Pelya meets a Purple Dragon
Warmth flooded the left side of Pelya’s back and chest. She spun on her heel, sword out before the motion was finished. There was nothing to the left or on the road behind, but the warmth was still there. She looked under the collar of her chain shirt and saw intricate lines glowing orange on her skin.
The dragon mark. At the age of eleven, she and Ebudae had saved a baby dragon. Its mother, Hezzena, had given them dragon marks as a reward even though neither girl knew what they meant. Something about the magic prevented the girls from thinking about them.
She checked herself for injury. The mark only activated when she was hurt or used too much magic, although the latter was something that happened to Ebudae far more often than Pelya. There was no injury anywhere on her body, so she began a scan of her surroundings. Nothing lurked around the hills, grasslands and scattered groves of trees. The sun shone from above with complete disinterest while a breeze gently caressed the grass on the sides of the road.
Then Pelya saw a large shadow on the grass a distance away, so she looked up to see a dragon descending in a lazy circle toward her. Every hair on her neck and arms stood straight up and she froze. Most people didn’t see one dragon in their lives, let alone two.
With incredible self-discipline, Pelya gained control of her muscles and drew her secondary sword. It would cut through anything, possibly even dragon scales. However, she knew enough about dragons to know that even a magically keen sword would probably be useless.
The dragon had nearly finished its descent. The previously disinterested sun took a notice of the creature, glinting its rays off the polished purple scales on the creature’s head. The leathery wings were laced with lighter colored veins while the shadowed underbelly was a vibrant lavender color, similar to the combined light of Ryallon’s two moons.
As the dragon gracefully flapped its wings to land a short distance away, Pelya looked around for a place to hide. There was nothing in reach, so she took a deep breath and let it out slowly, praying that death would be quick.
She remembered something Hezzena had said. Dragons were forbidden from killing humans with the exception of self-defense or thieves. Pelya desperately hoped it was true, because the one coming towards her was larger than the last three inns she had stayed at combined.
“Please put away those silly blades, human,” it said in a tenor, male voice. “They won’t help you even if one is made of siahthite. I must admit to curiosity as to how you came into possession of it.” The words it spoke were delivered with magic, requiring no movement of its mouth. The dragon sat on its haunches and folded its wings back.
Pelya had to crane her neck to look up at it. She didn’t respond to the order to put away the blades, largely because she overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the magnificent creature.
“I was afraid this was going to be difficult.” The magnificent creature in question sighed heavily, gusting Pelya’s braided hair about her shoulders. Surprisingly, its breath was rather pleasant, smelling of smoked bacon and cinnamon. “I don’t suppose you’ll just put away those swords and behave reasonably? Hmm?” He leaned forward to look at her with a swirling, liquid-silver eye that was as big as Pelya.
They probably wouldn’t do much good anyway and the dragon wasn’t showing any hostility to her. Pelya slid them both back into their sheaths. Meanwhile she took hold of her senses and forced them back into her control in spite of the fact that they wanted to run screaming in every direction. One thought stayed at the forefront of her mind and she asked about it. “What is siahthite?”
It raised a scaly eyebrow in a surprisingly human gesture. “You have a sword made of one and you don’t know what it is? How extraordinary.” Then the dragon reached forward with its right claw and squished Pelya’s cheeks between a thumb talon and finger talon. “You humans have such fascinating, squishy skin.” He squeezed very gently, careful not to hurt Pelya. “Squishy, squishy.” Then it stopped and removed the claw, having the good grace to look embarrassed. “My apologies. I don’t have many opportunities to squish humans.”
Throughout the experience, Pelya stood dumbfounded. “Uh huh,” was the only thing she could think to say.
“Would you mind giving me some of your urine, fingernail trimmings and hair, perhaps?” The dragon asked hopefully.
Pelya tried desperately to think of a response; something, anything. It was futile. The absurdity of a dragon landing in front of her on a lonely road and asking her for such things allowed her senses to escape again.
The dragon squeezed her cheeks again. “Squishy, squishy, squishy. It’s just so much fun!” When Pelya didn’t respond, the dragon gave another heaving sigh. “Please may I have them? I’ll pay you a pretty gem.” He flicked its wrist and an amethyst appeared in the center of a claw. The dragon held it close so Pelya could see.
