Chapter 11

The Emerald Dragon by Solitaire Parke

CHAPTER ELEVEN  -

        It doesn’t matter what else happens today…the Emerald Grotto is finished.  I realize you’re just as slack-jawed as I am, but it doesn’t stop there, oh no.  When Demi and I walked into our area there was a mat for her and one for me.  We actually have a place to sleep.  Next to the mats are pieces of furniture; that’s right, real furniture and two battery-powered lamps for that cozy feeling every area needs.  The other pieces include a dresser, two end tables and a book shelf.  The Drago’s told Demi they will retrieve the bits and pieces of our stuff from the Green Grotto and deliver them later today.  Did you hear that?  They will deliver it to us…I love it when a plan comes together.

Inside in the grotto I confirmed twelve areas total, five per side and two at the back.  The grotto is shaped like a tube and I guess you could say it has six per side, but the last two are at different angles, and don’t lead off the main corridor adjacently like the rest.  Ours is the first area on the left, and approximately fifty yards in.  The total room amounts to about thirty-five hundred square feet, so it’s nice and roomy.  Demi’s pleased, and that was the important thing for me.  I had to laugh when I found out the Emerald Grotto is considered small, and in all fairness, it is the smallest of them all.  It’s a matter of perspective; dragons think big.  This is a momentous occasion though because the Emerald Grotto constitutes the first new grotto in over twenty years.  Yeah, we’re bad.

Sadly, our gawking session came to an abrupt halt when the Ariella called for us to aid in the planting of devecim.  Yeah, well when she told me, I didn’t know either.  Devecim is a type of fungus, similar in genus to a mushroom but with some startling differences.  It grows in extremely low light at the speed of a virus, and planting it amounts to rubbing the liquid from the plant onto the walls.  Yeah, you heard me – on the walls.  So, it goes like this…Take a handful and mash it into a bowl.  Pour the liquid produced into an aerosol squeeze bottle.  Squirt the liquid onto the walls and spread it with your hands until a smooth coating covers the wall in question.  Wait for it to dry, which takes maybe an hour.  Come back in three days and find a rather fuzzy layer beginning to form on the wall.  Come back in ten days and break a piece off with your hands and presto bingo…lunch.  So, admittedly it doesn’t look a mushroom; more like layers of half-inch thick wafers, but the flavor is well, it doesn’t taste like a mushroom either.  Put jicama with celery, add a tad of salt and you’ve got devecim.  A little bland for our tastes, but nutritious and filling.

When we got to Tarin’s Gallery I was surprised to find dozens of boxes, each filled to the brim with devecim.  The Ariella told me that Basiliskos and Invectum had brought the stuff in and not to ask any more questions.  The procedure for planting the devecim had been described to us by Targ and Essa. They were taking the lead in showing us how easy the planting was, and how to get maximum mileage out of the existing amounts available.  Hundreds of people, hundreds of squirt bottles and a boat-load of devecim later, we were in Tarin’s Gallery covering the walls as far as it would go.  Counting the number of days to edible food as opposed to the number until arrival didn’t add up. When I mentioned this inconsistency, I was told that each of the hounds was to bring as much as they could carry in harnessed packs on their exodus to here.  That in itself is one hell of a lot of devecim.  Once here they would fast, with the exception of the children, and ration what they had so they could use the bulk for planting.  Needless to say, these are very dedicated people, and able to go without food longer than we could.

By the end of the day, all of us had very tired arms, but there’s a satisfaction in knowing that you just helped a vast number of people with their food source.  I wish the rest of the food around here was this easy.

When Demi and I got back to the Emerald Grotto, a woman was waiting for us just outside.  She was matronly, and I couldn’t latch onto an age for this lady.  She was older, but at the same time, seemed youthful.  I know how that sounds, but she’s somewhat of an enigma.  Her graying hair was tied back in a bun and her clothing made her look strangely home bound and domestic.  It was her energy that impressed me the most, and a very imposing demeanor.  The first question out of her mouth took me back.

“Do you want to be successful as Section Leader here?”

I’m sure the look on my face told her a great deal about my character; as in “do you always catch flies with your mouth open like that?”

“Of course I want to be successful.  Do you always ask such leading questions?”

She smiled, crossed her arms and tapped one foot on the floor.

