The Gods of Dragons (Vol 1)

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Swords in the Wind - Manowar, 2002

Chapter 6 (v.1) - Swords in the Wind

Submitted: May 14, 2018

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Submitted: May 14, 2018

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Ulhar 33, 1102

Shon and Lily continued to spend time together, sometimes with the other squires, and sometimes alone. He felt comfortable with her and was flubbing his words and actions less and less, except when she touched him. He found out Lily was a very touchy person, and it was something he had never really experienced before.

Most people who had shaken his hand, or brushed up against him on accident had pulled away and made some comment about his health or how cold he was. He was naturally quiet and reserved in company and tended to pull away from touch, partially because he just wasn't used to it and partially because he really didn't like when people flinched away from him. As a result, people who knew him gave him his space. Whether it was out of consideration or because he made them uncomfortable depended on the person.

Lily wasn't like that. She had no problem grabbing his hand to pull him along, like when he had said he would take her to the library or to meet smith Nurangran, and she had a tendency to sit close enough that just a small movement would allow her to brush up against him… or him to her…Sometimes she would reach over and rest her hand on his arm or leg, almost as if to reassure herself that he was still there.

She would come to watch the squires at their training in the mornings and afternoons and cheered them all on equally. The first time she had done it, Master Daunas almost had to ask her to leave because they had all started to make dumb mistakes, self-conscious of the female audience. That had passed too as they all got more comfortable with her. The more social of the squires spoke to her often, particularly when Shon was on watch.

Today Shon had just come off watch and was making his way from the gatehouse to the fortress proper when he heard Lily's voice "Shon!" looking around he spotted her standing with Rerves. They were under the cover built into the wall where the practice weapons were kept in long racks.

Someone had found her some old clothes that the squires had outgrown over the years. She wore pants that hung off her hips rather than her waist, having been cut for a boy, and a large tunic with its sleeves rolled up past the elbows and its collar tied loose. Like Shon, she didn't seem to mind the cold winter air, though Shon suspected it was because she ran so hot as opposed to his natural chill.

Shon made his way towards them, and Lily ran out to meet him with only a few more feet to go. "Rerves was just walking me through all the different weapons you guys train in." she grabbed his hand, her skin was hot, as usual, but he found it hard to care as she pulled him the last few feet to Rerves and the weapons rack. She gave his fingers a final squeeze before letting them go and throwing her arms out wide to encompass all of the weapons. "I can't believe you can use ALL of these!"

"Yep, we are trained in the use of all weapons, from the simplest dagger to the heaviest polearm." Rerves had his hands on his hips and had turned to also face the weapons though he was looking at Lily. On her other side, Shon rolled his eyes and Rerves gave him a look that said quite clearly, 'don't ruin this for me…' but Shon ignored it.

"We are trained in the basics," he emphasized the word, "of all these weapons." Lily had turned her head to look at him, giving him that tilt she always did when she was curious or waiting for more information. "We get the basics first and then focus on the one or two that we have the most skill with for the advanced techniques."

"But," Rerves was quick to interject, "it means we can pick up any one of these in an emergency and know what we’re doing." Lily looked from him to Shon, who shrugged with a little nod. Bolstered by his confirmation Rerves, who was a good eight inches taller than her, and six taller then Shon, bent to bring his face closer to Lily's "I could teach you the basics of one or two if you want…"

Lily smiled warmly at Rerves, who blushed and stood back up, "Thank you so much!" she sounded happy but not excited like she usually would, "but Shon already said he would show me how to use some of the basic weapons." Rerves face fell, and if Shon where the type to gloat, this would have been the perfect time to give the poor boy an evil grin over Lily's shoulder.

But Shon was more of practical-minded person, so he said, "Rerves is better with some weapons then I am." Lily tilted her head at him, "he is better with single handed weapons. I'm better with two-handed weapons and things that work best with more speed and flexibility." Rerves gave him a weird half smile from behind Lily, like he was grateful but confused at the same time, Shon just shrugged. "Depending on what you fancy he may be the better teacher."

