Story by Jason Lairamore / Illustration by John Waltrip
Blood ran from Sadon Bohon’s shoulder to drip off his fingertips as he made his way down the muddy cart path leading to the witch’s place of business. People gave him a wide berth, fearing, no doubt, that his misfortune was somehow catching.
All, that was, except for the hulking, one-armed man wearing the red robe of a constable who stood blocking his path.
He took a hard look at Sadon and asked, “Heading to the Withch?”
Sadon paused and frowned at the man’s missing arm and lisping speech. “Yes,” he answered. “I was told Anastas lives at the end of this lane.”
“In a sthone cottage gone green with moth. I will thee you to her door.”
Sadon nodded. “It would be an honor.”
The big man fell in step beside Sadon and they continued on their way. Sadon noticed that the man did not carry a sword as any other of the king’s men might. Instead, he walked with a shortened quarterstaff of polished wood that stood as tall as his shoulder.
Sadon nodded to the man’s weapon. “Favor the staff to the steel?” he asked.
The man nodded, but didn’t elaborate. Sadon hoped he hadn’t offended the man somehow.
The witch’s house was as the constable had said, but larger, and older than Sadon had imagined. The man walked up and, after resting the staff on his chest, rapped on the thick, ledged door.
Sadon had thought to hear a crone-like voice, and so was surprised to hear the light, high-pitched voice that bade them enter.
They stepped over the threshold and onto a clean, stone floor. Woven, intricately painted, rush mats covered the great room beyond the entryway. Ornate, free standing, candelabras lined the stone walls. Wavering, soft, orange light filled the room before them. This Anastas obviously kept a tidy, not to mention, wealthy, establishment. He patted the nearly empty purse at his waist as he continued to look around.
A young woman stepped from behind a white dressing screen depicting red, flying dragons. She wore a beautiful dress of black and gold. The gold of her bodice perfectly matched the curly, blonde ringlets that fell about her shoulders.
Deep dimples creased her cheeks as she smiled. “Constable Tybalt Craon, what brings you to my establishment? Is there trouble?”
The big man, Tybalt, shook his head. “Ethcorting an injured man to thee you.”
“As well you should, Constable. I thank you for your service,” Anastas replied. She directed her dimpled smile toward Sadon.
With the eyes of Anastas upon him, Sadon forgot how to talk. The moment stretched.
“Please come in and let’s have a look,” Anastas said once it was clear that Sadon wasn’t going to be able to introduce himself.
Sadon walked toward her. Once his legs started moving, he, at last, found his tongue.
“Apologies,” he said in way of introduction. “I am Sadon Bohon, master animal trainer. I can hear what beasts are thinking and feeling, you see. There is no animal problem that I cannot cure.”
He realized, too late, that he was rambling and forced his mouth shut.
“That is very nice,” Anastas said offhandedly. “Would you be kind enough to remove your tunic?”
Sadon did so. Anastas gave his wounded shoulder a single, critical look before turning her back to him and opening an apothecary standing against the room’s far wall.
“Animal trainer, you say?” she asked. “That looks like a horse bite.”
“Well, yes,” Sadon answered weakly. “The animal was crazed, sane one moment, a bucking, snapping beast from the pit of Hades the next. It would have killed me true had I not picked up its change of nature just before it attacked.”
Anastas turned back around holding an assortment of capped gourds in her arms. She set the medicine on the table beside them and set to mixing a pungent smelling poultice.
“You are indeed, a lucky man,” she said in earnest, not looking up from her work.
“Yes, it is not the first time my gift has saved my life.”
She made no further comment as she set to cleaning and dressing his wound. As she finished her work he asked, “Have they an inn hereabouts?”
“Just down the way,” she answered. “The King’s Inn. It is at the crossroads.”
“Er, if you haven’t had your midday meal, it would be my pleasure to take you there.”
Anastas turned from him and began putting her medicines away. “You honor me, but I must decline. That’ll be eight silvers please.”
