Half Blood Part XI--On the Back of A Dragon

Submitted by Heather on Sun, 12/06/2009 - 04:36
Danilos stared at the cabinet in the common room of his chambers. It was locked, as always, and he clutched the key in his hand, debating whether to open it or not. In it was stored all of his books about the dragons—some of them so old they were little but crumbling pages with ancient, faded script.


No one knew of this collection, not even his wife. He wouldn't have minded showing her the books about dragons, if he'd been able to convince her that he wasn't obsessing over their son's death. But there were other books—secret books—dark books that he'd paid heavy prices to find. Books that he sometimes wished he'd never laid eyes on before. Books that seemed to have malevolent eyes on him no matter where he was.

Danilos wondered how he could be so possessed by a collection of moldy books. But the answer was inside of him, deep down. He relied on those books and the advantages they gave him. He just didn't want to admit it.


Varian jumped as a deep bass voice broke the silence.

"The son of the Highlander lady Yavanna?"

He jerked away from the dragon. Flameclaw's golden eyes stared back, intelligence radiating from them. Varian gulped a sharp breath.

"Ye—ye can talk!"

"That has to be one of the most stupid comments I have heard in some time." Flameclaw snorted, and again a small flame flickered out of his nostrils. "Of course, I suppose that in the Lowlands, talk of the dragons is discouraged as much as possible. Once you understand the history between the two countries it's not that improbable. It would therefore follow that you, among other misguided Lowlanders, think that the dragons are only beasts of burden, and not sentient beings such as yourself."

Jokk chuckled. "Flameclaw fancies himself a scholar."

Varian took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Onna, why didn't you warn me about this? "To answer the question, yes, I'm the son of Lady Yavanna and King Ramius."

"I thought you might be." Flameclaw settled onto the ground.

Varian unobtrusively slid further away from him, still trying to get over his shock. Dragons he had prepared himself for. But talking dragons, especially a talking dragon that spoke like a court history book, hadn't even crossed his mind.

"Jokk, we have spent a day and a night tracking this human. It's high time that we should turn our wings homeward," Flameclaw said. "Any suggestions as to what we should do with Varian?"

"Well, he's goin' the same way as we are," Jokk said. "Could ye give the call to another dragon? Maybe Fleet?"

Flameclaw nodded. "If you think that Fleet would be a good mount for Varian."

"He'll do."

Flameclaw threw his head back, a stentorian bass note pealing from his throat. Varian clamped his hands over his ears, but he could still hear it perfectly. The note split into two, then three. When Flameclaw lowered his head, the notes still lingering in the air. Varian waited for the notes to dissipate before lowering his hands.

"What was that?" Varian whispered.

"The dragon tongue is made up of notes and melodic sounds," Jokk said. "He was callin' his friend Fleet."

"How will Fleet know it's for him?"

"Because those three notes make up Fleet's name. The name Fleet is only a very poor translation. Easier for humans."

"And I'm supposed to ride Fleet? I donnae know that—"

"Don't worry; dragon-riding is much easier to learn than dragon-speech."

A faint note split the night air, ended with an abrupt trill. Flameclaw's bony eyebrows twitched, in what Varian guessed was satisfaction. Then Flameclaw settled his chin on the ground, humming to himself.

Jokk moved over to sit by his mount. "Ye never explained why ye left the Lowlands."

"Helpin' a Highlander is considered high treason."

"Ye're runnin' from the law? But yer brother, the king, he couldna do anythin' about it?"

"Not against the Council."

"Sure and it's been hostile between us fer some time, but never have I heard of that. What did they think, that ye'd nae help one of yer kin?"

Varian shrugged. "Danilos seems to think—"

 "Och, and there lies yer problem. Danilos." Jokk spat to the side. "The man can never stop meddlin'. Sounds like he's up to his old tricks again."

Varian tried to read Jokk's eyes, but they were shadowed. The rest of the man's face held a solid, nondescript expression. "What do ye mean by 'again'?"

Flameclaw cleared his throat. "Jokk, do you think that this would be a matter best explained by the Great Dragon?"

"Aye, ye be right, Flameclaw. Danilos isnae a subject to be lightly passed over."

"Besides, I hear Fleet's wings." Flameclaw stood, lifting his head to the sky. His blood-red scales glimmered as Jokk lifted the lantern.

Varian stood, moving closer to Jokk so that the incoming dragon wouldn't crush him in the dark. He looked up as a dark, bat-like shape drifted overhead. The shape swooped in a diving circle, growing larger until he blocked out most of the stars with his wings. Then he folded them and dropped beside Flameclaw.

"You called for me, sir?" the smaller dragon asked.

Flameclaw nodded at Varian. "This human requires a ride to the village."

Varian stiffened, resisting the urge to back away as the orangey-red dragon lowered his snout. Fleet's yellowed teeth flashed briefly in the lanternlight. He snuffled at Varian's hair, then bumped him gently in the chest. Varian lifted his hand and tentatively touched the dragon's bony eyebrow.

