"Treasure..." The needle sharp talon taps the paper as Draco nods, grinning.
I carefully pick up the ancient parchment and look at the flickering lamp light shining through four tiny holes. Then I spread the document out on the table, examining the cryptic figures drawn on the page. To me it seems as if someone had coated the feet of a small bird with a reddish-brown ink and allowed the creature to run wild over the paper.
"I can make no sense of these markings," I state as I glance over at the dragon. "You can read this?"
"Well, not exactly," admits Draco.
"So, how do you know these scratches tell of a treasure?" I consider this a perfectly reasonable question.
"I am a dragon! We dragons know all about treasure!" Draco seems upset that I would even think to question his judgment in such matters. "Why, we can smell a good treasure." He taps the tattered page again, adding four more small holes. "And this is about a great treasure!"
"So, how are we supposed to find the treasure if we can not read the directions?" Asks MrEdII. Again, a reasonable question.
"Ummm… I have not figured that part out yet," concedes the dragon.
"If it's gold you want, wouldn't it be easier to go ask the titans? They are always happy to make a donation." I wink.
"You don't understand," pouts Draco. Now I am sure that I have offended my friend. "It's not about the gold. It's… It's about the excitement of the search!"
"Ahh… The thrill of the hunt… You are correct. I did not understand. Please forgive me." Draco seems mollified by my statement. "But Ed is right; We still need to decipher the meaning here."
MrEdII turns his head to look at the document from a different angle. "Maybe we are holding it upside down."
Draco frowns at the nightmare.
I turn back to study the yellowed page. "Perhaps Sebastian would understand this."
"No!" Draco snatches the paper from under my nose. "He would try to steal my treasure!"
I study the dragon closely, pondering his seemingly contradictory statements. "I very much doubt that Sebastian would try to steal the treasure." I say carefully. "Sebastian has proven to be a true friend. It was he who provided the information that allowed the rescue of your egg-child." I can see that the dragon is wavering. "Besides, Sebastian is a monk and has taken a vow of poverty. He would have no interest in treasure." Dragons take oaths and vows very seriously and my final argument has done the trick.
"Then it's settled!" Draco grins broadly. "We shall enlist the aid of your friend in finding my treasure."
Although dragons are known to be attracted to gold, Draco had previously shown no interest in treasure hunting. I look at my friend, wondering why he is convinced that this tattered scrap of paper holds the key to a treasure and why he is so interested in it. Still, Draco has always been quick to aid me in my own adventures.
I smile back at the big dragon. "Then let's go see him!" I select a rune from my book and cast a spell to create a shimmering blue portal. "Come." I lead my friends through the magical gate emerging in Empath Abbey.
I quickly look about the room wary of an ambush. Although the juka have been gone from Yew for many weeks, the memory of how they ambushed me as I recalled to the bank at the back of the Abbey has not left me. There are, of course, no juka today and I lead MrEdII and Draco towards the library.
We find Sebastian back at his usual station in the Abbey library. He seems to have completely recovered from the Meer plague. He glances up from his book as we enter the room then looks back, eyes wide at the sight of a big brown dragon squeezing through the doorway.
"Don't be alarmed, Sebastian," I chuckle. "This is Draco. My friend."
Sebastian smiles up at the dragon. "How good to finally meet you."
"Draco and Prophesy were very grateful for your aid in rescuing their egg-child," I comment. The dragon bows before the monk.
"It was nothing." Sebastian looks a little embarrassed. "Besides, any possible debt has been fully repaid by your aid in fighting the juka and the bog things." He returns the dragon's bow.
"We have a new puzzle today." I lay the scrap of paper on the table. "What do you make of this?"
"Interesting," Sebastian squints at the document. "Wherever did you find it?"
"Actually, Draco found it," I respond. "We were scouting the juka city of Mistas, looking for stragglers. Draco discovered it hidden in the back of a broken book under a trash pile." I pause to wonder what had possessed the dragon to even search through the refuse let alone look in that particular ruined book. "Can you read it?"
"This is written in the language of the Gargoyle race…" Sebastian traces a line with a fingertip frowning slightly. "And, it is written in blood. But, yes… I can translate it." He reaches for pen and paper and begins to write:
Through blue sky on bended knee,
towards the early morning light.
Walk a day, the wise would flee,
the terror of your spirits plight.
Look well for the last that you'll behold,
is the gleaming of the Black Tower's gold.
Beside me, Draco reads over the monks shoulder. A sound of satisfaction, like the contented purring of a very, very large cat rumbles deep in the dragon's chest.