“I don’t really need any money or gems,” Pelya said. It was a pretty amethyst though.
The dragon jerked back, startled by the statement. “Don’t need? What in the world does needing have to do with it? Money, wealth, treasure are wonderful things! One must have them. Need is irrelevant. You silly human, you.”
Pelya held her arms out to the side and shrugged. “I have more money than I need and no home to keep treasure in right now.”
“Well that’s just offensive,” the dragon declared. It squeezed Pelya’s cheeks again with its other claw, a bit more roughly than before. “Squishy, squishy.” Then he made the gem disappear. “Will you please give me the ingredients anyway?”
“What do you need them for?” Pelya was suspicious of the reasons. It seemed odd that a dragon would ask for them. It was odd that anyone would ask for such things.
“They are ingredients for spells and also used in the creation of certain magical items or potions. I could just kill you for them, you know. I’m trying to be polite though.” He studied a sharp talon with interest, turning it back and forth.
“No you can’t.” Pelya took a chance that Hezzena was telling the truth about dragons not being allowed to kill humans. She reflected on the fact that she almost never thought about that incident and realized the dragon mark prevented her from remembering. The mark was still warm and she realized it was because of the proximity of the dragon. “Dragons aren’t allowed to kill humans unless threatened or if the human is a thief.”
The dragon’s eye was back in front of Pelya, gazing into her soul. “Where, exactly did you hear that, you little snack?”
She couldn’t help but take a step back. “From . . .” her jaw froze and the mark warmed again. “I can’t tell you . . . I’m physically unable.”
The dragon sniffed and then put a talon in Pelya’s collar and looked down her shirt. It was extremely awkward to have a giant eye examine her so intimately. The dragon sat back on its haunches again and stared at her incredulously. “Wherever did you get a dragon mark? And an orange one at that?” He said the last with its snout twisted up as though tasting something rotten.
Pelya opened her mouth to answer, but it snapped shut involuntarily as the dragon mark took control.
The purple dragon saw. “Of course. You can’t tell me. Sometimes even Oranges have brains I suppose. They’re not known for it, you know.” He tapped her on the nose with a talon. “Oranges grow muscles, not brains. Wouldn’t want to be hit by one, but they’re too stupid to handle my vast intelligence.” He used the talon to tap its own nose for a moment while thinking. Then it squeezed Pelya’s cheeks again. “Squishy, squishy.”
Pelya ignored the odd behavior. She decided on a deal. “I’ll trade you for information about the metal my sword is made of, sia . . . siathi . . .”
“Siahthite. I shouldn’t have even said the word.” He squeezed Pelya’s cheeks some more. “There are a great number of things humans aren’t allowed to know about dragons, like siahthite and dragon marks. Squishy, squishy. Can I keep you and call you my little squishy?”
“No!” Pelya wasn’t about to allow a dragon keep her as a pet, especially if they were going to name her Squishy. “You may not keep me.”
“Well you’re no fun.” It tapped its nose in thought again. “Very well. I will tell you about siahthite in exchange for urine, fingernails and hair.”
“Alright. It’s a deal.” Pelya held her hand out to shake. Instead of shaking, the dragon held Pelya’s index finger in between two talons and began to trim them. A porcelain jar appeared underneath and the nail fell into it. The dragon proceeded to trim each of the nails, cutting them extremely short.
“They’re not very long, but it’ll do. Now for the hair.” He wrapped a claw around her body to turn her around and Pelya felt a tug as it cut the hair just at the neck with a talon.
The sound of her hair being cut and the loss of its weight shocked Pelya. “Hey! You said some hair, not all of it!” She reached behind her and desperately patted the shorn locks. “Nooooo . . .”
“I left you the stuff on the top. It looks very nice,” he said. “Now please put some urine in this jar. I’m afraid that’s something I can’t do for you.”
“You cut my hair!” Pelya was furious. She loved her braid and couldn’t bear the thought of losing it. “I need it.”
“How odd. You need hair, but not treasure. I’ve never heard of anything so silly.” He squeezed her cheeks, which had reddened in anger. “Squishy, squishy. Please fill this jar with urine now and then I’ll tell you about siahthite.” He held out another porcelain jar.
