I Will Not Say the Day is Done
Nor Bid the Stars Farewell
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 35, Part 132
The Blue Dragon
April 1, 1452
Frodo felt the boat rise and heard the water sheeting off the sides as the dragon lifted him up. He trembled in his sea-drenched clothes, the soggy blindfold dripping down his cheeks like tears. Soon...soon...he felt the fear rise in him like the hair rising on his neck. "Lunatic, remember," he told himself. "Not enough sense to know when to fear." Oddly, the jest at his own expense quieted him enough to brace himself at what must come. The boat rose higher and higher in the air. At last he smelled the sulfurous stench of dragon-breath, hot upon him.
A deep yet melodious voice addressed him. "Ah, little host of my long-lost master! Bold of you, to come to me in the blood of my slain sons and daughters--arrogant and reckless, little one! But why the blindfold? Do you fear, after all, to see my mightiness face to face?"
For an instant Frodo felt ashamed of what he suddenly thought of as cowardice, and raised a hand to lift the blindfold off. But to do that he would have to release the lens...he remembered then, that he had already suffered too much exposure to a dragon's gaze and other influences, nor could he risk more.
"Did you think me willing, O Mighty Lady of the Nurnen Sea? Nay, the townspeople send me as tribute, for they call me mad and of little use to them otherwise."
"Mmmmm!" the dragon made a flattered sound. "So they wish to placate Luingoriel--or to bait her?" And with that she snagged and snapped the rope attached to the boat. "If they offered you to appease me for the loss of all my children, a mere morsel like yourself, I would have taken offense indeed, that they would set so low a price upon my flesh and blood--I would have swallowed you up for an appetizer and sated the rest of my appetite on the town! But trickery--mmm, that does amuse me, at least a little bit." Frodo heard a splashing off to the side and guessed that she played with the rope; her wriggle of delight nauseated him in her swaying grip. "So--you are, after all, but a worm upon a hook, and a lost hook at that."
"Wait, Milady--I am not the only gift!" As he felt himself tipped towards the heat of that maw, he kicked forward the full and untapped cask of Shire brandy that came in with the last shipment. He heard it roll over the prow with a bump, and then a loud gulp all too close, as the boat paused beneath him and then returned to the level. He gasped a sigh of relief and then felt himself hit full in the face with a most unladylike belch that reeked of the distillery and stung like sunburn.
"An aperitif!" the dragon laughed, and Frodo felt his forelock singe with the heat of her mirth. "Oh you do have your entertainment value, my little worm. I can see why my erstwhile master amused himself with you. But he, alas, has no more power in this world, while I remain a force to strike fear in the hearts of men--or little worms like you. Ah well, they do say that the small fish sometimes taste the sweetest..." and Frodo felt the boat tip again.
But he held on with one hand while the other gripped his lens, and now he sang out, in full voice, words in the hissing dragon-dialect of the Black Tongue that Mattie had sung before, as the gift of May magnified his memory of every note and lyric in its turn.
"That tune..." The dragon rumbled in a different tone altogether. "Wherever did you come by that tune?" But Frodo gave no answer, merely singing all the louder. "The memories...oh my...ohhhh...I think I hate you..." the dragon crooned, then suddenly, "How dare you make me remember!" and she cast him away from her.
Frodo did let go of the lens at that, gripping the boat with both hands and bare toes as he tumbled head over heels with it and hit the sea keel first with an outrageous splash. Dripping and chattering, he climbed up out of the water that now sloshed inside his vessel and back onto his bench. The lens hung against his chest by the cord of Billie-Lass's mane, but it still worked that way, he found, and lucky enough for him. Trembling despite his best effort, he groped till he found the oars tied into place beneath his bench, locked them into place by feel, and resumed his song.
"Oh please stop, pretty tidbit...you need not...Ruinrog used to sing that for me...oh dear!" He heard sizzling splashes of scalding tears hitting the water and he started to row, without missing a beat.. "Oh, what a young fool I was to think that he would never leave...Shut up! I shall devour you if you do not...ah, but no...how could I devour you just now, my pretty, pretty tidbit? How could I ever cut short that song?" Frodo just kept right on singing as he pushed and pulled the oars...
...And the dragon laughed to see the hobbit rowing blindly further out to sea.
Yet the music enticed her, and she was not one to resist enticements, particularly not in a merry mood like she found herself in now. For though a dragon looms great indeed in size, and may swallow a cask whole, yet it remains no little draught of a beverage distilled in strength, and not without effect--perhaps more than a dragon, in her pride, might think.
Frodo heard the dragon hum along, in harmony, interrupted now and then by sniffles. Now her head bobbed to one side, now to the other, as he rowed as fast as he could, making less progress than he liked, but the music made him a rhythm for his strokes that flogged him on long after his arms began to burn for rest. Not quite as lost as he appeared, Frodo felt the late sun hotter on his right side than his left, and guided himself by temperature. But for how long...
