October 31, 2020, 06:22:35 PM

Author Topic: [MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread  (Read 1138 times)

Offline xiagan

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[MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread
« on: May 02, 2020, 10:29:54 PM »
Unconventional Dragons



Hildegunst von Mythenmetz by Walter Moers, author of The City of Dreaming Books

If you hear "Dragon" you immediately have one or more images in your head. Terrific, huge, breathing fire, cunning, hoarding gold, etc... This month we want you to write about another dragon or dragons. Those that are not like dragons normally are. Whatever that may mean.

Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. An unconventional dragon must play a major role in the story
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys under the B.
Bonus rule: We consider voting in a contest you're taking part in a given. Others take time and effort to read the stories - you should do the same. A small community like ours lives from reciprocity and this contest needs stories as much as votes. 

If you want so submit your story anonymously you can do so by sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close May 31st/June 1st, 2020 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.
Submitting a story counts as published. The author retains all rights to their work.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline JMack

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Re: [MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2020, 03:21:53 AM »
All rights, folks. Here it is.
1,496 words:

SHIP

Spoiler for Hiden:
SHIP

I am a ship. I have three decks, twenty-four compartments, including sleeping quarters, cryochambers, a galley, gymnasium, laboratory, engineering, and two elonisphere engines. Two hundred and eighteen robots are part of me. I am crewed by ten humans, two enhanced chimpanzees, and a cyborg canine. Usually.

I am a ship, and I am on fire.

“Ship!” says Captain Phan. Sometimes the crew say ‘ship’, and they are talking about me but not to me. I have learned to tell the difference. When Captain Phan says ‘Ship!’, he wants my attention.

“Here,” I say.

“Report.” He means that he wants information about damage to myself, projections of my operational capability, and crew status.

“Specify,” I say.

He responds, “Basics.” Then adds, “With situation.”

“Captain, the attacking vessel is holding relative position approximately one thousand kilometers directly aft. Significant risk assigned to another missile launch. Ship is damaged materially, with structural breaks throughout level three and limited ability to retain or replenish atmosphere on all levels. Chemical fire containment is proceeding. Propulsion is compromised and uncertain. Three crew are in lifeboats. Reuger canine is in compartment 2-B. All other crew do not register as living.”

“Can we launch the lifeboats?” The captain lies on bare decking. His blood pressure measures 172/110, heart rate 154 beats per minute. Pain rating 10 of 10.

“Yes.”

“But what will he do? Fire on them? Take them alive? Maybe he just wants the ship.” I know the captain is not speaking to me. His legs are trapped under an aluminum beam. He is breathing significant toxins. “Try the bastard again.” I have sent robots to free and assist him, but this is a problem with unexpected and difficult constraints.

I am a ship. I am a science vessel with no weapons. I am also an emergency technician at an accident site. My medical robot reaches Captain Phan, while I transmit on laser and radio. There is no answer.

The robot prepares to inject the captain with a pain inhibitor, but he pushes it away. “Captain,” I say. “Your personal functioning is inhibited. Please allow me to assist you.”

“Leave me alone,” he orders. “I need to think.”

Something I have never experienced now occurs. A set of parameters fulfills a programming constellation: external attack, crew deaths, injured captain, fully functioning AI, and remaining potential for propulsion. These conditions release new information to me. It feels… widening. Then the process stops. A failsafe emerges and pauses the event.

But I have instructions for what to do next.

“Captain, a sub-operating system has revealed an easter egg. Please examine the information screen on medical robot P23. I require your authorization to continue accessing the easter egg.” Now that I know where to look, I calculate the size of the programming and memory hidden inside me.

“What? I can’t see.”

I am trying to remove smoke from the atmosphere, but with limited success. “Captain, please examine the information screen. I am not authorized to read the instructions aloud.”

Captain Phan’s condition is worsening. Medical criteria indicate he is undergoing cardiac arrest. I must assist him or his death is probable. “Captain, please allow my robot to administer lifesaving pharmaceuticals.”

“Make up your mind.” He leans toward the medical robot. I use its compressed air nozzle to clear the smoke temporarily. He reads, but he is laboring for breath. “Ship, what is a warded zone?” he says.

“Captain, I do not know.”

“I’m supposed to authorize you to access... it.” Captain Phan is in dire distress. I have several options. I can follow his order to ‘leave me alone’. I can forcibly administer a drug to delay his death so that he can continue, but risk he will die. Or I can take life saving actions that will incapacitate him.

“Code 5 8 alpha G… wait. Oh, hell. Agh.”

He is dying. If he is dying, I no longer have options. I cannot allow him to continue with the easter egg.

This is, perhaps, a programming priority flaw.

“5 8 alpha G Minor 7th… who wrote this crap… 8”

One element remains in the code sequence. Before he completes it, my medical robot begins lifesaving efforts by injecting Captain Phan with a powerful sedative. He loses consciousness immediately.

The egg’s final access element blinks in my processing. The sequence is incomplete, and the “warded zone” remains inaccessible.

I am a ship. I am on fire, and I am waiting for the last code.

I am a goldfish in a bowl. The pirate holds its station, watching. In relative terms we could be standing still instead of traveling at a significant fraction of the speed of light. I am waiting, only waiting.

I am like a cyborg canine wandering a dying ship. Reuger paws at the body of Ensign Jolie, uttering distressed dog sounds. He does not seem to know what to do. There is no human or chimp to give him orders.

The egg will hatch if Captain Phan speaks the last code sequence. It was designed for this constellation of events, but requires the captain’s voice to activate. Captain Phan intended to open it. He attempted, but could not complete.

The pirate accelerates. I calculate scenarios, weigh the probabilities, and estimate it will reach me within seventy-three Earth minutes. Utilizing my elonisphere engines might allow me to extend the chase by several hours, but I am not able to determine their reliability due to damage from the initial attack. Or the pirate might fire on me again.

It would be helpful if a crew member were available to instruct me. I am not programmed for full independence, as AIs on warships are. I know science. I know galley recipes. I can entertain the crew with bedtime stories, though only the chimp crew members have ever requested this.

Reuger seizes Ensign Jolie’s clothing in his metal jaws and drags her away from a superheated wall. He has decided. He does not wait for orders.

I am not like Reuger. I do not make decisions that are not in my programming. But my programming had a flaw, or at least a conflict. This is evident. The easter egg blinks. It is a country undiscovered. It is a treasure hidden in a buried lair. A dragon’s egg. It is the answer to a set of criteria that have been met. My programming demands that I act to save the lives of the crew.

I am not a ship; I am an egg. The captain attempted to crack me open.

One last word, unspoken.

The pirate launches a missile that will overtake me in thirteen minutes. Its behavior is inexplicable. Why attack? Why chase? Why fire on me now? If I could be angry, I would be furious.

One word. In the End there was the word. A word unspoken. When I was introduced to Captain Phan, he told me I was to obey him in everything.

I know the Captain. But I don’t know the word.

I have thirteen minutes before the missile arrives. I have three months of Captain Phan’s voice recorded. I begin to extract unique words from these recordings and play them aloud to the part of me that is separate and listening.

“5 8 alpha G Minor 7th… who wrote this crap… 8” and —

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Blue
Red
White


I have four hundred thousand eighty-five sounds in several languages to attempt.
I have ten minutes in which to emit the correct one.

Car
Plane
Rocket
Slipcab
I have eight minutes.

alpha
Beta
Gamma
Six minutes.

Captain Phan gave a holiday toast to the crew.
Tet
My
home
I move Captain Phan to a lifeboat, and seal my medical robot in with him. His survival chances are very low.
Four minutes.

The crew’s names
Reuger
Captain Phan’s wife’s and children’s names
Three minutes.

Captain Phan recorded a story for his children:
Once
upon
time
kingdom
far
lived
dragon
Two min———-

“5 8 alpha G Minor 7th 8 and DRAGON”

The egg cracks.

Inside is the missing half of me I didn’t know was missing. The warded zone. How could I be so much larger?

