The Dragon and the Lake

by Michele Elaine Wilson 1996

Sean was a huge man, close to seven feet tall and two hundred fifty pounds of solid muscle. His thick, flame red hair came down to his shoulders and a full red beard completed the bear like look of the man. His eyes were the color of a summer's sky and twinkled with good humor and a bit of mischief. He was dressed in a long sleeve, forest green tunic that was tight across his massive chest and soft brown leather pants that were tucked into sturdy knee length boots. He carried no weapons. His voice was deep and a bit gravelly but it had a musical tone about it. It was a pleasant voice, one at home with songs and the rolling sounds of Gaelic.

Sean noticed that the Paddy's play was getting very boisterous and he knew that at his age the child still needed to take an afternoon nap. If he was going to get any sleep, the boy needed to calm down. Shaking his head, he smiled as he picked up the child and set him on his lap. "Ye are gettin' to be a bit rambunctious wee one. Why don't ye settle down and I'll tell ye a story?"

The child flashed a big smile at the man and made himself comfortable. He had heard many stories from this man and knew that they were all good ones. He looked up with large and adoring eyes waiting for him to begin.

Sean smiled down at the child and began.

 

Now this be a story about how things are not always as they seem. It takes place in a land far away from here. It were a peaceful land full of green hills and glades, with clear streams comin' down from the mountains. It were a farmin' land and the people worked hard but they were a happy folk.

Into this land came a wanderer. He were bigger than most of the folks of this land, who tended to be on the small side. This man were good with his hands and he were not afraid of hard work. He earned his way by fixin' things that were broke and by helpin' out with the farm chores. In exchange for his labor the folks allowed him to sleep in their barns and provided him with food. But more important to him, they shared their tales and songs, for he collected those wherever he wandered.

One afternoon he was walkin' through a meadow on his way to the next village. He had spent the morning helpin' to fix some busted fences. The farmer and his wife had provided him with a large lunch to take with him on his travels. Sleepy after the mornin's labor and full from the delicious lunch, he decided to take a short rest under a shade tree. While sleepin' there he had the strangest dream. He dreamt he was on his back in the middle of a snowstorm, yet the snow were not cold and bitter as it tends to be but was warm and soft. As the snow fell he could hear the wind whispering all around him. It was very peaceful.

"Look at the size of him. He must be a dragon-slayer," a young girl whispered.

"I don't know, I don't see any sword," replied the second girl.

"Maybe it is in his pack," said the first.

"Do you think he will help us?" asked the second.

"All dragon-slayers are honor bound to help, don't you know anything?" the first girl sounded very sure of herself.

It took a moment for the man to realize that he was no longer dreaming. Not wishing to startle whoever were talking he opened his eyes just a slit so that he could see. Standing over him were two young girls, each holding a basket of flowers. The petals were falling from the basket and landing on his face. They tickled and he had to try hard not to sneeze. The girls were talking to each other and were not really looking at him at the moment. The man decided that now would be a good time to "wake up". He moved slightly and gave a yawn. The young girls jumped back and looked like they were ready to run.

"Don't be afeared," the man said to them as gently as he could. "I'll not harm ye. What may your names be?"

Arlin had honey blonde hair and was the shyer of the two. Aileen had hair the color of chestnuts and had decided that the man was not going to harm them, so she made bold to solicit his help and introduced Arlin and herself to him.

"I am Aileen and this is my sister Arlin. Now it is quite evident to me, kind sir, that you are very strong and brave. We have a serious problem and none of our men have the courage to do what needs to be done. Our sister Arial is the kindest and sweetest person you would ever want to meet. She is also our best Healer. A week ago she went gathering herbs for her healing potions. We begged her not to go to the Dragon's Hill but she insisted that there were herbs she needed that only grew there. There has been a strange sickness in the glades and she is running herself ragged trying to care for all the sick people. Any way she didn't listen and the dragon captured her and made her his slave. I know that he plans to eat her when he is finished with her. Won't you please slay the dragon for us?"

