OT: Local Gossip (Palatine District)

on November 7, 2011 in Other Tales


Not even the most arrogant or overbearing dragon parent would presume to give another dragon a name. To do so would be an unforgivable trespass that could only be avenged by blood. The inconvenience of having multiple unnamed children underfoot contributed to the tendency among dragonkind to quicken only a single egg from a clutch at a time, but even dragons raising clutches of three or four hatchlings at a time took care to never call any of them by a name the child had not chosen for itself.

(Note: when one speaks generically of a dragon in Pax, the proper pronoun is “it”… this is not to suggest that dragons are sexless or that they are all unintelligent beasts, but rather it is to carefully avoid suggesting the superiority of one gender over another. To do so would be a serious faux pas, which one dragon etiquette expert defined as “a most charming Kharoline phrase signifying that one’s house has suddenly caught fire.”)

Usually by the age of one or two years, a dragon hatchling would have started trying on various syllables for euphonious effect and style. Older dragons rarely paid any attention to this. After around a hundred years or so, an actual name would begin to take shape from these sounds. By the age of five or six hundred, the youngling’s tastes and sense of identity were expected to have solidified enough to give them a name they could introduce themselves by and expect to be taken somewhat seriously by their kin. The greater orders of dragons often took longer than this, of course, but many a human high school student has learned the factoid that common dragons take their name during their sixth century of life.

“Common dragon”, of course, was not a designation much in use by those to whom the label referred, nor was it used much in reference to them when one is present. No dragon of insufficient power level to hold the title of “great” or “greater” would attempt to do so (or at least, not more than once), but they could be touchy about what titles were applied to them. When the label was used, the accepted definition of it was a dragon of any color of above animal intelligence and capable of speech. Lesser dragons could have much animal cunning and could often be seen to understand speech, but could not make use of it.

Dragon names rarely meant anything, except to their owners. Scholars had often postulated that there was a secret language used for them, or that different dragon families had their own private languages… the latter was closer to the truth, but it would be better to say that each dragon had their own private language that would never be taught to anyone. Such languages were not created for communicating information, but for hoarding it. The language known as True Draconic, from which High Draconic and Low Draconic descended, was for communicating. The True Tongue—which was what every dragon thought of its private language as—was for giving secret names to things.

A dragon’s name was not necessarily secret, though dragons that had little commerce with the lower orders might not bother to share it. But the language in which a dragon named itself would never be explained to anyone, nor would any of the words it contained. Few of them would ever be spoken or written. A dragon is born knowing every mortal language spoken by any of its direct ancestors, but it soon learns to think in its own tongue.

By the reckoning of most of the world and many of his own kind, the Imperial Master of Drakes had already been a few centuries overdo for naming himself when he took up his post. Naming was not exactly a rite of passage in the way that mortals understood one to be…”adult” and “child” are always treated as relative states among dragonkind. But having a name meant that one could introduce oneself, be introduced to others, and be called upon in sufficiently formal ways. It was in some ways a prerequisite for admission into society.

Initially, there had been no particular reason behind his slowness in formulating a name. Purple dragons had a reputation for eccentricity, even immaturity. This meant he could get away with dragging his tail in the dirt, as the saying went. Once he became entangled with the ruling family of the current human residents of his land… well, it would have been inconvenient to take a few months off to attend to all the necessary rites. No one would take the announcement of a name seriously if it wasn’t preceded by a meditative nap of at least a few weeks, for instance.

Now, however, he had a new reason to put it off. The nickname bestowed upon him by one of the new tenants actually appealed to him. It wasn’t much, as far as names went… it wasn’t anything. But it had a nice ring in his ear, and he’d resolved to revise his name-in-progress to incorporate it. This meant, of course, that he couldn’t possibly reveal his name to anyone while Vera while still alive. The chance that she would recognize the origin of the syllable and share it was too great. Regional nicknames were one thing, so long as they could be taken as a token of respect or fear, but if another dragon ever learned that he’d allowed a mortal to name him, even partially… the consequences didn’t bear thinking about.

“Good morning, Joe,” Vera said as she entered the drakery. She was dressed in purple lace for a portrait on the south lawn. Master Drake believed the portrait had been taken earlier, but he would be careful about letting her excite any of his mockdragons until this was clarified.

“Good morning, Your Majesty,” the Master of Drakes replied.

“The PGs have asked me to speak to you,” the empress said, “about the matter of sleeping on the roof. They say it is a security risk.”

“I can’t imagine how,” he said. “I’m cleared to be inside the building. I am cleared to walk the grounds. I am allowed to be alone In The Presence, or half of it. What possible mischief do they imagine I could or would commit from a perch on a southeast gable that would be so dire?”

“I believe they find it distracting to receive reports of a man on the roof,” she said.

