Chapter one - Deals With Dragons

Eleanor thought of ten things she could have been doing today, stealing apples to eat under a shaded tree was one of them. Tied to a wooden stake on a hot, sweaty, damp day was not. And it was hot. Her forest green peasant shirt she wearing was getting itchy and was already half soaked in sweat, very un-lady like… but then again so was stealing apples from the farmers.

Eleanor smirked in satisfaction, it was worth it though, seeing Farmer Greg running down the steps of his stone cottage with a broom in his left hand and an apple in the other, screaming about rotten children… and in his day…. was amusing to say the least. It became a game between the two of them, Eleanor knew for a fact that Greg didn't truly mind her stealing one or two apples from him. If he had he would have gone to the town guards and said so. No, Eleanor was not tied to a hot wooden stake for stealing apples, or being a witch as was common with being tied to a big pole and then shoved out in the town square. No, she was here as a virgin sacrifice… to a dragon.

How the people of the bloody town knew she was a virgin was still a question Eleanor was trying to figure out. It's not like she walked around town with a sign on her back stating to the world, that she was a virgin… nor did she act all sweet and innocent wearing white every damn day, like the young ladies she saw in the market. Eleanor sighed.

They probably choose her because she was not going to be missed. In fact, the town people were probably celebrating. One less orphan dirtying up their streets, one less thief to worry about while shopping. She could hear the music now… no wait… she could hear the music.

"Stuck up nobles. They'd do anything to get hammered and show off their wealth." A shiver ran up her spine as she watched the sun slowly move across the town square. It was mid noon, the dragon attacked at sun down. Couldn't the guards have caught her, and then tied her to the wooden stake closer to sun down? At least then she wouldn't smell as bad. "The dragon would probably get one whiff of me then run for the live stock, at least they smell better."

Her leather pants were also sticking to her and irritating her. She dimly remembered telling herself this morning to wear a skirt for once rather then pants. But being the idiot she was she put on the leather. She had a feeling Lady Fate was laughing at her.

Several hours went by, Eleanor was amusing herself by finding shapes in the clouds, and therefore had stopped counting. The only thing worth bringing her eyes back down to the earth for was when a little kid threw a rock at her. Stupid little brats, she never wanted to have one. They were all brats, stupid little evil children who pretend to be sweet and cute. She wasn't a witch! Stop throwing rocks! That's how stupid they were, couldn't tell a witch burning apart from a sacrifice. Do you see flames licking at her feet? No, she was tied to a stake on the hangman's stage, sweating like a man, and smelling like one too.

When the sun started to drop and the skies turned crimson, Eleanor finally started to panic. Being eaten by a dragon was said to be a gruesome death, she over heard two soldiers saying that the dragon tore you limb by limb, letting you watch as he devoured your hands, your feet, and then started to slowly chew on your stomach . Why couldn't they have sent a knight to kill the dragon! That's what all the Bards sing about! Knights in shinning armor! She looked around franticly, a large beefy man was picking his nose. No he was defiantly not a knight, or at least she hoped he wasn't.

"I'm dead." Eleanor sighed in defeat. She half hoped that the dragon did burn her to a crisp, or at least destroy the town first so that she could watch.

A scream from one of the streets caught her attention. The dragon was here, he was going to eat her. Looked toward the sky, she saw a large dot, it seemed to be reflecting the crimson sunset because it was red, a nice golden red. What was she doing? It's not like she could steal a dragon, or his scales… although they would catch a very hefty price on today's market. What with all the jewelry you could make out of the scales… let alone the armor and weapons! Say 800 gold pieces. She'd be happy with that. But instead she was going to be eaten, stupid town people couldn't ask the King for one of his Knights. I bet they would have loved killing a nice big, shiny, dragon that just turned into a human….

"Oh dear lord."

An elegant eyebrow was raised, said eyebrow was connected to a very handsome man… dragon... creature. Silver hair fell to just above his shoulder, tinted red by the dying sun. His eyes, the finest silver she could ever lay her eyes on… and probably ever would since she was to be eaten soon. Each iris had a dark rim surrounding them and near the pupil there was a deep navy blue. Fair skin that any court woman would have killed for… seriously who needs assassins when all you need is a vain woman. His skin was unblemished, and their seemed to be no facial hair to speak of, he had a sharp nose and strangely enough full lips that was raised slightly on one side, reminding Eleanor that she was checking out a dragon, who was about to eat her. Well… if he was going to eat her, she should at least be aloud to die with a view… right?

He was tall too, probably around 6'2" at the least. The hangman's stage stopped around his chest while for the guards it reached their shoulders, however it also must be said that the people in her village were awfully short too. He was dressed in blues, whites and silver. It was a robe, one you would find on a lord or a prince, with only two layers, or three if you wore underclothes. Which immediately brought a blush to her face in the typical virgin fashion. Maybe that's how the towns people figured out she was a virgin.

