Dragon Lore

Lorelei wakes up one day to find she has turned into a dragon! But the story goes much deeper than that. Much, much deeper. Lorelei must overcome her fears and own wants to prevent the dark shadow known as Bhaal from causing another great war between the humans and dragons. Follow her as she grows stronger and learns about herself in this epic adventure of a lifetime.

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6. In which the meal is served.

          The meal hall was a tall building in the far north end of the hold. It was the last remaining man-made structure the dragons still used. Before the Great Separation, human expeditions used to come up here to learn about the frozen landscape, meeting with the Cults for knowledge and warmth. They had built this large hall to accommodate both dragon and human, though it wasn’t as large as it was now.

          At one point, the humans decided to hold a celebration of the new year at this location. Why they chose such a remote and cold location escaped Aldesh, however, the fact remained the expansion benefited them. The dining hall could now house fifty rather hefty dragons, which was all they needed. Their Cult was small compared to the southern Cults of ancient times, where hundreds of dragons would sup together at once. The noise, he imagined, must have been deafening.

          Lorelei followed closely behind, her small form dwarfed against Aldesh’s. She looked around as they entered the building. There was a series of very high and long tables made of simple oak planks. They looked old but sturdy, and lacked the unevenness of aged wood. Two dragons that were oddly small in stature, rushed along one of the tables unwinding a patterned cloth over the length. Lorelei blinked and watched them, catching the eye of the larger of the two. She smiled and waved, but finished unwinding the cloth and dashed back into the kitchen with her brother.

           “Young ones,” she heard Aldesh comment. “They hatched not a year ago. In a few years they should be physically mature, but they won’t be the size of you for another forty years.”

           “Why does it take so long?” Lorelei asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.

          Aldesh raised an eyebrow and looked, surprised at her tone.

           “Dragons take many years to grow as large as some of us,” he said, turning back to the young pair as the raced down the second table following the same procedure. This time it was a floral print cloth, seemingly very well taken care of. “In the end, dragons never fully stop growing either. Felstam and Bromor are the largest of us, and both nearly 10 millennia old.”

          Lorelei watched in silence as more dragons filed in, taking spots at the high tables. She found it odd that there were so many dull shades. Most dragons she had seen in story books were bright colors, but these dragons were plain gray or black with slight shades of other colors. The only one that really stood out was Grimat, her large, brick-red scales like a beacon in the mix of gray-greens and light golds. Lorelei made a point to avoid her gaze, and frowned at the large crowd forming at the tables. It made her feel even more different and uneasy with her bright icy blue scales.

           “This way,” Aldesh instructed. “June is much more welcoming than a cranky nurse-dragon,” he added, observing her slightly nervous, but annoyed gaze towards Grimat.

          He led her down the second table, the floral pattern making her relax a bit. A similar-sized green dragon looked up at the pair from her seat on the stone floor.

           “Al!” she exclaimed with a smile. “Please, come sit!”

          Aldesh smiled at his twin and took a seat next to her. Lorelei took the hint and followed suit, feeling slightly awkward.

           “I heard Bromor threw a fit over Lore right here,” Juniper commented, nodding toward Lorelei.

“News travels fast,” Aldesh added.

“The hold is small,” commented Juniper. “Not much stays hidden here. What are your plans?”

           “Well, all we can do is search the library, I suppose,” Aldesh replied, glancing towards Lorelei, who was very interested in the tablecloth at the moment, apparently not listening. She poked it with a fore claw, making a small hole.

          A shiver ran down her spine as the hole became larger and a soft ripping sound followed.

           “What the hell is goin’ on with this-” she started, but was quickly hushed by Aldesh.

           “It’s alright. Watch.”

          Before her eyes, a soft grumbling came from the tablecloth. It shook slightly, then the threads from the cloth seemed to come alive, waving like tentacles around the hole. Each thread found its opposite and latched to the other, pulling back together until the hole was nonexistent. Another low grumble followed and the cloth fell still and silent.

          Lorelei blinked, still staring at the cloth.

           “New recruits already making holes in the tablecloth, eh?” a tan and gray dragon smiled from down the table.

          Lorelei stuck her tongue out at him and hid her face behind her shoulders.

          The room grew quiet. Lorelei, still puzzled by the table cloth, had taken to sniffing it and rubbing it with her nose, much to its dismay. It protested with a few annoyed groans until Aldesh jabbed her side rather forcefully.

          She jumped slightly, not expecting the pain and growled at Aldesh.

           “What?” she hissed.

          Juniper giggled and pointed toward the front of the room where a long table sat with space for five large dragons. Three has already been filled by a tawny brown and white spotted female, an olive green male with a white underbelly, and a gray-red female with eyes like fire and a smile to match.

          Lorelei said nothing, but a questioning glint escaped, not missed by Aldesh.

