HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH, HEAVY HEART: in which Milto joins the party and we accidentally pick a fight with a white dragon

Luckily, we were not totally without resources.

“Milto can probably tell what these tablets say,” Zeno said, leaning on the counter.

“Indeed, I can.” The firbolg smiled and translated for us.

M1: in frozen clouds and moving ice, a bastion of force defiant

M2: and greatest yield grew from the ashes reborn from the cleansing

M3: (a picture of a line of shambling people walking toward a crystal, then emerging upright)

“Where are the others?” Milto asked casually. “Oh, that’s right, you lost them.”

Zeno shared the sad tale of the cart and horses with Milto. There was a moment of silence for Buttercup and Dave, and a further moment of silence for all the inconvenience not having these damn things around had caused. Helli took the Cloak of the Manta Ray and folded it up neatly to fit into her knapsack.

We discussed briefly conduits with Milto, and he remarked that sometimes it was possible for a conduit to alter the land around it. Our initial thought that the mermaid caves in Lake Norka being a conduit then seemed a little off– we’d wondered about that when Letitia had brought up the underwater expedition: one of the conduits did seem to correspond to an underwater area of some kind, and we’d felt awfully lucky finding two so close together. It seemed much more likely now that the strange purple holes we’d seen in the taak were perhaps, as Milto had said, the work of the Tree of Life and Death.

I asked if it was cool to share the translations we had with Milto, and Felegum handled them over.

After a few moments reading them over, Milto was floored and even more interested. “These could cleanse the world of disease and famine.”

“Yeah,” I said dryly, “they’re not doing much of that right now.”

The opposite, in fact.

“What about a draconic connection?” Zeno asked. “Like, freeing the dragons from greed or whatever?”

Milto arched a brow. “I’ve never heard of that.”

So, someone who’d spent a large part of his life studying the conduits had never heard of what Awk’s patron assured him of. Either this was a super-secret spectral dragon friendship promise that someone uninvolved couldn’t understand, or it wasn’t a sure bet.

I worried at my bottom lip. What could an ancient ghostly dragon possibly want with nigh-on unlimited power? Peace and love amongst dragons?

Or something else?

Milto took out a set of glasses and a red elixir and offered us drinks. It was an herby, infused gin, and it tasted like a tiny blossom of friendship.

Maybe. Hard to say, I guess. I’d only really run with two groups of people so far, so it’s not like I had a lot of authority on the making friends front. But I’d like to think it was. Milto was pretty cool.

Harry launched off into a story about the Sunken Citadel, the definite conduit we knew about, and then also into some of our work for Letitia retrieving the Aegis and how it had nulled magic and sort of tried to suck its carrier dry.

“Have you ever been ice-knifed?” he asked Milto, for comparison.

“No,” the firbolg replied, “but have you ever been fireballed by an archmage?”

He dropped the corner of his robe off one shoulder, revealing a shapely but scarred portion of his back.

I wondered if the archmage was Letitia or someone else. Or was this like, part of mage hazing?

“Better fireballed than ball-fired, am I right?” Zeno ribbed him.

Everyone winced. Helli broke through the awkwardness by asking about the tablets’ origin and if they had a particular time period on them. Milto said that they’d been scribed by the dragonpriests in a language that no one had been able to replicate.

Something scrabbled at the window but I ignored it. “Do you have more tablets in any of your other caches? We’re going to Egonia next, probably, and we could try to liberate one on the way.”

“Ew, Egonia.” Milto wrinkled his nose. “I never want to go back to that place.”

I scoffed in my most amiable way. “Just how many towns did you get kicked out of, bro?”

“Not that one,” Milto said conspiratorily and sipped his drink.

Harry asked about the manticore tails and whether or not they had particular value. Milto replied that blood or the heart of the creature would be valuable, but they’d need to be harvested immediately after death or else they’d spoil. He declined the tails on offer from Harry.

We finished our drinks, said our goodbyes to Milto, and headed off to the water bazaar to see how that was doing. Also, I was hoping for some more tethis, since I didn’t have a lot of that left and it generally made food a lot better when things were fairly miserable.

There was a smattering of sailors and merchants, and then our favorite sailor-merchant.

“Quincy!” Zeno called and waved him over.

He sighed and joined us. “Well, if it isn’t the worst fare I’ve ever taken in my life!”

“Quincy.” Zeno chided him and then went in for a hug.

