Sunlight peeked into the musty inn room. Vaun stirred and awoke at a yelping sound. Blinking his eyes in confusion, he saw a floating dragon wagging a piece of paper in his jaw. The infant black dragon landed on his chest and dropped the ragged parchment. On it were seven messily scribbled words.
We were found out. Follow the dragon.
Running a hand through his messy blonde hair, Vaun sprang to his feet and prepared his kit. Forte was missing—Vaun presumed that he needed help. Smokes, dagger, check. “Let’s get going.”
Vaun followed the dragon downstairs.
Famous in town for its cheap stays but unsavory clientele, the Hog’s Pit Inn’s interior was adorned with round wooden tables and stools. One person occupied the lounge this morning, a menacing man downing a pint of the inn’s signature hogsblood ale. On a long wooden table in the middle was breakfast, a large loaf of stiff bread.
Vaun tore off a hunk and stuffed his mouth before heading onwards. He tailed the dragon as they stepped out onto the bustling streets.
Extra, extra! Read all about it! Two men found dead on the streets last night! Claw marks on their faces! One bludgeoned in the ribs! Witnesses claim it’s the work of a large monster! Read all about it!
Vaun’s normally cheery eyes narrowed upon hearing the newsboy’s shouts. Two men… those must have been the two mithril thieves they killed yesterday. The town thinks they were killed by a large monster. Not… quite true. Vaun looked nervously at the innocuously petite black dragon floating ahead of him. It wriggled in satisfaction hearing of its great deeds.
As he followed the dragon flying effortlessly–as if it were floating–in front of him, he walked by an open butchery, wincing as the loud butcher swung down at his chopping board at a slog flank. Then, he passed a musty tavern with a hooded mystic selling jewelry in front. Beside it was a small pastry shop with a cheerful girl displaying a line of brightly colored pastries. Nightmare nudged Vaun towards the tavern with its name, Knave’s Meadhall, emblazoned on a large wooden sign.
Ignoring the mystic in front, Vaun stepped into the tavern and immediately saw a grimacing Forte locked in an arm wrestle with a much larger man. After a few moment’s struggle, the larger man overpowered Forte and slammed his hand down amid cheering onlookers. The man chuckled and patted Forte’s back as he chortled, “har har, he’s a tough ‘un for so young.”
Forte pouted, replying, “Hey now, I was holding back right then!” The bawdy crowd burst into laughter at the boy’s display of arrogance. With a smile still on his face, Forte pulled aside Vaun and whispered into his ear, “look to your left.” His smile slowly disappeared.
Vaun glanced to the left and saw, far in the corner of the tavern, sat a contingent of the Count’s soldiers. In the middle was a bearded man with a jagged scar down his cheek. Forte continued to whisper, “the thieves we killed yesterday were hired by those soldiers. One of them saw us. We have to get rid of them. See the one in the middle? That’s Jorhan. I asked around—he’s one of the best swordsmen in town. He fought in the last great war with Halfast seven years ago, that’s where he got that nasty scar, and is working as a mercenary now.”
Vaun nodded and began drawing his dagger. “Best ‘ta catch him unprepared,” he said. Forte shook his head. “Not right now, we’ll get arrested. We lure them somewhere.”
Glancing back, Vaun counted three men. He whispered to Forte, “Are you sure we can take them? I see three of them, all armed.” Forte chuckled. “Three of them, three of us. Plus, did you watch the arm wrestle back there? I really was holding back.”
Forte signaled Vaun to follow him out of the tavern and back on the streets. Vaun noticed Forte had a rolled up newspaper in his hand, which he tossed to the side. Nightmare curled up on Forte’s head and shoulders, draping his tail around the hilt of Forte’s immense greatsword.
“We’ll head out of the city, to somewhere remote,” said Forte to Vaun. They meandered through the town until reaching the town gates. After a quick nod from the guards, they were out. Although he could not see the Count’s soldier’s tailing them, Vaun could sense their presence behind them. They continued to follow the road uphill, then veered off the path to the right until they reached a forested enclave surrounding a flowing river.
There they waited. Before long, the Count’s soldiers emerged. A bearded man with a jagged scar on his cheek bared his teeth and growled, “So you’re the little rats that stole our loot. Now be good lads and tell me where you hid the cart.”
Vaun jeered, “And what if we don’t?”
Jorhan, the bearded man, sneered and shouted, “Kill them!”
Before the soldiers could draw their swords, a black dragon darted down from a tree and tackled one down, slashing his neck. Forte reached back and drew his gravitite sword as he squared off with Jorhan. Vaun threw a smoke grenade at the remaining soldier’s feet, dashing into the smoke cover. Under the cover of smoke, Vaun sensed the soldier’s location. His smoke grenades created a hallucinogenic effect to anyone that inhaled the fumes for too long. Vaun, however, had developed a partial immunity after years of exposure. A blind swing of the soldier’s sword nearly missed Vaun as he cursed under his breath.
As Vaun approached again in the chaos of the smoke, a second swing grazed his arm, leaving a clean horizontal cut with blood seeping out. He retreated a few steps and waited as the soldier swung wildly around him. Sensing the soldier’s exhaustion, Vaun crept forwards and lunged with his dagger, sinking the blade through the soldier’s leather armor and into his gut. The soldier dropped his sword and clenched his stomach in agony, then pummeled Vaun with his bare hands. Poison from the tip of Vaun’s dagger spread through his veins, and after another blow to Vaun’s body, he collapsed lifeless.
Vaun was pinned under the soldier’s heavy body, and struggled to push him off. A meter away from Vaun, Nightmare’s legs dug into the soldier’s chest as he bit into the soldier’s neck and snapped it, dealing a fatal blow. The black dragon flew off immediately after dispatching the soldier to aid Forte in his duel with Jorhan.
Jorhan’s swordsmanship outclassed Forte, as his blows found ways past Forte’s guard. Forte had never met such fierce swordplay before, and struggled to keep up with his heavy gravitite greatsword. Jorhan slashed down on Forte’s shoulder and chest, opening up new wounds on top of old ones as Forte groaned in pain. Predicting Jorhan’s third consecutive downwards slash, Forte parried with blöthe. A loud clank rang through the air before getting lost in the sound of a torrent of water rushing down the river. The parry had left a dent in Jorhan’s steel sword, which he examined increduously.
“Impossible. You little brat!” he swore, as he raised his left hand, palm facing forwards. A faint glow appeared in Jorhan’s eyes.
Forte’s eyes widened in disbelief. Magic.