Darmon's Tooth

By Gerry Torbert

Darmon reached for the nearest tooth. Little light filtered in through the slit between Gark'Aahs's lips, as she couldn't really close them to swallow the man. Her tongue thrashed around wildly - seldom had she had this much resistance from anything she ate. His claidheamh-mor1 in his teeth, he held on tightly to one incisor, treading the undulations of her tongue as she tried to press him to the roof of her mouth. He reached across to another tooth, gagging at the smell of parts of the unfortunate, slower villagers.

"I'llgh thallow oo, oomangh! Giff ub dow! I'llgh mek in easy on oo!" Gark'Aahs could barely talk, but he knew her concerns - if she frightened him enough, he would let her kill and eat him, a ploy she doubtlessly had used to much success before.

"I have you right where I want you, lizard. I can cling to your teeth all day, if I have to. There's only one way for this to end - lay me down gently, leave this mountain, never come back. You can't kill me, you never will. I'll hunt you down and kill you in your sleep."

"'oo will neber gill be!" But she knew he meant it, and she was afraid. Darmon rode another spasm of the muscle, easily weighing several tons, as it tried to sweep him from side to side in her mouth. His muscles strained against the force, his hand embedded between two of the incisors, having moved forward in the mouth.

She began to cough. He knew the smell or at least the effect of the hydrogen gas now hissing from her glands in the back of her throat. A dragon this size could easily fill her entire mouth with the gas from her stomach glands, and grinding the stones she picks up and keeps near the back of her mouth, could ignite it into a huge ball of flame. But never can they ignite it without air, and she couldn't open her mouth - not as long as she continued to try to force him out. Fortunately, she hadn't made the connection, or had fallen victim to her natural gagging reflex.

Either way, Darmon would have to consider his situation and carefully determine his next step. Not for the sake of his own life - that was one concern that hadn't crossed his mind - he had no intention of falling the thirty or so feet to the ground. Stunned and his clothes burned from his body almost instantaneously, he would not be able to trail her, and her path of destruction would doubtless continue.

Darmon could see the stones from here. He would have to travel back to them, and her gagging motions were carrying him forward. He placed the claidheamh-mor between his lips, his cheeks now cut from jaw to jaw - the sword is deeper - better grip now - he began to make his way back, tooth-in-hand over tooth-in-hand, like a mountain climber. The gagging of the dragon became more acute, as she rocked her head from side to side.

"Dawwm oo, ooman. Dawwm oo. Et whe kill oo now! Err whewhul are deah - ike oo will we!" Darmon knew she would admit to killing his people soon enough, and that she wanted him dead. You have to be careful how you talk to a dragon - there are rules, he was told. But he wasn't about to die just yet.

Holding tight to a slimy molar, he grasped his sword with the other hand and stabbed at the fleshy appendages holding the stones. Her pain was evidenced by more gagging and even an audible grunt. He hit pay dirt, as the two arms were severed and the stones began to fall deeply into her stomach. Suddenly an awareness overcame him - this is not the best place to be - and he twisted around and pushed off the tongue, this time toward the left side of the front of her mouth. As her tongue forced him out, he reached back to grab an incisor with one hand, now hanging outside her mouth, like a mountain climber. He looked back into her left eye, now bulging with the realization of what was about to happen.

Gark'Aahs drew a breath. It was her last. The air mixed with the gas, and the sparks from the stones ignited it all. As she whipped her head down and forward, he let loose of the tooth and fell ten feet to the field below. He rolled to a stop, looking back in time to see masses of dragon flesh bursting from her round belly. Some of the pieces just missed him; a few he ducked.

"I gave you a choice, Gark'Aahs. You could have just let me down."

Darmon's cheeks had already begun to heal. He was always amazed at his speed of regeneration. The dragon flesh was of little use to him - it was barely edible. He checked his shirt and kilt - still intact, he thought - and stashed the claidheamh-mor back in its scabbard. He looked back at the head and neck of the dragon, at its final snaps of its jaws and its throes. He waited for a few minutes until it stopped. He pulled his sghain dubh2 from his hose and carved out a tooth. . .no one would believe this if I don't have a trophy. . .and walked off.

The dark silhouette of Slaughbaetha3 loomed in the near distance. The dark charcoal figure of its ramparts were backlit by the orange and yellow hues as they chased the last remnants of the evening cyan from the horizon. His home. The place in Creagland he loved best. And the part of the castle that made his heart leap - the five flags of the clans, with his Stuart pennant higher and in the center. He couldn't make out the colors, but he knew the red-and-black plaid that surrounded the thistle would be there.

