Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Urban Bonsai

Nothing particularly unusual happened today, so I have little to write about other than what I told you yesterday. Instead, I think I'll tell you about my visit to Fresmareel.

It was a few years ago, during my trip to the Railway Regions. Fresmareel is one of the few villages in the Regions that is not connected to the railroad. Perhaps it will be someday. The town is built on land ruled by the dragon Agnathrommilax, a drake of middle years - three or four centuries - and somewhat eccentric tastes. He paints his scales in bright colors, wears the flags of extinct cities like scarves around his long neck, and collects gramophone records of Rampastulan opera. On clear days, the villagers can sometimes hear him singing along on distant mountaintops. They often mistake the sound for thunder.

The dragon lives alone in his cave. However, the villagers have known him to fly off for several days, carrying a plump mammoth or a particularly nice boulder of quartz, and they suspect that he might have a sweetheart on one of the other mountains.

He has allowed them to live on his land as long as they follow a series of rules.

They can hunt the deer and ground sloths in the area, but are forbidden to harm wolves, foxes, and dreadgoats, as many of the ones in the area are intelligent and the dragon's personal friends.

They must ask the dragon's permission before clearing large areas of land, and certain plants - such as wild lilies and whistle-sedge - are to be left alone entirely.

The village must be built in a perfect circle. Every building within it must also be a perfect circle. They are allowed to expand the village, but only in concentric rings around the current outlines, so that they preserve its shape.

The houses are to be painted white or other pale colors. They can paint their roofs in any colors or patterns they like, as long as they stick to a palette selected by the dragon. He seems to favor reds, oranges, browns, and the occasional intense blue.

Certain colors, such as black, mauve, and chartreuse, are forbidden except on special occasions, such as funerals. Other than that, the villagers may wear anything they like.

The dragon encourages singing; he has even been known to give lessons to those villagers whose voices particularly offend his ears.

The land is a rich and beautiful one, and aside from broad aesthetic decisions, the dragon leaves the people of Fresmareel free to govern their lives as they choose. Most of them see it as an exceptionally good agreement. Other than a certain care in their hunting and their choice of pigments, most hardly notice the effects of the dragon's rules at all. Many even consider themselves lucky to live in such a beautifully designed village.

The villagers note that several of the rules, such as those on expansion, have only come into effect when the colony reached a certain size; there had been no need for them before. Presumably, new ones will continue to be introduced as the population continues to grow. This might also be the reason for some of the more mysterious rules, such as the unusually wide streets.

Hunters have occasionally come upon the dragon perched on one of the many rocky cliffs that surround the valley, gazing down at the colony with a satisfied expression, as one might wear when observing a garden or a favorite work of art. Some have speculated that, rather than collecting art or metalwork - the most common manmade objects that dragons hoard - he is instead a connoisseur of urban planning.

It seems he is growing a bonsai town.

Dragons, after all, live for centuries and can afford to take their time. Who knows - perhaps Agnathrommilax is already planning what the city will look like hundreds of years from now.

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