“Kill a dragon myself?” I manage to get out in a weak voice. “I could get killed trying!”
Sarton leans back in his chair and laughs. “Suddenly not so full of yourself, eh, boy? But you’re ready. And it needs doing. There’s a dragon out in the Farasi Mountains that will soon be a major threat to the kingdom if it is not eliminated. And that’s your old neighborhood. You’re the perfect person to go kill it. You wouldn’t want it to kill your family, now, would you?”
You don’t know my family very well, Sarton. Not to be too blunt about it, I wouldn’t object to several of them becoming dragon snacks. But then there’s Jallia, my youngest sister. So, point taken. “I’ll need to make preparations.”
“You have three days,” is all Sarton says.
A horse, a sword, a book, and a hefty purse: the essential equipment for going off to kill a dragon. Sarton springs for the price of a change of clothes with the chilling words, “Whatever you’re wearing when you fight the dragon will probably be soaked in dragon blood. Assuming, of course, that they don’t burn with your corpse.”
I’m leading my horse out of the stables when I hear my name called in a familiar voice. I turn, and smile, for it is Paviara. She runs up to me, breathless, and gives me a hug. “I heard you were going off on a trip, and I didn’t want to let you leave without a goodbye kiss,” she tells me.
I’m confused enough that it takes me a bit to figure out what to say. “Um, well, I’m off to the Farasi Mountains to kill a dragon. But when I come back, I’d like to see you again, Paviara. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you, too, Tollon,” she says, giving me another hug. “I would have seen you sooner, but Lady Gwella caught me trying to steal the dragon’s teeth.” She gives me an uncertain smile. “She made me tell her why. And then she forbade me to see you. But I had to see you before you left!”
We mumble a bunch of other things, nothing important really, kiss, and then I mount my horse and ride away, not without a few backward looks at Paviara. She stands there, waving at me, and I can hope everything will be all right when I return. If I return.
I think a lot about Paviara as I ride out of the city. She was willing to steal the dragon’s teeth even when she must have thought I had betrayed her. Wow! Talk about love. But then what about Willins? And Paviara said not a word about Elfra or Mia. My good mood vanishes. However happy Paviara is at the moment, there’s a still a reckoning to come between us. Still, I hope Lady Gwella does not discover Paviara came to see me off.
My first day’s ride is through wine country. It’s a warm day, I make good mileage on the Tulavian Way, and stop at a good inn for dinner and sleep. The waitress flirts with me. I was imagining I could have some romantic adventures on the road, but thinking of Paviara puts me off trying to make a play for the waitress.
On my second day’s ride, I turn off the Tulavian Way to take the road toward Velgard, where I grew up. It’s still a good road, if not a busy one. Good enough for robbers to frequent. Which is why I find myself facing one after only two hours in the saddle.