Chapter 10:

Pack Mule


Aurelia jerked awake, her head smashing into the ceiling of the cave. The force of it echoed throughout their space and scattered dirt down from above. Bookmark here

“Wha— Hey!”Bookmark here

Phos was already awake, covering his head with his hands. His hair was disheveled, or at least Aurelia assumed it was. It was in a state significantly messier than it had been last night. Bookmark here

“Are you trying to kill us?”Bookmark here

“Of course not! I just...” she grumbled. “Had an unpleasant dream. Let’s put it that way.”Bookmark here

She propped her head up with a paw. Outside, it was bright and sunny— the blizzard was over. Aurelia shuddered at the thought of having to experience the frigid cold once more. Bookmark here

Phos was busy packing up his bag, and extinguishing the fire made from some odd black stone Aurelia had never seen before. He didn’t pause his work to look at her, but he kept talking. Bookmark here

“Oh, a nightmare? Dragons get those too, then?”Bookmark here

“... I suppose.” Bookmark here

Her sulky response made the human chuckle. Was he looking down at her? She hissed quietly, but he paid no notice. Phos then stood up, clapping his hands together. Bookmark here

“Alright! I’m all finished here. Are you up for a trek, Aurelia?” Bookmark here

“A trek? To where, exactly?”Bookmark here

“Well, you see, before that bizarre earthquake, and that snowstorm, I had been hunting tritan...”Bookmark here

Aurelia grit her fangs, ignoring Phos as he recounted what he’d done before meeting her. Her heart sank, and for a moment, she feared she was unable to breathe. Bookmark here

The egg. Bookmark here

Her Majesty’s fragile, precious offspring.Bookmark here

It wasn’t in her egg pouch. Bookmark here

“... Are you listening, Aurelia?”Bookmark here

Reality returned to her with a flash. Phos was now standing in front of her, close enough that he could reach out and touch her face with one of his weird human paws. Aurelia’s narrowed eyes met his, and with a barb of guilt, she realized Phos’s were filled only with worry. Bookmark here

“I’m sorry. I got distracted,” she tried to soften her expression, but didn’t know if it worked. “You were saying...?”Bookmark here

He sighed. “We’ll be heading to a quarry. It’s near the town I live in, and will make a perfect hideout for you.”Bookmark here

“Perfect? How so?” Bookmark here

“Plenty of space for you to get comfortable. Ah, and it’s abandoned, so people don’t go there... Usually.” Bookmark here

Phos led Aurelia out of their cave, stretching in the morning sun. Aurelia shuddered as she stepped into the fresh snow, but she refused to whine about being cold to a human. As they trudged onwards, he spoke up again.Bookmark here

“I forgot to mention this, but I need to make a quick stop around here. I killed a tritan last night, and I need to harvest it.”Bookmark here

“A tritan? Is that edible?” Bookmark here

Aurelia listened as he described it. She had never heard of such an animal before. But she did know she was absolutely starving; her stomach gurgled in agreement. She licked her fangs, imagining the fresh meat that awaited. Bookmark here

“Err, the tritan was for my family... But you know what, if you help me haul it back, you can have some too. If you’re feeling up to it, that is.”Bookmark here

Aurelia’s sore body was suddenly invigorated, and she walked with her head high, speeding up to trot alongside Phos. Bookmark here

“Of course I can do it! Are you underestimating me, human? Let’s hurry!”Bookmark here

“Of course not— slow down, Aurelia! You don’t want to reopen your wounds.”Bookmark here

She charged ahead, kicking up clouds of snow in her wake. The flakes shimmered varying hues of purple and blue in the light, and Aurelia curiously flicked out her tongue to taste it... Bookmark here

Sweet? It was sweet. How odd. Bookmark here

Phos caught up to her, and pointed to a grove of trees nearby. “It’s over there. Let’s hurry, so we can make it to town before evening.”Bookmark here

Aurelia could smell the scent of blood, mingling with a bovine-like odor she’d never encountered; that must be the tritan Phos spoke of. They approached the carcass together, and she watched as Phos tinkered with his bag for a few moments. He pulled out a large, finely sharpened knife, a small handsaw, and a few bolts of linen wrapping. Bookmark here

“What are these weird contraptions for?”Bookmark here

“Contraptions? Oh, you mean my tools. You’ll see for yourself in a moment.”Bookmark here

The dragoness watched as Phos butchered the tritan. He used his handsaw to remove the horns erupting from its head and shoulders, then plunged his knife into the beasts belly, carefully skinning the animal. Finally, he cut through muscle and sinew to quarter enormous chunks of meat from the shoulders, which he wrapped in the cloth. He put everything into his bag, save for the enormous pelt, which he could not possibly hope to carry himself.Bookmark here

“Are you done?” Aurelia asked. She could hardly contain herself at the sight of all this meat. Bookmark here

“Yes, you can have the rest.”Bookmark here

Without further ado, she dug into the tritan, ripping soft meat from bone effortlessly. Bones crunched loudly as she pulverized them with her powerful jaws, and before she knew it, only bones with strings of pink leftover flesh remained. Her hunger sated, she shoved her face into the snow, wiping off the blood and gore splattered on her face. Bookmark here

“...”Bookmark here

Phos seemed a little shocked. Grounded were odd beings— hadn’t he just been digging around in it’s organs with his hands? Bookmark here

“Is something wrong, Phos?”Bookmark here

“Not at all. I just wasn’t expecting you to be such a... Messy eater.”Bookmark here

Aurelia scoffed. “When you haven’t eaten in two days, you’ll understand.”Bookmark here

“Right... And your end of the deal is here.”Bookmark here

Phos lifted the materials he had harvested, handing Aurelia the heaviest parts. She held them delicately in her mouth, groaning in irritation. If she could fly right now, she could just hold them in her paws. But she had to walk with Phos. Bookmark here

A pity Grounded couldn’t fly.Bookmark here

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