The Dragon Bone, Chapter 5


“Myrion!” Kril stepped in front of the young woman to prevent her exit from the tiny hut where a battle had just ended. “May I ask where you will go?”

She looked at the boy with something like distaste. The astonishment on his dirty face reflected her own surprise at his impertinence. He stood a head shorter than her own 5’5″ measurement. His hands were placed solidly on his hips, feet planted firmly apart. His eyes stared widely at her, and his full lips were drawn in a tight disapproving line.

“I thank you for your help, and am grateful for your intervention with the guards,” she said impatiently, “but where I go is no concern of yours.”

She tried to step around him, but again he blocked her exit.

“Surely you don’t intend to leave a wounded man stranded here with city guards after him,” asked the boy in amazement. “He should be taken to a safe place.”

“Then I suggest you do it.” This time she succeeded in sidestepping him.

“But I will need help,” Kril implored her retreating back. “Besides, he’s your comrade. You owe him something.”

Myrion whirled around and glared, first at the boy and then at the man sitting so quietly on his stool with a meek expression on his long face.

“I owe him nothing! Nothing!” she exploded. “In fact, if the truth were told, I suspect he owes me!”

She took two angry steps towards the man.

“What do you want of me, Thorlin? I have paid for your services and you, in turn, embroiled me in a fight of which I had no making.” Her voice trembled with suppressed rage.

“I ask for nothing âÂ?¦” Thorlin said in a weak voice. He gave a cough and moaned convincingly at the pain it caused. Myrion winced at the hurt on his face.

“Can you honestly walk out on him like this,” Kril asked of her. “Even a Messenger of the Dark deserves better treatment,” he spoke as he walked to Thorlin and put his hand on the man’s shoulder.

Myrion studied the man sitting on the stool. The cut vest hung comically from his drooping shoulders, his shirt stained red from blood. For some reason he reminded her of a shaggy beast begging to be allowed to accompany her for an outing.

People in trouble, like this old man, was what sent her on this mission in the first place. If she turned her back, could she live with herself, knowing she had abandoned him to certain death?

But other people’s lives depended on her ability to complete her task as quickly as possible. If she stopped to help every needy person along the way, wouldn’t more of her own people suffer?

“The Sisters help me,” she groaned, dumping her belongings down and helping the man, with Kril’s assistance, to his feet. “How far is it to your home?” she barked at the boy.

Kril smiled brilliantly and eagerly answered, “Not far! I live two streets north of here, close to the West Gate.”

He placed Thorlin’s left arm over his shoulder and bent to pick up the pack Myrion had assembled.

“Is there anything you wish to take with you,” he asked Thorlin before leading him to the door.

“We must stop and collect Parsnip.” At Kril’s confused look, he continued, “Parsnip is my pack pony. She is in the lean-to behind the hut. Myrion will assist me while you fetch her.”

He withdrew his arm from the boy and leaned heavily on the girl and sword. “You will find she is all loaded and packed,” he said to the boy’s retreating back. With a twinkle at Myrion he said, “You see, I had anticipated a speedy exit from the city.”

“So I gather,” she said dryly. “Are we just going to leave that man tied up over there?” She pointed her chin in the scribe’s direction.

“Oh, bother,” said Thorlin with a heavy sigh. “I had forgotten about that one in all the excitement. I suppose we should kill him so he won’t give evidence against us.”

Myrion drew away in disgust.

“No, I won’t have it!”

Thorlin took an unsteady step backwards and looked at her sternly.

“Come now, child. You had no qualms about killing a few moments ago.”

“That was self defense!” She pointed to the bound man and continued, “This man is helpless and cannot possibly defend himself.” Her face flushed red with anger and her voice pitched high with emotion.

“That’s usually the best way to deal with an enemy – when they are helpless.”

Thorlin turned and stiffly walked to the man. He drew a dagger from his belt as he hobbled over.

