Disclaimer? What disclaimer? This is MY story! MY characters! MWAHAHHAHAHA!!! :] Anyone caught using the setting or plot or characters from this li'l tale, will die a nasty horrible death! *cackles evilly* Yes, I know I should be working on my Fushigi Yƻgi fic, but I had started writing this short story a while ago and just wanted to finish it. *sigh* So here it is. Completed at last! :D

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A Dragon's cure

by sanomi

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There hadn't been any dragons in our tiny kingdom for hundreds of years. As the legend goes, they were driven off by brave heroic knights wearing shining armor and riding on noble steeds.

That's how the legend goes, anyway.

And yet here I was, seeking the home of one of the very few dragons left, as three others before me had done. They had never returned.

Basically, the king had called for the bravest and most valiant in the land- - anyone who could hold a sword-- to go and find the fabled lair of the dragon and bring back its eyes, which, supposedly, were able to cure any ill. Not a pleasant job, I'm sure, as the dragon most likely would prefer to keep them.

Still, the perks were pretty good. If I get the item requested by the king, I'll get a princess' hand in marriage, and half the kingdom to boot. So I had bravely buckled on my sword-- a rusty thing with the blade barely still attached to the hilt that I inherited from my father-- and set forth to the lair.

A week later, I found its whereabouts, but only because a helpful villager pointed out the smoke coming from an area reportedly full of caves. So now I had the lair, but what about the dragon? Rumor had it that dragons only come out at night, so as to be able to pillage without being seen flying in the sky. There was still plenty of light left; I could go confront it now while it was still sleeping.

There were many more caves then I originally thought, how could I determine which one held the dragon? In the shadow of the mountain ahead, I could see a faint glow of light coming from one of the caves.

Bingo.

I stepped into the cave-- which happened to be very large; the perfect size for a dragon-- and the light snuffed out. I heard some faint mutterings; a whoosh of air, and the light was back again. I crept as silently as I could to where the light seemed to be coming from, peered in, and nearly dropped my sword.

The dragon was huge! Looked to be nearly twenty feet long, and at least twice my height! Attacking it while it was asleep seemed not so feasible a plan any longer.

Especially since it was awake.

"Either come in, or leave," a raspy voice said, that could only have come from the dragon.

"Er-come in, I guess..."

"Well then, be quick about it! It's beastly hot in here and you're blocking the draft." It looked up from the book it appeared to be reading-a book that was as tall as I was-and peered at me intently. "Hmmm. Better put that poker stick away too, while you're at it. Might hurt yourself."

I nearly choked when I realized it was talking about my sword. "It's not a poker stick." My voice was higher then usual. I cleared my throat and continued. "It's a sword."

A sound like falling rocks started coming from the dragon, and I jumped. It took me another few moments to realize that the thing was laughing at me! "Sure it is," the dragon snorted. "And let me guess, you were sent to kill me?"

"No of course not," I said, offended. "I was just sent to get your eyes."

" 'Just sent to get your eyes,' " it mimicked. "And how do you propose to do that?"

"I was hoping you would be asleep during the day."

"And how did you come to that conclusion?" Amusement was evident in its voice.

"Well, I thought..."

"Humph! That's the trouble with you would-be dragon hunters! You don't think!" It rose proudly, eyes glowing, and smoke coming out of its nostrils. "Do you really want to fight me?"

"N-not particularly..." I was really beginning to regret coming here.

"That's what I thought. You're pretty smart, for a mortal and a human." The dragon settled down again and picked up a pair of glasses, with lenses the size of my head, before going back to its book.

I blinked. "Aren't you going to eat me?"

"Why should I eat you?"

"But that's what they say all dragon do."

" 'They' seem to be misinformed. I haven't eaten a human since I was just out of the shell."

"That's not particularly comforting."

"Oh?" The dragon looked at me again, as if seeing me for the first time. "A human with a sense of humor? You are not a knight, are you?"

"No," I admitted. "Not really."

"A squire?"

"No."

"A prince?"

"Definitely not."

"Interesting..." It mused. "I think you'd better tell me all about this."

For some reason, I found myself relating all that had happened until now. I wouldn't try to attack it again; not only was it much too powerful, but I couldn't help sympathizing with the creature. It was no faceless, emotionless beast that preyed on the helpless. The dragon was like a real person. "What do I call you?"

"What?" For the first time, I had startled it.

"I can't keep on calling you 'dragon,' can I? Don't you have a name?"

"A name, a name." It seemed to be searching its memory. "Phyre! That's it, Phyre!"

"Fire?"

"No," it corrected, "Phyre."

"Oh. Alright, Phyre, it is, then." At this point, I was sitting cross- legged on the floor, leaning against the wall so I could look up at it without having so crane my neck so.

"So what are you called?"

"Me?" I asked.

"Do you see anyone else in this room?"

