She didn’t understand these people. Each seemed locked in a petty battle of wits and resources that, losing, would cost them neither life or limb, only status. Yet the struggle—or was it just a game?—seemed to make them happy, and strangely just a little closer. Maybe they had little wit or resources and knew it. Or, maybe they wanted the wind they couldn’t reach, and thus could not tolerate the one they had. I say it’s better for a falcon to be a very good falcon than to pretend, badly, to be a tergon.
Well, they seemed very interested in keeping her out of it. The barmaid asked her order, but not her business and health like she had the other customers. That wouldn’t have happened if the orcish looking proprietor hadn’t insisted. She warmed a little when the young li-tong opened her purse, revealing many coins and gems waiting for a new owner, to pull a spice jar free.
Honestly, Dant rHeal wouldn’t have been in that tavern, herself, if that answer hadn’t been so elusive. The question, what is your purpose in life, really stumped her. It all started with a sharp prick in her belly, which moved onto a general ache, then a harmless smile at a cute boy. Then an elder she didn’t really like drug her into the woods for six months. Sheesh, just for smiling?
That time wasn’t a complete waste. She learned to hunt, make strings, select and craft a camp, what the prick, cramp, and later ache meant (how could an unconceived child call for its life?), how to master her plasma-kinesis and telepathy, and the skies. After the elder finally remembered to tell her what and why the experience became rather delightful. The young one was becoming an adult and needed to abandon her childish ways.
Until one night matters began to change in a new way. There they were, hReal resting under Zhiv-Garen’s wing for the night when the elder yelled in shock, twice. First was for the sudden feeling she’d held a very hot iron. Then she watched while her apprentice studied the flames pouring from her winged arm. It had been hundreds of generations since their people had breathed fire, much less sweated it. There her apprentice acted like this wasn’t the first time.
Rheal had just let the flame die when she barked in pain, and flared up, bright and heavy. Zhiv-Garen put the fire out with her will. Well, the one burning the tree under which they’d slept. The one now raging in her heart took a little more effort.
Still, she wasn’t elder for her dashing good looks. That fire cooled, mostly because of her apprentice’s suffering. The child would feel a sharp pain, followed by a flash, followed by skin cold enough to freeze water in a moment. The little one slept on a rock.
That lead Zhiv-Garen to realize how cold the summer had gotten, and how much Rheal had kept her warm.
Now for the final disappointment. Zhiv-Garen rose one morning to wake her young charge to go fishing and had to wait. The little one’s face had frozen into a quiet scream while her face flattened, her flight fingers and tail shrank, and her haunches stretched out.
When finished her wings were gone and she kept balance on two feet. Poor Rheal didn’t understand the fear exuding from her teacher. The important stuff still existed, her mind, her heart. The young one had learned a long time ago with the death of her mother that crying and complaining would do her no good. Yet she couldn’t help but feel just a little betrayed when the elder walk away. So, Rheal did what made sense to her, and fished. Which let her look at her new face reflected from the lake surface. Not much different from the humans, dwarfs, orcs, and elves who shared her village. The crests still graced her skull, still covered in feathers.
By the time she’d digested breakfast Zhiv-Garen returned. She explained herself, rather a prophecy, for which Rheal fit the answer.
The child found it interesting, like an odd taste in a stew. Yet, despite the line about ancient song or the one about star wing the whole seemed generic, one recipe to fit any meal.
Two months later Zhiv-Garen took Rheal to an ancient tree and asked three questions:
Who are you?
What do you fear?
What does your life mean?
No, don’t come back without an answer. Maybe the elder ought to have thought about that condition, maybe added, ‘Or when the sun rises, whichever comes first.’
That, my friend, was a year ago. She’s traveled far, seen many a village and dark wood. Might have met a troll, once? Xe never talked, just stood there humming that trollish song. Maybe it was a tree with a knot that made xer look like a troll.
