I slipped off the horse, and wrapped his reigns on a tree branch. It might have felt safer and easier to ride on past Talora to certain doom, but that was not polite. One was polite to Masters, even more than dragons. Then too, the dragon was disregarding the rules Talora had set down regarding how the species would interact. Perhaps, maybe, she was here to 'help'. Lord, save me from 'helpful' Masters. Any of the Masters could handle a juvenile dragon, and rearrange our little corner of the world at whim. In doing so, Talora would likely attract the attention of the other Masters, but that would be tomorrow's problem. Besides, it was too late. I really couldn't pretend not to see her and ride on by anymore, as if I had ever been given a choice.
I approached closely, and held out my hand. "I'm Jackie the Boy."
She was briefly surprised by the gesture, or perhaps the name, but took my hand quickly enough. She shook it with an ease of long familiarity with human customs. "Talora Elafayin." A pause. "My pardon, but why the handshake? Most these days would use the elfin curtseys."
"I'm told you were human raised, during the interval without magic. I understood you preferred the handshake. Did I err?" I positioned my feet for the alternate greeting, but stopped at her alarmed gesture of negation.
"Oh, no. You're quite correct, but hand shakes are out of fashion. Well, there is a fad among the Sidhe. I'd recommend you avoid hand squeezing contests if you meet a red head in Ireland. But who told you of my human background?"
"Itharias, my teacher. He... taught me much."
She paused. "And you loved him?"
"Yes." What could a Master care for love?
She paused, trying to read my face. I half expected her to challenge my very thoughts, but she moved on. "I have some concerns about the situation here."
"Of course. The dragon is breaking your Law."
"My law?" A deep sigh. She briefly covered her face with her hands, invoked the elf goddess Daer, and made a very polite inquiry. "And just how has the dragon been breaking My Law?"
"The dragon initiated the raid. The farmers were defending local territory, without outside help. Yet the dragon used deadly force. He didn't pull punches one bit."
She seemed to be in pain. "Is that how you got that many untrained farmers to stand against a dragon?" It seemed prudent not to answer. "And just how did such a large number of admittedly local heroes decide to all guard the same field?"
"The dragon is young, and a little simple. There's a regular pattern to his raiding flights. He works the compass clockwise, with sixty degree..."
"Itharias never taught you much about dragons, did he?"
"Of course he did!" I started to gesture towards my very proper dragon gift garb, and hesitated. Her eyebrows arched as she examined my dress. I reevaluated traditional human wisdom from a more objective viewpoint. On due consideration, even after allowances for New Hampshire's poor farmland and thus relative poverty, I suddenly found my preparations insufficient. The feeling that Talora was quietly stifling laughter may have had something to do with it.