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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Proper Introduction to Dragons… | part 3 from Maria Grace!

Happy Tuesday, Janeites! Today we dive back into the world of Jane Austen’s Dragons with sneak peek #3 of Maria Grace’s A Proper Introduction to Dragons! Maria is sharing a series of excerpts with us every Tuesday morning, and if you missed any of the story so far, you can find parts one and two here! So grab yourself some breakfast, pour yourself a cuppa tea and continue the story right here, right now! And don’t forget, you can enter to win one of two copies of the book!

Excerpt 3; A Proper Introduction to Dragons by Maria Grace

The summer months passed quickly. Rumblkins’ rat hunting prowess had quickly made him a favorite among the shepherds. Her provision for his safety from Scarred made her a favorite of his. So, every morning that she walked out among the fields—a daily habit by the end of the summer—he joined her for a chat and the occasional treat she managed to pilfer from the kitchens for him.

It was easy to see why tatzelwurms were regarded as addlepated and stupid. Conversations with Rumblkins tended to wander and ramble, often never concluding on the point that had been first set out upon. That aside though, if one was patient, he offered some truly interesting, and often amusing insights into the life of small minor dragons—something sorely missing from Papa’s books of dragon lore. Not that he considered the oversight significant, but she did.
It seemed Rumblkins knew all the local forest, rock, and river wyrms and the leading fairy dragons of the harem.
According to him, it was well-known in the region that he was a confirmed ratter and not fond of eating smaller dragons. Though it was the way of the world, he said, he much preferred a dinner with whom he could not share a conversation with first. Made it much faster to get to the eating when your meal did not argue with you. Yes, it was an odd sentiment, but it did facilitate his making a wide circle of acquaintances and friends.

And a wide circle he did have. He introduced her to all that would make her acquaintance. Not all wild-hatched dragons, it seemed, were accepting of warm-blooded acquaintances. But, with an introduction from Rumblkins, a surprising amount were, so she spent a great many summer hours amongst the wyrms and fairy dragons of the estate.

The rest of her hours, it seemed, were spent studying the books Papa continued to push on her. Learning what they contained was a necessary step, he said, in readying herself to meet dragons in general and Longbourn in specific.

Somehow, it did not seem to be a wise thing to mention the number of dragons she had already met without the benefit of his books. That was not the sort of thing Papa was likely to deal well with. He did not like the unexpected, and her new circle of acquaintances would definitely qualify as unexpected.

He also did not like it when she asked too many questions, especially those which appeared to contradict dragon lore. Like when the books talked about dragons, all dragons—except for fairy dragons who were just too stupid to know any better—being solitary creatures. This was so, according to the texts, because bigger dragons were predatory upon other smaller dragons, and it was unnatural for predator and prey to form any sort of relationship. Moreover, by disposition, dragons tended to be rather stubborn, self-focused, and demanding, additional traits that did not make them companionable to others of their kind.

Rumblkins though, seemed to defy all of those descriptions, being friendly, gregarious, and—what did one call a personable dragon? Dragonable? He loved to be scratched and petted and regularly sought her out for such delights. Was it possible that he was just a single exception to the entire canon of dragon lore? Or was it conceivable that dragon lore might not be entirely correct?

She winced just thinking about it. Papa would not react well to hearing that sort of thing. No, not at all. 

Near the beginning of September, Papa called her into his study, a new pile of papers on his desk. It was rather surprising that she could tell that it was a new pile, considering the number of papers and journals and books that were already there. Though Mama insisted the house be kept tidy and everything put in its place, Papa’s study remained the notable exception to that rule.

Ever unkempt, piles of books that he was reading, maps and scrolls he was studying, and journals he was writing in—or at least trying to write in—always seemed to cover every horizontal surface in the room, and part of the floor. One day Elizabeth had made the mistake of trying to tidy up and Papa—well, there was no other way to describe it—he became rather unhinged. There was, at least in his mind, a method to the clutter and woe to any who disturbed it. Lesson learned—she never moved another item in his study thereafter. Learning to gingerly sidestep the clutter took some doing, but it was well worthwhile.

“Have you finished your studies of the last volume I gave you?” He did not look up from the pages he was studying at his desk.

The Habits and Habitats of Rock-Dwelling Dragons with a Most Helpful Index to the Major Dragons of Those Types and Their Genealogies Since Pendragon’s Time?” It was hard not to giggle at the length and pretentiousness of the titles writers of dragon lore used.

Papa glanced up at her. His stern gaze suggested he did not see the same humor in them.

“Yes, sir, I have finished.”

