The Dragon and the Elf-Blade
What if the fey were just fantasy cartoons? A dragon and an adventurer get turned into "fey" versions of themselves. Mature.
With each great footstep beat the heart of the mountain. With each fiery breath its treasures glimmered like stars. Scarce light filtered through the slits cut into the vaulted stone roof while the vast cavern turned every sound into an echoing chorus. Aluin huddled behind a gilded longship half-sunk beneath the dragon's hoard. One hand lay over her mouth and the other across her chest, as if to still her breath and stop her heart.
The dragon's voice cracked the dry air. "Trespasser! My flame has killed noble warriors—you should be honored to join their kind. Now show yourself, and I will be merciful."
The floor shuddered. The goblets and diadems beneath her began to slip away and rob Aluin of her footing. Clinging to the hull of the boat, she fought to stay above the tide of riches. The thundering footsteps were terribly close now. A gasp died in her throat as a claw as big as her head came to rest on the boat just above her. Silver and gold spilled across her shoulders like sand.
The shower of coins woke the elf-blade bound to her belt. It began to quiver and clatter, as if sensing danger and eager to be used. Scowling, she clutched it tightly by its hilt. She knew not what magic was worked into its blade; she had not yet needed to unsheathe it.
"My treasure is mine by right," the dragon said. He lifted his claw and beat his wings, rising into the air. "None can lay claim to a single coin of it. I am the King Beneath the Mountain. I am black smoke and the coming night. I am death and the ruin of cities." With a mighty crash, he landed in front of Aluin wings outstretched, fire brewing between his fangs. "I am Glaud!"
Gilt timbers groaned. The longboat listed to the side and spilled over. Aluin scrambled out from underneath it to keep from being drowned beneath a sea of silver. Now she stood face-to-face with the dragon. His scales were the color of porphyry, or dried blood, stretched taut across the sinewy frame of some great beast or tyger. Fangs filled his narrow snout and goat-like horns curled back from his head. His eyes gleamed yellow-green like tarnished gold.
She said, "I am Aluin." Where the courage to speak came from she could not guess. The elf-blade bucked and jostled at her side like an over-eager hound. "I come in search of a stone which belonged to my family generations ago, a sign—"
"You are a thief," Glaud snarled.
Aluin wrested the sword from its sheath. Its hilt was red and its blade blue, both blazing so bright it seemed as if they shone with their own light. From the hilt toward the tip, it thickened so much that she could not say how it had fit in its sheath. A shiver ran down her back and the sword wobbled along its length.
"I will not leave this mountain without that stone," she said.
Glaud's lips peeled in a beastly grin. "Then you will never leave."
The dragon lashed forward like a flood. Striking out with his claws, he brought his whole hand down on top of her. Aluin had no time to run. She held the sword in both hands and thrust it above her head. It met his blow, though the force locked her shoulders and drove her to her knees. She thought she would collapse, that the dragon's claw would crush her, but instead it had come to a halt.
A soft hiss issued from up above her, like air blown through pursed lips.
"My scales turn aside spear and flame alike. Do you think some mere blade..." Glaud bore more of his weight down against his hand, but found it stuck in place. His snout twisted into a sneer as he pulled his claw back. Aluin tumbled to her hands and knees, dropping the sword. Peering closely at his palm through narrowed eyes, he saw a hole. No blood, not a wound, just a tiny pinprick hole.
Glaud's palm poofed out into a plush pad, flinging open his clenched claws. He snarled in disbelief and slammed his hand down against the ground again. Though his shoulders strained and flexed, no pressure could stem the swelling, nor could he stop the pop-pop-pop! as his fingers bloated out round and pudgy. His claws were so stubby as to be useless. On top of all this, where his scales were stretched taut by his inflated paw, they had turned an unnaturally bright purple.
Aluin tore her eyes away from the dragon's claws, scrambled to her feet, and picked up the sword. Her first thought was to sheathe it and run, but it refused to be squeezed back down. It had been drawn, and it wanted to be used.
