.

“I have a parchment to write on the first laws of dragons, back when man first stepped out of the fog of time.” Jona shook his head. “What is the fog of time?”

“That is when someone thought to keep a record of their day. The first journal, so to speak.” Obon saiad.

“Not to be rude, but I must have this read by morning, I have put it off for pracice in the pool. The history of human-male failures with the human-female.” The small dragon looked back into his book.

“Fail?” Jona laughed.

“Oh, yes.” Obon laughed. “You humans gamble big on getting a mate. When you win, you get someone like Professor Vale and Lady RedNova, Professor Greenman’s daughter? Have you met her?”

Jona shook his head and smiled.

“You are in for a treat. She cooks the best kelp soup.” Obon smiled. “Tasty by even human standards.”

“I’ll, uh. I’ll take your word for it.” Jona did not even like the sound of it.

Obon chuckled and shook his head.

“My advice, you have Professor Krular Class? He’s three-quarters human and one-quarter fire-drake. Better to have the homework done ahead of time, he has a particular habit for posting lessons on his office door. Have you been to his office to look?” Obon asked.

“No, we haven’t even started the class module, yet.” Jona felt alarmed. “Why?”

“You will have a test come after the week break. I suggest you go to the office and find out what you need to study on. He is unforgiving for failure to take on the responsibilities. You are studying as a Master, you have to take command of the situation, that is part of the test.”

Blinking, the young human took the pearl of wisdom and turned on his heel.

“Thanks Obon!” And ran down the stairs.

“Bring back another box of hermit crabs!” The dragon yelled after human. Feeling like a teacher, Obon picked up the box again and at another mouthful of the crunchy treats.

Jona, in a run, skidded out the door of the dormitory and then slowed to a fast walk, avoiding the urge to run, too many students walked to their different destinations, many reading as they went.

Four flights of stairs, the fifth flight, was horrid, cut from igneous rock and polished by a thousand footfalls.

He found Professor Class’ office, and right where he Obon said it would be, the lesson to study.

Laughing, he would have been an abysmal failure, but the study material, was simple and straight forward, but required him to read for about an hour worth of time. Returning to the dorms, he stopped at the student store and picked up a box of “Crabbies” for Obon. The sound of them moving around inside the woven material was slightly unnerving, but he made the trip and gifted it to the water dragon.

Sometimes, it pays to listen to those that have walked the path before. Jona contemplated as he read.

The first day of class, Jona had read, re-read and contemplated the mental state of the lawmakers of the era. And Professor (”Doctor if you please.” In terse tone of voice.) Class was true to character.

He did not forgive any student for being surprised on the testing on the first day of class.

Jona thought that Doctor Class looked annoyed, but impressed that Jona had the answers in the front of his mind.

Nodding inwardly, Jona made note to pay close attention to the older students who had been at the school longer.

“A true Dragon Master pays attention.” Aed Samhain said to his son before he his only child at the huge school, built inside the mountain. “You were chosen by the little one for a reason. Listen to those that care about you most. Don’t let your emotions or your heart lead your mind, just yet. Anyway.”

The old man had slapped Jona on the back with a smile, but the years of iron and hammers made the gentle, fatherly pat on the back feel like a blow by one of his hammers.

After the first day of class, with testing, Jona laughed and went to see Kolo.

Married by Accident Chapter 26. Papers

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Chapter 26. Papers

Barbara had left Tom when they had taken him back to the room. He had been in a bit of pain as they gave him a bath and had gave him some medications to help him sleep.

She walked across the tar and macadam surface of the airport to the hangar that housed the Flying Sea Dragon, she could barely keep from sobbing the entire trip from the hospital. It hurt so much to even think of those papers that sat somewhere inside the plane, waiting.

She took a taxi to the airport, not wanting to ride with anyone driving who knew Tom, knew of Tom or had even heard about his books.

She had a serious need to sit and drink wine and smoke a bowl with her sister and talk.

She missed the afternoons with Sandy like they had in their teens. They had barely graduated from high school, but as the best of friends and the worst of enemies, they would fight ferociously for minutes, then would be the best of friends as they settled down for a toke.

But no one dare make either of them cry.

Woe be unto the person that faced the wrath of the Grant sisters. It would make for a biblical-bad day when both sisters would turn on the offending person with fury that sisters of family, of heart and soul have.

As they grew older, and although they attended the same university, they became closer still.

Opening the door, she looked down at the broken glass that still lay on the floor.

And saw the blood, everywhere. It was surprising the amount that soaked into the carpet on the floor. A body-trail in the glass where he crawled to the door and yelled for help at the plane’s technicans and engineers.

Stepping past the gore and glass that nearly ended Tom’s life, perhaps did end his writing life, she sat at the chair where the papers in the manila envelope that Tom filed in a cubby-hole that he told her about.

Barbara thought of Sandy, and all the fights they had, while she sat in the Flying Sea Dragon and held the annulment papers in her hands.

Tom had said she had only to sign on the lines in the document and mail it with…

With…

She slumped in the chair and a sob escaped her lips.

It was strange, this is what she wanted four-weeks ago, now she had a serious temptation to put it in the washing machine somewhere on the plane. Except she was not sure where it was, hidden behind some cabinet door.

Barbara took a heavy breath, unsure of the wisdom of her next action, she found the place to sign in the back of the document.

Slipping the papers into the manilla envelope they were paper-clipped to, she closed and sealed the package and walked out the door of the big flying yacht.

Not as large as the Pacific Wizard was inside, it was more cluttered with furniture, bulky items that seemed to make it feel close.

Still, a comfortable plane to live in.

A flying yacht, she reminded herself as she walked across the airport to the main offices.

She nearly didn’t mail it, the woman behind the counter almost gave it back because of Barbara’s facial expressions and the slumped-sad way she carried herself.

“Miss, I don’t know what you have in this, and it is not my place to say. But do you really want to send this?” She looked as if she might have known Ben Franklin when she started for the post-office. Not a trace of color in the great-grandmotherly hair. Stamping it and putting it into the slot behind her and it was finally off in the US mail and it required a signature on delivery of the package at the courts.

Once the clerk of the court received and signed for the papers, in the eyes of the government, it never happened. She was never married.

While Barbara walked out to the sidewalk she called the number on the business card that the Chauffeur Kaikane had given her, anytime she needed a ride. This time it would be to the hospital. She would tell Tom that she signed the papers, but she was not sure about how she felt.

After breaking the line with Kaikane and his peaceful voice, she hit speed-dial and called Sandy on the video app of her phone so they could see each other.

‟BARB!” Sandy was always excited to hear from her sister. ‟Where are you?”

‟San Francisco. Tom has had a good run of luck with the doctors since his accident.”

‟You need to come home quick as you can. Glenn is here and he has asked for you, he said it’s important.” Sandy whispered in a conspiratorial tone. Her eyes glittered with excitement. ‟I think he is going to pop the question.”

‟Oh.” Barbara felt a thrill of fear shoot through her soul.

‟You don’t sound excited.” Sandy became quiet, shocked at the response. Worried with the look sister gave, as if someone died. “Barbara, this is what you have waited for.”

‟I just signed the papers and sent them off to Nevada. I stop being married and never was according to the state once the papers arrive.”

‟Oh Barb.” Sandy’s voice sounded like a hug. “But this is what you want, right?”

‟I don’t know. Tom needs me.” Barbara was quiet as she waited for the limo.

‟But he was alone before he met you, and it’s only been a month.” Sandy said helpfully. ‟And you said he nearly crashed the plane with you in it.”

‟He was showing off the wine country.” Oddly defensive while she looked into the screen of the phone. “Sandy, it was beautiful, right up until we hit the birds, I think I nearly pissed myself.”

The sister laughed, knowing Barbara the way she did, for her to say something like that was oddly funny.

They talked as sisters do over the video on the phone while she waited for the contract limousine to pick her up.

‟Why don’t you take a cab?” Sandy asked as Barbara sat on a bench and waited in the shade of an Oregon Ash.

‟No. If this is my last limo ride without going into debt, I want to enjoy it as much as I can. Besides, there is a hot Hawaiian that drives it. You’d love him. Surfer type, intelligent as any professor, knows more about sensemilla than a DEA cop.”

Sandy laughed so hard she snorted, then held her hand over the lens while she composed herself.

‟Snd? You know I can still hear you.” Barbara took her turn laughing, using the nickname that they worked out as children, dropping the vowels.

This only made Sandy laugh that much harder.

Sandy Grant was the only person in the world that could make Barbara laugh when things were at their darkest.

Barbara hated her for that… Which made her laugh all the harder, she loved Sandy more than anyone else in her generation.

They were, after all, sisters.

Dragon Master University Chapter 31. In The Showers.

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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.”

“Thanks, 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”.

Dragon Master University Chapter 30. New Year, New Session

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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.”

“What?”

“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.”

“Football?”

“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.”

“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.”

“The who?”

“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.”

“A fairy?”

“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.

Kolo laughed.

“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.

Instructive, anyway.

Dragon Master University Chapter. 29. Gorgons. Myth or Fact?

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Chapter 29. The Gorgon, Myth or Fact?

 

 

Walking up and down between the chairs, the Green Wizard showed signs of the last of the green leaves that sprouted from his beard and hat where turning brown in the dead of winter.

Known for his ability with the plants, his were the last to die back, the first to sprout anew.

He was the Green Man.

“The cycle of life in the forest changes with the place on this world. In two places, not a tree grows, the sun in winter never rises, in summer it never sets. Here, where I hold sway, snow falls last, although around us, snow piles up during the winter and feeds the streams and ponds you see around the mountain. Life goes on and renews.“ He walked slowly, the hat he wore had cocoons in various places, one hibernating furry creäture that no one could identify, curled up on the moss lined brim. “In the spring, six weeks from now, you will be back here to study if your professors believe you’re ready for that level.”

Standing in the middle of the classroom, the Wizard eschewed the traditional straight lines of how most classrooms at the University taught. Teaching instead that, nature abhors straight lines. A tap with his staff on the middle of the floor, the Green Wizard displayed the night sky on the ceiling of the room.

“In an age past, dragons roamed the sky like the birds of today. They are descendants of a great civilization, destroyed by a group of small dragons and humans that worshiped destruction and death. They title of the leaders of this group was the Csu.” The Green Wizard looked around. “Remember this, those who seek a single solution to life, a single rule, death is the result. Life is a chorus, man, dragon, woman, swimmer, flyer. All the others that we have spoken of in the past weeks. The steps each takes is different and follows, will follow, and has followed a slightly different path.”

Smiling, as he paused for effect.

“Whether you have skin or scale, each has a life to live and the creative ability to impress the world.” Turning a slow circle, the stars changing. “The Csu did not believe this. One answer, one voice to the deity they spoke to. Death and destruction was their answer to it all. Trees fell, whole communities wiped from the earth. Then they met the Gorgon in battle.”

A hand raised up. T’sing’s eyes were bright with curiosity,the small dragon from the far side of the world was willow thin and beautiful. Her side of the world, dragons are good luck to have in a family. A dragon that graduated from school such as DragonMaster U, was doubly so. Human graduates in the same family, members considered them as the seed of a dynasty.

One such family, had sent a human son, Qin, with T’sing to attend together. Together they promised to build a country that would last forever.

“Sir, who is Gorgon? My mother told me when I was very young to stay indoors, because Gorgon would eat small dragons and humans alike.”

“Good question, T’sing.” The Green Man said. “The proper term is they are the Gorgon, it is a group of Gorgon, the race of the amphibian creatures are as different as Gorilla and Human, but without the gulf of intelligence. They have their own society, and while they do not fear dragonkind, they do avoid them. It was not until the Csu got involved with the Gorgon, at great cost, that the leadership of the Gorgon converted to the Csu religion. We will discuss the Csu religion another time, but the Gorgon are something to cover now.”

Another tap of his staff on the floor of the room, images ran across the ceiling.

“The Csu with the Gorgon army now under their control, swept out of the warm seas of the lower latitudes, catching dragons and humans alike unaware and unprepared. Humans were given a choice to convert to the way of the Csu book of laws, or die. Dragons received no such consideration, called instead as throwbacks to an age where great lizards walked the earth, cousins to Gorgon who tolerated no competition for skies and sea for food. They slaughtered dragons everywhere they found them.”

A gasp from the classroom.

“I was but in my fiftieth summer then. Professor Vale was, and still is, my son and protoge’.”

“Sir, did you have a name during that time?” Jona asked.

“Aye, I did. Though I scarcely remember it. Cranndair, if I recall.” The mentor stroked his beaded facial hair in thought. “No matter. Regardless, the Csu fell only when there was a rise in a sect within their own ranks. Sensing the division, The Gorgon as a body rebelled against the law of the Csu.”

Waving his staff, the huge Gorgon armies stopped chasing dragons and humans, turning instead on their masters.

“The Csu are the single most effective lesson on domination. People of any kind, Dragon, Human or Gorgon give their loyalty voluntarily. Force of threat, of death to family or self always ends up in failure.” He looked at the class. “Call it what you will, but the force of fealty at the point of sword, tooth or claw is bound for failure.”

“But Sir, if you hold by force, they cannot break it.”

“No empire has ever stood on force alone.” Cranndair the Mentor said. “In my studies, I see a human empire that will rise and last for over a thousand-year period and become the greatest civilization that the humans will ever know. What we learn here, will allow dragons to also be a part of that. If we are not fully successful, Dragonkind hide in the cracks of human society, but Dragons will survive. In those days after the wars and the fall of the Csu, The Gorgon did what they do. They withdrew from all societies and to their caves. Content to hibernate and only come out on rare occasions to forage.”

