The thirteenth response in the One Lovely Blog Award Series is to Stephen Watkins's who writes interesting dragon stories (e.g. The Steed and the Page Boy, or After the Quest Is Done).
Sir Kellen burped as he finished the rabbit and bean soup outside the scree hole that led to the dragon Thormina's lair. He leaned against the log someone in his retinue had thoughtfully placed behind him and warmed his chain mail crusted leather boots on the fire as various hangers-on tended the nickering horses.
Brother Joran fanned himself with a plank of wood from the other side of the fire where his robe, the hood falling back over shoulders, exposed the dark braid of his queue. "We should begin."
"But, it's almost dark," said Sir Kellen.
"Won't make much difference in there." Brother Joran's fingers played with the wiry curls at the end of his braid. He released the thick hair and it thumped against the dried leather vest underneath his robe. "Besides, we're being watched."
"Quiet, you'll spook him," whispered Joran. He pointed at the sunset and in a louder voice said, "It is good to be here in the hills closer to God's firmament from where he scatters his pigments." Dropping back to a whisper. "Crouched under the second oak from the right."
Kellen lurched upright, his chain and plates crashing, to sprint towards the hiding man. The spy was thin and disappeared into the brush. Joran listened to the commotion feeling the thunder of Kellen's footsteps as he ran down the hill. He murmured prayers, a reinforcement of his faith that Kellen would catch the man.
Kellen entered the circle of firelight after the sun had set holding two dirty ankles as the spy unceremoniously flailed upside down with his knees bent over Kellen's huge shoulders. Kellen dropped him on the ground and placed a foot, nearly half as large as the man's torso, on the man's back.
"So who is he?" asked Joran.
The man twisted his arms, pushing against the hill's thin grass but failed to get enough purchase to escape.
"You've met Sir Kellen, a little unnaturally, but we won't hold that against you. I'm Brother Joran from the Sol School. And you are?"
"Dink," squeaked the man.
"A pleasure to meet you," said Joran.
"Let me up." Dink combed the bangs of his hair falling over his eyes behind one of his ears.
"How do we know you won't run?" asked Kellen. He didn't relish the thought of chasing the man down again.
"I won't," said Dink.
"He tells the truth at least for the moment," said Joran.
Joran and Kellen interviewed Dink to learn that he had been a thief who had attempted to rob the Dragon Thormina who had caught him and enslaved his will.
"Thormina had laughed and offered, more forced, me to act as a guard for her. She said that it was better to have a thief who could think like a thief and keep the others away."
"Do you know why we're here?" Joran played with his queue again as it caught the flickers of firelight.
"Don't tell him," said Kellen.
"Nonsense," said Joran. "We must trust him. The Queen has fallen sick and everything that the priests from all five lands have done and even the pitiful attempt the conjurers mustered have failed. One hope remains, a forgotten treatise tells of a potion made from ground dragon shells that will cure the wasting sickness."
"Thormina won't like that," said Dink. "Her egg incubates."
"What about previous hatchlings?" asked Joran.
"This is her first child," said Dink.
"May the sun god forgive us," said Joran.
Kellen tossed a twig into into the glowing embers of the fire. "What's the problem, can't we just wait for it to hatch?"
"The eggs take years to hatch, and the Queen has a month, maybe."
"I'll bash some heads," said Kellen. "Little Quick Fingers can get us in."
"Yes, I'll help." Dink's eyes glinted in the fire.
Joran looked at those eyes, too eager, too hungry. "What keeps you from doublecrossing us?"
"It's in my interest, you get your dragon egg, I get my treasure." Dink winked.
"Let's go," said Kellen grabbing his sword and linking his arm with the thief's as they headed towards the scree hole.
Joran sighed. Kellen was not one to catch a wink. Resigned, he followed his friend.