Dragon Friend

In 2154 the Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta Georgia revived an honored tradition from the 'good old days' of the industrial era. Young ladies were invited to post video files to the Net in three categories: thirty seconds maximum evening gown, thirty seconds bathing suit, and four minutes talent. Majority vote by the townships nominated candidates for the counties. The top girls at the county level received train tickets to Atlanta for a live action finals. The event was a complete success. Atlantic City considered their historic tradition of hosting a national contest, though the expense and difficulty of transport was a problem.

Unfortunately, as was her privilege, Marik the Leveller 'suggested' that the new Miss Georgia should deliver the year's dragon gifts. As Marik was a dragon of the first generation since the Time Without Magic, her protection of Georgia had been quite complete. While trolls are not very bright, they had long since learned to avoid the lairs of adult dragons. Miss Georgia - recognizing the honor for what it was - said goodbye to family and friends, and went into a far more intense training than for the original contest.

She did not go unsupported. The people of Georgia belatedly recognized hubris - expressing pride in one of their own - and voted funds for gifts in apology. To match the winner's talent, they acquired one of the last remaining Stradavarius violins in human hands. Her gown was made by the Sidhe seamstress, Shanna the Weaver, whose dresses are admired and sought out even by the Queen of Faerie. Her swim suit was cut custom from a bolt of ancient spandex, a exotic and rare material seldom seen. Her meat-gift was a horse descended from legends. In his line were names like Man-O-War and Secretariat. His harness was fashioned by human hands, but was quality work built for beauty and strength none the less. The harness maker knew the lady, and precisely what was at stake.

A dragon gift must be beautiful, of the best possible materials, and unique. This had been done. Miss Georgia decided that if Marik wanted a beauty queen in the old tradition, she would receive one. The old tapes were in archive. She learned the walks, the stances, the smiles, and how to do her hair. She made the glorious old violin sing, and cry. She trained too with the horse, as he was taught to handle strange scents and sudden noises. When the time came, she rode off with the splendor and poise of a true queen, which was perhaps a mistake. She never returned.

Eleven months later, the title of 'Miss Georgia' was voted to Marik the Leveller. An appropriate crown was ordered from the dwarves. The loser of the year's lottery presented the gift. She noticed the gown by Shanna the Weaver on an ancient manakin, at a place of honor by Marik's hoard. Also on the manakin was a wig of fine brown hair, which fell nearly to the waist. After watching the meat gift being roasted alive and eaten whole, the question which had burned Georgia was asked, very politely.

"Was anything wrong with last year's gift?"

A slow satisfied smile. "No. Of course not. Everything was entirely satisfactory." A discrete burp followed the pronouncement. This was enough. The girl turned and ran, totally panicked. She lived. Many wise men - writing from a safe distance with nothing at stake - claim to have known all along that this was the proper way of showing respect to a dragon.