The Beaches of New Fairy
by Rachel Parsons
Part 1 and Part 2|
appear in this issue.
The flames were followed by a spray of acid. I panicked and climbed under a table. Fire and acid — that does not mix with naked flesh. “Help me, Tiamat!” I screamed.
But Tiamat was already roaring. I had never seen him so valorous. He belched flame back, and let out a hideous caw. The tower wall, though, crumbled, and an intruder, an enormous black dragon that resembled pictures I had seen of Nithhogr devouring souls at the base of the World Tree, came storming through.
“Run, Rhiannon. Come back with your death sword. But run. The acid will eat your flesh.”
He didn’t have to ask me twice. But how was I to leave?
Anticipating my question, Tiamat yelled, “Get one of the brothers to take you home. Hurry, the brothers are peaceful and I cannot withstand an entire flock of Nithhogrs by myself!”
I ran as a pool of acid followed me. I grabbed the first firebreather I ran into.
“We must flee! I need to gather knights to defend your Temple!”
The dragon nodded. I climbed on his spine, and he flew down the corridor, out a window, yelling, “Up, up and away!”
As we zigzagged past the invading flock I realized I was on Yofune.
* * *
Dragons can circle Daearu at speeds faster than the noise they make bellowing; it did not take us long to arrive back at Caer Rhiannon. Leaving my grooms to throw water on the exhausted Yofune and give him something to drink, I burst into the great hall. Rosalyn and Zusanna greeted me; Rosalyn took my arm and herded me back outside; my werewolf merely jumped on me and at me. She nearly tripped me twice.
“Here’s your death sword,” Rosalyn said as we climbed on top of Yofune, who was moaning. I held on to Eligor, and watched her pull out a quiver and a crossbow from her purse. Zusanna jumped, almost falling, and then jumped again, wedging herself between two spines. Yofune flapped his wings.
I tried talking to Rosalyn over their roar. “How did you know?”
“Just accept that I do, Rhiannon. We don’t have much time, if the Temple only has one defender. I did send word to the Dragon High Council; attacking the Temple of the Jabberwock has got to be against some Elderly decree or another.”
I held desperately to Yofune’s spine, almost slipping, as the maiden-eater rose and headed back to his beleaguered perch.
“You sent notice by dragon rider?”
“No, by Raoul. He can fly across the globe in forty minutes. The avenging flock I hope will be on its way even as we are.”
It had taken the goblin king only minutes, and there must not have been much debate, as we almost ran into a flock of knuckers as we careened through the narrow corridor that lead to the Temple. It was a terrifying sight. Flame matched by flame, and spitball matched by spitball. I cringed, as the Temple’s obsidian attackers were engulfed in fireballs.
“I can feel the heat from here,” I shouted. Yofune gurgled in response and Rosalyn rubbed me with her hands.
“I cannot give you covering, but I can guarantee that I will love you even if the acid strips you of all your flesh.”
“Oh, thank you so much.” That was not reassuring. I was in hysterics at the thought of my flesh being burned or eaten away. But I held Eligor high, and fell off Yofune as he dodged a black dragon’s strafing run. Darts of fire were all around me as I careened down toward the spire of the Temple. From my trajectory, my butt was going to be cleaved in two in but moments.
I fell instead on Tiamat’s spines. He had flown right below me, and was between me and the spire.
“Ever think of clipping those things?” I cried.
“Shut up and hold on.”
He revved his wings, and we went crashing into the upper atmosphere. We were surrounded by a night like sky and stars, leaving me heaving and breathless as he plunged back down. Fire was coming out of his nostrils, and he was hocking lugies of immense proportions. They would splatter on black dragons’ backs, causing them to scream and spiral downward.
The firebreather knights went into a ‘V’ formation, and then, one by one, buzzed the enemies until they plummeted to their deaths, burst into flames, were burned by the acid, or retreated.
Tiamat went down to what was left of the Temple. Others of the wyrm knights landed and one, a three headed hydra, covered in chain mail and with two epaulets, came lumbering up.
Yofune skidded to a halt; Rosalyn got off with Zusanna barking and howling, nipping at her heels.
“You son of Gaia, Tiamat, I should have known you were involved in this somehow.”
“And you brought your own lunch, I see,” the tri-head said, as six pairs of red eyes sized me up.
Yofune whimpered at that.
“No, Midgard, this is the princess Rhiannon, who freed our lands from the offworlders, the Georgists,” he added by way of amplification.
“I never thought I would meet the queen who goes about as a meal.” Midgard asked. Yofune bit his nails, as Midgard said that.
“I am the high queen” I said, indignantly. “I do not go around as anyone’s meal.”
“You resemble the girl I had for lunch,” Midgard said. “She had nice breasts and legs too. The loveliest thighs.” He put his outer hands to his outer mouths, thumbs and forefingers pinched, and made an appreciative noise. “But I bow to the queen of the humans, who warned the Elders of the attack on this, our holiest ground.” He turned to Tiamat. “What was this about?”
That annoyed me. I was the one in charge here. And how many times did I have to point out I was a fairy, not a human? Pointy ears; big bosoms; long life span, talent for learning magic, remember?
Tiamat responded. “I don’t rightly know, but it might have to do with a wyrmling that Rhiannon here found. Or it may not. We were discussing Father Typhon’s reluctance to help find the foundling’s mother when the attack began.”
Two of Midgard’s heads were surveying the damage.
Two of the heads howled, as Midgard said grimly, “The Temple has stood since the opening of the portal. This is unbelievable. There will be repercussions for this.”
“A war between the wyrm clans?”
My father had told me of such happenings; in the olden days, one clan would rain death on another. Flocks of dragons would blacken the sky, and humans and fairies alike would stay indoors and cringe.
