Welcome to the conclusion of “Beastly Pains”. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read Part 1 here. Enjoy!
The creature pondered the proposal for a minute, then nodded once. “Deal.”
Relieved that he might actually survive this encounter after all, Alexander inhaled a deep breath as he felt the weight of the enormous foot finally being lifted off his chest. While the young man steadily rose to his feet and reached for the sword, the dragon lowered himself to rest his head on the ground.
“Try any funny business, human, and I’ll crush you in my jaws faster than you can say ‘dragon egg’.”
With a polite nod, the teenager approached the beast as he opened his mouth wide. Carefully as he could, Alexander crouched down after dropping his bag and sidled into the dragon’s gaping maw. He subtly covered his nose with his shirt at the overwhelming smell of rancid breath, and he tried hard not to think about the fiery death he’d face at the slightest twitch in the wrong direction. Just another patient, he thought as he gently eased the sword between the large teeth above him. Just another patient…
The human worked at this task for several minutes, sliding the weapon between the creature’s teeth with the utmost caution. Every now and then, the blade would touch something hard and broken pieces of bone would fall out. Before long, Alexander felt the jaws in which his upper body lay tremble slightly as the familiar deep voice echoed out of the darkness that was the dragon’s throat.
“Ai eh-ee-hee eh?”
Assuming those words were supposed to be “find anything yet”, Alexander called out reassuringly, “Yes, almost got it.”
Confident he had found the source of his patient’s pain, the boy dared to stick the sword a little deeper into the gap and scrape the object out. After another minute, the blade jerked and a large saliva-coated deer antler fell on his lap.
The young man grabbed the antler and quickly leapt out of the dragon’s mouth. While he dropped the items in his hands and rummaged through his bag, the beast closed his jaws again and began sliding his tongue over his teeth in relief.
“Much better”, he said. “Your competence surprises me. Good work, human.”
“I’m not quite done yet”, said Alexander, and he pulled a jar of green salve out of his bag. “This will help ease the pain. I made it myself from the herbs by the river.”
Noticing the look of suspicion in the red eyes before him, the teenager made a point of applying the ointment to his own gums first, to prove it wasn’t toxic. Satisfied that he was telling the truth, the dragon opened his mouth again and allowed the human to spread a generous amount of salve over his swollen gums.
“That should do it”, said the boy, shutting the jar and tucking it back into his bag. “In a few days, it’ll be good as new. Just try not to eat any more deer for a while.”
Alexander slung his bag over his shoulder and rose to his feet while the great lizard lifted his head once more. Upon catching sight of the blade lying in the grass before him, he froze. Suddenly nervous, the teenager tentatively turned his head up, his blue eyes locking with the red ones several feet above him.
The dragon stared down at him without moving, and the human recoiled slightly, braced for the worst… But a moment later, the creature bowed his head.
“A deal’s a deal. On my honor as a dragon, you may leave in peace. Now go, before I change my mind.”
Alexander smiled as the beast turned and started back up the mountain. When he was several feet away, the boy suddenly noticed something strange…
“Wait!” he called, and the lizard stopped to look over his shoulder. “You forgot your sword!”
Rows of sharp teeth reappeared in a gesture that the teenage boy perceived as the dragon’s smile.
“Keep it”, he said coolly. “Consider it payment for a job well done, and proof of your virtue. It isn’t just anyone who can earn the trust of a dragon.”
The human grinned and swiftly picked up the golden sword. The creature faced the opposite direction again as he spread his wings. Just before he took off, the young man called out to him again.
“You know… toothaches are a nasty business. They can come back worse if not treated properly. Perhaps I could return on the next full moon to check up on you?”
The beast looked back and nodded once. “Come every full moon, if you like. You can even take a piece of treasure after each visit, as payment for your trouble. Just don’t get greedy.”
Alexander nodded in excitement, then bowed before turning and heading back down the mountain, the great lizard watching his every step. It was then that the dragon dared to say something he had never said before…
“Thank you, human.”
Those words effectively stopped the boy in his tracks. Looking back over his shoulder, he smiled at the creature again.
“Alexander”, he replied. The dragon bowed his head as well.
Grinning broadly, Alexander watched Severoth spread his wings again and take off to fly back to the top of the mountain before turning on his own heel and disappearing amid the trees. There was no doubt he would be telling the story of his run-in with a dragon for years. The villagers would revere him as a hero, and in a matter of months he’d have enough gold for his family to live comfortably to the end of their days, but what he would definitely remember most about his adventure was the excitement of having made an unlikely friend.
Hope you enjoyed the story! Thanks for reading!