A Boring Story: An Ultima Dragons Story

Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

by SwiftHeart Dragon aka Aubrey Chen

This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

It all started with the nomination for the annual geriatric award and a seemingly harmless rabbit whose ambition knew no bounds...


SwiftHeart looked up into the sky.

The shadow that had been nothing more than a small black dot took form within seconds. A reptilian creature of gigantic proportion hovered momentarily above two tiny figures and then landed next to the ranger and his tiny rabbitty sidekick.

With a swift and graceful motion that was blessed among all dragons, Messager placed a message pouch into the ranger's hand.

"Good morning, Messager! What brings thee to my home today?"

"Oh, the usual. A friend of yours is forwarding mail to keep you up- to-date on things happening around the Lair, that's all."

"Well, give her my thanks and fair wishes, Messager."

"Will do, friend SwiftHeart, will do. Well, best be going now, there are still tons of mail waiting to be delivered to their rightful receipients. It's been nice talking to you!" And with that, Messager lept into the air and flew away.

"Goodbye! And thanks!"

"Thou art most welcome, SwiftHeart Dragon!" came the distant voice.

The tiny figure standing next to the ranger spoke, "He completely ignored me."

"What was that, my cute little rabbitty sidekick?"

"I said he completely ignored me."


"Never mind."

SwiftHeart weighed the message pouch with his hand; it felt heavy. "Well, let's go inside and see what goodies are hidden inside this little treasure pouch!"

The ranger opened the door to a house nearby and walked in, his pet rabbit trailing slowly behind him. 

"Wow, another motherlode of mail for me to go through." Aubrey clasped his hands in anticipation, a smile lighting his features. "Which one dost thou think we should open first, little buddy?" he said as he dumped the mail onto a simple wooden table that served as his desk.

Bordering on boredom, SwiftHeart replied with faked enthusiam. "How about the ones you haven't touched from last week? Or the week before that x 24?"

"What?! Thou meanst there are actually mail directed to me, left unread and unanswered, in my home?! How disrespectful of me! I shall cut off one of my finger as a warning to myself in the future!" Aubrey thundered.

"I'd love to see that, milord," SwiftHeart replied.

"Oh well... hmmm... yes, we will get to them after we are done with the new ones. Let's begin, shall we?"

"But of course..." SwiftHeart sank his soft paws deep into the letter pile and randomly selected an envelope. "How about this one?"

Aubrey gratefully took the letter from SwiftHeart and examined it. "Hmmm... it's from Veramocor Dragon with 'Top ten things Lord British does while waiting for the release of U9'. Oh, but I love those! What sayst thou that we save the best for last?"

"As you wish, my master. But I should remind you that you said the exact same thing when you left those unanswered mail last week."

"Call me Aubrey, SwiftHeart. And oh, what was the other thing thou said?"


"OK then, pick another one."

Again, SwiftHeart waded through the letter pile. A moment later, he came up with a new envelope; he handed it to Aubrey.

"Ahhh... it's from Kinslayer! The subject heading is 'World Domination Plans Volume V: Army of Squirrels'. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, that's one of my favourite too! Let's save it for last, along with the Top Ten List, OK?"

"As you wish, Aubrey." SwiftHeart turned his away for a moment so Aubrey couldn't see him rolling his eyes.

Then for the third time, the little rabbit inserted his paw into the letter pile. (Author: Can you imagine all the paper cuts our poor little furry friend has already received? Heaven knows that his white coat of fur must now be dotted red with his own blood. Oh, the tyranny of his master!)

"This one's from Geo-" began SwiftHeart. He didn't bother to hand it over to this one to Aubrey this time.

"Oh no, is he still mad at me for not being there at his wedding?"

"No, the subject heading says, 'Nominations for the geriatric award.'"


"'Nominations for the geriatric award.'" SwiftHeart repeated impatiently.

"I heard that. But does it mean?"

"Which part don't you understand?"

"The word 'geriatric'."

"It means 'medical care of old people.'"

"Oh, how interesting! I've never received a letter like that before! Let's open this one and see what's inside!"

"Shall I have the honor?"

"Please do, by all means!"

Heartwarming words from his good friend Geo. Tears started to flow freely down Aubrey's face. When SwiftHeart finished reading the letter, Aubrey collapsed onto the desktop and cried for many minutes. Finally, when he could no longer bear the pressure that was building up in his lungs, the ranger came up for air, and it was then he noticed something was wrong with his cute little familiar.

"SwiftHeart, art thou all right? Thou lookest sorta pale, little buddy..."

"I am... I am... just fine- I mean it's none of you concern, and stop calling me 'little buddy'! I hate that childish name!" Without another word, SwiftHeart hopped out of the room.

Aubrey watched the tiny figure retreating out of the room and shrugged. "Oh well, must be another one of his cute little tantrums. Let's go for another letter!"

Aubrey plucked his own hands into the letter pile, cutting them in the process. "Ouch! That one cut deep, it did!" Aubrey examined the wound, "Ooooh,'twill probably be many days before this one heals!"