When the barmaid returned with the meal—fish gravy on mushrooms and onions with orc-ale on the side—Rheal snuck a peek into her mind. The maid felt uncomfortable around the stranger, blamed it on her face. The human-skinned dragon hadn’t felt the need to glam up, you know, cover her face in an illusion.
Her newer face would be odd to most, mild crests riding up the middle and sides of her head and a nose that pressed a bit closer than theirs. Her hood covered most of her brown-gray skin. An angry growl did the rest. Most people soon got over it and they became reasonable friends.
She sprinkled spices across the gravy and took her first bite.
Then regretted that she hadn’t reeled her mind back in.
Two men stepped into the tavern and looked around. Both stank like they’d slept in a pigsty. Neither looked comfortable in the tunics they wore. The minds told her the stench—which she couldn’t be sure began was their body or their ghost—was all them, and they stole the tunics. They thought they blended in. They were the only ones to think that. The proprietor snatched a cloth and bound his head ostensibly to control his hair, and hide his orcish ears.
The prince and his retainer sat at a table and waited. The barmaid didn’t seem interested, and the proprietor didn’t insist. Had the prince kept his royal cloth he might have had better service.
Unhappy with the results the retainer stepped up to the counter and put in an order. After studying the orcish face he turned to the patrons. “His royal heir, crown prince Nardo of the house of Whel, wishes to hire adventurers. They will help find a treasure that will help his affianced recover from a terrible illness.”
One heavily muscled man stood up and asked one question, “Would his royal highness care to return the shirt he has stolen from my son? It’s the only one he has and we can’t afford another until the lumber is sold.” The man took in a breath, “Or should I deduct that from the insane tax burden he asks us to bare?”
The prince stood up and glared at the man, “You dare? Those taxes are used to maintain the roads, ….”
“That you then make us to build, maintain, and get off when your royalties should show up, all at our expense.”
“And protect our borders from orcs.”
“They haven’t attacked since the Fall of the Five Towers of Shadows. I Doubt any survived that.”
The human faced dragon could tell the man knew better. She sensed that he was looking after a friend, and possibly hoping for a free pint when it’s all done.
The young one had to bark a laugh at that one. “Why would a dragon attack you without provocation?”
“I suppose you know all about dragons at your young age?”
Realizing she’d made a mistake, speaking out, she thought quickly. She knew she couldn’t tell them they spoke to one, and she wasn’t ready to fight these people. Still, she could tell them the truth, “I’ve lived in a village that houses many, in the Azure Gate Mountains. I’ve played with their children and learned with their elders. I might venture that I’ve met more this morning than you have ever fought.”
“You dare? I am a distinguished member of the Order of Dragon Slayers, Missy! All of us are Paladins, all of us. We slay them by the week.”
Rheal snuck a peak into his mind and saw that each and every dragon he spoke of was one dragon dummy, badly crafted. Yet she found something else in there, too, and drove forward. “You collect taxes from these people to play at dragon slaying, do you?”
“Not play, Missy!” The retainer began to advance on her, menacing with his sheathed knife. “It is serious battle, I assure you.”
Despite her guide’s words, she knew these people believed dragons still breathed fire. “Yet, not a burn or scar rests upon his virgin skin.”
“Virgin?” the prince yelled. “How dare you, Missy? Come with me and know how experienced I am with women.”
“Virgin wool, how do you know, did you actually follow that fur-ball to make sure she remained virgin? Virgin olive oil, and what makes her extra virgin, failure to have the right equipment? Lingering within the womb that builds her? Your skin has no scar. I’d wager the horse you fell off just days ago was the first beast you’ve ever ridden in your life.”
“Well, when you met those people in that swamp you told them you fell off a horse.”
“I don’t remember you.”
“I suppose you don’t. Had you ever met a real dragon in combat you would have just lost the first volley: the Psych Gambit.”
The prince and retainer studied each other. It was like the prince was looking for a little help on that one, and the retainer was unsure what he was asking of him.
“Grew up in a town with dragons in it, remember me telling you this?”