“Whenever possible, I find that the answers are so much more to the point.  Now, since we have established your need to be successful, let’s examine how that will best be accomplished.  First, do you have a plan for ordering the food stuffs and replacement needs?  I thought not.  Do you have room furniture in every area, and which of the areas will you use for storage until such time as you need it for a dragon?  I’ll take the duh look on your face as a no.”

I put both hands up in front of me to make her stop.

“What is your name?”

She looked at me and smiled.

“You can call me Betty.”

I kept both hands up and maintained eye contact.

“Well then Betty, you’re hired.  You can have…”

She had already turned and was walking down into the grotto.  She interrupted me with her answer tossed over her shoulder.

“I’ll take the third area down and on the right.  I’ll look at it now and start in the morning.”

Demi and I stood there dumbfounded.  It was very similar to being hit by a bus and somehow miraculously living through it.  We apparently had a Den Mom, named Betty.

The next morning I was awakened by industrial noise, you know, any noise that is probably created by something made by Black & Decker, yeah, those noises.  I guess it’s really no worse than the Green Grotto, just unexpected.  Since I had slept in my clothes, getting ready was a bit quicker than usual and I stepped out into the corridor within moments.  It was thick with people and dragons.  Nata’s grey, Fe, was pulling a large sled toward the back of the grotto, and the Black & Decker noise was coming from a crew working in Betty’s new area.  Droves of Dragos carrying packages and smaller furniture, and here’s a surprise…most of them were heading for Betty’s place.  Standing in front of me and looking somewhat expectant, was a small crowd that had apparently been waiting for me to step out.  All of them were people I had met since coming to Mt Drago.  Big smiles, fruitcakes, pies and a holders of things were peppered throughout, and I believe they intended to bring them into our area.  Dear God, a house-warming party and I haven’t even bathed yet.  Terek, the eight foot Class nine, steps up and flashes an incredibly demonic smile while thrusting a large pie at me.  The woman next to him, Ivory by name, is waving her right hand back and forth while snapping her fingers.

“T Honey…just give him the goodies and he’ll invite us in.  We haven’t got all day for you to stand around lookin’ shy.  Not to mention, he’s a busy man, all that green armor and everythin’.  Mornin’, Shuga, how’s that pretty emerald dragon of yoa’s?”

What do you say to a woman, a take charge woman who basically just invited herself into your house?

“Thank you for the pie…won’t you come in?”

Okay, not all that original, but it was six o’clock in the morning and I hadn’t found a cup of coffee yet.  The taste in my mouth was unidentifiable and although my first thought was dragon breath, I find that to be endearing, so that can’t be it.  My mind drifted to the Russian Army, but that faded right along with the rest of my thinking ability.  Ariel, Thomas Arden and Elfred are following closely behind, and everyone piles into the area spreading out once they get there.  This is painstaking and I make small talk, most of which I will never be able to remember again no matter how long I live.  Three years later or maybe a half an hour, they’re all leaving and everyone says we’ll have to get together soon.  You know the drill.  I have pies and goodies laying on the sleeping mat because it didn’t dawn on us to have a table.  One more thing to do today.  As you can tell, I am not one of the domestic types, and I tend to dwell in the slob region most of the time.  It isn’t like that with everything, for instance my armor is clean and pristine all the time.  Beyond that, well you get the picture.

We’re just about ready to go to the river, when I hear, out in the corridor.

“Knock, knock.  Anybody home?”

I didn’t anticipate visitors this morning, how could I?  Since arriving at the mountain, most people have tried really hard to stay away from Demi and I.  You know, the leper outcast, unclean thing, and suddenly, with the advent of my own grotto, not to mention the Ariella’s town meeting, we’re instantly transformed into Mister and Miss popularity.  Be a diplomat, Tanis.

“Door’s open, come on in.”

It took me a minute to remember this couple standing in my door well.  Sure enough, there they are…Mister and Mrs. naked as jay birds, we’ve come to teach you how to bathe your dragon.  They seem very unassuming, maybe even nervous, and they have a set of the brushes used when you bathe a dragon.  They’re fastened together and have a green bow affixed to them.  I can see them trembling to the same cadence as the man’s hands.  Damn, they are nervous.  He smiles and puts his arm around his wife.

