The Dragon's Addiction
It had been hours since they fled the fighting. Mantu, Halgreth and Reanna had traveled far into the mountains, stopping every now and then to look back to see if they were being pursued.
"See anything?" Mantu asked, seeing Reanna looking down the mountain.
"Nothing but smoke? Seems that’s becoming his mark. I guess as long as we see smoke, we know he’s okay," Reanna said.
"We can hole up here and wait for him," Mantu said softly. "I think we’re safe here. If we were being followed, we would have seen some sign of them."
Reanna kept vigilance. "What’s keeping him? It shouldn’t take this long."
After what felt like an eternity, Halgreth yelled, "I think I see him." Mantu and Reanna both bolted to the edge of the bluff to see him approaching. Was he injured? Did he look like he was flying alright? Each expressed an opinion but squinted to try and see better to confirm or dismiss their theories. He finally landed by the fire and dumped the load that was in his arms on the ground.
As he stood up and turned around to greet the others returning from the ledge where they watched his approach so diligently, they suddenly froze at the sight of him and then they started to back away, staring at his face the whole time.
"What?" he asked, and he looked down. Then he saw what frightened them. Bimeny was covered from head to toe with blood. "Oh no," Bimeny muttered and he turned quickly and took flight toward the nearby stream. He landed in the middle of the stream and started to wash the blood off. Reanna came up behind him by the water’s edge. "Are you alright?" she asked gently.
"I don’t know," he said honestly, "I just don’t know." He looked toward her.
"Are you injured?" she asked.
"No, I’m not injured."
"Then, why all the blood?" Reanna asked with growing concern.
"It’s not mine," he said. "It was from one of the horses. I was done with the battle and was collecting food and supplies," he said as he made his way toward the shore. Bimeny paused as he recollected the events of just a few hours ago. He continued to recount it to Reanna. "Then I smelled something that drove me into a craze. It was horse blood. I dove on it and killed it. Then I proceeded to rip it apart. I ate until I was full," he said. "When I was done, you could barely tell what it was that was devoured there," he said, all this standing just out of reach, knee-high in the water, looking down. He was ashamed. He never made eye contact with Reanna.
The next thing he knew, she was standing with him in the water. She held him. Not like Halgreth had or his mother, but differently. She rested her head on his chest and she whispered, "It’s okay. I am with you now. You won’t be alone anymore. We can get through anything as long as we are together."
"Didn’t you just hear me?" Bimeny said without returning the embrace. "I just attacked a dying horse and ripped him apart uncontrollably to a point where the carcass was unrecognizable! What if it were to happen to you?" Bimeny asked.
She smiled, "Couldn’t happen. I don’t like horse meat," she said.
"Nooooo!" Bimeny said. "What if I went into a frenzy and decided to eat you?" he said.
She smiled and said, "Well, that’s one way to win me over," and she pressed her lips to his and embraced him. This time his response was reciprocating and he kissed her deeply and his arms went around her. They kissed for a very long time. As he released his embrace she laid her head on his chest again.
"Bimeny," she said.
"Yes," he whispered as he breathed in her smell and kissed her hair.
"I can’t feel my feet anymore. The water is freezing," she said.
"Is it?" he responded, his eyes still closed and still drinking in her smell.
"Uh, can we get out now?" she asked quietly.
He laughed and picked her up and carried her back to the shore. They returned to camp where he had no problem hocking up a luggie to warm them all up.
One of the benefits of having a brother who was part Dragon was that they never wanted for fire, and Bimeny had become very proficient at producing the desired size and intensity of fire on command, anything from a hand warmer to a full-on blazing wall of fire in just a second or two.
They all sat and had a relatively quiet dinner. No one was talking very much. Mantu and Halgreth never asked about the blood and Bimeny was glad. He didn’t relish the idea of telling Mantu what had happened, and that the horses were right. Mantu knew that no one walked away, but what he thought about his brother returning covered with blood, no one knew. Bimeny had again kept his promise. But the amount of blood that covered Bimeny was something Mantu and Halgreth would not soon forget. But for now, the subject would remain unspoken. It was enough to know that the blood wasn’t his and he was unhurt.
