Tales of Taelen - DU
Ddraig was glad she wasn’t the rare sort of dragon who was gifted with a head full of hair. After all she’d been through in the past few weeks, Ddraig was sure said blessing would have been well and truly revoked by now. It felt like an eternity had passed as she'd waited in the hospital by the incubator, watching practically every move her frail hatchling inside had made, and doing everything she could to ensure that little Taelen wasn't in pain or in any danger. Every now and then he had let out a whimper or a squeal, or curled up on himself in the corner of the plastic as he tried to get as close to her as possible, and each time it had been a fresh stab to her heart. She had had to remind herself, constantly, that Taelen was in the best possible place. Of that she was sure. Avalaria’s hospital was the best in the Empire, and had access to some of the best medicine and medical technology the 22nd century could offer…and yet it all felt so sterile. It was supposed to be, but, despite the logic Ddraig tried to live by, she could tell Taelen hated it, and that knowledge made Ddraig hate it all the more as well.
Now, at last, he was free; safe in her arms, and Ddraig was relishing every wonderful moment of contact. It wasn’t right for a hatchling to be kept from their mother, after all, and she’d not been able to hold him with her own foreclaws since that awful moment when his egg had first cracked and the doctors had hurriedly snatched him away from her. Little Taelen seemed just as pleased, and was alternating between attempting to burrow into her arm, or harmlessly nibbling at her foreclaws. He was already seeming much better than he’d been in the hospital. The fresh air was probably helping.
"You're going to be just fine, aren't you?" she said, addressing the tiny hatching in her forelegs.
Taelen, for his part, made no noise in reply, just continuing to gnaw at one of Ddraig's talons, but she was happy to take that as a yes.
"Well, that's good." she said, more to herself than her hatchling. "You're not allowed to be sick, you know. I forbid it."
Taelen burbled something in response, and Ddraig smiled.
“There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy...” Ddraig could hear her sister singing, as she strode into the greenhouse built around their mother’s tree. The two of them had come to an arrangement quite a long time before about the area; they both had equal claim to said tree, so it was only right they had half each. One side was practically bursting with brightly-coloured flowers and herbs, while the other side was dominated with vines and nettles and other clippings of ominous looking foliage.
“Victoria?” Ddraig called. “We’re home now; both of us.”
“They say he wandered very far,” Victoria continued to sing, either unaware she was there, or - more likely - deliberately ignoring her. “Very far...over land and sea…”
“Yes, yes, I heard you.” she said, turning around. “So, he’s out at last, then?” Victoria sighed. “While I do appreciate modern medicine, those doctors miss obvious things. There was no good to be had in locking the boy up in a stupid plastic box.”
“It. Was. An. INCUBATOR!” Ddraig shouted. “An incubator, you green-clawed ninny! Because he could've died!”
“Please, he was never in any real danger.” Victoria said smugly. “The precious little prince of the Empress of Avalar? Enjoying the best possible healthcare, in the best hospital, in one of the best healthcare systems in Europe?”
Ddraig’s scowl intensified. She did care deeply for her sister, and she knew Victoria felt the same way about her, but her sister did have an irritating habit of pushing her buttons at the best of times.
“What, I guess flattery won’t butter you to listening?” Victoria continued. “Well fine, as far as I’m concerned, Taelen was always safe. I had no doubt that the prince would recover. Incidentally,” she added, “while you were busy fretting, I was busy focusing. You never did notice the potted plant in the room, did you?”
Ddraig paused. “Pardon?”
Victoria laughed. “In his hospital room? I’d noticed he was very upset in that prison of his, but the only two things which were helping him settle were you and the hospital planters beyond the windows. So I put a little potted bamboo plant near his incubator when I was last there. He likes to lie next to it when you’re away, you know.”
Her smile turned from snide, to softer, as she glanced at the hatchling. “Even as a baby, he’s a natural. Some youngsters might need those incubators, but in my opinion, he just needed a bit of fresh air.”
“What are you talking about?”
Victoria rolled her eyes. “Do I have to spell it out for you? Here,” she grumbled, picking up a small sapling - one with far fewer spikes, creepy reaching tentacles, or dripping poisonous sap than her usual fare - and holding it out to her.
“Careful,” Ddraig barked, “I don’t want him-”
She paused, eyes wide. Taelen was squealing with excitement, claws outstretched, and the sapling was growing towards him. GROWING.
“Ancestors.” Ddraig gasped. “Oh, ancestors, he’s a-”
Victoria smirked. “And there you go...”
Ddraig nearly tripped over her paws, turning and speeding towards the greenhouse doors. “ALEX!!!”
“What?” her husband said, appearing in a split second. “What’s wrong? Is Taelen-”
“He’s a nature dragon!” Ddraig cried, her voice heightened with delight. “Just like mother!”
“Really?” Alex said, regarding his young son with curiosity. “A nature dragon?”
“That’s right.” Victoria said, walking up behind them with the sapling, which Taelen was eagerly reaching for. “You can let him play with this, you know; it’s not harmful. And you should probably send someone to fetch the bamboo plant, since you clearly didn’t think to bring it home.”
“Bambi!” The hatchling burbled.
“Aww, I guess he’s gonna be a Disney fan.” Vicky teased. “No, no, child, it’s a ‘frogweed’.”
“Fra-wee!” Taelen yelled, reaching out and trying to hug the sapling, which leaned towards the youngster with the curiosity of a domesticated animal. Compared to Toadweed or Deathweed, Frogweed was arguably the most benign of the possibly sentient carnivorous plants, and seemed to rustle with pleasant curiosity as the baby dragon batted at its wide, floaty leaves.
