The rush of heat from the dragon’s breath of fire passed over Taliya’s back in less than two seconds.  Nevertheless, she waited another minute before moving just to make sure the dragon was done trying to kill her.  When she felt safe, she stood from her crouched position.  She couldn’t see the dragon anymore, but she could still hear him breathing.

“That was mean!  I’m sorry I stepped on your tail and all, but you were invisible.  How was I supposed to know your tail was in my way?”  Taliya wanted to reach out and touch the dragon, but she might not be able to duck fast enough if he decided to blow fire at her again.  Instead, she put her hands on her hips and continued her one-sided conversation.

“I know you’re still here.  I also know you don’t really want to hurt me or I wouldn’t still be here.”  Taliya ducked and waited for more fire to come her way.  When nothing happened, she stood tall, crossed her arms over her chest, and spoke with a confidence she didn’t feel.  “I came a long way today to meet a dragon.  I don’t want to hunt you or collect you or destroy you.  I just want to say hi and be your friend.  So you need to let me see you.”

She kept her arms crossed and stared at where she thought the dragon’s head should be.  Five minutes passed.  Ten.  Fifteen.  Her muscles wanted her to move, but her determination made her remain stationary.  She began to wonder if she was staring at air when the biggest creature she had ever seen appeared in front of her.

“Whoa.”  She found herself situated between a long white tail and a claw bigger than her entire body.  “You’re like a mini mountain, and you’re not even standing up.”  Taliya walked around the long dragon, marveling at its strong muscles and bright white skin, skin covered not with scales but with dozens of deep red scratches.

“You’re hurt,” Taliya said, approaching the dragon’s head.

The dragon offered a slight nod, and she could see the pain in his eyes.

“You must have just shed your scales.  I read that happens to dragons every ten years.  Some animals must have attacked you after you lost your scales.”

Another nod.

“If the books I’ve read about making medicine from plants is true, I think I can help you.  Will you let me?”

The dragon lowered his head and sniffed Taliya with nostrils that were as tall as her.  She must have passed his test because he snorted, laid his head on the ground, and slid his injured front leg toward her.

“Good.”  So much for returning home by dark when the city gates would open again to let in the supplies from Japheth.  “I’ll figure out how to heal these cuts, and I’ll stay with you to protect you until your scales grow back.”

The city gates would remain closed until next Saturday, anyway.  She just hoped she could survive until then.  If the dragon didn’t decide to eat her, would she be able to find food, water, and a safe place to sleep?

Rather than cower in fear, she smiled.  Life was finally becoming the grand adventure she had always wanted it to be.