Lost and Friend

Drabit and Hiss are owned by Drabit, winner of a raffle for this story

When lost in the forest, you generally have two options. You can either stumble around, mostly in circles, until you run into a dangerous wild animal, or you can call for help and have the dangerous wild animal come straight to you, skipping the whole stumbling around bit.

Drabit stood among the dense trees, weighing the options.

He had been on a normal stroll through the woods when something sparkling among the foliage caught his attention. He rubbed his red muzzle; normally he ignored the attraction to shiny things that most dragons had, but today . . . Well, it’s not like he thought it was a jewel or something. It could have been a fairy. A jewel fairy. It seemed to move quick enough, but he’d lost it now. He’d also lost his sense of direction.

He figured wandering around would lead to one of two results: he would either get closer to home or further away. Those weren’t bad odds, compared to finding someone to help, so he picked a direction that looked reasonable and headed forth.

After three steps a tree rustled and Drabit stumbled, his ears perking up in surprise. He looked up at the tree.

“Hello? Is there someone here?”

Yellow eyes and a yawning pink mouth emerged from the green leaves. It took Drabit a moment to see among the green leaves an equally green snake. A rather big one, at that, but before Drabit decided what to do the snake looked at him and descended from the tree.

“Oh, hello,” said the snake. “Sorry, I was just waking up from my siesta.”

“Oh, sorry,” Drabit said, glancing about—there really was no one else around. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“Oh, no worries, not at all.” The snake smiled. “Say, I haven’t seen you around before. My name’s Hiss.” He lowered the end of his tail and offered it to Drabit as if to shake.

“Er, I’m Drabit.” He looked at the tail, caught between suspicion and an aversion to being rude. He took Hiss’ tail and shook it, and the snake did not hold the grip or wrap around him. He breathed a tiny sigh.

“A pleasure to meet you, Drabit,” Hiss said. “That’s a lovely outfit you have on. The skirt looks very nice on you.”

“Oh, th-thank you.” Drabit looked away, pulling at the knee-length skirt. “It’s just something I put together for a stroll, I didn’t expect anyone to see me in it.”

“It’s very fashionable, I think. Of course, I’m a snake, I don’t know much in these matters; I’ve often thought about obtaining an outfit, but, sadly, such things are difficult for the appendage-challenged.”

Drabit tilted his head, looking at Hiss’ body. “Not impossible, though, maybe something like a long sleeve or a sock . . .”

“Perhaps. So do you take a stroll around these parts often?”

“Oh, no. Oh! No, actually,” Drabit said, his predicament reoccurring to him, “I’m a little bit lost out here. I kind of wandered off the path and don’t know my way home.” He slumped, the thought of being stuck outside all night passing through his head.

“Don’t worry,” Hiss said, “I’ve lived in these woods all my life. I know all my way through them, I can show you the way.”

“Really?” Drabit smiled. He expected to encounter a dangerous wild animal, not a friendly one. This was perfect! As Hiss slithered across the trees Drabit followed. He stopped and looked back. If he had kept wandering he would have gone the other direction . . . but his sense of direction was no good out there. Hiss slithered confidently, he must know where he was going. Drabit followed.

As they traveled through the forest Hiss asked Drabit how he got lost. Drabit explained he saw something shiny and followed it, wondering if it were a fairy or something, which he admitted sounded silly now. On the contrary, though, Hiss said he’d caught glimpses in the forest of what might be fairies.

Unspoken, he knew what Drabit saw wasn’t a fairy.

When Hiss saw Drabit earlier in the day his first thought was that dragons were known for being warm to the touch. His second was that rabbits were soft and fuzzy. Put them together and this was somebody he wanted to meet. He wanted to have enough time to get to know him, so he lowered a shiny rock in his tail into some foliage and shook it to catch Drabit’s attention.

Hiss pulled away and lifted the rock whenever Drabit got near, and lowered it near some other foliage. Once he could see Drabit didn’t know which way to go he prepared to meet Drabit by happenstance, or at least what appeared to be happenstance.

He was sure Drabit would have fun getting to know him.

