After evading questions for a half hour, I made an excuse about my head hurting and was able to get to my room. The Inn only had one room left so I was forced to share it with Michael. The room had a simple green rug, a lamp, a night stand, and one bed. I had Wolfgang put Michael on it since he needed the rest more than I did. Heidi brought me a spare pillow and I slept on the rug. It wasn’t uncomfortable, although it wasn’t anything close to being as nice as my usual sleeping accommodations.
I thought about a lot of things before drifting off to sleep. Why was Michael out for revenge against Sadow? The most likely reason was that Sadow had been involved with the annihilation of the draconians. But the very idea was almost incomprehensible to me. Ever since I was a child I had heard tales of Sadow. He had always been described as a righteous and just Magi. When a severe forest fire had decimated the northern outskirts of Het Wald, leaving several people homeless and even causing a few casualties, he had been among the first to provide relief for the survivors and aid in the recovery effort. We weren’t the only ones he had aided. He had a long history of such altruistic acts. Why would someone like that be involved in murder?
I also thought about Callie. She had worked so hard to get me my freedom and all she had asked was that I consider spending more time with her. Now I was going to her home, but the circumstances were all messed up. Ideally, my visit to see her should have been because I wanted to, but I was going because there wasn’t anywhere else. There was another issue that I hadn’t considered. Callie lived in Strecner, just like Sadow did. Would it be easy for him to find us there? I checked my map. She had circled the far north-western outskirts, just outside of the main city. That was good. From what I could remember about the Magi, Sadow took residence in the eastern area, fairly close to the city centre. So he would have to travel quite a ways to find us. And I didn’t think Callie would tell anyone we were there if I asked for her discretion.
I glanced up at Michael. He was sweating heavily in his sleep. I almost wanted to wake him up and hear his perspective, but I didn’t dare disturb him. Thinking about it, it was no wonder that that human in the lobby had mistaken him for a woman. He had very soft features. He also had very long hair. It wasn’t difficult to understand why the patrons had thought him a woman. Depending on where the human was from it might have been unusual for him too. And his armour hid his figure pretty well. You could tell that he was slim, but you couldn’t tell much more than that. Even I hadn’t been sure whether he was a woman or a man when we had first met. Heidi had known right away, but she wasn’t relying on her sight.
After a lot of thinking that only left me with more questions, I managed to fall asleep. I had a strange dream of twin dragonflies flying toward the sun. It burned their shimmering wings and sent them plummeting to the earth. I felt sorry for the poor things, but when I tried to catch them they fell through my hands.
I woke up with the sun in my eyes. Michael had been washed and dressed in new clothes. He didn’t show any signs of waking up. A plate of ham and eggs had been set out for me. It was kind of cold, but I ate it anyway. It was still good. I took the dish downstairs. Heidi was serving mutton and corn to a group of travellers. Her eyes brightened when she saw me.
“I’m so glad that you’re awake,” she said. “For a moment I was worried that you had a concussion and weren’t going to wake up.”
“Was I really out that long?” I asked. I felt embarrassed.
Heidi nodded. “It’s already mid-day. You must have been exhausted. I’ll have Amalia draw you a bath and Wolfgang can get ready for the journey. Oh, Amalia is our second oldest cub. We have seven in total. Hildegard, Amalia, Melitta, Rebekka, Gunter, Wilhelmina, and Johan. I wish that I could introduce you to all of them. They’re such sweethearts.”
I started to protest but she wouldn’t hear of it. She had a barely pubescent girl with almost black fur prepare a bath for me. I followed the cub into their lodging. Which only had five rooms as far as I could see. The main room, which had a toy chest, a bookcase and several chairs, a bathroom and three others. Bedrooms, I suppose. The bathroom had nothing but a large wooden tub that had been filled with hot water, a rack of clean towels, and a small elevated platform that had bottles of soap and shampoo on it.
“You’re welcome to use these,” Amalia said. “If you’d like I can wash your back.” It was a little surprising how soft spoken she was.
“That’s okay,” I said. “I can do it myself.”
She nodded. “Kay. I’ll clean your clothes while you’re doing that.”
“That isn’t necessary,” I said.
“Is a’kay,” she said. “I like to help. Mum says it’s important.”
I relented and let her take them. I had intended to take the bath quickly and get moving, but I had to wait until I could hear Amalia returning with my clothes which took about twenty minutes. As soon as I heard her foot steps I got out of the bath and dried off.
Amalia sniffed the air when she came in. Her tail was wagging. “Smells much better,” she said. “Isn it nice to be clean?”
“Yes, it certainly is,” I agreed. I took my clothes. They had been cleaned and dried. Judging by the heat on them she had used fire magic to do the drying. I dressed quickly.
Wolfgang was waiting for me in the main room. He was carrying Michael and had a belt with pouches on. He also had a canteen around his shoulder. He nodded at me as I came in and led the way out to the lobby. Heidi smiled at us as we came out. “Have a safe trip,” she said. She licked Wolfgang’s snout. “Come back soon.”
“Don’t worry,” Wolfgang said. “I couldn’t stay away from you or the cubs too long.” He nuzzled against her neck for a moment. “Let’s go,” he said.
I nodded and we began our walk toward Strecner.