"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Pelean's Jewel, Part VII

So the very next day Tallow made that long swim upstream again. He spoke with Pelean for several hours, and revealed more than he realized. When he got back to the palace, he was happy to report that the dragon had agreed to the meeting.

At midmorning on the appointed day, Queen Lilias stood on the bridge where she had lost her jewel, Sir Brennan at her right hand and Mistral at her left, as promised. Knights and nobles and townsfolk crowded the shore to watch this unusual assembly. They saw the dragon coming, a flash of silver in the water, moments before his head broke the surface, rising above the railing.

He looked at the three on the bridge. "You I recognize," he said to Sir Brennan.

"You I do not," he said to Mistral.

"And you must be the queen," he said to Lilias.

"You must be Pelean," Queen Lilias said. "Thank you for coming."

The dragon tilted his head and studied her for a moment. "You'll be wanting this," he said, holding out a webbed paw the size of a serving platter, the jewel in its center.

She caught her breath at the sight of it, but clenched her hands at her sides and did not reach for it. "You are kind, sir, to someone who has not been kind to you."

"You did not know me," Pelean said. "And I can see that you are very young. The young may make mistakes which would be unforgivable in the old."

"No, I did not know you. I did not even know you existed, much less how long and well you had served my kingdom. Yet you were just outside my door all the while. So I wonder—of how many other things, which I ought properly to be aware, am I ignorant?"

"I cannot answer that for you," the dragon said.

The queen smiled. "Of course you cannot. But when you swam away with my jewel, I was forced to look at the world outside my palace. I wish that my first impulse had not been to send men armed with swords and my blessing out into that world to do harm on my behalf."

The dragon said nothing, but inclined his head to show that he understood.

"You are right to say that I want the jewel. But Tallow is right to say that you have earned it. He said you told him that it is the color of the ocean where you were born." She put her hands on the railing and leaned closer. "Do you miss it? Do you want to go back?"

Pelean frowned and thought very hard. "No," he said slowly after a moment. "I love this stream. I do not miss the ocean itself. But when I think of it, I think of my family. And when I see the color of it, trapped within this jewel, I remember them a little better."

"Ah," she breathed. "I understand, Pelean, I do. The jewel belonged to my mother, who died several years ago. I find it difficult sometimes to remember her face or her voice, but when I wear the jewel that was her favorite, it all comes back to me and I feel a little less lonely."

"How can you be lonely?" Pelean wondered. "You are surrounded by people."

"You are surrounded by fish," she said. "But they are not dragons. I am surrounded by people, but they are not queens."

"Oh," he said. "I see."

"I think you do." She turned to Sir Brennan. "Where was Pelean brought from, again?"

"From Gidaleon, by the sea, Your Majesty. A gift from their king to your great-grandfather," the knight replied. His curiosity had led him into the royal records over the last few days, and he had shared what he found with the queen.

She spoke to the dragon again. "If I were to send someone to Gidaleon to find a companion for you, would that please you? Would that be thanks enough for all the time and work you have spent on us? Or is there something else we might do to show our gratitude?"

"I would like nothing better than to have a companion of my own kind," he admitted. "But I would not have another suffer the captivity I endured in my youth."

Queen Lilias nodded. "Of course." She considered the problem for a moment. "What if they wanted to come here? I could send Tallow to try and persuade them. You have no reason to trust me yet, but you would trust him to deal with them honestly, would you not?"

The long column of Pelean's throat worked as he swallowed back some strong emotion. "Even the attempt would be thanks enough, Your Majesty."

"Then it shall be done, if Tallow agrees," she promised.

"I believe he shall," Sir Brennan added. "The boy has an adventurous spirit."

Pelean nodded. Carefully he set the jewel on the railing in front of her. "I may yet see another of my kind again. I could even go back to the ocean if I wished it. You cannot swim south and find your mother. Your memories are more precious than mine."

"Thank you," she said, her fingers closing about the stone. "For everything."

Tallow eagerly agreed to go to Gidaleon, and within a week he set out with Sir Brennan, two strong knights and the wizard's apprentice. The adventures they had along the way are too long a tale to tell here. Suffice it to say that he returned several months later and several inches taller, in the company of not one but three water dragons who wished to live in sweet waters running through a kingdom at peace, far from the brackish sea with its sharks and krakens.

The blue one was called Mirren, the green one, Rushing, and the gold, Donnet. They brought not only themselves but also greetings from Pelean's parents and sister, who had wondered for a hundred years what had become of him, and wept with joy when Tallow told them he was alive and thriving. When Pelean received the message, his own eyes grew rather more watery than usual.

Queen Lilias personally welcomed them all, throwing a great feast on the bank of the stream and scandalizing her advisors by moving freely among her people and speaking with them. The land folk were at first frightened of the dragons, but when they saw how warmly the queen welcomed them and how fond of them Tallow and his companions were, most people gave them a chance and found them quite friendly.

During the party, Sir Brennan found a moment to speak privately with the queen. "Young Tallow is looking for a career," he said. "I have a suggestion."

Queen Lilias listened and agreed that it was an excellent notion. Tallow was given a special tutor, a wise and learned old shifter who had lived among every sort of creature you can imagine, and a few which I daresay you cannot. With his teacher he read a mountain of books and ventured far and wide through the land learning those things which books cannot truly tell. He accompanied diplomats on their delicate missions across the length and breadth of Faerie and spent many an hour in Queen Lilias's court, learning how she preferred that things be done.

When he was older and taller, had absorbed everything his tutor could teach him and knew enough magic from the wizard and enough swordplay from the knights to defend himself, Queen Lilias named him her Special Ambassador to Magical Creatures. If anyone was more pleased with this state of affairs than she, it was her husband the king.

It had, after all, been his idea.


© 2007 by the author. All rights reserved.

1 rejoinders:

Baseball_Lipgloss sounded off...

This was a lovely story. It was very visual and flowed so nicely. One of my favorite things was the use of color in your descriptions. Thanks for sharing it.