The Rise of The Dragon Queen
As soon as I woke up, I checked to make sure that the tiny dragon was still sealed in the glass jar. To my relief, he was. He was awake, staring at me with wide eyes. He began scratching on the glass as soon as we made eye contact and the sound woke up Vixia. She sat up groggily and rubbed at her eyes as I picked up the jar.
“Morning,” she grumbled.
“Morning. Do you have any ideas on where we can put this little guy?” I held up the jar as Vixia looked over, blinking hard against the sunlight that was flooding the room.
“He’s really small, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Wait, have you let him out yet?”
“You should. The lid doesn’t have any holes in it.”
“Oh, right!” I immediately unscrewed the lid and the tiny dragon sniffed around the glass before poking his head out of the top of his container, letting out a trilling sound.
“Sorry, little guy. Here.” I lowered the jar so that he was able to climb out of it and onto the covers on the bed. He then scampered over to Vixia. She used her index finger to rub the underside of his chin and he slowly closed his eyes. I could have sworn that he was smiling.
“Do you think he’s hungry?” Vixia asked.
“Probably. After breakfast, we can bring him up some table scraps but, for now, we need somewhere to hide him.”
“Hmm . . .” Vixia’s voice trailed off as we both looked around the room. When she stopped petting the dragon, his eyes darted around the room. Then, with a quiet chirp, he launched himself off of the bed, flapping his tiny wings as hard as he could. After a second, he started to glide through the air and found his way straight onto the closet’s doorknob. He started chewing on the shiny metal of it as Vixia and I watched.
“In there?” I asked. I walked over and grabbed the underside of the doorknob. He climbed onto my wrist as I opened the door. He took off again, this time heading toward a shelf in one of the upper corners. He perched at the edge of it and trilled again.
“Well, I guess he found a spot.”
“All right, that should work,” Vixia replied with a nod. That was when the same bell from the day before rang out and we heard Darius’ voice from downstairs, calling for breakfast. I grabbed our clothes, passed them back to Vixia, and started to close the closet door.
“I’m going to leave this cracked. Don’t go anywhere, okay? We’ll be back with food.” The tiny dragon let out a cheerful chirp and I did exactly as I said I would. Vixia and I then got dressed and headed downstairs.
When we made it down to the first floor, we were shunned by the other guild members once again. After we collected our breakfast, we made our way over to our table and sat down. I remember wondering if this was going to be our new normal when Vixia caught my attention.
“Do you think we’ll get a different assignment today?” she asked. I shook my head.
“Probably not, especially if the queen wants to keep us close by.” I was about to take a bite of my food when Darius walked up to us.
“Good morning,” he began with a smile. “Is this seat taken?”
“Go ahead,” Vixia replied, motioning toward the empty chair. He sat down and was about to start eating when something else came to mind. He was about to take a bite when he lowered his fork.
“Oh, what happened with that little dragon last night?” he asked. “Nesryn seemed kinda stern.”
Isn’t she usually, though? I swallowed my food.
“We took care of it,” I reassured him, trying to avoid the subject. Darius, taking the hint, nodded and started eating. We continued with our breakfast, Vixia and I saving scraps and pieces of our food along the way, until Nesryn showed up, giving everyone their duties for the day.
Vixia and I listened carefully and, just as I had predicted, our names were followed by the designation of “chore duty.” The rest of the guild got up and left to get ready for their quests, just like the day before, while Darius, Vixia, and I continued eating at our table. After Nesryn was done, she walked up to us.
“You two are on chore duty again today, but I have a special request this time.”
“What is it?” I asked. The guild master pointed toward the kitchen.
“Figure out how that dragon got in and seal it up. That’s all. If you need anything, I’ll be in my study.” And with that, she left. I was about to get up with my plate, which was covered in food scraps for the little dragon, when I realized something.
Wait, I can’t just take this upstairs. I looked over at Vixia to find that she was looking at me. She must have come to the same conclusion.
“Hey, Darius, do you want to help me try to find where the dragon came in?” she asked. “Ketsuna can collect the dishes.”
