Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Busily Being Beige

Busily Being Beige

By Nancy Wayman Deutsch

I'm standing just behind you
busily being beige
hiding all jollity
or slowly simmering rage.

I'm blending into the backdrop
so nobody knows I'm there
wearing a coat of mousy hue
pretending not to care.

But underneath, Crayola bright
A box of fifty-two
ranging sunshine yellow
to richest cobalt blue.

Laughing under the box lid
while hiding, in plain sight
maybe tomorrow, cinnabar red
just busily beige tonight.

August 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

As Per Request, another excerpt from Tim's book

Here's some more from The Adventures Of Mungo Tim

For those who wonder, Tim is a young dragon (100 years old) on a fly about, Miranda is a girl on the run from a forced marriage to a not so charming prince, and Will Von Leonhardt is a dis-inerited direction challenged prince, hero, and all around good guy....

The Black Knight

Will crashed through a particularly dry bit of bracken and leaped over a fallen log. Surely the road is just ahead, he thought, emerging into another clearing surrounded by tall trees. Frowning, he scanned the clearing, then sighed as he sat down on the log. He looked down at his boot which was flapping open at the front. Completely done for, he sighed. He looked up, hoping to read the direction of the sun, but the shadows were too deep. “I just don't understand why I keep getting so turned around,” he said aloud.

“Could it be because yer a great stupid oaf who don't know better than to wander the woods without knowing a even a wee bit of woodcraft?” commented a scratchy voice somewhere in the direction of his knee.”

Will looked down, eyes widening in amazement as he beheld a brown skinned man the size of a small child. He was so thin that he looked more like a bundle of sticks tied together than a living man. “Don't know much about taking care of boots either,” added the stick man. He pointed at the ruined boot.“Might as well throw it away, which would be good since you almost stepped on me and I'd rather be stepped on by a barefooted giant than one clad in heavy boots.”

Will pulled off the boot and set it at the base of the log. “I...I...am sorry. I wouldn't have stepped on you. I didn't see you,” said Will.

“Course ye dint, ye big lug. Ye don't see what 's in front of yer face let alone below it. You've nearly trod on a slithy tove and a passel of mome raths and that's just this morning.”

Who are you?” asked Will.

“Now, would I be tellin' that to a giant? Won't tell ye me real name. Just call me Styx.”

“Well, Styx, I am not a giant,” said Will.” Just a rather tall man.” He reached out a hand to the stick man. “I am Wilhelm of Wallesia, a knight errant, sometimes called Wilhelm the Black” he said,” but you can call me Will if you like.”

“What I would like,” answered the little man,” is fer ye to leave the Darkening Wood and stop disturbin' the peace.”

“I'd like nothing better,” answered Will. “That's what I've been trying to do, but I keep getting turned around, somehow. I'm lost. I guess I shouldn't have left the road.”

The little stick man laughed, which sounded like wooden reeds rubbing together. “Don't I just know that. Were bears been following ye as ye stumbled about fer days now. I thought at first they might kill you but I reckon they liked the way ye ran off them scurvy dragon hunters. Appears like they been content just to follow ye ter see what ye're gonna do next.”

“Lucky for me, I suppose,” Will said. “I have no desire to fight were bears. I am a town man not a woodsman, as you have so aptly noted. I'd be obliged if you would tell me where the road is and I'll gladly be on my way out of the forest, for I am hungry and tired and would like to sleep in a bed that isn't made of pine boughs.”

“Road out ain't far,” replied the stick man. He peered upward where a small ball of light bobbed in between the stout oaks which lined the clearing. “Ye wanna take him Dexi, since he has proved himself to be no friend of them dragon hunters?” He winked up at Will. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend thing, eh?”

The small ball of light descended to hover over Will's head. “I'll show him out, Styx, if you like,” said the ball in a sweet piping voice. “I was going that way already so it won't be a bit of trouble.”

Will squinted and beheld a tiny female fairy, her form shimmering with light. “By Odin's black hammer, he exclaimed! “You're beautiful. Like a tiny red gold sun. What are you?”

