The night went on and eventually, the dragon’s rampage was over. But, the flame of destruction raged on and it painted the night sky orange. Even the great blue moon was shrouded in a tower of smoke stretching for miles.
None of this happening changed the schedule Leo had for that night.
He had an appointment with the bishop of Ironheart.
“Father Felacia? Aren’t you supposed to be here at four?” he responded to a knock on the door.
The man who entered wore a black cassock and a gentle smile. He nodded slightly as a greeting and said:
“It is the fourth moon, Leo”.
“Is that so? Blasted! I missed a horn; should have kept a clock. Thanks for telling me the time, Father,” Leo grunted and invited the bishop into his workshop.
“It was the dragon, wasn’t it?”
Leo nodded, crossing his arms.
“Indeed it was. Damn thing was so loud, I couldn’t hear my own thoughts!” he said.
He then approached the fireplace where he boiled some coffee beans in a mug. The water had already turned muddy and a strong aroma was emanating from it into the atmosphere.
“What’s with the giant pot?” the bishop wondered, gesturing at a large clay pot by the fireplace.
“Pot? Oh, that’s my crucible. Eliot is in there. Don’t wake her up,” Leo explained.
“Why is she in your crucible?” the bishop asked.
“I don’t know. It’s a witch’s thing, I guess?”
Leo removed the boiled coffee from the fireplace with a pair of tongs and put the mug aside to let it cool. He then returned to the workbench and began flipping through a notebook.
Meanwhile, the bishop seemed curious about the coffee mug he left atop a small end table by the enlarged crucible. He took a whiff of the scent and commented:
“Oh, this smells nice. Is it the cure?”
The inventor took his eyes off the notebook for only a moment to address the bishop.
“No, that is coffee, a recreational drink I shipped from the rim of the world. I’ll send your monastery a box of these beans as sale promotion, but on that later—”
He ripped a page from the notebook and gave it to the bishop.
“—this is the cure,” he announced, pride filled his voice.
The bishop took a look at the page. He read aloud the ingredients written on it and paused at one item in particular.
“Dawurry’s adventitious root, Midnight Virgin’s stem…What is Midnight Virgin?” he asked.
“Midnight Virgin is a grass-like plant that can be found in the Dark Forest. It has a white, glass-like stem and dark red flowers. Eliot has been cultivating them in her garden, which is most unfortunate because the said garden is on fire.”
Father Felacia turned his downcast eyes toward the unmoving crucible and exclaimed:
“Does the Lord have any mercy on our city?”
Leo shrugged his shoulders.
“No comment on what God has in mind but I do have spare Midnight Virgin seeds in the icebox at Brown’s,” he said.
The bishop was overjoyed.
“Oh, why didn’t you say so earlier? God has not abandoned us after all!”
Leo pinched his forehead and sighed.
“In all seriousness though, I have little success planting Midnight Virgin anywhere outside the Dark Forest. There is something in the Dark Forest that is absolutely necessary for these seeds to sprout and I don’t mean the soils,” he explained.
“No problem. We’ll just drive away the dragon, put out the fire, and cultivate Midnight Virgin in the Dark Forest. It’s that simple! It might take a few thousand, maybe tens of thousands, but this kingdom is going down anyway. What are there to lose?” the bishop suggested.
The sarcasm in his tone was hard to miss.
Leo applauded. “Good jest, Father Felacia! We’re all doomed then!” he exclaimed.
The bishop held his head between his hands.
“Damnation! I’m out of ideas, even the crazy ones!” he uttered.
“Not quite! I still have one: hand over Eliot and hope His Excellency will withdraw the dragon himself,” Leo proposed.
The bishop began to contemplate the proposal then shook his head.
“I can’t do it, Leo. There must be another way…”
Leo cleared his throat and stated as matter-of-factly as he could:
“I’ll be frank, Father. The longer this goes on, the more lives will be lost. I think you can already see whom the math favors…”
The bishop remained silent. His hand gripped the pectoral cross under his cassock. His face contorted in agony. Finally, he relaxed his muscles and calmed himself down enough to say these words firmly and resolutely:
“I shall commit no such treacheries and neither shall you.”