It's time for a flashback within a flashback! I feel like I'm reading Strange Days!
So a massive number of dragons are coming to Xian, and completely surrounding the place. Unsurprisingly the people there are freaked out by this, because... who wouldn't be? They're big psychopathic lizards with small-penis complexes and fragile egos, and they like to eat things. Also, they breathe fire.
And I just realized that this whole scenario sounds like the cover of a really awesome metal album. Seriously, it has a giant black mountain, wizards, and hundreds of dragons. If this ends up having lots of graphic gore and fire, it would be a perfect Dethklok music video!
Two of these Dragons were massive and black, deep violet glints shimmering as they shifted about, and they had ebony claws like sabers which scored the dark stone of the foregate court.
... and then they opened their mouths, and all the coolness vanished.
They also have a very small, timid dragon between them who is holding a leather bag on a single claw. No, I don't know where they GOT the bag, or who put the contents into it, or how they managed to hook it onto the claw.
"Wizards, we would parley!" bellowed the monstrous black Drake on the left.
"And we brought popcorn for everyone!"
Also, a parley usually means enemies discussing something. Are they technically enemies?
But uh oh, the other big black dragon gets pissed at this. Their names, by the way, are Daagor and Kalagath, and they aren't very fond of each other. Apparently dragons have a very complicated hierarchy based on who sits where. No, really. It's all about who gets to sit on the highest ledge... someplace. Not sure where, but whoever gets to sit highest also gets to speak for all the other dragons.
But I'd... kind of expect them to have to LEAVE those ledges eventually. I mean, do they just sit there all the time so nobody else steals the ledge? Or do they just trust that nobody else will hop up on their seat when they're off eating, pooping, attacking dwarves?
And... if you were a dragon, why would you go sit on a mountain ledge surrounded by other asshole dragons? I mean, dragons are giant flying lizards who can pretty much go where they want and do what they want... so why stick around? If I were a dragon, I'd be off sleeping on a giant pile of gold.
The Drake on the right turned and hissed in rage and spoke in a tongue from the dawn of time,
So their language hasn't evolved since then?
["I shall be the speaker here, Daagor, for I occupy the highest ledge!"]
"I got there first, so it's mine! Mine mine mine!"
["Only because I was in Kelgor, Kalgalath, at the time of the mating."]
"I could so totally have been the leader of all dragons, but I just had to go fuck a kraken! Don't judge me!"
And I'm not kidding about that, actually. The dragons in this series are the most ridiculously sexually dimorphic species you can imagine. All the males are flying sentient reptiles who breathe air and can talk... and the females are water-breathing, tentacled mollusks that appear to have no real intelligence.
Oh, and mating is frequently fatal.
And they can travel between dimensions.
Yeah, McKiernan's dragons make so little sense, they might as well be working tech support. Hey-o!
A mage comes out, and Kalagath decides they can put aside their MY DRAGON-DICK-IS-BIGGER-THAN-YOURS fight for a few minutes. Barely.
Black Kalgalath eyed the Wizard, and then turned to Daagor. ["We shall settle this once and for all at the time of the testing. But for now it is I who will speak for all of Dragonkind."]
- If they're both black, why is only Kalagath called that?
- I assume the time of the testing is when they find out who's toughest, and therefore who leads. But if so... that would mean that it wouldn't be "once and for all," just until the next "time of the testing."
- You know, it doesn't make the dragons look tough or awe-inspiring or terrifying to have them bickering like middle-schoolers with low blood sugar.
- It's even worse when you do it on the doorstep of the people you want to intimidate into doing something for you.
- Especially when that "something" is EXTREMELY important to your whole species.
- And it seems REALLY stupid that they didn't hash out this issue BEFORE they came.
But Daagor is clearly a moron, because he immediately challenges Kalagath and the two are about to have a huge showdown right there and then. Yeah, they don't seem very intimidating when they keep having slap fights over issues that aren't really important, and make themselves look bad in front of the mages.
Fortunately, every other dragon in the world immediately gets pissed off that these two idiots are making them look bad, because they roar at them to make them back down. I can't blame them. Daagor states that "even we together cannot defeat all of them, hence I will permit you to speak to this Mage."] After bitching at him again, Kalagath FINALLY start talking to the mage.
"Mage, we have come to parley."
You said that already.
"Yes, we have a small favor to ask."
"The tiniest of things."
Heh heh, they're as subtle as Jim Carrey doing kabuki.
And the mage, being smarter than a rock, points out that the "tiniest of favors" doesn't involve every dragon in the whole world showing up. He also reveals that he totally knows who those two are, which causes them to both preen because they're so famous and cool. All this scene is doing is making me appreciate Smaug even more. Yes, Smaug was overconfident and vain, but he didn't act like a whiny little brat when his ego was bruised. He was smart and dangerous, and he wanted people to know that.
