Monday, April 7, 2014

Day Six-Seventy-One: Congregation of hairstyles

Weeeeeell. That was... sketchy.

The events of the Contest last week, especially its... ending... left Barrel's aerie in disarray. After a great deal of debate and quiet, draconic sobbing, several members of the aerie airlifted Ridges' body out of sight while the rest bickered with Barrel. Battle lines quickly formed, with many dragons arguing that Barrel had no right to become the Alpha, having essentially won on a technicality. Barrel argued back that he was in second place, and with Ridges gone he was the natural choice for leader, which I found surprisingly militant of him. I'd figured my buddy just wanted control of the aerie to protect his family.

Of course, all of that is conjecture. I've no idea what the dragons were saying. They could've been angrily debating their favourite flavour of custard for all I know. 

The aerie eventually parted ways, the dragons returning to their various nesting grounds, and Evan led us back to his cabin. He was equal parts horrified and elated by the results - disgusted over the death of Ridges, but delighted that he would play witness to a kind of deadlock in draconic society. We couldn't get him to shut up long enough to discuss Libby and Traveller, and Grylock eventually gave the big man the boot. From his own house. It was funny. 

The results of our discussion were also conjectural, though they did a little to set my mind at ease. We came to the following conclusions:

- Libby is safe and healthy. Her bellow as Traveller ran away on Friday was that of a well-fed, enraged, helpless female. 
- Traveller is not abusive towards Libby. Someone with strength such as his could easily rip Libby in half, yet she had no compunctions screaming her lungs out at him. Libby isn't scared; she's just pissed that he won't let her go.
- Traveller thinks Libby is his girlfriend. Or he thinks she should be his girlfriend. I sense that his perception of reality changes from minute to minute. He hurled that fucking rock to impress Libby, and while it was pretty damned impressive, I am not cool with his wooing. Not. Cool.
- Traveller is still on the section of clouds above Rodentia. He hasn't left. Grylock's set up a little scouting post by the Stalk, carved out of the bones of that rogue dragon Antonio killed, and he's seen no signs of Traveller. Guess the bastard likes it up here.
- Traveller has found a new place to live. Mount Thunderstorm has been found out; hence, he wants somewhere more remote where he can continue to cajole Libby into being all romantical. This has since been verified by a return trip to the mountain by Logan.
- Aaaaaand I've gone from scared to annoyed. That's a solid conclusion right there. I want my damned wife back.

To that end, we decided to finally reveal ourselves to the aerie. To Barrel.

The aerie is scattered about Above The Sky, and each dragon or dragon pair has a nest of its own. Some live in caves; some live atop hills; some roost on the uppermost leaves on the Stalk of Rodentia; some bed down in vast fields of burping tandywillows. Yet when the aerie meets they always come together in the same place, the Valley of Thorns, and it's to the Valley that Evan took us today.

The Valley of Thorns is a vast furrow in the top of the primary cloud that comprises Above The Sky. Though geographically similar to the canyon where the Contest took place each day, the Valley of Thorns is filled with, you guessed it, huge clusters of thorn bushes. Hell, I'd call them thorn trees, because the vines are strong enough to hold up full-sized dragons with little trouble. The armoured skin of the dragons allow them to enjoy the thorns as though they were plesant hammocks; visitors with softer flesh (i.e. us) didn't enjoy wading through the area nearly so much.

The Alpha and the Omega have naturally-formed thrones where they receive guests to the Valley. I did not, however, find Barrel upon a throne, nor was his crimson wife. They were lingering nearby, adopting a position of importance but obviously not fully approved as Alpha and Omega just yet. The throng of dragons hissing at Barrel as I approached suggested as much.

Hunting about for a clearing in the thorns, hesitant to do anything in the presence of dragons, I raised a hand. The rest of my party (only Evan and Antonio - I forbade Fynn from coming with us) huddled behind me, as though I could somehow protect them from fucking dragons.

Hand raised, I waited.

And waited. 

And waited.

The dragons didn't notice me at first, or if they did they decided we weren't worth the bother. Eventually, though, a tangerine-coloured flathead turned to inspect me... and a turquoise plowman followed... and once five or six heads were turned our way, a certain greenback dipped his snout to stare at me.

I waved at Barrel. 

He gaped.

"... hey, buddy!" I called. "Long... long time no see!"

I had expected, perhaps hoped, that Barrel would immediately transform into his tiny self and dart straight at me. I figured hugs would commence the moment we locked eyes. Bros reconnecting, right? Old friends? Haven't seen each other in ages? That's the way it goes?

Not so much. Barrel turned his attention to me, for certain, and his expression was warm, but he did no more than nod and smile a little. I suppose a would-be ruler has to show some tact, but that stung. More than I would've expected, it stung.

Unnerved by the gaggle of dragons that clustered around us, I slowly explained the situation. I told Barrel of our journey, of our trip up the Stalk, of the attack on Rodentia (the dragons didn't react to that at all - I guess they don't care that much about sloths?), of Libby's flight and abduction, and, ultimately, of Traveller. The aerie drank in the news in absolute silence, the only sign of their recognition an occasional nod or sideways glance.

At great length, I fell silent. The dragons looked at one another, doubtless discussing my words in their quiet dialect.

I elbowed Evan. "Did I do it right? They're... they're not gonna eat us or somethin', right?"

"They've never eaten me," he replied, though I noticed a slight quaver in his beard. "Dragons aren't sticklers for formality, so I haven't a clue what to expect. Sorry."

"Great," I muttered. "Quite the expert you are."

It took five minutes of apparent discussion, and a lot of furrowed brows and angry gestures, before Barrel addressed us again. Bending low, he transformed into his tiny self and fluttered over to me, motioning to my backpack. I popped it open, and he reached inside -

- and he pulled out this diary. A tiny roll of his eyes suggested that he'd expected nothing less.

"Hey, I'm no quitter," I joked. "Every day, right?"

Barrel nodded. Grabbing at my quill and dipping it in ink, he opened the diary and wrote three words on an empty page. The printing was neither neat nor practiced, but the message was legible enough: COME BACK TOMORROW. One final gesture from Barrel suggested that we'd best be leaving immediately, as all we saw behind my buddy was a wall of hostile glares.

So, yeah. We're back at Evan's home. I'd hoped to enlist the dragons in finding Libby, but I guess they have more to discuss. With any luck they'll agree to aiding our search tomorrow... thooooough I fear Traveller might be in a bit of a pickle if the dragons find him before we do. 

Sigh. I miss the Dauphine. Despite what I said before, I'm sick of the clouds. Another night, another dream of home...


Dragomir the Wanderer


  1. Paragraph 10, last sentence...forgot a 'y'. The throng of dragons hissing angril(y) at Barrel as I approached suggested as much.

    Other than that, if Barrel could help find Ridges murderer along with helping Dragomir, he might prove himself worthy to lead the aerie. Godspeed Barrel!

    1. Poor Ridges. He could have been cool.