“You left me with an injured crew!” Quincy grunted from within the depths of the hug. “And you sunk my ship!”

“Is business good?” The bard asked, referring to the set-up we’d bargained for between him and M’Shel, the leader of the merfolk taak. We’d struck a deal for there to be trading on the surface and for the merfolk to show Quincy the ropes on growing tethis so that he could accrue funds for a new ship.

Harry murmured something about starting a wider spice trade, and Lankin took the opportunity to stick out his hand. “Hello, I’m Lankin. Nice to meet you.”

Quincy took it, perhaps still blind-sided from the Zeno hug.

Meanwhile, Zeno took advantage of the opportunity to show Quincy the spices he’d bought in Paripas for trade.

The captain, despite his rough greeting, seemed pleased to see Zeno engaging in trade. “We’ll make a merchant of you yet!”

“We’re open to barter,” Zeno replied, and thus began a brief exchange where Zeno got four pearls and wet sack of tethis in exchange for his spices. (“It stays potent longer when it’s wet,” Quincy explained.)

“You know,” Felegum, originator of the water bazaar, metioned, “we’d be happy to act as your agents in Paripas if you’d like. We could sell pearls and spice.”

Quincy’s reception to this was somewhat skeptical. “Yeah? And what’s in it for me besides you taking a cut of the profits?”

An answer did not emerge or at least I wasn’t paying attention to it, because Zeno handed me the soggy tethis bag. “Here you go, kid.”

“What, really?” I held it out like solid gold. I’d wanted to get some myself, and this was way more than I’d thought I’d be able to afford.

“Make something good,” Zeno said. It was seeping through my fingers. Right. It had to be kept wet to be okay.

I was overcome with an idea and ran back to Milto’s.

In retrospect, it was understandable that a teenage ruffian bursting into your store would be startling, but in the moment I thought nothing of it. “I need a glass container!”

Milto gave me a hopelessly confused expression.

“A glass.” I mimed the approximate dimensions to fix the damp tethis bag. “I will pay you. I need to keep something wet. It is an emergency.”

Despite being stunned, he still overcharged me for the glass, but whatever. It was an Emergency, and Milto Prices tended to be higher than normal prices anyway. When he started charging me more what I expected, then I’d know we were really friends. As it stood, I needed that glass and two gold was a small investment.

Tethis bag safely watered and tucked into my things, I rejoined the group in time to witness Zeno grilling Quincy about his love life.

“Quincy,” the bard said, “do you have any interest in manticore tails?”

“…no?” the captain replied, worriedly.

Zeno nodded, then was right back on the case. “How’s your girlfriend?”

There was a narrowing of eyes and a small pause. “…Good.”

Zeno was delighted. Then there was a terrible interlude where Awk tried to sell the tails to Quincy as an aphrodisiac. Quincy brushed it off. “I’m already dealing with my own magical herb plant, thanks.”

“You’re dating M’Shel?” Awk asked, leaning in.

I wanted to face-palm. If I were a praying person, I’d have prayed that Awk never discovered anything about the people I’d been interested in. Ever.

Quincy, so harassed, handled it wonderfully. “I– I have a business partner!”

We were able to learn from Quincy that the merfolk came up during the evenings to trade their wares with the surface-dwellers, and Felegum, perhaps feeling a twinge of guilt, asked how Quincy had gotten his ship, since there were no shipyards around the lake. It turned out that the bigger ships had to be sailed up the river leading to the lake and were constructed elsewhere.

“Mine?” Quincy shrugged. “Won it in a game of chance.”

“Ooh,” Helli said.

I elbowed her and grinned. “Maybe you could win him another.”

Quincy had always taken nicely to Helli; she’d been the one he’d given his oh-shit! resurrection necklace to, after all.

We each went our separate ways for the afternoon. Awk, for whatever reason, became a giant beaver and carved some canoes from trees, pulling off bark in the distance. Helli, inspired by winning a ship in a game of chance, went off to hone her skills in that arena at the local tavern.

I took advantage of the moment to work with Kheryph on building upper body strength.

I’d had very little luck getting him back to his original state of having all four limbs at his disposal, whether it was through the intercession of the gods, my own healing powers, or magical items, and so I was forced to confront the possibility that maybe Kheryph would be stuck like this for a while until I figured something out. It sure as hell wasn’t ideal, but it didn’t mean we had to just give up.

His front legs worked and he’d been pulling himself around on them already. If I could help him get those stronger, then he’d be able to move around better. I still felt really guilty for letting him get hurt.

