1.Just Trying to Make A Deal
Tungsten flew around his newly claimed territory, going over his plan once again. He’d raided villages, making sure they thought they were dealing with dire rats. When the nearest guild sent out their beginner party to take care of it, he’d make his pitch. While he’d like the entire party, one human would do. Preferably a spellcaster or healer.
He smelled something new enter the area. Humans. He looked down over the thick forest, making note of the new additions to his hoard. Finally, he’d gain all the power he needed. Tungsten landed lightly in the trees, silently watching his wannabee slayers track the fake marks. He thought the foot and tail marks were some of his finest work. They walked slowly up the slight incline, none of the four noticing the dragon watching from the cover of the trees.
There were four of the weak mammals. One was dressed in heavy metal armor from head to toe that the dragon couldn’t wait to peel off if he resisted. It was so shiny, the sunbeams seemed to bounce off the human’s steel. Its broadsword hung from its hip casually and loosely. A sloppy knight. Easy to take down if necessary.
The second human had much less armor, and it wasn’t nearly as appealing. Animal skin and hide were draped all over as if rubbing the scent of many animals would hide its own – idiotic really. They would definitely appreciate what he was about to offer them. It didn’t seem to carry a weapon, or it was well hidden. An unexpected benefit of the skins.
The third human was shorter than the others. The black cloak he wore completely covered any skin, but the glorious glint of the drawn knives in its hands gave any semblance of stealth away. Not that he’d have any with that kind of getup. It’s a brightly-lit forest, not a cave! It seemed to be some sort of rouge.
The final human drew the most attention. It was cloaked in green as it limped along with its wooden staff. His pure pale skin made him stand out more than each of his companions. He stopped to look around and that’s when he saw its dull red eyes. He’d never seen a human with red eyes. He really wanted him.
Tungsten decided to get ready. He quietly took off, flying towards the “rat den” to ready his plan and offer.
“So Pringus, on top of being a horrible mage and cook, you’re also slow. How did you get into the guild when you’re that bad?”
Prongs did the same thing he’d been doing for the past two days. Ignore everything that came out of his, hopefully temporary, party’s mouths. In fact, he’d gotten so good at it he could focus his mana as they insulted him. He could now charge spells without thinking. That usually required a lot of concentration. Sure he could only do one right now, but progress was progress.
His opinion on his companions had sunk so low that he had even forgotten their names. All they had done, for two days, was insult everything he did. His turn to cook? Horrible. His meditation? Sloppy. His handwriting, venting to his journal on how he wanted to kill each and every one of them if they kept this up? Illegible. They even got his name wrong on purpose!
Was it because of his skin and eyes? Because he was Bone Born? For something so stupid?
“I asked you how you got into the guild, boney.”
The least they could do was be original with the insults. Was that so hard? Prongs continued to focus mana into one of his two spells. He felt the magic flow into his hand, ready to skewer some giant rats, and maybe one of his teammates.
“We’re here,” said the one in front of the line.
Prongs looked up to see the cave. It looked normal for a dire rats den. Large, dark, damp, smelled like rotting corpses, the normal.
So why did Prongs feel so unsettled? Was it the lack of noise besides his idiotic teammate’s inane chatter? No birds, no grass rustling, only their stupid voices. That were shouting what they thought was his name.
“Pringus!” the one in the armor roared. He sounded like an older man, which was strange for a new party. “You know Illuminate, right”
He didn’t know Illuminate. That was what the staff was for. He let a small amount of his mana flow into his staff, the tip lighting up. It was small, but it was a small cave. It would do.
“You’re deaf too?” the rouge asked. “How did we end up with the worst mage on Aexon?”
Prongs didn’t even bother talking at this point. It would inevitably go back to insults. Every. Time. He just walked past them as they laughed, lighting up the cave.
Tungsten waited for each of his new possessions to enter, boulder ready to block their way. They didn’t even see him sitting beside the entrance, ready to trap them. The one with pale skin went first, followed by the knight, rouge, and skin-wearer. They were laughing, which was a very bad idea when about to fight a dire anything. It was a good thing he’d already taken care of that. Three dire rats were a meal for weeks.
