Meandeer halted Moonlight’s steady and slow pace. He bit back tears. “Sophie, you fool…”
A mighty roar brought him back to reality.
He looked above; the same dragon from earlier, Hipeos, flew overhead.
Meandeer turned his horse about. “Come, Moonlight! We’ll get her this time!”
Moonlight, being the magnificent beast that it was, caught up to the dragon’s shadow in seconds and kept pace with it as it soared above.
Hipeos looked beneath her and saw who was chasing her. She roared from above, “leave me, Dead One! You will not win a fight against me!”
“Fight me!” Hipeos cried in return. “Fight me now if you are so unafraid, dragon! Or are you a coward?”
The dragon chortled. “Soft Skin, you are asking for your death, but I will give you burns instead!”
The dragon unleashed a thick flurry of orange fire from the depths of her belly. Meandeer steered Moonlight away from the fire—barely escaping his death as he did so.
He turned his horse about. Once the horse was running on a straightaway, Meandeer recklessly made his way to his feet upon Moonlight’s back. He rode for a time—barely managing to balance upon the horse’s back—and unsheathed his blade. He blocked the muted sun with one hand and got ready to launch his sword at the dragon with the other.
The dragon threw her head back with small bits of fire spurting from the corners of her fanged mouth, ready to burn Meandeer to a crisp—
A sword spun through the air and lodged itself into her collar bone with pin-point accuracy; she swallowed her flames.
She clawed at the sword—but her arms were too short to reach it; she began nose-diving toward the ground.
Meandeer lowered himself onto the horse’s back and trailed the dragon as she crashed to the earth.
The ground quaked beneath Moonlight’s hooves as the dragon smashed into the ground.
Meandeer caught up to the winged lizard in seconds—leaping off his horse and letting it run onwards with him. He landed on his feet by the dragon’s side.
“Looks like I have bested you, creature!” Meandeer announced proudly. “Now, before I slay you, tell me how you are able to speak—”
With surprising agility, the dragon swept Meandeer’s feet out from under him with her tail and planted a clawed foot on his chest so he couldn’t move.
Hipeos, who was bleeding a trail of blood from her wound, brought her mighty head inches from his—plumes of fire pulsed from the corners of her mouth.
Meandeer felt white fear freezing his blood for the first time since he had died.
He felt ashamed at his own horrified reflection in the dragon’s elliptical eyes. She commanded, “you will find a way to heal me or I will kill you here and now!”
Meandeer’s chest heaved up and down in terror. He managed to splutter “l-let me up! I’ll treat your wound! Don’t kill me, please!”
Hipeos roared in his face—saliva dripping from her jaws. He turned his head to the side, screwing his eyes shut in horror.
He wanted to tell the dragon to kill him as he did earlier, but found that his will to live overwhelmed his pride.
Slowly, the dragon lifted her foot and released him.
“One wrong move,” Hipeos warned him, “and I will burn you to ashes!”
Meandeer scampered to his feet and pulled his sword from the dragon’s collar bone.
“Throw that wretched toothpick to the side!” Hipeos ordered.
Meandeer obeyed with trembling hands—throwing the blade to the side. He reached down and unhooked a bottle containing a pink substance from his belt.
“What is that?” Hipeos asked. “Poison?”
Meandeer shook his head. “You told me to heal you. That’s what I’m doing.”
He uncorked the bottle and rubbed the salve on the dragon—making her roar in pain. She stomped a foot upon his chest again and brought him low. “Poison!”
“You stupid beast! It stings at first and then staunches the wound! You should be grateful—the plant this potion comes from only blooms once a year—I wanted to use it on any mortal wound that I might accumulate!” Meandeer explained.
Hipeos didn’t remove her foot as she considered whether he might be telling the truth. She didn’t need to wonder in a moment, however, because the wound on her neck began to close. She grunted and removed her foot. “Why should you travel the land, killing every creature you come upon? Your actions are monstrous.”
“Not every creature,” Meandeer protested. “Just the ones that kill us humans.”
Hipeos snorted. “I have only killed and eaten one human, and only because she was threatening me. It seems that you’re the beast between the two of us.”
Meandeer laughed heartily. “Foolish creature! There is not a beast in the land that doesn’t kill humans! If there were, then there would be more than just one kingdom left! I must ensure our survival!”
Hipeos made a low grumbling in her throat. “If I show you that I am harmless—that most dragons are intelligent—will you stop killing us?”
Meandeer pursed his lips. “How can you possibly prove such a thing?”
“Climb on my back. I’ll show you my daily routine.” Hipeos suggested.
Meandeer rolled his eyes. “You’ll throw me from your back and kill me if I climb on you.”
Hipeos snorted out fiery laughter through her nostrils. “Guess what, Dead One, I’m not giving you a choice. Climb on back or I’ll kill you where you stand.”
Meandeer’s jaw went slack. “You can’t do this! If you’re going to kill me, just do it now!”
“I am not a monster, Dead One. I won’t kill you unless you provoke me to.” The dragon reiterated.
Meandeer sourly crossed his arms and refused to move.
“I’m going to burn you to a crisp in three… Two—”
“Fine!” Meandeer threw his arms up in exasperation and then climbed up on the dragon bitterly.
“You can be trained, biped! That is good!” The dragon exclaimed as she flapped her wings and took to the air.