"Ah ha! It's from my ex-girlfriend Carolyn with no subject heading. How very interesting! Has she finally decided to apologize for the way she acted back at Cat's Tavern? Heh heh..." He ripped open the envelope and unfolded the parchment within. It read,

"Wish thou wert dead, lying bastard scum! May you and your wife rot in hell!
Fair wishes from Ms. Smith"
"Uh huh... not the best of apologies in the world, but I will take it as one nonetheless."

Chapter One: The Departure

Two months later...

The time was high noon and the residents of Britannia were suffering immensely from the abnormally immense heat blanketing the immense landscape. They were literally being cooked alive under the sun, which appeared as a reddish orange fireball from hell, filling up the entire sky. Farmers endured even worse hardships, as they worked tirelessly on soil which, under the heat, was hard as a rock.

And on the outskirts of Yew, there were three such individuals.

"Virtues forbid!" Aubrey cursed as he threw down his third broken shovel in disgust and attempted to dry his sweat-soaked forehead with the fold of his sleeve. "How much less favourable can a farming season possibly get? Look at this, all our crops are starting to wither and rot! If this keeps up, we won't have anything left to harvest for the fall!"

"Oh, stop complaining and get back to work, Swift! You are wasting more energy mumbling away than you are moving that shovel! Just concentrate on the task at hand and the heat won't bother you as much!" Underworld Dragon said. "If we don't double our efforts, we won't have enough stock left to last us through the winter; our food supply is nearly exhausted!

"Besides," Underworld added, "how much enjoyment do you think I am getting out of all this? They don't call me Underworld for nothing, you know."

Aubrey took a quick glance at his friend and nearly smiled. Indeed, if anyone was suffering from this blistering weather, it was Underworld. His normally shiny white skin was faded and coated with a greasy remain left behind by sweat evaporating too fast under the heat. His breathing sounded hard and uneven, his movements labored and clumsy. The glitter usually found in his eyes was replaced by fatigue and exhaustion. All in all, not a single ounce of dignity that usually dominated Underworld's character could be found right now.

Aubrey managed a weak smile. "Guess some of us are hardier than others, Underworld." Then a movement down the field caught a corner of his eye, "Hey, look like someone is finally coming over to relieve us of our hellish duty! I didn't think I could take this another minute!"

Rainbow Dragon, who had remained silent during the exchange, dropped his scathe and came over to join his two friends. With his left hand casting a shadow over his eyes, Rainbow peered down the direction from which Aubrey pointed to.

"Is it Winter?" Rainbow asked. "Has the council finally come to their senses and approved of the use of magic to alter the current weather pattern? With her magic, we can end this drought now and once and for all!"

"You should know the answer to that better than anyone else, Rain," Underworld replied. "The council made it fairly clear in the last meeting that under no circumstance shall anyone use magic to disturb nature's order. You were there. You heard what they said."

Rainbow spitted on the ground in disgust. "Damn the council! You don't see any of them working the fields, do ya? It's us who are sweating our butts off out here! What do those good-for-nothing politicians and scholars do? Nothing but sit in their comfortable little chairs reading books and citing poetry and coming up with asinine ways to turn down our perfectly logical and legitimate proposals! And as for letting things run in the natural order of things, what about the everyday magic we perform to keep ourselves in this puny mortal shape in order to coexist covertly with the humans? You know, I wouldn't complain so much if they let us do the work in our 'natural' forms! Humph!"

Aubrey nodded in agreement while Underworld remained silent. Seeing Underworld's reaction, Rainbow added, sighing, "Have to admit though, the council does have their reasons. Mono and Eth are right, the ethereal void grows increasingly unstable and its once abundant supply of magical energies is near depletion, if we push it any further as it is, something terrible is bound to happen."

"Amen to that," Aubrey said. "In the meantime, let's hope the council comes up with a way to battle the imbalance that's rapidly claiming our world."

The figure spotted by Aubrey only minutes before was now mere meters from the threesome. A young lady adorned with shinny apple-green hair and bright green eyes stepped into view. Minori was the head of Yew's Fellowship branch (yes, it has always been there, for some reason the Avatar was never able to find it) whose father had raised Aubrey for the better part of his life, after he had been rescued from a mage who had abducted him from home when he was but a 30-year old drake. When Minori's father passed way under mysterious circumstances five years ago, she took over the responsibility of caring for Aubrey. To Aubrey, Minori was his sister as well as his mother, for he had no memory of his own parents... not until a couple of years when they finally caught up with him that is. One night, they had shown up at the Fellowship hall entrance and demanded an audience with her master; to Aubrey's anger and embarrassment, his father had at first refused to acknowledge Minori's post due to her gender. Amazingly, she greeted his sarcastic remarks with warmth and kindness. And then through a strange set of events, they came to terms and Aubrey's parents decided to settle with them?! Now they live practically like a normal Britannian family?! (Sorry, even the author find this hard to believe...)

With a quiet air of confidence, Minori lowered her bucket to the ground and dipped a scoop into it, then filling an empty mug with the scoop's content. "Good highnoon, gentlemen. Would you care to take a break and have some refreshment?"

"I for one would not hesitate to say yes," Rainbow casually cleaned his hands on his leather tunic, then graciously accepted the mug filled with cactus delight from the young lady and drank deeply. "Thank you, milady."

Aubrey and Underworld stared at Rainbow, eyes glittering enviously. Aubrey's tongue licked about his dried and cracked lips while Underworld panted involuntarily, but neither moved to accept the young lady's offer.