He, of course, couldn't see, no more than Luingoriel with her tail towards the harbor, the ship gliding up by sails alone on a fortuitous wind, much faster than a hobbit could row. Of course her hunters had meant for her to find and tear away the rope, and fancy herself safe! Now Frodo heard whizzing in the air, snarls of pain, shouting sailors, and the slosh of water bucking him. He dropped his oars and held on for all his worth in the dizzy ride, knowing that harpoon after harpoon must rain down on her--not aiming for her impenetrable hide, but shearing through the finer membrane of her fins, to make her flap and flounder, rolling in the water, snapping at the ship and missing. A new rush of violence hit like a storm on the churned-up water--the hobbit gripped wet wood till his fingers cramped on the plank in the spinning boat, dearly wishing that Leech had not pressed him to eat a hearty lunch.
A loud crunch! and the screams of men made it clear that she had done the ship some damage, but Frodo could hardly pay attention as the boat leaped on the backwash, nearly throwing him out. Now it shipped so much water that his feet dangled in it, cold like fear. But then a dragon-shriek tore through the air, so sharp that he nearly let go to clap his hands upon his ears--but it ended in the most horrible gurgling sound, and he knew what that meant, he felt at his own throat from knowing. Lord Curudag wanted her to snap at the ship, uncoordinated by fin-loss and slowed by brandy, giving him a clear shot through the mouth and into her gullet. Frodo swallowed--painfully--unable to shake from his mind what that must feel like, wondering if part of him would always identify with dragons, wondering if this made him a better or a worse person. But then he remembered the child known only as "Dragon-Girl" since she had forgotten her own name, and he remembered Captain Watersheen and all his crew, and Leech's long suffering, and his own afflictions with two different kinds of dragon-sickness, and he hardened his heart against the reptiles.
At last the sound of bubbling faded and the waters stilled. Now he felt the boat jerk as the long oars of the sailors snagged it and brought it in. A gruff yet cultured voice called down, "You may take the blindfold off, now, Frodo." The sunlight on the water dazzled him, but he could make out the rope ladder tossed down for him, and he climbed up, struggling with the rungs' long spacing meant for human limbs, but managing nonetheless.
A great cheer went up when he pulled himself over the gunwale and toppled to the deck, a shout loud enough to shake him even more than his soggy garb and the aftermath of fear--and yet he couldn't help but grin. Men whisked him up on their shoulders and paraded him around the ship, then presented him to Curudag like a trophy. The Lord of Lossarnach grinned fit to strain his face as he embraced the hobbit and set him up on the poop-deck where Frodo could look the men in the eye with a bit more dignity. "We did it!" the man declared, and slapped Frodo so hard on the back that he nearly knocked the hobbit off again. "You and I, we did it! But you had the most dangerous part. Your father would be so proud!"
Frodo laughed. "My father would call me a tom-fool for coming up with such a scheme, and only then would he let himself admit to feeling proud." But the renewed whoops and praises so exhilarated him, anyway, that it almost felt like he'd been the one to swallow a cask of brandy whole. He only dimly noticed that he still dripped water and shivered in wet clothes till they offered him a towel and a chance to bundle up in a much-too-big shirt as a sort of robe with the sleeves rolled up.
They sailed in triumph back to the port; the ship had only sustained damage to the figurehead, and those sailors who had screamed had suffered a few wounds from the flying splinters, but not nearly as bad as at first supposed. The captain of that vessel, a gaunt, squinting, scar-faced man named Stormrider, reckoned that he had earned the right to replace his figurehead with a dragon's head, both for his victory against the beast and his avenging of Watersheen. Lord Curudag asked if he intended to carry on Watersheen's reputation, and the man said he considered himself obliged to, now.
As soon as the ship docked, Frodo led the company straight to Public House Number 3462 and proclaimed, "I hereby declare this establishment to be named henceforth The Blue Dragon Inn!" He found a bottle of grog inside and ceremoniously smashed it against the hearth, to still more cheers, then went behind the bar and started to fill mugs. "Drinks are on the house tonight!" Villagers brought refills as soon as he ran out, and he served more drinks all around, shoving them up onto the bar higher than his head while trying not to trip on the shirt-hem, identifying customers by voice. He felt no need to touch a drop, himself, for all the merriment around him went straight to his head, or perhaps one should say to his heart. To the clink of tankards on the bar above him, and the laughing conversation, musicians from the town soon added their oriental songs; Frodo found himself dancing a little as he served the crowd. By the time the sun began to lower dangerously in the sky, he returned home with Fishenchips and Bergil to either side of him, singing old songs, walking as straight as a well-thrown spear.