“What does it matter?” the retainer said, “You have insulted his majesty.”
“I suppose I have.”
“And will pay the price.”
“If you cannot win a fight with a horse, how can you win a fight with a person? You’ve already lost one round, and are losing the next.”
In the silence that followed that order the prince and the retainer realized something special. While a murder of jackdaws just outside the door laughed at them, no guard came running in to answer the call. Why? because the two traveled incognito, and felt they didn’t need a guard to escort them through town in search of their treasure.
Meanwhile, Rheal took a fresh sip of her stew as if the episode was finished, and they had been dismissed. Now, among all three clans of dragons this act would mean, I, at least, am done fighting. Continue at risk of starting a war.
These were, however, not dragons, nor did they know that she was. I even wonder if it would have mattered if they did.
The prince, feeling unhappy about being dismissed like that, approached her table, sat, and reached for her biscuits. He jumped back, however, when she slammed her fist just in front of his, nearly breaking the table. For a moment he sat mesmerized by her eyes, the golden rays woven with green threads were unusual, alluring, yet the fire in them made them off limits to him. And that just made them even more desirous.
Over the bar keep’s protest, the prince offered one more plea. “We are looking for a dragon’s egg.”
The young li-tong glanced at him, but held back her anger. After all, the image in his head was not the same as the one in hers. It didn’t look like an egg of any kind, really.
“The one who aids in our quest will be well rewarded.” He pulled a purse from his belt, dropped it on the table, and pulled several coins out.
Now, most won’t know the difference between äryndril and silver, or even well worked steal, for that matter, not just from looking. The smell, however, would be quite different for someone who, like a dwarf, orc, or dragon, can smell the difference between twins still cooking in the womb. If they had been silver, these six coins would have been worth a month’s wages to these people. To hers the äryndril would be treasures worth many dynasties.
She also knew if she told them she knew they were describing a stone they’d know she’d been sniffing around in their minds. That might lead them to learn new tricks that could make them more dangerous to her kind. So, she asked them questions about the egg. No, they didn’t know dragons held their eggs in a pouch until hatched. Yes, it was a stone they looked for. And could she bring it to this same tavern within a week? No, how about two? Fine, that would do.
The Human-skinned dragon made her way to the river setting the township apart with the farms and watched the greater moon, the Mother, lead the Sun into the shadows of rest. While Rheal rested she studied her mind, listening to memories from her childhood. Travelers often came through her hometown, seeking rest as they take goods to and from Glasserheim Ports. She could recall every one, even if she hadn’t paid much attention to some of them. It could be annoying to remember a conversation shared ages ago in casual settings when the same conversant is now telling you it went another way. Among those conversations rested caverns to the east in the Shadow’s Wall where once slept dwarfish craftsmen who could craft stone and metal into works of beauty and death.
After consulting the memories of maps she knew it would take most of half a year to walk there. Fortunately when she finished changing skins it might take her a day or two, wait, the winds of spring would make that four days.
Satisfied at her reflections and feast, she stretched her wings in all the ways suited to her first form. A breath, study her whiskers to gauge the winds, turn into the Zephyr, and lift off.
See, below her a city sprawled between the Grey Mountains running to the north, the Hunter’s Fence running north-west, and the Andessippi Delta to the east. It was unlike any she’d ever seen in sight or story and it fascinated her. It covered ten-times the ground Glasserheim Port did and had more homes stacked on top of each other than a termite’s nest. The city crawled over foothills, spread across the planes, even took a dip in the harbors to creep across bluffs southward. That was enough to discourage her visit. The din of minds crowding out her own thoughts did nothing to discourage that plan.
It also nearly got her killed. Almost.
She took a breath meant to start a process that would drive all that noise out when a whiff of stink made her look back. That obliged her to shift her tail and flight legs to keep balance with her head. That let her see a mouth full of teeth close down on where her tail tip would have been.
