The Appraisal

“This is a terrible idea and I love it,” the dragon said to his two companions. It was an odd group. A quiet, nameless human in light leather armor carrying an enchanted sword, a small blue fairy named Shianti with a knack for shouting and objecting, as well as a massive and powerful dragon to round the trio off.

“It’s going to start a panic,” said Shianti begrudgingly, “I can guarantee you that when you go in there, you are going to start a panic!”

“Oh, It won’t be that bad,” the dragon retorted sharply, “And you said panic twice.”

“Oh yes it will,” Shianti said, ignoring his second comment, “Most of the creatures residing in that warehouse have never seen a dragon, let alone one of your pedigree!”

The fairy had a point. He was, after all, the “Prince of Dragons.” It was a title that he reluctantly held. His father was among the most powerful dragons in history, effectively ruling as their king. Naturally, he wished for his son to follow in his footsteps, and attempted to shape his son to be the next king. The first and most important change was in his name. In draconian culture, the names of dragons often determine how strong the dragon will be. Because of this, his name was one of extreme power and prestige, giving him abilities equal if not superior to his father’s. Draconian is not easily translated into English, but those who have been able to understand the ancient language of dragons and give a rough conversion into a more common tongue tell of one whose name strikes fear into all who hear it. It is a name that radiates a feeling of dread, anguish, and fear into even the most proven of warriors: Jeff.

Jeff knew that his actions would, and have, made his father extremely upset, but he didn’t care. He was far from regal, often using his powers to shapeshift into different forms to infiltrate societies around the world. He did this without not out of malicious intent, but only to escape his life as Prince and future King of Dragons.

“We’ll cross that road when we come to it,” Jeff said solemnly. As much as he hated to admit it, he wanted to make his father proud, and being a king would be pretty neat, but deep down he felt that it would be wrong for him to succeed his father.

“Both of you sound like children,” the human said, wearing a serious look “Jeff, you are no more mature than a chicken egg, and Shianti, if I didn’t know you better I would say you sounded like an imp.”

“Wow okay, you know what, that was just mean,” Shianti said.

“Yeah not cool man.”

“You are 2000 years old, all I ask is that you to act like it. I don’t care what you want to do for fun, just act somewhat mature.”

Jeff grunted in acceptance, albeit apprehensively. And with that, the trio entered that warehouse.

A massive complex already, it was enchanted so that it had far more space than should be possible. There were thousands occupying the impossibly large place, from gorgons to banshees to gryphons and dwarves, all there to get items of value appraised and possibly sold. Some had ancient weapons from a more civilized time, others jewels and gold, others with spellbooks and wizards robes. Many who entered the warehouse left dismayed, mostly due to the unfortunate news that their items were  worthless. This naturally left many of the more aggressive patrons a little bit miffed. Many of the appraisers relied on security guards to corral any would-be sellers who became intensely irate, and direct them out of the building. This is exactly what Jeff was hoping for.

His plan for a night of fun was to scare a certain appraiser, a goblin known as Iaxz, in the warehouse who was known to value items far less than their true worth, then buy said items if the owner still chose to sell them, and then resell them for a profit. It was deceitful and cruel, and Iaxz was also known to exploit and scare hopeful children for their items.

As Jeff and his entourage entered the building, it was clear where Iaxz’s booth was. The massive mob was barely being held back by a pack of ogres with thick Scottish accents acting as security. Jeff had never seen such pandemonium since he visited Pandæmonium hundreds of years ago. Iaxz was clearly the focus of the crowd’s aggression, and the ogres, who smelled strongly of onions even from the distance Jeff was from them, could barely contain the mob.

Jeff felt something run into his leg, and looked down to see a very young elf on the ground in tears. No older than a century, the elf was not separated from her parents for long, as her mother and father finally caught up with her.

“WORTHLESS!” the young elf sobbed, looking back to her parents in despair before she ever realized that she had just tripped over the claw of one of the world’s most powerful dragons.

“What happened here?” Shianti asked.

“I don’t know,” the human said. “Might further the plot.”

“By Talos’s left thumb, Ithronel! Get away!” the elf-child’s mother screamed as her father grabbed the girl.

The market-goers looked up at the commotion, yet not a single one seemed to care. They all turned back to screaming and shouting at Iaxz’s booth, a clearly more fruitful endeavour than acknowledging the Prince of Dragons.

“Are you alright?” Jeff said, putting on as polite a tone as he could muster.

The elf girl, paralyzed with fear, clearly was too terrified to comprehend language. She tripped over a cloak she was gripping tight, and her father caught her just before she hit the ground. The family of elves was speechless.

“I’m assuming he’s the reason for her sorrow?” Jeff said politely, trying not to scare the family any more than they did.

