Renzar’s eyelids grew heavy, his nose dipping low as his custom made spectacles began to slip off his face. The book of meditation practices he had been reading lay at his feet, neatly bookmarked. Focusing on the ebb and flow of his breathing and the clearing of clamoring thoughts cluttering his mind, he began to descend into a peaceful repose.
“Renz!” Talyah yelled, startling him out of his revery. Renzar snorted himself to wakefulness, his spectacles falling to the gold coin covered floor with a soft tinkling. He blinked at the general direction of the disturbance.
“Tal?” He asked, swiveling his head around, “is that you?”
“Who else would it be?” She demanded. She sounded angry. Or merely awake. Hard to tell with her sometimes.
“Well, it’s not Tuesday, is it?” Renzar asked, still trying to get his bearings. He shrugged his shoulders, unfurling his massive wings slightly.
“No, it’s not.” The echo of her hesitant footfalls were muffled as she gingerly picked her way around the various treasures littered about the cavernous yet brightly lit hall.
Renzar turned toward her voice, rearranging his considerable bulk atop a shifting pile of coins and various other gold things. “So what are you doing here?” She tapped him on the fore hoof, hoisting up his spectacles with both hands. He lowered his head so she could secure them around his ears.
“I really must make a strap of some sort,” She muttered to herself. Renzar carefully adjusted the specs with a talon and grunted in satisfaction. His face contorted itself into what one could only assume was a smile.
Talyah, on the other hand, was not smiling. Renzar was a novice in the study of human behavior, but even he could tell that she was definitely not in the mood for an in-depth and insightful discussion about the many benefits of a regularly maintained meditation practice.
“Errrm… something wrong?” He asked solicitously.
“Besides everything?” She flung both her arms up and let them fall limply by her side.
“There can’t really be anything besides everything, can there? I mean, by definition, ‘everything’ means —-.”
“There’s a stupid prince after me,” she broke in, tucking her chin as low as she could and crossing her arms tightly across her chest. “Of the Charming line. You know them?”
He nodded in assent. “A persistent bunch.”
“A persistent annoying bunch,” she amended. “I have a couple of cousins who fell prey to their lot. Happily ever after my big fat —-“
Renzar made a rumbling sound in the back of his throat that sounded like the earth unfurling its limbs after a long nap.
“Eye,” she said. “I was going to say ‘eye’.” The dragon turned his head and stared at her with his unblinking amber colored eye. Talyah stared back for a beat before turning her head away, rubbing at her now watery eyes. There was no out staring a dragon. “Anyway,” she continued. “I need you to kill him.”
“What?!” Renzar squeaked. Dragons don’t squeak but Renzar made an exception.
“Well, that’s what you do, innit? Princes come to slay dragons, dragons incinerate them. Wet, lather, rinse, repeat.” She brushed some dirt from her leather trousers in a manner Renzar would have thought to describe as “studious nonchalance.” Had he ever thought to describe her actions at all.
Renzar primly sat up to his full height, which was impressive even for a dragon, and pursed his lips. Inasmuch as a dragon can purse his lips or even has lips to purse. “How long have we known each other?” He asked.
Talyah waved an arm. “Most of my life?”
“And how many princes have you seen me, how did you put it? ‘Incinerate’?”
“None, but —-“
He silenced her with a raised talon.
“But,” she persisted, “It’s not as though I see you everyday. I don’t know what you get up to when I’m not around.”
“Oh, so I’m just roving the countryside, wantonly setting fire to princes, then?” Talyah shrugged. “Just a mad dragon scorching the earth and everyone on it for no discernible reason. I mean, how is this even a remotely appropriate thing to ask? Ludicrous,” he muttered and tossed his head. His pearlescent obsidian scales flashed a brilliant purple then turquoise and back to black again.
“So you’re not going to help me?” she asked incredulously.
“Why does ‘help’ in this case have to mean murder?” He demanded.
Talyah threw her head back in what Renzar surmised was frustration and made a gurgling sound in her throat while clawing the air. “Why do you always have to be so melodramatic?” She wailed. And before Renzar could object or even point out that between the two of them, she was the one more likely to be described as such, she barreled on. “Besides, you know how they are! They never take ‘no’ for an answer! Even if I ran away, assumed a new identity, cut off all my hair, he’d still find me!” She clenched and unclenched her fists and kicked at the coins by her feet as she paced to and fro.
Renzar made ready to launch into a tirade against her disrespectful treatment of his treasure, but just then they heard the echo of Talyah’s name being called by a rather robust baritone in a distinctly sing songy way. It set the dragon’s scales on edge.
“You led him here???” Renzar could barely contain his outrage. Had he a pearl necklace, he would have clutched at it.
“Of course I didn’t lead him here!” Talyah countered. “Not purposefully anyway. Must have tracked me here. I told you!”
