Into Fire’s Den

©2017 Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved

It was snarling, growling as it sensed an unwelcomed presence enter its cave. Dephtselia crouched against a large boulder hidden from sight. Her body was rigid, afraid to do anything that might better give that damned beast a signal to where she was. She hadn’t thought that she made any sound to alert the creature, but dragons were sensitive beasts. They had senses beyond even those of the Majylores.

Believing able to, she crept around the boulder trying to see where the animal was. Doing so could risk her being seen. She could hear its breathing as it searched for her. It shouldn’t be able to smell her directly. The potion that Unilaris gave her should have dispersed her scent to be nothing more than an indirect, subtle hint of a scent, like distant flowers floating with a breeze. For all she knew, her scent could have still alerted the beast. There were so many more ways she could be found though.

For a moment she wondered why she had accepted this, the deadliest of tasks. Surely there were other ways that they could find to cure the young princess’s ailment. Capturing a dragon’s egg seemed like suicide. Perhaps that was the point she kept telling herself.

The kingdom had been cursed, and after the princess fell desperately ill. Doctors, magicians, priest and clerics each tried their hand in curing her. Each had no success. Many lost their lives, each having promised success that was not given.

That was eight months ago, but the princess lived on, if only barely. A whisper of a life. Breathing only enough to show life. Nothing more. She wasn’t awake. She didn’t eat unless it was forced down to a point that her body had to choose between choking or swallowing. Sheets had to be cleaned and the princess bathed several times a day as she would defecate on herself, unknowing, unable to get up from the spot. Unable to tell those when she needed to.

It was not a life fitting of a princess.

Were it not for love, the King would have killed her out of mercy.

When dragons’ nesting season began, a call was made to the corners of the kingdom and to any warrior willing to place their fortunes to find the Dragon of Hoyurlocke. To take one of its eggs. Yolk from dragon eggs could be used as it was able to cure the most desperate of illnesses. Fortunately for the King, the princess lived long enough for this chance.

Dephtselia had not volunteered.

Intense heat grew throughout the area around her. The dragon did not fire spurt, but it did not need to in order to kill. The heat from the breath alone was enough to burn the flesh off of a horse. In addition, dragons were able to build up and radiate heat from their bodies. It was a defense when used in a cave cooking adversaries with ease.

As she moved her head around, she saw the tail, a glorious red and yellow tone. Scales were both dull and shone like polished chrome at the same time. It was massive, telling of the remainder of the beast.

It was slow, its movements lumbering as though it was still lethargic from sleep. Unfortunately, dragons are obsessive creatures. They do not willingly give up anything that has caught its attention until it decides so. Many have died at the hands of dragons regardless of the lengths that they have gone through to hide. Escape was rare, if the stories were to be believed.

Changing her direction, she tried to sneak around to the other side of the boulder. Trying to move around without making a sound proved to be a difficult feat. Scraping sounds echoed in her armor. Each time she would freeze, readjust, and continue on. Finally, she made it there and immediately ducked back although it was too late. The dragon spotted her and blew a fire spurt at her. Dephtselia cursed as she looked quickly for an exit. There was none. In taking position behind the boulder, she sacrificed an easy way out.

The heat was nearly unbearable as it lashed around the rock. Dephtselia heard the screams coming from the rocks as the heat pressurized the insides of them. Given much longer, they could explode. The suit appeared to do its job to protect her.

Once again, a flame spurt accosted her. She tried desperately not to scream from fear of her flesh boiling underneath the armor. It was only limited protection against the flames, more than her normal armor. Still, the heat made it through. Had she been in any other armor though, she felt that she’d be dead. Even the air she breathed in was cooled by the engineering and enchantments that the skilled tradesmen built into the armor. Her entire body was protected though she was sure that it was close to failing.

Looking over the side, she saw a small hill leading to a series of small tunnels. It was her only option. Taking a small throwing blade from her armor, she threw it the opposite way hoping to distract the beast from her. Without any further thought, she leapt away from the boulder hiding her position. Within seconds, her speed allowed her to reach the first tunnel hiding her before the dragon realized that the knife had not been what it was after. Dephtselia cursed herself for wasting a knife, but as she had been forced to choose, the decision was better than being cooked.

