Chapter 1:

1

Balancing the Scales: The Sage Hero's Story


Here I lie face up, unconscious in the dirt underneath the canopy of an unfamiliar forest. Amongst a pile of wreckage, scattered snacks, and various books. “Ouch, my head. What the hell happened to me last night?” Kaz remembered punching out from his last shift at the bookstore after packing up all the books and merchandise that wouldn’t sell and were to be tossed, as his store was closing for good. He had loaded them in his vehicle, Kaz tried to remember more. “Then, I went to the gas station and got beef jerky and some soda, then headed straight back home. I started munching on the jerky and…” his train of thought came to a halt. “Wait, did I ever make it home?” he thought, then came to a sudden realization, “Everything is dark. Why can’t I move? Am I dead?” Several thoughts raced through his mind.Bookmark here

Just as Kaz finished that last thought, he felt an odd sensation on his cheek. Like someone sweeping on his face with a straw broom. The feeling suddenly stopped. Then what seemed like hot, steamy gusts of air rushed over his face followed by a gentle but rigid unknown object, poking, prodding, and nudging his cheek and lips. Kaz had dreams like this many a time before, he figured this was no different and that he would just wake up smooching his pillow yet again. “Well, if I’m just dreaming.” His thought trailed off as he regained his senses and subconsciously reached both of his arms up, grasping what he believed to be his pillow and thrust his lips to the source of the warm breaths, he heard a gentle chiming as kisses the entity.Bookmark here

However, the pillow suddenly recoiled backwards from Kaz’s face and began venting out heated air directly into his face, scalding his face a bit. Kaz comes to his senses and his eyes shoot open to the feeling of the intense heat singeing his skin, he sat up and couldn’t believe his eyes. Staring directly at him were a large pair of deep blue sapphire-like eyes, two rows of dagger-like fangs, and a long leathery reddish-pink forked tongue. All of which belonged to the dragon that sat before him looking both shocked and puzzled.Bookmark here

Kaz was in disbelief, he tried to stand up and stumbled over himself. As he looked up, his gaze came to meet the dragons. Slowly, without taking his eyes off the beast he scooted backwards on his knees away from it until a tree blocked his path. “Oh god! Is it going to eat me?” he thought. Then he then began shouting for help as loud and obnoxious as he could. The dragon started to panic, its head turned and looked in every direction, then at Kaz. The dragon’s jaw opened, showing off those wicked teeth again. Kaz bowed his head, half expecting to be engulfed in a sea of flames from the beast’s maw, or slowly torn to bits by razor sharp teeth. After a few moments, he peeked one eye open and saw the big lizard just sitting there like a dog, observing him curiously with its head cocked sideways. Bookmark here

“Oh heavens. What shall I do? I just wanted to know what that unfamiliar scent was. Only to find an oddly dressed man. I thought he was dead! Although he had some tasty things on his face, now he’s screaming, and someone will come along and think I’m attacking him.” It muttered nervously to itself. Kaz noticed the dragon had a scratchy voice while it was pacing. “I’ll just have to finish him off. I hate doing this to humans, but if someone comes along and gets the wrong idea, I’ll be in big trouble.” The dragon let out a big rough sounding cough as it cleared its throat. It then seemingly made up its mind and turned towards Kaz, “I apologize.” It spoke in a serious tone as it cleared its diaphragm.Bookmark here

Kaz’s eyes widened, he finally managed to stand up straight on two legs, facing the dragon he spoke up. “Uh, uh, umm.” The dragon turns to face Kaz as it hears him stuttering. After an awkward pause Kaz finds his words. “You don’t have to roast me! I won’t tell a soul, I swear!”. The dragon paused for a moment looking shocked yet again. Kaz rummaged around in his belongings that were flung from his vehicle along with him, he was on his hands and knees thinking. “Tasty things? Could it be talking about the beef jerky I bought?” Kaz said to himself out loud. Suddenly his memory came back to him all at once. The previous night after leaving the gas station with the snacks. He had opened a bag of beef jerky to munch on, and as he drove home, he started choking on it and… “That’s why it was sniffing around my face, that wasn’t a dream! But that means I wasn’t making out with my pillow, I was… Oh god.” Kaz’s train of thought derailed after that. Bookmark here

Kaz, now focusing intently on finding what he needed to please the beast in front of him, who was still eyeing him with utmost curiosity. He finally manages to locate the sack containing more of the dried beef snack. “I must’ve swerved off the road when I was choking and hit something judging by the dent in the door of my car.” He deduced. The dragon crept over to Kaz cautiously and stopped right beside him. It raised one of its forelegs and gave Kaz a few light taps on the shoulder with a single massive claw. “Guh!” gasped Kaz as he fell over on his back with the sack of jerky in his hand. He frantically ripped open the plastic bag and grabbed a handful of the dried beef and nervously held the handful out towards the dragon’s head. “You d-don’t have to kill me! You can have it!” he stuttered, shaking like a leaf. The dragon lowered its long neck and spoke rather softly. “Human.” It spoke and waited a moment before speaking again, “You are able to understand what I am saying?” Kaz paused for a moment before nodding his head in shock, watching in disbelief as it gently and carefully clamped its maw around Kaz’s handful of snacks, being extra sure she didn’t harm him. As the dragon licked up all the jerky in his palm, it opened its mouth again, leaving his hand covered in thick saliva. “Th-that’s wonderful! I’ve been searching for one such as yourself for so many years!” The dragon shouted joyously. Bookmark here