That mouth belonged to the ugliest creature she’d ever seen. Xer head was as big as her body. The pale skinned creature had neither fur nor feather, and little variation to xer sallow pallor. That skin stretched from fingers to knees to nearly the tip of xer tail. rHeal chose not to ask about the spare arms dangling from the creature’s shoulders. She had other things to worry about at the moment.
To which purpose she gave a quite thanks to Zhiv-garen as she shot her wings back, making her drop fifty tils, well beyond the reach of the creature’s long neck.
The maldon–khemeg maldon, who originated in another pocket of the universe, in another star system far away. What? The chase? Fine, miss an education.
The maldon didn’t let failure discourage xer. With a flip of xer tail and a flap of xer wings xe spun around and gave chase. Both creatures loosened their wings letting them drop like stones. About the time rHeal spotted a pass in the foothills that would work for her advantage her adrenaline started taking effect, narrowing her vision and hearing, and remarkably, sharpening her electrolocation. She couldn’t see the men in the watchtowers or hear their screams. Yet she knew they were there, could sense them and the beast just fine.
She tightened her arms to her shoulders while keeping her fingers out, gliding through the canyon, slaloming between pines and rocky outcrops–oh, the grace, the skill, why, if the adrenaline weren’t keeping her stupid she’d be even more in the wonder than we are just from listening.
The buzz in her tail that kept track of the beast had gone silent. She stole a glance back. Seeing nothing she looked up because that’s where she would have gone. Nothing. She glanced forward just in time to miss a yew branch.
She swallowed, breathed, stretched her wings, and angled her legs for some altitude. Had she won? Had the beast given up so easy? Could she land and recoup?
She scanned the skies while she approached a rise in the meadow, thinking about setting down there.
Not going to happen.
She cleared that rise, catching movement below her vision. The beast had alighted and waited in ambush on a greatly distressed oak tree.
The young dragon screamed in panic, reflexively kicked out, and purchased altitude. The maldon did help by tapping that foot with xer nose, knocking her two tills upward. Not that either appreciated the boost. The maldon didn’t mean it, or like it. rHeal didn’t have time to think about it, or like it.
Her panic shot to heroic levels–no, the difference is her panic ended well giving us a story to tell. Non-heroic panic would have left her dead, skinned or eaten, and us without a story to tell. See, her blood temperature reached past boiling levels, which she ignited while flying mindlessly toward Gandalf’s Gap. No, she didn’t know why. That’s just the way she traveled, especially after hearing a thunderous roar and felt something wet coat her haunches.
Had she not been so mindless she could have looked back to see the beast shooting for another quarter of the skies, enduring a heavy round of bloody sneezing that threatened to dislodge xer from the winds.
No, it won’t be for a quarter hour when rHeal crashes into a snowbank that flash melted under her heat that she realized the chase was over.
Well, she was only sorry she had no soap to wash the bloody snot from her leg feathers.
The sauna she made when she hit that snow drift soon froze. She couldn’t do much about that as she was spent. If she hadn’t got her head above water when she did, well, we’d be telling a different story, wouldn’t we?
When she finally dug her way out—thanks largely to her daily need to change skins, the pain in her haunches was intolerable for clothing. What, the creature couldn’t cover up before sneezing? Fortunately the plumage in the area grew back quite nicely. Not that her muscles would allow much flight, or walking. Waddling would be the best she could do.
About the time she reached the snowline she wondered if it would be appropriate to charge extra for this quest.
That evening she lodged in a watchman’s cottage. They were happy for the company. The news they received with mixed review, the hares with better appreciation. She mentioned the maldon, left out the part that she was the little dragon xe chased up the Gray range that morning.
Rest, hare stew, and the night grew old. No, she’d rather rest in the woods. She nearly let the gold out of the bag by saying the chase left her weary. She recovered just fine by noting if the creature was done with one small meal, surely xe’d want another.
