Two dragons from very different worlds meet on a windy mountaintop, and the results are fiery. Raven and Penny White courtesy of Chrys Cymri, A'a'shanto courtesy of Jane Jago
Setting: A mountain plateau. A green-black dragon landed a few minutes ago, and a thirty-something woman slid down from his neck. She is wearing a black shirt with a dog collar–clearly a Christian minister. Another dragon is coming in to land. He is twice the size of the earlier dragon, and the scales on his back are so black as to seem to absorb light, while his underbelly gleams pearlescent white.
Penny: Hello both. I’m Penny White, and Raven asked me to come with him for today’s meeting. Perhaps you could both tell me, and each other, a bit more about yourselves?
A’a’shanto: My name is A’a’shanto. I am the master dragon. My function is to protect dragonkind at all costs. I am bonded to the very stones of Dragonheart itself and it is from those stones that I take my power.
My mate is T’i’asharath and together we uphold draconic law. We are shifters, having both human and dragon form and we are newly mated. Sometimes my mate finds the necessary betrayal of other species in the service of dragonkind hard to take, but every betrayal makes the next a little easier.
Until I was mated I was as much of a sexual predator as any other male dragon. Now I do not dare. T’i’asharath would kill me.
As Raven is a dragon, although not of my world, I will not lie to him. Unless I swear an oath, other species should not trust my words.
The smaller dragon snorts.
Raven: Well, that’s comfort. A dragon who won’t lie to another dragon. You wouldn’t think much of my family, though I don’t think much of them either.
My name is Hrafn Eydisson, I only call myself Raven for those who can’t cope with my name. I have the tendency to flame those who can’t pronounce Welsh properly, which leads to very short conversations.
I’m an out and out dragon. I have no desire to be a were, which is what we would call a shifter. I am also a search dragon, which means I can find, and find out, anything. Makes us search dragons rather unpopular with our families, which is why our mothers try to eat us upon birth. I managed to escape and joined a colony of other search dragons on a volcanic island.
I’ve had various dalliances during my life. Female dragons eat their mates after several clutches of eggs, which has rather put me off my own kind. Whereas human females, well, there’s something rather alluring about a powerful woman.
But she has to be able to defend herself. I will stand at her side, but I won’t fight her battles for her.
A’a’shanto laughs and bulks his muscles, showing off his much larger size.
A’a’shanto: Little dragon. You have courage at least. If you would not shift I can understand that. Though that ability brought me my mate, who is the other half of my soul. But if you have such contempt for us why the interest in the lady priest? Would you discuss theology with her? I myself have often wondered about the followers of the White Christ. Do they really believe they eat and drink the body and blood of their mashiach? Perhaps your lady love will explain.
Raven: Size has little to do with the ability to tear out your enemy’s heart. Grotesque dragon.
Penny: And we’re trying to keep things civil. Raven, please shut off your flame chamber. A’a’shanto, Raven and I are just friends.
Raven: And I have no interest in her Christ. Although I do respect a religion which has their followers eat their God. At least that gives a deity some purpose.
Penny: It’s symbolic, Raven, and you know that. A’a’shanto, do you follow any kind of spiritual practice? You mentioned something about ‘Dragonheart’?
A’a’shanto: Dragonheart is a place, and a symbol. In my world all dragons are bonded to Dragonheart but only the master dragon and his mate draw power from the stones. We commune daily with the stones in an attempt to understand the wisdom of being unchanging. The stones have seen and understood more that any mortal creature can comprehend. They saw the One God make all that lives and moves. They spoke with your maschiach and with the prophets of all the other faiths that rule your world. And they sent the dragon to the Mont of Olives to rescue Maryam and the child of Yesua.
Raven is laughing, and A’a’shanto snaps his jaws shut. Then the larger dragon turns to Penny.
A’a’shanto: But I would know more of the lady priest of the White Christ. How does it come that one so young and so charming is married to your church? Or is it that your priests are no longer celibate?
Penny: That’s all very interesting, A’a’shanto. Thank you for sharing that with us. Your belief that stones saw the creation of everything is fascinating. I don’t quite recognise your story about the Mount of Olives, but I also know there are many interpretations of stories about Jesus.
Raven: For one who so fears his wife, you do seem overly interested in another female.
Penny: It’s called flirting, Raven. Don’t worry about it.
Raven: It’s called something else in my family.
Penny: A’a’shanto, I’m in the Church of England. Our priests don’t have to be celibate. I happen to have a very nice boyfriend. A human boyfriend. Anyway, you said you uphold draconic law. What does that mean?