Lily gave one sharp nod and turned away from both squires to face the weapons, her brow furrowed in thought. "Maybe something that won't cut my foot off if I drop it…" she began walking up and down the length of the weapon rack, and Shon and Rerves stepped back to give her free rein.

As she moved away towards one far end, Rerves whispered, "I can't read you, Shon. Do you like her or not." taken aback Shon blinked up at him before turning his gaze back to Lily who was comparing the length of some swords to her forearm.

"Of course I like her," he spoke softly, "she's a good friend and we have very interesting conversations."

Rerves rolled his eyes and hissed back, "Even you aren't that socially thick. You know what I mean."

Shon didn't bother to look at him this time, just saying "yeah, but it doesn't really matter one way or the other." Lily was coming back their way and Shon waited until she had passed, heading towards the polearms before he continued, "We still have two more years before we take our oaths and then who knows where we will be stationed."

"Yeah but…"

Lily's laugh broke off whatever Rerves was about to say and both boys looked over to see her holding a plain wooden staff, "Isn't this just a stick?" she spun it in her hands and laughed again, "beware! For I wield a mighty stick!" Rerves laughed but Shon just moved towards her motioning for the staff.

She handed it to him, "it's a quarterstaff." he spun it over his left hand and around his back to the right hand, "Simple, but versatile. It can be used effectively even if you have more speed then strength." he threw it into the air keeping the spin going and caught it again with his left hand.

"And you can do some fancy tricks to show off... " Rerves came up behind him and stopped the staff mid-spin. He let go and Shon handed it back to Lily who spun it slowly in front of her. "Usually you see monks and mages with quarterstaves, but most people who travel the roads at all can at least do the basics."

Lily gave another of her sharp decision-making nods, "I would like to learn how to use it." she looked to Shon and said a little softer, "if that's alright." to which Shon returned her nod and received a glowing smile in return.

Shon led her to one of the practice dummies and started by taking a wide stance, his right leg in front of the left and facing the dummy. "Like this, make sure your toes are forward." Lily took the stance but with her left leg in front. Looking again at Shon to check herself she realized the perceived mistake and switched her feet.

Before Shon could reassure her, Rerves said, "It's ok Lily, Shon is backward, if your right handed you can do it the other way." She looked at him and back to Shon.

"You'll want to do it both ways regardless." he switched his own feet to a right-handed stance and motioned for her to hand him the staff again, which she did. "With a weapon like this, whatever you do on the right side, you also want to do on the left." he struck the dummy with an angled strike from left shoulder to right hip then quickly spun the staff, switching his feet again and doing the same move from the right shoulder to the left hip. "If you find you're better with one side then the other then you should double the exercise you do on the weak side," he repeated the instructions of Master Veon-Zih when he was first learning combat.

Lily was watching his movements with an intensity that, again, gave Shon the impression that she was much older then she looked. Silently she motioned for him to return the staff and took up position in front of the dummy. With a slow, deep breath Lily copied the movements he had done. She wasn't as quick, but it wasn't bad and he was going to have her slow way down anyway. "Wow, not bad Lily." Rerves smiled at her but she was already taking up the position to try again.

"Wait," Shon reached out and grabbed her hand on the staff, shocking even himself for a moment. Her fingers were warm and he could feel the change in texture between her skin and her scales on her left hand. His eyes met hers and he forgot what he was going to say for a moment. They were so blue… and definitely slitted 'I doubt she's human…' the mage had said, but he found he didn't care. "Widen your stance a little." he swallowed to wet his mouth and throat which had become suddenly dry, "your feet should still be shoulder-width apart even when one is in front."

Lily shifted her feet like he said and Shon let his hand slide off hers. "Now do the strike again, but at only half that speed." she did as asked without question and Shon stepped back to watch.

As she went through the motion, fixing her stance when she switched hands Rerves leaned down and whispered, "what was that about it not mattering?" he smirked but Shon said nothing.

