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A note from Typhin

Hm, both with and without "clean paste", the site seems to have eaten the indentation I had.  Well, it shouldn't be too much of an issue, I hope.

I woke up in a cage. Not too surprising, I suppose. It’s always The Cage. The wizard that put me here, the mad Elimaio, stood outside, looking exactly like I saw him last. Chest ripped open, throat torn out, ribs pulled apart. Covered in blood. And it was my fault. Blood on my claws, blood on my face, blood in my mouth. Elimaio grinned, and held in his hand the Control Rune that was linked to the shock collar he put on me. He was going to Punish me, and I deserved it. I had killed him, after all.

I woke up in a bedroom. Not too surprising, I suppose. It’s the same bedroom I went to sleep in, after all. It still took me a moment to piece things together as I shook off the remnants of the nightmare. I got up, stretched, curled my tail, and spread my wings. You probably already know this, but: I’m a dragon. I replayed the events of the last few weeks in my head, trying to banish the nightmare from my thoughts. I met a man named Tola, and we escaped from and defeated the mad wizard Elimaio. Through a quirk of law, Tola was able to claim everything the wizard owned, which meant this tower and everything in it. The only reason he bothered was me, though.

It’s strange having my neck be bare again, after so long, but it’s nice to know I’m not subject to the whims of a madman. I’m staying with him, because, well, I like him. Can you blame me? He’s saved my life, twice, and given me a reason to want to live. And given me a name, too. “Princess”. I like it.

There was only one bed, so I slept on a pile of blankets in the corner. It’s still a step up from the cage I was used to, and it wouldn’t have felt right to try to make Tola sleep there while I took the bed. I paced the room, enjoying the feeling of just having room to do so, before I made my way over to the large, full-length mirror set by the wardrobe. Now that I was free, and getting proper meals, I was liking the way I was looking. My scales were a nice, deep blue with a glossy finish, now that I’d been getting proper food and rest. I admired my horns and wings, stretching out, showing off to the mirror. I looked so different now, but I kind of liked it. It’s hard to explain. I took one last look at the mirror, but I couldn’t quite look my reflection in the eyes. Every time I started to feel proud of myself, the nightmare I’ve had every night since my rescue came back to mind.

With my posing and posturing finished, I was done admiring myself. Besides, I could smell that Tola had made some sort of breakfast, and he always saved me a plate. He was always so nice to me. I padded down the hall, claws clicking lightly on the stonework as I made my way towards the “study” room. We didn’t know what the rooms were originally called, or what they were used for, so we made it up as we went along. Quite a bit of the furnishings and equipment had already been sold, though, so the once-impressive library was mostly bare shelves. At least everything the Crown sold was put towards the debt Tola took on, but he wouldn’t tell me the details about what was left.

 

The room had a round table in the center, was close to the kitchen area, and was Tola’s favorite spot to eat while reading one of the books he found in the library. Most of them had been full of densely-worded explanations of magical theory or been about various subjects we had no way to make use of, but recently he found one titled “An Introduction to the Applications of Magic” and has been studying it. According to the beginning of the book, it’s something given to Initiates as their first text, and has actually been doing a good job of explaining the fundamentals of spellcraft. At least that’s what Tola says, I don’t have fingers to turn pages, so I haven’t bothered trying to read it for myself. And trying to read over his shoulder just makes my eyes glaze over and my head hurt. Ah well, who ever heard of a dragon casting magic? That’s just silly.

“Morning, Princess. Sleep well?” Tola looked up from his book when I entered the room. He didn’t even have to gesture at the plate on the floor, but he did anyway just to make sure I knew it was there and that it was for me, I suppose.

“Eh, same as always.” I hadn’t told him about the nightmares. I didn’t want to worry him over something he had no control over and couldn’t do anything about. Besides, the thought that I might become comfortable with what I did was even scarier than the nightmare. I sat next to his chair and ate my breakfast, a paw on the edge of the plate to keep it from moving. Scrambled eggs and what smelled like pork. Someone was feeling fancy today.