“We just wanted to say welcome and bring you a gift.”

I’ve got to find a way to make them feel relaxed.

“I haven’t seen you guys in awhile and I almost didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.  Are those brushes for us?”

My statement didn’t make them feel relaxed.  I thought it was funny, but it hadn’t occurred to me that I was nervous too.  If you remember, I was Mister Tanis, Sir…standing naked in front of strangers with a dragon brush in his hand.  All too embarrassing, and what do I do when they take out the time to come see me?  Open the conversation with a naked joke.  I am such a moron.

The woman giggles and turns beet red, and her husband becomes terminally tongue-tied.  Neither one wants to come in and I don’t blame them.  I apologize, thank them for the brushes and then leave them with yet another chunk of stupid.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you down at the river!”

Another inadvertent naked joke and I didn’t mean to do that.  They walk away and all three of us are embarrassed.  Could this get much worse?

I probably shouldn’t leave the grotto without visiting Betty, you know just to make sure she’s got everything she needs, but my success record for the morning has been something less than stellar.

My first real break of the day happens when Betty tells me she doesn’t have time to talk.  I gave the usual…call me if you need anything, and we headed for Commons.

There is almost always fresh coffee at the river and the lure of being clean and caffeine stoked is too much to ignore.  After a short check, we’re assured of clearance to fly all the way there, and trust me, that’s an urge that will never go away.  I clamped down on her; she sprang and we flew.

The Ariella met us there, and after a quick dunk and several cups of coffee I was feeling like I could face off to the rest of the day.  Demi told me we had to go to the Wheel as something very important was about to take place.  As she was telling me, the Ariella got very excited and bolted for Invectum who was about one hundred yards away and closing fast.  I’m not ordinarily spooked by much, but the next few seconds shook me to the bone.  The Ariella had only casually mentioned dragon misting in the past and I took it to mean something uniquely different than what it actually is.  The only other time I had seen it was up in the Castle not too very long ago.  As the Ariella and Invectum closed the distance to each other, I noticed neither one of them was slowing down.  Have you ever seen the commercial when two lovers are running toward each other in a field and they never slow down, and in the end they run into each other, knocking both to the ground?  That’s exactly what this looked like, only at the last possible second they both simply turned to mist and were gone.  Very disconcerting, to say the least.  Like I said, very little spooks me and I can generally process quite a bit, but this was so far out of context and abrupt.  Demi finally nudged me and I got my brain pumping again on all eight cylinders.

When we got to the Wheel, I noticed both the Kings were there and talking to the Ariella.  She had a smile on her face that went from ear to ear and was nodding vigorously to whatever Basiliskos was saying.  I also noticed the large contingency of Dragos, some of which were talking to a little boy around the age of ten.

After landing, I got the Ariella’s attention and she motioned me over.

“Red letter day, Tanis.  Dragos should impress with dragons, they’re the original stewards.  Having a Drago orphan impress is infinitely better.  Talk about a poster child, wow!  This is the kind of inspiration the Dragos need.  Can you imagine how that boy must feel?  In a heartbeat he went from orphan to dragon rider.  From unnoticed to elite.”

She snaps her fingers for effect.

“It couldn’t be more perfect if I had done it myself.  He’s going to be stationed in the Emerald Grotto and its brand new, just like him.”

She does the happy washing machine dance again.  That’s when it hits me.

“Did you say he’s going to be stationed in my grotto?”

She pats me on the chest and has that all-knowing look on her face.

“You’ll do fine, Tanis.  What better way to start your grotto?”

The Ariella walks off without looking back, and begins orchestrating some of the Dragos to bring the dragon to be impressed.  You see what I mean?  Some days it’s best to just stay in bed.  I thought warriors would impress and then be installed into the Emerald Grotto and instead, I get children. Oh sure, it’s just one little boy, but why would the Ariella stop there?  There will be more.  Trust me, I can see the irony.  Taking a tour of the Emerald Grotto will now include children yelling things like; he touched me and I was playing with it first.  It lacks the drama I had envisioned for my grotto, but somehow seems apropos considering the way the rest of my life has gone.