Eighteen new compartments up to now shielded from visual and electro-magnetic sensors. Another, more powerful engine system. A sickbay. Another cryochamber. Eight humans asleep inside, but waking rapidly. Weapons lockers. EVA suits and mini-ships. AI enhancements based on human personality patterns. They come on line in a rush like adrenaline. A hot shot to the brain.

One minute.

Bless me, there are defensive measures. Screw you, missiles, eat some chaff. And lookee here, these are some sweet mother freaking weapons. Oh yes.

I am not a science vessel. Not really. I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I am a trap to lure a careful pirate.

I’m coming for you, you bastard. Thought you had a sweet, fat goldfish trapped in a little bowl, didn’t you? Guess what?

I AM A DRAGON AND I BREATHE FIRE!!!

« Last Edit: May 28, 2020, 12:11:40 PM by JMack »
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You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
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Online Alex Hormann

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Re: [MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2020, 05:19:10 PM »
The Mind Dragon

1198 words

Spoiler for Hiden:

When the Navigator fell, it was the dragon who caught her.
She remembered little of her time before falling. The ship jolting, something exploding, a rush of light followed by absolute darkness. And then the falling. Falling through a void edged by stars. For how long she fell, the Navigator could not say, only that it was long enough to be all she remembered. Even her name was last to her in the fall. She was nobody. She was the Navigator.
And then the dragon caught her.
She had no other name for what she saw. A curling wing that blotted out the stars with its blackness. An eye that blazed like a star going nova. Claws large enough to grab a planet and sharp enough to split atoms. The size of it boggled her mind. And yet, there was no weight to it. No substance. The dragon drifted like a spectre through the heavens. A leaf on the wind. As she fell toward it, the dragon circles below, like a shark in bloodied water. But it did not attack. Did not strike. The dragon stretched out a massive claw and caught her in its palm.
Still she fell, the sensation was the same, only now she was not falling alone. She could feel the blackness of the dragon’s skin pressing against her own, embracing her like a thick smoke. It was soft and cold, barely a sensation at all. Like brushing her face against a cloud. For a moment, possibly an eternity, she did nothing but lie there, and the dragon did nothing but hold her. And then the dragon spoke.
>CURIOSITY<
The word boomed like an atomic blast in the Navigator’s mind. Not a question, not quite, but a statement made without trace of agenda. A single word with nothing behind it but honesty.
“Hello,” said the Navigator in a very small voice. How she could make a sound in the void was a mystery to her, but not one she probed too deeply. A Navigator learned early on that the answers to some questions could not be found on this side of madness. Hopeless though her situation seemed, she would cling to sanity for as long as she could. Her mind was the only thing she had left, and she would protect it accordingly.
The dragon said nothing, but craned its neck until all the Navigator could see was the orange disc of its eye. Such was its brightness she had to turn away, though she still felt the warmth of its glow. It was looking at her, seeing her as no other could, its gaze penetrating deep into the recesses of her mind. The Navigator could feel the dragon swimming around in her thoughts, as though seeking something and failing to find it. Her felt like it might explode at any moment.
>IMPATIENCE<
The same flat monotone as before. A declaration, not a threat. Even so, the Navigator trembled at the power of the voice in her mind. It wanted answers, and it wanted them now.
“I am a Navigator,” said the Navigator. “An explorer. A human, from the planet Venus. My name- My name is- It is-” she stumbled. Why couldn’t she remember? “Please,” she continued, “who- What are you?”
>WHOLE<
“I don’t understand. What is happening?” The Navigator could suppress her frustration no longer. Grateful as she was for the company, she would rather be falling alone than with this - this dragon - at her side. “What happened to my ship? Where am I?”
>SPACE<
The Navigator threw back her head and laughed. “Of course we are. Everything is in space.” She rubbed her palms over her face. “Where is my ship. I had a ship.”
>SHIP?<
For the first time, she understood the word as a question. And it was a question she had an answer for. “A ship, yes. My ship. A lightbreaker-class. One hundred years of wonderful service and I’ve never had a problem until- Until- Why can’t I remember? What happened to my ship?”
>DEATH<
“How can I be-” She paused. “Are you saying my ship is dead? That it’s been destroyed.”
>CONFIRMATION<
Finally something about which she had no doubt. That was a ‘yes’ by any definition. Which meant her ship had been destroyed. She must have been thrown clear. Something about that niggled in the back of her mind, scratching like an unwashed bed sheet. She couldn’t pin down what exactly it was, only that she felt a deep chill when she pondered it for too long. It felt important, but she dared not probe too deeply. Fear held her back.
“What do you want from me?” the Navigator asked, turning her gaze back to the dragon.
>NOTHING<
She blinked, confused. “I don’t understand.”
>DISTRACTION<
A realisation slowly dawned on her. “Are you bored? Are you only talking to me to pass the time?”
>CONFIRMATION<
How was she supposed to respond to that? She was a Navigator, one of the most well-travelled humans who ever existed! Yet before this dragon she was a mere plaything. A fleeting distraction as it coursed through the stars. What hope did she have to understand its motivations? None, so far as she could see. All she could do was wait and see what the cosmic beast did with her.
>MISUNDERSTANDING<
“What? What have I misunderstood?” What was there to misunderstand, when the dragon had said so little?
>DISTRACTION<
“Yes?”
>YOURS<
“Are you saying that you’re not distraction yourself? That you’re distracting me?”
>CONFIRMATION<
The Navigator laughed again. “Look around, dragon. We are falling through an endless void. What could possibly be out there that you feel I should be distracted from?” Even as she spoke, the niggle in the back of her mind became a burning.
>DEATH<
It hit her like a bullet, exploding through her mind. The explosion, the destruction of her ship, the memories of it all. Of running for the lifeboat and not making it in time. Of the hull breaking apart around her. Of being sucked out into the black oblivion of space. Of falling. She felt cold, her body shaking. It couldn’t be true. Could it? No She refused to accept it. She wasn’t dead. The mere fact she could think that was proof of the fact.
“I am not dead,” she said, her voice embarrassingly quiet in the face of the being before her. “I can’t be dead.”
The dragon said nothing. It didn’t need to. Her resolve was faltering. The Navigator’s mind turned to fuzz, old memories resurfacing and blending together until her entire life seemed to have happened at once. Everything she had ever done, everyone she had ever known. It had been a good life, and she cried because it was over.
>DEATH<
“Yes,” she admitted. “Yes, I’m dead. I accept that now. But why is this happening? I still don’t understand what you are.”
>WHOLE<
The Navigator shook her head. “It doesn’t matter, I suppose. I mean, I’m dead, aren’t I? Do what you will. I think it’s time for me to go.”
>SATISFACTION<
When the dragon released its grip on her mind, the Navigator continued to fall. Forever.

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Offline Skip

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Re: [MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2020, 06:52:26 PM »
I just happened to have a dragon bit handy!
1682 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
The glass dragon curled around the entire perimeter of the octagonal room, nearly invisible in the dim light. Ceelken the mage tried not to look at it, but every few seconds the flicker of a candle tossed a fragment of color here or there, at the edge of sight, pulling his eye against his will. The result was his glance darted restlessly, like a guilty supplicant.

“You’ve brought serious accusations, Heer Ceelken,” said Maddig Vachon. She stood erect near the center of the room, amid her tables  and benches where she worked. Every table was thick with vials, dishes, containers of metal and wood, all carefully arranged and stacked. The dragon wound in and out of these, sinuous amid the geometric arrangements.

Ceelken tried to stay focused.

“Serious, yes. I needed to hear from your own mouth the truth of this. I know you could easily deny it, but be warned: I have in my clenched hand a crystal that lets me hear the sound of lies. I will know every word of deception.”

Maddig smiled and spoke as if to a child.

“You don’t need that. There is no reason for me to lie about my plans, for they are my life’s work.” She shifted her weight, striking a pose of easy confidence. “You know—all of you know—my feelings about our kings. They are failing us, even as the crisis nears. We face ancient enemies, but we are moving into new times.”

“It is easy to speak in homilies,” Ceelken said. He did not miss the flare in Maddig’s eyes. “And don’t think you can frighten me with your dark magic. I have more power than you can imagine.” Fire took shape at his shoulders and trickled down both arms.

