Odd Prompts

Odd Prompts: Reed Dragons


A bit of something, with more planned, perhaps. 


‘The reed dragon is one of the smallest species of dragon. Its natural habitat is reed beds. It is flightless and wingless, and very rarely breathes fire. It has excellent camouflage, is extremely stealthy and has excellent acceleration from rest, making it a highly-skilled stealth hunter. Very little field observation has been successfully carried out.’ — Encyclopedia Arcanum, Vol X


“My Uncle saw a reed dragon once.”

The entire group turned and stared at Darcy. The little undergraduate with the fluffy yellow hair flushed bright pink. She tipped her snub nose up slightly..

“Well, he did.”

“Reed Dragons are elusive, but they have been seen.” Prof. Pamplebottom was always the peacekeeper. 

Sometimes James wondered how this rowdy group had accreted around the gentle gray-haired man, who more resembled the Marsh Heron than anything else. Tall, stooped, with a long beak like nose. He peered at the world inquisitively from underneath bushy grey eyebrows. When observed in the field, his natural habitat, Professor Pamplebottom invariably wore a battered cotton hat. 

Although once, just once, James had observed him striding across campus swinging his cane and sporting a dapper gray Fedora. He had also been dressed in a suit, and it was only the man’s tall thin stooped posture that had given James a clue he was seeing his professor outside the natural habitat of the field, or laboratory, where he invariably dressed in khaki cargo pants and a sweater. The sweaters were legendary, as he wore them all the time, even in summer. James had noted, in the three years he’d been observing the man, that some of the sweaters were thinner and later presumably than the heavy cable knit Irish fishing sweater he was currently wearing. 

James turned his attention back to Darcy. She wasn’t quite the fluff brain that she appeared to be on the outside. It wasn’t her fault that she was maybe 90 pounds soaking wet with a halo of angelic curls and a face that betrayed her every emotion in skin tone. She made very sharp observations, and was capable of being exquisitely quiet in the field, a trait James valued highly. Which was more than he can say for…

Everyone’s uncle has seen a Reed Dragon.” Harshman’s languid drawl managed to come out loud, as always, and bored. James still had figured out why the grad student had joined the group working with Prof. Pamplebottom’s research. Harshman went on, “I will say, the Reed Dragon is a worthy pursuit. It has not been observed in, what? A century now?”

“There was a fire, two years ago… that burned 100 hectares…” Porrie never ended a sentence with a period. It always trailed off to vague uncertainty. They were used to it at this point. When he first joined the group they’d spent a lot of time staring at him awkwardly, waiting for what came next.

James had long since decided it was something in Porrie’s upbringing that had caused this verbal tic. A man with a name like Porrigan had to have had a terrible upbringing.

“It is indeed a worthy subject for observation,” Prof. Pamplebottom smiled and nodded encouragingly. “And it will be the subject of our next field trip. I intend for us to spend five days in the reed beds south of Jordan. I will require that everyone bring their camping gear into the lab,” he subtly emphasized those last words. “For inspection prior to the trip. Also you will have to sign a waiver.”

James had no problem with this, he knew his gear was solid, he had spent a good deal of time and money in making sure that it was. Not that he’d gone out and bought the fanciest stuff, but sometimes it was worth buying quality, and not worrying about the cheap thing folding up on you like the disaster that had been Wilhelm’s tent on the last trip. James eyed this silent member of the group. He managed to slouch into a near formless blob on top of his lab stool. His rough brown hair, bleached son gold at the tips, hung over his ears and down the back of his lab coat. He resembled nothing so much, James thought with an inner amused smile he didn’t let appear on his face, as a stack of reeds left to try out the sun. 

“Five days?” Darcy piped up.

“Does that seem like too long, Ms. Austin?” Dr. Pamplebottom regarded her with a gentle paternal smile.

“No, no,” she assured him hastily.

They can all tell from the pink on her cheeks that it wasn’t okay, but the little undergraduate wouldn’t admit it.

Dr. Pamplebottom turned his beneficent gaze onto the rest of them, a wide smile slowly spreading across his face. Jim felt the sinking sensation in his stomach. He had only observed this particular expression a few times. It meant that Dr. Pamplebottom had something special in store for them. Since the last time involved a sack, a very angry badger, and three stitches for James, he was a little dubious about the origin of this smile.

“I have arranged special transportation for us. We’re going to be flown in by helicopter and dropped off for the duration of the field trip. Also,” he added almost as an afterthought, starting to turn away from the group seated before him in the lab as he said it, “the Hirschel twins, Mia and Dia, will be joining us.”

“With the aid of the helicopter,” the professor went on, showing his enthusiasm in his gesticulations. “We shall be able to penetrate further into the reed beds than any other explorer before us!”

“Prof., there are people who live out there.” Darcy’s voice was quiet as she protested.

Prof. Pamplebottom waved his hands in a vague flapping gesture of dismissal. “Ah, but are they such trained observers as you? This group, I have high hopes for this group. We shall be able to record such observations. Not just of the Reed Dragon, for I am certain we shall see one, but of the myriad other inhabitants of this peculiar ecology.”

James looked around the room, no one looked particularly excited, Reed Dragon promises or not. Although they had done camping out field trips in the past, this was the first time that they would be so far away from the college, and comforts of home. James crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the wall. It was going to be interesting, even if nobody saw a dragon. In fact, he was beginning to think it might be better if they didn’t find any dragons. He wasn’t sure how far you can trust that ‘rarely breathes fire’ in the Encyclopedia Arcanum’s description.


I was prompted this week by AC Young, with the lengthy: “This week’s entry: The joint postgraduate/undergraduate biology field research team entered the reeds with care. The information on their quarry was sparse: ‘The reed dragon is one of the smallest species of dragon. Its natural habitat is reed beds. It is flightless and wingless, and very rarely breathes fire. It has excellent camouflage, is extremely stealthy and has excellent acceleration from rest, making it a highly-skilled stealth hunter. Very little field observation has been successfully carried out.’” 

I prompted Leigh Kimmel with “The tree fell, and in the hole it left, they found…” 

You can read the prompt responses, and even take part in the challenge yourself, over at MOTE


6 thoughts on “Odd Prompts: Reed Dragons

  1. Very interesting.

    I wonder who will and who won’t see the elusive reed dragons. 😀

    1. Oh, I wonder about this Professor. I got the idea that there’s something “interesting” about him. 😉

  2. You can sorta make “five day field trip” fit into the same space as “three hour tour” and don’t even need to get your patented Acme brand word compactor out of storage.
    And now that the song is playing in your head, I will help you out.
    “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
    a tale of a long field trip,
    that started from this college town,
    aboard a small airship.”

    I took a bit of poetic license by renaming the helicopter.

    I’m with James on this one, “rarely” doesn’t mean the same as “never.”

    1. My hindbrain gnawed on it for a while and decided that I could cram “…a whirly bird.” in the space.

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