Halgreth and Mantu ate hurriedly. They chose to focus on each other instead. "Ah, we have a honeymoon to attend to," and they left for a makeshift tent that they had constructed just out of the clearing, but far enough for both parties to have some much desired privacy.
Bimeny and Reanna were left alone. His fears were abandoned by his hormones. What exactly that meant, Bimeny was unsure. He had never had the opportunities often afforded one of his 15 storm age and his blessing robbed him of most any future opportunities. At least, he thought so. Here was this beautiful Reanna, full of mystery and excitement, and he was lost as to how he should proceed. Many were already promised by their age but many also waited. But none faced the dilemma that now faced Bimeny. How do you tell her that you don’t know how to work under the covers of darkness!? And there is that all too painful armor problem that was becoming a bigger problem by the minute.
Reanna seemed to read his troubled mind and reached over and took his hand. Their eyes met and she led him into the darkness.
"Wait," he said as she slid her hand over his chest.
She whispered, "shhhhh." As she pressed her lips to his, Bimeny closed his eyes and figured she would figure it all out, and she did.
As they lay in an embrace and watched the morning sun rise over the top of the mountains, Bimeny leaned over and kissed her again. "So how do we get it all back in?" he whispered.
She smiled and said, "I don’t know, I guess we’ll just have to work on it a while longer until we figure that part out. And if we can’t, then everyone will know how they got the name dragon," she said playfully, and they disappeared under the covers again.
Bimeny and Reanna were up and about long before the honeymooners. "I’m going to go hunting," Bimeny announced. "I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!" he said it and then caught himself, "Er... ah, I mean, a rabbit," he corrected and he took off, smiling at Reanna as he left.
"Better get a few," she mused. "I’ve worked up a bit of an appetite myself," Reanna said with an evil grin. He disappeared into the forest, wishing he never had to leave her side ever again.
But he knew it was far from over. He still had a mission to complete, and if he didn’t, then they would never know happiness without being hunted. Bimeny knew now that he had to finish what he started and the sooner the better.
Bimeny returned to the camp with a brace of rabbits. Reanna had already started the stew, and took them from him and started to clean them and dress them out. "I’m going to need a bigger fire for these," she said, smiling.
"Tell me how big you want it and I’ll set fire to an entire moon if it suits you," he said, smiling and wrapping his arms around her from behind and nibbling on her neck.
She smiled coquettishly back over her shoulder and said, "As big as last night’s will be just fine," as she winced from his nibbling.
"Are we talking about fire here?" Bimeny asked in her ear.
"Oh, it was hot!" she teased.
"Good Morn!" Mantu said as he appeared from his makeshift tent. "Looks like you two worked things out," he said, looking at the faces of two people obviously in love. Mantu took Bimeny quietly aside, "You don’t have to tell me squat little brother but, uh...how’d you manage to work things out?"
"Well, let’s just say that when a problem gets big enough they just work themselves out," he said, with an ear to ear smile.
A hot breakfast was made by Halgreth and Reanna and when all were satisfied, Mantu looked at Bimeny and asked, "So now what?"
Bimeny thought for a few moments and said, "Well, now I go after Morgreth, and when I’m done there, I have to make sure the rest of the elders either agree to stop hunting me, or they are dead."
"You mean, ‘We,’ don’t you?" Reanna said, suddenly serious.
"No, I mean me." Bimeny said, looking her eye to eye. "They don’t know about you, and I want to keep it that way. Otherwise, they will hunt you down and use you like they tried to do with Mantu. Besides, if they catch me again, I need you guys to be on the outside to come get me out," he continued.
"But what will the people do without the Elders to lead them?" Reanna asked.