He tapped the new pile of papers on his desk. “I have been corresponding with a member of the Blue Order who believes he might be in possession of some heretofore unknown genealogies.”

“Which ones? Oh, that is very exciting news!” Truthfully, it was probably more exciting to him than it was to her, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Though they did tend to be awfully dry and dull, there were times one could wheedle out some quite fascinating tidbits from genealogies. Like how long it took for different species to hatch, which types seemed apt to hibernate and for what sort of provocation, any number of things Papa did not find proper to glean from reading genealogies—all inference and no substance, he said.

“I need to travel to Loxdale Green to meet with a Mr. Garland, an apothecary with a shop by the name of Bedlow’s. The Blue Order has asked that I examine the documents to determine their authenticity.”

Gracious, if Papa would be traveling to see them, they must be very important documents, maybe tracing the lines of high-ranking or even royal dragon lines. He did not like to travel. Detested was the word he most often used to describe the activity.

“Mr. Garland has already made it clear that he will not allow them out of his possession. So if they are, as the Order believes, genuine, then they must be copied.”

Copied? Elizabeth bit her lip. These would clearly be important documents, and she never wrote important things for him. Did that mean—

“I fear I must have help to transcribe them if necessary.”

“Will the Order be sending someone to assist you?” She held her breath.

“If I ask, I am sure they would do so. But young scribes are, in general, a noxious bunch: noisy, talkative, and intrusive. I would rather not have one if it can be avoided.”

She clasped her hands tightly and bit her lip.

“It seems questionable, at best, to bring someone so young. But you know not to talk too much, and I need not adjust my schedule for your convenience.”

A tiny squeal escaped her lips before she could contain it.

“But, I am not yet convinced. I know you are able to conduct yourself appropriately. Your mother has seen to that. But while there, we will come into contact with a very young dragon, a minor drake just six weeks from the shell. I must be certain that you will conduct yourself appropriately in his company.”

“A baby dragon? I might meet a baby dragon.” She whispered the words very softly and very slowly lest she sound too pleased or excited by the prospect. But a baby dragon! Her insides bounced like Rumblkins through the fields.

“I am glad you are showing appropriate respect for the situation, but that is not enough. Prove to me that you have adequately learned what I set you to these last months, and I shall consider bringing you along.”

“How shall I do that, Papa? Do you wish me to write something?”

“No, that will take far too long and require me to read it. My eyes are tired, and I would just as soon rest them for the trip.” He set his glasses aside and rubbed his eyes with thumb and forefinger. “I will test you as the Blue Order does when a potential member is presented. That will be good practice for you.”

She would be a member of the Blue Order someday, or at least have the chance of it? She grabbed the edge of his desk. That was a pleasure she had never really considered. Of course, it made sense as she heard dragons and was the daughter of a Keeper, but still, it felt rather surprising to hear it spoken aloud.

Pray he had no more surprises for her. Any more might render her fully unable to speak.

“So then, Lizzy, tell me how dragons are ranked.”

She swallowed hard. It was a tricky question. “Dragons are ranked first by their size and power. All the major dragons, those bigger than a large horse—” That was an odd designation, but, especially now, it seemed better to keep that opinion to her commonplace book. “—outrank all the minor dragons and major dragons smaller than themselves. The major dragons are like our upper class and the minor dragons like the lower ones. Among the major dragons, the most powerful species are above the weaker ones.”

Hmmm, in a number of dragon species the females were as large and powerful as the males, sometimes even more so. Perhaps that was why dragons were so easily accepting of human females—they were after all, not usually that different in size than males, not by dragon standards in any case, and thus not assumed to be of lower rank. What an interesting thought.

Papa nodded, just a little. Clearly, he was not going to comment on the success of her answers in the midst of the “test.” By the way he held his shoulders, though, he seemed pleased.

“How and why were dragons’ ranks established?”

“The Pendragon Accords established the ranks for the major dragons so they would no longer fight for precedence. Before the Accords, they battled for position and territory. In those days, dragon wars were almost constant. The damage to both man and dragon was unimaginable.”

Papa grunted. Surely that meant she answered correctly.

“Who is the highest-ranked dragon in England?”

“The dragons of England are led by their Brenin, Buckingham. He is like our king. A firedrake, he administers dragon law and the Pendragon Accords across England and deals with necessary matters with dragons of other lands.” While this was probably good to know, what did it have to do with meeting a young minor drake? 

“What ranks make up the dragon equivalent of our peerage and what are their responsibilities?”