He donned his tunic then dug a hand into his purse, knowing as he did that he did not have the sum she was asking. He’d barely had the money it would have cost him to take her to eat. The old woman whose horse he’d attempted to fix had paid him only with laughter after her crazed beast had attacked him.
A crash of what sounded like a clay pot breaking came from nearby. He turned and saw a door on the floor that he assumed led to a root cellar.
“Rat problem?” he asked, returning his attention to Anastas.
Her eyes were wide and her face had lost a little of its color. She looked first to Tybalt, who had remained in the entryway.
“Yes, rats,” she said, nodding her head, “just rats. I will attend to it presently.”
He returned the few coins he possessed to his purse and smiled his best smile at the beautiful witch.
“Nonsense,” he said. “One good trade deserves another. Since you’ve had the opportunity to practice yours on my poor shoulder it is only fitting that I practice mine for you. I will take care of your rats in exchange for the service you provided me.”
Anastas shook her head slightly and looked once more to Tybalt. After a moment of hesitation, her beautiful dimples returned.
“As you will then,” she said with a bow. “A deal it is. But, I say, our brave constable must go with you. Rats are vicious creatures and rarely travel alone.”
“I assure you madam I will be quite –”
“I will go,” Tybalt interrupted.
Sadon turned to him as the one armed man strode towards them.
“I will be fine,” Sadon said.
“I’d like to thee a Mathter at work,” Tybalt replied.
Tybalt opened the door and gestured for Sadon to lead the way.
The steps were of stone and they were wet. The walls were wet as well. A strong, musty smell wafted up from below. The same soft, orange glow as from the great room above, but less bright, cast everything in shadows.
“You have a way with the ladieth,” Tybalt said as they reached the bottom.
“Quiet,” Sadon said. Something wasn’t right. There was, indeed, a creature down here, but it was no rat. He felt hunger radiating so intensely that it filled the entire room.
He ran to the source of light, another of the standing candelabras, and picked it up.
“What ith it?” Tybalt asked. The tinge of mirth in his voice from before was gone.
There was a broken wooden crate in the corner next to them. Inside and around it were chicken feathers.
“No rat,” Sadon answered. Something hissed, cat-like, from the darkness on the other side of the room.
“Thtay behind me,” Tybalt said as he advanced toward the dark.
Sadon held the light up high as they shuffled across the room. The crash of another breaking pot made him jolt. He reached out with his gift and met something he couldn’t explain. Behind the voracious hunger was understanding. Whatever manner of animal was down there, it possessed intelligence.
They passed the stone steps. The creature growled. Scratching and scraping followed. Sadon sent out the feeling of peace. They weren’t there to hurt it.
‘NO!’ came reverberating back from the thing. Sadon had felt the words meaning as clearly as if a person had yelled it.
“Get down,” a voice called from behind. He turned as an arrow hit the candelabra and knocked it from his hands.
A woman holding a drawn bow, wearing ringmail and form-fitting, metal, body armor, stood near the bottom of the steps.
“Of the Godth!” Tybalt exclaimed. Sadon turned around in time to catch a glimpse of red scales and a long, tapering tail as the creature disappeared into a wide crack at the base of the wall.
The woman came at a run to them. She took one look at the hole in the wall and turned her fiery gaze toward them.
“Up the stairs,” she commanded. Sadon couldn’t help but notice the curving shape of metal that hugged her chest.
“Now,” she said.
“As you say, milady,” Sadon said with a nod.
The great room was full of soldiers. The witch, Anastas, was in chains, and standing beside her was Lord Marshal Crewe himself.
“Lancesepade Gussalen, report,” the Marshall said.
“It has escaped,” the woman said from beside Sadon.
Anastas laughed in her beautiful, high-pitched voice. Marshal Crewe nodded to the soldier beside her and Anastas was led away, still laughing.
“They saw it, Sire,” Gussalen said. The Marshall eyed both him and Tybalt.