She pulled herself through the tunnel keeping a keen eye on both ends ensuring that the dragon did not find her there. Heat still burned through the tunnels, but it quickly dissipated. Outside, she could hear the beast in distress knowing that there was an intruder near.

She reached a comfortable point where she felt it safe to begin to wait out the dragon. If she were able to make no noise she would be ok.

It took some time for the animal to succumb to whatever exhaustion it had been feeling as she heard the dragon’s breathing relax and slow. One could only assume that not being able to pinpoint any smell relieved the beast, or that it was the drain of being wakened during the nesting hibernation. Maybe both. Perhaps it believed that the fire spurt resolved its problems.

During the period of laying eggs, a female dragon enters the nesting hibernation. It was not unlike the hibernation that an animal would follow in the winter. It isn’t caused by anything special other than a defense for the unhatched eggs. However, at near the temperature of lava, one could imagine that there weren’t many willing to steal the eggs. These hibernations were marked also by a hyper-awareness not unlike that which roused the animal from its sleep when Dephtselia entered the cavern. They could handle short bursts of effort, but were then forced to succumb to the drain of the hibernation again.

Male dragons did not have this issue. Their efforts in fact would double in the search for food in order to keep the female fed.

Though the animal did not fall asleep again yet, Dephtselia grew impatient. She was not happy, wishing to be rid of the animal. Armed with only knives and the heat-shielding armor there was little that she could do other than run and hide. She never carried more than knives and occasionally a small crossbow that she happened to have left behind. Being so lightly armed was the mark of a thief or assassin. She was the first of the two. Speed and agility were key. No one else in the kingdom was as skilled as she was.

Stealing dragon eggs was a different sort of fun altogether though.

She was born the daughter of a duke and his mistress. She grew up well cared for as the duke paid her mother handsomely to keep the secret of her birth and his betrayal a secret. It did not stay a secret for long though, and so by her fifth birth year, she was motherless and forced to fend for herself in the nearby forests of the kingdom.

She knew little more of her mother than what she remembered of her so many years before.

Dephtselia was a small, petite woman with a very slender, fit physique. She had silver eyes and pale skin that made her appear almost as a ghost when naked were it not for the short cropped, obsidian-black hair.

Her speed and agility were uncanny, and she was lethal in her use of it. Even the strongest, most heavily armored of knights fell to her lethal hits. She was able to climb over and dodge attacks while pinpointing the exact locations to place the blades to fall her opponent. She used those skills only when needed as she always preferred not being seen.

She was an ideal thief with a cunning, sharp mind. Her ability to solve problems was equal to that of a scholar’s.

Patience did not follow suit though as it was one weakness she held.

That weakness landed her in this den.

She pulled herself to the edge of the tunnel careful not to disturb anything around her. She could be light enough afoot not to disturb a dragon so long as the beast wasn’t looking in her direction. She needed to get past the beast to get closer to the nest. Dragon’s never sat their nests; they simply guarded entrance to them.

The nest would be where the real heat would come.

Seeing no sign of the animal, she slid quietly from the tunnel careful as to where her feet were to land. She had limited time to make it to the next cover, so she sprinted as soon as her body was clear.

There were a myriad of tunnels making the cave resemble more of a honeycomb. When making their dens, dragons would burn large tunnels into the rocks of mountains. They would keep going until they reached magma deep in the earth of the ground. Excess heat would ripple through the mountain creating dozens to hundreds of small tubes, many large enough for a large armored man. They suited her needs. She stayed close to the largest passage though as that was undoubtedly the one the dragon followed. She could trust that one tunnel not to lead her elsewhere.

Hesitantly, she moved along the wall careful not to scrape along the side. Scrapes meant sound. Sound was a luxury ill afforded by her at the time.

Off in the distant end, there was a faint orange and red glow. She could feel the heat begin to shift. That was where the nest laid.

Peering back every so often to ensure that the dragon had indeed given up, she suddenly found herself thinking again of the potion that she was given for her scent. It was taken some time ago and she forgot how long that it was supposed to last if she was ever told. Assuring herself that it would, she moved on. It was too late to worry about it anyway.

Nearly halfway to the nest, she found a small area set off to the side. Her feet froze as she saw it. Her mouth was agape with horror. Pieces of man and animal were strewn about the blood-soaked walls and floor. There were suits of armor battered and torn, chainmail disintegrated in shattered pieces. A man’s half eaten skull lay halfway out of his helmet.