The fairy smiled and beat iridescent wings, flashing beams of golden light into the air. “I am Dixie Dexi, a pixie,” she said. “Though some call me a will-o-the-wisp. Follow me.”

“I don't know about that, golden one,” Will said. “For, no offense to you, but I have heard that will-o-the-wisps like to lure unwary travelers into bogs and rivers where they drown. Of, course,” he added, “I am probably able to do that on my own with no help from you.”

The will-o-the-wisp bobbed up and down. “Nay, sir, I shall not drown you in a bog but take you all the way to Killarty if you want in return for the compliment you paid me. Most mortals, if they see me as I am at all, do not call me beautiful,” she smiled, revealing tiny pointed teeth. “They fear me for my reputation.” She pointed at Will's sword and scabbard. “You are a knight, yes? There's a tournament at Killarty in one days time.”

Will reached for his boot. “Wonderful!” he exclaimed. “A tournament is the very thing I've been needing.”

Unconsciously, he patted his pocket with the hidden coin inside. “I guess one more night in the open won't hurt me.” He looked at his boot in amazement. “Its all mended,” he said. “As good as new. How can that be?”

“Yer welcome,” chuckled a brownie in a pointed red hat and green coat, perched on an a oak root that protruded from the ground. “Like most in Darkening Wood, I am no friend of dragon hunters. Go with me blessing, Sir Will. Just have a care not to step on the mome raths on yer way out.”

Will stood up. “I thank you all friends,” he said. “I'll watch my steps more carefully from now on. And if ever I can repay your service, I shall.”

“Let us be off,” then said Dexi. “Ta-ta Styx. Don't take any wooden franken from those were bears.”

“I will not, light of me life,” smiled the stick man, lifting a twig-like arm in farewell.

Will was surprised how quickly the journey to Killarty went with Dexi as a guide. He was in the center of town by full dark. “Thank you, little lady,” he said to the will o the wisp as she bobbed overhead, casting light into the gloom. “I will say good bye here for I must find a place to bunk down. Fare well. I shall not soon forget your kindness.”

“Good fortune be yours,” she answered. “As I think it will, for you have the mark of Lady Luck upon you.”

“If I do,” said Will, “I cannot see it, for I have lost kingdom, and home, and my purse is too often empty.”

“But, that will change soon,” she laughed. “Perhaps, even on the morrow.”

“I hope so, Lady Dexi,” Will replied. “Right now, hope is all I have besides a prodigious hunger and thirst.”

“Then satisfy both at the inn of the Six Swans just down the street on the left. Use the coins hidden in your pocket and see what the new day brings. Farewell,” she added soaring up into the night.

Will reached into his pocket. “I only have one Frankel,” he said into the sky, “which I must use to enter the tournament, although I don't know how you could know that.” He frowned, as he pulled out three franken and a snickel. “How did they get there?” he asked.

The will-o-the wisps voice floated on the breeze. “The world is full surprises isn't it,” she commented, as her fairy light winked out.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Current Take On a Hot Potato Issue

Recently there has been a whole lot of press regarding the plans of a Muslim group to build a mosque and recreation center in New York in a building that was damaged by the explosions set by Islamic extremists on September 11. The mosque would be two blocks from Ground Zero itself. There are, from what I've read in print and online and heard on TV, a whole lot of strong feelings across America both pro and con regarding this issue. Perhaps it is impossible to be completely dispassionate on the issue: the words Ground Zero and Muslim put together in the same sentence does push buttons for quite a few as the anniversary of the great tragedy approaches.

No rational person can argue that the attack on September 11 by a foreign Islamic terrorist group on American soil that killed thousands of innocent civilian people was a right action. It was entirely unprovoked by a single person murdered on that terrible day. The attack was immoral. The attack was unjustified. The attack was an atrocity. The attack was evil. It cannot be justified by any human being who wishes to be respected. I have heard that AL Quaida claimed that the attack was in return for Western and especially American interference and injustices throughout the Muslim world in the last half century. Indeed, Muslim hard core extremists still blame Christians for the Crusades thousand years ago. They blame America as well for supporting the establishment of the state of Israel after WWII. They use these as excuses for the un-excusable. It doesn't wash.

