Caleb's Story continued

Chapter 4 – Episode 3

Calebth thought about how much he missed his parents and swallowed a huge lump that formed in his throat.  “Mowg is in danger. We need to find a way to take him home to his family. He’ll be safe there.”

Misa sighed. “We all feel the same way, Calebth.”  But what can we do? We need a boat to take us to Dragon Island. And it takes money to rent a boat. Something we don’t have.”

He hung his head with shame. If not for him, they’d still have the gold from the mine.

Owen pinched his chin between his fingers. “We’re not far from Broadwin. We’ll go there and see if they are offering any bounties. That’s how we can get the coin to pay our way to Dragon Island.

 “This is Olog territory. There’s bound to be more troublemakers like the one I just took out.” Floren puffed out his chest. “We’ll have a pocketful of gold in no time.”

Misa burst out laughing. “You mean the ogre who grabbed you and threw you to the ground? I think the fall addled your brain. It was Owen who took care of him, not you.”

“At least I wasn’t standing there, waving my wand around and shrieking ‘Look out.’”

“I saved your hide, you ungrateful wretch.”

Owen stood with his hand on his hips, glaring at both of them. “Enough of this. Why can’t the two of you get along? You argue over everything.” He turned to Calebth. “Get everything packed and ready to go. We’ll leave first thing in the morning.”

* * * *

Broadwin was a fishing village with a busy harbor perched on the rocky coastline. Owen started at one end and went from first one boat to another, asking about passage to the Island. It wasn’t far. Calebth could see it clearly from the harbor. But one by one, the fishermen turned them down, claiming they were too busy. Or it was too far. Or they were afraid of the dragons.

They almost passed the last boat without stopping. It had seen better days. So did the man who owned it. “Captain Bounty is me name, and this here is my boat. At yer service. For a price, that is.”

Missing one eye, wearing a bandana and a gold hoop, the man reminded Calebth of the stories old-timers told about pirates. The man winked and gave them a grin big enough for his gold tooth to sparkle in the sunlight. “Sixty coins.”

Floren’s mouth fell open. “That’s highway robbery!”

“Is there something we could do to earn money?” Owen asked.

Captain guffawed. “Not unless you want to get rid of the Olog gang. They’ve been causing trouble. Their leader is Uruk. He’s bad enough. But the others even meaner and twice as big. They’ve been terrorizing the village for weeks.”

 Misa sighed. “We’ve dealt with him before.”

They thanked the captain for the information and went to the tavern to see if they could come up with a plan. They scraped together enough money to buy a pitcher of ale and took a table in the corner.  

They hadn’t been there for more than a few minutes when the gang of ologs burst into the tavern led by Olog-hai and demanded to be served. He glanced over at them and laughed out loud. “Look boys. It’s my little friends from the forest. The ones who couldn’t fight.”

Floren sprang to his feet, clutching his ax. “Okay, fellas. It’s payback time. Let’s get ‘em.” He runs up to one of them, breaks a jug of ale over his head, and knocks him out. Misa joined him, waving her wand and flinging spells right and left.

“What do you want me to do?” Calebth asked Owen.

“Protect Mowg. Make sure he doesn’t get hurt.” The ranger unsheathed his sword and followed the other two across the room.

Owen made quick work disabling one of the ogres, and Misa turned another one into a toad, while Floren cornered Olog-hai. But the ogre grabbed him and threw him into the kitchen. The cook ran screaming from the tavern.

One of them comes after Mowg after he steps on the dragon and he burps fire, singing the ogre’s hide. Calebth grabbed him, pushed him under the table, throwing dishes and furniture. . Owen saw what was happening, knocks him into Olog-hai, knocking them off their feet. Quick as a wink, Misa put them all to sleep with a spell.

“Good job, kid,” Owen said after the fight was. Surprised and pleased with the compliment, Calebth thinks maybe he’ll make a ranger after all.

After the dust settled, the mayor and some of the townspeople showed up and carried the ologs off to jail. The villagers cheered and the tavern owner served drinks all around. 

“They’ve been plaguing our little town for weeks,” the mayor said. “You get the reward we offered.”

“Did you hear that?” Calebth grinned at the little dragon. “You’re going home.”

Floren threw his hands in the air. “Let’s celebrate. Another round of ale.”

Misa rolled her eyes. “Don’t be too free with the reward. We need it to pay the captain.”

Calebth was too young for spirits, the tavernkeeper brought him a mug of apple cider.

