Ch. 47.3 – At the Secret Entrance — Jay set his passengers down in a grassy valley hidden from the castle by tall trees. “You know what to do.”
The rest of the team, who were mostly gnomes, headed for the trees, but Janine walked until she stood in front of the dragon’s paws and looked up at him. Jay lowered his head until he was at eye level with her.
Janine thought she’d become used to how enormous he was. She hadn’t. The dragon could swallow her whole. He looked fiercely magnificent in his armor, with the moon gleaming on his scales and his tail lashing back and forth.
Yet, she wasn’t afraid of him. To her, he had always been someone solid and comfortable, someone you could lean on when you’d had a bad day. Her heart warmed as she thought back on the fire-lit evenings when she’d curled by his side with a book in her hands. Jay always enjoyed her stories. But now they were caught up in a dangerous adventure, and she didn’t know if they’d ever get back to to that happy place. She blinked back her tears.
“What is it, little one?”
“Be careful, Jay.”
“I will be just fine. It’s you fragile humans who must take care.”
Janine regarded him fondly. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you cared.”
The dragon blinked. “Now, now, don’t ruin my reputation. No one would be afraid of a soft-hearted dragon.”
“Gotcha.” She kissed his nose and backed up.
With a mighty beat of his wings, the dragon took off into the night sky. Janine waved at him, then rejoined Ezra and Fritter. They headed towards the trees.
Inside the grove they were met by a new group of gnomes. These were dressed in dark clothing and armor, with swords, bows and knives. Their faces were grim. Janine touched the hilt of the sword at her side and hoped she wouldn’t have to use it. In spite of all the lessons Fritter had given her, she didn’t want to kill anyone.
The large gnome who stood at the front held aloft a glowing globe. He wore a circlet of gold around his head, and he didn’t look happy. “What took you so long?”
“That is O’Henry, the crown prince,” Butterfingers whispered. “He’s a bit of a stuffed shirt, but he’s a good leader.”
Ezra went over and bowed to the prince. “It’s so good to finally meet you, Sire.”
The prince stared at him, and then his face lit up. “Prince Ezra? But I thought…”
Ezra chuckled. “I know. You thought I was older. I get that all the time.”
Prince O’Henry glared at Butterfingers. “Well, don’t just stand there. Get on with it.”