Fieldless, A Dragon Azure

I think I must have spent too much time reading all those Arthurian romances and other tales of medieval knights. I can’t remember which tale prompted me to suddenly take an interest in heraldry and family history. I barely recall anything of what I found, and my journals from those years are lost to me now. I do recall being somewhat disappointed to discover that the family name comes from an old derogatory word for a bald person. As to the heraldry, I remember some of the terms and the names of the tinctures. For some reason, I also recall that the azure dragon is one of the four main Chinese constellations and represents spring, though I have no idea where I learned that.

There was a blue dragon in the tavern last night.  It was a rather strange, almost electric shade of blue, which is probably why I thought of the word azure. I encountered its consequences first, in the form of a rather anxious Aoibheann and a somewhat calmer Rachel outside the tavern. The latter was trying to persuade the former to come with her to the stables where she might be able to calm down and suggested that I might accompany them. I didn’t know, at this stage, what the cause of the anxiety was, and certainly wasn’t sure if my presence would assist in reducing that, so I said that it would be up to Aoibheann and asked the cause of the anxiety.  She replied that she didn’t mind if I went with them and then mentioned dragons. Not seeing one anywhere in the courtyard, I peered into the tavern, and sure enough, there was a blue dragon standing there. It stood erect, like a man, and did not seem to have wings, but otherwise satisfied the criteria for being regarded as a dragon.  The ladies moved off in the direction of the stables and I said I would follow, once I had established the threat, if any, from our visitor.

Old habits die hard, and I nearly welcomed the dragon to the Lucky Leaf before remembering that this was now the Tilted Heifer.  I’m still pretty sure the sign is of a bear, but, it’s Paash’s tavern now, so if she wants to call it the Tilted Heifer, it’s not my place to argue. I gave the revised version of my welcome speech, reflecting that I wasn’t even an employee as yet, and asked if he wanted anything to eat.  His voice was strange, yet perfectly understandable, and its phrasing was definitely odd. It told me that the tavern lady had already given him food and alcohol.  He then proceeded to tell me that I was a funny-smelling ‘naka’ and asked if I was a tavern man like her, except she was a lady.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of that, but I made what I thought was the reasonable assumption that scent might be enough to distinguish me from a human.  I didn’t think this was the time for technicalities, so I told him that I did work at the tavern and blamed the difference in scent on my diet.  I was rather pleased with that explanation; it was completely truthful, in its way and yet almost completely uninformative. I added that Aoibheann was nervous around beings she didn’t know.

“Naka act different in different places, you not acting weird though,” he told me. There was that word ‘naka’ again. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but from context, I was guessing it referred to beings other than dragons, if that is what he was. “Most naka usually only get weird when I sit on things and break them. Like houses, animals.” That struck me as a good reason for people acting weirdly although, unless he was a lot heavier than he looked, I wasn’t sure how he would crush a house. I felt I should explain a little further, in the hope of eliciting some information.

“Aoibheann comes from a land that was terrorised by dragons,” I explained. “She most likely thinks that you are a dragon, because you resemble one in many respects, and that is why she is a little scared.  For myself, I have met many beings of all sorts of appearances and I take each one as I find them. My name is Nathaniel.” I’m not sure why I added my name, but it seemed polite.  He told me that he was a dragon, but he did not terrorise anybody.  Rather alarmingly, he also pointed out that it was a bad idea to try to eat him or even lick him. His skin, apparently, makes people see things that aren’t there.  I guessed there might be hallucinogens in his secretions, which makes sense, I had heard somewhere of a frog, or possibly toad that did something similar as a deterrent to predators.  Though, I have to admit, I did wonder what sort of predator would try to eat an eight-foot high, bright blue, bipedal alligator.  Oh, and his name was Quatzl Venomspot, which frankly sounded like something out of the books I read as a child, but I wasn’t about to argue. At least he accepted my explanation of special diet and added that he ate everything.

I did point out that it might be an idea to keep quiet about the hallucinogenic bit, in case there was anybody around who liked to get high. I also suggested that it might go a long way towards being accepted if he modified the description of his diet to make it quite clear that he didn’t eat people. He assured me that he didn’t eat ‘naka’; he ate anything else, but not ‘naka’. He said that that would be weird. I guess ‘naka’ does mean people, or, possibly, at least, sentient beings that aren’t dragons, since he seemed to distinguish between ‘naka’ and animals.  Gwyn wandered in at this point.  I guess her time in Jasper Cove has inured her to surprises as she merely muttered “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” I made introductions.

