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No Battles Today, Folks. star star star star star

"Sorry," you say. "I'm not interested."


"All righty, then," the dragoness replies, smiling. A moment passes in the dimly lit cave, lava-light playing off the craggy sides and making both your scales and hers shine with dull light. After a few seconds, you turn to leave, your business apparently concluded. It's cold out there and you don't know what you're going to do, but like the old fairy fountains in the Legend of Zelda, this room seems to have served its purpose.


"Um..." the dragoness's voice stops you. You feel your tail come to rest on the side of the doorway as you turn around. The dragoness is looking intently at her hands as she taps her claws together in a listless rhythm.


"I, wonder..." she says hesitantly, "would you mind... staying awhile? It's, um, cold, and..." she trails off, staring holes into the floor.


You're a decent fellow. You know enough about behavior to know when someone's feeling down, and you feel compelled to acquiesce to her request. You nod your scaly head. "OK."


Her eyes light up, and she smiles a fearsome fanged smile, which quickly becomes subdued again. "Thanks..." she says.


"I should say, though," you say, sitting down upon a comfortable recliner of semi-molten rock, "that I'm not real comfortable, with, um... *you know.*"


The dragoness nods knowingly. "I just wanted to... well, talk to someone, I guess," she says.


"But... this is the dragons' hometown," you say, "shouldn't there be lots of other dragons for you to talk with?"


She looks down at her claws again. "Yeah, there's lots of other dragons, I guess.


They're nice, too. But this is winter now and most of them are in a state of sort-of hibernation. I haven't got the chance to talk to someone for about a month now."


You raise your scaly brow in amazement. A month with no social contact? Sounds rough. But, wait...


"But, why aren't *you* asleep?" you ask. "I mean, I'd think a dragoness as pretty as... um, I mean, I'd think a dragoness like you would have, I dunno... a *family* by now, and be asleep with the rest of her brood..."


"Someday, I think," she says laughingly, "I'm still young. But in the meantime, I have to stay awake to--" she hesitates a moment, taking great care in deciding whether or not to say what she wants to say. At length she says:
"To wait for anyone that puts on the dragon costume."


You stare at the wall a moment. Then:


"You... you work for this place."


She nods. "Yes."


You look at her. "Why am I here?


What's this place for? What is *this--*" you gesture at your lanky reptilian body, "--for?"


A short whistle of wind slips past the cave outside as the dragoness collects her thoughts.


"You could call him a wizard, I guess--the man who built this place. The world was turning away from magic, turning to science and logic and reason, and men were to rule it. But some men couldn't bear to see the Old Worlds die. So the wizard, who only gave me the name Old Man to call him by, collected the Old Worlds together, along with those he could find to come along, and then... took it all out of time. With all the most powerful wizards on the planet, he took all the worlds out of the sphere of this dimension, but kept it attached by the thinnest of bonds, yet unbreakable ones.


Over the years, as men learned reading and writing, it was clear that in their imaginations still burned the desire to see the fantastic, the magical, the extraordinary, and over the years Old Man collected some of these man-made universes and gave them life in this Costumeverse. Mark Twain's southern states, the land of Narnia, and even the world of Pokemon is real here. All you have to do is find the right costume."


You say nothing, silently reclining on the red glowing embers.


"But... he kidnapped me," you say. "This wizard sounds nice from what you said, but I mean... he *kidnapped* me."


The dragoness smiles again. "You would never have found your way here if you hadn't really wanted to come," she says. "Everyone who comes to the Costumeverse has some desire to see the fantastic, and to some extent, to *be* the fantastic. Can you deny that you're excited to be a dragon, even an anthropomorphic one?"


You think it over, and shake your head. She has a point.


She nods decisively. "That's right. This place that's been created is... well, justice, in a way--a place where dreamers finally have the world pay them a little tribute. And to others, well... it's escape. Final and permanent escape." She looks to the wall as she says this.


Sympathy wells up in your heart. "Is that why you're here?" you ask softly.


She grimaces slightly, an old wound acting up. "I was born on Earth," she begins, "In a... bad situation.


Both my parents were... far too young to have children. They tried to make it better by turning to..." she suddenly chokes on the words.


"But it didn't..." she can't go on and breaks into a sob. Has she never had the chance to tell someone? A few moments later, she's surprised to feel you take one of her hands in yours, although hers are twice your hands' size. She smiles in gratitude, nods, and looks to the cavern's ceiling, letting the last of the tears run their course. When she's finished, she sighs in relief and stares off blankly for awhile.


"But we escaped," she says happily. "Both my brother and I; we're free from all of it. We woke up one morning in the Costumeverse just like you did, and we chose to stay forever. My brother's in a different dimension, but Old Man gave us each a special stone that we could use to communicate at all times. He needed someone to man this position in this cave, and so I volunteered for a period of three years, more from gratitude than anything. Two months more to go, and I'm gonna find my brother, bring him back here, and then, well..." she covers her face with her wing shyly,


"Well, there have been a few dragons asking for me, and I intend to choose one and say yes. We'll have a family and everything, and then I'll really be healed."


Her touching story concludes. There's such an air of peace and comfort in the room that, before you realize it, you've both fallen asleep in each other's arms.


Outside, the snow blows around harshly, but upon seeing the two sleeping dragons inside, it decides to make an easy night of it and settles for falling in soft, slow clumpy flakes. So the night wears on, and in one little corner of this alternate reality, there's peace and quiet.

Written by Mr.Peaches on 29 November 2006


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