The castle of carefully-mortared quartzite sat on a high hill of marble and granite, a spire that dared the last glacier to shear away the weaker rock, leaving a very defensible balustrade of metamorphic stone. It overlooked the Gleann gu Leoir4 , a broad valley of grass and sultry-sweet heather in the spring and playful sheep the rest of the year.

Home, at last. Christine, his mother, would have hard oat cakes and summer sausage left from dinner, and he would gladly wash it down with the sweet heather uise-beatha5 of his uncle, Aodh. His whisky was the best in the land. He knocked on the gate, but didn't have to wait long before it was opened. Eaomann Caembuhl stood in front of him. A lanky Creag, his thin stature belied the fact that he was the only heavy athlete who threw a bale of hay over the South Wall in this Fall's Games. It was quite a toss, and he hadn't let his friend forget about it. Every time he saw him. Without fail.

"Eh, lad, yer balmoral's6 gone. No hat, no dinna. Ya don't want hay in yer 'air, du ya now, lad?"

Despite arriving, Darmon's visage told the tale of the encounter. "Where air the others, lad?"

Darmon shook his head. "I'm sorry, Eaomann. They fought bravely, but Gark'Aahs was too much. She attacked out of the tops of the trees, hit us with fire, whelmed us over, lad. Phoagus fought and got free, he's behind me. But the rest. . ."

Eaomann was happy at the news of his brother, but the rest of the news hit him hard. "An' yu, laddie buck. . .how'd ya get free?"

Darmon reached into the creases of his breacan an fheilidh7 and pulled out a bloody hunk of enamel about eight inches long with six inch roots. "The lizard bitch is with Vornoth now, lad. I've got quite a tale to tell. She won't be a terrorizing our clans, never more."

Eaomann gasped. "Either yer a tellin' me the truth, friend, or ya rassled a pretty big sheep. Ya got the looks of a hungry man. Hell, sheep or dragon, come home an' get some dinna, Darmon."

Darmon didn't get to Christine Stuart's table, at least, not to eat. He was coaxed and led to the Clan House, the main meeting place in Slaughbeatha. As he entered to the back-slapping and congratulations, he walked through the portal to the long table. The hall was packed with clan heads and important military and town figures. From out of the line of admirers gathered along the path stepped Christine and Eohn, his father. They embraced him, his mother nearly squeezing him harder than Gark' Aahs.

As he approached the tall chair at the end of the table, he was greeted by his uncle

Uilliam, the leader of the Stuart clan and, therefore, leader of the town. He was handed a tall mug of Creagish ale as another cheer arose for Phoagus as he entered. "Welcome back, men. I can assume. . ."

Darmon shook his head. "Yes, uncle, this is all who will return today. I'm sorry for that. We did what we could, but Gark' Aahs was just too powerful. I'm afraid that we are the only ones to return."

"We assumed as much. The families of the other men have been informed. We knew that this was an adventure that might take our finest from us. But the great dragon had killed many of us and most of our flock. Something had to be done. You chased her away. . .?"

Darmon shook his head. "That was beyond reason, Chieftain." He used the term with respect in the hall. "She would not listen. . .as a matter o' fact, she barely gave us a chance to talk. Between bursts of fire, there was scarce the time to think."

Uilliam's head sunk. Faugas, his wizard, took a step toward his side and placed his hand on his arm, soothing him. Faugas always seemed to have this ability.

"No, uncle, we had to do what we had to do." He reached into the pocket that the careful folding of his garments afforded him and brought out the tooth. "This is all that's left of her smile."

The crowd gasped, then a cheer erupted from none other than Eamonn himself. Uilliam's face went pale as he slumped back into his chair. Faugas' face was several hues paler, as he used Uilliam's shoulder to hold him up. As the cheers subsided, the chief held up a hand. "My boy, you have done us a. . ." He looked over his shoulder to Faugas, who begrudgingly nodded ". . .great service. Let us drink!"

There were scarcely any words that could set off a celebration like "let us drink" in the town. A great burden had been lifted from their backs. They now could go back to tending their sheep, cultivating their barley, and growing their crops. Their children were now safe.

Uilliam and Faugas motioned to Eohn as they left the hall to adjourn to a room in the back. The three men entered and closed the door, mostly unseen by other revelers. About an hour later, after the telling of the tales was performed and the sound of flutes and bagpipes filled the air, Eohn returned and got Darmon's attention, leading him to the room in the back. He had to be torn from the arms of several lovely maidens, but grudgingly joined them.