"Enjoying your self?" A soft, masculine voice suddenly asked. The dragon speaks! So not only does he have the looks but he has the voice too.

"Being tied to a wooden stake, in a woolen shirt and leather pants all day counts as enjoyable in your world?" Eleanor asked, at the moment she was trying to buy herself time. Time to do what she still had yet to figure out, but the point was she had time to buy.

"Now why would you be tied to a stake for the whole day? I thought humans were quite happy burning each other immediately after something horrible happens to them." He tilted his head slightly to one side while his eyes laughed. "Not waiting until night fall are they? It has been an awfully warm summer this year. But then why is there a lack of guards?"

"I'm a sacrifice you fool." Eleanor mentally kicked herself. She was supposed to be buying time! Not giving it away!

"Sacrifice? For what?" he started to make his way to the stairs leading to the top of the hangman's stage.

"I'm sure you know what. Would you get it over with and kill me already?" Eleanor winced, there goes the rest of her time.

He stared at her for a moment, he was at the top of the stairs now. "Pardon? You mean to say, that you, are a sacrifice for me? I was not aware that they considered me a god... may I suggest another… I'm sure he wouldn't mind a human sacrifice. Although… weather isn't really his specialty, its more of shadows and demon troubles really."

"No, you're not a god… or at least not to the village people, I'm a virgin sacrifice so that you stop eating the livestock dragon!" Eleanor never thought she would be impatient to die, nor did she think it normal to be arguing with a dragon about what a sacrifice was for.

"Well then, there in lies your answer." He smiled brightly, "If I ate your peoples livestock then why would they be giving me a human to eat? And for your knowledge my dear lady, I've heard there is no difference between the taste of a virgin and a… non-virgin. Although there is a difference between male and female, but that's only from me, and I eat cattle."

"Great, what a waste of my time. I've been stuck to this bloody post all day and you tell me you don't eat humans." Eleanor sighed, "And I bet the nobles will set me afire right after you leave."

The dragon coughed, "Well then, now that my curiosity is satisfied, could you tell me where the farmers are hiding the cattle? I haven't eaten in a good week."

"Untie me first. I don't give the gift of knowledge freely." Eleanor had meant that as a joke but the dragon froze and stared at her. "Umm…"

"What did you say?" He said sharply, his eyes narrowing.

"I said, untie me first… I don't give the gift of knowledge freely…" Eleanor shifted nervously, perfect, right before freedom is granted you piss your savior off.

"Where… did you learn that?" He asked softly, his hand, which Eleanor just noticed had claws and not nails on them, clenched.

"Learn what?" She gulped. I'm dead seemed to be echoing off the walls of her head.

"That the gift of knowledge is a dragons weakness." He raised his hand, with claws in tacked, to her throat, wrapping them around loosely.

"I didn't… I'm sorry… I'll tell you the direction without you untying me!" Eleanor said frantically, what could she say, she was a thief… survival skills and all. He paused in thought before staring her in the eye.

"No, I can not let such a gift run loose. You are smart for a human, I had thought that you were told about our weakness. But I was wrong. No, you will come back to my home with me. I'm sure I can find something useful for you to do there… perhaps you can teach me about your kind. Do you agree?" he asked as he withdrew his hand from her throat. "I will keep you safe from any predators, feed you, cloth you and teach you, in turn I ask that you tell me all you know about your race. Is this acceptable?"

Eleanor blinked, she was smart for a human? " Um…" a sudden image of the guards grabbing her by the arms and dragging her to the stake without even warning popped into her head. "Yes! I will tell you all that I can possibly know about my race."

"Good, then we have a deal. Now, I will release you for the information as to where the cattle are. You will then go to the southern outskirts of this town and I will meet you there after I see where they are. I will then leave you at my house while I return for the food." He smiled again, walking behind her he cut the thick twine with his claws.

"Thank you, uh…the cattle are kept in the blue barn on the northern side of the town. You will have to unlock the door by hand because the barn is protected my mage wards. The switch to turn the wards off though will be on the left hand side when you walk in. This will stop the wards from going off while you… kill the… cattle. Any blood that falls otherwise will attract the guard guild's attention." Eleanor said this from experience. Being an orphan had its advantages, especially an orphan who was also a thief. Which would imply that you knew all the hiding spots and security areas of the town.

"You are much help. But I doubt the wards will be much trouble. Thank you. Do not forget our deal." And with that he turned around and started to run toward the hangman's stages end. Before he could leap off though, his body morphed into that of his serpent dragon form. It was then that Eleanor noticed that his dragon color was silver and not red.

"Well, that's interesting… no more looking through trashcans then. Looks like Lady Fate was laughing because I was cursing everything for no reason." Eleanor smiled softly, she would have to learn the dragons name, she couldn't just call him dragon all the time… or for him to call her human. She started to walk towards the southern gate. All the towns' people were either partying or staying in their houses trying not to be dragon bate.

Edited: October 2006 ( no major changes)