The two chatted as they traveled, about the forest, about fashion, and about jokes. Drabit tried to remember a few—he seemed too nervous to tell any well—and although they were mostly dumb Hiss laughed at them to put Drabit at ease.

Still, as the sky darkened into evening, Drabit increasingly glanced around.

How much further, do you think?”

Not far now,” Hiss said. “Home is just around the corner, so to speak.”

I still don’t recognize any path or anything,” Drabit said.

Ah, here we are.” Hiss led Drabit to an opening in the forest where a treehouse stood above them. Drabit looked around.

But this is still the forest,” he said. “This isn’t my home.”

Hiss looked at Drabit, mouth open but silent. “Oh. Oh my. You said home, and I thought . . .” He facepalmed, slapping the end of his tail on his head. “Silly me, I was thinking my home.”

Oh, no,” Drabit said, pulling down on his ears, “I need to get out of the forest. I can’t stay out here all night.”

You don’t have to,” Hiss said. He smiled to Drabit. “Since it’s so late, why don’t you stay the night here and return in the morning?”

Drabit peered at Hiss. The snake smiled. Drabit seemed to be assessing how trustworthy Hiss was . . .

If Drabit tried to find his way home at night he could run into any number of dangerous wild animals without seeing them. On the other hand, Hiss had been nothing but pleasant ever since meeting him. He was still a big snake, though, and snakes were predators. It was a nice treehouse, though.

“You live up there?” Drabit asked. “How did you build it?”

“Oh, I had some help, of course,” Hiss said. “The animals of the forest are quite productive with the right motivation.”

Drabit furrowed his brow. “Motivation?”

“Some proper stimulus makes them happy workers,” Hiss said. He had a perfectly clear smile. “It took some time, what with all the nap breaks I let them have, but as I always say, a napping worker is a happy worker. I made sure they were very satisfied with the payment, too.”

Drabit looked up at the treehouse. “How am I going to get up there, though?” Hiss extended a tail to a pulley hanging out the tree.

“I had a pulley system installed for easier access,” he said.

“Oh, neat,” Drabit said. He even had a way for people to come visit. Maybe he had grounded friends over all the time. He walked to the hanging pulley rope as Hiss slithered up the tree. The snake lowered a weight on the other end of the pulley and pulled it down, lifting Drabit into the tree.

My home is your home,

So make yourself at home.

Stay the night, don’t worry,

At night you shouldn’t roam.

Need a wash? Need a snack?

Whatever you need to do,

I’ve got it here, no worries,

I’ll take good care of you.”

Once Drabit was up in the tree Hiss pulled him into the house.

A salad spread,

A loaf of bread,

Whatever you need I’ve thought it.

A frosty drink,

Wash up at a sink,

Creature comforts, I have got it.

You’d be surprised at what I’ve found,

The tricks I’ve learned, sure to astound,

You’re my guest so let me entertain you!

Or if you’d like to relax, don’t let me strain you!

I’ve got some games, I’ve got some cards,

I’m told I make a real good bard,

Or if you’d like we could just watch the stars,

They’re easy to see without all those lights and cars!”

Drabit looked up at the dark sky. Out in the forest the sky was actually lighter than in town; he could see not only the stars but colors of nebulae shimmering the sky yellow. Hiss had been a delightful host, keeping him entertained, and watching the night sky in the forest was a wonderful way to end the day.

The stars are beautiful out here,” Drabit said.

They really are,” Hiss said. “When I’m not looking down for lost travelers I can help, I’m looking up to watch the stars.” He looked at Drabit. “They say if someone looks at the stars long enough you can see the stars in their eyes.”

Really? I’ve never heard that.” Drabit looked at Hiss. “Let me look in your . . . eyes.” Hiss’ yellow eyes were shifting, sparkling, different shades and tints pulsating outwards.

What do you see?” Hiss asked.

I don’t see the stars . . . but it’s like the nebula . . . only prettier.”

You know, it’s getting rather late,” Hiss said. “Why don’t we just look into each other’s eyes, snuggle close, and go to sleep under the stars?”