“Yes,” the mother said, lips quivering, “Please forgive my daughter, your Highness. Iaxz told her that her prized mithril-mail cloak was utterly worthless, and after that she went berserk!”

“Please call me Jeff. ‘Your Highness’ is what you should call my father.”

“My apologies…”

“You said she wanted her mithril cloak appraised?” Jeff inquired.

“Yes,” the young elf’s father said, glancing back to the mob “She went up to his booth because there were so many people crowded around it. She didn’t seem to care why, however.”

“I can see that. I’m sorry for your trouble,” Jeff said, turning to the young elf, “Ithronel, was it?”

The childlike elf nodded her head, more trusting of the dragon, but still terrified.

“Well, Ithronel, I know a thing or two about mithril. That cloak you have there is priceless and clearly enchanted. There is more to it than you know. You should keep it safe,” Jeff said smiling.

Ithronel finally smiled, and turned back to her parents, who were equally relieved to have met such an unexpectedly kind dragon.

The Rogue approached them as Jeff and Shianti made their way over to Iaxz’s booth. He shook the father’s hand, and bowed toward Ithronel and her mother, who were holding hands, in awe of what had just transpired.

“You three have made a friend in a very high place. Don’t forget that,” he said. Before they could respond, he left to join his comrades to confront the corrupt goblin.

Easily making their way through the crowd, Jeff, Shianti, and the human approached Iaxz’s booth. The goblin was short, squinty, with long scaly fingers, a massive horde of treasures could be seen just behind the booth, no doubt recently separated from their previous owners. He was turned away from the trio, admiring his acquisitions, and somehow didn’t hear the thundering footsteps of his newest customer.

Jeff cleared his throat, trying to get the goblin’s attention.

“One moment,” Iaxz said snickering, his voice nasally, “Just taking stock…”

“We don’t have all day, Iaxz,” Jeff said, irritation lining the words as he said them.

It was at this point that Iaxz saw the dragon’s shadow. Horns and scales outlined on the silk drapes, immediately indicating that his customer required his full attention. Tensing up, he slowly turned to face the Dragon Prince and his companions, a fearful smile on his face. A paralyzing fear was washing over him as he faced the dragon.

“W-Welcome, friendly travellers, what can I do for you?”

“You can start by answering this question for me: How much do you value a life?” Jeff said ominously.

“Um, well… I uh…” Iaxz had no response, clearly sensing an imminent danger.

“You best answer quickly, because I know the answer,” Jeff growled.

Iaxz finally brought himself together, and put on a brave face. He approached the dragon, trying to act tough and arrogant.

“So what is it?” Iaxz asked defiantly, “Does ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ have all the answers now? I’m just trying to make an honest living!”

“Honest isn’t the word I would use to describe it,” Jeff said, “These items people bring to you are things they have worked for their entire lives, and you tell them their hard work means nothing. All so that you can get them for yourself and make a quick profit? Half of these are priceless artifacts that you stole from children!”

“What are you going to do about it?” Iaxz said, sneering.

Jeff lunged at Iaxz, grabbing and holding the goblin in his huge claws. His left eye glowing blue with charged magic. The hordes and hordes of treasure all began to glow as well, and floated into the air. Then, in a blinding flash, they were gone.

“No!” Iaxz screamed.

Behind them, a golden glow emerged, coupled with a shocked murmur of the once enraged crowd. The group turned to see that those who had lost their items to Iaxz’s tricks had their items returned to them by Jeff’s magic. The crowd quickly dispersed, and soon the marketplace was quiet, with only a few stragglers left behind.

Jeff, Shianti, and the Human made their way to the exit. Jeff was still holding the goblin tightly in his claws.

“LET ME GO!” Iaxz demanded.

“What do we do with him?” Shianti asked.

Jeff then tossed Iaxz high into the air and whipped him with his tail, launching him far over the horizon.

“Don’t let me see you again, Iaxz!” Jeff called out as the goblin flew off, turning to his shocked companions, “He’ll be fine. Goblins like Iaxz are nearly indestructible.”

“You do know what’s over there, right?” the Human said, “There are packs of manticores and basilisks off in that direction. You’ve put a target on all of our backs.”

“Why do you think I launched him there in the first place? How about a little bit more fun, eh?”

Shianti zipped away faster than she thought was possible, while the human drew his sword, which burst to life, covered with magical fire.

“NOPE!” Shianti called back, “YOU GUYS CAN HANDLE THAT. I AM DONE.”

“Lead the way, Jeff,” the Human said confidently, smiling for what seemed like the first time.

“Let’s do it then,” the mighty dragon said as the two sprinted off towards the sound of roaring and hisses in the distance.