“What the-” They had noticed the rat skeletons. Showtime! Tungsten rolled the bolder over, too heavy for any human, but light enough for him. He’d place it next to the door in anticipation of this. He quickly shoved the bolder in, cutting off the sun. He perched on top of the bolder, clearing his throat before speaking.
“Yeah. They were good. Sorry I didn’t leave you any.” Tungsten said, starting the dialogue. That was about as confident and clear as he could manage in the human tongue. If they weren’t stupid, they’d take his deal, and if they didn’t, he’d take at least one.
“I only want to talk. Please drop your weapons.” Humans could be nervous, and that could lead to a very ill-advised attack. He’d rather not destroy his potential investments.
“Where are you?” One of them asked. Tungsten peaked his head out to see who it was. The armored one looked around frantically, repeating those exact lines. The black-cloaked one had its weapons drawn, and the one cloaked revealed its weapon, a bow, and spun it around the cave-like a scared wolf-pup chasing its own tail. It was cute.
The only one that hadn’t moved was the pale-skinned. He could see its red eyes flicker. No obvious movements, no waving the weapon around, all it did was keep the small light going. A rational thinker. Not showing its cards until it saw its potential enemy. Tungsten definitely wanted that one.
He was surprised when his favored human turned to stare right at him! A coincidence? The movement of his free hand told the dragon no. HE pointed two fingers out, and up. A spike spell!
Tungsten felt the tree growing beneath him. He flew away just in time to avoid being impaled. A tree sprouted right under the boulder, shattering it and almost skewering the dragon. The light flowed in and the novice party took the dragon’s form in. They stood there, in stunned silence.
Then three of them started laughing.
Prongs had never a dragon. They were supposed to be huge destroyers, as big as houses and capable of torching entire towns in minutes.
This one was as big as a housecat. The destroyer of lives and devourer of man was as big as a housecat. The thing casually hovered in the air, its silvery scales glinting in the light. What really caught his attention was its eyes. Yellow slits stared at his party with such intensity. It’s horns, seemingly made of dull metal, stuck out of its small head.
When the idiots he called a party started laughing, its face shifted. It seemed calm and composed before, even after almost being skewered. Now he could see it snarling. Its eyes glared at the three idiots. Prongs thought it wise to not join in. It wasn’t even that funny, just surprising.
“I think we’ll keep our weapons,” the idiot knight started. Then he started screaming. Prongs had just noticed the dragon had something in its razor-sharp teeth. A sword. The knight’s sword. The knight’s sword with his hand still hanging on.
Prongs didn’t even have time to be horrified. The dragon landed in front of the exit, slowly dropping the cleanly-cut limb. The knight was still yelling his head off. Was he supposed to do something?
“Heal him!” the other two ordered. Right. He started to focus his mana, crouching down and reaching out to the stump.
“Feel free,” the dragon said. “I assume you’ll listen now.”
Prongs let the mana flow into his hands. They flashed green as he held them over the stump. After a few moments, it stopped bleeding. He let the spell die with the knights screaming. He couldn’t do anything else with his mana reserves.
“Why’d you stop?” The knight asked. “Grow my arm back!”
“Can’t,” Prongs answered. He thought he heard him whisper ‘useless’ under his breath. He thought, for the millionth time, why he bothered.
“Are you ready to hear me out?” The dragon asked. “Because I can offer-”
Prongs heard the arrow fly and the light footsteps. Were they making a run for it? He looked up and saw what remained of his team fall to the ground, bleeding from numerous wounds. How was it so fast?
“Have you learned yet?” it said. Prongs was about to let it talk while he charged a new spell, but his team had other ideas.
“We’d never listen to you demon!” the knight growled. The two others groaned in agreement. Prongs had no such illusions. He wanted to live ******!
“Is that so? Maybe a party was too much to hope for?”
The next thing Prongs heard was something he fantasized over, but would never actually do. The sound of torn and falling flesh filled the cave. He felt the knights blood spill over him, still warm. He heard the dragon, for once, land next to him, claws clattering. Would they be slicing through him?
“I hope you have more sense than the others. I can offer you so much!” it said, landing near him yet again.
“What do you want?” Prongs asked, unable to keep the shake from his voice.
“I want you! Literally. You’ll be mine.”
“Bahamut give me strength,” it whispered. “You are now a part of my hoard! Congratulations!”