The two dragons turned their gaze upon each other.

Rainbow sensed something was not right between the two, and a moment later chuckled as he realized what it was. A mischievous thought popped into his head. Rainbow exaggerated the noise of satisfaction as he finished his drink, followed by, "Ahhh... that's what I call a lifesaver, milady! Thank you ever so much for such a wonderful deliverance!"

The two dragons' gaze remained locked upon one another.

"Please, allow me to show you my gratitude," Rainbow moved toward Minori, smiling broadly. Minori, unaware of Rainbow's intention, backed away, blushing, then a moment later, understanding what Rainbow was trying to do, pretended to move closer to Rainbow.

That did the trick, well... sort of.

"Keep thy grubby hands off of my sister, Rain! I will not have her soiled by someone like thee!" Aubrey snapped, he tried to sound serious, but his voice came out crackling.

"Don't touch her or I will break your arm!" Underworld threatened. Unlike Aubrey's, his voice was harsh and cold.

"Stop your childish competitions, you two. Come quick and have a drink. I have other duties to attend to." Minori said, smiling.

"Oh, my dear sister! The heat has gotten me, and I am about to faint..." Aubrey's legs suddenly appeared to give way, but his sister made no attempt to catch him in his fall. Neither did Rainbow or Underworld.

Aubrey stumbled. "Hey, is that the way for a gentle sister to act? I am exhausted and I need thy support..." Aubrey pouted.

"For Virtues' Sake, Aubrey, is that the way a grown man should act?" Minori said as she anchored her hands at her waist, trying to look angry.

Aubrey looked as if he had just been struck in the face. He staggered and fell to the ground. Even though she remain unmoved, compassion touched Minori's heart for a second, she struggled to keep her face impassive for she knew it was only an act.

But it must have registered on her face, because a second later Aubrey let out a chuckle, climbed to his feet and hugged her warmly. Minori blushed in reaction, a moment later returning his embrace.

"Hey, hey, hey!" Underworld said as he tried to step between his 'friend' and Minori, "What do you think you are doing? That doesn't look like a sister-brotherly hug to me! You two stop that right now or I will run to the house and paint this pretty picture to Sasami, she will most definitely call off the marriage!"

"Thou wouldn't dare!"

"Just try me! I am sick of the way you try to make it out with both your sister and your fiancee!" was Underworld's reply, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

"Err... calm down, you two. That's a pretty hefty accusation there and one I wouldn't toss around if I were you, Underworld." Rainbow interjected, trying to separate the two.

"Oh Underworld, you are so cute when you are jealous!" Minori stepped between the two to ease the growing tension, winking as she did so. "Come on, stop fooling around, we've got work to do. Here," Minori placed a cool towel around Underworld's neck and started to wipe his face with its ends.

And in an instant, Underworld's gaze turned soft and playful. He let Minori cleansed him, secretly admiring the curves of her body as she did so. When she was done, he made an attempt to catch her lips with his own. Unfortunately, she sidestepped at the last second and he planted the kiss right onto Rainbow's cheek, who was standing next to her.

"What the f***!" Rainbow swore. "I don't know about you, Underworld, but I don't kiss no man! On or off the lips!" He made a show to wipe his face clean with his hand. "Damnation, but I have been spoiled by a man!"

Underworld's face turned beat red with embarrassment as Aubrey tumbled head-over-heels onto the ground, laughing. 

The evening feast at the Fellowship hall was quiet. Even though the gathering included several dragons, no one felt particularly talkative. They were all exhausted from the day's work. Soon dinner was over and the dragons went their separate ways, most deciding to call it a day and head for home.

The dishes in the kitchen sink were many, so many that Aubrey sighed deeply, as it was his turn to do them. Slowly, he started to scrap away dried food remains from the plates with a knife after lathering them with some hot water. It was then he noticed a tiny figure hopping into the room to stand next to him. Before he could speak, Cottontail said in her soft tiny voice, "Good evening, fair master-in-law SwiftHeart Dragon."

"Oh hi there, Cottontail! What can I do for thee?" Aubrey said, "Oh and please, call me Aubrey."

"I wish to speak with you."

"Of course." Aubrey picked up a towel lying next to the sink and started to dry his hands. Slowly, he found himself a chair and sat down on it, several bones snapping in the process. He added kindly, "That wasn't me."

Apparently, Cottontail didn't catch the humor. "Sorry to bother you, but this is really urgent."

"No problem."

"It's about my husband SwiftHeart."

Aubrey looked down from where he was sitting. "Is that so? Newly weds running into troubles already? It has been but a year," he said in a teasing tone. "Let me guess: thy passion has been running wild for the past year and now thou art dealing with a problem that's been plaguing thy race for generations -- family overpopulation?"

Cottontail made a face, "Aubrey, I am serious about this! If you are going to treat it as a joke, I will go discuss this with someone else, like Minori or Sasami."

"What can those two possibly do to help thee solve thy problem? We dragons are blessed with intelligence that can outmatch any primitive mortal." Aubrey replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

"Oh? Is that so?" Cottontail said, grinning. "Would you like me to relay your opinion of the human race in general to your fiancee or your sister?"