“Sure, if that’s all right.”
“Go ahead,” I replied, flashing a smile. They both got up and headed for the kitchen. When Darius began walking ahead of Vixia, she looked back and nodded at me. I nodded back and quickly took my plate upstairs.
When I made it back to my room, I found that everything was exactly as we had left it. I closed the door behind me before I pushed the closet door open. It creaked and I could see the tiny dragon’s eyes staring at me before anything else. I lifted the plate and set it on the shelf beside him.
“Here, that should have plenty of meat on it.” He immediately began to scarf down his food, dragging his long tongue around the edges of his mouth after every few bites. I smiled. “Stay put for now, okay. I’ll bring you more later.” The tiny dragon didn’t respond, so I left the door cracked again and headed back downstairs. I made sure to collect as many plates as I could before I walked into the kitchen. Inside, Vixia and Darius were standing in the center of the room, their eyes scanning the area.
“When it first showed up, it looked like it might have gotten in through the window,” Darius began, stepping forward, “but I closed it as soon as I was done cooking. There’s no way that it got in through here.”
Vixia put a hand on her hip and let out a defeated sigh.
“I have no clue.” She looked back at me and I watched as her frustrated expression snapped into one of shock. Her face went pale.
“What?” I wondered aloud. I followed the path of her eyes down to my arm and saw the tiny dragon, who I could have sworn I left upstairs, clinging to my sleeve. However, I made this realization a little too late because when I looked back up, Darius was staring at the two of us with wide eyes.
“Stay still!” Darius snatched up the nearest kitchen knife and rushed for me.
“Wait!” I shouted. Before Darius even made it halfway to me, the little dragon’s throat had puffed outward like a frog’s and he had scrambled up my arm and onto my shoulder. He was trying to grapple onto the back of my neck and hide underneath my hair when I started to step back. Some of the plates in the stack in my hands fell and shattered on the floor. That was when I got an idea. I shifted them all to one hand and took one from the top of the pile, holding it in a position to throw it straight at Darius. The chef stopped in his tracks. He looked at the broken dishes on the floor before his gaze fell on me again.
“I thought you said you took care of it.”
“We did,” I shouted back. Then I let out a sigh. “Or, well, we are. We’re trying.”
“Nesryn didn’t order you to kill it?” he said, amazed as he got out of his fighting stance. I, in turn, lowered the plate I was holding.
“She did,” Vixia admitted, walking over to join me, “but there’s something different about this one.”
“How do you know that?” Darius asked. Vixia looked at me, unsure of how to answer.
“I just do,” I replied. “Let’s calm down for a second. I can explain.”
“Okay.” Darius set the knife aside and I did the same with the plates. The little dragon peeked out of my hair. I picked him up and cupped him in my hands. I held him out toward Darius.
“All of the other dragons that Vixia and I have fought had pitch-black eyes. They almost looked lifeless. But this little guy clearly has irises.”
“So? That doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous.”
“You just went to attack him and he hid instead of lighting you on fire,” I pointed out. “That has to count for something.” Darius considered this for a moment, rubbing his chin as he tilted his head. He let out a sigh.
“Okay, you’ve got a point there. Why did he freak out last night then?”
“He probably felt cornered,” Vixia guessed. The little dragon started to try to back away from Darius as he continued to stare. This resulted in him backing up all the way to my shoulder and sitting there.
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” There was silence for a moment, then Darius let out another sigh. “Fine, I believe you.” Vixia and I watched in stunned silence as the chef turned toward the pantry and opened the door.
“Um . . . does that mean you won’t tell anyone?”
He started rummaging through everything in the pantry as he replied, “Yeah, sure. I don’t see the point in going out of my way to cause trouble for you guys. You seem to have the situation under control. Do you guys have a name for him yet?”
“No,” I answered, leaning against the doorframe. Darius came back out from the pantry, carrying some of the ingredients for dinner. He was heading toward the stove when he accidentally knocked a metal bowl off a nearby counter. It hit the floor with a loud clang and the tiny dragon puffed its throat out again.