In the room, Uillaim and Faugas sat at one side of a long table. Eohn motioned to Darmon, who sat on the other with his father. "Yes, uncle, you wanted to see me?"

Uilliam stared at his nephew for a few seconds, bowed his head, and looked to Faugas. The old wizard shrugged. Uilliam looked up to the tall, powerfully built Creag, his facial tattoos barely two years old. "Darmon, tell me all you remember of the fight. It's very important, lad. Everything."

Darmon began by describing his adventure in his typical flowery method, embellishing the facts in the same way he used to woo the maidens in the other room. Faugas stopped him. "No, lad, not as you would tell the tale to a drunken bunch of sots! Relate the facts - we don't care how mundane - just the facts."

Darmon acquiesced, beginning from the point of the first contact with Gark' Aahs, in a more informative fashion. When he got to the point of actually talking to the dragon, he was stopped by the wizard again. "Good so far, Darmon. Now, tell us, did you ask the demon to leave? Directly now, not with threats, but did you ask her to let our people go in peace? It's important, try to remember."

Darmon scratched his head, pushing his long sandy locks back, stretching the skin on his forehead. "I. . .said. . .leave us alone. . .we are peaceful. . .what you are doing is keeping us from our lives. . .you are killing us. . .we live for Tanarus, just as you do. . .she said something like 'I don't care, I must live'. . .I said. . .you don't have to kill us to live. . .she said something like 'I like to, and I won't be stopped'. . .I said that I will have to stop you. . .she began breathing fire on our people, I stuck her with my claymore in her chest, she picked me up in her mouth. . ."

Faugas held up his hand. "Hold, Darmon." He looked to Uilliam, who nodded, then nodded toward Darmon. "And did you say anything else while in her mouth, lad?"

Darmon looked a little scared. "I said, 'lay me down gently, leave this mountain, never come back. You can't kill me, you never will. I'll hunt you down and kill you in your sleep.' She then tried her best to kill me."

Faugas hung his head. An eerie silence fell over the four men. "What, wizard? What did I say? I asked her to leave. . .what?"

"You did what you had to do, and left her with a way to leave gracefully without being killed. You threatened her, however, which may be a problem. You can't say just anything to a dragon. There are rules. I thought we told you all of them - perhaps not all. But you did what you had to do." The sorcerer nodded and looked to Eohn, who looked a little pale.

Darmon began again. "But Janora would approve of us preserving our way of life."

Eohn, silent up to now, said "Yes, son, but she only holds sway over so much. Tanarus is the sun. He created the dragons. It is his decision as to the way we treat his creations; it is up to Janora how we lead our lives. Janora watches and helps. It's complicated, and not always fair."

Darmon sighed, the air from his bubble now out, his revelry of the past few hours almost an embarrassment to him. "I. . .did what I had to do. I. . .accept. . .what has to happen."

Faugas nodded. "I will talk to High Priest Beahan to intercede on your behalf, Darmon. We will try to keep this out of the hands of High Fatemaster Mor, as she would only anger Janora. This is not a matter of fate - this is a matter of the decisions of men who are trying to live their lives. Don't worry, laddie-buck. I'm sure the good goddess will take all into consideration. Go out and enjoy your revelry. Take one of the lovely maidens with you. It will soothe your spirit. We shall handle things from this end."

Darmon nodded but wasn't in the mood to celebrate.

The summer of 5999 seemed calm enough. Spring left the sweet smell of heather in young children's minds and cattle and sheep grazed on the new grass of the glen. Darmon, a young lad of twenty four years, was just four years removed from his bout with Gark' Aahs. He was still celebrated by Creagland as a great fighter, and often thought of that night when he was questioned by Uilliam about his fight. It seemed so remote now, and the concern shown by Faugas seemed equally distant. He had felt no retribution for any transgressions toward the mighty Wyrm; as a matter of fact, he never felt better.

He felt the desire to leave the fields and farms, however, and hone his fighting skills in the name of good. He had heard of the huge army that the Kingdom of Farland was amassing to the northeast to fight off the evil orcs from Wintervale. This would be a good place to continue his legacy, he thought. A battle here and one there would give him the experience and status he would need if he were ever to follow his uncle to the throne of the Clan. He often envisioned himself placing his hand on the Stone of Life and asked to recite the Words of Destiny.