That sounded nice. Drabit didn’t realize how sleepy he felt. He could already feel his eyes drooping. Scales slid over his feet and something long and soft circled around his legs in a rising hug.

Sleep sounds nice,” Drabit said, body going slack. “Wait–” He perked up and opened his eyes wider. “Wait, what’s . . .” He sagged again. He felt two competing thoughts, one telling him to wake up—there was something wrong becoming so tired so quickly. The other told him everything was fine, it was nice to relax and sleep. Hiss hushed him.

Just relax, go to sleep,

Look into my eyes, so deep.”

“Wha?” Drabit tried to lift his arms to push his drooping eyes open, but his hands felt so heavy. It didn’t help when the long, squeezing rope appendage circled around his hand. He felt safe holding it, safe looking into Hiss’ eyes. A tumble of thoughts and emotions struggled to figure out whether he was safe. Hiss had been so kind since they met, and he wasn’t doing anything bad now . . . was he?

“You know, you’re cute when you’re sleepy,” Hiss said. He snuggled closer, filling Drabit’s vision with the shifting yellow rings swirling through his eyes. Every ring buzzed gentle thoughts of sleeping surrender through Drabit’s mind. “Why don’t you just let me wrap a nice, thick blanket around you, hmm?”

Drabit thought he must have been more tired than he thought. The world swam around him, fading into swirling yellow. He felt dizzy and focused on Hiss to wake up, but his head spun all the more. He blinked, and when he opened his eyes he sat in a scaly, spinning blanket up to his chest, heavier at the bottom and dragging him down. Drabit tried to place what was happening—was that Hiss? Was Hiss wrapping around him?

“What . . .” Drabit began to yawn and stuffed it down. “What are you . . .” The yawn overcame him, drifting him further towards sleep. “What are you doing?” As much as he tried to build concern, the hug of the coiling blanket gave him a feeling of safety. As long as he sank into it he would be safe.

“I’m helping you to sleep, fuzzy face.” Hiss’ tail curled around Drabit’s face, sliding over the tufts of fur. Drabit tingled at the soft touch and felt like sinking into it. Whatever Hiss was doing was fine, it felt so soothing.

The tail coiled around his chest, his arms locked tightly in place. No need to move if he was going to sleep. Held still, he would sleep even better, yes. Hiss chuckled.

“Yes, you like this so much, in spite of yourself, don’t you?” Hiss grinned. “Not much of you are awake to spite it anyway. At least you found the kindest predator this side of the trees.”

“The wha–?” For a moment something in that sentence sounded odd, but Hiss’ tail squeezed along Drabit’s shoulders and all the words turned to peace. Drabit gave a lazy smile as his eyes drooped lazier.

“Don’t worry,” Hiss said, “I won’t let anything bad happen to you, as long as you don’t consider anything I might do to you bad.” Drabit’s smile dropped for a moment.

“What do you . . . do you mean . . .” Any thoughts about Hiss’ words sank in the spinning pool of Hiss’ eyes with his mind. His muffled thoughts felt trapped in sticky yellow taffy, unable to move, the tasty taffy filling his mind, the tasty yellow rings from Hiss’ eyes. Just sink into the taffy, and don’t worry about anything else . . .

Drabit smiled as he sank into Hiss’ coils, no need to support his own body as Hiss’ tail supported him, yet weighed him down from the shoulders below, heavily taxing yet massaging his useless muscles into pudding, just the way he hypnotized Drabit’s thoughts into pudding.

Hiss patted him on the head. “That’s a good boy.”

Hiss nuzzled against the hypnotized Drabit in his coils. He was just as warm as Hiss imagined, and he settled his tail in tighter. He felt Drabit’s muscles twitch and he loosened where needed, squeezing in and out to bring Drabit’s breathing in line with his own. Hiss shifted his coils as he felt Drabit’s blood flow to keep his bodily rhythms smooth.

Hiss drifted his tail over Drabit’s face to coax his eyes shut and sink him into a deep, blank sleep. He whispered into Drabit’s ear, “You make a nice warm rock to sleep on. I hope you’re as reluctant to go tomorrow as I am to let you go.”