"Er..." Aubrey stammered. "I am sorry... I didn't mean..."

"Worry not, I have grown quite used to all this dragon superiority attitude, after being around you guys for so many years. Believe it or not, my master Blue, despite all his modesty and humility, has his share of the problem."

Aubrey breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Cottontail. I don't know what got into me, it just sort of popped out of my mouth."

"It's your dragon blood speaking."

"Is it? I shall keep that in mind in the future. See if I can find a cure or a counter for it before I really screw something up... or maybe talk it over with Mono or Alchemist, certainly they have a spell or a concoction that would help. Thou knowest, if I weren't so busy, I would personally go down to the Hall of Records and see if I could dig up something myself... it's sometimes a pain to request help from someone so high up in the government..."

Cottontail made a coughing sound (well, she tried anyway, give her some credit for that).

"Oh sorry, thou wert saying?"

"Take a look at these," Cottontail unstraddled a backpack that was slung over her shoulder and opened it. With a gentle tug, she removed several books from the pack and placed them into Aubrey's hands.

"Err... what exactly are these? Political books and self-help guides by intellectual writers? Thou mean SwiftHeart has been reading books lately? Strange indeed, in all the years I've known him, I'd never seen him pick up a book or even offered to read me a message from Sein. Heck, does he even know how to read?"

Cottontail raised a furry eyebrow in answer to Aubrey's response. "Yes, he does know how to read and for your information, write as well. When we were still dating, he used to read me Covean poetry and love stories on special occasions. And I had often written him letters when he was out traveling with you; and for every letter I'd sent, I would get two in return."

Aubrey clasped his hands together excitedly. "Oh, how romantic! Mayhaps I have misjudged my little buddy after all! Oh, how I wish Sasami and I would do the same!"

"SwiftHeart's ability in literature may not be the only thing you have overlooked."

"Oh? And I guess this is where thy problem comes in?"

"Yes, take a careful look at those books."

Aubrey scanned through the titles. The first book was a novel of no more than 300 pages in length, its content printed in extra large Britannian letters. On the title page was the picture of an unusually large rabbit (or bunny, he couldn't tell because the fella had clothes on) wearing an alien uniform decorated with an even stranger assortment of weapons. Above this menacing picture was painted "Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies" (guess it was a bunny after all...).

In a similar fashion, Aubrey went through the remaining titles.

The second: "How Tormented Pets Rebel Against Their Masters' Tyrannical Rule and End Up Killing Them For Revenge", by Sherry the Mouse, 510 pages.

The third read: "The Inner Truth about Psychokiller Rabbits, Squirrels or Any Other Well-Known Cute Creatures that Could Very Well Turn from Cute to Deadly", author(s) unknown, 501 pages.

The fourth read: "Unleash the Stone Giant Within", by Robin Athonnia, 321 pages.

The fifth one read: "Five Quick Steps to World Domination", by Mr. Beasly and the Purplish Tentacle, 51 pages.

Sixth: "How to Keep a Populace Under Control via Religious Ways", by Lord British and Batlin the Sage, 1140 pages.

...and so on.

"Hmmm... what does this all add up to?"

"Isn't it obvious? My husband has grown mad with power!"

"But why? For what reason? He's never had a complaint before, being a normal and insignificant rabbitty sidekick that he was I mean."

"Ever since you received that letter of nomination SwiftHeart has been acting strange, or haven't you noticed?" Cottontail said.

"Now that thou dost mention it, thou art right! I knew something was wrong when he just hopped out of the house after I finished reading that letter. I thought it was nothing at the time, but... say, don't suppose he was angry with the something... like the rules!"

"Well, partially due to that," Cottontail stared straight into Aubrey's eyes for the first time in the conversation. "But I think the fact that you were nominated as a candidate for the race pissed him off even more."


"Let's just say that SwiftHeart believes he has played a much more significant role in the prosperity of the Ultima Dragons than you or the other dragons did."

"Preposterous! Where is the logic in that?"

"Creatures don't do things that make sense when they are busy being mad, Aubrey."

"Hmmm... why art thou telling me this? Is there something I can do to rectify the situation? From what I gather, there is no problem in thy race which a little bit of love can't fix, if thou know what I mean, heh heh heh..."

Cottontail gave Aubrey THE stare.

"Uh hem... I suppose thou want me to have a little chat with SwiftHeart then?"

"Too late for that." Cottontail shifted her gaze to outside the kitchen window. The night was dark, apparently neither of the two Britannian moons decided to make an appearance tonight. "One morning, SwiftHeart told me about a dream he had in the previous night. A vision, he said. A vision of an old haggard man with shinny yellow eyes appeared in his dreams. He tried to wake, but the man's eyes captivated him. The man said, 'Treachery and doom! Your master shall unleash a great evil! Britannia is in peril! If you wish to save your beloved homeland, you must raise an army... an army of squirrels to overthrow the Ultima Dragons, to pry lose of their grasp on the fate of Britannia! First, you must travel to Trinsic, then through Paws, Britain, Minoc, respectively. It is in Minoc where your destiny shall be realized-' Er... what's wrong?"

"He told thee all that?"


"And thou took him seriously?"