It was the feeding nook.

And there were weapons and treasure.

Temptations drew her near, overtaking the initial rank reaction to the sight. Gold, jewels, and other trinkets were strewn about haphazardly. They must have been carried in with adventurers attempting more plunder or carried in with the beasts’ fresh kills, she thought to herself. Dragons held no interest in treasure. They thought it strange that man held such an attachment to material things.

There wasn’t much that she could carry, and the dragon’s egg was more valuable to her, so she just took a little more than a handful of the gold placing it in a small satchel attached to her belt. To limit the sound of jingling, she stuffed a small kerchief into their as well.

Next she saw stores of weapons and equipment. Surely there would be more there that would help her. The temptation wouldn’t let her go until she at least looked through it all.

It was then that she heard the moan.

“Help,” a beleaguered whisper called out.

Dephtselia looked around until her eyes fell upon a young man, disemboweled yet still alive. She wanted to run. Despite the gore that she had seen in her life, having the young man still breathing in his condition frightened her greatly.

It was the dragon’s freshest victim.

Her steps were light, ready to leap off in fear of what she was witnessing. She could smell the stink of dying flesh in the hot caverns. She could ignore it while feeding her greed, but now it demanded her attention.

She leaned down closely to the man as she tried to keep her eyes averted, she whispered, “who are you?”

It took several moments of fast, shallow breaths before a broken whisper of “Isod Poliden” came out.

Dephtselia looked the man over. Shit was laid out all over the front of him and his guts continued to writhe. It had looked as though the beast tore him open while carrying him here. It neglected to kill him. She could only guess that he was the last thing that it picked to store for the new hatchlings. He would die soon enough. It was surprising he hadn’t died already.

“How long have you been down here?” she quietly asked.

“Days,” he said after another effort to capture enough air to speak. “I think.” More breaths followed. “I cannot remember.”

He appeared delirious. She swallowed the nausea that was surfacing. It was astounding to her that this man was still alive. Most of the blood looked as though it had dried up in the heat of the caverns. She wished he were dead. A thought trickled into her mind wondering how that she even allowed him to continue to live as though it were actually her decision to leave him there in that state. She had other tasks that she was to execute if she wished to live.

Isod was now an unwelcomed, but very real distraction.

“Is there anything I can do?” she asked of the young man second-guessing her decision to do so as she spoke. Guilt swirled around her as she fought the desires to slay him and be rid of him. It would have been the honorable thing to do.

He looked over at her slowly moving his head. “Water.”

Admittedly, she had none. Although she even was beginning to feel parched, carrying anything beyond the absolute necessities was simply beyond questioning. Water was necessary, but its weight was burdensome. She needed to be fast, and the suit hindered that enough on its own.

Leaning in she whispered, “I’ll find you some.” She didn’t know why she answered such. It’d be just as easy to execute him by slitting his throat or plunging one of her blades into his chest. Each problem would certainly find resolution in that action.

Standing up, she knew that she would have to backtrack to find him water. Not knowing how long it would take her to get the egg, she decided that it was the best path for her to take. If she never came back for him, it would not matter. All water would do is quench his thirst, easing the suffering only a little. He would still die. To keep herself alive, she needed to push on. Completing her task first was paramount. There would be more time on the other side of capturing the egg to help Isod. If there was helping him.

Why was she letting him live?

Each step felt like it echoed as she moved away from the feeding area, away from the man desperately wanting her help. Keep the focus on your own life she kept repeating to herself. She tried to steady her steps again, but the thoughts of the massacre she was just witness to, of the man she was letting suffer, plagued her mind.

Every few feet, she would look back behind her, reminded of the dragon that she had not long ago snuck away from. At any moment her scent would reveal itself and the dragon would be sure to know of her presence. Nothing was going as well as hope would allow now.

Before her, the glow became much more intense. She could feel the sheer intensity of the heat of the nest.

Dragons were born of fire. Most nested themselves in the deep caverns of volcanos, choosing to lay their eggs directly into the molten lava that was moving through. It made the task of getting one near impossible except for the most skilled of individuals and to the majylores themselves. One would have to immerse themselves in lava to even approach one.