***

Shon gave Lily a series of strikes and exercises to practice and started teaching her the beginning of one form when the dinner bell sounded and they decided to call it a night. It was getting dark anyway. But Lily made Shon promise to continue his lessons the next day.

Rerves didn't come to the second lesson. Or the third.

It turned out Lily was a quick study, and when Shon asked if she wanted to try a different weapon she shook her head, "I would rather be really good at one then only a little good at many." she said. So they continued with the staff. Instead of watching the squires train she would do her exercises and forms in an unused part of the courtyard. Shon just hoped she would be able to continue practicing when she had to leave…

***

Orn 02, 1102

Lily stretched her arms out wide, trying to get the kinks out of her shoulders, but had to stop midway to cover her mouth as she yawned. Early mornings definitely weren't her thing. She technically didn't have to be up, but the boys were all woken early with loud morning bells that didn't discriminate between the squires and the guests, and she liked having breakfast with them anyway.

Shon, it seemed, was very much a morning person. He always seemed just a little more awake than the other squires when they filed in for breakfast, and he had told her that before he became a squire, he would get up early to do the drills his master had taught him before breakfast.

She was early to the chow hall most of the time, not having to make a bed or run laps or whatever else the boys had to do in the morning, so she was already sitting at the end of one of the tables when the squires started to file in. Lily smiled at each and waved at some but perked up noticeably when Shon came in towards the end of the line. She motioned for him to join her even before he got his food. The other squires, seeing her wave him down, stopped heading her way and sat down closer to the middle of the long table. Shon for his part made eye contact and gave a nod to confirm he had received the message then got his food before coming to join her.

"Good morning," she greeted as he stepped over the bench to sit down across from her. "I stayed up a little late last night and I think I finally got that transition move down." she was really enjoying her quarterstaff lessons with him. On the one hand, it was something new to learn and practice that she couldn't get from a book and on the other, it allowed her to spend more time close to Shon, either way, she was happy.

Shon sat down and picked up his fork nodding to her with one of his little smiles that hardly showed on his mouth but made his eyes twinkle, "That's good, we can take a look at it this afternoon." The two ate in silence for a while, Shon seemingly focused on his food while Lily looked around the room with each bite, taking everything in. Lily liked these silent moments, she felt comfortable, like she didn't need to say anything but that if she wanted to, that was ok too.

She stretched again, gripping her hands in front of her and reaching her legs out under the table, she finished the motion with a satisfied sigh and crossed her ankles, allowing one to brush up against Shon under the table. He looked up at her and she just smiled at him. She liked the feel of him, it was cool and refreshing, not like any of her caretakers or the others at the fortress. And, if she was being honest with herself, Lily liked the physical reassurance that he really was there, that she hadn't lost him like she had lost her other treasures.

"Squire Shon," the Weaponmaster Daunas Mung, approached them from the head table and Shon stood quickly and saluted, standing at attention. Daunas returned the salute, everything was so stiff and formal in the mornings… "Smith Flintchest has something for you after chow. You are excused from the morning drills but will be expected promptly in the afternoon."

Shon's answering salute and "sir." was answered with another salute from Weaponmaster before the later walked away and the former took his seat. Lily just sighed at the whole thing. Why couldn't they just say 'hey Nurangran wants to see you.' and 'alright, thanks' and be done with it? Lily had asked something to that effect early on in her stay with the Paladins but they all just gave her a similar answer 'that's just the way it is' or 'it's the rules,' or 'it helps maintain order and discipline' none of which made much sense to her.

Across from her, Shon sighed, looking relieved as he went back to his food. Curious Lily asked "Where you expecting something bad?" he looked up with an arched eyebrow, "You seem relieved." she clarified.

Shon shook his head and swallowed the bite in his mouth, "No, It's just I've been waiting for this sword." she tilted her head and he continued, "it's going to help me control the cold, so I don't keep freezing people's dinner…" Dinner hadn't been the only thing Shon had accidentally frozen over, and each occurrence seemed a little worse than the last. The most recent being when a layer of ice had climbed it's way up his sparring partners boots, essentially freezing him in place.

