From the dark that separated the lava’s dim light and myself. Rose up, from the burning earth. A tan color, singed at the edges, that poked through the folds of red, glowing earth. It rose steadily, meaningfully. It’s sockets were empty, dark. I could feel death seeping from them. Hades itself spilling from the empty holes.
The bone dragon.
I was sure I had not accomplished anything yet. That I had not yet earned the dragon’s favor. That’s why, when the bone dragon rose, I was not elated.
I was terrified.
Because I knew, almost certainly:
I was doomed.
They say the bone dragon has no weakness. Time, flame, steel—none of those things held any weight over the beast. Being completely comprised of skeleton—and some wispy, blueish sheen that glowed, keeping the skeletal form together while remaining intangible—the beast was invincible. Un-defeatable. Ever-glorious, and ever-victorious.
They say the bone dragon, due to all its years, has accumulated quite a bit of knowledge. Quite a bit of power. If you’re lucky enough to earn the dragon’s favor, then he might hear you out.
He’ll devour you.
Add your bones to his own.
They say that’s how he lives. How he keeps his power. If the bone dragon needs more sustenance, he simply adds more bones.
As the dragon rises, I see them.
Dangling from the creature’s ribcage. Attached by the blue ether. Hanging like a hundred low branches from a tree. Dangling like moss, or like tinsel. Decorative, I’m sure, more than they are anything else.
Well, they are also—admittedly—quite terrifying.
As the beast rises above me, he cranes his neck downward. Keeping me in his sights. Towering—the tallest mountain I’ve ever seen, really—he rises above me, bone joints rubbing against each other, popping, as he stands.
I am doomed.
As the creature rises, lava drips off his bones. Splatting against the molten earth below. He seems to be unbothered by it all. Expressionless bone smiling jaggedly down at me, eyes empty aside from their pitch black.
I am thoroughly terrified. Uncertain of how painful it will be to die at the hands of a bone dragon.
I can only imagine it’s an excruciating experience.
When he opens his mouth, words spill out. Dropping lock a rock into my system. Dark, deep. A tone that forces the lava to shake. Bowing to his words as his jaw remains unmoving.
Ask me your question human. I wish to sleep again soon.
Trying to comprehend—
I will not kill you, he says, answering my unspoken question.
I am infinitely confused. My knees are shaking, and my muscles feel as though I’ve melted them off the bone. They’re sliding away from my control, leaving my nerves broken, disjointed as I stand.
“Why not?” I finally manage to ask.
He chuckles—a sound that shakes the cobbled rocks that are keeping me from the lava.
You are of no threat. I saw you coming from a hundred years away. You and your quest are rather… adorable, I suppose, he intones, tilting his head as he does so.
All I can do is stare for a second. Trying to comprehend that such a powerful, terrifying creature had just called me adorable.
The bone dragon knowing the word at all came as a strange sort of shock in and of itself, but then, for him to apply that word to me?
Again, the beast chuckles.
We ancients are not all dark and gloomy you know. If we were, the world would’ve been destroyed long ago. If despair purveyed through us, we wouldn’t have the patience to allow the world to spin on. Yes, there is dark in this world, but there is also light. Cute things. Happy things. People who wish to rescue their towns from impending doom. People like you.
As I continue to stare at the dragon, the dragon stares back. And, I swear, those bones in his jaw tilted upward. I swear.
He was smiling.
What you need lies within the Crystalline Mountains. Under the light of a full moon, there is a cave that can be found on the East side. Hiding behind the waterfall. Give the troll inside a sweet—something with caramel, preferably—and he will guide you to the answer you seek.
He nods, as if satisfied.
And with that, my encounter with the bone dragon ends.
He sinks, rather unceremoniously, back into the lava. Eager to sleep. To hide beneath the waves of melting earth, while I…
I am a little struck still.
It takes me quite a few minutes to recover. To fully realize what just happened, what was going on.
The bone dragon…
Fierce, beastly bone dragon. The creature that can crack mountains, melt armies in his jaw. Death seeps from his jaws as he holds hades between his rib bones.
That bone dragon…
He just helped me.
Called me adorable.
Said the world was dark, yes, but—
Said that there was also light.
As old as he is, he knows—he told me.
There’s always light.
Keeping that in mind, I leave the mountain. Head toward my next destination. Toward the next goal.
As dark as things seem, someone is on my side.
Not a very pretty someone, or a personable someone, but a powerful someone. A someone with knowledge and wisdom. Someone who believes enough in me—of all people—to lend me his aid.
The bone dragon is on my side.
And, as I stride off to find the cave he spoke of, I can’t help but feel that that might be all I need.