Anyway, thus the lizard push-up regimen was born.

Lankin wandered by as I was attempting to demo a push-up for Kheryph and having little success. Lankin was just busting push-ups out nonstop as I did my damnedest to get off the ground.

Exhausted, I sat up. Lankin suggested I do push-ups against a wall, which I ignored. Then an idea hit me. “Hey, Lankin,” I said, “you can talk to animals, right? Could you, uh, talk to my lizard?”

“Sure!” Lankin said and began casting the spell for ten minutes, doing push-ups all the way through. It was actually kind of impressive, that he could cast and do that at the same time. “What do you want to know?”

“Well, he can’t use his back legs anymore.” I looked down. “And you know, I just wanted to know if he was okay. Happy. Zeno and Felegum had said that maybe he’d be better off if I left him or hadn’t saved him, and I just want to make sure he’s not suffering. That he’s okay.”

There are some things you have to protect, and some things you have to not protect.

More than ever, I wished I knew what that had meant.

“Okay!” Lankin said merrily and finished his spell. “How’s it going, little lizard?”

Kheryph, who was basking on a rock in the afternoon sun, looked up lazily.

“He says ‘warm,'” Lankin reported. “How’s your body?”

A pause.

“Are you happy?” Lankin asked. “What’s your favorite thing to do?”

Some answers, it seemed, were a little beyond Kheryph. That was probably okay. I thanked Lankin, and then I let him show me how to do push-ups off a wall out of gratitude, even though it sucked.

When evening rolled around, we hung out by the dock and talked with the mermaids about the glowing holes in their taak. “We covered them in rocks,” one said. “Nothing goes in and nothing comes out.”

“How’s Zen?” Zeno asked.

“Good,” the mermaid replied, “she likes her new job growing tethis.”

Zeno left it at that, and we headed to the one inn that Janwald contained.

Sitting down for dinner, we were asked a unique question by the innkeeper: “Meat or slop?”

“What…” Felegum struggled to formulate a response. “What’s in the slop?”

“Is it a fish meat?” Awk asked.

The man narrowed his eyes. “Not sure.”

We ordered (I got the meat, along with several other people, Awk got the slop), and it was revealed in the serving that the meat was half a trout, presumably the catch of the day. The slop was an orange-colored pumpkin filled with leeks and blander stuff. I swapped some fish with Lankin so Kheryph could try it and he was not a fan.

“What do lizards eat?” Lankin asked.

Felegum tsked. “Didn’t you ask it that earlier?”

“Yeah…” Lankin stared into the distance a moment. “I forgot, okay?”

Awk defended his meal choice, though he was envious of the trout. “I didn’t want to gamble on it being venison. It brings up complicated feelings.”

There was a brief pause as we recalled Doe-lores, Awk’s doomed first love, a deer.

“Dude, I know, same,” Zeno, mermaid connoisseur, said around a bite of trout. Perhaps so inspired, he gave a rousing performance of “The Ballad of Lady Zen of the Lake,” this time as a sea shanty and more upbeat. The whole place was clapping and singing along at the end.

When he finished, I asked him if it was wise to have done that when this is the town she lives in.

“Oops, yeah,” Zeno said, grimacing, “she will be upset.”

I paid for our beds for the night, some altercation occurred in which Zeno was the peacemaker, and I heard him murmur “Six beers, that’s when I defend Awk” before we all headed to sleep.

The first thing I did when I woke up was get the cloak all nice and magically copacetic. I’d had to do this with my boots too when I’d gotten them and it was a little weird, but also awesome. As I concentrated on the cloak, I could hear Harry running through his morning devotions and training exercises outside the tavern, which, I’d found out last night, was helpfully named The Meat and the Slop.

Today’s breakfast offering was a block of pulverized meats for the meat and a mixture of oatmeal and polenta for the slop. I was glad I’d ordered the slop. The meat reminded me of those bacon cubes that Layne had shown me how to make way back when, though less appetizing than the ones I’d learned. Awk, who had been unfortunate enough to order the meat, threw up.

He was very unsympathetically made to clean it up.

“There was venison in there,” he said miserably from the floor.

“Oh man.” I winced. We weren’t on the best terms after the whole dagger thing, but even still, you didn’t wish for someone to eat their crush.

