Well. That was a whirlwind of a week.
My hubby got his layoff for the end of season, so we threw the kids and a few changes of clothes into the van and scooted down to Calgary for a couple nights. The main goals were to visit with my sister and to give my better half a chance to unwind after working three months straight. The side goals were to check out the Calgary Zoo and to let the kids go swimming. I'm happy to say that all goals were achieved!
The tiger we got to watch on Tuesday was the 19 year old female, bred and born in captivity, and she honestly rolled her eyes at every trick because she just wanted the damn treats lol. Once she even roared and paw slammed the bars out of irritation about not getting treats after not doing multiple tricks, which was a good reminder she is a few hundred pounds of murderous intent wrapped in claws, teeth, and fuzziness. She did get the big reward at the end because she completed the needed tricks for her handler to ensure her health. (Note: the big reward is for participating, she would have gotten it even if she hadn't done all the tricks, and it was two of her favorite things to eat wrapped in a tear-it-open paper bag. She walked away a happy giant murder floof with a tiger's lunch-sized treat bag.)
I did get some writing done, as well. Not nearly as much as I wanted to, but more than I expected I would get considering the quick holiday away from All The Real Life Things. Family time and writing time in one week... it was beyond awesome. Hope you have a great weekend!
2. The Other Assassins
Draessellor scoffed and put the contract away again. He wasn’t an assassin, so the mention of there being ‘other’ assassins would never stop looking ridiculous to him; almost as ridiculous as there being a mage stamp in the contract’s seal. There was too much magic for his tastes these past years. Whole wars were being fought by mages rather than swordsmen and mercenaries. The last person he’d spoken to had even tried to convince him that the unnatural uses of magic all these mages were inventing were for something or other positive that supported some greater good. With honest murder becoming a scarce occupation, and deaths by potions and invisible means on a sharp rise, it was hard to believe that magic was some kind of ‘better’ goodness than a steel blade and some dragon scale armor.
Adding emphasis to the thought, Draessellor thumped a fist against the large scales protecting his soft underbelly. These had been a gift from another of his friends, a Storm Dragon from distant mountains he hadn’t crossed in many, many years.
“Call me Cliff,” was how the dragon introduced himself after a lengthy discussion of why Draessellor was perched in what he’d thought an excellent hiding place until Cliff had ripped the top off of it. Cliff had thought the small Reptillian was seeking fame or fortune by killing dragons, and the long conversation confirming he was only there to ambush a passing caravan had been carried out with Draessellor literally underfoot. (Perhaps the conversation hadn’t been lengthy, but only looked that way due to the amount and size of teeth asking the questions.) Cliff had apologized for the misunderstanding.
What solidified them into friends was that the queen who’d hired Draessellor for murdering the caravan had tried to hire him to hunt the dragons he’d spent a pleasant afternoon with. He hadn’t taken the job, she’d tried to have him killed under her kingdom’s treason laws, and Cliff heard about it. He and his wife had found Draessellor just before the execution and laid waste to half the palace and then carried their new friend back to the mountains so he could regain his health in peace.
Cliff’s eldest son had cut the strongest scales from his father’s body and fashioned them into armor for Draessellor when the old dragon passed on. It had been a gift of both unequalled kindness and unparalleled sadness. The armor had been how he’d learned the ancient dragon had died.
A familiar scent arrived on the breeze and Draesellor tasted the air for clearer definition, his tongue slipping out and back in like a snake’s. An Elf assassin and her daughter that were known to him from wars throughout the decades were coming. They weren’t friends of his, but also not enemies.
“Old lizard,” the mother greeted him politely once they arrived beside his fire.
“Good Elf,” he rumbled out the appropriate reply. “You’re expected here for the doorway portal?” he asked pointedly. In his mind it was best to be certain that they wouldn’t be in each other’s ways if their jobs were different.
“We are,” she agreed. He uncurled his hands to show they were empty as an invitation for them to join his fire. They made the same gesture before sitting down. “Might I ask you to allow my daughter this kill?”
He’d heard the rumors that the younger Elf had started doing more in her apprenticeship. A controlled kill like this would be a good place to practice.
“I’ll watch,” he agreed. The mother smiled kindly at him, and then beamed at her daughter. The younger female sat prouder.
“Do you know who the third and fourth assassins are?” the daughter asked. He decided to not bother correcting her that he was just a murderer because she was obviously attempting to be polite while discovering if he had any further information that could help her.
“No,” he replied honestly.
“Do you have a description of the Human?” she asked another question.
“What about the stones that were mentioned. Do you –”
Her mother interrupted her by placing a restraining hand on the daughter’s arm. He stayed staring at the thwarted questioner and swiveled only one eye to look at the mother.
“The impatience of youth,” the mother excused her child before turning to look at her daughter. “When speaking with an equal regarding a joint effort, we assume they have the same contract that we do, delivered by the same means,” she instructed quietly.
“He’s only a mercenary,” the daughter hissed, her condescension much quieter than what she expected him to be able to hear from this distance.
“He’s been my colleague in combat for more years than you’ve been alive,” the mother replied at the same volume, her tone chastising. “Isn’t that right, old lizard?” she asked, her voice dropping even quieter for the question.
“I lost count of the years we’ve fought on the same and different sides many years ago,” he replied.
The daughter gaped at him for a moment and then slammed her mouth shut and sullenly glared at the fire. The mother hid a smile by digging through her pack. The rations she took out smelled and looked delicious to the two of them. However, having tasted Elf food before (and considering the amount he trusted these two) he easily declined the offer of sharing with them in favor of eating from the serpents he’d killed the other day.
Once the customary meal was complete, confirming they would eat together so must be on the same side, Draessellor packed his kit and slung it across his back before walking away to go check on the serpent hide he was tanning into leather. The younger Elf peppered her mother with questions as soon as she believed him out of hearing distance, because he was out of sight, and he chuckled quietly while trying to remember ever being that young and naïve.
Another scent he recognized arrived with the evening wind while Draessellor was sorting through the dead serpents’ bones. He’d cleaned and scraped them, and now he was looking for one that would carve and dry nicely to make a delicate hilt fit for a Human female’s hands. He was decided since this morning that it would be appropriate to actively look for his friend’s son due to the logic that she must be extremely worried if she’d contacted him. Plus, the pay would be fair, it would be pleasant to see her, and if her kingdom was going to war then there was likely more profit to be made… and she would likely need a new knife. He wasn’t good at gifts, but practical weapons he understood well. After some consideration, he selected the female serpent’s skull.
The scent in the breeze grew stronger as what Draessellor called ‘the winged thing’ approached. He sighed as he tensed and relaxed to settle his scales comfortably for standing after crouching for so long. Whoever had done the hiring for this job wasn’t very smart, or was young and not very well informed. Neither provided a comfort for what would be the irritating night ahead.
Why are Authors crazy? I can't answer that, but I can provide bits of my own thoughts so that you can piece together why I may be.