The tiny human cringed in the huge, scaly claw as teeth long as swords lowered on each side of her. Even though she had given up screaming a long time ago, she still whimpered when a drop of sizzling saliva dripped from the massive jaws overhead and scalded the delicate skin on the back of her hand.

 

Moments lasting several lifetimes passed. When she realized nothing had happened yet, the human stopped cringing and looked directly up into the warm glow of the embers banked at the back of the dragon's throat. Her eyes sparkled with the few tears she had not yet shed.

 

Slowly, the dragon raised his head, then closed his muzzle when it was clear of the diminutive figure in his grasp. His voice filled the dark cavern with deep, somber tones. "I ... I can't do it."

 

The clomp of unshod hooves on rough stones echoed against the distant cavern walls. A pale blue light came from behind the dragon, followed by a snowy white vision of loveliness with a delicate horn, which glowed like a beacon, protruding from her brow. The undeniable beauty of the unicorn contrasted sharply with her dry, raspy voice. "What can't you do?"

 

The dragon's head pivoted on it's long, sinuous neck, then lowered until it was level with the unicorns scornful gaze. "I can't kill it."

 

"Of course you can. All it takes is a snip of the teeth and off pops it's head. While it's dying, I consume the soul, then you consume the flesh."

 

In a trembling voice, the human asked, "W-what's consume mean?"

 

The unicorn glared at the human. "Shut up, Food."

 

"My name ain't Food."

 

"Well, it is now. So just be quiet while me and my friend are talking."

 

"Why do I gotta be quiet?"

 

"Because food doesn't talk."

 

While the human puzzled over this piece of information, the dragon whispered to the unicorn. "It doesn't feel right killing something so young."

 

The unicorn sighed. "It was the best I could do. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a virgin these days."

 

"What is it with you and virgins anyway?"

 

"Their souls just taste better. There's a cleaner, purer flavor to them."

 

"Well, I'm thinking of letting this one go."

 

"No!" shouted the unicorn.

 

"Yes!" cried the human.

 

"Shut up," the unicorn growled at Food. She turned back towards the dragon and shifting to a friendlier tone. "Listen, we've had a good thing going for a while now. I lull prey into a false sense of security, lead them into our cave, then you snip off their heads. I consume the soul, you consume the body, and we both wind up full."

 

The dragon slowly shook his head. "It still feels wrong."

 

"What's wrong with having a full belly?"

 

"That's not the problem. It's the taking of sentient life I'm having an issue with."

 

The unicorn frowned with confusion. "So what are you going to eat then? Little bunnies? Do you have any idea how many of them it would take to fill you up?"

 

"Actually, I've been thinking of not eating any animals at all."

 

The unicorn's eyes widened with disbelief. "So, you're thinking of eating grass and leaves and such?"

 

"I've tried nibbling the tops of a few trees. It wasn't all that bad. I think I might be able to get used to it."

 

Gravel skittered across the ground when the unicorn stomped. "But what about me?"

 

"Well, treetops might be too high for you, but I suppose you could try some grass or something."

 

"What? You mean, like some kind of ... of horse?"

 

The dragon pulled its head back and held up it's free hand as if to ward off a blow. "No, I didn't mean anything like that. I was just--"

 

The unicorn cut in before he could finish his excuse. "You know I can't consume anything physical. I may *look* like a horse, but that doesn't mean there's any relationship between me and those mindless animals."

 

"Excuse me," called the human from her perch in the dragons claws.

 

The unicorn rolled her eyes at the girl and snorted. "Would you please just shut up? I'm trying to talks some sense into my friend."

 

The dragon lowered his head again and frowned at the unicorn. "Why are you being so mean to her?"

 

"Why are you personifying our food?"

 

The dragon blinked, looking slightly confused. "What are you talking about?"

 

"I mean, you're calling it 'her'. It's not a her, it's an it."

 

"Well, you gave her a name."

 

"Did not."

 

"Did too! You named her Food."

 

"That's not the same thing. It's a description, not a name."

 

"Excuse me!" shouted the girl over the arguing creatures. When she had the attention of both of them, she asked, "Would you mind if I make a suggestion?"

 

"No," answered the unicorn. "I mean, yes. What I mean is--"

 

The dragon held his friend's jaw shut with an immense finger and thumb before nodding encouragement at the girl. "Go ahead, Food. What were you going to suggest?"

 

She smiled her thanks at the dragon before answering. "I was thinking, maybe there's something else besides souls that the pretty unicorn could eat, just like the dragon was talking about eating trees instead of people."

 

The unicorn pulled her muzzle from between the dragon's fingers. "You don't understand. Unicorns have unique dietary needs."

 

"Well, my papa says he could live on one of my hugs for a week."

 

"What in the world is a hug?" The unicorn shook her head. "Never mind. I've never understood humans." She looked up at the dragon. "You might as well let her go. I can't eat something I've been talking to."

 

The girl squealed happily when she felt the dragon's grasp loosen. She scrambled up his arm and gave him a kiss on his rough cheek, then scampered down, ran across the cavern, and threw her arms around the unicorn's velvety neck.

 

The unicorn screamed in terror. "Help! Food's trying to choke me!"

 

Steam and smoke drifted from the dragon's nostrils as he chuckled. "Don't worry. I think that's the hug she was talking about."

 

Strange sensations stirred in the unicorn while she endured the hug. As she watched Food skip down the tunnel leading outside, a pleasant warmth filled the space in the unicorn that had been a gnawing, aching hunger only moments before. Speaking as much to herself as her friend, she said, "You know, maybe it is time for me to try a change in diet."

 


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