Very little happens for the rest of the weekend. Eli goes back to see Widow Adeline on Sunday morning, where he's promptly made to prune a huge hedge made of roses. It leaves him scratched and bleeding and irritated, although the wounds heal up as soon as he assumes his dragon-shape in Adeline's grotto. It feels good to be out of his human skin, and the sun is shining for the first time in like forever, so Eli lazes around on the warm rocks while Adeline tries to teach him Xyl'tha, the language of dragons.
Eli never did have much of a way with languages, and the dragons' in particular is . . . odd. It's all back-of-the-throat hissing and tongue-clicks. Nothing with the lips, which Eli supposes makes sense, given he doesn't really have any in this shape.
The writing system is more interesting, in his opinion. It looks a little like the cuneiform he's seen on little clay tablets in the Met; all carved lines and angles. And it's sort of like Chinese, in that it's made of little symbols, not letters. Except the symbols are syllables, not pictures, and are made up of a part that represents a vowel and a consonant. So what looks like a complex language of thousands of characters is actually only made up of a few dozen different lines. It's pretty cool, and Eli is writing in it in no time: transcribing English as best he can onto a whiteboard with a chunky marker that sits in his claw like one of Zoe's ridiculously tiny Asian ballpoints.
The other thing about Xyl'tha is that it's gendered, except not like Spanish, where words are "masculine" or "feminine." Instead, the dragons apparently divided up the world as "dragon things," "mortal things," and "evil things." So to themselves, the dragons are asa, humans are asyu, and monsters are asàk. Which Eli figures is kind of cool, because so long as he knows one word in a trinity, he can start to work out the others by the endings.
The language lesson reminds Eli of Saturday, so he asks Widow Adeline about the word he'd heard Brooklyn and Fargo use: utukku.
"It's Akkadian," Widow Adeline tells him. "The language they spoke in ancient Mesopotamia. The utukku were evil spirits. Monsters. It's a corruption of the Xyl'tha word, asàkki."
"So why is it the go-to noun for our resident dragonslayers?
Widow Adeline sighs. "The Lyddan Group has had many names over the ages. Some believe their oldest to be the Sworn of Gilgamesh." Then, when the name elicits no reaction in Eli: "The first dragonslayer. To the takkan, he is Khil'kánek. He and his lover, Ankitsu, slew the Great Dragon of Cedar, Unkàtsa."
"I see," says Eli, who totally doesn't.
So Xyl'tha is hard, in other words, and Widow Adeline spends the entire morning drilling it into Eli until his head hurts and his claws ache from gripping the pen. By lunchtime, he still can't pronounce the difference between xshoyu (eating) and shoyu (sandal), let alone xshóyu (will be eating) and xshòyu (was eating).
"I'll never learn this," he says, human again, in Widow Adeline's foyer. He's tried a few words in human form and they're even harder to pronounce than when he's a dragon.
"You will," says Adeline, patting him on the cheek with a sly half-smile.
After Adeline's, Eli goes to hang out with Zoe. They don't do much. He's brought his laptop and his 'pad so he messes around with a few half worked-out tracks. Zoe's is still hunched over the spellbook she took from the sorcerer's bunker, flipping between reading it and taking notes in her own grimoire.
"I figured out why the magic works," she announces at one point.
"It's the peryton"—xa'rìk, Eli thinks, but doesn't correct—"or, rather, its . . . body parts, I guess?"
YOU ARE READING
The Dragon of Rosemont HighTeen Fiction
Four months ago, the death of his parents sent Elias Drake from New York City to the small town of Rosemont. Living with his workaholic aunt and trying to fit into a new school is no small task, especially not when a string of murders turns out to h...