Glaud spewed a blast of fire from his mouth and bellowed, "What is this?"
Aluin scrambled across the waves of gold and silver, sword in hand. Not too far away was the wall, and a stair leading upwards that might give her some cover from the dragon's fury.
With each step Glaud took on his swollen paw, it let out an almost musical wheeze. Unable to dig its claws into his hoard, it slipped across the surface and forced him to move in clumsy, lop-sided bounds. The fleeing human was within his reach. His jaws stretched open to snatch her up but—FWUMP. His other hand burst into a plump paw and skidded out from under him. His chin barreled into the ground and instead of snapping up his quarry, his fangs bit down on his tongue..
Aluin had climbed hands and feet up the first flight of stairs. She looked behind her, back at the sea of gold and silver. The dragon was splayed out on the floor; his long tongue dangled limp from one side of his snout. She let out a laugh of disbelief. All at once her sword arm thrummed and shot out straight, and fat blue sparkles danced along the elf-blade's edge.
"Vermin," Glaud rumbled, swollen tongue flopping against his jaw. His wings beat and lifted his body off the floor. "Worm. I will thhh-corch the meat from your boneth." Fire glowed between his scales as his chest bellowed outward. He reared back, maw open wide, then let out a great, sooty cough.
He slumped and clutched the stairs with one paw and thumped his chest with the other, but only smoke tumbled out. Instead of traveling up his throat, the flame squeezed downward until it dropped into his stomach. A sound like hot iron plunged into water reached his ears. Then his belly began to bloat. Outward it swelled, round and taut, while he wheezed and coughed to try to drive the fire from his body. Color like molten gold emerged from beneath his taut scales. The weight of his bulging belly dragged him from the air, and he landed so heavily that the columns of the mountain hall shook.
Aluin reached the top of the stair and followed its path out onto a causeway, stretching along one side of the hall several stories above the dragon's hoard. The stone floor leapt out from underneath her and she tumbled to the ground. Moments later, she heard the thunder of the dragon's footsteps—and then his head emerged, poking above the causeway, clutching its edge with one thick paw.
The sheer size of Glaud's belly kept his front legs from reaching the ground, so he was forced up onto his hind legs, with his thighs straddling the great groaning dome of his stomach. With each step, its weight lolled from side to side. He moved less like a fearsome predator and more like a lumbering beast. Rage shone in his eyes and smoke blew from his nostrils. Paw over paw, he dragged himself toward Aluin.
"No blade nor thpell can penetrate my hide. I am invinthhh-ible. But you..."
A great shadow descended over Aluin and his paw snatched her up. Purple scales squeezed her on all sides, like thick downy pillows wrapped in leather. Her arms were bound against her chest. Her fist still clutched the red hilt of the sword, which had gone soft and floppy against her body.
Glaud lifted her up to his snout. Though his inflated fingers crushed as hard as they could, she seemed unharmed. Her entire body was only as large as his head. He sneered and blew thick smoke over her face. "What weapon do you wield that can thtrike a blow againtht me?"
With a twist of her shoulders, she bought enough space to move her arm and drag free the sword. "This!" she said. She held the bright blue blade aloft for a moment as it snapped out straight and stiff, then drove it down into Glaud's snout. It bounced off his scales with a plink!
"Yeoww!" Glaud bellowed, as if she had struck some painful blow. He clasped his paw over his snout.
Aluin dropped from his grip, bounced off the top of his belly, skidded down its side, and tumbled onto the dragon's hoard.
Beneath Glaud's paw, the tip of his snout bulged bigger with every breath. Rounder too, creeping further and further into the corners of his vision. It squished beneath his claws when he grasped at it, but flumped back out to its full size—larger, even!—when he let go. It wobbled and jiggled as he moved. Bright purple crawled up the scales of his cheeks while burnished gold crept down his chin.
Glaud reared back in confusion. "No-nuh-nnhhaachoo!" His horns twirled into wild corkscrew spirals as they bulged out stouter at the base. Another sneeze struck him like a thunderclap. He tried to stifle it in his paw but his cheeks thwumped out round and fat. "Aah-CHOO!" His head slung forward, his shoulders shot back, and his neck stretched three times its natural length.
