Fred wasn't sure for the moment where his duty lay, but he did know that
he couldn't let some slip of a girl
go on some foolhardy dragon-hunting expedition without trying to dissuade
her. Though she wouldn't find the dragon,
she would almost certainly run into something almost as dangerous before
especially with dark things apparently gathering in the hills.
"Wait for me outside," he told the others. "I shouldn't be very long."
Dokken looked dubious, but
- seeing that warning look in Fred's eye again - Lem took Dokken's arm and
outside. Rowena went with them.
Fred went over to where the two girls sat at their corner table. "Do you mind if I have a few words with you?" he asked, looking at the girl who proposed to put the world to rights. She looked surprised and a little alarmed. Who was this man, dirty and unkempt? Perhaps he was dangerous - he did have a sheathed sword at his side - so she had better humour him. "Of course I don't mind," she said. "Please sit down. I am Eliza Smith and this is my friend Jane." "Good day to you, ladies," said Fred. He felt reluctant to give his own name in return, even though it might lend credence to what he was about to say.
"I couldn't help overhearing some of your conversation," he continued. "May I ask how old you are?" "I don't see that it's any business of yours, but if you must know I'm sixteen," said Eliza, colouring prettily. Fred reflected that she was attractive enough to run risks other than just death or injury if she couldn't be talked out of her venture. "Very young to go off on a quest," he said. "Think about how your parents would feel if any harm came to you, and how they would worry while you were away. And you needn't worry about the dragon. I can assure you that he really is dead. I've seen his body." "I'm sorry, but I think you're just saying that to try to talk me out of my plan. Don't be afraid for me. I know how to look after myself. I've been joining in fencing practice with the boys, and I'm better than any of them. And don't worry about my parents. I'm an orphan. My mother died when I was five and my father when I was twelve. Since then, I've learnt how to look after myself."
"You said that before hunting the dragon you intended to deal with the dark things gathering in the hills. Do you think that being a proficient swordswoman will help you against them? From what I overheard the servant boy say, the wolves that have been gathering are rumoured to be no ordinary wolves. I don't suppose that you have a sword with a silver blade." Eliza pouted. "You can talk till you're blue in the face. My mind is made up."
What was going on in the world nowadays, Fred wondered. It was one thing for an experienced warrior-woman such as Astra to go dragon hunting, but why did every young girl seem to want to have adventures that she was totally unfitted for? First Rowena, who had survived more through luck than judgement, and now this girl. And why wouldn't they take any notice of those who were older and wiser than themselves? He was sure he hadn't been like that when he was a lad.
2/20/2000 11:33:11 AM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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