Blood and Bane – Chapter Two

Born of Her soil, and forever linked to the Realms of Arydd, the Sovereign Dragons of N’ethim Mountain maintained their vigilance; less they allow the Realms to be defiled and destroyed through baneful actions. And without the Sovereign’s rule, the Dragons of the Realms, and the land, would perish.

-A bard’s tale on the history of Dragonkind         


Chapter 2 – Galddor and the Apprentices

That is the past, and this is today. The old wizard settled into the knowledge that he carried the burden of a new set of challenges.

Galddor’s palms were thick with sweat and throbbed in time with the beating of his heart. But even the shakiness of his knees couldn’t prevent the thick grin that sat in his beard like a freshly sown wheat field. The deep cracks from worry and thought crawled across his skin while he sat in his chambers and twisted the braided portion of his long, silver beard. He gazed at a strip of sunlight, which flared through the window and crept across the wall. The light shimmered as it struck the blue crystals set at the top of a long, gnarled, wooden staff leaning against the table and cast blue-white, diamond-shaped dots all over his chamber.

He found his thoughts scattered like those reflections on the wall; all the work invested over the past year, all the work yet to be. Why should there be concern? The Sovereigns gave their blessings, practically pushed me to do it. And why would they? After the Lureans brought their own bending skills into Arydd’liss, caused such a ruckus, defiled and twisted the land and such, why then would it be all right for me to teach the humans now? Do they have a plan? Of course they have a plan. Or do they?  They are only allowing them to be taught in the old ways and no other. I somehow feel as if I stand in the middle of a battle between what the Sovereigns want, and what the humans will ultimately do. I must be ever vigilant. This time I must do what’s right for the Dragons and the land, yet that which will benefit the human race as well.

Galddor smiled to one side as he recalled the Dragons’ surprise when he quoted the old codes and rules at their first meeting. He was not a Mid-Lander, nor did he appear as anything other than human to the eyes. At the time they knew only that he came from the north, beyond the Realms, and naturally assumed he was ignorant to their ways. He spoke clearly in their language and formed a trust between them they hadn’t known since their days spent with the Mid-Landers, or even the dwarves for that matter. Of course the dwarves now stayed within their own mountains and avoided mining N’ethim Mountain to prevent the Sovereign’s ire.

Kalvedorix, the Eldest in the Council of Three, had asked him how he learned of the old codes and laws, but Galddor would only shrug and say, Is it not enough that I respect and uphold these codes? The more they partook of his company, respect and trust soon replaced suspicion.

After earning their trust, proved his loyalty, and spoke from his heart, it seemed only natural he be the first to receive the position of Dragon Sage to the Realms of Arydd; the first and only Dragon Sage in written history. The Elders gave him a necklace of silver with blue crystals inside the bottom hoop. In the center dangled the tooth from Kalvedorix’ first-born son. The necklace was imbued with a blessing from the Elders and sat on a stone pedestal until passed on through the generations.

Galddor felt a sudden weariness upon him as he realized their friendship had started nearly a hundred years ago. He lifted the flat, round, silver charm and gazed into the blue crystals lining the small silver hoop. Just below the link which connected the charm to the thin silver chain and the tooth.

A truer, nobler gift could not be matched. Yet their trust and respect far exceeds a mere trinket.

He reached a thin hand out to the table and pulled his sore backside from the wooden chair. Something creaked in his back, and he winced as he forced himself upright. He grabbed his purple cloak from the opposite chair, swung it around him, and stretched his arms out straight before bringing it about his neck and locking the clasps. An involuntary yawn escaped his tanned lips, loud enough to make the bird, formerly asleep in its cage, chirp in protest.

He glanced out the window and straightened his cowl as if to prepare for an audience. His eyes caught sight of three men standing in a meadow just west of his location. Sitting on her haunches nearby, a Dragon watched over them in silence. That is until he caught sight of her amber eyes, glaring at him in the sunlight.

All right then, no need to become impatient.

 You should have been here nearly an hour ago.

 I am coming, dear Sarra.

Galddor heard the Dragon snort even from this distance.

