“One is enough to quench any hunger,” the dragon said, its voice strained as though it had been burned away. And rather than the fire Kya had been expecting, great pearly dragon tears welled up in the corners of its eyes and dripped down its cheeks.
Kya shifted nervously in place. She glanced down at Hearthorne, but the faerie-flower still had her petals wrapped up tighter than a locked door.
Tears were better than fire, weren’t they? At least they meant that she wasn’t in any immediate danger of being roasted and eaten, so long as she kept ample distance between herself and the dragon’s teeth glittering like a path of freshly sharpened sword grass. She managed to scoot back a little down the dragon’s flank before it collected itself and the tears stopped falling.
“That leaves one last apple,” it rasped.
Kya’s thoughts scattered like seeds against the wind. She’d gotten lucky with both her answers—guesses, really—but she had no idea what to do with the third apple. She didn’t suppose taking it for herself would suffice, and what would she do with a bit of a dragon’s heart—or the fruit that grew from it, whatever it was?
“I don’t know,” she said at last, hoping those weren’t to be her final words. “I think,” her voice squeaked. She cleared her throat and tried again. “I think these are your apples, so it ought to be your decision.”
The breath in her lungs turned brittle, but she forced herself to breathe anyway. She wasn’t breaking her word to the mouse. He’d only said that she must get some of the dragon’s apples, and she had. Or was so close that it didn’t make any difference. Besides, he hadn’t actually said she had to do anything with them at all.
The dragon studied her for what felt like five eternities crammed into a single glance. “A precious riddle that only serves to be more curious upon acquaintance. If I should eat you now, I shouldn’t get my apple.”
Kya’s heart took courage. “Does that mean you’ve decided to let me have the apples?”
“On one condition.” The dragon’s neck swung its head over until they were nose to nose, and Kya’s protest died on her lips. “In the other Realm, there is a nut. Within that nut there is a tree. Within that tree there is a maid who is fast asleep, and one whom no one else can waken. Promise me upon your life’s blood that you will take her the third and final apple, and I will gladly let you have all three to do with as you’ve said.”
Kya frowned. She hadn’t wished to see the moon only to be sent on more errands. She was a girl, not a knight. She wanted to explore, not quest. But there was something compelling about a hungry dragon staring her in the face, row upon row of sharp teeth only a breath away, who would likely exact its own dragonish justice should she refuse.
“All right,” she sighed. “I’ll do as you ask so long as you ask for nothing more.”
The dragon’s lips curled into the smile of a creature who had gotten the better end of the bargain by far. “Agreed.
It stretched its neck up and around, and Kya narrowed her eyes against the glittering scales of the dragon’s hide as it came in contact with the light. With more care than she would have thought possible, the dragon deftly plucked three apples from the tree and dropped them gently into her outstretched hands.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2014 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved. Originally published in Curiosities of the Moon.
I hope you’re enjoying the journey so far. Join me next Monday to see what other promises the moon dragon extracts from Kya and to get a glimpse of the curious sight of a dragon munching on an apple. And, of course, where there are apples, there will always be seeds . . .