“Gwyn, this is Quatzl Vemonspot.  He’s a dragon, but he assures me that he doesn’t eat Nakas, which I think is his word for people.  Apparently, it is a bad idea to lick him. Quatzl, this is Gwyn, she’s a lady Naka and definitely not edible.”  I grinned at her and offered to get her a drink. She asked for a cider and assured Quatzl that she had no intention of licking him and it was nothing personal. She asked the question I hadn’t thought to ask, which was about the wings, or absence thereof.

“I have wings, just not as khutit,” he explained to her, but not very clearly.  I had to guess at the spelling of that word and had no idea what it meant. “I’m too big, so I have to shrink into khutit. I’d break tavern if I was big, not hatchie, so can’t fit. Don’t want lots of mad nakas.” He looked over at me, “All are Nakas, unless dragon or animal, she naka, I can tell.”  I poured a drink for Gwyn and one for myself, hoping she wasn’t going to be reminded of anything unfavourable by the smell of rum. I tried to explain about the lie of the land and about Cristof being the chief ‘naka’ so it might be an idea to get his permission before eating any animals.

This led to a confusing discussion, with Quatzl thinking I was talking about chiefs as in American Indians, Gwyn explaining that lord, king, mayor etc all meant the same thing and Quatzl disagreeing and explaining each of those terms. Somewhere in there, Gwyn apologised for being drunk and for her behaviour. I assured her that there was nothing to apologise for.

Somehow, the discussion turned to crystals, following on from Quatzl’s comment about ‘naka’ building things and how building works better with crystals.  I said that the only thing I knew how to do with crystals was to make one glow.  Of course, I haven’t been practising, so my attempts to demonstrate this came to nothing at first. Quatzl wanted to have a go, but I wasn’t sure about letting go of my crystal, so I gave him the smaller piece I had started out with.  He put it under a mug and started doing something, presumably some kind of magic.  All that happened at first was that the cup emitted a hum.  For a moment, I thought he was trying the old pea and shell trick, and suggested he needed two more mugs. It turns out he was trying to make the crystal fly, which he eventually succeeded, lifting the mug off of the table and just hovering there.  Maybe there was spare magic sloshing around, or maybe I finally got the hang of things, because I tried the glowing trick on my crystal and it worked.  Oddly, though, I got two colours, the red and green, pulsing gently between the two.  I’ve never seen it do that before.  Gwyn was actually impressed and even said so, so I made a great show of writing that in my diary.

In the meanwhile, Rachel arrived, swigging heavily from a bottle of whisky.   Padishar had also wandered into the tavern. Rachel wanted to know if I knew any more pretty tricks, so I told her to come back in a few weeks when I had more lessons. I had to explain to Gwyn that I didn’t really know how I did that, as I was only just learning.  Quatzl, meanwhile, was explaining that he only knows how to do some things, not being a ‘Helian’ and confessed he knew how to make the crystal fly, but not how to turn it off.  I didn’t know quite what to do about that, so eventually draped the piece of cloth over it, tied it into a bundle, and then tied the whole thing to the strap on my satchel with a spare piece of string.  Padishar opined that one should not mess with things one does not fully understand.  I had to disagree there, claiming that we wouldn’t have any science or even arts, if people didn’t venture into the unknown.  Quatzl agreed with me on that. Padishar wasn’t convinced, commenting that badly cast spells could turn somebody inside out. A valid point, I guess, but I had faith in Paash’s teaching.  Apparently, we were boring, so Padishar decided to go for a walk, quickly followed by Rachel, after she grabbed a bottle of vodka from behind the bar.  I must make a note to chase her for payment, so that Paash doesn’t blow her head off or something.

Quatzl also decided to go out and explore the woods to see what animals there were there.  He wandered out into the courtyard and shape-shifted into a huge, more conventionally shaped dragon.  I guess that ‘khutit’ was his word for his more humanoid shape.  The shift certainly surprised Gwyn, who put her drink down and decided she’d had enough. Before she left though, she actually touched me on the shoulder, and Aoibheann, who had just come running in looking terrified.  I guess she must have been outside when Quatzl shifted, so I can’t say I blamed her for being scared.  She scurried around looking for somewhere to hide before disappearing under one of the tables.  I did go out and check the courtyard, but I was unable to persuade her to come out.  In the end, I gave up and went back to the hut.  She’ll come out eventually.

So, here I am, back in my hut, with a small piece of green unicorn horn floating around the place like a discoloured bumblebee.  Just another day, diary, just another day.

 

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