He watched her for a moment and reflected on the many moons it had taken to understand the Sovereign’s method of delegating their duties. He realized his fortune when Sarravelex, the only cleric at the time, reached out to this old stave and taught him their ways with utter patience. Their connection was immediate and undeniable. So much so, he didn’t have the heart to tell her he already knew of the old codes.

Although males and females were considered equal, and neither stood above the other in rank or position save Elder status, few female Dragons pursued counsel or Elder positions. Many female Dragons became clerics, like Sarravelex; Sarra as he came to call her, or healers in the community, while the rest pursued other interests. He had always called her Sarra since very early in their relationship and it took her some time to get used to it.

Sarravelex took after her mother, Karravex, also a cleric, since childhood. Her mother taught her everything she knew from spiritual lore to codes and rules, while her father taught her the political aspect of Dragon law. Females were the first choice to be clerics, as they represented the Great Mother of the Universe and all things She created. Because of this they swore an oath as Keepers of the Hidden Flame, a shrine to the land goddess. Their official titles and positions required them to be present as teacher, healer, spiritualist, and during rituals, births, deaths, and finally as counselors.  If they so wished, they also found time to be mothers.

Cleric duties also included education, law, creeds, and mysticism as a part of their nomenclature. They passed on the ways of Dragonkind to the young, the old, and even humans. All those in the Realms were made aware of the Old Codes in order to preserve peace and safety to the land and each other. As the year-long deliberations with the early human settlers took place, the rules and codes became tenets among them as well.

Galddor scowled. Except for the Lureans. They sought only to maintain their own beliefs passed on from their ancestors and participated in very few Dragon meetings or counsel.

Years after their banishment, more humans filled the place of the Lurean family, and over the next ten years, a new family had replaced the Lurean king. The new ruler, Minn Ra’Saad, had appointed Galddor as the royal cleric and counsel to the Ra’Saad family and the people of Arydd’liss. In addition to these new responsibilities, Galddor continued to provide his services to the Sovereigns.



Three Third Level apprentices chanted and gesticulated over ten-foot plots of thick, green grass. The midday sun cast a warm glow on their furrowed brows. Galddor the Stave had worked with all three for nearly a year, and now he looked forward to their completion with eagerness.

The old man stood like an icon upon the wooden shed, dressed in his purple cloak which flowed around his tall stature as if it had a life of its own. His festooned jerkin glittered in the sunlight. A simple, white linen robe hung loose around his thin frame, gathered at his waist by a leather belt and silver buckle. The cloth and leather bags that hung from his belt held exotic assortments of herbs and tinctures. The bags appeared as old and leathery as the skin that adorned his face. His bright blue eyes, which sat within deep sockets, observed the apprentices with utter patience.

He had taught his students in three progressive steps toward becoming a young stave. He patterned this method of instruction according to the teachings, knowledge, and codes of the Sovereign Mountain Dragons, and never strayed. Not much.

Once accomplished, the staves proved their mettle, utilized the knowledge they attained, and found their courage by taking a test of survival. They would journey into the mountains with little more than their clothes and some gear and attempt to make contact with the oon’taus; outcast Dragons, of the forest.

The apprentices also learned mindspeak, a telepathic form of communication with Dragons – a choice Galddor added to their lessons to aid them on their journey. Mindspeak helped appease the oon’tau’s anxiety or anger and allowed the humans to work with them; and most importantly, survive. Once they learned an important lesson, listened to a confession, or were presented with a gift – or merely left with their hides intact, they returned to share this with Galddor and, eventually, the Dragon Elders.

The old stave peered at the three students before him as if they were younglings playing in the forest.

His gaze fell upon Danard who stood on the west end of the group and admired the colorful grass at his feet. Tall and thin, he was the oldest of the apprentices and the most experienced. His dark hair came to the middle of his back tied off in a long braid adorned with intricate beadwork. His long oval face always carried a warm smile, and his deep brown eyes displayed a thoughtful soul. Unlike the others, Danard was the only resident of Arydd’liss.

