My name is Salvador Marius. In my homeland of Suth, I am a great scholar. I have come to the land of Estmark to seek out one creature- the dragon.
These days, there is little magic to be found in Suth. The will'o'wisps of the great swamp, which hangs between the Bandos mountains and my home city of Layster, and their woodland cousins, the sprites, are among the last. The spirit of change is sweeping the land. The new craze is called 'mechanics'. The steam engine, introduced from the West, has revolutionized our transportation, and along with that, our lives. From quiet backwater to rising industrial superpower, the transition has not been an easy one. In the process, I fear that we lost much of what once made us great- our wisdom. The people of Suth are now so wildly bewitched in their love affair with the new, that they have forgotten the traditions of the past. They think there is more to be learned from machines than from the very forces of nature.
What absolute twaddle! I have consorted with harpies in the mountaintop monasteries of the Red Monks, hunted Gryphons in the skies of Westerly, danced with Elves in their secret glens, and watched battles between goblins and dwarves in the depths of the Earth. I learn more about the true nature of the world in a single day spent in nature than they do in an entire year spent on their 'mechanics' projects.
I have been accused of being obsessed. Bollywogs! They're the lunatics. I only seek the magic of the world, the strands of that intangible but ever present web that binds us all together: the flow of the clouds across the sky, the rising and setting of the sun, the sparkle of a Wisp at night- all these things that have been with us since the Gods created the first man.
The dragons, perhaps the most prolific beasts in existence, are as old as mountains and as intelligent as men. In the centuries they have lived, what vast knowledge have they acculumated? What fantastic stories could they tell me? Can anything compare to such potential? The steam engine? Bah! To a dragon's fire, that toy is like a candle to the sun.
That is why, when a black raven arrived at my university bearing the news of the kidnapping of the Princess of Estmark, I knew that fate was tugging at my sleeves. I knew where I had to be. I sold my worldly possessions (of which I had acculumated a great many) and exchanged them all for raw gold, the universal currency of the world. I plan to offer what I have left to the dragon when I meet it. If that won't convince it to spare my life, nothing will.
I took a boat across the swamp. It was once a very difficult task, but, with the installation of the new patrols of sailors that shot down any wisps that came close to the travel routes, it was surprisingly easy. I reached the mountains, and I travelled across on mule. I had remembered to purchase a Bandit Pass for the region, so the outlaws didn't bother me.
It's been three weeks now since I left home. The dragon's mountain is half a week's walk ahead of me. If I can finish this, my life will be complete.
It was early morning in the dragon's mountain, and the sunlight was shunted into the cave as a beam of light, slashing through the gloomy darkness of the hoard, and illuminating all that it touched. In any other place, there would have been the sound of birds chirping- but up here, where the sounds of nature never reached, there was only silence.
Myra was asleep, lying in a pile of clothing on the floor. The crumbs from last night's meal were hazily scattered around her. In her dreams, strange white rats had been stealing these crumbs.
Kirian had just returned from a very long flight. Though he had not yet slept, he was eager to continue moving.
"Wake up." Kirian said, standing over Myra.
Myra looked up at him with sleepy, half-open eyes. "Why?" She asked. The dragon, unlike her servants at the palace, usually let Myra sleep in.
"Because you're going home."
This was met with a blank stare. Were her dreams creeping in to her waking moments? "Could you say that again?" Myra asked. She must have misheard him .
"I said, I'm taking you back to the palace." Her heart leapt in her chest like a trout caught in a net! It hadn't been a mistake? But why? But Myra was not naïve enough to believe he had suddenly had a change of heart. It might have been a trick, but Kirian was usually blunt in his jokes- it wasn't in his style to drags things out too long.
"Why?" She asked again.
"That is for me to know, and you to find out." He replied. The way he said it was infuriatingly condescending. "Now, would you show me some 'princely' attire?" He asked. This was a strange request, and Myra did not know what to make of it. She directed Kirian to a deep purple shirt and a pair of blue silk trousers.
After a short breakfast (more of a snack than a meal) Kirian transformed into a dragon, and the pair of them of flew out into the daylight, away from the mountain. This time, they flew far beyond the dragon's territory, past trees and rocks and rivers, until they reached the beginning of the great paved road that led to Dunlin. Here, much to Myra's confusion, they descended.
"Why are we stopping?" She asked, as she dismounted from the dragon's back. It was a ginger process, as the fabric of her dress was very soft, and she did not want to tear it.
"We aren't. From here on, we're walking." Kirian replied. This struck Myra as very unusual.
"Will you just tell me what's going?" Myra asked. "I hate being told lies all the time." Given Kirian's brash and violent personality, this was very out-of-character for him.
"Huhmmmm. No." He said, with a wolfish grin.
"I suppose I expected as much." Myra said, and sighed. It occurred to her now that her choice of clothing for Kirian has been very skillful. In Estmark (and in Westerly) the colours of purple and blue were reserved exclusively for royalty and the priesthood, on pain of death. If she had any luck, a passing hunter might decide to take the law into his own hands.