Lily had a hard time seeing the problem. It seemed like he just needed to work on some control, like when she used to set the curtains on fire… but perhaps it was different with ice. "May I come with you?" she asked and was delighted when he nodded in answer.

***

Lily walked beside Shon to the blacksmiths, following the 'tink tink' of metal on metal that told them he was hard at work at the forge. As they entered the open building, Shon snapped to attention and saluted the smith, who just waved him away with a lazy hand before dousing the metal in his tongs and setting it aside.

"About time, I thought your type was supposed to be punctual!" in the corner opposite the forge stood an old man in a long dark robe. He was thin, with bony hands placed firmly on his hips as he tapped one foot in indignation.

Shon was taken aback and bowed toward the old man, "I'm sorry mage Ivelm, I was just told…"

The mage spat on the ground and waved the excuse away before Shon could finish, "bah never mind. Here." but instead of handing anything to Shon he motioned for the smith, "go ahead Flintchest, give it to him." Shon turned to the smith who was unwrapping a sword covered in rough linen. "A complete waste…" Lily heard the old man grumble which made her curious as she leaned forward to see the sword.

Shon took it from the smith examining it from tip to tip. It seemed like a normal enough sword, the only ornamentation was the black stone pommel. Though as she watched the stone began to slowly shift colors from pure black to a dark midnight blue. "Oh wow…" she breathed leaning closer over Shon's shoulder. The stone continued to lighten too dark indigo.

"It will only work if you're within five yards or so of the sword." the mage, Ivelm Shon had called him, said taking a step closer to the small group all surrounding the mostly normal sword.

Looking up Lily asked him, "What exactly does it do?" The mage scoffed then moved back when he finally looked at Lily. Apparently, he hadn't paid her any mind before she spoke.

"You're that girl." he said, then leaned forward squinting at her, "Hmm, what are you?"

Shon turned to the mage, his face looked angry but Lily just stepped forward holding out her hand, "My name is Lily." she smiled, she thought she might never get tired of telling people her name.

Ivelm looked from her proffered hand to her face then to Shon and Nurangran, who were both staring at him, before he took it for a very brief shake. Clearing his throat, he said, "the stone acts as a buffer for the boy's magical energy." she tilted her head to the side and blinked at him, "think of it like a magnet. If his magic were like little shards of metal they would be attracted to the gem before they were able to manifest in the world." he pointed to the stone, which seemed a little darker than before, "you can tell how much magic it is stopping by the color. When it turns clear it has reached its limit."

"Will it break?" Shon asked a note of worry in his voice.

The mage scoffed again, crossing his arms over his chest, "do you take me for an amateur? Of course not, but it won't be able to absorb any more power until it can discharge the held energy, so something will manifest at that point." he shrugged, "but you're more likely to pass out before that happens."

"Absorb his energy…" Lily was concerned, "you mean it will take his magic completely?"

The mage looked her up and down saying, "well the little things won't be affected. As a sorcerer the magic his apart of him. So he will still be pretty much immune to the cold, and probably still feel cold to the touch."

"But he won't be able to do anything? Like freeze water or… anything?" She didn't like it, not at all…

But the men all looked at each other in confusion before the mage said again, "That was the point."

"No." it wasn't right, he just needed to control it, not take it away. She looked at each of them in turn but they didn't say anything. "It's not right."

"Lily," Shon spoke softly, but she stepped away from all of them.

"You just need to practice, it's not that hard."

"Lily." he sounded a bit more urgent. But he didn't understand.

"I thought you said you wanted to train to your highest potential?" his power was part of him he couldn't just block it out any more than she could.

"Calm down girl." Nurangrans calm voice broke into her thoughts and she looked at him. Behind him the forge was shooting sparks and fire into the room, the flames shooting high into the flue.

