Peep is a hearing aid. It is still getting used to this, because it used to be a regular dragon. And now it is a full-time employed hearing aid dragon, all two inches of it, perched on its sorcerer’s ear.
The sorcerer is named Vigil, which is short for Vigilante. Peep tried to point out to its hapless human that being named after their secret identity is a terrible way of keeping it a secret, but Vigil continues to be named Vigil. (It is ridiculous, in Peep’s eyes, how often its good advice goes ignored.) Vigil’s often-changing gender was another surprise to get used to, since dragons don’t tend to have genders.
“What’s a gender for?” Peep had questioned Vigil on its first day of work as it tried to find the best position to stay hidden behind her ear, while holding onto her piercings for balance.
Vigil hummed thoughtfully before answering, “Decoration, I suppose.”
That might have been a joke, but Peep wasn’t sure.
But being genderfluid was a feature of Vigil, not a problem. No, it was the vigilante thing that was the problem. Every night after the labs had been shut up for the day the other apprentice sorcerers would head off to eat dinner together, or watch some shark jousting at the Oceania, or do other normal activities like flying. Meanwhile, Vigil would murmur a few words under their breath to shield their face with a spell, tuck the lab’s resident firekeeping dragon into their sleeve, and go out to foil evil.
It was a terrible hobby, which Vigil would know if they ever took Peep’s advice.
The root of the problem, Peep had decided, was that Vigil was so caught up with how they could that they never considered whether they should. Yes, Peep’s human was remarkably clever, anyone could see that. Vigil didn’t let the fact that they were only an apprentice sorcerer get in their way— they dyed their hair to look like it had been turned blue by frequent exposure to magic, had Peep sit behind their ear to make the quiet world more understandable, and coaxed the lab’s firekeeping dragon to stay in their sleeve and breathe fire on command. With their face hidden, Vigil passed admirably for a fully grown sorcerer.
But they weren’t one, and that was going to get them in trouble one day if Peep didn’t figure out a way to help them.
“You’re going to get hurt,” Peep informed Vigil as he piled boxes into his arms.
“What are you talking about?” Vigil muttered, balancing the pile with precision. “Nothing in the back room is dangerous.” He sidestepped another apprentice coming into the storage room and emerged behind the counter.
“Not in the back room. You’re going to get hurt while out foiling evil if you keep it up. This woman says thank you and keep the change, and the rude guy next to her is trying to get your attention by snapping.”
Vigil dropped the change into the floating tip jar and turned to the man.
Shifts at the lab’s storefront, where anyone could purchase potion ingredients and charms prepared by the apprentices in the labs, were Peep’s busiest times as a hearing aid. Vigil could hear well enough if it was one well-enunciated person alone speaking, but the chaos of the labs, with everyone talking at once, meant he relied on Peep the most.
“He wants one mud-repelling charm,” Peep reported as the man talked, “and make it quick because he’s an asshole, or because he got mud on his very expensive shoes, something like that.”
Vigil made his thoughtful face while listening, one of the many ways he filled the pauses before he could respond in situations like these. “Sorry, we’re out of those. Can I get you anything else?”
The man did not want anything else.
“He said a bad word at you,” Peep said virtuously, because it considered cursing very terrible unless it was done by someone it approved of.
“I could tell,” Vigil muttered, watching the man storm out.
Peep itself was watching someone else enter the store— a rather short knight-in-training in a very unfashionable cap. Peep considered itself an expert on fashion, as well as on poetry and Vigil’s safety. It was because of its expertise on that latter subject that it noticed the knight-in-training. It watched them go right to the shelves of magical candy on the other side of the room, and approved.
“This little kid at the counter wants ingrediants for a stink potion,” Peep repeated absentmindedly as it mulled over the newcomer, and Vigil went back into the storeroom.
He mumbled the ingredients to himself as he found them on the shelves. “Glass eggs, spider eyes—”
“Gross,” Peep commented. “You need friends.”
“—black-spotted mushrooms. Friends would make this less gross how?”
“They wouldn’t. But they might keep you out of trouble.”
