James' Tour of the Clans
Or
Why Everyone's Crazy but Me

By Bayushi Mirumoto James

Chapter I: Insert requisite Joke Involving the Word "Drag" Here

"Wonderful," I grumbled, trudging along the wooded trail. "Just what I need. Like I have the time to find a new clan. Great. Just frickin' great." I sighed, glaring up the trail as if I expected an answer from it.

"Well, as long as I'm here, I may as well try the Dragon first. I'm in their land, already…. Guess that'll save me a bit of walking."

Ah, how the human mind tends to omit critical information at critical times. One would've thought I would've remembered that the Dragon live on a mountain. And so, three days and 5, 287,432,873 uphill steps later, I somehow managed to stumble on the keep of the Dragon.

Panting, wheezing, sweating, and in various other forms of bodily discomfort, I dragged myself to the door and rapped as loudly as my waning strength would allow. Soon afterward, a strapping young Dragon lad, bald as an egg and tattooed from head to toe, answered me. He looked down at my bedraggled form, perhaps pondering whether I was real or just some figment of his imagination. Or maybe he was mulling over the possibility I was some form of forest spirit come to ravage his people. Or, perhaps he was just wondering what was for lunch. To be honest, I couldn't tell.

"Can I help you, friend," he asked.

"…. Gurgle…….," I replied

Apparently my stirring oratory won over the Dragon's tender heart, because the next thing I knew I was lying in a warm bath, with a steaming bowl of rice next to me.

Cozy. If there's anything to be said about the Dragon, their service is great.

Soon, a couple more Dragon came in to check on yours truly. One of them may have been the one who met me at the gates, but I couldn't be sure; all those bald people look alike, after all. The two whispered between one another for a while. Then they whispered some more. Then followed more whispering. Finally, after a few more moments of heated whispering, they got around to addressing me.

"Friend Scorpion… What brings you to our humble home?"

I swallowed a mouthful of rice. "Well… I'm looking to join your clan."

And again, my hosts returned to their whispering. Fortunately, the faint buzzing of their muted conversation was the perfect white noise for a soothing nap.

And what a nap it was. Warm, cozy….

And then I woke up.

I came to some time later in a darkened room on some sort of odd chair-table-type contraption. My arms and legs were bound to the sinister contraption with tough leather straps, and I could hear voices murmuring in the dim candlelight nearby.
Naturally, I met my new surroundings with a bit of apprehension.

Soon, however, the Dragon managed to calm my nerves (and my screaming), and another of them explained the situation to me:

"We have considered your request to join our clan, Scorpion, and have decided to allow it. But first, you must undergo a small… procedure."

I gulped. "What kind of procedure?"

The Dragon smiled. "You must be tattooed."

"Um… Okay. So, what does this whole tattooing thing involve? Isn't it done with some sort of brushes or little mallets or something?

The young Dragon looked puzzled. "No, there aren't any brushes. It's done with needles."

And again, I gulped. "…. Needles?"

"Yes. Needles." He produced what I assumed was one of the implements in question… Or maybe it was just a really thin sword. I couldn't be sure.

"I… uh… I don't really care much for needles"

The dragon patted me on my shoulder. "Have no fear. It will be over before you know it."

He raised the needle and touched it to my bare forehead. And with that, I promptly lost consciousness.

If there was one thing to be said about my stay with the Dragon, I was getting plenty of good, quality rest.

When I reawakened, I was once again greeted by a congregation of my shiny-headed captors, still discussing… whatever it was that they discuss whenever I'm asleep.

A topic I'd figure they would've exhausted by now.

"Ah… you have awakened again. We have decided that before you are tattooed, perhaps you should join us our daily meditation. Then you may ponder your fears and perhaps reach a solution as to what the root of this fear is."

I sat up from in bed. "Hey, maybe I'm getting ahead of things here, but it doesn't take much pondering for me to figure out what the root of my fear is. It's simple; I don't like being stabbed with sharp things!!!!"

Another Dragon knelt beside me and put his hand on my shoulder. "You are speaking with your raw feelings, friend Scorpion. Please…. Join us in the courtyard and meditate on what you are feeling. Only then will the answers come."

The group then stood me up and led me into a sun-lit stone courtyard, where they (after a lengthy discussion on the proper procedure) sat me down with them. Then, they proceeded to allow their eyes to glaze over and stare off into space.

I was flabbergasted. This was meditation? Somehow, I expected something a bit more constructive.

I waited a few minutes to see if I got any further instruction as to exactly what I was supposed to be doing, but none came. My associates were all too involved in…. Well, whatever they were so fascinated with. I thought at first that perhaps there was something incredibly interesting on the far wall that was holding their attention, but my own staring brought no further insight.

I sighed. "So, is this all you guys do?"

A chorus of aggravated shushes erupted around me.

"… Kinda boring, isn't it?"

More shushing.

Sensing I had quite possibly committed a faux pas, I went back to my own staring. And I still could not find a single thing about the exercise that was even remotely interesting, enlightening, or entertaining. Still, I did my best to entertain myself.

I found that there were approximately 5,873,252 bricks in the south wall of the courtyard.

Every once in a while, I discovered a cloud that looked like a bunny-rabbit.

The left side of my butt went numb exactly three times.

After a time, I found that if I shifted my weight slightly every ten minutes or so, the problem could be rectified.

After a few hours, however, I found myself getting pretty bored with all this meditation. Perhaps the unadulterated thrill ride the last few hours had been had just worn me down, or maybe it was the wonderfully hot sun, but I was getting horrendously tired… and thirsty.

"Say, does anyone else want a drink of water? I could sure go for something cold, right now. In fact, if you guys would like, I could just go grab a…."

Now you, the humble reader, may have noticed that over the course of my brief stay with the Dragon, I have found quite a few ways to lose consciousness. Overall, being smacked in the back of the head with a blunt object is probably in a dead heat for my least favorite with passing out from lack of food.

When I woke up THIS time, I found myself lying on the ground…. Somewhere. One of the Dragon was standing over me. He glared at me for quite a while, his head shining like a second sun, before he finally spoke:

"I am sorry, Scorpion, but we have decided not to allow you to join our clan. Your mind simply lacks the focus of a true Dragon…. And you take a hit like a girl. Fortunately for you, I managed to save you from my peers; they were preparing to tattoo unkind things on your nether parts before I brought you here."

"Um…. Thanks." I smiled lopsidedly.

He didn't.

"Here." He tossed a small sack into my lap. "There should be enough food in there to get you to the next town. I wish you well in your travels…" And, on that tepid note, he left me to my own devices.

So, dejectedly, I pulled myself to my feet and began the long trip back down the mountain.

"One… Two… Three…"

To be Continued…