Dephtselia had no hope to truly reach one. Even with the armor she had, her death felt imminent. But she felt that she could have a way. If she knew that there wouldn’t be a way, she would have accepted her death already.

Dephtselia was a survivor.

 

“Will you accept?” the voice was behind her. She was blindfolded, but she could feel the blade against the back of her neck. Moments before she was given an option that would spare her life. She had been caught by the guards trying to steal from the treasury. Only four of them lost their lives trying to contain her. Her impatience gave them their victory.

She was near the point of execution when Unilaris revealed to them her skills after giving her the serum of loose tongue. She resisted the serum unlike any other ever encountered.

“So you are quite the resilient one then,” Unilaris remarked as she was in the stockade being held for execution. “A young, pretty girl such as yourself is not usually the image we see of thieves. We certainly would not expect one such as yourself to be so without patience, and yet you have the mental restraint I’ve never seen. This serum brings even the strongest among us to tell of our deepest secrets, and yet you resist.”

“I speak of nothing I do not wish to speak of,” Dephtselia hissed in reply.

“Your cousins would not be so kind to hear of that response.”

“I have no family,” she growled in return, dismissing him. Her eyes had widened some betraying her, a moment of surprise letting through the serum. She had not known if anyone else knew of her noble lineage. It was a curse to her. A curse that cost her mother’s life.

“I can see the lines of lineage run through each of you.” His voice mocked her. Unilaris was a prophet. Prophets were those of mankind that possessed some of the abilities of the Majylore. Usually this was due to the past interbreeding between humans and Majylore. He was what they called a seer. He was able to see the connections between humans, between objects. It allowed him the ability to make perfect potions. In this case, he saw Dephtselia’s heritage and how it connected to the royal family. He also saw other traits of use. Traits she knew little of.

Still dismissive, she spat on the ground. “I have no family. They might share my blood, but they know nothing of me or who I am. They are not my family.”

“Blood is all that matters to these people,” Unilaris told the blindfolded girl in the chains. “If they learn of this, it would matter not if they know you or not.”

“And they will do what? Kill me? Welcome me into their family? Each is as unwanted as the next.”

“Interesting that you harbor such resentment to them.”

“You shall not know of those reasons. I will simply die, spitting at you as I burn alive.”

“Verywell,” Unilaris said as he licked his lips. His mouth curling into a sly, cunning grin. “Then you shall do something for me and I will curry favor to your case and have you released. If you succeed, you’ll be released to your freedom, a debt eternally paid to the kingdom. If you fail…”

“I die.”

“Yes,” chuckled Unilaris. “You die.”

 

The heat was now growing too intense. She didn’t want to move forward. Her nerves were getting the best of her. The suit should be enough to keep her skin from burning, but she could still cook inside it. She should have already been cooked inside.

Little did she know; the suit had already failed her.

Walls glowed red and orange. The light was becoming bright enough that she had difficulty seeing. Inside of her lungs, the heat felt like it was stinging. But the eggs were before her.

It was a large pool of red lava flowing slowly through a small pocket. There were hundreds of them all around, in dozens of small sac-like openings throughout the caverns. They looked like large ant tunnels all around. In each of these small pockets, the eggs were nearly fully submerged in lava. The eggs themselves glowed hot enough that they were transparent nearly.

“The dragon cannot be formed,” Unilaris instructed to her before she left. She was unsure of what that meant then, but as she gazed at the eggs, she knew then what he meant. Within the lava, the skin of the eggs became transparent. She was able to see everything inside of each. He knew something of her she didn’t.

Fortunately, none of them beheld baby dragons save only a few. Taking some time, she tried deciding if there would be any that were easier to grab then the next, but it was to no avail. She needed two. That was the deal. If she could get more than that, not only her life would be spared, but she could amass a small fortune selling them off.

Pulling out a small satchel, she grabbed an enchanted rope. She was sure it was the tool she would need to get the eggs. Tying a noose on the rope, she threw one end into the lava resulting in the rope catching fire. She threw it down, frustrated and impatient.

She needed to regroup, and she was worried about the heat beginning to overwhelm her. In a running pace, she left the eggs behind to get to a cooler area. As the armor was still scorching, she slid off her gear to reveal her skin in the soft glow of the caves. She had worn nothing underneath and now had nothing to protect her now except her speed and the knives she carried in her hands.

