I was supposed to be resting, recovering from my wounds. The cleric had done a good job of curing the burns, but the experience had left me drained. I couldn’t sleep. I had a vague premonition of disaster. Perhaps it was as simple as concern over Michael’s safety. He had surely encountered Sadow by now.
I wanted him to win and return so that we could go back to the way things were when we were children. To the long talks and friendly games that we had shared. For some reason I had never been able to feel as at ease with anyone else as I had with him. Not even Sylvie. Perhaps it was because he was my oldest friend or the quiet way he carried himself. Or it could be that he was one of the few people who had never treated me with pity because of my blindness. Kindness, yes. Pity, no.
Drake was fast asleep on my chest. I could feel his tiny chest moving up and down. I could hear a light tapping outside my door. Professor Mord had been afraid to leave me alone since Sadow had left a trap in my room. It was really a nuisance. I’m more capable of looking after myself than he is. Especially since I know who the enemy is. He was driving himself crazy worrying about it, trying to grasp the situation. I wanted to tell him, but I had promised to keep Michael’s secret.
I struggled to let myself drift into sleep. But my mind was racing. If Sadow did kill Michael it would be up to me to stop him, I had promised. My best bet was to bring the issue to the rest of the Magi, but how could I make them listen? They wouldn’t easily believe that one of their own was a genocidal maniac. Michael had said that the evidence was at Drahaven, but how much proof was actually left? If he’d used magic there wouldn’t be much physical evidence of anything except for the fact that magic was used. Had Sadow left something behind to incriminate himself? If so why hadn’t the investigative team noticed it?
I said a quick prayer to Hecate, Themis, Nike and Zeus asking for Michael’s victory and safety. For the first time in my life I wondered if they were listening or even cared.
I scanned the main floor. There was a very simple eating area right at the front. It consisted of a counter with four stools laid out in front of it and three tables with four seats each. There was a door beside the counter whether it led to a room, an office or something else entirely I couldn’t say. Behind the counter was a door that most likely led to the kitchen. There were stairs leading up, presumably to the rooms. A lupine feralial was standing behind the counter. She had light grey fur and was handing out drinks. There were about a dozen people of various races sitting around eating venison and laughing. As I approached the counter their conversation dissipated and everyone turned to stare. Not at me, but at Michael. I guess they had never seen a draconian before.
The feralial’s ears perked up and she rushed out from behind the counter. I almost drew my daggers but I stopped myself. I was being paranoid. She wasn’t an enemy. She looked more like a concerned parent.
“The poor dear,” she said as she reached out to take Michael. “What happened to him?” Michael didn’t show any sign of regaining consciousness when she grabbed him.
“Well…” I started talking slowly with the intention of diverting her attention away from the issue.
“I suppose that isn’t important right now,” she interrupted me, possibly sensing my hesitation. “We simply must get his wounds cleaned and properly bandaged.” She gave me a quick sideways glance. “You need to be treated too.” She beckoned me to an open seat. “Sit down, Dear. I’ll bring you something to eat. Wolfgang, bring the first aid kit.” She gently laid Michael out on top of the wooden table and rushed to the kitchen.
I heard the guests whispering to each other. I couldn’t make out most of it but I distinctly heard a human male say: “Did she call that silver-haired girl ‘him’?”
A second lupine feralial quickly emerged from the first door. He was about a hundred ninety eight centimetres tall with snow white fur and bright red eyes. He had a medium sized box under his arm. He brought it over, nodded at me and began treating Michael’s wounds.
“Fire and lightning magic,” he muttered. He took a loud sniff. “Powerful stuff too.” He looked at me. “What happened to you two?”
“There’s no need to interrogate the poor girl,” his wife returned with a plate of venison, carrots and spinach. “They were probably attacked by bandits or something. But where are my manners?” she asked as she handed me the plate. “I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Heidi Esarosa, this is my mate, Wolfgang. This is our Inn.” She began treating my forehead as she talked. “I take it that you’re from Het Wald. Your companion is a surprise though. I thought that the draconians had all been killed by a falling meteor or some such thing.”
“Apollo,” Wolfgang corrected her. “Story says they were wiped out by Apollo.” He had removed Michael’s scorched armour and had opened his tunic so that he could treat Michael’s chest wounds. The human who had called Michael a girl earlier was glancing over, trying to catch a glimpse of what he looked like under his armour. I looked away, trying to show courtesy.
“If Apollo had done it then how did one survive?” Heidi asked triumphantly. “Answer me that one.” She turned her attention back to me. “What’s your name, Dear.”
“I’m Lynai,” I answered. “My companion is Michael. We met in the forest and decided to travel together for a while, but we were attacked by bandits. He was hurt pretty badly and I had to carry him here.” I felt bad lying to them, but I knew that the truth would raise a lot of questions that I just didn’t know the answers to and Michael was in no condition to explain.
Heidi smirked and nodded. “I knew it,” she said. “I knew that it was bandits. They’ve just been dreadful lately. Don’t worry, they wouldn’t dare show their faces in my inn!” She examined her work and nodded, satisfied. “You’ll be fine in a little while, Dear. It’s not that bad of a wound.” She turned to the rest of the customers. “And you lot, turn back to your tankards and mind your business.” There was a rustle of chairs as they started complying.
“I wish that I could say the same for him,” Wolfgang said. “He’ll live, but it’ll take him quite some time to recover.” I looked at Michael. The upper half of his tunic had been replaced entirely by bandages. The left half of his face had been bandaged as well. He also had a bandage going around his forehead. His legs had been mostly bandaged too. The bandages were already turning a light crimson. I hadn’t noticed that he was hurt that badly. It made me feel even more ashamed that I had almost slapped him. Even if he had kind of deserved it.
“Why don’t you two stay with us?” Heidi asked. “If you can’t afford it that’s okay. We’d never turn aside someone hurt this badly.”
“Thank you for your generosity,” I said, “but I have money.” I reached into my pouch and felt a folded parchment. Callie’s map. I came to a decision in that instant. It was mainly based off of my fear of Sadow finding us. “We’ll stay the night, but we were on our way to the home of a close friend and I think that he can recover much more easily there.”
“Of course,” Heidi said, nodding. “It’s much better to recuperate among loved ones. But the trip could be dangerous.”
“I think that I can manage,” I said. “I’m stronger than I look.”
“No, no. It’s far too dangerous for one person, ” Heidi insisted. “Especially since you’ll have to carry your friend. Wolfgang will escort you.”
“But…” I started to protest, she quickly interrupted me.
“I won’t take no for an answer,” Heidi said. “Don’t worry, he’s very dependable.” She put a paw on his shoulder. “Really, it’s no inconvenience.”
“I don’t mind,” Wolfgang reassured me. “Mighty Zeus himself decreed that a host should take care of his guests.”
Heidi nodded. “Then it’s settled. Where does your friend live?”
“She lives in Strecner,” I answered.
“And you were worried about inconveniencing us?, Heidi asked. “Why, Strecner is only a day’s journey from here. You really do worry too much, Dear.”