Fleet let out a soft, humming note, then pulled his head back. "Jokk, do you have an extra saddlepad so the human's legs aren't injured?"

"Aye." Jokk set the lantern on the ground, then chirruped something to Flameclaw. Flameclaw lowered his belly to the ground. Jokk opened a large bag strapped between the base of Flameclaw's wings, and pulled out a molded, flexible piece of leather.

"Ye'll be ridin' dragons often in the Highlands, so I may as well teach ye while I've the time." Jokk handed the large saddlepad to Varian. "First off, yer dragon isnae a horse. Ye dinnae use reins or anythin' like that. Tell yer dragon where ye wish to go, and he'll take ye there. But first, ye must introduce yerself to Fleet, and ask if he'll bear you. Touch his snout."

Varian looked up. Fleet lowered his head and Varian placed his hand on the dragon's warm, scaled nose. "My name is Varian Ramiuson. Will ye bear me?"

"I will bear you, son of Ramius."

"Normally, ye'd ask in dragon-tongue." Jokk motioned to Fleet. The young dragon lowered himself to the ground. "Put the saddle on the base of his neck, just in front of his shoulders and wings."

Varian awkwardly slung the saddle over Fleet's shoulders and, following Jokk's instructions, tightened the straps underneath Fleet's belly. Jokk gave him brief instructions on how to tighten his legs around the molded knee grips and hang onto the front of the saddle.

"Ye'll find that once ye've been ridin' a while, ye can let go of the front. Once ye get the hang of that, I'll teach ye how to fight on dragonback."

"All right."

Jokk stepped to Flameclaw, grabbed the saddle, and swung himself into it. Varian tried to imitate his move and ended up sprawled awkwardly over Fleet's neck. Fleet grumbled deep in his throat and tossed his head, throwing Varian off.

"Ye're tryin' to mount like ye're mountin' a horse," Jokk chuckled.

Varian rolled his eyes, picked himself off the ground and brushed at his shirt front. "Why'd ye toss me off like that?"

"It tickled." The grumbling sound rolled into Fleet's throat again.

Varian realized the dragon was laughing. "It tickled?"

"My scales are dry tonight and your scrabbling around like that made it tickle." Fleet shrugged his massive shoulders, and his wings half-unfurled.

"All right, ye two." Jokk dismounted. "Varian, ye mount by grabbin' the saddle-front, an half-jumpin', half-hoistin' yerself on. Ye don't use the dragon's foreleg as yer stirrup."

Varian watched Jokk mount once more, then turned to Fleet. The dragon smiled. Varian grabbed the front of the saddle and lunged upward, using his arms to lever himself into the saddle. He settled into the padded seat and curled his legs around the grips. Then he glanced at Jokk.

The Highlander smiled. "Let's be off, then."

Flameclaw unfurled his wings and leaped into the air. Varian squinted as the wind blew his hair in his face and peppered him with bits of dirt and twigs.

He could feel Fleet's muscles underneath him, tensing. With a whoosh, the dragon unfurled his leathery wings. Varian crouched in the saddle, gripping it tight. He could feel blood pounding in his fingertips.

Then Fleet jumped into the air. Varian's heart felt like it lurched into his throat, making it hard to breathe, as Fleet carried them twenty feet into the air with one beat of his wings. He crouched lower, almost hugging the dragon's neck, and clenched his eyes shut.

I'm gonna get sick. Varian ground his teeth together.

"Loosen up, Varian."

He could feel the vibration of Fleet's voice and wings shaking through his body. "I'd rather not," he muttered.

Fleet tossed his head, making the saddle sway from side to side.

"Stop it!"

"Loosen your body. Lift your head, smell the night air." Fleet chuckled. "Flying at night has no equal."

Varian opened his eyes. The moonlit hills, mottled by patches of dark brush or trees, flew by at a frightening rate. He bit his lip. "Give me a bit to get used to it. Just how far is it to the village?"

"Not far."

Varian rose up on his elbows. He could see over the top of Fleet's head to Mount Arborn, cold and imposing. Somewhere along the foot of that mountain lay his new home. Ahead, and slightly to his right, he could see the glinting of Flameclaw's scales.

The brisk wind on his face made him sharp and alert. Varian looked up. The stars twinkled, the only unmoving thing around. Then he glanced behind. Something flickered behind them, but it didn't seem like a star.

I wonder if I can see the border fires from here.

"See the light?" Fleet nodded forward. His snout pointed at a pinpoint of yellow.


"That's the village. Arborn, we call it."

Varian hadn't realized how high they were until Fleet dipped into a dive, tucking his legs and wings against his body. The rushing air stung, making his eyes water, and filled his nose and mouth so that he could barely breathe. He squeezed his knees tight and the saddle-front tighter. He felt as if he'd left his stomach behind.