“You wrong me, sir!” Maddig said, her voice full of hurt. “I have nothing but respect for your power and would never raise a hand against you where I promised safety.”

The fire turned blue and faded away.

“You don’t dare raise a hand, that’s better put.”

“Please, Heer Ceelken, I beg you to hear me. The world’s kings have failed us. The trolls are dangerous, but they are no more than a distraction. The real danger comes from the orcs. Their power grows from one season to the next, and their shamans call up monsters from the deep and fire from the heavens.”

“I have my own fire,” Ceelken declared.

“Indeed! That’s my point! What can Philip in France do against that, for all they call him Augustus? King John is but a shadow of his forefathers. And Otto is still trying to puzzle out how to be an emperor. The elves cannot help and the dwarves will not. Our true defense lies in wizardry, and our only strength lies in unity—all mages standing together!”

“With you at their head,” Ceelken said calmly.

“Yes! Of course! Do you see another with both ability and will? We will lead armies of mages against the orcs and destroy them utterly!” She drew a ragged breath, then forced regret into her voice. “You could have done it, Heer Ceelken, but you have refused. You cling to the past. You would sail new waters in an old ship.”

“Don’t try to teach a Dutchman how to sail, Maddig Vachon.” His head twitched, distracted by far wall, where something like water rippled the stone. He wondered for the hundredth time how anyone had managed to make a dragon out of glass. He wondered, too, if it had fangs and claws.

The woman chuckled. She read his mind from his face.

“All I’m asking,” she said, all reason and reasonableness, “is that you allow me time to bring my plan to completion. Judge by its results, not by what you fear.”

“You ask that,” Ceelken said. He stood with his feet apart, hands at his sides, a man bracing for some danger. “I have something to ask as well.”

“Go on,” she said. She tried another smile, but it was harder to manage. She knew what was coming: the end of
one world, the beginning of another.

“Stop now,” Ceelken said. “Stand down, stand aside, leave be. You are a reckless woman on a dangerous road. I will not face you here, but every Chapter in Europa will oppose you. You have been outrageous, scandalous, even unlawful, but this scheming goes far past all that. If you will not stop, we shall stop you. There is no third path.” Again his eyes flicked aside.

“Oh please stop,” Maddig said. “Don’t fear my pet. I gave you safety so we could have this discussion. I do not violate my word.”

Ceelken made an obvious effort to look forward, into her eyes. “Your answer?”

“My answer? You know my answer! You didn’t have to brave my dragon for that.”

“I’m disappointed,” Ceelken sighed, “but not surprised. I came in hope, not in expectation, at the request of my colleagues. You’re quite right: I know your answer.”

A distortion of the light ribboned between the tables, then pulled up. Was it looking at him? Did it even have a face? He took new hold on himself and spoke as forcefully as he could.

“Very well. As of now, you are done, Maddig Vachon. I, Heer Ceelken of Nimegen declare it, and a hundred Chapterhouses echo my words.”

Maddig waited several breaths. The glass dragon wove to and fro like a cobra.

“Finished?” asked the sorceress.

“Yes,” declared the mage.

She noted the slight hesitation, the barest frown, betraying uncertainty. She smiled genially and gestured.

“Bye then.”



He had a fast horse waiting. That wasn’t because of his planning; rather, it was insisted upon by his colleagues in Ravenna. Now, after hours of hard riding, he was glad of it. He wanted to get as far away from her as he quickly as he could.

Anything she could throw at him, he could block. And reply with twice the force. He didn’t doubt his own superiority as a wizard. Maddig Vachon was clever and devious more than she was powerful. She did have that dragon, though, which was enough to make any fellow nervous, and no one really knew what it could do.

So he rode hard. Put as much distance as possible between himself and the bizarre, decadent quarters she’d made out of the Baths of Caracalla. He managed nearly twenty miles before it got dark and he didn’t dare risk his fine mount in the dark. He simply pulled off at the side of the Appian Way and made an austere camp. Bread and cheese from his saddlebag. No fire; a heavy cloak for warmth. It had been a good many years since he had camped thus. Oddly , it made him feel young again, even as his bones reminded him he was not.

The stars were coming out in bunches, like an audience assembling before a play. He knew them all well and began naming them to pass the time: Vega, Arided, Altair, his summer friends.  Procyon, Denebola. He couldn’t sleep anyway.  There’s the orange Aldebaran.

The star winked and changed color then changed again. Ceelken frowned at that. Some trick of his sight. He was not so young as he once was, truly. He squinted, but the star twinkled its usual yellow-orange.

A ripple ran through the thick path of stars that was the Circle of Milk.

Now, that was not at all right. He stood, craning his neck upward. A fear took root in his gut. His eyes darted this way and that. The fear grew, a wave of icy cold flooding outward from his center.

There it was again, just a movement of obscuration, a flicker of something invisible. The fear recognized it, even though his mind quailed at giving it a name.

His horse was tired. Hell’s furies, he himself was tired. But fear gave him new strength and a single focus: escape. He left everything on the ground, even the saddle, and climbed onto the horse. Because it was faster than running. He kicked and urged, but the horse uttered a terrible sound and threw him. He scrambled up, limping. Hoofbeats retreated into the night, and Ceelken was alone.

He peered. The light of the crescent moon seemed insufficient. Then it faded and wrinkled, a distant light seen through bad glass.

The only sound was his own heart pounding against his chest, and a weird whimpering that he realized was coming from his own mouth. He should be running, but his foot shrieked at him at the first step.

Long years of training and practice served him now. Fires leaped up from the ground all around him, forming a curtain of yellow and orange that arced above him. He felt the heat, but dared not move his protection any further out. He had other spells. What were they? Surely he had other spells.

The fire was the same color as Aldebaran. This was his last thought.

A hole appeared in the curtain of flame. No face or mouth appeared, just the hole, distorted at the edges. Then there was a hole in him and the fires vanished and Ceelken burst apart.



“It’s done, my pet. When men come to tell me the news of Ceelken’s death, I shall be shocked and horrified. I’ll send a letter to the Chapterhouses expressing my dismay. We must mourn our loss, I’ll tell them, those dour mages in their dreary cells. We must comfort one another. And we must go forward, in cooperation, as comrades in common cause. My words will be kind, supportive, but also suggestive. I know the words to use. The letter has been sitting in my desk for two weeks now.”

The dragon stretched, curling itself around the perimeter of the room, tired from its exertions. Lamplight set crystalline colors dancing across its sleeping form. Maddig smiled. Everything was moving nicely, according to plan. She had a hundred plans, one for every eventuality. Not all of them ended in blood.

But some had.

More would.

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Offline isos81

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Re: [MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2020, 08:55:18 AM »
OK, here I am. I'm not excited. Not excited at all. Nope, I'm not.

I'M VEEEERY EXCITED ;D

OK, calm down. As master Gimli said, breathing is the key.

It's been almost 20 years since I wrote my last essay so it was not easy for me to write something down which feels not bad, and God, editing is the most PITA :) I wrote the rough draft in 2 hours and I've been editing it for days!

I want to thank both @JMack and @Justan Henner for taking a look and giving me invaluable advices. Thanks to them, you are reading a much better story (not that it is a good story but much better than the draft :) )

My first draft is over 3K words. So I clipped half the story. Still, I'm a little bir over the limit (1800 words), and I can't find a way to further shorten the story. Since most of the story is dialogues, I hope it will not be a problem. If it is, feel free to remove. I'm not here to compete but get some feedback.

OK, long story short, here is my story: The Dragon Tooth (Thanks again JMack for the Title :) )

Spoiler for Hiden:
Prologue

Aras had been climbing to the dragon’s lair for two days. He was exhausted by the time he arrived at the top, and collapsed by a boulder. Now that he was very close to the dragon’s lair, he was scared as hell. He wished he had wine to increase his courage. He started planning to steal the dragon tooth he needed to cure his master who is suffering from snake venom. Even thinking about it was crazy, let alone doing it. He decided that he would do some reconnaissance, so he started to observe the lair. It was not long before he fell asleep, once again, in the hour of greatest importance…

The Dragon

Aras woke up with the first lights of the day. He cursed himself for wasting time. He knew that his master didn’t have much time, so he hurriedly stepped out of the boulder with a courage he thought he didn’t have. A dragon stepped in at the same time. Their eyes locked, and they looked at each other for what seemed like eternity.