"No." Cottontail appeared uncomfortable. "No, not at the time. That's why I didn't come to you immediately. it sounded kinda silly. I thought... I thought... "


"Nothing. Anyway, he left last Sunday. He told me he was going south to Trinsic. I thought it was nothing at the time. Maybe a couple of days in fresh air and walking in the woods would do him some good. Once he thinks it through, he will realize his foolishness and come back. But it's been a week and I have not heard a word from him. I am starting to get really worried."

Aubrey closed his eyes to ponder over the matter for several minutes before he finally spoke, "There is only one thing we can do now."

"And that is?"

"The one thing that must be done."


"And if we don't do it, the Ultima Dragons will be nothing more than a forgotten footnote in the history of Britannia."

"W-What is it? I hope it isn't what I am thinking of..."

"We... we must..." Aubrey's eyes darted around the room. When he was certain no one was around, he motioned Cottontail to come closer, which she complied. Into her ear, he whispered, "We must go to Mono's lair and ask him THE question!"

"Ay? Which-What question?"

"THE question."

"What? What?"

"'What is the one thing that must be done next?'"

Tears started to flow unchecked down Cottontail's furry face. 

Now in reponse to some of the questions I had received earlier concerning the Prologue:

  1. Why do you use Aubrey instead of SwiftHeart? There is a simple answer for that: because SwiftHeart Rabbit has the same name as I do. It would be a pain in the butt for me (and maybe the readers) if I had to refer myself as SwiftHeart Dragon and my familiar as SwiftHeart Rabbit every time they come up.
  2. What kinda crap is this?! The writing sucks! Yeah, it sucks, doesn't it? I agree. However, I write this kinda crap for my personal enjoyment (more specifically, when I am bored) so if it offends any of you, I sincerely apologize! (Does this make sense? :)
  3. SwiftHeart Dragon is so mean to SwiftHeart Rabbit. What's going on? Isn't it the other way around? Well, there ought to be a reason why SwiftHeart Rabbit was lead out of the path of Virtues, right? So...
  4. When did this story take place? The same time Serpent Isle took place, believe it or not. :)
  5. Will other dragons appear in the story? Or will you be monopolizing it? There will definitely be other dragons showing up in future chapters (like this one). Believe it or not, SwiftHeart Dragon takes a giant leap into the background once the plot reaches a certain point.
  6. How many chapters are there? Why don't you post them all at once? I have already written eight chapters, but most of them are in crude form (yes, worse than this!), not ready for public consumption. Please be patient while I smooth out the rough edges.
That's all for now. See you in the next chapter!

Chapter Two: The Revelation

"That bastard son! How dare he leaves on a trip without my consent!" Papa Dragon thundered as he pounded on his favorite easy chair which disintegrated under the savage force. "I swear I will have his head for this!" According to his intelligence report, it has been three days since Aubrey left the Fellowship Hall; Papa Dragon was not pleased with the news... or the fact that he has been kept in the dark about it by certain individuals.

"Calm down, honey," Mama Dragon tried desperately to comfort what appeared to be a deeply annoyed Papa Dragon, who was currently at a moderate but ever accelerating pace destroying what little furniture they had left. "You know what Mono said about you getting all worked up, it's bad for your high blood pressure condition."

Papa Dragon looked up from the skeletal remains of his favorite easy- chair, his face suddenly full of tears. "How canst thou expect me to be calm at a time like this? My chair <SNIFFLE, sniffle>... I will have him pay for this!"

"Honey, let's be fair here," Mama said gently. "It isn't exactly the first time this has happened... He is a grown dragon now, I don't think it's his obligation to let us know where he is or what he does at all times."

"Fine, so what should I say if Underworld or Rain or even a representative of the Grand Council appear at my doorstep, questioning his whereabouts or why he hasn't shown up for work for the duration of his absence?" Papa demanded.

"Tell them the truth," replied Mama Dragon casually. "Tell them what was written on Aubrey's note. I am sure they will understand."

Papa looked incredulous. "Thou meanst thou want me to say that my son has left 'on an honourable quest to stop his crazy pet rabbit from destroying the Ultima Dragons as we know it?!'"

"Yes." again a casual reply.

Incredulity turned hysterical. "Me? Me?! ME?!! And where would my dignity be after I've spoken those words?!"

Mama Dragon frowned deeply. "That's the only thing you've ever cared about, isn't it? Your foolish pride... and here I thought living amongst the humans for the past couple of years has changed you, obviously I was wrong. The safety of our son has always been of secondary concern to you... even back in days when he was abducted by that evil villain."

"Enough! I warned thee never to bring that up again!" Papa Dragon has apparently reached the height of his fury. His face was so red it seemed like all the blood vessels in his veins were on the verge of bursting. Wisps of smoke rose from his nostrils as the temple on his forehead pulsed with an unsteady but observable rhythm. Papa moved his hand as if to strike at his wife, but Mama stared back at him defiantly. "Go ahead," she said with a stern voice, "lay a hand on me and see if you will ever taste another Cinnabonn meal!"

In an instant, Papa's angry features deflated and were replaced by a look of near panic (not much to Mama's surprise, this has happened too many times). "Uh hem... so are they out there?"

Mama gave him a unlady-like snort and then replied plainly, "Waiting to see you."

