We now come to one of my favorite chapters. Yesterday I posted chapter 1 and we learned that I, as a writer, decided chapter 1 was boring and completely unnecessary. We also learned that I, as a person, was WAY too lazy to go through and renumber all of the chapters.
This was not a bad thing since I introduced my recurring character, the Narrator. (Yep, he comes back to do more than just tell a lame story. But as the story opens we meet our main characters, one of which is my favorite of the book and that is Jewel.
Jewel is a long winded fast talker who takes over any conversation she comes across and her words FLEW out of me in such a natural way I knew I’d love basing things around her. I didn’t know what was going to happen as I wrote. No clue. I knew as much about the rest of the book as you do as you read it but things started to take place as Jewel entered the story.
I hope you enjoy reading her rants as much as I enjoyed writing them. (Hmmm, I liked writing for the ranter.) And if you like what you read, head over and buy the whole book on Amazon.
A Hunt, A Creature, and a Girl
Seth’s dad was getting older and his hunting had gotten worse. Or at least, that’s what Seth would say anytime his dad missed a bird or other game that he hit.
Right now his dad was sick and unable to hunt at all so Seth said that he and Drake, would do so, even against his father’s objections.
Drake is Seth’s pet dragon, well.. Sort of.
Dragon is the common term and Seth would be quick to correct you. Drake is actually known as a Dracon (Dray-cone), a dragon-like creature of modern times. The main differences between Dracons and dragons being its size is much smaller than a dragon, and the second difference being that it actually exists.
I know what you are thinking, dragons do exist, there are tons of historical texts and movies showing them flying about, setting things on fire, hoarding treasures, and kidnapping women. But come on, dragons are so very impractical. With their size a few hundred of them would overrun a nation in no time.
Drake is a medium sized Dracon with deep black scales, highlighted with hints of bright yellow scale tips and a bright yellow tuft of hair on the bottom of its long snout. He has a wingspan of around 4 feet when fully extended and is about 5 feet long, mostly thanks to his tail which he is extremely proud of yet often unable to fully control.
Seth’s home was on the cliff face, a little plot of land that was somehow flat and large on the side of sheer cliffs. There was even grass and a couple of trees growing in impossibly soft soil.
Seth’s mom used to have a garden full of vegetables which Seth had tried to keep going. While he had been highly intrigued by his moms ways with animals and learned all she could teach his young mind, gardening had always been rather boring to him and there was much he didn’t know making him unable to grow food as large and plentiful as his mom. A lot of seasons he was unable to grow anything at all.
Coming to the edge of the cliff he could see clouds hanging before him coming in from the ocean and looming over the valley below. If it wasn’t raining yet in the valley it would be soon.
Drake sat beside him hunched low to the ground with his snout peering over the edge and looking down. They weren’t strangers to the valley but they had never hunted alone when it meant food or hunger.
While he was very accustomed and knowledgeable of the valley there were terrible and powerful creatures down there and if you stepped wrong or looked at them funny you would not make it back. The Rahn valley was surrounded by the Dorahn mountains which created a horseshoe around it, with the open end on the west side touching the ocean.
“Well boy, are you ready to do this?”
Drake let out a reassuring roar/purr. No, Dracon’s roars are not quite as menacing as a dragons, I mean, it’d be the difference between a body builder yelling at you and a horse jockey yelling at you. But don’t be fooled, they can be deadly. Seth smiled at his friend and patted his head then turned and started down the cliff side.
The stairs down, if you could call them that, were nearly invisible unless you knew they were there. Sheer mountainside rock cut out and formed by time, weather, and Rahnians. While most, even if they know where they are, would be going slowly due to small steps and at times only wide enough for one foot to step, Seth practically ran down them having done so many many times before. Drake would walk behind him most of it, at times flying when it wasn’t wide enough for his wings to pass without scraping the wall face.
Reaching the bottom Seth could see now along the edge of the mountain, where a clearing lay between it and the forest. It was raining towards the coast and it was headed this way. Seth looked around for Drake who had found a small pool of water to play in.
“Drake, come on, we need to hurry.”
Drake had been fully submerged in the water except the end of his snout, he was shooting a fountain of fire, water, and steam up into the air and giggling, only noticeable at this time by the shaking under water in between spurts. He stuck his head up when he heard his friend and a bit of water left over from his makeshift fountain hit him in the head, water dripped from his bright yellow goatee. He zipped up and flew into the air, shaking most of the wetness from him and headed to follow Seth into the forest.