“It is their way to devastate an area, many humans put it down to demons, Dragonkind however, blame such things as natural disasters and storms.” Rubbing his nose. “Often it is the Gorgon causing storms, floods and volcanic destruction. Some human societies still blame dragons.”

“How does a society endure for a long time?” They asked nearly as a body of students. Everyone of the large group nodding. He rarely took this many, but his son, Vale, talked him into it, saying that the students this year were exceptional.

The old man smiled. Hunger for knowledge had started today.

No longer lecturing to bland minds that could not care less for law and lore, or math and science, these seeds of the future now wanted to know where they came from, so they could see where they were going in their growth.

Much as he hated teaching, he loved when children learned.

It would be another age, an age of ages into the future, that the “Light Bulb” would illuminate in their minds.

(*Author’s Note To Pronounce The Following Word:

Csu: “Chew” is closest that a human can say.)

 

 

Dragon Master University Chapter 26. The Logs, The Holes And The Challenge

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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.

Like today.

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…

Long…

Long day.

Jona never missed Sprite nearly so much as he did that day. 

Dragon Master University Chapter 24. Autumn Winds

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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?

Dragon Master University Chapter 22. Morningtime

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Chapter 22. Morning Time

Jona walked between classes as he was in deep thought, Eva landed next to him in the courtyard.

“We did very well,” She said softly while folding her wings tightly against her body and walking upright. ‟We bumped two trees and you held on. I have a small bruise where I knocked off four of my scales, but they will grow back soon enough.”

Walking upright, she was beautiful even outside of Dragon standards. Eva would have made a graceful, beautiful human woman.

Who just happened to tower over most other humans.

Jona chuckled, his own joints hurt, the inverted banking as they did a hairpin turn around a mountain to catch up with Qo’noS had nearly dumped him off the back of Eva, it was a turn they were going to have to practice, he only was able to hang on by luck as much as strength or skill. Even his fingernails ached.

“Jona, I have talked with others about the future races,” Eva said conversationally as they walked along. ‟I have someone I am seeing. He is a dragon at Drakensberg University.”

Eva smiled, touching her lips as if a memory of a kiss. Dragon kisses, it is rumored, to leave a soul burning for more.

‟I know that there is some cheating planned. There have been observers on the race course, we may have to train in other areas of the mountains. Where is Teva? We need to talk to him.”

Sol landed nearby and walked up to them, looking happier without reins on his shoulders, rubbing up against Eva with a wink.

“Flirt.” Eva laughed softly.

“Drakenberg racers are notorious for cheating but there is something more. Jona, your safety is in danger.” Sol said.

‟My rider seeks to have you removed one way or another, she is not above cheating. So long as she rides me, we will never win, I will never cross the finish line first.” Sol said grimly, “Even if I have to crash at the last stretch. She will never stand in the winners circle.”

“I hate that we keep trying to knock you out of the race, Eva,” Sol nodded slowly, guiltily looking down. “You too, Jona, my most sincere of apologies. But it is late in the season, I cannot train with a rider and I cannot win with her riding. She has no winning heart.”

“Thanks,” Jona smiled and put his hand on the golden dragons shoulder. ‟And we will avoid you, you are a great flier, you have done fantastic corners.”

“Drakes’ will have faster rides,” Eva continued. ‟They are larger than we are as a group. Most are Kanus’ size, a few are bigger.”

Sol and Jona nodded.

Jona pointed out that they had the advantage then of the corners in the valleys, then paused.

“Could they go high and go over a corner? Avoid banking?”

Sol shook his head while Eva answered.

“They would be penalized with time added on. So even if they crossed the line first, they may actually lose the race if they skipped too many corners.”

“Even if they flew faster than anyone at the beginning,”Sol added. ‟If they didn’t get down into the canyons, a record pace would be for naught.”

Eva nodded as Jona pulled at his chin and took this in.

“There has been something else, a smell, I have picked it up, you have been busy racing and I have been sight-seeing.” Sol added, “Something smells, I don’t know.” He paused “The smell on the most strong in the northern canyon, where we go lowest and the turns are sharpest and we fly slowest, the smell makes my scales tingle.”

Eva paused, pulling at her ear.

“I thought that was just the group of us racing, the challenge of the corners and how close we were getting to each other.” She said thoughtfully.

“You have been racing, I have not.” Sol nodded.

“Spies?” Jona asked.

“Maybe.” Sol said.

“Spies would be undetectable.” Eva shook her head. ”Volcanic action, Sol? Can you smell volcano’s?”

Sol gave a nearly imperceptible shrug.

“There are those in my family who can, I have not smelled them before. Could be that this time I am smelling the start of a volcano’s eruption. This would affect the race, if we had to fly through a cloud.”

“If the race is going to go through an ash cloud, we would have to avoid it.” Eva nodded.

“Not so much for you,” Jona shook his head. ‟But for the humans and others that don’t have the kind of lungs that a dragon possesses.”

Both dragons looked at Jona and nodded.

“Not counting the lightning that happens, that is also kind of hard on the teams, as well.” Eva added.

Jona choked.

“Lightning? As in thunder and lightning?” Jona was afraid of thunderstorms since he was a child.

“I will tell Professor Ghoti, she is in charge of the racer’s safety, it is important that she and the other judges and professors look in the area.” Sol said mildly. “I’m the one that smelled it, I’ll be the one to show her where it is.”

Eva nodded as Sol set off for Professor Ghoti at her office in the Obsidian Spire.

“I knew that Sol was a good wyvern,” Jona noted. “Those reins on him are the only ones in the entire group of racers.”

“And a total insult. They won’t race together after this season, he will reject his rider and any other dragons will follow suit if she re-applies next year. The only way she would fly is if she grew wings and rode herself.” Eva growled irritably. “She has some dragon in her, you can see it in her eyes, but it is all the worst part of dragons.”

Eva and Jona took off and few northwards out over the sapphire blue lake, it was so large, the water was so pure as Jona could see the bottom of the shallows down to two or three dragon lengths deep. It was like looking through crystal.

Eva looked back as they soared and enjoyed the cool mountain air.

“The water tastes as good as it looks, but it is so cold as to give me a headache. There is a bay that is nearly emerald-green, lately we have called it emerald bay. I kind of hope the name sticks.”

‟That is an awesome lake, so high in the mountains, what feeds it?” Jona asked.

‟Snow. If you ever go swimming in it? You will know that right away.” Eva laughed. ‟There is a story of, years ago, a swimmer dragon jumped in after a long, hard winter with an exceptional snowfall. The snow was at the peak of melting and the swimmer jumped in with ruby-red scales and came out with sapphire-blue coloring. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I can believe it.”

Laughing, the rider and ride sailed along the crest of the mountain range until they banked and headed out to the sea, spending time soaring over the rugged coastline. Eva told him of dragon homes and lore.

‟You have dragon-lore this year. I would suggest coming here and do independent studies. I am also a tutor, and I wish help teach you and keep you on the race team.”

‟Thank you. There is so much going on.” Jona said softly.

‟This is just warming up for the year. You have passion to learn, from what I have heard. Four-years of basic schooling then another four years of advanced school. Your scholarship’s earned by your father and mother with the teaching of dragons over the years.”

‟How long has my father been teaching?”

‟Don’t you know?” Eva said. ‟I always knew when my parents were teaching.”

She pondered a moment.

‟But then, the two societies are different with intolerance of a few creating grief for all. Humans tend to less tolerance than Drakes. If any of your kind thinks or looks different, the first thing the others want to do is declare a war on it.” Eva’s body trembled in revulsion. ‟Humans have more followers of death than they do of life.”

Jona sighed and looked down. Thinking of the times that he and his friends would throw rocks at statues or works of art depicting kindly acts just on the word of someone who said it was wrong.

‟Worry not, Jona. Those things that make you feel guilty are those actions of someone who does not know better. You will learn here.” Eva gave him a friendly bump. ‟You will learn that all things exist and create beauty. Even dragons.”

‟It’s your first year.” She glided over the waters of the big lake again, slowly. Jona could see the fish that swam under the surface, glistening like jewels. ‟You will find beauty in the most unexpected of places.”

Jona held on tight as Eva stroked hard into the air and gained altitude.

Beauty in the most unexpected of places. Jona found beauty in the wisdom.

Dragon Master University Chapter 20. Dinner

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Chapter 20. Dinner and a show.

In his room’s study area, Kolo helped Jona understand some of the traits of Dragons, the times when they were once wild and uncivilized, then how they evolved to a council based culture.

They sat in a dragonbag, a large resin-coated bag filled with smooth-roasted seeds of a fire-fern, smooth and round, the dense seeds filled a bag and made a comfortable nest for a dragon to settle down in.

Jona curled up with Kolo as they studied as is the habit of dragons. Her scales, small and glistened in the light like tiny jewels while she relaxed in her soft-fleece sleep shirt that covered half-way to her tummy and knee-length pants with a draw string.

A standard study position for dragons that Jona found strange, but comfortable. Kolo, wrapped around Jona the way that dragons only could. Smaller dragons liked warmth, Jona was a mammal and warm.

Kolo also thought he smelled good.

A gong sounded, announcing dinner in the main hall of the Garnet House.

Jona, Sam, Spirat and Kola walked up the spiral stairs with Kolo and sat at the long tables with the younger classmates.

Several older classmates passed by when a couple slapped Kola on the back, he gained honors for Garnet House by passing a test with high marks. His name forever placed on a list of notable students with the Garnet House.

“You didn’t tell me!” Kolo stared at her brother.

“You were out riding,” Kola smiled. ‟I didn’t even know I had passed it that high until Professor Vale came down and took me to his office. There will be some kind of an awards dinner, for all the high scoring students,  near the end of term. Just before your races with the other schools.”

“I know you will do well, in the races.” Kolo looked at Jona. ‟Sprite has been racing around the room telling stories in his way. You are a good racer, according to your baby.”

Jona laughed.

“Sprite is not MY baby, I’m just the adopted father.”

“No, he is yours as if you had a real son,” Kolo shook her head. ‟When he gets to talk, you will find out just how much a dragon’s heart can love.”

“But, I did not choose that. It was just chance I happened upon Sprite when the little guy was looking for someone.” Jona protested weakly. “But I like having him around. It was better than having to ride behind my papa’s ox while the old stinker snorts from both ends.”

“Snorted from both ends?” Spirat looked at Jona and raised an eyebrow.

They all got the image at the same time and laughed as they sat and ate, trying to snort out their backsides like the old ox.

Kolo just shook her head and held her nose.

“Boys!” She said in exasperation.

Looking around Jona noted that Kelly was staring at him and she made an ugly face at him, then turned to Stixx and said something in his ear. Stixx looked at Jona and smiled, leaning over to another upperclassman and soon the end of the table the clique of older students were whispering and looking in Jona’s direction.

“This is not good,” Jona muttered. ‟They are planning something.” Indicating the far end of the table of how the blue-eyed Kelly whispered in conspiratorial tones, trying to instigate something. She took a dislike to anyone that was not under her thumb, including the newer students that did not give her the respect she felt she deserved.

As they tried not to look at the whispering group, when a large scaled hand gently pressed on Sam’s shoulder.

“You kids look worried, what is the problem?” Asked a tall, heavily built dragon that was easily taller than Jona by half and built like a big “V” from his shoulders to his waist.

Sam looked up and choked on his food, nearly making his drink come out his nose.

“Koord! You came back!”

“Coming back was difficult,” Koord got down on his knee and nodded. ‟But, the healer’s all said I was good to go.”

“Jona, this is Koord, he was a great rider for a few years here.”

Koord nodded and spoke quietly, with a voice like a rumble of distant thunder.

“Pleased to meet you.” Koord gave a toothy grin. “Yes, I just got too large, curses of my father and mother for being tall themselves, then I outgrew them. My brothers and sisters are all smaller, and sadly, none like to ride like I do.”

“Koord was hurt in a terrible hit two years ago, his ride was never the same, either.” Sam said, “But good to see you back, brother!”

“So what’s giving you trouble?” Koord smiled.

Jona and the others quietly explained what was seemingly going on and Koord nodded.

“I have a few friends to talk to over there,” Indicating another of the tables. “I think we can do interference if need.”

Slipping back to the table where he previously sat, Koord talked with the other humans and dragons at the far end with his back to Jona and his friends.

“Koord is a member of my clan, we are cousins,” Sam said, “That group he is talking with was the best winning team before they withdrew from racing and retired  for different reasons. Koord was hurt and outgrew his ride. Cookie had to withdraw because his grades were too low, which sucks because he was an awesome rider. All the rides wanted him, he had the feel and good eyes, he could read a map better than anyone night or day. Crocus, she is sweet, but a ferocious competitor, her rides gave her more than she asked for, always.”

“They are their own group then?” Jona asked. “Like the others?”

“In schools there are always certain circles that hold together.” Kolo nodded. ”The professors and schools try to keep it minimal, using only the houses to keep the feeling of unity, every year you have to go to a different house. This way they feel it keeps from having too much of a separation in ‘favorites’. It doesn’t always work. Those over there with Stixx have been together too long, and no one seems to have success in breaking them up.”

“They have called themselves as the Royals of the Sky.” Kola said, “They have pushed a few of the younger students around telling them to bow to the Royals.”

“We shall be Pirates of the Sky then!” Jona laughed, taking a thought of the blood-haired human pirate that had been at the school earlier the year.”

Spirat shook his head. “You might get in trouble with the word Pirate in the name. How about Rebels?”

“No, I like what Jona said, Sky Pirates, we will steal the cup away from other schools and victory away from the stupid Stixx.” Sam grinned. “They won’t know what to do… uh-oh… Speaking of Stixx, here he comes.”

Stixx had made his way around the far side of the room, carrying two full plates of half eaten food, looking like he was lost while on his way to the trash and was heading their way, slowly. Two others of the clique had gone in another direction, talking with students while circulating around the room towards Kolo, Kola, Sam, Jona and Spirat.