Sliding one out of the sheath she placed it on the ground before her. It would really do her no good having it. She would have to leave them here. Quickly she emptied the suit of the many blades she was carrying. She dared not risk them going into the fire again. Many of them would be much too difficult to replace.

As she looked upon the empty shells of the armor that she was just wearing, it occurred to her that she could use pieces to scoop out the eggs from the lava. She was afraid though on just how her naked body could handle the heat of going so close to the nest. Life was more valuable to her. Neither seemed a viable option. Was there anything near the cache of tools and armor that she could use?

It made her think of Isod again. Knowing that the injured man was back there made her second guess the approach. She had no desire to speak to him again. Assuredly he would have known that she had no true interest in helping him. How could anyone believe that a small girl such as she could carry an injured man through the den of a dragon?

A feeling of guilt was really what was accompanying her. She was there to save another’s life, although it meant truly saving her own. There was little that she could do, if anything, to save the life of the young man and it somehow affected her. He is just a distraction! The thoughts wouldn’t leave her alone. It was the guilt of valuing her own life over those of others. Never before had such thoughts manifested themselves.

She sat there, naked, suddenly feeling foolish. She picked herself up off of the ground and walked herself back to where Isod was. Before doing so, she tucked all of the equipment to the side in a small hole that she found in the wall. It wasn’t much to conceal, but it would have to do.

It was much easier moving without the armor. Though it had been designed to allow for free movement, it limited her.

Typically, she wore a lightweight armor of her own design outfitted with an interwoven ophrill lace that she had stolen from Majylore craft makers. The threads of ophrill were the beyond the strength of steel or diamond, able to defend against even the sharpest of blades while still allowing the wearer freedom from the burden of weight.

Despite the heat, she felt oddly comfortable. Must be far enough away from the heat she thought to herself.

She slid along the wall cautious of anything that she saw move. She watched for shadow, light, anything that could mean that a dragon was on approach.

The ground beneath her was hot, but it was not beyond her tolerance. Her feet were well toughened by the years of hardships that she endured. Most of her life she chose to work without shoes as they, like most armor, slowed her down.

Turning the corner, she immediately was able to focus her eyes on the young man. She couldn’t tell if he was yet still alive, or if he had passed between her initial visit and then.

Cautiously, she approached hoping to see anything. As she got near enough, the young man’s head turned to see her. Feeling caught, she approached his closer and lied as though she had been looking: “I cannot find water.”

Isod made his attempt to pull in enough air to say the words “you’re beautiful.”

It could only be imagined by her that it was what he said as his breath fizzled out at the end. She blushed as she didn’t expect his response. She had forgotten, but with the armor she had been completely concealed except for her eyes.

“Do not worry,” Isod whispered in staccato, jagged breaths. “I am dead. I am just thirsty.” His words took some time to articulate as he struggled to speak. He was immensely weak and aside from his head, he didn’t move.

Placing her hand on his chest, Dephtselia felt the weakness in Isod’s heartbeat. He was still alive, but it truly was beyond hope. Trying to muster any sense of genuine concern, she touched his cheek and smiled.

Then she heard the other breathing.

Turning around, she saw the shadow of the creature coming towards them both. In fear, she jumped over Isod and ducked behind some of the debris along a far wall.

Indeed, the dragon appeared, but with another. The second was smaller. It was the male, though it was still incredibly large. Terrifying.

Without much time to allow Dephtselia to prepare herself, the smaller male dragon stepped over to Isod and tore the young man’s body in half and then ate it. She nearly screamed having to cover her mouth to keep from doing so. As though she was seeing such violence for the first time in her life, she couldn’t help but to feel horrified.

The two dragons sniffed the air as though they were trying to center on a smell. The action reminded Dephtselia of the potion. It frightened her. She was sure that there was less time than she had before it would stop working. Once it stopped, the dragons would easily find her. Fright was palatable with those thoughts.

After a few movements, the male spat the bloody remains of the boy onto the ground. Almost purring, the female’s head followed, consuming the boy’s remains before moving closer to eat more of the bodies there, often lapping the pieces up with its tongue.

After their snack, the dragons unsatisfactorily headed towards the nests. It would mean even more time before Dephtselia could possibly execute her plans. She was happy that she had spent the extra effort and risk in removing her coverings and hiding them. It would prove problematic if they were found. Dragons were considerably smarter than average beasts. They would have burned the entire caverns had they found the armor and thought it abnormal.

