Drawful the Awful Part VI: Dragonry & Cuisine

Drawful the Awful is the ongoing series/novel in progress following the pursuits of the dragon, Drawful, who is awful at being a dragon, and his “kidnapee” the Princess Brooke. The full series can be found here.

Just two miles outside the Alabaster Kingdom Drawful and the Princess Brooke arrived at a tavern Drawful recommended highly for its wine list. As they entered, he was preparing to warn her of one small possibility which may have made the restaurant selection unsavory, but it greeted them at the door.

“Drah-ful!” The door to the tavern had flung open when Drawful’s taloned hand was mere inches from opening it for the Princess. In the doorway stood a man with unkempt dark hair that hung ratty over his brow and down to his shoulders. Wearing what looked like a burlap sack, the man threw his arms wide open in exultation, which lifted the bag’s hem dangerously high up his thighs.

Drawful openly cringed while the Princess looked from Drawful to the curious man placidly. The disheveled man gave a wink and whispered helpfully. “This is where you introduce me and I get shoved back inside.”

“Princess Brooke, this is the oracle, Borrachor.”

THe Princess made to offer a hand in greeting, but the man was yanked from the doorway and told to “go back inside!” The tavern bouncer had emerged from somewhere in the tavern and was shaking his head disdainfully at the oracle who was weaving his way dreamily back to a table inside the bustling space.

The Bouncer apologized and asked them for an entry fee. The Princess looked confused, “entry fee?”

“The evening news is about to start. If you want a seat to hear it, there’s a two bit cover.”

“Hardly a concern, Princess,” Drawful assured. He produced the per diem purse once more and paid the bouncer who ushered them in.

As they entered, Borrachor waved for them to join him. He had taken a table with two chairs. Drawful wore his chagrin more plainly than the Princess thought a dragon could, especially for a seemingly harmless social engagement.

While they wove their way among the tables, Drawful taking his time and using extra care not to jostle other patrons at tables due to his girth, the Princess asked. “You said the man is an oracle?”

“Of a sort yes.”

“He’s awfully… urbane for an oracle.”

“Your tact is superlative, Princess,” Drawful commented mildly before he sucked his gut in mightily to tiptoe between two occupied seats.

“Aren’t Oracles all well to do? Even if they work in temples or such, I’ve always known them to possess a largesse about them.” The Princess squinted curiously at Borrachor who was drinking deeply from a mug of ale which spilled out the sides a bit onto his bear and left a good amount of froth on his moustache when he lowered it for air. “Even if they’re not working as priests, they do quite well in markets and investments.”

“And Borrachor did, once upon a time.”

“What happened?”

“I gave it all up for my sanity and safety as you all will your coin soon enough!” He shouted this at them from a table away. The Princess looked up at Drawful. She was positive he couldn’t have heard them over the noise of the crowded tavern.

“Just remember that he is an oracle,” Drawful advised as they wound past the final table and joined Borrachor. Drawful bowed his head gratefully that Borrachor had requested a larger sturdier chair for Drawful and took his seat after pulling out the Princess’ for her.

“Yes, Drawful is right. You see, I was fine to enjoy my success playing the markets for a time, but then had other places to be and work to get onto,” Borrachor explained. The Princess reached for a menu at the center of the table but as her arm extended, the barkeep arrived with a tray: another ale for Borrachor, a glass of wine for the Princess and a cask of mead for Drawful.

The Princess gave slight start at the wine, and Borrachor smiled. “Oracle.”

Drawful did not mirror the Princess’ surprise. “I am no Oracle, but I am already sure that we will be handling the tab. Regardless, thank you for your efficiency.” Drawful pried the cork from the cask and gripping it in his paw the way a large man would a stein and poured the sweet drink down his throat happily.

Borrachor winked at Drawful and offer his refilled mug in toast to the dragon. The Princess thanked Borrachor and added, “so just drinks or,” to answer her question the barkeep arrived once more with food orders for the table.

A rack of lamb for Drawful, greens and soup for Borrachor and roasted pheasant for the Princess. Once more, the Princess glanced at Drawful, who only said a light thanks to Borrachor. The Princess echoed the gratitude and began cutting at the meat with her knife and fork. “Delightful parlor tricks to open with, knowing that I’d want elderberry wine and was craving pheasant, but what if I checked the menu right now and wanted something else?”

Borrachor lowered the ale once more, and the mug landed on the table with a distinctly hollow sound, followed by a wet hiccup from the oracle. “Then I’d have ordered that Princess.” Still, the oracle glanced at the menu invitingly, which she snorted at playfully and continued eating.