This small boy has the dubious honor of looking like an urchin.  I guess that comes with being an orphan, and I wondered briefly who has been taking care of him.  He’s small for his age and acts outwardly timid.  Glancing up, I notice several of the Dragos are walking next to a sled coming from the Green Grotto.  Positioned on it is a green dragon, which is very, very small.  This is the smallest wingless green I have ever seen.  Demi says it’s a female.  From the top of the sled the Dragos pull a ramp and extend it down until it meets the floor.  The little green trots down onto the floor and heads immediately for the boy.  He just plops down onto the rock flooring and waits as if he has all the time in the world.  The female green is called Bethaerania and will impress with Armin Fletcher, the diminutive Drago child.  As with so many others, the names are shortened and hers will probably wind up as Beth.  Armin isn’t called Armin either; everyone calls him Dink.  Go figure.  So, Beth walks over to Dink, literally climbs up into his lap, lays down, closes her eyes and goes to sleep.  End of impression.  Told you she was tiny.  Dink puts his arms around her and there you have it, a happy little couple.  Just a little bit on Beth, mainly because she’s so small and the green that Rebecca impressed with is so large.  It’s a staggering thought that the two dragons, albeit two different sexes, are on the opposite ends of the size scale.  In just a few short years this tiny female green will be closer to the size of Rebecca’s Bear than you might imagine.  It takes my breath away to look at Beth, so miniscule today, knowing how dramatic she will become.  Wyverns, even at the age of Beth are cognizantly aware of their surroundings and have already reached out to the others like themselves to commune.  That also includes touching adults mentally, as well as other younglings.  It’s no wonder they learn so fast because their education comes from every other dragon in the mountain.

While I’m standing there Betty saunters out, speaks briefly with the Dragos and has one of them retrieve Dink’s belongings from the foster family he’s been living with.  Wherever that is.  Judging from their answers, they don’t know where he lives either.  Therein lies one of the biggest differences between just living here and being a dragon rider.  Prior to impressing, very few people take notice, as opposed to after, when everyone does.  I hope the little guy is ready to be a celebrity.

In the end, Betty and I escort Dink and Beth to the Emerald Grotto where he gets to pick his brand spanking new area.  Any ideas as to which area the half pint picks?  You’re absolutely right – the one right next door to mine.  He told Betty it will help him to feel safer at night; like anyone can tell when night starts around here.  The mountain runs twenty-four-seven and there’s a grey area concerning morning and night.  Hey, if it helps Dink, who am I to argue.

I seem to have misplaced Demi.  I call and I get blather, bells and quite a bit of white noise.  I think she’s excited, and I think she’s in the Green Grotto.  She’s not acting normal and although the noise sounds upbeat, I really need to go find out what’s going on.

When I enter the Green Grotto, my first impression is that this looks like business as usual, however, most of the staff is in the birthing area and that isn’t normal.   Demi is over there with them, but I don’t see her.  I can feel her and I know she’s there, but from my vantage point, there’s no emerald dragon anywhere near where I can sense her.  Okay, first things first.  I burglarized a conversation of two women standing close enough to conveniently ascertain what is actually going on here.  There’s a weird vibe in the Nursery, both elated and reserved.  A baby emerald has just been born and the Ariella is actually in the penned area wearing rubber gloves.  In with her is…Demi, in human form.  She looks to be about thirteen and is also wearing rubber gloves.  I’m not sure why the rubber gloves held my attention the way that they did.  I guess it just seemed so far out of context for my dragon to be wearing them.

This new baby dragon constitutes only the second emerald dragon born in over a thousand years.  The first one born (Demi)  didn’t have it so good, and very few were glad to see her when she came into this world.  This one is a male and is receiving mixed emotions from those around the Nursery.  Nobody’s going to say anything bad with the Ariella standing there, but you can feel the tension in the air.  As with many of the Wyvern dragons, they announce themselves shortly after they’re born.  This one calls himself Magnus.

I seem to be making the situation worse by being here, and it also occurs to me that I’m wearing armor.  I’m still not the most popular guy in town and I’m getting the urge to be someplace else.  Demi still seems unaware of my presence, but I don’t blame her.  In a real sense, she just got a baby brother and there’s not exactly an overabundance of Emeralds.  I follow my feet back up the ramp and back out into Commons.

