The Unspeller and the Book of Days HTML version

Avoiding Dragons
As Aesa walked back to the fields and to the barn, he glanced up at the sky, thinking of dragon
wings. He had survived his encounter with the dragon; much to his surprise and relief.
Gritich would have destroyed him within a heartbeat. If he'd offended an Arkenian the result would
have been the same. The Eigenau were harmless only because they preferred the depths of the sea.
When he got to the barn his father was already there, with Tandrick and Gesta, milking the cows.
Aesa pulled up a stool and joined them. He was so full of excitement he could barely keep still. The
tedious chore might calm him down.
“You're late,” Gesta said. Her chin lifted haughtily until an unexpected swipe of Gwinie's tail hit her
in the face.
“I know, I'm sorry,” he said, managing not to laugh at her.
“We've just begun…” his father answered, barely looking up from his task. “There is plenty of work
His father's eyes were dark, his face lean. All the Jereward children had inherited some of the thin
features of their father, the boys more than the girls. He did not speak very often, but he did not need to. His
children had learned to read the small expressions that sometimes revealed themselves on his solemn face.
At the moment, Aesa could see no disapproval for his tardiness, which was a relief. His father bent
his head to the task, and Aesa did the same.
The cows chewed on their hay, oblivious to the hands pulling at them. Every now and then one of
the cows waiting to be milked would make a lowing protest, as if to hurry the task.
Aesa worked in silence with the rest of them, thinking about the dragon until he could stand it no
longer. “I found something at the cliffs,” he began.
Tandrick asked first, as Aesa knew he would. Tandrick had an insatiable curiosity, which was why he
was constantly immersed in a book, or two. “What did you find? There isn't much we haven't already seen,
you know. Unless it's a ship…” that sparked interest, and even Gesta looked up.
“No, it wasn't a ship, though it was just as large,” Aesa answered.
Now Gesta joined in on the game. “Was it there before?”
“No, it just arrived today, though it will come and go.”
Tandrick's lips pressed together and Aesa could tell the riddle intrigued him. Even their father
looked over at them, though he didn't offer any guesses.
Gesta asked, “It's as big as a ship and it comes and goes? It better not be a cloud, Aesa. That would
be dumb.”
“It's not a cloud,” he reassured her.
“A large sea creature beached on the shore?” Tandrick guessed.
“No, silly,” Gesta said impatiently, “He said it comes and goes.”
Tandrick shook his hair out of his eyes and scowled at her. His long thin face sank into defiant
resignation. “I give up.”
Aesa paused for dramatic effect before answering, “A dragon.”
The three of them stopped milking and one of the cows stamped her foot in irritation.
Aesa's father said quietly, “You found a dragon?” Echoes of past battles shone behind his eyes,
ghosts of glory and sorrow that surfaced very rarely, but they were clear to see right now.
Aesa briefly regretted his I-found-a-dragon-game. “Well, he found me…he said this was his home
fifty years ago.”
“I can't imagine what he would want with Turnstone.” His father's tone was contemplative.
Unable to look away from the deep stare, Aesa answered nervously, “I don't really know. He claims
this is his home and he prefers it to the lands of the Empire.”
still left.”