Chapter no 76: The Mating Habits of the Common Draccus

The Name of the Wind

“IT’S A DRAGON,” Denna whispered. “Tehlu hold and overroll us. It’s a dragon.”

“It’s not a dragon,” I said. “There’s no such thing as dragons.”

“Look at it!” she hissed at me. “It’s right there! Look at the huge Goddamn dragon!”

“It’s a draccus,” I said.

“It’s Goddamn huge,” Denna said with a tinge of hysteria in her voice. “It’s a Goddamn huge dragon and it’s going to come over here and eat us.”

“It doesn’t eat meat,” I said. “It’s an herbivore. It’s like a big cow.”

Denna looked at me and started to laugh. Not hysterical laughter, but the helpless laugher of someone who’s just heard something so funny they can’t help but bubble over with it. She put her hands over her mouth and shook with it, the only sound was a low huffing that escaped through her fingers.

There was another flash of blue fire from below. Denna froze midlaugh, then took her hands away from her mouth. She looked at me, her eyes wide, and spoke softly with a slight quaver in her voice, “Mooooo.”

We had both gone from terrified to safe so quickly that we were close to laughing from sheer relief anyway. So when she convulsed with laughter again, muffling it with her hands, I started to laugh too, my belly shaking as I tried not to make any noise. We lay there like two giggling children while below us the great beast grunted and snuffed around our fire, occasionally sending up gouts of flame.

After a long several minutes, we regained control of ourselves. Denna wiped tears away from her eyes and drew a deep, shaky breath. She slid closer to me until the left side of her body was pressed close up against my right. “Listen,” she said softly as we both looked over the edge of the stone. “That thing does not graze,” she said. “It’s huge. It could never get enough food. And look at its mouth. Look at those teeth.”

“Exactly. They’re flat, not pointed. It eats trees. Whole trees. Look at how big it is. Where could it possibly find enough meat? It would have to eat ten deer every day. There’s no way it could survive!”

She turned her head to look at me. “How the hell do you know this?”

“I read about it at the University,” I said. “A book called The Mating Habits of the Common Draccus. It uses the fire in a mating display. It’s like a bird’s plumage.”

“You mean that that thing down there,” she groped for words, her mouth working silently for a moment, “is going to try and tup our campfire?” She looked for a moment as if she was going to burst into laughter again, but she drew a deep, shuddering breath instead, regaining her composure. “Now that’s something I have to see….”

We both felt a shudder in the stone underneath us, coming up from the ground below. At the same time, things grew noticeably darker.

Looking down, we saw the draccus rolling in the fire like a hog in a wallow. The ground shook as it wriggled around, crushing the fire underneath itself.

“That thing must weigh…” Denna stalled out, shaking her head. “Maybe five tons,” I guessed. “Five at least.”

“It could come get us. It could push over these stones.”

“I don’t know about that,” I said, slapping the stone under my hand, trying to sound more certain than I really was. “These have been here for a long time. We’re safe.”

While rolling in our overlarge campfire, the draccus had scattered burning branches around the top of the hill. It now wandered to where a half-charred log lay smoldering in the grass. The draccus snuffed, then rolled, crushing the log into the earth. Then it came back to its feet, snuffed the log again, and ate it. It didn’t chew. It bolted the log whole, like a frog getting a cricket down into its gullet.

It did this several times, moving in a circle around the now largely extinguished fire. It snuffed, rolled on the burning pieces, then ate them after they were extinguished.

“That makes sense, I suppose,” Denna said, watching it. “It starts fires and lives in the woods. If it didn’t have something in its head that made it want to put out fires, it wouldn’t survive very long.”

“That’s probably why it came here,” I said. “It saw our fire.”

After several minutes of snuffing and rolling, the draccus came back to the flat bed of coals that was all that remained of our fire. It circled it a few times, then walked over it and lay down. I cringed, but it just shifted back and forth like a hen settling into a nest. The hilltop below was now entirely dark except for the pale moonlight.

“How can I never have heard of these things?” Denna asked.

“They’re very rare,” I said. “People tend to kill them because they don’t understand they’re relatively harmless. And they don’t reproduce very quickly. That one down there is probably two hundred years old, about as big as they get.” I marveled at it. “I bet there aren’t more than a couple hundred

draccus that size in the whole world.”

We watched for another couple minutes, but there was no movement from below. Denna gave a jaw-popping yawn. “Gods, I’m exhausted. There’s nothing like the certain knowledge of your own death to tucker you out.” She rolled over onto her back, then onto her side, then back facing toward me, trying to get comfortable. “Lord it’s cold up here.” She shivered visibly. “I can see why it’s cuddled up on our fire.”

“We could go down and get the blanket,” I suggested.

She snorted. “Not likely.” She shivered visibly, wrapping her arms around her chest.

“Here,” I stood up and took off my cloak. “Wrap up in this. It’s not much, but it’s better than the bare stone.” I held it out to her. “I’ll watch you while you sleep and make sure you don’t fall off.”

She stared at me for a long moment, and I half expected her to beg off. But after a moment she took it and wrapped it around herself. “You, Master Kvothe, certainly know how to show a girl a good time.”

“Wait until tomorrow,” I said. “I’m just getting started.”

I sat there quietly, trying not to shiver, and eventually Denna’s breathing leveled off. I watched her sleep with the calm contentment of a boy who has no idea of how foolish he is, or what unexpected tragedies the following day will bring.

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