“Tybalt, I know, and I’ve no time for his lisping tone. You,” he said, looking at Sadon, “what is your name?”
Sadon paused before answering, partly for effect, but mostly to just make the man wait his pleasure for the injustice done Tybalt. He didn’t really know Tybalt, but to belittle the man in front of so many soldiers could not go without notice.
“I am Sadon Bohon, master animal trainer,” he finally said.
“What did you see?” the Lord Marshal followed without even a mere nod to Sadon’s stated title.
Sadon considered his options as he looked first to Tybalt and then to Gussalen, who remained by his side.
“You need my help,” he said.
The Marshal shook his head. “Lancesepade, see these two out. They are of no use.”
Gussalen nudged him with the end of her bow. Sadon turned to Tybalt, but the big man was already headed for the door.
“I can hear what the beast thinks and feels,” Sadon said as he was nudged again.
“Go,” the Marshal said before turning to confer with an old man wearing the white of one of the king’s advisors.
Gussalen saw him out the door and onto the muddy cart path where Tybalt was waiting.
“Thank you for your assistance,” Gussalen said. “We will handle it from here.”
Sadon shook his head. “I can help,” he said again.
“Stay clear,” she replied. “This is King’s business.”
“Why don’t you athk her out?” Tybalt asked. Sadon turned to him. The big man was smiling.
Gussalen frowned. “You two are lucky to be alive,” she said and returned to the house.
“I think she likth you,” Tybalt said once she was gone.
Sadon huffed. “Goodbye Constable.” He began walking back toward town.
“Wait,” Tybalt called.
“Why?” Sadon returned as he continued on his way. “They don’t want us here. I have to find work if I’m to afford a bed tonight.”
“Exactly,” Tybalt said as he jogged up to join him. “What better job ith there than this? If you thucceed you will be known acroth the land. You will be the famouth mathter animal trainer. You could live in a palath.”
Sadon stopped and looked up into the big man’s eyes, trying to see if he was mocking him. All he could see was eagerness. How he wished he could read people like he read animals.
“That creature,” he mused, shaking his head.
“Leth do it,” Tybalt said.
Sadon tilted his head at the big man. “With you? Why do want to help me? I can’t pay you.”
Tybalt thumped his staff on the ground. “The army wouldn’t take me becauthe of my arm and my lithp. I get half pay from the mayor to watch the threeths.” He hit the ground again with his staff. “I can’t carry theel as a real conthable.”
Sadon nodded. “You want to prove your worth by helping me capture the beast?”
Tybalt bent down and got his face right next to Sadon’s.
“I am a tholdier.”
There would be no denying Tybalt his chance. Sadon could read the man’s desire easily. As for himself, an opportunity to prove to the Lord Marshal and maybe even the King that his gift was real was too good to pass up.
“It is settled then,” he said, rubbing his hands together. “Now to find the beast before the Marshal does. Where could it have gone after escaping the Witch’s basement?”
“I know where,” Tybal said and took off at a jog.
Sadon quickly caught up. “Where are we going?”
“We need a horth.”
Tybalt found one quickly enough, a big, black Friesian. It was grazing in a small enclosure. A happy little cottage with smoke drifting lazily from its stone chimney sat nearby.
“Come Arthius,” Tybalt said. “We have a mithion.” He led the animal to the gate and out onto the street.
“This is your horse?” Sadon exclaimed. The beautiful horse was big enough to be of the King’s prized breed.
“A gift from my father,” Tybalt said. “He thupported me till hith end, spent his entire thavings on Arthius here from hith death bed.”
Tybalt leaned his staff against Arthius’s flank and hoisted himself up in the saddle. Then he helped Sadon up to sit behind him. Once settled, and with Tybalt once again in possession of his staff, the horse took off at a quick canter down the path.
They entered the wood at the end of town and soon came to the mouth of a cave nestled upon the side of a hill.
“I uthed to play here as a child, until bears took it over.”
