Short Story: Scaly Cat

My delicate talons will be destroyed by this awful landscaping.

If anyone else could have heard the dragon grumping about having walk on a dirt path, they probably wouldn’t have been nearly as reverential about the silly thing.

“Your ancestors slept in caves and on the ground you know,” Ivory told him as she unlocked the door. Earon let out a soft growl as he stuck his head in the shop and sniffed around before proceeding.

My ancestors aligned themselves with kings.

A cat, Ivory decided as she followed Earon into the shop. He was as particular and proud as any cat. Not that she would ever tell him that. His pride was delicate enough as it was and the last thing she needed was a miffed dragon.

“You were also sleeping in old hay when I found you,” Ivory pointed out.

I have soil on my scales!

“It will brush off,” Ivory promised as he jumped onto the pedestal next to the counter where he liked to perch during the day.

Earon turned his attention to the paw to the dirty paw however, his yellow eyes narrowed as she moved to check the herbs she’d left drying the night before.

I would not have to brush it off if you would put a stone path in.

“Stone is expensive, and if you’re worried about something as soft as dirt ruining your talons, I can only imagine what the stone would do to your poor claws.”

Stone would be supportive. Someone is coming. Judging from their steps it is that over pompous tax official.

She hoped it wasn’t Mew. Since he’d come in to replace their old and ailing official, he’d made stops at her apothecary daily, often taking up time she should have spent on her paying customers.

Usually because he wanted to try and flirt with her.

The door open and Ivory turned, hoping it was someone else who needed something. She managed to keep smiling even as Mew looked around the shop. Earon settled to breathing heavily on his scales and occasionally licking them.

“Good morning,” Ivory said. “Looking for something today, Mew?”

“You, actually,” he said. “I was hoping perhaps you’d be free this evening.”

Here they went again. She kept smiling. “I’m not, unfortunately.”

He nodded slowly. “You’re very busy most of the time,” he said.

“The shop takes a lot of work,” she noted.

“As I can imagine,” he said. “Ivory, being a little more direct, I haven’t made it a secret I find you attractive.”

“No, coming into my shop daily while I’m working merely to talk drove that note home a while ago,” Ivory said.

On his pedestal, Earon apparently determined his scales were finally clean and shifted his focus to Mew.

Mew must have felt uncomfortable with those yellow eyes watching him because he shifted. “Ivory, I’d like to court you.”

“I’m not interested,” Ivory said.

I can chase him out now. Earon offered and Ivory turned to stroke his horns, both calming him and letting him know that it wasn’t necessary. Mew wasn’t likely to need chasing out.

As it was, Mew seemed shocked at her response. “I don’t understand,” he said. “Your shop can’t keep you so busy all year round that you’re not interested in being courted.”

“You misunderstand. I’m not interested in you,” Ivory said.

The look of personal affront on his face almost made her laugh as she moved around to the other side of the counter, a few dried herbs in her hand. These she would want to package as soon as possible, though the one she wanted to powder first.

“Ivory, be reasonable,” he said. “I have good standing, means to an excellent life. You could eventually give up working in a shop entirely.”

“I don’t want to give up my shop,” she replied.

“You’ll have to when you have children,” he said.

“Who said anything about me having children?” she demanded.

“It’s only natural when you marry,” he said.

Earon openly hissed and Ivory glanced at the dragon. The double-layer of scales around his neck and tail had begun to lift, making him look bigger, and his eyes had narrowed into slits.

“Thank you, Mew, but I’m not interested in you and I have work to do.”

“I’m trying to help you here,” he said. His tone took on a pitying note. “You’re not that pretty, you won’t get that many offers.”

I’m eating him.

Earon let out an angry shriek and launched himself at Mew. They tangled on the floor a moment while Ivory tried to get around the counter to get at the dragon trying hard to tear into Mew. The yells from Mew and sound of tearing cloth filled her shop for a moment before Ivory managed to get her arms around Earon’s midsection and haul off the tax official.

I am eating him!

“No, don’t eat him!”

Mew managed to scramble backwards, though he backed into a wall. Ivory could see three long scratches on the side of his face, and it looked as if one arm had been thoroughly bloodied from fending off Earon’s teeth.

“Do not insult my person!”

Though rare to actually use his physical voice, Earon’s voice came out in a hiss and growl as he tried to get free of Ivory’s arms. Already horrified to be attacked, Mew needed no other warnings.

He sprang from the floor and threw the door open, nearly running into the midwife and the baker as they both came up the path, chatting casually with one another. He left the door hanging open and Earon hissed as Ivory was forced to release him.

Idiotic, over pompous fool.

“What was all that about?” the baker asked as he came in. He held the door for the midwife and Ivory shook her head.

“Evidently since I’m not interested in Mew courting me, I’m not that pretty. Earon didn’t take to that too well.”

Idiot. If he steps foot in here again I will eat him.

“Oh, no. Tell me he didn’t,” the midwife said.

“Afraid so. Oh look,” Ivory bent and picked up a scrap of fabric. She turned and shook it at her dragon. “You tore his clothes.”

Earon snapped at it. I should have done more damage to his face.

“You have no shame at all,” she reprimanded him.

He hissed again and jumped back to his pedestal. You are mine to protect.

“You’re supposed to protect my shop and home!”

You are mine to protect.

The midwife hid a laugh behind a hasty cough while the baker openly grinned.

“You know,” the baker said as Ivory shook her head. “It’s terrible that he had to go and offend a dragon.”

“Why is that?” Ivory asked.

“Oh dear, did you forget? This is a simple town with simple people. A little superstition goes a very long way. You never offend a dragon. The people around here aren’t fools enough to tangle with someone who would deliberately offend a dragon. Now, by chance do you have any kohosh?”

By A.J. Helms


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