standing eye-to-eye with death

The mighty beast’s head snapped forward, its jaws poised to pierce the protection spells the sorceress had weaved around her.  She could feel the teeth sliding through the intricate magic, sliding through the toughest barriers she had ever wrapped herself in, and, yet, she refused to shrink away from the attack.  She held her ground and delved into reserves she wasn’t sure she had to amplify her spells and do everything she could to fight back, to survive.

“And yet…” the dragon paused in its assault, the volume and timbre of its voice softening slightly, and withdrawing its fangs from around the witch, “I can sense that there is a fire burning in your soul too.  It radiates off you in a way I’ve never felt from a human before. ”

The sorceress considered striking out while the dragon was preoccupied with its thoughts.  She considered trying to step into the pathways of magic and leave the cave behind her forever.  She considered speaking out to make a case for her continued survival.  However, she did none of these, and instead met the dragon’s gaze and held it steady.  The beast was obviously far more powerful than the magician had implied, or perhaps even known, and it could and would suss out her worthiness on its own.

“You are wise,” the dragon purred, its massive head angling lower to level off so beast and sorceress were eye-to-eye.  “I am far more powerful than that cowardly spell-caster gave me credit for.  I had grown complacent in the long years of my slumber here when last we met, and had not fully awoken when he attacked me unprovoked.  Obviously, I took measures to make sure that never happened again.

You are a fascinating creature, witch, to stand so bravely before me, knowing that I can read your thoughts, knowing that I could end your life with a quick snap of my jaws.  You, too, are powerful in your craft.  Your troubling years of study helped hone you into a fine weapon of magic.  It would be a waste to cast all that aside simply because you were deceived.

Yes, I can see it all clearly now, you are not the one to blame here, it is the wizard and those who hired him.  Interesting…  Interesting, indeed.  He so greatly feared fighting you himself that he brought you here hoping that I would do the job for him.”

As the dragon spoke, the sorceress could feel the intensity of its rage ebbing, and the pressure that had building against her protective spells weakened to a nearly undetectable level.  Wary of a trap, having learned to save herself from bullies and teachers as a student, and having so recently been betrayed, twice, she did not lessen the amount of energy she was directing towards the magical barrier around her.

The beast smiled then, razor sharp teeth gleaming red against the swirling darkness around them.  “Yes, you are wise, and you learn quickly, too.  Perhaps you have earned a reprieve.  But, first, you must do me a favor.  One small thing…”

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