He had already spent two years as a Bn’Dant Guardsman and the previous year with Galddor learning to be a King’s Counsel. As the part of counsel, he taught him the art of divination and how to read the omens of the land and Her animals. Galddor felt he should complete the entire term so he may achieve the official title of stave and counsel. Although adept and a quick learner, on occasion he struggled with his concentration.

The short, heavy-set apprentice, Erasmus, grumbled as he watched the others accomplish their goals faster than he could keep up. His insecurities stood in the way of his concentration and he often lost his focus. His right eye would squint as his anxiety rose. Sometimes he became so flustered it visibly twitched.

Erasmus came from the land of Mergot beyond the southern isthmus, He’vapen Van’de Rus, the Giant’s Arm, in Old Southern. He had never seen a Dragon before, since no Dragons lived in, nor visited his country. When he first laid eyes upon Sarravelex he stood in awe of her size and stature. He watched in fascination as the humans interacted with her freely and without fear. Once he was formally introduced to her, his anxiety ebbed and an open dialogue remained. He followed her around whenever she was present and sometimes got underfoot. Or talon.

According to Erasmus, the village shaman, whom was very old and unable to spend long hours training an apprentice, had forced him to seek training from Galddor so he could work alongside the shaman and learn the craft before his death. He often complained of his disinterest in becoming a shaman and anything to do with medicines or potions. He preferred to be alone, read a book or sing in the meadows. He confided to Sarravelex that his heart remained in the arts and he admired the bards of the royal courts each time they performed.

Galddor narrowed his eyes against the early afternoon sun. The apprentices finished their incantations, and, one at a time, every blade of grass within their plots changed to a different color of their choice. Hues of red, blue, purple, or orange crept up each blade to the very tip, as if they defied gravity and bled from the ground. The bending produced a hissing sound from each changing blade, like the sound of steam escaping a kettle of boiling water. The effect was more of an illusion, and didn’t actually defile the grass itself.

Galddor nodded with satisfaction and then glanced at the Dragon who stood opposite from him and acknowledged her approval which showed in her toothy grin. Gold flecks sparkled along her golden-brown scales in the noonday sun. Her amber eyes glittered bright as she observed the apprentice whom stood at the far east of the practice field. Galddor raised a bushy white eyebrow at Sarravelex as if to ask a question. Her eyes met his and she raised a brown, scaly brow in response. She flicked her eyes at the apprentice and the old stave turned to follow her gaze.

The apprentice continued to chant long after the others had stopped.

Just as Galddor offered his voice to assist, the apprentice looked up at the colorful display of grass before him and uttered one last word. A smirk crossed his features and he threw his hand toward the other plots as if to toss away a used parchment. Like a green carpet rolled out across a stone floor, the grass in the other plots faded to their original color. In the same instant, the grass in his plot changed colors – the same colors the other two apprentices used for their own plots.

He hadn’t noticed how the blades of grass and the nearby scrub brush twisted and altered their shapes albeit ever so slightly.

The other two backpedaled and watched their creations fade as quickly as they had changed them. They turned to leer at the man responsible. He stood tall over his work with his arms crossed, then raised his chin, and arched his eyebrows with a feigned look of innocence and pride.

“Morda!” Galddor shouted.

Morda’s eyes jerked toward the old man and his smile faded. Galddor’s face displayed a painful mixture of frustration and admiration.

“I have asked you before not to inhibit the bending of your classmates!” he said, tapping his staff on the roof of the supply shed.

“Forgive me, master,” Morda said. “It was only as a…prank that I did so. It was not meant to harm anyone.” He waved his hand over the plot and the grass returned to its original color.

“There will be plenty of time for levity, Morda. But for now, you are in my class and will act accordingly!”

Morda nodded and sighed. “Of course Master, please accept my apologies.”

Sarravelex exhaled a stream of smoke and gas through her tanned nose, and Morda jumped. His eyes danced between where she now stood and her previous position. He regained his composure and bowed.

“My Lady.”

“Respect shown to me, should be shown to others equally, regardless of their standing.” Her voice sounded like a chorus of young women with the sternness of old age.

Morda grimaced. “Forgive me. As I stated, I meant no harm.” He turned and bowed to the other apprentices, who, with some hesitance, bowed in return.

