A Dragon by Any Other Name?

Ah, Meister Gruenewald, that amazing, infuriating, arrogant, brilliant . . . [No, Rodney, I can’t use that adjective on this blog. Or that other thing, either.] Sorcerer of shadow. Scholar of magic and other things. Master teacher. Whose most amazing power might be that of official non-existence. As André tells Art, Meister Gruenewald has no first name and no official existence. As far as the German and other governments know, he’s a pink unicorn. The military knows, but not the official bureaucracy. How he manages that is probably the greatest mystery of all.

M.G. is a sorcerer of shadow. Like André and Lelia (and Dr. Melanchton, and Miranda Reddish, and Kit Wilmington) he specializes in dealing with truly nasty, evil abuses of magic, including blood magic. He is stronger at night, although he likely doesn’t notice the boost anymore. He was a strong sorcerer before the Spell Eruption Event, and banking power is so ingrained that even he probably doesn’t know what his limits are. He’s not going to test them. Why should he? It the problem is that bad, he’ll call in other magic workers to assist, saving his reserves for the truly dire end-of-the-world-if-he-doesn’t-act emergency.

M.G. noticed André when André was first stationed in Germany. The raw power André threw around was, ahem, a bit noticeable, something M.G. fixed on their first lesson. The fix left André with a three-pill headache, but he never did that again. Rodney considered it a win, once his mage quit moaning. M.G. also realized that André was a sponge, and far smarter than he came across. Perhaps this was the student M.G. had been waiting for. So M.G. being M.G., he kept pounding information and magic into his student to see if André could take it. He did. By the time of Learnedly Familiar, M.G. considered André as his only real success as a teacher. He had other students who did well, but only André has come close to his innate potential as a magic user, by M.G.’s standards.

Which was why M.G. persuaded André to accept the duties of being the sorcerer’s heir. André is not Draku’s suflit ficu. The spiritual connection isn’t there. Instead Shadow’s role is closer to that of Arthur and the senior Hunter. Shadow is supposed to take over Draku’s work, lead Draku’s students, dispose of or distribute the books in Draku’s collection, and deal with some other pieces of magically dangerous property. Shadow agreed, in part because he assumed he’d be dead in less than a decade, and so it wouldn’t matter. It kept Draku happy, Ears thought it was a good plan, and Shadow wouldn’t be around to worry about it. Except Shadow didn’t die. He found someone to love, who loved him and accepted him as he was, demons and all*. Alas, poor Shadow, now he does have to worry a little about “what if I outlive the old lizard? I’ve got to deal with his [stuff]. Oh [exquisitely pungent invective]!”

M.G. is a puzzle. His personality is so strong that it overwhelms anyone around unless they are ready for him. He’s the most powerful magic worker the clans have ever produced, and even they don’t know exactly which family he belongs to. He keeps his pedigree to himself. Unless he blurs his features and hands, which M.G. does most of the time out of habit, it’s obvious that he’s physically different from the rest of the population. He stands out, even among the clans. The fixed talons, the oddly scaly skin, his physical strength, and his sheer longevity make him very unusual, to put it mildly. Toss in those too-bright green eyes and it’s easy to see why he ended up with the working name of Draku. And why, from the safety of the other side of the Great Sea, under his breath, André calls him “that old lizard.” Not that Draku gives a flip about what anyone thinks of him.

You see, Draku’s father was a zmaj. Draku’s mother was of the Hunter clans, a beautiful young woman who was the object of much interest and desire among the young men of her generation. She and her parents let their guard down once, and Draku’s father, who happened to be the guardian zmaj of that watershed, carried her off as his bride. When she returned to the family, with a son, everyone knew what had happened. They raised Draku as one of their own, and when he came into the power that all sons of zmaji possess, no one blinked too hard.

