What Lies Under that Mountain?

The pale morning sun brushed Gregory’s cheek as he pulled his blanket over his plump face. After a minute’s battle with the brightness he shielded his eyes as best he could and looked out over a full panorama of Tipharia. His home was lost between the many roofs, trees, and swathed pastel blur under the early haze.

Sitting on the grass atop the mountain he recalled, ‘What was that stuff of red eyes at New Year’s? Something about a giant beast? Where did this blanket come from?’ He lifted up a blue silk blanket weaved with perfectly symmetrical patterns that spiraled out from a single, large sapphire.

Then a powerful aroma touched his nose and turned him instinctively back. From inside the pitch recesses of a cave came the most tantalizing scent for an early morning’s shrinking stomach — bacon and eggs. He looked back to town and remembered some manner of warning to do with where to go and where not to go. It felt immediately distant as if it were for a season long passed. He didn’t need his winter coat in summer but there was no stopping the chill in his stomach with just a blanket.

With an empty wail, Gregory wrapped himself up and headed into the cave. Keeping a hand on the frosty-damp wall he inchwardly shifted his feet over loose pebbles. One kick rolled some down into a void and Gregory tested it briefly with the toe of his shoe. Yet one full step had him tumble down the slope crashing to the floor without a free hand from under the blanket. The roof held the last trace of light and was scarcely outside his small grasp. Patting his way forward found an upwards slope which he took with far more caution.

When he reached the crest, exhausted and numb in his fingers, there was a small beacon of light round the corner of a dark passage. The bewitching scent, heavier than ever, came from there. Clung further onto the wall, the cold eating through his blanket and skin, he hurried with cloddish steps. Then he poked an eye around the corner.

The room was a small bowl shaped indent in the floor with a high ceiling. In the center was a strong fire beneath a pan full of bacon and eggs. There kneeling over it was a woman in white robes with gold trim. The smell compelled Gregory to walk into the room but he froze when she caught sight of him.

Fretting with high, wide brows she asked, “What are you doing here?”

Without a thought for her question Gregory asked, “Can I have some?”

Disappointed by her own surprise, the woman waved him over and slid two eggs and a strip of bacon out onto a pure white porcelain plate. She gave Gregory a silver fork and knife with which he devoured the meal before she could ask again, “What are you doing here?”

Swallowing his last chew of bacon he answered, “I don’t really know. Last night, I think, I followed these red eyes to the mountain and I woke up here.”

The woman’s slender mouth turned pale and she whispered, “That was the dragon. The dragon lured you here.”

Gregory pulled the blanket over his chest and franticly peered around the room. “That’s right. It was the dragon. It told me that if I didn’t go with it, it’d burn the town down.”

“Why would it do that?” she asked leaning her head in.

“Because I… found some of its treasure… it said.” He turned his face from the fire.

The woman shook her head. “Oh no. You can’t trust what a dragon says. Especially when it comes to their treasure. Those creatures are ancient and they know every trick and deceit. You could look in a dragon’s eyes as it lies to you and you wouldn’t know.”

“Really?” questioned Gregory in shock.

“Yes. Dragons are natural liars.”

He jumped at the woman and held her arm

“What else about the dragon?”

“It’s forty feet tall and…” the woman observed one of the exits to the room, “and it’s sleeping below us right now. You have to leave before it wakes up or it will eat you.”

Gregory’s eyes widened and he tugged her dress into his dribbling face. “Please help me!”

She patted him on the shoulder. “Shh… We have to get you out of here.”

Immediately Gregory tossed his blanket without looking and with a short flutter it landed close to the fire. The woman picked the blanket from danger, grabbed the hot pan, and ran after Gregory, guiding him back to the cave entrance.

In a hush she told him, “This is the only way out. You have to hurry before it catches you.”

Gregory slid down the first slope and climbed the other on his knees as the woman nearly scraped her head on the ceiling. Once at the top he looked out over the town and in meek terror recalled the warning he’d discarded the night before.

“If you leave, you will not make it down the mountain.”

The woman called from inside the cave’s mouth, “You have to go! The dragon will be here soon!”

“I can’t! It told me I couldn’t leave!”

“Run! Run! It’s close by. It’ll crawl out this cave any second!”

Gregory stood still at a sour thought in the back of his head. Slow to turn around, he sheepishly asked the woman, “If the dragon is so tall, how’d it get out this way?”

Stone still the woman stared down at Gregory and only then did he notice her jewel-like, shining red eyes.

“So, you can be clever when you want to be, little thief.” She tipped the pan back and ate the rest of the eggs and bacon without a chew. “Take a nice look at your town. It may just be the last you ever get to enjoy. Though your kind so often takes such things for granted.”

As she turned back into the dark cave Gregory blurted, “Are you the dragon?”

A pointed grin spread over her face and he shriveled for bringing any answer she’d give.

“No, I’m a liar.”

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