In the end, it was so easy that a trained monkey with a sack could have done it.  It’s quite clear that neither the curator nor the staff had any idea what sort of thing they had on their hands.  It wasn’t even in a case, for goodness sake!  It was just sitting there in some tatty natural history display marked ‘possible dinosaur egg fossil: origins unknown’.

If only they knew.

I may or may not have permitted myself a small smile as I slipped it into my rucksack.  They let me bring a rucksack in!  I was honestly having difficulty believing my luck.  Straightening up, I composed my features and continued to look around the other exhibits.  Room after room of sad, moth eaten displays, shrouded in dust and seeming not to have been updated since the early nineteen- eighties.  It was unsurprising that despite the howling storm outside I was almost the only person in there.  The only other visitor and I crossed paths occasionally as we wandered around the jumbled and confusing rooms.  I found it odd, actually, how we kept crossing paths.  Odd and rather awkward.  I took him for some sort of foreign tourist.  Strange, ill-fitting khaki shorts, two cameras slung around his somewhat rotund torso, a messenger bag, pork pie hat, and dark glasses.  Indoors.  On a foul and gloomy day.  And endless, endless photos.  I could hear the clicks echoing off every wall and glass cabinet as I made my way around the exhibits.  We always seemed to cross paths in doorways or particularly narrow spaces between displays of… oh goodness only knew what bits of rotted wood purporting to be part of this or that famous ship either made or wrecked within a fifty mile radius of this forgotten little hole in the coast.

I decided that it was time to leave.

Calm and casual, I strolled out past the security guard on the main door into the deep porch sheltering the front entrance from the ravages of the storm beyond.  I watched the rain flying sideways for a moment.  Normally, I would shiver at a sight like that; rain always looks cold to me whether it’s tropical or arctic. Not today, though.  Today I was on fire with a combination of satisfaction and anticipation, ably assisted by an outside source.  In a gesture habitual and by now almost unconscious, my hand rose to my chest, where the pendant was concealed under my clothes, radiating a gentle warmth.  I could almost see the pulsing red glow through my clothes.  It radiated warmth through my chest and torso as I pressed it to my skin.  I felt my heart pump the heated blood to my fingertips and, a moment or two later, to my toe tips.

The rattling of the museum door behind me dragged me from my warm reverie and I hastily turned up the collar of my coat and headed into the storm before I got caught in yet another narrow space with that tourist.

I walked briskly to the bus stop a few streets over but the timetable there told me that the bus wasn’t actually due for at least another half an hour, possibly more given the erratic nature of the local service.  I sighed and shivered as water began to trickle down the back of my neck.  I could have got home another way, but I wanted to preserve my resources.  If things went according to plan I was going to need everything I had fairly soon.  I headed to a nearby cafe for a warm and a cuppa.

Once there, I ordered a bowl of stew as well, realising how hungry I was.  Anticipation of what I was to do had stolen my appetite since yesterday morning and now I was famished.

I was half way through the bowl of stew when the bell on the door of the café jingled and the tourist from the museum walked in.  I was beginning to get a bad feeling about this man, so I turned as far away in my seat as I could, hunching over my bowl.  My suspicions were confirmed when he brought his drink from the counter straight to my table and sat down opposite me.  He was still wearing those stupid glasses even though the sky had darkened even more since we left the museum.  It was disconcerting seeing my distorted reflection staring back from the places where his eyes should have been.

How could I have been so stupid?

I watched the realisation wash over my reflection, and the mouth below broke into an unpleasant smile.

I let resignation creep into my tone.  ‘How?’

He lowered the shades just enough so that I and no- one else in the café could see the dull red burn where his eyes should be.  If he was human.  One of them flickered briefly in a wink. ‘Oh, you know we have our ways.’

‘Yeah, clever.  What now?’

‘Now you hand them over, of course.  Or I leave you as a smear of ash on the linoleum.’

I ground my teeth together. ‘Fine.  Not here, though.  If something goes wrong I don’t want to draw attention.’

‘What could possibly go wrong?  You give them freely or I take them and you suffer the consequences.’

I knew he wouldn’t, though.  Things like this pendant are far too unstable to just rip from their symbiont without the proper words.  The resultant explosion would take out everything within a half-mile radius, including him, the pendant itself, and the thing he was really after.  The thing which I’d evidently picked up from the museum moments before he’d found it.  He knew I wouldn’t say the words until I was satisfied we were in a place that it wouldn’t matter if I made a mistake in my pronunciation.

He clicked his fingers.

Instantly, I was sitting on my arse in amongst the sodden heather on the moor above the town., with him standing above me, grinning like a simpleton.  Damn, they thought they were so clever, these things.

Fine.

I stood up. Fortunately, the wind had abated somewhat.  Unfortunately, the rain seemed to be trying to make up for that.  Shivering, I faced my adversary in his stupid dark glasses, and his stupid pork pie hat, and his stupid khaki shorts.

‘You’ve got really shit dress sense, you know.  You do know that, don’t you?’

‘Just get on with it, please.’

‘Fine.’

I reached into the neck of my clothing and brought out my beautiful glowing amulet.  I pulled a sad face and just looked at it for a moment, the rain gently sizzling as it hit the surface.  It had been with me such a long time.  I knew it so intimately, including its language.  A thing of great power, so it was.  And here was this creature demanding that I hand it over as if it were just a stone.

I came back to myself as my adversary cleared his throat.  I glared at him, and then held my hand out; uttering the words I needed to.

His greedy hand grasped the pendant, and his whole body froze.

‘It’s quite interesting,’ I said to his frozen form, ‘that in the language of this particular pendant, the words for “go to” and “bind” are very similar.  So similar, in fact, that it’s really, really easy to get them confused.’  I glanced down into the town below, and saw the bus pulling away from the bus stop.  On time after all, then.  Damn.  Oh well.  I clicked my fingers.

Back in my basement, I stood my adversary in a corner as I towelled my hair dry.  The rest of me wouldn’t take too long to dry, due to the heat being kicked out by my specially constructed furnace.  I retrieved the “fossil egg” from my rucksack, and weighed it in my hand.  Deceptively light for what I knew it contained.  There was no doubt now, either, as I could see a hairline crack or two forming before my eyes in the heat of the room.  Smiling, I tossed the thing into the flames and kicked the door shut.

I turned to my adversary, still smiling.  ‘You know, I’m really glad you came, after all.  You don’t know how much work you’ve saved me.’  This was punctuated by a small explosion from the furnace. ‘After all,’ I continued as I opened the door and a head covered in white-hot scales snaked out, ‘Even baby dragons have to eat something…’

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