Today was the day. Miles and Salren had been planning a vacation day for themselves, Tia, and Steven for weeks now, and the day had finally arrived. There were many natural waterslides in the rivers of the island where Steven and Salren lived. These slides were made from spring water bubbling up in the center of the island, creating countless streams and brooks that carved their way though slippery rocks and forming deep pools along the way, ideal for cooling off and having fun on a hot day like today. The location of today's venture had been carefully selected by Salren who had surveyed many of the streams and rivers looking for a suitable place. Miles and Steven were already in their swim suits. Tia, who didn't need such things, was making other preparations. Doing what she does best, she prepared lunch for the trip. Salren, however, was looking for an opportune moment to speak to Miles alone, for not all was as it seemed in their vacation getaway.
"Miles," she whispered to him when no one else would hear.
He turned to look at her and she gestured that she follow him outside. He did just that.
"Are you sure we should do this?" she asked. "I mean, are you sure he can handle our little surprise?"
"We've been over this a hundred times," Miles replied. "I'm leaving the final decision up to you," he said, "but I think he's ready."
"Right," she said in agreement.
Just then, Steven rounded the corner carrying a huge picnic basket, followed by Tia. "Everyone ready?" he asked.
"Ah, yup," Miles said, trying to sound casual. "Ready to go."
Tia caught his eyes; she knew they were up to something.
The three of them climbed onto Salren's back and before long they were soaring through the air above the island.
"What's so special about this place?" Tia asked as they were flying.
"It's perfect for sliding around and having a good time," Miles replied. "Plus it's got a nice deep pool for Salren to cool off in."
When they arrived, Salren landed on the bank beside the deep pool. The pool was fed by a long, sloping stream of water that flowed down a slippery face of rock. The banks were green with small vegetation. Jungle trees grew alongside the stream but the south bank had a small clearing (small being a relative term as the clearing was large enough to land a dragon).
Salren bent down and let her friends slide off. Everyone was amazed by the spot she had chosen, even Miles, who had only heard the dragon's description of it until now. "Nice pick," he said to her quietly. She smiled.
Steven, who needed a vacation and was eager to cool off and enjoy himself, cannonballed into the pool. Salren slid in as subtly as she could after him, creating a small wave as she did so.
Tia took this opportunity to pull Miles aside. "What are you planning?" she asked. She wasn't used to being left out of her best friend's schemes.
"Sorry, pal," he said, "it was really hard to keep it a secret for so long." He glanced around her to make sure the others were thoroughly distracted. Seeing that they were, he explained the entire thing to her.
Tia grinned. "That's devious!" she hissed.
"I know," Miles said, smiling too. "I had a good teacher."
"Aw, you flatter me," she replied, nudging him and wrapping a coil around her pal.
"C'mon, just pretend we're having a good time. Salren knows what to do."
Everything was going according to plan. After some time of playing in the water, the opportune moment arrived. Salren was already in position as Steven climbed the bank to the top of the slide. She was submerged in the deep pool just under where the slide emptied in. Her eyes peered up from the depths; she was ready.
Reaching the top, Steven stood triumphantly over the falls and looked to his friends to cheer him on. Miles gave him an anxious thumbs-up from the bank, his feet dangling in the water. Tia lifted her head from basking in the sun and smiled up at him. With that, he hopped cheerfully into the quick moving stream of water gushing down the slippery rocks.
About halfway down the slide, Salren lifted her head from the pool at the bottom and opened wide. Steven's expression changed from a carefree smile to panic in an instant as she positioned her maw to receive him, extending her tongue slightly so that he'd slide right in. Desperately he tried to slow his decent, but the rocks were too slippery and the current too strong. A few second later, he slid onto her tongue and into her mouth. Her jaws snapped shut behind him. Miles and Tia laughed and cheered on the shore; everything had gone perfectly. Only one thing remained that could potentially go wrong: his reaction.
Salren scaly lips curled into a grin as the slippery little boy squirmed on her tongue. She could hear his muffled voice from inside.
"Salren, you open your mouth this instant! Do you hear me?"
She could feel that he had rolled over and risen to his knees to approach the front of her mouth. Gently, she tipped her head back, smiling. As gravity shifted, Steven fell forward, flat on her tongue and began to slide toward her throat. Salren glanced over at Miles; admittedly, he tasted delicious. But, tasty as he was, remaining friends with her little morsel was part of the plan and she didn't want to overstay her welcome, if such things could be said in this circumstance. She leaned over the bank and opened her mouth, letting the now slimy Steven slide off her tongue onto the grass at Miles feet.
Steven glared angrily up at Miles. "You," you said with an accusatory tone, "this was your idea, wasn't it."
They couldn't contain themselves any longer; both Miles and Tia burst out laughing.
"And you," Steven continued, still lying on the bank but this time addressing the dragon, "you almost swallowed me!"
Salren looked down, smiling, and winked.
Miles managed to contain his laughter. "How's it feel, buddy?" he asked Steven, reaching down to help him up.
"What, to almost be eaten by your friend?!" Steven asked, flustered, as he took Miles hand.
"No," Miles replied, "to have a friend you can trust."
Miles smiled as they looked into each other's eyes. Steven sighed and looked down at his feet. "It feels good," he said after a small hesitation. He cringed as a huge, slimy tongue licked his back.
"That's what I thought you were gonna say," Salren said, still smiling. She glanced at Miles who returned her smile. Everything had gone according to plan and though Miles expected some retaliation, he wasn't worried. In fact he was curious to see what clever scheme Steven would devise to get back at him.
The four of them spend the rest of the afternoon having fun together in the river, splashing around, enjoying the natural slides, and relaxing on the banks. As the day drew to a close, they dried off, dressed, and climbed aboard Salren for the flight home. They watched the beautiful Sarasonian sunset as they glided silently through the air toward the house. Though he knew it had all been a prank, he also knew that Miles meant what he said, and he was right. It really was good to have a friend you can trust.