We were still trying to figure out a direction we were going next– Awk kept pushing for Csipherus, which made me want even less to go– and we found ourselves back at Milto’s. He warmly cautioned us about never getting the meat for breakfast at the Meat and the Slop, which elicited a groan from Awk, and confirmed our theory that the Lake Norka activity was probably a side effect from the tree in the Sunken Citadel.

Somehow, someone floated the idea of showing Milto the tree to see if he had any thoughts on the conduit.

Milto laughed. “I can’t just go on a rumor.”

“But your life’s work is starting to rear its ugly head!” Harry exclaimed.

I winced. “Don’t call his life’s work ugly!”

But Milto didn’t seem offended. On the contrary, he seemed intrigued. “The only problem is that things tend to go wrong when I leave,” he said, sighing.

It must not have been that big of a problem, though, because he snapped his fingers and items floated off the wall and hopped into a knapsack, packing themselves away securely for an adventure. “Want coffee?” he asked.

“YES,” Zeno said.

What followed was Milto brewing coffee for us by magic and Zeno and Helli using their cool always-the-right-temperature mugs to hold it while I struggled with a rapidly cooling cup outside. It took a while to sink in, as I sipped my icy coffee outside, that we’d really done it. We had recruited someone totally cool as a party member.

And for a long while, it did not matter that all the heat had left my coffee.

A day’s travel led us to the craggy fields just outside of the Sunken Citadel’s entrance, the place where the bramble things had attacked us way back when. As none of us were anxious to repeat that experience (although it had been the point where we’d learned that Helli did not like mornings), Felegum began the wacky waving movements that accompanied a casting of the dome.

But Milto stopped him and began his own casting. “No, no, my dear child.”

Ten minutes later, a set of vaulted double doors sprang into existence, leading us all into a large banquet hall where a feast of roast pig had been set out for us. “Well, my friends,” Milto said, as we beheld the massive amount of food before us, “what are you waiting for?”

I thanked him and dove in. It was all impossibly lavish, like it had come from a dream. I wondered if he ever got bored of living in his little house by the lake and just would summon this place and spend the night in it because he could.

Milto slowed the fall of a grape into his mouth just to show off. I shook my head, not bothering to hide my smile. This wasn’t the tied-up-in-legal-knots-and-rigor version of magic I’d seen in Paripas. This was just someone who knew a lot having fun with it.

And I liked that.

Once we’d finished with dinner, we were shown to our rooms. I’m not sure what everyone else’s was like, but mine was more on the simple side. Quaint. I’m sure Helli’s and Zeno’s were probably more lavishly outfitted, but that also wasn’t me. I liked things like I liked my room back home, and this felt a lot like it. A little utilitarian, but not without a level of comfort.

The one excess was a circle of stones around a softly glowing floating rock, which was warm to the touch. I settled Kheryph on it and he exhaled grandly and melted around it in a most content lizard way. I fell asleep to a gentle night light that looked like a solar system with my lizard in the center.

After a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and pastries, Milto strode out and the exquisite mansion vanished back into nothingness. Once again, we resumed our trek to the citadel.

I asked Milto about what it was like going to wizard school and how he’d learned all his spells, and he told me that it was a story for another time. He also joked that I’d need to gift him exquisite potions before he divulged that kind of information, as though I wasn’t going to take him up on that offer.

Anyway, we found the entrance to the Sunken Citadel, but it was a little different from the last time. For one thing, there was a massive boulder trap set up over it so that anything larger than, say, a gnome, goblin, or kobold, was going to have some difficulty getting down there without being trapped inside forever.

Helli keenly discerned the nature of the trap and explained it to us as Harry tested the air around us. “I think that Calcryx has gotten more mature,” the monk said. “Things are colder.”

Felegum and I played around with the idea of having me Mage Hand the Rod of Liquefaction onto different parts of the rock to break it off, but that didn’t work out, so he used one of his spells to peer into the darkness beyond the rock. It was the same old chasm and cavern we’d remembered, just with a new door of pretty solid craftsmanship.

There were also strings of metal and rocks, an early warning system no doubt, attached to various points along the entrance. Helli went in solo to disable them, cutting them as silently as possible. Outside, a chill mist had started to set in. Harry’s words seemed accurate: it was a lot colder here than I’d remembered.

“Helli, stand back,” Felegum said, and used the liquefaction wand. Unfortunately, it was weird as hell to wield: it only seemed to want to make bizarre spiraling patterns, maybe in accordance with the way the rock was formed, or maybe just because it liked spirals. Magic was weird like that.