Sadon slid to the ground. “You think the beast will end up here?”
“Yeth,” Tybalt answered as he too dismounted from the great animal. “The cave ith deep and hath many branches.”
“It’s as good a place as any to try,” Sadon said as he walked toward the opening.
He had smelt his share of bear dens and knew upon entering the cave that Tybalt’s claim was no lie. He extended his gift, but did not sense a bear. What he did feel, however, caused a shiver to go down his spine.
“Stay behind me,” he whispered to Tybalt. “It is here. Let me try to talk to it.”
“Talk?” Talbot scoffed.
Sadon ignored the man and focused his gift on the brooding presence ahead in the dark.
‘We are here to help‘, he sent out softly. He had never used actual words before with his communications with beasts, but, then again, he had never encountered a creature like this one before.
Its response was immediate. A blood-red fire erupted from the darkness and shot like a large, elongated arrow right at him. He could but stare as the rolling, fluid-like blaze came to engulf him.
Something hit him hard on his wounded shoulder, knocking him to the rocky cave floor. The fire hit the wet wall behind where he had just stood. Eerie, red light illuminated the area.
Tybalt lay on the ground beside him, but the big man rose quickly. With a roar he ran to the creature that was now rushing toward them.
Sadon gasped at the size of the beast. It was half the size of Tybalt’s great horse.
Tybalt’s staff was a blur as he sidestepped the advancing creature. He knocked it a cracking blow to its long, scaly head. The creature faltered and Tybalt swept his staff, knocking its two front clawed feet out from under it. As it crashed down Tybalt kicked it in the jaw.
The beast rolled away from Tybalt and, before he could advance, it once again opened its toothy jaw. Fire erupted anew. Tybalt danced away as the dragon, for it could be nothing less, shot fire all around.
“Run!” Tybalt screamed as he danced to avoid the spewing inferno.
Sadon jumped up and was all too happy to do just that. He ran for his life out of the cave.
Tybalt was on his heels. The big man’s red robes of office smoldered. He tore them off as they ran. They vaulted onto the back of the alert Arthius and took off at a gallop back toward town.
Sadon glanced back. The dragon was coming after them in an ever-nearing, loping run.
“Faster!” he cried. Arthius put on speed, but it was no use. The dragon continued to gain on them.
They fled through the trees up a hill. Upon entering a flat, treeless meadow at the hill’s top, Arthius put on even more speed. Sadon glanced back to find that the dragon was almost upon them.
“Archers!” boomed a voice from ahead. Sadon turned to find Lord Marshall Crewe and a large company of soldiers just ahead.
Arthius ran straight toward them.
“Move aside!” Sadon called. Arthius came to a jolting stopped and reared up before the mass of armored men. Such was the horse’s wild motion that Sadon slipped off its back. He hit the ground flat on his back, knocking out his breath. Tybalt landed beside him an instant later.
The dragon had not slowed. It jumped and landed hard upon the great horse’s raised upper half just as a volley of arrows tore into Arthius.
“Noooo!” screamed Tybalt as both horse and dragon went down in a heap.
The dragon commenced to tear great chunks from the horse. Tybalt made to get up as another barrage of arrows flew toward them. Sadon, his air coming in painful gasps, threw himself atop the large man, forcing him down.
Many of the arrows hit the dragon, but if any of them did any damage Sadon could not tell. The dragon raised its bloody muzzle and hissed at the soldiers. Another burst of arrows followed as the dragon continued its feast.
The sound of steel arrowheads hitting the exposed dragon sounded like a smithy’s hammer upon a heated blade. The dragon opened its maw and let loose its fire.
The front row of soldiers burst into flames.
As the men at arms died, the remaining soldiers sought to contain the blaze. The dragon shot off at an angle back into the woods.
Tybalt rolled Sadon off of him and was at once beside the dead Arthius. Sadon rose, his breathing mostly returned. He gazed at the carnage. It had all happened so quickly.
