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|It's not quite polished but... It's a light comedy. Collaboration piece with Marcel.||
'Is this Ishandul's flock?' the young woman atop the mountain goat called out to the shepherd.
'This is my flock now...' he grunted, sizing her up like she was a prize pig at the fair. 'The old fool's dead.'
She ignored the look. Don't try. 'Rather small, isn't it?'
'But a fine flock, pretty lass.' he said, waving one arm as a gesture of introduction 'Perhaps you would like to dine with me tonight and taste the tenderness?'
A ewe drew to him, trying to reach the grass at his feet, but he swatted her away cursing. Then he laughed.
'Not as tender or pretty as you though, eh? I've never bought a ewe like you...'
She corrected herself. A ewe... Not a pig...
The shepherd moved closer to her. Ugh! The stench... He smiled. There mayn't be a more revolting grin.
'There's no inn here.' he said. 'It's getting dark soon, but there's room at my place. Perchance we can negotiate..., sleeping terms?'
Does he really think...? 'You don't know who I am, tread lightly.'
He shrugged. 'Women are all alike.' he touched her cheek. 'What's there to know?'
She withdrew her face. 'For one thing, that you shouldn't touch me.'
Her eyes narrowed and Mog felt her tightening her grip on the reins. The next moment a terrified pig fled the field, wearing the shepherd's hat.
'Not as creative as the courtier.' Mog remarked, chewing lazily on some grass.
'That was a French delicacy not up to par. This was swine.'
Now she noticed several pairs of eyes looking at her. The sheep, grateful for relieving them of the nasty shepherd, were gazing at her.
'Uh-oh..' Mog stopped chewing.
'What are they looking at?' She asked him.
'Well.., it looks like they have adopted you as their new shepherd.'
'But I'm no shepherd! I'm a wizard, and don't have time to herd a bunch of silly sheep!'
Mog made a shrugging gesture. 'You tell them.'
'Go away.' she told the sheep 'Go find someone who knows about wool.'
The sheep just looked at her in the way they perfected it for generations, sheepishly. Then she waved her arms around.
'Shoo! Go eat grass!' she said as she scattered the sheep.
But as soon as she turned around to mount Mog, they drew back to her.
'Told you, they adopted you..'
Tana sighed. 'Let's just go have a look at that lamb.'
'Oh, stop your grumbling, Ed.'
'Well, if you actually had any gold or food I wouldn't be grumbling.' Ed snorted, blowing his grey mane away from his eyes.
The rider, dressed in old and battered, but polished armour and the shaggy pony argued back and forth, being at it most of the road. The knight's pouch was as empty as their stomach's and their breath seemed endless.
'I just can't charge them... Knights don't do that sort of thing.'
'They could have at least offered something to eat.'
'You saw they didn't have much for themselves.'
'A good ale would have been a nice gesture.'
'We'll soon find a mpfhhh.' A notice blown in his face interrupted him.
Curiously Ed looked up.
'What's this?' Sniff smoothed out the parchment and read it out loud. 'Reward. Two hundred gold pieces for he who defeates the treacherous dragon. Applicants see the tavern keeper. Ale included.'
They looked at each other, then at the town in the distance ahead. Sniff's whiskers twitched.
'Ale!' said Ed, brightened up and started a spirited trot to get them to the inn.
'They're still there?'
'Yep.' said Mog 'Still there.'
Tana sighed and looked back at the flock. Crossing a river left them wet and going through thick bushes gave them all a partial camouflage.
'I think one of them has a liking for you.'
Mog glanced quickly at the ewe sitting in front of the group who's eyes hadn't left him since they stopped to rest.
Mog moaned. 'Not that...'
Tana patted him on the back. 'Don't worry. Soon we'll come across another shepherd who can take care of them.'
'Why did you buy the flock anyways? You're not going to get a profit selling them again.'
'You saw the girl and her mother couldn't take care of them. And she was so happy her lamb wasn't dead. She'll have enough to do nursing it until it gets better from that plague.'
She looked back again at the flock. 'Maybe they have names, I'll go ask.'