Jona looked around, Koord and several of his friends were gone. There was no help coming and Stixx was talking with several other older students but his eyes were on Jona as Stixx was carrying the plates of food that had several drinks poured over the food making it a drippy sticky soup of half eaten meal.

Walking up to the group, Stixx looked down at the plate, Jona looked to the left and saw that Gorm, the half dragon, a small and quick friend of Stixx was coming from the other direction, the trap was set, and there was no way out.

Stixx smiled as if he had just won a contest when he bumped into first Koord, and then another smaller dragon of Koord’s group. Gorm was suddenly cornered by an unfriendly face of a large rider that had him by the shoulder.

“Where are you going with all that food you have there? You must be extra hungry?” Koord asked Stixx, in a dangerous sounding voice. “You would not be looking to share that meal with some of the younger students now, would you?”

“Just being friendly, Koord.” Stixx nodded. ‟This is not any of your concern, just a friendly chat we are going to have. This food? This is nothing, I was taking it back to the table.”

Stixx looked around, Gorm,  cornered by three other retired racer team members and unable to carry out his mission.

Seeing that he needed more muscle, Stixx  motioned with his head and several of his clique stood up— then suddenly and forcibly sat back down by the surrounding retired racer team. Outnumbered and out flanked, the little clique of the house became suddenly meek and sat quietly.

“You might want to take that back to your seat and eat quietly, I was chatting with my friends and family there first.”

Stixx paled at the thought. Looking at the slop of his plate and back at the table where his friends sat, corralled. Stixx walked directly back to the table and sat with his friends.

A small obsidianite colored dragon, leaned in and with a voice far deeper than would be expected, sounding much like a foghorn smiled and suggested in a dangerous tone.

“I think the rest of your crew is also hungry, you might want to serve them as well, you got thirds,” The glistening green dragon said,”You might want to serve them as well, don’t be stingy! Share!”

The clique of Stixx, Kelly and the others dug into the slop and took slow bites. Others of the table first gagged at the sight of the others eating the mess and then began to clap as the bullies themselves, became the bullied.

Professor Vale walked into the dining room, Koord and his friends stood up and began to socialize, innocently, making their way back to the corner of the tables. The little clique sighed relief of the entry of the Professor who smiled and waved at the students, stopping and speaking with different students.

Stopping at the table and looking at the pile of muck that Stixx and company were in mid bite. “You can take all you can eat,” Professor Vale said, shaking his head, ‟But eat all you take. We must not waste food, please be sure you eat all that.”

Vale made a face adding, “It does look like a balanced meal, but I would question the mix of flavors. Eat up.”

Entertained, all the students in the room watched in quiet amusement as the bullies choked down the slop that Stixx had made before Koord intercepted him.

Jona thought it was one of the best dinners he ever had as they all watched the bullies choke down their own mix of beets, milk, banana, coffee, cheese, meat, fish and other unidentifiable food. Jona suspected that Vale had known what went on and timed his entry to do the most effect.

College, Jona decided, was a great place to learn.

Dragon Master University Chapter 19. Team Training

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(After NaNoWriMo, I now return you to the regular programming already in progress)

Chapter 19. Team Training

Jona walked down the stairs of the spire, the circular stairs were enough to make him dizzy, what was once a good place to visit now was a dizzy walk down the stairs, Each floor had its own landing for dragons and creature comforts for humans and drake alike.

Pausing to look around, an older student stepped out of the hallway into the circular common room and yelled at Jona.

“WHAT are doing here, slug? You are trespassing! Your kind does not even earn the right to breathe here! This is upper class area, we allow your years only in the cellar or lower.” Yelled the otherwise pretty girl. “Get out of here, what are you looking at, worm?”

She looked Jona up and down with the look of someone who had smelled something unclean.

“Not much, that’s for sure.” As he walked down the stairs, the girl had paused for a moment then began to yell at him and as other students came out she explained, loudly, how a lower class student violated common room’s sanctity.

Finally! He made it to the courtyard.  Jona spied a friendly face and relaxed.  The steps of following older students had stopped after a few flights. Jona had not hurried, unafraid of the other students, but the sun on his face outside made the nasty faced girl seem much farther away.

Kolo was across the court-yard and waved at Jona, with a wide smile on her face. She seemed pleased to see him.

“You are going to practice now? I’ll go with you, there is something that the teams are needing to do, they need to practice racing together.”

The troubles seemed so far behind him as they walked out of the volcano and into the brisk early winter’s sunlight. Fresh snow had fallen on the ground, the meadow sat Eva and surrounding the meadow were all the dragon racers and most of the riders. In the saddle of a yellow and black tiger-striped dragon, sat the girl who yelled at him, she had not noticed him, laughing and talking with a rugged looking muscular rider next to her and the ride as he kicked the ground and laughed at what the blond human girl was saying.

Jona stood on the far side of Eva and patted her shoulder. Eva turned and said quietly, “You are just in time, the captain is about to explain what we are doing today.”

Jona looked around to the riders, each one wore a leather cap with goggles, all decorated differently, different colors but all had the crest of the school on the front. Each cap seemed to match the rider to the ride. Scale colors and caps were very similar.

“Attention” Teva called, “Today we have Eva back with us as a racer, this is her first full team practice and her rider is also new to us. Chosen by dragons to attend our school and found by our own Kolo as a rider.” Teva smiled and clapped at Kolo.

“Jona would you come here, please? I have something for you.” Teva waved Jona over to him in the center of the meadow.

Jona stepped out from behind Eva and the blond girl stopped smiling and just stared with her mouth in a big “O”, frozen in mid sentence. Then leaning over to the large rider, she pointed at Jona and began to whisper and point.

Teva took no notice.

“I formally welcome you to the team of Dragon Racers.” He said loud enough for all to hear. ‟Jona, you have learned well under the skilled tutelage of Kolo and Eva — and me of course.”

With this cap, wear it while you fly, it serves to protect that head of yours, bird strikes hurt, and your eyes. You are the hind eyes and co-pilot of the ride as they fly. Decorate the hat as you win to match your tastes, but keep the colors with that of your ride so it marks you not only as a team of our school, but as a team of a ride and rider. Jona, I welcome you.”

“WAIT!” The blond girl yelled, “HE cannot be a rider! We have to vote on it and he has not been here long enough.”

“Votes have never mattered, you only suggested it last year and it was never agreed, Kelly, you have no say in this, I am captain and I will decide who is on our teams. Jona here is looking good enough to join the team, he rides fast and keeps eyes out and has a great balance and relationship with Eva.”

Kelly looked as if she had a bug fly up her nose and turned away, speaking quietly and quickly to the big rider and his huge ride.

Jona bowed slightly to the clapping as he put on the cap, several cheers went up and a few roars from the dragons. Kelly’s dragon started to hoot in a cheer but Kelly pulled the reins she had on him tight, cutting off his honoring sound.

Jona returned to Eva, and Big Rider stepped up behind him, “You do not belong here, should not even ride, you have no business in this race. You get up there, we will have issues. Do you understand me? You are the baby waste that was on our floor and stunk it up? Well, you will find that there is payment due for that trespass, maggot.”

Big Rider backed off when Eva turned around, and stared at him.

“Just remember, you don’t belong.” as his ride stepped up, an equally huge, twice Eva’s wing span and half again as tall with smoke curling from the big males nostrils. “Eva, you should not have come back after your accident if this is what you think of as quality rider material.” With that, he climbed up and the ride and rider flew off.

“Do not fret about him, Jona,” Eva said, “We have our own practice to do still. The rider is Stixx, the ride is Kanus. Kanus knocked me out of the sky last year and caused my crash. He said it was an accident, but the judges ruled it an intentional fault by the rider. The judges suspended them for two races for overly aggressive racing. We have to keep an eye on them, but so long as I know where they are, they won’t  pose a problem.”

Jona nodded. “I’m also worried about the blond girl who is a rider.”

“Her?” Kolo had walked up after talking with Teva, “Kelly is insane. Insane and stupid, when she chooses to dislike someone, she uses every chance she can to complain and whine. She is a problem, but not a good rider, she treats her ride like a common horse or burro. See the reins?”

“You ever think to put reins on me, Jona, I will teach you the meaning of fire-breathing and a rough ride.” Eva interrupted.

“She abuses her relationship with Sol, her ride.” Kolo said. “They are not friends, Sol is a good dragon, fast, smart but never gives all because of her.”

“Why does he race with her then?” Jona asked.

“I don’t know, there is gossip, but nothing proven. I think it has to do with he was failing a class and she caught him cheating one time. He is very smart — and proud. It would be a disaster for him if he had cheating come to light.” Eva said.

Jona shook his head, saddened that extortion was something he had to put up with in school. Kola climbed on his ride, Zerksees. With all the riders on the backs of the rides, a cheer from most the dragons stood up as tall as they could and roared.

“This map I am handing out to you is this years route. I propose we follow the route and time ourselves, this will be a real race, let’s see who can cross the finish line first, regular race rules apply, we race against ourselves. Try not to bump each other! We don’t need injuries before the inter-school races.” Teva said chuckling, “We are all on the same side and all.”

Captain Teva yelled “Launch!” and they all shot into the sky.

Eva banked down into a canyon around a butte, Jona was guiding her with his voice as he read off the map and with body language.

“Above!” Jona yelled as Sol dove and passed them in a tight bank, to which Eva had turned to the inside. Down the canyon they sailed and soared, out into a large valley, Kanus easily outdistancing the group, all except for Eva who had kept up without straining herself, Sol was fifth in line, three rides back with Kolo and her ride, Qo’noS, behind Jona.

“Hang on, Kanus is going to use his speed to get ahead, but we don’t have to stay close, just close enough until we get into the canyons for the return trip. To turn, Kanus has GOT to bank and with those big wings, he has to slow down, so he can pull them in.” Eva said in a rumble.

Faster they flew, paralleling the mountain range in the flat lands of the desert. Kanus began to dig deep with great rapid beats of his wings, Eva pushed with more energy than Jona had seen so far, she was not overheating, but he could feel the muscles strain and stretch under her scales and flesh.

“Keep your head down, Jona, we are going for more speed, Kanus is overconfident, he has not looked back.”

Jona looked back. Kola was trying to keep up and he was a distant third, Sol and Kelly were so far behind he couldn’t see her. Faster than the sun they traveled, it appeared to move backwards to the east. Jona could see that Kolo’s ride was fatiguing and slowing slightly but staying directly behind Eva, using her to break the wind as was their plan. The sound of the wind was the familiar hiss with an opaque cataract seem to follow Eva’s shoulders. Jona could see that Kanus was pushing a larger shock-wave and had the disadvantage to being unable to look back at this speed.

“Jona, I can smell Kanus, Stixx is pushing him and Kanus is overheating. I can smell the body heat that his scales are trying to expel.”

“What happens if he gets too hot from exercising? Do Dragons sweat”? Jona asked.

“We do, but not like humans, if it gets very bad, you will see him start to lose scales, we shed hot scales and bare flesh is open to the air and he will grow new ones later.” Eva said. “But he will lose the smooth flow of air over his body and it leave him open to injury.”

“How are you doing?” Jona was running his hands under Eva’s scales, looking for any  overheated spots. 

“Two things, ONE, I’m okay at the moment, the practice runs out to the continental divide have really helped. TWO , stop that! You are tickling me.” Eva giggled in a way that only a dragon could.

A few minutes later, as Jona was looking on the map, telling Eva that the turn into the mountains was over a pile of old rock lava flows.

“I know where those are, just a few minutes more, Kanus is slowing down a bit and I am not even that tired. I didn’t have to race that hard, just stayed in his wake.” Eva laughed as her flight plan was working, no other dragon had yet used drafting from a distance like she had done.

“The draft is a new idea?” Jona wondered.

“Drafting is not new, but from this distance it is, it is not a big boost like if I was right on his tail, but I don’t have to engage him in combat this way and still get a tiny boost. Kola, Kolo’s brother thought of it.”

Banking over dry and rocky ground, Eva and Jona sailed through the peeks over a plateau into the high mountains. Banking hard, they were in a small canyon that snaked back and forth from millions of years of tributary erosion had made the tortuous small canyon tight. No longer lagging behind, Eva was closing the gap as Jona grinned and looked behind, Kolo was also getting closer.

“We’ve been seen.” Eva said.

Stixx had looked back and his eyes widened in surprise behind his goggles as the two dragons had caught up as they banked in and out of the mountains. The rest of the group was closing up , but were still far behind. The large dragon could not bank around the small twists and bends of the mountain peaks.

Forests began to get more lush and deeper, down sheer cliff walls as they followed a waterfall, then a stream along a rapids. Then banking and out into a wide valley, where in the clear air that Kanus pushed and pushed by his rider. Kanus had tried too hard and fatigued, unable now to shake the neck and neck dragons, they went into the next canyon three wide. Kolo and Qo’noS ducked down, using her ride’s slightly smaller wingspan to bank more tightly and gaining more points, Eva and Jona went closer to the mountains using compression of the air to help get them around corners.

Stixx was unable to get his ride to bank tightly enough and missed one turn, having to pull up and return to it, falling back six spots in a single overshoot of the corner.

Jona looked back and could see Stixx shaking a fist at his ride as he pushed the dragon back into the race. Along the spine of the mountains they climbed and dove, Kolo was ahead, then Jona, both Eva and Qo’noS were enjoying themselves without exerting too much.

Then Jona yelled a warning, “Bank and climb! We are gonna hit!”

Eva had little time to react, but with the training done, Jona had given her just enough time as she extended one wing and folded the other, going into a spin and then both wings out and up, a huge shadow blew past them and went into the canyon.