“Borrachor, to what do we owe the pleasure?” Drawful asked plainly while he cut his first shank in two. He speared half the meat and hefted it into his mouth, which, relative to his size, was a polite if not dainty portion for him to chew.

“Not just yet, evening news is about to be on.”

Just then, a well dressed man with a roll of parchment had taken a position standing at the back of the room just feet away from Drawful. He was wearing a fine woven tunic, well tailored suit and a riding cloak. The Princess glanced outside. “Awful late,” she commented, regarding the time for the news to be on.

“No, right on time.” Borrachor gave the Princess a wink and gestured for her and Drawful to pay attention.

The Princess opened her mouth to say something, but Borrachor was immediately upon her with a finger in front his lips which issued a sharp, “shh!” at the royal.

The Princess glanced at Drawful for some guidance. The Dragon gave only a shrug and settled into his chair with his hands clasped over his belly to pay attention to the news. By this, the Princess surmised the best she could do was to tolerate the eccentric oracle’s guidance and ride out the storm so to speak. If an oracle wanted a person to listen to something, they’d do well to hear it. So she fixed her attention on the well dressed crier who had unfurled a parchment to begin the evening news.

“Sole headline of the evening,” the crier began and hesitated a bit, with a noticeable glance at the Princess’ table.

The Princess visibly started at the attention, surprised she should be so recognizable even in traveling clothes. She might have considered this coincidence, but something about the crier’s clearing of his throat confirmed that he knew he was speaking about her as he announced: “The Princess Brooke has been kidnapped by a fearsome and terrible dragon, Drawful the Awful.”

Here now, the crier paused and regarded Drawful, who remained pleasantly seated with his hands over his belly, listening politely. The Princess waited to see if Drawful mustered any ire at the crier’s clear skepticism of the news as he was reporting it, but the dragon remained placid.

“The King has issued a reward, that any challenger to the dragon who should rescue the Princess, will be given the Princess’ hand in marriage and be crowned the next King of the Alabaster Kingdom.”

Herewith, Drawful reached a talon for the bag of coin carrying the per diem, and pulled it towards himself. He pried it open a bit with a claw and peeked at the contents, which still glimmered faintly gold in the dim shade of the bag. The Princess found it curious, and shifted nervously in the seat beside him because all around them was the rustling of movement that sounded distinctly like mercenaries and other such warriors checking their arms. She did very little to mask her confusion at Drawful’s gesture, but was quickly taken back up as the crier continued the notices for the evening.

“Drawful kidnapped the Princess from the castle earlier today and has torn a path of havoc escaping with her back to,” the crier hesitated and looked right at Drawful, who was once more listening pleasantly. “-points unknown.”

The crier shook his head while scanning down the rest of the notice and his shoulders slumped at the rest of the evening’s announcement on the matter of the Princess’ supposed kidnapping. It was unlike the King to put forth such a heavy spin on the evening’s news, but nevertheless, the crier persisted. “It is advised to approach the dragon, Drawful, with extreme caution. He has already bested the Prince Chauncey Billups of the Kingdom Anathema in head to head combat. It is speculated that the dragon may be in league with a sorceress, wizard, warlock, or magical entity thus far unidentified which is lending him special protections.”

“The Sorceress Tabitha,” Drawful interjected helpfully.

The crier shrugged in futility and amended, “what he said.” With that, the crier did his customary tacking of the parchment to the wall of the tavern for readers and stepped off the stage. It was custom that during the evening news at taverns, all patrons remain quiet and normal bar business be suspended for the period of the news’ reading. Thus, after an evening report was concluded, one could expect a sudden flurry of movement of people finally getting to use the restrooms, or place new orders at the bar.

There was plenty movement, and the Princess was immediately frozen to see it being all the particularly burly, scarred and stout men standing to approach their table. Borrachor began to chug his mug of ale aggressively and shot the Princess a knowing bob of his eyebrows. Drawful didn’t regard any of the movement around him with any kind of concern.

He lifted the purse of coin and called out, in his booming Dragon baritone: “Here’s to the legend of Drawful and the Princess Brooke! A round of drinks are on me to celebrate, let the games begin!”

The Crier, who had been at the door already to head back to the Kingdom for the night, thought better of it and turned back into the bar. There were a few seconds of complete silence as everyone contemplated what the Dragon had said. Drawful shook the purse confirming its heft and the loud jangle of coin aplenty caused the tavern to erupt.

