Caleb’s Story continued

Sprites

Chapter 4 – Episode 1   

     Floren rolled around on the ground clutching his shaking belly and laughing like a hysterical hyena.

    Owen glared at him. “What’s so funny?”

     The dwarf pointed at him, hiccupping uncontrollably. “I can’t help it. The very idea. Owen, a ranger with the reputation of being the greatest swordsman ever playing mommy to an orphan baby dragon. Think about what that’s going to do to your reputation.” He covered his mouth in an attempt to hide snorts of laughter.

     Misa threw up her arms. “I think it’s sweet. Don’t you Calebth?”

     The elf had a point. It was kind of endearing. And the little dragon was so dang cute, and he started to say so, but when he saw the ranger’s angry expression, he shrugged his shoulders and shut his mouth in a hurry.

* * * *

     They managed to salvage their supper. Calebth scraped the burned spots off the fish, and Misa shoed him how to sauté the mushrooms until they were plump and juicy. After supper, when stomachs were full, everyone was in a better mood.

     Misa handed Calebth a bucket. “Take this down to the river and fetch some water.”

    Floren snorted. “Sure that’s a good idea? I’m willing to wager the boy can’t do that without making a mess of things. Anybody game?”

     Calebth drew himself up to his full height and frowned at the dwarf. “Of course, I can. That’s simple enough for a child to handle.”

    Misa patted the boy on his arm. “Don’t pay any attention to Floren. He likes to think he’s funny.”

    Calebth walked away from camp and down to the river’s edge, dragging the pail behind him and feeling sorry for himself.

     I’ve got to stop making mistakes. Misa feels sorry for me. Floren thinks I’m a joke. And as far as Owen is concerned, I’m useless. He’s never going to teach me to use the sword if I don’t show him I’m not a complete failure.

     He was so busy trying to think up ways to prove his worth, he didn’t notice the splashing in the water. Or if he did, he thought it was a fish. He didn’t see the sleek green head with scales poked up out of the water. Another one joined it. And then another. Pretty soon there were six pairs of eyes following the boy.

     He got down on his knees to fill the pail, and when he did, arms grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him in the water. He held his breath as long as he could before swallowing mouth full of water, thinking I’m going to drown. One of the creatures blew a bubble that covered his face, and suddenly he could breathe again.

     When Calebth didn’t come back to camp Owen, Misa and Floren went down to the river to look for him.

     Misa plucked and iridescent scale out of the mud at the edge of the water. “Are there sprites in these waters?”

     “Aye.” Floren shook his head. “They probably took him.”

     Owen drew his sword and called out. “Give us back the boy. He’s worth nothing to you.”

    “One of the sprites popped his head up out of the water. “Of course we will, ranger. For a price. Give us your shiny gold coins. All of them. We can use them to light up our home under the water.”

     After a  moment’s hesitation, Owen reached for the moneybag he wore around his waist.

     Floren grabbed his arm and hissed. “You can’t do that.”

     “We have no other choice,” Misa said.

     The ranger held the bag in the air. “Release the boy unharmed, and it’s yours.”

     Owen, Misa, Floren took Calebth went back to camp. The boy sat next to the fire, shivering while Misa piled on more wood. Four miserable faces stared into the flames.

     “What are we going to do now?” Calebth sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. Cold, sopping wet and depressed. He couldn’t have been more miserable if he tried.

     “You tell me.” The dwarf muttered. “Thanks to you we have no money for a boat to take us to Dragon Island. And we can’t go back to the mine because it’ll be overrun with bats. We’re back to square one.”

     “Quit blaming the boy.” Misa waved a branch at the dwarf.   

     Owen spoke up. “We’re all to blame. Especially me.”

     Everyone stared at him like he’d lost his mind.         

    “Misa, either you or Floren should have gone with him to get water. And none of this would have happened if I’d been training the boy like he asked.” The ranger was right. And they all knew it.

     When they camped the next night, Owen gave Calebth his first lesson. Once they finished, the ranger showed him how to clean his sword while they listened to Misa and Floren, arguing over choice of weapons and whose was better. Mowg curled into a ball at their feet.

     The elf waved her wand in the air. “Mine is light and can be used at long range.”

     Floren snorted sarcastically. “Someone could snap it into without even trying. An axe weighs more and can do more damage.”

     “I can do spells from a 100 yards away. You have to be up close to inflict injury.”

     In the middle of their argument, Mowg jumped to his feet and growled, glaring out into the darkness.

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