The Trag

Lately there’s been some interest in the Trag. Originally his history was included in Myths of the Mirror, but space constraints took precedence and his little scene went the way of many others. I always loved his story though and saved it. Here it is:

The Trag

By the time Treasa toddled into her second year, Mirah longed to acquire a small dragon. Captured in the balmy vales of the Tradelands, far across the western sea, little dragons lay beyond her means. Not a single family in the village could afford one. Yet, she set aside a copper or two when she found one to spare, feeling alternately hopeful and discouraged by her progress.

In the end, it was Wyn, who on a summer’s morning, filled her pockets with copper coins and shushed all objections. “It’s time you’re off to Riverglenn,” she said, taking Treasa in her arms. She handed Mirah a basket with brown bread and ripe plums wrapped in a soft cloth, then prodded her out the door, barely giving her time to hook the clasp of her cloak. With a sigh of both relief and resignation, Mirah set off south, knowing Wyn spoke the truth.

For a full day, she walked the narrow track through forests of fern, and wildflower meadows blooming with thistle, snapdragon, and wild rose. And when evening descended, she watched the lamplights of Riverglenn wink to life in the distance, stars on a blue silk horizon. Wrapped in her cloak, she rested deep in a field of tall grass and thought of Morfael, her heart’s desire. She understood why she needed this dragon. As if by holding it in her heart and hearth, she could regain a piece of the love she’d lost. Morfael’s legacy and Treasa’s birthright, a dragon connected her daughter to a dead father … however obliquely.

Her basket on her arm, she wound her foot-worn way through the cobbled squares of Riverglenn, a rambling patchwork of quaint homes, trellised gardens, and brightly adorned markets. She wandered past shops selling oddities she’d never before noticed: feathered cloaks and wind-wheels, hanging pots, and all sorts of plumed hats and curiously shaped shoes. She saw no merit in most of it and shook her head wonderingly at the trifles on which people wasted their copper. Unlike Dragons? She smiled at her senselessness, her pockets jingling with another woman’s coin.

The shop Mirah entered lay wedged between its larger neighbors, squat and narrow, its foul scent wrinkling her nose. The frowning proprietor stood behind a rough counter, his black cloak and broad-brimmed hat in better condition than the old man who’d donned them. A frighteningly jaundiced fellow with a brittle gray beard, he cast one steely eye at her, while the other slightly bluer version gazed loosely to her left. She allowed herself a brief glimpse and attempted to focus on the eye sizing her up.

Her gaze adjusted to the dim light and, she brushed away the sticky cobwebs lacing her hair. Six filigreed cages crowded the grimy front window and lined one wall on a low bench, each bearing a tiny winged dragon. The scales on two of the dragons appeared solid in color, the smaller one silver with emerald eyes, the other a russet jasper with black tufts sprouting from the tips of its ears. The other four dragons were dappled with watercolor scales flowing down their backs, wings mottled in the hues of dragonflies, living jewels set out to glitter in the sun. The dragons chirped, prooked, and hissed at her, snapping their tiny tails against the wire bars.

“Are they friendly?” she asked, worried that perhaps she’d made a mistake.

“They don’t know ya,” the man explained. “Take no time atall to get ‘em where they need be.”

With a sigh, she walked along the bench, peering into the cages. An exquisite amethyst dragon with green tourmaline wings drew her eye, strutting in its cage, webbed wings fanned as if well aware of its own beauty. With every step, the light from the front window glinted off the pale purple scales. “How much is this one?” she asked.

“She’s a keeper,” the old man said as he opened the cage and stuck a gnarled hand inside. The little creature hopped onto his wrist, and he drew the dragon out. It clung to his sleeve, webbed wings lifting and stretching as it searched for balance. It gazed at Mirah and blinked, its forked tongue flicking at the air. “She be about sixty silver.”

Mirah’s face flushed with embarrassment, disappointment, or foolishness, she couldn’t decide which one or whether all three tore at her heart. Her hands slipped into her pockets, clutching her fistfuls of copper. No need to count it, she hadn’t close to sixty silver coins. What had she been thinking?

The man’s gray eye seemed to track her thoughts. His arm back in the cage, he shook the stunning dragon loose and snapped the cage door shut. Craning his neck, he waved her toward the back. “This one here, ya can have for forty.”

The cage held the sleek jasper dragon with the black-tipped ears. Mirah wiggled a finger between the wires, and the dragon prooked at her, blinking its sunstone eyes. She would have purchased him, but she didn’t have forty silver coins either.

“He’s pleasant lookin’ in his own case,” the man added, seeming to sense her hesitation. “But that’s as low as I go.”

Her shoulders sagged and with nothing left to do or say, she thanked the shopkeeper and headed toward the door and her long walk home.

“Wait. Wait,” the grizzled man called, sinking down on a tall wooden stool by his plank counter. “Come back here.”

“I don’t have enough,” Mirah explained as she stood at the door.

The man dropped his gaze and shook his weary head. He slapped his hand on the counter. “Put it out,” he said, “and we see what ya got.”

“It’s not enough,” she repeated, heart-broken tears welling in her eyes.

The man’s steely eye softened. “Come on, come on.”  He waved her over again. “Put it out. Down here. Come on.”

Her humiliation already as deep as it could burrow, Mirah sighed and walked to the rough counter. She dug in her pockets and pulled out every copper she carried, dropping them into a pitiful pile. The man inhaled a deep breath and adjusted his hat.

“You see?” she said. “It’s not enough.” Her fingers reached for the coin, ready to gather it up.

His knotted hand rose to stop. The old man silently counted the coin. “Thirty-two,” he concluded and rose from his stool. “Must be I’m gettin’ old,” he muttered and shuffled to the back of the shop. He pushed through a creaking wooden door.

Almost afraid to hope, Mirah waited.

The door squealed on its hinges, and the man returned with a small wooden crate that he set on the counter. She peered inside and beheld a sapphire and emerald dragon. Its sea-shaded scales glittered, deep indigos and jade-greens in waves over its back, falling to a pale sky blue underbelly.

“It got decent color,” the man said, “but it got a wreck wing. Never fly.”  He lifted a withered wing, half the size of its healthy twin. “A tragedy,” the man added. “Don’t want ‘em, can’t sell ‘em. Yers if ya want ‘em.” He pushed the crate toward Mirah.

The tiny dragon flicked its tail and blinked. “Prook,” it chirped and then hissed ferociously at her, its forked tongue fluttering.

“I’ll take him,” she said with a determined smile. The dragon could have snapped off her fingertip and he’d still be hers. The remains of her bread stuffed in a pocket, she arranged the cloth in her basket into a comfortable nest and instructed the man to lower the creature into the folds.

The dragon stood unsteadily and flapped. “Akakak, akakak,” it barked, catching its good wing on the lip of the basket.

Mirah tucked the dragon in. “Stay there,” she cooed. Thanking the old man, she headed for the door.

“Wait there,” the shopkeeper called. “Yer coin.” His gnarled finger flicked the small pile on the counter. Mirah turned to face him, confused, afraid she’d misunderstood him. That was all she’d brought, she had nothing else to offer.

“I can’t sell ‘em,” the man repeated. “So take yer coin.” With a trembling hand, Mirah scraped the copper into a pocket, caught the man’s eye and began to cry at his kindness. He scowled and waved her away as if he’d endured enough compassion for one day. “See to yer tragedy,” he called as she stepped through the door into the sunlight, and so the Trag was named.