Pitch-black darkness engulfed Rorik as he delved deeper into the dragon's cave. The entrance grew dim and distant behind him, a pinpoint of brightness in a sea of shadow. He wandered forward, unable to peer through the dark and discern his path.

"Nokorin! Nokorin, where did you go?" He called out.

The youth did not reply. Rorik worried that their father had found them in the gloom and done something to silence them. The man was driven by grief and obsession; he was capable of such heinous action. The sorcerer quickened his pace.


He conjured a flame in his left palm and held it aloft. The tiny blaze was little more than a candle in the chthonic depths. Basing his direction on the faint silhouettes of the low ceiling and narrow cavern walls, the shimmer of his handheld light on the condensation, Rorik followed the twisting tunnels deeper, and lower, into the Thorn's belly.

Finally, he came upon an enormous open chamber. Sudden brightness tickled at his pupils as his vision adjusted. As he dispelled his flame, he spotted his companion. A shaft of light breaking through the ceiling illuminated Nokorin sitting on a blunt stalagmite jutting out of the floor, moss and blue flowers circling its base. The youth's face was the picture of serenity and their demeanor, that same casual command they displayed at the cave mouth, filled up the empty space.

Rorik clambered down one-handed into the chamber to meet them. As he approached, Nokorin's eyes slowly opened, as though they were waking from an invigorating nap.

"Sir Rorik, you've come."

"Yes, Nokorin. Rather rude of you to run off ahead of me like that. Did you found your father?"

"No, but my father was never waiting for me here."

The revelation took Rorik aback. He furrowed his brow trying to make sense of it.

"I... I don't understand, my young friend."

The youth chuckled a little and stood on their high pedestal.

"You must forgive me. I have not been honest with you, but the deception was necessary. I needed to judge your character, observe you during the tests, to see if you were truly worthy."

Rorik began to understand. "So you work for Rainheart then?"

"No sir Rorik. I am the dragon you seek."

Flinging back their cape, Nokorin's form exploded into a flurry of blue scales. Like dandelion seeds on the wind, they fluttered and spun through the air until they filled the cavern, carrying with them the scent of spring rain. The youth's body transformed in front of Rorik's eyes, morphing from a human adolescent into the long serpentine shape of a dragon. The final result enraptured the sorcerer.

That shaft of light glinted off Rainheart's gleaming cyan patina. A soft breeze blew through the silver mane running between their horns and the ends of their drooping mustache pooled on the cave floor. The great old drake folded their front paws and leaned their head, as massive as the Montoon on its own, down toward Rorik.

Staggering back from his erstwhile companion, he fell on his fanny and struggled for words as he stared up into their huge green eyes.

"You... are Rainheart?"

"Heh heh." The dragon's laugh echoed off the walls. They spoke with the dry wit of many years' refinement, "Yes, sir Rorik, I am the dragon Rainheart."

"Then Nokorin was just your invention?"

"Not entirely. Nokorin was my pupil, many centuries ago. The appearance I assumed, and the tale of a father seeking resurrection, belonged to them. I simply borrowed those attributes to conduct my assessment."

Rorik sighed. Even for a sorcerer, the situation was a lot to take in at once. His companion of the last few days was the very dragon he sought. He felt the victim of an unflattering prank.

"This was about more than those three challenges, wasn't it?"

"Yes, sir Rorik. Those were the obvious tests. A test of humility, to see if you could prevail without fighting. A test of ignorance, to see if you were wise enough to admit you didn't know something. And a test of selflessness, to see if you would put another's safety before your own desires. I must applaud you. Unlike many of my pupils, you only needed a few nudges to get you to adjust your thinking."

"And your presence was a fourth test, a test of character. To see how your prospective student would react to finding an abandoned child on the mountainside."

"Many would have simply left me there. Many have," said the dragon. "But you are the first to not only take me with you, but to offer to carry me. At every turn, you made certain to accommodate me. That night under the stars settled things for me. Your heart is as generous as your feats are legendary."

"So my entire quest, all our time together, was simply you judging me?"

"More or less."

"And what is your verdict, great dragon?"

Rainheart's enormous snout pulled into a smile. "You passed with flying colors."

"Well, I do aim to impress."

Rorik let off a small firework of arcane energy from his palm. Its flash filled the cavern with brief light.

"One last question," said the sorcerer.


"That night... You conjured those strawberries, didn't you?"

"Of course."

"How did you know they were my favorite?"

Rainheart responded only with a satisfied grin that showed no teeth.

"You'll learn, sir Rorik, among many other things. Such as this."

They reached out one huge paw and tapped the sorcerer's broken arm with only the slightest pressure. Surprising, for so massive a creature. A single blue light bloomed at the tip of Rainheart's claw and arcane power flowed into Rorik's limb. The surrounding air seemed to sing.

Rainheart pulled away and Rorik made a fist with his right hand. Ripping away the sling, he examined his whole arm and found no sign he'd ever been injured at all. It had been completely healed yet the dragon had touched him, grazed him really, for but a moment. Such a feat would be beyond even the most accomplished magical physicians, whose work took hours at the least, and Rainheart had done it without even uttering a spell.

"That was incredible," said Rorik.

"Shall we begin then?"

Rainheart slammed their tail down on the cave floor, sending out a ripple of magic. The wave crested every surface in the chamber, revealing its true appearance. Shelves of books as tall as buildings, an enchanter's forge burning over a cauldron of lava, many ancient bottles and decanters of mystic brew, and an elaborate astrolabe and telescope hanging from the stalactites. The wisdom of generations, available only to the worthy, was now at Rorik's disposal.

The sorcerer cracked the knuckles of his healed right hand. His legend was just beginning.

A note from NicholasDuval

Hello Dear Readers,

Thank you for reading Rorik's Quest. If you enjoyed this story, peruse my author page for more Tales From Mirthland. Or venture over to my website,, for more of my work.

Your humble storyteller,

Nick Duval

About the author


Bio: Nicholas Duval, or Nick to his friends, is a Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Genre writer from the US. He's been writing for Seven years and is happy to finally be sharing his work.

He also may or may not be a Giant Robot. No one is sure.

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