I glanced at the open skylight on my way out. Moons were up, and I had some time before they made it to Lun’Kat. I continued circling her, diagnosing the last few injuries I could see, and coming up with a plan of treatment for each of them.
When the moonlight hit Lun’Kat again, I was ready. I managed to get five full sessions in, before the angle became bad.
I wandered over to the library, chowing down on my fruits and berries I’d liberated from her garden, finding a little side-corridor that didn’t seem to have elemental cleaners to sleep in. I cursed Lun’Kat as I drifted off to sleep, surrounded by a massive bounty of books that I couldn’t read.
The next three days went mostly the same. Wake up, check on Lun’Kat. Do a large set of injuries when the sun shone on her, do two smaller sets in the night when the moons peeked in. Explore the lair in-depth. I wasn’t going to get anything out of this, maybe I could make an illicit map, and sell it to someone? A map of her lair had to be worth something.
As I ran back and forth, from Lun’Kat to the pillar filled with Arcanite, I couldn’t help but notice the egg collection that she had there. From the large dinosaur egg, to the spherical Celestial egg, an egg near the middle I was sure was a Thunderbird egg, to the aquariums, rainbow eggs, red-gold, malformed, and oh, so many different eggs and creatures!
I wanted one. I’d been wanting a Thunderbird egg for ages, hunting and searching for one. Heck, part of why I’d followed Hunting was to try and get one. Now, there was one in front of me.
Ah, but was that the best choice? It was a “unique” egg, so to speak, an individual egg marked in the collection. It vanishing would be as clear of a sign as any that I’d been around, and taken fair payment.
No, what was a little more attractive were the clutches of eggs. When there were dozens of eggs as a single “collection”, each one identical to the ones next to it? A single missing egg might not be noticed for years or decades. I’d be long gone by then.
There was a clutch of stone eggs, impossibly still viable. Plain-looking eggs, spotted, striped, eggs made out of wood, eggs that reflected the world around them. Eggs as blue as the sky, as hot as a volcano. Tiny little caviar in aquariums.
There were no large eggs in clusters. There wasn’t a point.
Sometimes, when I was bored between healing sessions, I reviewed the eggs in my mind, looking over them. Wondering.
I was looking for a companion, and, well, it was like I’d been offered a one-stop-shop for options. If I was told that literally every egg in creation was present, I’d believe whoever told me that.
Then, of course, there were Lun’Kat’s eggs. Clutched protectively in her grasp, Lun’Kat was always on top of them. Protecting them with her lair, her security, and even her physical body. Arguably the most powerful eggs in creation.
I did more than just lust over eggs. I did more than just daydream about riding the unicorn over hills and meadows. I spent significant time in the library, hedging my bets against Lun’Kat cracking an eye open and looking around. I used [Sunrise] now and then, grinding the level in a high-danger situation.
I did find a section with books written in Creation. They were my size, and high up on a shelf, behind solid glass. Quite a few more books, scrolls, steles, and tablets were in that section, and in my sheer boredom I looked at them, comparing the letters to each other.
There were at least a half-dozen different languages present, of which I only spoke one. Still, I didn’t have much else to do besides look at the books. Lun’Kat was getting more and more energetic and restless with each healing session, and I was resigned to my fate at this point. I didn’t like it, but it was inevitable.
The sun rose on what I hoped was the last day. Almost all of Lun’Kat’s injuries had been healed. The only thing left was her broken wing. Setting the bone was going to take huge amounts of mana, and was probably going to hurt as the bones shifted around. It was the first time in years I’d been wanting to use my old anti-pain skill, and I was mildly regretting ditching it.
Then again, it had been the right choice at the time. Just - not having it right now might be the death of me, which sucked.
Pain meant waking up, and I could only hope at this stage, with the number of injuries I’d healed, with the number of scars removed, tissue sewn together, and claws restored that Lun’Kat would recognize what I’d done, and show mercy upon me.
I got into position as the sun hit. With the way Lun’Kat was curled up, her injured wing was away from me, as far away as possible. With a quirk of magic, that didn’t matter - all that mattered was how close the nearest body part was to me.
I’d been saving the wing for last. Whether Lun’Kat had partially set it herself, or if it had only been slightly broken in the first place was irrelevant. Either way, I didn’t think the bone would require large amounts of effort, but the tattered wings needed fixing.
I’d never studied a book on bat anatomy, and what I vaguely remembered was forming the basis of my image. I wasn’t expecting efficiency here. Just blood, muscle, scales, wings needed to be whole and hale. I did fix the broken bones first though, which only took a session and a half, the dragon blessedly not stirring through it. Lun’Kat - or rather, the flow of time and natural healing - had already fixed some of it.
The wings only took two more sessions, and like a proud painter, I took a moment to admire my work, my masterpiece of healing.
No, I wasn’t quite done, now was I? I’d fixed everything external, but for all I knew there were internal injuries, and Lun’Kat could be sick for all I knew. How was I just thinking of this now? I was a better healer than that. I was a dumbass.
I made a quick plan and review as I went to get another round of mana. I wanted to hit all the unlikely things first, before working on properly fixing her internals.
