He nods at me as he catches me looking at him. He can’t read my expression. He doesn’t know what I think of him. He probably doesn’t care, either. That’s how guys like him are. Selfish. Cold. Cruel. And it doesn’t matter how sexy they are, I know they’ll leave me in ruins. That’s just how this game is played.
Terrible beckons to me in an oddly human gesture. He must have studied that somewhere. It looks foreign on his hand, but it feels natural to obey. He feels natural to obey. Goddamn, am I in trouble.
I follow him out of the room as he intends for me to do. The royal chambers give way to the flashing walls of the halls, so much plainer, but so full of potential.
“You appear not to have thoroughly insulted the king’s mate. She likes you.” He gives me his assessment immediately.
“Sure. What’s not to like?”
He draws in a breath as if he is about to run off a whole list of what there is not to like, but he manages to stop himself.
“I am praising you because you are performing your job well.”
“Wasn’t trying to perform a job at all. Was just being nice to her. She looks like she’s smuggling a beach ball full of heroin past the Florida Coast Guard. Trust me, I should know.”
“Whatever your intention, you were in alignment with your duties, and for that you will be rewarded.”
I cannot wait to see what he thinks is a reward.
“What do I get? Money that doesn’t mean anything because you can just magic it away again and I have nothing to spend it on anyway? Or maybe some more clothes? Oh my god… is it a puppy?”
“I don’t know what a puppy is, but it sounds disgusting.”
“What is it like, being completely dead inside?”
He gives me a look of offense. “I understand that I look different from you, human, and that might mean that you make the typical human mistake of assuming that I do not have feelings, but I assure you, I do.”
I feel an instant and pretty unpleasant pang of guilt — right up until I remember he tied me up and punished me for, what was it again? Oh right. Nothing. I did absolutely nothing wrong.
He turns and walks away, beckoning me to follow after him. I’m not going to apologize for hurting his feelings. I’m not. I’m…
“Sorry. I guess, puppies are the best things in the universe and that you don’t know about them even though you seem to know absolutely everything about humans is kinda weird.”
“According to the Essence explorer, Aggro, the best thing in the universe is a pony sundae from the Horsehead nebula.”
“How can you know what ponies are but not know what puppies are!?”
“I always wanted a pony,” I muse conversationally.
“These sundaes are made from the best ponies. Their venom is captured in vials, tested for maximum toxicity, and then blended with sheer deviance into a dessert which is deadly to over a thousand species of alien, but unimaginably delicious to two. The Essence, and the Scythkin.”
“Sounds… amazing? But also, ponies aren’t venomous.”
“Of course they are,” he says in that righteous kind of tone which strongly indicates I am speaking the language of pure madness. “They have sharp fangs, and they slither around.”
“That’s snakes. You’re thinking of snakes.”
I suppose it’s only natural we should have some difficulties in translation. After all, we are inexplicably speaking the same language probably, sort of. I was going to say I understand him, but maybe I don’t, after all. At all.
“So anyway, I was going to get a prize or something.”
He waves his hand at a wall and a door appears obligingly, as if it had been waiting all along for him to ask it to undergo the formality of coming into existence. It’s actually a pretty cool door. Looks sort of like a small castle door.
He opens it, and I step into a…
“Is this a dungeon?”
It is a stone room. There is a flagstone floor and some other kind of stone walls. I don't know what you’d call them. There’s a fireplace from which light and heat are emerging in a way which is cozy and kind of intimidating all at once.
“This is the chamber I have designed for you, based on what I know about you. It will be your private sanctuary when you are not otherwise occupied by assisting me, or providing entertainment to the king’s mate.”
There are shutters over in the wall. I walk over, open them, and….
I am staring out over a beautiful countryside scene. There are meadows and forests and a stream trickling merrily by down below. I suppose this is supposed to be a room fairly high up because it is…
FWOMP! FWOMP! FWOMP!
I hear a sound like helicopter blades, but slower. They’re coming from overhead, moving out over my field of vision. I crane my neck weirdly to try to see what is going on, but I don’t have to wait long as a massive shadow passes overhead, and then the form of a huge black scaled dragon appears.