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The Dragon's Gift - The Cave


You need to save them, they don’t know what they do. But you do. You did. Everything is disjointed. Like a dream you wake from and try to retell and it comes out broken. Lost in translation. You blink awake. It’s the opposite. You are waking from a dream, a dream that was more of a nightmare. Not that you can remember it, just the feeling of horror, unrelenting tension, and fear. You wake to nothing but an aching body and a pounding in your head, your memories lost in the ether. You sit up, conscious of the dampness of the rocky floor beneath you, a dizziness in the air. You press a hand to your temple and pull away expecting blood. Nothing.

You stand and glance around at blotchy darkness, trying to piece together where you are…who you are. You don’t even remember who? Great. Well, you attempt to think about it logically. What is the immediate need? Your body gives an involuntary shiver. Warmth, yes. You are freezing. You look down at the simple tunic that hangs just above your knees and realize you have a golden pendant hanging about your neck. Ok. Strange. But ok. You turn it over to find words etched into the gold plating. You try to read it in the low light.

Bathi raska franier.

What in the stars was a bathi? You squeeze your eyes shut and think about the jumbled letters again. Either you forgot an entire language or the words are gibberish. For the moment, and to keep your mind from melting down into pure panic, you decide it is gibberish. Yes, one mystery down…several more to go.

A low rumble emanates from the darkness behind you. You turn, searching the black. It happens again, menacing, guttural, and organically uneven. No way you’re staying to find out what that is. You turn away from the noise and begin shuffling out of the cave. That’s what this is right? A cave? Yes. You are sure of that. So…perhaps you have infiltrated some beast’s cave. Wonderful. If you end up eaten you won’t have to worry about figuring all this out anyway.

The growl grows and you begin to run. Fear courses through you and drops into a pit in your stomach, propelling you forward. You have no shoes, your feet hit sharp rock and then puddles of cool water. The dim light is coming from this direction, a way out.

“Oh…it runs…” The growling thing speaks into the cave. It is no natural voice…it is the voice of death itself, slippery and imminent. Your blood runs cold and you push yourself harder, the pains in your body fading as adrenaline pumps into your system. The thing laughs and the ground around you rumbles. Is it running? It can run? Whatever it is, it's massive and gaining on you. You hear its breath. The light grows brighter and feeds you just enough hope to hurl yourself out the mouth of the cave and into a small clearing surrounded by dense forest.

You turn around as you back up, half running, mostly stumbling, as you watch the beast cross the threshold after you. It’s violet-green and iridescent. Each of its scales are about the size of your head and its wings, though pinned to its sides would surely span your entire city.

Your city? You blink hard as a memory eludes you. No time to think about it now. The dragon cocks its head at you, its long slithery tongue extends quickly and then back into its maw, layered with rows of teeth.

“I’ve had runners before but they never stay to chat. And here you remain, as if you’re going to fight. Are you going to fight, little one?”

You shake your head. Strangely, you find pleasure knowing you have surprised this beast. Perhaps it’s impressed.

“I do love to play with my food. And since you seem to be a spirited thing I will give you two options…” Its intelligent eyes roll down you and stop on the golden pendant about your neck. You look down at it and in that moment it feels weighty. You finger the golden chain, something powerful urging you to tear it from your neck and throw it to the ground, like it's a poison. Like it’s alive. The dragon’s eyes flick back to you.

“There is a sword just behind you and through the trees.” It speaks quickly and with crystal clear diction. “ I will give you one opportunity to strike me through.” The dragon turns, its pearl-like sheen glittering in the sun. “Or you can simply give me that pendant and be on your way.” You narrow your eyes at him warily. “I promise,” it reassures you, “no tricks.”

Choose Your Own Adventure

Amanda Auler

April 2022

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