Later the next morning she woke. Not that it mattered, it took a couple hours and just about every stretch she knew to move enough to hunt, properly that is. No, reaching out with your mind to catch a squirrel did not count as proper. Nor did tucking the poor thing’s hide into that special place count as fair. She didn’t mind raw rodent, but the fur is just too much to ask for.
Trying to pull water out of a creek, like that didn’t work. She tried, she did, but the water just would not cooperate. She tried, well, almost everything except using her bowl. That’s right, in a fit of frustration she cried out. And in the height of a grumbling roar she caught the word, “Bowl”. Then played it out a time or two just to make sure. No, you wouldn’t have heard that word, for it was in a dialect of dragonese that you have not yet learned. And, honestly, it just sounded like it to her. Like when you yell, just yell, and it sounded like a word came out of it.
Half-an-hour after that she’d finally made her body fluid enough to move in either shape. That’s when the watchmen showed up with bearded axes and bows ready to slay whatever that beast who had yelled like that. She barely had enough time to glamour her body over so she looked mostly like a young woman, to them.
They stopped, stared, breathed.
She looked, stirred the water at her feet, then pulled her tunic close.
They shared breathing some more, and one started to whine a little.
She bared her teeth and growled.
Their captain asked about the voice, earlier.
She pointed to a nearby peak.
She ‘liberated’ a sizable knife from her tunic and growled some more.
Their captain took the lead and went toward that mountain. A couple wanted to linger and help the damsel into her dress. Their captain got control with a threat against their pay.
That evening she enjoyed her meal in the watchman’s cottage. Of course she’d be more than welcome. Four braces of hare and the hope of another glance at her feminine assets, sure, join us, welcome to it.
In the next morning she continued on her way again. Flight was out of the question, but she could nap in her dragon skin and walk in her human one. The one question that kept echoing in her ears; where are her breasts? Her answer: blank stare, slow chew, finger her knife.
Skin Changing: Well, that happened well enough. She’d outlived the strain from the chase. Even the feathers on her haunches and tail had recovered thoroughly enough. Those who knew her might notice the differences. And they wouldn’t care.
Catch the wind: the thing is that time of year the evening wind is rushing down the Andessippi River basin like something terrifying chased it. Unlike the offshore breezes back home the Andessippi autumn wind storms traveled south, generally, while turning this way, that way, and any way it wanted. Navigating that storm exhausted her much the way the beast had. She got up halfway and settled for the fallen corpse of an ash tree.
She found some grass, tapped it down, curled up, and asked, why is she putting herself through all this? For some äryndril? To answer that silly little question?
Who am I? Dant Rheal sometimes human looking, fire sweating, member of the oldest clan of dragons to fly under the two moons.
What do I fear? Well, until a few days ago hardly anything of note. And most of that came after that would quickly cure. Then that beast, and she’d felt a deep fear unlike any she could remember. Born of that fear came a new truth, a new strength. That’s why she flew like she had, felt the change in her awareness, and learned she was made of more than Zhiv-Garen had imagined.
What is my life’s purpose? Well, what is it? To run errands for slobbering kings who rob knave and stranger just to feel important? Nothing then? And new she listened to the wind scream through the trees, suddenly feeling very sick for home.
And the scream became a wail. She lifted her head over the log to see a bird driven by the winds. Her mind, still stewing in grief over her lot, thought, how terrible. Her heart, however, had moved a foot to grip a branch while she stretched out a winged hand and caught the little one.
Um, did I say little? He’d be the size of a nearly grown wolf. From his plumage she could tell the little one too young to have left the nest willingly. And from the way he gripped her arm, this was no ordinary bird.
Well, she’d seen pictures of tergon, even anatomical studies. The library back home is very well stocked. Well, reading a book is fine, but it does not prepare you well enough for the experience. I must say, the little thing now resting under her wings studied her with trepidation. Would he be protected or eaten? They didn’t speak each others language, so, saying “Rest now, we’ll find your nest when the winds die down,” would sound the same as, “Tarragon and rosemary in a sweat apricot sauce, roasted slowly over a maple wood fire.” Well, what can you do? She just got comfortable and offered a sheltering wing to the little one.