"People managed before we had elders. They’ll just have to learn again or elect new ones that don’t lie to them," Bimeny responded.
"Bimeny, I don’t want to burst your happiness or anything, but keeping you captive has not worked so well for them lately. I wouldn’t count on them taking you or anyone else prisoner in the future," Mantu said.
"Too bad there isn’t some way to find out if this was a mistake by the storm," Halgreth said. "If we could show that it wasn’t a fluke, then we could get them to leave you alone for good!" she finished.
"Yeah, but we have no way of knowing and don’t even have a clue where to start looking," Mantu said. "We don’t even know if there is a way to communicate with the storm," Mantu went on to say.
"Yes, we do," Bimeny cut in. "Gandoo told me that they communicated their ‘projected needs to the storm’ and that sometimes they got a fluke like me, so they could and did communicate with the storm."
"Did Gandoo say how they communicated with the storm?" Mantu asked.
"No, but he had shelves of records in his house. I wonder if any of them survived the fire?" Bimeny said.
"Well, there is one way to find out!" Reanna said, taking hold of Bimeny’s arm.
"What, you want to go back and see?" Bimeny asked her. "Do you think they will just open the door when we knock and say, ‘Sure, mister murdering renegade criminal, please come in and make yourself at home. Oh, what’s that you say, you want the top secret records describing how we talk to the storm and murder our citizens? Sure, let me get that for you. Can I get you some tea while you wait?’ " Bimeny said mockingly.
"It may be that easy!" Reanna said. "There was just a small group of guards there when I left and there was no one to stand in for Gandoo, so there should only be the house staff that is there. They should still be cleaning up. You could land on the open balcony and we could have a go at it for quite a while before anyone even noticed, and when they did notice us, I doubt if any of them would care to risk their lives over a record," Reanna added.
"Wait a minute, when did we move from I to we?" Bimeny asked.
"Look, Bimeny, it just makes sense. I studied recordkeeping, and as I remember it when I was helping you to learn, you just weren’t very good at it." Reanna said. "And anyways, don’t you think I should go with you when you talk to my father?" Reanna added with a raised eyebrow.
"Talk to your father?" Bimeny said. "I’d rather turn myself over to Morgreth," Bimeny responded with sudden fear in his eyes.
"Well, I don’t think he would take too kindly to your taking advantage of his daughter without asking for the promise," Reanna said.
"Well, as I recall, it was you who took advantage of me, and rather nicely if you ask me, so you should talk to my parents and ask the promise. Oh wait! They’re gone! Oh well, I guess we can skip that part!" Bimeny said, trying to sidestep the issue.
"You’re the guy! You ask the promise, not me. And after all, I came to help rescue you and after last night...!" Reanna said with her attitude rapidly escalating to a major snit.
"WAIT!" Bimeny shouted as he rounded on her. "You’re right. I need to talk to your father. I’m sorry. I just never thought about having to do this because, well, because it wasn’t likely to be an issue because I hadn’t....well, you know." Bimeny said, staggering and stumbling all over his words.
Reanna stopped him by kissing him squarely on the mouth to shut him up. "We," she said, placing a single finger onto his lips to tell him to listen and be silent.
"We," he said.
So he looked at Mantu and said, "Can you sneak down and get some word on where to find Morgreth and what is going on while we’re gone? It’ll take us at least three days or so, maybe a few more if we run into problems."
"Sure, but how are you guys going to travel?" Mantu asked. Bimeny looked at Reanna and leaned forward and pushed off. As he did, he scooped her up in his arms. "Wrap your arms around my neck and your legs around my waist. Can you hang on? Are you clear of my wings?" Bimeny asked.
She adjusted herself until she could comfortably hang on. "Yes, but I don’t know how long I could hang on," she said.
"No problem, I think I can make a sling," he said.