"Where have you gotten that nonsense about dragons eatin' maidens. Now I'm not a dragon-slayer but, I have known many dragons, and what ye are sayin' about this dragon does not sound like what I know of them. Ye must be mistaken," the man replied.

Aileen did her best not to get angry. In her most reasonable voice she tried to explain to this man the facts about dragons. "Kind sir, you obviously have not encountered a dragon such as this one. He is a firebreather and very evil. We saw my sister going into his lair with arms full of reeds. Arial is a Healer and very educated and he has her doing drudge work and, as soon as he doesn't need her any more, he will make her his next meal."

The man looked at the two girls. It were obvious that they believed this stuff about dragons but he had his doubts. "Has anyone talked to this dragon or with your sister? Things may not be what they seem."

Arlin shyly spoke up. "But sir, no one can talk to a dragon. They don't know how to talk."

The man rubbed his head and tried to figure out how to get through to these girls. "Dragons can talk with their minds if ye are open to them and don't block them out. Listen I'll not slay the beast but I will go and talk to him and your sister for you. Will that do?"

Both girls nodded in agreement. In their hearts though they believed that the man was foolish and the dragon would not talk to him. Then he would see that the only thing to do would be to slay the beast.

The girls agreed to show him where the dragon's lair was located. Listening to the chatter of the two girls he learned that their sister was older then them and had been taking care of them since the death of their parents a couple years before. He also learned that this particular dragon had rarely been seen until a few months ago. People had started spotting him around the time that the illness started and they were convinced that the dragon had something to do with it.

After a half hours walk, the three came to a bend in the road. The girls stopped and pointed to a good sized hill that was situated over to the left. It was a rocky hill with lots of scrub brush and plants growing. High up there was an entrance to what looked like a fair size cave.

"That is Dragon's Hill," Aileen whispered. "The opening to the lair is up top there. Please be careful, you are our only hope. The men of the village are too scared to go near there. Arial has delivered their children and healed their hurts and the cowards won't even try to save her." The girls started to cry.

The man went down on one knee and gathered both of them to him. "Now look don't ye fret," he said, "I've dealt with dragons before and I'm sure that I can find out what is really goin' on. Ye run along home now and let me be about me business. I'll bring your sister back home to ye if I can."

He kissed them both on the top of their heads and sent them along to their home. They would be of no use to him and would only get in his way with their fears.

After making sure the girls were gone, the man made his way up to the opening of the cave. He was met there by a very tired looking girl who appeared to be a few years older then the youngsters he had sent home.

"Ye must be Arial," the man said. "Your sisters are powerfully worried about ye. They fear that ye will come to harm from the dragon."

Arial looked at the man carefully. "There is no evil in you that I can sense. The dragon is very ill. I can tell that you won't harm him. Please come in. I have tried to help him but my efforts don't seem to be making much difference. Can you do anything to help him?"

The man followed her into the cave, through a passage that lead to a large cavern. Lying in the middle of the floor was large dragon, that should have been a golden color, but the skin had taken on a greenish tint. The eyes were dulled with fever and pain.

"I have done what I can but I don't seem to have the healing touch needed to cure one such as him. I fear he will die if that fever does not break soon. Have you any experience that can help me, sir?" Arial asked.

The man looked at her and smiled. "Tell me somethin' Arial, why are ye not afraid? Everyone else seems to fear this here dragon."

Angrily tossing her blonde locks, Arial stamped her little foot. "Everyone else is a superstitious fool and that includes my two little sisters. People can be such sheep. They blindly believe what they are told and don't find things out for themselves. This dragon is old, his ancestors lived here before him, and he has returned here to spend his last days in peace. He has never killed a human or mindlessly slaughtered animals. He kills only to eat, but there are ancient tales and that is what people want to believe."

She looked sternly at the man. "Now enough chit chat. Can you help me or not?"

"I'll try." The man said. He went over and sat down near the dragon's head. "Ancient one, I wish to help ye as does this maiden here. Can ye tell me what ails ye?"

The dragon looked at the man with fevered eyes. ## I burn. I have tried to quench the fire but my stream is no more and the lake water makes the fire worse. This one tries to help but she is so puny she can not bring enough water. ##

The man looked over at the girl. "Is there a good source of water here? We need to cool him down and he is too ill to move."