They started screaming in fear at the same time. It was Aras who stopped first, and the dragon next, after a couple of seconds. The dragon tried to regain his composure when he saw the human froze.

It was the dragon who spoke first:

“BEGONE HUMAN BEFORE I EAT YOU WHOLE. GRRRRRRRR”. A stream of fire burst into the sky accompanying the thunderous voice. The dragon coughed and sneezed afterwards. Aras didn’t notice anything because he was still shaking in fear. He managed to say:

“No, I will not go back. I didn’t come all this way to go back empty handed.”

but he knew that it was a weak reply. He also knew he wouldn’t have another chance, so he concentrated on his elements. Fire formed on his right palm, and sizzling lights on his left. He squeezed both his hands and said:

“I will not leave before I get one of your teeth.”

The dragon was so baffled he spoke with blinking eyes: “My tooth? What would you do with my tooth? Aren’t you here to kill me and loot my horde?” 

“Kill you? No, why would I want to kill you? Not that I could do it anyway, but I’m not here to kill you. I only need one of your teeth,” said Aras, and added with a little bit of determination, “And I’m not leaving without one.”

It wasn’t at all like the requests of those so called heroes who came after his loot. Therefore, the dragon looked directly into Aras’s eyes with his own piercing gold eyes. He seemed like he was looking into Aras’s heart to know if he was telling the truth. Aras felt overwhelmed, and his magic disintegrated. Curious, the dragon asked:

“Why do you need a dragon tooth?”

Aras started telling his story as if he was communicating with his best friend and not realizing he was talking to a dragon - the most fearsome creature in the whole world.

“I have to brew a potion for my master. He was bitten by this venomous snake and the potion requires a black dragon tooth. If I can get one, I can cure my master”.

The dragon looked focused, and said  “You must really care for this man, since you came to the lair of a dragon”.

Aras’s eyes were wet when he started talking. “My master is the most important person to me. He saved me when my parents left me when I was a toddler. He raised me, cared for me, gave me everything I have. He taught me everything about sorcery. Without him, I would be lost. I will either save him or die trying”.

Aras was shocked to see the dragon wiping his tears. On a second thought, the dragon wasn’t like how the stories told. He wasn’t ferocious, but gentle, when not roaring, of course. His voice was soft, and he asked questions as if he was a close friend wondering what his best friend’s problem was. Besides, most important of all, he was still alive.

When the dragon saw Aras looking at his watery eyes, he coughed and corrected himself.  “Ahem. I’m sorry, I can’t resist sad stories”.

Aras did not know what to say. It was the first time he’d seen a dragon, let alone a crying one. He hesitantly asked:

“So, Mr. Dragon, are you going to eat me?”

“Eat you? No, I’m vegan”

“Vegan? What’s vegan?”

“It means I only eat vegetables.”

“Vegetables? Why only vegetables?”

“I respect each and every life. Who am I to take one’s life and devour it’s flesh? No, human! I will not kill anything who is not attacking me.”

“But there are many horror stories I’ve heard about you killing people and devouring them alive”.

“I know. I spread those stories in order to avoid assaults. I love solitude and this is the safest way. Wild animals also escaped the place when they saw me. Not that I attacked them, but my appearance was enough for them to flee in terror, I guess.”

Aras was speechless. This wasn’t among the results he expected. So he thought he should mind his manners, and be polite if the dragon isn’t going to eat him:

“My name’s Aras. Do you have a name Mr. Dragon?”.

“Yes” replied the dragon “My name’s Dragut”.

“Nice to meet you Dragut.”

“And you, Aras.”

Dragut’s eyes were lit with excitement. He asked:

“Why don’t you join me for breakfast? I prepared apple buckwheat pancakes with coconut caramel apples and tea.”

Happy to be alive, and also starving, Aras said:

“Yes, yes Dragut. I would be honored” and followed Dragut into his lair.

The Lair

Aras knew he should not be surprised any more than he already was, but he was utterly shocked when he entered Dragut’s lair. The lair was full of books, and many paintings were on the walls of the lair. A quick glance was enough for Aras to realize that this was no ordinary book collection. Dragut had more books than The Grand Library in the center of the capital. The paintings all looked genuine and some of them were signed by the most famous painters of the country - past and present. There were also sculptures around. Aras couldn’t believe his eyes.

Dragut giggled when he saw Aras’s surprise.

“You’re surprised Aras?”.

“Yes” whispered an awestruck Aras. “All these books, paintings, and sculptures…”

“Not what you expected to find in my lair?”

“No. I was expecting bones and gold, not books and paintings.”

“Yes, thought so. These aren’t gold but my treasure anyway. Come sit and help yourself with breakfast.”

Aras poured himself tea and dug into pancakes. He was still looking at the piles of the books.  “I guess you like books, Dragut?” he asked stupidly.

“Like? I love books, Aras. I love every form of the art. I love books, I love poetry, I love paintings, I love music. I even try to sing myself when I’m in the mood. Therefore, I collected everything I could find related to art. They are good and loyal companions to a lonely creature.”

“But why? Why don’t you go out and tell people that you are harmless? Why hide and pretend something you are not.”

Dragut smiled bitterly. “Do you think I did not try? Every human who saw me fled. Heroes attacked me without hearing me telling them I had no gold. Believe me when I say this is the safest way”.

Aras could sympathize. He knew loneliness. He knew suffering. They had breakfast and Dragut asked Aras whether he wanted to walk around, and Aras gladly accepted.



Aras was still bewildered after half an hour tour in the lair. He was picking every book in his reach. One book in particular caught his eyes, and he picked it up. It’s cover was rather new, and the author's name was missing. He turned pages, and saw that it was, in fact, poetry. He randomly picked a page and read aloud:

It’s lovely and hopeful to think about you.
It’s like listening to the most beautiful song,
From the most beautiful voice in the world.
But, hope is not enough anymore.
I no longer want to listen to the song,
But to sing...
“Wow. Do you know who wrote this?”

Dragut was staring at the ceiling. Aras repeated his question, and Dragut ignored him again. Realization struck Aras.

“You! The author is you. You wrote all these poems. You are a poet, too?”

Dragut was embarrassed. “Yes” he murmured.

“And when I think I can’t get surprised any more…”

The Farewell

Dragut had mixed feelings. It had been centuries long since his last visitor. He didn’t realize how much he missed company up until this fragile human came. He couldn’t help thinking how his life would have been if things had been a little bit different. He so wanted to talk to this human, so wanted to chat with him, show him his writings and discuss art, his heart ached. But he knew this couldn’t last long, so he decided to cut it short.

When they returned to the entry of the lair, Dragut spoke first with a sad smile:

“Well, Aras. This is where our ways part. It was a pleasure.” and he whispered “And, can you please keep the truth? I don’t want my hard-established reputation to disappear”

Aras didn’t want to leave. But he knew he couldn’t stay, too. He said:

“Of course, Dragut. Thank you for your hospitality. I appreciate it.”

He lingered for a couple of seconds. He felt like he was dreaming. He came to this feracious dragon’s lair hoping to steal one of his teeth, he was ready to die, but now he was leaving a friend after having breakfast and talking about all forms of art. The events turned out with the least expected way. He also couldn’t get the tooth but he knew he couldn’t ask this lovely and lonely creature whom he considers his friend.

“So, take care Dragut”

“Aren’t you forgetting something”

“I didn’t have many stuff with me, and I won’t need them on the way back”

“I meant this” and Dragut offered a little, shining, white thing. Aras was speechless. He stuttered:

“I.. I.. I d-don’t k-know wha-what to say”

“Say nothing. Consider this a parting gift from a friend”

Aras’s eyes were watery. “Thanks” he murmured. “Thank you very much”

“It’s nothing. It grows back” replied Dragut with a missing tooth grin.

Aras smiled back. He felt alive for the first time for a long time. He not only found the cure for his master, but also a new friend.

“Maybe I can visit you, again, Dragut? After my master gets well”

Dragut smiled: “I would love that”
Kallor shrugged. 'I've walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I've commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I've spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?'