Okay, so a group of Muslims don't like us Americans and they harbor grudges. I get that. But not liking us does not in any way justify their actions.

I admit to currently having some negative feelings about Islam (if not individual Muslim people). As a religion Islam advocates the elimination or domination of non Muslims either by religious conversion or killing. Yes, this is in the Koran. I've read it. "If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out." (from the Christian Old testament) Our eye offended the writer (s) of the Koran and the devout Muslim was ordered to pluck it out.

Of course, most Muslims today are likely moderate and most likely don't follow their holy book to the letter any more than most Christians do. But it bothers me that I don't read or hear many Muslims condemn what happened at Ground Zero in any way that could be considered more than lukewarm at best. Sometimes by not taking a stand against something a person appears to approve it.

I am reminded here of the average German in the Weimar republic as Hilter's goons took over and began their unbelievably horrible and inexcusable treatment of the Jewish people. The country was failing and the economy was in tatters and 'Joseph the plumber' was having really hard times. The Germans wanted change. They needed change. Unfortunately, they had the bad fortune of getting a Hitler. Joseph and the other average folks probably did not support the crazy Nazi agenda. What would have happened to the German who stood in the way of the SS? I don't think I have to answer that question. Courage and convictions are easy in books and movies but far harder in real life when it means torture or death.

But that was in Germany, not America. I can understand being quiet when a bully is in charge and you are powerless, but in Peoria or Pennsylvania or Portland you can say what you like. Why then don't more Muslims here strongly denounce Al Qaida, their actions and agenda? I don't have an answer.

Overseas, they perhaps do not speak up since in some Muslim dominated countries there is little if any separation between church and state and their personal freedoms are more limited than ours, thus essentially forcing those who might not agree with the more extreme and fanatical persons in control into being silent for fear of reprisals and harm to themselves and family. Or is it possible that they do not care? Do they agree with the fanatics? Do they really hate us? I do not know.

Some people argue that freedom of religion is the right of any American and that the building of a Muslim religious center anywhere they want to is their right and prerogative. This is true. The law of our land supports it. If they can get the proper permits from the city and have the funds, they can build it. I am going to echo a statement of our President regarding change, out of context and with a different reference, "Yes We Can!" But, should we? Should they?

I do not agree with the conservative talk show hosts and politicians on most points but I did find myself nodding my head when I heard Rush Limbaugh say something to the effect (Or maybe it was Glenn Beck who said it; they blur in my mind before I hit the channel changer) that building a mosque near a site that is in many ways a sacred memorial to an atrocity committed in the name of the religion that the mosque stands for would be like Nazis putting their flags outside the gates of a concentration camp where thousands of innocent Jews were brutally tortured and murdered for the sake of the Nazi agenda.

Of course the mosque can be built near Ground Zero. This is America, after all. She is flawed. Love her or hate her and maybe there are reasons to do both for some people, but she guarantees you the freedom of speech and religion.

But should the mosque be built there? Is it somehow disrespectful to the dead and their living still grieving families? Does its placement there stand for religious tolerance or a slap in the face? Could a compromise be reached and the mosque be built elsewhere in the city? Some argue that we must be more tolerant of Muslim feelings concerning their religion and the life style it demands. Some might argue that Muslims become more tolerant of those who have different ideas and customs themselves. I don't know but I do believe in balance in all things. Give and take. Live and let live.

Tolerance and understanding are always to be desired. Learning to know people who are not like us can be a really positive experience when both sides are open minded and willing to compromise and grow and, yes, change some customs and moderate some beliefs that may no longer apply to life in a world changed since they were formed. Should there be mosques in new York and churches in Bagdad? Sure, why not? We can all change. Yes, we can. We can learn. We can evolve. We can become better. It often takes time and starts in little ways. I know, though, change can't be forced down the throats of those who are not ready for it.

