Spots and Scales

by Stealthcat and Christian O'Kane and Gornul

The cheetah headed down the floors of the Keep on another, small errand. He was only heading into town and wouldn’t be needing his warm suit. As he headed though a small, furnished hall a small blue dragon playfully stuck his tongue out at him.

The cheetah’s eyes widened when he saw it, what was it? A winged lizard? Could that be a... dragon?

The creature flitted to a table near the cat and pointed to his full pouch. A question mark popped into the cheetah’s head.

Stealth gasped, “What the hell? I’m hallucinating!”

The dragon shook his head and a letter envelope popped into the cheetah’s head with another question mark.

“What?!” The cheetah asked with wide eyes, “What the hell is happening?”

Gornul sagged a little and sighed at the reaction.

Stealth looked at the dragon in sudden recognition, “A letter? Oh! Yes, I’m delivering something for Misha.” The cheetah answered and scratched his head fur, “How are you doing that? What are these images?”

Gornul perked up at the mention of Misha’s name, a picture of the familiar taur popped into Stealth’s head then the small dragon tilted his head at the feline’s question and shrugged.

Stealth stood there for a moment and blinked, “You can’t talk?”

Gornul nodded at that then Misha’s picture popped into Stealth’s head with a question mark.

“...Misha sent me to deliver parts for a clock.” He shrugged, hoping he interpreted the question right.

The dragon blinked at that and a broken clock popped into the cat’s head with yet another question mark.

The cheetah shook his head, “I have no idea. Maybe I’ll find out when I get there.”

Suddenly a picture formed of the cheetah courier with the small, blue dragon perched on his shoulder, standing outside Misha’s place.

“You, you want to come with me?” Stealth asked surprised. He didn’t know how exactly to react. “Yeah, I’m heading to the lower ward first before heading back to Long House but you’re welcome to come along.”

Gornul hopped up and down giving a happy chirp and then hopped into the air, gliding to the cat’s shoulder.

The feline giggled to himself at the thought that a tiny dragon now rode on his shoulder. “Hold on, I travel fast.”

At those words Gornul’s tail wrapped around Stealth’s neck lightly for balance.

Stealth quickly made his way outdoors, onto a snow covered street with the little dragon perched on his shoulder. Gornul kept his tail curled around Stealth’s neck for balance, smiling here and there at others they passed by.

“I hope you’re not cold up there, little buddy.” The cheetah said as they passed underneath the main gate out of the Keep’s outer walls.

The small dragon shook his head ‘no’ and looked up at the gate as they pass underneath.

Stealth cringed to himself; he’ll probably regret asking this, “Do you have a name?”

The little reptilian nodded.

“You do? ...I don’t suppose it translates with pictures?” The feline asked uncertain.

He thought for a moment and fuzzy letters began to form, showing up as ‘G O R N U L’. The dragon shrugged a bit, obviously not very good at projecting common letters yet.

“Oh! You can talk... kinda.” The cheetah said in relief. “Nice to meet you... Gornul. My name is Stealth.”

The dragonet gave a happy chirp and waved.

Stealth smirked and gave a cheetah ‘chirp’ in response.

They walked past many new buildings and some still being rebuilt. Gornul blinked at the construction a few times but otherwise he was rather quiet for the time being. They reached the jeweller’s store in good time. The building looked mostly new or rebuilt after its almost total destruction in the winter assault.

The cat courier pushed open a large door, it was solid oak and sheathed in iron – a gift from Misha. He entered the newly rebuilt jeweller’s store and walked up to the counter. Looking around Stealth could see no one about but could easily hear the clatter of tools from the next room. “Hello?”

The noise ceased and momentarily a stocky morph lumbered through the archway behind the counter, “Ho, courier...” The badger looked at the small dragon perched on the cat’s shoulder and raised an eye ridge.

Gornul waved at the badger and gave a happy chirp.