Bimeny landed again and looked at Mantu, "We’ll be flying, I think." Reanna was still hanging around his neck with her legs wrapped around his waist. All of a sudden her eyes got big and he turned his head towards Mantu and Halgreth, "We’ll be going to bed now. Boy, are we tired. See you in the morning," he said as he walked toward their tent as rapidly as he could with her still clinging around his neck and waist.
Mantu and Halgreth burst into laughter as soon as the two disappeared. Mantu laughed as he said, "It’ll take them a lot longer than three days unless he finds a different way to carry her." Halgreth burst out in laughter again. They laughed until tears flowed from their eyes and they were exhausted. Mantu looked Halgreth in eyes deeply and said, "Remember when that was all we could think about?"
"You mean this morning?" Halgreth said with a smile as she led him off to their own little sanctuary.
The next morning, they were all up early and making preparations for their respective missions. Bimeny made a sling that they could live with and still function. "There," he said, helping her into the sling.
"I liked it better the other way," she said with an evil grin.
"Me too," he replied. "But we could spend a week traveling and never get away from the camp," he added, smiling at her.
"Would that be so bad?" she asked.
"No, but we would be no closer to ending the hunt for us. I don’t want to have to run for the rest of our lives. I want to live in a house and make babies until there is no more room. By then, our youngest will be old enough to help me build more bedrooms," Bimeny said, smiling at her, but remaining serious.
"I know," she said. "But it was a nice thought all the same," Reanna said in resignation.
"Reanna," Bimeny said inquisitively, "where does your father think you are now? He must be worried," Bimeny said.
"Well, uh, I sort of left him a note that said I was running away with you so as not to shame him," she said.
"Shame him?" Bimeny questioned. "How could you shame him? What have you done?"
Reanna smiled. "By bearing your child, of course!" she said as she went back into their makeshift tent.
"But.... How could you..... I mean, we never even kissed!" he said. "Oh, this is going to hurt a lot, I can tell," Bimeny was stammering again. "He’ll kill me before I ever get to ask him permission for the promise," Bimeny mumbled to himself.
"Good thing you’re pretty much arrow proof," Mantu whispered in his ear as he passed him by.
"Oh, thanks for the vote of confidence," Bimeny said to Mantu’s back as he watched him leaving and chuckling at his predicament.
"How could you do that?" Bimeny asked her directly.
"It was easy," Reanna responded. "If I found you and you refused me, then Father would hunt you down and kill you. If you accepted me, then we apologize, and since then he’ll assume that I am with child, he will say that all is forgiven. It was a perfect plan," she said.
"By all that is stormy! I’ve fallen for a love-crazed, evil madwoman!" Bimeny exclaimed.
"Lucky you!" Reanna said, smiling that evil smile that could mean only one thing. They were going to get a late start on their trip.
Halgreth and Mantu had already started down the mountain when they came across the last battlefield. It was nothing but scorched dirt where there had once been trees and the prison cart and the people and the horses. There was nothing left, nothing but an incredible stench of death and a very large area of dirt covered in flies. It was readily apparent that wild animals had torn something apart and left virtually nothing but blood. Mantu wondered what was killed, that was not burned by the fire. He was also afraid of the answer. They left the area as quickly as they could and vowed not to return that same way ever again.
Mantu later remembered Bimeny coming to the camp covered in blood. It must have been a fearsome battle for his little brother to come back blood-soaked like that, he thought. They made their way sunpath towards Raven Plat, the town where Bimeny and Mantu were held captive.
Mantu made his way around town to talk to a few horses to see what they knew. He and Halgreth had agreed to meet near the edge of town just after sundown, provided it was safe to do so. Halgreth was careful not to be followed. First, she went further sunpath into the town. She turned right and walked a ways checking behind her. There was a fair amount of activity in the town and a lot of people milling about. Shoppers returning home after market, shopkeepers starting to close up their shops, a pair of Guards dragging a guy off that obviously had way too much to drink. She instinctively pulled her shawl up over her head to help hide her face. The guards didn’t even notice her.