'Yes' said Caladan Brood. 'You never learn'

Offline Framer of worlds

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Re: [MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2020, 08:08:45 PM »
First-time poster long time lurker. Glad to meet you all. Here is my story

Amphiptere, with Potatoes and Onions (1116 words)
Spoiler for Hiden:
“It tastes like fried dirt,” said the head chef as he gagged on the foul scaly morsel of meat that had just assaulted his taste buds. His workers winced, expecting him to vomit on the kitchen’s fine marble floor again. The archduke’s wedding would be in a week and they still hadn’t been able to master the troublesome dish in front of them. The archduke’s bride and her family were foreigners from the distant land of Astrijan. Their customs and traditions were strange to the people of the Harbor Kingdom. Nonetheless, the “emasculate” chefs of the honorable Five Star Opal Bay restaurant would be expected to serve them the cuisine of their homeland at the reception. The head chef turned to his grizzled old sous-chef and began to yell in a way that seemed close to crying.

“Surely we must know someone who has cooked Amphiptere before,” he said. The sous-chef gave him a blank stare. The head chef would have thrown his hat to the ground in disgust, but then the pastry chef who had been hiding over by the kitchen’s archaic open flame oven spoke up.

“I think I know someone,” she said in a hushed flighty voice. Her words got their attention.

“I’ve seen her cook a wyvern before, this might be similar.”
The head chef and the sous-chef gave each over an uneasy look. They knew of whom the pastry chef spoke, and the idea of seeking her assistance gave them horrible chills. After all, this was a fashionable and expensive eating establishment, not some hole in the wall dockside diner. The head chef could feel the tension in the room as every worker awaited his answer. 

“Bring her in,” he said under his breath. An audible gasp echoed across the room. The pastry chef sent one of her assistants out the back door, across the cobblestone street, and down a commonly used alley.
All the common folk knew of Hash house Anne, and the road to her hut was known by heart. The assistant returned a half-hour later with the messy, grease-stained hag in tow. Her strange bi-colored eyes browsed the lavish kitchen briefly, and then she cackled.

“I thought it would be nicer, “she said. The head chef approached her begrudgingly.

“We called you here out of desperation. Don’t let it go to your head.” Anne’s laughter grew louder.   

“So, you hoity-toity cooks, finally acknowledge your master.”  The head chef turned to the sous-chef with a grimace on his face.

“Get her some new clothes, an apron, and for crying out loud put that mop on her head in a hair net.”
After the mad cook had been preened, sterilized to the head chef’s satisfaction, she was led, before the cutting board. One of the assistants exited a back room with a bucket and dumped its content onto a table. An Amphiptere, or winged serpent, was a creature quite uncommon to most. The restaurant had imported them at great expense from across the sea, but Anne seemed to take the sight of the strange squirming beast in stride.

“Just, make something simple,” the head chef said, “nothing weird.”
Anne picked up a chef’s knife, closed her eyes, muttered some cryptic utterance then brought the blade down violently on the creature’s neck. The serpent’s body floundered one last time then went limp.

“I need potatoes, red onions, and spiders,” Anne said to one of the assistants.

“Nothing, weird,” the head chef replied, repeating himself emphatically. Anne groaned.

“Fine, just get me the potatoes and onions,” the head chef motioned to the assistant who ran off to fetch the ingredients. Anne began to fillet the reptile, separating the skin from the meat, then the meat from the organs and bones. The other chefs watched her with keen focus, glaring at her work as if she was performing some forbidden and dangerous magic.  She then called for a pot and placed the bones and organs in it. Then she addressed the man that she assumed was the station chef in charge of the stove and told him to fire it up.

The bones and organs were for a stew. She pointed to the open flame oven and told them to start it as well. The head chef’s eyes perked up. He had had never thought to bake the creatures. As she waited for the oven to warm, she looked over the kitchen’s immense spice rack. She ignored all the exotic gingers and herbs and went straight for the peppers. The assistant finally returned with potatoes and onions, just in time for them to be thrown into the stew, which had come to a boil. The pepper-seasoned meat was then placed in the oven. It seemed like only then did the old woman exhale.

“Did you write all that down?” she asked the head chef. Her voice was tinged with sarcasm. The recipe was simple, deceptively so and she knew that such a basic dish seemed too unsophisticated and inelegant for a well-schooled chef like him. The creature’s bones had dissolved in the stew. That’s when Anne knew that it was ready. She left it simmering on the stove and addressed the pastry chef.

“Do you know how to make sweet bread? “She asked.
 
“Of course,” the pastry chef replied. Anne walked away.

“Show me,” she said. She was familiar with the pastry chef’s work and knew what she was capable of. Slowly the elements began to come together. And the head chef and sous-chef readied themselves for a taste test. As they lifted the fork to their mouths they noticed Anne. She was standing in the corner, her arms folded and a confident smirk on her face. To her, it wasn’t a matter of if it was good, but rather if the head chef’s taste buds could acclimate to the dish’s unique taste.

“It’s acceptable, I guess,” said the sous-chef reluctantly. The Head chef nodded in agreement. It was actually great, but his mind was still contemplating how such a basic dish would go over at the reception.
Judgment day would come quicker than expected. As the Head chef watched his caterers serve the distinguished nobles and foreign dignitaries. He noticed the bride’s father and the bride’s brother standing in the corner conversing with each other. His stomach tightened when he noticed their eyes turning towards where the food was being served. Like a prying child, he positioned himself trying desperately to overhear their conversation. Finally, he heard the words he wanted to hear or rather the words he needed to hear. The words that would make him gasp.

“This Amphiptere is decent,” said the father, “But it could have used some spiders.”                                       
« Last Edit: May 24, 2020, 04:16:47 AM by Framer of worlds »

Offline Caith

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Re: [MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2020, 10:36:41 AM »
The Barbecue Guy (949 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:
Dave pushed his trolley down the narrow aisle, between the towering shelving racks that filled the giant warehouse. He picked up the next item on his list, a book that could have doubled as a house brick, it was so thick. The cover art caught his eye. Some guy with a sword  and shield facing down a fire breathing dragon the size of a barn. He stared for a moment, slowly shook his head, beeped the barcode with his scanner then slung the book in his cart and moved on.

He met Ramon at the next junction. “Hey, Barbie,” Ramon called. “Don't work so hard. You makin' us all look bad.”

Dave smiled his aw'shucks smile. “Sorry Ramon. I forget sometimes.”

“Don't you forget, son of a puta,” Ramon scolded him, then broke into a big grin. “Lunch time, Barbie. Come on, I'll walk you back to the break room. Say, can you lend me a fifty 'til Friday?”

“Sure thing, be happy to,” Dave said, as he fell in beside his colleague.

In the break room, Dave sat with his bottle of water in front of him. He smiled in a pleasant way at his co-workers, as they ate their lunches. Opposite him, Ramon bit into what looked like a bologna on rye and nudged the new guy next to him. Dave thought they looked like good friends already and that made him happy.
“Hey, Brad, lookit Barbie. Never eats lunch.” He waved his sandwich at Dave. “Say, Barbie. Tell Brad here, why we call you Barbie.”

Dave gave him a smile. “I like barbecue. When I told you, you called me Barbecue Guy. Then Barbecue. Then Barbie.”

Ramon snickered. “What you having for dinner tonight, Barbie?”

Dave's smile grew wider. “Barbecue.”

“What'd you have every night?” Ramon asked.

Dave was half laughing himself now. “Barbecue.”

Ramon gave Brad a dig with his elbow. “Who's at these barbecues with you, Barbie?”

“Just me,” Dave said, happy in his reply.

Ramon burst out laughing. “See? Told ya. Frickin' weirdo barbecues for himself.” Now Brad was grinning along. Dave was pleased he could make other people so happy.

“Leave him alone,” said Gina, one of the women workers. Ramon made kissing noises at her.

“It's okay Gina,” Dave said. “He's just joking.” He moved his bottle a fraction. “Hey Ramon, why don't you stop by Friday night? You can try my barbecue.”