“If they don’t want anyone to sleep on the roof, they shouldn’t use so much gold and marble,” he said.

“You know, the Manor House has a number of intolerably hard benches covered with gold and encrusted with jewels,” she said. “I’m sure at least one of the is big enough to throw a mattress over.”

“I am not cleared for sleeping in the Manor House, ma’am,” he said. “And anyway, what would the tabloids say? They already make too much of your fondness for my company.”

“I didn’t think you read the tabloids.”

“I don’t,” he said. “Or I haven’t in a few decades, but before that I saw enough of them to make reading any more redundant.”

“The Magisterian papers are properly respectful,” she said. “But the Metric ones are a different story… not that I read them, either, of course, except to see what all the fuss is about.”

“I believe that’s why most everyone reads them,” Master Drake said. “Somewhere, one imagines, there is a lone actual original reader who must be very fussy indeed. Did the Guard really send you here on an errand, ma’am? If you’ll permit me to say so, allowing the praetorians to start giving you orders is not a healthy career move.”

“Oh, no. Captain Halbeck simply heard me mentioning that I was coming here anyway. He’s heading up the grounds detail this month.”

“The grounds? So I take it the portrait was a success?”

“Postponed while they arrange for better lighting,” she said. “You would think we could manage a little sunshine without it being a huge ordeal, but you would not believe how many regulations there are involving weather manipulation.”

“To speak frankly, ma’am, I am astounded by the number of regulations humans concoct in the first place,” he said. “You do not seem to be a particularly well-regulated people to begin with.”

“Well, that is why we need to write regulations, I suppose,” she said. “Anyway, it looked like it was going to be a long, boring wait and there is nothing on the official docket until it’s completed… so I decided to sneak up here and play with the babies for a bit.”

He studied her beaming face carefully.

“You are teasing me again, ma’am.”

“You could have the good grace to be teased,” she replied. “Yes, the portraits are finished. I will go change into my riding clothes, and then I shall be taking Octavia and Demeter out for a little hunting.”

“You can’t handle both of them by yourself.”

“Oh, Joe… you aren’t writing regulations now, are you?”

“It would be slightly inconvenient for me to be found guilty of causing the injury or death of a human empress,” he replied.

This was a bit of false bravado on his part. There were dragons in the world who could confront the magical and military might of the Imperial Republic of Magisteria and… well, having lived in the Palatine District since before it had been the Palatine District, the purple dragon known as Master Drake didn’t believe that any dragon who had been active in the past thousand years could actually go against the Imperium and prevail.

There were dragons who could do serious damage to it on the way down, though, and he wasn’t one of them.

Not that he could bear to admit that.

“Very well,” the empress said. “Then you must accompany me.”

“Not on horseback. There is no horse alive that would even allow me to saddle it.”

“Can you not control a horse?”

“I can paralyze it with fear. Is the hunting very good in the imperial stables?”

“We’ll take the carousel horses then,” she said.

“The what?”

“The automata,” she said. “They march in front of the imperial carriage during processions. They reind me of carousel horses.”

“You propose that a dragon should be carried around by a golem?”

“They’re gilt. You’ll find it restful.”

“It may be a fine enough thing for an empress, but it is entirely beneath my dignity,” he said. “Ma’am.”

“Do it, and I’ll have one of those Khersis-forsaken couches dragged to your loft.”

“Ma’am, you have a deal.”

Vera shook her head.

“Reduced to bargaining with servants in my own household,” she said. “What would the pundits think?”

“Just try to imagine how this would look to other dragons.”

“Oh, Joe… I hate to think that my association with you causes you problems,” she said. “Do the other dragons in our service give you trouble?”

“No, not at all,” he said. “Any dragon who works in or visits the Palatium seeks my approval first,” he said. “In many cases I would of course be foolish to withhold it, but it would be rude not to ask.”

“How curious,” she said. “It is still recognized as your territory, even though we have made it our capital?”

“Of course,” he said. “It’s quite a jewel in my hoard, too. In draconic terms, the entire palace belongs to me, in the same way that a village of goatherds or a cattle ranch might belong to another dragon.”

“Do many dragons employ humans to tend livestock?”

“Not as such. I fear you are misunderstanding me. All land belongs to a dragon, and everything on it belongs to that dragon. If some mortals settle on it…” He shrugged. “Of course, I might encounter some small difficulty in defending my territory with such a rich prize on it, but you are so accommodating as to defend yourselves. When your empire seems to be on the wane, I may seek a deal with a greater dragon to sell my rights for whatever I can get in order to avoid fighting for it.”

“Well… I’m not sure how I like all this talk of waning power and property rights,” Vera said, “but I suppose I can take comfort in the idea that as long as you maintain your post in the tower, the Imperium is reasonably secure. Would you be selling to Azemahoth, then?”