“Well, glad you got to enjoy sleeping in. I need to head to the village to pick up some supplies if we want breakfast tomorrow. Care to join me?” He set the book aside, a silk ribbon acting as a bookmark. A second book that had started blank sat next to it, filled with the notes he’d taken so far and stuff he’d understood. A sort of cheat-sheet, perhaps. That book, he picked up and tucked under his arm. It would be the start of his own spellbook, though he didn’t know that yet.

“That sounds nice. I could use a chance to stretch my legs. Besides, without you, it’s boring here.” My words were nonchalant, but my tail was swaying with too much momentum to be as unconcerned as I claimed. The muscles on either side tensed, sending the heavy limb swaying left and right. Tola, thankfully, was too polite to point this out, but I’m sure he noticed.

 

We made our way down the small dirt road towards the nearby village. Since we had moved in, we had learned that it was named Hammerfell, as it had started as little more than a waystation with a blacksmith and farrier. A place for wagons to stop and get repairs, for riders to tend to their horses, things like that. An inn followed, then a general store, then it became a trading post and rest stop, and it continued to grow slowly. A pleasant place.

I followed at Tola’s side like I usually do. My head naturally raised a little above my shoulders, so that put my eye level at around his stomach, but it was easy enough to look up and see his face. Once in town, I knew to keep silent. I may be able to talk, but other dragons can’t, and I didn’t want the townsfolk to think I was some sort of bizarre magical experiment. If I was “normal”, then I was something they understood, and not something they needed to fear.

I’d only visited a handful of times, usually Tola came alone. Even being “normal”, I still didn’t like the way the folk tended to look at me, uneasy and wary. Today, the first stop was at the blacksmith. I actually liked the warmth, but I think that’s just because I have an affinity for it, being a dragon and all. I was tempted to just play with the coals one of these times, see if my immunity would handle it, but I didn’t want to cause any trouble.

The usually gruff blacksmith was even more grumpy, the fires cold, the forge silent. It was almost eerie. “Eh, no work today, lad. ‘M afraid ye’ll have to come back next week.”

“Next week? I don’t mind waiting if I must, but you seem even more troubled by the delay than I do. What’s the matter?”

“M’ dang hammer broke. Shaft snapped in half, and I have to wait on a replacement. I’ve told Shane to order one, but it won’t be in until the trader’s next run. Says ‘e’s already got a full load and ‘can’t spare the weight’ this time. Feh, fine for him, ‘e ain’t the one sittin’ with nothin’ to do!” Shane was the local merchant, he’s the one who brought in most of the supplies that weren’t made here. Arranged for raw materials, placed special orders, that kind of thing. I wasn’t good with names, but I knew that one.

“The shaft? Say, would you mind if I looked at it?” Tola had already pulled out his book and started flipping through the pages, an excited look in his eye that I hadn’t seen from him in a while. I tilted my head curiously, but being in public meant I shouldn’t ask out loud.

“Suit yerself, is just trash now anyway. I c’n reclaim the head once I’m up and running and use it for materials, I suppose.” The blacksmith went into the back area and brought out the two pieces, dropping them unceremoniously on the table. But he did everything unceremoniously.

“Hm… I think… Say, would you mind if I tried to repair it? I’ve been studying the books Elimaio left behind, and I think I might have something that will work on this.”

“Ech, him. Honestly, I’m s’prised you managed to make it back out from that place, let alone twice. Yer not the first that disappeared near that tower. Oh, sure, years ago ‘e was friendly enough, but maybe he jes’ didn’t get out enough and being alone did funny things to his mind. If’n yer one o’ them wizard types, I suppose that explains how you did it. Knock yerself out with the hammer, I can’t do much of anything with it like this.”

Tola examined the pieces, looking between them and his notes. I was pretty curious, I haven’t actually seen him work, so I didn’t know how far along his studies were. He arranged the broken halves together, holding them with one hand while the other traced the patterns in his book, muttering under his breath as he recited the spell. I could tell that something was happening, a feeling of energy in the air, even without the glow coming from under his fingers. When he was done, he pulled his hand away and the break was simply gone.

“Ah, it worked! The organic nature of the wood means it, well, sort of wants to be whole. Is ‘wants’ the right word? Either way, the spell is able to mend breaks like this sometimes. It’s best if it’s recent, as the longer it stays broken, the more likely it is to ‘forget’ being whole.” Tola was clearly proud of himself, and I can’t blame him. His look deflated a little as he saw that most of his explanation had gone over the smith’s head, as he seemed to have decided he wasn’t going to understand magic and thus didn’t listen. But he did pick up the hammer and inspect it, a broad grin spreading across his face.