Milto helpfully bored a stake into the ground for us to tie a rope, possibly so that we could climb out later, and Felegum passed the wand off to Dronie, who somehow managed to have better luck sheering off pieces of the rock.

We were discussing that it might be a tight fit for some of our taller members– I didn’t like leaving Helli alone inside of the cavern for so long and was in the process of squeezing my way in when Milto snapped out of existence with Lankin, said “I think I did it!” and then reappeared with himself and the elf falling down the chasm. One spell later, he and Lankin were falling more slowly, and Helli hissed at him to be quiet as I wedged my chest into the rock uncomfortably.

“Oh my god, we have to be quiet!” Milto said, clearly audible from all the way down wherever he was. “I haven’t had to be quiet!”

As I was smashing my cheek into the rock, I heard Helli mutter: “We are going to die.”

It was at this point that I realized I was accidentally pressing Kheryph into the rock and squeezing him too tightly, and in my haste to not do that, I hit one of the pylons keeping the rock suspended. Gravel trickled in after me, and there was a terrible moment where I thought I’d really fucked it up.

The rock wobbled, but was still held upright.

Felegum continued to carve off pieces of the rock so that everyone else could fit in, and I cast a message spell down to Milto telling him to be quiet and hold on. While the othersentered and made their way down to the finely crafted doors, Set’s Delivery Service was back in action, hauling the elf and firbolg up and out of the hole they’d fallen into.

The new door was strange and distracting. Helli thought it was magic, and when I touched it with my Mage Hand, it did nothing, though it did seem to be barred from the opposite end.

When Zeno placed his hand on it, though, a voice boomed out, “NONE SHALL ENTER, NONE SHALL LEAVE.”

Any sane person probably would have decided that yes, that sounded pretty bad and left, but Zeno just said, “Oh, that’s right, I forgot to do it properly,” knocked, and called “YOOHOO!”

I shook my head and said to Milto, “Does all this rushing in without a plan bring back fond memories of adventuring?”

The firbolg grinned. “Ooh yes! Wouldn’t be adventuring without it.”

I was glad he was enjoying himself at least. When the doors opened, though, I hid. I was best in the shadows if the group was about to need me, and I had a feeling that we were about to tango.

Except when the kobolds came out to greet us, they were thrilled. “Oh! It’s the givers of the place!” they trilled. “How nice! You come to see how the master is doing?”

“The master?” Zeno asked. “The one who wrote this?”

“Yes, yes,” one kobold said. “She has taken her oath very seriously and has become very powerful.”

I exchanged a look with Helli, who was also hiding in the shadows. This was not the young dragon Meepo had kept in a cage, not anymore.

“Yes, yes! Come, come, come,” the kobolds ushered the group inside.

I walked out of the shadows shaking my head. “Oh my god.”

This was creepy, but at the same time, I wasn’t about to kill them for being hospitable.

As we passed through a woodworking facility, I brought Milto up to speed on Calcryx’s background, how we’d found her caretaker Meepo banished from the kobolds after the goblins had taken the dragon, how she’d been distrustful (at least, to my knowledge, I didn’t speak Draconic) and very frosty atop her modest hoard, and how we’d left her here, the logic being that she would make an effective guardian for the conduit but also not yet large enough to attack the surrounding land.

Our kobold guides continued to show off their new gardening facilities. “Master demanded it,” they said proudly. When asked about Yustryle, their matriarch, they said she was “below,” a position which seemed to hold significant social clout. Or something, I was only half-paying attention as I was recounting the story of our initial descent here for Milto’s benefit. I guess we could have just let him go in blind, but he’d been really nice to us and it felt like a shitty thing to just spring a dragon on a friend, however young the dragon was.

We once again made it back to the hold where Meepo had died falling through (and later been absorbed into the garden), and Zeno sighed, declaring that there was no way he was going down the hole again, that we’d use the secret passages like the last time, but the kobolds said that that way was off-limited now, having been repurposed for more garden space.

That felt a little sinister, that constant need for more garden, but whatever. This was a conduit associated with growth, it did tend to do that. Vines overloaded with fruit and vegetables drooped low from the ceilings.

The only way down was through the hole again after all.

I swung my leg over the broom and offered Milto a ride, but the magician was entranced watching Harry launch himself over the hole and gracefully down to the bottom. “Not one for subtlety, eh?” he called, and then jumped in the hole after the dragonborn, slowly, magically falling adjacent to him.