The cheetah grinned and gave the dragon a scritchy underneath the chin. Gornul lifted his head up a bit, his eyes closing.

“Will, Misha has a task for you and... oh, Gornul, I don’t suppose you could find a spot somewhere while I remove my backpack?”

The dragon opened his wings and glided over to a display, landing carefully though meeping a bit as it wobbled.

The badger bared his fangs in fright, watching the small dragon carefully as he perched on the display case. Stealth didn’t notice as he looked through his pack and pulled out a large package. “And this too, he wants you to be discreet about it.” The cheetah handed over a large scroll case.

Will nodded slowly, “All right but please keep a watch on your friend.” He said and took the package and the scroll out back, eyeing the reptile carefully.

Stealth turned to the dragon, “See anything you like?”

Gornul peered at the display below his claws for awhile then around the shop. An image of a pretty blue gemmed necklace appeared in Stealth’s head.

The feline looked about for a moment to find the gem and eventually located it in a panel near the counter and probably well warded, “I think that’s a bit big for you.”

The dragonet tilted his head a little, nodding but his eyes drew back to the blue, almost the same shade as his hide.

“You look much more pretty and shiny.” The cheetah said as he waited for the badger.

Gornul hid his muzzle a little in embarrassment.

Stealth chuckled then his ears twitched to the lumbering form returning.

“Tell Misha they’ll be ready next week.” Will said. “And give my soon to be son my regards!”

“Okay. Let’s go Gornul!” The feline said and tilted his head.

The little dragon spread his wings, launching off the display and causing it to rock dangerously again as he landed on Stealth’s shoulder.

“Careful!!” The badger growled.

Stealth’s hackles rose and he cowered slightly, leaving the store quickly. Outside they headed south west in the streets till Stealth stopped walking. The feline looked behind him then scratched his head fur.

“I have to make a delivery but there was no clear address.” The cat sighed, “I need to find a stone building with a glass roof...” Misha never did describe the street address in any detail, he only said it was VERY easy to find.

Gornul blinked a bit and shrugged.

Stealth suddenly looked at the small dragon perched on his shoulder...

Gornul tilted his head.

“I don’t suppose you could do me a favour?” Stealth asked and made cat eyes at the reptilian.

The reptilian chirped a little, waiting.

“Fly that way,” The cat pointed a claw, “And show me where the building is.”

Gornul took off. He began gaining altitude and started feeding Stealth images, almost making the cat dizzy as the dragon looked over the ever expanding area.

The cheetah clenched his head from the rush of information. “Can you see the glass roof?”

The images suddenly zoomed in really fast giving the feline vertigo as one single image popped into his head then went away as the little aerial scout spiralled back down to him.

The cheetah groaned and staggered about a bit before he regained his bearings, “Okay! I know where to go now. Thanks little buddy!”

They seemed to wander the street for a long time before they finally spotted the place. A squat stone building sitting at the end of a street.

“I hope this is it...”

The building looked undamaged from the assault but there were hints of repair as they walked up the steps. Stealth reached for the door knob to knock when the door flew open, Standing there was a young, female lizard of some sort. The young woman was bright green in colour with blonde hair tied back and flowing down her back like a mane which consisted of hair, feathers and some hair-feathers.

“WHAT do you want?” She asked loudly.

Gornul meeped a little, gripping Stealthy’s ear for balance as he was taken by surprise.

The feline’s hackles rose, “I have a delivery!”

She peered at them both and pointed to the dragon. “We didn’t order a dragon.”

Gornul blinked and looked rather affronted at that.

Stealth frowned, “Actually, he’s my... assistant. And we’re delivering a clock.”

“Oh! Our clock! Finally!” She said and turned her head to shout into the house behind her, “THE CLOCK IS HERE!” The reptile turned around again, “Come in! Come in!” She said and stepped back.

The feline blinked and headed in.

“Close the door! You’re letting all the heat out!”