Galddor tapped his staff on a flat stone nearby and Morda spun around.

“Fun is fun, but when all is said and done,” Galddor quipped with seriousness.

Sarravelex gave Galddor a playful side glance and then thumped over to the other apprentices. She retrieved several parchments from a leather bag secured to a post and handed them out to each.

“The new parchments which you are now receiving contain the last of your lessons. Always remember, use bending from the energy around you, within you, and even from yourself. Do not defile the land by stealing Her energy.

“I have taught you many ways to divine, read omens, manifest energies and objects. You have learned how to manipulate these energies by directing the current which flows around us, around them, and is a part of you. At any time, have you needed to use the energy from the land, the trees, the rocks, the animals?”

Two of the apprentices shook their heads. Morda pursed his lips and gave a curt shake of his head.

“Master, what of the herbs we take from the land for potions and tinctures?” Erasmus asked, then immediately hung his head as if to hide his guilt.

“Do you not ask their permission first before plucking them free of the land’s care?”

Erasmus shrugged, and then nodded.

“And so it should be. Pay attention to where energy flows. It is far easier to steal it from the land or any other living being, but it is not necessary. To steal from the land would be an act of sacrilege against Her and to the Sovereign Dragons. It would be more worthwhile to pluck the eye from your own sockets. Understood?”

They all nodded in unison. Galddor dismissed them and moved toward Morda. He stepped in front of him and leaned on his staff as if to bar his path. He flashed a grim smile and sighed.

“Morda. You are one of my best students. You do not have to prove anything here, nor to me.”

Morda scowled. “I do not prove anything except to myself. But I do feel I am ready to take the test.” He nodded in the direction of the other students. “I know I am more advanced than they. It is my time now.”

Galddor contemplated Morda for a moment, studying his eyes, his stature, and the arch of his nose. His dark hair flowed around his eyes like a deep waterfall coursing over boulders in the night. His gray eyes did not waver, steely in their determination and color. They rarely looked directly at the old mage and seemed to search the distance for grandeur.

“Oh I see. You are ready you say. Very well, Morda, I will consider this,” Galddor finally said. He held up his finger against Morda’s forming smile. “But, only if you can stay out of trouble in my class,” Galddor finished with a twinkle in his blue eyes.

Morda’s smile turned down and his lips thinned. He raised an eyebrow that sank deep into his thick, dark hair. After what seemed many minutes, he finally allowed his face to relax and then bowed.

Galddor shook his head and sighed as he watched Morda saunter over to the other students. Sarravelex interrupted her speech to look over her wings at Galddor. She smiled with reassurance.

You do not know what you have here, Sarravelex said in Galddor’s mind. He is distrustful and arrogant. Mind your teachings with this one. Did you notice the strange shape of the grass and brusg nearby?

I have already foreseen it, dear Sarra. Do not remind me as to my misfortune. But I believe I can show him they way to proper form – I must!

You know he remembers his ancestry. Although he does not mention it, he knows. However, he does not know what his ancestors did those many years ago. Remember, you chose to face this challenge. I offer you my sincerest wishes for success.

True enough, but that does not change the fact that he must be guarded. Perhaps now, after all these years, the curse of the Lurean family will be put to rest. Here and now!

Sarravelex came over to Galddor and sat back on her haunches. She observed the students while they occupied themselves with spells and herbal lore. Then, she dipped her head a little toward Galddor and her eyes narrowed with trepidation.

Do not wear the burden so, my friend. You are no more responsible for his curse, or the Lureans exile, than are the Sovereign Dragons. Each must accept full responsibility for his or her own actions.

As it is written, yes, dear Sarra. But there are those who do not recognize the old codes as viable and acceptable. I chose to take that responsibility a long time ago. For many years I have tried to keep these tenets alive and respected by all humans who live in the Realms.

Sarravelex blinked and shook her head. Not all who reside here are human, Galddor. You of all people should know this.

He looked up at her, confusion drawing lines in his forehead.

I simply mean that everyone is responsible for themselves; Dragon, human, Mid-Lander…it matters not who they are. You cannot be responsible for everyone in the Realms of Arydd.