“Well, whaddya know! That’s a heck of a thing, friend! Here, let me fetch y’r payment.” He had disappeared with the hammer on his shoulder before Tola could respond, coming back and placing a handful of coins on the counter. “What do you say, will that cover it?”

“Oh, I don’t… I mean, I didn’t do this for money, I just wanted to help out. Besides, it’s good practice for me.”

The smith’s expression darkened a little. “Look, friend, y’ done me a service, and I pay for m’ services. That’s half the cost of a new hammer there, which is more than a bargain for me, since I don’t even gotta wait on it to come in. I won’t accept any lower a price, all right?”

As much as Tola felt nervous about taking it, refusing again would’ve been even more awkward. He picked up the coins, counting out the nine of them before dropping them into his pouch. “Well, I suppose… I hadn’t thought of it that way? If it’s still helpful, I’m glad, then.”

“Aye, ‘helpful’ barely covers it. Y’r a strange one, ain’tcha? Y’got that dragon that follows you and y’ don’t have a collar or nothin’ on it. You sure you got it under control?”

I looked up at Tola and he looked back at me. Oh, this might be a problem… Then again, it might explain why people seemed so uneasy. It strained our “cover story” to have me going bare, perhaps.

“I hadn’t thought about… how it appeared. She’s definitely not going to harm anyone, I trust her with my own life. But, not everyone knows her the way I do. Hm, should I get a collar for her…?”

He phrased it like he was talking to himself, but he was still looking at me. We had worked this out beforehand, so I knew how to respond, the tip of my tail flicking side to side. That meant I was answering “Yes”. Had I wanted to answer “No”, I would have lowered the end to the ground, or slapped the ground if I was upset enough. Curling it under myself would’ve been a sign that I felt the need to say something more complicated, and he should make an excuse to get me somewhere private.

Tola turned his attention back to the waiting smith. “Yeah, you’re right. Say, you do some leatherwork, don’t you? Straps for armor, harnesses, that sort of thing, am I correct?”

“Aye. I’ve got a couple bits of scrap leather I could cut, wouldn’t even have to get the forge heated up for it. Could have it ready in the hour.” Already he pulled out a few sample pieces that were dyed in different colors, and Tola picked up each one and presented it to me “for inspection”. I made a show of sniffing each one. I wasn’t sure what I was going to choose, but then a pink sample was brought down, and I knew this was going to be my best chance at looking friendly and non-threatening. I nosed at the piece and swayed my tail again.

“I think she likes this one. How much will it cost?”

“Shoot, it’s just scrap leather, and y’ fixed m’--”

“As you said, I pay for my services, friend. Your own words.”

At that, the smith laughed even louder than before, grinning wide. “Ah, I knew there was a reason I liked you! Aye, three sovs and I’ll throw in a bell so she don’t sneak up on you.”

Tola already had the three Sovereign coins in his hand, returning the grin. “Well, it’s a deal. And thank you for your service, friend.”

 

The rest of our shopping didn’t take long, so we had some time to spare for lunch at the local inn. The table that was front and center was a mess, however, as something had split it in half and broken a leg. The lady that ran the place was in the middle of cleaning it up and had a face more sour than the blacksmith had.

“Oh, it’s just not anyone’s day, is it?” Tola called out. I didn’t know her name either, I just knew that she made a savory stew that I loved getting whenever I came to town.

“Eh, it could be worse. The drunken lout that smashed it paid up, he knows better than to cross me if he ever wants back in later. It’s just another headache. But enough of that, what can I do you for?” To her credit, she did her best to hide being upset when it came to a paying guest.

“Oh, Princess and I were planning to stop by for lunch, but… I have an idea I’d like to run by you. If I can repair your table, will you split the cost of the replacement with me?”

“You? I didn’t take you for the carpentry kind. Dunno how much of a fix you can do with this, I think I’d rather have a new one.” She eyed the table, clearly imagining various levels of repair jobs and not being happy with any of them.