I glance over at the dragon. "Well, my friend, it seems that your belief has been vindicated. The paper does indeed seem to tell of a treasure."
"This is a unique document," says Sebastian. "There is a very old legend. The legend of Xarot the Black Archmage." The monk retrieves another dusty old book from a high shelf and quickly turns the pages. "Xarot served an ancient king but was consumed by a lust for gold. He murdered the king and looted the kingdom's treasure. Hiding away in his magical abode, the Black Tower. No one knows where it was. I am amazed that you have found something that even hints at it's location."
"An interesting tale," I observe. "But how would this riddle lead us to some old treasure?"
"One step at a time," says Sebastian, rubbing his hands together as he surveys his translation. "We must look at each element of the poem to see how it might be a metaphor for something that we could understand."
"Hmmmm… Well, the morning light is the sun in the east, so maybe that part indicates a direction…" I trail off as MrEdII whispers something in my ear. "Yes… The blue sky could very well represent a moongate..."
"I know well that when one is on bended knee, one has humbled oneself," contributes the old monk.
"There is a moongate at the shrine of Humility in Ilshenar," I observe. "So this could indicate a spot a days walk east of the shrine of Humility in Ilshenar?"
"Yes," exclaims Draco. "You have solved the riddle of my treasure!"
Sebastian blinks at the dragon and then looks at me. "A talking dragon? How…"
"But Ilshenar is a very large place." I quickly interrupt and change the subject. "We need something a little more precise than a day's walk east of the shrine. Those who live there might not be happy with someone haphazardly digging up the countryside looking for treasure. Knowing the denizens of Ilshenar, I am quite sure that they will strongly object to our just being there!"
Sebastian holds the paper up to the light, lost in thought, as he looks through the holes that Draco had carelessly punched into the old document. He turns the page in his old book, revealing a map of Ilshenar. He lays Draco's paper over the map turning it so the eight holes the dragon made superimpose perfectly over the eight shrines marked on the map. I watch as Sebastian uses a pin to punch his own hole through a particular marking on Draco's paper before removing it. On the Map, the new hole marks a spot almost straight east of the Humility shrine. "There," Sebastian points to the spot. "Is your treasure."
The hair on my neck stands as an icy chill of apprehension passes over me. I slowly look over at the dragon who seem intent on staring a larger hole at the spot now marked on the old map. There is an unreadable expression on his face. The odds that the holes from Draco's random tapings would exactly match the eight shrine locations on Sebastian's map are… impossible…
"So, are you going to go and look for it?" Sebastian's question interrupts my reverie.
"What?" I bring my attention to the monk's words.
"The treasure. Are you going to go searching for the treasure?" Repeats Sebastian.
I glance at Draco who nods excitedly. "Ummm… Yes, I suppose so..."
"Then I have a favor to ask." Sebastian hesitates. "Most of my life has been spent here in the Abbey. Vicariously living great adventures through my books and the stories of others. The Meer illness has made me realize that life is so short. I want to have one adventure of my own before it is… too late…" He stops and looks down. "Please take me with you…" He finishes in a rush. The note of pleading in his voice matches the look in his old eyes.
I look at the dragon who nods once again. "My friend, we would be honored if you would join our party. Who knows? There may yet be other puzzles which you can help us solve before this quest is finished!" I lay a hand on the old monk's shoulder. "We shall leave at dawn tomorrow. Pack light, for we shall be moving quickly!"
I lead MrEdII and Draco through the gray, pre-dawn light towards Empath Abbey. I can make out a brown robed figure, holding a wooden staff, waiting in front of the building.
"Hail, Sebastian," I call out in greeting. "Are you ready for adventure?"
"Indeed I am," exclaims the monk. "I have everything I need all packed." He indicates several crates stacked beside him on the ground.
I peek inside one of the crates and find that it is filled with books. A quick examination of the other boxes finds them likewise packed tight with books and papers! "Ummm… I thought that we were going to pack light…"
"Well I did," says Sebastian. "Just some basic reference materials, an encyclopedia, abridged of course, and a copy of Shakespeare's works for entertainment. A little Donate and Plato. The absolute minimum…" He trails off as he notices my disturbed expression.
"This will be a trek through hostile lands! What about Weapons? Clothing? Food?" I ask.
"Food?" Sebastian blinks at me.
"Yes, food. You do expect to eat don't you?" I ask.
"I hadn't thought of that," admits Sebastian. "But I need my books," he protests.
