“That was a really stupid thing to do,” Jenny mumbled into my chest. “Stupid idiot.”
I pulled her in a bit tighter. Partly because it was cold up in the night sky, and partly to make sure she didn’t fall off the dragon. But mostly because I could and I liked it.
“Do I look older?” I asked with my chin resting on the top of her head.
“It’s hard to tell under that mop. I’m going to give you a haircut.” She said it very aggressively, daring me to object. I wasn’t going to argue, especially when I agreed with her.
“Thanks. I could use a shave, too. Shame I lost all my shaving gear.”
She reached up a hand and stroked the hair hanging off my chin in what could only be described as a miserable attempt at a beard. She tugged it, making me yelp.
“It’ll be worth it if Vikchutni actually remembers I saved his life. Could come in useful in the future.”
Jenny lifted her head. “Who’s Vick Chutney?”
“The dragon. That’s his name.”
She took a second to think about it. “That’s not his name.”
“Yes it is. And it’s Vikchutni, not Vick Chutney.”
She looked at me as though I’d just said the same thing twice, which I definitely had not.
The problem with winning an argument against a competitive girl was that suddenly everything became a fight until she evens the score. She was being petty, but it would be easier to just let her win one… but not this one, because the dragon’s name was Vik-fucking-chutni.
The dragon (Vikchutni) shook in mid-air making us grab onto each other and putting the argument on hold. The journey so far had been a lot rougher than before. The dragon may not have fully recovered from his brush with death, or he might just want to get away from there as quickly as possible. Either way, we were bumped and jostled through the air.
Flossie wasn’t riding him this time. Once we got Dudley back, her mastery of dragons deserted her and she no longer had the confidence to climb onto the dragon’s neck. Looking at how precarious a place it was, it seemed amazing that she had done it in the first place.
If she was the Dragonrider Hitokag spoke of she would need a lot more practice. Or Dud would have to get kidnapped more often.
The first view of our destination came with the sunrise. In amongst the mountains below us, one stood out. It looked like its peak had been sliced off, leaving a large, circular plateau covered in grass. Strolling about in the grass were dragons. Dozens of them. They looked unreal from this height, even more so when they stretched their wings.
And from the middle of the plateau rose Cheng’s castle. It was very big and very square. There were no outer walls, no battlements, no turrets. Just a block with lots of windows.
As we came in to land, the dragons craned their long necks towards us and honked. It was not a pleasant sound. More like geese than majestic creatures of myth and legend.
As soon as we touched down, a group of Mezziks came running towards us but they had little interest in the passengers. They carried buckets of water and scrubbing brushes. They immediately set to work rubbing down the dragon like a very strange carwash.
We disembarked, still a bit wobbly from the journey.
“They must be females,” said Maurice, pointing at the Mezziks washing the dragon. “No wings.”
They did look a bit more feminine in their facial features, and they didn’t have wings or crests on their heads, although they had a similar blue tinge to the males. Looking around, I noticed there were some larger dragons that also didn’t have wings. Females?
It did suggest there was some link between lizardmen and dragons, but I decided not to mention it to Hitokag who seemed touchy on the subject.
“This way,” Hitokag said. “You can rest in your quarters until the feast this evening. Cheng will greet you there.”
As we set off towards the castle, I exchanged a look with Vikchutni. No sign of recognition, let alone gratitude. He had no idea who I was. Fucking Vick Chutney.
“What does Cheng look like?” I asked Hitokag.
“It depends. He has three forms, that I know of. During the day he has the body of a Tecorn. At night he takes the form of Carap. And in battle… I would advise you to avoid combat.”
The descriptions didn’t really help, but the advice was noted.
A rather stern looking female met us at the door, which was a large open archway.
She looked us over, then turned to Hitokag and tilted her head at him.
“It’s fine, Noreen, they’re toothpicks.”
Judging from where she had been looking, I took ‘toothpicks’ to refer to our weapons.