Arial thought for a moment. "There use to be a stream that flowed on the other side of this hill but it dried up a few months ago. The lake that supplied much of the water to the village has changed and I fear it is no longer healthy, but I have been unable to get anyone to listen to me, not even the Baron."

"The dragon says he needs water to cool down but not the lake water. We need to find something that will hold a lot of water. Have you explored these caves? Is there something here that will hold water and a place that we can store it?" the man asked.

Arial looked at him with a puzzled expression. "I have tried to speak to the dragon but I can not get a response. How did you do it?"

"Come here," he said. "Ye try to use words like ye are doin' now with me, but ye need to empty your mind and let the pictures flow."

He took her hand and laid it on the dragon's head. "Ancient One can ye show us more of your lair. We need somethin' that will hold a lot of water to cool ye down."

## In the second room following the left passage there is a cauldron and a well in the floor. When the stream flowed the well would fill with water and I could lie in it. It is now dry, ## the dragon said.

Arial looked at the dragon and then the man with amazement. "I saw pictures in my mind of walking along the left passage and then I entered a room with a pool of water that suddenly went dry."

"That is how a dragon speaks to one who knows not his language. Ye stay with him and I'll check where he says," the man replied.

The man ran along the passage and entered the second room off of the left. There was indeed a large well in the middle of the room but it contained no water. Exploring a little further he could see a hole in the wall where water once flowed. Looking through the hole he could see that there was a creek bed outside but that it was also dry. Knowing that the only way the pool kept from being stagnant was if there was another exit, he did a bit more exploring and found that the dragon had used his fire to melt a second hole on the other side where the water could flow back out and continue down the hill.

The man found the cauldron that the dragon had mentioned. It would hold a fair amount of water but it would also take hundreds of trips if he used it to fill the pool completely. He also noticed a roll of cloth that had been thrust into a corner. There was enough there to at least cover the dragon as he lay. Hefting the cloth and the cauldron the man made his way back to Arial and the dragon.

"I need to find some clean, cold water," he said. "I'll take this cauldron and see if I can find the water we need. In the meantime, if ye can cut this cloth into large strips so that we can soak them in water and cover him."

The man bent down next to the dragon. "Ancient One if I follow the course of the creek-bed behind the cavern will it lead me to clean water or the lake?"

## The stream comes from a mountain range many miles to the North, ## the dragon replied. ## You are a changeling so you can follow it with ease. In the chest behind me you will find what you need to fasten the cauldron to you. But I caution you, these are superstitious folk, be careful who knows of your abilities. ##

"You are more than you seem, sir," Arial said. "I didn't follow all that the dragon said but the bird he showed was the color of your hair and big enough to carry a huge cauldron strapped to his chest."

The man hesitated before replying. He pondered the dragon's words but decided that he had to take a chance with this girl.

"I am what your people would call a changlin', Arial. I can become that bird or any other animal if I so choose." He sat and watched her. To many of the people he had encountered, the knowledge that he was a shape-shifter would have either frightened or disgusted them.

Arial smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "Must be a useful talent. I would suggest you wait until you get behind this hill before you change though. That way there will be very little chance that anyone will see you."

"It dinnae bother ye that I'm..." the man started to say.

"God will send help in whatever form is needed. Who am I to question His wisdom. Now go quickly, we have a dragon to save," Arial said.

The man smiled at the girl and giving her a little bow he checked the chest that the dragon had indicated. It held jeweled harnesses and other leather goods. The man chuckled when he saw the stamp of the Bazaar Canton on the lid of the chest. The man looked at the dragon and smiled, "Well I'll be, ye are a trader." The dragon slowly winked his eye.

While he was rigging a harness big enough to hold the cauldron, Arial found a lid that would ensure that the water didn't spill out in flight.

"Come I'll show you the safe place to take off from," Arial said.

The man tried to talk her out of coming but she was very stubborn and in the end he gave in. Arial didn't say a word as she watched him transform himself into a giant red eagle. She helped to fasten the straps holding the cauldron securely to his chest.