If the Dorahn mountains had not existed, Rahn Valley would have been called Rahn Forest. One of those forests so large, so vast, so dense and so storied that it deserved its own name. Sure there were clearings, there were some savannahs here and there, but the forest itself was that of legend around the rest of Agnos, though just another day for people of the valley.
Being basically cut off from the rest of the world creatures adapted to survive, which made them stronger. Other creatures lived here that couldn’t be found anywhere else. The stories of why varied from creature to creature and Seth knew only a few. These creatures are not rampant across the valley, just strong enough to survive and numbered enough to be legend.
Seth was hoping to quickly find some small game on the edge of the forest, something to keep them fed for a day or two but the impending storm had kicked all of the animals instincts into gear and they had retreated towards to the protection of the denser forest.
Seth motioned at Drake to go higher. This had been something his dad had taught him. With Drake up higher he could scan more of the land. Seth’s dad would lead the basic direction with his hunting skills and Drake would steer them towards larger game he spotted. Seth was less sure of his hunting abilities but knew that Drake would want a basic direction to go so he headed one of the ways his father favored.
An hour later and they were in dense forest, the rain started to pour and Seth was getting anxious. He was excited to prove himself but knew that getting caught in a storm with no catch was no way to do it.
He was about to call Drake and head back when he noticed Drake sitting atop a limb halfway up a tree about 100 feet in front of him. Drake was staring intently towards his left. He had game in his sight.
Seth started to head left then up, then left then up… another trick his dad showed him. Go towards the middle of Drake and the prey so as to not give both positions away and if you can see what Drake sees, get to the other side and flank it.
In this rain he could barely see anything though. Drake was noticeable based solely on those bright yellow spots and his soaked tuft of hair dripping beneath his snout. Seth wiped his brow, cupped his hand over his eyes while wishing he’d remembered his hat in the excitement to leave, and squinted towards where Drake is staring.
It took a minute but then, under a bush in the distance, he saw what he believed to be a large rat, or maybe a possum… but then it turned and while its body still looks as a possum he saw a tail of feathers.
In a flash he saw Drake dive towards it to pin it (typically Drakes role was that of pointer dog or possibly pin a smaller prey, Seth was keen not to turn Drake into an all out killer) when the creature suddenly spread wings just under the span of Drakes and not made of scales but a shimmering rainbow of colored feathers.
Impossibly, Seth thought, the fat animal lifted off the ground but simply not quickly enough, Drake pinned it back to the ground and cooed in admiration of his own ability while at the same time a screech occurred from the distance beyond the shrubbery the creature had been.
A young voice screaming “NOOOOOO”.
A young girl of about 12 from what Seth could make out through her rain coat, rain hood, hat, gloves, and knapsack on her back came running towards Drake and the creature.
“YOU’RE HURTING HER. GET OFF YOU BEAST. LEAVE! HER! ALONE!”
Drake was as noticeably surprised as Seth and against his want to please his friend he released the creature and retreated behind Seth’s legs, looking more like a dog that had just been scolded for chewing the couch than a fierce hunter and stoic animal.
Seth inched forward towards the girl as Drake acted as though they were playing a 3 legged race, not letting him too far away. When he was close enough to talk through the sound of the pouring rain without yelling yet still far enough away to run if she went crazy again, he started.
“Ummm, what is that thing?”
At this the girl stopped comforting her creature and jumped up, instantly in Seth’s face as though by magic. “Thing? THING? She is not a THING she is my pet. Perhaps I should call your vicious beast a THING and see how YOU like it. That THING should be on a leash anyway.”
Flinching at each emphasized word (which was most of them) Seth tried another way. “Sorry, you’re right. Drake didn’t mean anything we were just hunting for food and I didn’t mean to offend you I’ve just never seen one of… of… yeah I still don’t know what that is.”
As though a switch was flipped to a totally different personality the girl beamed as she started to talk about her friend. “Isn’t she beautiful? Her name is Scratch and she’s an Eenie. My mom found her in her travels. She travels a lot and brings me back things every time but this was her best by far. There are only a few other in existence but Scratch is the best of all of them my mom said so and she should know because she knows all about animals. Heeeeeyyyy, that’s a Dracon isn’t it?”
“Yeah, you know about Dracon’s too?”