Tana got up and walked over to the ewe.
'Do you have a name?'
The ewe titled her head a bit. 'Baa?'
'That's your name?'
She sighed and looked at the ewe next to Baa. 'And yours? Baa as well?'
The ewe just stared back and blinked her eyes.
'You know, as in "Me Jane, you Tarzan"?'
'O-kay... Blinky it is then.'
Tana looked up, wondering what she had gotten herself into. Blinky meanwhile got back to grazing the leaves out of Baa's wool.
Ed screeched to a halt when they reached the tavern.
'I'll be going in alone this time, Ed.'
'What..? Why..? Just because of that one little accident?'
'I wouldn't have called it little.' Sniff dismounted and walked up to the door. 'Nor an accident...'
'Well, he was revolting. And his ale was watery.'
Sniff looked up with his hand on the doorknob. 'That still didn't mean you couldn't go outside behind the bushes.'
He entered the tavern and sat down at a window table, beckoning the keeper. When the bulky man came to him he held out the parchment.
'My dear fellow, you are still looking for someone?'
The keeper stared blankly at him, then burst out into laughter.
Sniff stood up and grabbed him at his apron. 'I'll have you know I defeated dragons before in long battles that took all night!' Albeit at chess.
'Okay, okay. My apologies good sir. I do not doubt you are able to defeat dragons.'
Sniff sat down again and the keeper straightened his apron.
'Let me get you an ale and I'll tell you where to find him.'
'Make that two.' Ed said as he stuck his head through the window 'Don't forget the trusty steed.'
The keeper, a bit startled, just nodded and went to get the ales.
Ahhh. This is the life... Freedom. A fun job with good pay. He sneezed.
A woman ran out of the house as fire danced on the roof.
'DRAGON!!! DRAGON!!!' she screamed, arms flinging wildly in the air.
The dragon rubbed his nose and laughed at the sight of the woman jumping frantically. I never had so much fun at the caverns! Just look at the funny people...
He landed on another roof to have a better view and the force shook the whole house. More people ran out shouting, stumbling over barrels or logs, landing amidst a flurry of chickens.
The fun! Phooey what uncle Dekin said. It's so much easier and enjoyable to build a hoard this way.
He was about to play tag with the cows as a voice startled him.
'HALT! Fiendish dragon!'
'Now what!?' He said to himself and turned his head to see where the voice came from.
A mouse and a pony...
Sniff drew his sword which looked suspiciously like an enormous needle with a hilt.
'You want to poke me with that toothpick, mouse?' he bellowed a laugh.
'My name is Sniff van Muis, and I'm a rat, thank-you-very-much. I'm here to teach you some manners.'
The dragon laughed even harder at this statement.
'You come down here if you got the guts, cowardly dragon.' Sniff exclaimed as he dismounted Ed.
Now the dragon became silent. I'm not a coward. He flew down in front of Sniff and Ed made sure he got out of reach.
'En garde!' Sniff exclaimed, rising his sword in front of him, then swings it around. 'Parry. Swing. Thrust. Turn. Step back.'
The dragon looks at him, a little confused about what the right response is to this.
'Thrust!' exclaimed Sniff, and pokes the dragon right in the middle of his nose.
'YOUCH!' shouts the dragon, rubbing his nose with both hands. 'Watch it! That thing hurts!'
Sniff looks indignant at him. 'Well, that's the whole point of a sharp sword, you know.'
The dragon swings his tail around and hits Sniff so hard he flies and crashes into the chicken house behind him, causing the chickens to flee out of it in a flurry of feathers. A few seconds later Sniff stumbles out, covered from head to toe in white and brown feathers, carrying a fat hen on top of his helmet and spitting out a load of feathers. The dragon can't help but laugh uncontrollable at the sight, and even the farmer's daughter can't help but chuckle.
'Har har. Yeah, lets all laugh at the giant chicken.' Sniff says, then shoos the hen off his helmet and shakes the feathers from his armour.
