Sapphire continued to stare at her reflection in the hand-sized mirror I'd traded her for the silver blade she'd presented me. She seemed happy with the trade, but then she probably had dozens of swords and blades in various states of decay in her lair. Truly a dragon lair for all practical purposes, since she didn't leave and it had piles of bright and shiny objects that fascinated me nearly as much as her. I knew better than accepting any gift from a supernatural without giving back something. Far too often the Grimm Brothers got it right about the dark side of magic and gifts. Fairy tales weren't for amusement, but at times cautionary tales trying to help children learn about the supernatural world before the modern world gobbled up their imaginations and belief in what society considered to be unbelievable. Time and mundane daily life often wore at those childhood memories of wonder and amazement at the world of supernatural creatures that were hidden in the pages of books and on the edges of all kids field of vision. It was easily dismissed by jaded or exhausted parents that there were real monsters lurking under the bed or in the closet waiting to suck the life out of their offspring, but I was well aware that there definitely were.
Something on the blade she'd given me caught my attention. I went over and picked it up from the ground where she'd placed it after grabbing it from a different stack than the one in front of me. She selected it from one of the varied piles of treasures a bit further into her hoard with her teeth. I thought at first it was the scraping the surface of the blade had taken from her wickedly sharp teeth that had glinted; then I saw there was actually some cursive scrolling along the edge of the hilt. Walking carefully to the sword I lifted it and saw there was a name.
Domenico Rosso was the name etched on it and beneath the name there was a French phrase carefully scrolled under the Italian-sounding name that read "Il faut du sang." It took me a minute to translate the French phrase to be "There must be blood." Eyes wide, I asked, "Why did you pick up this particular blade to give to me?"
"What, Esmeralda?" Sapphire was still staring at her reflection with a look of amazement and awe. She didn't seem to find the scraps of her last meal offensive in the least. Dragon sense of what was a proper appearance seemed a tad different than mine.
Holding the sword carefully by the hilt I held the point down and indicated with my left hand the engraving.
"This? Where did you get it?"
"Oh, the man like you left that with me the last time he visited. He never came back afterward so I figured they'd killed him," she seemed rather complacent about it, but then it was more than likely a long time ago. Or my kind lived a long time. Either way, I was pretty sure the sword had been his, or someone in his line.
I looked at the blade, stunned by the idea that she'd been given something that could possibly have a link to what I was seeking. If nothing else it was something held, used and owned by one of my kind. I was half-wishing and nearly certain that the man who'd visited Sapphire was one of my kind. I'd never met anyone like me. Uncle Harry had rescued me years ago from being harmed by a group of supernaturals that didn't even like the thought that one of my kind ever had existed or should ever exist in the world. When I'd nearly been snagged by some other supernaturals, I was led to believe they had no love for me and wanted me under their power -- if I was allowed to live. Nothing I ever wanted to happen, but it seemed from what I'd discovered that I wasn't the first, and that one of my kind had possibly been captured and died in the salt mines.
"Again, it was kind of you to grant me this blade," I carefully worded my thanks trying to be gracious and not stupid. One wrong word and I would be sent to fetch and carry for the large dragon. Things in this life were never as straightforward as most humans thought. She nodded her head then said, "And this mirror is most generous of you."
Sapphire was as careful as me to not grant me anything other than kind words. I found it interesting that we both still played the games even though she said she was bound to this cavern for a long time, and I wasn't exactly sure of my next destination. I knew it wasn't going back to see if Star wanted me on a platter.
"You can't go back to those werewolves you know?" Sapphire reminded me yet again. I considered Riley, Gordon and Kirk lost for all practical purposes. They hadn't followed the glow-in-the-dark arrows I'd sprayed to mark the way, so I figured that they weren't going to be joining me anytime in the near future. Star was probably sticking straws in them and sucking out all their energy with her weird predatory nature. The werewolves were definitely spellbound, when she was near them and I found it disturbing and revolting. Riley'd have lots of explaining to do to Uncle Harry if I was lost down here.
I still felt odd not being about to reach out and mentally touch Uncle Harry's mind. Even the faint link I'd had with Riley had been severed. I figured that was probably when they all went back through the Fey's portal. Star's little portal was probably always intended to be a one-way trip for me. I didn't know for fact that she knew what kind of creature I was, but I gathered from Sapphire that the Fey bitch wasn't known for her helpful nature.
