The Lost Cloth
Tawnylda dabbed her Goat's Beard and lanolin ointment to her freckles and rubbed it in well. She couldn't say yet if the herbal cream was working to fade her freckles. Freckles were not the epitome of beauty in the viking world, but ultimately, she didn't really care overmuch. Wouldn't hurt to try, though. She tucked her sandy hair into her wool cap, draped on a thick cape, grabbed her pack, and tramped out into the snow.
Today Johann the Trader was arriving and she needed a particular item. Tinytoe the Snafflefang was waiting for her. He was one of Berk's many dragon residents. Tinytoe, though, had decided to make her home, barn, and bit of land, his also. He wasn't "hers" per se, it was more of a loose, mutually beneficial arrangement. He only had basic training for riding, but that was sufficient. Tinytoe flew down to Berk proper and then on to the docks. Tawnylda removed a filet of lutefisk from her bag and placed it in his awaiting mouth. It was payment of sorts for taxi service.
Johann gestured widely when her saw her. "Ahh, Mistress Tawnylda? How is your spectacular dyecraft fairing?"
Most people dyed their own textiles, but Tawnylda had made a craft of it. She could produce just about any color from materials available around Scandinavia. She had her barn set up for her flock of sheep, but also as her workshop of sorts. It even had its own vent openings in the roof to vent the smoke. Dyeing typically happened outdoors (it didn't always smell so great), but Berk's winters were long and harsh so the process needed to be brought inside.
"It goes well, thank you!" Tawnylda replied cheerfully. "Do you have it?" she asked eagerly.
"Well of course, dear lady!" He rummaged on his ship for a moment and then brought out a clay jar tied closed with cord. He loosed the cording and flashed her the contents inside: a peculiar whitish mineral salt. Tawnylda peered in, then nodded approval. Johann closed the lid and tightened the cords. "Well this Alum came from a fair distance away from Berk, in the land of ..." He started prattling off on a tangential story.
Tawnylda mostly tuned him out and started unpacking her goods to trade: Four rolls of fabric in a brilliant canary yellow, made from a dye of the Weld plant, and mordanted with this special salt. She also pulled out several skeins of wool yarn in shades of green produced by Nettle.
Johann stopped his yammering. "My, as always, such bright colors!" he exclaimed. Tawnylda handed over the textiles in exchange for the Alum. "Well, you know, as I was sailing around the far side of Berk Isle, I saw a large swatch of cloth this very color, caught underneath a sea stack. It was quite odd to see such a bright object just lost to the winter wind. Do you suppose it is one of yours?"
Tawnylda blinked in surprise. "Yes, odd indeed. But I haven't lost any of my cloths. It was on the north-end you say?" The far side of Berk was not very populated and mostly left for the wild things.
"Yes, Mistress Tawnylda," he confirmed. He also glanced at Tinytoe. "But you need to fly low if you are going to investigate the errant cloth. It is under a lip of rock on a ledge that you might miss from dragon-back up high," he advised.
Tawnylda's curiosity was quite stirred. Perhaps the wind had snatched the bright yellow cloth, but it seemed an odd time to dry fabric outside. Perhaps some of it was salvageable. It took many hours to days to produce a large swatch of fabric, and every bit was used.
Tawnylda bid Johann a good-day and climbed back on Tinytoe with her Alum tucked safely in a saddle bag. "We are going just a little bit out of our way, if you don't mind," she said patting the Snafflefang. "Don't worry, I have more lutefisk for you."
Tinytoe jumped into the air and Tawnylda tapped her heels on the dragon's sides to guide him. He rumbled questioningly, but obliged her. Soon they were coasting just above the choppy sea, weaving between the multitude of sea-stacks around the Isle of Berk. Just ahead loomed a large stack, and indeed there was a flash of yellow hidden on a small ledge. It was the color of weld-dyed wool. After being mordanted with Alum, that is.
