by Oren the Otter

She was barely an inch high when we found her. It was Gornul that spied her. Barely a week after he'd been let out of the dungeon (he'd been there on account of the lutin, Vitra.) his companion, Oren, had resumed his training with the long scouts. With hours on his little hands, he volunteered for patrol after patrol. There were some who objected, thinking that he might try to sneak another lutin in, but in the end, his service was accepted on the grounds that being a dragon no bigger than a housecat, Gornul would have the best chance of spotting enemy forces, and the least chance of getting himself killed. The dragon was flying north of Glen Avery, up near the giants' dike. He was very surprised to see a band of trolls roaming the countryside. This, naturally, made him curious. What were trolls doing wandering the valley? Scrutinizing them, he realized that the mob was looking for something. Something very small. Assuming that whatever was of such importance to the trolls would be important to Metamor as well, Gornul focused his vision as fine as it would go and searched as well. During the entire search, the trolls never saw him wheeling overhead.

Then, one of the trolls found it. It was small, indeed. No bigger than a walnut. It was... a girl! She was running, frantically scurrying past huge blades of grass to get away. The trolls were closing. She had no chance. No chance, that is, unless Gornul interceded. The dragon folded his wings back against his body and went into a dive. The trolls continued to advance underneath him. This was going to be dangerous. Dangerous? Suicidal. Gornul would have to dive right between the trolls, level off, snatch the girl, and zoom back into the air to get away.

Gornul still insists that he doesn't know how he did it.

With trolls screaming curses at him in a strange northern tongue, the little blue dragon carried the tiny damsel to safety.

Healer Coe tended to the minuscule woman while Gornul alerted Misha about the trolls. She had passed out from exhaustion. Using methods known only to him, Coe did his best to administer fluids into her tiny body.

A few hours later, Gornul returned. Using his mental imagery, he inquired after her status.

"Unconscious, but stable." replied Coe. "And changing. I'm guessing she's been here in the valley for about a week, since the curse is just now taking effect."

Gornul gave the raccoon an inquisitive look.

"See for yourself."

He did. The girl had grown considerably. She was almost four inches tall, now, and her face had developed a somewhat reptilian appearance.

Gornul flashed a picture of a dragon in question.

"As near as I can figure." Coe replied.

Gornul stared at the increasingly draconian female.

She was beautiful.

When finally, the girl began to stir, she began calling out "Jay! Jay!"

Everyone was wondering who "Jay" could be. Presumably, he was a friend or relative who would presently be unreachable. It wasn't until D'art arrived with a message for healer Coe that the truth was discovered, quite by accident. As the hummingbird was turning to leave, the girl cried out once more, and he whirled around to see who had spoken.

"Natalie?" he whispered.

"You know this girl?" asked Coe.

"Do I? Her face has changed to be certain, but..." he began to lapse into his old accent. "Ze voice is unmistakable. Zis is Natalie, from mah homeland."

The dragon girl opened her eyes. She looked frightened for only a moment, but seemed reassured by something which she saw in D'art's eyes. She looked down at her hand and D'art's feathery fingers curled about her own.

"Jay?" she whispered.

"Oui, Natalie. Je suis moi."

Gornul made a gesture of confusion.

D'art smiled. "Jay is mah given name." he explained, slipping back into the common accent. "Jay D'art. Natalie is a very dear friend of mine. She is the daughter of the admiral who led the push to tame the giantdowns."

Gornul projected an image of a huge, mean giant.

"Quite right. The giants, sadly, proved to be too much for us. Nearly everyone was killed. Until this moment, I thought I was the only one who survived."

Gornul produced a picture of D'art battling a towering colossus.

"Not quite, I'm afraid. I was but a messenger, as I am today. Natalie was an budding magician. We each came to the giantdowns, seeking adventure. How foolish we were."

Natalie sat up in bed and put her arms around D'art as though she never would let go.

Gornul snuck out.

An arrow sunk deep into a bale of hay. It had missed the target by a wide margin.

"You're getting better." said Charles as he fired off an arrow of his own. "Now, how did King Demoine eventually quell the uprising?"

Oren loaded another arrow onto the string of his bow. As he turned the bow vertically and pulled back, he answered. "Actually, he didn't. King Demoine was killed in the Qilon riots. It was his son, Bo'eze who satisfied the Qilonites by giving them a semi-autonomous state." He let his arrow fly. This time, it hit just a little to the right of the target. "Bo'eze gave Demoine credit for the idea because he didn't want his father to be remembered as a tyrant, thus poisoning the popularity of his dynasty."

Charles let another arrow fly. "You're getting pretty good at history." said the rat. "But I think your archery could use a little work."

Oren tried to figure out what he was doing wrong. He checked his stance. Left foot forward, right foot back, facing to the side, tail down. His bow arm was straight, string arm up, hand even with his eye...

"Oren, you're notching your arrows backward."

"I what?"

Charles held his own bow sideways in front of him as he slowly loaded it. "Look... the odd colored feather is supposed to go on the outside of the bow. Otherwise, it's going to hit as you fire it and ruin your aim."

"OOOOOH!" The otter looked very embarrassed.

"Don't worry, Oren. You're doing well for a beginner."