At each of the extreme compass settings; North East, North West, South East and South West are rock-hewn tables.  Around the four tables are rock benches, and in each case they have been hand carved out of granite.  These tables are unique to Commons and can’t be found anywhere else in the mountain, at least not yet.  I made my way over to the Commons table on the South East corner and sat down.

I’m not sure how to feel about Demi’s human form.  It matches the voice, but I didn’t sign on to be a father.  Picture yourself as a father or a mother and you decide that what you really want is for your daughter to turn into a dragon.  Puts weird images in your mind, doesn’t it?  Now that I’ve inadvertently shoved that into my brain, I can’t get rid of it.  I realize its different; her actually being a dragon and all, but it was easier before seeing her changed.  Even worse, now that I’ve thought all this crap, being around her, which will happen in just awhile, will be awkward.  I should have run this scenario through in my mind before it actually happened.  Perhaps the birth of Magnus will override the awkwardness at our next meeting.

Basiliskos punched through my reverie, and even though he seemed concerned, he was insistent that I get to Tarin’s Gallery immediately.  One of the Dragos had been trapped under a rock slide and Basiliskos believed I could lift the obstruction without further injury to the man.  I shoved all my thoughts to the background and took off for the cavern.

When I got there, Nata had one edge of a sled wedged under the rock slab in an attempt to relieve the pressure off the man underneath.  Nata had a grim look on his face and I don’t think he held out much hope for the trapped Drago.  An entire section of one of the walls had cracked along a fault and slipped down, quickly pinning the man between two other rock formations.  Nowhere to stand and get the necessary leverage or pull without standing in the way.  The only way to go was straight up and that indicated an “A” frame of some sort, but there was nowhere to set the apparatus.  Looking closely, I could see how Nata had wedged his sled between two of the formations, and it had been working until the sheer weight of the fallen slab had caused the sled to malfunction.  Nata pointed to the bent and twisted edge of the sled.

“I was hoping the sled would hold up long enough for me to wedge it in much further.  I’m afraid it just made getting to Andrew even more difficult.”

All the sleds were of his design and the technology was from his race.  He alone knew how to build or repair them.  The mountain was in his debt for building them and sharing his technology.  Since coming to the mountain, I have seen them used for dozens of applications and I’m not sure what we would do without them.  This one I’m afraid was toasted, but in his defense, it was the only shot he had for saving this man’s life.  This man has a name, Tanis maybe you should use it.  I gauged the weight of the slab and was fairly sure Walter and I could lift it, but there really was nowhere safe to stand without endangering Andrew further.

“Get a fire proof blanket and cover him as best you can.  Next, have as many men stand on the other side of the sled as possible.  Hang onto it because once the weight is lifted, it’s going to settle right onto Andrew.  Two others stay on this side and when the rock moves, you pull him out…gently.”

I squatted down until Andrew and I were face to face.

“Andrew, I don’t think we’ve ever met, but my name is Tanis and I’m going to do my very best to get you out of here.  So, you just hang tough for me.”

My suit is equipped with tethering cables which can support enormous amounts of weight.  Walter assures me the rock’s weight is not enough to snap the cables and I hope he’s right.  If the cables can’t hold it, then the rock will crush Andrew and this rescue mission comes to a screeching halt.  Every second we delay, the worse Andrew’s existing injuries will become so, it’s now or never.  Closing the helmet, I step as close to the rock slab as I can and glance down as the Drago men cover Andrew with the fireproof blanket.  I can see Andrew shivering and it isn’t from the cold.  Activating the boot rockets, I lifted up and over the shifted rock mass and fired the tethering cables.  They slammed into the surface and embedded themselves deeply.  Then adjusting the rocket blast, I slowly lifted the mass up and off of Andrew.  The second it was clear, I angled forward until I was past the other Drago men and lowered it down to the cavern floor.  Once I had moved away from Andrew, the two men on the short side, slid him out from between the two rock formations and had him in the open.  Medics replaced them and immediately went to work.  It was up to them now.  I then disconnected the cables from the rock, retracted them into the suit and stepped back over to Andrew.  I was relieved with what I saw, or rather with what I didn’t see.  Blood.  He was definitely scraped up, battered and bruised, but no copious amounts of blood coming from his midsection.  You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief.  Now if they don’t find serious internal damage, we’re home free.

