The boy awoke in the dim morning light.  The warmth of the fire was long gone, and he huddled against the cold drafts coming under the door.  He saw the magician asleep next to him, and pulled the magician’s cloak back up over his shoulders.  Then he closed his eyes again, but suddenly he knew something was wrong.  He sat up quickly and looked about the room.  Nobody else was there, none of the travelers that had covered the floor the night before.  “Uncle Fri!” he whispered loudly, shaking the magician.  The old man awoke with a jerk.  “There’s nobody here!”

The magician struggled to fully waken and pull himself up, and Aithan jumped up and helped him.  At that moment the door burst open and armed men rushed into the hall, mail clattering and swords drawn.  Two of them rushed towards the boy and grabbed his arms.  “Stop!” shouted the magician, and the two men went flying head first into the fireplace with a crash and an explosion of ashes.  They did not move, their necks grotesquely twisted.

“Wizard!  If you dash me against the stones, I will take the boy’s head with me.”  The magician turned away from the fireplace and saw a man with the bearing of a leader, holding his sword to Aithan’s neck while others came and reached for the boy’s arms and legs.  The magician sagged to the floor, and he was dragged out into the street right behind the boy.  Aithan, who had been struggling desperately against his captors, froze at the sight which was before them.  Hard, scaly yellow dragons, larger than war horses, prowled the street with men seated upon them.

“So soon!  Lord, help us!” the magician cried out.


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