Stealth yipped in fright and closed the large, heavy door behind him, “Isn’t it hot enough in here?”

“Of course! It has to be or the plants will wilt. Now come this way and mind the mud,” She started forward, deeper into the house.

“Mud?” The feline whispered to himself.

The dragonet looked around idly, blinking now and then. He looked rather comfortable in the heat.

As they headed past benches and chairs the whiff of foliage, soil and water mist hit their noses until an indoor forest appeared. Stealth gasped at the sight before them. He’d seen pictures of such plants but never in his life did he see them up close.

In the far end of the room, a man sat in a chair, seemingly lost in thought.

The man seemed asleep but when they got closer he lifted his head and smiled at them. “Welcome! Welcome to Fantasy Island!”

Stealth blinked as the shadow of a large bird flew over the glass ceiling.

“What’s wrong? Never seen a bird before?”

“Huh?” Stealth blinked.

“The crane! The crane!” The old man answered.

He shrugged. “I have a special delivery for you sir,”

The old man shifted in his chair though he didn’t look too able bodied to move around much or vacate it. “I didn’t order a dragon? But he is cute.”

Gornul blinked...not sure to be insulted or embarrassed.

“No,” The young lizard-woman said. “They have your new clock.”

“New blocks?” He asked confused. “I never ordered blocks.”

“CLOCK!” She shouted.

The cheetah sighed softly then waited for the dragonet to vacate his shoulder so he could get to his back pack.

Gornul flew around a little before shrugging and lightly landing on the spotted one’s head.

Stealth rolled his eyes and removed his back pack. He leaned forward and tilted his head down to look through the pack.

“Meeeep!” The little reptilian slipped into the pack before he could extend his wings.

“Well?” The old wizard asked. “You have my clock or not? I am a busy man. Are you sure you’re not delivering a dragon?”

The feline sighed and dug the dragon out, “Could you hold this for a moment?” He asked the old man.

Gornul squirmed in Stealth’s grip, trying to get free.

The man held out his hands and took the dragon. “I didn’t order a dragon! Where is my clock? Is THIS my clock? How do I tell the time with this thing?”

Stealth ignored the mage for a moment as he looked, “A hah!” He unravelled a large padded box. Undoing the box’s latches the courier unveiled a large bronze coloured clock with the word ‘Fadger’ etched into it.

The wizard peered into the dragon’s mouth for a moment, “Still can’t tell the time with this thing.” He spotted the real clock and smiled. “AH!” He deposited the dragon onto a table next to a large bowl of fruit.

Gornul worked at his jaw a moment, sighing glad to be free of the mage then promptly noticed the fruit.....eyeing it for a little before poking his head into the middle of it and begin munching.

Stealth kneeled and gently handed the large clock to the old wizard. “Here you are, sir, sorry for the delay.”

“Very nice! Very nice!” He said examining the clock. “Perfect. And now you’ll want to be paid.” A drawer on the table opened by itself and a small leather bag floated out and hung in midair.

“Gornul, could you...?” Stealth asked of the dragon buried in the fruit bowl.

The dragonet pulled his head out, cheeks puffed out as he munched, blinking then noticing the pouch. He swallowed his mouth full then took flight, nabbing the pouch. The pouch stubbornly refused to move and the dragon flapped and flailed for a moment before he found himself dangling upside down from the still hovering pouch. One claw clutching the bottom of the leather pouch.

Stealth blinked, “Oh dear...” He sighed.

The old man laughed at the sight, “I guess I made that one TOO sturdy.” With that the pouch with it’s passenger still attached floated towards Stealth.

Gornul just kind of dangled there at first in confusion then he started to enjoy the ride. The cheetah courier grabbed both the pouch and the dragon. He hefted Gornul onto his shoulder.

Stealth deposited the coin pouch in his pack and slung it around his shoulder. “If there are any problems, I’m sure my employer can work them out for you.”

