Studying Dragons
Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at

General Audiences
Archive Warning:
No Archive Warnings Apply
The Memoirs of Lady Trent - Marie Brennan
Natalie Oscott, Isabella Camherst, Original Female Character(s)
Additional Tags:
Flying University (The Memoirs of Lady Trent), Queer Themes, Canon Asexual Character
Published: 2021-03-06 Words: 1,264 Chapters: 1/1

Studying Dragons


With the Flying University underway, lots of young women come to Falchester to study dragons. More or less, Natalie Oscott discovers.

Set between The Tropic of Serpents and The Voyage of the Basilisk


Thank you, hermitknut, for introducing me to these books, and for your invaluable help as a beta reader for Studying Dragons!

Nathalie is being oblivious in this fic, which is ooc for her, but I thought it was funny, and the story needed it. So. Slightly alternate character interpretation.

Studying Dragons

The woman approached Natalie when she finished clearing her workspace. Natalie recognised her. They talked from time to time, mostly about engineering. Ever since returning to Scirland, Natalie had been trying to calculate the aerodynamics of the artificial dragon wings she had built. She tried to remember the woman’s name.

“I’ve heard you went away with Isabella Camherst to study dragons,” the woman said. Bower? No, Bowman. Miss Lorrie Bowman. She was not from Falchester, if Natalie remembered correctly, but from somewhere up in the north, and had made it to Falchester with just the barest hint of tolerance from her family. You had to have a core of steel to see something like that through, as Natalie knew too well. Right now, Lorrie sounded unexpectedly shy.

“I did,” Natalie answered. She put her papers with today’s calculations in her bag and looked around to see if there was anything left on the table that didn’t belong there. “I ran off with Isabella’s and Mr Wilker’s expedition to Bayembe and the swamps of Mouleen.” That was the much abriged version of it. “Most of the dragon-studying was done by the two of them, though.” If anything, the expedition had showed her that she preferred doing her studies behind the safe haven of a desk. If the sea voyage Isabella was planning worked itself out, Natalie most certainly was not going to join the expedition this time, thank you very much.

“Mr Wilker?” Lorrie said. She sounded surprised.

Natalie looked up.

“Of course,” she said. “Didn’t you know?”

Lorrie tilted her head. “You mean, Mrs Camherst studies dragons, but you don’t? How does that work?”

Natalie really wasn’t sure what to say to this, but then she settled on “Just because we live together doesn’t mean we have to share everything.”

Lorrie looked as if she was considering new information, then she shrugged. And blushed.

“Do you think,” she began, and then stopped.

“What is it?”

“Would you mind if I studied dragons with Mrs Camherst?”

Natalie barely understood her muttered words.

“Well, no,” she said. “Why would I mind? It’s her you’ll have to ask.”

Lorrie murmured muttered her thanks and departed.


Lorrie Bowman wasn’t the only one who caught Nathalie on her own to ask similar questions. From time to time, and more so as the number of young people joining the Flying University rose, Natalie heard conversations whispered on the quiet. Young women from every part of Scirland seemed to have come here only to study dragons.

The Scirling press had talked quite a lot about the Bayembe expedition, but more about the political and social scandals Isabella had managed to land them in than about the actual purpose. Still, Natalie didn’t know why all these girls were asking her these questions.

But here they were, muttering among themselves, and shooting hidden glances at Isabella and sometimes Natalie when they thought she wasn’t looking. The glances directed at her, Natalie thought, had gotten fewer after the conversation with Lorrie. Or maybe not fewer, but rather more curious instead of conspiratorial.

Then, with a sudden influx of new guests at the Flying University, Natalie didn't have time to thinkg about Lorrie Bowman's strange questions until quite some time later. Most of her days were busy with studying and organising what had to be organised for the Flying University.

One of the best things about living with Isabella was that nobody pressured her into finding a suitable husband. Of course there were needs to be met and ends to be made, but that was the case wherever she would live and overall, a town house in Falchester was a much easier place to live than the swamps of Mouleen.

“For your sake, I am glad that the funding for your expedition is secured. For my own, I will miss you while you are gone,” Natalie said one evening.

“I cannot promise you the same, as my mind will predominantly concerned with dragons.”

Natalie smiled at Isabella’s teasing tone.

“Ah, but isn’t it always?”

“I will make sure to tell you everything once I return.”

“Of course you will!” If only to tell someone who hadn’t seen it about all the dragons she’d encountered.

“At least I can be sure that you are interested in the things I say,” Isabella said.

Her sour tone didn’t go amiss. Natalie cast her a quizzical look.

“What is the matter?”

“They come to me saying that they are interested in the study of dragons, but if I give them something to read or point them in a direction, they look disappointed and leave. They speak as though it is a big secret and when I let them in on it, they leave.”

“That is strange. They seem very keen on the study of dragons as far as I can see.” Natalie shook her head. “You wouldn’t believe how often I find pairs or small groups of young women whispering about it.”

Isabella shook her head with an expression of bemusement. “They don’t have to pretend dragons are where their interest lies just to be able to study here. You don’t, many others don’t.”

Of course to Isabella it was inconceivable how someone could not be interested in dragons, but that only meant that she more easily recognised a pretended interest.

“I will talk to them,” Natalie decided.


The opportunity presented itself a few days later when Natalie found Lorrie alone. After making sure she wasn’t interrupting Lorrie, Natalie sat down at her table.

“What made you come here, if I may ask?” And then, to make herself clearer, she added, “I mean, really?”

Lorrie looked guilty, as if Natalie had found her out.

“You are not here to study dragons, am I right in that assumption?”

“Well.” Lorrie gave Natalie a challenging look, then she deflated and crooked her head. “Not literally, no.”

Natalie had no idea what Lorrie meant with that.

“You don’t have to pretend you did, you know? This place is open to all kinds of scholars.”

Lorrie smiled. Natalie couldn’t quite tell what kind of smile it was.

“I know,” she said. For a moment, she was silent, then she added, “I heard about you. Back home, when you had just left for Eriga. I wasn’t supposed to hear what my parents talked about, but you know how rumours go. Natalie Oscott running away with Isabella Camherst.”

It could have been an accusation. From most other people, it might have been. But Lorrie Bowman sounded … wistful.

“You wanted to run away,” Natalie asked. “With Isabella? No, you don’t even know her and you have no particular interest in dragons…” and then finally, it dawned on her. “With someone like Isabella.”

She didn’t need Lorrie’s confirmation. Natalie shook her head and smiled. She remembered all too well the whispered conversations she’d overheard. There seemed to be an abundance of likeminded young women around, even if none of them were Isabella or Natalie. “So that’s what you all meant. Studying dragons.

“We thought you knew!”

“Hush, no need to blush. Now I know. But tell me,” Natalie was curious, “apart from that, is there a scientific field that interests you? Seeking freedom and love can’t be all that drove you here.”

As it turned out, Lorrie was mainly interested in mineralogy and geology, and that was what they talked about for the next half hour. And when she saw, several weeks later, that Lorrie had invited another young lady to view her collection of minerals, well, Natalie knew that things were working out for the best.


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