Author Topic: Watcher, Rebel, Broker, Beggar: Part One  (Read 94 times)

Rakeela

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Watcher, Rebel, Broker, Beggar: Part One
« on: June 05, 2018, 11:00:48 am »
There were various kinds of dragon in the world I remember.  There were the metallic smallscales, who lived where their scales caught the light; they held themselves forth as seekers of peace and wisdom.  There were shifters, mostly of the armored kin, who considered cities their rightful territory if they could own them unnoticed.  There were the raptoresque hill dragons, who lived together believing utterly in their own draconity, but were not always believed in turn.  There were itinerants of every winged breed who eschewed territory to move between other communities.  There were swamp dragons, sometimes wingless, lurking like philosophical crocodiles in lands valued only for their wild bounty.  There may have been others that I have forgotten.  I remember no wyverns, though their echo of the perfect form resounds with validity.

There were also humans, and there was a great debate about how we could live with them.  The smallscale position was that dragons could be beautiful to humans; humans feared the unknown, and we did not need to be unknown.  The shifter position was that peace was found in trade and shadow; humans lashed out at what they envied, and we did not need to be enviable.  The hill dragons defended their territories as the humans themselves did, with military constructs, asserting that human rapacity could only be answered in kind; this was arguably also the position of the swamp dragons, who built no castles but defended territories where no army could be marched against them without dying of plagues and dragon magics.  I do not know that any of us had found the right answer.  I do not consider mine to be a history of earth.

I was born in forested tundra to a pair of shiftscales who had taken temporary leave of populous southern territories to raise a family where shapeshifting would be a toy and not an obligation.  A shifter who does not learn first their dragon nature might not be a dragon at all.  When eventually I left home, I was briefly itinerant, but I met few dragons.  I had my pick of marginal territories in cold lands.  I settled near a small community of humans who had found a place where the forests provided excellent wood and their crops sprang up with bounty enough to keep them through the long winters.  I found a cave where the humans had once interred their dead and deemed it suitable to live in.  They knew it not, but they were mine, the custodians of my territory.  They feared what lurked in the hills, knowing not that what lurked in the hills valued their well-being.  In this manner I spent some years being a good shifter, albeit a simple one, as I had not yet learned to read.  I watched my people and wondered about their ways.  I stole trinkets from them for my lair, as much in curiosity as in greed.  I also killed several humans who I marked as thieves or brigands, fearing that the tiny settlement I watched over would have no other defense against them, and indeed not wishing for it to have need of defenses lest they be turned against me.  Once I aided a snowbound merchant caravan for no payment.  I would have done more of that had the opportunity arose.

One of my siblings set up a territory near to the south of mine and began to chart a path of great promise between the shifter and smallscale ways.  His lair had no community near it.  He sought to lure one.  He wore a false skin and came to my community and to others through the region, speaking of a good dragon who lived in the mountain, by which he meant himself.  He spoke of the worth of goods and trade.  He invited humans into his very lair and had them expand it.  He directed them in the construction of storage spaces, workshops, and the accumulation of goods.  He learned to read before I did, and studied the workshops intensely, eventually producing a design for mechanical looms that he had his followers construct.  His lair became reeking and noisy, a cacophonous variation to the barrow that I lived in, but his wealth grew impressive while he was yet young.  I visited him often... until the day a great earthquake dropped his mountain on his head, wrecking all that he had built.  His great tool-broken cave had an entrance in which I was standing when it happened.  The catastrophe spared me.  The antechamber did not collapse upon me.  I tried to dig my brother from the rubble, but I could not save his life.  Had he lived, his life would have changed the history of that world.

I took from his wealth what of it I could carry off.  My hoard grew dramatically, but I grew bored of my community.  My brother had been vital.  In his absence I realized that I was not.  Nor were there many other dragons who winged their way through my territory, nor were the farmers and shepherds I watched over rising to any ambition.  They farmed the land.  They produced some pigments and some petty wooden crafts, neither of which impressed the travelers who came still to buy the local wool.  They were sedate amidst the cold.

The village's greatest sophistication was a blacksmith, whose presence I did not notice until he built his bloomery.  Thereafter he proved a man of rigor and strength.  He selected the wood for his home with perfect care, built it upon a perfectly square foundation, and considerably higher than his neighbors; this style straight and tall described several houses constructed after his, as well as two buildings near the center of the community that were rebuilt, including the painter's shop.  The blacksmith painted his home black with white corners and white accents.  I admired the blacksmith, more than any of the others, but I feared him as a potential builder of traps and weapons.  And he was wholly unlike the others, who at best imitated him, but could not seem to change the conditions of their own lives.

I took to setting fires.  One human had changed more in years than a community had changed in decades.  They did not need the way they had been doing things, and I had not my brother's bravery or charisma to change things myself.  What I broke would be replaced in better forms.  And so it was, for a year or two, with growing stress and fear in the village as they were beset by some unknown burning ghost.  Until the day I got caught, which was also the day I set a fire that ate the village whole.

Rakeela

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Re: Watcher, Rebel, Broker, Beggar: Part One
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2018, 11:01:54 am »
I've been writing and rewriting this story for years.  Some of the forumites here may find it recognizable, in part or in whole.  It isn't meant to influence anyone or anything.  It's mine.