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