“Well yeeeahhhh. I said my mom knows all about animals and she taught ME all about animals and teaches me more about animals when she comes back from her travels. She sees all kinds of exotic animals. Not just across Agnos but all over the world. Mom says the most exotic animals in Agnos are in the Rahn Valley and there aren’t that many exciting ones to see outside the mountains but in other parts of the world there are even more exotic animals. Of course, she says, they are only exotic because we don’t see them everyday and if we saw them everyday they wouldn’t be exotic and that if we’d never seen a bear or a deer or a fish they would seem pretty exotic the first time we saw them but that’s my mom for ya. Always looking at things from many ways. Saaaayyyyy, you were hunting? What are you doing hunting in this rain? You’re not gonna find many animals right now unless you go to the middle of the forest and I wouldn’t suggest doing that. My mom always says if you’re gonna go out alone make sure you know the area you’re in and don’t get lost and remember your way back and don’t forget your raincoat ’cause you never know when it will start raining. Hey, you don’t have a raincoat? Its easier to hunt in the rain with a raincoat I always say. Well, I don’t ALWAYS say, in fact I say don’t hunt in the rain but I say I always say a lot, that’s what my mom tells me I never noticed until she told me. I don’t recognize you and I know most of the people in this part of the Valley. Do you live up in the mountains? That would make sense because the Dracons are found in the mountains and it would explain why you don’t know much about hunting. My name is Jewel, what’s your name?”
Seth felt out of breath after listening to Jewel and was searching for responses to the questions he could remember… name name, she asked my name, “Uhh, Seth. And we know how to hunt we just weren’t able to find anything before the rain started but you are right, we live up on the Cliffs, about an hour away.” He was going to try and remember the rest of her questions but he need not have bothered as he probably could have gotten by with just his name, she was off again.
“More like 2 hours in this rain and lightning is coming soon, you’ll be sitting ducks on the cliff face if it starts lightning. No offense to you,” She turns her head to the creature slowly moving from behind Seth’s legs, “Drake was it? Not the most original name for a Dracon but still better than Shadow, Spark, Freeze or any of the countless silly and needlessly descriptive names some people have given their animals depending on their power. What’s his power? You know to be safe you should just come to my place. Its not far, about 15 minutes in this rain. You’re not going to find any game and its dangerous to climb a cliff in a storm, I always say. “
Seth chuckled under his breath at the irony that she had already said this. “What about your Eenie? Isn’t Scratch a bit descriptive for her?” Seth had noticed the claws on Scratch along with an elongated snout (if it HAD been a possum) that was full of small sharp looking teeth. As they were walking Scratch kept running back and forth finding something new to sniff on trees which seemed to amuse Drake to no end since he wouldn’t take his stare off of the small chubby animal nor leave Seth’s side by more than a few feet. It was normally quieter at Seth’s house so Drake was a little thrown off by the constant torrent of words dripping from this new persons mouth faster than the rain from his own goatee.
“Despite her a-BILITY to scratch its not something she does. Scratch was the nickname of my uncle, my moms brother. He used to come and visit all the time and he and my dad would go hunting for days at a time. They got along really well and he always said “I only had a sister so I could get a brother in law” but he didn’t really mean it he actually loved my mom a lot and I think he would have come around even if he had to stay in and play cards with my mom all the time. That’s what they would do, they played cards a lot. Kings game, he called it. I’ve never played I think cards are BORE-ING but they loved it well enough and they would sit and talk and laugh but my dad and uncle would hunt more than play cards with mom but that was OK with me because then I got to spend time with my mom and we would talk about animals and she would tell me all about her travels and show me books on animals and distant lands and, did I say my mom has lots of books? I know, its weird to say that around here but mom says in big cities there are entire buildings full of books where people just go and read and learn. Have you ever read a book? I’m sorry, I’m not saying you look stupid. You don’t SOUND stupid anyway, you aren’t stupid are you? I don’t think so and its not how you feel about yourself but how someone else feels about you I always say. My mom says I got the ‘I always say’ from my uncle but I had never noticed him saying it until she pointed it out. Anyway, he doesn’t come around anymore. Not because he doesn’t like me, he told me he loved me all the time, but there was a war in the place he lived and he and my dad went and helped with the war. Their side won but they didn’t make it. Mom doesn’t talk about it much.”
At this, the first break in conversation where Seth could get a word in edgewise and he had no idea what to say. The only death he had ever dealt with was his mom and he and his dad didn’t talk about it too much other than occasionally saying “Remember when mom…” He knew this must really affect her to cause her to stop talking. She didn’t look like she was about to cry but just kind of stared at her feet for a moment. Seth finally did speak up “I’m sorry, my mom is dead too.”
“Thanks. Sorry about your mom.”
“Its OK, it was a while back.” Seth chewed on this statement that seemed a bit easy to say. Drake had done a good job filling the hole left by his mom. “So, why was your uncle called Scratch?”