“Stixx! He tried to bump us, but he has more turns coming. ” Eva said.

Teva and his ride Tron had seen, nearly catching up to them as they yelled at each other encouragement and ignored the cheat by the fellow team, they raced on.

In and around the canyons they went. Stixx slipped further behind, charging forward. Two rides, bumped by the older students, had to fall back for missed turns, leaving three racers with Stixx that were his friends. Kelly, Stixx, Robert and Lyster flew in formation and gained on Teva, Kola and Jona.

They raced through the mountains, suddenly bumping and bruising each other in this practice race, the following racers were afraid to continue. Lyster, a small pale senior rider with blue cat eyes rode his ride Muon and brushed up against Teva and then went straight at Eva as they went into a corner, Muon was moving far to fast at the wrong angle for the corner coming up, and with a warning, Eva dove, followed by the excessive speed of Muon and Lyster.

Pulling up, Eva knew what was coming, Stixx and Kanus were moving in from the other side. Eva flared out her wings and hit the brakes. Stixx and Lyster collided and went down into the river as Eva dug deep into the air currents to catch back up to Kola and the backwards looking Teva who had seen it all.

On they raced, Stixx and Lyster were out of the race, Kelly and Robert were trying to close in, but Sol was of no mood for games and Robert had not practiced, both falling behind the three leaders as they finally crossed the finish line at the meadow, dismounted and were talking before the others pulled in.

“I want to file a complaint! This newbie here caused Stixx to collide with Lyster and they went down into the water.” Kelly complained, “They were not doing it right!”

Teva looked at her impassively. “Like be knocked from the sky by your boyfriend? No, Kelly I saw what happened, if I see it again, as captain I can and I will take them off the team, that is not a racer’s way to win.” Teva looked steadily at her, “Besides, they have not been practicing and neither have you, Sol here is unwilling to put himself out on a limb for you because of your attitude. Fix it, or Sol will find himself a new rider on my recommendation. “

“First he is not my boyfriend, I am engaged to Hortense the Honorable. Second. Only so long as you are Captain, Captain.” Kelly said. “If you ever drop out, Stixx is next in line and he follows fraternal law.”

“You should not worry about that, just ride like a racer is your concern.” Teva said mildly.

As the other racers pulled together. Robert standing shyly back, clearly not enjoying the fracture of the team. Stixx making noises to Teva about how Jona fouled him in the corners and he collided with Lyster and his ride.

Lyster looked around as Teva and Stixx were arguing and walked over to Jona, “If you ever knock me out of the air again, I will break you and your little dragon rider over there, too.”

Kolo had heard that and walked up to Lyster, “Try it, you will find yourself being a walking racer, we can find other riders or dragons. You have a good dragon that likes to race, but instead you try to use him as a weapon instead of a partner for a race.”

Lyster blinked, he was larger than she was, but he was not about to cause a scene so close to the captain of the teams, he’d be removed and he did not have Stixx as a backup. Lyster backed away, with a muttered threat that was nearly inaudible as he walked back to his ride and rode away to the dragon’s aerie.

Teva returned from his animated discussion with Stixx and Kelly looking over at the departing Lyster, “What was that about?”

“Nothing, just a show of his bruises.” Jona said as Kolo giggled. “We weren’t impressed, I have seen much better.”

Teva nodded, looking sideways at Jona, not believing him. “As you wish, I won’t have bullying and infighting with the teams, if we are to win the world cup this year, we need a focused team. We will race the dirtiest racer school if we get past Drakensbergs’s and Lord’s.”

“Other racer schools? And dirty racing?” Jona said, surprised at the news of so many more others. “Are there not judges?”

Teva nodded, “Yes, there are judges, but they cannot be in all corners always, bumps happen, accidents happen, but a dirty racer — well, like today — can cause an accident without being observed by judges. Schools like Dragon Lance and ‘kind first are very physical racers, they are known to rub and bump — that is regular racing, but they take it to the point of trying intimidate the other racers into letting them win. That’s not racing, that is bullying. So, we must practice and have aggressive and skilled racers of our own.” Teva paused, “Without trying to bully our way to the winning circle.”

Eva looked around speaking softly, “Qo’noS and I are going to rest and clean at Dragon house, practice again in a few hours?”

Teva nodded, “Sunset after classes, Eva. We do a team race practice again.”

Off Eva flew, in the light of the day, still needing to clean up, all the remaining riders went to their houses and rooms. Jona looked forward to the coming races, the challenges of a race like this would make his parents proud, but he would have to wait until he had done it before he would tell his mother.

“She would have apoplexy if she knew what I was doing on the back of dragons” Jona thought to himself.

Dragon Master University Chapter 18. Veil of Vale

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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.

“Clans?”

“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.

Dragon Master University chapter 17. History Crystal

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XVII. History Crystal

Professor Koos watched Jona as he took in the history lesson presented him.

******

“Many years had passed with the green wizard teaching his student, in time, the student moved out to the valley beyond, taking with him, the red-haired daughter of the green wizard. In the honor of his wife, the wizard became the red wizard and the two great wizards taught the ways of how earth lived within each of them.

Crops flourished, and in time people began to move into the vale of the red wizard. The green wizard would come and visit time to time, the houses were at peace.

Barbarians came, camped out on the far shores of the valley. The red wizard told the people to go and greet the new comers. But in a savage display, the barbarians raided houses and farms, burning as they went. The green wizard cast a spell and withdrew, telling the red wizard that the spirit of man is all of destruction and domination, but the younger wizard of the crimson sky refused to hide with his wife’s father. The red-witch and crimson wizard joined forces with the communities of the valley and stood against the destroyers of their lives.

All day and night the war came, the barbarians came from the sea, dressed and ready for war. In the middle of the vale they forced against the defenders and were slowly pushed back. The red witch lead her own side against the hoard, calling on them to fight and telling the attackers to drop their weapons and leave.

Suddenly she had stepped in a hole, a small gopher hole that broke her ankle. The red wizards wife was down in the front of the barbarian hoard as they surged forward towards her, axes glimmered in the light as she lay helpless on the ground. All her protection was busy fighting others of the invaders.

Fifty meters away, the battle line drew closer.

The wicked edges of the knives and axes pushed forward and the red wizard grabbed at his pendant. Looking for someone to volunteer to have a spell cast on them, he could change someone into anything he wished, his pendant, like that of the green wizard was that of a dragon.

Forty meters. The Red-Witch could see their eyes, locked upon her.

Everyone was in combat and pushing the invaders back, the fighters cut him off from his beloved wife. The wizard looked for someone to transform into a dragon! No one was there.

Thirty meters.

She lay screaming on the ground, the skin of her leg tented up by fractured bone that threatened to cut through from the inside, the red-headed warrior-woman was unable to focus enough through the pain to help herself, her people of her brigade were falling back, her life was in danger.

She was alone.

Twenty meters.

Blood lust of the barbarians grew, Uruk the Strong was in battle mode, he knew if he could get to her, the fight would be over. Pushing through, he could see the freckles on her face as he adjusted the grip on his sword.

Fifteen meters.

“Is there NO one that can help?” Bellowed the red wizard, his weapon stunned another berserk warrior charging him. A staff of hardened hawthorn wood with a crystal embedded in it, a gift from the green wizard.

Ten meters.

The tide of the battle was turning against them, the people of the valley would lose their homes, their witch and their lands. The wizard knew that he would lose his heart and his love. He had to protect her no matter what.

One last thought as the words he spoke in a long dead language, changed for use on self instead of another.

Seven meters away.

Uruk was nearly upon her when a shadow blotted the sun out.

It was the largest creature he had ever seen in his life, but he recognized its shape. The blood-red scales, eyes that looked into one’s soul.

“DRAGON!” He screamed like a little child.

And such a dragon, easily three men tall,  landed with such force that the ground shook. The red witch had no idea where it came from, under the shadow of its tail, she drew a dagger.

As the great-lizard like creature gazed at the barbarians, she stuck the dagger in at the base of the dragon’s tail, shoving and twisting at the same time.  This scaled monster was not going to eat her or any of her people with impunity.

The dragon let out a roar that, people who heard it said, the echo bounced back and forth for days.

All fighting, everywhere, halted.

The hundreds of barbarians had a collective loss of bladder control as the ground at their feet became suddenly wet.

The dragon’s roar ended up in a shrill screech that caused the barbarians to drop their weapons as the warriors attack turned into a retreat to the sea that had brought them to the lands of the red witch and wizard.

The valley was safe, the people of the lands cheered the dragon who reached back and pulled out the knife that stuck in his backside with a clawed hand, his only identifying mark was the pendant that he wore around his neck.

Her husband had saved her life, the lives of the villagers and the valley at the cost of his human shape.

What spell did you use, husband?” But the dragon could not speak in human words. Protecting the valley and his wife became the history of the land.

In time the dragon became known as a fair and wise judge, learning to speak human, but never able to tell of the magic spell he used on himself.

The green wizard tried for years, but the many thousands of different spells in different languages, no one could find out what one it was. But the quest continues to this day. The dragon known for its valley that it so well protected has since become known as Vale.

The blood of the villagers that gave their lives, watered by the barbarians in their moment of fear, sprouted trees along the shores of the stream where they fought. The stream changed the flow, but the hedge grows still as a memorial to those that gave all that they had to the protection of the land and the lives of those they loved.”

*******

Jona looked as the crystal faded back to its normal color and then the thought struck him.

“Professor Vale?”

“Indeed” Koos said. “This all has occurred long before there were dragon schools, but Vale and a few others have come together and have promoted safety for both human and dragon. Indeed one country has even developed a fighting style of dragons, used by dragons and mankind alike. Adapted of course for the different needs and body styles.”

Jona sat there with his mouth open as if going to say something but froze in the middle of the word.

“Lore and law, that is what you need to know in all forms. Lore — that is the story you just saw, law is what is handed down from the lore and the wrongs within it. Does it touch you? Yes, through Professor Vale.” Koos lectured him.

Jona nodded, “Yes, I see, Professor, thank you. I will get the past due homework in. Kolo has helped me, she is very good tutor, she is also the sister to one of my roommates.”  Jona stood up and thanked Professor Koos. Gathering his books, he returned to the dorms to retrieve his assignments.

Watching Jona walk out of the classroom, Professor Koos would only hope that he had the spark started in the soul of the boy, for if he did not continue to improve, they would have to pull him off of the racer team.

Koos knew if he could push the young man, get him to realize the potential in his soul, get his heart and spirit in the same spot, one day, dragons or humans would never have to worry about trauma or illness.

“I must speak to Kolo…” His thoughts trailed off, shaking his head, the boy was old enough to make his own path, but occasionally, Professor Koos knew, even the wisest needs a friendly slap to the back of the head to get them ot pay attention.

He walked to his chambers that looked out over the sapphire blue lake and sent word to Kolo to come see him.

Dragon Master University Chapter 14. Dragonflight

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XIV. Dragonflight

Sprite woke him in the morning, pulling on Jona’s ear clicking and chirping, a new sound for the little one.

“Oww, what?” Jona moaned and brushed his hair out of his eyes and got dressed. Sprite flitted around excitedly as they climbed together up the stairs in the pre-dawn light.

Kolo stood outside and Jona gasped at the chill air that filled his lungs. She looked beautiful, even bundled in a heavy overcoat and a headband.

“You didn’t tell him to dress warm, Sprite?” Kola laughed like violins being played. Jona’s heart skipped beats in the moment she did that.

“What is it? My classes start in a little while, Dragon Lore and Law is my next class.” Jona yawned.

“DLL is not every day, today you get a late morning, your next class is flight , and that is what you were said to be a natural at.” Kolo said, ” So we are going to increase on that, team races are later this year, you and a dragon.”

“Who do I ride? You?” Jona grinned.

“You wish, but no.” Kolo walked in front of him swaying her hips slightly as she giggled softly. “You will be riding a larger athlete this time, you and a dragon together and race among the mountains, the racer, Wivern, said you had a natural sit on the saddle. Better than most humans.”

Kolo laughed softly as Jona looked up and nearly screamed. He drew breath sharply as he looked up at the dark-colored dragon with orange eyes.

“This is one of the best dragons on the race team at the school.” Kolo said as Sprite hid in Jona’s hair, then flitted over to Kolo.

“Hello baby, your mama will be trying out for the racing team.” Kolo said, indicating that she was talking about Jona.

“I remember you, you scream like a baby-cat that gets stepped on.” The big dragon leaned over and spoke softly like distant thunder. ‟I am Eva and I would like to win the Tour of the Mountains race later this year.”

Kolo laughed as she climbed up Eva’s back.

“First we need to get you settled on the saddle, come on up, get comfortable. I will teach you how to fly as a team. Eva is fast, but she suffered injuries last year when she collided with another racer.” Kolo said as she stroked Eva’s wing-root.

Jona climbed up and settled himself in.

“Are there organized teams? I mean, is there a leader of some kind?”

“Yes, but you have to show your ability, most fresh faces here don’t even get a chance, Sprite here has told me you’re in a line of human Dragon Masters?” Eva said. The heat that rose from her scales was comfortable, without burning his skin as he gently stroked her neck.

Sprite clicked and chirped excitedly, his breath puffing out in steam, a hint of what he was going to be able to do as an adult.

“Yeah, my parents both, my grandfather on my paternal side. might have had more.” Jona said as he looked down while getting himself positioned in the saddle, a soft breeze tickled at his hair.

“Eva, your saddle is a different shape, it is a tighter fit than the one on Wivern.

Eva growled slightly. That alone was terrifying.

“That show off, he was the idiot with who I collided last year, I fell into the trees, my rider had gotten torn up and spent a long time in the school hospital. She was a good rider, but now is afraid to get in the saddle. So, I need a new rider— if you are the one, we can win.”

