Dog And Dragon – Snippet 12
Fionn and Díleas walked on down the hexagonally paved “causeway.” Now out of sight of the travelers, Fionn stuck to being a dragon. While it was fun to tempt the creatures of smokeless flame into folly, they tended to see too clearly to be easily fooled. Besides, he had other things to do.
It was inevitably hot. Fionn began wondering if he should have relieved the travelers of some water as well as some of their gold. The smoky air was still and thick, and Fionn traced more flows of energy rushing through it. It felt like a thunderstorm — not just dry lightning, but a real cloudburst of rain was coming. It even looked like it with black thunderhead clouds forming. The creatures of smokeless flame would not like that! They’d be exerting all their power to stop it. Things were definitely in a state of flux here, although the causeway itself did not seem to be a problem. The weather could always be a side effect of Tasmarin rejoining the great planar ring of worlds. That would have an effect on all the planes and all the sub-rings that spun off those. Had others of his kind kept the energy of the planes balanced, while he was trapped in Tasmarin? Would Tasmarin itself remain truly stable without him? That could be awkward, as his hoard was hidden there. The few pieces of gold he had with him were a poor replacement for that.
Just when Fionn thought he’d have to carry the drooping dog, who was still determinedly pushing onwards, two things happened: firstly, it began to rain, in thick hot drops; and secondly, they came to a large stone trilith set over the causeway, which had narrowed down and become stones in the dust here. The trilith — made by hauling a huge megalith onto the top of two other upright megaliths — was big enough to have required several giants to move the vast, shaped stones. There was considerable magic about it, but yet it did not disrupt the flow of energy. Either the builders had consulted another planomancer or this was a relic of the First.
The dog wasn’t waiting to examine it. He found the energy to scamper towards it.
And did not emerge onto the causeway beyond. Fionn could see that. It was singly devoid of dog.
So he lengthened his stride to walk though himself.
On the other side there was still a trilith. It was just much lower and entirely surrounded by forest. And darkness.
It was also cold, and wet. Fionn’s dragonish eyes saw further into the various spectra, and also rather well in the dark. He could spot the white patches on Díleas. The dog was sitting there, looking back at the trilith. Waiting. Plainly not with much patience, by the way he stood up. There was obviously a time difference here. That happened in transitions between the planes. It was usually more gradual though.
“I am so sorry to keep you waiting,” said Fionn. It occurred to him the dog probably did not understand irony, even if he understood entirely too much speech, by the way Díleas butted his hand with his nose, and started to walk down the rough track. The dog seemed to know where he was going, and there wasn’t much to keep Fionn here, even if he might be tempted to have a closer look at that trilith. Human worlds had once abutted those of the demondim, so that was not that surprising, but to find a path he did not know…worried him.
Also, he was sure, just by the feel of the place, that this was not the cool damp of night in fair Annvn, but the cold terror damp of night in Brocéliande. Mind you, in the dark it was hard to tell. If they were attacked by monstrous beasts or wolves it would be the vast primal forest of Brocéliande. If it was mere bandits, it was probably Annvn. The beasts or bandits were more likely to attack a human, and Fionn had nothing against helping himself to their booty, so he altered his form accordingly. If it turned out to be Brocéliande, he’d probably regret that. It was, either way, one of the Celtic cycle. His Scrap’s true name suggested she might have come from one of those.
They walked on, the wood even darker than the cloudy night sky, with trailing branches drooping over the track. A sliver of watery moonlight peeked out from the cloud as they came to a stream with a shallow ford. Díleas ran forward to drink as if there was no other water ever to be found.
Fionn was beginning to wonder whether he had been wrong, and this was somewhere else entirely, or that times had changed for the bandits or wolves or monsters. He was also thinking about the trilith-gated road, and wondering about the mathematics of joining planes thus, and how it could be that the outcome was uncertain. He was so deep in thought he almost didn’t see the afanc slithering closer to the dog. He barely had time to yell and leap as the crocodilian jaws clashed shut…
…On Fionn’s cloak and the arm rolled in it, giving Díleas a chance to utter a startled yelp as he leapt back and pulled his head aside. Without Fionn’s yell the monster would have had the dog, and even with it, the afanc would have had Díleas by his nose, except Fionn had stopped the jaw closing on the dog with his arm.
The downside of this was that the water monster had Fionn instead. And while dragon skin is tougher than human skin by several orders of magnitude, and the thick woolen cloak would have stopped a knife thrust, the afanc still had a truly viselike grip, and it was using all of the strength of its massive legs and beaverlike paddle tail to haul its prey back into deep dark water to drown him.
Dragons are not easy to drown, and the afanc would need more than just patience to manage that. But no one told Díleas that. The crazy dog latched itself onto the afanc’s nose, burying his sharp teeth inside the sensitive nostril.
The afanc was now trying to get away, shake off the agony attached its nose, and deal with Fionn. And Fionn knew that he wouldn’t drown, but there was no such guarantee for that obstinate dog.
So he stuck the fingers of his free hand into the afanc’s eye, and at the same time hauled with all the strength of his legs.
And got wet. Fell over and got showered. The afanc did not like having its eye poked out. It loosed its grip briefly and, with a ripping of cloth, Fionn pulled the arm and cloak free, and dealt the afanc a wallop alongside the head that would make the monster regard anything bigger than a field mouse as hard chewing on that side for a month. As Fionn fell backwards he grabbed Díleas by the scruff of the neck and flung him back up the bank, before scrambling that way himself.