Jewel actually looked relieved to have more to talk about. “Well, according to my mom who loved to talk all about her brother, “ Seth imagined a house full of people talking constantly like ducks quacking in a pond, “when they were growing up the other kids picked on him all the time. And my mom says she didn’t like this and always wanted to step in for her little brother but he always said no its fine. She says he always just walked away and never let it bother him and always kept a smile on his face until one day, this one kid who never seemed to like him started making fun of THEIR mom. I mean, can you imagine it, someone making fun of your mom? Oh sorry, but you know what I mean right? Right, so he got really angry and told the kid to meet him at a clearing in the forest and they would fight. My mom tried to teach him how to fight but its hard to learn something new in one hour I always say, and he had never fought before, I mean he was real young at the time. Younger than me, my mom says and this kid was twice his size but he was determined to fight for himself. My mom says she went with him and was determined to step in if it got too bad but she didn’t have anything to worry about because the kid was still making fun of their mom and my uncle got mad all over again and my mom says his wild side kicked in and he started scratching him all over. His face, his arms, anywhere he could and my mom says he never liked making his nails short they were always long like… well, like yours I guess and the kid was screaming and all the other kids in the valley, my mom says all the other kids in the valley but I think she was exaggerating, that means making it sound like more people were there then there were they were all cheering and from that point on he had lots of friends and everyone called him Scratch. He hated it at first, my mom says but when she told him they all respected him he accepted it. Hey, that’s my house up there.”
Seth looked up, expecting to see a clearing but instead seeing a house that seemed to be built around the trees it was surrounded by. It wasn’t one of the densest parts of the forest by far but Seth wondered how they ever made it work and how big it could be on the inside. Scratch ran/flew to the door, (well, flew is generous. While Seth had already seen the awkward looking fat creature start to actually take off and get some air it seemed to be perfectly happy on the ground) and waiting for Jewel to open it. As he got closer and once inside confirmed it appeared the house was two L shapes stuck together at the short end on opposite sides. If you were inside at one end and wanted to get to the other side you’d have to walk a ways, turn left, walk a shorter ways, then turn right and walk a ways again.
“MOM I’M HOME.” They entered into a kitchen and Jewel started removing her wet protective layers. Besides being shorter and younger than Seth, she had bright red and curly hair with pale skin, contrasting Seth’s own darker hair and tanned skin from being outside all the time. He decided he probably wouldn’t get as tan if he were under the shade of trees all the time. She took the small jacket that Seth had worn and laid them all over on a chair by a fire that Scratch was already sitting near and shaking himself dry. “Drake, its OK boy. Don’t be scared of me.”
“He’s not scared of ANYTHING” Seth got temporarily defensive at this statement although the irony of the statement fell flat on him since Drake was still hunkered behind his legs. “We just don’t get to visit people much you see.” He turned to Drake, “Its OK boy, she’s trying to help us.” The reassuring voice of his friend seemed to calm him and he inched towards the talkative new person hesitantly, tail tucked under nervously, and raised his head to sniff her hand which she reached out palm down to let him. She then scratched his goatee which immediately relaxed him and he started his purring/cooing to her touch.
“Ahh, you’re a good boy aren’t you… you can sit by the fire with Scratch and warm up if you like.” Drake walked over to the fireplace, started to sniff at this new animal who was half his length though still slightly bigger around when Scratch let out a bit of a low growl, causing Drake to take a step to the side and lay down and tuck his head into his wing, warming his snout.
“Looks like they’re getting along just fine, best friends I’ll bet they’ll be.” Seth was going to comment on the growl but thought better of it.
“So what were you doing out in the rain?” He asked instead.
“Well, I was cooking my world famous soup and realized I didn’t have any wild onion left. Can’t make a world famous soup without wild onion I always say. And Scratch is great at finding wild onion ’cause she loves the stuff but she wasn’t much help in this rain so I had to find a patch that I knew about already.” She pulled small onions out of her knapsack and held them up as if to say ‘Ta Da’ and went to start chopping and adding the onions to a boiling pot on their stove. “This is a recipe my dad taught me and its world famous. I’m not just saying that my mom has taken this soup with her in her travels and when she comes back my mom says how anyone who has tried my soup says how much they love it so you see it really is world famous. You can’t be world famous unless people from all over the world has tried it I always say. Don’t worry, there is enough for you to try as well, so it will be famous on the Cliffs as well.”
“Hi sweetie, who’s your friend?” Jewels mom walked in and Seth noticed how she was dressed. His mom was always in dresses and her hair done up but Jewels mom was dressed more like his dad, in overalls and a thick woolen shirt, her hair was down and messy. Not that she wasn’t pretty just that it wasn’t perfect like his mom had always tried to keep him.