Kolo nodded.

“The problem now is, Eva, you are bigger, the corners are going to give you troubles.” Leaning into Jona where her breath tickled his ear and made the ends of his lips turn into a smile “The race is more for small to medium dragons, large ones have speed on the straight and can even get altitude, but the turns around a mountain? Or on a lake? You have to bank or you have to go slow.”

“I heard that,” Eva humphed, “I have practiced, if I can get enough speed, I can pull the wings in and bank just using the outer quarter of my wingtips, when I level out I can extend and gain speed and altitude.” Eva sighed. “I just have to make sure not to lose too much speed or height. Banking like that takes me closer to the ground. We could hit at speeds faster than sound.”

“I would think that is a bad thing to happen?” Jona blinked.

“Very bad, indeed. It could kill both dragon and rider.” Kolo nodded.

“We would be disqualified then, they don’t allow dead racers to accept trophies.” Eva said with black humor.

“All set?” Eva asked as she turned towards the edge of the lighter part of the sky. “We fly until sunrise and back before you need class.”

“Wait!” Kolo said as she slip in behind Jona, “Okay, now ready. Sprite? You good to go?”

The little dragon shook his head and flitted over to the branch of a tree and settled down. Watching with brilliant blue eyes as Eva grinned. “Smart little dragon, hate to get your scales blown off.”

With that, Eva took a mighty leap into the air and with strokes of the wings that did not seem so big since his recent days at the Dragon Master’s University, they moved ever higher and faster.

Kolo slid her arms around his waist and held close, the warmth of her body soaked through his leather armor as her breath warmed down his neck. Onward they flew, first south around a second lake then banked hard just above the lake surface. Turning due east into the gathering light.

Down they flew, trees the likes of which Jona had never seen, taller than the tallest dragon or even any of the spires of the school flashed by as they gained speed on the down slope of the mountain range. The air grew warmer as the trees became smaller and then finally the numbers of the great trees gave way to  bushes and sand, faster she flew, across a desert, banking low over some mountains that had an updraft she could feel.

“Hang on! We are about to cover a lot of ground very fast.” Kolo whispered warmly in his ear. “This is where big wings work best.” Then raising her voice “Eva! Clear air above and behind, give it all you have!”

The wings did the impossible, they began to stroke the air faster than Jona’s heart beat, Kolo’s fingers dug into his chest as she pressed her body against his back. For the first time he began to think she was not doing it just to hang on, Kolo was enjoying having her arms around Jona.

Speed began make the wind hurt. Faster they went still, the wings nearly blurring in the speed they flew, Eva was creating her own heat that was making a warm bubble of air from around her scales as Jona followed Kolo’s instructions and stretched down behind the scales that covered the wing roots. Here the wind was not even buffeting, a small eddy of warm air came from behind and he could smell Kolo’s scent.

She smelled like flowers and spice.

A flat area, bright white in the near sunrise, shallow pools of water far below as they crossed the area with such speed that Jona thought impossible.

“Faster, riders! Hold on, one last burst before we turn.” Eva roared into the wind.

Jona felt as if he would slide off the back of his ride, Eva did such speed that the eddy that was warming them stopped, it was still and warm, the sound of rushing wind changed to a steady hiss while Jona watched through transparent parts of the scales and membranes of wings.

Covering the distances with a blur, a large line of mountains, up and around the first one. They banked hard and up, the sun was blinding-bright when they cleared the top of the mountain, trailing a shock-wave that knocked pine cones from trees.

“Back into the dark! Now we race the sun!” Eva yelled.

Jona had thought she was fast before, the speed Eva achieved in the dive back towards the clouds below was a whole new experience.

The sun seemed to set in the wrong way as they streaked across the sky towards the west.  A line of clouds that Jona had not noticed before looked as if it was rushing towards them.

“This is the best ride I have had in a long time, ” Kolo yelled as she nipped the base of his neck playfully. “You don’t scream.”

Jona laughed, “I forgot to do that!”

Faster still they moved, the sound of the wind over the scales of the dragon was nearly too high of a pitch for him to hear.

The scales on the edges began to buzz slightly and began to get hot to the touch where he kept his hands. Jona looked back, the sun was down below the horizon again to the east.

Jona moved his left hand down to check the part he sat on, the part everyone called the saddle that grew naturally on the large dragon and put his hand on Kolo’s leg. Her riding pants were skin-tight— or scale-tight as he reminded himself— and he was surprised as she pressed to his body so tightly. Slipping his hand along her leg she laughed lightly, but said nothing.

“Pay attention!” Eva yelled. “I need a spotter when we get into the mountains with the trees again. Tell me when I am getting too close or where other trees might be.”

Diving low along the ground, the speeding dragon caused an updraft of dust and debris behind them.

She began to climb, faster than before.

Higher and higher, into the mountains they had left only a half-hour before.

In reverse of the first part of the trip,  the shrubs and bushes gave way to trees, then finally back into the giants of the land. Up and over the crest of the range of mountains and down a valley with a glacier still holding on from the ancient days.

A cleaned monolith of rock, curved on one side and vertical on the other down to the valley floor flashed by as they flew down the valley and out into a flat landed area, and banked hard over while Eva flew on.

“That was the second leg of the race.” The big dragon yelled.

“How many legs are there?” Jona yelled back.

“Eight legs in all, in each of six races.” Kolo said loudly just far enough from his ear to not hurt. “I looked it up, Eva. “

“SIX races this year? I have a lot more practice to get in!” and with that, the dragon flapped even harder as they streaked back to school.

Circling the mountain, Eva set down in the meadow that they had started from. Jona and Kolo climbed off, Jona noted that a slight amount of vapor came from some of her scales.

“I have been worse, at least I know I have some speed.” Eva said, “Next time, we have to practice communications, you just had the basic flight. I had to find out how well I did with a rider– two in this case and we did great speed. Kolo you need to ride with him more often. I need the exercise and he needs to have training.”

Jona laughed. “Absolutely! How do I make sure my name is in the Racer’s Team? Who do we race?” he asked.

Kolo laughed, “There are other schools. DragonLords College of Wisdom is one, DrakesBerg University is another.”

“We will meet again in a few days, Jona.” The large dragon said, “We need to get you on the team, you have courage and don’t try to dominate while flying.”

“I could send him to Professor Vale, ” Kolo offered. “The Professor knows from both sides of the experience as rider and as ride.”

“Excellent,” Eva nodded, “He will give this new boy a chance.”

Turning to her chosen rider, she addressed him directly.

‟Jona, know this, there have been those hurt and even killed during these races. Dragon and rider both, so be sure if you want to do this, you would be one of the lowest-caste riders, a student that has been here only a month. But, Kolo seems to think highly of you.”

“It was Sprite, his adoptive dragon.” Kolo smiled. “That is what got me interested.”

Jona held up his hand, “Do I get a vote in this at all? Other than if I have courage or not?”

Both females looked at him as if he spoke in a strange language and said “No!” in unison. Laughing as they did so.

“You have a great spirit, Jona, I felt it in you.” Kolo said looking Jona directly into the eye without laughing. “Sprite would not have chosen you, the fates would not have put you in the spot at that time to have a baby dragon looking for its mother and saw you first.”

Jona blushed at his ears. The only thing on his body that he could never seem to control, looking down he kicked at a rock for a moment.

“I will do the best I can.”

“Only if your grades are good enough, ” Eva said grimly, her orange eyes going dark red “You WILL not have poor test grades and you will get your homework done— on time and turned in— correct?”

Kolo nodded, “He will, or he will not like me anymore.” She grinned and socked Jona in the shoulder firmly.

‟He will make the grade. Or else.”

‟Or else what?” Jona said, half-joking.

Then it got serious, and downright scary when Eva leaned down and nearly touched her nose to his.

Smoke came from her scales, some from her nose.

‟Human boy, you will keep your grades up or you will find out how unpleasant life can be.” The big dragon’s eyes focused on him and he felt she could see down inside him.

‟Do not fail me or Kolo, keep us happy, and your life will be happy.”

Jona agreed with this turn of events.

He would not fail them. Ever. Jona had learned about respect, then he shook his head at himself.

Those two scared him!

Dragon Master University Chapter 13. Classes

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XIII. Classes

A gong sounded in the house somewhere and jolted Jona a`wake. Sam made a squealing noise in his room and staggered out in the hallway to the study room. “Ugh, I hate that! I had forgotten how loud that wake up alarm is. “

“Does that happen all the time?” Jona yawned as he noticed sweet breads, grains and a serving dish of scrambled eggs was sitting at the table in the study room.

“Only during the class days.’ Sam laughed “Nearly made me jump out of my skin all last year. My species only molts once a year on average. I think I nearly shed five times.”

Jona cackled in good early morning humor.

As he walked up the stairs, Jona saw that Professor Vale was there, supervising book bags being handed out.

“Keep these and do not throw them away. They’ll be checked back in at the end of the year.”

Jona hurried out of the Garnet house and headed to where his schedule indicated his class. Dragon lore and law.

Finding the right place after several stops to ask older students where the classroom was. Each one having the look of fear on their faces.

“You have Professor Koos. Good luck.” several of them said.

Walking into the class, just on time for class to start. A short human with a long mustache, pulled back just so, merging into his gray hair, looked up and then down at the seating. Jona was obviously the last to arrive.

“Mr.” Professor Koos paused, puzzling over the name. “Sam- hain? Please take seat twelve-dee”

“It is pronounced Sah-wain in my country, Professor.” Jona corrected the old human.

“Indeed? I shall endeavor to correct my pronunciation in the future.” Professor Vale said quietly.

Professor Vale began to hand out papers, “This will be a timed quiz, you have fifteen minutes to the end of the test.”

“Sir? Professor? I was unaware of a test today? This is the first day of school- what could be the subject?” Jona asked.

“You picked up the schedule before today— otherwise you would not know where the classroom is. By extension you then know where my office is, the lessons for study I posted  two weeks ago on my office door, failure to study or to look for the lesson plan is no excuse. Please do your best on the test. Good luck.” And Professor Koos turned and walked away back to his desk.

Turning at his desk, he leaned against it and crossed his arms, for a teacher, Jona noticed for the first time, he had huge arms.

Professor Koos Spoke. “You come to me with heads full of sawdust and mush, in my class— if you survive— you will leave with minds of Masters. Masters of your Destiny and the earth’s.”

Thus the test began, Jona was already lost, thinking that the only thing he had gotten right was his name. Some of the questions he knew from his parents talking with him. Some questions he knew from his recent contacts with the school.

“Define a Dragon Hunter.” he read and wrote his answer with a quill.

Fifteen minutes later, Professor Koos collected the papers and began to lecture on the lore of the relationship of dragons and men.

Jona’s second class, fundamentals of flying was no less difficult. The instructor, Professor Vale, stood in the middle of the meadow outside of the volcano core. It was cool, even at the late morning, the red dragon shape of the professor paced back and forth in front of the class.

“Riding, not like a horse. The relationship between flying dragon and rider.” Vale said in a gentle voice unlike his voice at bed time the night before, “You will know, feel and see what it is like as a rider. No matter of your race. Whether you be Elf, Human or Dragon of your own that can ride another. The relationship is all important, there are those, humans mostly, that will hunt your ride. As a rider, you must know where to go. And there are things even in the air that will hunt a dragon.”

Several smaller dragon students nodded. Even the biggest of Dragons, it was known, the unspeakable terror that can come from below or above. Men with weapons that can reach out, wizards with magic and chains. A Dragon’s freedom was always under assault.

“First, you must know the speed at which a dragon can fly.” The armored head of the red-dragon nodded. ‟I can fly faster than an arrow can fly, and I can fly at that speed for all day. This is a typical speed, my friend here,” A huge gust of wind as a large gleaming purple dragon landed as light as a feather, “Has been known to create thunder during a dive. This makes it all but impossible to ride, unless you are hiding behind his horns out of the wind he produces.”

A rough voice, as if burned by fire, “I fly faster than sound when in a dive, I can fly past an observer before the sound of my passing reaches them.”

The class murmured in disbelief. One boy, a new student by the lack of rosettes on his leather armor, spoke. “My father says there is nothing that a dragon can do that a man can’t. Flying faster than sound is impossible.”

“Why are you here, if you have such a feeling?” Professor Vale asked. “Surely you have no wish to lean more, because you know all you need to know from your father?”

“I thought that this was a place of learning facts, not of stories. The earth is eternal, we will need to control and dominate it if we are to control the destiny of the earth.” the Brown haired boy said.

“Mister Gallo, please see me after class? You may attend the rest of the class as it goes on today.” Vale said.

Gallo crossed his arms,

“My parents give more money to this school than any other.” Gallow said as he stood with his arms crossed. He had muttured, but still just loud enough for Jona to hear him.

Sprite landed on Jona’s shoulder and clicked happily.

“Mister Samhain, you seem to have a connection to dragons, if I remember you have two parents that are masters themselves?” Vale asked.

“Yes, Professor. I found out just this summer that they are far more than they seem.”

“You might wish to tell me how to ride a dragon?” Vale asked, “What would keep you from falling off?”

“Um… Hang on?” Jona was not able to think of anything else.

The class laughed as if on cue.

“Knew I was going to like you as a roommate.” An unfamiliar dragon slapped him the shoulder as the purple dragon snorted in laughter and nodded.

`

“Vale, the boy is right, as much as it’s a melding of minds, to hold on is important.” The flying dragon nodded.

“Jona, would you come and sit on Wivern, show how you would hold on?”

Jona walked up to Wivern and crawled up on his back, finding a spot that he fit in perfectly and settled into what seemed like a saddle.

Wivern settled forward and flapped his wings, not taking off.

“He has a natural feel on the saddle.” Wivern spoke in his gravelly voice.