She nudged him with her nose.

Galddor nudged her back, shrugged, and then smiled. I understand, Sarra. To uphold the laws and codes, to temper the unjust, to hold the land sacred, yes I know all that.

He patted Sarra on the nose, and then stroked the small, smooth scales on her lower jaw. “I thank you for your counsel, cleric, but I know what I must do. What must be done.”

He turned to the apprentices and called them over to gather around. He carved symbols into the soft dusty soil with the foot of his staff. The apprentices watched, wide-eyed and eager. Each scribbled the images they saw in the dirt into their journals with fevered ambition.

“Right. Look closely, now,” Galddor said, with a jerk of his staff. “Memorize each symbol. Read it. Feel it. Capture its image for your dreams. When the time comes, I will show you how it works.”

Morda nodded in recognition as if he already understood the symbols. “This is much more interesting than conjuring colors in blades of grass or wisps of smoke from our palms,” he said with a grin. “Is this not the runes of the ancient Mid-Landers?”

Galddor remained quiet and watched the apprentices write the symbols in their journals. He nodded when they finished and dismissed them for the day with a flick of his hand. Each in turn bowed to one another, Galddor, and then Sarravelex before going their separate ways. Morda remained and knelt in front of the symbols.

“Is there a question, apprentice?”

“No Master. I was just making sure I had written the symbols down properly,” Morda said. Then he spun on his heels and made quick, long strides toward the castle.

Galddor frowned and leaned against his staff, allowing a weary sigh to escape his lips. Sarravelex stood by his side and they watched the sun set in the western lands beyond the expansive deserts. The sky turned orange and crimson, dabbed with white, frothy clouds, and laced with a bright yellow trim. The reflection of the deep orange sun turned Sarravlex’ amber eyes blood red.

“Sage, you have not rested for many moons. Even children’s schools take the winter off,” Sarravelex said with concern.

“Please, no titles. We have known each other far too long.” Galddor sat down hard on a stump and let out another sigh. “Aye, this is true. It has been a while. But this is not just a school, my friend. I must see this through to the end. We are almost there,” he said and smirked. “And it is not yet winter. Then I will rest. For a fortnight.”

Sarravelex contemplated the old man, not as a powerful stave but an old, frail relative fading from existence. He appeared the same now as when they had first met. Already old and very wise. A man from the north with an unknown past. His soul carried the essence of Dragonkind, yet he appeared very human. His patience outweighed that of most humans, as did his wisdom – even when he felt weary and pained.

“Just one more week, yes,” she agreed. “But then you will rest.” Her voice rose in a chorus of octaves to accentuate her concern.

Galddor pursed his lips. His eyes rolled up to her, and then he chuckled. “Of course my friend. For now, we must ensure that our students will be ready.”

Her eyes grew brighter as she spoke. “Ready? For what? What do you foresee?”

“Anything. Everything. After this week, we are losing Danard who will further his studies with the Mid-Landers in Fid Gow. Both Morda and Erasmus will return to their lands and replace the shamans who have grown old and tired.”

“Are they ready for such a challenge?” Sarravelex said, part question, part statement. She sat back on the cool grass beneath her and relished in the warm soil beneath.

“Danard is both intelligent and honorable. I believe he will make a wonderful stave some day.” Galddor grunted before continuing. “And that leaves Erasmus and Morda.”

Sarravelex snorted. Her eyes drooped and she gritted her teeth behind tight lips.

“Erasmus, well, although he is returning to his southern home, I fear he may not wish to pursue the path that has been chosen for him,” Galddor said. “Oh, he learns well enough and manages to do the work…barely. But he does not take passion in his studies. Being a stave, or shaman for that matter, is not his dream.”

Galddor leaned on his staff and turned to Sarravelex; her eyes glowed with compassion.

“My dear Sarra. Would you be so kind as to accompany me to Fid Gow? I must acquire some needed items for my student’s lessons.” He paused to smirk. “And a few items for myself,” he finished with a gleam in his eye.

Sarravelex raised an eyebrow and tilted her head toward the east. “My dear Galddor, I would be most happy to make the journey. I have wanted an excuse to get away from Arydd’liss for a short respite.”