“Possibly. He certainly knows the value of the property and couldn’t pretend otherwise. But on the other hand, his stature and superior social station would make it difficult for me to bargain with.”

“His station in dragon society, I assume you mean. He’s only an accountant in ours.”

“Among dragons, that very nearly makes him a priest,” Master Drake said. “The fact that he has some oversight over the imperial treasury… he is allowed to count something like twelve percent of your annual budget when he reports his hoard.”

“Reports? To whom?”

“To anyone who cares, which is everyone.”

“Every dragon, you mean.”

“As you say, ma’am,” he said. “This, of course, is why he keeps angling for promotions… the greater his level of responsibility, the greater his claim over the funds. If he can occupy a top seat in the departent, he will be the wealthiest active dragon in the world. And he won’t even have to worry about threats from greater dragons, because it isn’t like one could slay him and take his post.”

“You had given me the impression that dragons don’t have much esteem for paper wealth.”

“It’s somewhat unsatisfying compared to hard currency… but it counts. All things count.”

“That sounds very much like a commandment.”

“It is very much like one, I suppose.”

“Should we be concerned, then?” Vera asked.

“About dragons? Constantly.”

“About Azemahoth’s designs on the treasury. If he sees the money as his, might he be inclined to do something with it?”

“Such as what? Spend it? You couldn’t ask for a better steward than a dragon. Now, since his personal cachet depends on the actual size of the budget, you might find attempts to decrease revenue or expenditures become more difficult the closer to the levers of power he becomes, but I gather that neither of these things are often a serious issue in human governance.”

“The things I do learn,” Vera said. “Well, I must go change, and you must meet me in the carriage bays. I want to hear more of this… dragon gossip.”


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36 Responses to “OT: Local Gossip (Palatine District)”

  1. Burnsidhe says:

    Amusing and instructive. 🙂

    Also a style thing: [ the proper pronoun is “it”… this ] really should be [ the proper pronoun is “it.” This ] It’s an unnecessary ellipsis. I find myself using them frequently when I shouldn’t, so perhaps I’m being too aware of it.

    Ditto for [ own private languages… the latter ]

    Once you get to “By the reckoning of” though, from that point on it’s clear that the remainder of this is the musing of the Master of Drakes, and counts as dialog for me.

    The tidbit that dragons get to count one part in eight of the money they manage as part of their hoard is particularly striking. I’m sure that if this world ever developed a Wall Street, dragons would be right up there among the most stable fund managers.

    For that matter, it makes me wonder how heavily dragons are involved in trade.

    Current score: 0
    • Luke Licens says:

      Clearly you are unfamiliar with the author’s stance on ellipsis. It’s best summed up as “the more… the merrier.”

      Current score: 0
      • It helps to think of it less as a manuscript and more as a home for wayward and abused punctuation.

        Current score: 4
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          I like that, very much. I may have to borrow it.

          Current score: 0
        • erianaiel says:

          Could you find it in your heart to also provide a home for the oft neglected and abused m-dash and its lesser cousin the n-dash?

          Current score: 1
  2. Tigger says:

    “About Azemahoth’s designs on the treasury. If he sees the money as his, might he be inclined to do something with it?”

    “Such as what? Spend it?”

    I giggled so hard…

    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      A Dragon hoard is not so much what a Dragon has as it is what a Dragon does.

      Current score: 0
  3. Alico says:

    Typo Report

    “This meant, of course, that he couldn’t possibly reveal his name to anyone while Vera while still alive.”

    That second while should be ‘was’.

    I really did like this OT. Dragons are one of my favorite sources of worldbuilding lore, so getting to hear from one directly on Dragon motivations is very cool. Keep up these good OT stories, they help the main storyline a ton =D.

    On that note, could I request that Two’s Journals have another edition? I would love to see how her shift into the world as a free golem is going!

    Current score: 0
  4. Zathras IX says:

    Faux pas is a phrase
    Signifying “one’s house has
    Suddenly caught fire”

    Current score: 4
  5. Tamina says:

    One typo: “I’m sure at least one of the is big enough to throw a mattress over.” – should be ‘them’

    I loved this OT, particularly the alternate meaning of ‘faux pas’ ^_^

    Current score: 0
  6. Dani says:

    s/a few centuries overdo/a few centuries overdue/

    Current score: 0
  7. HiEv says:

    I believe the following line needs the italicized word added:
    “you might find attempts to decrease revenue or increase expenditures become more difficult the closer to the levers of power he becomes”

    That seems to make more sense with the hoarding aspect of dragons.

    Still, an interesting way to avoid putting your country into a deficit. ;-P

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      And this is where we get into the weird part of the world of accountancy; Reducing expenditures means a reduced need for revenue, which leads to a smaller budget, which leads to a smaller hoard.

