Jaraswat and the Ugly Dwarf
A long time ago — two or three gross-years — a much younger Jaraswat came to Lliashatheny, who at that time lived in exile on Graulfnir. Lliashatheny dwelled in a large inverted glass bowl, shimmering with fifty-eight kinds of blue. Though it was glass, it was rarely transparent. When Jaraswat, newly a bachelor, peered into it, he saw visions of tools and toys. Magical tools and toys, charged with something that is not wholly unlike astral magic as dragons know it, but is certainly not the same thing. He saw, for example, a jigsaw that would cut time into odd-shaped fragments, so that one could enjoy two days in succession, and then two nights, rather than endure the tyrannical order of day-night-day-night. He saw an auger that could drill holes between nearby universes, so that one could become a serpent and slither from one to the next without the expense of monuments or travel spells. He saw a carding-brush that would comb prose into poetry.
He saw a spindle that caught his eye completely.
When he had thus decided, he flew off to the castle of his parents. From there he made his way to Twarrentine, where no dragon dwells for long. He endured the hideous lluyew of that awful world’s sun and land for long enough to rake diamonds with his paws from the desert sands, and terrify the twarrents into smelting gold for him, and bringing him the aromatic wood of gullivasc trees.
At length he returned to Lliashatheny’s inverted bowl. He flew around thrice, and roared, “Lliashatheny, you ugly dwarf, who has retreated to Graulfnir and been permitted to stay here as an exile, come forth! I have brought you the price of the wixio!”
Lliashatheny then became next to him, by means which Lliashatheny enjoys and nobody else understands. Lliashatheny was, and is, indeed an ugly dwarf of a dragon — or dragon-like thing; nobody knows exactly what it is. (Yes, “it”. It doesn’t seem to be a drake or a dragoness.) It is barely half my size, and I am among the smallest of dragons from head to tail. (I make up for it in circumference, which is arguably not an improvement.) It is only moderately larger than a small person. It has no wings. It compensates for their lack by having an excessive tail, a long and and protracted and whippy and unadorned tail that terminates in just a plain point. Its fangs and claws are short and blocky and appear well-used, though we rarely see Lliashatheny actually fight anything. Its eyes are sunken into its skull, unlike the bulbous eyes of astral dragons. Its features are coarse and unpleasant. Its scales are thick and immobile. It doesn’t smell like a dragon either: it has harsh and nasty aromatic notes in its scent, like a dragon that had been marinated in valerian or some such unpleasant herb.
“The wixio’s price is more than merely diamonds and gold and gullivasc wood,” said Lliashatheny.
“What? Are you a cheating dwarf as well as an ugly one?” Jaraswat had not learned all his languages, that long ago, and stuck to Grand Draconic. “Your magic glass lump clearly said, so much gold, so many diamonds, so much gullivasc.”
“The price for me to make you the wixio is that. The price for using it is different. The price for owning it is yet another price. The wixio is what I will make for the price of the making. If you wish it!” said Lliashatheny.
“I wish it!” snapped Jaraswat.
Then they were inside of the glass dome. Probably no spell could be cast on any astral dragon without him being aware of it, so I suppose that Lliashatheny moved the dome to be around them. The dome included a pleasant parlor. Rather small, being made to Lliashatheny’s frame rather than Jaraswat’s. But it had a pebble-couch full of gemstones as bright as a dozen breaths, which Jaraswat immediately sprawled in, and into which, at the end of the meeting, Lliashatheny poured the diamonds Jaraswat had paid.
“Not yet have I told you all the prices,” said Lliashatheny. “The use-price of using the wixio is this. The wixio will, in an instant, weave the linguistic competence of anyone into a garment. The material it uses is the victim’s ability to speak, to understand words, to even understand that there is such a thing as communication. The whosoever you use it on will never again share any thought or word or feeling or hate or love with any other being — never again think in ideas and concepts! Not unless he is wearing the garment woven from his own competence.”
“What care I for that?” snapped Jaraswat. “I am planning a grand investigation and study into the nature of language itself! A few small people shall lose a facility along the way, and one they barely make any worthwhile use of. It’s not as if they have important thoughts, or as if their feelings matter past the moment or two or need to be communicated at all. I shan’t be using it dragons after all. Not even on dwarf dragons like you.”
“Not at all right are you of that,” said Lliashatheny. “And have you spoken to any small people, and have you learned their ways, and have you lived among them, and have you understood them?”
“I have spoken to them! I have learned their tongues with the The Spilling of the Speech and the Word-Fox and other such linguistic spells. I understand them as well as they understand themselves!”
Lliashatheny clicked its claws together. “And do you understand me?”
Jaraswat frowned at the ugly little thing. “I understand, at any rate, that you speak Grand Draconic and probably shouldn’t. I understand, at any rate, that the terms of your presence among us dictate that you must made your amusing little devices for those dragons who pay for it.” He shoved the box of diamonds and gold and wood over. “There, I have paid. Make me the wixio right now, and instruct me in the manner and subtlety of its use.”
“The last price,” said Lliashatheny, undeterred, “is the price for owning it. The simple price and the great price it is, for the owning of the wixio is free. The but if you cease to own the wixio, you shall be destroyed.”
Jaraswat glared. “What, it attaches itself to my spirit or my vô somehow, so that taking it from me rips my essence in two? How can you build as foolish and unsafe a device as that?”
Lliashatheny shrugged. “Not anything of the sort, dragon. Not any connection, neither magical nor spiritual or any such thing. The day that you cease to own the wixio is the day that you will die. Not any sweet or honorable death either, but a woeful and deplorable one.”
Jaraswat thought a moment. “I do not believe in this concept of causality without a causal mechanism. There may be some hidden force or entity enforcing such a fate. Still, I am a dragon, and fairly mighty even among my age-peers; I will match my prowess and cleverness against any such hidden force or entity, and, win or lose, it shall at least be an honorable contest. And if you are somehow correct, Lliashatheny, I daresay it shall be after a long and honor-filled life as one of the greatest scholars and scientists of all. Plus, of course, my own might and grandeur are sufficient to guard one magic item, or a equally whole hoard, so I do not expect that the wixio shall depart from my possession.
Lliashatheny shrugged. “Many people will regret that I made it for you. Perhaps you will be one of them.”
Jaraswat shrugged. “Perhaps.”
Lliashatheny took the gullivasc wood to another room in his dome, and spun it on a lathe, and carved it with its claws. The wixio was a spindle, sized for a dragon to hold.