Few dragons collected teapots. Youneda didn’t care. They pleased him and his hoard was worth enough to allow him a comfortable life in the suburbs.
Nothing bothered him anymore.
At least until a new neighbor in the suburb shattered everyone’s peace with wild magic that drove Youneda off his basking couch and out into the rain to solve the mystery of what had turned the world orange.
Smell of Joy
By Meyari McFarland
Youneda breathed deep, his nostrils flaring at the smell of good black tea steeped just the right amount of time. He sighed as he settled onto his basking couch. Warmth radiated up from the heavy earthen mass heater. It soaked through the sheep wool that filled his cushions and carried with it the scent of highland grass and early spring flowers. The scent alone reminded him of decades ago hunts where he’d stalked great elk with pronged antlers spread as wide as his arms could reach. He’d been powerful then, lean and fast with wings that stretched and clapped against the wind with every beat.
Those lazy afternoons basking on rock screes just above the tree line had been some of his best days ever. A pity that they’d ended so dramatically when the Opening happened.
He flinched from that memory, using his tail to pull a delicate teacup from the shelves around his living room. Every single wall had sturdy shelves decorated with teacups and teapots. It wasn’t the best hoard in the world but it brought Youneda joy. They were all so beautiful, delicate and sturdy and useful in turns. Youneda smiled as he turned the teacup in his claws, setting it on his tea tray so that the handle was at a perfect ninety degree angle from the teapot strictly because it looked good that way. Pointless and silly but Youneda didn’t care.
Still, the tea was ready. Best to drink it before it had a chance to go bitter.
And it wasn’t as though his life now was completely lacking in things that he enjoyed. Youneda smiled as he poured his tea and then carefully added two perfectly pressed sugar cubes to his teacup.
Simpler joys, quieter ones, suited an old dragon with tattered wings and a belly swollen with sloth and age. Perhaps he no longer hunted elk anymore but no one else did either. The elves objected mightily to having their mounts treated like mobile feasts. The high forests of the Northwest were theirs, just as the selkies controlled the Salish Sea and dragons had come to live among humans in subdivisions and city blocks.
Such a strange place the world had become since his youth.
At least he had his hoard. The teacup was one of his finest, delicate white porcelain painted with indigo blue flowers accented with the finest of grey vines around the rim. Its matching tea pot was short and stout, a good size to hold eight cups of tea though Youneda rarely drank that much at a sitting. Still good to use the tea pot from time to time. He’d hate to see it go to waste when it was such a lovely set.
Youneda lifted his teacup and sniffed the steam, idly stirring the sugar cubes until they fully dissolved. Really, life was at its best when appreciating the quiet joys. He would leave grander joys to the young dragons who had energy and strong enough wings to challenge the high rivers, the jet stream. That wasn’t Youneda’s place anymore.
He sipped once, then again and smiled as he wiggled a bit deeper into his nest of soft, fragrant cushions. Perhaps he would nap this afternoon, away from the rain outside and the noise of this modern world. It wasn’t as though he had anything important that had to be done today.
Youneda flinched at his neighbor Felix’s roar from the door. Felix slammed a fist into the door, pounding hard enough that Youneda’s precious teapots and teacups rattled on their shelves.
“Go away!” Youneda shouted back. “I’m drinking tea!”
“Get your lazy butt out here,” Felix shouted right back while continuing to pound on the door.
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