The soldiers had stopped the fire from spreading. Little black circles, each with a smoking, dead soldier at its middle, formed an almost perfect line in front of the half- eaten horse. Sadon saw the Lord Marshal conferring with the old man in white and walked toward them. His knees felt near to giving out.
Before he reached the man and his advisor a small group of soldiers took off at a run in the direction the dragon had fled. Gussalen was with them. Sadon couldn’t miss the shapeliness of her body armor.
“If I had the time, I’d have you dragged to the dungeon,” the Lord Marshal said in way of greeting.
Sadon wasn’t sorry for what he and Tybalt had done. He was sorry for Arthius’s fate, but not for taking his chance. And, as he saw it, that chance was not over.
“If you had taken me seriously this would not have happened Sir,” he said. “I can help.”
The old man beside the Lord Marshal frowned. As the Lord Marshal opened his mouth, the old man raised a hand, forestalling the Marshal’s words.
“Explain,” the old man said. His voice was strong for one that appeared so feeble.
“I can,” Sadon glanced to the glowering Lord General, “hear what beast thinks and feels. The dragon is intelligent. I can communicate with it.”
“Beast masters are a myth.” the old man said.
Sadon glanced back at Tybalt and what was left of his horse.
“So are dragons.”
The old man considered his words for a moment. “A relic from ancient times was stolen from the vaults a fortnight ago. It was believed, by those who hold true to the lore, to be the last known dragon egg.”
Sadon thought of the beautiful witch, Anastas. That she had somehow stolen the egg then had hatched it seemed incredulous.
A woman’s scream ripped the air. Sadon turned toward the sound to see a sight that made his insides quiver.
The dragon, now even larger than before, was flying. Its bat-like wings beat heavily as it rose. In its back set of talons it carried the struggling Gussalen.
“No,” the Lord Marshal whispered harshly.
In a matter of moments, the dragon and its prisoner were away.
“There is but one place it could be going,” the old man said.
Sadon whipped back to old man. “Where?”
“Why, towards gold my young beast master.” The old man smiled.
“Form ranks!” the Lord Marshal bellowed. The soldiers did as bid quickly.
“You’ve a plan,” Sadon said to the old man. It was obvious that they had anticipated that something like this might happen.
“As you were, beast master,” the old man said. “We have things well in hand. Best of fortune in your trade.”
“Why Gussalen?” Sadon asked quickly before the old man could join the others. He caught the Lord Marshal glaring at him as if he’d said something indecent.
“Dragons are attracted to virgins,” the old man said. “It was believed that the Lancesepade would attract the beast so that we might kill it all the faster.”
“Back to the hamlet!” commanded the Marshal. The old man turned from Sadon and joined the others as they marched back the way they had come.
Tybalt joined Sadon as they watched the King’s men hurry away.
“We must follow them,” Sadon said.
“Yeth we mutht,” agreed Tybalt.
Sadon wasn’t surprised by the vehemence in Tybalt’s tone. He was sure that Arthius meant more to Tybalt than a mere beast of burden might.
“Keep your head about you, Tybalt,” he cautioned.
The constable didn’t answer as he began to follow the retreating soldiers. Sadon shook his head and jogged to catch up.
The soldiers made it back to the hamlet and kept on marching. They looked to be heading to the capital, but veered from that direction before reaching the gates. They instead skirted the gate and entered the surrounding farmland. After trudging by field after field, they came upon an old, abandoned barn. Its timbers were gray with age and there was a large hole in its thatch roof. The soldiers stopped and divided forces.
Groups of soldiers stopped at what Sadon thought were bundles of stacked hay bales. As he watched, the soldiers removed the hay bundles to reveal several ballista engines.
The Lord Marshal and the old man were standing alone up ahead. Sadon nudged Tybalt and they hurried toward them.
The Lord Marshal turned at their approach, as did the old man.