“Too much ale makes people do silly things.” Owen pointed at Floren. Sure enough, he drank so much he got tipsy. He climbed on the table to sing, got dizzy halfway through the chorus and collapsed into a heap.  

“Cider’s good enough for me,” Calebth said. But Mowg licks ale the ale that Floren spills off the floor and burps fire. Calebth grabbed him before it can happen again.

When they got to the ship the next day, Floren came aboard holding his head. “Worse headache I’ve ever had.”

 Misa laughed. “You mean hangover, don’t you?”

He glared at her. “You’re no fun at all.”

Before Owen could tell the two of them to knock it off, Captain Bounty came by. “Keep that baby dragon down below. They’re unlucky on a ship. One wrong move and my crew could revolt.”

Caleb’s Story (continued)

Man-size vampire bat

Chapter 2 Episode 3

     Owen, Floren, Misa, and Calebth stood at the mouth of the cave, staring down at the baby dragon. What were they going to do? None of them knew the first thing about how to take care of him. What did he eat? What did he drink?

     Floren scratched behind his ear. “Can’t he fend for himself? He is a dragon, after all.”

     “Mowg’s only a baby. He’d starve.” Tears welled up in Calebth’s eyes, and he swallowed hard, hoping no one noticed. “Either that or those wretched goblins will come back for him.”

     “The boy is right,” said Misa. “I overheard one of those idiots say something about Morogon wanting them to bring Mowg back to him. They may have run off, but they haven’t given up. They’re not about to go back to the mage empty-handed.”

     Calebth’s heart lifted. He knew his opinion didn’t carry any weight, but maybe Misa could have some influence on the other two.

     Floren growled. “I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to play nursemaid to a baby dragon, orphan or not.”

     She gave him an indignant sniff. “First you want to eat the poor thing, and then you suggest leaving him to Morogon’s mercy. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

     “I don’t see you volunteering to take care of him.”

     Calebth swiveled his head back and forth between the two, listening to them swap insults. He was about to step between them and offer to take care of Mowg himself when Owen spoke up. “We’ll take him to Dragon Island.”   

    “Only one problem with that,” Misa said. “We need to hire a boat to take us there. How are we going to do that? We have no money.”

     Floren grinned. “I have an idea.” He pointed north. “See that mountain ridge over yonder?”

     “What about it?”

     “It’s the Mountain of Mines. I used to work there. It’s been abandoned for a long time, but I’m sure there’s more than enough gold left to get us passage on a small boat on its way to the island.”

     “B-but isn’t that place haunted?” Calebth can hardly get the words to come out of his mouth. “That’s what the old dwarves who used to work there always say, anyway.”

      Floren glared at him. “Have you got any better ideas?”

     Nobody did, so the travelers headed toward the mines. They rode the rest of the day and part of the night before they reached their destination. Everyone wanted to stop and make camp. Continue in the morning, but Owen insisted they keep going. “We’re being followed.”

     Calebth rode behind jim, his arms around Mowg, who was sound asleep. He’d been fighting it himself for the last hour, but when he heard those words, his heart lurched, and his eyes snapped open.

     Floren sniffed the air. “I smell goblin.”

     Misa eyed him. “The idiots from the cave, no doubt. I told you we hadn’t seen the last of them.

     “How much farther?” Owen asked.

     “We’re almost to the Tunnel of Darkness,” Floren said. “Don’t dismount. Ride inside, and I’ll stay behind to close the gate so they can’t follow.”

     They urged their tired mounts to move a little faster until they reached the entrance a short time later. It was pitch black inside. Mira struck a match and lit some torches she found left in a niche on the wall. Calebth felt a little better once he could see. Until he glimpsed the sign.

     Misa held her light up high and read aloud. “Beware.” Beneath that, there was a crude drawing of a skull and crossbones. “Man-sized vampire bats ahead. Proceed at your own risk.”

    She groaned.  “This wasn’t such a good idea, after all.”

    All out of breath, Floren trotted up to them. “Don’t be such a chicken.”

    “I’m not.” Misa rolled her eyes. “I just don’t want to die in this wretched cave.”

     Calebth swallowed hard. He didn’t either. And he fancied he heard the sound of wings flapping in the distance.

     Floren puffed out his chest. “If I have to die, at least I’ll be laid to rest in my home place with all my kin. My father, my grandfather, and his father before him.”

     As the noise grew closer, Owen drew his sword. “Enough talk.”