Leon, the Mighty Gale Chapter 9
Win Some, Lose Some
By Samara Secor
”Let me get this straight. You want... me,” Chris said slowly, thinking to himself, ‘The High Priestess... She wasn’t trying to keep me from seeing Leon’s Ember, she was trying to keep this Ember from getting at me. Why? What does he want? If it has something to do with this power... but I don’t know how to use it! Althena, please help me! What am I supposed to do?’
“That’s what I said, litany boy. Puleeze, I know you heard me the first time. Are you trying to stall in hopes that old man Ember’s going to show up? I’m telling ya, it’s not going to happen. Ow!! What do you think you’re doing, you little ankle-biter?” Ember II yelled, hauling up Pyra by the scruff of her neck.
“Exactly what you said. Ankle-biting,” Pyra said, sticking her tongue out at him.
In a rage, Ember II flung Pyra through the air, and she somersaulted, spreading her wings out wide. His anger turned into shock. “You, you’re...” Ember II broke off in a peal of laughter. “This is a perfectly golden opportunity that I can’t afford to waste. Don’t think that you’ve gotten off the hook, litany boy. I’ll be back when you least expect it.”
With a wave of Ember II’s hand, a white staff with a pair of wings at the top appeared. Pyra gasped in horror, “The White Dragon Wings! How did you...”
“Get them?” Ember II finished. “It’s amazing how easy it is to snatch something from somebody when they’re sick out of their mind. And just for the record, I had nothing to do with it. The sick part that is. Sayonara, dragonling.”
A swirl of magic emanating from the wings surrounded Ember II, and he vanished. Seconds later, there was the sound of someone at the door, and everyone looked to see the real Ember stumble out, holding one hand to the back of his head while trying to steady himself against the doorframe with the other. “Confound it all, I can’t see straight! Chris, are you over there? Somewhere? Ahh!” he hissed in pain and fell to his knees, both hands clutching his head. “I’d really appreciate one of those healing spells of yours right about now.”
Chris hurried over to Ember’s side and said, “Okay, I’ve got to ask this before I work on it. Do you think that you’ve gotten poisoned like Leon did?”
“If I’d gotten poisoned like that, I would have already died,” Ember said through gritted teeth. “Please... Just heal me before my head splits open!”
Chris got a view of the back of Ember’s head and winced. “I think it already has. Don’t worry, though. I can fix it,” Chris took a deep breath and began to chant.
The light that attended Ember’s healing was a lot more localized than it had been for Leon’s, but no less dazzling. When it dissipated, Ember opened first one eye, then the other. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You’ve got a real talent for healing, maybe even as much as... never mind,” Ember stood and looked around him. “Okay, people, what’s going on here? I know you all didn’t get this excited just ‘cause of my rather unglamorous entrance. Spill it.”
“Ember, someone, whom everyone initially thought was you, since he looks so much like you, took your place. Nobody realized that it wasn’t you until I came on the scene,” Lark explained. “Anyway, he says that he’s your son and proceeds to...”
Ember interrupted him, “I think you’re the one that got hit on the head. I do not have a son. I have a daughter. A wonderful, beautiful, just a tad irresponsible daughter. NOT a son.”
“Yes, Ember,” Lark sighed. “I’m just repeating what he said, okay? Anyway, he admitted to bashing your head in and trussing you up like a Landing Day turkey. Then, he tried to demand that Chris come with him.”
“Which, obviously, he didn’t, or he wouldn’t have been here to heal me. Get to the point, Lark,” Ember said.
“I’m trying to, but somebody keeps interrupting me!” Lark glared at Ember before continuing, “The little red lass, here, bit his ankle and he threw her across the room. Upon finding that she was no mere feline, he exclaimed at the wonderful opportunity and flaunted the power of the White Dragon Wings before us all. I have no doubt that he’s going for the Red Dragon Shield, old buddy, and there’s not a thing we can do to stop it.”
“Oh, that’s one thing you guys don’t have to worry about,” Pyra said, puffing out her chest importantly at all the sudden attention. “I hid it and put a fake one in its place. It’s a pretty good imitation, even if I do say so myself. Made with one-hundred percent genuine dragon diamonds. Hee, hee, hee...”
“Now, that was a brilliant maneuver. Assuming this imposter, who claims he’s my son, sees through your deception, is the real shield hidden well enough to avoid any subsequent loot and burn strategy on his part?” Ember asked.
“He can loot and burn all he wants, but he’s not going to find it, because it isn’t even in the cave anymore. I don’t think anybody’s magic but Althena’s could even detect it where it’s at right now,” Pyra said.
“Really? Now, that’s something I’ve got to see for myself,” Lark said, his skepticism obvious.
