The Tavern stood between realms on the spot of land that belonged to no country or world and no lord. It was very plain from the outside; however it was anything but plain on the inside if only one could steal a glance behind its closed doors.
What would you see inside? Oh, a lot actually - Dragons and Giants, Beasts and Insects, Angels and Devils, Elves and Dwarves, Humans and Elementals, Living and Undead, and many others rarely seen anywhere, even in this strange place. Apart from the very unusual clientele, time and space were different there too. Both were limitless and accommodated all guests no matter their size or number (can you imagine how much place is needed when four Dragons decide to play poker?). The unique tavern also guaranteed that patrons would forget about the world and the time passing outside the tavern walls.
Some patrons came to the Tavern to play, some to eat or drink, many to talk or find friends. It was easy to make acquaintance with someone there, as it was the custom to drop all wars and disputes, quarrels and conflicts outside the walls. The Tavern was generally accepted as the territory of peace.
One day a big Black Dragon flew in. He was a stranger and quite new to the Tavern.
The Black Dragon was shy, though it was hard to imagine this given the size and age of this beautiful and amazing creature. After entering, he settled into a quiet corner of the Tavern and silently looked around.
The usual life of the Tavern bustled around him. He could hear the murmurings from different conversations. Laughing and low-voiced arguing occurred over some spell casting problems. The noises of opening bottles and pouring liquids, clinking of spoons and forks, slamming of playing cards, rustling of turning book pages and opening of stiff scrolls, greetings and farewells. All of these sounds were so relaxing and peaceful, that the Dragon felt himself at home and smiled, ordering red wine and a light supper.
Nobody paid much attention to him; Dragons were not an unusual sight there. He received a casual glance or a passing hello from the habitués to a newcomer. The Black Dragon sat alone at his table savouring the quiet evening and thinking that the friend of his who had advised him to visit the Tavern wasn't wrong as it looked like a really pleasant place.
Gradually the Tavern filled in. Fewer and fewer empty seats were left for the still coming and coming guests. Though the patrons were reluctant to disturb this unfamiliar Black Dragon and his solemn solitude at the table, finally the female voice sounded near him.
"Is this place taken?"
The Black Dragon raised his head, unaware that he had been staring at his nearly empty glass of wine. He looked around trying to find the person who addressed him. Then, he lowered his eyes until he saw a Dwarf standing in front of him. The top of her helmet just reached the scaly black knee of the Dragon. It took him a couple of seconds to reconcile the contradictory inputs. He had heard a female voice and had seen a Dwarf in complete battle armour. He scratched his scaly head with a sharp index claw. This was the person who was supposedly the one speaking to him?
Of course, the Black Dragon knew about the Dwarves and even occasionally visited their hometown of Stone City. The problem was that he usually met the male half of the Dwarven race, besides it was never easy to determine the sex of a Dwarf when he/she was in a complete warrior outfit covering the small body from head to toes.
While the Black Dragon was musing upon his thoughts, the Dwarf was closely studying him too. If you think that it is easy to know whether or not a Dragon is male or female, based on what you see in front of you, from the first glance, then either you've never seen any Dragons or you are sadly mistaken.
Suddenly both of them began to talk at the same time, and then both abruptly stopped. They stared at each other for one second more and unexpectedly burst laughing.
The Dragon's low deep laugh mixed with the ringing peals of the Dwarven laughter. Gulping for a breath, the Dragon managed to mumble, "I thought that you are a "he" and instead, you are a "she"!" The Dwarf wiped tears of laughter from her eyes and squirmed away from new raising storm of laughter. She could finally capture enough breath to speak, "And I was almost certain that you are a she-Dragon, that's why I asked you about the place!"
Finally when they both settled down after this outburst, which by the way, neither could ever later explain, proper introductions were made.
The Black Dragon said that he hailed from the Garrote Gorge tribe in the Dragon Mountains and lived in a very spacious cave. The Lady Dwarf was from Stone City proper and was the well-known female warrior from the old and respectable Dwarven family of the most powerful clan.
So, they talked and laughed again. They drank wine from barrels for the Dragon and ale or grog in tankards for the Lady Dwarf. They exchanged invitations to visit each other's homes some time and parted as friends, promising to meet again in the Tavern...
Muzzle and Necklace
After their first meeting the Black Dragon and Lady Dwarf have met several times more in the Tavern and each time they spent wonderful time speaking and laughing. They became really good friends.
Once the Dragon came to the Tavern looking sick and slightly greenish in his face.
"What have happened to you?" Lady Dwarf asked him worriedly.
"Oh, I don't know," the Dragon sighed, "I guess I've swallowed something when I flew here." He frowned. "Do you know such small, green and tasting terribly...like hallucinations but real," he stopped in a mid-sentence.
"Yes?" Lady Dwarf expectantly looked at the Dragon from her usual tankard with grog, "What of them?"