           “Those are the elders, one rank below Felstam and Bromor. They help make decisions, or are supposed to, with the president, Felstam,” Aldesh explained. “Though, years of service has made Felstam damn full of himself,” he added in a whisper.

          Juniper shoved him with a playful warning smile and Aldesh clammed up.

          The two aforementioned dragons, Felstam slightly larger than his mate, filed in, sauntering in a manner that made them known to be the top rank. Felstam held his head high, but Bromor simply walked. It made Lorelei think Bromor was perhaps not as keen to this tradition as his partner.

          Someday that attitude is going to bite your hind end, Bromor thought, avoiding a glance toward Felstam. He took his place at the long head table with the elder dragon, nodding toward the audience and to the tawny dragon to his right.

          Felstam remained standing, nodding to the audience.

           “Today is a special day,” he began. Lorelei could have sworn she saw Bromor roll his eyes. Raising a claw, he continued. “We have a very special guest with us today. The young dragon Lorelei comes from a faraway land to claim her place as Rishata Malgonei and bring peace between the ignorant humans and dragon kind.”

          There was a moment’s silence. Felstam took a breath, about to speak again, when a sudden guffaw erupted from the far back. A small snort followed, and the laughter spread like an infection until the entire hall was laughing.

          Surprised by the reaction, Felstam stood, eyes wide in at first confusion, then anger. A low, gruff laugh came from his right, and he looked to see Grimat snorting, holding her stomach, about the fall over.

           “Silence!” he said, but no response. The laughter continued until he could stand no more. “Silence, you fools!” This louder, and more gruff tone made the laughter slow a bit. “Lorelei is a guest in our house and I will have none of you laughing at her, especially since she is the Rishata!”

          Another eruption of snorts and guffaws followed. Lorelei felt like dying. She adopted an expression of extreme annoyance and sat with her head in her right claw, her elbow jammed into the protesting tablecloth.

           “Don’t worry about him,” the dragon to her left said, after bouts of red-faced laughter. He thumped her on the back. “We like ya anyway, Rishata or not,” he chuckled.

          Aldesh turned and smiled. “That’s Prikar,” he explained past the echoes of laughter in the hall. “He’s a really nice guy, and can help you find what you need.”

          The plain-gray-scaled dragon nodded and winked at her. She didn’t smile, but felt a bit better.

          Felstam growled as the two young dragons that set the tables approached him.

           “Just bring the food,” he grumbled.

          The two young ones nodded and dashed into the kitchen in the back, returning with huge plates if baked Alaskan, hare, roasted venison, various fruits that were collected by the far-flying tropics crew, a boar or two with a shiny red apple in its mouth, and even a large cow pilfered from a Canadian farm to the south. They smiled at every dragon they passed, placing the platters on the tables.

          Lorelei would have noticed if she hadn’t been bombarded by a thousand and one greetings and claw-shakes from all present.

           “Hey, Lore! I’m Geldoc! I run the cleanup crew for the sleeping caves. We’re always busy, especially when the young’uns move into their adult rooms. Man, they sure get smelly when they sleep alone. Must be a nervous thing.”

           “Greetings, Rishata! Har har, you know, what a silly fool Felstam is. I’m Kinder! I’ll probably see you around the courtyard. I spend most of the day there chatting.”

           “Yar greetins’, lassie. I’d be Henrik. I’m part o’ the tropics crew. We go oot nearly eff’ry dae and get tha’ tasty fruit y’see right tharr!”

          Overwhelmed by the greetings and welcomes, whether they believed she was Rishata or not, she simply nodded and shook extended foreclaws where possible. She felt very small in comparison with many of them, but they all seemed friendly. She was never much of a fan of meeting new people, but her anger had cooled to the point she could have a semi-interested expression on her blue-scaled face.

          Aldesh looked on, glad she had calmed down a bit from when they had met. He snatched a boar leg and began gnawing on it, stealing a few kumquats from Juniper’s plate. She protested, but he said “Just wan make sure they were gud!” stuffing them all into his mouth before she could snatch them away.

          When the crowd finally dissipated, and the entrees had nearly emptied, Lorelei heard her stomach growl. She didn’t realize she hadn’t eaten anything yet and was a bit annoyed to see nearly empty platters in front of her. She grumbled and picked at a chunk of boar left with a claw.

          She blinked as a large plate of bird, deer, and a whopping serving of fruit and spinach salad was place in front of her. She looked up and Aldesh nodded at her.

           “Blasted crowds are sometimes more annoying than a zit on a zit on a zit, huh?” he snorted.

           “What kind of comparison is that?” she demanded.

           “An annoying one,” he replied. “Now eat before June eats it!”

           “Oh be silent, Al-kumquat-stealer!” Juniper said with a frown. “I liked my kumquats!”

           “Yes, I know. They were delicious,” Aldesh replied, receiving a rough shove from his twin.

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