The Mouse just rose above the Mountains of Shadow when Rheal woke to the little one’s stirring. He poked his head out, then gave an ear splitting cry, right into her ears. The tergon jumped from his shelter onto the log and gave another.
Rheal tried knocking the sound our of her head when she looked up and noticed a rather larger version of the little one drifting in for a landing. She remarked how much that head resembled an eagle, and noticed how he used his legs much the way she would. The creature’s sizable wings had metallic gauntlets with knives that covered his three non-flight fingers. He was dressed for war. She was sure the stains on the gauntlets and wings were blood.
She tried not to let on that those knives worried her. Would he dress for war just to find a lost child? Worry on her part might seem like guilt to them. So, she spent a little more time digging the screams out of her ears.
The elder alighted. The younger ran up to him crying. They spent time talking to each other so it sounded like a heart healing song.
Soon the song softened and Rheal’s heart seemed to ache. Was it for that kind of love between warrior and son? She never knew her father, few dragons really do. The man who adopted her and brought her to that village in the Azure Gate Mountains loved her well enough. Apparently her mother died, too old for one more egg. The village served well enough, mothers and fathers of dragon blood to teach her blood and wing. Between all that she had enough love to know what it is. This, between the tergons, this was deeper than any she’d felt, ever. That’s why her heart ached, nearly melted into the grass beneath her feet.
She felt a change in the air and looked up. The little one now rode his father’s back, content and chewing on something.
The father asked a question.
The young li-tong sensed the meaning, and selected a more common language to ask it back, “Do you understand these words?”
The warrior took in a breath, “Yes. You took our son from the winds.”
“He seemed to have had some trouble with them.”
“Yes, too young he is. Our heart, in gratitude, it beats. You are far from your flock.”
“I’m looking for something.”
The warrior seemed to anger a little, “Care to tell what seek you in our home?”
“Your home?” And then she remembered the sign.
“Ours to hunt and care, to watch over in gratitude. A gift of the kings of Bloedwendor from our help with the War of the Wraiths. Are you so off course to have not heard of this?”
“I suppose I am.”
“And looking for something. Tergon eggs, maybe egglings?”
“Ew, no! Disgusting.”
The warrior seemed to lighten up a little. “Disgusting? Little Gandeye, here, disgusting?”
“Certainly not good for eating, which is your original…oh, humor.”
“You are still fresh to life, unscarred by fear or fame. So, looking for something?”
She took in a breath and studied that phrase. Unscarred by fear or fame? Yet scars are old wounds. Could fame wound a person? And the fear of that beast was still too fresh to scar. In that sat an answer of its own. In time the fear would heal into a scar that may or not add to her joy of life and love of mirth.
This warrior had just offered some help. She looked him in the eyes and softly into his mind. She pointed at her brow, then at his, saying, “May I show you?”
He nodded his dissent. Which she took for consent.
She showed him the stone. He showed her the battle still fresh in his mind. Not that he meant to, but fresh wounds are just that obvious. She saw the legion of orc and humans trying to charge the Gates of Suffering. Some of them were already dead on the battle field, and still fighting.
When the path closed he struggled to keep his anger out of his face and voice. “That was not welcomed, I told you!”
“Our way of saying, ‘No’.”
He sat, preened the feathers covering his brow, and breathed.
Then, “Understand. Look behind you, a short glide over that crevice. Find, you will, a cave. Therein an old treasure in to find, your desire to find.” he then added with some emotion. “Mind what you’ve learned here and stay out of my head!”
“Mind what you have learned, a simple nod isn’t always what you think it is.”
This squirrel might not have stood a chance against one of the mightiest predators the world ever knew. Might not have, except today the little one had passed “She’s going to eat me!” to, “Okay, in or out, you going to eat me or play with me?”