The barkeep was prepared for this sort of thing. It was a semi-regular occurrence for some adventurer, treasure hunter,  itinerant soldier, or other such person on a quest to come in exuberant in recent triumph and offer a round of drinks to all patrons. The regulars especially knew how it worked: you lined up and got your free drink from the bar, and a mark on the hand confirming you’d claimed the drink in question so no one could double dip on the generosity (bards were notorious for this sort of rakishness, though clerics weren’t above trying it either).

Once the drinks had all been sold, the barkeep would settle with the generous soul for everything to even the tab. It was also not unheard of for such exuberant adventurers to overextend themselves in their triumph and end up in the kitchen washing dishes for having given their entire bounty away in the celebratory act.

The Princess was not above washing dishes, she told herself, but if this backfired it was all on Drawful, but she was puzzled as to why the dragon had offered up their coin so haphazardly. Borrachor was already back from the bar with a refreshed ale, this one in a to-go stein that he toasted them with. Apparently, the Princess realized, the oracle had seen Drawful’s move coming and had beat the rush of drinkers to the bar.

Borrachor toasted to them both with his mug and spoke happily, cradling his (second) free beer of the night. “The barkeep will be over shortly to settle up, so I’ll thank you for dinner and offer these final words to guide you on your quest:

“The bidden delivers, the unbidden seals.

Might from the clever, and cleverness from the mighty.

Find your allies by shared ideals,

And be on the lookout for the one who is fighty.”

“Fighty?” Drawful and the Princess exclaimed in unison.

Borrachor shrugged impassively. “What do you want? I’m an oracle, not a bard. Better than rhyming bark and arts I daresay.”

The Princess looked mildly affronted as the Oracle winked at her then bowed his head in farewell. “Told ya so about the coin, by the way,” he added to Drawful, who chuckled and waved the Oracle off.

With the Oracle gone, the Princess turned her attention to Drawful gravely. “Care to explain the good spending all our money  on getting a large group of men who want to tear your apart drunk and rowdy does for us?”

Her question was answered instantly. A group of three of the burlier men at the tavern were around Drawful. Each looked to be a different class of warrior. There was one bearing a religious insignia she took for a crusader, another wearing practical travel leathers and mail she assumed was an adventurer and treasure hunter, and finally a rather beefy looking bard (judging by the lute slung over his shoulder).

The Princess shifted to give them berth but was shocked when they all broke into happy grins and toasted the dragon.

The Knight spoke in a gravelly tone first. “Here’s to a dragon with class!”

The adventurer agreed. “I tell ye, so many a’ these dragons donnae appreciate the sporting fun of it all. Tis a good feelin’ to have some mead in me belly before a new adventure!”

“Aye, what a good start, really reminds a fella of how many of us are always in this together,” the bard concurred.

“Well, gentlemen, even though the Prince may have been over zealous today, I thought I’d wish you all well in your journey to learn of the Sorceress Tabitha and how to undo her craft.”

“Ya don’t say,” the adventurer admired.

“Yer right, there’s no sense in fightin tonigh’ if the dragon’s skin is nigh impregnable.”

“Truly, so a toast to the dragons’ and all our quests!” The Knight hoisted his mug and turned to the rest of the room: “To Drawful! To Adventure! To the Princess Brooke! May a worthy sword emerge to save her and claim the throne!”

The bar erupted in a chant of hear, hear and scattered repetition of the toast. Drawful only waved lightly in appreciation and turned to the barkeep who had come to settle up the tab. To the Princess’ relief, they had just enough coin to cover the tab, and still a bit leftover for them to purchase a dessert that they opted to take with them for the night.

To the Princess’ surprise, as they left, she was greeted joyously with promises from adventurers and warriors aplenty who gleefully swore: “I’ll rescue ye’ Princess, fear not!” “My blade will smite the dragon when I find him!”

Each time such a promise was made, the Princess could only glance at Drawful in confusion, as she continued willingly following him to the door. When she’d regard the oath maker again, they would undoubtedly be back to drinking jubilantly and enjoying the party Drawful’s generosity had incited.

The Princess didn’t need to ask when they were outside. The sun had set but there was still lingering twilight for them to walk by for a while yet. “I’ve heard adventurers were prone to being happy drunks.”

“More so anyone who frequents a tavern,” Drawful added.

The Princess admired Drawful. “You’re quite clever.”

“Thank you,” the dragon nodded his head respectfully.

“What happens when those adventurers all come to tomorrow morning though?” The princess asked.

