Patreon reward for Zeelo. Zeelo is sold a map that promises to lead him to a dragon’s greatest treasure! Just what does a dragon value most? Contained TF/AR
A Dragon’s Greatest Treasure
Zeelo had been hiking uphill for roughly an hour now. He was slightly annoyed with himself about that. Especially since the entire reason he was out here was suspect in the first place. He was following a map that promised to lead him to a dragon’s greatest treasure. There were two problems with this. One was of course, that dragons weren’t real. The other was the fact that the map was written in crayon. All logic dictated the map was a fake, some child’s attempt at a game.
Dragon’s were real. And cats didn’t talk. And that right there was the problem. Because earlier today Zeelo had met a talking cat. Well, a kitten. He had just been at the park, enjoying a bag of cookies when a small orange kitten had run right up to the bench he was sitting on, folded back its ears and made the absolutely most pathetic begging face. Zeelo had laughed, patted the kitten on the head and told him the cookies weren’t for him.
And then the kitten started talking. Zeelo thought it must have been some kind of toy or robot! In fact he picked him up and squished him slightly… The cat did not like that, and he had quite a pair of lungs on him when he wanted to shout. After some prodding, and convincing that the kitten was indeed a real talking cat, it had started begging for Zeelo’s cookies. It even offered to sell Zeelo a treasure map in exchange for them! He said it led to a dragon’s greatest and most prized treasure.
Dragons were of course, fictional.
But so were talking cats.
Since one impossible thing had already happened today, why not two? Zeelo made the trade and took the map. When he unrolled the brown parchment though he found the entire thing was drawn in crayon! He tried to demand an explanation but at this point the kitten had already bound off on all fours, Zeelo’s bags of cookies held firmly in its mouth.
When Zeelo had looked over the map he did find it was a mostly accurate drawing of the town and the outskirts, with a clear path drawn to the final spot. It wasn’t hard to follow at first. In fact, Zeelo was able to take a public bus out to the outskirts of town and walk to a local national park the map seemed to point to. Once there, it looked like the path on the map matched some of the nature trails he could follow, so Zeelo set off. However a problem soon became apparent. The map was not drawn to scale. It was impossible to tell how far away or close something was. The trail for example on the map was drawn shorter than the distance between the bus stop and the park’s entrance, which was only about 1000 feet. It actually went on for a mile.
What followed was multiple hours of ‘Well I’ve already come this far.’
After reaching the end of the nature trail, the map pointed through a barely visible animal trail hidden between bushes. Zeelo had to get down and crawl along the ground to get through the vegetation… But he had already come this far, so he might as well see where the map ends.
After that he came to a chasm which could only be crossed by a very rickety rope bridge with rotting platforms. It was slow getting across it safely… But he had already come this far.
Then came a hike that was entirely uphill. The path got steeper and steeper, where he had to constantly grab on to vegetation to avoid tumbling back downwards. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever reach the top… But he had already come this far.
At the top of the hill was a tunnel that went into the mountain. Zeelo couldn’t see beyond his own nose in the darkness. He had to use his cell phone to light the way and carefully climb over boulders and away from spiky rocks. It was a huge hassle… But he had already come this far.
And now after all of that he found himself emerging from the cave back into the sunlight only tot find what appeared to be a dead end. The tunnel had taken him back outside to a small spring of crystal clear water. The problem was this entire area was closed in by rocky cliff walls on either side. Zeelo looked up and couldn’t even see the top of them. Scaling any of them would have been a straight vertical climb, and there were no handholds of any kind. He didn’t see a way to progress forward. He pulled the map out of his jeans pocket, wiped off his glasses and then stared down at it. The crayon drawing did show what he assumed was the spring, a large blue circle next to the tunnel he had come out. The line that indicated the path he was supposed to go through was just drawn just went straight through the spring and onward.
“Well…” Zeelo gave a weary sigh. “Apparently, talking cats don’t make for good cartographers.” He looked around in every direction. There was simply nowhere else to go. It looked like this was the end. There probably was no treasure, or dragons. Perhaps that was for the best. If Zeelo had met a real living dragon he wasn’t sure how he would convince it not to eat him on sight.
