"Okay, Marcus," I addressed the actual fire breathing dragon gently. I knew that Sapphire had a bit of flames in her, but he'd been more than happy to keep huffing out flames -- casually, not trying to freak me out -- but from what I could tell, just a part of who he was. He wasn't as old as Sapphire, but there was something more substantial about him that made me think he was as dangerous, if not more so.
"Yes, Sapphire gave me Nico's sword when I saw her a while ago," I didn't go into too much detail. Just because he knew of Sapphire and Nico didn't mean he was necessarily a 'good' guy, or even friends with either of them. I was born at night, but not last night, and tried not to fall for such verbal gambits. Supernatural creatures had some slippery moral boundaries and didn't necessarily think of lying as wrong in any manner.
Hell, for all I knew there was a dragon website that they all had access to and gossiped just like the vampires, werewolves and other assorted supernatural creatures that went bump in the night -- some in the day if the truth be told. For all that the 'oldsters' had wandered around centuries after their births, they seemed to have adapted to the internet better than many other modern conveniences. One of Uncle Harry's talkative vampires had once confided to me that most 'modern' discoveries were gone within twenty or thirty years, and for vampires that was little more than a blink of the eye. I recalled tape players, Beta and VHS along with other toys I'd been given or seen over the years and couldn't argue his fact at all. From everything that vampire told me, it seemed that they didn't bother learning how to use too many new devices. But as it turned out, the internet was different and addictive for more than just gamers. He had also had confided that the advent of home delivery from big box stores made shopping easily accessible to the night dwellers that weren't precisely human-friendly.
The dragon dipped his head as if in agreement with my comment, while not actually fully believing me. (I tended to have that effect on creatures even when I was being honest.) I shrugged and smiled slightly while keeping my sword loosely held in my hand ... but still easily available if needed.
"What do I call you?" Marcus huffed out while beginning to rock his head back and forth studying me up and down. I tried not to follow his movement because it was semi-hypnotic, like a snake charmer playing with his cobra -- for all I knew it was something dragons did before snapping off their prey's head.
"Esmeralda Meredith is my name. Most call me Emma." I saw no reason to hide the information, because it was my name and the dragon was being polite, after all. Still there was something pushing in the back of my thoughts that I needed to ponder before I ventured further with the dragon. Marcus had an air of complexity about him that wasn't easily explained, but really nudging me for my attention.
"Emma, this cave is very hard to find. How is it exactly that you found it?" Marcus got down to the meat of the matter quickly, niceties dispensed as far as he was concerned, and the glimmering treasures I could see out of the corner of my eyes made me appreciate his calmness. This situation could easily go sideways if I misspoke or pissed him off. Dragons weren't always social and I had wandered into a locked cave. It dawned on me that the cavern where we were had a very narrow opening and the dragon wouldn't be able to squeeze out of that opening. I'd been assuming that the dragon had tunneled into the cavern where the treasures were kept, but that had been a stupid assumption. As feared as dragons were, it was more than likely -- considering the locked entrance -- someone had thought they were imprisoning the creature. My brain began to ping and whiz around, making connections.
With that thought I had a moment of clarity -- Marcus was pretty much trapped inside the treasure room ... and I had gone into the cave without telling anybody. I breathed carefully and tried to keep calm. Most creatures could smell fear and I didn't see that getting excited in a cave with a potentially hungry dragon to be a very good idea. Another thought chased the first one -- who was feeding this dragon? I mean the signs when I'd arrived proved that there were supernatural creatures he was crunching down but that didn't mean it hadn't been some chance encounter. Add in that he wasn't by any means starving, which meant there possibly was a guard or warden tasked with keeping Marcus alive. Happy, happy -- not.
"Hate to burst your bubble, Marcus, but there was a television program on cable that ventured into this region and showed treasure rooms. Nothing like this one," I quickly spoke jerking my chin towards a pile of coins and silver mixed with flashes of gems and gold just off to the right of us both. It really was quite impressive, but then he and I knew it without having to dig down very deep. There was something kindred between dragons and me; I'd figured that out after meeting Sapphire. I still wasn't sure if it was a good thing or something bad.
Marcus nodded then said, "I thought that the camera crew was all dead."
I resisted gulping and looking back towards the entrance where at the other end of the tunnel there was a room of dead folks. I shrugged and said, "I recognized the area from the show and flew out to see if they were exploring further."
The dragon began to pace in a tight circle and little puffs of black smoke followed him as he tried to work out what I'd told him.
