Papillon dreamed that he awoke to find the dragon gone. When he woke up for real, the dragon still slept in the doorway to his house.
Papillon stretched. He could use some breakfast. He looked around. The dragon must have eaten his loaf of bread--or else something had carried it off during the night. There was no other food in the house. He would have to visit Madame Peapod again.
What do baby dragons eat, anyway?
"Monsieur Papillon. Back so soon?" Her tone suggested that the large milk bottle and huge loaf of bread she gave him yesterday should have lasted longer. As they would have, if not for the dragon.
"I must beg your kindness once again. I need milk. And something to eat."
"Ah, I don't have it. I mean I didn't kill one. Yet. A dragon, I mean. But I know where they are. I just need another day to hunt them."
"I'm not sure how far I can extend your credit..."
On principle, Papillon hated begging. But Mme. Peapod obviously had spent the early hours baking, for the air was filled with delicious aromas. Papillon's empty stomach rumbled. He was so hungry he nearly fell to his knees and wept.
The shopkeeper had a good long think about it. "You are running up debts," she said, not unkindly. "How do I know you won't take the provisions and disappear on an extended hunt, maybe never to return? Who would pay me then, hmm?"
"Or you run away."
"Never! I am Papillon, Dragon Hunter Extraordinaire. I kill dragons; they do not kill me. And I pay my way," he added with all the bravado he could muster. My reputation is at stake, he thought, not to mention I have a baby dragon to hide and feed. Oh, I'm in a real pickle this time.
"Certainly you will pay, if not in dragon meat then in some other way. I will give you until tomorrow at this time. If you return without dragon meat, you will agree to work for me until your debts are paid."
"What kind of work, Madame?"
"Nothing a dragon hunter cannot do. I have the beginnings of a small herd. They need tending: feeding, brushing, cleaning out their enclosure. Watching so that no one attempts to steal them."
What kind of herd? Cows? Sheep? Goats? "It sounds like shepherd's work."
"Of course not."
"Then we are agreed."
Agreed? When had Papillon agreed? She drove a hard bargain, did Mme. Peapod.
"Until tomorrow morning," said the shopkeeper.
"Good morning, little one. I trust you slept well. I have your milk here. As soon as I pull my things together, you and I will go back to the forest, where I will return you to the nursery and find some meat for Mme. Peapod. If I fail, she expects me to turn in my sword for a shepherd's crook. The shame of it! Oh, I'm in a pickle, all right. A jam of a pickle. A true pickle jam. But I am Papillon, and if I'm not the greatest dragon hunter that ever lived, then I don't know who is. Right, little one?"
"To the dragons, little one. Adventure awaits!"
To be continued...
Papillon is a FairyLand RealPuki Papilio
Madame Peapod is a FairyLand RealPuki Pupu
The dragon is an Aileen Doll Pico Baby Ashes