“Well, if you don’t like the results, you don’t pay anything, and you already have the money for the replacement. Nothing to lose, how about it?” Tola was certainly pleased with himself for his earlier work, I could tell.

“Ah, I suppose you got me there. You think you can do that good a job for half price? How long do you think you’ll need?”

“If it works, it’ll be ready before lunch is served.”

“Oh, now this I have just got to see! That’ll be the first bit of good news I’ve had all day.”

Tola began to work, flipping the pieces and setting them together, while the innkeeper seemed amused by the lack of tools or materials. Once again, he placed one hand over the break, the other referring to the book, and chanted the spell. He had to repeat the process for the leg as well, and by that point this was clearly taking a toll on him, but he finished it and turned the table upright again.

“You… Oh, goodness, you actually did it! No wonder you took over the tower, I didn’t know you were a wizard yourself, sir!” She ran her hands over where the split had been, impressed with the table. “I guess it makes sense, who else could tame a dragon like that?”

“Ah, well, Princess is… I mean… Yeah, she’s tame and all…” Tola chuckled as he caught himself from saying something he shouldn’t. “Really, though, she’s a sweetheart, magic or no magic.”

“Whatever you say. Well, I have to admit, a deal’s a deal. I’ll have your lunch and your coin out in a moment, have a seat.”

 

After lunch, we returned to the blacksmith’s shop, and Tola collected the collar he had received. Outside, he knelt down and held it out for me to inspect. I was still a little leery about the idea. “I don’t know… I mean, I guess pretending like this was my idea.”

“If you don’t want it, you don’t have to wear it. And I’ll take it off whenever you want me to, okay. I promise.” His hand stroked over my head and down my neck. I couldn’t help but purr softly, though I did try to make a grumble to cover it up.

“Yeah, I know. I… trust you.” Saying it out loud made it hit home in a way I didn’t expect. It was more true than I realized. I did trust him, and it felt good to have someone I could trust. The band was drawn around the base of my neck, threaded through the buckle, and set into place. The bell jingled as it settled into place, and I couldn’t help but blush under my scales. If Tola noticed, he didn’t say anything, but I also didn’t know how much showed through.

We started the walk home, and every step made my shoulders move, which made the bell chime lightly. That was going to take some getting used to. It also made the leather rub against my scales slightly, and the scent of fresh-cut leather was in my nose. Sure, that would fade, but in the mean time, it was a constant reminder. I chose to think of it as a reminder that I had a friend who was going to be here for me, and once I did that, I didn’t mind it at all.

Finally, as we were almost home, I broke the silence. “So, what was all that, with the table? You seemed like you were going to die of shyness after the hammer, but then you jumped at the chance to fix the table. You don’t have your eye on the lady, do you?” I chided.

“No, no, nothing like that. It’s just… I realized something. I might have a way to start bringing in coin to make our debt payments. If I study more of these books, and learn more about the workings of magic, I can solve more problems and do some good work in town. We can keep our new home and I don’t have to worry about the guard coming to ‘collect’ you.”

“Huh. Some kind of mage for hire? You’re going to need to be able to do more than mend broken furniture, though.” I couldn’t help but tease. The thought that he was doing this as a way to help me made me feel… I’m not sure. Guilty? He already feeds me every day, he lets me outside to do my business, he bought a collar and put it on me so people would stop questioning whether I was safe. He just never stops being so nice to me.

“And I have plenty of books to learn from. I’m sure it’ll work out. If not, then we can still make enough to keep buying food before we have to make a run for it.” He let his hand drift to my head, his fingers scritching at the base of my horn. I should never have let him know how good that spot felt, he always used it against me when I started getting like this.

The rest of the day passed the way they usually did, with him studying and me lazily sprawled out nearby. He offered to remove the collar once we were inside, but I told him I should get used to it so it won’t be a bother when I do have to wear it. After dinner, we went to the bedroom, him in the bed and me in my bedding.

 

I woke up in a cage. Not too surprising, I suppose. It’s always The Cage. Elimaio stood outside, bloody and torn as always. He raised his hand with the Control Rune, but I remembered I wasn’t wearing the shock collar anymore. The pink band around my neck was warm and safe, not metal and pain. The wizard scowled, but Tola appeared and waved him off, making him disappear, his form dissolving into smoke. The bars did as well, and my tail wagged as he knelt down to hug around my neck, while I pushed in against his chest.

