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My Young Life by Fren-Eirol

Dragons lead very ordinary lives

Based on notes from a conversation, Fren-Eirol chats about various aspects of her life, with interesting insights into her younger life.

I was born, oh, rather a long time ago, in the very south of what was then known as The Prelates, though it has a different name now. Of the two largest continents, it is the smaller and better populated, but where we were was very quiet. Our dragon village was near the cliffs, just a hop and a flap from the small fishing village of Me-Lin Hoe in the south of Cartenor; a beautiful, if an underpopulated region of the continent. This was a poor place with a very small community, but we and the humans worked together closely and enjoyed each other's company; a rarity between humans and dragons at that time.

Cartenor is one of the warmest places on Dirt and as a youngster, before I could fly, I would play in the surf with my friends or take long walks along the flat sands looking out south over the endless ocean. I suppose it was a romantic place, in some ways, and in my later life I was pleased to find myself living on a shore that had some of the quietness and tranquility that I grew up with.

Our community, like most Sea Dragon communities, was small and made up of people from diverse backgrounds. Dragons are really not particularly family orientated. I think this is because of our long lives where there is a good chance that we will lose contact with those we have been related to by blood and so will see them as no more important than our friends. Over centuries, most dragons will live in many places, though some, like the Draig yr Anialr, are more likely to stay for several generations.

My mother had two children, but we were born a hundred years apart and I never met my elder sister. After all the centuries, I could not even tell you her name.  It was not important to me when young and not important to me now. After I left the village, I very rarely saw my mother and she eventually moved on and I do not know her fate. For dragons, a family is about those you meet in your life; your friends. For me, my human friends Eafa and Johnson Farthing, Mistry, Pree and Farthing's sister Rustina were family, as was Be-Elin, the Draig yr Anialr. And, of course, Bren-Aneirin, my partner.

Dragons are not territorial like you humans and we do not have wars between ourselves, though the odd fight is not unknown, especially amongst the beer-loving reds. But that does not mean we are not protective of our friends and our homes.

We like peace in our world and we believe in fairness and truth; lying and deceit does not come to us naturally. Anyone that threatens that peace will not be making friends of any of my kind.  My young life was spent contributing to my community and enjoying the company of my friends, especially Lonetta, a human of my age from the fishing village. When I moved on, I quickly discovered how rare that closeness between dragons and humans had become. Red Dragons, in particular, had severed many links with their human neighbours.  I found this depressing and unnecessary and where I could, I continued to have human friends.

When I met Mab-Aneirin on the stones of the Catre Sarad on Taken, I was as much enamoured by his resolve to halt the growing separation between the species as I was by his gentle humour and fun.  We decided to pair, calling ourselves Bren and Fren, and our oaths were witnessed by Eafa and a very unwilling Bren-Diath.  I am glad that many years later that that old Ice Dragon eventually became such a dear and close friend though it was a rocky road.

There are several people who have captured both my head and my heart, I suppose. 

My Bren, Bren-Aneirin, is the most obvious, and his constant argument against the growing distance between humans and dragons was important and conducted with so much dignity. Mistry always has my heart. I never have had children of my own, not uncommon with dragons, and Mistry, though human, became very much a daughter. She is a rarity, perhaps a little like Lonetta was, in that she saw "friend" before she saw "dragon" and that ease of friendship meant much to me and other dragons too.

Johnson Farthing was, in the end, a hero, and was admired by thousands, but to me, he was the young lad, out of his depth and desperate to learn all he could so that he could rescue his sister.  He too didn't judge people by anything other than their honesty and their friendship. 

If I was to choose one who meant more to me in so many ways than any other, it would be my friend Eafa, often known as Weasel. Some saw him as silly, some as a waste of space, but his knowledge of both humans and dragons was immense and in between his foolishness, he was the wisest and cleverest of us all.  Very few knew his true contribution to what happened and fewer still realise that without him we would have failed.  He will always have my love and my gratitude, if for nothing else for encouraging me to spend time with Mab-Aneirin.

My World

What you have to understand about Dirt, Adela as it was called in ancient times, is that it is underpopulated. The humans have built empire after empire and suffered war after war that has knocked back their society more than it has advanced it. Dragons are very slow to breed and many of us do not so we number in thousands, not millions. The largest human towns in my lifetime never had more than ten thousand inhabitants and most villages only a couple of hundred.

It is a fragmented world, in many ways, especially in Bind, the largest continent. Large areas are very dry, though not necessarily warm, and huge forests are rare. Iron and coal are abundant in some places but absent in most. Don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful world, but much of it is difficult and we live in the better pockets of the world, ignorant of our neighbours.

Of course, dragons see it rather differently. We fly, which makes being territorial awkward when your neighbour can simply fly over your patch, and we see the world from a great height. Greater dragons can fly at a height where humans would suffocate and that makes our perspective of the world much different; it is smaller to us and few places are unreachable in a few days of hard flying.

I admit I am cynical of humans much of the time, though not of individuals. I fully understand that any community larger than a village has to have rules and structure if it is to not to descend into anarchy, but so often when I listen to the lists of laws and constraints, I am not surprised that so much of our world is either oppressed or simply neglected. Oppression has always been worst in The Prelates with the denser population, but I have been particularly saddened by some of the isolation and poverty I have seen in Bind, especially in later times. Some of the small communities are so cut off that if something traumatic happens to them, there is no one to help and they can vanish without anyone noticing. 

