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The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty-Three: Return to Rennou (Continued)
Previously: B’frona began to tell about the changes that occurred in Gina’s dragon whelp “Puff” after she’d abandoned him.
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“At the end of the second week, Boof’s (Puff’s) mournful song came to an end and he began to show signs of strength. Some said it was a ‘new miracle.’
“It was not. He grew hostile, lashing his tail at all who came near. He breathed a great flame at an elder who brought him shrennel. And always he continued to grow. He was already the size of a horse. Five weeks after your betrayal—”
“B’frona—” said Sh’renn.
“No! I call it what it was—what it is.” He breathed in, caging his anger. “I slept in a merchant’s stall near the Great Porch to see if I might observe the cause of this change, and was awakened after moontop by hushed voices. When I looked over the edge of the stall, I saw a man and a boy. It was that lay-about Skelljaip and his wastrel son Artifíga. Tuéill!
“Then I understood what had occurred. They arrived as they had, no doubt, each night for a month, with a basket of blood-drenched flesh. This explained why cattle had been disappearing.”
“Sick!” Zack reacted.
“The vile knave Artifíga jumped up onto Boof’s back with a dagger in his hand, just as his father shoved the basket under the pup’s muzzle. Boof began to devour the bloody meat. Then Skelljaip yanked the basket away while the dragon was still eating. Boof raised his foreclaw to strike, but when he did, Skelljaip pointed at his head—as if working an incantation—and…” B’frona struggled to contain his rage. “…and then Artifíga stabbed the dragon in his horn nubs! My…your…the dragon shrieked in agony and d-d-dropped his foreclaw.”
All three listeners convulsed in pain.
“They were teaching him to obey through fear, to believe they had p-p-power over him, and at the same time addicting him to the flesh they brought! I dove at Artifíga and knocked him off the dragon’s back. But Boof swung his tail, hurling us both against the doors of the Manse, leaving us crumpled and dazed. Then the dragon turned toward Skelljaip.
“Skelljaip raised his hand as if to work his charlatan magic, but when no pain came, the pup lifted his snout, opened his mouth, and released a stream of fire that scorched the Great Porch.
“But Skelljaip had anticipated this and ran behind a corner pillar. Boof saw his tormentor behind the column and rose to his full height, then rushed at the man and leaped off the Porch. He used his wings for the first time.
“He crashed into the pillar with such force that he nearly brought down the Marketplace. In doing this he enabled himself to be captured, for while he lay there dazed, Skelljaip fastened a collar about his neck, connected to an iron chain. There were two extensions attached to Boof’s horn nubs: when Skelljaip jerked the chain, it pulled on the extensions, causing barbed rings to dig into his flesh, crippling him with torment.
“I attacked Skelljaip, but then his venal son fell upon me and I foundered, surrendering to my faint-hearted flesh, and lay like a sack of grain.
“Then he pummeled me into unconsciousness!”
Thoughts: Is there anything more agonizing than being helpless to save someone you love?
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