"Yes, I know. That way is closed to me now." Was all I saw fit to reply. I wasn't going to drown her with words despite the dragon's request for stories from me. I only had her word for her being locked here in the mines unable to leave. For all I knew she'd be easily able to leave, and I was being trapped by her until reinforcements arrived. I really wasn't very good at trusting, but then that little trait had saved my ass more than once so I saw no need to change my ways.
"So you came here because of the one like you?" She had yet to lift her eyes to mine for more than a moment since I'd given her the mirror. I was good not staring into her face because she was extremely scary even when she wasn't trying. And there was that little matter of her having fleshy pieces littering her huge teeth. I saw no need to see what was on her dessert menu.
"Yes." I began to use the tip of the sword to move through the treasure pile she'd given me permission to explore. I didn't have a clue what was there that would tell me about my past, but I wasn't on the clock any more, so I didn't think it would hurt to glance around for a bit.
A howling began in the distance and started to grow louder.
Shaking her head Sapphire said, "Sounds like one of your werewolves is not having a good experience down here." She resumed her admiration of her face while my tummy did some major rolls. I wasn't sure which of them made that noise but it was horrific and terrifying at the same time.
"I thought they couldn't get through the door near Star's portal," I said despite my best intentions of keeping quiet.
That freight train rumble of amusement from her, "Star just delayed their admittance so she could cause more damage it seems. Aren't you going to pop over and see if you can help?"
She genuinely seemed amazed that I hadn't moved.
"Why? They have claws and teeth. I wouldn't bring anything to that dance but another body to shred." I knew better than popping sight unseen into something involving werewolves. They didn't much care for non-werewolves interfering with their business, and with Star involved I decided it was definitely their business.
"You are different than most." Was all she said as another howl joined the first and their sounds of pain rolled with whoops of joy. Whatever they were doing was both good and bad -- yet another reason for me to keep my damn face out of it. Fey creatures tended to take the good with the bad most assuredly, and I was pretty sure that Star had called up some companions for the mining expedition.
"Okay," I saw no reason to disagree since I wasn't like most people. I couldn't precisely argue her point.
"Do you know what you are seeking?" We both were actively ignoring the howls of pain and pleasure echoing up and down the tunnels.
I glanced at a silver bracelet that had been unearthed with my poking around with the sword. It had nuggets of gems studding the width and more etchings but this time not Italian or Latin but something unrecognizable by me -- obscure for sure. I tipped it aside revealing another suit of armor but this one was golden and accented with rubies and sapphires. I could see why the one like me would bring this to Sapphire. She had to like it just for the gems alone.
Shrugging, I kept picking, jabbing through the pile of treasures and trying to ignore the sounds coming closer. And they most assuredly were heading in our direction. Probably following my lovely arrows. I wondered how stupid I was to have marked my path, but then I hadn't expected that I'd be separated from the pack, and I had figured I'd need to run back at some point. Now, not a choice I planned on making. A soft rumble was coming from my throat now and Sapphire looked up from the mirror long enough to say, "You really don't like Star."
It wasn't a question in the least but I opted to reply, "Not a bit. She is rather cruel from what I can tell."
The dragon nodded and said, "That she is. But many Fey are like her. They think they are masters of us all. If not they try to kill us. A long time ago they did rule but not any longer, and certainly not here -- despite their airs."
More information for my future musings. But now I was a bit more concerned with the rattling and roaring heading on a path that seemed to be ending with this cavern. It was a very large cave in the mine system, but I hadn't seen an exit, and the only other hole that Sapphire had pointed out was the food chute, that seemed to be one directional from her comments.
Her wings lifted slightly -- not as if preparing for flight but more like steadying herself for what was about to happen. I couldn't decide if that was a good thing or not. I was capable of popping out of the line of fire but she was pretty much trapped within the space available. I looked up for the first time and noticed that there were holes carved in the ceiling. I indicated the holes with the tip of the sword to Sapphire.
She grinned at me with bits of her repast stuck between the massive fangs and flapped upwards, tucking inside one of the openings. I saw that she could literally disappear from sight -- her chain to her collar blended into the back wall as if by magic -- which it well could be. So that took care of her but I wasn't so willing to pop up into the unknown. With her still out of sight I popped over to the furthest part of the cave I could see and was behind a large hoard of wooden gold-filled chests with chains and necklaces pouring out. The stack was at least a foot higher than me and not the only such pile of treasures. I peeked around the corner towards the front of the cave just in time to see the door flung open.