How did Elizabeth befriend fairy dragon April? Certainly not the way she expected.
Mama insisted Elizabeth be out in the fading flower garden this cool, clear autumn morning. Cutting flowers for the house was indeed a crucial task for an eleven-year-old young lady, deserving of Elizabeth’s full attention. Wandering outside among the fresh air and crisp breeze was lovely. But, when she was done, she would be expected inside to sit through another interminable lesson in the art of arranging flowers.
It was difficult to think of something she cared less about. Very difficult indeed. Yet, the process seemed to please Mama, so in that, it was a worthy endeavor. But truly, in the larger scheme of things, it seemed rather silly.
Elizabeth snipped another yellow fluffy flower—what was the name of it? Several petals shook loose and floated to the ground as she tucked it in her basket. Somehow it was far easier to remember the various dragon species and their distinctions than these silly flowers. She sniffled and rubbed her itchy nose against her sleeve. Foolish flowers!
Still though, the entire affair had one very great upside to it, so much so, she felt little need to find a way out of the task. Sometimes, if she was very lucky, a pair of fairy dragons flitted among the flowers. Occasionally, when she put out a saucer with honey and preserves, they stopped to gorge themselves on her offerings, allowing her time to study the delightful tiny creatures.
Usually they were mistaken for humming birds or other small song birds, but that only made the wee creatures all the more delightful. Brightly colored gems among the dull garden plants, their songs were so sweet that they lulled all but the most determined listener to sleep.
Already she had drawn several detailed images of their wings and feet and eyes. Once the larger male left a lovely lavender feather scale behind which she pressed in her common place book—a treasure she could hardly set a value upon. Another time, they flew chittering circles around her head, their voices so high and words so fast she could hardly understand them, but what she had understood was complimentary. They were grateful for the sweets she had offered them.
Perhaps she might see them today. That would make cutting all these silly, sneezy flowers worthwhile. It was not likely though, not this late in the season. Usually in the autumn, according the Papa’s dragon lore, they would be busy making warm nests in which to spend the winter. Unlike the larger dragons who could tolerate the frigid weather insulated against the temperatures in their underground lairs, fairy dragons heartily disliked the cold and tried to sleep through the winter season altogether in nests they shared with one another built in tree hollow.
Or so the books said; sometimes they were wrong, maybe this would be one of those days. But she would not tell Papa. He did not appreciate those sorts of observations.
She crouched down to cut a stem near the ground.
“Mrrow.” A fuzzy head bumped her elbow and nearly caused her to drop her scissors. Rumblkins wove around her ankles and purred.
“Good afternoon to you.” She extended her hand, and he rubbed himself against it, giving her tacit permission to pet his luxurious fur.
The tatzelwurm sported long striped fur on his feline front half while his back, snake-like half was covered in dark, sleek scales. Mama and her sisters were persuaded he was a large farm cat. How very surprised they would be to discover he was a small dragon.
“What brings you to the flower garden? Pray tell me we do not have a family of rats living here!” She jumped back a bit—rats were truly horrid creatures.
“No, no rats.” He sat back on his haunches and licked his thumbed paw. Such funny feet he had. “But there is something in the woods I think you and your father would want to know.”
She gasped and dropped her scissors. “What is wrong?”
“Oh, nothing is wrong, everything is perfectly normal and natural.”
She tucked her scissors under the flowers in her basket and sighed softly. “But then, why have you come to talk to me?”
“It is something I think you want to know, not something that is wrong.” The tufted tips of his ears flicked.
There was a reason why tatzelwurms had a reputation for being a bit daft.
“Pray tell me then what normal and natural things might my father and I find interesting?”
“There is a pair of fairy dragons that you have been watching in the garden.”
Now that could be significant indeed. Pray nothing had happened to them. “A purple male and a green female.”
“Yes them. They have been preparing their winter nest with the rest of the purple one’s harem. They completed it several days ago.”
She peered over her shoulder into the woods. “Will you show me where their winter nest is?”
“I can, but I hardly think that is the thing you would be interested in.”
Tatzelwurms required a great deal of patience.
She forced her face into a smile. “Even more intriguing. Pray tell me.”
“The pair had another nest you see, with eggs.” Rumblkins licked his lips.
“Is it not late in the season for fairy dragon eggs?”
Rumblkins rose up on his haunches. “Indeed, those flitterbobs made a muck of things and waited too long to take their mating flight and laid their eggs far too late. Now the eggs are in the nest, but the brood parents have gone away to keeps snug for the cold season. The eggs are alone and near to hatching. Just this morning, I saw a weasel sniffing around the tree with the nest. Your father said he wanted to know of abandoned eggs. He promised me—”
“Dried cod, yes, I remember him telling me. Come to the house with me, and I shall tell Papa straight away. He will bring you some cod. I am sure he will want you to show him where the eggs are. I think he will want to rescue them.”
Rumblkins licked his lips, purring, and followed her to the house in his funny spring-and-hop way. It really was one of the oddest forms of locomotion one could imagine. Many thought it addled their brains to bounce around so much. There were times it seemed entirely likely.
Elizabeth searched for Papa, but he was neither in his book room nor in his room upstairs. Mrs. Hill finally revealed that he was gone into the village on business and was not expected back until near dinnertime.
Botheration! What a time for him to be away. Those eggs were in danger and might well not survive the day left alone with a weasel in the vicinity. What was she to do? The Blue Order made it very clear, it was a Dragon Keeper’s duty to preserve dragon life wherever possible. She had to do something to try to say those eggs.
But how? She was only a girl, what could she possibly do?
She detoured through the kitchen and rooted through the pantry for a dry cod—conveniently to be found in a wooden box on a low shelf. Rumblkins sat nearby whispering to the cook, the maid and Mrs. Hill that there was nothing notable whatsoever going on. There was no reason to ask why or to even notice Elizabeth in the kitchen at all.
Elizabeth had never really seen dragon persuasion in action before. It was difficult to tell what was more interesting, watching him tell Longbourn’s staff what to think, or them pausing with a peculiar look on their faces, considering what the little dragon was saying. Then they would mutter to themselves something that sounded very much like what Rumblkins was saying and go about their business once more.
Did everyone respond to persuasion that way, or was it peculiar to Longbourn alone? Perhaps one day she would have the opportunity to see that for herself.
With the staff amply distracted, Elizabeth took a large cod from the box and led Rumblkins outside.
Stubborn creature insisted on gobbling down the entire fish before he was willing to show her the tree with the nest. Just how long could it take a tatzelwurm to eat a single fish?
Apparently quite some time when he enjoyed it as much as Rumblkins appeared to love cod. He savored each bite, licked his paws, Elizabeth’s hands and the step where she had placed the fish. Was he trying to be frustrating?
“Will you take me to the nest now?”
“Will you give me another fish when we return?” He balanced on his serpentine tail and bumped her elbow with the top of his head.
“If the eggs come back safely with me, you will have two fish.”
He rubbed himself around her ankles and between her feet, purring. “Mrrow, come.” He leapt off in the direction of the woods. Elizabeth ran to keep up with him.
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