"Show them in then- Wait" Papa Dragon suddenly felt self conscious. "Do I look all right?"

Mama replied with a cold smile. "You look as vicious as a proud dragon ready to pounce on his prey, my dear."

"Fine then."

Mama moved into the next room. A moment later she returned with two women, one of whom was Minori (who we have already met in the last chapter); the apple-green hair maiden has retained her air of dignity since her last appearance. Beside her was a shorter woman who wore long dark brown hair tied up in a waterwave style, she had large green eyes and an angelic face that matched Minori's beauty. However, she lacked Minori's air of confidence... which made her fair prey to Papa Dragon's wrath. The two walked toward Papa, their heads bowed in reverence.

Papa Dragon, despite his age, or maybe because of it, was an extremely good judge of his prey's Level of Frightenedness (tm). Probably everyone can tell that Sasami was scared out of her wits from the way her body was trembling, but Papa knew her exact Level of Frightenedness: 8.9612 on a scale of 10 (Wow, isn't that precise...). For several tense minutes, Papa kept his back turned to the two women, mentally calculating the right moment to turn around and start his ferocious attack. When he could come up with neither a plan nor that correct timing, he turned slowly toward his most likely victim. "What dost thou have to say for thyself, Sasami? Thou art Aubrey's future wife. Why didn't thou keep a better eye on him?"

Sasami trembled under the steady gaze of Papa Dragon, her lips had long gone white along with her face when she entered the chamber, and now her eyes appeared to be on the verge of tears, she lowered her head solemnly in response. Thankfully, Minori came to her rescue. "Please, milord. 'Twas I who convinced Sasami to let him go. Let no blame fall upon her shoulders."

Papa let out a pretentious sigh as he turned his cold eyes upon Minori, trying to achieve a certain look of authority. Bad news, he thought, this one wasn't afraid at all. He let his voice go up a pitch, "And thee. What kind of sister art thou, letting thy brother sneak out unnoticed like that... again?"

"I apologize for not having kept a tighter rein on my little brother, milord. 'Twill not happen again in the future, I promise." Minori replied with a firm voice.

"If thou canst recall, that's the exact same line thou didst use on me the last time he left the house without my permission, and the time before that, and before that, and so on. Tell me, just what did he do this time to convince thee to participate in his irresponsible actions."

"Nothing, milord. I thought he deserved a break from his work."

"And? And?! AND?!! Surely thou dost not expect me to believe that was the only reason thou let him go!"

"Unfortunately milord, that's it."

Smoke started to rise out of Papa's nostrils once again. "Minori, we have always respected thy decision, but let's just say I am very disappointed in thee this time. Letting Aubrey slip out on his own at a time when he's endowed with a serious responsibility, for the first time in his life I might add. How canst thou just let him walk away from it like that?"

"Serious responsibility? What are you referring to?" Minori looked puzzled. "As for Aubrey going out on his own, he has two companions with him -- Underworld and Rainbow. I am certain they will watch out for him."

"Underworld and Rainbow are with him? By Virtues, who are working the fields then?!" Papa demanded.

"I don't think I understand, milord. Why are the fields so important to you?"

"We don't have enough food to last us through the winter." Papa's reply was more whispered than said.

But Minori caught wind of it. "Of course we do. I know we will have to push it a little if this drought continues, but certainly the situation isn't as desperate-"

"Trust me, it's much worse than thou think," Papa interjected.

"Maybe it's time we told her the truth," Mama Dragon finally spoke.

"Yes..." Papa Dragon let out a sigh that seemed to come from the bottom of his shoes, "I guess it's the only way for her to understand." He turned to a what appeared to be a solidified Sasami, "Sasami, would you please leave the room?"

"Y-Yes, milord," Sasami replied dutifully. Then she turned and left the room, shutting the door behind her.

"Why did you ask her to leave?" Minori watched Samami leave, thankful that Sasami would no longer be taking part in this conversation that was starting to take a strange turn.

"It will soon be obvious to thee," Papa said.

"We are not what we appear to be."

"What do you mean by that?" Minori asked, an uneasy feeling creeping up her spine.

"Let's put this as bluntly as possible, we are dragons."

It took a moment for Minori to recover. "You look human to me."

"Magic." was Papa's simple reply.

"Take a look at our shadows." Mama suggested.

Minori gasped as her eyes grew wide, her hands on her cheeks in disbelief. It took all of her courage to stand firm instead of turning around and bolting out of the room.

"Sorry we did not tell you earlier." Papa said in a way of apology, although his voice was clearly devoid of any such intention.

"What? You are only trying to frighten me, right? Please tell me this is a joke." For the first time in her life, Minori felt a terrifying fear threatening to claim her soul. She tried desperately to calm her racing heart.

"I am afraid it isn't, my dear." Mama put a comforting hand on Minori's shoulder but the young woman shrugged it off as she took a step back from the older woman.

The room stayed silent for some time. The two dragons stared gravely at the young lady as she struggled to regain control of her emotion. Finally, Minori found the courage to speak again, "And Aubrey? Is he one of you too?"

"Yes, Aubrey, or SwiftHeart as he is known among the dragons, is one of us," Mama Dragon replied gently, a hint of sadness touching her voice. "As are Rainbow and Underworld."