So one early summer day he pleated and rolled himself into his great kilt; donned his cap and thick leather vest; packed enough dried beef and scones for the trip; thrust Dragonslayer, his trusty claymore, in its back scabbard; packed his bagpipes, had a hearty breakfast; bid his parents adieu and headed off for the north gate.

Along his route, he stopped for a few minutes to speak to an old friend. When he began to walk again, he felt a light tap on his shoulder. He turned to face Jonat Caembuhl, a young lass he met several months ago at the Fall Games. She had a bright smile on her face and looked radiant in her blue and green plaid peasant dress, her long red hair flowing over her shoulders and moving with the wind.

"Darmon, it's good to see you again, but I hear you're off to fight again." She was direct and to-the-point, a quality that endeared him to her. A little too much, if he recalled correctly - their rendezvous after the games in the Glen was more than either had hoped for.

"Yes, Jonat. I have a job to do, and it seems that now my job has been shown to me. Janora seems to want me to help others, this time in Farland. From what I hear, it shouldn't be too long, then maybe I can get back here and stay."

Jonat heard him but didn't believe him. She knew the kind of spirit he had, one that endeared her to him. But this is a man's world, and he had to do what he felt he had to do. She looked deeply into his eyes, tentatively. She seemed to have something to say, but couldn't. "I guess it will be a while before I see you again. . ."

Darmon smiled. "Not too long - it's a huge army and it looks like they expect a success. I won't stay there - there's more need for me here. I just have to do this." He seemed surprised at her concern but felt warm and happy that she cared.

Jonat looked into his eyes and placed her hand around his neck, pulling him down to kiss him lightly on the cheek. She lingered a while. "Come back, Darmon. We. . .all. . .need you."

Surprised, the fighter smiled. "I will, I promise." He turned to the gate, looking back over his shoulder.

She watched as he walked through the gate and as he walked along the north road toward Farland. She watched as long as she could, then fell victim to the waves of nausea she had felt the last couple of weeks. She ran to her house, sick.

The road was a lonely one. It was a good two hundred miles to Zel City, another three to Far City. At fifty miles a day, walking long past dusk, he knew he'd be on the road for a while. He would take a ride on a cart if one presented itself, but in the meantime, he simply looked forward to the solitude.

As he approached Zel City the general look of the land changed. He was used to the rolling high hills and short mountains of the Highlands, and the broad river valley of the Zel River was bleak. There was life, but somehow he had to look harder for it. The majesty of the mountains always impressed him. He could tell the time of the day by the length of the shadows and the look of the sun as it crossed the ranges. Here, the features were strange and too open.

His thoughts floated back and forth between his home, his adventure and Jonat. He began to realize that what he knew of her qualities, he liked. Her strange actions and the tentativeness in her manner seemed strange to him - had she been trying to tell him something? She was a stunning young woman.

As his thoughts clouded his mind a mere ten miles from the city, he nearly stumbled face first into an old man. The strange, withered man was negotiating the pathway with a crooked staff of crude construction - it looked more like a still snake than a hunk of wood. His burlap cloak covered him to mid-calf, where a tattered pair of breeches continued the poverty-infested look to a pair of torn sandals that looked for all the world as if they had made the same trip as Darmon was on, every day for years. His hood was out of place, as it wasn't that cold. But it did cover much of what Darmon deduced to be quite an old face.

"Oh, please excuse me, sire. I was lost in my thoughts." The huge Creag made a quick pirouette to avoid knocking him to the ground. He stopped and gave the old man a second look. "Are yu a'right? I 'ope I didn't startle yu." He then realized that this was the way many conversations between the lawless highwaymen that travel these roads and their eventual victims begin, so he was probably scaring the old man even more. "I shall take my leave, sire."

"Sleep well, old man," came the reply in a weak, broken Zelish-highland accent.

A strange comment toward anyone, let alone a young man such as he; Darmon stopped and turned. "Pardon, sire, but old man I am not. I take no offense, but I am quite young."

"You will be old, hero. Like me, but far more. Sleep while you can."

Darmon started to say something, taken aback by the use of the word "hero," but laid it to rest as the mindless babblings of an old man. "Farewell, sire. Gud travels." As he watched the man wander unsteadily along the road, he noticed the tip of his staff. It glowed, ever so slightly.