Lily took a deep breath, and as she exhaled the fire got slightly smaller. But she was still upset and she could see the sweat starting to bead on the mages brow.

She turned and left.

***

Shon moved as if to follow Lily but he stopped only a few steps away and turned to the two craftsmen. He didn't know what to do. Nurangran just shrugged and shook his head at him, and Ivelm was examining the forge with a critical eye. The fire was still higher than normal but it had dropped further when she had left.

Seeing no help forthcoming Shon turned back to the opening and headed after Lily. As he walked away he thought he heard Ivelm speaking to the smith, "Flintchest, I think I know how that fire started…"

***

Lily had retreated to the roof to calm down. She knew she was overreacting. In the end, it was none of her business. She hadn't been there long when Shon found her. She looked over at him but said nothing as he sat down next to her. Lily had her legs bent up to her chest and had wrapped her arms around them, resting her chin on her knees. "I'm sorry…" she said before he could say anything.

Shon studied her for a moment and said, "I just don't understand why."

Lily turned her head to rest her cheek on her knees and so she could look at him. "Your magic is apart of you… why would you want to block it out?"

He just continued to look confused and when she didn't say anything more, he finally answered, "because I don't want magic."

She lifted her head to look him straight in the eye, "But it’s yours. It's part of you. How…"

"Because I'm a fighter, not a mage." he interrupted and she pulled her face back slightly. When she didn't say anything, he continued softer, "if I don't block it then I have to train with it and I can only do that with the Mages Guild."

"But…" but he didn't let her finish

"I'm a squire of the Order of the Sword. I've known for as long as I can remember that I would be a paladin. I chose this. I could have gone with Master Veon-Zih to the monastery, but I wanted to see this through, and I still want to see it through. It's who I am." he spoke earnestly, almost pleading with her to understand.

"But why would you have to leave? You can just train here, it just takes practice, just like your sword fighting." but he was shaking his head, and opening his mouth to argue.

She interrupted him this time, "Look!." she twisted to face him lowering her knees and holding her hands cupped in front of her. In her palms, she had formed a long flower bud made of fire. The edges danced with low flames, the image itself burning bright but clear in the center. Blowing gently on the bud she made it bloom. A six petaled lily. Or what she thought a lily would look like in person. "It takes practice. You do drills and exercises. Start slow and get bigger and bigger." Shon stared at the flower, his mouth somewhat open and she continued, faster, "I used to lose control too. When I got really mad, or even really happy, I caught sheets and curtains and important papers on fire all the time. But I practiced and eventually I could keep the tower warm in the winter, so the caretakers didn't have to wear heavy coats inside. And I could make my treasures laugh when they were in pain." she closed her hands around the flower, absorbing the energy and the fire back into herself, "it's not always bad…"

Shon looked from her hands to her face, but he shook his head again, "that's not how it works here Lily I would have…"

"But why!" she smacked her knees in frustration.

"Because it's the Law!" Shon shouted at her and she flinched. After a deep breath, he said quietly, "You're a special case. If they had known about you, you would have gone to the mages guild to register and study too." Shon reached up and ran his fingers through his hair. He had never looked so frustrated before. "Why do you even care? It doesn't affect you."

"Because it affects you," she said.

He just stared at her and she added, "and if you can't do it, then how can I?" were all those days and hours spent with him learning about the quarterstaff for nothing? If she had to choose between magic and fighting... And how could he not know that she cared about him… she looked down letting her hair fall forward to hide her face. He didn't understand…

"Lily…" slowly Shon reached his hand out and ever so gently pushed her hair behind her right ear until she looked up at him again. She wanted to lean into his hand but he had already let it fall when their eyes met, "You're different." he said again, "you're not sworn to become a Paladin, or anything, right now." he smiled that small smile that made his eyes shine, like icicles in the morning sun, "you can do anything you want. You just have to decide what that is."

, Lily thought. But general Davies had already told her she couldn't stay here.