Galddor’s silver beard bounced as his lip quivered with a chuckle. “Excellent. I will make our plans known to the king and we shall be off.”



The King glanced about the open courtyard which lay in the center of the castle on the main floor, one level up from the grounds. Three high towers anchored the sturdy walls at the north, south and west corners. A second-story level with eight chambers ran along two sides of the castle. The unusual stones had been brought from the base of the mountains. Each stone held the spirit of the masons who carved their personal signature upon them. The ruddy brown color of the walls glittered with gold and green flecks of ore and stringy, crystal veins.

The red flags of Arydd’liss and the Ra’Saad family crest flapped in the gentle breeze that whistled between the small arrow windows in the walls.  A large, painted design of the same gold and red insignia covered the entire stone floor of the courtyard; a gold castle with a red Dragon standing guard over it, and two gold letter A’s beneath; one representing The Realms of Arydd, the other for Arydd’liss.

A long, narrow ironwood table sat in the middle across from the king’s throne. Three chairs were deliberately placed on one side of the table, where the king, queen, heir or commander-at-arms sat for hearings and counsel. Two more chairs sat at the far ends, while four additional chairs adorned the opposite side. The tabletop was wide enough to provide plenty of space for a feast or long political debates.

A stout man, King Artrus Ra’Saad sat upon the large, adorned throne and leaned against the right arm, stroking his bushy, salt-and-peppered beard and knit his brow. His royal title was tempered by the clothes he wore: an adorned blue velvet cape over a common shirt tied with a leather cord strung across the top and quilted trousers. His dark red jerkin displayed a gold, threaded trim, frayed slightly from years of wear. He wore the jerkin, a family heirloom, only out of respect to his father, King Minn Ra’Saad, the first Ra’Saad of Arydd’liss and rebuilder of the royal family.

His face remained quiet, stoic, yet his eyes betrayed compassion and puzzlement. He cocked an ear while the slender man kneeling before him struggled with his words.

“My Lord. I…I do not know what to say other than I beg your forgiveness,” he finally said.

“Marvis. I do not tolerate thievery. If you do not make this a habit, and, seeing this is your first time – that I know of – I will only subject you to one evening in the dungeon,” King Ra’Saad said. He leaned forward and narrowed his left eye. “But if you return here again for another offense against king and country, not to mention the good people of this realm, I will have you in chains for a year!”

“I understand your highness. Thank you for your mercy. May the gods be with you.”

He leaned on his knee to stand and jerked his head up when the king raised a hand to stop him.

“Do you fully understand, Marvis? These people are your family, your neighbors, and your friends. Do not disrespect them with such acts. They will help you if you are in need.”

“Once again I apologize, My Lord. I will heed your words and the laws of the land.” He waited for a nod from the king before standing.

“Very well. The Guardsmen will see you to your sentence. Do you have family here whom you wish to notify?” Marvis nodded. “Tamit. Please take Marvis to see his family before he carries out his punishment.” The Guardsman bowed and stretched out a short arm for Marvis to follow.

The king waited until the two were out of sight, then sat back, raised his chest, and released a heavy sigh. He turned to face the Guardsman standing to his right, and raised his hands in a gesture of forgiveness. “I do so hate sending people to the dungeon, Fennick. It is so rare that one of our people commit such acts.”

“Your decision was wise and merciful, My Lord,” Galddor stated from the open archway near the hall. His staff tapped out a rhythm that echoed off the stone walls in the courtyard as he approached.

King Ra’Saad turned to face the old mage and smiled wide as he held out his arms to welcome him. His formally pale cheeks bulged like bright, ripe apples as the grin threatened to take over his features. He untangled his robe and himself from the chair and met Galddor halfway.

“Galddor! It is so good to see you, my old friend. It seems like a fortnight since we have spoken.”

“It has been a fortnight, your highness,” Galddor said.

The king laughed and patted the old stave’s shoulders. He tossed his hand over the table and urged him to sit. Tankards of ale and bowls of fruit sat before them.

“I understand our new apprentices are doing well?” the king said between guzzles.