"Never mind about the food. I have packed extra and we can hunt if need be." I heft one of the crates and glance thoughtfully over at MrEdII. The don't-even-think-about-it look returned in the nightmares narrowed red eyes puts an end to that crazy notion before it even begins! "Ummm… We will need a good pack horse," I sigh. "Perhaps Digger will let Pokey come with us on our adventure."
I pay a quick visit to my nephew, rousing him out of a sound sleep. Although Digger is a Grand Master miner, he says that he has not been doing much mining lately and he is sure that Pokey would love to get out of the stable for some fresh air. I promise to take good care of the pack horse and lead him back to the Abbey where my other friends await.
I load Sebastian's books into Pokey's ample packs. The stout creature does not seem to notice the extra weight. After all, the books are much lighter than the loads of ore and lumber that he is used to carrying. After consuming a few sweet juicy apples, Pokey is the happiest packhorse in the land. Our preparations complete, I lead our little party east towards the Yew moongate and adventure!
We step through the gate emerging into the gray morning mists of Ilshenar. The sun is poking fingers of light over the mountains far to the east and the top of the fog swirls lazily at the warming touch.
"We must be wary of the dangers of this land," I instruct my friends. "Stay close and stay alert." Sebastian nods his understanding while Pokey only seems interested in munching the dew covered sweet clover growing near the shrine. "Keep a very close eye on Sebastian. Guarding him is your first priority." I whisper to Draco. Morning shadows trail long behind as we set out down the path.
The morning is peaceful enough as the fog burns off, but our luck changes as we pass by a small grove of trees; Without warning, Draco turns and lunges. An arrow, meant for the monk, bounces harmlessly off the dragon's armored scales. With a swipe of his tale, Draco knocks the attacking ratman to the ground and then pins it with a powerful talon. Bones crunch loudly as Draco steps down on the helpless rat.
Unfortunately, this ratman is not alone. "In Sanct Ylem," I shout. A hail of arrows clatter to the ground as they hit the stone wall that appears between Sebastian and the attacking rat pack. "Stay still," I command the worried monk and frightened pack horse. "An Lor Xen." My friends are now wrapped in a cloak of invisibility, safe from immediate harm as long as they do not move.
I turn at a battle roar behind me. MrEdII is busy stomping an unfortunate gazer into the ground. A task that he can easily handle without my aid. I turn back to the dragon. Together we face the ratmen as they swarm forward. I cast a fire field in their path. Several step into the flames, squealing in distress as their fur ignites.
A few rats, with an arguably higher intelligence, attempt to go around the wall of fire. Draco grasps one in his powerful jaws and swings his head quickly. The ratman flies through the air, smacking into a nearby tree with a sickening wet thud. As I dodge an arrow, a fireball shoots past me roasting my attacker to medium well. Ed has finished with his gazer and has joined our fight against the rats.
I raise my arms and chant "Flam Kal Des Ylem." Fiery stones rain down upon the assembled ratmen. This proves to be the final straw and the few remaining ratmen break and run for the trees.
"Quickly," I urge my friends along the path. "They will return soon and likely bring mages. We best be elsewhere."
We make our best speed east, towards the treasure. After a short while, I notice that the trees and grass beside the path have come alive with a soft rustling sound. The sound is getting louder and now I can hear a sickening, squeaking, chattering. The ratmen are back, stalking us, and they are accompanied by a horde of giant rats. Scores of them. The ratmen's less intelligent brethren could overwhelm even the nightmare and dragon if they were to concentrate their efforts. We must get to a defensible location before they are ready to attack.
Suddenly we break into a clearing with the rats close behind. A large pile of stones, near the clearing's center, offers our best hope for protection. I lead my friends towards what shelter the boulders offer. Once among the stones I turn to Draco and MrEdII, giving orders for our defense.
"They will likely send the giant rats in first. I will layer fire and poison fields to weaken them as they charge. Kill any who get through with claw and fire and save your mana for ratman mages and archers." I look at the horde assembling at the edge of the trees. I do not like what I see. "If they get through, Draco will be the main defense. Ed, you clear Draco and I will clear you and try to keep you both healed." As I cast an invisibility spell on the pack horse and Sebastian, I find myself fervently wishing that the gate or recall spells would also work in Ilshenar.