Remember the old saying about not knowing a man until you have walked in his shoes? It makes sense. As a non Muslim, I frankly have a really hard time even wanting to walk in those shoes, especially if walking in them was overseas, but if I had to I sure would rather it be a man's shoes than a woman's. Maybe as a Muslim man I'd have to give up eating and drinking some things that I wouldn't miss anyway and I wouldn't mind not drawing a picture of the prophet since I can't draw anything. I could still go to school, run a business, drive a car, be an athlete if I wanted. Even in Arabia. I could remember to pray a few times a day. But as a woman, ah, forget it. Here's where the impossible disconnect comes. Here's where the instinctive unease of Islam comes for me personally thanks to what I've read about the life of many Muslim women around the world.

My impression is that being a Muslim woman in many Muslim dominated countries would mean I could not go to school unless the religious leaders agreed and then I might not be permitted to study certain things. I could only marry who I was told to. I could be killed for resisting an unwanted marriage. In some places I could be killed for riding in a car with a male not a relative. I could be beaten for offending a man with my words or appearance. I would be wrapped up in clothes that hid my identity whenever in public. I could not go freely where I chose. As a 21st century, 12th generation American woman such things are unthinkable and unimaginable. If Muslim women in other parts of the world choose freely to accept such conditions it is not my business. If my sisters do not like the lack of personal freedom but endure because they cannot choose, my heart aches for them.

I would welcome dialog with Muslim women to get a better sense of what they really think and feel about their role in Muslim society both abroad and in America. I have not had the experience or the opportunity to date to do so.

I am not defending a conservative political or religious point of view. I am not happy with some facets of American culture, although I love my country and would defend her agains all aggressors. Am I offended on some level at the idea of a mosque being built near Ground Zero? I think I wish I wasn't. But, honestly yes I am to some degree offended, on an emotional level if not a logical one. I shrug my shoulders and move on to thinking about something else. For now, for today, that's all I can do.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another dragon-y bit

A little more of Tim's adventures:

Dragon's Dilemma

“Yo ho yo ho,” Tim sang in a surprisingly tenor tone, “It's a dragon's life for me. Give me a sheep, a cow from the keep, and a summons from over the sea. Accounts of my demise are falsehoods and lies, told by humbugs, and tinkers, and thieves. Its a dragons life, though its one of strife, its a dragons life for me.”

He soared skyward towards the setting sun, his emerald wings flapping as the breeze caressed his iridescent scales with delicate fingers. He banked, rolled once in a loop de loop on the thermals, then coasted towards the hazy mountain peaks of Hyburnia. Far below him on the edge of a darkening wood, a lone rider looked up in surprise at the sound, shielding his eyes from the sun's glare with a mailed arm. Quickly, he reached down to pull a crossbow from his gear which he loaded with a lethal barbed arrow. As the singing dragon passed, the man raised his bow and fired the arrow which whizzed through the air just to the left of the dragon's scaly cheek.

“Whoops,” said Tim, plucking the arrow from the air with a curved yellow claw. He tossed it aside where it sank towards the earth below. “Missed me. Big mistake.” He circled back towards the forest, sucked in a mighty gulp of already overheated Indian summer air, turned his muzzle downward, and blew it out accompanied by a searing jet of crimson flame.

“Yikes,” screamed the man as his horse bolted off the side of the trail.

“Yo ho ho,” Tim sang, it's a dragon's life for me. Give me a horse kabob, a roasted knight, and a merrily burning tree.” Sucking in a another throat full of air, he torched a spruce tree on the edge of the forest. Peering toward the direction in which the rider had fled, he cocked his head at the barely audible sound of shod hooves breaking bracken and fallen limbs as the horse and rider galloped back into the wood.

“Missed you, you bugger” he sighed. “Fair enough I suppose though, since you missed me.” Turning away, the he shrugged and gulped another fireball back into his throat. Belching smoke as he flew, he resumed his flight to Hyburnia. “Your pardon,” he said to no one in particular. “Very rude burping without even a meal to account for it.”

Somewhere, faintly, he could hear a sound that reminded him of a fist knocking on a wooden door. He looked below. “No house down there,” he mused. “Thus, no doors. No doors, no knocking. No knocking, no more people. He nodded his mighty head, smiling with wicked looking serrated teeth. “Twas probably just a woodpecker on a rotten tree.” He began the third verse of his song.“Yo ho, yo ho, a dragons life is fun. Give me a fight, a roar and a light. The silly men will run.”

