“Well then ...” I took out a paperweight and wrote the words “language school” on it, before placing it in the top right corner of the desk, together with Babylonia’s entry form. The paper weights were actually post-it notes with a gravity spell on them. Quite handy.
Just as I was about to leave the office to welcome the next traveler the sirens went off. I let them blare for a couple seconds before figuring it most likely wasn’t a misfire. I looked at my old armor standing against a wall in my office, promptly deciding against wearing it for the occasion. If the threat was big enough to warrant the sirens it would wipe me out in one fell swoop anyway. And I wanted to make my intent of communicating instead of fighting clear by wearing casual clothes.
I ran out of my office, where my co-workers/subordinates were directing the newly-arrived towards the nearest shelter. I plucked one Garrett from among them and asked him what was going on.
“Unauthorized flying object nearing our city. Looks like a Giant Dragon.”
We classified dragons into three different size categories. Mini-Dragons, Midi-Dragons, and Giant Dragons. Mini-Dragons ranged anywhere from palm-sized to human-sized, Midi-Dragons went up to the size of a house and also were the ones we were hiring to fly in visitors. Giant Dragons were everything above that. Most of them needed their own mountain for housing. Treasure and everything.
So yeah, Giant Dragon, most likely very dangerous, but also thankfully you can talk with them. If they don’t read your attempts at catching their attention as a declaration of war.
“Have you readied the Midi-Dragon fleet?”
Having fellow dragons under our command usually was the best way to make clear there wasn’t any hostility towards the Giant.
“Just a minute before the alarm a carrier landed. He is already in position.”
I ran towards the gate. (Yes, I adopted that terminology from my old world.) The dragon in question was already waiting for me.
“Hey, how’s it going?” I asked. You gotta do some small talk to ensure you are good with your team after all. That’s one thing I learned from real life and playing Dragon Age.
“Tired from the flights but that should be a piece of cake.”
I took a look through the gate to see a murky shape in the distance. The Giant most likely wouldn’t pass the city border for another minute. I could see the now mostly empty streets from above. Thankfully, the people had gotten used to the alarm by now. I still remember the despair during the first siren some time after the war had ended. People thought it was over, and then it seemed like the war would just start anew.
I approached the Midi-Dragon, who lifted me onto his back using one of his hands. I laid down on my stomach and dug my fingers into his scales because there really was no other way of holding onto him. I could have grabbed onto the horns of his head, but that wasn’t an option for what we were going to do.
“Good to go?” He asked me.
“Ready for take-off,” I replied.
Using all four of his limbs the dragon took a leap ahead and after a short fall the flap of his wings made him surpass the height of our hub. I was pressed against his back the entire time due to physics.
I tried to look past the Midi-Dragon’s head to see how far away the Giant Dragon was, but I couldn’t really tell.
“How far away is he?” I shouted against the wind.
“About to cross the city border I think,” he growled back.
“Send him a signal!”
The Midi-Dragon halted in mid-air, threw his head back and sent a white flame into the air above us. The dragons’ equivalent of a white flag and also the reason I couldn’t hold onto his horns.
The dragon stopped the fire and now looked ahead, slowly ascending up and down with the beating of his wings. I tried sitting up and after a wobbly step I managed to maintain my balance standing on the dragon’s back. That was quite frankly one of the most fun parts of my job.
I looked ahead and saw the black Giant Dragon much, much closer to us than imagined.
Oh no, he was way bigger than I would have thought.
“Should I make another fire?” The Midi-Dragon asked me.
“No, let’s first try approaching him.”
The Giant Dragon seemed to guess our intent. So, shortly after we started moving towards him, he also just hovered in mid-air.
I had my hands clasped together above my head and after separating them a white banner of light appeared in between of them. This was the human white flag, I guess. Like that, we got closer to the dragon and came to a halt just meters from his face. Which, mind you, was as big as the Midi-Dragon I was standing on.
“ARE YOU THE LEADER OF THIS HUMAN SETTLEMENT?!” He growled with a bass that hopefully didn’t make any of the older buildings in the city collapse. The wind from his breath made me lose my foothold, and I landed on my stomach again, grabbing onto the Midi-Dragon’s scales as to not fall off.
“Yes, I am! But please, could you talk more quietly, you almost blew me off here!” I shouted back, caring more about my survival than etiquette.
“Apologies, human master, I have switched to telepathy. I was in such a long slumber that I haven’t regained proper control over my voice yet.”
“Apologies accepted,” I said in an exasperated sigh. I crawled upwards a bit, until I managed to stand up again.
“So, you said you just woke up?”
“Yes, I’ve been in a very long slumber, I couldn’t tell you for how long though. I have to say it is quite the surprise though, having a human trying to talk to me. Those in my time would either wet themselves trying to escape or break their weapons on my hard scales.”
“I do not intend to do either, that’s for sure.” I managed to squeeze out a chuckle. I mean, that wasn’t the first Giant Dragon I met. Though, sadly, he might be one of the first to not be slain by my hand.
“Say, how about I put you up to speed? A lot has changed even over the past few years.”
“That would be appreciated, I feel like I slept through something very big.”