"Who would not know the names of the two mightiest Dragons in Mithgar?" asked the Mage rhetorically. "Dragons visit woe unto the world—Kalgalath and Daagor most of all."
Random Mage, they're already assholish enough. You don't need to enhance their egos further.
"Yet you did not bring all of Dragonkind here merely to hear me sing your praises," said the Mage.
"No! Please! Keep going! Tell us how wonderful and scary and mighty we are!"
So the dragons are only willing to say that they want the Mages to... store a "thing" for them. Yeah, they just want the Mages to stuff the bag in a storage locker and never tell anyone about it. In fact, they want "all of Magekind" to swear to hide it, not study it, and make sure nobody messes with it.
"An unbreakable oath," said Daagor.
... how can you make an unbreakable oath?
So while Kalagath examines his nails... no, seriously, he does that... he explains that if the Mages do this, the dragons won't raid their stronghold. Which has apparently never had problems with dragons before, indicating that they probably can't get in there. In fact, the Mage laughs off the idea with "You pledge to leave undone that which you never had the power to do in the first place." This makes the dragons mad, since he implied there's something they can't do.
"Take care, Mage," hissed Daagor, "else you will see what Dragonkind can do."
Which is kind of a stupid thing to say to someone who has magic powers of unknown quantity and ability.
The mage finally points out the whole thing is ridiculous, because he can't speak for all of Magekind. I guess the dragons don't quite grasp that not everybody on the planet has sex with krakens and fights over slabs of rock, and they definitely don't seem to grasp the idea of a civilization that isn't hierarchical and compressed into a very small area. So maybe they figure that this is the wizard in charge of ALL wizards, and they ALL live in this place.
"There are those of us within Black Mountain, and those on the island of Rwn, and yet others scattered across the face of this world. Too, there are many in the world of Vadaria and a few on the other Planes."
"And then there are some in Disneyland. We don't like to talk about them."
He says he can talk to the Council about this pledge, but it would only be the wizards of Xian who swear it. And because he's not a fucking moron, he refuses to even consider pledging an oath until the dragons tell him what the hell they want the mages to keep for them. The dragons seem to have expected this... which surprises me, since so far they have shown zero foresight or common sense.
So the tiny green dragon, Quirm (I'm going to call him "Squirm," because that's all he does) is ordered to come forward and put down the leather bag. Again, I don't know how something that small could fit onto a dragon's claws, or how he could handle it without shredding it.
The Mage raised an eyebrow. "You would have me walk within reach of your claws?"
Daagor hissed, "Wizard, you are within reach of our claws even where you stand."
The Mage looked left and right and fore . . . and shrugged.
I kinda love this guy. He just does not give a shit. The dragons are all, "ooo, we're so scary and tough and we have giant claws!" and he's just responding with "whatever, I don't care."
"If you would feel the weight of this thing, come heft it."
I hate to break it to you, Scaly, but he doesn't give a damn how heavy it is. He wants to know what's inside.
The mage picks it up and speculates what it is, and when Kalagath informs him "You cannot open it, Mage," he just laughs and magically opens the bag. And inside is... a giant jade cough drop! Which I assume is the Dragonstone of the title, or this chapter was a huge waste of time!
All three Drakes roared and backed away and turned their heads aside, just as did the Dragons all about on the crests above, the mighty bellows reverberating among the jagged peaks. Whelmed by the sound, the Mage slapped his hands to his ears in agony, and blood seeped from his nose.
"Put it away," cried Black Kalgalath. "Put the abomination away."
"Put away that thing that resonates with the music of Katy Perry! MAKE IT STOP!"
So the mage puts it back in the bag and covers it up, which apparently stops the dragons' massive migraines. He asks some very basic questions about the stone, which the dragons refuse to answer.
"This I do know: here we have a mighty token, one that even Dragons fear. If you would have our pledge of warding, then we need to know something of it, else you can go from here unsatisfied, the stone yet in your grasp."
This guy has big balls. And really, it shows how stupid the dragons are that they thought the Mages would just agree to take on something mysterious and magical... with no idea of what it could do or where it came from.
Squirm then blurts out, "We cannot sense it, Mage, and he who holds it and learns of its powers will command—" just before getting pwned by the other two dragons. It turns out they technically need Squirm because only the weakest dragon can carry the Dragonstone... for some reason.
"I will bear your request to my fellow Mages. We will confer, and I will bring you our answer tomorrow."
"Will you bring chips?"
"No. No, I won't."
"HOW DARE YOU, MAGE!"
So the Mages spend the next few days talking and speculating about this, with some of them refusing to make an oath to dragons (since dragons are all dicks) and some say they should lie so they can study it and come up with a way of controlling the entire species.
