I yelped and ducked just as a burst of flame shot across the field. There was a loud snort, then quiet. I took a deep breath and peaked over the boulder. Blue scales glimmered in the morning sun while yellow eyes glared balefully at me.
“Now, Indigo. I am only here to help. Gus said you have something stuck under one of your spines. Please be a darling and allow me to remove it.”
My voice was calm, but I was ready to run at the first sign of the dragon readying her fire. There weren’t many signs before flames would shoot out of her mouth. Usually the first sign was a deep inhalation, followed by a long pause. I stood and waited behind the meager shelter of my boulder.
Indigo flicked her tail and watched me. The yellow eyes looked more curious now instead of irritated; the pupils had dilated just a little. I decided to risk it. I stepped away from the boulder, then inched forward. Indigo huffed and turned around, presenting her back to me.
“Good girl. I see something under your third spine. Can you lower yourself so I can reach it? You are such a gorgeous gem, sparkling in the sun, and I am insignificant compared to you.”
Dragons loved flattery. They thought themselves the most amazing creatures in the universe and, while that was true, it made them extremely arrogant. The more I told her she was beautiful, the more she would cooperate.
Indigo gave a small, throaty purr of pleasure and stretched her neck out on the ground. Her great yellow eyes rolled back to watch me.
“Oh, intriguing Indigo, I am going to use these tweezers to pull out the splinter. It looks like a tree branch has lodged itself under your spike, that nasty thing.”
I held up the gleaming metal tweezers so she could see them. They were almost as long as my forearm with sharp, slanted tips. She nodded slightly, and I leaned in closer. The heat from her scales warmed my body, and the pungent animal smell was a cross of charred meat and something almost like fresh wheat. Spring was late coming to Antasia and, in case I needed to move quickly should my patient become irate, I only had on a light sweater over my tunic and leggings. Her body heat was welcome for the few moments it took me to pull the tree branch free.
“There, great one. I have a salve to use, to speed the healing process of your sensitive yet sensual skin. If I may?”
I dropped the tree branch, placing the tweezers in my bag and drawing out a large jar.
Indigo twisted around and sniffed at the jar, so I removed the lid for her. She inhaled deeply, and I tensed, ready to run. But then she snuffed at my hair and turned away. Taking that as permission, I stood on tiptoes and dipped three fingers in the jar. Scooping out a large glob of calendula, lavender, and buckthorn mixed in shea butter, I smeared it over her scales and under the spine, ensuring the balm coated the area where the stick had rubbed raw.
I felt Indigo sigh and patted her on neck, well away from the wound.
“There you go, my beautiful blue star. That should heal well for you. If it doesn’t, just tell Gus and I’ll come back.”
Slowly, I stepped back from her and waited until her enormous head turned towards me, then bowed.
“Thank you for allowing me to serve you.”
I swear at that moment Indigo rolled her eyes before suddenly stretching her wings and launching herself into the sky using her powerful hind legs. Clouds of dust rose from the sandy ground and covered me, making me cough.
“Oh, sure. ‘Be a veterinarian for dragons’ they said. ‘It will be fun,’ they said. Dealing with overgrown lizards with overgrown egos who can spit flame at me is not fun.”
“Are you sure?”
I spun around to see Gus standing a little way off, smiling at me.
“Being coated in dust while I make my the rest of my rounds is decidedly not fun.”
I started walking towards the road, and Gus fell in step beside me.
“Well, the dragons sure like you. Better than the last veterinarian we had. They flamed him the second day.”
I cringed at the thought of being roasted alive. It made me queasy, and I swallowed hard.
“Why didn’t you just take that tree branch out of Indigo’s spine? It was easy enough, and she likes you or she wouldn’t mind-talk to you.”
“Because she asked for you,” he shrugged.
I stopped walking and stared at him. “Why would she do that?”
“I told you, the dragons like you. You know how to talk to them. And you tell them what you’re going to do before you do it. That means they aren’t surprised or startled. Which means you don’t get fried.”
“Well, yes, but you are more than capable of taking care of minor injuries.”
“I know. Yet when one of those ‘overgrown lizards’ asks for a specific human, I obey. I prefer to stay raw, if you know what I mean.” He winked at me and then moved to the next clearing.
“Now, Carmine here has a strange gunk running from his nose,” Gus said as the huge red dragon came into view.
“You mean he has a cold?”
“Well, not exactly. Dragons shouldn’t get colds. At least from what they tell me.”
“Alright, I’ll see what I can do.”
I rubbed some grit from my left eye and pushed my hair back before stepping into the clearing.
“Hello, shining Carmine. I am Doctor Alisha. Gus tells me you have something bothering you. May I look at your nose?”
Featured image by Kellepics on Pixabay.