I scowled and drifted down on my own, feeling stupidly jealous for no good reason.

The glowing mushrooms down here had been replaced with–you guessed it– more and more fruit and vegetables, a truly staggering amount of agriculture. Awk whined that we’d forgotten to go to the tomb of his patron, but someone over his dumbshit antics, probably me, snapped that no one cared about his patron but him. It still rankled that he’d gone behind all of our backs, ignored our group decision not to open the tomb, and then lied about it until it was convenient.

Awk was a sympathetic figure and did try to be helpful, that I would give him. But it was pulling shit like that, even more than his repeat murders of Dronie or injuring me, Harry, or anyone else, that made me seriously question whether I trusted him.

At least when I’d been in a group of underhanded shits before, we’d all mutually agreed it was in our best interests not to screw each other over. I was under no such delusions with Awk. For as much as he whined about people picking on him and not being respectful, he didn’t tend to show us much respect whenever the group choice went against what he wanted to do.

And people wondered why I was so against it when he pushed for us to go to Csipherus. I exhaled in a snort.

We made our way deeper into the citadel until we came into the Grove, reaching the familiar Tree of Life and Death, and a familiar serpentine form wound around its trunk.


There were also several incredibly fat kobolds sitting by the tree, stuffing themselves full of plates of food with almost religious fervor as hooded servant-kobolds placed and more food before them. It seemed a little weird, but I guess it made sense why the door-kobolds wanted to be down here. Hard to beat endless food and the ability to endlessly boss your subordinates around.

The dragon unwound herself two, no, three times from around the tree. She’d clearly figured out where the source of power was in this place and was taking full advantage of it. She’d at least doubled or even tripled in size since the last time we’d seen her.

Zeno bowed elegantly and Awk hissed “head down!” to the rest of us as he also bowed. I was truthfully unsure if politenesses were going to save us here, but I inclined my head slightly without losing sight of her.

“When you left me last,” Calcryx said, thankfully in Common, because gods only knew I had no skill with Draconic, “you said none were to enter and none were to leave. I have held my end of the bargain and you have not.”

She had a point, I had to admit. I hadn’t been one of the people who’d spoken with her the last time, but it was a perfectly watertight argument.

“We’re just checking to make sure that all this is,” Harry said, grasping for words, “kept in check.”

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” the dragon said, curling her scales around the trunk. “And now it’s mine.”

“All hail Calcryx,” Awk said. I should have known we were boned there, but like a complete idiot I tend to believe in redemption. “We are pleased to see you have utilized these resources well.”

“That is excellent,” Calcryx replied mildly.

Zeno made some noble stabs at negotiating, mentioning that there was a security problem up top that let us in when the door clearly said no visitors. However, this did not go over very well with Calcryx. She simply horked down a fat kobold all the while looking us dead in the eyes, and a serving-kobold rushed to fill in the spot, hastily shoveling food down its throat.

Suddenly, I understood how she’d gotten so big so quickly. I glanced around, and Milto was nowhere to be found.

I couldn’t even blame him.

“Could we go?” Awk asked.

Helli backed up toward the hallway, which was already rapidly filling with kobolds. “There are other powerful things out there,” she said, “and if you let us go, we’ll find them and bring them to you.”

Behind her, the hallway was wall-to-wall flesh and lizard dudes.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Calcryx said, smiling. “You have broken the agreement.”

I was really thinking we were going to fight. This was it.

And then Lankin spoke up. “O Great Dragon,” he said, perhaps a little over the top, but very earnest, “we came to check on you because we’ve heard of people seeking out other forms of power–“

“Red eyes?” Harry murmured.

“–and we think you’d be a great one to hold onto all of that,” Lankin finished. It may not have sounded very convincing on paper, but it was more in the way he said it. Like there was no reason not to believe him, that truth was his bread and butter, that, failing all that, he was way too simple to lie to you. Hell, if I didn’t know better, I would probably have bought it.

Calcryx seemed to be considering it. Perhaps she’d eaten red-eyed visitors before, or heard tell of them enough to give her pause.

“Actually, Great Dragon,” Awk cut in, “that’s a lie.”

My mouth was open. What in the actual hell had he just done?

The white dragon laughed. “And I would have believed you, too,” she said to the elf.

Felegum fired off a quick Haste spell on Harry and Lankin, and that was when it all went to hell.

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