Stolen Heart of Fire
The three of them stood in the basement. Actually the ceiling in that part of the basement wasn't high enough for Marco, so he had to lay down. Rinaldo brought out book after book, turned through their pages, and after each gave a theatrical little performance consisting of sighing in exasperation and saying that he could find no such spell in that book before going to the next one. He moved the books from one pile to the other, "Almanac of herbal powers", "A look at magic", "Things to do with kettles", "History of Charms", "Glowing Bottles", and many other books joined the discard pile after he flipped through them. If he hadn't of been so wrapped up in this act, he probably would have noticed Marco's expression change from sadness to a look of impatient annoyance.
"Those aren't the books with the spell and you know it." he said.
Rinaldo ignored him and looked through the next book on the stack. His braided rope of a beard moved like a pendulum as he shook his head.
"Stop wasting our time and get the book." He said pointing at a door with an outstretched claw.
Rinaldo gave an exhausted sigh, "You know I'd rather not use that book. Besides, I think I've been granting too many of your requests already."
"I don't want to get involved in your personal affairs, but you wouldn't just be granting his request, you would also be granting my own. Please, we need you to use this book for both of us." said Lilia making shooting a glance at Marco after "please" trying to hint at him to change his behavior.
Rinaldo replied, "But your highness-"
"-Please just call me Lilia. I hate those formalities." she said interrupting him.
"But Lilia," Rinaldo began again, "With the foreign script and the potent magic in that book, a single translation error could be fatal, and that's not even considering its unpredictability. I don't want to put you or Marco in danger."
"Marco and I are willing to accept the risk. Aren't we?" she said looking over at Marco.
Marco nodded, "We would be very grateful if you were to do this. Please, Papa?"
At this point Rinaldo gave in at this. "Alrighty, I'll use the book." From out of the little room, he brought a thick book. Other than the iron spine holding the covers together, nothing about the book really stood out. The faded covers were made with of finely woven strands of tough fiber and leather. Rinaldo set it down on a desk. He flipped through the pages carefully so as to not damage them. Rinaldo turned the pages of the large book with a grimace. "Ugh. This magic is disturbing."
"They use the most bizarre ingredients. I don't see how people ever got this stuff let alone figured out how to use it for this stuff."
"Is the spell in there?"
"Yes, here it is. Ugh. Like I said, they use the strangest ingredients."
"What do you need?"
"Well unfortunately, Marco's little outburst ruined a couple of the things I needed. The crimson flif pod garden were smashed and I wasn't able to recover all of the ingredients from the broken jars."
Marco looked down a bit ashamed at the remark. "Then what do you need?" asked Lilia again.
"I need a handful of jade petals and a lump of a rare kind of cave moss. The jade flowers will bloom behind the house in a few days. Unfortunately, the moss is something I cannot obtain around these parts. They only grow in some Rakulian caves.
"That's a long ways away. Isn't there something else we could use?" Marco said before he began staring into blank space looking pensive.
"The book does have alternative ingredients for most spells. For this one we will need the hands and feet of a newborn and the skin of a rare frog caught out in cold weather."
Lilia's face had a slightly twisted expression of horror on her face. It was as if her mind was trying to reject the thought from her head and something got bent out of shape in the process.
"I'll take that as a no in that case." Rinaldo said after glancing at her.
"Of course that's a no! That's disgusting!" said Marco
Rinaldo pulled out a smaller book in fibrous bindings with worn pages that suggested common use. "It says here they only grow in the caves of Rakulia to the South." he said pointing at the text in the book as if to place blame upon it.
Marco's pensive expression intensified at this. "Rakulia... Why does that sound familiar?"
Rinaldo sighed setting the book down, "That was your old home."
"How do you know that?" asked Lilia. "He came here, who knows where he was running away from."
"Let's just say it's very likely." he pulled out a large map and unrolled it over the table and pointed to a little spot. "This is where we are now." he moved his finger down the map until stopping at a drawing of big mountains. "And this is where it is."
Marco looked at the map "That's a long way to walk. Are you sure that's where I came from?"
"You were starving when you arrived. You looked like you travelled all the distance. The trip should be easier this time. Besides you can just fly there."
"I.. still don't know how to fly." he said a bit ashamed.
Lilia patted his leg. "Don't worry about it. I'm sure we'll be fine."
Rinaldo looked at her, "I hope you mean, he'll be fine, because you should stay here."
"I'll go with my husband if I want to."
Marco looked away as she said that.
"Rakulia is a perilous place for humans. This is going to be a long trip. It might take him as long as a week to get there. He'll be travelling through darker woods. Food will be scarce, the terrain is dangerous, and feral dragons aren't picky about what they eat."
"Maybe I should put this quest thing on hold for now. It would be easier if I could just fly there . I might as well use it once before becoming a human. In fact I should start practicing." Marco began nervously backing away from the meeting wearing an obviously fake smile.
"You're not fooling anyone. Now get back here and listen."
Marco did as he was told. "But why can't I wait to do this? I don't think I'm ready."
"Because I don't want to hear any more whining about being a dragon in your relationship. You've been waiting up until this point, and all that's gotten us is a serious injury and a trashed yard."
Marco looked ashamed again at the memory. He nodded and agreed to listen.
Plans were laid out, directions were given, and after much persuading Marco was about to embark on this little quest.
"I wish I could go with you. Be safe." She rubbed the top of his head and gave him a kiss on the side of the face."
Rinaldo was waiting nearby watching. Marco blushed fortunately covered by his scales so nobody noticed. “Do you remember the way to get there from the map I showed you?”
“Do you recall what the moss looks like from the pictures?” asked Rinaldo.
Marco nodded again then paused so Lilia could tie a pouch around his neck.
“Good. I don't want this to be a wasted trip. Fill the pouch as much as you can, and return as soon as possible.”
He hesitated, a bit. “What dangerous stuff should I know about?”
“You're a dragon. There isn't much you need to worry about other than getting lost and maybe some poisonous plants or something of the sort.”
“What do poisonous plants look like?”
“I don't know offhand. Just use your instincts and you'll be fine.” Rinaldo replied.
Marco clearly wasn't thrilled with this answer. It was very possible that “use your instincts” was a term the man used whenever he didn't have anything helpful to say. He stood there looking in the direction of his destination and back at Rinaldo and Lilia. “Should I go now?” he asked with a bit of hesitation.
“Very soon yes.”
Lilia hugged one of his front legs. “Goodbye. I wish I could come with you.”
Marco smiled at her, then walked into the forest.