"Um, Emrys. Emrys Gladring."

The dragon shook his head and muttered. "Humans and their silly need for more than one name."

"It's a good name," I insisted, a tad put out.

"I'm sure it is. Now, why in the world would your king want my eyes?"

"Well, they say a dragon's eyes are supposed to cure any illness..."

Phyre snorted. "Rubbish. What illness would your king have that couldn't be cured by one of his filthy leech using physicians, anyway?"

"Er, bad luck, I'm told."

"Bad luck!?" Phyre rose up to its full height (which was rather impressive) and smoke started pouring out of its ears. "BAD LUCK!? Do you mean to tell me the king wanted to have someone to gauge out my eyes merely to cure his so called 'bad luck'!?!"

"Eeep." I cowered before its rage, wishing very much I hadn't come, or at least had a clear getaway.

Phyre smoked and fumed for a few minutes longer before finally settling down again. "Kings and their crackpot ideas," he muttered.

"Crackpot ideas?" What was it talking about?

"Yes," it said, in the manner of a teacher to an errant pupil. "Kings tend to be very superstitious. The chances that he really has bad luck are a thousand to one. Bad luck imps tend to be attracted to people who have lost their good luck faeries, you know."

"No kidding," I replied faintly. I had heard of good luck faeries, of course (who hasn't?), but bad luck imps? "In any case, what am I to do? I swore to bring back a cure."

"You did? What for?"

"For half the kingdom and a princess's hand in marriage."

Phyre groaned and shook its head ruefully. "That old reward! Why don't humans ever come up with new ones?"

"Um... Because the regular ones have worked so well?"

The dragon snorted again. "Listen... Emrys, wasn't it? The reason this land is so chock full of itty bitty kingdoms is precisely because of all the splitting the kingdoms in half!"

"I never realized..."

"Of course you didn't. You're only a mortal, after all. I have seen this land when it used to be all a single kingdom."

"Just one?" The very idea of all the hundreds of kingdoms originally being one was mind-boggling. I shook my head suddenly and tried to bring the conversation back to the point. "But how can I go back without the cure?"

"Hmm..." Phyre idly scratched his chin with a claw as he thought. "Aha!" He reached over across the room to a pile of gold things I hadn't noticed before.

"So dragons do hoard treasure?" I couldn't help but ask.

"Of course not. This cave was originally used by treasure hunters to store their loot. When I moved in, they didn't come to retrieve their jewels and such, for some reason. That was about a hundred years ago, or so, I believe." It seemed to have found was it was looking for and brought out a jeweled goblet. "Here."

"What??"

Phyre snorted impatiently. "Take it."

Confused, and afraid to refuse a dragon, I accepted it. "What do I do with it?"

"Give it to your King, of course."

"Huh?"

"Honestly, are all humans dense? Give it to your King in place of my eyes," the dragon paused here to shudder. "Make up some story about how daring and brave you were and graciously spared my life in exchange for a cure, or some sort of rubbish like that. Royalty loves that sort of thing."

"That's a great idea! But what does this goblet have anything to do with that?"

Phyre closed its as if in pain. "You really are slow, aren't you? The goblet is the cure, you blockhead."

"It is?" I studied it curiously; it didn't look like it was magic, but then again, that was the nature of most magical objects.

"No."

"But you just said--"

"It's not really magic. After all, why waste a perfectly good cure on a King who isn't even ill?!"

"But--"

"Just fill the cup with some sort of beverage before giving it to the King. He'll believe it's a cure, and since he's not really ill, no harm done, and you'll get your reward."

"That doesn't seem awfully honest..." It was truly a magnificent plan, but somehow my morals weren't agreeing with it.

"Then just ask for some gold, or a knightship, or something-- I don't care." It waved a clawed hand negligently. "Besides, it's so much trouble to run your own Kingdom-- too much bureaucracy-- and princesses are so silly. I hear their lack of intelligence is proportionate to their beauty." Phyre gazed at my sternly in the eye. "Take the thing, and go to your little King."

"Yes, sir," I squeaked: looking eye to eye with a dragon is a rather unsettling experience.

Just as I was about to walk out the exit, the dragon said, "Come back anytime. Although I don't know what I'd do with you if you came or another cure," it added grumpily.

I realized that Phyre must be lonely. All alone in the cave with nothing but its books for company... I turned back. "I'll come back again," I promised.

"Here." The dragon tossed something that flashed silver to me and I just barely caught it before it connected with my head. "What is this for?" I stared at the silver amulet in my hand; it was carved in the perfect likeness of Phyre, complete with the glowing amethyst eyes.

"Proof that actually came face to face with a dragon. You can also use it to call me if you're in a bind." Grudgingly, it added, "You're not too bad-- for a human, that is."

"Of course," I replied with a smile. Then I left, swearing to myself that I would be back.

And I would.