The dragon had hair now. Belgrad the Patient stared at the dragon sitting before him, at her verdant scales that matched perfectly with the thicket of forest greenery that surrounded them, and at the long, flowing blonde locks of hair that now draped down from behind her webbed ears and horns down to the forest floor. The hair definitely didn’t match their present surroundings like her scales did; it was a bright, platinum blonde, almost as bright as the glint of noonday sun, and it stood out like a beacon.
Belgrad was sure it wouldn’t help her evade detection effectively, but he wasn’t going to criticize his friend about her choices, whether it was her decision to have hair, or anything else. It was a guideline for continued survival for a human to never criticize a dragon, and it was even more important for Belgrad to follow that particular guideline since he was a knight, traditionally a dragon’s worst enemy (and vice versa). So he bit his tongue, and continued to stare at Tyrannicus’s new blonde hair, the pressure to acknowledge the change making him sweat nervously, suddenly finding his armor much too hot and constricting in the summer heat.
For her part, Tyrannicus stared back at him, smiling at him slightly with her fangs peeking through her upper lips, which formed a sort of downward crest, almost like a beak. Steam curled up from her nostrils, the heat of latent inner fire that all dragons shared making the surrounding air even hotter.
“So,” Tyrannicus asked, turning her giant scaled head to one side, oblivious to Belgrad’s discomfort, “What do you think of it?” She shuffled her giant head from side to side, preening, as the long rivulets of blonde hair shook about the perimeter of her face, strands of hair catching on her scales and horns. Belgrad thought she looked ridiculous, like a great bird had laid a blonde nest on the top of her head, but he bit his tongue, scrambling for a kinder reply.
“The hair? Well—it—that is, it looks—it looks nice,” he said lamely, cursing himself for his idiotic words. She would surely be offended; all dragons were highly proud, and greater knights than him had been roasted alive in dragonfire for offensive remarks, whether intentional or construed.
Tyrannicus’s golden eyes narrowed in annoyance, a reaction Belgrad had anticipated.
“It looks nice?” She said, her tone containing thinly veiled irritation. “ Is that really all you have to say, Belgrad?”
“Well, I—it’s very blonde,” Belgrad stammered in reply, “It took me a bit by surprise when I stopped by to see you. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s different, and different can be good.”
He shrugged in his armor to show he meant no harm, and to also show that he had left his sword and shield at the entrance of the thicket, an extra gesture of goodwill between them that they had established long ago. He never entered her space armed, and she in turn never breathed her dragonfire upon him. So far, it had worked out well for the past year and a half, and he tended to stop by on his various missions in between the neighboring human kingdoms.
Tyrannicus was a masterful sorceress in her own right, having mastered various magicks over her eons-long lifespan, though she was still only middle-age for a dragon. She had performed several useful enchantments for Belgrad, casting a spell over his armor so it no longer felt heavy (though it still felt hot, but at least he could ride a horse without complaint), and enchanting his sword so that it would never get scratched or tarnished. In turn, Belgrad would always share stories of his travels with her, teaching her bawdy drinking songs that he learned at local taverns, and bringing her what foods he could bring back without getting spoiled on the way (he had learned she especially enjoyed dried sausages, and the occasional fruit preserves when they were in season).
Tyrannicus suffered from the same misunderstandings by humans that all monsters did: that they were dangerous, and evil, and should be destroyed on sight, so that most monstrous creatures had learned to hide away in the wilds, in order to avoid such a fate. She longed for stories of the world beyond, so Belgrad shared with her what he could in that regard. Tyrannicus could fight as well as any other dragon, of that Belgrad was sure of, but she preferred the quiet of the forest and a fascinating tale over battle and conflict.
Belgrad was the same way, which is why his reputation as a knight was currently less than stellar; if the rest of his men, and especially the Knight Commander Dawsen Stetson, knew he entreated frequently with a dragon, his head would be on the royal chopping block. Belgrad was therefore happy to keep his friendly visits with Tyrannicus to himself, enjoying her company more than his fellow knights, who were constantly vying for power and one-upping each other in a battle to earn the Crown’s favor.