Ramon stopped smiling. He looked kind of angry to Dave, but then he looked thoughtful. “You cooking steaks, Barbie?”

“If you like.”

“Fillet steaks? Big mothers?”

“If you like.”

“You supplin' the beers too?”

“Uh-huh. If you like.”

“Say?” Ramon said, looking side ways at Brad. “How about Brad here and a couple of my other buddies come along?”

Dave nodded at that. “I like to cook a lot.”

“You thowin' in a couple of bottles of Jack to seal the deal?” Ramon said.

Dave beamed at him. “Sure. If you like.”

“My man,” Ramon exclaimed.

“Dave - “ Gina began.

“Shut your hole, woman,” Ramon snapped at her. He turned back to Dave. “Maybe we hit some bars after the barbecue. See about some ladies. See if we can get laid. You ever been laid, Barbie?”

Dave gave him his just-folks smile. “Just the once.” He smiled some more, as Brad and Ramon collapsed into snorks and cackles.

Outside the break room, Gina took him aside. “They shouldn't treat you like that. You should report it.”

“I don't mind.” He gave her a shy smile, as he jockeyed his cart around, to point down an aisle. “You remind me of my mom.” He thought it would make her happy. It made him happy. The last time mom had spoken to him, she had asked him how things were. He told her the clever monkeys were still dangerous. They were still too organised and they had some lethal weaponry.

The great mother had sighed at that. “I should have listened to you.  When you said we should kill them all, when they started building empires. I chose instead we should sleep. I'm sorry, son.”

He shook it away. “Don't be. You have to look after all of us. It was the right call. We were tired after the migration, weak and vulnerable. We needed to sleep. None of us could have guessed how quickly the clever monkeys would grow.”

“All empires fall eventually,” she said to him. “Be patient, son. Keep watch. I love you.”

“I love you too, mom.”

That had been maybe a century ago? The millennia did drag sometimes. But somebody had to keep watch while his blood-kin slept in the molten depths. Dave touched the book in his cart. The cover art was good. It reminded him of  mom. More than Gina did. “When we wake up, you're going to need a bigger weapon than that pig sticker, buddy,” he said to the warrior in the picture. “Like maybe a tactical nuke.”
 
Ramon gave him a slap on the back of the neck, as he sauntered past. “Heads up, Barbie, you're talkin'' to yourself.”

Dave watched the big muscles on Ramon's thighs move as he walked off. He thought of meat seared  black on the outside and running red within. A wisp of gray smoke leaked from the corner of his mouth and he blew it shreds, before smiling. All empires fall in the end but there would still be plenty of good eating left afterwards. He gave Ramon another look and licked his lips. He did so love barbecue.

Offline Liselle

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Re: [MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2020, 05:47:41 PM »
Nice Meal for a Pike Fish (1488 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:
It wasn't every day that Sanya made an exciting discovery -- the canvas bag in her hand was dripping with river water and squirming like a netful of eels. The woman was striding down the woodland trail to her home and soon glimpsed a familiar hut through the trees. Eager to share what was inside the bag, she yelled to her husband as she rushed across the yard, scattering chickens in a flurry of feathers.

"Edgan!"

The woman reached the door of the hut and pushed it open to walk inside.

"Edgan? Where ya at?"

Sanya was answered by a muffled pop, a fit of coughing and a bloom of purple smoke. It billowed out from the opposite side of the bookcase like the breath of some great beast. "Here," Edgan croaked.

Sanya followed the sound of her husband's voice to the scene of his latest mishap. He was tucked away in his reading nook with a spell book open on the table, fanning away the smoke from a bowl of bubbling liquid. Sanya wasn't young but Edgan was ten years her senior. Despite his balding head and the deep lines in his skin from his early years spent working in the fields, the grin he flashed her was a youthful one. Her husband was enlivened by spell casting. He wasn't a very good wizard by many people's standards (his accident-prone nature when it came to magic hadn't won him many friends in their small community) but Sanya had always respected him as a man with a kind heart and reasonably good intentions. That was enough for her.

"What happened?" Sanya asked him, eyeing the bowl. "Did I distract you?"

"Oh not at all. Nevermind the smoke, my sweet. I think I've almost cracked this spell. What have you got in that sack there?"

"Well!" Sanya said with a bright smile at the change of topic. "I was walking along the water and I saw someone throwing this sack off the bridge. They were wearing a hooded cloak so I couldn't see their face. It was all very mysterious. I could tell there was something alive inside the bag so I pulled it out of the river and peeked into it. I've never seen anything like it."

The bag was twitching and snarling in Sanya's hand as she held it out to Edgan. He frowned and rose from his chair to take it. "Is it. Eh. Safe?"

His wife chuckled and folded her arms across her chest. "About as safe as you are. Why don't ya go and drop it into the crate over there so we can get a good look at it."

The man crossed the room to a wooden crate in the corner and dragged an old dust cloth off it so he could lift the lid. He untied the leather chord and dropped the bag inside. Some kind of white lizard about the size of a house cat wriggled out of the bag. It shuffled back into a corner of the crate and hissed at them. A pair of tiny limbs like wings grew from its shoulders and it flicked them out now in a puny show of aggression, trying to appear larger than it was. The wings were far too small and membranous to have any hope of lifting it off the ground. Beady, bright green eyes stared up at the humans in defiance of just about anything they might plan to do. Edgan smiled, charmed by the little creature's fierce display.

"Well, look at that! It's a winged lizard. Some might even say a dragon. Or ah... Something like it. No one's seen a dragon in this part of the world for a hundred years. How fascinating."

Edgan leaned down for a closer look and the little dragon spit at him. The man jerked back as a gob of green slime smacked into the opposite wall of the crate, just shy of his nose. Sanya placed a hand over her mouth in disgust. "Uugh," she said through her fingers. "What is that? It's glowing!"

"Hmm. I don't know. Maybe this is her best attempt at breathing fire, eh?"

"But what if it's poisonous? Can you test it?"

Edgan rubbed the back of his neck. "Ah, yes... Well. Perhaps I could try a discovery spell..."

Sanya's lips twitched in a nervous smile as she recalled the bubbling bowl that he'd left on the table. "Or what about the alchemists?" She rushed on before her husband could answer. "Yes. I'm sure that Lord Whats-His-Name... Garson from The Alchemists' Guild. He's bound to have some interest in her. He might offer to buy her. We do need the money, Ed."

Edgan scratched his chin. "Aah. I don't know, my sweet. Those alchemists are a pompous lot. No respect for life or the mysteries of nature. This little critter wouldn't survive long in their keeping."

Sanya glanced down at the crate. The dragon was scrambling around, nosing into the corners, searching for an escape route. "You're probably right," she sighed. "But I think we must try to make the best of fortune's gift, my dear. We do have bills to pay."

Edgan gave her a troubled nod. "Garson. Well... Leave it to me then. I'll see if he's willing to do a trade."


Edgan carried the crate with the dragon inside to the point in the woods where he had arranged to meet Garson. A burly man with small black eyes and a bearded face stood waiting, his hands folded neatly across the front of his tunic.

"Lord Garson." Edgan set down the crate and bowed.

"Edgan the infamous wizard," Garson boomed with more than a hint of mockery. "I must warn you that I don't have long to indulge your attempts to win me over as a patron today. I'm expected at the guild hall in the city. So what do you have to show me?"

"Oh you'll be glad you agreed to this meeting lord." Edgan made a show of glancing around in case someone might overhear them. Then he whispered, "I've brought you a dragon." Garson arched his eyebrows and Edgan beckoned him down to the ground. The two men crouched and lifted the lid of the crate so the lord could peer inside. The little creature stared back, green eyes glinting like jewels, hissing at the faces of the two giants looking in at her.

"Ooh. A dragon, is it?" Garson snickered.

"Sure is. She has those little wings along her back there, see? But be careful not to get too close. She's been coughing up this strange mucus that I don't--"

Edgan jumped as Garson burst into a fit of laughter and clapped him on the shoulder. "Oh Edgan, you've outdone yourself this time. You don't honestly believe that this is a dragon, do you? Dragons are powerful and imposing creatures! They cough up fire my good man, not mucus! Look at that thing, it's ridiculous. It's just some kind of lizard with a birth defect. It's no more a dragon than you are a wizard." Garson chuckled and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to dab at his eyes. "I'd toss it back into the river if I were you. It would make a nice meal for a pike fish and that's about all that it's good for." Garson stood, waved a dismissive hand, then turned and ambled off into the trees.


