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.
The tanner doesn’t live above his shop, as many in the village do. Rather, he built his bride a cottage just east of Dragon Ridge, in a quiet glade that borders a small lake that ducks and swans visit during the warmer months of the year.
We frequent the area often enough, as Lionel has grown fond of fishing over the years, but we rarely see the tanner’s wife.
Emera has lived in the village for over ten years, but she keeps to herself. I’ve spoken with her less than a dozen times, and I’m not certain she’s going to welcome this impromptu visit.
That’s why I stopped at Midge’s shop for a basketful of tiny, frosted cakes. Oddly enough, the gypsy shook her head and offered me a package of sea salt instead.
It seems a strange gift to bring to a person when you stop in for a visit, but who am I to question Midge and her array of peculiar gypsy knowledge? Reluctantly, I bought the salt and tucked it into the basket along with the confections.
A short fence circles the white-washed cottage, and a vine grows from the arch above the gate, thick with lavender buds. As we walk the path through the glade, a young girl runs inside, likely off to warn her mother that visitors are on their way.
I pause at the gate and look at Lionel. “Should we go to the door or wait here?”
Before he can answer, Emera steps from the cottage. Saying something to the child inside, she closes the door and begins toward the gate.
Rumor has it she’s nearing her fortieth year, but her beauty is timeless. From appearances alone, it would be impossible to discern her age.
“May I help you?” she asks. Her tone isn’t cool, exactly, but it’s not particularly friendly either.
“We were hoping to speak with you a bit,” I say hesitantly, wishing we would have skipped the chat and headed straight for Triblue. I hold up the basket. “I’ve brought a few things from Midge’s.”
As if I must prove it, I pull back the cloth and begin poking around.
“I have packaged tea, cakes, and…” I glance up, feeling awkward. “Sea salt?”
Though I don’t mean to, it comes out as a question.
Emera narrows her eyes, peering into the basket with a frown.
“Tarith has sent us,” Lionel says, growing impatient. “Sea dragons are attacking ships, and we believe they’re being spelled with your people’s magic. We were hoping you might know of a motive.”
The woman blinks at him. Once her surprise wears off, she lets out a weary sigh. “I haven’t been home in over fifteen years. I know nothing of the current state of events, though I can tell you we’re a peaceful people.”
“The fairies believe the magic is borrowed,” Lionel says. “What does that mean?”
A shadow passes over the fairy’s face. “I have no idea.”
She’s lying—but she’s also scared. Whatever borrowed magic is, just mentioning it spooked her.
“I’m sorry I can’t be of more help—” she begins, already backing away, only to be cut off by a loud screech. Startled, she peers around me from the safety of the closed gate and demands, “What was that?”
I glance over my shoulder, but I can’t see York from this angle. I end up turning to the side, letting her get a look at the hatchling strapped to my back.
“What in the kingdoms?” she murmurs with something that sounds like a laugh.
“His mother abandoned him,” I explain. “I’m afraid he and I are stuck together for the time being.”
The cottage door opens, and the girl peers out. Her bright eyes are fixed on York with unbridled curiosity. She must have been watching from the window.
“May I see the baby dragon?” the girl begs her mother.
Emera looks back at me, resigned. “Is it dangerous?”
“I hope not. If he is, I probably shouldn’t be carrying him like this.”
Lionel snorts, but he covers his amusement by clearing his throat.
Once more, Emera glances at the basket. “Sea salt, you said?”
Encouraged, I nod and hold the basket out for her to inspect. “And tea and cakes.”
“All right,” she says with a sigh as she opens the gate. “Why don’t you come in for a bit?”