***

Orn 08, 1102

A thin layer of fresh snow crunched under commander Rasnih's boots as she walked with the mages around the perimeter of what had once been a stone mages tower. The bodies had already been removed by the lower members of the Temple and now it was just up to the higher echelon to decide what to do with the remains of the structure itself. And the girl found in it.

"Definitely not natural…" one of the mages said as he scratched at the small beard growing in around his neck, "the inner layers of stone are all melted."

"I could do it," said one, rather large, mage. Crossing his arms.

"Not in a million years," replied a robed woman, slapping him on the back.

The last member of the small group bent down and laid out a black square cloth with symbols Rasnih couldn't read embroidered in gold on it. The others all grew quiet as he started to chant softly and sway back and forth. This went on for at least ten minutes before Rasnih left them to it and began walking around inside the remains of the tower.

The paladins had already explored as far as they could, which wasn't much. They had found more charred bodies and skeletons, a few clearly not human. No written records could have made it through, and all they managed to find relatively unscathed were some tattered remains of red and gold scale armor and the magically unburned remains of something that looked like a cross between a lizard and a dog. All this 'evidence' was given over to the Mages, they would know better how to deal with something like this.

"Commander," the female mage called, "Sir Rasnih, you should hear this." she made her way back as the largest mage helped the diviner up and the poorly bearded mage folded the man's cloth for him.

The sear brushed the snow and pine needles off his knees while Sir Rasnih waited. "There was definitely arcane magic being cast here…" he said, and the paladin had to resist rolling her eyes, obviously it was arcane magic… "but not by mages." Rasnih arched an eyebrow, it would make sense that the representatives of the mages guild would want to distance themselves from any illegal magical activity, but who else could have… "Warlocks."

Both eyebrows shot into her hair at that. "Warlocks caused the fire?" but the mage was shaking his head,

"No, but their flavor of stolen magic permeates the area." the Paladin turned to look at the tower again. Warlocks, magic users who gained their power through illicit pacts made with other planar beings, the practice was completely outlawed in all the provinces, violators executed. How had they been practicing in her jurisdiction? And so close to Hamerfoss? But the old mage wasn't done, he let out a huge sigh and shook his head, "I need to do more readings… it doesn't make any sense."

"None of this makes sense," Rasnih said, but he just continued to shake his head.

"The fire." he brought his hands up in a helpless gesture, "the stones indicate a dragon."

***

Shon held the door open and Lily straightened her shoulders, taking a deep breath before walking through it into the large 'war' room. Shon saluted the general and his guests, trying to catch Lily's eye to give her some kind of reassurance before he left, but she was facing resolutely forward.

General Davies was joined by Weaponmaster Daunas, five robed figures including the mage Ivelm, and Knight commander Sir. Rasnih from the Smilnda Temple. The crowd explained why this was happening in the largest meeting room in the fortress, and Shon couldn't blame Lily for feeling nervous.

A small fire burned in the large hearth on one side wall, casting strange shadows over the faces of the attendees even as the sun shone through the large window opposite it. Shon stood at attention waiting for a dismissal that didn't come. General Davies had looked like he was going to dismiss him when Ivelm leaned over and whispered something in his ear. Davies looked a little troubled but nodded and waved his hand inward instead. "Shon, could you stay please."

Shon dropped the salute and took up a position beside Lily. She was still looking at the adults in front of them but she shifted her weight to lean ever so slightly to the side to brush her arm against his. "So. what have you decided to do with me?" Shon looked wide-eyed at her for a moment. She wasn't one to beat around the bush but this was an elite meeting. There should be some decorum.

The two paladins had sower looks on their faces, the mages seemed a little taken aback, and Weaponmaster Daunas let out a loud "Ha!" which earned him his own set of sower paladin looks.

Sir. Rasnih nodded to general Davies who looked at Lily and said, "we have decided it would be best for you to go to the mages guild in . It is the capital of this particular province and they are well equipped to…" he trailed off and the female mage stepped forward to take over.

