Caleb’s Story (continued)

Owen The Ranger              Floren the Dwarf            Misa the Elf

Chapter 1 – The Journey Begins (part 2) This episode picks up where the last one left off. I’m sure you can see a LOTR influence as well as “How To Train Your Dragon.” Writing this story has been a fun adventure.

     “You might know.” The trio probably wanted to order a meal. Calebth sighed and got to his feet, making his way over, all ready to rattle off an explanation as to why they’d get nothing but ale this time of day. Halfway there, he stopped dead in his tracks.

     A dwarf with a scar that ran down one side of his face, barely missing an eye, barreled over to a table by the door and sat down so hard it’s a wonder the bench didn’t splinter into kindling. “I don’t care what ye say. I’m starving. Ma belly thinks my throat’s been cut.”

    One of his companions, a tall, slender elf with braids in her hair, rolled her eyes and joined him. “How could you be so hungry? You ate three rabbits for breakfast and washed them down with a gallon of goat’s milk.”

     He patted his rotund belly and grinned. “It takes a lot to keep this physique. Besides, folks have been talking about this place. It’s got a four-star rating.

     They continued their debate while the third member of their party, a tall man dark-haired man, took a seat with his back to the wall and glanced around the room. Something about him caught Calebth’s attention. Not his appearance so much. More the way he carried himself. Quiet. Watchful. Piercing eyes. Tension coiled through the man’s body like a spring as though he was ready for trouble at any minute.

     No farmer or merchant. Not even a soldier. Something else. Calebth gasped and swallowed when he realized he was standing face to face with Owen, the greatest Ranger of all times. What were the chances?

     His stomach twisted when the ranger spoke to him, but his heart was thudding so loud he didn’t hear a word.

    The dwarf waved a hand in front of Calebth’s face. “Are ye deaf,? Did ye not hear what Owen said?”

     The elf frowned. “Don’t be so hard on the boy, Floren.”

    Calebth stuttered. “I’m sorry, sire. What did you say?”

     “Ale all around.”

     The boy backed away and ran into the kitchen where Granny was stirring something in a kettle over the fire.

     “You’ll never believe who just came in.”

     “Some Johnny come lately, looking for food? What does he think this is? An all-day buffet?

     No—well, yes.” He sighed in frustration.  “It’s Owen. The Ranger! Can you believe it?”

     “Oh, him.” She wasn’t impressed. “He must be here to deal with the dragon.”

     “What dragon?”

     “The one Cedric told me about when he delivered vegetables this morning. It’s been holed up in an abandoned Goblin’s cave for the past week or two. Stealing livestock and wreaking havoc in general. So the farmers got together and posted a reward.”


     She nodded. “Twenty gold coins to whoever gets rid of it.”

     Calebth rubbed his hands together. He had an idea. As soon as word got out, there’d be bounty hunters swarming the hills, looking for the cave. And he knew a shortcut. He could lead Owen and his friends there. Surely they’d be so grateful they’d led him squire for them. Nothing like good fortune to make people agreeable.

     With that in mind, he talked Granny into letting him serve them a fresh loaf of bread and bowls of stew along with the ale he poured.

     “I don’t know why. It’s not like those rascals deserve it. They do what they do because they think it’s fun, not because they’re trying to be noble.”

     “What if it was Pops? I’d like to think someone took pity on him from time to time when he was traveling and gave him a home cooked meal.” Long ago, Calebth’s grandfather had been a ranger.

     She didn’t say another word, but he noticed she also added butter and honey to the tray. When Calebth brought the food to the table, he told the three of them about the dragon. “And, I know a shortcut to the cave. I’d be glad to take you there. On one condition. Let me join you on your journey.”

     The dwarf swallowed and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “You’d only be another mouth to feed.”

     The elf glared at him. “Don’t be so hard on the boy, Floren. He could be a big help.”

     “That’s a thought, Misa.” He scrubbed the side of his face. “Can you cook?”

      Calebth prayed his Granny wasn’t listening from the kitchen. “Of course I can. I made the mutton stew you’re eating. And baked the bread.”

     Floren smacked his lips and rubbed his stomach. “How are you at preparing dragon meat?”

     “Is food all you think about?” Misa tossed her braid over her shoulder.

     “What d’ye mean by that?”

     “It’s all you ever talk about.”

     “No, it isn’t.”

     Own slammed his mug down on the table and shut them both up. He poured himself another drink and eyed Calebth. “Thanks for the offer, kid. But it wouldn’t work out. You’re a little young. And besides, I don’t have the time to teach you.”

     “Please, Sire. There are other things I’m good at besides food.” The boy wracked his brain, desperately trying to come up with something. “I-I can tend to your animals. Do your laundry. Polish your boots. Anything it takes as long as you to teach me how to be a ranger. It’s what I want to be more than anything. I’ve been dreaming about it ever since I heard about your adventures.”

     Owen raised his voice. “You don’t understand, boy. What we do isn’t just fun. It’s dangerous.”