There was a whistling ping followed by a whoosh, and the dragon lurched suddenly to the left. “Ouch,” he said turning to look at an arrow lodged deep in his flank. Another ping brought another arrow, this one in the wing, and he overbalanced and began to fall. “Oh no,” he said, “there was more than one hunter. I should have looked both ways.”

Flapping his uninjured wing, the dragon tried to level out and ascend, but the drag of the wounded wing pulled him sideways towards the hard ground coming ever closer. “It's no use,” he said, wincing in pain. “I can't fly with one wing. “I'm done for.” Mayday, mayday he broadcast in dragon thought. Anyone who can hear this: dragon down at the edge of the darkening wood just over the southeast Hyburnian border. Help requested. Over and out. He closed his eyes, hoping for the best, closed his wings and let himself fall.

“Ouch!” He exclaimed a few long moments later as the branches of a stout oak broke his fall. “I'm glad I didn't torch this tree,” he said to himself. With a loud crack, the branches began to snap. “Oh oh,” he said as he fell to the ground, dislodging a woodpecker unlucky enough to be in a smaller tree too close to the oak, and nearly landing on the two hunters now dismounted and standing below.

“Got him,” said the first hunter jumping quickly out of the way as the woodpecker, squawking indignantly, flew away.

“Good shot, Magnus,” replied the second hunter, dodging to the left. “We'll feast well tonight I reckon.”

The first man nodded. “Save the head,” he said. “Larry the Mad has placed a bounty on all dragons. We'll drop by his place on the way home and collect that much, at least. Even if we didn't find the runaway girl.”

The second hunter pulled a sword from its scabbard. “Can I have the honor of stabbing him in his heart seeing as how the first arrow was mine?”

Magnus smiled, drawing his own weapon. “Let's finish him off together, George.”

Weak from blood loss, Tim softly sang a death song. “My soul will fly beyond the sun, but dragon's luck is gone. In blood and pain my life must end, the sands of time drift on.” He closed his eyes and waited for the pain, which he very much hoped would be brief.

“Drop the swords!” growled a deep voice nearby. The wounded dragon opened his eyes in time to see both hunters step back and lower their weapons. At the edge of the forest stood three figures: a shaggy haired man of bear-like proportions dressed all in brown and carrying a longbow, a burly dwarf hefting a war hammer decorated in carved silver runes, and a slender girl with reddish hair, carrying a staff and wearing forester's green.

“It's a fair kill,” the man called Magnus said. “Its none of your business, friends. We don't look for trouble from you. How 'bout we carve him up, take the head, and then George and me will be on our way? You can have the major part of the meat. Maybe just give us a steak or two.”

“I think not,” growled the bear-like man.

“But, we was the ones that brought the beast down. We should get sumthin' fer our trouble,” said George.

The bear man shook his shaggy head. “You will leave the dragon as he is and high tail it out of our territory. Or forfeit your own lives.” As he spoke, the man began to grow shaggier and his teeth elongated, becoming canine. He growled as more and more hair suddenly sprouted from his body. His shoulders bent over and his arms became more muscular. By now he was almost completely covered in fur. He dropped the bow, having no more need of it as long curved claws protruded from his paws. He went to all fours, turned his head and roared.

The dragon hunters stepped back.

“You heard my pal, Groof,” said the dwarf. “Dragons are welcome here. Dragon hunters are not. This is the only warning you will get, friends.”

Magnus's face paled under his helmet. “It has red eyes. It's a were bear,” he whispered to his fellow dragon hunter. “We must have strayed into Hyburnia.”

The second man gulped. “The dragon is yours, Mister bear,” he said. “We don't want him, do we Magnus.”

“No George,” Magnus replied. “We don't want him at all. Not at all.” he looked at the dwarf. “Tell him we're sorry fer any local rules we broke even if we didn't know what they was.”

