Today, Lady Q decided to install plumbing at the inn with the help of her dragon friend, George. The idea did not go over very well with the locals; it was 501 A.D. and no one knew what plumbing was. In earlier times, people were prone to call new ideas witchcraft, devil's work, and other various sundries of names. However, Lady Q was determined to have a shower, and in order for that to happen, one must have plumbing.

And so, this is how the great plumbing adventure began.

The idea started with a dream about hot and cold water falling freely into a tub. Her dreams were haunted by contraptions called faucets, which turned the shower on and shut it off.

In the early morning, she set about gathering tools for the project. Lady Q lived in the ancient Irish land of Tir na Nog and implements were rather primitive. She collected an axe, a sharp stone, a wedged stone, some black sticky tar, and an assortment of questionable miscellaneous items. Suffice it to say Lady Q was determined to get on with the affair.

For the water pipes, she used hollow elk horns. Giant elk were common in Eire during the Sixth Century and the nearby hills were abundant with the hollow horns of the elk after molting season. It was just a matter of collecting them into her basket and dragging the heavy burden back to the village.

She concentrated on fabricating a main line by using the sticky tar to hold the horns together. If there were several points to a horn, she had to plug those ends so water wouldn’t leak. It took from the very first light until mid-morning to fit the horns together with tar. When she finished, the creation looked like a thin, crawling, creature with appendages all over itself.

Wiping sweat from her brow, the Lady Q stopped for a flask of cool water from the nearby stream, which flowed behind the inn. Splashing some water on her face, she sat and rested, listening to a pair of larks nesting in the hawthorns.

Presently, her friend George came along with a bowl of fresh, ripe, juicy strawberries.

“Ah, Lady Q, there you are,” he said, gently plopping his large body down beside her. “Look what I have. Strawberries! Try one.” He held the bowl in front of her.

“They look delicious, George. Thank you,” replied Lady Q.

She daintily took a berry and bit it in two. Juice dripped down her chin and onto her neck, but, too tired to wipe it away, she let it be.

As dragons are wont to do from time to time, and strictly out of politeness, George lapped the juice by stroking his tongue across her chin and down her neck. He smiled his dragon smile and gazed at the sky.

“Mmmm, I’d say those are excellent strawberries, Lady Q,” he told her. “I haven’t had one yet.”

She sat up straighter and turned a blue mischievous gaze on her friend. With a quick snap of her head that sent her red locks flying, she told him, “I am afraid that is all you will get of them, my dragon friend. I find them too delicious to share.”

"Then I shall be content to lick your chin, milady," he said and took another swipe at juice running from her lips.

They settled in the shade of the hawthorn in companionable silence, one eating strawberries and the other politely licking berry juice. It was an idle hour spent together with Lady Q telling George all about her dream of running water and how she was attempting to construct the shower.

When all the berries were gone and George had licked the last drop of juice from the bowl, Lady Q sent him on his way to find the other necessities she needed to install the plumbing.

Meanwhile, back at the inn, a young girl named Colleen stood gazing out the window at Lady Q and the dragon George. She watched as he took wing into the clear morning sky on what looked to be an important errand.

As strange as the Lady Q was, Colleen considered her a friend. But she drew the line at the dragon - a friendship she could not fathom. She kept her distance whenever George was around.

What Colleen did like was the small kitten sleeping on the windowsill. Accatasbelle was a tiny fur ball purring merrily in the sunshine pouring through the window. The gold flecks in the kitten’s fur matched the golden curls falling to Colleen’s shoulders. The pretty lass smiled at the peaceful kitten resting as the shadow of Lady Q crossed the window. She was dragging the homemade pipes across the yard of the inn.

Colleen looked up. “Lady Q, good morning to you. And what are you doing this fine morning?”

Pausing briefly, the lady in question straightened up and stretched her back, “Good day to you, Colleen. I’m about to install plumbing and a shower at the inn.”

“And what is that?” She raised a lovely, shaped eyebrow.

“It is where water flows from a pipe into a tub so one can bathe,” she replied, looking at her friend. The simple peasant dress Lady Q wore was a multitude of colorful patchwork. Her blue eyes danced and sparkled, windows of excitement for the idea bouncing around inside her head.

Never having heard of such an outlandish idea, Colleen skeptically asked, “Lady Q, are you sure you know what you are about?”

“Oh most definitely, Colleen. I had a dream about this. Really, I do know what I am doing." She smiled a Lady Q smile and then said to reassure her friend, “Just think of it as another adventure.”

Colleen rolled her eyes. Any adventure involving Lady Q could be quite explosive, like the time she tried making a drink called Quintessence. Colleen pressed her lips in a penchant pout as she watched Lady Q pick up the pipe and continue to drag it to the east corner of the inn.

“Have you asked the innkeeper if he wants this plumbing?” Colleen asked as she raised her skirts, brushed the kitten from the sill, tossed a leg out the window and jumped to the ground to get a closer look.

“It’s a surprise.” The pipe slipped from her hands and scraped the ground. “He’s gone to Scandinavia to visit his wife’s family. They’re Vikings, you know.”