So I guess "unbreakable oath" just means... "I really really super-duper-ultra-mega-promise, cross my heart." There doesn't seem to be any special or magical measure to keep anyone from lying about it.
So eventually the Mages voted, and all but a few renegades agree that when they come to an agreement, they are totally going to stick by it. So the wizard who talked to thembefore comes back out, and... well, TL;DR version: he says that the mages demand that dragons stop doing all the dragony shit that dragons are known to do. Like, say, steal treasure and make a giant bed out of it in a dwarven city that you stole from them, and then take a nap for awhile until some human comes along to kill you, causing a massive rift between the humans and the dwarves.
And no, that's not just a Hobbit joke. McKiernan was brazen enough to write that story.
And the Wizard said, "We will ward your Dragonstone, and take the pledge you require, but this we demand in return:
"Stop pooping around our mountain. The smell is unspeakable."
The demands obviously make the dragons mad, but they're not exactly in a position to demand anything because.... well, they don't really have anyone else to go to who won't make the same demands, or just refuse outright. Plus, it's not like the Mages really get anything from this deal UNLESS the dragons stop doing dragony shit.
for to command compliance, obedience, in a Dragon was intolerable, insufferable, not to be borne.
So they're kind of like celebrities?
The dragons spend the next two weeks arguing about it, and some of them just stomp off in a huff (including Daagor, whose butthurt has probably reached critical levels). And eventually they come back with a counter-offer.
"We will remove ourselves to remote places and limit our raids to that which is needed for sustenance—a horse, a cow, or other such now and again.
"What about the Kardashians?"
"No. We don't eat silicone."
"We will not plunder unless we are plundered ourselves, though I cannot imagine a creature who would even attempt to do so.
That's because you haven't met a certain burglar yet.
"We will not seek to take treasures owned, yet treasures abandoned are fair game.
Good luck finding those, dude.
"We will not mix in the affairs of humans, Dwarves, Mages, or aught others, unless they first meddle in the affairs of Dragons, in which case we will be free to take our just retribution."
"If they friend us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, we are totally going to toast them."
They eventually agree on this counter-offer, except for... you know, the people who DIDN'T agree. Both dragons and mages have a bunch who don't agree, which really doesn't say good things about either species' leadership. Apparently you can say "fuck you" to your leaders and just stomp off, with no repercussions.
And this is even stupider because:
- The exiled Mages can just go off and tell other people, "Hey, there's this thing in Black Mountain that lets you control the entire dragon species."
- The "unbreakable oath" is fully breakable because... well, they suggest doing that. So any mage in the place can just break that oath anytime they feel like it by studying the thing.
- Pretty sure that renegade dragons continuing to kill, steal and set fire to things is really problematic... and since some of the dragons didn't agree, the oath from the others is essentially worthless.
- There's no indication that either side will be policed. As in, if you mess things up, your ass is grass.
- In fact, it's specified a paragraph later that both sides DO cause trouble, and neither side does anything about it.
And the pledged Mages took the Dragonstone into the darkness of Black Mountain and locked it away in a deep vault,
Next to their vintage baseball cards and their comic book collections.
And the oathbound Dragons took to their remote fastnesses and for the most part let the world be—but for an occasional stolen cow or horse—and peace reigned for millennia . . . except for the scattered ravages of the unpledged renegade Drakes, Daagor's savage plunderings among the worst.
Yes, peace reigned... that peace that was regularly broken by renegade dragons who did all the shit the others didn't. So peaceful. And savage. Ravages. Peaceful... except for all the violence.
That's like saying the day was uneventful except that your windows all shattered.
And then... somehow... the mages discover that they lost the stone. They have no idea how it was taken, when it was taken, or by whom. Well, they certainly made a great bunch of guardians. All they had to do was keep the damn thing from being messed with by locking it somewhere secure... and they completely failed.
But wait, you might say, surely some form of arcane and special magic was used to get into the vault without being seen.
No, not really. For all the magic that these mages have, they don't apparently have any special measures to block anyone from getting into the place, or a way of alerting people... or hell, a way of detecting WHICH MAGE broke into the place. Hogwarts has more security in the LIBRARY than this place has on the Vault Of Secret And Powerful Magical Objects Of Power... hell, Hogwarts probably has more security in the supply closet, just in the case the kids start sniffing markers.
to their dismay they discovered that the Dragonstone was completely unscryable, hence anything concerning it—past, present, or future— stood beyond the reach of their arcane arts.
How about scrying the fucking VAULT where the Dragonstone was being kept, so you can see who went in or out?! How about you scry the only exit to see who left your mountain?
Hell, how about you take a fucking roll call so you can figure out if someone is missing? WHY ARE THE MAGES SO DUMB?
And thus things stood until Arin of Blackwood came.
Clearly she can't fuck up more than they have.