“And that’s exactly why I don’t need any. I like trouble.” Vigil went back to the counter and put the ingredients in the girl’s basket.
Peep took the opportunity to notice the knight-in-training again (they were still examining the candies) before turning back to its duties as a hearing aid.“She says thanks, and also that you need friends.”
“Quit it,” Vigil hissed, and greeted a regular customer who signed their request for a fever-reducing charm.
Peep quitted it for all of ten seconds before Vigil was searching the dusty back corners where the healing charms were stored. “You’re only a baby sorcerer, you can’t go around foiling evil all by yourself. Eventually evil will foil back.”
Vigil objected strongly to being called a baby sorcerer. “I hired a hearing aid, not a babysitter.”
“Wrong,” shouted Peep, who loved being right. “You hired a dragon, and a dragon always knows best.”
“Dragons also always live with several nest-mates, which you don’t have, so you’re one to talk about needing friends.” Vigil snatched a fever charm from where it had fallen on the floor with more violence than necessary and straightened up. There was a guilty pause. Dragons are excellent at telling when pauses are guilty. “I mean…” Vigil said quietly.
“Everyone needs friends,” Peep said, trying not to sound like it was going to cry. Unfortunately, dragons are as terrible at not sounding emotional as they are excellent at discerning guilty pauses.
Vigil stroked the tiny ridges of Peep’s back with one finger. “Hey, I didn’t mean that.” His voice was soft.
“I could have nest-mates if I wanted,” Peep said, still sniffling. Dragons’ lying abilities fall squarely between their skills at recognizing guilty pauses and not sounding emotional.
“Of course you could,” Vigil soothed. “You’re the best dragon I know.”
“Including Crackle?” Peep asked, wanting to be sure. “Crackle isn’t even that great of a firekeeper. I’m much better at being a hearing aid than it is at making fire.” Crackle had three nest-mates and its very own nesting hallow in the chimney over the lab’s fireplace, and was very conceited about it in Peep’s opinion.
Vigil abstained from passing judgement on Crackle. “You’re the best hearing aid a sorcerer could have. I’m sorry for what I said.”
Peep blew its nose on a lock of blue hair. “Ok.”
Vigil winced but didn’t comment on that. At the counter he gave the customer the fever charm and they exchanged a few words in sign language that Peep didn’t need to aid in, giving it time to search the room again for the knight-in-training, who was now carrying over a jar of blue candies to purchase. They looked at the apprentices behind the counter, all busy— and their eyes slid right over Vigil’s face without recognition.
Peep frowned to itself. They would never recognize Vigil as the hero who had saved them the other night on their own, not when Vigil had hid his face so well. Clearly, Peep had to intervene, for Vigil’s own good.
Pushing Vigil’s hair aside, Peep stretched itself out as far as it could without falling off his ear, and flapped its green wings urgently. The knight-in-training, not looking, didn’t notice. Humans were oblivious.
Peep flapped its wings some more, and puffed out some violet smoke. On the other side of the counter, the knight-in-training’s eyes flicked to the fading puff of violet in surprise, and followed it down to the tiny green dragon preening with victory, and then to the sorcerer it was perched on.
“You!” Kit shouted.
Peep quickly returned to its hearing aid position. “That knight person over there says ‘you!’ very loudly,” it told Vigil.
“Fuck,” Vigil whispered, trying to avoid the knight’s glare. “That’s the squire I helped the other night! How did they recognize me?”
“Big mystery,” Peep said unhelpfully.
The knight-in-training pushed their way closer to Vigil’s section of the counter, not to be ignored. “You’re that vigilante!”
“They say you’re a vigilante, and probably good friend material.” Peep gave the knight-in-training a wave. They waved back.
Vigil batted at his ear. “Stop that, stop being friendly! I’m a masked vigilante, people aren’t supposed to know who I am.”
The knight-in-training raised an eyebrow, looking at Vigil’s name tag. “In that case, why is your name literally the first half of the word vigilante? Doesn’t seem very masked to me.”
Peep crowed victoriously. “New friend! Can we keep them?”
the other stories about these characters can be found in my tag here. thanks for reading!