Having given up on finding the treasure Zeelo realized how sore his body was from the hike. His legs and feet were screaming in pain… And he still had to make the trip back down! Well… He could take a quick break. Zeelo sat down near the edge of the water and quickly untied his shoes before removing them and his socks. Tossing them aside he dipped his tired feet into the spring hoping it would soothe the pain.
The water was cold. That was not surprising. He was up on a mountain. But nonetheless it felt great on his tired feet. The pain quickly began to subside as he idly kicked at the water and relaxed. Well… If everything else was a bust today, at least this little area was nice.
Zeelo was surprised at how fast he felt his strength returning to him as he sat by the spring. His entire body was starting to fill more full of energy. He actually felt ready to make the hike back down again. He prepared to stand up and leave and then paused as he noticed something glinting in the water. At first he thought it was just the sun reflecting off the surface… Then he realized there was something in the water! It was a fleck of something shiny, almost like a gemstone. However, the water was too deep for him to simply reach in and grab it.
Curiosity got the best of Zeelo. He quickly removed his shirt and glasses. Then he removed his phone and wallet from his pockets, wrapped them up on his shirt and set them near the cave entrance to ensure they’d stay dry. Now clad in only a pair of jeans he leaped into the water.
“C-cold!” Zeelo gave a shout. He was lucky it was such a hot day. The sun would dry him out and warm him up on the way down the mountain. If he had jumped in here in on a cooler day he might have frozen to death before he got home!
Thankfully, as cold as the water was it was also invigorating. Zeelo felt as if his entire body had gotten stronger. He quickly dove under into the spring, kicking through the water till he reached the shiny object along the bottom. It was difficult to see without his glasses even through the clear water, but he was able to find grab the item. He started to swim back up to the surface but something else caught his eye. There was another cave. He hadn’t been able to see it from above, but from here he could see an underwater cave heading back further into the mountain. He didn’t have much time to ponder this now, he needed air. Zeelo quickly swam back up to the surface and stuck his head above the water. Pushing his messy brown hair out of his eyes he looked down at the object he now held in his hand. His vision was blurry… But he could make out some details. It was hard and smooth, and glistened like a gemstone. It couldn’t be…
A dragon scale?
No that was impossible… Zeelo was clearly just seeing what he wanted to see. It was probably a rock. Those came in all kinds of shapes, colors and textures. There was no reason to get excited… No reason at all. Yet… Zeelo remembered the map, and that the path went through the spring. He had seen the cave underwater. How far did it go? He could try swimming through it, but there was no guarantee there was any place to come up for air…
“Well I’ve already come this far.” Zeelo wasn’t stupid. He wasn’t about to risk his life. He would dive down and swim a little bit… If it felt like he couldn’t hold his breath he’d swim back up and leave the cave alone.
Zeelo clenched the ‘scale’ into his fist, took a deep breath and again dove into the frigid water. Again it was hard to see, even through the crystal clear spring, but he remembered where the cave was. It only took a few seconds to reach it. Though… Something was off… Looking at the opening… It looked a bit bigger than when he had first gotten a glance at it. Well, it was hard to see without his glasses, he probably just misjudged the size.
Zeelo swam through the entrance and into a thin tunnel. He couldn’t see how long the tunnel went but his lungs weren’t screaming for air yet so he decided to move forward. He was actually starting to become impressed with his own lung capacity as he swam. He expected they would be in pain by now, but he felt fine. In fact, he felt better than fine. The cold water must have really woken him up because he felt strangely energetic.
As Zeelo made it through the tunnel his vision began to clear. It took him a moment to realize this was happening. The blue and green walls of the cave become solid forms where he could make out the cracks and grooves throughout them. He could even see all the way to the end of the tunnel now, it wasn’t far! But why could he see so clearly? It must have been dumb luck… The clear water must have been distorting his view in just the right way to match up with his glasses… That… Actually seemed incredibly unlikely. But what other reason could there be for it?