I look back across the clearing wondering what is keeping the ratmen. If we have to fight, 'tis best done quickly. What I see both puzzles and worries me. There are dozens of ratmen and giant rats assembled in the trees at the edge of the clearing. They just stand there, making no sound. Normally an immediate and uncontrolled charge would suffice for high strategy among these simple minded creatures. I wonder if they are somehow planning to distract us with an attack from the side or behind before their main force hits us. The trees behind and to the sides seem to be empty of the vermin though. I whisper to the hidden monk to keep a sharp eye out to the sides and back. Beside me Draco growls uneasily and MrEdII paws the ground.
The ratmen silently turn and disappear back into the forest. I watch, dumbfounded, as the last one vanishes among the trees.
I hear a nervous laugh behind me. "It seems that news of the fate which befell those earlier rats reached these and they have lost their appetite for battle," exclaims Sebastian.
Draco, MrEdII and I all turn slowly to stare at the monk. "I very much doubt it," I give voice to the thought that is going through all three of our minds. "I have never seen a ratman back down from a fight no matter how one sided the odds. They are just not that smart. The odds here were heavily in their favor. We would have ran out of reagents, mana and bandages before they would have run out of fresh rats." I look back towards the trees. "No, something else has driven them off. We should be on guard lest they return and surprise us."
I begin a more detailed survey of this clearing around us.. The earth is barren of any vegetation, cracked and dry as if not a single drop of rain has ever fallen here. There are no birds or other animals to be seen. The stones, in the center, are the salient feature. Rather than a random heap of boulders, they actually seem to be piles of blocks hewn from some black substance scattered almost like a maze.
I reach out and touch the nearest block; The surface is glassy smooth and warm to the touch. It is as hard as fine steel, yet it feels almost like something that is alive. I feel weak, gripped by some uneasy compulsion as my gaze is drawn into a swirling ebony abyss.
"Obsidian," says Sebastian, calling me back to reality.
"What?" I jerk my hand away from the block and blink at the monk.
"These blocks have been cut from an igneous stone called obsidian." He answers my questioning look. "A substance born in the fiery bowels of the earth."
Perhaps the heat was from the sunlight, I muse as I cast a nervous glance at the block. It's only a stone, it couldn't possibly be alive. Shaking off the anxiety I open my pack and take out my sextant to check our location. "We are precisely in the center of the spot that you marked on your map Sebastian. This…" I gesture at the maze of black blocks surrounding us. "must be the ruin of the Black Tower."
A soft whinny from MrEdII draws my attention to another nearby stack of blocks. Behind the pile, I find bones lying on the ground. Very old bones as they are mostly covered with dust and dirt. I pry the skull from the dry earth. "Orc," I pronounce as I examine the skull. "Odd, I did not know that orcs had ever lived in this part of Ilshenar."
Draco scratches a claw in the dirt next to the skeleton, unearthing a small glass bottle. I can see a parchment rolled up inside the container. There is a small pop of inrushing air as I work the stopper out of the bottle, liberating the paper inside. I unroll the sheet.
"Another cryptic message," I announce, handing the document to Sebastian. "Can you make sense of it?"
"This is written in Orcish," says Sebastian. "Quite simple, actually."
I raise an eyebrow. "Orcs can write?"
"Well, long ago they could," says Sebastian.
"So what does it say?" I ask.
Sebastian looks back at the paper. As he studies it, a puzzled expression comes over his face. He looks up, blinking. "This paper says exactly the same thing as Draco's Gargoyle document."
Before I can say anything, I am distracted by a low growl. Draco has unearthed more bones. Troll this time. With a growing sense of dread I open a small metal chest, found among the brittle bones, and find another paper. Without a word I hand it to the monk.
"These are Troll runes…" says Sebastian in a shaky voice. "but the words are the same."
A third skeleton, of human remains, yields up a scroll that I can easily read for myself. "This Black Tower seems to be very well advertised for a place that is supposed to be a deep secret. I certainly hope that this is someone's sick idea of a practical joke."
"Perhaps we should have studied the reminder of this poem more closely," says Sebastian. "It does seem to indicate that there is some peril to one's spirit or soul here. If the location is correct, then there is no reason to suspect that the rest is any less accurate."
Behind me, Draco has unearthed several more skeletons. I don't bother to search them for the inevitable paper. As I look out at the dead, wasted earth surrounding this black graveyard the truth suddenly becomes clear. "Something here is sucking the life out of everything near. This place is some sort of diabolical trap and these scrolls are the bait." Suddenly facing a couple of hundred ratmen did not seem like such a bad idea. "We must leave here. NOW!"