Wivern walked around in the meadow, Jona held on at first, as Vale was explaining the theory of how to sit with balance and keeping an eye out on for location. Communication between rider and ridden, explained by Wivern, performed by body language as often a dragon at speed may not hear the words of the rider.

“Some of us can hear through our scales, simply by speaking while we fly, we can understood without great difficulty.” Wivern advised.

Class continued, questions and answers, how to fly. Dragons were not steeds but simply friends that would allow riders. Jona learned that dragons came in more sizes and shapes than he had so far discovered.

Then the professor mention of the other, more frightening things that hunted dragons.

“Read up on dragon flight, the Gorgon is the subject of the written test two weeks from today. Flight styles and escapes in the past, I want a paper written due on the first day of next week, class dismissed.” Vale smiled as he watched the students leave.

“Gorgon, what is that?” Walking up the path back to the volcano, Jona asked Sam.

Sam shuddered. “I always thought it was a kids story to keep us home at night. The Gorgon is an ancient threat, there are more of them than one.”

“Hi!” Said another young man, “I am your roommate, came in at the beginning of classes this morning with Spirat, I saw you on the dragon at class. That was good! Wasn’t it? It was awesome to see!”

“Kola? Shut up.” Said a second boy. “He can never say just hello, he has to make a story out of it. I am Spirat, We will be staying in the room with you at Garnet house.”

“Say, you have a dragon on your shoulder!” Kola said “He looks like..”

“Kola, shut up.” Sam said and Kola became quiet.

“Kola comes from a Yak family, all they do is talk. Make good politicians, but seem to always take up all the air.”

Walking as they spoke, Spirat and Kola continued to introduce themselves. Kola was the younger brother of Kolo who Jona had already met. Kola explained for the thousandth time that the females of his family were very attracted to humans and were known to attract the best of the Dragon Masters.

“Half dragons are more common these days. Starting with a Professor here at the school.” Kola said as they walked to the next classes.

“Math!” Jona moaned. “I hate math.” It was always his worst subject. “I can never get it, my dad had to save my grades more than one time. Showing me how to do it, but still after all that time I was so happy to get away from the class and the instructor.”

“I like math” Kola interrupted, “The dragon math is different from what you know! It’s all about flight, angles and landings. Very involved, dragons don’t know it right off, many have been hurt with wrong landings. I’m not even allowed to fly.” Kola blushed blue.

Spirat laughed “He told me the problem, he keeps hurting himself, so they don’t allow him to try to fly, he does look a bit like a wounded bird in flight.”

Jona and Sam looked at Spirat, “You known him long?” Jona asked.

“We grew up together, we are second cousins on my father’s side and we grew up together.” Spirat grinned, “I take care of him, he takes care of me. Our family way.” Then he whispered, “He is the only biped fire-puffing dragon I know of.” Spirat laughed.

“Fire puffing?” Sam asked, “Not fire-breathing?”

“No, I don’t just breath fire, I have to focus a bit and then try, but I do okay at it.” Kola grinned.

The students walked back to their room and sat down to study during the night when the bell sounded in the house.

Dinner was served.

Dragon Master University Chapter 12. Class Schedule

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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.

Dragon Master University Chapter 11. Introducing Dragons

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XI. Introducing Dragons

In the center of the school, a large open rotunda, taller than the tallest dragons that stood under the polished stone cupola, a soft rain that fell from the mouth of extinct volcano, guided off the roof and channeled to giant cisterns the shape of beer tankards sold in pubs throughout the world.

The students stood in a circle around the instructors and professors. Each professor standing on a level of a circular stage, looking outwards from the center, appearing like decorations on a cake.

Several of the professors were missing Jona noted. Looking around, all the dragon professors were missing. Then the voice of the professor that Jona had met a few weeks earlier, Melian Jewell began to speak from the middle of the circle. Standing on a platform higher than the rest, she addressed the newest students. Several of the older students had stopped and watched.

“Students, your journey begins here, learning what you have before, you must put behind you. You have all been appointed, have applied or been chosen. From now on your home is this university, here you will learn to go past the legends and mythology, to know the relationship between earth and sky, of water and air, you will know that the family that has raised you is larger and more complex than anything you have ever imagine. Here you will learn how to teach a dragon the most basic parts of survival, how to hide.” She took a breath. “here you will learn how to mentor and be mentored by Dragon Masters.”

At the last, a dozen dragon professors soared down from niches in the sides of the neck of the volcano and landed, encircling the human and elf teachers facing the students with their wings outstretched and tip to tip, the dragons of all sizes looked down on the screaming students. Keva stood behind Jona and buried her face in his back.

“These are your mentors!” Her voice boomed around the school center, “You will know them all in time. Ice, fire, air, water, earth. I bid you all, welcome to Dragon Master University of Higher Learning.”

“Who are the Dragon Masters? Us or them?” A dark-eyed girl whose eyes seemed as big as saucers as she looked up at a dragon that stood three times her height.

“Everyone who graduates here is a master. Some are Dragons, some are elves, some are humans. All are masters and will guide the survival of all the races.” A familiar and beautiful voice sounded behind Jona.

Kolo was smiling as she was handing out room assignments.

“Your bags are already being moved as we speak. Jona you are in Garnet Dorms, your first year mentor has been a special request by our own Professor Vale. You will meet him later at the dorm common room. You will find the room number assignments from him.”

Kolo reached up and tickled sprite under the wings while it clicked happily at the touch of the female dragon.

Trying to think of something to say, Jona flogged his brain.

Finally, it seemed like weeks he stood there asked Kolo “Did you do something to your hair? It looks nice.”

Kolo laughed and walked away.

“Silly boy, dragons don’t have hair, these are feathers and no, nothing has changed. You will have to try better than that.”

Jona turned away and cursed himself.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid. Next time think of something intelligent…”

Walking along the path to the Garnet House, Jona approached the dragon that he had met weeks before, the old professor.

“Do you know where I might find Professor Vale?” Jona inquired, “I need to meet him for a room assignment.”

The dragon looked at Jona and chuckled, “Yes, I know where Professor Vale is, he is very close by.” The dragon leaned close “He is me, I am Professor Vale.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I did not remember your name. I’m told to report to you for a room assignment in the Garnet house?”

“New student, go through the door, turn right, go down the stairs, room fifty-six, it has your name on it.” the Professor nodded without even looking, turning to an older student “Sixth floor, room nineteen. You know the drill, you have a good room this year, your mentor will have easy access to you for early training. Just a warning: Do not fall off.”

The student left and Jona followed the other boy, as they entered the Garnet House, a Purple Dragon statue stood out front. Orange eyes and wings extended, it looked much like the one that gave him a ride to the school the first time.

Reading the plaque at the base of the statue, “Skittles the seeker” on the surface of the plaque, the rest of the writing was in a language he could not understand.

“Jona!” It was Rameses, “You are in Garnet? that is a good house to start in. They follow the lead of Skittles, the best student they have ever had. He was a great seeker of knowledge about humans and dragons.”

“Oh! Thanks! I could not read it past the name.” Jona said

“There will be a test later. ” Rameses said as he left “Gotta go, I have to move into my room, see ya!”

“Bye!” Jona walked in and turned right, walking down a circular-staircase covered with a luxurious a maroon carpet. Down he went, light for the stairs came from a tube of light that hung from the ceiling and down the core of the circular stairway. At the bottom of the stairs, Jona walked along the wide polished floor of snowflake obsidian while Jona shuffled with dozens of other students who read the gold plates on all the doors.

Finally room fifty-eight, Jona Samhain, Spirat Oillín, Kola Dragoneye, Sam Sam were the names engraved in the gold plate.

Walking into the darkened room, Jona paused for a few minutes until it was light enough to see.

“Touch the wall to get some illumination.” A voice from the darkness sounded, “But be gentle.”

Jona touched the wall and the ceiling began to glow.

“Sun tubes.” A man-sized dragon sat on a chair that looked like polished stone. “They store and use the light down here. We are the bottom of the pile.”

“I’m Jona”, he said. Looking at the blue tiger-striped dragon reclining on the seat. “It’s my first day.”

“I’m Sam, It is my second year, but I bombed badly last year so I have a do-over. Never did turn in my work on time after I got assignments. I did it, but kept forgetting it.” Sam looked down and sighed. “My Gram about gave birth to a polar bear when she got the report. Now I am back down here.”

“It is not bad down here. We’ll be protected from bad weather.” Jona tried to look at the bright side.

“Hardly, summer is too hot down here, spring it is humid, best times are now and winter.” Sam said and added, “Have you got your class assignments yet?”

“No, I just got here.” Jona was looking into separate rooms as Sam watched him move around.

“You better find your home-room teacher and get the schedule. Some instructors are evil. There is one elven chap that does Dragon Lore– you do not want to get him on your trail. His sister is a Bowheart and he really hates anyone who fails to measure up to her.”

“Bowheart?” Jona asked. “What is a Bowheart?”

“You are new at this! You need to get studying history and read last year’s story.” Sam said. “But no matter, you need to get your schedule, I will help you along. But you have to get the studies down. This place can be savage with no one to have your back. That is why they roomed us together.”

“Where would I find the home-room teacher?” Jona asked.

“Office is main floor, you will have to look hard for your name. They try to write them in your native language for the fresh faces that come every year. Then switch to the common language that we all talk, but you have that down already. You are one of the few humans I know that already have skills in understanding of common language of all the students” Sam smiled. “It’s good to have that advantage.”

‟Let’s go get your stuff in your room or you will get your bed taken.” Sam said, jumping up.

Running up the stairs after putting his clothes away, he donned his leather vest that had silver rivets but no rosettes like some of the other older students. Even Sam had an iron rosette at each leather joint of his vest.

“What do the rosettes on your vest mean?” Jona asked Sam as they climbed the stairs. “I have seen some that are gold, some are silver, some look rusty or even made of wood.”

“Classes they have passed.” Sam grinned, “I did the triathlon ride last year. So I got an iron rosette. You will get them as you get along in your schooling. There are so many I don’t know what they all are made of or what they are for. There is gold, silver, copper, bronze, iron, emerald, diamond and other gem types, many of silk, some of a white marble, others of black. Just depends on what you do.”

“Wow, well, let’s see what classes I have. Then I will try to get some on my rivets.” Jona laughed.

‟Good luck, first year. You might also get used to being called an egg or hatchling.” Sam nodded The scales of his head glistened in the light, like the polished walls of the school.

”You won’t get respect this year, no matter what you do.” Sam snorted a secretive laugh. ‟Just so you know.”

Dragon Master University Chapter 10. The First Days

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X. The First Days

Once again, in the wicker basket, Jona was heading to school for the beginning of the term at the autumn equinox. A pretty girl from the eastern isles, her hair the color of a sunrise.

“I’m Keva, my parents are both Dragon Masters and they appointed me after my folks talked to the council of professors.” She smiled at the group of other kids as they raced along the clouds.

A giant frost wyvern, related to dragons but with no front legs, only two wings and two hind legs carried them along.

A gentle landing, easily as good as the first ride, Jona laughed as a student who was first out of the giant wicker basket and hugged the ground whispering “Never-never-ever-never-never again! I do not want to ride in those!”

Jona laughed as the boy had stood up and stopped being terrified. He had held on to the edge of the wicker basket, his belt latch had drawn so tight that he had trouble breathing. He had gone the full length of the braided cord, and then some.

“It’s my third year here, I do that every time. I hate riding in those things. If people were meant to fly, we would have wings like the dragons. You know that, if the dragon slipped? That is a long ways to the ground. Never do I want to leave earth. My feet belong on the land or in the water. Not the air.”

“He makes that speech every year, I’m told.” Keva whispered into Jona’s ear after the boy’s panicked speach.

“They call me Screaming Eagle to my face, a great warrior’s name, but they whisper behind my back they say ‟Screams like a Baby” when I come home.” He said quietly as he wiped his hand over his forehead. “But, no one will ride in the basket, no one chosen of my family will come to learn about the world.”

“Well at least you don’t have a baby dragon that thinks you are its mother.” Jona said as sprite landed on top of his head and clicked a happy familiar sound to the returning Jona after the family had visited a few weeks before and had left the small dragon with the pretty swimmer-dragon, Kolo, the university secretary of admissions.

All the students gathered in the central part of the old volcano, Newest students surrounded the teachers in the center as the more senior students passed by and continued onto their dorms and home rooms.

Jona looked around, Screams Like a Baby, reminding himself the boy’s name is Screaming Eagle, headed off into the dorms of Water Dragons, the great Green Spire dominated by the a great statue of the water dragon’s queen.

Jona wondered what his mom and dad did on their first day, making note to ask them.

Not for the first time in recent days, Jona laughed at the ordinary and mundane life he left at  the old school.

Dragon Master University Chapter 6. Cold

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VI. COLD

Higher they flew, the dragon giving slow, steady beats, the winds generated did not seem as severe as when they were first lifting off. Into the clouds they flew, even birds fell behind as the tail of the dragon slowly began to clear of the stowaway passengers that sat on the dragon’s tail.

“Birds sit on dragons all the time?” Jona asked, finally having enough wits about him to ask.

“Often they do, birds help clean in between the scales and folds of the wings. The dragon in turn keeps predators at bay. Few things hunt dragons.” his mother said softly.

“Uh, ‘few things’? What hunts dragons?” Jona asked, then thought “Besides men.”

Aed turned and looked out the window, the shutter was held back with a gold hook. “There are things far darker and more dangerous than a dragon, even the most short-tempered and wild of dragons have things to fear, you will learn these things of the world at the school. You will do well.” Turning back, Aed was back to his smiling and proud self as they flew on in the wicker coach of the gathering light of the day.