This said, they walked on, but they didn't talk. Kirian was too busy looking from side to side, like an anxious animal. For her part, Myra was too busy trying to figure out what was going on, and why. Then, ahead of them in the road, walking north while they walked south, they saw an old man.
Kirian's arm was instantly out and wrapped around Myra possessively. It wasn't so much a gesture of warning to the old man, as it was a gesture to Myra.
The old man was tall, and dressed in a brown robe. He had a snow-white beard and steel glasses perched on the end of his hawkish nose. His eyes were green.
"I am Salvador Marius, from Suth. I am a scholar of magical beasts, and I have come to your country to seek out the dragon."
"Then I am sorry, I must be the relay of such disappointing news- the dragon is dead." Kirian said. This was the first Myra had heard of this, and she opened her mouth to speak, but she was quickly intercepted. "I am the knight who defeated him, and this is the lovely Princess of Estmark, Myra." He bowed low.
"I-is that so?" The old man said. "I... I am terribly disappointed to hear that." There were the beginnings of tears in his eyes. He seemed genuinely heartbroken. "I had sold all my books... my equipment... my belongings..." He held up a fat pouch, and opened it. It was almost overflowing with raw golden nuggets. Kirian's greedy eyes almost burst out of his head. "I had hoped to give this to it, to convince it to spare my life..." He sighed. "I suppose I will have to be satisfied with... seeing its dead body."
"That won't be possible." Kirian said, quickly (it was a knee-jerk reaction) but confidently.
The old man blinked. "Why is that?"
"There isn't a dead body to see. As soon as I killed it, its body melted away like butter in a frying pan, eaten by its own internal fires." Kirian explained.
The old man's eyes widened. "Really? I have studied dragons for many years, but never have I heard of so interesting a feature! I suppose that is because they are so rarely killed." He looked to the North, where the dragon's black mountain stood, and back to Kirian. "In living memory, you are perhaps the only man to have done it... Sir, I must beg leave to travel with you, and hear your account. I would write it down for my university."
The best thing about dragons is that we don't take anything for granted. So when I met this scholar, I was surprised and very annoyed, but like always, ready to adapt. I was willing to put on a show.
I have to say, for a human, he is very intelligent.
His thoughtful questions about dragons are eager, not sarcastic. He laughs at my jokes. He doesn't interrupt me when I'm speaking. He knows his place. That's an important trait in a human. If you want an example of a human who doesn't know her place, take a look at our very own Myra. She's a whiny, entitled, selfish girl who probably should have been spanked more often as a child. If anyone knows how to irk me, she does.
I have tried, again and again, to make peace with her- but does she listen? No! Instead, she insists that I'm some sort of cruel egomaniac- and yes, I am, but considering that I've gone out of my way to be nice to her (despite the fact that I am in no way obligated to do this because promises made to humans are just worthless words that mean nothing at all to me) you'd think she could show a little gratitude.
Now, I know what you're thinking! You're thinking, 'My God Kirian, you poor thing, you've just signed yourself up for a life of marriage with that same whiny little wench!" And you're right. I have. Once I'm King, I'll just seal her mouth shut with some glue, or something. That way, she won't be able to insult me. I wouldn't really mind having her about if she'd just learn to shut up. I say she's ugly all the time, but that's just to humble her. I mean, for a human, she's not bad looking. Pretty nice, actually. If she wasn't, why would I have bothered kidnapping her?
I told him all sorts of things about dragons, and what did Salvy say? He said, "Magnificient!"
I almost feel bad for him: he'll probably never get to witness the perfection that is my true form.
It was only when we made camp for the night (at a little stream in the woods, twenty or so miles from my mountain) that I realized I had forgotten the tents. The scholar had left to take a bath in privacy, and so the princess (curse her!) just crossed her arms and look at me. "Oh, once again!" She said, "The brilliant Lord Kirian shows us the benefit of thinking ahead." I took a mocking, theatrical bow.
"It is true, my dearest princess, that I have failed you- but let us not despair, for I have had to good luck to arrive at a simple solution!" I said, "With an arse as fat as yours, that dress should make an admirable shelter. Care to take it off?" I gave her an evil grin.
There was a scandalized silence. I could hear the old man splashing around in the river.
Then, "I'm sure you would love that, my lord- you really are hopelessly attracted to me, aren't you? How shameless!"
"Th-that's not what I meant you little-" I advanced on her, arms outstretched ready to pin her against the tree and yell at her. I had just grabbed her arms, when she took a fast step back, and tripped. There was the loud sound of tearing fabric, and then, I lost my balance and fell with her. I looked down. The hem of her dress was ripped. It was just at this moment when I had her pinned to the ground, face right up close to mine, that old Salvador came up from the river, dressed in a small black towel that barely concealed his wrinkly bottom half.
When he saw us, he went a very bright red. "Uh-, s-sorry. I didn't realize-" He spluttered. "I'll j-just leave you to it, then." He scampered back into the trees so quickly, I could hear him falling backwards.
I changed my mind. He's stupid.
I had a lot of trouble writing this, and I couldn't really bring myself to edit it, so I won't be surprised if the quality is terrible. I'll wait a few days, and then I'll go over it with a fresh perspective.