“I said no,” Myrion shouted, stepping between the two men. “I can’t believe you’d actually kill a man in cold blood! Where is your humanity?” Her shocked voice was almost comic in Thorlin’s ears.

Although Thorlin held a dagger and she had witnessed his prowess as a fighter, Myrion faced him unafraid and unarmed. She was certain his wound rendered him weak and she could easily disarm him. Her chin lifted in defiance and her brown eyes snapped at him.

The old man stood straight and unmoving for a moment, then the glare on her face seemed to amuse him, for he smiled and his countenance softened.

“Very well, girl,” he said, putting away his knife. “But we must make certain he is in no shape to follow us immediately.”

“Do what you will to bind him more tightly, then. I will wait outside with the gear.”

Kril opened the door and stood aside to let Myrion out.

“Are you ready?”

“Not quite,” Thorlin answered as he stood over the tied scribe. “Be a good lad and fetch one of the small bottles packed in the brown saddle bag.”

The boy was reluctant to waste more time, but if it would get them on their way, he’d do it.

Myrion, meanwhile, walked out of the hut and over to the pony. She unfastened the lead rope from a bush Kril had tied it to, and impatiently waited for the old man and boy.

Parsnip was hidden somewhere beneath an impossibly high mountain of equipment and supplies. Two wooden chests balanced on each side of the pony, roped together to allow an even load. Next were two or three bundles of what looked like cloth or silks, behind which was strapped a large brown leather saddle bag, its sides bulging with the-Mother-knew-what. Atop the chests came more packs made of coarse burlap, dyed pale yellow and green.

In front, braced across the animal’s neck by a heavy wooden rack of intricate design, perched a small keg of what could only be Brysarian wine – of the best vintage, she was sure. Hanging along both sides of the poor animal were various sized sacks filled to the brim with soft items too numerous for her to guess.

Crowning this masterpiece of haphazard equilibrium rested an up-side-down throne-sized chair of peacock blue brocade and polished mahogany, from which hung long tassels of gold-colored silken braids. These glorious decorations dipped and swayed with every movement of Parsnip and with each rustle of the breeze, allowing a glimpse of the underside of the chair, like a fat old matron exposing her backside to the world.

Decorating the whole, shinning copper pots and pans fastened to the sides of the mountain announced their presence as they clanged together and dripped psuedo-gold elegance, dangling almost to the knees of the stoical Parsnip.

All that could be seen of the poor beast were two soft eyes above a white muzzle and four dangerously slight legs. A length of bright red cloth that flowed from a partially opened pack hid even her tail.

With a resigned sigh, Myrion patted the pony’s nose and comforted the animal with low, encouraging words. She felt almost as burdened as the pony.

“That’s it,” said Thorlin as Kril handed him the little bottle. He pulled the cork from the vial with his teeth. “Be so kind as to assist this gentleman.”

Kril knelt and lifted the unconscious scribe’s head.

“Now, just give him a sip or two of this potion,” Thorlin instructed, “but make sure you don’t spill any.” He handed the vial to the boy and watched closely. “It’s very important none of this beverage spills, mind you,” he cautioned again.

Kril did as he was told then dumped the man’s head on the floor roughly. Standing, he returned the vial to Thorlin.

“Can we go now? I fear city guards will be arriving soon.”

“Help me out, then,” said the man as he stoppered the vial again and put it in the pouch on his belt. Together, they hobbled out of the hut and Kril kicked the door shut behind them.

The journey to the boy’s home was accomplished slowly and noisily. Thorlin’s wound pained him and progress was tedious, with many stops for rest. Parsnip’s burden swayed dangerously with every step, and the clanging was almost deafening. More than once a sleepy face peered out a window and an angry voice complained about the racket. Myrion’s attempt to muffle the din had failed early in the exodus.

“Just what do you intend to do with all this junk?” she demanded in exasperation. “If you had planned a speedy exit, you neglected to think about silence.”

“It is said the best way to hide a thing of great value is to place it in plain view,” he answered. “Who would suspect a man making as much noise as this to be sneaking quietly out of town?”