“No problem with THIS clock.” He pointed to Gornul. “THAT clock still needs work. I can’t tell the time with it!”

Gornul looked confused and an image of the little dragon with a clock sticking out of his belly suddenly appeared in Stealth’s head.

He waved a hand at them. “Good night!”

“You mean good day.” The young reptilian woman said.

“I do?” He asked confused.

“Yes you do!!” She answered as her tail swayed about slightly.

“Ok. Good afternoon!”

The blond haired and feathered lizard crossed her arms, “Grandfather, have you taken your medicine?”

“Maybe. I’m sure I’ve taken it at least once.” He shrugged in his seat and wound the Fadger clock.

“At least?” His granddaughter sighed.

“I lost count after five,” He said nonchalantly.

She groaned loudly and ushered the courier out, “That’s enough excitement for today.”

“Today? So it IS Day! I told you it was day and not night.”

After leaving the green house the cheetah and dragon suddenly felt the winter chill again like a slap on the nose. No more snow fell however an icy gale had picked up. Stealth reached for the dragonet and bundled him in the top of his tunic as the wind licked at his fur. Gornul snuggled in warmly.

“Hang on, little guy.” The feline said and began to jog toward the spires of Metamor.

They soon returned to the Keep and the warm embrace of its countless hearths. Stealth entered Long Hall with the small dragon in tow, “Hello, Misha.” He said as he entered the Long’s office, “Will says hi... And I made a new friend.”

The small, blue dragon chirped happily at the sight of Misha, an image of the fox appearing in their heads.

“Hello Gornul!” The fox said at the sight of the small reptilian. “So how did you two meet?” He asked, lowering his quill.

“An image popped into my head on the way down...” The cheetah answered. He handed a small coin pouch to the dragon and motioned to the desk.

Gornul chirped and took the pouch in his mouth, gliding to perch on the desk. Probably more curious then for his own good the small dragon poked his snout into the pouch to see inside.

“What’s in the bag? Nothing edible I hope.” Misha chuckled.

“It’s the coins from the old mage, silly fox.” Stealth answered.

“Ah! My payment!” Misha said and opened the pouch, he took out one gold coin and threw it to Gornul, “Here! Buy yourself something nice.”

“Hey, where’s my cut?” The feline pouted.

Misha took out another coin and threw it to the cat, “Here! You get something nice too!”

Stealth deftly took the gold coin in his paw, “Oh, very funny.”

“What’s wrong?” Misha asked. “Not enough? You drive a hard bargain,” The fox complained and tossed another coin to the feline.

“Thanks.” Stealth said and caught it. “It was too hard finding that place.”

Misha twirled the pouch around his finger and secreted it away on his belt. “Hard to find? How many stone buildings with a glass roof are there?”

Stealth pinched his nose bridge.

Misha chuckled. “I take that to mean you had some problems?”

“Well it wasn’t as bad as that kook near Ellingham.” The feline answered and sat down in one of the chairs, “And I did have help this time.”

“At least you had a good guide this time!” He said and nodded to the dragon.

Gornul chirped a little at that and launched off the table to the back of the chair the feline was in.

“I think you two make a pair!” Misha commented.

Gornul blinked down at the cheetah and poked the feline with his tail.

The cheetah poked the dragonet’s belly with his nose.

‘Meep’ The dragon yipped and wiggled away a tiny bit then stuck his tongue out.

Misha chuckled at the antics of his two friends and shook his head.

“Well, I’ve other tasks then I’m due in the archery range this afternoon.” The feline said and got up.

The dragonet stepped onto the feline’s shoulder as he got to get up.

“Why don’t you go out and celebrate a job well done.”

Stealth blinked and looked at the dragon, “Well... it’s about lunch time, sure.”

At that Gornul’s tummy growled.

Misha watched the two leave “Stay out of trouble! Please!” He pleaded but they were already out of sight.

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"Spots and Scales", copyright Stealthcat and Christian O'Kane and Gornul