"That can't be. The little brother who I have loved and nurtured for years... a dragon?! How can this be?!"

"Sorry, we never planned for this to happen."

"But why? If you are truly dragons, why didn't you just take him away and leave?"

"That is not our way." Mama replied gently.

"But dragons... they are supposed to be violent, ruthless creatures, who attack and kill the innocent without reason or provocation!"

"Thou must be referring to the other cult of dragons, with whom we are enemies."

"The other cult of dragons? You mean there are two parties of dragons in Britannia?"

"Yes. We will not waste our time explaining what maybe of little importance to thee at this time. Let's just say one faction of dragons seeks to live peacefully with the denizens of Britannia while the other strives to dominate them." (For a more complete reference on the history of the Ultima Dragons, consult Mono's ten volume scrolls on "The History of Ultima Dragons" and his story "Core of Darkness.")

"And you and Aubrey belong to the peaceful faction."

"That is correct."

"But that still doesn't answer my previous question. Coming in peace or not, you could have taken him without me ever noticing it. Why did you opt to talk it over with me first?"

"That's true-" Papa Dragon began.

"Initially," Mama Dragon interjected, "Papa here planned to do exactly what you had just said. Fortunately, I Mama, being the sensitive dragon that I am, 'recommended' that we take an alternate course of action; that we shouldn't jump into things, that we should spend some time to observe Aubrey's lifestyle and decide what's best for him."

"Does Aubrey know he is a dragon?" Minori asked.

"Yes, Papa made sure Aubrey was aware of it the instant the period of observation expired... when I wasn't around to stop him," Mama Dragon replied, casting a not-exactly-a-friendly-look in Papa's direction. "Aubrey was brought back to the Weyr and sworn in. He was introduced to the council members and was brought to reacquaint himself with his homeland."

"He knew..." Minori said, her eyes downcast. "He knew and he didn't tell me..."

"Nor Sasami. He was afraid you would leave him if he'd told you the truth," Mama said gently.

"It must have been a real shock to him. How did he react to all this?"

"Amazingly, his reaction to the whole affair was much better than what I had anticipated," Papa said, "I arranged for him psychiatric sessions with Psycho Dragon prior to relating him of his heritage, but apparently that wasn't necessary. From what I gather, I don't think being a dragon is that big of a deal to him. He is one of the few among us who doesn't seem to specifically appreciate or despise his heritage."

"Either that, or he is very good at hiding his feelings," Mama commented quietly.

"Why? Being a dragon must be a... wonderful thing, imagine all the powers you must have: flight, wisdom, long lifespan, magical powers -- all the freedoms a world can possibly offer."

"Be as it may, there are things which our son, much to our confusion, considers more important than these freedoms. He believe these talents are what you humans frequently refer to as tradeoffs. Despite our long lifespan, the dragon population is considerably insignificant when compared to your species since we do not reproduce quite as fast... aside from the fact that we are often hunted by human dragonslayers and... ourselves. Due to this and many other reasons, most dragons choose to lead a solitary lifestyle. Few of us actually seek to maintain direct contacts with one another."


"SwiftHeart likes humans and their companionship; he despises solitude, as do most of our second generation I am sorry to say. Maybe it has something to do with living amongst the humans for extended period of time or maybe something else entirely, but most of our young now prefer to dwell in human civilizations rather than the Weyr, the traditional home for dragons. In any case, SwiftHeart wishes he were more naturally human so he didn't have to carry certain... burdens."

"Aubrey is a dragon... Wait," a disturbing thought suddenly occurred to Minori, "but he plans to marry Sasami anyway? Their wedding date is but three months from now. Sasami is certainly no dragon... or is she?"

"No, you are right, Sasami is mortal," Mama replied. "As for marrying her... I don't think Aubrey has made up his mind yet."

"But they are engaged to be wed... by the decision of... my father."

"Yes, and he feels indebted to thy father for saving his life. Thus he believes he must do as thy father had requested: marry thy father's dead friend's orphaned child. However, I believe sooner or later he will come to realize his personal happiness is more important than a meaningless vow sworn to a dead human long ago."

"Are you saying that was only reason Aubrey agreed to his engagement?"

"No, he is truly fond of Sasami. But..." Mama said, half-smiling. "While this is most certainly a speculation, we have reasons to believe he is attracted to another human female."

Minori choked on this as her eyes moved to the ceiling, her face painted a faint rosy color. She pretended she hasn't heard for she had a suspicion of who it was.

"Does he have plan to sire offspring?" she tried to continue where she had left off. "What... what would happen if a dragon were to mate with a human?"

"We do not know, and frankly, we do not want to. Never in our long history has such a, if thou wilt excuse the word, hideous union ever been contemplated. It is our duty to persuade him not to commit this deed."

"But... what if he wants to?"

"We have already discussed this with him. We told him that if he can find a woman who will not reject him upon learning of his true heritage, we will respect his decision and allow the wedding to proceed; to this, he has readily agreed," Papa let out a grotesque laugh, which earned him a side-long stare from Mama. "Let me be frank with thee, I don't think such a woman exists on the face of Britannia.

"In any case, we have apparently barked up the wrong tree at some point of the conversation. We were talking about the food shortages."

"Yes, yes..."