After making sure he got a little bit of his dignity back, he thrusts at the dragon again. This time the dragon is quick enough and protects himself with a barrel that stood next to him. The sword enters it, and as Sniff pulls it back out, a red liquid spills out. The dragon sniffs its scent.
He looks at Sniff. 'Would be a shame to waste it, right?'
Sniff nods, walks over to an open window, leans in, and returns with two mugs.
'Fill 'em up.'
Ed, who was hiding behind a tree all the time, joins then and they all sit down to drink.
'You think this summer's going to be better than last years?' Sniff asked, looking into the sky.
'Well, it was quite a cold winter, so I guess this summer is going to be hot. At least less rainy.' the dragon replied.
'I think so too.' said Ed. 'When there's going to be a lot of rain, I can feel it in my bones.'
Sniff drinks the last of his wine. 'Not bad. A young wine, but it had a fine taste.'
The dragon nods as he casually throws the empty barrel away.
'Ready?' asks Sniff.
The two of them jump into position again, and Ed heads back to his hiding place.
Sniff takes a step towards the dragon, trips over a bucket he failed to notice, tries to balance himself, but falls over and propels it into the air. The dragon, keeping an eye on Sniff, gets hit in the head with the bucket, stumbles backwards and lands on his backside, spitting a fireball into the air.
As they walk through the forest, Tana suddenly hears a light whistle.
'What's what?' asks Mog.
The next moment a fireball drops out of the sky, nearly misses them, and a frantic bleating sounded behind them. Twisting their heads to see what had happened Tana and Mog saw several fluffy black blobs staring back with wide open white eyes. Mog looked at Baa, his devoted ewe, still smoldering a little.
'What the... Whoever did this is going to find my hoof in a sensitive place. She may be a nuisance, but that doesn't mean anyone can start frying her.'
'Come on!' Tana urged him to go to the source 'I'll bet they're male!'
'Hey! I'm male!' he exclaimed as he ran.
'Exactly my point.'
They stopped at the edge of the forest.
'And I'm right again.'
Mog stamped his foot on the ground and twisted it as if crushing a bug. Tana started to weave a spell.
'Fry! You flea-bitten rodent!'
Sniff ducked the fireball, then jabbed at the dragon.
'Take that you reptile!'
'What!? NO!' shouted Tana as she got startled by the sheep flocking together to find safety. Mog sidled helplessly, avoiding sheep feet and his ewe who tried to hide underneath him.
'Baa?' Sniff and the dragon said at the same time. Then they both noticed the black and white flock and the woman trying to keep her balance.
Tana finished the spell, although it ended with an odd verse and sparks drifted through the air. The sheep were oblivious to the magic as they tried to crawl underneath each other.
'Not exactly what I had in mind...' Tana remarked as she approached Sniff 'But it'll do.'
Sniff tried to hold on to his helmet and his sword, which was a little difficult seeing he hung upside down in midair. The dragon however was only paralyzed by his laughter at the sight.
'Well, good knight.' she crossed her arms 'Who are you and what started this inane battle? And no, I shall not bring you down just yet, so don't bother asking.'
'I am Sir Sniff van Muis, knight of the Order Of White Whiskers. And this, good lady, is by no account an inane battle. This fiend here has been terrorising the good town. I and my mount were riding through it when we took up the tavern keeper's reward quest to rid the town of him.'
Now composed, the dragon protested. 'Hey! Who said anything about terrorising? I did no such thing!'
Tana turned to him. 'Well, let's hear your side of the story then, dragon.'
'Smoke. Dragon Smoke. And as everybody knows, us dragons have a liking to building hoards. A goodly sized hoard is a status symbol. Hence I took up a job here in town. This weird guy pays me a hefty sum to play pranks on the farmer's daughter. I never hurt anyone, it's all game and play...'
'What weird guy?'
The dragon looked thoughtful. 'Well, I don't quite know him. He was very snakelike. I didn't much like him at all, but he said I could stop it at the end of this week.'
'And the tavern keeper?' she asked Sniff.
'Grimy type. Very happy though.' Sniff mused.
'Bad ale.' Ed added who drew nearer now.
'Cheese was moldy...'
