Hot off the press. I’m a huge fan of dragons and have a small collection of figurines. When tidying my office the other day, I moved one of them to clean around it and there in the dust was the imprint of said dragon. Most people would have grabbed the furniture polish and wiped it away without a second thought. As a writer, I did the same, but with many thoughts. The phrase ‘dust dragon’ turned into ‘the dust of a dragon’ and this story was born.
* * *
Demil sat in one corner of the tavern, his back to the wall and his eyes scanning the room. In his hands he gripped a tankard of ale, the remains of what had been a passable roast chicken sat on the table beside his elbow. The tavern was busy tonight, filled with lumberjacks who had just returned after a month away. They were a boisterous lot, getting louder and more physical as the evening wore on.
Inevitably, a drink was spilt, a comment was made and fists began to fly. Demil kept out of the way as the tavern keeper and his staff began to throw out those, they considered had finished spending. Once everything was calm again, Demil noticed a young man nursing a small cut on his forehead. He didn’t seem too drunk, so Demil went over to him.
“Greetings. My name is Demil, if you will allow, I can help with that wound.”
The lumberjack looked at Demil suspiciously. “You can? And how much will that cost me?”
Those who sat with him all turned to glare at the stranger.
“It’s just a small wound and won’t require payment,” Demil assured him.
The lumberjack looked around the table. The others nodded encouragement, mainly to see what was going to happen. Demil sat beside the man and pulled a bottle out of an inside pocket. He carefully tipped a tiny amount of powder onto his finger and rubbed it along the cut. After a few moments, the bleeding stopped and the cut healed over.
Demil smiled. “There, easily done. Have a good evening.”
Before Demil had taken two steps the lumberjacks called him back.
“What was that stuff, in the bottle?”
“Oh, that was dragon dust. It’s applied during the healing of minor wounds, as you saw.”
“Never heard of it. Where did you get it?”
Demil was soon seated with the lumberjacks, a fresh flagon of ale in front of him.
“There were seven of us who left Lan Dattarn and headed north. We’d heard there were riches to be found in the caves of Edus if you know them. A labyrinth of passages large and small, filled with all kinds of creatures, lost adventurers and precious stones just lying around for anyone brave enough to gather them. We soon arrived and went straight inside. We weren’t alone, of course, but we were strong and well equipped. There were orks in there, and goblins and ogres, as well as creatures we had no name for. We beat them all and gathered up their treasure. Only a few days later we were staggering under the weight of all that we’d found.
“We had a bit of a talk and decided to go back to the entrance, bury our loot and then come back for more. As I said, it’s a maze of tunnels and of course, we got ourselves lost. At that point, we realised something other than orks and gobbos was in there with us. It wasn’t a huge dragon, not like you hear about, but it was big enough. It began to stalk us, drawn to the gold and gems in our packs. Lucky for us it was too big to fit down the smallest passages, so we stuck to those. We walked for hours, the slither of the dragon never far behind. At last, we saw a ray of sunlight shining in the distance and ran towards it with the last of our strength.
“But dragons are cunning, it knew those caves better than anyone, knew what we’d do, it seemed. So, we ran for the daylight and the dragon breathed flame into the passage. It chased us like it was a living thing. One by one it struck my companions and turned them to ash, no time to even scream. I was at the front, luckily for me. I dropped my pack and dodged along a side passage, turning as many corners as I could find to shake off the fire. I turned one last corner, felt the heat and wind of that breath, and resigned myself to death.
“As you see, it didn’t arrive. I was knocked off my feet and my skin was scorched, but the power had left the fire and I was spared the worst. Instead, I was covered in hot dust, which stayed hot for several days. I gathered some up, in my grief, thinking it to be the ash of my lost friends. When I emerged from the cave, I dusted off the remains and felt a cooling shiver run across my skin. I was uninjured, every wound from both ork and dragon was completely healed.
“Later, while talking to a learned scholar, I discovered this dust was what remained of the breath of the dragon, the magic essence that causes the fire. It has strong healing properties and is used in many potions.”
The lumberjacks all stared in wonder, then exchanged glances. The one Demil had healed spoke for the group.
“That dust would be useful in our line of work, always getting cuts and bruises. We’d be willing to pay a good amount for just a small pinch or two.”
Demil sat back, a serious look on his face. “Well, as an adventurer, it’s very useful to me. But I could spare a pinch or two, for the right price.”
Later, in his tavern room, Demil counted up the gold coins he’d received. Almost every one of the lumberjacks had bought a pinch of the dust from him. Once the money was stowed in his pack, he pulled out a cloth and began to run it over the surfaces of the small room, including under the bed. Discarding a few dead insects and other unsuitable bits, he tipped the dust into his bottle and replaced the cork. The healing had actually come from himself, a minor healing spell cast while rubbing the dust on the lumberjack’s head.
Demil had never been much of a spell-caster. In fact, that one Heal spell and a few minor cantrips were all he could manage. Still, he needed to make a living and going into caves with dangerous creatures was, well, dangerous, so he’d come up with this plan instead.
At dawn, long before the lumberjacks awoke, Demil left the Blue Dragon tavern, safe in the knowledge that if anyone asked him, even under a Truth spell, he could swear the dust came from a dragon.