The Ruby River

"Oikes!" the dragon spat. "I knocked 'em over with a blown kiss!"

Fortunately, Brandon had not injured himself. And unfortunately, this had been due to the fact that he'd landed on Roary. Before Brandon had fainted, he'd seen a dragon bearing down on him. When he awoke, he saw a very irate dog bearing down on him. He managed to handle the dog all very well.

"I'm terribly sorry," he protested, trying to sit up.

"Sorry?" asked Roary. "You just landed on me! Even more reason for me to point out your big belly! Gives me rights to a few insults here and there, I do say."

"Now, now, ya wee little mammal," the dragon said, bobbing its head to the side like an emu. "Leave 'em alone. 'Twas a simple reflex; playin' dead, eh!"

Brandon froze in the middle of getting up. The rich voice of the dragon was reminding him of why he'd fainted in the first place. He slowly looked up.

"No use fainting again. You're already on the floor," Roary muttered, slinking away into the corner.

"You're a dragon," Brandon announced.

"Well if you're just noticin' that now, then how come ya fainted the first time?" roared the dragon. Then he swung his head up and shook his neck with a laugh. Brandon stared.

"And I'm not just any dragon. I'm a Quickluck Dragon."

"With an attitude," murmured Alistair.

Brandon nodded his head slowly, reluctant to accept such a concept so soon. "Right, but you're still a dragon."

"Yar," the dragon said. "And ain't you a human?"

"Yes," Brandon said. He was quite pleased to answer such an easy question.

The dragon bobbed its head again and then burped.

Brandon took a step back.

"'Scuse me," the dragon commented. "That didn't smell so good and I like the taste of raw sheep. Wonder what you must think..."

Brandon couldn't rightly answer on the account that he was holding his breath.

"Well since you've gone all backwards and gotten yourself young, I s'pose you don't know what to say when ya see me," the dragon commented. "I mean you could just flap your mouth a bit. But I'd prefer it if you called me Clover."

"Clover?" Brandon said hesitantly. "And can you breathe fire?"

The dragon's eyes went from green to red in a heart beat and he barred his teeth with a sudden burst of rage. Alistair jumped nimbly forward, and threw his arms up in front of the dragon. Brandon stumbled backwards out of fear and almost toppled over again onto Roary, but Tiffy caught him with a light yelp.

"Forgive him Clover!" cried Alistair. "He is your lord and king, even now in his ignorance!"

Clover simmered down, his eyes dropping a few shades back into green, and then closing altogether.

Alistair turned back to Brandon, who was as stiff as a board, leaning against Tiffy, who was struggling to push him upright once more. Alistair cleared his throat and Brandon jumped to attention.

"You have discovered the frightening way what terrors the Kingdom of Igladia faces. Clover's reaction to your ignorant question was one of true passion. You see, it is fire that is ruining the Kingdom! The dragons discovered what they thought was an elixir. But instead, it makes them angry and heated, they lose their judgment, and then they start to spew flames. It can happen to any dragon. Once they first taste the Liquid of the Ruby River, there is no going back...except for Clover. He is the only dragon to have ever drank from the Ruby River only once."

Brandon frowned. "Sounds like boos to me," he said.

Alistair frowned. "What?" he asked.

"This Ruby River...have you been there?"

"It is guarded by a hoard of dragons."

"Drunk dragons right?"

Alistair again looked confused. "Do you know something of this powerful curse?"

Brandon made a face. "I might," he said.

Alistair gave him a smile. "I knew you were capable of saving the Kingdom. Even in your youth, you are full of a knowledge I do not possess."

"Well," Brandon said. "Sometimes it's not as fine as all that. But we will soon come to the bottom of it."

"Indeed," said Alistair. "Indeed."

The End

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