The ground rushed closer. Varian felt each shift and bank that Fleet made. Varian felt himself rising from his seat and pulled himself back into position.

"Fleet! You're goin' to kill us!" he yelled.

Fleet snorted and, at the last second, flicked out his wings. Varian slammed against the saddle as they glided over the ground, barely ten feet up. He gasped and held his stomach where the front of the saddle had dug into it. He shivered uncontrollably.

The pinpoint of light had grown into a bonfire, several hundred yards ahead. Beyond the bonfire, he could see clusters of wooden buildings.

"Why'd ye do that?" Varian huffed.

"Once you're over the fear of a dive, flying will be that much easier for you. Well, regular flying anyway."

"Regular flyin'?"

Fleet gently touched down. Varian unclenched his legs and hopped off Fleet's back. His legs crumpled and he sprawled face first on the ground.

"Oww…" Varian rolled over and rubbed one shin.

"Hold on a little too tight?" Jokk's face appeared over his own.

"I guess so." Varian stumbled up.

Jokk tossed Flameclaw's saddle on the ground near the fire. "I should've warned ye, but I thought that Fleet wouldnae try that trick with a new rider." Jokk narrowed his eyes as he unsaddled Fleet. "Ye behavin' yerself? Not havin' second thoughts, are ye?"

Fleet snorted, and a blue-tinged flame flickered from his nostrils. "Hardly."

"See that ye keep that mindset, then." Jokk dropped Flee's saddle by Flameclaw's, then motioned for Varian to follow him.

"Will you need our services any more tonight, Jokk?" Flameclaw asked.

"Nay. Ye're free, but be at the trainin' field tomorrow the last hour of the Forenoon watch."

"Yes sir."

Varian heard the dragons take off as he followed Jokk down the street. "Where are we goin' now?"

"I want you to meet Kerrin's family."

Author's age when written


I am a bit nervous for Varian when he meets Kerrin's family....

I like the dragons so far, though I'm not sure I really agree with the idea of good dragons. It bugs me just as much or even more as good vampires.

Really, Kyleigh? You just compared dragons to... vampires?? Really?? *shakes head pityingly, perhaps a bit horrified*

If it helps, I've never, EVER even considered that.

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

I just read this and the last chapter, which I somehow missed...and all I can say is WOW.  This story is just getting to be incredible!  I love the dragons.  They really rock. :)

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

Thanks everyone!! I'm glad you're still enjoying it...

And Kyleigh: I've never even thought of that. Does it help that I don't make my dragons magical and that I consider them just another race of the fantasy repertoire of races (elves, dwarves)? Dragons are cool! Vampires are....gross. :0) Good thoughts though.


And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

My reason for not liking good dragons is that in history (in Western culture) and in the Bible (Revelation) Dragons are bad, as are vampires - hence the connection, Anna. One of the best books I have EVER read was on this subject - I forget who it's by, but it's called "A Landscape with Dragons."

@ Kyleigh--

Since dragons are either a) a figment of creative imaginations, or b) mankind's memories of extinct dinos, they can either be a) seen however we imagine them, or b) seen as a part of God's creation--and at least at first, it was all good. Just my two p.

@ Heather--

You’re chapters are WAY too short, “lass”. And what is up with this Danilos guy and his books? And the village? And why is Fleet calling Jokk “sir”—training fields? Is he a dragon-in-training? *Grunts unhappily* Pleeese post more soon!

LoriAnn - read Isaiah 27:1, Ezekiel 29:3, Revelation 12, Revelation 13, Revelation 16:13, Revelation 20:2 - the last reference alone should be enough.

Satan was good at first, yet we don't make demons and devils good, and rightly so. Satan would have had to have fallen between the 7th day of Creation week and the fall of man. Else Creation couldn to have been good. I don't think that dragons are just a figment of imagination, and I do think they are something more and more terrible than dinosaurs. I think Behemoth was a dinosaur (Job 40:15-18), but Leviathan is worse. Read Job 3:12-34.

Kyleigh, I think a lot of whether dragons are bad or not are based on whether or not they're in our world. I don't think God would've created two worlds the same, so maybe He might let dragons be good in one world. *shrug* At any rate, all I ask is that you enjoy the story even if we have different opinions. Thanks for letting me know your thoughts!

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

I'm sorry if I came across as not enjoying the story! I do very much, and dragons haven't changed that. I won't argue my point any more here, but I am working on a blog post, if anyone is interested. (Not sure when it will be up, though, I have about 5 drafts in line ahead of it!)

I'm glad that having good dragons doesn't change your mind about enjoying the story. :0) That's always my biggest fear, is that someone will find something smaller that they don't argee with, disregard my story, and ignore the bigger themes of heroism I try to put in it.  I follow your blog, so I'll be notified when you post. I'm looking forward to it!

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"