      You see, he doesn’t just claim a share of the revenue, he claims a share of the entire budget. Increased expenditures lead to increased calls for revenue, which lead to an increase in the size of the hoard.

      Current score: 1
      • Got it in one.

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        • OhPun says:

          While I am sure that Dragons are very competent at math and accountancy, who audits?

          Current score: 0
          • nemka says:

            Given the nature of dragons and their need to both hoard and have big hoards compared to each other, the probably secretly audit each other as often as they can

            Current score: 0
          • Stonefoot says:

            Certainly not I.

            And, I expect, a greater dragon might audit a lesser dragon, if interested (which seems unlikely), but an audit by a peer would be, er, disrespectful. And probably quite inconvenient for any non-dragon in the vicinity… which could cover (in human terms) a very substantial area.

            Current score: 0
  8. readaholic says:

    Ooh, wonderful insight into the ways of dragons! Om nom nommy nom!

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  9. Kevin Brown says:

    A dragon named “Joe?” That has to be the best name for a dragon ever… Except for “Draco.”

    Current score: 1
  10. Alex Koponen says:

    “I’m sure at least one of the is big enough to throw a mattress over.”
    one of them

    Current score: 0
  11. Author_Unknown says:

    This is kind of randomly awesome, I love it. Up there with the Dan OTs.

    Current score: 0
  12. Joel says:

    Holy crap. I loved this chapter. Needs moar dragon gossip.

    Current score: 0
  13. Greenwood Goat says:

    “…They reind me of carousel horses.”

    remind

    Presumably the vexed question of how one refers to a particular juvenile greater dragon in the mean time has been unvexed and answered. Perhaps it goes by relations, i.e: “I saw [father] and [mother]’s daughter eyeing up the museum again.” “Really? Oh, and we can call her [brother]’s sister, now. He finished his naming last month.”

    I wonder if greater dragons ever bother or deign to name people. Being given a name in a greater dragon’s true tongue could be both an honour and a burden whether one knew about it or not.

    Finally, I wonder what the future holds for Empress Vera and her Master of Drakes. If she survives her husband, would she be entitled to take a consort? Would Master Drake require any such entitlement? Or would it be strictly companionable, like Queen Victoria and John Brown (except it would be Empress Vera and Joe Purple >:=).

    Current score: 0
    • Month says:

      Actually Great Dragons have nicknames for most mortals.

      “Snack” is chief amongst them…

      Current score: 0
    • nemka says:

      Joe may enjoy his post and her company, but I’m not sure he would extend that to being a human’s consort, if for no other reason than a human royal’s consort is the slight social inferior of said rroyal, and Joe does seem to have some dragon pride. As I understand it, dragon pride involves a significant level of ‘dragons are better than and above the dignity of humans.’

      Current score: 0
  14. Ben says:

    Good stuff. You’ve got a “departent” in there that I am assuming was meant to be “department.”

    Current score: 0
  15. Tiamat says:

    If every chapter of Mu suddenly transformed into a dialogue between Vera and ‘Joe,’ I’d probably flunk out of law school trying to binge on it.

    Current score: 0
  16. nemka says:

    I love Joe the dragon. There should be a plot twist sometime involving Mack meeting and therefor getting to know a dragon who is not a complete creepy bastard without any level of respect for human type people.

    Current score: 2
  17. Abeo says:

    This chapter seems to imply that there are dragons who have not been “active” in thousands of years. That is somewhat frightening.

    Current score: 1
  18. readstospouse says:

    I loved this chapter. Your dragons are fantastic.

    @abeo Given their relationship to gods (seee great star drake) the more powerful dragons are probably part of the agreement to focus mainly on other spheres of existance to prevent further destruction of what is left of the world (see the war with giants)

    Current score: 0
  19. Erm says:

    I like the big bulk of exposition explaining how arrogant and proud dragons are and what a big deal their names are, followed by

    “Good morning, Joe”

    and not followed by, in Kharoline words, a faux pas.

    Current score: 1
  20. Colin vH says:

    overdo -> overdue

    <3

    Current score: 0
  21. Ladyinahat says:

    Awesome! I love learning more about Dragons!

    Thank You, wonderful as always.

    Current score: 0
  22. pedestrian says:

    Alexandra you continue to clarify the truism, that the greater the perceived power/authority the more infantile the behavior. Whether here be dragons or gods.

    Current score: 0
  23. BMeph says:

    It seems Depeche Mode was right, after all; “It’s a competitive world; everything counts in large amounts,”indeed.

    Current score: 0
  24. Anonymoose says:

    Interesting how the “Ignoble” dragon scares me way less than the “Noble” dragon does.

    Also, for some reason I think every dragon that’s had a speaking part sounds like Tony Jay.

    Current score: 0