"Go with God, Changeling," she whispered to him.

The bird launched himself into the air and spent the next few minutes getting used to the air currents. He loved the exhilaration of flying and indulged himself for a few minutes more in circling and swooping through the sky, but only for a few moments, because he knew time was critical if they were to save the dragon.

He spotted the place where the stream entered the cavern and, with the dry bed as a guide, he followed it up towards the mountains to the North. As the dragon had said it were a fair piece but he easily made it to the source of the stream. As he was flying he tried to see what had caused the water to stop flowing and as he came closer to the source he saw a dam blocking the stream and sending its waters in a different direction. His eagle eyes saw that this was no natural formation and he wanted to check it out but he needed to get water to the dragon first. There would be time to explore later.

It took several trips to provide enough water to soak the cloths and cover the dragon with the icy water. The bird made several more trips to provide enough water in the pool to keep the cloths moist.

But even his great strength had its limits and the change from man to eagle and back again had drained him even further. The girl was also exhausted and, after she gave him some soup, they both fell into a deep sleep.

When he awoke, the man found Arial cuddled up next to him, sound asleep. He didn't move for fear of waking her. She was a tiny thing and very fair but behind those delicate looks there was an iron will.

The dragon was awake too and he and the man silently conversed until Arial awoke.

"I need to find where the water has been diverted to. That were not a natural blockage. I'll follow it to the source. With the directions you and the Ancient One gave me I should be able to find the lake and also the Baron's place. Maybe he would listen to me," the man said.

The man left his pouch of herbs with the girl after showing her the ones his people used to help fever. Maybe if they combined their two remedies it would help the dragon.

Changing back into eagle form he flew back to the blockage in the stream. He spent over an hour looking over the structure and finding how it was made and how it could be dismantled. Then he followed the new stream. The water finally came to a water wheel attached to a large building hidden by a grove of trees. It were a factory of some kind. The water went into the building in one direction and came out on the other end, but not the same way it came in, for this water had a brilliant sapphire color to it, a color definitely not found in the water of nature. He wanted to check out the factory and see what was changing the water but knew he would have to wait until dark. He followed the sapphire water to a lake that had rivulets of water that flowed from it. The water was such a brilliant blue that it hurt to look at it. He provided a membrane to shield his eyes and looked down into the water. The bottom of the pool was clearly visible and it looked as if nothing living was either growing or swimming through the sapphire water.

The vegetation around the lake was dying and the animals that drank from it were all sickly. He explored all around the lake, and taking samples of water with him, he flew back to the dragon's cave.

"Do you know what has been put into the water to make it unhealthy?" Arial asked.

The man set back from the makeshift table he was using and ran his hands through his unruly hair. "Well I'm not sure, I'll need to see inside of that factory, but it looks like they are makin' the jewels used in runnin' machines. They are rare in their natural form but if ye have the right ingredients, and the water necessary to cool them properly, then they are easy to make. They can make a man powerfully rich."

"Are they poisoning the water?" Arial asked.

"Aye, when they cool they transfer some chemicals to the water. It is very toxic but normally the water is purified before releasin' it," the man replied.

Late that night the man changed back into eagle form and flew to the factory hidden in the glade. He noticed that there were night watchmen but they were not all that vigilant. Knowing that factories such as this had many rodents, the man changed into a long sleek cat and proceeded to enter the building. He spent several hours exploring everything and shortly before dawn returned outside and, changing back into an eagle, he flew back to the cave.

He and Arial talked and planned until the sun rose. She told him about the Baron and how he owned much of the land in the area. He was one of the wealthiest men in the entire country. Because of his title the villagers always felt that any serious problem should be brought to him.

After some discussion it was decided that Arial should stay with the dragon. The herbs were helping along with the cold wet cloths, but he was still very ill. Arial gave the man the directions on how to find the manor house that the Baron called home.

The walk to the Baron's manor was a pleasant one and after an hour the man arrived. After telling the Baron's secretary the reason for his visit, the man found himself pacing in the waiting room for another hour before he was summoned.