She knew that if she made two more right turns and was not followed, that she would be safe to meet Mantu. If she had someone still following her after three right turns, that they were found out, because the third right would return them to their point of origin. Anyone still following at that point would have to be dealt with.
She was happy to see that there was no one remotely interested in her presence. She looked at the sun and it was low in the sky. It would not be long before dark. She made her way back towards the prearranged rendezvous point.
As she walked past the corner of the stable, Mantu stepped out just as she walked past and put his arm around her waist and walked with her. Startled by his hand suddenly reaching around her waist, Halgreth made use of both her elbow and then her knee. As Mantu went down, she realized who she had just kneed in the groin. She grabbed him by the arm and ushered him around the corner of the stable.
"You should have said something!" she whispered sternly.
"I...tried to just as you...oh, that hurt," he said as he gasped for air.
She was trying not to laugh at this point, as she kissed him on the cheek and said, "I’m so sorry, sweetie. Come on and I’ll help you to the inn." It was some time before he was able to walk fully erect again, but he was still in plenty of pain.
"You’re pretty good at that," Mantu said, getting his voice back but still unable to use his hands, as they were in damage control mode, covering his injury when they entered the inn. There wasn’t anyone in the tavern portion as they entered.
The bartender saw them heading for the stairs. "Hey! You said nothing about bringing anyone with you!" he said to her as he came out around the bar.
"You didn’t ask," Halgreth shot back.
"Well, we can’t have working girls around here, it’ll bring on the guard!" he said.
Like a flash, Mantu grabbed the barkeep by the arm and pressed a knife up against his throat. "That is my wife that you’re disrespecting."
"Your wife?" he said. "Sorry mate, my mistake, should have known. She’s was too pretty for a whore."
"You ever refer to my wife like that again, and the guard will be the least of your troubles!" Mantu said with anger blazing in his eyes.
"Mantu, stop," Halgreth said as the door opened and a very thin man came in with a burlap bag over his shoulder. Whatever he had rattled like silver trays and cups just thrown in the bag. Mantu was fast at retracting the knife but not fast enough. The thin man froze and looked at the barkeeper, who had very large eyes at the moment and was rubbing his throat.
"Alright there, Randar?" the old man asked, not yet turning loose of the door.
The barkeep looked at Mantu, "Fine there, Kip, just fine. What’ll you have?" he asked as he made his way back to the bar.
"A tall malt will be fine," Kip replied, releasing the door and making his way cautiously toward the bar.
Mantu stepped toward the bar and Halgreth took him by the arm to slow him down. Together, they walked over to the bar. "How about you two?" the barkeep asked Mantu and Halgreth.
"Two of your house brew," Mantu said.
"New in town, eh?" Kip said quietly, looking at Mantu over the top of his frothy mug.
"Just passin’ through town on the way to Haven Plat in the morn. Just looking for a good night’s sleep. What makes you think we’re new here?" Mantu asked suspiciously.
"No one who has been in town more than a day or two asks for one of Randar’s home brews," Kip said with a chuckle.
"Mind your mouth," Randar snapped.
"Worst in town. The Guard won’t even drink it the night before payday, even if he offers ’em credit!" Kip laughed. Mantu picked up his mug and took a sip and spit it back out onto the floor.
Randar put his hands up. "Alright! Here, try these," he said as he poured more of what Kip was having. Mantu picked it up and took a drink. He looked at Halgreth and gave her a nod. She also picked up the mug, shoving the bad one back at Randar.
"Well, I guess the guard won’t be coming here to drink tonight then," Mantu said in a fishing attempt.
"When you came in you were in pain. You didn’t have no run-in with the Guard did you?" Randar said quickly. Kip looked back at the door quickly as if he was watching to see if the Guard were coming in.
"No worries there," Mantu said. "That was the new wife that doesn’t like to be surprised telling me with a well placed knee," Mantu said looking at Halgreth. She burst out in laughter and was soon joined by the others. Soon they were all laughing and drinking together.
