"Yes, you heard me right, I said 'Kerfuffle'."

The cross young lady before him drew a hand down her heart-shaped face, heaving a sigh. "Kerfuffle?" she repeated loudly. "You can't exactly call a fight with a fire-breathing Dragon a kerfuffle!" Her disapproving blue eyes met his blank stare as she planted her hands upon her hips.

Jay blinked, wiggling his mustache with a grimace. "Well, what would you call it then, Mary? He wouldn't just share that hoard of gold like I had asked him to." He gave a shrug, slinging a jingling sack over his shoulder. "I think we managed the best possible outcome, given the circumstances, and everyone's better off for it."

Mary's tongue poked around her mouth, looking for the right words to get through to him, words that might sober his blithe attitude. "I would call it insanity, for one thing." She frowned as she delicately touched the singed ends of one lock of blonde hair hanging beside her head. "It's a task big enough for an army, let alone one man."

Jay held up a gloved finger as he tipped his head. "One man—and his capable assistant."

She huffed as they started to walk down the mountain trail, away from the labyrinthine caverns not far behind. "And I would think that not everyone is 'better off for it', let alone this being the best outcome!" she protested, begrudgingly dragging a second jingling sack behind her.

The setting sun shone through the trees, sliding over the pair in golden patches as they trekked through the woods. "Oh?" Jay noised, eyes on the trail ahead. "And what could have possibly gone better, do you think?"

"For one thing," Mary began immediately, "we could have at least taken the time to think that half-baked plan of yours through!"

"We didn't have time," Jay replied with a wave of dismissal. "I had already exhausted my efforts at a diplomatic solution—which, by the way, was more than fair-"

"You think a Dragon cares about fair?!"

"-and," he continued despite the interruption, "at that point he would have began breathing fire regardless."

"Secondly," Mary said a little louder than necessary, "you could have listened to me before we hiked up this god-forsaken mountain and bought a shield on the way."

He shook his head. "Oh, nothing we could afford would be fire-resistant anyway."

"And lastly, you could have at least reacted a bit quicker when he started to breathe fire, and we would have been able to use that bag for more gold." She cast a glance down at the cloth sack, her nose wrinkling.

Jay adjusted his waistband as he grunted. "I was sure he would acquiesce to my confidence; it's worked before. A man's pride musn't waver if he's to get what he wants."

"But at the cost of his pants?" came Mary's exasperated retort.

He paused to pull the rope that held the improvised clothing around his waist. "I never liked those pants anyway," he muttered as they continued down the trail. "Look, the important thing is we were able to nab a hefty sum. Surely more than enough for the poorest of the townsfolk. And on the bright side, I think that tomorrow we can come back and try again!"

Mary's expression was instantly reflective of her refusal. "Oh, no no no. We're not going back to face that beast again!" she shouted, hurrying to get as close to his ear as possible. "You can go alone for all I care. I'm not coming along! Do you understand me Jay Cowl?"

Jay cast a sidelong grin at her. "Oh, come now. There are still those back in town who could use the gold. The least we can do is try!"

"And if you fail I'll mourn you," she said as if commenting on the chance of rain, "but I shan't be the second pile of ashes by your side."

He sighed dramatically. "Well then, Ms. Freeman, I suppose I'll have to find a good shield before then, eh?"