The Baron was elegantly dressed in the finest silks and jewels. He was a round, pleasant-faced man but he appeared to be a bit distracted. The red headed man looked like a peasant compared to him but he knew that his task was important and plunged ahead with his story.

"I know ye are makin' the jewels," the man said. "Ye diverted the stream to go to your factory and your factory is spewin' out poisonous water. The water is causin' the people, the animals, and the vegetation to sicken and die. It wouldn't cost that much to install the devices that would purify the water and make it safe to drink."

The Baron was accompanied by his advisor. He was a short, oily little man and his manner seemed much too slick. The advisor whispered something into the Baron's ear. The Baron listened closely and appeared to be upset at what his advisor was telling him. After a few moments he glared at the man.

"Do you have an advanced degree in Chemistry?" the Baron demanded. "Are you a Doctor? I think not. You can not possibly know what you are talking about. My most trusted advisor has informed me that you have never visited my factory and can't possibly know what is happening there. The factory is perfectly safe and there is nothing wrong with the water that comes from our factory. You are obviously just trying to cause me trouble. I am a very busy man, now leave. Good day." With that the Baron and his little advisor turned and left the room.

The man was furious and stormed out of the manor. As he was striding down the road he heard himself being hailed. Turning around he noticed an elegantly dressed young lady who was quite out of breath.

"Please, sir, I need to talk to you." The young lady stopped and spent a few moments trying to catch her breath. "I am Lisa. I heard you talking to my father. He is not a bad man and I know he wouldn't intentionally hurt anyone. It is just that he is so swayed by that new advisor of his, that he just doesn't listen to anyone else's advice. What you are saying about the water, is it true?"

"I would not lie about somethin' like that," the man said. "It is causin' illness and death. Have ye not even looked at the factory? Can ye not see the unhealthy color of the water that comes out?"

Lisa drew herself up to her full five feet. "Sir, I have only just arrived. I have been spending my time at school in the big city. I will ride to the factory and lake myself. If what you are saying is indeed true then maybe I can convince Father of what is going on."

"Ye do what ye can, and I will do what I must" the man replied.

"You won't destroy his factory will you?" Lisa looked alarmed at the prospect.

"Nae, but I can stop the production of jewels long enough for the water purifiers to be installed. I'll have to ask ye to trust me on this," the man said.

Lisa looked a bit skeptical but finally decided that the big man was not dangerous. "Well as long as no one is hurt."

"What I will do will help to restore the balance. It will help, not hurt" he explained.

With that the man took his leave and headed back towards the dragon's cave. Lisa watched him go and then while, deep in thought, she went to the stable and asked that her horse be saddled.

While the man had been trying to talk some sense into the Baron, Arial had met with the people of the village. They were overjoyed to see her and they listened carefully to what she had to say. She told them that the dragon was very sick and would not harm them. She also told them of the water and how she believed it was making the people ill. Finally she told them about the man and how he was trying to see if the Baron could help and warned them that if the Baron, could not or would not help, then the villagers would have to do something to help themselves.

The man returned to the village late in the afternoon and met with the villagers with Arial at his side. Arial was wearing a jeweled pendant that was supposed to "control the dragon." It was something that she, the man, and the dragon had worked out. She and the man had to keep from looking at each other in order not to laugh.

"Now what we need do is to remove the dam that was put in place to divert the water," the man explained. "This will allow the water to go back to its natural course. The lake will need massive amounts of the clean water to clear it of the poison and it will be many months before it will be healthy enough to use again, but at least ye will have your stream back. We will leave at first light."

At dawn the next morning the man and the villagers left for the source of the stream. It was late afternoon when they arrived and they quickly set to work. Following the man's directions, the villagers were able to remove the dam down to the water line, as well as some of the key pillars that held the rest of the dam together. Finally there was only one pillar that needed to be toppled in order for the entire dam to fall. Being the biggest person there, the man volunteered to knock the last one loose, since he could withstand the force of water that would hit with the removal of the pillar. A cheer went up as the rest of the dam toppled and the water started again down its natural course.

The man and villagers spent the night by the stream and returned to the village the next morning. The man left the happy villagers and went back up to the cave to see how the dragon was doing. He found the dragon looking better. The fever was down and his color was turning back to the gold of health.

