A storm gathering – water moves away from sky. There is a Dragon moving through the mansions of heaven, wings spread wide, a tail like an arrow, claws like swords, skin like armour, jaws like a lion, eyes lit with a fierce intelligence. A long way were these magnificent creatures from the dumb fire breathing monsters that sealed maps, and which drunken knights filled tales with in taverns where they were too cheap to pay for a round, and exchanged instead by telling tall tales.
AIM remembered after his time descending down through layers of atmosphere, laying waste to villages, controlling entire kingdoms, subjugating people who he believed to be enslaved more by the failure of their imaginations than by anything he had done.
When he met his first group of people on a quest, he had laughed at them, and he had burned them to a crisp. The whole idea that they could pose a threat to him was laughable. But back in those days no one understood what he was – back then the surface was much more apparent and easy to deal with than any subtext that may have been there. No one could read him.
He discovered, back in that body, a traditonal Dragon exterior, that once you discover your own limits, it is as if you announce them to the world. Someone out there always hears the clarion call of your own doubt, and then they use it to come in and that blade is driven deep into you. A word sword driven deep been his ribs; a blade between the lines of his own story; and he remembered what he was … something born of Metaphor Tech; a symbol for the drift towards the end; entropy recast as a slow burning fire. He ceased to be in many ways just a Dragon; because wasn’t Ardenti In Mundo something else? Something more.
It was Thursday. He was thirsty. Thor’s day – and everyone was sat around drinking in a trendy bar for water deities – Dear Trop. He’d been here before – he liked the place. It was a gamble though. Some days he might turn up and be welcomed, and some days he might turn up and they tried to put a bullet in his head.
As he stepped through the door Tiddy Mun emerged from the toilet and came running up to him and wrapped his arms around him.
‘You shouldn’t be here.’
‘Why’s that? The lines are being drawn, AIM; lines are being …
‘… written, don’t you mean?’
Saga stood up and moved towards him, a mug of brown ale in her hand, and she said: ‘Yes, written. But there’s someone trying to edit and redact things in order to push you where they want you to go. We’re all in danger, because none of us are as important to this person, or these people as you are.’
Ocean also came towards him, a stern look on his face, waving an image of Hexagram 6 at him. ‘This is not the time for Dragons. I know they talk of it. I know they talk of you. But you are not welcome here. We know of you – we know that you are a frozen story waiting to be told, but do not come here looking to use us as fuel – we will not brook it. Fire in a place where water flows – we will extinguish you. We are the stream of time, is this why are here? Here to unpause the Hokusai Wave that hangs above your landscape?’
‘I’m here to find a broken mirror.’
‘The broken mirror that reveals the torn map?’
‘How come everyone around me knows my story and I am stumbling around in ignorance?’
‘Because you chose that – a long time ago you chose that. You turned your cheek and you turned a deaf ear to it all. You are looking for Nimue, but good look finding her.’
‘She’s an addict operating of an existential interstice; the moment before the pause of the wave. Her dealer drinks at Interzone, but getting her to speak English is going to be difficult. Getting past the narrative shell that boots up in her space is going to be hard.’
‘How’s your Nadsat?’
‘Doubleplusgood. What’s she addicted to?’
‘She sucks Mugwump cock.’
‘Huh? OK, what’s her name?’
‘Thank you, Ocean.’
They smiled at each other, and for a smile shared between Dragons, there was little warmth.