“There’s a dragon here to see you,” I said evenly.
He glanced up casually from either the papers strewn about the coffee table or the data-screen lying on top of them; I couldn’t tell which. The slice of pizza in his hand dripped grease onto the pile. “Oh,” he asked. “Which one?”
“How in God’s name should I know?” I replied. He could be such a pain sometimes. “You haven’t started teaching me that yet.”
He smiled and put the pizza slice down on the table. “Of course, my dear,” he said, standing. “Soon, soon.”
“So?” I asked, dropping my hands onto my hips.
His eyebrow raised. “So?”
“There’s a fraggin dragon here to see you!”
He idly licked some of the grease from his hand. “Well, yes, you just told me that.”
He’d made me promise to stop trying to hit him, but sometimes.... “Do you want to just leave him out there?”
“No. Of course not!” he replied. “How could you think that? That would be quite rude. Ask him in.”
“Don’t you think he’s a little big for the doorways?” I figured that was ultimately a stupid question. In the short time that I’d been with him I’d learned, if nothing else, that the obvious was rarely that and the impossible the norm.
He tilted his head and smiled in his damnable “I know lots of things you don’t” look. “Why don’t we let him decide, eh?”
I shrugged. “Fine, why don’t we. It’s your repair bill.” I turned and was about to leave the room when a thought occurred to me. I paused, and looked back at him. He was bending down for the pizza slice.
“Um, I don’t know what dragons are into,” I said, “but I figure you might want to put some clothes on before he comes in.”
He looked up at me, and then down at himself. “Yes, I suppose,” he said. “But how do you know it’s a he?”
Someday I was going to hit him so hard they’d need a closed casket.
Out back, I paused, straightened my clothes, and walked briskly into the garden. It was sitting there, right where it had landed, curiously watching the poi circling in a nearby shallow pool. Its sapphire and silver scales reflected the late afternoon sun, changing the garden into a Maxfield Parrish painting. The dragon seemed oblivious to my presence, intent instead on the motions of the goldfish. I didn’t want to— was afraid to— disturb it. If I did it would move and—
“Is he home?” it asked. I should have been ready for the speech, I’d heard it when it’d first landed, but I wasn’t. I heard it clearly, but it didn’t move. Nothing on it moved.
Startled, I took a step back up the flagstone steps. “I... I mean, yes, yes he is.”
“I didn’t mean to frighten you, you know.” Its great head swung slowly toward me. There was a glint of light somewhere deep behind its eyes. It could have swallowed me whole, right then and there, and I’d have never noticed.
“Can I go in? It’s very tiring keeping my tail in the air like this, and this is such a wonderful garden.”
I looked up at its tail suspended a number of stories above me. There were barbs on the end. Giant hooks that could— It was gone....
“I can go in, then? Yes?” came a strange voice.
I looked down. The dragon was gone, vanished. In its place stood a young man, younger than me, maybe twenty or so, garbed in a fine Arabian suit of the most beautiful blue silk I had ever seen. His skin was pale, and his features those of Michelangelo’s David. His eyes stood out as a sharp silver and blue sparkle. I laughed, stupidly.
He smiled. “Oh dear. I’ve startled you again. I am sorry.”
I tried to smile a little myself. “I didn’t know dragons could do that,” I said sheepishly. I’d taken a few more steps backward without realizing it.
He walked toward me and placed one finger to his lips as he passed. “Please don’t tell anyone. It’s supposed to be a secret.”
More secrets, I thought. No problem. It was sure as hell more interesting than Missouri.
The modern decor of the house seemed to intrigue him. He questioned me on the creator of every piece of art he saw, but only paused once to lean in for a better look at the Warhol, God knows why. I led him upstairs, and deciding to be grandiose, threw wide the study doors as he entered.
He grinned, and strode past me. “May I present, Dunkelzahn,” I said as he entered.
The man the dragon had come to see stood as we entered. He hadn’t cleaned up the room any; it still reeked of sausage and pepperoni, but he had clothed himself in a simple outfit of black boots and denim pants, and one of the white cotton shirts he’d bought the other day. He’d kept his face unpainted.
“My, it’s been some time, hasn’t it?” he said, touching the fingers of his left hand to his chest, just below the heart. I’d seen him do that a few times, but he’d never explained what it meant. I think, however, it meant he was viewing the new arrival as an equal; thank God.
“Yes, it has, Harlequin,” replied the dragon, repeating the gesture. “I was pleased to here of the outcome of your chal’han.” Dunklezahn didn’t turn, but I felt his presence on me for just a moment. Obviously, there were no secrets from him.
Harlequin grinned. “I’ll bet you were.” He gestured at the black leather mushroom couch across from him. “Won’t you sit down?”
The dragon nodded. “Thank you.” He reached the couch, looked down at it for a moment, and the carefully sat himself. Only after he was fully down and stable, did he lean back. He smiled.
“So, what can I do for you?” inquired Harlequin.
“I take it you are aware of my status?”
Harlequin’s head cocked. “You mean as host of Wyrm Talk?”
