Chapter One Hundred and Twelve - Teach a Dragon To Fish...
“Hello mister mayor!” I said as I approached the round-tummied mayor. The man was standing next to a large gathering of guards and warriors and adventurer-looking folk, fiddling with his hat with one hand while squishing a kerchief with the other.
The man looked at me. In fact, nearly all of them looked at me. “Miss Bunch?” he said. “Is it gone? Did you get the dragon to leave?”
“Ah, well, not quite,” I said. I bounced to a stop before him, then rocked back and forth on my heels. “So, I’ve been talking to the dragon--”
“You can talk dragon?” someone asked.
“And we’ve come to something of a solution! It’s great. See, the dragon, uh...” I paused. Would the truth work with all of these people? Probably not, but I wasn’t a liar so... “My friends and I are teaching the dragon how to date girls.”
The clanking of so much armour shifting about as the nervous guards burned off their jitters stopped. Now I was sure that all of them were looking at me.
“M-miss Bunch, could you... explain?” the mayor asked.
“I’m pretty sure it’s because, deep down, Rhawrexdee is a romantic. So, we made a bargain with him. We’ll teach him how to date and such, and he won’t, um, eat everyone, rain thunder and lightning down upon our heads, and then bathe in the afterglow of the burning town. Oh, and he won’t steal your gold either.”
The mayor swallowed. “So, you will, ah, bring the dragon out of Rosenbell, and teach it there?” the mayor asked. There was a lot of hope in his eyes.
I kinda felt bad about dashing it. “Not quite. See, to practice we need a realistic environment. And Rosenbell is quite nice.” I tried making my smile more reassuring.
The mayor dabbed at his forehead. “You’re taking a dragon, onto a date, in my town?”
“That’s the gist of it?” I said.
“Are you quite mad, Miss Bunch?” The mayor asked with surprising calm.
I shook my head. “Not even a little,” I said. “We, and by we I mean you, could always tell the dragon that his practice date is cancelled.”
The mayor dabbed at his forehead some more. “What do you need from us?” he asked.
“Just make sure all the shops and such are still open? And that people are very nice and polite. You know, normal things.”
“But towards a dragon.”
The mayor looked towards the guard that had the fanciest hat around. “I will see what I can do,” he offered.
“Brilliant! I’m gonna go back and make sure that everyone is copacetic.” I flashed them a thumbs up, then bounced back towards the centre of town.
When I arrived, it was to find Rhawrexdee nodding his big head along to something that Booksie was saying. “Yes, I think that would be for the best,” he said. His eyes snapped to the side and he focused on me as I approached. “You... the formerly human one. The other one, that is currently a human, has agreed to make me some clothes that I may look even more resplendent when I do begin dating for real.”
I blinked, then looked over to Awen who was busy linking and unlinking her fingers. “Oh? That’s great!” I said. “And her name is Awen. And mine is Broccoli.”
“Mmm, yes, but your names don’t matter, do they?” he asked.
I felt my ears flopping to the side as I tilted my head in thought. “They kind of do. Would you go on a date with someone without even knowing her name?”
“Would her name matter more than her virginity and princessness?” he wondered.
I nodded. “Oh yeah. I think people care a lot more about their names than either of those. They might not be important to you, but they’re important to her.”
Rhawrexdee let out a long, warm breath. “Yes, I suppose even the characters in the stories have names. But the names you little ones have are all so droll.”
“I like my name,” I said.
“I’m not dating you,” he said. “I know better than to date a riftwalker.” He turned towards Awen. “Tell this one to get to work. I expect my garments to be ready as soon as I am to depart.”
“Ah, when are you planning on leaving, exactly?”
Rhawrexdee shifted his massive wings in what I suspected was a shrug. “Whenever I deem myself ready. I’m a dragon, I leave if and when I want.”
“Alrighty then,” I said. Turning to Awen, I cleared my throat to speak in a more normal tone. “So, he wants you to start making him a nice outfit for his dates. Can you do that?”
“Awa, I think I can,” Awen said. “I might need his measurements though.”
I judged whether or not we could stretch his patience that long. The tapping of claws as long as my forearm on the ground suggested no. “How about you go talk to the mayor, explain things, then find Yoland. I’m sure she can help.”
“G-got it!” Awen said. She backed away from the dragon for a few steps, then took off in a sprint.
“Can we start now?” Rhawrexdee asked.
I nodded, then looked over to Amaryllis who was looking extra unimpressed, with her arms crossed and her nose in the air. “Let me introduce you to your date for the evening,” I said as I stepped closer. I gestured Amaryllis up and down. “Hailing from the Harpy Mountains, from the Albatross family, this is Amaryllis Albatross, third daughter of the clan, Thundere extraordinaire, and my best friend!”
“Did you just introduce me?” Amaryllis asked. “I didn’t understand more than a word in ten, yet I still know you butchered it.”
“Your turn,” I said to Rhawrexdee. “Tell me what you want me to say for you, I’ll act as one of your translators.”
The dragon stood a little taller then he tipped back until he was standing on his hindlegs, his chest puffing out and his wings spread behind him. As far as displays went, it was pretty impressive to have an eighty foot span of leathery wings appear above you to hide the sun. “I am Rhawrexdee, son of Lawlyhoumad and Nhoyhou. He who smote the clouds themselves! The thunder hammer! The scourge of the northern desert!”