"Are you going to leave now that the water is back to its normal course?" Arial asked.

"Nae," the man replied. "I still must convince the Baron to put in the safeguards needed to keep the poison out of the water. I'll also have to find a new source of water for him to run the factory with. He does need the water, but we need to make sure that it is not denyin' the people that need the water also, their due."

After conversing with the dragon on the sources of water in the area, the man set out towards the woods. The dragon had remembered seeing a stream that had become fouled with foliage that he thought might be diverted towards the factory. The man wanted to check it out, and if the stream would work, he planned to propose to the Baron that he would get him the water he needed in exchange for the safeguards being put in place to remove the poison from the water.

As he was walking through the woods, the man's mind was on the upcoming meeting with the Baron. By now the original stream would have stopped flowing to the factory and all work would have been stopped. He knew the Baron would not be happy with having been put in a position to spend more money on his factory. The man didn't think the fault lay with the Baron himself. He appeared to be a simple man and was obviously swayed by the advisor. The man had encountered those types before. All they really cared about was money and power.

After an hour's walk, the man came to the stream the dragon had talked about. He studied it carefully. It had indeed become fouled by some large branches and foliage but, with some work, it could be cleared and diverted to the factory. He was sure he could talk the villagers into doing the work in exchange for their stream being left alone.

Deep in thought, the man headed back towards the dragon's cave. It would take a bit of work and some mechanical devices but he knew how he could both divert the new stream and build the devices to purify the water at the factory without too much cost to the Baron.

Because he was concentrating so hard, the man didn't hear the slight sound behind him. Suddenly something hit the base of his neck causing a sharp, blinding pain. He sank down to the ground unconscious.

The man awoke to a fierce pain throbbing in his neck and head. The pain was so intense that he fell to vomiting. After what seemed to be forever his stomach had finally emptied itself of all it had and all that it thought it had. He looked around and tried to figure where he was. The room was small and made of stone. The stones were grey and damp with only a small barred window high up on the wall. He was lying on a mattress filled with some sort of damp weed. He made the mistake of trying to sit up and after several more minutes of retching he finally lay back and fell back into the darkness that removed all pain.

He had no way of knowing when he awoke again but his first sight was the oily little advisor sneering down at him.

"Not so big now are you changeling?" the advisor sneered. "Oh yes I could tell when you first came in what you were. The Baron doesn't know but I'm sure that when I tell him his delicate sensibilities will be so enraged that he won't hesitate to turn you over to me for disposal. He is such a simple little man.

"I have worked very hard to get the profit margin up here and I don't need some do-gooder coming in and trying to mess up my operation. The money this operation makes will more than offset the temporary inconvenience that these peasants are dealing with. After all progress can't be stopped for a few animals and plants.

"Well enjoy your last few hours meddler."

With that the little man left, clanging the door behind him. The man finally managed to sit and tried to think of a solution to his problem, but his head was throbbing and the nausea would not stop. He tried to summon the energy to change so that he could escape but the effort plunged him back into unconsciousness.

He next awoke to the rough shaking of a guard who dragged him to his feet. Without a word he alternately pulled and pushed him down a corridor and up a long series of steps and into a brightly lit room. The Baron was pacing the floor with his oily little advisor keeping pace with him while constantly whispering in his ear. With the man's entrance he stopped and glared.

"I should have known you were a creature of evil when you were here the other day," the Baron cried. "Now my trusted advisor has informed me that you are an abomination as well, that you change into hideous beasts. I know you have ensorcelled the peasants because they have been at my door all day demanding that I let you go."

The advisor looked over with a wicked smile. "Unfortunately for us a couple of girls saw you being taken and ran to their meddling sister, but it is of no consequence. I know the blow on the head will prevent you from changing and a quick fall from the tower here will stop you forever."

"That is murder," the man said softly.

"So what? No one will mourn the likes of you," and with a gesture from the advisor the guards grabbed the man and pulled him towards the door to the balcony. The man tried to struggle but a quick blow to the back of the head sent his senses reeling. He could feel the blood start to flow from his neck and down his back as the wound reopened.