Lady Q then turned to the business at hand, which was to install a knob on the corner of the inn. She was rather pleased at Colleen's company, despite her friend’s doubt and uncertainty.

Thinking out loud, she said, "I need some hose. Any idea where I might find it? You see, I need to direct the flow of the water from the stream out back to the shower in the house." She eyed Colleen's stockings. From where she stood, they peeked out from the bottom of her skirts.

A horrified expression crossed Colleen’s face. "Oh no, Lady Q. I shall keep mine on." She backed up. "'Tis not ladylike to be bare-legged." With that she turned and ran back into the inn.

"Mmmph," Lady Q laughed as she knelt in the dirt with her make-do pipe of giant elk horn. "She shall be shedding her hose quick enough to take one of my showers."

About then, George flew by observing the strange apparatus next to his lady friend. It reminded him of his cousins from the south, long and skinny with many legs. He circled lazily in the air studying what she was doing. Finally, he shook his blue and green scales, which emitted a pretty tune, filling the air about her. When dragons feel all gentle and kind toward something or someone, their hard rigid scales will soften. When they shake them, they make a soothing sound. Rather like chimes.

"Music for milady," he called, flying closer. "And how goes the plumbing venture?" Carefully he landed, and stepped gingerly so as not to disturb the thin, crazy apparatus that went every which way. "I've brought that which you asked for, and I went to France to get the faucets, too,” he proudly said.

"Good." Brushing the hair from her eyes, she went over to him. He lowered his head and as was her custom, she plopped a kiss on his forehead. "Oh George, you came just when I needed you. I have a little problem."

A rumbling in his chest precluded his merry dragon's laugh. "I would say you have a rather large problem here." When dragons laugh, a multitude of colorful sparks escape into the air and sometimes they set things on fire.

Lady Q saw a stray ember in the nearby grass. She stopped what she was doing to quickly stomp it out. Another stray spark touched the backside of her skirt. Unaware that she was on fire, she grumbled to the dragon, "George, you are making my little problem into a big problem. Now stop it!"

Trying not to laugh at his friend and cause her more troubles, he casually leaned over and rubbed his muzzle across her smoldering backside and put out the fire on her skirt. "Well, let us see what can be done to make your problem right itself,” he gently said.

"I have to get this giant elk horn pipe under the building," she explained. "And I have no way to lift it."

"Is that what that is?" the dragon whimsically asked. "I thought perhaps it was one of my cousins."

She put her hands on her hips and scoffed, "What are you talking about, George?"

He chuckled, “I have cousins in the south who look like your apparatus there. They are long, skinny and have many legs, too.”

"Well, I don’t know anything about your cousins, George, but I need to raise the inn so I can get the great elk horn pipes under there."

"Ahh, then that is where I can help you." He shifted his weight to his tail and thought a minute looking up at the sky. "Are you ready for your installation? Have you everything?"

"Yes, I believe so, George. You brought the extra hose and the French faucets?” she asked.

"Certainly, milady."

Lady Q looked at the inn and then at George. He was taller than the inn and outweighed it by a good number of stones.

"Then I guess there are no two ways around it. You will just have to lift the inn up off the ground."

Sighing in resignation, George replied, "I figured as much, milady." He turned his body around, his tail to the inn, which was made of mud, daub and stone. Swallowing his thought about the possibility of the building crumbling, he began to slowly pry it away from the ground. When one side was done, he systematically went to each of the other sides and loosened them.

At that point, Colleen stuck her head out the window and yelled at the Lady Q, "What are you doing? The inn is falling down!"

"'Tis fine, I assure you, Colleen. The inn is falling up not down!" She smiled, "Come out and watch. George is quite good at this."

Colleen gasped, "You are making George do this earth shaking event?"

"Of course. Look how easy it is for him."

"That humongous dragon,” she scoffed. “Lady Q, I have my doubts about this." With Acatasbelle precariously perched on her shoulder, Colleen stomped to a safe distance to watch. She scuffed her leather shoes in the dirt and bit her lower lip in consternation.

Amused at the picture of Colleen sulking, Lady Q only shook her head and smiled her knowing smile. By this time, George had the inn resting on his back and the ground underneath exposed.

"Look, Colleen! Treasures!" Lady Q squealed. Crawling under the house and between George's legs, she began examining the contents of the ground.

"Lady Q, you shouldn't go rushing off like that," Colleen called from a safe distance, eyeing George and the inn balanced precariously on his back. "Come back here, Lady Q. I don't think it's safe."

Popping her head up she exclaimed, "Colleen, I think I found a halberd. And over here are some mugs and plates, and a few coins."

"If you don't come out of there, I'm afraid the inn will fall on you!" Now Colleen was very worried as she saw the inn beginning to tip to one side of George's back.

"Milady," he called just then, "Do you think we could get to the business of plumbing and leave the treasures for another story?"

"Oh yes, of course, George. Sorry." Lady Q went about dragging her giant elk horn apparatus under the inn. "Colleen,” she excitedly called, “help guide the pipe there by your feet!"

