SONG OF THE DRAGON
The dragon hissed at the fluter, its tongue lolling out like a snake. It had been sleeping, sunning itself on a rock, when the fluter came, playing a tune.
The wyrmlord had not been in to see them today; it was away on business, selling cloth at a carpet trade in Hagawirn, a city close to the Lery peninsula.
It was a long trip and winter was coming.
The dragon hoped it would do well, even if it was not fond of the fluter.
The fluter brought one of its wooden flutes. It had three flutes: a wooden one, a silver one, and a flute made of gold. The flute made of gold was used only for festivals and contests, of which there were not many nowadays.
A flu ravaged the world for the last three years and only a handful of men and women survived. Slowly and surely, they were building up their world again.
Mostly everything had been ravaged by pirates-mutants from the Undertow, cities that had been built underground when the flu first began.
The flu was deadly.
Scientists were not able to find a cure.
The wyrmlord, a young man by the name of Bearl Harow, had not been affected. He said he was immune because of his genetics.
It would not be the first time he said something silly.
Bearl was always saying silly things. His best friend, Thery Ferlong, said he should be a comedian.
Bearl thought about it and decided against it. He was better at the flute. He learned it in fifth grade and it stuck with him since.
The fluter didn’t think the dragonlings liked his song.
They were hissing and scratching and shaking their heads back and forth like a yo-yo. He met the wyrmlord at the door of the cave. “Tough crowd today,” he said to the wyrmlord. He wore a long white robe. The robe was always dirty.
The wyrmlord snorted. “That’s because the biggest dragon is sick,” he said. “His name is Seryis.”
“Seryis, eh? Strange name for a dragon.” He snorted. “Strange name, indeed.” He grinned.
“What’s your name?” the wyrmlord asked curiously.
“That’s stranger than Seryis,” he murmured, shaking his head and grinning.
The wyrmlord knelt next to Seryis and touched its flank. “Hello, dragon,” he said, smiling thinly. “How are you feeling today?”
“Terrible,” the dragon answered, wincing. “My throat is raw. That idiot Bearl tried to sing.” The dragon bared its teeth. “I don’t like it when he sings.”
Lanor chuckled, amused by the dragon’s obvious distress over the fluter’s presence. He had heard the fluter sing, and he wasn’t that bad. “In one ear and out the other. That’s the best way to listen to his music,” he said cheerfully.
“Why does he come every day anyway?” Seryis asked him.
Lanor shook his head and shrugged. “Because he’s bored, I’d wager.”
The dragon sniffed. “If humans want peace between dragons, don’t send the fluter.” He almost growled the last words. Lanor couldn’t help but chuckle. Seryis was a funny creature. He hoped he would get better soon. The next morning, the fluter did not come.
Lanor said he had been called away on duty. Not only was he a divine fluter, he was also a soldier. A war was going on in the north, between the Willingtons and the Theryndians, two families who were fighting over a suitor for their daughters.
Neither daughter was friends with the other and it created a clash between the two families. They were at war. It wasn’t a pretty sight. The more Seryis heard about fighting humans, the less he wanted to see of humans.
He stayed in his cave most of the time, listening to the rain patter on the roof of the cave.
The coldness crept under his skin. Settled like a bug.
“Why do you always stay in your cave?” Lanor asked one day.
Seryis’s mate, Ulenda, had gone out to do the hunting. She was not back yet. The trip would take a day or two, according to the dragon. Lanor wanted to accompany her, but Seryis said she liked to go hunting alone.
“How many babies does she have?” Lanor asked.
“Thirteen,” Seryis answered. “All of them are in a nest, thirty miles west of here. I’m not allowed to see them until their first year.”
“How long is their first year?” he asked curiously.
“Eight hundred days,” it answered.
Lanor shook his head and patted his neck. “That’s tough,” he said sympathetically.
Seryis hissed at him. “Don’t touch me!” he growled.
Lanor backed away. “No wonder the fluter is always nervous coming here. You creatures don’t know anything about friendship,” he said in irritation.
Lanor didn’t come see the dragons after that.
Seryis grew lonely. It had the cave all to itself. The other dragons moved to the caves that were closer to the river, to get away from the smell. Seryis had been throwing up on itself and was not doing well, physically or emotionally. The fluter had sent for a doctor. He was a young man, twenty-three, and was part-Elven. One of the few left in Frevien. “What is the problem?” he asked.
“My stomach,” the dragon pouted.
“My name is Eerwin,” he said, smiling. “Let’s see if we can get that bug out. What were you eating before you got sick?”
“Wolf meat,” the dragon answered. “It was left in the sun for a day, but I don’t think that would have made me sick.”
Eerwin frowned and pulled a handful of pills out of his pouch. “Take one a day, with food. It should clean the bug out in a jiffy.”
“How long should I take it for?” Seryis demanded.
“Until the bug is gone.”
Seryis scowled. The dragon didn’t like being the center of attention, even if it was for its benefit. “Tell the fluter I said not to come anymore. I don’t want him to see me.”
The doctor went away. Seryis puttered about the cave, looking for something to do. The fluter had not come for three days. The dragon closed its eyes, imagining the music in its mind.
Seryis could not hear the sweet notes. It made him more bitter than he was before. The dragon didn’t like the sound. He told Bearl so.
“Why not?” Bearl asked. “I always liked my flute playing.” He held up the wooden flute and turned it around in his hand. “I thought the song was nice.” Bearl smiled dreamily. “I play the flute in the marketplace sometimes,” he said. “The crowd likes it.”
Seryis snorted. “It sounds like a cat getting its tongue cut out,” it told him. The dragon wondered why it liked the fluter when he was gone, but not when he was here. The mood puzzled him. “I’m a dragon, after all,” it said. “I’m not human.”
Bearl thought this over and nodded. “You’re right,” he said. “Maybe dragons like different music. Like the cello. I could bring that to you.”
Seryis shook its head. “No, no, no!” it protested. “Don’t do that. Please don’t.” The dragon prayed he would not bring another musical instrument.
The doctor came again to check on him. “How are we feeling?” Eerwin asked. “Any better?”
“I feel better,” it answered. “I was wondering something.” The dragon stopped.
“Yes?” Eerwin prodded.
“How come humans like Bearl’s music and I don’t?”
“I don’t know this man, Bearl,” he admitted. “Is he a friend of yours?”
“Maybe it’s because you like Bearl as a person, instead of Bearl, as a musician.” He checked the dragon’s scales, running his hand along its spine. “Your scales are not falling off anymore,” he said. “Your pupils look better.” He smiled. “I don’t think you need the pills anymore.” He chuckled. The dragon rolled its eyes. It never understood medical humor.
“Me either,” the dragon said. “Am I well enough to go to the marketplace?”
Eerwin nodded. “You are if you think you are,” he said, chuckling.
“I would like to see an old friend,” the dragon said. “His name is Bearl.”
Eerwin smiled. “He would like that. Goodbye.”
The dragon struggled to its feet and hobbled to the door of the cave. The creature flew away. The marketplace was bustling with activity. Seryis was surprised to find dragonlings roaming about. The dragon chatted was chatting with a woman with dark eyes when he heard it. A man singing. It wandered over to the center of the marketplace, where a large crowd formed. The man’s voice was sweet, like a lark. Bearl saw him. “Bearl!” he said, laughing. “I came!”
“I see,” Bearl replied, with a wink.
All through the conversation, he never stopped singing.
Seryis thought it was okay.