Raben and Mathilde sat cross-legged at their short, uncomfortable table. It was not uncomfortable for Slathe, who knelt. The compact, fair skinned man was a dwarf and would not have succeeded in eating, had he sat in the conventional way.
“You know, Raben, I don’t feel comfortable having her here,” said Mathilde quietly. It wasn’t her place to speak, but she could hardly ignore the vicious monster sitting at the opposite end of their dining room table. Raben and Mathilde had been married for 14 years, but had known each other since childhood. In fact, at a young age they’d have stuck out their tongues and grimaced at the thought of marrying one another – they were not only best friends, but they were like brother and sister. They met in the circus, where they had also met Slathe more recently. In said circus, everyone was brother or sister because they lived and traveled together. If you didn’t get along, you were out of the show. At least, that’s how it was in those days. Raben was a giant, standing over seven feet tall, and Mathilde was a very talented acrobat. They were sent to the circus, both at a young age; Mathilde when her family could not support an eighteen-month-old baby, Raben when he was seven-years-old and already five-foot eight. But they loved it. They wouldn’t have chosen another life – they were able to meet people, see places, and do things many people never would. Who would want to miss that?
Slathe, on the other hand, did not like the circus life so much as the rest. For one thing, he was the only performer with a stage name. They called him Kirg (“Kirg – Always thinking us dwarves are so uncultured and gruff…and having no sense of hygiene,” he’d always grumble). It was true that they called him this because Slathe sounded so undwarfish, but Raben and Mathilde would have had stage names also if theirs hadn’t already been suitable. Actually, though they knew it not, Mathilde had been called Gumbit for a year and a half before she was given to the circus and they renamed her. Despite this touchy spot in the dwarf’s character, he was a very kind and cultured man. Surprisingly knowledgeable and an excellent cook, he had once owned a small eatery. It wasn’t uncommon in real dwarf colonies, such as the one Slathe had lived in, for the men to cook. Neither was it uncommon for them to shave – when Slathe had enrolled in the circus, they had told him to grow his beard out (“Nasty beards, always getting in the way and getting caught in the door!” he’d always say).
But there was something more curious than the three humanoid figures present, sitting at the table’s extremity – a female dragonling. They knew she was female because dragons are somewhat colour co-ordinated; green or maroon for a girl, black, blue, or orange for a boy. Then again, this was hardly common knowledge because the country of Musti was very segregated and most species separated into their own clans and colonies (like Slathe’s dwarf colony that I told you about). Raben and Mathilde had been puzzling nearly an hour over the gender of the baby (and I will tell you that Dragon anatomy is nothing like our own) until Slathe came in and said, “Oh, what a lovely little girl!”
The dragon present was a deep forest green and she wailed her dragonish shriek (something between a cat when you step on its tail and a car engine that refuses to start) while pounding a bowl, once full of chestnut mash, against the table. The mash was spread over the entire surfaces of the table, the walls and floor, and, naturally, the dragon baby. For nearly a quarter of an hour, the married couple and their small friend had eaten in silence, attempting to discourage the child’s whining by ignoring it. What they didn’t understand, and even Slathe couldn’t help them with this, was that Dragons are generally born with all the knowledge they will ever need, like ducks. Ducks are born knowing how to swim and dragon babies are born fully educated in the Dragon language (the name of which is a very complex arrangement of car engines and cat-when-you-step-on-its-tail sounds) and fully ready to hunt. Chestnut mash, though delightfully sweet with honey and cinnamon, simply doesn’t compare to roasted rabbit or fried field mice (and yes, Dragons are known to cook their food. Why did you think they could spew fire?).
They had found the poor babe on their front porch, dropped off by a stork it would seem. Neither knew where it came from or what it really was until Slathe had come to their rescue.
The misinterpreted shrieks coming from the baby’s mouth went as follows, starting at the beginning:
“Hello there, my name is *shriekyOUCH!-THAT’S-MY-TAIL!sound.* Are you my mother? You sure don’t look anything like me. I’m beginning to think you’re not my mother. Well, gosh! I’m hungry! Mind if I go on a little hunting spree?” at this time the baby began to crawl away, and Mathilde caught her up quickly.
“Well, that’s not very nice. I just wanted a snack,” the baby now tried to climb out of her hands again and the acrobat nearly dropped her.
“I sure hope you aren’t my mother, because you are not very nice,” and she finally tried to bite Mathilde, who slapped the little dragon’s behind, saying “Naughty, naughty!” and waving her finger.
