Jonathan and Bas said goodbye to the capital and those in it, then traveled into the woods. If Jonathan had more time, he would stay around to spend more time with Chester and Aderes, but they needed to ride all the way to L’ua’s cave and back. If they had a few extra days after, they could stick around the stronghold a bit before heading back to Malamut.
Fortunately, Jonathan had kept the map for the dragon’s den and brought it on the quest; it was a bit faded, but legible. Jonathan and Bas adventured off for a few days to the town near the dragon. They resupplied there then headed into the forest.
A few days later they reached their destination, and they easily knew they were at the right place.
There was a dragon sunning himself outside on the boulders. His silvery scales were clean enough to the point they could be weaponized to blind unsuspecting passersby; it was rather unlikely for other people to be wandering around the dragon populated mountains. L’ua looked rather bored, but that expression quickly switched to curious when he spotted the two humans. “Honorable Jonathan, it’s been a while.”
“It has.” Jonathan bowed. “L’ua, I’d like to introduce you to Bas. He wished to trade for something made of a dragon’s scale, or something owned by a dragon.”
“You thought of me?” L’ua’s tail curled and uncurled.
“Of course,” Jonathan flattered. “What other dragon would be as amazing as to trade fairly with humans?”
L’ua tilted his head at the compliment. Now that he had been properly flattered, he folded his wings together and turned around. “Come in, come in!”
The cave was rather different. It had been hollowed and leveled out. A large carpet or three covered up some of the stony floor. There was now proper lighting, in the form of some candles hastily lit by the dragon.
Jonathan was legitimately impressed. “I like the changes you made.”
“Of course.” L’ua sat down on a pile of his hoard, curling his tail around himself to be polite. “Who is your other companion?”
Jonathan raised an eyebrow. He followed the dragon’s line of sight to his shoulder. “Ah, this is Oceton, a phoenix.” He paused and feeling the need, clarified, “He doesn’t talk.”
Regardless, L’ua properly greeted the bird and seemed satisfied by the chirp he received in response. He started going over his hoard with Bas, pulling out various pieces of jewelry and small gems.
Nothing really caught Bas’ eye. He needed something special, something that would stand out decently against his siblings’ findings and trophies.
“I’m sad these aren’t worthy items to you, honorable Bas.” L’ua hummed deep in his chest. “You mentioned things like my scales? I have a few around here, but I would feel terrible to only give you scales.”
Bas hesitated, “Some scales of yours are more than enough.” He could get a craftsman to work on something if they had a few days before the banquet. Either way, having scales would mean he did at least successfully find a dragon.
L’ua rooted through piles of jewelry, utensils, and other items. Eventually he collected a few scales that he had shed and passed them to the boy.
Bas held the scales carefully in his hands, founding himself undeniably awed. The edges were jagged, but the main plate of the scale itself was amazingly smooth. He inspected them, amazed by how shiny they were. Once he was done inspecting the scales, he pulled out the brooch he had brought to trade.
“I can’t accept any payment for something so simple,” L’ua said. His uncertainty was clear in his voice. He clearly held some pride in his fairness.
“It’s really not,” Jonathan firmly assured.
“I have to disagree, noble humans.”
Bas looked around the homely cave. He really didn’t want to feel indebted, or scam the dragon. He thought L’ua was rather nice. “Would you like something else instead then?”
L’ua’s tail stilled, coming to rest on top of the pile of gold. “I always wanted to travel.”
“You want to see the world?” Jonathan asked. He kept his tone non-confrontational, as the dragon seemed weirdly afraid of this conversation.
“Yes, I do.” L’ua puffed up his chest. He had gained some courage when his idea wasn’t immediately rejected. “Would you mind if I traveled with the three of you? I would be delighted to have my first adventure with three honorable creatures.”
“I . . . ” Jonathan couldn’t help the wince at the idea of trying to hide a giant lizard. This was his nightmare about what would hatch from Peter’s egg coming back to haunt him. “It might be difficult for you to travel without being seen.”
“I don’t need to worry about hiding. I have a knack.” L’ua flashed his teeth at the two humans and without any further warning, shrunk to being small enough to fit in a pocket. Without the presence of his wings, one could reasonably mistake him for a common lizard.
While Bas picked the dragon up and bombarded him with questions on how the knack worked, Jonathan dragged a hand down his face and accepted that he would have a miniature dragon tagging along now. This was not the strangest thing that had happened to him. He had found out only last week his dead best friend had been resurrected by accident.
The way back to the capital was undoubtedly far more interesting with the addition of a dragon to the party. L’ua seemed to enjoy learning and Bas was happy to explain human customs and inventions.
Jonathan kept an eye on them, but the two got along quite well. He suspected that was because their personalities were a bit similar. They both hid their insecurities through a mix of politeness and arrogance. However, they also picked up on that the other person wasn’t really that confident in truth, just as they themselves weren’t.
They came to a fork in the road, and stopped there for a moment.
“What are you smiling at?” Bas asked.
L’ua looked curiously at the two.
Jonathan’s lips twitched. “Nothing.”
It was definitely not nothing, but Bas wasn’t quite sure how to pry any further explanation out of the older man. He huffed. “Fine then, keep your secrets.”
“Why thank you, I will.” Jonathan looked at the map and a small compass, double checking their direction. “We’re taking the left.”
It started raining later that day, and L’ua shielded them with his wings until they made it to a cave. The experience of getting caught in the rain while travelling was, as always, a miserable time. Jonathan was just happy that they were only a day away from the capital.
Back to Bas and Jonathan’s main quest, and the appearance of yet another familiar character.