“This is Seth. He lives on the cliffs and came down to hunt but got caught in the rain. Look mom, he has a REAL Dracon. His name is Drake and he and Scratch are best of friends now. He was too far from his home to get back safely so I told him he could come here until the rain stops and he’s hungry so I thought we could share my world famous soup. I told him all about my world famous soup and how you took it all over the world. He was looking forward to meeting you, I told him ALLLL about you.”
Jewels mom just smiled, obviously used to the constant waterfall of speech from her daughter, “My name is Cindy and it is nice to meet you Mr Seth. Yes you can stay and eat. Why were you out hunting in the rain?”
Seth half expected Jewel to start answering for him but after a short pause, (long pause to Jewel) he started, “Nice to meet you too ma’am. My dad normally does the hunting but he has been sick lately and we didn’t have much food. Oh man, my dad. He’s going to worry about me and he doesn’t have much of anything to eat and…”
“Its OK Mr Seth,” Cindy started, “Your Dracon, is he well trained?”
“Oh yes ma’am. I trained him myself.”
“Perfect. Trained Dracons are basically like carrier pigeons. We can write a note to your dad and I think we have some meat we can send and Drake can take it to him. Dracons are amazing creatures and yours is a beautiful one.” Drakes ears perked up knowing they were talking about him, his tail wagging slightly.
“Isn’t he, Mom? I knew you’d be impressed by Drake. As soon as I saw him I said Tats a Dracon my mom told me all about them.”
“Yes, I haven’t seen one in awhile. Jewel, go get one of Scratch’s carrier bags and some of the leftover meat we had yesterday. Then find some of your dads old clothes and lay them out for our new wet friend. I’ll write your dad a letter and let him know where you are.”
Seth changed into the clothes set out for him which, while quite oversized, were warm and comforting. A braided belt of hide had been brought in by Cindy to help keep is pants up as she apologized they didn’t have anything more his size. When he got back to the kitchen he saw Drake on the table being fussed over by the two ladies. It turned out the carrier bag for Scratch was a size or two too large for his more slender frame and they were coming up with ways to keep it on. Drake didn’t seem to notice, as every time they stopped to discuss other ideas they would each be absentmindedly petting him causing him to purr and roll on his back to have his belly scratched. His tail went a little too wild and knocked a cup off the table making the girls laugh and giving Scratch something to lick up.
When they were done, they all stood by the door and Cindy started giving instructions. “OK Seth, you are going to tell Drake just what you want him to do. Speak directly just like you were giving me directions. Let him know to wait for a response and to come back when your dad writes one. Dracons are natural travelers and he will remember his way back.”
Seth did as instructed, scratched Drakes yellow goatee, opened the door, and his pet took off into the rain. They all gathered back in the kitchen, plates were set out and food served. Before he could dig in and start eating hands came at him from both sides, reaching out to him. He grabbed hesitantly as a prayer started for their food. During the prayer, Seth hummed a tune to himself his mother had taught him.
Seth had built up some nerves about sitting down for dinner not wanting to continue talking about himself. His nerves were unfounded, however, as Jewel did plenty of talking. Seth was amazed at how well her mother could keep up with the conversation. Like a beautiful dance Cindy would catch the breaks in Jewels tango, do her own quick waltz, and clear the floor in time for her daughter to start again.
Jewel took the time to fill in her mother on what all she knew about Seth which, even though it was barely anything, she made it sound like they’d known each other for years. If you could keep up, she became a master storyteller. I think so, anyway, and it takes a great storyteller to spot one, I always say.
What? You’re not paying me to comment on the story but to tell it? As I recall you aren’t paying me at all but alright, if you insist.
Drake returned shortly after dinner was over and was given a big meal by Cindy by the hearth, Scratch just didn’t think it was very funny that it was served in her bowl. Jewel read the letter out loud without being asked.
“Cindy, thank you for showing such hospitality for my boy and for sending this meal to me. I will repay you as soon as possible. I know how these storms in the valley are so if these two need to stay overnight please tell them both I said to behave. Don’t let him fool you, my boy can be a handful when he wants to be. (At this point in the letter was a crudely drawn stick figure with a smiling face marking the worlds first emoticon.) I am unable to know exactly when at this point but as soon as I’m able I plan on coming down to meet the family that was so nice. Thank you again, David.”
Seth was given a cot in the living area to sleep on. It wasn’t as big as his bed so Drake wasn’t able to sleep next to him. Instead, after Seth lay down, Drake climbed up and slept on his legs, flying up and coming back down each time his friend tossed and turned in the night. Despite unfamiliar surroundings, a less comfortable sleeping area, and a Dracon sleeping on top of him, Seth had a good night sleep. Morning, however, came with a knock at the door.