Kaz cringes as he looks at the saliva now coating his hand, then at the dragon happily skipping in place like a schoolgirl, and back at his hand once more, then he falls over flat on his back like a stiff board. With Kaz now out cold, the giddy dragon stops its skipping and turns to face him. “I need you to come back to my home with me. Oh…” The dragon giggled with a mischievous grin; she shovels the unconscious Kaz up onto her back with her muzzle and starts running towards a large mountain range with Kaz in tow. About half an hour later, Kaz slowly opens his eyes to see the canopy of an unfamiliar forest rushing by. Realizing the previous events that transpired were anything but a dream, he quickly sits up straight and is whipped by a few low branches. Wincing in pain he lies back down and calls out, “So, this is really happening? Where are you taking me?”. While Kaz was wriggling around trying to get in a more desirable riding position where he wouldn’t lose his footing on the massive beast’s back, but Kaz was still a bit woozy and couldn’t see clearly yet after having passed out, he reaches to grab what he believed was the base of the dragon’s neck to hold on to for support. The dragon replies, “I’m taking you to my home. We have an issue you may be able to help us…” She stopped speaking mid-sentence as she felt a pair of hands grab a hold of the base of her tail, causing her to raise her head, and look back. She rears to a stop out of nowhere and the unsuspecting Kaz is sent flying forward into a bush from the force of the stop. He hears the soft sound of a bell again as he struggles in the bush.Bookmark here

“What do you think you’re doing, grabbing me there?” she huffed as a small cloud of steam came billowing out of her nostrils. She began prodding through the bush looking for him. Kaz rubs his eyes and then sees the long face of the dragon upside down, glaring down at him. He stumbles around and sits upright. “Sorry, I was trying to hold on so I wouldn’t fall. I thought I was grabbing your neck and you...” He rambled on with his apology, then he looked up at the dragon once again. “You, YOU. What DO I call you anyway?” Kaz inquires, gesturing at the dragon with his arms. The dragon, now laying on its scaly stomach in front of him listening intently gives his face a lick, “My name is Saphana, and what would yours be, little man?” she says, the dragon then playfully pokes Kaz in the belly with one of her big claws. “It’s Kaz. Uh, I’m Kaz.” He states, attempting to swat away her huge foreleg with his tiny hands. “Saphi, Saphran, Ugh. I’ll just call you Saph, okay?” Saphana rolls her big blue eyes, “Very well Kaz, hop on, and please. Watch where you put your hands this time.” She says with a chuckle. Kaz nods and cracks an awkward smile as he mantles onto her back, using her back haunches as steps. He gets comfortable and signals Saphana that he is ready to set off. Bookmark here

About ten minutes later, Saphana tells Kaz to get up. Kaz climbs off Saphana’s back as the two come upon a small cavern and decide to stop for the night and continue on in the morning. Kaz gathered up some leaves and brushed them into a pile, then laid his head down on them like a pillow. “I miss my bed.” He sighed as he rolled over on his side in an attempt to shield himself from the cold wind whistling in through the entrance to the cave. Seconds later he felt the ground shake as Saphana laid down on her side behind him. “Roughing it in a cave, spooning for warmth with a dragon, which I wouldn’t have thought existed a day ago. This is definitely not at all how I imagined my night would be going.” Kaz grunted, remembering how he slept with his dog lying at his stomach every night when he was younger, except that he was in the dog’s position now. He laughed it off and scooched back into the belly scales of the dragon, which were much warmer than he’d imagined they’d be. “I’m not used to being the small spoon in this kind of situation.” He teased. Bookmark here

Saphana then lifted her long neck up and looked at him with a puzzled expression. “Small spoon?” Saphana cocked her head, much like a dog when it hears unfamiliar noises. Kaz met her confused gaze and snickered a bit before explaining. “You know how spoons.” mid-sentence he trailed off. “You probably don’t use spoons.” He stated as he glanced at her giant feet and equally massive claws. Saphana’s eyes lit up, “Oh, I know what a spoon is. You are correct, I have no use for them. I just don’t quite understand what you meant!” she exclaimed. After an awkward moment of silence, Kaz threw up both hands and cupped them. “So, if my hands were spoons.” He used hand gestures to explain that she would be the big spoon that fit the smaller, which was him, inside it. After a poorly executed explanation, yet another long moment of awkward silence ensued. Moments later the silence is broken as Saphana starts bellowing out in laughter, “Oh! I see, so this gal is just a tad too big for you to hug on, eh?” she jests, ruffling the boy’s hair with the rough, leathery underside of one of her front feet. Then she lays her head back down and murmurs, “You really are an odd one Kaz. Most humans would be terrified in your situation.” Suddenly Kaz feels a rubbery film-like sheet being draped over his body. Saphana pulls him up onto her side and wraps Kaz in her membranous wing. Unsure how he feels about this, Kaz lets out a grunt, he decides just to go along with it. He turns over onto his stomach to get into a more comfortable sleeping position. Then slowly but surely, his eyes start to close as he drifts off to sleep against the dragon’s warm stomach.Bookmark here

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