"Your magic needs to be evaluated and registered. Should you choose to, you may receive training with the mages guild until you can pass the 'Sorcerer's Public Safety Exam'." she spoke matter of factly, like someone giving a lecture to a class of young students, "If you can not pass the exam on your third try, or if you choose it, you will be given a 'tattoo of safety and sealing,' which will seal your power so you can not bring destruction upon the general population or the kingdom."

Shon listed without reaction. He had already known the procedures for dealing with a sorcerer and had explained them to Lily. However, though she knew what was coming, he could feel her shaking slightly next to him. She swallowed and her voice quivered a little when she spoke, "I don't want my power sealed." Shon shifted his weight as she had before and brushed up against her arm. The movement was slight but she stopped shaking.

The woman who had spoken nodded and stepped back among the other mages. They were all staring intently at Lily with looks that were starting to make Shon very uncomfortable. "Very well," Davies said, leaning back in his chair. It seemed his role was over.

Sir Rasnih spoke next, "we have a few questions concerning the North Tower you were found at." Lily tilted her head and said nothing. The local command had already questioned her extensively. "What do you remember about the fire." Sir Rasnih said, squinting at Lily.

Lily sighed, exasperated. It seemed that with the decision of her destination finalized, she got some of her gumption back, "I already told them, I remember hearing something unusual… something that made me scared. I went to check on my treasures…" her voice fell. Shon leaned into her again, and she took a deep breath and continued. "I remember he had killed them… and then... " she looked at Shon but he didn't have any way of helping her with this, "I don't remember. The next thing I saw were two old men and Shon…" it was the same answer she had given every time she had been asked.

They both knew what the follow-up questions would be, but it didn't make them any easier. Lily took another deep, steadying breath as Sir Rasnih asked, "what do you mean, 'he killed your treasures' what are these treasures?"

Shon, looked sideways at Lily who was still breathing slowly, at least this time there were no silent tears to stain her cheeks. "My treasures." she swallowed again, "They were the other subjects in the tower. Half-breeds mostly, they were delicate and sickly so I helped the caretakers look after them." her eyes and voice got steely for a moment, "They were mine."

The paladin commander studied Lily's face and body language, looking for a lie. Finally, she said, "half-breeds," she paused, obviously not believing the idea she was going to put forth, "dragons?"

Daunas humphed but Lily rolled her eyes, how many times were they going to go over this, "Yes. They are trying to bring back the dragons." she wasn't privy to the details, and hadn't been interested in them at the time. "They mostly did experiments on old armor and artifacts made of dragonhide or teeth or whatever." she waved her hand in the air, as if it didn't matter one way or the other, "my treasures were the results of mixing what they extracted from those with people and animals." her voice fell again thinking about what she had lost, "they were so weak…"

The four new mages leaned in and whispered with one another while Sir Rasnih looked unfazed, continuing her silent study of Lily. They had been told all of this already after general Davies and Daunas had questioned her, Shon was sure of it. None of them seemed surprised by her words, more surprised that she continued to say them.

"How did Mage Mourndancer kill the half-breeds?" Sir. Rasnih's voice was cold and her use of the archmages name was proof that they had been informed of Lily's story before calling this meeting.

Lily hissed at the name, her eyes momentarily flashed, "I don't know. He had a staff and a knife… there was a lot of blood…"

"How did the fire start?" she interrupted Lily who stopped before she got much angrier and tilted her head.

"I don't know." she furrowed her brow and looked up a little like she was trying to remember something, "there were small fires in my room from the door handle…" Shon had no idea what she was talking about, she hadn't mused out loud over this question before. How would a door handle start a fire… he thought he might know but didn't want to say anything. Lily shook her head, "I don't know, I don't remember."

"Did YOU start the fire?" Sir Rerves asked, and Shon clenched his fists behind his back. Where they trying to prosecute her or something?

"No." Lily said, but she spoke slowly and furrowed her brow again, "I can't make that much fire…"

"That's enough." mage Ivelm stepped forward now, bony arms crossed over his chest. Shon arched an eyebrow at the man. Wasn't he supposed to be retired? "We are not here just to deal with her." he turned his gaze on Shon, "Squire Shon."

