Chapter 12: Dragon Bait

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“And that’s how it happened,” Ailbhe said. She and her party members sat across from a wizard. Three of them, Ailbhe, Iain and Seamus all sat watching him. Ciardhe was too busy stuffing her face to look at much of anything but her food. Across the room Hellspawn was affixed to the wall by magical means with a gag in her mouth. Strangely she seemed perfectly happy with this situation.

The innkeeper was also sitting with them, a holy glow emanating from his person. Ailbhe had walked him through binding a demon. As surprising as it seemed, he had plenty of holy magic to do so.

“I see,” said the wizard. He smiled at them and nodded. “I believe I can fix what the demon child has done. I would also be willing to take the child off your hands.”

The three sane party members looked at one another skeptically. Ciadhe’s head whipped up, half a bratwurst sticking out of her mouth.

“Hoo whanna hoo wha?” she asked around the meat.

“If I raise the girl,” the wizard, “I could make her into the most powerful witch the world has ever seen.”

While Ailbhe was skeptical of the feasibility of this plan, she was all for getting rid of Hellspawn sooner rather than later. “Done. You can have the little monster as soon as were back to normal.”

“No way!” Ciardhe said. “I’m not just giving my little girl to a stranger.”

“You were about to pawn her off on nuns,” Iain pointed out. “There’s not a lot of difference giving her to this guy.”

“But my baby!”

“Ciardhe, unless you want to be the thing’s mother forever shut up and let the guy take the thing,” Ailbhe growled.

“Fine,” she said, glaring at the food on her plate.

The ex-paladin turned back to the wizard. “It’s a deal, then. You can have the Hellspawn in exchange for returning to us our rightful statuses.”

“Splendid!” the wizard cried. “I just have one more thing that I will need you to do after I change things back.”

Iain opened his mouth to ask what the task was, but before he could say anything Ciardhe piped up.

“Anything,” she said. “I just want to be gentle person I was before.”

Ailbhe and Iain groaned in unison and Seamus looked like he wanted to be displeased, but wasn’t exactly sure why. The wizard, on the other hand, looked inordinately pleased.

“What?” the ex-healer asked.

“Never agree to something before you know what’s being asked!” Ailbhe exclaimed.

“Especially from a wizard,” Iain muttered.

“Now, now,” the magic man said. “I would never ask something unfair in return for my magic. I only require a simple feat, and I’ll even give you supplies to help.”

“See?” she said, beaming. “It’ll be fine.”

“Then you can do whatever it is he wants,” Ailbhe said.

“Fine!” Ciardhe said. She turned to the wizard. “So what am I doing?”

“Nothing hard,” he said. “I just need you to keep a dragon occupied for a few hours.”

*****

The next day the wizard teleported the party into the mountains. Thirty minutes after they arrived Ciardhe, now a healer again, was dressed in a dragon suit and liberally dowsed with a potion that the wizard claimed made her smell like a dragon. Ailbhe though she smelled more like a horse rubbed down with cinnamon.

“Alright, one last thing,” the wizard said. He handed Ciardhe a small bottle filled with a glowing, green liquid. “This is a growing potion. Take it when you see the dragon so you’ll be the same size as it. Good luck. I’ll see you in a bit to undo the potion,” he said. Then, with a wave of his hand he teleported away.

The party stood in a large clearing that had scorch marks peppered about and large, reptilian footprints on the ground. Ailbhe and Iain looked at one another.

“Well,” the once again paladin said. “We’re going to go find someplace to sit. We’ll see you in a couple hours.”

“You’re not staying with me?” Ciardhe asked, horrified.

“Um, no. No we’re not,” Iain said. “You’re the one wearing a dragon suit. It’d probably toast us.”

“Or eat us,” Ailbhe said.

Seamus cringed. “I’d rather not be toasted or eaten.”

“Or any combination of the two,” the paladin said.

“Come on, guys,” the healer whined. “The wizard guy said this was safe.”

Iain shook his head. “No, no that is not what he said. He said it would probably work. There’s a huge difference between ‘will probably work’ and ‘is safe’.”

There was a moment’s pause before Ciardhe announced. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Iain facepalmed and Ailbhe rolled her eyes while Seamus at least tried to look vaguely sympathetic.

“You’re not backing out now,” the paladin said. “You made a deal with a wizard.”

“But that’s not fair,” the healer whined. “You got something too.”

“And we weren’t the ones stupid enough to agree without knowing what you were agreeing to,” Iain muttered.

“Well I’m not doing it!” Ciardhe cried.

Just as she started to stomp away there was a great roar in the sky and a gout of fire streamed down to light the ground in the healer’s path. She screamed and turned to run the other direction. In front of her stood the dragon. Slightly larger than an average house, the thing towered over her. The rest of the party had taken shelter behind a few conveniently placed rocks.

“Aren’t you going to go help her?” Seamus asked.

Ailbhe and Iain looked at him like he was stupid. “Do you want us to die, or did you not see the dragon out there?” the paladin asked. “Sure we could probably take it, but we’d also probably die of our wounds.”

“Oh, Ciardhe must not be back up to full strength yet,” the bard said.

Iain facepalmed. “You’re not too bright, are you?”

Ciardhe screamed again and they looked back just in time to see the dragon lift off, healer in its claw. Somehow the dragon suit made it possible for it for the actual dragon to grasp and lift the blubbery woman.

“Ciardhe, don’t take the potion until you land!” Ailbhe yelled.

And the dragon was off. The three remaining party members stood watching it go.

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