His walk into town was short, as the city walls were in view. He took the west bridge across the Great Wash in through the gates and headed for the Longford Inn to get a wee dram and a place to lay his head for a little while. His kilt brought little attention, but as people passed, the claymore slung to his back brought a few grunts and gasps. Seldom was a full battle weapon like that carried, unless the intent was to use it somewhere. Not the best weapon for a highwayman, Dragonslayer branded Darmon as a hero, or at least an attempt at one. His size and gait accentuated the look.

He walked to the main entrance of the inn, politely moving aside for a man and his wife to clear. They looked twice at his kilt and huge sword, giving him a wide berth. As he entered the door, the door master stepped in front of him. "Sire, weapons are not allow. . .excuse me, sire, I didn't realize. . .please come in."

Darmon hadn't had any reason to be in Zel City for years. He hadn't been there since he was eighteen, at the time hitching a ride into the town with a few friends. But he wasn't sure of the reason for his treatment and certainly wasn't used to such a reaction. "Uh, thank you, sire," he simply answered.

He walked across the lobby to the bar. It was a fine establishment, one somewhat out of place in most of the rest of Zel City. Perhaps he had come to the wrong place. . .

The barmaster was talking to a friend at the far right end of the bar but excused himself and walked to greet him. "Sire, what may I get for you?"

Darmon smiled. "A wee dram of a ten-year mash, and a room, if you please."

"Certainly, my Creagish friend. Bruskbrawnisher Red is the one I suggest - bold, hearty, little fruit, but a nutty aftertaste. Let me pour it for you."

Darmon leaned across the bar on both elbows. "Barmaster, one minute. I sense somethin' strange, 'ere. Do you know whu I am?"

"Why no sir. I expect you are here as a matter of importance. We treat every one of our customers. . ." he began. Darmon's scowled brow seemed to shake the tender's spirit a bit. . . "Okay, sir, I must say that we are proud to have someone such as you enter our establishment and we will endeavor to serve you to the best of our. . ." Damon frowned a bit more. . . "Alright, be it known, we attempt to treat all of our customers as special. I'm sorry, but I don't believe I know your name."

"Darmon Stuart, nephew of Uilliam, son of Eohn, of Slaughbeatha."

The weasel-like bartender gasped. "Not THE. . .?"

Darmon sighed, grasping the shot glass from his hand. "The. . ."

The tender glanced at the hilt of Dragonslayer. "Of course. The tales of your exploits have been told for several years now. We hold your mighty deeds in high honor, as you erased a great scourge from our land."

"You mean Gark' Aahs made it this far, lad?"

"Yes, she tortured the farmers beyond the walls for years. She was like a dragon gone wild. Tanalus created all the chromatic dragons for evil, I believe, but her he created from the darkest of soils. How did you. . .?"

"It was not a story for consumption in a place of consumption, if you know what I mean. I've turned the strongest of heads aside to wretch with the telling. Not all deaths are glorious. I've no desire to watch another man heave his dinner to the floor. I hope the tales you've heard are cleaner."

The tender nearly choked at the description of the story. "Very well, sire. Your stay here is at the top of the stairs, to the left, first door. Shall I arrange. . .shall we say. . .a diversion from your long trip. . .?" The wink the man gave Darmon was devilish, to say the least.

"Thanks, sir, but no. I've a long trip ahead. There's tell of a fight in Farland. One more thing, lad. . .I met a strange man on the road coming in from the west today - an old man, cloaked, strange staff. . .know of him?"

"Uh. . .well. . .no, there are many strange old men around here. Your could have seen any one of a number of them. . .uh. . .Yes, so I've heard of the fight in Farland. Please enjoy our inn tonight." The bartender seemed to be shaken by the mention of the old man, and he quickly excused himself to his previous customers. As he approached them, they seemed to ask Darmon's identity, and from their poorly-kept excitement, he knew the little weasel had told them. So much for solitude.

He grabbed the shot glass and got up from the stool, walking to the lobby. A set of rather plush chairs spoke secrets to a roaring fireplace - something not needed on such a moderate evening - and he sat in one, adjusting his logo on his back so as not to tear up the upholstery. He leaned back and sniffed the nose of the water of life, attempting to appreciate it relative to that of his own family. Bold, nutty, but oily. . .not bad, but the casks weren't charred very well. . .it will do. . .

He barely had time to let his hamstrings stretch when his thoughts of the old man were interrupted by two middle-aged men, each holding a mug of coal-black ale, frothing in a cream that adhered to the glass like paint. Strange that I would notice the ale first. . . They were dressed in loose cotton pants and velour jerkins - more the accouterments of rich entrepreneurs than those of fighters or workers. "Are these seats taken, kind sir?"

