Goliath stepped carefully, wary of the roots that swerved across the ground and wrapped around each other like snakes. They were just begging to be tripped over. But he would happily go into this forest any day if it meant he could get more apples. Because these were no ordinary apples, but only the tastiest, most flavorful fruit. The kind that made a satisfying crunch when he bit into one. There was nothing more disappointing than biting into an apple, only to discover it was soft and mushy. Both sweet and sour at the same time, Goliath wanted no other apple.
They just happened to be poisonous.
At least, to most others. Dragons like him were immune to the poison. He would gladly reap all the benefits. Like having more pie to himself. He hefted his bag over his shoulder and trotted into the thickest part of the forest. The trees blocked out the sky, and the hiss of dripping poison grew louder. Steam rose from puddles on the ground that bubbled like boiling water. The trees, the glorious trees, held hundreds of apples in their jagged branches. Each apple dripped with poison that sizzled like butter in a hot skillet.
Almost a shame something so deadly had to be so beautiful. The lavender hue of the apple’s skin truly made them one of a kind. Goliath reached for one on a lower tree, flapping his wings to stay in midair. Some of these trees must have been here for hundreds of years, their deep purple bark shaggy and cracked with age. He plucked an apple off the branch, the stem snapping cleanly. The poison steamed when it touched his scales, but it slid off smoothly. Just like oil and water, the two did not mix.
“YOU TOUCHED THE APPLES!”
Goliath almost dropped it.
The spikes on his back ruffled. Did the trees speak? He thought wildly. There was no one in sight. Maybe these things really are toxic and it’s affecting my mind.
“Hello. I didn’t mean to scare you.” The tree said.
Or rather, as he belatedly realized, the thing in the tree said.
A long slender arm poked out of the leaves and waved at him. It was covered in ragged scales that perfectly blended in with the tree bark.
“I was just surprised.” The dragon in the tree went on conversationally.
It had to be another dragon. No one else could touch the poison.
“Nobody else comes here. They seem scared of the apples for some reason- weird, right? I mean, I think they’re delicious.”
Goliath’s blank expression must have been showing, because the dragon quickly added:
“But you don’t know me, of course. My name’s Lilac. I live here.”
Goliath blinked once.
“Are these your apples? Was all he could think to say.
So they both could be bad at introductions.
Lilac snickered, luckily not offended.
“I’ve been alone in this orchard for so long, I guess they’re technically mine. But you can pick as many as you want. I have more than enough. And they grow back really fast.”
“Ah. Thank you. I’m Goliath, by the way.”
He continued picking apples, waiting for most of the poison to drip away before stowing them in the bag.
“I’ve only been at the edge of this forest before, but I’ve heard that the best apples grow in here, in the center.”
“Oh, yes.” Lilac agreed. “These ones are the best. It’s a shame no one else seems to realize it.”
“… you do know they’re poisonous to everyone except dragons, right?”
So apparently Lilac had been in this forest a very long time.
“Stop that. You’re making me feel old. I just like my solitude.”
Goliath did not mention that Lilac nearly talked his ear off.
“Besides, I don’t want to leave. It’s safe here.”
There was something about their tone that made Goliath wonder what Lilac could possibly be hiding from.
“What are you gonna do with all these?”
The purple dragon gestured to the bag, now stuffed full.
“Make a pie.” He answered promptly.
He couldn’t see Lilac’s face, but he got the sense an eyebrow was being raised.
“Make a lot of pies.” He added.
This haul would easily make multiple pies, plus there would be extra apples for snacking.
“Pie?” Lilac said, surprised. (or perhaps wistfully)
“Is that a suggestion? I suppose I could part with a slice or two.” Goliath teased. “As a thank-you for letting me pick apples.”
Lilac protested a bit, but in the end he won. (of course)
“You’re leaving?!” They cried as he started to say goodbye.
“Unless you’ve got an oven hidden up there. And some flour, and sugar, and-”
“All right.” Lilac made a shooing gesture, chuckling. “Do you know the way out?”
“I have an excellent sense of direction.” Goliath promised. “I’ll be back. Just you wait.”
He flapped down to the forest floor, his wings tired from hovering. He hopped over the tree roots, which didn’t seem so big now. Even they must know that nothing should get in the way of a good pie.
The next day, Goliath returned to the orchard. He was holding his basket that contained the pie like it was full of breakable objects. His hands were shaking. He flew up to a sturdy branch and perched, balancing the basket oh-so-carefully. The branches beside him rustled, scattering plum colored leaves.
“You’re really here!” Lilac said.
It was strange talking to a disembodied voice.
“Of course I am. I would never lie about food.”
“You came back. You said you would and you did-”
“It’s just a pie.” Goliath said, reaching into the basket.
“No.” Came the reply. “It’s so much more than that.”
“So. How is it?” Goliath asked.
Lilac hadn’t choked and fallen out of the tree yet, which was a good sign.
The pie looked a bit odd, since the flesh of the apples was purple. But the taste was everything he’d dreamed and more. Lightly flavored with cinnamon, the apples sweet and tart. The crust was slightly buttery and crisp, but not dry like he’d been worried about.
“I cannot find the words to describe how delicious this is.” Lilac finally said, through much chewing and crunching.
That was a surprising answer that made Goliath’s chest swell with pride.
“Don’t need words. I can tell from your reaction. Unless you’re a brilliant actor…”
“I would never lie about food.” Lilac repeated his earlier statement, complete with an awful impression of his voice.
Goliath snorted and almost choked on a mouthful of pie.
“I believe you. I’m glad you like it.”
“Like- is not a strong enough word.” The purple dragon mumbled around another bite, extending one hand through the leaves to sneak another piece out of the basket.
“It’s not often I get to share my baking with others.”
“You would have had to eat this entire pie all by yourself. How horrible.”
Not long ago, he had been planning on doing exactly that. But maybe, sometimes he could share with a friend.