Chapter 3 “What did you do with the medallion,” growled the dragon disgustedly, “leave it in a box somewhere?” Flushing guiltily, Micah ran his hand through his dark brown hair and didn’t answer. “You didn’t, did you?” exclaimed the dragon incredulously. Another small jet of fire blew out of its nostrils. Not waiting for his response, its growling voice rose several octaves. “Weren’t you told by your father to wear it at all times? Weren’t you told that you had a duty and an obligation to the people of this land? That you could be called at any time to fulfill that duty?” Again Micah flushed, this time anger darkened his cheeks. “How dare you talk to me this way!” Waving his hand around at the room he met the dragon glare for glare. “None of this is real! This is all a dream. Dragons don’t exist! Illanor is a place of make believe, a fairy tale made up by my deranged father before he was institutionalized.” The lines around the dragon’s mouth drew upwards. It was hard to tell because of its long teeth, but it looked as if it was smiling. “A dream?” answered the dragon sardonically, echoing his words. Moving its horned head about indicating their surroundings, it continued, “None of this is real? I am nothing but a figment of your imagination? A child’s storytale made up for you by Benjamin?” Micah thought the beast sounded offended. Momentarily, something unrecognizable gleamed in the dragon’s eyes and that’s all it was. Before he could blink the dragon’s head shot forward in a blur of red and seized him. Long teeth clamped down over his body. Micah screamed in terror as giant beast tossed its head sideways and he was flying through the air towards one of its chained clawed feet. He tried, as he had been taught, to roll with the impact, but didn’t succeed. Air exploded out his lungs as he landed on the stone floor. Fear overwhelmed him and his heart leapt up into his throat as he tried scrambling away, but a bone white talon caught him by the legs and knocked his feet out from under him. Angry eyes pierced him as the same talon rolled him over like a puppy in his master’s hand and pinned his chest to the stone. Staring at its giant claw, Micah, his heart still racing, suddenly realized he wasn’t waking up. You’re supposed to wake up when you were about to die in a dream. The thought was fleeting and flew out of his head as the dragon moved. Growling, it deftly moved its long talon down his chest. Dismayed, Micah watched in fascinated terror as it popped the buttons from his shirt. Placing its claw against his bare skin, eyes ablaze with indignation the dragon snarled malevolently, “I am no dream dragon rider! And this is no fairy tale created by Benjamin.” Hot, fetid breath washed over his face and it was all Micah could do to keep from crying out. Suddenly the dragon’s eye pulsed. A bright red glow flared around the stone and the dragon drew back in shock. Eyes wide, it released him and slowly backed away. “Even though I would like to kill you Man of the blood, it seems I am not permitted.” Glaring angrily at the stone it said, “But, I also don’t have to help you. Get out! Leave! You’re a disgrace to your father and the other riders who came before you. The sight of you disgusts me!” Twice Micah had heard the name and trying to pull the tattered remains of his shirt back over his exposed chest he asked, scrambling backwards away from the dragon's angry visage. “How do you know my father?” The dragon stopped as if he had struck it. Head wheeling back around, eyes wide with surprise it asked, “You don’t know? He didn’t tell you?” “Tell me what?” demanded Micah, not entirely sure what he was asking for. The dragon examined him its yellow eyes looked as if it was trying to see a lie in his words. Finally the dragon gave a harsh bark of laughter, “Your father was the last rider to his duty when needed.” Its expression changed to scorn, “Unlike some, he answered the call when duty required him.” Gaping incredulously, he blurted before he could stop himself, “My father has been here?” Thinking back to his childhood, he remembered how vividly his father had described his stories. Micah realized before the dragon answered that it was telling the truth. Changing the subject, the dragon shot him an appraising look, “Have you ever even held a sword Man of the blood?” The skeptical expression that it fixed on him showed that it thought it already knew the answer. “Can you defend yourself? Do you have any skills that might make you useful to the people of Allyrss?” Micah thought back to the hapkido lessons he had had as a teenager. Then he had been proficient with a sword but that had been years ago. Now he was better with a baton, thanks to his police training. Still, he had never used the thing and couldn’t remember the last time he had stepped into the ring. “Not since I was a young man to the first question, and some to the second,” he answered, hoping the dragon didn’t detect the doubt in his voice. “Why would I need to protect myself?” “Didn’t you hear me? Like myself, the rest of Illanor, the riders, the people, and the dragons along with the Griega would like to see you dead?” The dragon rolled its eyes and looked at him as if he was being deliberately dense. “Damn humans, you never listen to anything unless you’re frightened half to death or unless it is screamed at you.” Micah shook his head, “I heard what you said damn it, but what I meant was why me?” “The dragon’s eye,” answered the dragon, pointing with a long talon at the medallion clasped in his hand, “is what the Griega seek. As for the rest of us, we just want you dead because you didn’t come to stop them.” Why? What’s so important about the eye that it would cause such death and destruction?” The dragon eyed him as if he were an ignorant child who should already know, but answered anyway. “Benjamin should have told you. The dragon’s eye is one of three parts of the one object. The eye, the tooth and the claw, only those three together can open the heart.” Seeing Micah’s confused look the dragon let out a long heavy sigh. “Sit in the corner, this might take a while.” Micah did as he was told and listened without having to be screamed at.