Breaking out of the low clouds, into the bright sunlight, Jona unbuttoned his overcoat in the warmth. “Why do I have to wear this?”

“You’re warm now, but just wait.” Aed said as he motioned ahead of them to a dark line of clouds that towered high into the air. “That for instance!”

Jona looked at the clouds and down to the ground, they were already so far up that not even villages were visible and the edge of the world seemed curved.

“Higher we go!” his mother smiled, “Now it gets cold, you will want to keep your hat on, there are ear flaps on the inside– and button up your coat for your health! Have I not taught you anything?”

Jona chuckled, he had been in the cold back home, once even the lake nearby had frozen almost completely over. He knew what cold was, they had gone swimming in that icy lake that year.

As soon as he finished that thought, he noticed his breath was coming out in fog puffs and his ears popped, looked as though his dad was smoking like the old man who lived down the road when he sat on his stump with a pipe. Jona pulled his hat down over his head, the ear flaps, lined with fur that was far warmer than he would have believed.

As his ears warmed, he realized that he had a slight headache from the cold wind pressing in on his face.

Jona looked around, both of his parents had buttoned up tight, with the collars turned up, all he could see of their faces were the eyes showing through slits in the leather and fur, their eyes glittering as they had more fun than Jona had thought possible in an over-sized wicker basket, that was hanging from the claws of a creature that until just last night he thought was only in stories.

Something cold hit Jona right in the nose, then another, as they skirted along the edge of the high cloud, the sky was full of this white soft stuff.

“Snow.” Aed laughed. “There will be more of it before we land.” His words were cut off by a clap of thunder that made Jona’s heart stop for a moment. The dragon snorted with a sonorous voice, that his dad nodded to and answered in the same snoring sound and closed the roof of the basket.

“She said that she is going to go back to the north a little bit, the lightning is too dangerous for us. It is no danger to the dragon, but us? We would be charred to bones in a moment.”

The glittering tiger striped dragon banked to the left and got away from the thunder cloud, finding clear air as they moved into slightly warmer air and away from the storm line.

“If she understands human talk, can she speak in human?” Jona asked his mother, moving close. For in the first time in years, Jona felt very small and needed to hold his ma’s hand. His mother pulled him close, putting her arms around her only child.

“YES.” the voice was as deep as the clap of thunder, but understandable, even kindly sounding even if it was so loud as to make him jump while in Dearbhail’s arms.

Jona had never been so cold as he was right now, even in the arms of his parents, bundled in layers of clothing- except for the over pants his mom had set in the corner, slowly his eyes closed, for the first time in years, he slept in his mom’s arms, no longer a man out of school of eighteen summers, but a child of his mother.

His dreams were exciting and saturated with colorful dragons and adventure.

Excited, even in his dreams.

Dragon Master University Chatpter 4. Dragon Master

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IV. Dragon Master

His father, a Dragon Master, laughing as he took a seat on the mandrel that he used to bend large metal objects to shape that he had wanted, suddenly became serious.

“You will be going to a school in the fall, after you learn a few more things on how to teach that new puppy to behave.”

“Why the puppy?” Jona asked

“Puppy dogs and baby dragons are similar in attitudes, but dragons are much more intelligent as they grow. Kind of like human babies. We all start out as drooling little lumps, but we get a bit older and then we pass the puppies on what we can think of. Dragons are the same way.”

Jona gaped at his father, his dad kept it quiet all these years. He never knew that his dad would be such a quiet legend.

Aed laughed again, “You know, ’tis where I met your ma.” he chuckled with glee at his son’s gape and shock. For a father, he had a great deal of good humor when it came to making his son learn.

“M-ma? You met ma at this school where you became a DRAGON MASTER AT?” Jona’s voice was getting louder as he spoke. “Does she know what you where there for?”

“Shhh…. our society is a quiet one. Not all of humanity is willing to accept that there are Dragon Master’s that teach dragons how to keep a low profile– and YES, your mother is also a Dragon Master. She’s licensed to teach baby and adult Dragons, just like me.” Aed smiled and cleared his throat proudly “And soon, you will too!”

“Now close your mouth before you catch a moth and get packed.” Aed said to Jona who stood there with his mouth hanging open.

“Heh, Jona my son, tomorrow we take you to the new school to find out your class schedule. With the fact you already have a dragon looking up to you, you will probably get into the training cycle first, rather than starting with the classroom teachings. I hope you get Melian Jewell, she taught me long ago. Very good with hands on– if you can keep your fingers attached.”

Aed stood up, Jona’s mouth once again was hanging open like he had something that had numbed his brain.

“Oh.” Was all the noise the teen could make at his father. “Oh.”

Aed was out of earshot by the time that the mouth was catching up with his brain as he staggered back to the wagon and climbed up. While he sat in the seat holding the reins, Jona tried to think for a minute, the information that his father had just told him was making him dizzy still.

“Jona, go home, your mother will know what to do, just tell her what we just talked about. Get a move on son! You have a lot to do!” Aed laughed, “You have time to act like a turnip later!”

Jona rode down the street when the dumb ox snorted out both ends again. the smell of flatulence brought him out of his reverie as he drove the wagon back to the house. His mom met him out in the yard, and she was smiling. “I have heard your father had spoken to you?”

Jona boggled, not for the first time in the recent past.

“How, who..where?” At least now his mouth was functioning with his brain, even if only in single words.

“You will need some good boots, lucky we had some on order for you from the cobbler. That you are of age and out of basic life school, now you learn how to truly learn how to live in the world. To keep the animals in it, not to do as some have in the past, exterminated simply by the rage of man and weapons.” Dearbhail said.

She shocked Jona with  the tone and style his mother used.  She was reciting all of history of barbaric treatment of the earth. She was a teacher and Dragon Master.

‟Mom, you are a dragon mistress?” Jona was able to get his first coherent sentence out since his father talked to him.

‟Dragon Master. There was some question, years ago, that mistress seemed to subordinate what we are. The female teachers outrank the males, regardless of how the word sounds. Dragons cannot be subjugated, but you will learn these things, women are the leaders in the dragon world. So it is with humans in their eyes.”

Aed came home, a sumptuous meal, grilled over the fires outside, filled the house with mouth-watering smells. Aed poured Mead for everyone. Father toasted son as Jona’s mother, though not sad at her son moving out, showed signs of being a mom for a change. The hard spirit of the Queen Boudica that lived on in his mom had softened at the thought of her son now going to her old Alma Mater.

“I never knew you were a Dragon Master, ma, you have never taught any dragons, have you?” Jona asked between mouthfuls of potato, boiled and then roasted with sea salt. “You have never spoke of it.”

“Well, we never would, would we?” She laughed, rolling up her sleeve. Her a tattoo graced her upper arm where a torque normally resided, often she wore the copper band, so Jona had thought over the years it was the green that had rubbed off into her skin, now as she had pulled off the copper torc, the tattoo moved and glistened as if made from real dragon scales. It looked as if it were several dragons holding each other by the tail in a complex, never-ending knot that was so intricate that Jona could swear it was alive.

“Only the alumnus of the university wear such tattoo’s.” Aed said in admiration, while Jona was looking closely at his mother’s body-art, his father pulled out his arm and presented the son with a view of his own tattoo. The count and the kinds of dragons were different, and somewhat darker.

“Your mother earned better grades than I did, but I was in a more challenged class of dragons. We had the dragons that would be considered difficult to teach, males normally, fire breathers.”

Jona laughed for a moment, then paused as he though of a question.

“Is that how you took to being a metal worker?”

Aed nodded. “Your mother came up with that idea, it makes a good cover story for the burns I get now and again when I have to teach a short-tempered dragon how to keep in hiding and not burn a house down that annoys him for one reason or another.”

Jona’s mouth dropped open again. Many times his dad came home with singed hair and had blisters on his hands, complaining that he had to get new gloves for the shop. Little did he realize that it might even been due to a fire-breathing dragon that the patriarch of the family had to teach.

Looking at his mother. “Why did you wear copper then? I mean, with all that you were doing, you should wear a gold torc.”

The smiling auburn haired mother sat down and looked first at Jona, then at Aed then back to Jona.

“Our goal was never to bring that much attention to ourselves.” She said with a soft smile. ”Yes, I could wear gold, but it would never explain the tattoo underneath. This way the copper would cover the tattoo, I could take it off as I wished and when teaching, like now.”

Jona suddenly realized that his parents were more than the quaint old folks from another generation who had no idea how the youth of today thought. Young people had greater challenges, he thought, it was they who would take the world next and make it a better place. But his parents— His, the mind reeled with the thought of what kind of changes they have done in the world.

His ma and dad had changed the world, saving the dragons from dragon slayer’s and their weapons.

Jona went to bed that night with a numb mind, school was starting in a few months and the old folks were just going to sign him up.

In the morning, the sun had not even illuminated the sky in the east when his dad woke him in the dark.

“Up! We have a lot of traveling to do. Get your breakfast in, yer ma has eggs cooked with shredded ‘taters. Up boy. Time is wasting!”

Staggering up, he pulled on some clothes, his mother had a great breakfast of three eggs and a potato fried on a griddle he had never seen in the house before. Barely stained, the yellow pan looked like brass.

“Gold, Jona, this is the traditional breakfast for first time visitors to the university, gold is the dragon’s vanity and gift. One reason they have had such a time just trying to exist, for people covet the yellow metal as much as dragons do.” Mama Samhain said gently. “Our guide brought the griddle to us just this morning. You get one more after this, after that, you are back on iron cooking.” his mother laughed quietly. “They draw you in by making you feel special, then beat your brains until you learn the lessons for that time when you serve both man and dragon and save both from obliterating each other.”

“Ob…oob ..What?” Jona could not get the word out of his mouth.

“Obliterate. Just think of if your uncle Rón when he sat on you when you were but ten-years-old.” Aed said with a crooked grin.

“Ach! No! I understand now. That is the last thing I want.” Jona gasped.

The breakfast continued with animated discussions on different dragons, dangerous kinds, water dragons, air dragons, fire dragons. Jona was beginning to have a headache. Care and feeding of each dragon was far different from the next.

Finally they finished breakfast, Aed washed the griddle while Dearbhail washed the other plates separately. The discussion between them was rapid and animated, the pride in their son was obvious.

Jona, stunned at the clothing that his máthair put out for him. Leather jerkin with iron studs, heavy leather gauntlets with oddly shaped finger coverings, boots that came up to his knees with chaps that fitted on his legs and clipped to the top of the boots. There were other rings on the jerkin and boots he wanted to ask about, but his mother and father disappeared up the ladder to the loft to change clothes. The sound of a slap and a mild threat was more information than Jona wanted to know about what his dad might have done.

Climbing down, the two elder Samhain clan were clad in leather and metal armor, his mother’s was decorated in gold and green rivets, his fathers was in silver, yellow and red-gold engraved metal flowers over the tunic, with iron and leather scabbards that held two short swords that crossed on his back. His mothers weapons, shorter and slimmer, much more pointed to the touch, had handles made of some creature’s tusks, as they were bone-white.

Pulling one of her swords, the light reflected over the mirrored surface of the blade. The metal rippled like water in the light and the edge was wavy, like the edge of a leaf.

His father drew a sword and set it on the table next to his mothers’ blade. Longer, more massive in construction, a blade for smashing through heavy objects, while his mother’s was one that might cut through the smallest weakness of opposing armor.

“These are the tools of Dragon Masters. Sometimes one must have the skills to fight either man or dragon and earn the respect. These weapons have different designs, each has a specific use and need when called upon. Where your father’s are for one kind of warrior, mine is for another. But each is not perfect, the two blades cover each other’s shortcomings of design.”

Jona stood slack-jawed as he watched the two most mundane, boring, simple folk that he’d ever known. He could even call them “quaint” by the past years he knew them. Now, the arms of his father, from years of swinging a hammer, the sinuous arms of his mother stuck out of the leather and steel armor– he had no other thought but that one moment he had come to realize most about his “mundane, quaint” old folks were members of a group that Jona never dreamed they could belong.

Unbeatable in the normal sense, mysterious— he never, ever knew of their second life.

His father was pulling on leggings that shimmered like water in a stream, on closer inspection they were fine scales, interlocked like fingers of two hands.

Mom and dad— they were awesome!

They were warriors.

They were Dragon Masters.

Dragon Master University Chapter 3. The Road Home

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III. The Road Home

Rumbling back over the road, the sun was no longer right overhead, quartering behind him, his headache was gone, no longer the flatulent ox made his belly flip-flop in his throat, he had began to look around more. Often the look around at the small birds now that flew from tree to tree and wheeled overhead.

One bird, fell from a tree, landing on the ground and Jona laughed slightly feeling sorry for the bird, but had no time to deal with the plight of the flying critter.

Jona trundled past the young bird, it made an odd noise, but then took wing, and Jona saw its shape appeared like no other bird he had ever seen.

It disappeared into a tree once again, Jona shook his head at the ugly bird, it must have been the power of the distilled spirits still messing with his eyes as he rode on in the wagon, the smell of the peat as he bounced down the path no longer bothering him as much as the time wore on.

Jona was feeling more like a person instead of the underside of the ox-hoof and promised himself no more drinking before finding out what the next day would bring. His ma and pa were known to have had tremendous parties and had a whole next day to rest— but had planned it far in advance.

A touch of wisdom, Jona nodded and heard a familiar sound. Turning his head, he saw that oddly shaped bird again as it flitted by, but Jona lost it in the sun as the erratic flying creature zipped past as he approached the harbor where the black ship docked.

The red hair of the captain was visible as it poked out from under a feathered cap as the blond-headed boy was standing on a pallet of goods, the crews used pulley’s and rope lifted into the ship. Oxen and men pulled on lines as Dana was making sure that the materials where staying on the platform. A netting, used to secure all the crates, while the captain stood below with his arms crossed and shook his head as he spoke to the raven haired woman standing next to him. She had secured the delivery and supervised the lading of the ship.