“The Dugs and Duges, who are the females, sit on the Council and lead the Dragon Conclave with their Keepers.  They administer the different counties and decide matters of dragon law. Cownts and Cowntesses serve under the Dugs. They are responsible for regions in their counties, managing the major dragons and their keepers there. And so it goes down through the Vikonts and Vicontes, the Barwins and Barwines, Marchogs and Marchoes down to the lowly Lairds and Lairdas who are the lowest of the major dragons. They are the gentlemen and ladies among the dragons and are responsible for managing the minor dragons of their Keeps.”

His brows creased, but the lines around his eyes remained soft. Why did he try to appear so severe if she was actually doing quite well? Why did he have to be so perplexing? She held her breath not to sigh. He did not like it when she sighed.

“What type of dragon has wings?” He avoided meeting her gaze.

“That is a trick question, sir. Dragons are typed by the shape of their heads, not their appendages. Amphitheres are a snake-type dragon with wings. All the bird types, all species of cockatrice and fairy dragons, have wings. Firedrakes and wyverns, who are dragon types, also have wings.”

“What snake-type dragon has both major and minor species?”

“The basilisk. They are also the only snake-type to have four legs.” The way his eyes narrowed—maybe it was not a good idea to offer more information than he asked. So mentioning that wyrms and drakes also had major and minor species was out of the question.

“What are the weakest type of dragon and the strongest?”

“Wyrm-types are on the whole the weakest and dragon-types the strongest, even though the wyvern is one of the weakest species.”

Papa grumbled under his breath. Perhaps he did not like being reminded that their estate dragon was among the least powerful and lowest ranking in the kingdom. “Tell me about lizard types.”

“Some have argued that dragon types should really be called lizard types for the shape of their heads—and often the rest of them as well—resemble large lizards. But it is a very great insult to suggest a dragon resembles a lizard and an even greater insult to call a dragon a big lizard. Such an insult was once considered a breach of the Pendragon Treaty and sufficient provocation to acquit the offended drake of assault against the man who said it.”

He did not even blink. “Which dragon type has no major dragon species?”

“Bird types, or so it is believed, however—”

A sharp, staccato knock rang out from the door. Mama’s.

Papa squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his temples. “Come in.”

Mama bustled in, fluffed like the top hen in the henhouse looking for someone to peck. That did not bode well at all. “So this is where you have been hiding, Lizzy.”

Papa sat up very straight and rapped his desk with his knuckles. “She has not been hiding. I have called her here myself.”

“Well, it is time for her to go to practice her pianoforte. My sister Phillips will be by tomorrow to hear her play. I want Lizzy’s piece to be perfect for her.”

“I did practice earlier, Mama, before breakfast.” Jane had even commented about how much improved her playing was.

“I did not hear you.”

Elizabeth bit her lip. Reminding her that she slept very soundly when she had taken the draught the apothecary had left her was not a politic thing to bring up.

“Go, go now. I have something I wish to speak to your father about.”

“Wait, Lizzy. I want you to go upstairs right now and pack your carpetbag.” Papa pushed up from his desk.

“Pack her bag? Whatever for?” Mama stood between her and the door.

“I have business that will take me from Longbourn for a few days.”

“What has that to do with our daughter?”

“The business will entail no small amount of writing.” He waved Elizabeth toward the door.

Mama blocked her way again. “It is not proper that you should have Lizzy involved in your business dealings. It is not proper for a young lady. Surely, you can see that.”

“What would you suggest instead?”

“Hire a man, a steward, a secretary, someone. It would be far more proper than your daughter.”

“Mrs. Bennet.” He spoke her name in a certain particular way which said so much more than he could speak in simple words, especially in front of Elizabeth. “I have shown you the estate books. You know precisely why that is not an option.”

“It is always about numbers to you, cold, unfeeling man.” She pressed a handkerchief to her nose. Pray she did not try to cry now. It was always an unseemly show.

“Numbers do not have feelings. They represent facts, and the fact is that you have made the choice that I shall not have a secretary. If you wish to change that, then it is well within your power to do so.”

Mama snorted. “Oh, very well then, when you put it in those terms! At least you should take Jane with you, not Lizzy. If you need something written, Jane is a much better choice. Her hand is prettier than Lizzy’s.”

Elizabeth bit her lip. Mama was right on that point. Clearly, that was an excellent reason to improve her penmanship, one that until this moment had never occurred to her.

“I need legible writing, not pretty.” Papa waved her away. “Go to your room now, Lizzy.”

She scurried out and closed the door behind her. Unfortunately, her room was directly above the study. The preternatural hearing that allowed her to perceive dragon speech could be a disadvantage at times, especially when there were things one did not want to hear.

“You know I am a very capable writer. My hand is very neat,” Mama said in her best wheedling tone.

“I should like very much to travel and meet new people.”