The barkeep went over and locked the door and closed the curtain on the door. He returned to the party.
Randar took the bag from Kip and looked inside. Kip snatched the bag back and gave Randar a look, and then he looked over at Mantu and Halgreth. "Got no use for the Guard either," he said and dumped the contents on the bar, which made a metal crash as pieces rolled off the bar and hit the floor. "Besides, anyone shows up and we’ll just have her go handle ‘em for us," Kip said, throwing a thumb at Halgreth. They all started laughing again.
"So what trouble ye have with the guard?" Randar asked, being rather forward.
"Let’s just say that it is my brother who has the problem, but they would like to have me, to get to him. He has a bit of a Dragon problem."
"A dragon problem? No one has seen a dragon around here for generations," Kip replied.
"Well, I think that may be the problem. You see, the storm made him half dragon and they are afraid of him. And with good reason. He has destroyed every person who has gone against him. He can breathe fire and fly. He can attack at night as well as day, because he can see in the dark and find you hiding behind walls," Mantu said.
"Nonsense! I don’t believe it." Randar said. "Nobody can do that."
"Nobody except my brother," Mantu said with more than a bit of pride. "I’ve seen him at it! He can see a man behind a wall by the warmth of his body, and he can walk in the dark like it is day. He can see in the night like it was day. He has killed a lot of the guard. They would like nothing better than to get their hands on him," Mantu continued.
"A man wouldn’t be looked upon as being too smart, going looking for trouble that size, especially when he can’t win," Randar said with a sideways glance at Mantu.
"Well, it could be that most don’t know. He hasn’t left too many to tell the tale once they go after him. They had me once and him too!" Mantu said. "But not for long. It is hard to keep a man when he can do so much."
"So are you two wanted then?" Kip asked.
"Well, we figure they’ll give up after time," Mantu said.
"Don’t you bet on it, the Guard has a long memory," Kip said without hesitation. He obviously knew what he was talking about. You could read it in his face. "They had me once for pinching a ring. I was only near ten. I was thin enough that I slipped through the bars and ran for it. I ran and didn’t stop running until I was well rid of the town. I didn’t go back for nearly twelve more storms. I was in town no more than a morning when I was spotted. They knew who I was even though I was grown! I was beaten and thrown behind the bars for another ten, plus the two I owed when I escaped. I wouldn’t underestimate ’em if I was you," Kip said.
"Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind," Mantu said with some concern in his eyes.
With most of the evening burnt and everyone’s eyes turning low, Mantu and Halgreth went upstairs to bed. It was a restless sleep full of bad dreams, but they were full enough of drink that they still slept hard and long. Randar and Kip continued to drink until they were passed out at the table. An obvious practice that was all too common for the two of them.
When Mantu and Halgreth awoke the next morning, their mouths tasted like an old boot and their heads felt ready to explode. They knew it would be a while before they felt right again. They went downstairs and had breakfast in the Inn. Randar was wide awake and no worse off for the drink. He was used to it. "Morning you two. Thought I was going to get another day’s charges against you. Another few and I would have," Randar finished. "How about a bit of breakfast before you take on the day?" he said smiling, making eye contact with Mantu and glancing toward a table near the door. In the shadow, Mantu could see a very large Guard sitting there having breakfast.
"Well, thank you," Mantu said. "We’ve enjoyed our stay so far, so maybe we’ll stay for another night. I still have business to attend to, and we’ll take some of that breakfast as well, what is it?" Mantu asked with his back now towards the guard.
Randar stopped to think for a minute and looked at Mantu with a straight face and said, "Meat."
"What kind of meat?" Mantu asked. Randar stumbled for the words again, "Cooked!" he said now through his teeth and glancing from Mantu to the Guard who was now looking at the few bites of meat left on his plate and then back to Mantu.