Looking over his shoulder, freedom of the sea seemed that it was an outstanding life. Positive that the boy, Dana, knew more and saw more than Jona ever would, stuck here on land with no prospects but to tinker on the metals. Even if it was a successful business, suddenly he wanted another life where he could make a change, effect something! Jona wanted a life that was greater than his dad’s.

Flitting by, the tiny bird once again drew Jona’s attention. He was positive it was the same creature, it had a pendulous tail and curious wings, longish neck.

But was fast!

Extremely fast!

Again, Jona lost it in the glare of the sun, it seemed to fly in big circles around the peat loaded wagon.

“Probably the bugs that seem to follow the smell, it’s catching and eating them.” Jona thought to himself. “At least there would be fewer flies when I offload this at the smite shop.”

Suddenly a sound behind him made him turn around. Pulling up on the reins, he stopped the ox which took that moment to rattle out its backside again with gas. Stupid ox, it snorted as much out its backside as it did out the nose.

Turning to look closely at the bird, it had its back to him. It was oddly colored, almost a purple-black color. Abruptly, It turned and looked at him. It had a lizard kind of face. Cat eyes that looked at him curiously.

It was a tiny DRAGON!

Jona stumbled backwards and fell off of the wagon and down into a puddle where the ox had just finished urinating. “UGH!” Jona yelled, the urine smelled worse than the gas that the ox put out. The ox snorted as if it knew and was laughing in the way that only an ox could.

The little dragon gave a squawk and took back to the air, munching on a beetle it found in the peat and sped off behind a bush.

Jona shook his head, distracted now as he scrambled away, once an ox urinated, the other was coming soon and Jona wanted no part of that on him. The urine smell was bad enough as he stood on his feet and shook the moisture off his hands and looked around. The little dragon was gone. No longer visible to the blinking Jona. How was he going to explain what he had seen to his parents?

“Maybe I will just not say a word, they will send me off to talk with the Draoi of the village. Ugh.” Jona commented to himself.

The Draoi were known to cure people from visions and bless things like crops. But it would always take days, often consuming bitter herbs to cure anything from constipation to diarrhea to people with headaches to swelling of feet.

Clambering back into the wagons bench seat, Jona kept an eye out for the little dragon, seeing it every once in a while, it was not bothering the ox or him, precisely, but it was very definitely following him. It was not a chance meeting, the dragon was just a baby, it looked like, but was not near a mother.

“MOTHER!” He gasped in panic. Oh no, if the baby dragon had a mother, Jona was in dire trouble. All they might find of Jona and the ox would be charred bones or might not even find them at all. The boy began to look around rapidly for the telltale signs of impending attack. Birds taking wing or no sounds in the world as the lesser animals would hide from an attacking dragon.

Jona had never seen an attack, only in stories and legends were they told about. His dad, Aed would tell of how the dragons had nearly been driven into extinction by openly living with the humans who would hunt many for the actions of a few.

“Dragons are intelligent” Aed would tell Jona, “They learn and know, they are by and large, peaceful, like a raptor of the sky– they will eat fish or, in the cases of large dragons, oxen or whales of the sea. They had to learn to avoid humans, thus some needed teaching. It was humans that helped teach dragons of how humans lived and how they can see. These men and women became known as Dragon Masters.”

Jona once dreamed of being a Dragon Master, but in time grew up and figured out that all that his dad told him were stories to entertain a child. He had even stopped believing in dragons. But here, a small one was following his very steps as he made his way back home.

Jona took a moment and thought about heading back to the harbor and the black ship for protection, but that would have taken nearly as long as the remaining trip back home. Nowhere was there a sign of a mother dragon to follow the baby or make an attack. People worked in the fields, birds were flitting behind them, eating worms that would be tilled up or to eat the bugs on the grain.

As he entered the home village, he kept an eye out for the small dragon, he had not seen it for nearly an hour, the sun had angled down and the shadows were long. He could hear the hammer blows of his dad’s shop as he drew closer. Curly reddish hair, two bright blue eyes that looked out from a soot smeared face as Aed laughed as Jona made his way to the back of the shop. Always happy to see his son, the smiter directed the apprentices to continue the rough work of the current project.

“Da’, the seller says he owes you two more loads, it would be ready when you are to pick it up.” Jona told his father. “There was no problems, but ma was not in a good mood this morning, she woke me up too early”

The senior Samhain laughed, his hair shook with the good humor of a father with his only son learning how the world really works with the mother in charge.

“Okay, let’s off load the peat over there, Jona, I will send out the apprentices to help you, I have a gold torque to make for someone and I trust no one to do it, I have the idea what they want on the band.” Aed said as he turned away to go back into the shop.

A flit across the sky, Jona decided now was as good of a time as ever.

“Dad, I have seen something you need to know, I think it is serious.” Jona said loudly after his father.

Aed motioned to the junior apprentices who mounted the wagon and began offload bricks of the fuel and walked over to his son and sat down on a mandrel he had made years before. Motioning his son to sit, the elder no longer laughed, taking in his son’s look as a young man with something that was serious in his mind to tell his father.

“I am kind of afraid to tell you, but..” Jona trailed off.

“Spit it out boy, I have known you all your days, you never tell me to wait unless it is serious and important to your heart.” Suddenly a concerned father than a laughing friend.

“Dad, on the way back, I think I saw a dragon– a baby dragon. I’m worried that the stories you told me of the mother dragon that might attack for stealing her baby might come true.” Jona said quietly, he did not want to let the other boys hear him and laugh.

Aed looked at him for a moment, then with wide-eyed concern his father asked. “What did the dragon do?”

Jona, shocked that there was no question of whether he had even seen– just what the actions of the baby did.

“He, well, he ate some bugs as we traveled, took them out of the load of peat.” Jona said slowly.

Aed Samhain began to smile. “Jona, you may not know what this means, but by the good grace of fates, you are going to have a life that you never dreamed of! The dragon chose you to go to a school I once went to.”

Standing up and walking to a bucket of water, his father washed his arms clean of soot and sweat. cleaning the tattoos that entertained him as a boy were still in bright relief.

“These are the marks of a graduate of the school of dragon masters.” Aed told Jona who gaped at his dad’s words.

His father was a Dragon Master!

A teacher of dragons, a group of storied and legendary people who hid and protected dragons since the dawn of stories. Who had taught the dragons how to hide, how to tell the difference between those that would help and those who would harm or seek to harm any of their kind.

They were the go between’s of the world of dragons and the world of man.

“You?” Jona had trouble getting his thoughts to gather in one statement. “You? Taught? Dragons?”

He shook his head at the thought of his dad as a Dragon Master?

Wow.

Dragon Master University Chapter 2. The Road, The Sun, The Hangover

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Dragon Master University Chapter 2. The Road, The Sun, The Hangover

The rumbling cart wheels on the road did little made the demon in his belly trying to come out worse. After the fourth stop to expel his insides at the base of a bush, Jona swore that his mother did not love him anymore. Her love was only for children, now he was grown-up, he no longer qualified for her love.

The sour taste in his mouth and burning in his throat was only equaled by the throbbing in his head as the ox passed gas noisily one more time that made his stomach heave once more.

At least he did not vomit this time as he rumbled past Finn’s house. His brother-in-drinking games from the night before, swore fealty to each other over pints of ale and some of the uisce beatha from Finn’s parent’s stash. Jona could see Finn was working in the fields in the sun, not far from where the barley would grow for next year’s distilling.

Looking like he had just emptied his own stomach, the pale youth just waved weakly at the passing Jona, his own thoughts mirroring what Jona had also been thinking– Parents were the most evil creatures on earth that had no understanding on what life was like for the young.

As he passed the harbor on the way to the village where he was to pick up the peat, there was a ship tied up to the dock, one he recognized from stories.

Black and white, painted as if it was one of the great predators of the sea, a ship of trade, but also of legend. The ship carried warrior sailors and feared by empire and robbers of the sea equally. On the dock a crimson haired father played with a blond boy of about nine years of age, tossing a ball back and forth. The dad would put a spin on the ball so it would bounce oddly and the boy would laugh so loud that Jona stopped and watched carefully. Once, the ball rolled under the middle of the cart and the boy skidded up to get the ball.

“Hi! Can you move your wagon so I can get the ball! My dad throws strangely sometimes. I’m trying to teach him how to throw a ball.” laughed the blond-headed kid. “He is not getting it! He can captain the ship, but cannot throw a ball for his life!”

“He is your dad?” Jona asked as he waited for another cart to move out of the way.

“Yeah! That is Keegan O’Danu, my dad and Captain.” Dana said. “I am Dana O’Danu.”

“Dana! Hurry up! I’m getting forgetful, how did the ball get over there!” Yelled Captain Keegan from the far side of the dock.

A woman sitting on the edge of a loading dock,horses hitched to a wagon with the wheels that Jona recognized as being forged by his dad, was directing the lading of the wagon. “Lady DaLeo, your Captain wished to have the ingots first? He should supervise this, while we load here.”

DaLeo whose raven hair showed iridescent as a raven’s feather in the daylight, her eyes flashed as she stood up, the storekeeper backed away without so much as a word of the supply officer of the black ship and followed the first set of orders as she had previously told him.

Jona laughed as he rolled the cart forward and Dana retrieved the ball with a bright eyes and laughter, ran back to the game to teach his father how to throw the ball correctly. The laughter of the boy and father echoed down the vale and in Jona’s mind as he entered the building. Remembering how his own dad and he would play now and again, but that was when he was young and his parents loved him.

“Just wait until you turn eighteen, boy. Captain Keegan will not love you anymore.” mumbled Jona as he slipped back into his black mood of a hangover. Still his day had brightened slightly as the look of the lady back there had also made the shopkeeper feel low– and he had not been drinking the night before!

A pothole that rattled his brain in his head painfully brought him back to the focus on his guiding of the ox– who’s backside rattled again with a smell of partly digested grain and fermented cud made Jona gasp as his gorge rose again in the back of his throat. Wishing for all the while to sail with the merchant ship and the freedom of the sea.

She walked around the corner, a girl from his school, now just a page of his personal history with graduation of the senior students, Caoimhe smiled and waved up at him as he rumbled by in the wagon. Waving back, he managed to sit straight and put as much importance in the driving of the equipment as he could and stopped the wagon so he could say a few words with her.

“On my way to get important supplies for my pa’. He is depending on this delivery, wish I could stay and talk but I have to get it back to him by evening.” Jona said with as much importance as he could make it sound.

Caoimhe nodded and laughed, “You always are doing important things for your pa. See you later, Jona? What is your pet’s name?”

Jona shrugged and was out of sight before he could think of what she meant. She had never been to his house and did not know of any dogs that lived there. Jona did have a wolfhound but it had died the year before, only just now got a new puppy of the same breed for his birthday the month before.

His dad Aed was complaining that the new dog was more stupid than that of the ingots of iron, copper, silver and gold that he worked in the forge and anvils.

Jona would have hoped that the patriarch of the family was not so attached to the old dog before the old hound died quietly one night, he’d have accepted the pup more easily perhaps. But it mattered little, the old man was always petting the little dog when no one was looking in his direction, even sneaking the dog a scrap from his own meal at night.

Finally, arriving at the camp of the peat cutter, whose own son was looking as ill as Jona felt from the party the night before. Naomh’s father was far more harsh yelling at the boy to get the peat stacked in the wagon as the smiter’s son sat in the shade.

Offered water by Naomh’s mother, (Naomh who had drunk more than all of them the night before.) Jona took the cool drink with great thanks. Only minutes later he had felt a world better, though his belly kept trying to tie itself in knots, his head no longer hurt and he was not a walking ache. Twigs of white willow floated in the water making the drink more of a weak tea with the slight bitter taste, but it was refreshing and he felt better after he finished his drink.

Finally the wagon, loaded to groaning with blocks of peat was tightly stacked in place. Jona, now feeling like he would live through this day, and Naomh drove several staves into the pile to hold it steady for the trip back. Naoise, the peat seller, shook Jona’s hand, “Your father had paid me in trade for this already, I owe him for some work he has done for me. There are two more wagons of peat due him, let him know that I have it ready when he wishes to have it. Just come and get it.”

Jona nodded, thankful he did not have to count or sign anything, most of the merchants his father dealt with all did a trade in services and items. Sometimes when it was ingots, Aed Samhain would forge something of great beauty, keeping the metal for himself, but giving back the art for that merchant to sell. No money changed hands precisely, but all parties stayed satisfied with the dealings. It was a good business.

Jona could not believe his dad, the old man would often speak of how to teach, trying to teach Jona how to teach dogs to sit, to fetch and do tricks. Jona resented being taught to teach animals, his wish was to smite and create with fire. He could cut the leaves of a shamrock into a small bit of copper better than anyone, never getting the metal to crack or wasting the material. This was his wish to do, but his dad always taught him how to teach and somehow getting peat to lug back and forth was not what seemed, or the path he wanted to take.

Besides, what good was it to teach a puppy-dog how to do dumb tricks?

It was not like teachers ever did anything exciting. 

The Red Witch’s Dragon (A short story about 3,000 words)

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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.

Flee.

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.

Viking.

****

“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.

One-hundred paces.

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.

****

Forty paces.

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.

Twenty-five paces.

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.

Twenty paces.

Oengus was in a panic, he needed a subject, someone who would willingly endure a temporary transformation and be the hero of the day.

No one!

Anyone?

None could turn to even engage the question. Everyone was committed to the battle.

****

Fifteen paces.

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.

****

Ten paces.

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…

****

Ten paces.

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.

It was…

A dragon!

****

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.