With a smile, the otter took his last remaining arrow and flung it with a snap of his hand. The tip embedded into the distant bullseye on the bale of hay.

Charles also smiled, but said "You're never going to pierce armor by cheating."

Off to the side, Misha shook his head. Never had he met someone so eager to learn, and yet so stubborn that he always tried to do things his own way.

"Lunch, you two." he called. "And then Oren..."


"Once you've mastered your latest raw salmon, I expect you to master the bow. Lutins aren't going to be very scared by rico-sticks."

"Yes, Sir."

Misha smiled inwardly. It was impressive that the otter could sink an arrow like that by wand. If only he could do it RIGHT...

Oren sat down and unwrapped his lunch from a bundle. There were seven lovely raw fish, a large loaf of bread, a bottle full of blackest ale, five strips of salmon jerky, two cinnamon buns, a wedge of cheese, a jar of pudding, three apples, an orange, and a loaf of zuchini bread for desert.

"Oren!" exclaimed Charles as he looked from his own meager lunch to what seemed to be the contents of Oren's pantry.


"You're going to eat all that?"

"I have to. Look at all the weight I lost since I became a 'girly-man'. I have to put it back on somehow."

Charles refrained from calling his friend a pig.

Oren was starting on his second fish when Gornul came up and fluttered to the ground beside him.

"Hey, dragon buddy! What's up?"

Gornul showed both of his friends an image of a golden female dragon, about his size.

"You've got a girlfriend?"

Gornul shook his head and showed her hugging D'art.

Charles put his hand on Gornul's shoulder. "Sorry to hear that, friend." he said.

Oren put on a silly, throaty voice and said "You want I should make this hummingbird not exist no more?"

Gornul shook his head while the otter laughed at his own joke. "Don't worry." Oren said. "There'll be other dragons."

At this, Gornul seemed to pout.

While Oren popped a bun in his mouth, Caroline came by and said "Are you two still lolligagging around? I thought for sure you'd be finished with archery practice by now."

"Let me guess." said Oren, holding back a mass of bun in one cheek as he spoke. "Misha sent you over here to tell us to finish lunch and get back to work."

"Not at all." replied Caroline. "Charles has already finished his lunch. He sent me over here to tell YOU to finish YOUR lunch and get back to work."

"But I just started!"

Caroline looked over the array of foods upon which her friend was feasting. "Oren, you know that I love you like a brother. That is the only reason I say this now. You eat like a hog."

Charles and Gornul were each suppressing a chuckle.

Oren held up a fish to his fellow otter. "Want one?" he asked.

"I'd love one."

"Oink oink."

Caroline smacked her "brother" on the back of the head. Hard.

Realizing that his two best friends would be too busy to offer any consolation, he took off. He thought he'd go home, or perhaps to the tower to visit his family, but he couldn't keep himself away from Healer Coe's place.

Through the open door, he saw Natalie lying in bed. She was almost completely dragon, now. Her tiny size had translated into her new form, making her only a little larger than he. She was the most beautiful creature that the little blue dragonette had ever seen.

"Gornul?" said Natalie as she lifted her head to regard him. He almost ran and hid, but didn't. He strode calmly forward. That is, as calmly as one can be with butterflies in their gullet. "I was hoping you would come back. I wanted to thank you for saving me from those awful trolls. You were so brave!"

Gornul blushed a little. He replayed the scene of the chase, with question marks inserted here and there as requests for explanation.

"Ah, yes. The trolls. You want to know why they were after me."

Gornul nodded.

"I have this little trick that I do. When I'm threatened by a big, hairy monster, I just go... SNAP!, whisper a few words, and I shrink 'em down until they're only..."

Gornul projected an image of a tiny troll.

"Yes... exactly that big. How did you know that?"

He explained to her how he had swallowed one.

"You're kidding me. They've started living inside fruit?"

A nod.

"How awful for you! I'm so sorry!"

Gornul inquired after Natalie's stature.

"Ah, yes... let me give you a piece of advice... never cast a spell at someone with a polished silver shield. I made that mistake and the spell reflected back. I've been an inch high for the past month. Well... until now."

Gornul smiled.

"I imagine I must look hideous as a dragon. No offense."

Gornul shook his head wildly and showed Natalie just how lovely she was. The thought passed through his mind of how wonderful it would be to kiss that scaly face. Natalie's blush made him realize that he must have accidentally run it through her mind as well. The dragon-girls coyly put her chin to her chest and said "I'd like that."

In surprise, Gornul pointed to himself, then pictorally asked "what about D'art?"

Natalie smiled. "Jay is a very good friend, but that's all he is. A friend. You, on the other hand, are my own personal hero, and now that I've fallen under the curse, someone I am beginning to find very attractive."

The little blue reptile was beginning to get rather warm. Taking her invitation, he leaned forward and gently...

"Would you two like to be alone?" asked Coe as he stood nearby, busily polishing a beaker.

Natalie giggled. Gornul smiled and produced a sort of mental static. He showed himself returning later, to which Natalie responded with a nod and a smile.

Gornul zipped out the door and zoomed high into the air, his heart feeling lighter than a summer breeze.

Gornul was in love.