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Was that a nod? His father had warned him about them. They were a way of saying “yes”, weren’t they? But how to be sure? The young dragon had never seen anybody nodding before, if you except his father’s rather tentative approximation. He just didn’t know enough about humans, that was the problem. But this one seemed to be in distress, and Solvi wanted to help. Was it because of what happened earlier that same day? For a human, the answer would probably have been yes but dragons address the world in a different way.

Offering to help, for them, is not something you should do. It is one of their taboos, I suppose.

Now, this is twice we have encountered that word, and maybe we should explain a bit more about it. Some dictionaries describe a taboo as a practice common in primitive societies, which tells you a lot more about the people who write in dictionaries than it does about taboos… The first thing you need to know about the practice is that taboos are not fixed for all time, whatever those who enforce them try to tell you. Especially in human societies they come and go, they grow or ebb. For instance: “you shall not eat meat on a Friday” is all but forgotten now, while “you shall not seek to become Prime Minister unless you have a few millions in the bank” is becoming stronger all the time.

There was also a period in history when disbelieving what a newspaper printed was unheard of in the extreme, but nowadays the hunt for the tiny speck of truth hypothetically present inside the pages of the dailies has become a national pastime.

But dragons are different, I guess, and do not break their taboos that easily. Maybe it’s because they have this huge one, the one they call the Curse hanging over their head the whole time… But more on that later.

So among all their taboos, all the thing they did not like to do was offering help. Oh! Helping out was fine! Or asking for help, for that matter. Some difficulties, some tasks are too big for even the one dragon. But offering help, the way they see it, was not helping, it was prancing around on the sidelines and hugging the limelight at the same time. It was implying you could Do It Better without offering any proof (another thing dragons don’t like: they want to have the facts on their side, to be able to back theirs words with evidences. Anything else is Contemptible, don’t you know?). In short it was insulting, demeaning. If help is needed, just help already! That is the view of most dragons. It has much to recommend it.

But Solvi was young, and that day not all that sure of himself. It take a lot of self belief to barge like this in somebody else’s life and change it for the better. He was not even at all certain that he could help. And, at that age, the habits of a lifetime had not been with him for very long.