Tinytoe made a bee-line for it, since it was like a beacon amongst the much drabber colors of winter. However, getting closer he rumbled strangely a few times and sniffed at the air.
"Oh. OH. That's not wool, is it?" Tawnylda exclaimed, finally seeing what Tinytoe had already detected. It was a bright yellow dragon. A very still, unmoving, but violently shivering one.
Tinytoe automatically swooped in and clung to the ledge, sniffing at the dragon. She hissed at him weakly in protest. The dragon's hide looked rather thin, and not very insulated. In fact, Tawnylda hadn't seen this species before, and she looked ill-equipped for Northern Winters.
"Hello dragon, what are you doing up here? There are warmer places to be," she said, carefully patting the dragon's cold rump. The dragon hissed again in protest, but flopped her head back down. Tinytoe nudged the dragon with his over-sized snout. She just balled up tighter. With harsh Northern winters, Tawnylda had seen the like many times in humans. If they got too cold they might loose fingers or toes, and if they fell asleep they might not wake up again. This dragon was clearly not able to fly, at this point. She needed to leave this sea stack for someplace warmer. As if to drive the point home, a biting wind blew up.
Tawnylda wasn't quite sure how to communicate with Tinytoe properly, but she pointed at the chilled dragon and made a lifting motion several times. She even ventured to pick up the dragon's tail and tug on it. Tinytoe watched her and finally she thought she saw understanding dawn on his face. She climbed back aboard his back.
The yellow dragon was smaller than Tinytoe, and seemed rather too skinny. Tinytoe huffed though, and grasped the dragon with all his legs. This time the yellow dragon let out a weak grumble and made a poor attempt to snap at Tinytoe's feet. He pulled her off the rock shelf and sunk a little in the air. The dragon's orange wing hung down, and she couldn't even hold it to her body for more than a few moments. Tawnylda hoped she didn't get even colder on the way back to her home, but she couldn't stay here either.
Tinytoe flew awkwardly back to their home. He dropped the weld-colored dragon in front of the barn and dragged her in. He sniffed her over. She remained quiet, but awake. Satisfied with his work and a little winded from his trip, Tinytoe went over to his customary wallow in the dirt and hay, and fell asleep.
Tawnylda restarted the fire on one side of the barn serving as a dye workshop. The other side had her small flock of fluffy white sheep, munching on their hay.
She held out her hand to the dragon. She didn't utter anything, but moved her head away. Well, the dragon didn't seem aggressive, at least not in this sickly state.
Tawnylda donned some snow boots and walked herself back to Berk. She only had a few dried fish for herself and some lutefisk, but not enough for the dragon. Tinytoe fished for himself, or made use of the dragon feeding stations. She took a large sack to put fish in and left.
First she stopped by Johann's ship again. "Well, back again, I see!" he said jovially.
"Yes! I have a bit of news to report. That yellow cloth was not fabric at all, but a dragon!" Tawnylda explained. She described to him the dragon in detail, hoping he knew what to make of her.
"Well Mistress Tawnylda, she does sound ill-equipped for the cold, so perhaps she originated from more temperate climes. Some dragons migrate, you know. I'll see them from my ship, flocking in great hordes high in the sky, flying to some unknown destination," he said.
"Then perhaps she got blown off course, as happens with birds," Tawnylda speculated.
"Yes, that's quite possible. If I may theorize, perhaps she is a Noelani Dragon, from your detailed description," Johann offered.
"Oh! Do you know more about them?"
He shook his head. "I'm afraid not. Dragons are not my forte. But the stories I've heard do say they like playing gleefully amongst the clouds on a sunny day."
Tawnylda thanked Johann for what information he had supplied. She stopped by a dragon feeding station and filled her bag with as much fish as she could handle, and stomped back home.
Entering into the barn, she dropped the bag and let out a tired huff. Tinytoe was still sleeping in his corner, but the weld-colored dragon was not where she had left her. Tawnylda looked around the barn. She was still here, unless she knew how to open and close barn doors. Instead of finding her near the fire or in the hay, the dragon had dragged herself to the sheep and inserted herself into the flock! Bits of yellow shown through the sheeps' woolly hides. Well, wool was a good insulator from the cold.