'Bread was stale too.'
'Well,' Tana said, figuring out what was going on. 'The way I see it it's all a big misunderstanding. Apologise for the trouble and be done with this stupid matter.'
'A-apologise!?' Sniff squeaked.
That set them off arguing again.
'Quiet!' she silenced them. 'Reconcile your differences and apologise, or you shan't be let down, knight, and you, dragon, shan't be allowed to move from that spot!'
Hours passed and dusk was approaching.
'I always thought dragons stole their hoards.' Sniff said grudgingly, still not upright.
The conversation was haltingly.
'Nah. Most do, but I didn't want to. Ma says I'm different.'
'Different?' Tana asked. Her camp was directly between them.
'Not just in that. I want to travel, have some fun, maybe help someone. Do something exciting, like a quest. Everybody else just want to sleep in their caves, occasionally munching on a cow or a knight.'
'Well then, why don't you go on an adventure?' Sniff asked incredulously.
'Yes, why not follow us?' Ed remarked dryly and rolled his eyes 'Knights have such grand adventures...'
The scent of stewed rabbit filled Sniff's nose. 'Ehr. That looks very appetizing..'
Tana handed him a bowl. 'I'm figuring out how to best cook rabbit. Something simple yet tasty.'
'What?' Sniff asked the dragon.
'Come with you on adventures?'
'Well...' He sounds so hopeful, and a dragon might come in handy. 'Okay then. Hey, wizard lady? Now can we come down?'
'Apologise, and you can come down.'
Later that night she woke up from the clang Sniff's helmet made, falling to the ground from his sleepy head. She turned over and went back to sleep.
That morning Mog woke up from Sniff's and the dragon's argument, and noticed something warm and heavy lay atop him. He shook his body and Baa tumbled on the ground. Sighing he rolled his eyes and went behind a bush muttering something about ewes.
'How about together, at the count of three?' Sniff suggested.
The dragon nodded.
'Okay, on three. One.., two.., three.'
'I'm sorry.' Pause. 'Hey! You didn't say it!' Sniff shouted angrily.
'...Dragon...' Tana said in a low voice.
'Hmpf.' Sniff's whiskers twitched. 'Never mind. I could have beaten you-AAHHH!'
He landed in a loud metallic crash.
The dragon snubbed him.
'Ow! Don't do that!'
A puff of smoke blew out his nostrils. 'Say, could we..?' he motioned to Tana.
'Huh? Well, uh.., yeah, I guess.' He bowed to Tana. 'Good fair lady,'
'Don't flatter me.' she cut him short. 'Tana.'
'Name's Tana, not lady.'
'Ehrr.., okay.., Tana. Would you care to join us? On our adventure?'
Tana paused to think it over as the sheep, starting to see the fun in it bleated excitedly. 'Why not? I have one errand though. Some... unfinished business.'
The keeper was busy with his inventory off wine and ales as the door of the tavern opened and a couple of sheep walked in.
Then a goat walked in, sniffed the air, snorted and sat down at the fireplace, closely follow by another sheep. The keeper rubbed his eyes to check if he wasn't dreaming. He wasn't, but before he could say anything more sheep walked in followed by a young woman.
'Hey! You can't bring those in here!'
She ignored him and sat down at a corner table in front of a slim man clad in a black cloak.
'Hello Sluer.' Tana smiled at him. 'How's it been?'
Several moments later people who happened to be outside could see a flock of sheep being herded out the door by a goat. When they reached the other side of the road a small explosion was heard inside the tavern, and a woman walked out the door in a puff of smoke. Dusting herself off a little, she calmly mounted the goat and rode with the flock to a small party further up the road.
Sniff and the dragon looked at her quizzically.
'Oh, nothing...' she smiled 'Nothing to worry about in the least bit.'
They just stare blankly at her.
'Haven't we got an adventure to go on?'
Sniff composed himself. 'Rightly so.'
The odd group got on their way as two men leaving a trail of smoke behind them ran out the burning tavern and jump into the water well.
|Days of Jane, Prelude||She Lives in Dreams|