Quick reminder: This is basically a rough draft and only temporarily available to read online. Once the book is complete, it will be revised, professionally edited, and then published on Amazon. For more details about the blog book, or to read the story from the beginning, check out the book’s main page.
Pleasantly stuffed on tea and sweet biscuits, I leave Midge’s shop, promising to visit again soon. I make the short walk to the butcher, dreaming of the food I’m going to buy. Tarith gave me more gold than expected, telling me to “eat well.”
Thank you, dear dragon, I shall. I might even share with the prince.
Chuckling to myself, I push through the door and find the counter empty. The front of the store is narrow and small. Sausages hang from the ceiling, and covered barrels contain all sorts of smoked and dried meats. Those are all far more appetizing than the various pickling jars filled with eggs, pigs’ feet, and herring.
“Hello?” I step up a few of the stairs that lead to the apartment above. “Is anyone here?”
“In the back,” a deep, young voice calls.
I walk behind the counter, and then through the door, and find Wilford wiping his hands on his apron. He took after his father, built tall and stout, with thick, dark brown hair and bushy sideburns.
“Hello, Wilford,” I say. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”
“It’s no trouble.” The butcher’s son gives me a friendly smile. “What can I do for you? Do you have something for us to process?”
“Not today. I’m here to buy.”
Wilford raises his large eyebrows. “Is that so?”
“Tarith was feeling generous,” I say with a laugh. “And I have found myself without time to hunt.”
“So I’ve heard,” he says.
“I see Dragon Ridge’s rumor mill is running smoothly.” I laugh, leading the way back into the shop.
Wilford nods as I rattle off an order. I choose dried and preserved meats, steering far from the pickled concoctions.
“Would you deliver the order to my cottage?” I ask, realizing I’ve selected far more than I can carry.
“I’ll have Warren bring it tomorrow,” he says, speaking of his brother.
“That will be fine, if he has time,” I tell him.
“Would you like anything fresh delivered with your order?” he asks.
I think about it, already heading for the door. “A roast, if you have one. I’m not particular.”
After I leave the butcher’s, I make my way to Denton’s shop, skirting behind the blacksmith, hoping to avoid the Eldentimber tree. The morning is already moving into afternoon, and I still have a long walk back to the caverns.
Thankfully, I manage to make it to the herbalist without Eron spotting me.
“Twice in one week,” Denton says when I push through the door, looking up from a dried bundle of purple flowers.
I lean an elbow on his bench. “It turns out I’m not much of a physician. I need your help with Lionel’s leg.”
The handsome herbalist returns to his task, separating the dried flowers from their long stalks. “If you’ll give me five minutes, I’ll close up. Would you like tea?”
I pull out the stool under the bench and make myself comfortable. “I stopped by Midge’s on my way here, but thank you.”
Denton continues his task. As soon as he’s finished, he spirits the petals into a crock and then meticulously wipes off his workspace. “All right. We can go.”
I follow Denton from the shop, but before he gets very far, I grasp hold of his arm. “Let’s leave through the south entrance.”
He looks down, peering at my hand, and looks up, his eyes bright with humor. “Why?”
“Fairies,” I grumble under my breath, tugging him with me.
The walk is long but pleasant, and Denton is better company than I realized. The time passes quickly.
Before long, we reach the meadow and make our way toward the cavern. Loitering dragons watch us, intrigued by the man’s presence but not enough to leave their spots in the sunshine to investigate. Their indifference makes me careless.
I’m just laughing at something Denton says, not paying enough attention to my surroundings, when Shalay swoops to the ground in front of us, dropping gracefully. She’s wet from the springs, and droplets of water roll down her golden scales, catching the sun, nearly blinding me.
Wincing, I glance at the man at my side and then back at the dragon, terrified of what might come out of her mouth.