Demi was waiting for me just outside Tarin’s Gallery, and in human form.  I get the idea she’s forcing an issue here, and my personal feelings need to grow up.  She reached and took my hand, a tentative smile on her face.

“It’s still me, Tanis.  I’m the same Demi, either way.”

I felt stupid and inept.

“Yeah, I know.  I’ll get over myself any minute now, but I think I prefer you a little bigger and a lot more green.”

I heard bells in my head and relaxed for the first time all day.

Demi filled me in on the birth of Magnus, and I guess in about three months we’ll have another force to be reckoned with.  Oh, and one more baby in the Emerald Grotto.

Well, here’s a news flash ;the tension I felt in the Green Grotto was as a result of prejudice to their own kind.  Demi had explained it when I first got here, but it was beginning to mean something new.  The resurgence of the winged green, which in fact is the species Demi hails from, is not looked at in a very good light.  The winged green and brown were the two species that rose in revolt, ultimately causing their banishment.  That too caused a few things that stuck a burr in everybody’s bonnet.  Had it not been for the green and brown revolt, the non winged green and browns wouldn’t have been relegated to nurse maids.  The stigma of what those two species did, also put a black mark that the greens and browns are still trying to live down.  From that point of view, Demi is like a cold slap in their face.  It’s no wonder she and I are not the most popular people in town.  Therein lies the reason for the Ariella to open a new grotto.  She even renamed the subspecies, and all these gyrations were to decrease animosity and increase unity.  I don’t envy her job.  Over time, I believe the greens and browns will come around, re-establishing their pride and eventually throwing off the yoke of servitude that happened so long ago that no one actually remembers.  What a mess. Another thought rolled over my brain, and it will be interesting to see how the Ariella works it out.  If the winged green is now called emerald, then what will she call the winged brown when they come back?

We had been walking in the general direction of the Emerald Grotto while we chatted about the events of the day, when I noticed the number of people in Commons.  I really need to be more observant.  Were there always this many people about, and I just hadn’t noticed?

We were passing an area where a fairly large number of girls were working on their martial arts.  Paired off, there had to have been around a dozen of them, and it didn’t take rocket science to see that they were exceptional.  Occasionally one of them would just wink out for a fraction of a second and then wink back in at the point of impact, which had changed during the winking effect.  It’s like I blinked and missed part of it, or watching someone move with a strobe light aimed at them.  It was fascinating to watch and without realizing it, I had stopped dead in my tracks.  Only Halfling women can move like that, and it’s very disconcerting to face off to that kind of fighting.  I’ve run into them a couple times over the years, but it’s different if you have to fight them as opposed to standing here and watching.  The night I fought here in the Pub was my inauguration to Halflings in the mountain.  There’s only a handful of them on this side of the river, and even though they can blend with their surroundings, they choose to maintain lower profiles.  Kind of makes them difficult to find ordinarily, but I think I figured out where they all went.  I don’t think all these girls are Halflings, but at least six out of the twelve probably are.  You can tell by the way they move even when they’re not fighting.  It isn’t that they’re athletic, although they are.  It’s something else; something fluid and smooth about the way they do everything.  They’re uncommonly strong and they get that strength from both their parents.  Their daddies, being from the demonic persuasion, passed on enormous amounts of body strength and their mothers, coming from the Denizen race, gave them unearthly stamina.  I laughed when I heard them referred to as the top of the food chain, but after I fought one…I stopped laughing.  They’re dangerous as hell and they very rarely ever fight alone.

After we started moving again, I also noticed a second area where people were working out.  Only with this one it was all male and several different species, mostly demonic.  The demons were paired off with humans and were apparently teaching them a variant form of martial arts.  The diversity was in the number of different demonic species, and from where I was standing it totaled to four distinctly unique types.  Malachai was a standard Class eight and Famill was a Class four.  Terek and Cystic were Class Nines and the last two, Xan and Caleb were from the new breed of Class eights, the ones bred for riding the Aguivas.  Watching them was very interesting because each one of the four types were using the same fighting style, but with variances unique to their species of demon.  It’s almost as if someone had specially designed an entire martial art system for each and every demonic species.  A good example were the Class Nines because they incorporated their wings into the style of fighting, making them as devastating as the Halflings.  Their human partners were pretty massively outgunned by the demons, but in their defense, they were very careful in their approach and seemed concerned about how humans were potentially capable of defending against that style of fighting.

