Ruadhrí peeked over the ridge one more time, counting the number of soldiers blocking the road. One, two …too many. They would have to go around.
“Well your High-and-mightyness,” the old dwarf sighed, sitting down on the ground, “We’re gonna have ‘ta go North to take the Vilhelm Pass. Can’t get through down there.”
Shaking her head from the back of the pony, the young woman kept her chin up, “No, we’ll take Hydra Pass.”
“Are you daft!?” Ruadhrí barked in exasperation, “That path changes constantly. We can’t be goin’ there or we’ll be lost fer months!”
The dwarven baker looked up at the huge troll Fraaphknot who seemed to be counting something on his fingers. He would bring two together, separate them, hold one up, hold all five together … over and over the monster’s beady eyes watched his fingers until suddenly they stopped.
He was holding up his middle finger to Ruadhrí.
“Oh hardy har!” the dwarf rolled his eyes.
“How dare you!” Caoilinn gasped.
A small voice answered from the trees, “I bet she says that a lot, but he means to take the middle path.”
Looking up, Ruadhrí saw a small dragon perched in the tree under which they were sitting. He was the gleaming color of an amethyst, maybe three feet long and had a golden, antler-like horn (the other was broken off). It was a fey dragon!
“Oh!” the princess squealed, “He’s so cute! Get him for me!”
Fraaphknot rolled his eyes while Ruadhrí rubbed the bridge of his nose between his eyes, “Ya don’t just ‘get’ a fey dragon lass. Seein’ one is good luck. Catchin’ one is really bad luck.”
“And we’re extremely venomous,” the little dragon added, smiling a toothy grin. “I would suggest the bunny trail myself. Vilhelm is much safer.”
A fat, green caterpillar slowly made its way along the branch toward the little dragon. Cocking his head slightly, watching the insect for a moment, the diminutive wrym snapped out and gobbled up the bug.
Then spit it out.
Scrapping his tongue with his back leg, the little dragon hacked and gagged, “Gah! It’s … like … like … black licorice and toe jam! Bleh!”
“Disgusting!” Caoilinn gasped.
The troll snickered while the little dragon ran back and forth along the branch, dragging his tongue on the bark. Hacking and coughing, he scraped his tongue on the branch, trying to get the rancid flavor of the bug out of his mouth.
Fraaphknot laughed loudly, stunning Ruadhrí. It was impossible! The troll didn’t have a personality!
Watching the nonsense with saucer-eyes, the old dwarf mumbled, “That’s two votes and one tongue drag for Vilhelm’s Pass and two votes for the Hydra’s Pass.”
Watching the little dragon roll around and fall off the branch into the bushes, Ruadhrí shook his head, “The tongue drag and spaz attack is the tie breaker. We go north!”
Mounting his pony in front of the princess, the old dwarf took one last look at the choking, hacking little dragon. Who would have thought that little dragon had saved the kingdom only a year ago?
As they rode north, Ruadhrí smiled to himself. There was another reason he wanted to take Vilhelm Pass.
Erin would be at the Stumble Inn at the entrance to the pass. A perfect nanny for Ruadhrí’s riding companion.
Yes, that little purple dragon was Dink from my first book. He gets to make cameo appearances in pretty much everything I write.