She turned and led us inside. There was a courtyard with stone steps leading off in various directions. The courtyard was filled with children all busily engaged in beating the shit out of each other. Some had stubby wings while others didn’t, possibly because of an age difference or because they were girls.
It was brutal to watch. They fought hand to hand, and also teeth to teeth. Many of them were bleeding. Those that fell were set upon even more viciously by the others.
“Ah… aren’t you going to stop them?” asked Flossie.
“They are training,” said Noreen.
“Is it only Mezzik who live here?” I asked her.
“On the lower floors.” She wasn’t particularly chatty.
From the outside, I had estimated there were twenty storeys by counting windows. From inside it felt even bigger. Each floor was huge.
I have no idea which floor we ended up on, but we were taken to a series of rooms without doors, just gaps between the walls that went from wall to ceiling.
“You may use these rooms,” said Noreen. “Together or separately, as you wish. Are you sexually active?”
She said it in such a clinical matter I was a bit lost for words.
“I am,” said Jenny, “but he just sort of lays there and lets me get on with it.”
Claire burst out laughing. She never laughed that loud at my jokes. Jenny grinned at me, licked the end of her finger and ticked the air. Keeping score? Really? So petty. I didn’t retaliate. I let it go. And when the time was right, I would destroy her.
Noreen nodded like she knew exactly what Jenny meant. The others were all smirking. So immature. I stuck my tongue out at Jenny.
”Sexual congress is permitted during daylight, but not at night,” said Noreen.
“Why?” I asked. It seemed an odd rule.
“It scares the children and gives them nightmares.”
Her answer definitely made me not want to know how lizardmen had sex.
Noreen left and I was about to enter one of the rooms when I caught Claire glaring at me, arms folded across her chest.
“What?” I said.
“I suppose you and Jenny are going to have sex now.”
I looked at Jenny and then back at Claire. “She hasn’t asked, but I’ll probably say yes if she does.”
Claire unfolded her arms and put her hands on her hips. “And you had plenty of sex last time, didn’t you?”
“I guess. If you think four times is plenty.”
“Are you including the first one?” said Maurice. “Because I don’t think you should include the first one.”
“It were a bit quick,” said Flossie. Dudley nodded.
This is why you shouldn’t have sex in a tent.
“All right, call it three. Sorry I don’t measure up to your high professional standards, you bunch of fucking whores. What’s your point, Claire?”
“My point is did you take any precautions? Did you? No you fucking didn’t. After you gave us all that shit about not getting pregnant, first chance you get, you pump her full of everything you got.”
The way she said it made me think she wasn’t taking a wild guess. I looked at Jenny who suddenly found the masonry very interesting. Claire had a point, though. I had been completely overwhelmed by the situation and the last thing on my mind had been the consequences.
“No, you’re right, I should—”
“I bet you didn’t ask her to take it up the arse like you told us to, did you? Just stuck it in and said, ‘Have some of that!’”
“I did not say, ‘Have some of that,’” I insisted. I was fairly sure I hadn’t said it.
“And now you’re going to go have more sex. Going to use the withdrawal method are you? Or will you be sticking with anal from now on?”
“Well…” This conversation was certainly a lot more uncomfortable when you were on the receiving end. A bit like anal sex.
“Of course you aren’t!” she yelled. “You know why?”
“Why?” asked nervously, not entirely sure I wanted to know the answer.
“Because none of us can get pregnant.”
“We haven’t had a period since we got here.”
“Oh. Really? None of you? Are you sure?”
“Er, yeah,” said Claire with sarcasm turned all the way up. “I think we’d be able to tell.”
This was certainly interesting information. “I had no idea.”
“No shit!” Claire rolled her eyes. “If you ever spent any time with us, talked to us, you would know these things.”
“Ah, yeah. Sorry. Is there anything else I should know?”
She shook her head sorrowfully. “So much, Colin, so much.”
Visitors in the past had been able to have children—the royal families were descended from them—but for some reason these three couldn’t.