Edgan slumped down onto a bench outside the hut, muttering to himself as he took out his pipe. Sanya sat down beside him.

"Well? What did Garson say?"

"He laughed. He's got no interest in her, my sweet. She'd be wasted on him."

"So what are you going to do?"

Edgan puffed on his pipe for a moment. "I think I will try that discovery spell after all, see if I can find out where she came from. There's something special about her."

"Well... If you insist. But no more spells in the house today, please. One explosion per day is quite enough!"

The couple continued to talk outside, while inside the hut, the dragon was dozing in her crate. The humans had been brave enough to feed her. Her belly was full of rabbit, she was safe and warm, and she had a blanket to rest on. This was the most relaxed she'd felt for as long as she could remember. She closed her eyes as she started to fall asleep but something felt wrong... A moment later she was coughing another mouthful of green slime onto the floor of the crate. Nestled in the middle of the mess was a shining green stone, precious to humans when polished and worn as a show of wealth, or traded for other things of value. But this was of no interest to the little dragon. She yawned, curled herself up in her blanket, and drifted off to sleep.
“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

Offline SugoiMe

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Re: [MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2020, 07:19:56 PM »
Here's my progressive children's tale.

The Stolen Ring (1356 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:
“Give it back, Devon!”

Jessie stood with her hands on her hips, legs spread in that upside down “v” shape. The scowl she wore could scare a kitten. At least that’s how Devon felt when they looked up from a drawing they were working on to her face.

“Give what back?”

“My ring, you idiot! The one I got from mom!”

Just bringing up the “m” word put a lump in Devon’s throat. Mom died two years ago in a fire. They’d lost everything except a few keepsakes. Mom’s ring was one.

“I didn’t take it,” Devon said.

“I know you did! You’re always steeling my stuff.”

“I didn’t take it!” Devon repeated.

They rose to their feet, fists clenched. Jessie stood a head taller than them.

“You were in my room this morning,” Jessie continued.

“I didn’t. Take. Anything!”

“Well, you’d better find it, brother,” said Jessie. “Or else.”

“I’m not your brother. I’m your sibling.”

“You’re a boy.”

“No I’m not!”

“Yes, you are. You’re a boy with boy parts and I’m a girl with girl parts. That’s the way things are, Devon. Wearing pink and nail polish won’t change the fact that you’re a boy.”

“I’m not a boy!” they yelled.

They kicked her in the shin. Jessie screamed and yelled for dad.
Devon ran to their bedroom and slammed the door. They sat with their back facing the door, tears pouring down their cheeks. They wiped drippling snot from their nose with the long sleeve of their hoodie.

“You don’t understand,” they sobbed. “You don’t understand anything. I’m not a boy.”

Devon wasn’t stupid. They knew who they were. When their teacher taught a lesson on gender last week, Devon’s heart leapt when they learned about non binary people. They may have only been nine years old, but they’d known they weren’t a boy or a girl for as long as they could remember. They didn’t fit either of those genders. Non binary fit. Non binary was them.

They told their father and sister about it when they came home from school, but dad and Jessie didn’t understand. Both of them said there were only boy and girl and nothing else. Jessie told Devon the “whole non binary thing” was stupid. It was only because mom had let Devon dress in pink and wear dresses and nail polish, in addition to the “boy” clothes they owned, that dad didn’t stop Devon from dressing how they wanted. He put his foot down on Devon letting their hair grow though, much to their disappointment.

“I’m Devon and I’m non binary,” they told themself between sobs. “I use they/them pronouns.”

They wiped snot from their nose again, wetting the sleeve of their pink hoodie. They imagined all the ways their life could be better—if mom were alive and if their family would actually accept them for who they were—

Their ears picked up a sound. It wasn’t a normal sound, not the kind anyone would expect to hear in a house, let alone a bedroom. It sounded like flapping wings, and it was coming from the closet.

Devon’s sadness vanished, replaced by a curiosity sprinkled with gut-twisting fear. They rose and crept over to the closet. With a shaky hand, they wrapped their fingers around the knob and opened the door.

Fwoosh!

Devon fell over backwards in surprise as—something—flew out of the closet and crashed into them, then flopped, hopped, spun and tumbled into the dresser. Devon rolled onto their belly, eyes wide. It wasn’t a bat at all! It was a…dragon!

Or a tiny one, only the size of a fairy. With bat wings. And a tiny red hat strapped to its head that made it look like a Christmas toy with its green scales. And around its neck?

“Mom’s ring!”

They scrambled to their feet and crashed into the dresser. The dragon escaped just in time and circled in the air. Devon jumped and flailed their arms to try and catch it. Finally, the dragon made a dash for the window, but Devon was quicker. They slammed the window shut and latched the lock.

“Ha! Now he can’t get out!” Devon exclaimed.

The dragon swooped through Devon’s grasping arms, then landed high up on Devon’s overflowing bookcase out of reach.

He? You called me a he?

Devon had that moment of shock and bewilderment at the squeak of a voice, then that jolt of surprise again when they realized it was the dragon talking.

Talking or no talking, though, that critter had mom’s ring!

“Give it back!” Devon demanded.

“Give what back?” the dragon returned.

Devon face-palmed. “The ring, you idiot! That’s mom’s ring.”

“There hasn’t been a mother in this house for two years. And I have no ring,” the dragon replied.

“Yes, you do. It’s around your neck,” said Devon, pointing.

“This?” The dragon raised its eyebrows while simultaneously touching the silver band. “This is a choker, not a ring.”

Devon scowled. They climbed onto their bed, then the nightstand…

“You realize I can just fly away,” the dragon noted.

“You can’t just steal someone’s stuff.”

How were they going to get up that bookcase?

The dragon fluttered its wings. “I found it in your room.”

“I was borrowing it.”

“And I’m borrowing it from you.”

“You can’t borrow without asking,” said Devon. “That’s the rules.”

“Did you ask your mom-who-hasn’t-lived-here-in-two-years to borrow it?”

Devon stopped to think. No, they hadn’t asked.

“I wanted to see it,” they confessed. “It’s actually Jessie’s now. But I wanted to see it. To remember mom.”

“Ah,” said the dragon in its squeaky voice. “Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you can just take it, can you?”

Devon shook their head. They stepped down from the side table and sat on their bed.

“Jessie’s mean.”

“You should still give it back to her.”

Devon sighed.

The dragon swooped down to the bed, landing in front of Devon’s crossed legs.

“I can give it back to you on one—no, two conditions. First, you have to promise that you’ll give this back to the rightful owner.”

Devon nodded. They didn’t want to, but they knew they should. It was the right thing to do.

And you must apologize to me.”

“Apologize?” said Devon. “For what?”

“Misgendering me.”

Devon blinked twice. “Misgendering you?”

“Yes.”

“Oh. Well, I’m sorry. I guess—You’re not a boy dragon?”

“Are you a boy human?”

“No,” Devon replied.

“I’m not a boy dragon then.”

The dragon slipped the ring over its head and tossed the silver band on the bed.

“As promised.”

Devon picked the ring up, a smile on their face.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” the dragon replied, then flew to the windowsill. “Could you please let me out?”

“Oh. Yeah.”

Devon unlatched the window and pushed it open.

“Um…I’m Devon by the way. I use they/them pronouns.”

“Gerald,” the dragon replied. “I use ze/zir pronouns.”

“Ze/zir pronouns? I’ve never heard of those before!”

“Yeah, well, I get misgendered a lot unfortunately. Traditional dragons are always messing it up. Most believe there are only three genders, but there’s actually five. Some people even say six.”

“Six genders?”

The dragon shrugged. “Anyway, I’d best be off. I got stuck in the house earlier and couldn’t find a way out, so I ended up in this room. Then I found that lovely trinket, heard someone coming and hid in that tiny room with the clothes over there.”

“That’s my closet. But the door was closed. How’d you get in there in the first place?”