Zeelo swam to the end of the tunnel, and then upward. Much to his relief he found there was a spot to come up for air. He surfaced and began to tread water as he looked around. He was in another cave.
The space he had come out in was cramped… It was probably wide enough for maybe three people to actually fit in here. On most sides of him were just plain rock walls, much like the one’s he had seen outside, but much more slick so they’d be harder to climb. However… One surface was covered in a mess of thick vines and didn’t rise all the way to the roof. Zeelo could see a plateau near the top of the vegetation… Using the roots as hand holds it might even be possible to climb to it… Though it wouldn’t be easy.
“I hate the sunk cost fallacy…” Zeelo muttered as he again thought about how he had already come this far. Grabbing a handful of vines he pulled himself up out of the water. As he did his jeans nearly slipped right off his body. “Lovely…” Zeelo muttered as he grabbed his waste band with one hand to prevent that. The water must have been weighting them down as he tried to climb. Now he had to hang onto his pants with one hand leaving him with only one to go up. He scrambled to get a foot up into the vines… Being barefoot might have made the climb easier since he could grip a bit with his toes… But his jeans kept slipping over the edges of his feet threatening to make him slip.
Through a slow and arduous process… He finally made it to the top! He managed to throw himself over and collapse onto his stomach. Now he could see the cave fully. The entire place was brightly lit thanks to a large opening opposite of where Zeelo had climbed. It went back outside… Though Zeelo couldn’t see far as the entrance appeared to be blocked by a massive waterfall.
The cave itself was mostly empty, almost unnaturally so. There was no dirt, no grime, no mold or fungus. Considering that Zeelo had come up through the water that was quite surprising. It was as if someone had actually gone out of their way to make the place spotless. There was one mess within the cave… Broken fragments of something… Could that be the treasure?
Standing up Zeelo slowly walked towards it, one hand still on his jeans to prevent them from falling off. He was aware something was seriously wrong… He felt way too close to the ground, and far too full of energy for someone who had just went for a hike, a swim, and then climbed a rock wall… But he was too excited to pay attention to that. Instead… he approached the broken objects, reached out a hand and touched one and…
It was junk! He wasn’t sure what these round and broken objects were made of, but they didn’t seem the most durable. That was probably why they were broken. But he had hoped they’d at least be made of something valuable… But they just looked like giant colorful chicken eggs or something…
Wait… Giant eggs?
Zeelo picked up one of the ‘eggs.’ That was in fact what it appeared to be, but green and gray in color. It wasn’t possible? Was it? He remembered the scale he had been carrying in his hand. He unclenched his first to stare at it but what he saw gave him pause. The scale had sunken into his palm.
“What?” Zeelo stared down at his own body and saw more surprises. He knew he had felt closer to the floor but was too distracted to realize what was going on. His body was completely hairless now, he has a more round belly, his arms and legs were stubbier, and his jeans were so big on him that they looked like they belonged to a giant… Or… Or like he was a little kid trying to wear adult clothes.
“What is going on!?” Zeelo backed up from the eggs and tripped over the end of his jeans. He fell backwards, landing inside one of the broken eggs. As he did he became aware of a strange burning sensation that went over both where the scale was on his hand and the parts of his bare skin had touched the inside of the egg. It wasn’t painful… But it was outright bizarre.
Zeelo struggled to try to stand up, but the broken egg wobbled back and forth knocking him to his feet. Worse… His legs were growing unsteady. He didn’t just look like a little kid! He was a little kid! And he was getting littler!
But that wasn’t all… The parts of his skin on his backside that had touched the egg were now completely covered in green scales! And more scales appeared to be growing in spreading out from there.
“What’s… what’s happ-eowawwaaaah!” Zeelo tried to shout but his voice gave way to a shrill squeak. He fell downward onto his bottom as his legs no longer possessed the strength to stand up. In age he was just a baby now… And now more of him was in contact with the egg shell. The strange burning spread over his entire body. In seconds the scales covered him head to toe.
