The Questioner(dragon)

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'The Questioner' is a Dragon known in Grunn folklore for asking a supposedly impossible question and eating those who could not answer it. Since there were never any first hand reports of individuals being asked the question, for years public opinion has alternated between treating his stories as allegory, and alternatively, taking the lack of record about the riddle as proof that he consumes the answerer.

Most popular of these in the current age, is the 'Tale of Awen' originally told by the Elves, which many use to explain why The Questioner has apparently not been seen for years (There are others who dispute this idea, but almost all the stories they put forward as evidence have either been described as derivative or impossible to substantiate)

Outside of these folktales the only who are said to know more of The Questioner's actual history are other dragons, and at most one other mortal: Ethral of the line of Elrington.

The Tale of Awen

There is a tale told by the Lofty Elves. The tale concerns a scholar called Awen. It was said Awen was well-learned and knew the truth of a great many things, and even the secrets of a few things which are much rarer still. While travelling between two great cities of the Lofty People to find a book in a different library a dark spot blocked the sun that shone on him, and quickly swooped down to block his path... It was a Dragon. "What can I do for you Master Dragon?" Awen asked, showing calmness but certitude, despite the fear he felt... For he knew many things, and one of the things he knew what that Dragons were perhaps the least predictable of all the many creatures on Grunn, you could not count on them to attack like an animal, nor count on them to speak like an Elf or Mann, some it was said, even spoke to people who had long since left... or were yet to arrive. Some even spoke to worlds no mere mortal could see.

This particular dragon saw Awen, and spoke to him as if he were in front of him (which quite fortunately he was) "Elf, I come with a question for you. Answer it to my satisfaction and you may leave with your life... Fail and you shall nourish my stomach if not my mind." Awen quailed at these words, for he realised he had heard tell of this particular dragon... But that none had lived to tell others of his question. Swallowing hope, Awen looked up "What is your question, Lord Dragon?" he asked. "It is this, Awen, scholar of the Lofty People... " The Dragon intoned. "How can I be certain that you are not merely a fabrication of my mind?"

Awen was surprised at this, the creature knew his name and reputation... This seemed to suggest that this encounter was not as random as it had seemed, and perhaps the creature genuinely wished to find an answer for it's impossible question. Awen thought for a moment and recalled something pertinent. A human philosopher once said that if a babe were born in a dark cave, unable to see anything and were raised by an invisible illusionist, the illusionist could shape an entire false world arround the babe and it would never know that was not the world, because that is all it has seen, all it can see. Indeed, we cannot be sure that we are not ourselves trapped in the philosopher's cave, hypothetically speaking." The Dragon sighed at this, "I am aware of the philosophy... it has come up several times. If anything it makes the weight of the proof you must present that much heavier" The dragon said, rumbling. "Those who follow such a path to it's conclusion would argue there is no proof sufficient to prove that ANYTHING exists"

"Are you saying it is Impossible?" The Dragon purred, it's teeth parting slightly in anticipation. "No, no" Awen said rapidly, regretting his attempt to show off with a clever answer... "Those who call a thing impossible normally do so out of ignorance. So you cannot trust the evidence of your senses?" Awen asked cautiously. "No, i will not. The senses are fallible: Magic, a dim light, even a bad dream or a bad meal can fool the senses" The Dragon said sincerely, if hungrily. Awen's mind flew then... flew like a sparrow flies, flew as though his life depended on it, which it just might. "It may be impossible to prove the world is not just the creation of a mind... but that is not what you asked, you merely asked me to prove there is no way my form and my thoughts are a creation of YOUR mind..." Awen mused aloud. The Dragon groaned slightly "Do not seek to distract me with trivialities, if you seek to extend your life by not answering the question I WILL eat you without an answer" The dragon warned. "Have no fear of that, I may yet have an answer for you. Tell me Lord Dragon, Can you trust your thoughts and your memories?" Awen asked.

This was a new question, one the Dragon had not considered... he thought about this for a small while and then reluctantly answered "I suppose I must" It said "For they are what determine who I am."