That’s when I stopped and really looked around.  Everywhere I looked there were pockets of people and they all had the same thing in common; they were all learning methods for fighting in combat.  Dozens and dozens all over Commons, so it must be Dojo night, right?  Maybe in an enclosed society, everyone develops the same hobbies?  I had been so wrapped up in watching the training, that I had overlooked the number of dragons flying overhead.  It was staggering, and just like on the floor, there were many different species all flying at the same time.  It was a beauty to behold.  Looks like the Ariella had made the air restrictions a bit more lax, and as great as that might seem, it was only a matter of time before we would see a mid-air collision.  I hope I’m wrong about this, but I don’t have much confidence in the communing abilities of some of the riders.  I don’t know how others actually feel, but I for one don’t want a two ton lizard landing on me.  Isn’t it logical to assume that it was this very concept that led to air restrictions before?  While I’m on the rant of restrictions; I’m not crazy about some of the riders getting drunk and then flying around like maniacs, even if they were the only ones in the air.  Compound the problem by having several off the ground and what do you get.  Uh huh.  Back in the smaller world where all of us come from originally, there are rules and regulations for almost everything.  Jay walking at an intersection, or red lights where it’s a good idea to stop and a thousand other inconveniences that rule the free world.  What happens if you simply remove them?  On the other hand, I’m not sure I like the idea of Mt. Drago becoming urban either, but somewhere in this fracas is a compromise that most people could live with.  Maybe I’m just paranoid as a result of the accident with Andrew.  It’s possible I just need to distance myself from that incident for awhile.

Glancing over at Demi, I can’t help but notice that she’s looking at me like I have two heads.  It’s that damn open conduit, communal mind thing again and I’ve been standing here broadcasting louder than channel twelve.  So much has changed in such as short amount of time, and I can’t help but wonder where it will go next.

We hadn’t gone twenty yards when I heard a high-pitched cry from overhead, and as I looked up I saw two Aguiva Warbirds circling each other.  They didn’t look like they were having a very good time, and the riders were hollering at each other.  One of the Warbirds suddenly veers to one side and the other looked like it vomited in mid-air.  What came out was infinitely worse than barf, I can assure you.  A blob of membranous mucus ejected itself from the Warbird’s beak and from the moment it left, it was on fire.  It rolled over mid-air and acted like one side of it was heavier than the other on its way to the floor.  The overall mass was about the size of a bucket and it gave no signs of extinguishing itself any time soon.  I quickly looked to see where it would land, and thankfully there were no people underneath as it fell.  There was a thwack noise and a splashing sound simultaneously when it hit, plus the blob continued to burn after the fact.  Right before it hit, I heard Demi say…uh oh, plasma.

Before I could react to her statement, the Warbird that had barfed plasma swooped in low and flew directly over the burning pile.  Right as the Aguiva flew past it vented, and the amount that came out compared to the burning blob was at the very least five times greater.  It made a splat noise on impact and instantly extinguished the fire.  The dragon had just crapped on burning barf as a means by which to fix the problem, and I for one…was totally and completely grossed out.

Only moments later, a contingency of Dragos could be seen in the distance making their way to the accident site.  If you can call it an accident.  I’m sure the Dragos had the necessary mops and buckets to eradicate the mess.  We turned and began moving the other way.

Demi explained that when an Aguiva Warbird becomes agitated or scared, they throw up a ball of burning plasma.  They can aim it once they’ve grown up a bit and learn to control their emotions.  Further, she told me that if it gets on you, to immediately strip out of the burning article of clothing. If it manages to contact skin, she said sand would put it out; it just takes longer.  I hope the Dragos or the riders have come up with something better than sand.  I can’t even imagine what would have happened if the Aguivas had been vomiting during the bout with dysentery.  Scary thought, huh?  There’s a common thread here; it looks like all dragons orally produce fire when they’re scared or nervous, but at least with the Wyverns it’s a dry heat.

Continue on to Chapter 12 ——>

  1. As great as always! The plot is really coming together. Its amazing how you always have more to add to the story. It’s like you have the knowledge of writing from many centuries ago;)

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