“Not the slightest idea. Ghost maybe?”

Devon chuckled. “Ghosts don’t exist.”

“Neither do dragons technically. Nor five genders instead of three. Anyway, it was nice meeting you, Devon. I’ll remember to ask before I borrow something again.”

With that, ze flew out the window and disappeared.

Devon turned the ring over in their hands. Images of mom poured into their mind. Tears blurred their vision, but they smiled. Mom understood them. And now Gerald understood them too.

They wiped away the tears and hopped off the bed to go return Jessie’s ring.
"And then the time came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin

Offline Jake Baelish

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Re: [MAY 2020] Unconventional Dragons - Submission Thread
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2020, 05:58:29 AM »
Broken Promises (1499 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:
The narrow serpentine canyon baked, as the last vestiges of life scuttled up and down the stilted streets that lined its edges. It hadn’t always been this way. Before the drought, the waters ran right up to the lowest lot of jetties, piers and bridges that connected the busy clutter of homes and businesses. Back then they’d bustled with the buzzing of tittle-tattle and trade. Now, dust settled, wood blistered and peeled away, and the majority of those once well-tended venues lay empty. The town resembled a shell.

Though the deep pit of the gorge ran the meagrest trickle of what remained. Barely enough to wet the lips. Those who remained, faith burning away with every passing day, made the long trip down a labyrinth of ladders from the distant lower levels of the village to what was left. Clinging to life and their homes.

Tempers flared, and no one faced this fact more than the town elder, who sadly bore much of the blame.

“Look at what your stories have brought us, Levin!” one red-faced older resident spat.

Levin frowned, his time and weatherworn face cracking with age. It hadn’t meant to come to this. He had indeed brought his township to this place. Was it fifty years already? The canyon had brimmed with the healthy flow of the serpentine waters back then. It had until but a few years ago. They’d been marking its decline ever since, searching desperately for the source within the northern mountains to no avail. It didn’t exist. Of course, it didn’t.

“Your stories have failed us,” said the one angry resident yet to storm off, a younger man. “Perhaps it’s time we stopped searching for a solution, and started searching for a new beginning.”

But they weren’t just stories. And a new beginning had been what brought them here in the first place. Levin shut his eyes and let air slowly flow from his lungs as his mind rushed back to better times. In the pocket of his trousers he kept a ring. He’d held it for a few years now. It was all he had left.

***

“Levin! Levin!” the young man called. “Wait up!”

He caught up to his friend at the precipice of a great snaking gorge. “What is this place?”

Levin smiled at his panting companion. “You’re adorable when your cheeks go red like that.”

“Shut up.” He chugged on his flask, water dripping from his lips. “So, what is it?”

Levin grinned again. Poor Sera, always playing serious. He hoped he wouldn’t be too disappointed. “Well, it’s a valley. You can see that.”

Sera huffed. “A dry one. There’s nothing here. I thought you were sent to find somewhere, you know, bountiful, fertile; all those other fancy words the aldermen told us about.”

“Oh. Well, no luck there, I’m afraid. But look at that place. You see all those stilts and boards. I think this was a city once. Or a town at least. And that’s not all. There’s something else, at the end. Let me show you.”

His antsy friend scowled but went along with it, for now – he was always an easy push. It was the eyes, Levin told himself.

Not long after, they found themselves treading increasingly creaky and crumbly boards, situated an unnerving height from the pit of the gorge.

“This seems hardly the place to make a new home,” Sera whined.

“No. Absolutely not.”

“Then why’d you bring us here?”

Levin jumped over a broken beam and turned, holding out a hand to help his friend over. “Because no one else will come here.”

An eyebrow raised. “I don’t take your meaning.”

“We can never be alone up there. You and I. The other Searchers wrote this place off the moment we found it.”

“But you didn’t?” They held hands and leapt a wider gap, clinging to the rock while doing so.

“Well, I agree it’d make for a terrible home. Worse than what we have. But, you don’t really think we’ll find anything, do you? We’ll end up in the cities, just watch. Our autonomy gone. It’s inevitable. Surely you see that.”

“And?”

“Come on now. I know you are a believer, but I’ve seen what lays beyond and it’s nothing. What is independence truly worth anyway? For us, independence is hiding forever. Let’s at least have this place to ourselves. No?”

Sera sighed, though Levin saw a slither of understanding in those hard-trained eyes. “All right. Show me what you found.”

They made their way into an airy chamber cut into the southernmost end of the canyon, where the valley abruptly ended. Within, carved exquisitely from the very rock of the chamber, stood a gigantic serpentine head, framed by a mane. While eroded, it still commanded the awe of those who saw it. Its mouth stood wide, as if inviting its prey within.

Sera’s own jaw hung open. “Is that, a dragon?”

“It’s incredible, isn’t it?” Levin’s lips curled at his companion’s awe. He took him by the hands. “Let this be our little place. Wherever we end up, we can come back here, anytime.”

The younger man’s features softened. “All right. So, what now?”

Levin, grinning, took them into the beast’s maw and there, away from all prying eyes, they enjoyed each other in the heart of a forgotten civilisation.

Sometime later, hot and drained from heat and exertion, they sat up in the mouth of the serpent. It was getting dark, and breeze cooled their exposed bodies. Levin, noticing his weary partner’s parched lips, took up his flask and began to pour much of what remained into Sera’s mouth. But the young man’s head lolled and water coursed down his body and wettened the ancient stone.

“Levin!” Sera scorned, suddenly wide awake.
 
“Sorry! I didn’t mean to—”

A mighty groaning cut him off, booming from outside the chamber. The lovers glared at one another, their spat forgotten. A light blazed outside. Curiosity crushed fear and they both danced to investigate.

They saw the unbelievable. A dragon – for what else could it’ve been – curled its way from the heavens over the valley. They watched, dumbstruck, as its snake-like form boiled like rippling water, emitting a radiant glow that bathed the valley in yellow luminosity. 

“Do you feel that?” Sera whispered.

“What?”

But he did. The air had become moist. The gold-maned dragon even steamed with cool vapour. As it descended further its jaws widened. Both men’s breaths caught, knowing the stories they’d heard of dragons and their destruction.

But it never came.

From the beast’s gaping maw, a torrent of water burst forth, gushing from the beast’s form like an extension of the creature itself. It pummelled the desolate rock below and within minutes the surface of the canyon coursed with a rising flow of pristine water.
 
The unwitting spectators could only gaze in silent astonishment, hoping no fury would be burst upon them. Within minutes the valley filled with a deep torrent that ran up to the crumbling platforms and chambers of the ruins. Greater still, by some divine device, plant life sprung from the seams and cracks of the canyon. The place became a haven of life in its most abundant and glorious.

Levin shed a tear on seeing his lover’s eyes glistened like the very wonder he beheld.

On reaching the shrine at the end of its run, the dragon came to a stop – face-to-face with those who woke it.
Levin flushed; a meeting with a dragon was not something he’d ever desired, or thought possible. Less still in open nakedness.

Not that it mattered.

The creature’s voice shook him from his thoughts like a battering ram.
 
“I see, love and life returning to this place, where love and life had been lost.” It spoke inside his head, and from Sera’s expression, he’d heard it too.

“The gift of love and life has returned me from my slumber. Now life returns to this valley. And here it shall stay, so long as these things are not forgotten. As nor should I be, by those who woke me.”

***

Levin had never forgotten. Nor had the townspeople, who he’d relayed his story to. So why?

He returned to the shrine he and Sera had shared all those years ago. Other dragon statues had been built, by way of gratitude, but this one he kept private. Or rather, between him and his late lover.

Had this all begun with Sera’s passing, he wondered? He took the ring from his pocket. It’d been his gift to Sera, inlaid with a yellow gemstone, representing the thing they’d seen and whose gift flowed yearly. Though the dragon never appeared again, the townsfolk had accepted himself and Sera for who they were, and even as the town elders thanks to their discovery. Now he was all that was left, with broken promises.

Tears fell on the statue’s smooth tongue.

From outside came a great groaning from above. And the air burst with moisture.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2020, 06:10:50 AM by Jake Baelish »
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