“Puff,” I said quietly.
“What?” Vixia wondered aloud, picking up the bowl.
“His name should be Puff.” Darius looked over and laughed when he saw why I had come up with that name.
“I agree. It suits him.”
The tiny dragon’s throat gradually deflated and shrunk back down to its usual size as he calmed down. Then, he leaped off my shoulder and dashed across the floor, scuttling past both Vixia and Darius.
“Wait, where are you going?” I asked as I followed him. I quickly lost track of him and now he had Vixia and Darius’ attention as well.
“Did you lose him?” Vixia asked.
“I guess so.”
“Puff,” she called, looking around with me. That was when we heard a quiet chirp and I spotted him pulling himself out of a small crack in between the stones in the wall. He scampered over to Vixia and stared up at her, blinking a few times.
“So that’s how you got in!”
Darius chuckled from behind us as he pulled a full bag of trash out of the trash can. “I’ll go ahead and seal that up for you guys,” he offered. “Ketsuna, can you take this out, please? The compost bin is outside on the western side of the building.”
“Yeah, I can do that.” I took the bag from him and I glanced back to see Puff climbing onto Vixia’s shoulder before I left.
I walked outside, trash bag in hand, and started heading toward the western side of the building. The sky was a bright blue color since it was past noon on a clear day. I was almost to the compost bin when I heard a familiar voice. I stopped and crept around the corner to find Sparrow and his party mates standing around, chatting and laughing.
What the hell are they doing here?
“Hey.” All three of them jumped as I walked over to them, glaring. “What are you doing? Aren’t you supposed to be keeping watch right now?”
“We’re just taking a break,” Sparrow groaned. “Besides, aren’t you supposed to be inside playing maid or something?”
I dropped the trash bag on the ground and started storming closer.
“I’ve been doing the best I can with the job that I was given, but that’s something that you could hardly say. You guys are lazy at best and negligent at worst.”
“Who are you calling lazy?” Sparrow snarled, staring me down.
Now Sparrow and his buddies were looking past me and I turned to see Nesryn walking over to us, her eyebrows furrowed. “Sparrow, what is your party doing here? You’re supposed to be all the way on the eastern side of the city right now.”
“Um . . .” he struggled for an answer, but couldn’t find one. He looked over at his friends and they shrugged. I could tell he was panicking. “I wanted to challenge Ketsuna to a duel!” I raised an eyebrow at him.
Oh boy, you just screwed yourself over.
“A duel? Like practice sparring?” Nesryn inquired. Sparrow nodded and she continued with, “Why didn’t you bring it up ahead of time?”
“I didn’t know how to submit the information to you,” he lied, glancing over at me. I kept an eyebrow raised while I stared at him. He took note and looked back at Nesryn.
“You know, I should reprimand you for this,” the guild master growled. Sparrow cowered for a moment. “But I’ll allow it,” she finished. “A duel against Ketsuna would be great practice for anything you might run into in the field and it would be interesting to watch.” She then turned to me. “Ketsuna, do you accept the challenge?”
“Sure,” I answered with a smile.
I went and retrieved my armor and sparring weapons were prepared while the guild members that were still in the area gathered outside to watch, including Vixia and Darius. We relocated to a large patch of dirt with some white markings on the ground behind the guildhall, and we got suited up in our gear. I looked over and noticed that Sparrow’s armor was bulkier than mine and he was wielding a two-handed practice sword with a much broader blade than mine.
I should be able to outspeed and maneuver around him.
I looked toward the crowd that had gathered and Nesryn was standing in front of them, saying something. She motioned for Sparrow and me to turn around and, since we were already on opposite sides of the battlefield, we turned our backs toward each other. I wasn’t really listening to the guild master until she began to list the rules.
“No brutal injuries, no attacking private areas of the body, no lethal force. When I say go, both opponents will turn around and the duel will begin immediately. May they both have the best of luck.”
This is way different from a dragon fight, I thought to myself as the guild master began counting down.
But I knew that I wouldn’t lose.