Affairs of the Heart

Dragons of fairy tales are gruesome beasts of talon and driven by bloodlust, but this is far from reality.  We dragons, all of us of all kinds, love and cherish like any other intelligent creature and I have had my fair taste of it. My greatest friend and companion was the magician Weasel, but my greatest love was my Bren, Aneirin. There have been others too, small affairs taken in private. I am perhaps more discreet than many other dragons. Be-Elin can be quite outrageous and is the only one of my kind that can truly shock me!

Male and female dragon names have either Mab, for the male, or Be in front of their names. Since we are not very blood-family minded, we have no family name. So, my name was Be-Eirol. If we decide to pair with another, many do not, then males become Bren and females Fren. 

The first time I met Mab-Aneirin I was most unimpressed. He was several hundred years older than I and had a formidable reputation at the Neauth on Taken as a debater, but he was a tatty soul. He later became tattier still when he broke off two of his horns! But, in time, I was first attracted by his arguments, then his strength and then his tenderness and I have never loved another as I did he. Sadly, he died young, which I do not wish to relive, and I did not have the many centuries with him that I so wished for.

Some dragons pair for life in a way that is most remarkable. Bren-Diath, my Bren's great adversary, was one of those. He met Be-Ainina when they were both very young indeed and they stayed together nearly their entire lives, having several children; Bren-Ainina died only a few years before Bren-Diath did.  I think I might have liked that with Aneirin, but he was already more than five hundred years old when I met him, and I was still young.

My Daily Life

Really, the daily life of any dragon, just like any human or calliston, is mundane. We must eat, sleep, earn coin, just the same as anyone else. When I was young I dyed cloth and made fishing nets for the local village. When I was older in Wead-Wodder, I worked on rugs and printed cloths, some of which we sold through human agents and some we wore.

Dragons do not wear clothes out of modesty, as do you humans, and we do not suffer from cold as easily, so clothing is very much a personal thing. For me, I occasionally used to wear my printed silks like a kind of bodice, though it is only really like a cloth on my chest, and I loved wearing long silks tied to my crest that then stream out behind me when I fly. 

I have worn the leather hides of the desert dragon in later life. Dragons are not scaled in our world, or naturally armoured in any way, and we cut and bleed as you do. The hides that the Desert Dragons wear offer some protection and also allow their riders to move freely by giving them straps to hang on to. They do not wear saddles.

For food, I prefer fish above all else, but I will eat anything. We fish in two ways. If we are desperate, we can scoop up fish in our mouths, plunging into the ocean, but mostly we fish with large nets. From the air, I can spot shoals of fish, if I am patient, as I have much better eyesight and hearing than humans. Then I can swoop low and drag a small, weighted net through the waves. It is very efficient. When I was young, two of us would carry a larger net between us on long ropes so we did not clash wings.  The net would slow us down quickly when we dropped it forcing us to land in the water. We would then swim across each other to tie the net shut and then take off again, carrying our catch. Oh yes, dragons can swim and most love water!

The great dragons do not have a varied diet such as do humans. Mostly it is meat or fish, normally dressed with herbs, wrapped in large leaves and cooked over charcoal. We do sometimes make large stews and thin soups, which I am fond of. The smaller dragons eat far more vegetables than we do and also make hard biscuits from cereals; I find them quite inedible and they do not agree with me. 

The red dragons are famous for their beer, of course, and I have yet to meet a dragon or human who does not enjoy their brew.

Dragons, like all people of Dirt, work hard. Unlike human society, we do not have rich and poor in our communities as most are not materialistic and we share what we have. However, Sea Dragons are famous for collecting bits over the years, and we are often teased about it. When my Bren had his accident and broke off two of his four horns, and I dread to think how painful that must have been, he and Eafa happily presented them to me, polished up, with the broken ends capped in metal and tied up with a big red bow. It was a ruse, of course, as the accident had happened leagues away and they knew I would be furious. But how could I be angry with these two silly idiots and their mad present. I kept those horns for years.

I think there is a misconception amongst those who only know dragons from story, that we are some brutish beast with no sense of self-worth. I find this puzzling.  We are intelligent, articulate people, so why would we wish to live in a cold cave and eat only raw meat, possibly still breathing?

There are some luxuries that are impossible for dragons. I like being clean, but the idea of a bath is ridiculous. I am the same size as some very small cottages, what size would my bath be? Aneirin was twice my size. So, a dip in the sea or a fresh lake is welcome, and a couple of times I have had the fun of a waterfall; the river at Cullen Falls in Kend was very popular with the dragons. But my favourite bath is on the wing. Show me a nice, damp cloud and I will fly up to it, its moistness tickling my skin as I fly through it to emerge above into the bright sunlight to dry. 

The joy of flying

When you humans are taken on a flight, it is not by your own power. You may be awed by the beauty of the world from on high and understand the freedom we dragons enjoy, but you are still not doing the flying yourself. 

When I fly, I feel the wind rush over my skin, feel my muscles work with the air and I sense every little tug and current around me. I would think the nearest comparison for you would be swimming. But even then, you are not a fish and cannot slip through the water like those silvery fellows.

To me, catching the high winds is a joy beyond all others. Dragons, as I have said often, are not birds. Flying at low level is hard work for us and we tire. But far above where you can breathe, the winds are powerful and constant. Catch the wind in the right way and I hardly need flap at all. I can stretch my wings out to their full length and float over the world. I sometimes believe I could almost fall asleep up there; I can't, by the way, I would fall out of the sky.

So, on my last day, when I reach the end of my life, I dearly hope I have the strength to fly one more time. Fly out to the east into the morning sun, across the blue of the ocean and the pink of the sky, and float in the unclaimed air, free of hate and politics and woes, taking my last breath on the wing as I look down on my precious world.

It is the last hope of all dragons.

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