“What about the others, like Mandy?”
Jenny shrugged. “It was too early to tell back then. We only figured it out between us.”
“Okay . Well, so that’s good. You don’t have to take it in the butt any more.”
Claire’s face turned bright red.
“Unless you like it, of course.”
She grabbed Maurice’s sleeve and stormed off. “Just stop being such dickhead.”
Maurice grinned at me as he was dragged away. “Three and a half’s not bad. I went five my first time.”
“No you didn’t,” said Claire as they disappeared into their room.
“What do you mean? You said those two counted.”
Flossie and Dudley both smiled at me. I had no idea what that meant, and didn’t want to know.
I followed Jenny into one of the rooms. Inside, there was a fire, which was a great relief. Stone buildings on top of mountains are not warm and cosy. Especially when the windows, like the doors, are gaping holes that go from floor to ceiling. I poked my head out and immediately pulled myself back in. It was a sheer drop to the distant ground, not even a guard rail. These people really didn’t care too much for personal safety.
There was also a large wooden tub in front of the fire full of water. It wasn’t particularly hot, or even tepid, but it looked clean.
There was a bucket with a brush in it the same as the ones they had used on the dragon outside. The bristles felt like they would rip yours skin off. There was also an orange bar.
“Soap!” said Jenny as she sniffed it. Her eyes lit up like she’d discovered the treasure of Sierra Madre. “Strip.” She was trying to take charge as usual.
“You strip,” I said. She did. Touché.
We got in the tub together and she suddenly produced a knife, don’t ask me from where. She hacked off bits of my hair as I began soaping her up, for hygiene reasons. The haircut was soon abandoned for other activities. And no, I didn’t just lie there and let her get on with it.
There wasn’t a bed, per se, but a bunch of animal skins served the same purpose and were comfy enough. Once we had washed and Jenny had scraped off my beard, we crawled in between the furry sheets and messed around some more until we eventually both fell asleep.
When I woke up it was just starting to get dark. I went over to the fire and added a few logs. The tub had been emptied so someone must have come in while we slept.
I stood by the window stark naked, and watched the dragons frolicking in the field. They weren’t really frolicking. There was a gust of wind and Hitokag came through the window, his wings retracting at the last possible moment so he could slide in between the walls.
“Hello?” It seemed the polite thing to say.
“Cheng wishes to see you. Now.”
“Oh, okay. I’ll just put some clothes on.”
“You are fine as you are.” He grabbed me, flapped his wings and shot through the window.
The wings retracted to let us through, but this also meant we were suddenly hurtling towards the ground. The wings snapped open again and we soared upwards.
It was cold. I only mention this because I was naked and shrinkage is a thing. It’s sort of relevant.
At the top of the castle, the windows were extra-wide. Hitokag flew in with wings fully extended and landed in the middle of a large hall full of people.
Well, I say people, I’m not really sure what you would call them collectively. There weren’t just lizardmen and beastmen, there was a whole range of ‘beings’. But what stood out most was that they were all clothed. And I wasn’t. And also, shrinkage.
I’m not sure how the idea of wearing clothes came about. The Adam and Even version where eating the apple of knowledge made them ashamed to be naked sounds a bit bullshitty. More likely it was due to a change in the weather and the realisation how useful it was to have pockets.
“Any chance I could have something to wear?” I asked rather pitifully with my hands around my shrunken balls.
A large cloven-hoofed gentleman with fangs bursting out of his mouth and horns (many, many horns) erupting from his head, took off his cloak and draped it over my shoulders.
You know what’s more gay than a naked man in the middle of a crowd of clothed people? A naked man in a cape.
At least it was warm. I wrapped around me tighter.
The doors at the other end of the room opened—apparently they did have doors here, you just had to know the right people—and Cheng entered.
You could easily tell this was the guy in charge. There was no doubting it, even the air felt different when he entered. What I hadn’t expected, though, was that he would look like a fourteen year old boy.