"Let's begin with a single fact: all life form requires food to survive. In spite of many powers bestowed upon us, we dragons still need food to live, in accordance with the universal law.

"Now due to the severity of this past year's weather, we have been unable to raise enough crops for the dragon community on our own. Now as it stands, we can generally vie for the magical route and produce standard rations that way, or at least temporary alter the weather pattern to allow more favourable conditions for the crops to grow in. Unfortunately, the ethereal void grows increasingly unstable as of late. Certainly one like thou who art endowed with magical abilities have already experienced the abnormal fluctuation in the strands of fabric of unreality and the difficulty of conjuring even the simplest of spells because of it. Because of this, our government, the Grand Council has forbid further use of magic for non-life threatening causes."

"But if the need arises, certainly lack of sustenance can be considered as life-threatening. Wouldn't your government allow the use of magic then?"

"Yes. We believe so..." Papa Dragon appeared a little uncomfortable. "But the council had stubbornly insisted that we shall not abuse our magical talent. So unless we've tried all we can but still cannot overcome this problem, we will not turn to magic. And that's why SwiftHeart, Rainbow, Underworld and many others like them were chosen to... farm with the humans. We are hoping the share of crops they raise will be enough to bridge the gap.

"A heavy responsibility such as this one which involves the life- and-death situation of our race is considered as a life-duty in our society, a post that is generally regarded as a great honour and is awarded only to those who prove themselves worthy in the dragon society. However, punishment for abandoning one's life-duty is equally severe -- death."

"Death?" Minori's face turned deathly white. "Isn't that a bit harsh?"

"To us, the continuation of our line is of utmost importance. Since we are so few in numbers, we must make sure no incidents, however slight or insignificant, will prevent our species' continued existence." Papa replied.

"Then why is the council, your government, refuses to use magic to resolve your current problem that can very well grow to a point where it could no longer be rectified? Suppose the ethereal void continues to deteriorate... to a point where there isn't enough magical energy left to work with. What would your council do then if the food shortage problem still existed?"

"They are looking farther down the road. Just because we have ensured our present survival doesn't necessary mean we will be able to survive the overall crisis. Aside from this, what would happen if energy in the ethereal void were completely depleted? Who can tell what terrible cataclysm might befall us all if that happened?"

Mama nodded. "I hope you can now see why we are so worried."

"I am sorry... I didn't realize the matter was this serious. What can we do now?"

"Simple really. Find SwiftHeart and his companions back before the council ever discover the occurrence of this 'incident'." Papa replied. "Did my son tell thee his destination before his departure?"

"I believe he said he was going to see someone by the name of Mono."

The room grew silent.

"Damn, this complicates things," Papa finally said.

"Why? Who is Mono?"

"Monomolecular Dragon. One of the most senior member in the Dragon Grand Council," Mama replied.

"This would definitely complicate things," Papa Dragon repeated.

"But Mono is Aubrey's friend, is he not? I have often heard his name mentioned whenever Aubrey has a question which he can't solve or matters that needed to be discussed. Otherwise, why would Aubrey turn to him in the first place?"

"Oh we are not worry about Aubrey gaining an audience with Mono, but say that he's seen by someone else who is not exactly friendly to him or someone who believes that all dragon laws must be upheld regardless of personal patronage, what do you think would happen then?"

The unspoken words hovered in the air, "...punishable by death."

OK, it's that time again; time for me to address incoming questions from fellow readers:

  1. Hey that isn't me in the story, or is it? ;) Sorry, I will try to portray the characters as closely to their real- life counterpart as possible in the future (at least in the physical sense anyway. :)
  2. Written for vanity? How many dragons made 'actual' appearances in the first two chapters? Let's be honest here, would it have made any difference if I were to use names not listed on the Ultima Dragons roster? I don't believe using names of those who I have befriended during my stay with the Ultima Dragons is a crime against humility. :)
  3. Story doesn't cohere to the Ultima universe. There is no secret dragon society on Britannia. There were no emps in Ultima I-VI either, why do they exist in Ultima VII? Why put limits on one's imagination? :)
  4. Rainbow from Prodigy? Sorry, Rainbow in the story isn't Rainbow from Prodigy (a gal) but our current UDIC Rainbow (a guy). Yes, he doesn't really say "What the f***!" in real life. :)
  5. What inspired you to write this story? I think I have already answered this question before: I was bored. But here is the expanded version... ;) One day in my short winter vacation, I got sick of doing schoolwork. I walked around the dorm and felt really bored. I decided to take a walk in the park. I got there; I laid down on the grass. When I looked up into the sky, I saw this bird flying over me. I thought, Men, wouldn't that be cool if it were a dragon, so he could come down and fry all of our asses right then? (Yes, I was having a bad day! :) Then I went back to my room, picked up a pen and a piece of paper, and started to draw a comic strip about the Ultima Dragons. Several days later, I decided to convert it into a story since drawing it was kinda a pain and my limited artistic talent was starting to annoy me. Voila! You might notice that my writing is especially weak when it comes to the non-verbal part. This might help explain it because I just sorta padded them on. (Excuses, excuses... as SwiftHeart Rabbit would say if he were here. :)
Wow, I have spent nearly a whole page answer questions! Thanks for all of your comments, really appreciate it! :) 

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