“Yes, My Lord. Within the week, they will move on to other, more challenging tasks.” Galddor turned down the corners of his mouth. “And, we are losing one of our apprentices to Fid Gow.”

“What a shame. But we have more than enough staves around, hmm, my friend?” he chuckled.

“There is someone else who also wishes to give their greetings, My Lord.” Galddor lifted his head and gazed at the large chamber doors across from them.

The massive doors swung open as if they yawned against the coming night. The hinges creaked and groaned in protest against the weight and their need of repair. The smell of damp grass filtered into the courtyard and the failing sunlight silhouetted the figure of a Dragon. Her size easily fit through the doors, as they were constructed to accommodate the Dragons when they made their visits. Scales reflected the torchlight lining the walls as Sarravelex made her way into the courtyard. She stopped a dozen feet before the ironwood table and dipped her head to the king.

“Sarravelex! What a nice surprise after such a rotten afternoon! I have not seen you in an even longer time than Galddor,” the king said. He set his tankard on the table and offered his hands.

She smiled and took his hands in her foreclaw and nodded.

“King Ra’Saad, how do you fare these days?”

King Ra’Saad snorted and waved his hand in a dismissing fashion. “Oh you know, king’s business and all. I would much rather be talking with a Dragon,” he chuckled and patted her on the back of her foreclaw. “Come! Are you hungry?”

“No, Sire. Thank you.”

“Oh come now…perhaps some ale?” he said raising the tankard. “I know that Dragons do not normally drink, but…” He ran his hand down the tankard as if showing off a prized possession.

Sarravelex sat on her haunches and cocked her head as if listening to some inner dialogue. Her eyebrows shot up when her eyes fell upon the tall silver pitcher on the table. “Thank you, just a small cup of your doosberry wine.”

“So be it,” the king said with raised eyebrows and a smile.

He poured the entire contents from the pitcher into a tall, wide, silver bowl, and offered it to her. She nodded her head and held it gingerly with her foreclaws.  The king finished refilling his own cup and sat back upon his throne with a satisfied growl.

Galddor cocked a bushy brow while he watched Sarravelex sip from her oversized tankard. Her tongue dabbed at a droplet on her lower lip and she nodded her appreciation. He smiled, picked up his tankard, and raised it above his head.

“In honor of our new staves. May they serve king and country well, wherever they are destined, and may the gods watch over them.”

“Here, here,” echoed through the courtyard.

Their voices fell silent as they drank, replaced with the sound of night birds nesting in the trees nearby. The smell of roast boar from the kitchen combined with the haughty scent of baking bread made their stomachs rumble in unison to the shouts from the kitchen. Finally the guffawas and cheers from the Guardsmen gambling in the game room down the hall. The wind carried their conversation through the castle as it howled down the towers and swirled within the courtyard. Galddor grabbed his short, pointed skull cap before it followed the breeze out into the open air. The smell of water on hot stone danced across their noses.

“Sounds like a storm is coming upon us,” the king said with a smile. He scanned the darkened clouds in the west and nodded as he raised his ale in a salute.

Galddor exchanged glances with the Dragon and took one last drink of his ale. So much to do, and yet to forego conversation with an old friend only in exchange for another journey proved to be their first choice. His job was never done. Weariness weighted his words.

“My Lord, we both must make a short journey to Fid Gow first thing in the morning.”

King Ra’Saad shrugged and nodded as he took another sip of his ale. “I feel as if we have barely caught ourselves up.” He grinned so wide his teeth glittered bright against his red face. “Very well. I will miss you both. We have not been able to share much time together.”

“I know. We promise to make more time upon our return,” Galddor said. He patted the king’s shoulder with assurance.

The king glanced over his shoulder as if to share a secret, then leaned in close to Galddor. “Would you be so kind as to pick up some of that wonderful Mid-Lander ale?” he smirked and winked at Galddor.

Galddor placed his hands on his hips and narrowed his eyes. “My Lord, you know how strong they make their ale.”

The king nodded with enthusiasm and sat back in his chair as he waved his hand at the old stave. “Ha! I will look forward to it, my friends. For now, let us eat!”

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