Woo-hoo! Look, it’s Friday (yes, barely) and I have a Dragon Friday ready to go. So without further ado, I bring you:
The Dragon, The Wench, and Her Wardrobe
© 2011 Sheila McClune
Relief flooded over me. I hung limply in the dragon’s paw, remembering its yard-long teeth. “Thank you,” I said. “I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have enjoyed being eaten.”
The huff of air I felt might have been a snort of disdain. Or it might have been a chuckle.
But before I could ask what the dragon meant to do with me now that eating was off the table, so to speak, I felt myself moving through the air again. Casting a frantic glance downward, I saw the greenish glow of the train wreckage receding into the distance behind us. “Wait! Stop! Where are we going?”
“Why, back to the warren, of course. I can’t wait to show you off to all my friends. They’ll all want hoo-muns of their own, especially after they get a whiff of you.” I heard/felt the low rumble of its laughter once again. “They’ll be green with envy.”
Friends? Oh, no. That probably meant…. “B-by friends, do you mean other dragons?”
“Of course, little hoo-mun. Who else would live in a dragon warren? Although, when I think about it, I suppose you will, too, now.”
I finally began to struggle against the claws that caged me in. “Oh, hell to the no! Put me down, right now. I mean it!”
The dragon paused. “Put you down? But if I do that, you’ll attempt to run away. Won’t you?”
“Ummm.” Well, yeah, I thought. Probably about as fast as my feet will carry me. “Look, it’s nothing personal, but I did have plans for the weekend. Big plans. I’m supposed to be flying to Boston to hook up with my boyfriend from the internet….”
The claws around me tightened momentarily, and the glowing ruby eyes floated in front of me once again. “Hoo-muns can fly? But how? You have no wings. Not that I could see, anyway.” It held me between thumb and foreclaw, my feet dangling freely in the air as it examined me from all sides.
I gulped and clutched at the claw, discovering in the process that they really were only sharp on the pointed end. “W-we have machines. They’re called airplanes. We sit inside them and they fly.”
“Flying machines, hmm? There used to be a Gommish wizard down by Southhallows who had one of those. Beautiful thing, it was, with its gasbag and gondola. Too bad, what happened to him. Truly.”
I wondered what a Gommish wizard might be, but was afraid to ask. “Why? What happened to him?”
I lurched abruptly up and down by about six feet, and realized that the dragon had shrugged. “No one knows. He got into his flying machine one day…was that four years ago, or was it five? I can’t remember. It was after Quonundray had hatched her clutch, so it was at least six years ago, but Ryturnia and Treodbur hadn’t mated off yet, so more than three years ago. And it was in the summertime, I remember that, because it was hot.” The dragon shook itself—and me. “I suppose it’s not terribly important, is it? Anyhoodle, he flew off to the east, over the sea, and simply never came back.”
Claws slid firmly back around me as the glow of the wrecked train faded even further behind us. I began to shiver. “No, stop, please, I told you. I don’t want to go with you. Take me back and put me down, now!” I tried to make my voice as firm and matter-of-fact as I could—which of course meant that it squeaked on every other word.
“But I don’t want to put you down. I want to take you home with me and keep you and show you off to all of my friends. I’ve always wanted a pet hoo-mun.”
Alarm bells clanged in my head. “Pet? Oh, no no no! I can’t be your pet.”
“Why? Are you already someone else’s pet?” A low rumble echoed in the chamber around me, and I realized that the dragon was growling. “Tell me who it is, and I will fight them in a duel to the death to claim you.”
For a moment, I toyed with the thought of telling the dragon that I still belonged to my mother; I’d have paid good money for a ticket to that duel. Reluctantly, I said, “We hoo—er, humans aren’t pets. No one owns us. We’re free people. We belong to ourselves.”
My cage floated toward the dragon’s eyes, now smoldering more brightly than ever, but shading to yellow instead of red. “That may be true in your world, hoo-mun. But it is not true here.”