By now, that is long lost history. Draku owes a lot of his longevity to his maternal heritage and having been a Hunter when he was younger. However, he is mortal, and he is not getting younger. Thus his increasingly insistent efforts to get Shadow to relocate to the Old Land and take over things. Yet, at the same time, Draku is starting to realize that Europe might not be the best place in the future. Too much governmental control, too many watchful eyes, especially in western Europe. Russia is, of course, out of the question, and in fact Draku has been known to use his private resources to help new magic workers escape Russia before the government catches them. Europe needs workers of shadow, but perhaps not a school such as formed around Draku.

If Draku had seen Shadow after the Terrible Hunt, he would have smiled with glee. The eyes. Draku’s eyes do indeed glow a little. That’s power, raw magic made visible. Draku doesn’t use a medallion or his cane or a knife or ring to store magic like the other sorcerers do. He is his focus. He stores magic inside himself. He discovered the twist a century and more ago, and storing power that way is truly second nature. He doesn’t think about it, or even really remember how he does it. It’s like breathing. It’s scary, actually, because of what it’s done to his body even beyond the legacy of his paternity. After the Terrible Hunt, when Silver observes Shadow’s eyes glowing, it’s for a similar reason. Shadow handled so much power, even with Ears to help buffer it, that it’s changed him.** Remember, Shadow still has some of the basic the wiring of a sorcerer, even though he’s primarily a mage. That makes a difference.

So now Draku wants to train Shadow’s son. Draku has high hopes for Letters, and assumes that of course Shadow will send the boy over, and of course Letters will take up his father’s mantle. Because why wouldn’t he? Draku really is that arrogant and entitled. If he were any less powerful or respected, it would have bitten in the rear by now. Or Chlotilda or one of his other students would have taken a leaf from Silver’s book and have whapped him with a frying pan, rolling pin, or something similar. He probably needs it.

*Lelia is why André returned from that near disaster that happened just before Intensely Familiar. He really should have died at least twice during that [mess].

**That magic is helping André, even though no one realizes it. He ought to have a lot more medical problems than he does. Lelia, not having the wiring or the training, doesn’t get that bonus. Knowing her, she’d run screaming from the possibility if offered. Or just shoot whoever made the offer, and ask her suflit talshu for recommendations on where to dispose of the deceased. He has a list.


27 thoughts on “A Dragon by Any Other Name?

  1. Thanks for the back story. It really helps answer a lot of question I had. I wonder if Arthur will have the strength of will to resist MG when he tries to get him to sign on as a student. Or if MG will use the argument “as a Shadow Sorcerer it is your duty to learn all the things I can teach you so you can properly protect everyone.”

  2. Very nice explanation for MG. Using that much power for a very long time does cause physical changes, it appears. And now it looks like two other series having an influence on a third, which is not surprising.

    From observation, the various militaries are better at keeping true secrets hidden away from mere functionaries and rulers. Never underestimate the power of paperwork and a competent general staff officer (or equivalent) to make Important Things hide in somewhat plain sight. MG is probably referenced as a former expert on non-motor transport and animal packing, in an obscure logistics or quartermaster file, from a set that somehow has never been digitized (arguments about age, fragility, and difficulty in getting into that vault). For MG, it’s probably wanting to know where he isn’t at the moment – which is in the same office with a senior general or a general staff section. An IG visit is welcome by comparison; you know they will find a problem, and it will be painful and awkward to fix. MG has no upward bound on problem size, horror, or trouble fixing it.

    • Zmaj is the singular, zmaji is one of the plural forms (depends on which language you look at). Zmaj can be translated as dragon, except a zmaj isn’t always a dragon-dragon, again depending on which geographic region you are talking about.

      • I was going to ask, too. A quick online reference says ‘dragon’, but even Draku says that dragons don’t exist.

        • I would guess it’s either 1) “That’s not a dragon” type arguments (my kids are MASTERS of the wyvern flavor of this) or 2) ….”anymore.”

          • I suspect that it is Number One.

            What I did find on them (later) doesn’t show them as the Tolkien Dragon (Smaug) that most people of the Familiars World would think of when they hear Dragon.

