The moment they entered Rennou, they were engulfed. Farmers came in from their fields, women brought them fresh-baked shrennel bread, and children lined up to pet Puff. Everyone praised his beautiful leaf-pattern markings, his iridescent bronze and scarabaeid scales, his graceful wings and lacey tail. His horn nubs and artfully drooping ears were declared “perfect.” There was a consensus that, while all Frengan dragons were beautiful, Puff was clearly the most beautiful!
“We found him together,” said Gina, patting B’frona in the same way people were patting Puff. Her revelation brought him positive notice—at least at first. Boys knocked their knees against his, the universal greeting for Frengan males, and girls labeled him “adorable,” adding under their breaths that in a few years he would be “deliús!” (the equivalent of “hotty,” Gina noted). But then a dour looking teenager asked,
“Isn’t this the Miller’s boy?”
“Yes!” the teenager’s father added. “Tuéill! They think they are better than us!”
“That is because they have pixie magic,” the dour boy snided, “so they don’t need us. Do you, pixie-lover?”
“But he brought us the dragon!” an affable, round-faced teenage girl countered.
“It’s true!” several others agreed.
“No, he didn’t,” said Dour Boy. “The Miller’s son is only trying to share in the dragonmeer’s glory. Right, pixie-lover?”
B’frona glared up at Dour Boy, who was a foot and a half taller than him. “I ffffound the egg, and I was supposed to be d-d-dragonfaer—”
“But then the evil gggirl knight ttttook him away from you?” Dour Boy asked. Several other youths began to snigger.
Dour Boy’s dad said, “His father probably put him up to this!”
“No, he didn’t!” Gina intervened. “His father couldn’t put him up to anything because…”
“No!” B’frona shouted.
“…because his father’s dead!”
Finally a matronly woman stepped forward. The crowd cleared the way for her. Despite her no-nonsense demeanor there was tenderness in her voice:
“How long has your father been dead, little fellow?”
B’frona did not respond.
“Two years,” Gina answered, then, noticing the look of betrayed trust in B’frona’s eyes, added, “but he knows how to do everything himself. He ran the mill even before his father—”
“Stop ‘helping’ me!” B’frona hissed.
Once the people of Rennou learned that the 12-year-old millboy had been living alone for nearly two years, their attitudes changed. B’frona loathed their looks of pious pity, and loathed Gina for bringing those looks upon him, she knew. But Gina, on the other hand, was so charmed at being the hero of storybookland that she had to repeatedly remind herself of her mission, to find her brother, which was threating to ruin…
Thoughts: Have you ever been hailed as a hero, and resented anyone or anything that might foreshorten your celebration?
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