Draco looks up from his digging. His eyes narrow and a low growl can be heard. I fear that these treasure scrolls contain some dark magic to lure their victim here and keep them in thrall until escape is impossible. I must free my friend from this dark compulsion.
"Draco come," I shout, trying to lead our little group and the dragon away from this place. The dragon takes a few steps towards me and then hesitates, his head swing back towards the black blocks. "Follow me!" Step by reluctant step I lead the dragon towards the trees that surround the clearing.
Finally I feel the trees at my back. I keep working and soon we are in among the trees and out of sight of the clearing. Safe, I hope. I lead us away through the trees. I do not really care what direction I take just as long as it is away from that evil place. I step between two trees and my eyes open wide. We are back at the clearing. Somehow, in my haste to flee, I must have circled back.
What is more startling is that the rubble in the center does not seem such a ruin now. Many of the blocks are stacked as a proper wall and the desolation seems much less than I recall. This must be a trick of the light, or perhaps we have just come from a different direction I rationalize.
I turn, leading the way back into the forest. We have taken no more than a score of steps when, to my horror, I find myself once again facing this haunted clearing. And the tower… The Black Tower stands in the center, whole. A slender black spire against a darkening sky. I have only a few seconds to wonder how this could be when Draco pushes past me. Walking slowly towards the tower, ignoring my frantic pleas to stop.
I helplessly follow the dragon's inexorable march towards the tower. Draco crashes his weight against a shadow metal door set in the black wall. Again and again the echoes roll against the trees of the forest as the dragon tests the door. Finally it falls and he walks inside. I follow, feeling that I walk into the maw of some ancient leviathan.
My battered psyche recoils from what I see on the far side of this dark threshold. A King's hall stretches off into the distance, blazing torches line the walls, flanking alcoves containing shadowed figures. I can see another door at the far end of the hall. That is not so remarkable, but this room is clearly much larger than the outside of the structure. I stop, completely bewildered at what I see. Behind me MrEdII, Sebastian and Pokey push through the opening that Draco has smashed into the building. We stand next to the dragon in the center of this impossible room.
Draco, totally ignores my words now, lost to whatever dark compulsion grips him. In desperation I strike one leg with the flat of my sword. The dragon's only response is to knock me sprawling with a flick of his tail. Not even bothering to look.
"We should leave this unholy place," says Sebastian as he helps me to my feet.
"I would like nothing better," I reply. "But Draco seems to have other plans."
MrEdII stomps his hoof, drawing our attention away from the dragon towards one of the alcoves. Hidden in the shadows we find a massive tome atop a pedestal. I fetch a torch as Sebastian opens the dusty book.
"This is the journal of Xarot the Black Archmage," says Sebastian. "Filled with sinister words that should never have been uttered." His expression grows more troubled as he turns the pages. "Xarot called upon a dark power, hidden deep in the fiery core of the world, to grow this place. Like a plant from some evil seed."
"This place is alive?" I whisper, lest I awaken something best left undisturbed.
Sebastian nods gravely. "Alive and rooted deep in the living earth like some great cancer. Your guesses were correct; This abomination does consume the very essence of all things living. Xarot scattered enchanted parchments, written in every living tongue, throughout the land. The magic calls to and binds the soul of those who find them. Drawing them to this place so that the Black Tower can… feed."
I glance back at the dragon. "There has to be some way to stop it."
"I do not know," Sebastian shakes his head. "In the end, even Xarot himself was consumed by his creation."
I jump, startled at a echoing crash. Draco has moved to the back of the hall and is attacking the shadow door set there.
I look up into the darkness of the hall's ceiling high above. "It knows we're here," I whisper.
Suddenly the air shimmers and I feel wave after wave of terror and fear pass over and through me. Searching out my innermost horrors and resonating with the secret dreads hidden in any man's soul. Loathsome arachnid shapes seem to scurry and dart from the alcove shadows. Always staying just beyond seeing. Beside me MrEdII strikes out with his hooves, attacking some unseen enemy of his own. Behind me Pokey is frozen in panic and Sebastian lies curled on the floor sobbing like a child. Only Draco seems unaffected as he batters the door that separates him from the treasure lust that was implanted in his ensnared mind.
"No! It's not real," I shout. The fear retreats, but I can still feel it there. Searching for any tiny crack in the desperate defense of my denial. I grasp MrEdII pulling him down. "It's not real," I whisper. The nightmare calms somewhat at my words. "Help me." I distract him further as I pick Sebastian up off the floor and toss the monk roughly across the back of the packhorse. "Get them out of this place. Get them outside." I order. The nightmare grasps Pokey's lead rope in his teeth and begins dragging the petrified packhorse towards the door. I turn back towards Draco.