His eyes spun as they stretched wider, no longer predatory but bright and expressive. He shook his head, but his snout wobbled back and forth until he clutched it and held it still. Stubbornly dangling from his mouth, his tongue had turned broad and pink.
Aluin had wrested herself to her feet. She now stood, gripping with both hands the hilt of her sword. She had steeled herself to defend against another blow, but seeing the dragon stumbling and struggling with his own body, she relaxed her shoulders and let a laugh fall from her lips. The elf-blade snapped up straight with a boing! and the hair on her arms stood on end.
Glaud stared down at her, and the sword in her hands. "That thord wath forged by the fey," he rumbled. His voice, which had sounded like so much storm and fire, now seemed almost soft. "Do you have any idea how dangerouth fey magic ith?"
"Dangerous enough to best a dragon," Aluin said.
Glaud narrowed his eyes and tried to snarl, but it looked more like a sullen pout. As he took slow, thudding steps, golden-yellow spots blossomed on his cheeks and flanks. "You think yourthelf thafe?" he lisped, flickering his tongue towards her. "You cannot thtop me. I am the King Beneath the Mountain. I am—nngh!"
He toppled forward and landed on his thick paws. His tail lashed behind him. Vibrant purple spread up from its base as it grew plump and taut. He clenched his paws. Coins ran in rivulets between his claws. His eyes crossed, and drool dripped from his tongue as a deep, straining groan squeezed out of his throat.
Glaud curled his long neck over his shoulder. Aluin peered above the mounds of treasure. Both laid eyes on an purple-spotted egg, sitting on the ground underneath the dragon's belly. There was silence. Glaud's cheeks flushed a deeper shade of purple. Aluin stifled a snort, but let free the laughter that followed. The fey sword crackled eagerly in her hand.
"Thtop!" he snapped, but his voice could no longer crack the air like a whip. "I am black thmoke and the coming nngh...night!" Pop, clunk. Another egg. Riches clattered beneath his feet as he staggered and swayed. "I am dhh-death and the rruh-ruin of thh-ungh." Three more eggs clacked their shells against one another as they settled onto the ground. The dragon's knees buckled. His dwindling wings flapped frantically, but could no longer keep him up. He tumbled forward and crashed to the ground. "Nngh, pleathe, thtop...I'm a theriouth dragon," he whined meekly, while his dizzy eyes fluttered.
Aluin raised the gleaming point of the elf-blade to meet the dragon's gaze. "I think you're much more agreeable like this," she said.
Rings of yellow-green washed across Glaud's eyes while he stared into the sword. Fey magic squeezed its way into his mind, bloating his thoughts up as big and round and ridiculous as his belly. He wriggled and thrashed and began to snicker. Great, heaving snorts and giggles rocked his swollen body. His eyes spun wildly in their sockets. The grin curled across his cheeks was far more dopey than bestial. "Hee hee—do you even know what you're do-hoo-hoo-ing?" he chuckled
"Of course I do," Aluin lied.
Glaud poked his snout a little closer. "Then why don'cha let go of that thord?"
Aluin tried to loosen her fingers, but they wouldn't let go. Her eyes dropped from the dragon in front of her to the hilt of the sword, and her hands locked tight around it. Her leather gloves ballooned out with a sharp clang! into thick-jointed gauntlets, made of blue steel as bright and unreal as the elf-blade itself. Clunk, clunk—the sleeves of her coat burst into bulky armguards, curled and jagged like a dragon's scales.
"What is this?" she gasped, then glared up at Glaud. "Are you doing this to me?"
With a fit of giggles, Glaud heaved himself over onto his back and let his huge belly slosh out from underneath him. All the fury was fizzling out of him and leaving him heavy and lazy. "It'th your thord. Don't you know how to wield it? Hee-hee."
