For once, the mists of the Cauldron aren’t the only thing surrounding a seated Christopher. The very air gleams and sparkles with prisms of light. Only it’s the reflection of light off the scales of an enormous serpentine body, coiled around almost every spare space in the Cauldron. Where do the scales end and where do they begin? Christopher cannot tell, but he’s spotted a slitted, yellow eye, watching him intently with an unblinking gaze.
Christopher: Well. (He swallows.) I think I have a friend like you, or she became like you. A dragon. My memory of her isn’t clear. Neither are hers.
Prunella: She was no dragon. Dragons are not ‘she’. The closest pronoun to capturing us is ‘we’ or ‘they’. We are beyond gender and grounded in memories, the existence of many lifetimes. A dragon’s recollection of past events are as clear as your reflection in the still surface of a lake.
Christopher: I envy you that clarity.
Prunella: Don’t envy us. The vividness of our memories is a curse as much as a blessing. Events in the minds of humans such as yourselves dull to a bearable blur while we recall every joy, every sorrow with the sharpness of a blade striking our vulnerable underbelly.
Christopher: I’m not human. I’m not sure if I ever was.
Prunella: No, you were an arachnocratic blossom, blooming amidst pretty dreams until you were plucked and surrendered to the dream, becoming a shadow, discarding memories as you willed. (The dragon chuckles, steam pouring from their nostrils.) Perhaps we should envy you.
Christopher: (struggling not to wince or lift his hand to wave away the stench of brimstone that fills the air) Perhaps. Perhaps not. I’m seldom certain who I am or what events in my existence are real.
Prunella: Reality is often subject to the wistful perception of others. When it’s not twisted into something amused or being ignored outright.
Christopher: Are you speaking of Quartz? Or Nimmie Not? You’re part of their story, are you not? Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins?
Prunella: We are among the fragments gathered together for this tale and believe shall appear within the tale itself, yes. As far your other questions, you’ve met both Nimmie Not and Quartz. They’ve been to this Cauldron, chatted with you in some detail. Whom are we speaking of?
Christopher: I’d say the one who twists reality into something amusing is Nimmie Not while the one who ignores it, hoping it’ll go away and stop bothering him is Quartz.
Prunella: We couldn’t have said better ourselves, even if we are better acquainted with Nimmie Not than Quartz. (They let out a snort.) Ridiculous sprite.
Christopher: Ridiculous, yet not without a measure of earnestness in his silliness.
Prunella: Fancies himself in love and is doing everything he can to win over his beloved with trinkets, while bestowing cross-eyed glares upon anyone who might take his beloved from him. That won’t end well. It never does.
Christopher: Have you yourself had some experience with this?
Prunella: We fancied a knight once upon a time; a very pretty young man, wide-eyed with visions of doing something heroic, of being chosen. We tried to make him happy by razing the countryside, becoming a monster he could fight. It didn’t end well. It never does.
Christopher: It never does? This happened more than once? You fell in love with a knight?
Prunella: We fell in love with a few knights. You might say we had a type or perhaps a weakness. There was also the damsel who wanted to escape from her tedious life and fell in love with all the treasures in our cave. We tried living with her, only to have her family send a battalion of troops after us.
Christopher: What happened?
Prunella: We roasted the troops. Literally. Happily, they were still tender, one of the best meals we’ve had in our long existence. Our damsel didn’t see it the same way. Not only did she no longer want to live with us, we got a reputation for carrying off and devouring damsels. Can you imagine such a thing?
Christopher: I’m afraid I can. What happened to your damsel after she rejected you?
Prunella: Well, our feelings were hurt and we were hungry. She was such a tender little thing. We didn’t steal and devour any damsels after her. At least not many.
Christopher: I see.
Prunella: We speak truly. We much prefer brimstone to human flesh. Humans are simply too much trouble.
Christopher: How about dwarves?
Prunella: An acquired taste, although for some, an addiction.
Prunella: Way too bony, but available. Not that we’d ever eat Nimmie Not. He’s the boniest of the lot, not to mention way too amusing. It’s oddly sweet to have a friend, even if he’s very small and skinny.
Christopher: You’re Nimmie Not’s friend?
Prunella: We suppose we are. It’s been so long since we’ve had a friend, we’ve forgotten what it’s like. If we were to have a friend, it would be he.
Christopher: He’s fortunate to have a friend, one he can confide in.
Prunella: He seems to like confiding in you as well, even if you’re a character in a different series.
Christopher: I think he confides in me because I’m a character in a different series.
Prunella: That may be true. It may also be that you talk to Quartz entirely too much.
Christopher: That may be true, too.