“We're leaving now.” declared George, backing further towards the woods. “We don't want no trouble. You folks keep the meat and everything.”

“See that you are out of Hyburnian territory by sundown,” chuckled the dwarf, moving forward to stand next to the fallen dragon. “And don't come back, or you will feel the weight of my hammer in your skull. If me pal Groof here doesn't eat you first, that is.”

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why I Heart Asheville

Images top to bottom: Street scene, Pac Square, Skyscraper, Thomas Wolfe house, Grove Park Resort, Groveland folk art gallery and sculptures

A Dozen Reasons Why I Really Like Asheville, North Carolina:

1. Smallish city easy to navigate by car or foot
2. Beautiful setting in Blue Ridge Mountains
3. extensive arts and crafts galleries and several shows
4. really good restaurants
5. proximity to Blue Ridge Parkway
6. very dog friendly city
7. friendly people
8. Biltmore
9. plants and terrain similar to Western Pennsylvania where I was from
10. history of area similar to my own Scots Irish history
11. walking and recreation areas next to French Broad River
12. seasonal change

But this kind of says it all: We were taking a Sunday afternoon walking tour of the downtown with Danny's Uncle Phillip when we heard music. We looked up to see a youngish man in a nun's habit on an antique bicycle. As he rode, he was singing along to the song Dominique on an ipod. He looked at us and waved, saying, "God Bless You My Children." He rang the bicycle bell and rode on, his nun's habit flapping in the sultry summer breeze. A thirty something woman walking a brindle pit bull on the opposite sidewalk waved and said to us, "Every time a bell rings and angel gets his wings." (Quote from Its A Wonderful Life film). I thought, this is MY kind of place!

Live long and prosper. More from the dragon's book next time.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Sampling of Nancy's July Vacation photos

Here's some favorite recent pictures from our travels around North Carolina and Virginia. Enjoy the scenery.

More from Tim's book

Under a banana shaped moon, a cloaked rider mounted on a bay horse followed a rutted road eastward. The rider sang snatches of a ballad as the horse plodded along the track. There was a sudden clap like thunder in the sky, making the horse snort and shy. The rider looked up and froze, hands clenched tightly on the reins, as a beast the size of a house soared over the road, huge bat-like wings snapping and flapping. The horse reared, but the rider stayed in the saddle, looking upward, mouth open in a silent scream.

The creature looked to be not one, but many animals, artfully put together. Green scales flashed as the moonlight caressed its lizard-like body. It bent its goat horned head to peer at the terrified pair below with eyes hard and red as rubies. Its spiked crocodile tail trailed behind, curving and lashing sideways as the beast banked and turned for another pass. As it swept overhead for the second time, the rider gulped, noting sharp raptor claws at the end of thickly muscled legs.

The horse's eyes rolled, it foamed at the mouth and it shook its head, but the rider held it steady. “It's a dragon! A real dragon. There are dragons left in the world!” the rider exclaimed.

A gust of wind from the dragon's wing knocked the hood of the dark wool cloak back from the rider's head and coppery hair cascaded to slender shoulders. Emerald green eyes below met cinnabar red ones above. “Why, it's just a girl,” boomed Tim in a kettle drum voice. “ On a horse too scrawny to eat.”

“It talks,” said Miranda. “How amazing.”

“Of course it talks,” agreed Tim, coasting to a graceful landing on the road. “It flies and breaths fire and does many more amazing things than just talk.”

“It certainly boasts,” Miranda declared, steadying her mount as it tried to dance backwards.

“With reason,” countered Tim.

The girl laughed. “It is beautiful.”

“As is the girl,” Tim replied. “With hair like firelight and eyes as green as spring.”

“It is perhaps not a dragon at all but a silver tongued prince under some enchantment?” asked Miranda, hopefully.

The ground rumbled as the dragon laughed. “No, just a dragon. Aren't you afraid of me, little human girl?”

Miranda shook her head. “No, I admit I was at first but I'm not afraid anymore, although I probably should be. But, you see, encountering a talking beast is...well the wonder of it seems to have drained the fear out of me. And, in any case, if you are going to kill me there is nothing much I can do about it, now. So, I might as well have an interesting conversation first.”