Lightning flashed across an otherwise clear sky and disappeared over the horizon.
Rhawrexdee looked down. “How was that?”
I clapped. “Very impressive,” I said. “But, I think your tone is a bit off.”
Rhawrexdee tilted his head. “The tone?” he asked.
I saw Booksie nod as she came to stand next to me. “Indeed, mighty Rawrexdee. Place yourself in the position of the princess. She’s ready for a date with a handsome dragon, and then she’s suddenly overwhelmed by all of his titles and the prestige of his name. It’s like walking into a room, proud of how good you look that day, only to have an entire crowd of even prettier people walk by. It can hurt a little.”
“Ah, yes, I suppose unlike us dragons, princesses have fragile egos,” Rhawrexdee said with a firm nod. He raised a hand to stroke his spiky chin in thought. “Perhaps you are right, long-eared potential snack.”
“Her name is Booksie,” I said.
“That doesn’t sound like a very appealing name. Books are for reading, not eating.”
I nodded. “Exactly. Don’t eat Booksie. Or any of my friends... or anyone else, please.”
The dragon rolled his eyes at me. “Humanoids,” he muttered. “Now, can we begin this date?”
“Of course!” I said. I stepped up between him and Amaryllis. “Now, you’ve been introduced, so it’s time for you to compliment the princess to make her feel nice.”
The dragon hummed, it sounded like a semi-trailer shifting gears. “Very well,” he said before clearing his throat. “Oh, radiant beauty of this early dawn, your feathers glisten like morning dew and your eyes have the burning glow of yet-not-unleashed cruelty. I wish only to be the dragon upon which that fire burns, that I may bask in its glow and feel the warmth of a heart so pure that even the vessel around it is incandescent. You are the fever of my brow and the burning of my loins.”
I blinked a few times, my cheeks growing a little warm. “Ah,” I said.
“Are you not going to translate that?” Rhawrexdee asked.
Booksie tilted her head. “Was that from the Flowers of the Blood Spring?” she asked.
Rhawrexdee turned to face her fully. “You’ve read that?”
“I have. It’s a classic.”
The dragon huffed. “It’s alright. The actual story is dull and tripe.”
“Yes, but the prose,” Booksie rebutted.
Rhawrexdee hummed. “I’ll give you that much, the prose is quite well done. Especially the scenes where the lovers meet in secret.”
“Those are the best parts,” Booksie agreed. “Did you read the author’s other works? Flora of Stained Winters and Plants in Muddy Summer?”
“I’ve read Winters, but I could never find the last one. The copies are difficult to find.” The dragon’s eyes narrowed. “How did you find one?”
Booksie looked down and away. “I owned a bookstore. I got to hoard quite a few classics over the years.”
“A hoard of books? Impressive... what was your name again?”
“Booksie. My friends call me Booksie.”
Rhawrexdee showed his teeth in what I suspect was a smile. “Good. I’m glad you’re well-read, Booksie, you can better translate my prose for me.”
“I’ll do my best.” Booksie bowed at the waist, then started to translate to a more and more horrified Amaryllis.
While she did so, Rhawrexdee shifted to be closer to me. “I can see why you wanted to delay for some days. Obtaining such an expert was a good call. She seems far better suited to getting the meaning of my words across than you.”
“Uh. Thanks. I think?” I waited for Booksie to be done and for the look of disgust to wear off Amaryllis’ face before I clapped my hands. “Okay, now the two of you can start the date with a little walk. Just along the shops, I think.”
“And I will ramsack any store for the precious gems and gold that catches her eye,” Rhawrexdee said.
“Ah. That, that depends on the girl, I think. Some women aren’t into... gems, and stuff.”
The dragon was looking at me with pure doubt in his big eyes.
“I mean, you should establish what the woman finds important while walking with her, right? Maybe she’s a gold and gems kind of girl, but maybe she’s more interested in other things. I like hanging out with my friends, Booksie here likes a good book. Not all girls are the same. In fact, they’re pretty much all different.”
“How strange. My research led me to believe there were only four or five archetypes to deal with. Are you quite certain?”
“Very,” I said.
“That’s unfortunate. I had pegged Amaryllis as the feisty sort with a heart of gold. I will have to rethink my entire plan for wooing her.”
Booksie tittered, which gained her the dragon’s attention. “I’m afraid that not everyone fits neatly into the same sort of categories as a character in a book. At least, the best characters also fail to fit into neat categories too, so maybe it’s not all bad.”
“I suppose not,” Rhawrexdee said. “I will merely have to put my great intellect to work to find a solution as we date.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, sir Rhawrexdee, how did you come to be so well-read?”
The dragon looked a little contrite. “Ah, well, I have difficulty reading the tiny books you little people make, so I invented something I call an audio book.”
“Oh? A sort of magic?” Booksie wondered. “Library magic always fascinated me!”
“Likewise! But no. An audio book is when you find someone that can read and translate a book at the same time, usually a scholar, and then kidnap them so that they can read to you. I like listening to... mature and interesting books during long flights.”
“Oh, that’s... clever.”
“Isn’t it?” he said with obvious pride. “My sister, Cholondee, mocked me, but then she got herself hooked on all these alternate tales of historical figures written by fanatics. Disgusting filth I say!” He shook his head as if to clear it. “But that is all quite besides the point. Let’s start this thing, shall we?”