She crept out from her hiding spot first going to the spot Isod once was. There was a small pool of new blood from the event as well as pieces of entrails. Giving him a blessing for peace of the plains of Syfil, she left the memory of the young man. Finding useful items was now more pressing. There was limited time to do so.

Cloth and other various coverings barely interested her. It had looked as though most of the material had been drug in from the outside rather than someone venturing in as she had. Only if someone came into the cave would she hope to find anything like the armor she had been wearing. And she could use something to shield herself from the radiating heat of the nests. Assuredly her skin would boil if she were unsuccessful in finding anything.

A glimmer caught her attention though as she searched on. As she approached it, she saw that it was a blade of some kind. Buried into the ground, but poking out just enough, she uncovered a short sword. Beautifully ornate, she could immediately sense a power behind it. It was small, lightweight, a perfect complement to her methods in combat.

With her fingertips she dug fervently around until she was able to completely clear the blade from the ground. Holding it, she examined it much more closely noticing the details scripture carved in along the edge of the blade. It was difficult for her to even make out the detail. Also, it was in a language she was not familiar with.

Not too far from where the sword was buried, she found the sheath. It was wood wrapped in some kind of leather that she was not familiar with either. It appeared old and tattered unlike the sword. Quietly, she sheathed the sword and wrapped the lanyard over her shoulder.

There were dozens of objects that ranged from useful elsewhere to useless. Many weapons beyond the short blade would fetch a good price in bartering, however, she had no interest in carrying any more than she needed to having already picked up the cache of valuables. Regardless, she placed as many things as she could in a satchel left behind by another of the unfortunate brought here to be eaten. She tested the weight to ensure that it would not be too heavy. Then she sat the satchel down in a spot that was easy to grab if she were to get the chance to leave the caverns.

There was no sense of time and how long it had been since the two dragons had passed by. She didn’t know where they were or what they were doing. She continued to look through everything there. Eventually she found the remains of a woman, not unlike her. The corpse had been there for a quite a long time and the remains had cooked in the heat.

Around the woman, there was a small bota bag that she felt had some liquid inside. Quickly, she pulled the top off and checked it. It was cool. Perplexed, she smelled and tasted a small amount of the water. It seemed as though it was ok. Trust didn’t allow her to drink though. She would have someone look at this. She’s heard of the ever-filled sacks, but she had never seen one, so the belief was difficult to grasp. It would be one of the most useful objects she could ever have.

Looking further over the girl, it looked as though she had been mauled before managing to tuck herself in a place that the dragons would find difficult to get to. Her armor though was exactly what she needed: heat armor. The design was much more intricate, built more for speed than was her own. It was crafted solely for this purpose.

“This will be convenient if it fits,” Dephtselia remarked while taking the armor from the girl’s body.

And it was convenient. Only slightly loose, it fit well enough to work effectively. She was surprised at the increased range in motion that the armor had compared to what had be given to her for this mission. This girl must have been after the same prize and yet failed before reaching the nest.

Taking to her feet again, she began to slowly edge out to see if there was anything in the tunnels leading to the nests. Nothing was there. On the ground, she could see the fresh tracks from the animals. She heard nothing other than the ambient sounds of the cave.

Not wanting to waste any more of the little time she had before her scent would give her away, she started her journey back towards the lava pools. This time she had to be more cautious. The beasts would be there.

As she moved on, she tried to make sure that she didn’t miss her original stash of supplies. Once she found them, she looked around her again to see if she believed that she had time. She didn’t.

As quickly as she could, the second that the shadows loomed, she tucked herself in the same place as to where she left her supplies. Through the orange glow the lumbering dragon walked through dripping still with lava. Were they bathing? she thought to herself.

She knew nothing of dragons aside from tales of people outside of the kingdom occasionally being carried away. There were no dragons inside the kingdom’s borders. The defenses at the boundaries ensured that none of those beasts would pass. But if one were to travel beyond those borders, they took into risk their own life as a dragon could easily swoop down at capture anyone. That is how it had been: humans dared not enter the lands of the dragons lest they accept their probable death.

Once she could be sure that the first animal passed her, she watched for the second. There was nothing.