Tim nodded. “Indeed. I like your reasoning. And, just between you and me, I have never killed a girl who reasons.”

“Have you killed any who don't?”

“I have not. In fact, although I am loath to admit it since it doesn't seem very dragony, I haven't as yet killed any humans. Not on purpose, anyway. Furthermore, you are the first human girl I've had a conversation with at all. The others just screamed and ran away.”

Miranda giggled. “Well, I can understand that, I suppose. You are a dragon, after all. And, in all honesty, dragons have a fearsome reputation.”

“We do. And justly earned. We are fierce and we can be truly terrible. Its the way we are made, you see. It is our nature.”

“Well, I don't know about that. But, you are as well spoken as any Micklesian courtier. You seem most civilized to me. Indeed, although you are sporting excessively large claws and teeth and are making my poor horse very nervous you are definitely charming and a lovely color, too. Like the sea.”

The dragon blinked his ruby eyes. “I shall savor that compliment, lady.”

“Where do you go, magnificent dragon? And, please excuse me, for calling you an it before. That was rude of me. ”

Tim laughed again and Miranda braced herself as the ground rumbled and her horse fought the reins. “You are forgiven. And where I am going is a thing I cannot tell you since I do not know as yet. I am adventuring into the unknown. Following the wind and my exceptionally keen nose. That is all I can say. But where do you go, human girl? I did not think well brought up human girls wandered about lonely roadways under dragon moons without the protection of a loathsome knight or two.”

Miranda harrumphed. “I am... adventuring as you are. I can take care of myself as well as most men can. I've had training in weaponry from an expert soldier, you see.”

Tim nodded. “I might believe it, judging from your confidence and composure. Even the sudden appearance of a dragon didn't rattle you overmuch.”

Miranda smiled. “You give me too much credit. As I said, it was the wonder of this encounter that made me so bold.” She pointed upward. “But, sir dragon, if I may ask, why do you call the moon overhead a dragon moon?”

“Because it is shaped like a dragon's smile,” he replied. He grinned. “See?”

“Oh,” she said, comparing Tim's mouth to the shape of the moon. “I always thought the quarter moons looked like a yellow fruit my father once imported from the south lands.”

“Bananas,” the dragon said, after thinking a moment. “They are called bananas.”

“Yes, that's the name. But, now that I've seen a dragon's smile I would agree that the moon is shaped very much like it. Except for the teeth of course. ” She looked into the sky again. “Or it could be said to resemble a dragon's claw or even his curled tail.”

“Well, see in it whatever you like. But, to me, it's a dragon moon and a dragon moon is a rarity,” said Tim. “It only happens once a month.”

“Once a month isn't that much of a rarity in my opinion. But meeting a smiling dragon underneath a dragon moon is a rarity.”

“I think you must be a rarity, too,” mused the dragon. “Few humans see any wonder in a meeting with my kind.”

“Then they are quite blind,” Miranda replied. “Or at least stupid.” The dragon considered her reply in silence, which began to stretch uncomfortably.

“Did I say something wrong?”

“No,” said Tim. “You said something right. But, you appeared to be in a bit of a hurry when I spotted you. I have no doubt delayed you long enough. Are you sure you will be all right though, out here alone on a mostly deserted part of the King's road?”

“Well,” Miranda replied, “I can only hope so. I have a good map and a fast horse and I have no choice but to travel this road. So, I guess I better be about it.”

The dragon nodded. “Very well. I wish you good fortune and good speed wherever you are bound.” With a crack, he flapped his wings and began to rise upward. The horse whinnied and tossed its head, straining at the bit in its desire to flee from the dragon. “Stay alert though, exceptional girl,” he warned. “You never know what sort of other fearsome beasts you may meet along the way.”

“I have met a dragon on this road,” called Miranda. “Where a dragon travels other beasts will not wish to be. Or so, I hope,” she added, to herself. She sat, astride her horse and watched as the great dragon flew skyward and disappeared before pulling up the hood of her cloak and continuing her journey. This time, however, she did not sing.