Lemma the Librarian: Hard Truths, Part 5

The most important rule of dealing
with dragons is that you never, ever look them in the eye. Everyone knows that.
What everyone doesn’t know–or at least, I didn’t until that moment–is how
hard it is not to. Its eye was enormous, at least as tall as I am, and
flame-colored: dull red around the edges, mostly orange, and then shading into
bright yellow in the middle. Its pupil was pitch-black, though, and slitted
like a cat’s. While I stared, the dragon blinked, but not with its eyelid. Some
kind of inner, transparent eyelid flicked across its eye. Great, so it can even
blink without breaking its gaze.

I couldn’t look away. I was caught,
helpless prey staring into the gaze of the ultimate predator. I couldn’t move,
couldn’t flee, couldn’t cast a spell: all I could do was look into that fiery
eye as it seemed to expand until it filled the world. I was going to die. 

“Greetingsssss…” it
said. Its voice was a low rumble, ending in a snakelike hiss. “What
bringssss you to my home, human?”

The most important rule of dealing
with dragons is to be polite, and I know that’s the third “most important
rule” I’ve mentioned. They’re all the most important rule, because make
one mistake with a dragon, and you die. “I’m sorry,” I ventured.
“I didn’t know anyone lived here, I was just looking for shelter. 

It made a strange rumbling noise. A
chuckle? "You lie,” it said. 

“No! I really didn’t–”

“Quiet,” it said, and my
mouth snapped shut instantly. “You knew sssomeone lived here, that isssss
why you came. You sssstole food.”

I gulped. “I’m sorry. I
shouldn’t have–”

“No matter. You will make
recompenssssse. You will provide nourissssshment in lieu of that which you

Oh fuck oh fuck it’s going to eat
me what do I do!?
But there was nothing I could do. Its gaze held me utterly
helpless. All I could do was think, and talk if it let me.

“Fear not,” it said.
“I will not consssume your flesssh. I desssire sssussssstenancccce of a
different sssssort. Oncccce it hassss been provided, you ssssshall depart in peaccccce.”

“Why should I believe you?
Everyone knows the most important rule for dealing with dragons is never believe anything
they say!”

“Impertinent whelp! You are
lucky I had a good nap and am in a good mood, elsssse I would take what I want
and burn you to asssssh. You are wrong; we do not lie. That issss a lie
humanssss tell becaussssse they fear what we do even more. We do not make liesssss–we
conssssume them.”

“What?” What could that
even mean?

“I will take away your liessss,
little morssssel,” it said. “I will leave you naked before the truth,
and then sssend you back into the world. That isss why you humansss want to
believe we lie, becausssse you do not want to believe the truth we ssshow

And it was true. I knew, somehow,
that it was true, that everything the dragon told me was an iron-hard, crystalline
fact. But I’d dealt with too many glamours and enchantments to trust that
feeling. “You’re lying. You’re making me feel like it’s true with magic,
but I know it’s not.”

It gave that rumbling chuckle.
“You would like to believe that, and not jussst becaussse it would let you
hold on to your liessss.”

“What are you talking

“How many timessss, little
morsssel? How many timessss have you let yourssself be caught, ensssslaved,
your thoughtssss and feelingssss rewritten by your captor?”

“That’s–that’s not my
fault!” I protested. 

“Isssn’t it?”

“I fought them! I broke

“But you wanted to

“No,” I insisted, trying
to shake my head, but it was hard with my eyes held in its inexorable gaze. So
much easier to nod… “You’re just trying to control me yourself.”

“You would like that,” it
rumbled. “The thought fillssss you with desssire.”

“No,” I said again, but I
could feel the flush spreading through me, my growing wetness. And that was it
making me feel this way, it had to be–and that thought made me even hotter.

To be continued…

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