The shoulders of her coat thunked out into thorny pauldrons, yanking what remained of her sleeves off of her arms. A sinewy sound like straining leather met her ears as her bare biceps bulged and flexed. Down at her feet her boots stretched upward, hugging her calves and climbing toward her knees. With a clink they gave way to blue fey steel and vaulted her up several inches to leave her balanced on her tip-toes.
Aluin cried out, "Make this stop!"
"Make it thtop yourthelf, oh great Mithtreth of the Blade." Glaud folded his paws behind his head, as if settling in to watch the show.
Fey magic curled across her torso as if seeking a circuit through her body. As it passed, her shoulders swelled and spread wider; her back rippled with new strength; her chest swelled outward. At last, it seemed to connect, to swirl from one arm to the other. Her coat split down the middle, baring her skin all the way from her chest down past her navel. Her coat had become little more than sculpted strips of fey-steel, clinging to the undersides of her breasts, wrapping around her hips, and dipping between her thighs to preserve her modesty.
Aluin stared down at her body. Vertigo washed down her back; she realized she was more than a foot and a half taller than she had been. It was as though she was floating, and would fall any moment. "What is—" Gloosh! Her back arched. Her breasts billowed outward until the fey-armor strained to hold them in; her thighs puffed out, exaggerating her figure; her lips bloated into a tight pout.
Rich purple smoke trailed out of Glaud's snout. "You look pretty all fey'd up," he said, then snickered. "Hee hee—I mean, for a human."
Tendrils of fey magic wisped up beneath Aluin's face. Her jaw hardened, her nose shrank, her cheekbones rose—where the magic touched, her features became more clear and defined, even exaggerated. Her hair spilled down her cheeks and across her shoulders: longer, more voluminous, and so thick and fluffy it was almost unreal.
Color blossomed across her face. Her black locks softened to chestnut brown, then fierce red, then grew even brighter still until it was the same blazing crimson as the hilt of her sword. Rich red gloss rose across her lips and her hazel eyes swirled into deep blue.
Her rich lashes batted as her eyes rolled back into her head. Her broad shoulders slumped and her fingers slackened around the sword. A groan left her lips. She took a staggering step back, then raised a hand to her face, cradling her cheek against the gauntlet for a few moments before the reality of what had happened met her mind once more.
"By the gods!" she gasped. Her voice was bold and heavy and rang in her chest as she spoke. Her eyes snapped open, larger than they had been. "What is this?"
"What do ya think, thilly?" Glaud said, sloshing himself over to rest his chin on one of his fat paws. "You can't go thwinging around fey magic without getting a bit on yourthelf too. Hee hee hee! I think it lookth good on you, but what do I know? I'm jutht a big goofy fey dragon." He stuck out his pink tongue and blew a ring of smoke her way.
Aluin set her jaw and pursed her lips while her heart thundered away inside her chest. She tried to focus on what she had come here to do: to reclaim her family's heirloom from the dragon's hoard. But her thoughts were running wild—there were so many monsters to vanquish and lost treasures to recover and imprisoned princes to rescue. So many quests. No, that wasn't her; she wasn't a hero. But then how many times on her journey to the mountain had she wished she was?
Glaud teased, "Thomething on your mind?"
"Quiet, dragon." Now it was her voice that struck like a whip. Glaud's jaw snapped shut. He shrunk away from her and a rich blush rose to his cheeks.
Piece by piece, Aluin recognized her own desires in her new body, grown and exaggerated to outlandish size. She tried to be brave and strong and stoic, and now she was. She had not become someone else, only a magnified version of herself. All the new-found strength and courage and power coursing through her body was her own. Unconsciously, she began to puff out her chest. With such might at her command, how could she refuse to be the hero she was always meant to be?
Blazing with unearthly color, she let the fey magic flow through her. She held her sword aloft and declared, "I am Gladia, Mistress of the Blade!"
Glaud clapped his paws together. "Hee hee, came up with that one all by yourthelf, huh?"
"And you," she said, striding forward across the hoard, "are my cowardly companion Fizzle."