Colleen reached down and pushed the pipe in the direction of the inn.

"Hurry, milady." George scowled. "The house is not very steady."

"Just about got it, George!" Standing, she quickly attached the giant elk hornpipe to the underside of the building and then backed out from under the whole ordeal. "OK, lower the inn, George. Careful now." Waving her arms about and hopping on one foot, then the other, Lady Q did an exhilarating little jig. George's scales happened to shake out an accompanying tune.

Down the inn came to rest on strategically placed foundation boulders, which George had positioned earlier.

"To the stream now!" Lady Q directed her small retinue of believers. "One more step and then we shall have running water."

Wading in mud, her skirts billowing around her in the current, Lady Q adroitly connected the hose to a pump, George's idea.

"I don't think you will be needing a shower after the bath you are getting now, milady." Colleen pointed out, making sure to keep her distance from the dragon.

"In some parts of the world," George observed, "women pay a lot of coins for mud baths such as you are getting now."

Ignoring their comments, the lady continued and when finished, exclaimed, "There! It is a fate accomplished, my faithful friends. The hose is connected." Slipping and sliding towards the shore, she eagerly continued, "Let's try it out!"

Meanwhile, back at the inn (several meters away) a crowd gathered to watch the great adventure. Questions abounded, disbelief prevailed, and Lady Q was suspect of all sorts of enchantment.

Nevertheless, she strode toward the inn like a knight on a quest, her faithful band of two helpers sauntering along in her wake. She brushed a strand of hair away from her face, a bedraggled image of mud and tatters intent on success.

"Make way please," she asked the good people in the crowd, who were already parting along the path in fear of her enchantment. A hush fell as the crowds watched and listened to Lady Q give instructions to Colleen.

"Colleen," she began, "stand here by the east corner and turn this knob when I give the signal from inside the inn."

"And what signal would that be?" Colleen cautiously asked, fearing the answer.

"I shall say the word 'now', and you will turn the knob." She smiled encouragingly. "You understand?"

"Yes, of course, milady. I'm not daft!" Colleen mumbled to George who was sitting nearby on his haunches. "Not daft like some people I know."

"'Tis best to humor her, Colleen," he replied while gazing at the clouds in the sky, as if the answer to the enigma of Lady Q floated there.

Waiting patiently by the east corner of the inn, Colleen twirled her hair in her fingers and hummed a tune that George soon followed with music from his scales. From inside the inn there came loud crashing sounds, great rumblings, and a few bangs as if Lady Q were hitting a radiator with a pipe wrench (but of course since neither had been invented yet, we know she couldn't possibly be hitting a radiator with a pipe wrench).

The inn trembled, the walls shook, and bits of daub crumbled. The noises intensified, and the crowd drew back in fear. Loyal patrons of the inn seriously considered changing their patronage. Then Lady Q called to Colleen, "Now!"

Colleen, as was her wont, finished the tune she was humming, which took several more moments, then she reached for the knob. She first turned it left. Not happy with that, she turned it right. Pouting because nothing happened, she pulled it up, then down. The poor knob confused by all this, fell off in self-defense of the good Colleen's efforts.

Suddenly, the inn sprouted water from all its orifices, and that not being enough, made new ones. Water gushed everywhere spraying the people in the crowd. It surged, it spewed, it spurted, and finally it jettisoned into the sky.

The water pushed the good lady through a hole in the straw roof and bounced her merrily along. Lady Q rode her self-made geyser, her hair and clothes plastered to her body, her legs and arms madly waving about. All the while, she was grinning a big Lady Q grin.

George flew up to the top of the waterspout and watched. She waved to him and he smiled back. Eventually he pointed out that the stream would run dry if she continued her shower.

"You might like to come down, Lady Q, before you drain the stream of its water."

"Yes, you are right, George," she frowned, thinking a moment, and then said a bit hesitantly, "but I don't quite know how."

"Mmm, that could be a problem. What about the faucets? Can you turn them?" He patiently asked.

"Can't reach them," she replied and thought some more. "Do you suppose you could collect me?”

"Splendid idea, Lady Q." He flew closer and offered assistance. "Hop on my back."

George gently floated down to the ground with the Lady Q hugging his neck tight. He settled her near the oak tree in the side yard and went over to the stream to disconnect the pump.

Colleen mirthfully ran to Lady Q holding her sides and laughing. Her skirt was hiked up to her waist and her hose were flapping at her ankles.

She danced from one foot to the other, "That was a splendid shower, milady!” she called. “ Could I be the next one to ride atop the inn? I had no idea that showers could be so exciting!"

"I had no idea either, Colleen. Certainly you may take the next shower. Just call over to George to turn the pump on."

The afternoon was taken up with showers atop the roof of the inn for everyone. Even though it left the inn a wreck, and the innkeeper would undoubtedly be angry, Lady Q deemed the adventure a success.

Copyright © Kit Chase 2002. Title graphic: "Pipes" Copyright © The Summerset Review 2002.