“Even in my dreams, I...I never thought this could happen.” Ddraig stammered, as she tried to pour out her stream of thought as coherently as possible. “I just...I mean, I’m not a...”
“Maybe there’s a little bit of it in both of us?” Alexander offered. “My father’s a nature dragon, after all. Although I’ve never really understood how elemental genetics are supposed to work...”
“It...it’s a miracle. A miracle, Alex!” Ddraig cried, joy overtaking her as she pulled her husband close. “We passed Mother’s element down to our child! Can you believe it?”
“How did you notice?” Alexander asked, turning to face Victoria.
“How did you not notice?” she retorted. “Surely there must have been at least one nature dragon among the hospital staff? Dear me, what is this country coming to?”
“There were more pressing matters at hand.” Alexander grumbled.
“In any case, it’s a relief.” Victoria mused. “Another nature dragon running around this house? Now you can stop nagging me and use him as your personal slave for all that green busywork of yours.”
“I don’t know,” Ddraig grinned evilly, sensing an opportunity to get one over her sister. “I think he might need help from an expert; someone who can teach him how to hone that element of his. I’m sure we’ll be spending plenty of time together.”
Victoria groaned. “Leave me out of your sensible plans. I have my own twisted work to focus on!”
Alexander raised his brow. “Shouldn’t that be the other way around?”
“I know what I said! Now shoo! And don’t forget the bamboo plant!”
“And here he is!” Nicola called with glee, immediately rushing over to the tiny hatchling and the bamboo plant he was playing with. “Oh, he’s so frail!”
“I know.” Ddraig nodded. “The doctors said he’ll get better with time, though. We’ve just got to keep an eye on him.”
"Oh, the poor dear." Nicola said, patting Taelen's head. "He needs some Vitamin C."
"I'm already feeding him that," Ddraig said, while Nicola rummaged through her bag. "They’ve given me some special drinks, and-"
"No, no, not that kind of Vitamin C." Nicola chuckled, retrieving a large dish. "No more of these impersonal potions; have some lemon cake instead!"
Ddraig stared ahead, speechless, as Nicola upended the contents on the plate before Taelen, who stared at it with rapturous wonder.
"Go on, little one." she smiled. "It's all for you."
"Er, Nicola," Ddraig protested, "I don't think that's best-"
"It's fine, Ddraig." Nicola insisted, as Taelen began to gnaw at the oversized food in front of him. "As a trained Nanny - first of the class of 1733, I might add - I can plainly see that the boy is rather lacking in the heftiness department. You too, in fact. The only conceivable course of action is a quick application of ‘stodge’."
Ddraig raised a brow in response. "I didn't know the curriculum was that broad." she dryly remarked.
"Oh, I took a few electives." Nicola smiled, handing her what looked like a diploma. "Here, see for yourself!"
Ddraig took the courtesy to examine the document, but quickly frowned. "Signed by…Dr. Charles Ocolat? Are you kidding me? And this diploma smells of...jam?”
"Compote, actually; special order.” Nicola corrected, as she retrieved a second tray from her bag. “Have a bite! It’s edible!"
"Hush now." the red dragoness said, shoving a generous serving of rather decadently decorated dessert into Ddraig's open mouth. "There's plenty to go around."
Ddraig had to remember to breathe through her nose, lest Nicola’s doting turned into an accidental regicide. The cake was pretty good, mind, although she had to raise her paw to stop Nicola’s continued contributions of confections for her to complete her current course.
“How do you avoid the stomach aches?” she asked, once her mouth was finally empty.
"Simple: habituation and experience." Nicola licked her own talons systematically, purring with gratification. "The softer your exterior, the harder your intestines, honed by unbridled gluttony. I call it: Nicola's Law."
Ddraig sighed, exasperated. Such was the price of decadence, it seemed.
This collection of shorts is based off two old commission ideas (Nicola shoving cake into Taelen and Ddraig's faces, and a very stressed Ddraig at a hospital with her paw on an incubator containing Taelen) and a more recent idea Ddraigtanto and I had of Taelen actually being a nature dragon rather than a fire dragon, with him inheriting a recessive elemental from his grandparents...yeah, don't ask me how it works.
Anyhoo, this quickly grew in the telling, and ended up being one of those delightful collaborations where Ddraigtanto and KeizerHarm all showed up to contribute lines and jokes and whatnot. By the way, if you're confused as to who Victoria is and when she showed up in the story, don't worry, it's set to be explained! Somewhere in the future there will be a remastering of the oldest stories, and Victoria is set to make an appearance in that...
Also it got left out because it made Nicola look dumb and it was pretty unfair, but the original scene featuring her included a homage to a skit by Yahtzee Croshaw that never fails to make me laugh; www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lsSzc…
"It's fine, Ddraig." Nicola insisted. "I'm a trained nanny. I know what I'm doing."
"And a dietician?"
"Sure!" Nicola smiled, handing her a business card. "Right here, plain as the day."
"Nicola, you just added that in crayon!" Ddraig frowned. "Also, you spelt 'dietician' with an 's'."
I'll have to save it for another character...knowing my characters, it could be Marcus or Sonja objecting to the spelling, and it could be someone else INTENTIONALLY doing it so they'd get distracted bitching about it long enough for them to make an escape...
Oh, and the song Victoria is singing to herself at the start? "Nature Boy".