“What can I get for you?” asked the barkeep.

“I don’t drink. I just came for some information on how to find the firedrake that I was told lives somewhere in these caves.”

“Do you have a death wish? Also I have water and glunk juice. It tastes like shit but it ain’t alcoholic.”

“No. But I got to slay that beast to save my friend. I’m good on the water or whatever glunk juice is. As I said, I don’t drink.”

“Like a robot? What’re you doing in a bar then?” huffed the man behind the bar. He was an old bald fellow. Unlike most people in the bar, however, his hygiene was good even if his beard looked like a plump caterpillar.

“I was lost and needed directions. I met a hermit telling me this was where I could find civilization. I figured I’d come here to see if I can’t find my way to the dragon’s lair.”

“Look. I’m busy and you’re not a customer. Even if you were a customer, I don’t think I could answer your question. There is a man that lives in the village at the edge of the town that might be able to help you. He comes here for a drink twice a month. From what I’ve heard he ventures out into the labyrinth and somehow finds himself back. How he does it, I don’t know. You're gonna have to convince him to help you if you wanna ditch the caves. I hope you reconsider killing the dragon for your own safety.”

“I’ll speak to him and I’ll vanquish the dragon. It’s something I have to do.”

“Well. good luck. You’ll need it.”

The bartender walked away to serve some actual patrons who were starting to get impatient. I felt sorry for wasting their time but only a little. Now I had direction, maybe even enough to get me out of the labyrinth with a dragon’s egg.

I shuffled out of the bar, back into the large cave opening. I walked to the outskirts of the small village which was more like a small hamlet really. There wasn’t much down here in the caves. Not much to see other than rocks, which I was growing less fond of every minute I was trapped down here. They were a painful reminder of my setback and were out to get me. Who knew something so solid could be so devious.

In a lot of nothing, there was someone. He was something, the only thing out in the middle of nowhere. He was on the stone-cold floor with some string in his hand. What he was doing with that string I didn’t know, but I figured he was the man I was supposed to be looking for. There really wasn’t anything else out there.

The man was engrossed in his work, sliding his string across the hard floor and counting. He didn’t notice me approach him because his face was buried onto the stone.

“Hey...” was all I could say before the startled outsider jumped back in surprise. He scrambled away like I was going to eat him.

“What do you want? If you’re looking to rob me you better think again. I got nothing on my other than this string here.”

“Stop. I need your help.”

“Help with what. I don’t help panhandlers. Go find some work if you want some coin.”

“No, I need your help navigating through the labyrinth.”

“What’re you looking for? If you’re looking for a safe exit you’re not going to find one. Trust me I’ve been looking for years. I’ve accepted my fate of dying old and alone, without her.”

“I’m not looking for an exit. I need you to take me to the firedrake that lives in these caves. I’m going to slay it.”
“I have some idea where the fire drake might be but you’re not going to slay that beast. No one that goes searching for that demon comes back to tell a tale about it. Only the other monster it pushes away and the occasional villages it burns to cinders are any proof that it exists.”

“There’s an exit,” I stated. “The dragon leaves his cave somehow. If you show me how to get there, depending on how the fight goes, you might have your chance to leave this gloomy hole of only rocks and, well, meaner uglier rocks.”

“I don’t think you stand a chance of killing that beast. It’s not good practice to irritate dragons, they’re violent creatures. I don’t want to end upfront and center when you prod the beast into a rampage.”

“I can kill the dragon,” I responded with more confidence than I actually felt.

I watched the man grumble something under his breath. I was unable to make out what he muttered.

“Here’s what I’ll have you do. There’s a minotaur that roams some of the western tunnels. He’s been a nuisance for me for years. One of these days the thing is going to catch me by surprise and kill me as it did to two of my closest buddies. I’ll lead you to the general where he resides. You’ll have to find him and bring me his head. You can call me John by the way.”

“I can do that, John,” I stated. I wasn’t sure I could do that, but now wasn’t the time to cause John to hesitate on helping me.

“We’ll leave now. It’s best if we don’t waste time, not if you want any chance of finding the minotaur.”

I nodded.


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