Dog And Dragon – Snippet 02


So now, somewhere, back in some place that she’d been torn from as a babe, they had to find her again.


Fionn had no idea where that might be. A place of magics, where human magery ran strong in the blood, that much he could be sure of. But there were many such places in the interlinking chain of worlds, and they themselves were large and complex places.


It was a good thing that Díleas seemed to have some idea where to go, because Fionn didn’t know where to even start, except by trying everywhere. He would do that, if need be. He had time. He would never give up.


The only problem was that she was human and very mortal. And, if he had to be truthful with himself, she was able to attract disaster toward herself, just by being there.


Fionn had never known love. He’d never really known worry either. Pain, and the avoidance of it, yes, fear, yes, but now he was afraid for her. Worried.


The end of the bridge was now visible, if wreathed in smoke or mist.


Fionn wondered if it would be guarded, or if the bridge was too new. The transit points often had their watchers, or barriers.


As the other side of the void came closer, Fionn realized this place would not need such things.


Most travelers would turn around and go back just as quickly as they could.


Gylve was a place of fire and black glass.


Fionn had been there before, and wouldn’t have minded if he’d never had to go there again. A planomancer needed to visit such places and straighten things out. Last time, it had glowed in the dark, and he’d had to do some serious adjustment. He was pleased to see that the radiation levels at least had dropped. Still, you could see fire dancing across the sky as the methane jets caught.


On the silver collar on Díleas’s neck hung a bauble. A little part of the primal fire, enclosed in what merely appeared to be crystal. It should keep the dog safe from demons and from actually freezing. It wouldn’t keep his feet safe on the broken volcanic glass in the place they were coming to; only dragon hide would do for that.


Fortunately, he had some with him, available without the discomfort of slicing it off himself. He could have done that. Dragons were tough…even if they really didn’t like making holes in themselves any more than the next creature. But every now and again a dragon died or was killed. If a dragon was sharp about it, they could get a piece of hide before the humans did. Honestly, thought Fionn, for a species that was afraid of dragons, humans had a habit of sticking their necks out.


It was one of the things that he liked about them.


The bridge was beginning to widen…to open onto the jet-black clinkers of one of the fire-worlds. Fionn stopped.


Díleas didn’t.


“Díleas, come here!”


The dog did turn and look at him, with a “what do you think you’re wasting time at?” look. And then began to pace forward.


“This muck will cut your feet to ribbons. And then you won’t be able to walk to her.” Fionn had to smile wryly at himself. Talking to the dog. Just like his Scrap of humanity had.


The dog turned around and came back to him. Lifted a foot.


Fionn’s eye’s widened. He’d have to do some serious reevaluation. And yes, now he could see that the dog was substantially magically…enhanced. Curse the dvergar and their tricksy magics. He was supposed to be the practical joker, not them. His Scrap had wanted Díleas to understand her. And she wore a very powerful piece of enchanted jewelry, which bound the magics of earth, stone, wood, fire and worked metals to her will.


Not surprising really that her power worked on sheepdogs. They were clever and loyal anyway, or so he’d been told.


“It won’t be elegant,” he said, “but then there won’t be other dogs out here to see you. He took the section of dragon leather from his pouch and rent it into four pieces, and then made a neat row of talon punctures around the edge, before transforming his own shape. Human form was one of those he knew best, and it allowed him to wield a needle well. It was of course partly a matter of appearances, and a useful disguise. He was far too heavy and too strong for a human — but hands were easier to sew with than clawed talons. A piece of thong threaded through the holes and Díleas had four baggy boots.


Díleas looked critically at the things on his feet. Sniffed them.


“Dragon hide,” said Fionn. “I wouldn’t show them to any dragons you happen to meet, but otherwise they’ll do. And really, scarlet boots match the bauble on your collar.”


Díleas cocked an ear at him. Fionn wasn’t ready to bet the dog didn’t grasp sarcasm, so he merely said, “Well, let’s go. The only thing we’re likely to meet are demondim, and they like red anyway.”


They didn’t like dragons, but were suitably afraid of them, so that was the form Fionn assumed, as the two of them walked into the badlands. It reeked of sulphur and burning, and Fionn knew the ground could collapse under their feet, dropping them down hundreds of cubits to white-hot ashpits. Vast coal measures had been pierced by ferocious vulcanism, and deep down, somewhere, it burned still. Fionn blinked his eyes to allow himself to see other spectra, patterns of energy, that might allow him to spot such instability before it killed Díleas. But the dog seemed aware and moved with a slow caution that he hadn’t showed up on the bridge.


It was, as befitted a fire-creature world, hot and waterless. Fionn noticed that Díleas was panting. He’d have to learn to carry water for the dog, or to somehow carry the dog while he flew, because there were worse places than this, in the vast ring of planes that Fionn had once maintained the stability of. He was a planomancer, made by the First for this task, and there was plenty of work waiting for him.


Right now, it could wait. All he did was to make a few preliminary marks with his talon and tail.


And simply because he’d said to Díleas that they would see nothing here but demondim, right now he could hear noises that were very unlike those beloved of the creatures of fire. A jangle of bells, and, clearly, a bark. And human voices.


Díleas, panting, could hear them too. Dogs could hear more keenly than humans, but not dragons.


Fionn changed his form again, becoming human in appearance. A dragon would almost certainly be an unwelcome sight. He could, and possibly should, leave the demons to their nasty games. But he had some sympathy for humans these days. She’d taught him that. He would help, simply for her sake. They moved towards the voices and sounds.


The caravan of carts was moving, slowly, along a causeway of blue-black hexagonal blocks. Probably the safest place around here, reflected Fionn, although you had to consider just what had flattened the top of the columnar dolerite dyke into a narrow straight road across the ash fields and lava lands. Bells tinkled from every horse’s harness strap. Whoever they were, they were not ignorant of demondim and their dislikes, or quite the helpless lost travelers Fionn had expected. The fire creatures liked to mislead and torment those. But whoever had made those bells knew a thing or two about the demondim. They’d been made either to very precise mathematical formulae, or been shaved very carefully into making an octave.