The Dragon King’s Medic (pt. 6)

I hope no one expects me to be able to find my way back, thought Mario as he stole a wary glance over his shoulder, because I won’t be able to. 

The palatial labyrinth of massive menacing double doors gradually gave way to passages of smaller and less elaborate doorways. Normal sized doors, by Mario’s standards. People doors. Where there were ‘people doors’, hopefully there would also be ‘people’. 

They came upon a particularly plain wooden door against which Helias raised a silver fist, pounding on it. 

“Perhaps if you wait longer than you normally do,” said Cayn, “and give Nathan a chance to—Helias!” 

Without waiting for a reply, Helias threw open the door, grinning, and ducked inside. “Hello in the den!” he cried jovially. “Nathan, show your face, you scamp!” 

Mario followed on Helias’ heels and Cayn trailed them both, shutting the door behind them while hissing disapprovingly. Mario was curious and wanted to look around but Cayn recalled him to remove the ponderous shackles dragging down his wrists. He murmured apologies repeatedly for the discomfort the restraints had undoubtedly caused which he then hung on a metal ring on his his thick leather belt as if they weighed nothing.

“Rude,” Cayn snapped, shooting a glare toward Helias who ignored him. 

Once Helias moved aside, Mario was able to glance about a large common area of human-sized tables, chairs, and shelves of books and trinkets which formed a cozy sitting area, completed by soft bluish rugs and framed abstract art. Everything was wood, beige, and powder blue. Gas lamps illuminated the space. A myriad of well-placed mirrors amplified the lamps’ rays, beaming brightly on the floors, ceilings, and walls, but never in Mario’s face.  

A human with dark hair peeked out from one of many doors leading from the common area. The layout reminded Mario of bedrooms in a university dormitory.  

The human stepped out. “You’re here already?” He was a man in his early forties, wearing old time-y garb much like the giant dragon people. He set something down noisily just out of sight and hurried over to meet them. “I thought the hearing wasn’t until later this evening,” he said with a question in his upturned face. 

Cayn lowered his eyes and Helias’ jaw clenched grimly. 

Hands on his hips, the man sighed. “The art of subtlety is clearly lost on the golds. I think they have trouble grasping the ‘secret’ in ‘secret subversion plot’ because they’ve become so disgustingly obvious—.” His dark eyes met Mario’s. “Well, hello there! My name is Nathan.” He eagerly outstretched a hand. “And what might your name be?” 

Marion was taken aback by his overwhelming enthusiasm. “Mario,” he murmured as they shook hands. 

While Mario was thrilled to meet someone nice and human, there was something about Nathan that unsettled him. He couldn’t put his finger on it.  

“Good to meet you, Mario. I apologize for the circumstances. Unfortunately much of what’s happening is beyond the control of an ordinary person—sometimes it’s even beyond the scope of the king, depending upon the occassion.” 

Nathan spoke English fluently but didn’t have an American accent.

Mario stiffened as he realized what bothered him. He realized that Nathan could easily have been someone he crossed paths with on any day of a normal week of his life. Everything about him—his word choices, mannerisms, body language, even his haircut—screamed this. Nathan felt like a real person from a real place where Mario had once been. A real person. But Nathan couldn’t be, because if he was, then it was possible that everything that was happening wasn’t a dream and that would be… that would be… insane.

The idea struck Mario with more anxiety than he was prepared for. His mouth had gone dry. “Where are you from?” Somehow, he didn’t want to know the answer. “I can’t place your accent.” 

“I’m…” Nathan glanced up at the dragons. 

Helias huffed with disappointment, turning. “I’ll be leaving then…” Cayn had moved to fetch a large metal chair from the corner—the only dragon-sized piece of furniture in the common area—but Helias grabbed his elbow before he reached it. “…And Cayn’s coming with me.” 

“I am?” said Cayn with surprise as he was towed out through the small door. 

Once they were alone, Nathan smiled strangely before answering. “I was born in New Zealand and moved with my family to the States when I was fifteen. I’ve been here, though, for three years now and I very much want to go back to, well, anywhere with cars, microwaves, and the internet.” His strange smile shone brighter. “I am very, truly sorry you’re here. Apparently, the past decade here has been rampant with the governing golds threading loopholes to accumulate a cheap, educated slave workforce by illegally siphoning heaps of humans from our version of Earth through falsifying liens. It’s a whole thing—we’ll go more into that later and after that I’ll have to ask you some questions. But first!” 

Without warning, Nathan hugged him. “Welcome.”

[to be continued...]

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