Part 1 - Phoenix


    Don’t need the quiver anymore. I just need speed. If it’s here, I need to get to it before he gets to me. I want to look back, see just how small the dragon appears in this forest of massive, otherworldly trees. It would be the last thing I ever see. 
    This looks like the right path. It can’t be far now, probably at the top of that hill just a little ways off. I wonder if it’s still there, still suspended from the trees I didn’t believe would be able to support a temple’s worth of stone.
    He’s gaining, but the fire’s stopped. Well, it’s stopped coming from his mouth.
    This must be it, in the recess at the cusp of the ascent. Closer than I thought. Good news for sustaining a lack of severe lacerations.
    It’s stranger and more beautiful than I imagined. Massive blocks hewn from what appear to be local boulders floating in midair on rope, some of it as thick around as I. Pillars erected not of their own integrity, but of taut lines extending to the monstrous limbs nearby. A full roof of individual chunks of unimaginably massive stone. This is it.
    If the sanctuary is here, its legendary contents must be as well. That’s how I’ll win.
    There it is. It can’t be anything other than an egg: dark, solid, and floating in an odd, rust-colored powder. As I approach one of the pillars, I raise my already drawn sword, now a viable threat. One swift cut and everything crumbles, crashing down upon the egg, and possibly the dragon as well. I don’t have to wait long for him to thrust his head through the entrance.
    “The knowledge!” I’ve won.
    “You are of no threat to me.”
    “I cut this rope, everything falls down, right onto what may very well be the last egg of your kind.”
    His voice resonates in my chest, as if emanating from within my own body, “Must I repeat myself? That is not a threat to me.”
    False. The objective of every living being is to ensure the prosperous survival of its eventual offspring. “I thought dragons were perfect logicians. Do I have to explain things for you?”
    “Fool. Your effort is true, but has been in vain. The knowledge you seek has not been earned.”
    “The last of your kind. Your own blood. Your successor. Your legacy. I threaten the continuation of your very essence. How is that not threatening to you on an individual level?”
    “I will admit, you are vastly superior to most humans, but your persistence will be your downfall. I enjoyed the unexpected challenge, but you should now leave, as will I.”
    I drag my blade along the stony pillar; the scraping sound is undeniable. A threat.
    “It is a mystery to dragons why humans have survived so long. Often they prioritize insatiable curiosity over their own well-being. As you are doing now.”
    “Is that fear talking?”
    “Perhaps annoyance. I propose a compromise. I shall give you part of what was promised. In return, you and your kind leave this place forever.”
    “How defensive of you...as if of one's own child.”
    Of the few emotions dragons have been known to feel, rage was the most prominent. What was until now stoic and calculating turns into a glowing red cauldron of desperate action. The dragon lunges in my direction, but not quite at me. His jaws are open wide as he approaches the center of the sanctuary.
    He means to swallow the egg, granting it ultimate security. 
    The fire grows outside.
    I cut the rope as the rest of his body breaks open into the sanctuary, doing just as much damage as I am with one swift motion. I quickly make my way to the side exit I eyed before placing myself in the interior. Snaps and crashes rapidly ensue. They don’t stop for a while.



    Nothing moves but the fire.
    I call out, “The knowledge!” I wait.
    Still nothing. The roof lies like a grid of destructive rock across what was once the sanctuary floor, with a bulge that rises from the center. I see what is likely a horn among the rubble.
    As I climb on top of my own devastational doing, I confirm it is the dragon’s head, seemingly lifeless. Finding my way down a crack, I approach the jaw of the beast, which is thoroughly pressed shut. His teeth are exposed, so I go about chopping off the ones blocking my line of sight to where the egg must now be. If nothing else, this should confirm life or death.
    Five teeth in and still no movement. The beautifully and randomly lined steel of my sword shows little wear from its otherwise exhaustively taxing task. I think I just killed a dragon. 
    Two or three teeth more and I should be able to reach in and feel around. I should’ve started closer to the neck.
    That’s it. It’s in here. If I cut off a couple more teeth, I should be able to get both arms in and yank it out. Sooner would be better than later; cutting dragon teeth is no easy feat.
    This is it. I’ve got both hands on it now, but it won’t budge. The cracks exposed to the outside grow ever more luminous.
    But the sun is setting.
    I need to hurry.
    I grab the egg one last time, placing both my feet on the side of the dragon’s jaw. I pull and push at once with all my strength, and out the egg comes, sending me flying into the block behind me.
    I get up. I left my scabbard when on the run, so if I want my sword I’ll have to carry it out by hand. That or the egg.
    Last I heard, there aren’t many dragon eggs in town; the sword stays on the floor.
    As I rise from the rubble and ruins, I look down upon the egg, my first real good look at it.
    That’s odd. Was that crack there before?