“Oh, Pyra, you didn’t,” Raven said, realization dawning on her face. “Not in that door.”
“I did,” Pyra said proudly. “There’s no way he could possibly know to look there. Therefore, it’s perfectly safe.”
“From him, yes, but what about the townsmen?” Raven asked. “Won’t they try to repair it after what you did to it the first time?”
“Uh, oh. I never thought of that,” Pyra said, her expression turning glum.
“Would you mind including the rest of us in this conversation?” Ember asked. “What door?”
“The door to the cell in which I was kept in Reza is extremely magic resistant. The only reason I got out was because Pyra melted the lock,” Raven ruffled the fur on Pyra’s head. “Don’t be upset, Pyra. It was a good idea. If worse comes to worst, we’ll just have to buy it back from them for some exorbitantly high fee. It’s better than that guy getting a hold of it.”
“Well, if it’s in Reza, I’d better go retrieve it,” Ember said, cracking his knuckles.
Lark put a restraining hand on his shoulder. “I don’t think so. You know that, should the fake be found out, he’ll just be waiting for you to make a move that’ll lead him to it. Unfortunately, the same holds true for me. I’m far too visible. We’re going to need someone else to retrieve it for us. Someone that guy hasn’t gotten a good look at,” Lark sighed heavily and turned to the apprentices. “Any volunteers?”
Fortunately, Lark had no lack of volunteers. Unfortunately, everyone was volunteering, and he couldn’t send them all. On top of that, the great noise had drawn the attention of a good deal of the magic folk from the west side of town, among them, Zarien Verdeveile, their leader, and his brother, Khein. Neither of them looked pleased at the disturbance. Khein whispered to Zarien, “I told you that we never should have let these humans populate our city. They can’t leave us a moment’s peace, and they chop down our trees. We ought to kick them out now before things get any worse.”
“That is neither politic, nor necessary, dear brother. I will handle this,” Zarien said and stepped out into the clearing to meet Lark.
Leon was stunned. He had heard of the magic folk, of course. No study of Lunar’s history could be complete without them, but he had never seen one of them before. Now, he could see several dozen, and one of them at the forefront looked exactly like the man from his nightmare. He tried to swallow, but his mouth had suddenly gone dry. ‘I’m overreacting. It was just a dream. Just... a dream. Yeah, right. Keep telling yourself that, Leon. You know you don’t believe that,’ Leon mentally argued with himself.
By this time, one of the magic folk, thankfully not the one that Leon thought he recognized, had entered the clearing and begun speaking with Lark. The man, whom Leon heard Lark call Zarien, had a very simple message. Their people did not appreciate disturbances of this magnitude, and Lark had better have a good reason for it. “Does the known theft of one of the items of a Dragonmaster’s equipment and the imminent theft of another qualify as a good reason?” Lark asked.
Zarien’s irritation vanished to be replaced by a look of concern. “Indeed, that is serious. What steps were you planning on taking to rectify the situation?”
“Well, we’re trying to take care of the more immediate problem first, which is preventing the theft of the Red Dragon Shield,” Lark explained. “It’s not in its usual spot in the Red Dragon’s Cave, but the thief doesn’t know that, so we’ve got a pretty good chance of getting to it first. What I was doing was asking for volunteers to go and, since it can’t be anyone the thief got a good look at, that leaves Ember and I out of the picture.”
“Then, perhaps we could help,” Zarien said. “The danger of not having a Dragonmaster when one is needed imperils us all. Even those of us who are not as kindly inclined towards humans and the like as I am will agree with that. Perhaps a joint mission with two of my people and two of yours would suffice. What do you think, guildmaster?”
“I can agree with that, Master Zarien,” Lark said with a bow. “We need time to prepare as I am sure that you do, and it’s getting kind of late. Is it all right with you if the chosen ones meet at the Transmission Spring first thing in the morning?”
“That would be quite satisfactory. I’d like to assure everyone that there won’t be any more disturbances to today. Can you make sure that it is so?” At Lark’s nod, Zarien said, “Then, I shall take my leave now. May Althena’s light shine on you always.”
“And to you and your kin, as well,” Lark returned.
After Zarien and the others of the magic folk had left, Lark turned to the crowd of apprentices, “Okay, you heard the man. I don’t care what you guys do for the rest of the day, just keep it quiet. Regular classes will start again tomorrow morning for everyone except the two that I pick to go on this important mission. Since pretty much everyone here wants to go, I think I can safely handle the selection process myself.”
When Lark had finished, everyone was still standing around as if waiting for something. “What are you all waiting for? You’re dismissed. Go and play. Paint the town red... Er, scratch that last one. I don’t think anyone would appreciate that, but you know what I mean,” Lark said. “Just make yourself scarce so that I can give who to send some thought. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly.”
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