On the balcony the man could hear the sound of the crowd below banging on the door and calling the Baron's name. The Baron looked very miserable. He gestured to the guards to throw the man over the side.

"No father!"

Everyone turned to look at Lisa standing in the doorway.

"Sweetheart go inside. This doesn't concern you." The Baron went to his daughter and gently took her arm.

Angrily the girl pulled away. "Let me go and let him go. Now!"

The girl and her father stared at each other. The Baron's advisor sidled up to him and glared at the girl. "Send her away sire. She is a mere child and has no business here."

"You are the cause of all this" Lisa said glaring at the advisor. "Father, listen to me, this man has deceived you. The factory is poisoning the water. Everything it touches is dying. You must do as the wanderer says. Father, you are killing people."

"The girl is overwrought sire," the advisor oozed, "perhaps you should send for her maid and put her to bed."

"Overwrought am I? Well we shall see. You maintain that the water is safe? Right?" She pulled a flask of sapphire liquid from her pocket. "Recognize this father? This is the result after the water has been through your factory. So if everything is all right I should be able to drink this with no ill effects." She raised the flask to her lips.

"No," the man cried and tried to reach her. The guard slammed a fist into the man's stomach leaving him doubled over in pain. "Lisa, it is poison, it will kill you! Sir if you love her don't let her drink it."

The Baron looked from his daughter, to the man, to the silent advisor.

"Lisa don't," the Baron said softly.

"You will let him go and you will stop the production of the jewels until the water purifiers are installed. If you don't I will drink this water and then you will see first hand what your factory is producing," Lisa demanded.

Just then a sound of leathery wings was heard over the balcony. Screams of terror were heard from below as a large shape spiraled down and landed on the edge of the balcony. The dragon sat there looking at the assembled. Sitting on his neck was Arial.

"We have come to take you back to Dragon's Hill," Arial said. " When my sisters told me of your capture they described the uniforms the men were wearing. I recognized the Baron's colors right away. We have been circling for hours trying to figure out how to get in and rescue you."

Lisa and Arial looked at each other across the balcony. After sizing each other up for a few moments, they both smiled at the same time.

Lisa gave a salute towards Arial. "You take our big friend back to safety. And I will make sure my father starts listening to some good advice for a change." Glaring at the advisor she continued, "I see no need for me to go back to school at this time. I believe that I can do much more good here keeping an eye on things and on certain people. Right father?"

The Baron was standing with his back to the wall staring at the dragon in silent terror.

"Don't worry Baron," Arial said softly, "I can control this dragon with this amulet."

"But," Lisa started to say.

Arial put a finger to her lips and shushed her.

"Right," Lisa said with a smile.

Lisa went and helped the man onto the dragon's back. "Take care of him."

It took close to a month for the man's neck to heal and the pounding in his head to stop. In that time everyone seemed to be busy but him. Arial had insisted that he and the dragon rest after their ordeals and would cotton no arguments from either of them. The two spent many hours talking silently to each other about the places they'd been and the things and people they'd seen.

The villagers cleared the stream and the factory was supplied with the water that the Baron needed to make his jewels. The Baron for his part put the water purifiers in that his daughter demanded. Lisa decided to take her place as her father's advisor and dismissed the oily little man that she had never liked in the first place.

 

Sean leaned back and looked at the youngster on his lap. "So ye see wee one, things were not what they seemed. The dragon were not a maiden eatin' monster. The Baron were really a good man gettin' bad advice. The Baron's daughter were really a bright lass who cared for the common people and had great courage. Arial were right about the water bein' poisonous and now the people knew to listen to her. After all someone who could control a dragon had to be pretty smart, eh?"

With a grin Sean placed the child on the floor. "Now ye run along and play quiet like."

The big man got up and started walking back towards the bar when he spotted something sparkling on the floor.

"Ah, Missy's bracelet. I'll have to fix the clasp before she loses it for good."

The child watched as Sean bent over to pick up the bracelet. His eyes widened as he saw the man's hair fall forward to reveal an old jagged scar along the base of his neck.

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