            Draku might know that his father was a being “called” a Dragon but “for reasons” doesn’t want to debate the matter.

            • Nod, many cultures have “snake-like” monsters that get the “dragon” label.

              Of course, “Wyrm” which is IIRC a version of a dragon is sometimes legless thus is more of a giant snake.

              And then there is the Chinese dragon that sometimes flies but lacks wings with a snake-like body and short legs.

              So “dear old” Draku could “honestly” say dragons “don’t exist” (ie four-legged fire-breathing winged lizards) while knowing that beings that were labeled dragons do (or did) exist.

              Of course, Draku likely knows What Mr. Smith’s people really are but since they aren’t living in the Familiar World could be thinking “dragons don’t exist in the Familiar World”. 😀

            • Oooh, a fun description you might like– a unicorn dragon.

              Oriental Kirin. (obviously, spelling varies. A lot. As do their characteristics….)

            • The Answer is “Yes”. 😉

              Now, I’m wondering if a kirin will step out of one of Sho’s paintings and decide to live with Deborah. 😀

            • In the thing I’ve been reading and raving about, more regular sorts of cultivators can sprout kirin horns. Hints currently seem to suggest that this happened with one of the characters, and had terrifying results.

            • *squees* No, it wasn’t explained, but THAT WORKS SO WELL! Basically everybody that isn’t a dragon is a horse…. so here’s a dragon horse….

              I’m totally sending it to my (also dragon loving) husband.

      • “Can be translated as ‘dragon’ ” … does that mean there are other ways to translate it? Because from the context, I would have thought it meant ‘guardian spirit’ of some kind. Something that is incorporeal, but can take solid form when it wants to. Occidental dragons are firmly corporeal entities, at least all the ones I’m familiar with are.

        Meister Gruenewald grows more interesting with every appearance and bit of backstory. Just how old is he? Does anyone know? Or is he like Methos from Highlander: even he doesn’t know, because his oldest memories have faded too much?

        I’m also more and more impressed by Lelia’s actions in M-Familiar. She actually gave an order to M.G. – and he obeyed! What does that say about both her authority and his opinion of her?

        • It says much about His Opinion of Her.

          IE He knew that if She Warned Of Danger that He should listen and Obey. At least, He should Obey and Then find out What Danger She Spotted.

          Of course, he also thought highly of Shadow and knew that Shadow wouldn’t marry a Stupid Woman.

          IMO It said nothing about “Her Authority” but also says something about his “wisdom”. A wise but arrogant “General” would listen to an officer lower-ranking than him if the officer warned of danger.

        • A Zmaj falls between dragon and guardian spirit and demon. He can be a protector and a father of heroes, a destructive and malign serpent, or truly evil (although not always. There’s a different beast that is always an evil-dragon dragon.) Dragon is probably the best English word, because serpent doesn’t really have the connotations of zmaj.

          • *is looking at that going “huh, sounds like an elf or a fay, or yasha, or oni, or whatever your local word for Supernatural is*

            • It’s more along the line of “river monsters, probably representing dangerous water, that need taming or killing” which were big in France, and which also got stuck into the dragon category.

              In the Eastern/southern US, it’s horned serpents. You drown, obviously the horned serpent did it. At least if you know somebody Cherokee or Shawnee.

  3. Has anyone consulted Art on what *he* wants to do with his magic? True, he’s young and untried, but I gather he’s been well trained in the fundamentals. He just might have his own ideas on what he wants to do with his life. I’m sure he’s overheard enough mutterings about M.G. to be wary. Given his parentage and upbringing, I foresee nasty shocks for both him and M.G. if M. G. tries to press the issue.

    • 1) Meister Gruenewald likely couldn’t imagine Art NOT coming to train with him. 😉

      2) I suspect that something will happen to convince Art that being trained by Meister Gruenewald is a Good idea as Alma posted a snippet with Art at MG’s school.

      However, I agree that it would have been “interesting” if Meister Gruenewald tried to force the issue.

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