"This is not good." He finally stopped long enough to say to me. I kept from lifting the sword through sheer willpower.
He was looking scarier than he'd seemed a few minutes ago. His eyes were huge and I could see he was processing my words, and silently adding in his own history to the tale. There was no way I wanted to have an in-depth conversation with a captive dragon about what exactly it was that he saw as 'not good'. I also remembered that Sapphire had dug out her own escape route, and it was entirely possible Marcus had a back door, which was how he'd gotten to the dead camera crew. From everything I could tell, he was supposed to be 'stuck' down here. At first I'd thought he'd tunneled into the cave, but he wasn't acting like the room was his treasure trove; but rather something like he'd been tossed in and was supposed to feel happy seeing the bright and shiny objects. Giving me yet another question or three that'd remain off my lips for the foreseeable future, as there was no need to poke the dragon with a hot stick.
The dragon stayed frozen I front of me while he worked out something bugging him. I was ready to bolt when he said, "Nothing I can do about the show. But now that I know, I will need to take some precautions."
I had also reached my own little conclusion and I said, "Well, I think I will leave you to your day."
Edging backwards slowly I avoided touching any of the treasures while trying not to actually flee. Predators always lunged for the weak and foolish and running just would make me appear as both. Marcus laughed and said, "Emma, don't fear me. There is worse out there. And yet as an answer to your thoughts, Sapphire and I are friends, not enemies."
I know my eyes went wide at that but I shut my mouth and waited for him to finish, "Nico used to travel between us. I am stuck here for the most part and he was able to cross the distance. That is how I know your blade was his. You are something different than Nico, but that Sapphire gave you the sword means she trusts you."
An odd feeling washed over me. I then recognized it as his acceptance to me existing. He wasn't trying to kill me but he was happy to know that I had seen Sapphire. I felt oddly compelled to share a bit of information with him.
"She's here now."
The words sat out between us and he drew closer to me.
"You are telling me that Sapphire is here in this world?" I could have sworn he changed colors with the news. I guess dragons blushed differently than humans or any other creatures I'd seen. His entire body flushed an odd color and I could see that my news had certainly impacted him.
"Yes, she was. I don't know if she stayed here but she was a while ago." That was all I had to offer.
Dipping his head he said, "Thank you."
I had nothing to say. I still wasn't positive that he knew Sapphire but something in his posturing and stance told me that he really was glad to hear Sapphire that was around here somewhere. I resisted my impulse to try to mentally call her. Instead I nodded back to him.
I felt obligated to ask, "Marcus, are you here by your choice?"
He puffed out some dark smoke and said, "For now. I was supposedly captured, but the climate is such that I only pretend to be imprisoned." He was echoing Sapphire's words which I found nicely comforting. I figured he had a bolt hole that he'd dug out when he'd been shoved down here and he, like Sapphire, had a way to escape if needed. Dragons were pretty new to my world, but so far I hadn't felt threatened by them. They seemed to have their own rules and I wasn't part of their thoughts so it was safe -- as it could be.
I looked around the treasure room and asked the question that had been nibbling on my thoughts, "These aren't your treasures are they?"
A grumbling sound that shook me to my core flowed from his mouth as he said, "No, they are various pirate treasures that ended up here. The end of the Golden Age of the pirates ... it was harsh. Many pirates began to find spots that they could dump their bounty without worries. The land was cursed by the people of this area, and the soil was easy to dig, and they enslaved locals to hide their gold and silver. And if you were to venture further into the caves you'd see the stacks of bones."
He seemed happy to tell me what he meant, "The pirates had the slaves dig out the caves, then transport their chests and boxes of loot off the ships a few miles from here. Once done, they slew them and covered up the tunnels down to the caves. I think that my 'captors' thought I'd be happy surrounded by the treasures. I let them think that, and they thought they'd successfully trapped me down here because I saw no reason to let them know differently."
He flashed me a grin that was more than a bit disturbing. I was smart enough to ignore the smile and instead I asked, "So, Marcus, why are you still here?"
Something shifted on his face and he said, "Because dragons are not here."
He confirmed what Sapphire had told me. She had been able to escape long ago, but feared Earth and the humans that shot before they knew what it was they were seeing.
Looking directly into his eyes I said, "They are now."
Nodding, he said, "I know. Thank you for confirming what I'd started to see. Is Sapphire near?"
I heard the longing and honestly replied, "I don't know."