(See previous post for Part 1!)
I heard it before my eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness and I could make it out: a gigantic bull dragon, easily five times the size of the she-dragon, lay unmoving at the back of the cave. Immediately when he saw me, he lifted his head and roared so loud in my face that my ears rang for a full five minutes and my head hurt. I stopped, but the she-dragon nudged me onward. I turned back to look at her, not sure what she wanted. The she-dragon leaned back on her haunches and spat a fireball at the ceiling of the cave. A massive wad of dry trees and brush hung there, held in place by large amounts of pitch. The fire caused the mass to blaze brightly, a makeshift chandelier that lit up the whole cavern. I turned back to the bull dragon.
His side opened in a wide hole, probably a battle wound. All around it the scales were wet with blood, and when I saw movement in the wound, I peered closely and saw it was badly infected with large maggots. I turned back to the she-dragon, and saw that she now held a large spear in her mouth. She dropped it at my feet. What was I going to do with it? Was she asking me to kill the dragon? I turned back to the wound. It was not too deep (for the dragon, anyway! The wound was actually about a foot deep at its lowest point, and about that wide); if I could just clean it out, maybe the dragon didn’t have to die. Forthwith, I took the heavy spear and—as gently as I could—tried to scrape the maggots off.
Just as soon as the spear brushed the first maggot, I felt enormous claws in my back, shoving me into the stone floor of the cavern. The she-dragon was on top of me! I couldn’t see anything; what was she doing? Her wing extended down in front of me, and beyond that I could see a bright light and I felt a terrible heat. I realized that the bull dragon had let forth a stream of deadly fire, and were it not for the she-dragon’s intervention, I probably would have been nothing but a pile of ash by now. As soon as he was done, the she-dragon flew in his face, forcing his head back down. She then sat on his neck, preventing him from moving his head. She nodded firmly for me to continue.
I scraped some more, and of course the bull dragon flailed with his claws, and roared loudly the whole time, but at that angle, he could not reach me. Once the last maggot dropped off the wound, I turned back to the she-dragon.
I needed water to wash the wound, but they had no cloths, no bowl, and nothing of that sort in this cave! How could I communicate this to her? I backed up toward the front of the cavern. By the light of the massive, nearby moon (it was so large I could see the furry Moon-Beems hard at work in its craters) I could see a valley outside. At the edge of the valley, I saw a huge, thundering waterfall. That was what I needed.
I pointed this out to the she-dragon, trying to communicate with signs that I wanted some of that water. She nodded in understanding, and roared something to the world outside. Ten minutes later, a third dragon flew to the cliff with a huge tree in its claws. I was slightly worried; had she misunderstood? I did not want a tree; I wanted water! The dragon set the tree on the cavern floor, and flew away. I saw that the dragon had hollowed out the tree and filled it with more than enough water. Now for a cloth; there was none in the cavern. I looked down at the collared shirt I wore. That would do; I stripped down to my tee-shirt and dunked my shirt into the water.
The she-dragon watched silently as again and again I traversed between the tree and the dragon, cleaning the dried blood and the wet from around the scales. The water (and my shirt) grew blacker and blacker with the dragon-blood. At last, I dunked the shirt one more time and stuffed it into the wound, effectively staunching it.
The she-dragon stepped off the bull dragon’s neck. Sometime during the operation he had fallen asleep from fatigue, and I knew that his sleep was most likely more comfortable than he had been since receiving the wound. She looked at the bloody shirt in the wound, and down at me, scratched and bruised from the day’s events, splashing water over my own head and breathing hard because I didn’t recall breathing since I first touched the bull-dragon.
The she-dragon stood over me and opened her mouth. I looked up and she breathed a puff of warm air into my face so suddenly that I gasped. Immediately, I felt a strange sensation in my throat, like a coating of some sort that no amount of throat-clearing, chest-thumping or coughing could dislodge. I looked at her, and for the first time, she spoke to me in her tongue, and I understood her.
“I name you Strommblenarch. For your courage and your kindness to my father,” she growled, “I have given you Dragon Voice. We of clan Murgard are your clan-mates. I am Knassa, your clan-sister. If at any time you are in danger, you have only to call the name Murgard, and we shall fly to your aid from the far reaches of Phantasm.”
I did not fully grasp the significance of her words, but I knew from her tone that this privilege was a rare honor, and I was grateful.
“Thank you,” I said—or rather, I intended to say it, but all that came out of my mouth was a feeble groan. What was the matter? I saw her nod, and I realized with a jolt that I had spoken in Dragon! Was this the Dragon Voice she spoke about, by which I could now speak to and understand dragons? I tried to speak again.
“May I return to my friends now?” I asked her, and again, my words came out in a series of grunts, growls, and whines, with no effort on my part.
“In the morning I will honor your request and return you to your kind,” Knassa replied. “For now, you may sleep here. Caven Murgard shall henceforth be your clan-home, whenever you need rest or sanctuary. Sleep well, Brother Stormmblenarch.”
I nodded in response and prepared to lie down on the stone floor of the Caven. Knassa seemed to smile and lifted me gently in her claw. Spreading her wing underneath me, she placed me softly on its flexible, sturdy surface. The sensation was one of lying in a heated leather hammock, and I fell asleep instantly.