“They’ll likely go on the hunt.” The Princess grew somber with concern, until Drawful smirked and added: “for aspirin and water aplenty. I only got the ball rolling, the tavern is likely to have a big night.”

The Princess laughed, because even a good ways down the road, the baccannal was clearly audible still. “What then after they’ve conquered their hangovers?”

“Most of them won’t be bothered to chase us. Even the few who do will hopefully recall my emphasis of the Sorceress Tabitha’s craft.”

“You mean you improv lessons,” the Princess corrected.

“Hence my use of the word craft.”

“So that when anyone asks the sorceress about her craft with the dragon Drawful,”

“She will confirm that she has, indeed, worked with me on her craft weekly for the past three years.”

“Okay, and what about if one of them manages to figure out that means improvisational acting?” The Princess was beaming bemusedly now.

Drawful shrugged, “there’s still that blade of the Unbidden to seek out.”

“A blade that doesn’t exist.”

“Precisely.”

“That Borrachor,” the Princess scanned the road ahead and then glanced over her shoulder to ensure she could speak frankly without risk of being overheard. “He’s an odd duck as far as oracles are concerned.”

“Yes, but he is the best at it,” Drawful pointed out. “I imagine the drinking is what throws you off. I asked him once about it and he said it serves two purposes: one, he ought to enjoy killing time to come across the people he needs to prophesy to in taverns, and second that it’s exhausting knowing what everyone is going to do before they do it.”

“So, he drinks to fix that?”

“No, he drinks to find it amusing at least.”

The Princess considered the oracle’s self-medication seriously and reasoned out with a serious nod. “We should advise him to seek counseling for that. It isn’t healthy that he should drink like that because of his omniscience. That poor man, he tried to help us, the least we could do is-”

Just then a series of racing steps approached them from up the path. A courier stopped behind the Princess and Drawful and was doubled over panting, trying to wheeze out words. The Princess looked curiously at Drawful then greeted the young man whose eyes were clenched painfully at the speed he had just sprinted after them. “Are you looking for us?”

Drawful gestured with the Princess to stand back, in case it was a challenger who had decided to skip the party and try his hand. Drawful couldn’t be sure, but he saw no weapons on the young man. The young man continued wheezing for air and fumbled at his belt and produced a roll of parchment that he held toward the Princess, and shook vigorously for her to take.

While the courier straightened, the Princess read aloud: “Princess, thank you for your concern on my drinking habits. So many people find the drunk oracle such an amusing bit, and my dependence on drink has been a long running challenge to my relationships and career. Once my duties are fulfilled to provide the requisite foreshadowing for your journey tomorrow night at the tavern, I’ll be taking my travel mug of ale to a rehabilitation clinic for counseling on my drinking. Yours truly, Borrachor.”

“Tomorrow night?” Drawful asked.

The courier finally straightened and regained his breathing. “Yes, the oracle gave me that letter last night. Said I’d find you down the road here from the tavern.” The courier looked sideways and muttered to himself: “I told him, well why can’t I just meet them at the tavern, but no, he says. You’ll be late and you’ll have to catch them down the road. Blasted oracle know it all.”

The Princess looked up at Drawful and handed him the paper. “I take it Borrachor knew we’d be having this exact conversation then.”

The courier didn’t react to Drawful or the Princess’ deductions of the oracle’s foresight. When they finished, he extended a hand. “The Oracle said you’d have coin for my fee and a tip.”

Drawful groaned mildly and turned the coin purse upside down over his hand and used a talon to flick the only coin that fell out at the courier, who caught it happily. The courier, seeing the gold in his hand, jumped up and snapped his heels together before sprinting back to the tavern to join the party.

“At least we got dessert already,” the Princess said happily, holding up the pastry they had left the tavern with.

Drawful read from the very bottom of the parchment: “Post script, apologies for draining you of your coin, but keep the purse, it’ll be refilled before you go to sleep.”

The Princess looked over her shoulder and jogged back to where Drawful had dropped the empty purse. She scolded the dragon for littered and put the empty leather sack back on her own belt.

Brooke and the dragon continued down the road as the last remaining light evaporated around them and looked at the little package of cake in the dark. “Drawful,” the Princess began, “I know this isn’t technically the aim of you kidnapping me, but thank you for creating a series of challenges that’ll weed out the idiots. As suitors”

“Well, all but the most devoted idiots at least.”

“True. Is there anything more dangerous than an ambitious fool?”

“Only a handful of things, my Princess.”

The pair proceeded on their trek to Drawful’s house in the hills. Somewhere further south, a number of ambitious fools and a thing more dangerous than them all stirred.

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