The Dragon positively looked confused, "I am not sure how that happened, but they sort of popped out in a midair from somewhere, like they were pushed out of the hole," the Dragon faltered again. Then he shrugged, "They were not alive at least...well, they were alive but plastic and melted besides," the Dragon defensively looked at Lady Dwarf, "and I was yawning at that time and they...sort of...flew into my mouth."
The Dragon stopped in total bewilderment as Lady Dwarf heroically tried to suppress the laughter, though without any big success.
"What's so funny?" demanded the hurt Dragon.
"They were the Army Men. It happens all the time. Probably they were in a battle and tried to escape through the Dimension Door, but they are not that good in spell casting and always mix Dimensions or Doors."
"But I have swallowed them! Plastic stuff! I will be sick! Poisoned and probably dead by morning!" The Dragon was genuinely upset and looked ready to fall.
Lady Dwarf patted his paw; the one she could reach anyway, and gently pushed the Dragon to his usual seat (apart from the ordinary chairs and armchairs they have had all kinds of the specialized seats for every guest there in the Tavern, it was indeed very unique place).
"Not to worry! We'll just order a wine barrel and you'll drink it all and everything will be okay. They will simply melt in your stomach and you will never be sick. And don't be so upset, the Army Men will make replicas from the hard originals in their Head Quarters. They always do this, otherwise they would be out of soldiers a long time ago."
Somewhat relieved by the sure and confident tone of his friend the Dragon contently sighed and finally sat down. He always liked when Lady Dwarf talked about the barrels of wine that he could drink. The little incident with green plastic creatures or hallucinations was quickly forgotten.
Half the Dragon barrel of wine and half the Dwarven tankard of grog later the Lady Dwarf suddenly slapped her forehead and began to rummage in a handbag. Though she was the fierce Dwarven warrior, she was the female too and that means that she absolutely had to have a handbag with her even if it was concealed somewhere inside her battle armor.
Triumphantly she got out some leather straps attached together in a strange way. You never know what could be inside the female's handbag (of any species) as it is the toughest riddle not one male of the world could solve yet.
"What is it?" the Dragon asked.
"It would help you not to swallow anything anymore when you are flying," she told him brightly.
"How?" the Dragon looked curiously.
"It's a muzzle, silly," giggled Lady Dwarf.
"A muzzle?" the puzzled Dragon carefully picked up the muzzle with his claw for closer inspection. "Never heard of it. What does it do? Is it dead or just sleeping? It has very smooth skin."
Lady Dwarf fell over herself laughing, and then she stopped, assumed the serious expression and showed the Dragon how to put the muzzle on. Bewildered Dragon watched the whole process and finally uttered his sentence.
"Uugh, I think you have looked much better without it," he paused for a second, studied her face and determinedly shook his head, "Yes, definitely, better without it. Take it off please, it's ugly."
Frowning Lady Dwarf grabbed the offending muzzle and threw it in a fireplace, and then she sat down and silently took her tankard. The Black Dragon felt that he's said something wrong but it was so difficult to understand all emotions and undercurrents of the Dwarven behavior. The only thing he was certain about was that his dear friend was upset and something must be done at once.
He hurriedly snatched the muzzle out of flames in the fireplace. Lady Dwarf didn't even raise her head. The Dragon whispered a spell over the slightly burnt muzzle and with a quiet puff and small cloud of quickly dissolving blue smoke the muzzle has disappeared and instead of it a long string of perfect soft glowing pearls appeared in the Dragon's paws.
"Don't be sad," the Dragon shyly touched Lady Dwarf's shoulder, "I have transported your gift to my cavern and ...look, what I have for you."
Lady Dwarf raised her huge unhappy eyes and saw the pearl necklace.
"Oh, what a beauty," she whispered.
"It's for you," the Dragon was literally shone with a quiet pride.
Lady Dwarf gingerly took the necklace. It was nearly twice of her full height including the helmet. Too late the Dragon noticed his mistake. He always kept forgetting how small his friend is. But that little problem didn't stop Lady Dwarf for a second. As the great warrior and the head of her clan she was accustomed to solve much greater difficulties than the oversized pearl necklace.
She began to wind the pearl string around herself and, would you guess, the result was staggering! She looked gorgeous in her battle armor with the pearls covering it as the gemmed net.
"Do you like it?" the Dragon asked anxiously.
"I love it! Thank you." Lady Dwarf rose on her tiptoes, pulled the Dragon's head lower and kissed his black dry nose (in contrary to the nose rules for dogs, the Dragon's nose is dry when he/she is healthy).
The Dragon staggered back from this surprise and actually blushed through all his tough black scales. Lady Dwarf warmly smiled at him.
"I must go back home, but I'll keep this nice necklace of yours," she nodded to the Dragon, "We'll meet here in a week, yes?"
The Dragon promptly nodded assent relieved that Lady Dwarf wasn't upset anymore and even waggled his tail in excitement (well, only the tip of the tail and only a little as he was the Dragon after all, not a puppy), but Lady Dwarf has noticed anyway, giggled, waved to him one last time and whirled away.
to be continued......