"I'm wide, but not that wide. They are yours."

"Sire, we couldn't help but overhear - you are Darmon Stuart?"

"Yes - and who wants to know?"

"Goodness, we are in the midst of. . ." he looks to the other man, now seated on the other side of the Creag. . . "Yes, sire, I am Patrick McKee, a landowner of several hostel. . .er. . .hotels here in town. This is Richard Mulligan, owner of the wood mill at the south end of town. We've both heard of your exploits. It must have been..."

Darmon uncharacteristically interrupted. "Do either of you know of an old man I met outside town - cloaked in burlap, carrying a staff?"

McKee stammered a bit. "Uh. . .well. . .old man. . ." He looked over at Mulligan, whose pale face stopped him. "I think I've seen many old men around town. You will too, if you're here long enough. They're harmless - there are many old families here, and they take care of their elderly and let them wander about. So, are you? Staying here, that is?"

Darmon looked discouraged at the answer. "No, I'm just pushing through. I have things to do, things to experience. Just looking for some rest, that is all."

Richard finally blurted out, "Is it true, have you been curs. . ."

"What my friend is trying to say, Mr. Stuart, is, are you. . .cursing. . .the day you had to. . .kill the dragon? Was it an awful experience?" He glanced at Richard, who seemed to slink back in his chair.

"No more than all day at the slaughterhouse. You get used to it. If you will excuse me, kind sirs, I would like to adjourn to my room. I have had quite a long journey so far."

"Of course, Darmon Stuart. Saints be with you and yours. May the road come up to greet you every day." The men took their leave as Darmon got up and began the final trek for the day. They walked to the bar as the Creag climbed the stairs, exchanging excited quips with the tender, who slid each a refill as they glanced at the fighter.

Darmon awoke to the early morning light as it knifed its way through the poorly-drawn curtains and pried his eyelids apart. He grumbled to himself, turning over to avert the evil rays. He knew he had little time to be early, and even less time to be late. He arose and washed with the pan of water on the sink. He carefully pulled and flattened his fifteen-foot long by five-foot wide bedroll out on the floor, then pleated the center with the precision of a jeweler. He slid the belt underneath, laid on the mass of fine wool, and wrapped it around his waist. He tightened the belt around his slender waist and stood up, smoothing the wrinkles out of the fabric. A quick tie of the corners, and he was dressed. So much simpler than pulling on pants. He left the room for the first floor.

Richard and Patrick hadn't made it home. They were lying in strange positions over the chairs, evidently victims of the evil that is know as fermentation. He strode past the bar to the dining room. No one greeted him. As a matter of fact, he heard no one and saw no one in the inn. He decided to get breakfast at the market he saw just north of the inn, so he turned to walk out the door.

As he passed the two entrepreneurs, he looked at Richard, the nearest to him. He was at such an awkward angle that he had to see if he could make him more comfortable before he left. He had been in such a position all night long, and knew how it felt the next morning.

As he reached down to him, he noticed that his skin was cold and stiff. Instinctively, he felt for a pulse - there was none. The cold clamminess of his skin told the Creag that Richard had been dead for several hours. He reached over to Patrick, who he quickly found suffered from the same fate. He then walked to the bar and, looking over it, saw the bartender slumped in a pile behind the case. He knew from the position that he was just as likely to stand up and dance as the others.

A cold feeling came over him, from his gut outward to his arms and legs, driving the hairs on the backs of his hands straight up. He looked around, not knowing what to do. Should he leave, he would be the prime suspect in a triple murder, at least. Should he stay, the same thing might occur. Had I done something? The only thing they seemed to have in common was the fact that they knew who I am. How could that cause this? He peered out the window and saw an old man dressed in burlap, standing along the road, looking at him. As he turned the corner and ran to the door, he opened the outside door and looked - there was no old man. He looked up and down the street and saw nothing. The old man had vanished.

He had all his belongings, so he felt no reason to go back in. He walked to the north bridge to get him across the Collin River. As he walked, he passed several men who looked at him, peering into his eyes, as if they knew him. He stopped and turned to look back at one of them, but he kept on walking. As he crossed the bridge, the city guard smiled and spoke to him.

"Hope you slept well, old man."

1. very long sword with quatrefoil hilt
2. small dagger stored in the hose
3. loosely translated, "multitude of the living"
4. loosely translated, "glen of plenty"
5. whisky
6. hat, cover
7. great kilt, an ancient kilt of pleated and wrapped bedroll