An unearthly screeching came from out of the dark. Far back into the depths of the mine. It echoed in the air, growing louder and coming closer.
“Hold him.” Owen handed the baby dragon to Caleth and drew his sword. Chills raced over the boy’s shoulders and down his arms. He couldn’t decide whether to run or hide, so he stood still, clutching Mowg to his chest with shaking hands.
Floren raised his axe and Misa raised her wand. They stood in a circle. That way they’d have each other’s back. The elf grabbed him by the arm and shoved him in between them. He crouched down and made himself as small as he could. Mowg buried his head in the boy’s chest and shivered like a leaf.
The first wave of man bats came at them, circling so fast they were only a blur. Somehow Misa managed to zap them with her wand. And as soon as they hit the ground, Owen or Floren lopped their heads off.
For a while, it seemed like creatures would never stop coming. Calebth wondered how many there could be, but he didn’t dare look to see. And then everything went quiet. A few moments later, Owen grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet.
Floren aimed a kick at one of the carcasses. “That should be the last of them. Might be a straggler or two, but they won’t hang around. They’re cowards unless there’s a swarm.”
A terrible odor rose up. Misa pinched her nose. “Oh, my stars. That’s awful. Why do they smell so bad?”
Floren shrugged. “Beats me. Too late to ask now.”
“Where is this gold you were telling us about?” Owen said as he wiped his blade clean. “We need to retrieve it and leave this place before anything else happens.”
“This way.” The dwarf led them farther into the cave. Calebth noticed rocks glittering in the torch light. Floren bent down, plucked one off the ground and held it up for them to see. “I told you so. Didn’t I?”
They dropped to their knees and gathered up enough nuggets to fill a small bag within minutes. Owen got to his feet. “That’s more than enough. No need to be greedy. Let’s get out of here now.”
Floren took them another way out so they wouldn’t run into the goblin brothers who were probably still lurking at the main entrance. They traveled until sunset, stopped at an old abandoned mill and made camp for the night. Misa went down to the river and caught three or four fat salmon. She brought them back to Calebth. “You can grill these for our dinner.”
His heart sank. The boy knew how to start a fire, but that’s about as far as it went. He didn’t know the first thing about grilling fish. He chewed on his bottom lip and pondered. How hard could it be? A little wild onion, salt, and pepper. Spear them with a sharpened stick and put it over the fire to cook. That’s what Granny always did.
He crouched at the edge of the coals to keep an eye on things. It was nice and warm. Made him yawn. He must have dozed off because the next thing he knew Floren had grabbed the stick and was waving it around, trying to extinguish the flames.
“You’ve ruined our supper!”
Calebth blinked at him.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m sorry. I-I guess I fell asleep.”
Misa scraped off a spot and winked at Calebth. “It’s just blackened a little on the outside. Makes for a smoky taste.” She scraped off a spot and took a bite. “It’s fine.”
While they were arguing over whether or not it could be eaten, Owen sat on a rock a few feet away, alone except for Mowg. The little dragon wouldn’t let the ranger get out of his sight. He followed him everywhere, tipping his head from side to side like a puppy and squeaking like he was trying to talk.
Owen frowned. “What is he trying to say? Can any of you speak dragon?”
Misa laughed. “Pretty sure he thinks you’re his mommy.”
“How can that be?”
“Makes sense,” Calebth said. “You were the first thing he saw when he hatched.”
Floren snorted and fell over, laughing.