“If needs be. And we would expect the queen of New Fairy to support us, as we supported her in the war against the offworlders.”
“Of course,” I said. “I will speak to your Council of Elders first.”
“You will pow-wow with me, first. I have been elected general by the council.”
“Oh.” I thought that a clever riposte to that information.
“Come, little sister; we will talk alone.” He bowed his three heads, offering me a ride on the middle one. I climbed aboard it, my legs dangling to either side. I had no place to sheath the death sword, and Rosalyn started to climb. “Leave your weapon with her; she is not coming. This is between royals.” Before anyone could contradict that, he flapped his wings and we were off. I was a little nervous. One swift bite from the flanking heads, and I would indeed be the queen who was a meal.
We came to rest on a canopy of Yggdrasil trees.
“One of my favorite perches,” he explained. I slid off his head and sat on some cones facing him.
He laughed, which shook the trees. “That must tickle your nether parts.”
“Never you mind about my nether parts. And I thought I excited hunger, not lust, in you.”
He laughed again. And then said somberly, “The attack by the Nithhogr is not good news, Rhiannon. There must have been something at that temple they deeply desired for them to break the commandment that wyrm not attack wyrm. A commandment your father helped to forge, by the way.”
I stared at him. “You are like an onion, Midgard. You have to be peeled to understand you. At first, you didn’t seem to recognize me; then you demand my support because you supported me in the war with the offworlders, and now, it seems you knew my father.”
“All you women look alike to me, even with your clothes on. Without them, you look, well, generic. You are not like wyrms; we are all distinct, even when we move in flocks. I know, it must seem different to the males of your own race.”
I smiled. “Not so different. When we are naked, our males treat us as interchangeable.”
“That must make the curse rough on you.”
I nodded. “Aye, it does. But this is not about me. It is about the fate of a foundling, and peace among the wyrms.”
“You are wise for one so little. You must take me to the wyrmling. I will then decide what to do: who is to nurse him. It is a ‘him’?” (I was only later to learn the irony of this question.)
I shrugged. “I have no idea. But yes, as the general of the wyrms, it is best you decide Baby’s fate. I set out to find its mother, but I will be content at your handling of him.”
“Good. Then it is decided. Climb upon my middle neck, and we will tell the others. While my captains supervise the rebuilding of the Temple, we will get to the bottom of things.”
I climbed onto his neck, lowered myself down so I could cling to him, wondering again about how I could press against him without the curse’s apnea, and then screamed as he simply let himself go and dropped the thousands of feet to the bottom of the Yggdrasil forest.
“So this is Caer Rhiannon. It hasn’t changed much since the days of your father’s rule.”
Midgard was standing in the middle of the grounds. When we first landed, we had attracted attention. Elfrod had sounded the alarm, and we had been surrounded by armored men with crossbows and torches. The sigh of relief when they spotted me perched on the lizard’s neck could probably have been heard at the firebreather’s canopy.
Midgard placed his middle neck on the ground, allowing me an easy exodus, and his other two heads were looking over the manor. One of them spotted a maid servant and I heard the basilisk’s stomach growl. He looked at me with his six red eyes.
“No, I do not know if she’s a virgin.”
We entered the great hall, which he almost filled. Rosalyn came to us, Baby in tow. She had an enormous leather leash around him. Baby spotted me and cawed.
“Ma! Ma!” Waddled toward me and almost planted his beak back on my bosom, but Midgard intercepted it. He said something which sounded like hisses, crackling fire, and behemoth burps. Baby responded by stomping his feet, looking around the arm that was in his way, and warbling, “Ma! Ma!”
“This isn’t good,” Midgard said.
“Tell me about it.”
“No, you don’t understand. He is imprinted on you.”
“He’s what?” I involuntarily looked down my centerline to see the stamp.
“No, he thinks you’re his mother.”
“Well, yes, I know that.”
“But he feels that so deeply, he will reject any wyrm mother. You will have to be present even if we succeed in getting a fire nurse.”
“Oh, you will have to get that; my bosoms will not survive his nourishment.”
“Nor will any maidens who come near him. He will have to be nursed by a cockatrice at least twice a day. And guarded, when the Nithhogr show.” At the look on my face, he added, “Oh, they will show. And even with your death sword, you cannot fight them all. You will have to grant my knights permission to guard your castle.”
“You have that. I don’t want to have Caer Rhiannon share the Temple’s fate. But I also want to know what’s so special about Baby.”
“Oh, I can tell you that. I saw it immediately.”
“The cockatrice you call Baby is the reincarnation of the Wyrm of Ouroboros. He is to be our spiritual leader when he grows up. That is why the Nithhogr want him. If they control him, they control our spirits. And then the peace between men and wyrms will be over.”
“My goddesses. That could mean the end of everything.”
He shook his heads. “At one time, I would have said it would be the end of all men. But if you have Eligor then you must have access to the spirit of St. George. And his spirit could end what he started on the old world. And that will be the end of all wyrmkind.”
I didn’t tell him that he had revealed too much; that I had been unaware that the death sword could bring back the sworn enemy of the firebreathers. But it didn’t matter. I had sworn to protect the wyrms from the men of the old world, but that didn’t matter either. In any race war, I knew which side I was on.
I was a woman. These creatures fed on my sex. They would not feed on my world. Unless we stopped the Nithhogr they would, or they would have to die.
I had succeeded in my mission. Baby will be fathered by Midgard; nursed by a wyrm wet nurse. The wyrm knights will see to his safety. But if I didn’t find a way to meet this new challenge, dragons’ blood and the blood of men would flood the beaches of New Fairy; verily, the whole world.
Copyright © 2007 by Rachel Parsons