Who could refuse such logic?

~ * ~

Myrion awoke to the sounds of harsh voices and metal banging on wood. Sitting up quickly, she knocked over a small table placed beside her resting area. The clatter of tin dishes and cups hitting the stone floor jarred her to complete wakefulness.

For a moment she was totally disoriented as she looked around the small, dirty room. A ray of sunlight battled its way past a barrier of ragged burlap in the window to slant across the rush-strewn floor. Its meager glow illuminated a straw pallet, twin to the one she was sitting on, across the room. The occupant of this bed was a large lump that rose and fell evenly to the accompaniment of deep, throaty snores.

The third occupant of the room was a small, shaggy pony who was contentedly eating the bedding from under the hulk across the room. With a groan, Myrion remembered where she was and who the tenant of the pallet was.

At that moment, the door pushed open and Kril slipped in. He glanced over to Myrion as he quickly shut the door and pressed his back to it, as if his slight frame was all that kept at bay the forces outside.

“Quickly,” he whispered, “get up and packed. The guards are searching each house for the murderers of a city squad.”

His eyes flew to Thorlin as the man moved and flung off the cloak that had covered him during the night.

Kril moved over to the man and helped him to his feet with a grunt. Myrion’s surprise at the ease in which Thorlin had recovered was dimmed by the necessity of haste as she quickly gathered her few belongings and tied them together. She belted on her scabbard and slid the sword home smoothly.

Bending to retrieve the jeweled dagger from under her pallet, she noticed that the pounding had stopped next door, and the voices were raised in question, although she couldn’t understand the words.

Meanwhile, Thorlin had gathered Parsnip’s packs and, with Kril’s help, had secured them on the pony. In less than two minutes, the three had completed their tasks, and even the massive chair had resumed its perch atop the seemingly unstable pile.

Myrion and Thorlin turned to the youth with a question in their eyes. The only visible means of exit from the room was the door, which opened onto the street. The guards would surely spot them as they left.

Kril placed his finger to his lips, indicating silence, and with his eyes dancing in merriment, turned to the back wall of the room. The wall was bare of any ornaments, as were all the walls, but the boy went unhesitant to the left corner and pressed a stone, which to Myrion looked like any other stone.

Silently, a portion of the wall pivoted inward and revealed a wide, downward sloping corridor. Picking up a torch lying on the floor inside the passage, he motioned for Myrion to enter first, as he stood aside and lit an ember.

“How advantageous for us,” muttered Thorlin as he followed the girl into the five-foot wide entry. Parsnip’s pots and pans clanked as the pony followed.

Kril touched another stone, and the secret door swung noiselessly closed behind them. For a moment the three companions stood in the hand-hewn stone corridor in silence. The light of the smoky torch showed damp walls and a steeply sloping floor. The air was dank and musty, but the smoke showed there was a definite draft in the direction of the passage before them.

“Where does it lead?” asked Myrion in a whisper.

“The main corridor leads straight to a wooded hillside about three and a half miles outside the West Gate,” Kril answered. “There are many passages leading from this main one, but I never explored them very far.”

“How many others know of this route?” asked Thorlin in a concerned voice. He steadied Parsnip with a hand on her nose as she impatiently stamped her right front hoof on the stone floor, and set the dangling metal jingling again. The noise echoed waveringly down the passage.

“I’ve never met anyone here, and I’ve never known anyone to say he’d made this journey. But I do think it is used on occasion because I’ve seen footprints in the dust and no cobwebs block the passage. As far as I know, we three are the only ones to know of its existence, although it has long been rumored that ancient roads honeycomb the underground of Pelicarus.”

Thorlin turned to the girl and gave her a wan smile.

“Well, let us not stand here all day. Lead on Myrion, but be ready for trouble.”

He kissed Parsnip on the nose and said, “May The Sisters guide us and The Mother protect us. Let us be off.”

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