"OH!" Mantu said, catching on. "Yes, of course, the cooked kind. I’ll have some of that and some eggs too. Thanks, we’ll just sit over here," he said as he ushered Halgreth, who was quietly in restrained hysterics over the conversation and doing her best not to laugh out loud.
"I’m not eating it, whatever it is," she whispered. "I’ll eat the eggs but I’m not eating the meat! Oh, I mean the cooked meat," she said with a snicker.
The guard was getting up and heading for the barkeep. "What kind of meat did you say it was?" the guard asked.
"Was there anything wrong with the meat, sir?" Randar asked with his hands folded in front of him with a syrupy sweet tone. "It tasted alright then?" he asked the guard.
"Well, uh, yeah," he said. "I was just wondering what...." Randar cut him off cold.
"Your Captain came in and had the same breakfast as you earlier. He never asked what kind of meat it was. What, do you think I would serve you dog or rat or something? The captain knows better! He comes here often. Why don’t you go ask him what kind of meat he had for breakfast. No, wait," Randar said, leaning towards the door of the Inn and squinting as if he could see through the crack in the curtains. "I think I see him just down the street, let me get him and you can ask him if he ate dog or rat for breakfast." With that he headed for the door.
"No, wait!" the guard said. "I’ve no need to accuse the captain of eating dog or rat for breakfast. He’ll have me doing extra duty for a month. I’m satisfied with the food. Here, take your money," the guard said as he handed the money to Randar and then headed for the door.
"The Captain," Randar said with a poetic pause, "is an excellent tipper, too," Randar finished, tumbling the few coins he was given into his open palm so they made a tiny jingle. The guard stopped cold. He turned around and walked back over to Randar and dropped a fist full of coins in his hand and spun around before he had time to say anything more, and sprinted for the door.
"Thank you, come back again tomorrow," Randar said as he pocketed the coins and went back to tend to the now burnt meat. "Oh, too bad," he said, "and that was the last of it too." Randar said with a smirk. "That was a particularly tender one too. I just hope it wasn’t a friend of his," Randar said, grinning.
"You mean that was a guard?!" Halgreth asked.
"Heavens no," Randar replied. "Do you know how long you would have to marinade one of them to get ’em tender? The last one I fed them had to marinade almost a week before he no longer stunk, let alone got tender. Heavens no. But I think he will be a little upset when he goes to untie his guard dog out back," Randar said, laughing so hard he brought tears to his eyes. "He’ll just figure it got loose and returned to the garrison. The funny part is that when his Captain finds out he lost his dog, he’ll get that month’s worth of extra duty anyways."
Halgreth was on the floor laughing so hard she had to excuse herself to the restroom. Mantu looked Randar squarely in the eyes and asked, "Those eggs, they’re alright, aren’t they?"
"Sure, here, have some," he said, shoving a plate in front of him. As Mantu started to eat his eggs, Randar said, "The Captain liked them, anyways." Mantu about choked on the eggs, laughing as Halgreth returned and asked, "What did I miss? Did he come back?" which put them into hysterics.
"Never mind," Mantu said, pushing his eggs over in front of Halgreth and laughing. "Eat your eggs, I’ll tell you all about it later," and he and Randar busted up again. Halgreth was beginning to think that she married a madman as she sat and ate her eggs.
Mantu knew he would never look at eggs the same way again. But regardless of what else happened, Mantu knew he had made a contact that would no doubt prove to be useful in the future.
After breakfast, he and Halgreth excused themselves and went for a walk through town. "Mantu," Halgreth asked, "What did you find out from the horses when you went to speak with them?"
"I found out that Morgreth has put a price on our heads and that they are having a tough time moving troops and supplies, because the horses refuse to do anything for them, so they are forced to walk wherever they go and to carry everything they need. And get this, Stargazer has a cousin that speaks cow, and she spread the news. The cattle have all but disappeared from the garrisons. The chickens can’t figure out what’s going on, but they don’t like stress and have stopped laying. The garrison is having to spend a lot of money buying things they normally had a steady supply of. She’s not too happy about that either."