Pelya looked at her beautiful braid sitting in a small basket. It hurt to see it there, but she couldn’t think of how to reattach it and void the deal. She snatched the jar out of his claw and looked around for a bush or tree to hide behind. There was nothing. Pelya looked up at the dragon. “Well?”
It raised an eyebrow. “Well what? I told you I can’t do it for you.”
“Turn around!” Pelya made a circling motion with her finger.
“Why in the world do you want me to turn around? It sounds like a very odd thing to do just so you can fill a jar with urine.”
“You’re a boy dragon and boys aren’t allowed to watch girls pee, so turn around.” Pelya made the circling motion more vigorously.
“Humans are so weird.” The dragon did as asked though. When he sat back down, his tail lay in a circle around Pelya and the collected ingredients.
Pelya felt the back of her hair again and mourned the loss. Dropping her trousers to fill the jar with urine was uncomfortable at best. “I’m done. You can turn around again,” Pelya said as she set the jar next to the one with nail clippings. “How do I know you’re not going to use this against me?”
“Because I promise not to. That seems like a reasonable request.” He finished turning around and instantly squeezed her cheeks again. “Squishy, squishy, squishy.
Pelya narrowed her eyes. “That’s becoming very irritating.”
“I can’t help it.” He released her cheeks and began putting lids on the jars and basket. As he closed each one, it disappeared. “Now, about the siahthite. It’s very rare here on Ryallon. The reason it’s rare is because it’s a metal only found on Siahray.”
“The moon?” Pelya asked in surprise. “There’s metal on the moon?”
“Yes, but humans aren’t allowed to know that and I’ll thank you not to share the information.” The ingredients were gone, including Pelya’s braid, and he stretched his wings before folding them and sitting back. “Do you know anything about the energies of chaos swirling around Ryallon and the moons?”
Pelya folded her arms and tried to remember the details. “Yes. They’re the source of magic. They also exist in other parts of the universe and if normal people or creatures drink too deeply of them, they can become gods or burn out completely.”
“How extraordinary!” The dragon’s increased volume scared the birds out of a distant copse of trees. “Not many humans know anything outside of their own brief lives. I like you, my little squishy.”
“I’m not your little squishy.” Pelya was beginning to worry that the dragon would keep her.
He sighed. “Pity. Oh well. When Siahray and Piohray came to be, long ago before humans existed, chaotic energies swirled around them and corrupted some of the mass within. Siahthite and piohrite are two metals that were affected.”
“Piohrite would be metal from the moon Piohray then?” Pelya asked.
“Yes, very good. I’m not supposed to tell you that either, but I like you.” He squeezed her cheeks yet again. “Squishy, squishy. Anyway, both metals have extraordinary properties and can only be made into a blade using special forges that allow magic to combine with heat. I won’t explain the process, but your sword was created that way.”
Pelya pulled it out. “It never dulls and it cuts through anything.”
“Yes. There are probably other qualities, but I won’t speculate.”
“There aren’t any runes to hold the magic, at least not that I can see.” That fact had driven Ebudae to frustration.
“I agreed to tell you of the metal and I’ve done so. My obligation is fulfilled.” He stood on all four legs and stretched his wings out again.
“Wait, how did it get to Ryallon from the moon?” Pelya asked, holding out a hand for him to stay.
“Our agreement did not require me to tell you that, and I would never have made the agreement if it did.” Goodbye, my little squishy. I wish you good fortune on your journeys and much treasure even if you don’t need it.” He turned and jogged a few steps before launching himself into the air with a great thrust of the wings.
Pelya sheathed the sword and watched as the magnificent creature rose into the air. She was surprised when he suddenly turned and came back to her. He landed in front of her and reached out to squeeze her cheeks. “Squishy, squishy.” I just had to do it one more time!”
The dragon turned and leaped into the air again. Pelya was buffeted by the gusts created by his powerful wings. She shielded her face with an arm until he was well into the air. It didn’t take long for the dragon to become a speck in the sky and for her dragon mark to cool.
Once again, the gentle breeze and buzzing insects were Pelya’s only company. Even the sun had resumed its disinterest.
I hope you enjoyed that sample.
All my best,
John H. Carroll