“Oh, do you want to play a game? You movie your finger around and I’ll try to catch it in my teeth…”
You can probably guess that it all went downhill from there. They gave the little baby some of their chestnut meal and a cup of water, and the girl fairly panicked at the sight of the latter. Obviously, dragons are furiously afraid of water because they are constantly on fire inside. If they drank any water it would be very similar to the effect of eating fire on a human, unless they were a licensed fire-eater. There are also professional water-drinkers among the braver dragons, but it is very dangerous. So the baby dragon squealed and shrieked and ultimately upset Mathilde and Raben to the point of moving her to the opposite end of the table, luckily forgetting to bring along the cup of water (“Oh, thank you for saving me! Maybe you’re not so bad after all,” the dragon remarked).
I will offer you a ray of hope in knowing that Slathe bought many books on raising dragon kids and dragon language books (the titles were along the lines of “Raising Your Fire-Breather Without Raising All Hell” and “Fireproof Parenting” etc…), which he generously gave to Raben and his wife. They helped an awful lot, but they were at a disadvantage, not being dragons themselves. Tips like “Remember to fire-proof the house, because those rascals will burn anything!” were fairly difficult to execute, and even worse was, “And don’t worry if they try to bite: your scales will protect you.” Normal 0
So the dragon grew up. Raben and Mathilde decided to call her Tiama, and she soon began to understand that her new parental figures did not speak Dragon. But at least those parental figures had come to understand that their child was speaking its native language and thus came to learn the language it spoke. It is quite impossible for a dragon to speak English. The reason is simple: their tongues are too long and thin, like a snake’s. And the split at the end doesn’t help at all. And humans, or anything like them, are incapable of speaking Dragon. The reason for this is not simple: dragons have two oesophagi. I guess maybe one is for making car-engines-that-won’t-start sounds and the other is for cat-in-mortal-pain sounds. Or maybe they just have a backup, in case the chimney gets clogged, you know? Well, no. Nobody knows for sure.
But anyhow, through her mischievous childhood and rebellious teen years, Tiama grew up. The other circus people loved her, though some only hoped that she would bring a handsome profit later. Many of them doted on her like a regular baby, some of them were afraid of her. And others liked her about as when as most people like spiders and those scary glowing fish that live at the bottom of the ocean, like in Finding Nemo. The most difficult thing for Tiama to accept when she was young was that her parents would never be able to understand her. On top of this, she had to try and learn our language. Since dragons never really need to learn anything, they aren’t very good at it when then try. It’s not their fault – they're just very slow animals. But Tiama did begin to understand English, as any baby would but a few years delayed. And she also became very clever. She would play tricks and pull jokes and when you weren’t looking she would burn your toast. But nothing was quite so bad as when she was seven.
One day at that age, she took a liking to a boy in the small city that the carnival was performing at. Dragon’s are very strange in the fact that they show affection by spewing fire on each other, yet they also spew fire on people they are angry at. Since the boy that Tiama liked was a dwarf, he wasn’t very pleased at all when he suddenly burst into flames. Perhaps even less pleased were the people of the village. They rejected Tiama and her makeshift parents, calling the poor little dragon a menace and a danger. Tiama’s parents grounded her for the rest of her life. So, finally Raben and Mathilde decided to settle down. They bought a small castle in the foothills of Miagura, a city by a mountain off of which cascades of melting glaciers spurted continuously. And in Tiama’s top floor bedroom, they locked her for years. She was not allowed to come out, even into the rest of the house. And she stayed there for twelve years, feeling very sorry for herself.
Gorgon was much better off. He was born in a regular Dragon clan, raised by his own parents and in his own language. It was understandably difficult for him, then, when mating season came and his mate was nowhere to be found. Dragons, as I said before, know everything they will ever need to know from birth, and finding their mate is not exempt from the rule. In fact, they know exactly who their mate will be, even as they wait in their eggs. They know where to find their mate, what he or she will look like, and what his or her name will be, and his or her favourite colour, and anything else one might need to know. And the beautiful thing is: if they won’t ever need to know, they won’t know. But something went terribly wrong when Tiama’s egg landed in the hands of Raben and Mathilde, and Gorgon, who was factually Tiama’s mate, had no idea where to find her. Well, that isn’t entirely true; he knew that she was very far away, to the West, and in the upper floor of a small castle in the foothills of Miagura. But he was stubborn for a while and did not want to go out questing for her. Instead, he supposed she might turn up anyhow, though he knew (as he knew everything he would need to) that she never would. Only after he turned twenty-eight, a long three years after normal Dragon mating age, did he finally begin his trek across the greater part of Musti.
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