Tawnylda brought over a few small fish and held one out to the dragon. The sheep parted to allow her to the dragon. The dragon raised her head - which was already an improvement - and regarded her, grumbling. She placed the fish down on the ground. The sheep immediately stepped forward, thinking it was a treat for them, then backed away disgruntled upon sniffing it. "Here you go, weld-colored dragon," Tawnylda said to her and stepped away. She had daily chores to accomplish. "You may stay here. I see I needn't worry about you eating the sheep. You may go as you please, but I would suggest staying near habitation until Spring comes," she advised, knowing perfectly well the dragon did not understand her words, but perhaps she understood her tone and gestures. It was okay; She seemed to be listening all the same.
The dragon slowly ate the fish. Tawnylda left the other fish near the fire in the basket. She wasn't worried about leaving a fire in the barn. Tinytoe was mindful of it. She had barrels of water here, too. Once Tinytoe had caught some hay on fire accidentally, and she saw him stamp it out. At another instance, she had seen a dragon scoop water into its mouth and douse some flames. Dragons were rather smart and contientious beasts.
Tawnylda left the dragons in peace and went about her business. But before closing the door she said," If you do stay awhile, perhaps I will call you WeldWing."
The next morning the bright yellow dragon - WeldWing - was curled up beside the weakened fire. he basket of fish was empty. Tinytoe seemed to have already gone out for the day. Tawnylda gave more hay to the sheep and threw open another door to the pastures. There was snow on the ground, but the sheep would find sustenance. A breeze blew in and WeldWing shuddered. It seemed she would not be leaving today. This dragon seemed to have no tolerance for the cold and was still debilitated besides. She went about her work with the dragon watching and sleeping intermittently.
With each passing day, WeldWing remained and grew stringer and more affable. Tawnylda still had to bring fish, as the yellow dragon refused to go out in the cold. Perhaps one day she could cobble together a fleece blanket for the dragon, so she might go outside a little. Even Tinytoe brought back a fish or two, after stuffing himself, of course. The boulder class dragon even dropped a few rocks in the barn, but WeldWing was not interested in those. Obviously she was not a Boulder class dragon, or presumably, a Tracker class, since she got lost in the first place from wherever she was from.
Weldwing became quite a fixture, and as Winter wore on, Tawnylda wondered if she would leave in Spring. Wonder and some worry - she was really quite fond of her. But there was nothing to do but wait and watch, and let time pass.
About Noelani Dragons:
- "Noelani" is a Hawaiian name meaning "Heavenly Mist".
- (quoted directly from Creator Hootowlighbulb): "The Noelani is quite agile, and loves flying through the clouds. They also love making art from the clouds and forming different shapes into them. They're very smart. They are not too social but not too territorial either. They aren't very viscous if you try to train them, but they may take a while to learn to trust you."
- Despite their portrayal in HTTYD and their savage stereotype, Vikings were actually rather clean for the times. They took baths, washed their face and hands daily, and cared for their hair. Men kept their beards trimmed, neat, and combed. Freckles, unfortunately, were not considered attractive. Blonde hair was prized, so much so that there is evidence that Vikings dyed their hair to achieve it.
- Many plants can be used to dye fibers. The most widely known from historic Viking archeological finds and other cultures in Europe were: Weld (yellow), Madder (red), and Woad (blue). Some dyes will stick with the fabric and not come out after wear and washing (substantive dyes), but many need the help of a mordant to treat the material in order to stick (adjective dyes). The most popular - at least in modern times - is Alum, but copper, iron, tannin (usually from bark or oak galls), other substance and even stale urine were used. Every aspect of the dying process can produce different shades or entirely different colors. Factors include where the plants were grown, how long the fibers were simmered, the mordant(s) used and at what stage, hardness or softness of water, original color of the fiber, etc.