I decided to hit diseases first. Bacteria purge, I lost a few thousand mana. Basically nothing, considering the scales I was working on. She’d been almost entirely healthy. Virus? A hair short of ten thousand. Again, nice and easy. Prions didn’t cause my mana to flicker at all, and fungus was in the low hundreds. All numbers that were close to insignificant.
Poison though? Yikes.
Blew through a full heal, and part of a second one. Lun’Kat immediately settled down further, and a deep, rhythmic rumbling emanated from her.
She was purring. The poison must’ve been doing a number on her.
I grabbed another set of mana, and started working on her internals. My images were terrible. I imagined healthy organs of all sorts, then tried to twist the image to be dragon-shaped organs, with a rough approximation of what they should look like. I then applied the “heal” concept to them, instead of having more specific fixes in mind.
I’d never appreciated until now just how hard it was for regular healers. They needed to try and heal without a good image all the time. It helped explain why I was so many cuts above other healers. Forgetting stats for a moment, I could heal three, four, ten people with the same mana they needed to heal one person.
Well, the shoe was on the other foot, and I was more determined than ever to spread my Medical Manuscripts around.
I finished the sixth round of healing Lun’Kat, noticing that finally, I hadn’t used all my mana. I smiled to myself as I lazily jogged over to the pillar of Arcanite, planning on topping myself up before I took flight, and got out of here. The lair was entirely silent. Dreams of freedom, of flying through the sky were dancing through my head, as I felt a powerful rumble behind me.
Hang on. Silent? Lun’Kat wasn’t purring anymore?
I froze, hearing Lun’Kat get up, Mt. Loot shifting and turning as she moved.
Why?! Why now?! Why couldn’t she snooze for a few more minutes!?
A flash of heat erupted behind me, and I closed my eyes, making peace with my fiery demise. However, flames didn’t wash over me. Instead, I heard soft padding, and rapidly rising heat heralded another blast of dragonfire, and ripping, tearing, and swallowing noises followed. Lun’Kat was raiding the fridge after a long nap.
I took the opportunity to slip behind the pillar of Arcanite, hoping that I’d be hidden from casual view if Lun’Kat could see through my [Invisibility with Eyeholes] gem. Heck, I blew the second one just in case. It was no time to be frugal.
I stared at the eggs in front of me, tempting me. The ones in the front of the collection were within arm’s reach. I’d just need to reach out to grab one.
I used all my willpower to keep my hands to myself, to refrain.
Still, some soft padding later, a few big gulps of water, more soft padding, and the purring noises started back up.
I peeked around the corner. Lun’Kat had migrated to her bed, her real overly furred, extra-luxurious bed, and settled down for what looked to be a “good” sleep. She hadn’t noticed that she’d been healed. She probably just thought she’d slept off whatever injuries she had at long last, and was getting some more sleep in.
Or maybe she did notice, and assumed someone she knew had done it. I dunno what was going through her mind. I didn’t particularly care, I just wanted to get out.
My eyes wandered around the lair, immediately noticing a change. Her eggs, three perfect dragon’s eggs, were now in a brazier, flames merrily playing around them.
I licked my lips. I wanted one of those eggs. I could see it now. [Dragonrider] Elaine. From the looks of it, dragons were immortal to boot. I wouldn’t need to worry about my companion aging and dying on me, like Night’s had.
I clapped my head with both hands.
Stealing a dragon’s egg was moronic. Catastrophically, absolutely, obscenely idiotic. There weren’t enough words to describe how much of a bad idea it was. Lun’Kat would probably stop at nothing to get her babies back. I wouldn’t mess with a bear protecting her cubs, I’d imagine Lun’Kat would be worse than a momma bear.
Still, my greedy little heart wanted something. I’d been denied books, written in another language or locked behind glass. I’d been denied mangoes, with too much evidence left behind after I ate one. I’d gotten nothing but heartache and grief, and blown tons of expensive gems. I’d lost my last mementos of Magic. I’d done what would be incredibly expensive healing for anyone else. I could’ve charged a king’s ransom for what I’d done, and Lun’Kat could easily pay it.
I totally deserved a little something for my healing. I wasn’t about to go rummaging about Lun’Kat’s lair, but, well. She hadn’t noticed the mana I’d used to heal her, or the food I’d needed to eat to keep healing her, or the library I’d checked through to see if I could improve my healing speed on her. An egg as repayment was just part of healing. Healers needed mana, food, knowledge - and pay.
Her entire egg collection was right in front of me. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking and ruminating over what to grab. The little red eggs, with golden cracks running through them were in the front, in a place of honor. They had to be extremely valuable to make it ahead of everything else, to be in the top nine eggs. They were also a clutch, which meant one or two eggs vanishing might not be noticed for quite a long time, if ever. The original owners might not be looking for them, if they knew a dragon had them.
I impulsively reached out and grabbed one of the eggs, almost dropping it in surprise.
It was hot.
I activated [Scintillating Ascent], and quietly, quickly, made myself scarce.
Besides, there was one last dumb reason I’d picked this egg in particular.
Red was totally my color.