Black rough leather under armor of leather and bone adorned him. The bone shone like polished black pearls. When he stepped through the door, one hand on the hilt of his sword the other holding a black lantern, he laughed seeing me before him with the poker. “We ‘av a live one ‘er boys.” He entered the cottage and stood in front of the poker I had aimed in defense. “Ew ‘r you? Strange jerkins miss.” He eyed my black yoga pants and navy sweat jacket over a bright green tee. My green suede mocs were especially strange to him. I’d fallen into a story of Wibet Guf’s with my children! Two more muddy men in brown leather armor with metal helmets appeared in the doorway.
“Who are you?” I managed to ask.
“Mmm, Shako miss. R ya a Scree?”
“What is Scree, Mr. Shako?”
“Capt’n Shako. An Scree be what we call the maiden warriors who magic and mischief about.”
I remembered a story about Scree from Wibut Guf’s. Scree were fae-amazonions; more myth it seemed from the stories.
“I am not Scree. I am Ann Ray.”
“Anray. Strange name. We hoped ta stop here fur tha night. Is place been em’ty fur long time. Carol and Isaac lived here ‘for he died. Did ya know ’em?”
“I met Carol once.”
“Nice as they come she wuz. Ya live ‘ear now?” His rough voice filled with kindness seemed out of place in his black pearl armor.
“I keep an eye on the place. I’m from. . .far away.”
“Detra? Where Carol from?”
“Uh, yea. Detra.” A loud sneeze came from under the couch. Shako laughed. I didn’t lower the poker. “You can come out Ord.” His little blonde head peered out from under the couch. Shako put the lamp down by the sink and pulled him up. A pot clinked under the sink and one of the men looked under to see a wide-eyed auburn haired girl in purple dress and wild leggings.
“I’s okay. Come ow of hid’n miss.”
Vity clanked as she climbed out and scurried behind me. With Ord on one side and Vity on the other I asked the men if they were hungry. They said yes. “We need a fire in the grate,” I said, “I have no food here.”
“We ‘av food. Hake get a fire. Mano tend tha horses.”
I whispered to Reas, “Come out Reas. He climbed out from under the bed. I put the three children on the bed and found some pots and plates. Soon a fire was roaring and the men were roasting meat on a spit that was found near the fire. I made some pancakes out of some of their food stores and fed the kids the men began to tell stories of dragons. Reas, Vity, and Ord ate pancakes silently, not complaining of lack of butter or syrup, listening to the dragon herders stories of counting hatchlings and following their migration to the North Mountains. The dragon herders, Captain Shako and lot, had been to Gruff by the sea where the dragon hatchlings were laid. Their job was to keep track of the diminishing dragon population of Asgar. Mostly, they stopped poachers, it was against the law to kill a dragon, and steered people from settling near the dragons hunting grounds.
“Why are you going to Adoa?” Reas asked. He was in awe of these men.
“We’re goin’ where the die, da dragons. Sacred. We can ‘arvest the scales an bone for our need. Keep rescalions away.”
“What are ra-scal-yuns?” asked Ord.
“They ‘ave no respect for great ones, tak’n their parts fur word weavin’ ” said Captain Shako slowly while gazing into the fire.
“Like spells or magic?” Vity piped in. She was just as interested in this talk of dragons as the boys.
“Spirit weavin’ iz wha the Hadens do. Hadens make power stew, poison tea, cakes for tha night mares. Sum Asgar use ’em fur protection–doesn’ alwey work. Sum Hadens work fur Kings; the Rigoa ‘ave a ‘ole army. King Een ‘as a few. Hadens would do anything ta get ta where dragons die. We ‘ave to keep it secret. Give King Een’s Hadens a few parts.” Shako looked at his hands.
Mano stood suddenly; the horses were braying. Hake used the water to douse the fire and Shako blew out the two lanterns. I wanted to get the children under the bed when a foul smoke came through the door. Blackness engulfed us. We awoke on moving horseback at dawn.