The trickle of coins and jewels echoed off her black scales in the dark cavern. Droplets of water ticked off the passing of generations in a slow everlasting beat.
The smell of burnishing gold filled her huge nostrils, although a distance smell has started to invade her senses, the faint smell of man. Light of any sort had not seen inside this cavern for thousands of years; even before she had made it her residence.
Now this man had brought fire here, the smell of burning wood and animal fats was thick and rich. It made her stomach awake with vengeance. The human would satisfy her hunger, for now, then she would decide whether to go back to sleep for another few thousand years. She shifted her huge bulk, more treasure cascaded from her back to pool at her talons. An eye the size of a horse cart opened to a slit, the red Iris dilating from the bright fire.
She loved fire; it was her best friend, her companion, her lover. It’s was a part of her, birthed from her glands, brought to life by her will. However, this was not her offspring. It was sacrilege, this man, who was he to brandish her love before him. This man was either very brave or very stupid, she couldn’t decide which.
Something familiar about his smell touched her memories. It was the only thing stopping her from ripping him to pieces. Curiosity had her talons around her, and it would be an itch that she could not scratch.
Nebula snarled, black leathery lips pulled back tight over blood darkened canines, capable of shredding a buffalo in seconds.
Nebula snorted two black clouds.
“You.” She croaked.
“You smell like him, the one with the promises, the one who could not deliver.”
The man stopped before a twisted Crown at the foot of the dragon’s hoard. One glove hand held closed the neck of his fur cape.
“As that maybe, I am not him. I do not come with empty promises.”
Fern’s voice was loud and strong, his fear being suppressed by his passion. It has been a long, hard, cold journey to find Nebula, and now that he was here he would see his task complete.
Nebula blinked and snorted again.
“But you do come without tribute, should I strike you down now just for the insult?”
Her forked tongue snaked out into the musty air.
“Only a fool would come without tribute, do you take me for a fool.”
Fern’s voice barely contained his anger.
“That is yet to be seen, mortal.” Spat the black dragon.
Fern turned and whistled. A glow appeared from the top of the cavern’s steps, preceded by a slow-moving, fur covered group. A burly man in the back pushed the shackled procession forwards. The clinching of chains rattled off the jagged stone walls.
Nebula raised her head; her black scales flickered in the torchlight. A few gold coins that had embedded in her mussel from her slumber, dropped back to the glittering gold pile. She craned her long snaky neck up towards the nearing captives; her hunger stabbing her stomach like a caged animal.
A young girl at the front collapse to her knees with fear, the man behind stumbled over her and smashed his face on the hard ground. Blood streamed from his nose down his chin. Nebula’s tongue caught the metallic scent, her red eyes glisten like the rivulets of blood as she turned back to Fern.
“What to do want, human?” She hissed. Her jaws quickly serrated the air.
“It’s not what I want, but rather, what I can give you in exchange for your assistance.”
“Help you?” Nebula spat.
“Why would I help you when your father failed so epically?”
Fern didn’t flinch at the mention of his father. “I can give you what you were denied.”
Nebula opened her jaws menacingly. A ball of blue fire roared at the back of her throat. She allowed the human a moment to sweat before clamping shut her mouth. The muscles in her gland contracted, directing the scorching liquid through her nostril.
Fern raised a hand and spoke a word as the fire billowed out, a steady white aura surrounds him, but the fire didn’t touch.
Nebula roared. “You cannot begin to understand me, mortal. My life is long, my reach is far, and my talons and fire could consume the world. There is nothing that you can give me that I haven’t already taken.”
“I know where he is.” The corners of his mouth raised in a smirk.
“You speak in riddles, and my patience is waning.”
Nebula shifted again and opened her gigantic wings; the talons on the ends scraped gorges in the walls with bone-chilling cruelty.
The fire from the torch flecked off her black scales and sent light dancing around the cavern. The bundle of protesting sacrifices was pushed towards Nebula. Fern’s men smacked at the captive’s legs forcing them to their knees.
Fern clicked his finger, and a heavy-set man covered in robes pushed a remaining captive to his knees and untied a bundle from his back. Slowly, he came toward the black leviathan, never taking his eyes off her wicked mouth. He placed the bundle on the ground and loosened the top. Immediately springing away for fear that he would end up a sacrifice as well.
The bag seemed to be alive as it moved and wiggled, a moment passed before an eagle head emerged and tried frantically to get free.
A few more seconds passed, and the eagle slowed his struggling and surveyed his surrounding. Its beak tried feebly at the knot, its eyes darting from Fern to the captives. Slowly, it seemed to realize that something was very wrong.
A hot gust of air tussled over the feathers on its head. Like slow motion, the bird turned and looked into the eyes of the ancient Foe whom his race of Griffins had believed dead.
Nebula deafening roar shook the cave, mad glee danced before her eyes.
“Yes!, Oh yes, my nemesis lives, oh how I have dreamed of another battle with him. One worthy to stand before me. Again, I have reason to come forth and destroy. Yes, it will be a great battle.”
The dragon had apparently forgotten all about her company as she bustled over the gold horde muttering to herself.
Nebula’s head whipped around.
“I still seek your aid.”
Fern wondered if he had chosen wrongly, maybe he should have left this ancient, slightly mad dragon in her sleep.
She went back to her wandering and eventually stopped.
She tossed something toward Fern that rolled over the treasure and finally stopped at his feet.
“Use this to summon my children, as long as you hold it, their will to do your bidding. Beware they will only answer to me or whoever holds my orb, so don’t lose it.”
Fern stepped on the pile of gold coins, the wealth of nations slipping beneath his boots. Kneeling down he picked up the pale white orb and removed one of his gloves. As he touched the Orb, colors swelled beneath. Black’s, reds, greens and yellow, raced and tangled with each other. Fern’s smile widened.
“Now leave me, I must prepare.”
Fern looked up at Nebula.
“When will you come?”
She turned again and looked into the young human’s eyes.
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