Shon came to attention but with more than a little hesitation in the movement. Ivelm didn't seem like himself, he was always gruff and grumpy but now he was brisk and cold, almost cruel. "Sorcerer Shon," he corrected himself looking Shon over, "We have decided it is in the Kingdoms best interest that you be given the Tattoo of sealing" Shon's eyes went wide, and the stone on the hilt of his sword turned dark blue over his shoulder as he looked between all of the adults in the room.

"But…" he stammered.

"No." Lily stepped forward, "You said the stone was enough. You said the tattoo would prevent him from being a paladin, that it would make him sick." she glared at the mage, her golden hair falling forward to frame her face.

Ivelm sneered down his nose at her and her nostrils flared, "It's either that or he is imprisoned until we can be sure he can control himself." then in an offhand voice, "or he dies. He is too strong to just let wander free."

Lily twitched. Shon just continued to look at all of them again, in complete shock, "Master Daunas…?" the Weaponmaster turned his face away, staring intently at the fire in the hearth.

One of the logs snapped in the fire. Ivelm motioned for two of the mages to step forward. What kind of nightmare was this?

"I said no." Lily's voice was quiet but the fire in the hearth flared brightly and shot out of its bounds to intervene between the approaching adults and the two of them.

"That's enough." General Davies was on his feet and Lily twitched again, shifting her glare to him. The fire danced before them and Shon thought he could hear a growl coming from deep in her throat. "Ivelm, enough. Mages, stop. Shon isn't going anywhere."

And just like that the old man Ivelm threw his hands into the air in that same exasperated motion he had done with smith Nurangran. The mages who had stepped forward stepped back and Daunas looked back at Shon with an evil smile.

"It's evidence but not proof!" Ivelm said angrily.

"It doesn't matter anyway, she can't be held accountable under the circumstances." the female mage said in a resigned voice as if they had had this argument before.

"That's not why it matters!" Ivelm shouted. Beside him Lily had finally stood straight, her face clear of the fury but definitely confused. She looked at him but all Shon could do was shrug, "All that was, was the display of an angry sorcerer with fire magic. We need to see…"

"No, we don't Ivelm. It doesn't make any sense. You've been living in that hut for too long." the largest of the mages chimed in.

Ivelm sputtered at them both and beside him Lily said, "Um… what just happened?" Shon wanted to know himself and looked to the warriors in his order for answers, but none was forthcoming. They just watched the mages argue until the fire flared again and Lily yelled, "What the hell just happened!?"

Everyone stopped talking, looking around at one another. Ivelm snorted and crossing his arms like a foiled toddler said, "I was TRYING to prove that you are a dragon."

The silence stretched on for what felt like hours. 'I doubt she's human' Shon had heard Ivelm say it while he was recovering after the tower. Was this what he meant? He looked at Lily who tilted her head at them all.

She didn't deny it. Instead, she said, "I don't know. But if I am why did they keep doing experiments?" that was not the question Shon would have asked.

He wasn't the only one because Daunas blurted out "more importantly, why would she look like a human? Aren't dragons supposed to be giant lizards or something?"

Ivelm threw his arms up again. "I don't know! Don't ask me to fathom the mind of mad warlocks."

Shon looked back to Lily and saw her staring at him. "Shon, I'm glad you're not going to get a tattoo."

The adults continued to argue but Shon just smiled back at her, "me too, Lily" he was relieved and overwhelmed. He was fine, nothing had changed there, and Lily… he took in her blue slitted eyes and the exposed red scales on her face tracing them down her neck with his eyes.

The others continued to argue, "it makes sense if 'treasures' are like a hoard…" Shon ignored them.

"Promise me you won't stop practicing your staff forms," he said.

Lily nodded once saying, "maybe I'll even be good enough to beat you.


© Copyright 2019 Shawn Cameron. All rights reserved.

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