I laughed to myself. Dunklezahn had been interviewed by an international media team shortly after reemerging. He’d apparently enjoyed the experience, especially his spontaneous cross-examination of the journalists, so much that he requested his own show from one of the networks. In the intervening years he’d only focused on the idea long enough to have three shows produced. Harlequin and I had watched the show the last time that it had been on. The dragon, obviously enthralled with modern culture, spent the whole program commenting on anything and everything. In a couple of segments he’d taken the idea of confrontational journalism to such an extreme that I suggested the show should have been renamed Wyrm Food.
Dunklezahn grinned. “Exactly so. I find the whole concept of media fascinating. Free, unrestricted information exchange. Who would have imagined?”
“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it unrestricted,” said Harlequin.
“No,” agreed the dragon “nor would I. Which is exactly why I’m here.”
“I would like you to be the subject of my next program.”
“What!” Harlequin exclaimed, leaping to his feet.
I laughed aloud and then clamped my hand over my mouth. Harlequin glared at me for a split second, and I’d probably regret it later, but it was such a joy seeing him surprised.
“Well, yes,” continued the dragon, “I think you’d make a wonderful guest.”
Harlequin ran his hand through his hair as he shook his head. “Of all the things I was expecting to talk about...”
“But, Harlequin, you were always the best storyteller. Just think of how these humans would be enthralled by the things you could tell them! There’s so much they just don’t understand—”
“And I’m certainly not going to tell them!” interrupted Harlequin.
The dragon tilted his head oddly. “But don’t you think they have a right to know? It is their world, after all.”
Harlequin breathed out heavily, his brow furrowed. “You want to just tell them everything? Reveal all the myriad secrets of the universe? You want me to...” He turned toward me, arm extended and fingers twitching madly. “You want me to...”
“Spill my guts on global television?” I suggested.
“Yes!” He said snapping his fingers, and turning back toward the dragon, who blinked. “Do you want me to spill my guts on television? Open dear Pandora’s box once again?”
“Well yes,” said the dragon. “Do you realize how confused they must all be? Look at how their world has changed. Don’t you think they have a right to know what all this means?”
Harlequin nodded vigorously and moved toward the center of the room gesturing wildly. “Oh course they do!” he said. “But why tell them? Let them figure it out; that’s where all the fun is! The clues are there!”
“The clues...?” the dragon, and I, were baffled.
“In the mystery of life, Dunklezahn! The world is like a giant tapestry. You start out standing very close to it. There’s a lot there to see, and if you like, you can spend your whole life inspecting that one little section. Some may find that section isn’t enough. If they want, they can step back and see more of the picture. Eventually, they may find themselves standing far enough back that it’s all there hanging before them.
“If you start them standing all the way back, they’ll become confused. They won’t know where to look first. They’ll miss seeing the whole picture.” He finished and folded his arms across his chest, a satisfied smirk on his face. I eyed the dragon, who still looked perplexed.
“Don’t you think there are some things they should be warned—” he began.
“You mean like the invae?” Harlequin asked.
“As a beginning, yes,” the dragon told him.
Harlequin dismissed the thought with a gesture. “They’re of no concern, and in fact they support my point precisely! The humans knew nothing of their coming, but have been dealing with them quite nicely, nonetheless. Spilling our guts—” he nodded to me “—to the humans early would have denied them the discovery! The joy is in the unfolding. Let them marvel at their world, horrific as it may be sometimes. Let’s not reveal the end of the tale before the final page is turned, Dunklezahn. Allow the story to tell itself.”
The dragon seemed to be staring at the now cold pizza, but I could tell he was lost in thought. Finally, with a sigh, he stood and nodded. “I’ll take that as a no.”
Harlequin laughed, glanced down at the ground and shook his head.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” said Dunklezahn, moving slowly toward the door.
Harlequin looked up. “I hope I haven’t fouled up your schedule of guests.”
The dragon raised an eyebrow. “No, not at all. I may ask Lady Brane Deigh of the Daoine Sidhe to speak in you place.”
Harlequin’s face stilled. “I wouldn’t.”
“Dunklezahn, we’ve at least always been cordial.”
“But I should warn you, there are some of my kind, and your kind, who think that you have told too much already.”
“Your comments about great dragons and dracoforms, for one.”
The dragon nodded. “Yes, I received some... grief from that.”
“Should you start to speak of... other things...”
Dunklezahn nodded again. “Thank you for your warning, Harlequin. There are such wonderful stories that could be told.”
Harlequin smiled. “And they will be: in time.”
The dragon touched his fingers to his chest again, and once Harlequin had repeated the gesture, began to walk out of the room. He stopped as he passed me. “It has been a pleasure meeting you, my lady,” he said. “You do your heritage proud.” I smiled, couldn’t think of what to say, and touched my fingers to my chest. He smiled back and returned the gesture.
I closed the doors behind him as he left, and then turned, leaning back against them. “It’s too bad; I kind of like him.” I said sadly.
“I do, too,” Harlequin said, looking back down at the papers. “He’s the most reasonable of all of them. It’ll be a shame when we have to destroy him.”