Friday, August 19, 2016

Jay Visits

The castle is cold where the dragon’s breath does not warm it. I wait in the tower. Others have been captured by the dragon and tried to escape, their bones and ashes joining those of various knights and knaves who have tried to best the dragon down the centuries. I wait, because a prince of the Realm knows about waiting. It is a cousin to duty and a crown is all about duty and nothing else at all. Not love, not friendship, nor even kindness – all such concepts are cast aside for the good of the kingdom. So I wait to be rescued from the dragon, because if I am, the wealth of the dragon’s horde will allow the kingdom to prosper as never before.

The dragon roars far below, faint warmth seeping up through cracks in ancient stone, the roar cut off oddly. There is silent, and odd roars. Ones without fire to them, though the castle shakes and shudders with quakes all its own. I remain in the bed. The bed is protected by old magics, even by the standards of those who made the palace.

The door opens. No one has reached the door before, but what enters is not a knight at all but a boy of eleven who offers up a grin of such innocence it takes my breath away.

“Hi! I’m Jay and I got told there was a prince in a tower so I’m totally hear to rescue you.”

“You defeated the dragon?”

“Uh-huh. Dragons are really ticklish,” he says with a pride even the king would be hard-pressed to match.

“And you are here to rescue me?”

“Prince Dorran of the Realm, yup. Oh!” He snaps his fingers. “Only if you’re one of those ones who has to be kissed, I’m not good at that part. I haven’t had many dates at all.”

I flush, unable not to. “It is true that I do not sleep with women, but neither do I sleep with boys,” I snarl.

Jay blinks. “Huh? But your bed is really big and two people could sleep in it easily you know.”

“It means to have sex,” I say.

“Nope. Sleeping isn’t the same at all. Even I know that, and I don’t do sex with humans cuz most humans aren’t jaysexual,” he says.

“What – wait, you aren’t human?”

“Nope! I’m a Jay,” and he says that as though it should explain everything.

A child prodigy magician, then, no doubt sent to die and as an insult to the Realm. “Very well. Lead on,” I snap, heading to the door.

Jay bounces out. Actually bounces, and skips down the ancient narrow stone steps. I am beginning to think this child is touched by the gods, and not in a good way at all.

The eldest dragon west of the Great Sea is on top of the hoard, and snoring. Jewels and items of power are scattered everywhere, and Jay ignores every single one of them.

“You have not slain the Great Beast?” I demand.

Jay stops and turns. “Why would I do that? He’s pretty friendly and would be tons happier if no one bugged him and left him alone, you know!”

“Friendly,” I repeat.

“Yup. He only tried to burn me to ashes once.”

I stare at Jay, but there is nothing save honesty in his face. I wonder how powerful his magics are, and then am giving a demonstration as I ask about the Realm and he almost casually makes a hole in the world leading to the royal palace. A hole that ignores every ward and protection the Realm has.

My father the King offers rewards, but Jay it turns out just takes them and gives them away to commoners before leaving as strangely as he came. I, on the other hand, have returned without a hoard or any use at all save to bankrupt one of the royal treasures with the cost of my salvation.

It is less than a month before I decide what I must do, and a few more months of learning to understand how it can be done. I leave the palace, one child of the royal line among many, barely noticed for days. Almost no one recognizes me on the road since I spent years as a prisoner to the dragon. The dragon is in his castle, and studies me with eyes of endless fire.

“I have learned how to tickle a dragon,” I say in the tongue of dragons. “And a spell to protect me from fire. This, also, I know: that a dragon can take the form of a human. I do not wish to presume, but you have been lonely for a long time and I – I have nothing to offer the Realm at all.”

“Jay said you might return,” the dragon rumbles, “if you learned anything of jaysome. I did not believe, even knowing something of what Jay is. This is, at least, an adventure.”

And he smiles.

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