Maybe not today. She had it, enough of these stones, each crafted into egg shapes and little dragonlings resting in or around it. The craftsmanship and the rock were something to delight in. Sure, stow a dozen, sell one to the prince, take the rest home. And that question would rot.
What saved this squirrel’s life was that other stone. An opal carved into a perfect dragon’s egg, complete with the remains of an unhatched baby. There, to challenge Rheal’s reality was a baby who never got out of their egg.
The dwarves who fashioned the treasure kept a bit of the original shell in the stone, carving the rest to reveal the fragile skeleton of what might have been her own ancestor.
From the books in the library she knew this little one was conceived before her kin started holding the eggs until hatching. That was before dragons could form civilizations, write, craft technology, or even sweat or breathe fire. This little one might have died before trolls formed their first bodies.
Really, though, that did not upset her. This little one died in the egg, never to breathe air, see sunlight or the two moons. Dead without a name or knowledge. That thought, she could have been born dead, all the falls and mishaps, even that beast, but she was alive, able to deal. This, in this opalized egg might not have even known it was in danger. Would it have known something had changed? Learned to fear it?
What was her purpose in life? Run errands, eat squirrels? Frustrated she picked him up and flung him into a clearing. A flip, tuck, and a roll and the darn thing was on the run, cussing her out.
She rolled the stone eggs into skins she’d collected on her journey, paying special care for that one. She stowed them in a bag, and that bag into that space. Then regretted letting that squirrel go as her empty stomach growled at her.
It took two days and she’d returned to that hamlet in time for lunch. She entered the tavern over the rumor of the dragon they’d spotted landing nearby. While none of her kinsmen hunted anything smarter than deer and fish they did have a reputation. Especially thanks to the one Khul Korenth who terrorized the Long Lake until taken down by dwarves and gnomes two millennia ago. Some memories, especially those, can long endure.
Her greeting at the Troll’s Tusk Tavern felt warmer than the last. She guessed they just didn’t like strangers. Or Prince Nardo of Whel had lingered far too long and her return meant his departure. Either way, she entered, sat, and started sorting the stones from her bag.
When she pulled the opal free the prince practically stumbled over himself getting closer to look. Only to fall into a seat when she slammed her fist on the table and growled. Well, not as impressive as when she were in dragon form. Still made him soil himself a little.
“Dragon slayer, indeed.”
“Told you, a dozen a week.” He reached for the opal again. “Thank you for this.”
She placed a fire agate egg in his reach, “That’s what you asked for. Better than you asked.”
“Dragon’s egg, that’s what I asked for.”
“You don’t get that one.” She gathered it up and returned it to her pouch. “Your payment?”
The prince looked at her, then his retainer.
Who said, “Goodness of your heart in payment of taxes owed.”
Now, few dragons sweat or breath fire anymore, I’ve told you this. Only the drakes of the east cannot make it just by wishing, though. And right then Rheal caught the scent of burning tallow, and watched with the prince as the table’s candle melted into a sticky puddle.
Rheal just smiled, picked up the skin and then an egg with her mind. One egg flew into her waiting hand, then another, until only one remained.
Meanwhile, she smiled and offered, “Long has it been since wizards allied ourselves with kings. Your minds stink worst than your shit and you have no honor. Run home, little boy, before you are hunted down by a real dragon.”
The barmaid gasped, “You mean, that really was a dragon landing in the North March?”
Rheal felt a surge of inspiration and opened her face up. “And, she still breathes fire!”
The blue velvet purse that held the coin landed on the table, spilling the contents out. “Take it. Didn’t know you where a dragon wielding wizard! Take it and go!”
Quietly, Rheal plucked the äryndril out, then one gold coin. After laying the fire agate on the rest she stepped up to the barmaid, gave her the gold, and left, saying, “His majesty’s bill is now paid.”
Is this my purpose in life? Terror to princes and strife kindling? But a child now sings from his daddy’s shoulder, and a new meaning in my heart takes smolder. So, my answer to Zhiv-geran can wait for a new drum and fife.