When I woke up for real this time, I began to stretch, and realized that I felt… good. Better than I had in such a long time. I stepped over to the mirror and raised a paw to the bell hanging from my neck. Tola always took such good care of me… Maybe… it wouldn’t be so bad, being a pet? Would it be wrong to like things as they are now? Perhaps I’d find a way to help him, some way to return the kindness he’s shown me.

Days passed, and I grew used to thinking of Tola as my Owner. It gave me such a warm little glow to think of it. He’d be there to take care of me, and I’d do what I could in return. I didn’t say this out loud, but I think he knew something was going on, as I’d always make an excuse to leave the collar on. I was afraid if I took it off, the nightmares would be back, or we’d grow distant, or some other terrible thing would happen. Over time, I stopped trying to hide my reaction whenever Owner came home, or we’d otherwise been separated.

 

It was a couple of months now since I’d first worn the collar. It was a fairly easy routine, we’d visit the town about once a week for supplies. While there, Tola would talk to people and offer help, or just ask about the sorts of problems they faced. Once in a while, a villager would come to visit the tower, either because it was urgent or because they wanted it to be private. Sometimes it would be something Tola already knew how to do. More often, it would be something Tola would say he would have to look into. That meant going through the books and trying to find an applicable spell or alchemical formula. With each problem tackled, his expertise grew, allowing him to widen the set of books he could understand. Minor enchantments, weak potions, simple spells, those sorts of things. Slowly, these were getting better, but he was still just starting. After all, he’d never cast a single spell before learning how to mend things.

One morning, I was sleeping in, and Tola had left to make a trip to town. Had he asked, I would’ve gone with him. I was doing that on most trips now, and the townsfolk had gotten more used to the sight of me. Several would even give me pats on the head, and Shane would even offer me a small treat when we visited. It was a dry sort of cookie-like thing that tasted vaguely of meat and fat, and I think he mostly just did it to get on Owner’s good side so he’d buy more supplies. Either way, I woke up to an empty tower, and that made me feel a little sad. So I snuck out.

Perhaps it had been fate, or some kind of guidance from above, that guided me to do it. Maybe it was pure luck. Either way, as soon as I had managed to get the door open, I stretched my wings, gathered myself, made a running leap, and took to the sky. I had never been allowed to fly while I was held captive by Elimaio, so I was happy to take the chance when I could get it. My wings were large, but the rest of my body was pretty heavy, so I think there’s still some form of innate magic providing assistance. I don’t know the details, I’m not an expert on magic. Or even really on dragons. Maybe I should start asking Owner to study on it, if we still had any of the books that the mad wizard had been using for his experiments.

I glided along the path, but I found myself surprised by the sight about half an hour’s walk from town. Tola seemed to be talking to someone on the road, but I didn’t recognize him. I started circling, since new people would probably get a bit startled if I just dropped down. Neither had seemed to notice me, after all, but I was too far up to be able to tell what was going on.

That was, until the stranger pulled out a sword and started advancing on Owner. That caused me to descend real quick, diving in. It was still long enough that I saw him take a swing, Tola stumbling back to avoid it, but with his spellbook under his arm he didn’t have the same ability to balance himself as he would normally have. The man advanced and raised his sword for another swing, and I saw red on the blade. At that, I let out a roar, slamming into the assailant and sending him tumbling. My wings beat at the air to stall my movement, letting my paws touch onto the ground before they came to a stop, the wings half-spread as I made sure to keep myself between him and Owner. At the same time, he was getting back on his feet, looking up to see what had happened.

I guess he quickly decided facing an angry dragon wasn’t going to work out for him, as he turned and ran immediately. I took off after him and let out a blast of flame, but at this distance all it would do is singe his back. I would’ve chased him more, but I wasn’t going to leave Tola behind, so I stopped and turned around.

“Master! Are you all right? Where did he hurt you?” It took everything I had to keep from tackling him where he sat in the dirt, the smell of blood in the air, but all I could see was a line of red on his arm. Still, I made sure to sniff at his chest, a soft whimper in my throat.