"Word is that the transport troops that Bimeny killed had a bigger impact than we thought. A lot of the guards are deserting. No one wants to deal with the dragon boy. Apparently they have found out that the life expectancy is relatively short. So the bottom line is that we have a price on our heads that is probably not high enough for most but the most desperate and she has little or no support for her campaign. The down side is that she has to be getting desperate and there is nothing more dangerous than someone who has nothing to lose."
Halgreth thought about what Mantu had said for a long time, trying to figure out what she would do if she were in Morgreth’s place. Her look was one of worry. When Mantu asked her what she was thinking, she only looked at him and said, "We better get on with our mission. I don’t think we have much time left."
When they returned to the Inn to get their things, they saw a detachment of guard out front and they were removing the Innkeeper and his friend, Kip.
"Feed me my own dog, will you?" one of the guards said. Mantu and Halgreth found a place to observe discretely from an alley nearby.
Mantu turned around to ask Halgreth what they should do and found that she was gone. He turned back around just in time to see her running up to the detachment. Randar and Kip were in the middle of the detachment with their hands bound. Halgreth ran up screaming, "Quick, the Dragon Boy! He’s attacking the Garrison! Quick, or it’ll be too late!" They looked at her and then at each other and the leader made a movement with his hand. They dropped the ropes that were holding their prisoners and ran towards the garrison. When they were gone and the last one rounded the corner, Mantu joined Halgreth and they untied Randar and Kip.
"You don’t have long, I don’t think they will have to get all the way back to the Garrison before they figure out that the Dragon Boy isn’t here. There is nothing burning at the Garrison, so there will be no smoke in the sky." Randar just looked at Halgreth. "That’s sort of a trademark for him. Whenever he shows up, there is smoke in the sky."
"He can really breathe fire, then?" Randar asked.
"Oh, yes. And he can fly as well. Just like I said. You didn’t believe me?" Mantu asked.
"Well, to be honest, it sounded a little far-fetched. I mean, everyone has heard of the Dragon Boy, but to have a member of his party come into my Inn, I mean, how often can that happen?"
"Well, we better get out of here quick or get to like Garrison food," Halgreth said.
"Let’s head back inside the Inn, they will never figure that we would. We can pack some things and be gone quickly," Randar said.
"But where will we go?" Kip asked.
"Anywhere but here. The Guard has a long memory," Randar told him.
"We can give you a place to hide out for a while. We have a camp in the mountains. You can stay there for a while until Bimeny finishes his mission."
"A mission?" Randar queried.
"They’re going to Gandoo’s to look for a record," Mantu said.
"But Gandoo is dead and his house burned," Randar said, "I heard some of the guard talking, they said the Dragon Boy did it," Randar said.
"Well first, let me clear a few things up for you," Mantu said. "His name is Bimeny, not Dragon Boy, and he’s my little brother. Second, he did it and I was there. He has Gandoo’s bow to prove it."
"Gandoo’s bow!" exclaimed Randar. "Why, it is worth a small fortune! It’s legendary. It was supposed to have been imbued by the storm with some power!" Randar said.
"What power?" Mantu asked. "I’ve fired the bow and I’ve seen no evidence of any power."
"I don’t know," Randar said. "I just remember two of the Guard talking about it. They were saying that they must retrieve it before the next Stormtraub or the provinces could be in trouble. That’s all I remember."
"Well, that makes the story more interesting. I wonder why they didn’t take it from us before, when they had us tied up. It was just in the armory with all the other weapons, and then when they transported us, they just had them in the wagon," Mantu said, quizzically. "If it was that important, then they should have left a guard on it the entire time," he said, still quite puzzled by it all.
"We’ll have time to work on this riddle later. Right now, we need to get out of town. The sun is setting, so we can leave soon. Better get the rest of your things together," Halgreth said, looking away from the window where she had been watching for the guard