Jacob had lived so long in the darkness with the Dragon Imelda that he thought nothing of the slightly sulfurous, fishy scent that accompanied her.
This was a home he accepted as he accepted the drip, drip, drip of distant water and the gentle drift of filtered light from somewhere far above.
His days were spent in pursuit of his studies. He was a maker of maps, routes of travel, measuring the darkness, the distance between here and there. Although he didn’t know where there was, and he didn’t yet know why he needed to know how to go.
When Jacob was a child, the Dragon Imelda began bedtime stories with, “Once upon a time, a lost prince…”
One night he asked, “Am I the prince?”
“You are the treasure,” she said.
He leaned his warm forehead against her cool, gray shoulder and with his finger traced a winding path along her varied scales.
Bending towards him she said, “You are my treasure, to protect and keep safe.”
“In the story,” he asked, “do I die?” He could feel her hot breath on his neck.
“No,” she said, “I do.”