“I’m fine, I’m fine. Though, I’m glad you showed up.” He pressed his hand against the cut, which was shallow enough that it wouldn’t need more than a bandage. “How long were you following me, though?”

“Oh, I just caught up to you a moment ago, I only stayed in the air because I didn’t want to upset someone that might be your friend. I’m guessing he wasn’t, though.” I nosed a little at his hand, feeling an urge to clean the cut as best I could. I could’ve pushed more, but I had to admit I’m not a medic, and didn’t know if it would actually help or if it might hurt more. Again, not an expert on the medicinal properties of dragon saliva.

“No, most definitely not a friend. He had been ‘passing through’ and heard about the ‘local mage’ who made stops in town and helped with problems. But when he learned that my actual knowledge of magic is pretty limited, he decided it was worth the risk. Maybe nobody thought to warn him about Princess, though.” He chuckled softly, and then gave me a look. “I have to ask. What do you mean, ‘Master’? Nobody’s around, you don’t have to pretend.”

It took me a while to realize what he meant, for me to replay the words I had spoken. At which point my face burned brightly, the blue scales likely taking enough of a purple hue to make one think I was part chameleon. “Oh! I, uhh… I mean– I didn’t– You… I…” I scrambled for something to say, anything, but nothing would come out, just the feeling I was digging myself deeper. With a whine, I pulled a wing over my head and hid, knowing I was going to have even more to explain, but I’d cross that bridge if I could find it.

A warm hand rested on my shoulder. My back hunched more, as if I could shrink into myself in embarrassment. “Hey, hey. It’s all right. I mean, I won’t say I expected it, but I’m not completely surprised by it. You’ve been acting a lot more comfortable lately, while I’ve known you. Less hesitant around me, less… How do I put it? Less like you’re trying to act like you’re too good to accept food from me. Well, not ‘too good’, just… Oh, I don’t know, but you’ve certainly seemed happier. And I’m happy to see it. If you’re happier with me being your owner, then I’m glad to be your owner.”

I know his words made sense, but I still felt so torn up inside. I still felt like I was placing even more burden on someone who had already taken on so much for my sake. I couldn’t help but sniffle, but I did at least start to pull my wing back, peeking out from under it, looking up into Master’s eyes. Tola’s eyes. No, no, it was already out there, might as well get used to not hiding it anymore. That smile broke through the shell I was trying to hide behind, and I couldn’t help but press in and bury my head against his chest.

“I saw the blade, and… and… I was afraid you were hurt, that I was going to lose you… I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think, I just… I wanted to attack, I wanted to hurt him, l-like I did to… Elimaio… I almost did that again to someone.” I hadn’t known where I was going with that sentence when I started, but then the words came out. It was true, even now part of me wanted to hunt him down and make him pay for threatening my Master, for making such a nice man feel pain or fear. Even now, there was a low growl in my chest just thinking about him, but it didn’t last long when I pictured the body of my last victim.

“Easy, now. Shhh. It’s okay. It’s okay, he’s gone, and I don’t think he’ll be trying it again. You did good, you chased him off. You saved the day, really.” His hands stroked along my neck and back, scritching at the base of my wings, holding me close. It was nice, pressing up against his warm body, and I couldn’t resist rubbing slightly against his chest, letting the tension slowly slip away and relax into him.

“I did… good?” It felt like no matter what I could’ve done, it never would’ve been enough.

“You did good. You’re a Good Girl. You’re a Good Pet, Princess. I’m happy you’ve chosen me as your Master.” He kept petting me, and holding me, as I sniffled and whimpered. And there we sat, I don’t know for how long. Nobody else ever came this direction unless they were looking to hire Tola’s services, so we had plenty of time to sit together.

Part of me felt guilty for feeling such a warm glow, every time I heard the words or replayed them in my head. But that just motivated me to keep being Good.

 

I guess this is the story of how I became a pet. I’m sure others would tell me I should have too much pride to accept something like this, but I’m happy with it. If anything, I’m proud to be a pet for my Master. Just thinking of putting a smile on his face makes my tail wag. So I’m going to be the best pet I can be, because Master deserves it.

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About the author

Typhin

Bio: Pivoting from "Programmer" to "Author" is such an unexpected turn of life. I have no idea if it's going to work out or not, but here we are.

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