“You know how dangerous this is for both of us,” she said angrily. “Why didn’t you warn me? I’ve told you how important it is to keep this secret, Mother, no matter what you claim to see in your flames or dust circles. This is too risky. This is--”
Mother Iwilanga reached forward and gently cupped Arliss’s face in one wrinkled hand, silencing her babbling. “Hatchling, risk is what unfurls your wings and carries you to farther reaches. The more you flap, the faster it’ll rush up to keep you afloat!” the old woman said with a chuckle. She affectionately patted Arliss’s cheek before she returned to her hut.
“Risk will only go so far until it decides to crumple wings like parchment paper!” Arliss called to the uncaring canvas. She could only shake her head and growl with frustration, forgetting which body she wore. She buried her face in her hands and was ready to take to her true form when a shrill gasp startled her.
“It can’t be,” the man standing near the tent exclaimed suddenly. “I know you! Mage Faylore! You’re Lady Faylore!” He rushed forward with his hand outstretched, travelling robes awhirl.
Arliss backed away, stumbling over her feet and nearly losing her balance. “No, you are mistaken. I am not her,” she stammered quickly. She turned away, but thin reedy fingers clapped around her wrist and held fast. The next thing she knew, the man was shaking her hand enthusiastically.
“Mage Faylore, it is a pleasure to meet you! I have read so much of your work and heard about the breakthroughs of your research in Vale. Truly invaluable work if I do say so myself! Your powers as a mage are incredible; it’s no wonder you can cast such a flawless enchantment. A dragon!” he exclaimed jovially, leaning forward to inspect the conduit at her throat. “Who would have known!”
“Well, that was the idea,” Arliss murmured dryly while she leaned away in turn. She put a protective hand over the emerald.
The man straightened quickly and readjusted his robes in a flustered way. “My apologies for my brash behavior, Lady Faylore. My name is Lysander Crane,” he said with a flourishing bow.
“Lysander,”Arliss murmured. “I recently purchased two books of yours in Vale, though this outing has kept me from reading anything within them. You’re a chronicler.”
He beamed at her. “One of many, but yes. I am honored to know that the lovely Lady Faylore owns a composition bearing my title.”
Arliss hesitated, taken aback by his graciousness. “Young as I am and despite living among you for only twelve years, I have never yet met a human that tolerates the idea of dragons, let alone an actual dragon. The only one to have ever shown me,” she pressed a hand to her chest, “the actual me, any acceptance has been Mother Iwilanga.”
Lysander only laughed and his eyes crinkled around the corners. “Neither you nor I were alive during the 70-Years-War, Lady Faylore. I, for one, see no logic in harboring old hatreds that I myself have not experienced.”
“You seem like you aim to understand history rather than just retell it. That is quite an accomplishment for a storyteller,” Arliss said, returning his smile. She was surprised by his attitude but was all the more grateful for it. She suddenly felt embarrassed and heat rose to her cheeks. She quickly dipped into a hasty curtsy, saying, “Forgive me for my previous actions, Mr. Crane. Let us start over.”
“Very well. And call me Lysander, Lady Faylore.”
“Then call me Arliss,” she countered amiably. The chronicler nodded his head in yet another small bow, and then motioned her toward Mother Iwilanga’s tent, offering his arm to her. She accepted it, and they walked toward the canvas flaps, carefully walking around the large clods of earth that Arliss had churned up earlier upon landing.
“I live and breathe history. You see, when I find the inkling of a story that has been hidden, the urge to seek out the truth is so overwhelming that I can hardly shut my eyes for fear that the record will pass me by.” He smiled genuinely, picking his way through the tall grass. “There is a large part of the past that is missing, or the truth behind the stories has been so far distorted that they are nothing more than fables now. That brings me to my next inquiry,” he said pointedly.
Arliss’s heart sank as his meaning became apparent. “You want to know about dragons,” she said with a deflated tone.
“I want to rewrite what we know about your kind. I want to show the world the truth, and what better resource will I ever find?” he insisted. “Let’s make a deal: You will tell me as many stories as you see fit to tell, in whatever time frame you wish to divulge them.”
“And what do I get in return?”
“Anonymity, complete and total,” Lysander said tersely, pursing his lips and putting out his other hand formally.
Arliss hesitated, mulling over his proposal. “You know, blackmailing a dragon is courageous, Lysander. But it is also quite foolish when the creature you threaten is nearly twenty times your size,” she said, taking Lysander’s hand daintily and shaking it. When he paled slightly, she chuckled at him.
“But for your sake, I will indulge you," she continued. "Who knows? Maybe you can change minds after all.”