“Give me a chance,” Sadon said quietly before the Marshal could say anything. “You are about to kill Gussalen.”
The Lord Marshal turned from him. The old man smiled. “You are a persistent man, my young beast master.”
“I can save her,” Sadon said. His personal goal of proving to the world that he did, indeed, have a power only heard in old wives tales didn’t matter at the moment. He could save Gussalen, if only he could get the dragon to listen to him. He was her only chance.
“My dear boy,” the old man said with a chuckle, “the girl is already dead.”
“You cannot be sure.”
The old man nodded and raised one of his arthritic hands. He extended a finger. “We moved the king’s gold from his strong room to this barn.” Another finger was raised. “A dragon’s gold is his nest.” A third finger was lifted. “Once a nest is made eggs follow.” He dropped his hand and looked steadily at Sadon. “A maiden’s blood is the final step to birth a dragon. She is dead.”
Sadon looked to the Lord Marshal. “There might still be time. What harm is there in me trying. The worst that could happen is my death.”
“And mine,” Tybalt added.
The Lord Marshal turned to face them. His visage was a mask of anger.
“I am not without sentiment,” he said harshly. “I have trained Gussalen since she was a youth.”
The old man sighed. “I’m afraid the Marshal’s hands are tied in this manner. As the expert in dragon lore, the King appointed me commander.”
Sadon’s heart sank.
“I see, however,” the old man continued, “that both you and the Marshal are of the same mind. If you want to die, go right ahead.” He pulled a small, ornate hourglass from his white robes and turned it over. “When the sands run out I will order the ballista attack. Mind, the ballista are filled with exploding powder. That barn and anything in it will soon cease to exist.”
Sadon eyed the falling sand.
“I need a thord,” Tybalt said.
The Marshal pulled his own sword and handed it to Tybalt.
“Hurry,” he said.
They took off at a run toward the barn. Neither of them spoke of a plan. There wasn’t time for one.
Tybalt didn’t pause at the door. He ripped it open and jumped inside. Sadon followed, but with more caution.
What had once been a heaping pile of gold coins was now a bowl of softened metal. Three red, scaled eggs lay inside. The dragon, now more than twice the size of Tybalt’s poor horse, had one of its claws upon the supine Gussalen. It turned its great, pointed head at them as they entered.
Tybalt never hesitated. With a yell he jumped at the beast. His sword bit into the leg pinning Gussalen, tearing free a couple of its crimson scales. The dragon let loose a roar that shook the barn’s timbers.
“Die Beath!” Tybalt screamed.
The dragon swung at Tybalt with its claws fully extended. Tybalt rolled under the attack and scored another hit on the dragon’s flank. Another scale fell to the barn’s dirt floor.
“STOP!” Sadon bellowed, using both his voice and his gift. The dragon and Tybalt glanced his way.
“Tybalt let me try to talk to him.”
“It detherves death.”
“You can kill it if I fail.”
He had no idea if Tybalt could do any such thing. He’d gotten in some good hits with his blade, but he had been aided by the element of surprise. Now the dragon was ready. Sadon could see red fire glowing in its gullet.
‘You again!‘ The force of the dragon’s words rattled like a screaming crowd inside Sadon’s head. ‘How is it that you speak to me? You are man.‘
‘I have always had the gift. Please listen. You are about to be killed.‘
‘The pointy stick will not kill me.‘
‘Men with balls of exploding dust are about to lay siege. They are all around.’
The dragon shook its toothy jaw. ‘Lie‘
‘You came to save the unspoiled,‘ the dragon roared at him. It opened its mouth to let loose its horrible fire.
“HOLD!” Sadon yelled, for he could see that Tybalt was about to once again jump at the beast.
‘I am trying to save you and your eggs.‘
The dragon partially closed its wicked maw. It was considering. Sadon could feel its wary uncertainty. It worried about its eggs. Nothing else mattered.
‘How much of her blood do you require?‘ he asked. Everything hinged on the creature’s answer. One way meant death, the other a chance for life.
