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    Mallow never expected to spend the rest of his life banished in some desolate land with bad food and their sworn enemies residing across a canyon, but that was life, he supposed. Sure, it sucked that the only thing close to sunlight were his shiny metal shackles, which were doing an excellent job rendering him a stupid, scrawny lizard with no magic and the lamest flight pattern ever. And that the constant shaking and earthquakes made getting a good night’s sleep more impossible than actually getting out of this stupid place. Plus, he and his fellow malefactors constantly had to worry about those humans that saw dragons, beasts with thousands of abilities that they couldn’t even begin understand, as delicious meals. But as long as he kept his head low and avoided the monsters from across the canyon, the meaner and bigger convicts who couldn’t deal with their feelings, scary human hunters, random rock slides, surprise earthquakes, and the crushing loneliness that engulfed him from his head to his tail to the tips of his wings, he should be fine. Perhaps he’ll even reach his 3000s.
    However, his hopes of reaching a ripe middle age were soon to be dashed if that human’s foot was to step any bit closer. At last, his method of burying himself in the dirt was to finally fail, and he would be caught and roasted across an open fire and served with those little worms that somehow managed to thrive in this wasteland. But the foot didn’t move closer. In fact, it didn’t move at all. Mallow peered up at the strangely motionless human who could end his life in a second. The human was staring up at the ashy grey sky and seemed to be deep in thought. Seizing his chance, his body began slowly creeping away from the behemoth. A tiny flower of hope began springing up from the ashes of all his ambitions and dreams.
    That flower was soon set on fire, stomped on repeatedly, churned into a mush, and shot into the sun where it burned into a crisp as Mallow jumped up and began freaking out. A stream of steaming liquid metal had spewed out of the human’s mouth, a silver spill in the darkness, and landed several meters around her, causing Mallow to panic and began scrambling around in a way akin to a weird dance.
    The human was dry heaving now, body shaking and ready to collapse. Thankfully, she wasn’t aware of him. Throwing away stealth for speed, Mallow erratically lifted off and shambled through the air before beginning to fly away. A few seconds into his escape, his midsection was gripped by a hand and he was pulled face-to-face to the human.
    He was stared at with an expression of mild shock. She was normal sized for a human and much larger than him. She looked horrible, all sick and malnourished like the some of his neighbors who refused to settle for a diet of bugs and plants. The human’s eyes were darting around manically, like she was in the middle of doing something horrible. Her hand was cold and shivering, the rags she wore barely keeping out the chill. He, in contrast, was warm. He could curl his body around her neck like a scarf, will she let him live if he did that? He was scrawny and thin, he probably wouldn’t be a fulfilling meal.
    Her thumb reached down to the shackles around his talons, custom-made for him. The ones he spent ages trying to break, smashing them against rocks, trying to saw through them with bones, and biting at them with his broken teeth. They were snapped with a slight press. Does she remind her meals of what failures they were before eating them?
    He was not plunged into her mouth, thankfully. The human didn’t seem to notice that she destroyed his greatest bane, her head was downwards and in deep contemplation, then her eyes were on him. They were desperate and scared and she was coughing as if her throat was burned. Which it definitely was, she just coughed up molten metal as if she was a dragon. Many of his fellow convicts were able to do that before they were shackled.
    She was looking at him as if he was a tasty hunk of meat now. Her hands were gripped around his body. Wait, his bindings were off now, his power was returning and thrumming through himself, he could summon a portal! He reached into himself and summoned all his energy, all his restored magic, and endeavored at conjuring a portal that’ll take him back home.
    It didn’t work. The only thing he conjured up were a few sparks and a cloud of disappointment. His magic wasn’t suppose to fail so miserably, even with years of disuse, perhaps his manacles clamped down on his powers a bit too well. If so, kudos to the designers, he’ll haunt them after his death.
    Wait, there was still one more thing he could do. Taking a deep breath, he shifted into a human, with slicked back hair and a snazzy outfit, in a poof of smoke. He dropped onto the ground on both legs with his chest puffed out and head held high. Then he collapsed. The human just stared at him, lying in the dirt with his limbs askew and floundering. He was half-hoping she’d faint and he’d crawl or roll away and go home. But no, he was stuck at the mercy of a human who may-or-may not practice cannibalism, he didn’t know, he didn’t check the eating habits of humans.
    “What? What are you? Who are you?  Did you mouth problem?” The human rasped out as she leaned over him. “Are you an agent of the leader? Will I be banished? What’s happening?” She seemed much younger as she choked out the last question.
    “I, uh, I don’t know. What leader? I’m a dragon, I don’t know about your mouth issue. Will I be eaten? Do you have a way out of here?” Mallow coughed out the words, the language was foreign against his tongue.
    “Will I be banished? I promise I’ll work harder.” The human was panicking, eyes diluted and breaths uneven.
    “Banished? What banishment?”
    “The...banishments to prevent the earth from shaking. Everyone who has committed treason or broke the rules or did other wrong things must be banished to the canyon...for the safety of all our families.” She explained as if he were a really stupid kid who should’ve known that already instead of a dragon/human that she just met.
    “Earthquakes can’t be stopped by sacrifices, that makes no sense. Who told you that?” And to the canyon? Bordering the worst part of this world? Humans were weird.
    “Don’t question the leader! He keeps us safe.” She was oddly defensive now, and when did she have that spear? And were those snares hanging from her belt?
    “Uh, what are you doing with those?” He began shuffling away from the scary human.
    “Hunting, a storage had a cave-in, definitely by that girl who was born too late, and we need food.” She gestured to an empty cage besides her.
    “I know where you can find food, I know all their hiding places, I’ll show them if you take me with you.” Maybe the humans knew a way out of here, it was worth a shot. And his peers had no love for him, or each other. His wing still had a chunk missing from when he stumbled across some more pushy dragons. Well now, it was payback.
    She nodded and held out her hand. He took it and helped himself back up. Mallow reverted back to dragon form and curled up around her neck, forked tongue  pointing to a crevice where an aging dragon who had set Mallow’s food on fire for no reason resided. The human headed his advice and began walking towards the crevice with tense muscles. She was coughing. Mallow began praying to the king he no longer respected that she’d save the metal puking to after the hunt. And that he’d get out and she’d get her metal thing worked out and not get banished by that very stupid leader. But now, all they needed to do was to kill his very terrible neighbor. Hopefully, this would work out.


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