"Then surely-" Awen said smiling "-to prove i am not your own mind talking with you, all i need do is tell you a fact that you yourself do not know!" he asserted. To this the Dragon merely raised an eyebrow "Do you not think others have suggested the same thing, little Elf? Recall that the lives of Dragons are long... very long. You might say in my long life i have probably forgotten more things than you have learned in all of yours." The Dragon responded with a toothy grin. Awen's heart sank. It dug low as though hiding amongst his guts to avoid being eaten. How am i supposed to know a fact that a Dragon could not have picked up in it's long life? Awen thought to himself desperately. And perhaps more important, even if I find such a clue how can i be sure he will not simply dismiss it and then simply devour me? The long hot day and the stress of this sudden confrontation had wearied Awen, he longed to rest and reorder his thoughts, but if he rested now it would be the final rest of one returned to the goddess. "I understand how to prove to you beyond doubt that I am not a figment of your imagination." Awen said with sudden certainty. "Really?" The Dragon asked with amusement. "In order to recognise that which is not you, you must first understand yourself completely." Awen said with growing confidence. "How do you suggest such a thing?" The Dragon growled, arching an eyebrow. "I will show you how to Trance, as my people do." Awen said. "Then show me, Elf" The Dragon responded.

"Not here," The Elf averred, thinking quickly. "The bright sunlight will make it harder for you to focus. We need a place not disturbed by sunlight nor by breeze or weather" Awen extrapolated quickly, putting the pieces of his plan into motion. "I hope this is not some foolish attempt to get me to bring you back to my horde, where you hope to seize a ruby the size of your head and run home with it while I sleep, like the human hero out of a tale for their children." The Dragon said, exhaling a warm breath, warningly. "No risk of that" Awen offerred. "Most Elves only trance for 3 or 4 hours unless they are old, some even less than that when young... and as you know, we are several hours away from the nearest village." The Dragon weighed this for a moment, found it acceptable and then added "And we shall be further yet away when i take you in-claw in fly you to the cave of my choice."

Awen was a creature of the ground, and had no desire to fly, but he had counted on the Dragon doing so and as they rose above the earthly obstacles he saw in which direction the nearest village lay. With some measure of dismay he saw that they were flying away from it... he had to content himself with the idea that his plan had compensated for the extra distance. "Tell me Lord Dragon" He Asked, struggling to make himself heard over the rushing wind "How long has your glorious life been so far?" Awen asked. "As i told you before, long enough to forget lifetime's worth of knowledge" The Dragon rumbled. "Then you have outlived many generations of Elves?" Awen asked tentatively. "Several, i would imagine." The Dragon boomed "Here we are!" it spoke as they descended towards a cave mouth. As they entered the cave, Awen spoke up "Now will you release me so that i may instruct you in how to Trance?" he asked hopefully. The Dragon looked at him and scoffed dissmissively. "I don't think I shall" it said "You wish me to simply sleep and leave you to wonder around or leave? No. If you'll recall when I awake you will still owe me an answer as to why i should not simply believe you are not a figment which i could devour with moral impunity."

Awen tried not to panic at this, he hadn't planned on being trapped within the creature's grasp... it would make what he had to do that much harder. He just had to pray to the Goddess that it would still be possible. He instructed the creature in the breathing pattern, the focusing ritual, and finally the mantra of introspection. Within a short period of time the Dragon was in self-imposed trance... he had in fact, picked it up much quicker than even young elves. Now was when Awen had to act. He wriggled within the Dragon's grasp, not so rapidly as to waken him, but enough over time to loosen his grip. He then had to struggle upwards, inching more and more of his shoulders and then arms free.

Once his elbows were above the claw he freed his arms and pushed himself upwards. It had taken him quite a while, but one could review their whole life in a trance... and Dragons have such very long lives. With the sun setting, Awen made the long trek to the nearest village, and still the Dragon tranced.

With the sun long set, Awen arrived at the village at night, and still the Dragon tranced.

The stars wheeled overhead and Awen spent a restless night fearing the Dragon would seek him out, and yet still the Dragon tranced.

Awen bought a good Elven steed, rode for several days to the capital, and still the Dragon tranced.

Awen told his tale to others, then those others told it for him. Then yet others told it to others, until word reached the lands of men, even then the Dragon tranced.

The Dragon still tranced while a Man collected all the tales of the land and wrote them into a book. It is this book you are holding now.

They say he trances still, allive, and waiting to demand an answer of the first person who dares to wake him up.

See also

'The Questioner', a Demon lord of the same name.

Ethral of the line of Elrington, of the Lofty People, chosen of The Questioner