“Well, different is good. You’re right,” Tyrannicus said with a sigh, startling Belgrad out of his mental musings. “I hadn’t seen you in more than a month, so I decided to conjure some hair. I thought you might like it.”
She said the last words slightly softer, and the scales around her mouth turned a slight shade of grey, in what Belgrad had learned to recognize as the dragon equivalent of a blush. He felt his face flush in response, knowing it was visible across his fair cheeks with his helmet off and his auburn beard having been neatly trimmed in town. He was unsure of what to say; Tyrannicus obviously had put a lot more thought into her hair than he had first surmised. Maybe her hair wasn’t about hair at all.
“So your hair is magic, then?” He asked, walking a bit closer to her. She snorted, steam curling into the air, and rolled her eyes at him.
“Of course it’s magic, Belgrad,” Tyrannicus replied impatiently. “I conjured it instantly.”
Belgrad nodded, raising his hands in what he hoped was a placating gesture.
“Of course,” he said, moving even closer. “Such things and even greater are within your range of skill. I only wanted to make sure I understood its nature.”
She leaned her head closer in response, tilting her head until he stood in front of one of her immense golden eyes, until he could feel the heat of the dragon’s scales a few inches away from him. Tyrannicus’s long blonde locks were close enough to touch, and he raised a hand towards her hair, looking up at the single gold eye in front of him.
“May I?” He asked softly, and watched as the scales beneath her eye turned a light shade of grey.
“Ah-yes, yes you may,” She replied, quickly looking away from him but not moving her head away. Belgrad then reached forward and gently ran his hands through her long, flowing hair; it felt like smooth satin against his fingers, and shimmered with an almost ethereal sheen, perhaps a side effect of it being composed of pure magic, though he could only guess.
As much as it clashed terribly against her green scales, Belgrad also recognized Tyrannicus’s personality in her choice of hair color and texture: the blonde was her desire to be noticed, her magical talents recognized and admired, and the soft feeling of her hair was completely different from her intimidating scales, horns and claws, inviting connection rather than caution. It spoke volumes to him, words that, whether for draconic pride or her own fears, or out of consideration of his own unspoken hesitation, she would never have spoken to him aloud:
I missed you.
Step closer, please.
Belgrad knew he was one of Tyrannicus’s only friends, but he didn’t count on being her only friend. He searched his memory of the past year and a half, and couldn’t place a single instance where she had mentioned anyone else visiting her, not even another dragon or another of monsterkind, like a griffin or centaur. The more he ran his hands through her shimmering locks of hair, the more a jumbled tangle of emotions he couldn’t identify arose in his mind, and he wasn’t ready to—couldn’t, couldn’t—face those right now, or maybe ever.
He let go of her hair reluctantly, then, already missing its curious softness, and stepped back until he could see her entire face (he astutely ignored the grey sheen covering the scales underneath her hair).
“Tyrannicus,” Belgrad said, and the dragon’s golden gaze focused on him, and he struggled to stay still underneath her focused attention, like a mouse locking eyes with a cat.
“I think your hair is beautiful,” he said quietly, and he raised a hand to stop her from interrupting, seeing her rustle her leathery wings impatiently.
“You never needed it, though,” he continued, “You’re beautiful without hair, just as you are. I was always going to come back to see you.”
Tyrannicus opened her mouth, clearly not having expected to hear his words, and she closed her mouth abruptly, her fangs clacking together. The sound echoed loudly in the thicket. They stared at each other, silently—man and dragon—each waiting for the other to speak. Finally, Tyrannicus nodded her head in acknowledgement, whispering words in ancient language that sounded like music, and the long locks of her hair shimmered, then vanished.
“Thank you, Belgrad,” she said, and smiled. Belgrad smiled back, then followed beside her as she turned and walked deeper into the thicket towards her makeshift hearth.
“You’ll have to tell me about your latest travels over dinner,” she said, and Belgrad barked out a laugh.
“Only if you can enchant my armor again,” He said, “It’s light, but too damned hot.”
They continued on into the night, chatting about travels and sorcery and everything in between, and Belgrad decided that for now, things were simpler without the influence of magical hair, no matter how beautiful.