‘Unspoiled essence has to but touch my children for them to live.‘
Relief flooded through him. There was a chance, but time was of the essence.
‘I tell the truth of the danger surrounding us. May I administer the essence and leave with the girl? It is the only way we survive.‘
The dragon grew still as the moment stretched. All Sadon could think about was the sand quickly draining from the hourglass.
‘Please,‘ he sent. ‘We must hurry.‘
‘You will die if I sense treachery.‘
Sadon nodded. He ran to Gussalen and hoisted her to her feet. She moaned, but managed to remain standing with his help.
“What’s happening?” she mumbled.
“Did the beath relent?” asked Tybalt. He still had the sword at the ready.
Sadon began dragging Gussalen over to the waiting eggs.
“Tybalt I need your blade.”
“What of the dragon?”
“It will kill us if we make a wrong step. Now come here and cut Gussalen’s hand.”
Tybalt came as bid. He was just as aware of their limited time as Sadon himself.
The slice brought Gussalen fully awake. She began to thrash about. The dragon hissed. Sadon grabbed her in an attempt to keep her from trying to flee. She was much stronger than he had anticipated. He wasn’t going to keep her from escaping.
But she suddenly stopped. Tybalt had put the sword to her throat.
“We are trying to thave you,” he said.
Sadon released her. “Gussalen, let your blood fall on the eggs.”
He took her arm to assist her when she hesitated. Each egg received a couple drops of her blood.
Life blossomed within the scaly eggs. Sadon could feel there fierce potential spring into being.
‘It is done. We must go to stop the siege, but I will return once it is safe,‘ Sadon sent.
‘Why do you do this?‘ the dragon asked. ‘Dragon and men are enemies.‘
‘No longer. I plan to see to that.‘
He left the dragon to ponder his words and quickly dragged Gussalen outside. Tybalt followed.
“Don’t fire,” he yelled, just in case the bombs were about to be let loose.
He searched for the old man in white and found him lying at the feet of the Lord Marshal. They ran to join him.
Lord Marshal Crewe smiled broadly when he saw them.
“Lancesepade, it is good to see you.”
“Sire, what has happened?”
“Our beast master and the brave constable saved your life.”
Gussalen shook her head. “The beast had me. How did you do that?”
Sadon gave Gussalen a short bow. “I promise to tell you the whole story, milady,” he said. He pointed to the downed white-robed man.
“The advisor will be fine,” the Lord Marshal said. “He tried to order the attack as soon as you were inside. I decided on another plan.”
“You saved us,” Sadon said. “We owe you our lives.”
The Lord Marshal shook his head. “I gave you but the time you might need.” He nodded to the barn. “What of the dragon.”
Sadon smiled. “I must return to it presently. We may have a new ally, one unlike any in the world. Can word be sent to the King?”
The Lord Marshal made a signal and one of the soldiers from the closest ballista came over at a trot. He sent the man away with instruction to bring the King.
That done, Sadon nodded. He patted the one-armed Tybalt on the shoulder. “Thank you. This would not have succeeded without your skill.”
The big man smiled. “You are motht welcome.”
Sadon turned and took a few steps back toward the barn before stopping and turning back around.
“Uh, Gussalen, if you might, would you care to hear that story, perhaps over a meal tonight?”
She frowned at him for a moment. An internal sigh built up inside Sadon as he awaited the expected response. But, instead, she gave him a curtsy, which looked very odd in her chain mail and metal bodice.
“It would be a pleasure.”
He smiled and nodded a few times, but resisted the urge to say more lest he ruin his date. As he turned back to the barn, he overheard the Lord Marshal’s words of praise concerning Tybalt’s heroic deeds. The big man had won his chance to serve, Sadon was sure. As for him, he was about to make friends with a dragon, and later, he would make better acquaintance with a beautiful woman.
“Under the Earth” By Micah Castle
Illustration by Toe Keen