Jonathan went to the town square and found Chester. It wasn’t hard to . . . one only needed to follow the sounds of a mandolin and disgruntled listeners. He waited for the performance to finish and then walked up to the bard. He didn’t bother with any sort of small talk and said, “I need to go do something. It should take three days. After that, I’m taking a train to Maskiff. Take care of the chick.” He wasn’t going to take a noisy, barely hatched chick to a giant predator’s lair and the bard could be trusted as Chester was fond of the bird already.
“I’ll wait. I heard the town on the path has a gambling den. And, Maskiff sounds fun. I can buy the tickets ahead and you can pay me back,” Chester offered. He took the small bag, where the chick was sleeping, and set it against the tree he was performing under.
Jonathan shook his head. “An acquaintance of mine is taking care of our tickets. It’ll be fine.” He looked at the mountain in the distance he was going to; it was covered in snow. Peter had said the mountain was called Sc’lia. He ignored Chester waving goodbye and immediately went back to the general store. He bought a thicker coat—it was red and had a similar style to the one he had used in the palace—and a horse blanket.
He put away his cloak, but went through it first to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. He found a hair tie, likely Aderes’, and used it to pull his hair back. He hadn’t gotten a haircut and it had already grown to his shoulders.
Getting to the base of the mountain was easy. What was hard was getting up the mountain. The breeze was cold and oft changed direction.
He camped at the base of the mountain the first night and skimmed through the book on dragons. It was mainly myths—nothing particularly substantial. In this world, dragons liked treasure, spat fire, and were rarely seen by any other race.
Jonathan was just glad he was pretty sure he hadn’t gotten lost. Knowing how to navigate with a compass and a map was rather useful.
He reached the caves on the second day and tied Biscuit outside. He took his satchel inside as he needed a place to put whatever he took.
Jonathan stepped inside a cave opening. It was dark, but a bit humid. He was sheltered from the winds.
He made sure to stay quiet, second guessing his every step. The puddles of water on the stony floor were carefully tiptoed around.
Jonathan’s feet hit something in the dark. He lit a candle from the pack he had taken with him. He wasn’t dumb enough to walk into a dark cave without any source of light.
The transmigrator stopped moving forward.
His light reflected off the coins on the floor and off the silver scales of the dragon curled up on the side of the cave.
Jonathan took a step back, and slipped.
A burst of flame poured out from the dragon’s nostrils as it was startled awake. “Who’s there?” It bellowed. The voice seemed to belong to a male.
Jonathan cursed under his breath. He was frozen in place, his butt on the ground. He had caught himself with a hand despite the darkness, but dropped his candle; the candle’s flame flickered for a moment but kept on going. The sunlight behind him never seemed so inviting.
The dragon breathed out and flames extended into the cave. He sat up and glanced at the rest of the cave, head swiveling slowly.
Jonathan had two options. He either stayed or attempted to make a run for it. The problem was, who could outrun a dragon in his own den? If he got outside, would Biscuit be able to outrun the dragon? The transmigrator steeled himself, pushing his nerves aside with practiced ease. If he could speak in front of thousands, then a dragon wasn’t too bad. Jonathan just had to think of the dragon like a viewer of his streams, except it was a viewer who could actually kill him. “Greetings, noble dragon!”
The dragon seemed surprised, but puffed his chest up at the greeting. “Human, why have you trespassed into my lair?”
“I had heard of your amazing treasures and wished to look upon them myself.” Jonathan took a breath, using it to think before he carefully added, “A friend of mine was also looking for a gift for his betrothed, and so I hoped that I would be able to trade with you fairly for a bracelet. After all, you have the finest collection I have seen in my life.” He had already noticed the creature seemed weak to flattery.
The dragon laughed. The sound shook the cave, but the rocks held steady. “You are bold to attempt to bargain with me.” His boastful tone quickly jumped to serious as he questioned, “What have you brought to trade with me?” He curled and uncurled his tail, slowly scattering coins behind him.
Jonathan would never forget to keep his wallet on him after this. He took a few steps back into the sunlight. He opened his satchel and pulled out the pouch he kept the small amount of expensive palace items he had left after pawning or trading over the past few months. After a few seconds of searching for the perfect item, he presented a small, elegantly crafted ivory bracelet, except. . . it wasn’t actually a bracelet; it was a napkin ring. “A bracelet for a bracelet seems fair to me.”
The dragon’s purple eyes dilated slightly at the sight of the item. He held to his honor, however. “What type of bracelet are you looking for?”
Jonathan took out the map and unfolded it. “My friend’s betrothed drew what she wanted on this map. If you have something similar looking, it would be greatly appreciated.”
The dragon stood up. The coins slid down the pile as he walked over them. The dragon closed the gap between himself and the human, peering at the map. He might have had eyesight problems from how close he got. His eyes were slitted, in a manner similar to snakes.
Jonathan glanced over the large, powerful scaled body. The wings alone were taller than him. He spotted the lack of shiny silver; the dragon was missing a scale over his chest. Jonathan still had Liam’s dagger. It was in his belt. He could stab the dragon in the heart and take as much treasure as he wanted to. His fingers twitched towards his belt and he sighed.
“I think I’ve seen something like what your friend wants,” the dragon commented. He turned around to nose through his piles, and almost hit the human with his wings.
Jonathan had to dodge to avoid the tail that followed. He rolled his eyes, but didn’t complain. “What’s your name, noble dragon?”
“My name is L’ua, and your name, honorable human?” The dragon had turned his neck to look back at the strange human in his cave. He was, however, a strange dragon himself.
“Have you traveled much?”
Jonathan considered the question for a few seconds. “Some.”
“How were your experiences, honorable Jonathan?”
Jonathan thought of his time in this world, traveling and exploring places he knew nothing about. He also thought of his life, where he had worked and moved constantly out of desperation. “It depended on why I was traveling.”
L’ua paused momentarily in his search, deeply thinking over the response. “That wasn’t what I had expected. All of the dragons I know hate traveling or never settle down—perhaps it is different for humans.”
Jonathan wasn’t sure what to say, and stayed silent. He jumped over L’ua’s tail when the dragon turned back around.
“I think I found a bracelet for you.” On L’ua’s claw was the exact item on the
drawing: a bracelet with countless diamonds dangling from it.
Jonathan double checked the drawing and agreed to the trade, which occurred without any issue. He politely said goodbye to the dragon and stowed the bracelet in his bag. The transmigrator left the cave, but didn’t feel any relief until he was riding away on Biscuit.
He was never going to do a fetch quest for Peter again.
Strangely, few people try bargaining with dragons. It’s a shame.
L’ua has been introduced. He is a good boy.