Not taking any more time to hesitate, she pulled herself from hiding and gathered her belongings while trying to fashion a carrier for the eggs out of her old armor. It was crude, but it would do.

Quietly, she moved on finally making it down to the lava.

She found there was no dragon in sight.

Taking out her crude device, she immediately took to her work, and it worked surprisingly well. She scooped out three of the eggs with ease using the armor she had worn entering the caves. While she was doing so, she didn’t think much of the heat. It occurred to her that the woman who had been killed was contracted by the Majylores to get them the eggs. Dragons were typically impervious to their magic, so they were possibly more powerless against the animals than a man was.

Once she had the eggs to the side, she noticed the other beast. It was laying silently, watching her from inside the lava. Without much more thought, Dephtselia backed away, pulling her prizes along with her while clutching her new sword’s handle.

Instantly the creature rose out of the lava pit. Red and orange glowed as lava spilt over the beast, its huge limbs pulling itself from the pool. Without a sound it charged at her. With speed unmatched even by her own abilities, she unsheathed the sword and sliced the dragon through the throat. Lava continued to drip from the animal’s body as it shivered and quaked with the sword’s piercing. As the beast began to bear its weight on her, she pulled the sword out and leapt to the side.

For sure the other dragon was now alerted to her presence, but instead of turning her attention there, she marveled at the action that she was able to commit. How could I have done that? Even as she had taken the sword to slice at the dragon, the best that she could hope for was the momentary distraction and a chance to duck into a small trench, not that it would guard her from a fire spurt. Instead, now before her was a dead dragon.

Stunned, she looked at the sword and then at the armor she wore. Enhancers she thought. Dephtselia was already swift, and this made her remarkably more so. She had no idea which of the two were responsible. She smiled, excited by the possibilities as she peered over her kill. There were parts of dragons that were immensely valuable. She could easily capture a fortune were she able to harvest it.

But the feeling of triumph was short-lived as she was suddenly thrown forward by a fire spurt from the other beast. She was found again.

To her fortune she survived the blast. She was not as fortunately guarded against the hit that she took when she slammed into the far wall.

It took only a brief moment before the beast was charging towards her position. Quickly, she ducked down behind a rock as she had done before with the same beast. This time though, the dragon swung its tail around smashing the area Dephtselia was. Able to dodge it, she took the opportunity to run along the back of the animal as it continued to turn.

While she sprinted, she realized that the sword had been knocked from her hands and was laying close by. Her speed had dropped. Was the sword enhanced? Diverting her run, she picked up the blade before being able to slide down a small tunnel and out of the way.

Deep inside, she slid until nearly dropping into a pool of lava. It had opened up into a large cavern below. She yelped as she gripped the edge tightly while pulling herself up. Taking one hand to sheath the sword, she then pulled and was able to get herself back into the tunnel. Breathing heavily, she felt trapped.

She climbed back up laggardly against the smooth, steep walls. Upon reaching near enough to see out, she saw the other dragon, not watching for her, but rather appearing to mourn the loss of its companion.

Sympathy grew inside Dephtselia as she watched. Dragons were fierce creatures, not known for being anything but aggressors.

Taking care not to bring any more attention to herself, she crawled out of the tunnel cautiously standing. Turning its head, the dragon stared at her. Dephtselia looked deep into the silver eyes of a creature that suddenly had no interest in her.

Dephtselia removed the helmet from her head. Her onyx hair was matted. She felt the heat again that her suit had been protecting her from.

Woman and dragon didn’t move, but rather they watched each other. Before realizing it, there was a pool of tears that she noticed forming under the beast. Instantly all of the maneuvers meant to defend herself now seemed useless and cruel. Now she was planning on removing the creature’s eggs from the caves.

There was no more time to be had. Once the creature placed its head back down she gathered the items she had collected. Before long, she was ready to move. The eggs were securely tucked inside the armor that once carried her into the caves. Thoughts of the fortune she would raise from the fallen animal disappeared as she carried herself from the caves.

Once outside, the cool air hit her face. It felt good. Her life felt rewarded by being allowed to leave those caves alive. Now it was time to go fulfill her promise and ensure that she would be allowed to live. Hopefully they didn’t let their greed betray their deal.

-end-

©2017 Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved.
Please do not replicate or use without written permission from author (seriously, just ask). Linking to this page is permitted.

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