I climbed my way up and over to the
smoke. It was slow, painful going, my poor muscles screaming at me the entire
way. Finally I arrived at the source of the smoke, a large gap between two
outcroppings of rock. I never would have found it if it weren’t for the
smoke–the opening was invisible from below or either side.
I clambered on top of one of the
outcroppings and found a flat surface big enough to sprawl out on. It was warm
in the sun, and felt good against my aching body while a lay there for a
But my aching stomach compelled me
to go further. I turned to face the opening. Thanks to its angle, it was dark
inside, so I cast another light spell and walked in, the glowy ball hovering
above my head.
My nose twitched as something wonderful
filled it, the most welcome smell I could have imagined: roast meat. I found
the source before long: someone had roasted what looked like an entire godsdamned
cow and just left it lying there, warm and fragrant.
It was a LOT of meat. Surely whoever
it was wouldn’t mind sharing a little, right? With some difficulty, I ripped a chunk
off and tore into it. It was really badly cooked: it tasted like they’d
forgotten to put on any seasoning at all, and it was burnt in some spots while
practically raw in others.
But at that moment, it was the most
delicious thing I’d ever tasted. I wolfed it down, and then lay there for a
while, luxuriating in the feeling of a full belly.
A little too much, I guess, because
I fell asleep again. By the time I woke up, I was feeling much better, almost
human again. And still no sign of whoever this cave belonged to, just the smell
of meat and smoke.
I considered just leaving, but what if
it was Iason and Iola, or somebody who could help me figure out where I was? It
made sense to look for them–which meant following the smoke smell farther into
The cave soon opened out into a large
chamber. The floor here was smooth but uneven, as it rose into a series of
lumps or hills on the far side. I increased the brightness of my light smell,
trying to figure out what I was looking at, and spotted the source of the
smoke: it was coming out of two holes in one of the smaller lumps, near the
center of the room.
A lump shaped sort of like a horse’s
head… and then that long rounded ridge was a neck, which made the really big
hilly thing the body, and–fuck, it’s a dragon, isn’t it?
As if on cue, the dragon rumbled and
shifted. It’s wings rustled for a heart-freezing moment, and then it was
Okay, Lemma, you’ve stumbled into a
dragon’s lair and eaten part of its lunch. Back away slowly and quietly.
Remember the rules for dealing with dragons. The most important rule: let
sleeping dragons lie.
I walked backwards, but I must have
gotten rotated slightly, because my butt went straight into the wall. I risked
turning away from the dragon to find the exit–it was a couple feet to my left.
Then I turned back and saw the dragon looking right at me.
To be continued…
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