There is silence as A’a’shanto looks at Raven for a long moment. It is as if he is weighing something up in his mind.
A’a’shanto: Hrafn Eydisson I wish you would tell me more of being a search dragon. I think in my world we would call you a seeker, and you would be respected for your talent. I have sorrow when you say your mother would have eaten you. That is a great wrong. Draconic law is very clear that the protection of hatchlings is incumbent on all adult dragons.
A’a’shanto turns his attention back to Penny.
A’a’shanto: This is strange to me. It seems our society is more simple. I will tell you both our laws. The first law is that all dragons are subservient to Dragonheart and to the master dragon and his family. The second law is that golden queens and their hatchlings are sacred and all dragons must protect them. The third law is that no dragon may lie to another dragon. And that is the whole of the law.
Raven is laughing again.
Raven: Protection of all hatchlings? Even the weak? This from a dragon who enjoys looking down at me. Our clans have secrets, and we guard those closely, even from our own kind. We protect those secrets by lying, and sometimes even killing our own. Why should the unworthy be protected?
Penny: Different cultures, Raven. Their society obviously values individual draconic life. Your laws are interesting, A’a’shanto, as it seems these only apply to dragons? What about other beings?
A’a’shanto looks at Raven for a long moment.
A’a’shanto: Why do you say I look down at you? Is it because you are a bitter creature? I wonder why that is. Perhaps because your society does not value hatchlings as ours does. You should understand one thing. Protecting dragonets is not a matter of looking out for the unworthy. It is a matter of accepting that every dragon has the right to become what he or she is to become.
A’a’shanto smiles at Penny, but it’s the smile of a cat watching a mouse.
A’a’shanto: Our laws do indeed only apply to dragons. Other species, my dear, must look out for themselves. Dragons look after dragons. And that is something you need to remember.
Raven: Yes, indeed, all creatures must look out for themselves. I value Penny for her courage, but ultimately she must fight for herself. We dragons demand the same of our pufflings. If a young dragon cannot defend himself, why should he join our society? There is no right to a life which cannot be fully lived. Do you allow weaklings to survive? For what reason? Aren’t they a burden on your society?
A’a’shanto: It isn’t that simple, young dragon. When an egg hatches nobody knows what the hatchling has the potential to become. I, myself, was the smallest hatchling from the smallest egg in my clutch. But I grew to be the biggest and the strongest and the most ruthless. Besides which, Dragonets who have no potential fade and die anyway, that is the will of the stones. You speak of what you call pufflings as if there are too many of them to be sustainable in your world. If that is a truth, then Dragonheart dragons differ from you in that way as well, we do not have an unlimited supply of hatchlings. Only golden queens are fertile. And to fly a queen in her mating flight is both difficult and dangerous. Therefore, only the bravest and strongest males may fertilise the eggs. In my generation we have three adult queens. And thus far only one golden hatchling. Does that explain?
Raven: If a youngster with no potential is going to die anyway, much better than someone at least gets a meal out of him. And I have no idea how many dragons live in Lloegyr. Our clans live in longhouses and we keep separate from one another. What happens in another clan is no concern of ours. And it’s not safe to be chosen as a mate by a matriarch. When a matriarch tires of her consort, she hunts and eats him before choosing another. You don’t fear your queens in the same way? Are male dragons safe in your world?
A’a’shanto laughs and stretches.
A’a’shanto: No, Hrafn Eydisson, our queens are not necessarily safe, although actually eating another dragon is frowned on in our society.
But I grow weary of questions, and I hunger. I will hunt now, I think. Before I go there are two things I would have you ponder. Ask yourself if you only lust after the woman because she will not eat you. And you may also want to reconsider your contempt for shifters if you give some thought to just how many more possibilities for pleasure there are when mating in human form.
A’a’shanto leers at Penny for a moment and gives her a glimpse of his human form. Seven feet of sex on legs. Then he unfurls his wings, which are night black and wholly without the iridescence one thinks of as dragonish. As he is tensing the muscles of his huge hindquarters preparatory to leaping into the sky he turns his head to look into Raven’s eyes.
A’a’shanto: Would you hunt with me, Hrafn Eydisson? I know a place where the meat animals run free on the rich grasslands. and where there is warm sweet water in which to wash the blood from one’s snout and talons.
A’a’shanto leaps into the sky. Penny turns uncertainly towards the remaining dragon.
Raven: A hunt with A’a’shanto. That, my dear Penny, is the first of his invitations I plan to consider.
Then Raven launches himself after the larger dragon. They spiral away into the dark blue sky, leaving the human woman to stand on her own.
The latest Penny White novel Penny White and the Nest of Nessies is out now!