Taymyn was a Therion girl. She sang a lot, and thought she had the wrong number of freckles: enough to be noticeable, but not enough to be cute. She loved to visit her father's office in Arlinac Town's enormous temple to Maw Lute. He was the temple's chief curator, managing its many collections.
One day, when she was five years old, she was leaving the temple with both her parents. They were once again discussing the collections she had seen that day. As they walked along the street, Taymyn pointed up at the dragon Maxijillian who perched atop the building as its guard and constant reminder of Maw Lute's influence. "When I grow up," she announced, "I will collect dragons."
Maxijillian, who often looked asleep even when awake, opened one eye. He spread his enormous wings, putting the entire block in shadow. He unwound his tail, nearly as long as the temple was tall, and pointed twice to the intersection in front of Taymyn. Then he lept from his perch.
Everyone in the intersection hurried to make room for the dragon. Maxijillian circled twice, then descended. When he landed the ground shook. Taymyn's parents were trembling, and her mother began an obsequious gesture. Maxijillian winked at her.
"Little girl," asked Taymyn, "what is your name?" Her parents recognized the question as a formality. Like all of Maw Lute's temple guardian dragons, he wore a golden ring that let him know the name of anyone he looked at.
"Taymyn," she replied, stepping out from behind her parents.
"I am Maxijillian," the dragon said. "Dragons are collectors. We are not part of any collection."
Taymyn curtsied as best she could. "You just have not tried it. You could be both. If you had parents you woud understand."
Maxijillian grinned. "Maw Lute is our mother—and father. She created us, sustains us, and shares her wealth with us. What could you, little Taymyn, do that she does not?"
Taymyn glanced at her parents, then answered. "Some day, when I am older, I could read you stories before you slept, and kiss you on the forehead for good dreams. And if your dolls needed repair I could sew them."
Maxijillian watched her, not minding the awkward silence.
Taymyn thought more. "I could sing to you, to make you feel better. And sometimes when angry it is nice to be able to shout at someone who loves you, knowing they will still love you even after you shout at them."
A mysterious expression flickered across Maxijillian's immense face. "Everyone will want to cover their ears," he said. Then he turned toward the temple and roared. He did not touch it, but the force of the sound compressed the thick stones of the wall, leaving a concave depression.
He turned back to Taymyn. "I accept your proposal. When you are older, when you are ready, if retain your desire, I will be part of your collection. Yet it will not easy to to love a shouting dragon. Be ready. Be sure you are ready." Then Maxijillian leapt up, spread his wings again with a wind that nearly knocked Taymyn over, and settled gently once more upon the temple's roof.
The next morning, after breakfast, the gifts and requests began. The first was a girl Taymyn's age carrying a picture-book, who wanted to be introduced to Maxijillian by "his new friend" so she could tell the dragon her favorite story. The second was a scholar who offered to instruct Taymyn in dragon lore. Her parents sent everyone away. But more people kept arriving.
At lunch time Taymyn's parents stopped answering the door, and left the bar across it.
At dinner time the street in front of their home suddenly grew quiet. "Excuse me," a very different voice repeated a few times. Someone knocked on the door, making the house shake.
Taymyn's father opened the door and saw Arlinac Town's other resident dragon, Munimenter the Herald, who always reclined in the main town square to answer heraldic questions about coats of arms, lineages, and demographics. Munimenter was a small dragon, only twenty feet long.
Munimenter nodded to Taymyn's father. "I heard your daughter is having trouble," he said. "Perhaps I should collect her. Only for a month. We could travel. I am overdue to take a circuit through the land's kingdoms to visit all royalty and update my heraldic knowledge."
"She is only four."
"Perfect. She is young enough to have no enemies and weigh little on my back, but old enough to use silverware when dining with royalty, and stay in a saddle. The princesses will adore her."
So, reluctantly, Taymyn's parents allowed her to travel with Munimenter. She did return in one month, as promised. But she left again the next day. Maw Lute created a new dragon to be Arlinac Town's official herald. Taymyn grew up spending weekends at home, and her other days visiting either royalty or other town herald-dragons to whom Munimenter provided up-to-date heraldic information.
One weekend she returned home and asked her parents what to do about a prince that had requested the promise of (in quite a few years) her hand in marriage.
Another weekend she returned home wearing a thin golden circlet. A king who ruled numerous small islands had appointed her "Princess of Violet Bay", an unoccupied tiny but pleasant isle on which he had constructed a vacation home for her and Munimenter.
Another weekend she returned home crying, for Munimenter had been summoned for heraldic duties as two kingdoms went to war. She had stayed at his side as he ferried diplomatic messages from king to king. (No one worried about tampering if a document was delivered by a herald-dragon.) Then she had stayed at his side after each battle ended as he accompanied the surviving soldiers who worked to identify their fallen comrades.
One year her parents retired, and moved to Violet Bay with some of their friends.
"I think I have taught you all I can," Munimenter said one afternoon as they drank tea. (She loved fine tea.) "Perhaps you should have some adventures without me. You are not getting any closer to collecting Maxijillian."
A week later Munimenter gave Taymyn a pouch of coins and jewels, outfits appropriate for a traveling princess, and one last, long flight during which she sang until her tears stopped and she stopped missing him so much before he even left.
Munimenter is spending several months at Violet Bay. Taymyn will go there to visit her parents and her best friend. But first she will prove that she is ready for her own adventures.
She will start in Arlinac Town. She has friends there she trusts, and can visit her grandparents. The Powers are about to host several contests there. She wants to start a new collection, and perhaps visiting the museum floors of the temple she so enjoyed as a child will inspire her.