He saw the man in the bar – he was not hard to spot, all those affectations crying out for attention; the man was like a walking SOS flare. AIM sat in the corner and he observed the man for the longest time. AIM had brought the book in his messenger bag – the same copy he’d bought all those years ago.

That book, like he told Ignem, had caused him so much trouble. He recalled all The Dragons he had spoken to; The Wyrms; The Hydra. This latest run in with The Cunning Folk. He didn’t subscribe to the notion of burning books, normally – that was evil, wasn’t it? But this was different – he had an investment in seeing this trash taken off the shelf.

How did you do that though? With a book like this? All those conspiracy books that were out there that linked people to different things, and made unsubstantiated claims? They were allowed to exist because the people writing them were dismissed as being nuts. Except by the problematic few who ate it up with a spoon.

The law wouldn’t go after the writers – at least he didn’t think they would. The law would only go after the people who acted upon the data; who did violent or disturbing things based upon what the books led them to believe. How could you prove a causal link between a book and an act. You could infer that it was the cause, right? Seek to ban it because of the thing it had caused. But the problem was, who in the mundane world was going to believe assertions that there were people that were actually Dragons? So here he was, sat in the same bar as the author of The Dragon’s Tongue.

He got up and he walked over and he plonked himself in the chair next to the guy. People who weren’t as lonely and as eager for attention might have responded by telling him to leave. This guy didn’t.

‘I have seen you watching me. Who are you? A fan? Something else? I don’t swing that way, though I’m flattered.’

‘You really don’t recognise me?’

‘No, why would I?’

‘Because you wrote this about me,’ he said, as he placed the book on the table.

‘You’re him. The First Dragon.’

‘I am, and I’m here to ask you to withdraw this book from circulation.’

‘Why?’

‘Because someone is going to get hurt because of it.’

‘So, you’re confirming that what I wrote is true?’

‘No, I’m not saying that.’

‘Then why would you care if t’s out there?’

‘Because people keeping coming to me and expecting something of me because of this book.’

‘Yes.’

‘What do you mean, yes?’

‘That what it is designed to do.’

‘Designed to do?’

‘Yes, designed.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘There are chains binding you to your fate. I am a link in that chain.’

‘Explain.’

‘Skein has been weaving a world around you to keep you where you are. But when the time is right, that will being to unravel.’

‘Why?’

‘You have been living in a caesuara, and the breath needs to be let out. The next part of the story needs to be told. Look, how do you think I would ever find out the data I put in that book, if someone didn’t sit me down and tell it to me.’

‘I don’t know.’

‘You do. And anyway, it isn’t a book – it’s part of you. I am part of you. I am something hidden in the map; I am The Dragon’s Tongue. I was speaking to the world for you and I was inviting them in – all those Lesser Dragons that came to speak to you were sent by me. It was a packet sniffer – one with a virus inside that triggered what was in these people. There are parts of you spread around, separated out; hidden. Why? Because they needed to lock you up until you were needed. Now you’ve found me, I am going to disappear.’

‘It seems a little early in my story for the big reveal.’

‘It isn’t.’

‘It isn’t?’

‘Isn’t the big reveal. This is a goad. This changes the direction of the narrative a little maybe; at least from your viewpoint, but it’s a story I and the person who changed me knew all along. And isn’t that how it works? Tell all the stories in the world that you want, but there are always going to be some that don’t get the full picture, but perhaps they have their own picture that is full for them. We’re bit part actors in other’s lives, but not usually our own, right?’

‘I suppose not. Though, as you have said – I am incomplete.’

‘But you’re putting the jigsaw together, aren’t you? When you leave this room I will cease to exist. I had a purpose, and I’ve fulfilled it. Find all the parts of the broken mirror, and you may understand. By starting the journey you may find the map.’

He shook the man’s hand. He was not sure why. He left the room. And a few steps onward he started to forget why he had come there; he forgot about the author who had never been; he forgot about the book that had never been written. He licked his lips, and he could taste more than he had tasted in a while; the scents and smells of this world seemed suddenly aflame with significance, with life. The Dragon’s Tongue awoke in his mouth, and something in The First Dragon awoke.

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