“Your quest is to see Keen’s Keep?” The silver-green dragon twisted his long neck down so that his head was eye level with the teenagers and inhaled their scent. The boy was a hedge witch, the girl a shape shifter.
“Yes, can you tell us the way?” Otto asked.
The dragon smiled, blowing smoke through his nose. “As you wish.
“Through the forest where no light shines,
Follow the trail by sound.
Enter into the goblin mines,
Exit the cave eastbound.
“Forward to greet the rising sun,
Hidden behind the peak,
Atop the cascading water,
North points to what you seek.”
A few hours later, with shadows deepening around her, Willa scrambled up the rocks to the right of the waterfall and, thanks to a tree perfectly placed by nature, pulled herself over the ledge. Breathing heavily, she lay back on the cool rock.
Moments later, Otto’s left hand reached up and grabbed the same tree branch she had. With more power than grace, he swung his right leg over the ledge, followed by his left. Otto twisted and rolled over to lay beside her.
While Otto caught his breath, Willa sat up and looked for the keep. She gasped at the sight and turned to glare at Otto. “This is all your fault.”
“What? We crossed the forest following the stream, through the goblin mine, up the mountain trail and now we’re at the top of the waterfall. We should be at the keep.” He sat up and looked north. In the distance, fires were lit on the walls of a fortress. “Umm, is that your uncle’s keep?”
When Willa nodded, he groaned. They had only been a short distance from the keep when they had asked for directions. They would have to backtrack most of the trail they had just hiked. He watched the sun drop below the horizon. Darkness was upon them. Otto hastily made a fire. “But we followed his directions.”
“Exactly. You didn’t ask big, silver-green, and scaly to direct us to the keep, you asked to see the keep.” Willa’s flared nostrils and flattened lips were made more menacing by the flickering fire. “I wanted to ask the centaur for directions, but no, you asked the dragon.” She waved her hands toward the valley below them. “This is why we don’t ask dragons for directions. They only speak in riddles and answer the exact question you pose, no matter how foolish.”