Some of you Inklings, artists I'm sure, are familiar with "Inktober," during which the challenge is to draw and ink a piece of art every day. There's even an official Inktober prompt list released every year, giving you a prompt for every day in case you sit down to do your art and your brain makes the empty ketchup bottle sound and nothing comes out.
I'm part of a group on Discord called "Here There Be Dragons," and the gal that runs it was kind enough to provide a list of random prompts under the theme "dragons." (Obviously. Because dragons.)
As some of you may know, I'm not an artist. I doodle sometimes, but things like perspective and anatomy are almost entirely foreign to me. So instead, I decided to do my own version of Inktober, which I've called "Scribbletober." It's sort of a warmup for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which happens in November. My goal is 500 words per day, and today's prompt (10/4) is "Sea Monster." So, here we go.
(If you're interested in reading the rest of these, feel free to tag along on my Patreon.)
Under most circumstances, it’s wise to listen when a dragon tells you to stay way. In all honestly, I ought to have listened. Sometimes I imagine that somewhere in my head, there’s a little woman at a messy little desk, trying very hard to sort through my thoughts and approve the ones that have merit or send back the ones that have none.
Between you and me, I think her job must be an exhausting one, because every now and then, I have days where she simply doesn’t show up, and the little desk gets messier and messier, and thoughts slip through that have no business slipping anywhere at all. For example, I was standing there looking at a dangerous animal that obviously wanted me to leave, but instead of leaving, I pulled my pocket knife out and moved closer.
“I cut. You free.” Really, the dragon tongue is not well suited to human vocalization at all. Standing where the dragon could see me (its eyes were hot, venomous silver-green) I opened my coat and showed it my belly, a sign that I was ready to submit to their authority. Obviously, the trapped dragon could do nothing of the kind in return, in part because it was trapped, and in part because it had no wings. A grounded breed, then. Or… its tail lashed at the underbrush as it tried to wrench its head and forequarters free, and I saw that the tail was oddly flattened, the paws very wide and soft, with thick webbing between the toes.
I will skip over the part where I actually did the cutting. It was pretty tedious, actually, since it was a cycle of me grasping a thorny vine and sawing at it until the dragon snapped at my hands and I had to back off. It was a bit like trying to help a dog with porcupine quills in its face, only without the benefit of sedation. And she kept snarling insults at me.
The sea dragon (I think she was a mixed-breed, since the branching horns are a pretty exclusive ice dragon trait to my knowledge) called me a pig, a snake, a mud-ball, and many other unflattering things, but I think eventually she gave in when she realized I wasn’t going to just leave.
When at last the vines were severed and the dragon could pull free, she snatched up a pouch I hadn’t noticed lying on the ground near her. I saw then that it had a leather strap that was severed on one side, and realized I might have cut it when I was trying to free her. (And yes, it definitely was female. She didn’t appreciate me checking.) Once the strap was tied together and hung about her neck, she grabbed the skull between her forepaws and backed away, awkwardly balanced on her hind legs and glaring at me.
“It’s mine,” she hissed, holding the skull close to her narrow chest.
“Yours,” I agreed, flexing my scratched and bleeding hands and wishing I knew how to say “you’re welcome” in a snarky tone. Unfortunately, I don’t know the right sounds for it, and the posture for snark isn’t something I’ve worked out yet, since in class we only ever learn how to be polite and respectful. Probably for the best, all things considered.
“Why?” she whistled, still glaring. “Why help?”
It took me a moment to work out how to answer, and I bowed nearly in half to show her my wingless back and empty hands at the same time, groaning something that was meant to be “Want to help.”
From the way she considered me, I wondered if I’d made the sound right.