No doubt Papa was rolling his eyes. “Perhaps if there were money for a governess—”

“Hill is quite capable of caring for the girls for a few days.”

“My trip is one of business, not pleasure. There will be little opportunity to socialize. You would not appreciate being confined to a library all day, transcribing the records that I need.”

“How do you know that?”

“Just last week, you became impatient copying a receipt from the book Lady Lucas lent you. How could you tolerate pages and pages of copying?”

“You underestimate me. You do not appreciate me.” Mama sniffled to punctuate the accusation.

“I know you very well and copying, especially accurate copying, is not your forte. You would be miserable in minutes. I must get this business done without interruption.”

Mama grumbled, but she could hardly argue Papa’s point. “At least bring Jane. She would appreciate the experience. She is older and more deserving of it than Lizzy.”

“Jane’s hand may be very neat, but she is very much like you. I have found her writing to be inaccurate. Moreover, she is distracted too easily.”

“How can you find fault with her sweet disposition? Everyone likes her, for she is the dearest girl.”
Everyone but dragons. They did not seem to care very much about her one way or the other.

Papa brought his foot down sharply. “I do not need a dear girl to chaperone. I need someone who can copy and write for me exactly as I need them to without wanting to run off for amusements. The only person in this house capable of that is Lizzy.”

“I do not understand why you must play such favorites among our girls.” Now Mama was crying. When would she realize that would never move Papa to a favorable opinion?

Perhaps if she dragged her table to the far side of the room and wrote in her commonplace book, she could distract herself from the conversation heating up below her. Rumblkins had introduced her to a new pair of rock wyrms recently—little wyrms always seemed to travel in mated pairs. That was not something she had seen in dragon lore, at least not yet. That was worth writing about, especially the funny way their pairs interacted, finishing each other’s sentences as they twined around each other.

Often it resulted in utter nonsense, but even that was an interesting observation.

An hour later, the door of her room creaked open, and Papa peeked in, weary and shoulders stooped.

“Pack your carpetbag, Lizzy. I want to leave on the hour.”

“Yes, Papa!” She jumped up and ran for the closet, her heart beating faster than it ever had before.

She would be going on her first journey, and a dragon would be at the end of it! What more could she ever have wished for?

About A Proper Introduction to Dragons by Maria Grace
Buy it from Amazon  |  Add it to Goodreads
Most people were blissfully unaware that England was overrun by dragons. Only those born with preternatural hearing could hear and converse with dragonkind, and even those rarely came into their hearing before they were fifteen. It was not Elizabeth’s fault that she discovered the truth about dragons when she was only four years-old.

It was also not Elizabeth’s fault that the old tatzelwurm, Rumblkins, who lived in the woods near Longbourn House befriended her. Really, he would have attached himself to anyone who fed him dried cod and scratched behind his ears.
So clearly, it could not be her fault when Rumblkins led her to a nest of endangered fairy dragon eggs that the Pendragon Treaty compelled her to save. Unfortunately her father does not agree.

Thomas Bennet, dragon-lore expert, faithful member of the dragon-hearing society, the Blue Order, and Keeper of the local wyvern, Longbourn, has a dragon-sized problem on his hands. At eleven years-old, his second-oldest daughter is hopelessly fascinated with all things dragon-related. But his wife and other daughters lack the ability to hear dragons, so the world of the Blue Order must remain hidden from them.

Now faced with an abandoned clutch of fairy dragon eggs to care for, the careful balance he walks between the needs of his jealous estate dragon, Elizabeth’s incorrigible draw toward dragons and continued secrecy from the rest of the family hangs in jeopardy. If only Elizabeth would be a more conventional child!

But how can a girl who shuns traditional ladylike pursuits to play with dragons ever be conventional? Does dragon-hearing society have a place for such an oddity as her?

about the author:
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

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  1. I get lost so easily in the world of Maria Grace's dragons. I love how the details are teased out so I can nearly believe it is real. Cute segment of Lizzy getting her 'test'.

  2. I love the world building in this series so much. All the details of the dragons and the lore really add to the depth of it and I appreciate all the work the author has done in developing her story.

  3. Dragons really seem to complicate the Bennet family dynamics... resulting in a somewhat harsher version of both the canon favoritisms of each parent, and the troubles in the Bennet marriage. Poor Elizabeth, I hate Mr. Bennet's uncaring remarks towards her while he uses her talents and dedication.

  4. Great names! And there's quite a bit of world-building there!

  5. Of all the books in this story this is my favorite even though do not like how Mr Bennet treated ELizabeth, era appropriate as to how he would look at a girl, I love how she was introduced to the dragons.


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