My knees seem weaker and my vision clouds with tears at a fear that grows with each step. I tug at the dragon's wing trying to pull him away from the door but, again, the dragon swats me aside. As I scramble to my feet, the door crashes open with a groan like the last wail of a lost soul.
The inner chamber is filled with gold and jewels. In the center of the room is an orb. A glistening, glowing, pulsing crystal. Somehow I sense that this object is the focus, the very heart, of this dark creature. Draco reaches out towards this hypnotic light.
"No!" I shout. The dragon hesitates. I thrust the torch towards the dragon, singeing Draco's tail. With a roar, the dragon whirls knocking me across the room.
As I regain my feet, the very floor opens beneath me. I manage to grab the edge of the opening, swinging, suspended by one hand over an abyss of fire far below. My fingers slip.
"Draco!" I shout as I tumble down into the pit. I have seconds to wonder if it will be the fire of the lava or the impact of the fall that will kill me. It matters little. Even a ghost would have no hope of escape from this place.
As the heat of the fires below begin to singe my falling body, I feel talons grasp my shoulders and powerful wings beat, pulling me up and away from the fiery fate. Draco has come for me. Lifting me towards the opening seemingly miles above. We shoot out of the abyss and the dragon flies along the hall towards the outside door.
As we burst into the open, I can see my friends gathered at the edge of the clearing. Sebastian stands, leaning on his staff, seemingly recovered from the terrors of the tower. As Draco drops me to the ground I see a new look of horror set upon the watching faces.
The Black Tower twists and writhes like the tentacle of some ebony kraken. I raise my arms and cast my most potent spell, striking the structure squarely. I might just have well spit. The tip of the tower searches like some colossal blind worm heading down towards me with alarming speed. I scramble out of it's path just before it smashes into the cracked ground leaving a crater where I stood.
There is a flash of light on my left. Draco has launched a fireball at the apparition. His attack does little more than attract it's unwelcome attention. A swipe of the tentacle sends the dragon cart wheeling across the clearing. A glowing sphere slips from the dragons grasp rolling to a stop in the dirt. It is the heart crystal.
MrEdII and I attack trying to distract our foe from the helpless dragon. Now, though, the Black Tower seems to be intent on recovering it's lost heart.
"Smash the orb," I shout as the black tentacle moves with gathering speed in that direction.
Sebastian springs forward, looking up at the tower as he raises his staff. There is not time enough to smash the crystal and get out of the way of the speeding tentacle, I realize. The monk does not hesitate. His staff comes down, shattering the orb and he crouches, awaiting a blow that will surely smash his body like an insect under a boot heel.
As the crystal disintegrates into a million shards, there is a soundless explosion of light that washes through our bodies seeming to fill the entire world. When my sight clears, I see the monk kneeling in the dirt, unharmed. Behind me, the Black Tower is gone. No tentacle. No black blocks. Nothing.
I turn to my dragon friend. He is limping and one wing is badly hurt, but he is alive. I bandage his wounds and, as we leave the clearing, a gentle rain begins to fall, wetting the earth for the first time in many hundreds of years.
Sebastian sighs in relief as settles into his chair in the Abbey library. "I thank you for allowing me to accompany you."
"You did well my friend. You will always be welcome on our quests."
Sebastian chuckles. "I fear that I have had quite enough adventure to suit these tired old bones."
"Don't get too comfortable," I say. "You have a lot of work ahead of you!"
"Work?" Sebastian blinks back at me.
"Yes," I reply. "Someone has to set down the tale of 'Sebastian, Vanquisher of the Black Tower'. It will make a wonderful addition to the library and I will expect a first edition copy! Suitably signed by the author, of course." I smile at my friend.
"An excellent idea," exclaims Sebastian. He reaches for paper and pen and begins writing as MrEdII, Draco and I leave to stable Pokey and head for home.
"I never thanked you for saving my life," I say to the dragon that evening as we arrive home.
"And I never thanked you for saving my soul from that creature," returns Draco.
"'Twas nothing," I wink. "After all, that is what friends are for. I am sorry that you didn't get the treasure, though."
"Ahhh, but I did find a treasure," says the dragon, smiling at my puzzled expression. "I found that the bond of true friendship is a treasure more valuable than any gold that you can hold in your hand…"
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