He settled around Drabit and dozed off to sleep.

Come morning he slowly awoke, lazily stirring in his self-made coil bed. He yawned and settled against Drabit, snuggling his warm pillow buddy a little while longer. The sun had risen quite high when he finally woke up in full and whispered to Drabit to wake up.

People were usually groggy when waking from the hypnosis, and Drabit was no exception. It was inevitable as Hiss persuaded him awake, though, the last of the hypnosis sending a command to wake, which in turn lifted the hypnosis from him. He blinked awake, the hypnosis disappearing from his eyes.

“Wha?” Drabit looked at Hiss’ body around him while Hiss covered his mouth with his upper body to muffle his laughter.

“Good morning, Drabit,” Hiss said.

“Good morning?” Drabit said. “Why are you wrapped around me?”

“You looked so cold last night, I thought it would be nice to be a blanket for you.”

“Oh.” Drabit looked down. “Um.” He looked at Hiss. “Thank you.”

“And, of course, the inside of your head seemed cold, so I thought I’d warm it up, too.”

Drabit stared at Hiss. Slowly his mouth dropped open. Hiss snickered again.

Memories of staring into Hiss’ eyes and pretty yellow colors flowing over his mind tumble into Drabit’s head. He glared at Hiss.

“Did you hypnotize me?” Drabit asked.

Hiss smiled and nodded. “Guilty as charged. How did you sleep?”

“Uh, good.” Drabit shook his head, his ears perking up. “But that’s not the point! You shouldn’t have done that!”

“Would you have agreed if I’d asked?”

“M-Maybe.” Drabit blushed. “That isn’t the point either!”

“Will you agree next time when I do ask?”

“What?” Drabit tried to look away, although Hiss’ tail only let him look partly away. Hiss laughed.

“I notice you haven’t tried to get out of my coils, either.”

Drabit managed to look mostly away.

“Now, now, why don’t you take another look at me?” Hiss used his tail to move Drabit’s head. Drabit’s eyes widened upon realizing this, but Hiss’ eyes were normal. “I like to treat my guests well, and I like to surprise my guests, too. And I imagine it would be hard for you to say neither of those things happened.”

“I’d feel treated better if I was shown the way home. My home.”

Hiss nodded, and his tail unwound from Drabit. “If you wish, not a problem. You might want to eat some breakfast before we head out, though.”

Drabit’s ears dropped a little. “Um. How do I know you won’t put some hypno poison or something in it?”

Hiss smiled and leaned forward until his eyes were directly near to Drabit’s. “Would I need to?”

Drabit blinked. “Okay. Fine.” It was a fair point that if Hiss wanted Drabit hypnotized he had easier methods than food. Besides which, Drabit was hungry.

As Hiss made breakfast Drabit stretched, stiff from being still all night. The breakfast, he admitted, was delicious, and they were soon on their way out. Drabit followed Hiss cautiously, on the lookout for any traps Hiss might lead him into or anything familiar. To his relief, before long he recognized a familiar path.

“I recognize this area,” he said. “I can get home from here.”

“Are you certain?” Hiss asked.

“Yes.” Drabit stepped forward, but Hiss put his tail around Drabit’s shoulders and leaned close.

“Then don’t be a stranger, dear Drabit. I’ll be looking forward to our next sleepover, with the emphasis on sleep.”

Drabit looked at Hiss. “I don’t—that’s not—it won’t—”

But Hiss didn’t really do anything, did he? If he had any ill intentions he could have left Drabit in the forest, at his house, in his coils, in his hypnotic grip. Instead, he let him go and led him back home.

And it did feel nice . . .

Drabit ducked out of HIss’ tail and headed home. He glanced back. “We’ll see.”

“Seeing is the main point,” Hiss said. “And was that a smile I saw?”

“Can’t say!”

“See you later!”

“No guarantees!”

“Don’t be a stranger!”

“I won’t! I mean will, I mean—”

Well, friendship can bud in the most unexpected of places . . .