Pouting, he lifted his head and folded his arms underneath him. "Thez who?"
Aluin-now-Gladia reached up and snatched him by the scales underneath his chin. One firm tug brought him down to her, snout-to-face, and the fierceness of her gaze made Glaud squirm and his cheeks grow hot. "I do," she said. "Now make yourself a more suitable size for me, Fizzle."
Two puffs of pink smoke drifted up from Fizzle's nostrils. "Y-yeth ma'am," he said. With a wiggle of his fingers, sparks of Technicolor magic whirled about him. Fwoomp-thump-fwump, his body shrunk bit by bit, leaving his tail dangling in the air for a moment before he plummeted to the ground. Even shrunken down, he was still as big as three horses, and his tail alone counted for at least one of them.
Gladia patted him on the side of his big snout. "That's more like it."
Fizzle grinned shyly and giggled. The churning feeling he got in his belly whenever he looked at her felt strange and queasy, but pleasant as well. After hundreds of years living on his own, feeling adoration, maybe even affection, for someone else felt almost alien. Especially toward a human—but as they were both fey-touched now, that was not so much of a barrier any more
Arms held close to his chest, he tapped two of his claws together anxiously, then slurped his tongue back behind his teeth, to try to look more presentable. As soon as he began to speak, it slithered back out. "Uh, mith—Gladia? I meant what I thaid about you looking pretty and I jutht wondered if, um..."
Fizzle was so anxious he felt like he might pop out another egg. With his paws clasped together, he stretched his neck, leaned in closer, and just as Gladia turned to look at him, pressed his lips against hers.
For a moment, they stared at each other, both equally surprised. Then Gladia's eyes slid shut. Her hand wrapped around one of Fizzle's horns and she tugged hard enough to make him snort in surprise. When she pulled back and let go, the pink smoke wafting from her lips matched the splash of pink on her cheeks.
She coughed, then smiled bashfully. The thought of his round belly lingered in her mind. "Fizzle, this is no time to be silly. We have a gemstone to find!" She reached up and clapped Fizzle on the shoulder, then swung her entire body up onto his back and wrapped her thighs around the base of his neck. "To the air, War-Drake!"
Fizzle didn't have a chance to ask what she was talking about before a surge of purple flame burst from his mouth. All the weight of his belly shot up into his chest and arms and wings and he fell to all fours. His paws slammed into the ground, popping as his claws grew long and sharp once more. His wings stretched from side to side and grew their full size again. He flapped them, then took a running start and leapt into the air. Though War-Drake looked more like his natural form, it still bore the telltale touch of fey magic, from his exaggerated snout and paws to the unreal purple-and-gold of his scales.
From her perch on War-Drake's neck, Gladia gazed down at the hoard below. Her keen blue eyes searched for a glimpse of her family's heirloom. Once it was returned, there would be a whole world of quests just waiting for a heroine and her dragon. And come to think of it, the mountain lair would make a fine keep with a little bit of cleaning and a splash of color. The fey sword clattered eagerly against her waist; she wondered if its magic might work on stone as well.
"Ah! To the left," she called out. War-Drake banked and beat his wings to land gently on the ground. By the time Gladia had hopped off his back, Fizzle was rising back up on his hind legs, holding his dizzy head in one hand and his sagging belly in the other.
Clutching a ruddy garnet engraved with a crest, Gladia called out, "Found it!" She rose back to her feet, strutting proudly back over to Fizzle, then paused as she looked down at her bare hips. "Hm. Hold onto this for me," she said, grabbing one of his belly scales and pulling it open like a pouch, then stuffing the gemstone inside and letting it snap shut.
"Wh—hey!" Fizzle whined, rubbing his stomach He hadn't even realized he had a pouch.
"Come, Fizzle!" Gladia said, already marching off toward the entryway of the great hall. "There are beasts to vanquish, foes to fight, maidens to save!"
Puffing and huffing, dragging along his heavy belly, Fizzle jogged after her and called out, "Hold on! I'm—hff hff—not as fast as you!"