How big that thing the Giant Dragon slept through really was, he couldn’t know at the moment.
“Let’s meet again in a couple minutes on the field outside of the city. It’s in the direction you came from. There we should be able to talk undisturbed.”
“I’ll be waiting,” the dragon said, as he turned around and flew off.
I ordered the Midi-Dragon to turn around and fly back to the hub. As soon as we landed, I noticed the sirens have already been turned off.
“I assume everything is fine?” Garrett asked me.
“Yes, it’s just another case of a dragon sleeping through major historical events”, I chuckled. “I am going to grab the entry form for him and then meet him outside the city to explain what happened over the last couple years.”
“So, there has been a decade-long war? And I slept through all of it?”
“Yes, there was, and yes, apparently you did.”
“Such a shame.”
He looked really upset about having missed ... a war. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
“Don’t worry, it wasn’t anything special. You barely missed anything of significance, ahahah.” I tried to console him, I guess. Dragons really are a completely different breed.
“So, what exactly happened for there to be war?”
“I don’t know exactly. The war was already going on when I was ... born. And it wasn’t really a war per se, it was just lots and lots of animosity between the people of all the races.”
“But surely you must have heard about the final battle that ended the war then!” The black dragon laid in front of me, his snout placed on his front paws- I mean hands! He sure had an attitude like a dog though. Thankfully, he didn’t wag his tail, or he might have wiped out the entire species of trees growing nearby. As for me, I was sitting on top of the Midi-Dragon, who decided to take a nap on top of a mountain, so that we could talk properly.
Anyway, I felt like some sort of storyteller.
“There wasn’t a final battle.”
The black dragon’s eyes widened at that revelation.
“What do you mean! What kind of a war was it then, that it could be resolved without a final fight!”
“The war was ended peacefully through means of diplomacy by the human princess Zenia and her knight Jordan!” I tried to make this sound as epic and heroic as possible, simply because the dragon brought such an excitement with him, that I wanted him to be satisfied! I had almost as much fun as telling bedtime stories to my kids.
“Hahaha,” the black dragon gave off a bellowing laugh at this. He was still using telepathy for communication, but his facial expressions always fit whatever he said. In other words: I got a genuine laugh from him. “Humans talking for once, instead of trying to murder whatever appears to be different from them. Interesting.”
Sadly, what he said was true for this world as well. I was telling the truth about not knowing what had started this war, by the way. Through my daughters going to school, I’ve come to known what is said to the people about the war, but speaking from my own experience I wouldn’t be surprised if that was all a bunch of crap. But repairing dozens of damaged relationships between nations and species was probably the best outcome for everyone.
“Well, of course we are not on good terms with everyone. But we’ve gotten far enough, that our city is now known as the melting pot of the world. A place where everyone is welcome.” I decided to spread my arms in a grand gesture.
“Except I am too big for your tiny human houses, hahahah,” the dragon laughed again.
“Yeah, that is a problem, but it is also the reason why most of the bigger species shape-shift into something smaller. You’d be surprised at how many dragons actually live in the city.”
“Shape-shifting magic? Boy, if anyone would have thought about that during my times, that sure would’ve lead to less crisp humans, hahahah.”
Yeah, I don’t know what to make of his sense of humor either.
“Well, I am sure that a visit in the city would be quite the change of pace for you, right? I assume this must be the longest conversation you have ever had with a human.”
“Indeed. I tend not to associate too much with humans, they tend to die on me too quickly ... That reminds me however of a couple of my vampire and witch friends ... I wonder if they are still around.”
“I could help you find them,” I offered. “There are a few witches and vampires in our city. If you tell me their names I could see whether they are here, or have visited our city at some point.”
“Such a curious city ...”
“But for that I’d need to ask you to shape-shift into a smaller form. It doesn’t even need to be human if you want people to still recognize you as a dragon.”
“I actually used to shape-shift into a human-like shape back in the day, so let me just-” As he said that he rose onto all fours. As he closed his eyes and let out a loud and warm huff through his nose, he very quickly began to shrink. As he got smaller his hands left the ground, his claws became more delicate, and his wings took on a smaller form reminiscent of elf wings, though still as scaly as his dragon self. He sprouted jet-black hair on his head, and most of the scales disappeared, save for some spots, in which a human would usually have body hair.
And no, I don’t mean his pubes.
At least not only.
As his transformation neared its end, I jogged and slid down the hill.
“Wow, you’re hot,” I said, coming to a halt in front of him. “And I am not saying that because you can breathe fire.”
“Hahah, you got the humor of a dragon, my friend!” He exclaimed, this time with his actual voice. Or rather his human voice. While he appeared very mature, his voice had a youthful and pleasant ring to it. So, while his humanoid form very much had the same aura as his dragon form, his demeanor was almost the opposite.
“Well then, before we head on to the city: May I get your name for the papers?” I asked, bringing out the form, quill and ink from my leather bag, having it float in front of us.
“My name is Crimson.”
I know, an unfitting name for a black dragon.
“They called me that after all the blood my dying enemies left on my scales.”
Don’t worry! He’s a good guy!