“R-rooooawr!” Zeelo couldn’t speak, only make strange animalistic and squeaky growls. Suddenly, his face stretched outward, forming an animalistic snout. His mouth was suddenly full of tiny pointy teeth, two which managed to stick out of the sides of his snout even when it was closed. Two small nubs grew out, protruding from the top of his head. They were horns, and when he got older they’d wind up being quite pointy. Small spines formed along his back, forming a connection down to his… Tail?
He had a tail! It snaked out from his tailbone and got tangled up within his jeans. The spines continued down his tail while a spike of bone formed along the very tip. Zeelo suddenly fell over onto his side, unable to sit up properly. As he struggled to get up, he found himself only able to stand on all fours… But his arms were proportioned perfectly now so that he could stand on the tips of his toes and fingers instead of having to use his knees…
Except he didn’t have fingers anymore… His hands were animalistic paws now… Both them and his feet were now tipped with dark green colored claws. There was a feeling of tension that shot through his back… Then two membranes began to stretch out from his shoulder blades. As they completely formed in he realized he had wings!
Zeelo couldn’t properly see himself right now… But he could put two and two together! He was a dragon! And a really small one! A baby! He couldn’t be bigger than a house cat…
He squeaked and tried to climb out of the egg shell… But he couldn’t. His hind paws and tails were completely tangled up in the jeans he had worn as a human. He couldn’t get any traction with them to push himself out of the egg… He was stuck! He squeaked helplessly, but there didn’t seem to be anything he could do.
And then the cave grew dark.
It was because something very large had just blocked the entrance. Zeelo flopped onto his back inside the egg and was able to see her.
Being so small… It was hard for Zeelo to accurately judge sizes… But she had to be almost as big a house! She looked quite similar to how Zeelo looked now… Green, covered in scales. Long tail with spike and wings. But her horns were fully grown in, forming gigantic curved spikes and while Zeelo’s body was round and pudgy she was large and muscular.
And she was looking straight down at Zeelo in the egg with an expression that was… He wasn’t sure? Mild annoyance? She began to walk towards Zeelo, the cave trembling with each step she took. The baby dragon squeaked in terror and tried to climb out of the egg shell, but again couldn’t. Soon she was right over him. She stared down at him and opened her mouth. A deep crimson light began to glow somewhere deep within her throat.
She was going to breathe fire at him!
No sooner had he had the realization than the torrent of flame came flying out. Zeelo was completely engulfed and let out another squeak of terror. It lasted about half a second before he realized he was completely unharmed. The heat from the flames didn’t bother him at all! Instead… It was almost like getting into a warm bath. Wait… Was he fireproof!?
Zeelo was unburnt… But his jeans were not. They were incinerated in the adult dragon’s flames and Zeelo was finally free from them! He wasted no time in pushing against the egg shell with his hind legs. He fell out of it with a less than graceful flop, landing on his belly. He squeaked again and tried to stand up. His legs were wobbly… But if he was slow, and flapped his wings a bit he found he could stand on all fours.
“R-rawr?” Zeelo looked around in surprise. He wasn’t a little disoriented from everything that had just happened… But he also very happy to be alive right now. He was sure the dragon had intended to roast him! He looked at her in confusion, and all she did was nod before stretching her head forward and rubbing the tip of her snout against him affectionately. She was gentle… But it nearly knocked him over! His legs were very unstable.
Was… Was she adopting him? Zeelo felt so confused… He thought this was supposed to be where he’d find treasure! And… Come to think of it… Just what was a dragon’s greatest treasure?
Zeelo’s thoughts were interrupted as he heard squeaking coming from the direction of the waterfall. He glanced over and saw that there were three other dragons… All about the same size as him waiting there. They were looking at the larger dragon, the mother, expectantly. She bowed her head slightly before laying down on the cave floor. The next second the other baby dragons waddled into the cave excitedly. They were quite curious about Zeelo, and where he had come from. After all… They hadn’t realized they had another brother yet!
“R-raaawr.” Zeelo blinked as one of the dragons nosed him. Then he slowly nosed them back. The dragon yapped before leaping atop him, and the two began to wrestle. It wasn’t long before the others joined in and were just a pile of dragons rolling around on the floor.
It would seem that Zeelo had a new family. And they all seemed very happy to have him.