Prince Charming found his way onto the balcony overlooking the great hall, spotted Talyah by the dragon and immediately drew his sword. “Foul fiend,” he bellowed. Talyah and Renzar rolled their eyes in unison. “Fret not, dear heart. I shall slay this beast and free you from its evil clutches!”
Talyah raised her eyebrows at Renzar and inclined her head ever so slightly. Renzar responded with an almost imperceptible shrug. “Dear heart?” He whispered.
“I told you he was an idiot,” she proclaimed in response; loud enough to ensure that the interloping prince could hear.
In an obviously well-rehearsed maneuver, Charming vaulted over the balustrade and leapt onto the pile of treasure below. However, in an unpracticed maneuver, the pile, not being as compacted as he expected and less inclined to be so agreeable, shifted dramatically beneath his weight exposing the hard stone slab underneath. And sadly for Prince Charming, he lost his footing all together, allowing his head to connect soundly with the unyielding stone. A loud and squealchy thud reverberated about the hall. Renzar and Talyah winced.
The duo slowly made their way toward Prince Charming’s now immobile body.
“Huh.” Talyah said.
“Never seen a dead body before,” she said. “He just looks like he’s sleeping, no?”
“With his eyes open?” Renzar asked.
“And half his head caved in?” Talyah opened her mouth for a response, realized she had none and clamped it shut again. “With all this blood —-“
“All right already,” she snapped.
“I suppose it’s too late to inform him that I’m neither foul nor a fiend.” Renzar offered.
“I suppose so,” she agreed. “Although, he probably wouldn’t have believed you anyway.”
“No. He didn’t seem the type to listen to reason. Especially from a dragon. Points for alliteration, though.” They stared at the corpse a while longer until Talyah broke the silence.
“Now what do we do?”
“‘We’??? When did this become a ‘we’ thing? You’re the one who brought him here!”
“I did no such thing! Besides, what do you want me to do? Carry him out of here, bury him in the backyard, then?”
“That sounds like a most excellent plan!” The dragon exclaimed.
“It’s a terrible plan!” The princess countered.
“Why? I mean, I’m sure your parents have taught you to clean up your own messes.”
“My parents are the King and Queen. You really think they would teach me that?”
“You see? That’s your problem. You expect everyone else to do your bidding. You never take responsibility for your own actions.” Renzar carefully pushed his spectacles up his nose. In all the excitement they had slipped off his ears and slid dangerously low.
“Oh, that’s my problem, is it?” She huffed, arms akimbo.
“One of them.”
Talyah paused. “You know what, I’m going to do us both a favor and ignore that. For now. Because right now my problem isn’t my shoddy upbringing or whatever it is you were implying. My problem is that Prince Charming is dead, and his people are going to come looking for him and if we, yes we, don’t do something about this,” she waved her hand at the corpse, “they’re going to track him here and to you. Which,” she snorted. “Is perhaps what you’ve been angling for all along. Forgive me, oh mighty one. I didn’t realize fending off hordes of sword wielding princes and other detritus hell bent on invading your pocket of paradise here was on this year’s to-do list.”
Renzar waited until the last echoes of her diatribe faded away. “Are you quite through?” He asked with maximum haughtiness.
“Could be,” she answered stiffly. He sat motionless. “So then?” She prodded.
“I could do with a little less sarcasm,” he muttered.
“Well, I could do with a little less dead and bloody prince staining the floors,” she shot back.
Renzar scowled at her. She was annoying when she was right. But to be fair, she was also annoying when she wasn’t right.
“Now,” she continued in a more measured tone. “I can get rid of him but not in his present state.” She stared at the dragon and wiggled her eyebrows. He gave her his best blank stare. “You know, if you were to …” She simulated filling up her lungs full of air. He remained still. She pursed her lips and made as if to exhale loudly. He continued to stare at her stoically. “With the fire and the … you know…” She trailed off.
Unlike the rest of his kin, Renzar greatly disliked breathing fire. Hated it even. He could count on two talons the number of times he had done so. Mostly because it gave him terrible dyspepsia and dried up his throat and sinuses something awful. It would take days of a steaming regimen and flavorless broth to remedy. But it was, apparently, a day of exceptions. He sighed in resignation and motioned for Talyah to step aside.
“Oh, wait!” She called out. Renzar clamped his mouth shut and nearly choked on the heat rising from his belly. He coughed out a puff of smoke. “Sorry,” she said as she came out from behind him. “I should probably hang on to your specs.”
“Why?” He strangled out as more smoke escaped from his mouth.
“Just in case.”
“Right,” he replied. He had no idea what she was on about but was loathe to spark another round of pointless arguments. He hoped the sooner he dispensed with this unpleasant business, the sooner he could return to his meditation practice. He lowered his head toward her, and she deftly removed the spectacles from his head. Talyah scampered behind Renzar as the dragon took a deep breath.