“Are you sure you won’t come with us?” Logan asked, scratching one arm self-consciously. “We could use a good thief, y’know.”
Nagi laughed away the suggestion. “Are you kiddin’ me? That’s nuts. I’m not goin’ into a war zone. I’m too fond of my skin. This’s all too big for me anyway.”
Logan shook his head. She’d never voiced as much, but Nagi had hinted, broadly hinted, that she would not be leaving the Imperium any time soon. She’d long complained that the Indy Plains were devoid of opportunities for thieves like her, too full of petty kings with a fantastic dislike for brigands such as herself. Nevertheless…
“Ve vill mizz you,” Antonio said, lifting a flagon of weak mead to Nagi’s health. He was, as far as anyone could tell, drinking away the pain of taking a spear to the side in the battle for Brickrite, and doing an admirable job of remaining both sober and lucid. “Ve have travelled var togezer. You made a fine ztable girl for uz gypziez.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me.” Nagi shuddered. Slithering into an upright position, she raised a pack - laden with ‘liberated’ treasure from one of Brickrite’s vaults - onto her shoulder. She held out a hand to Logan. “‘least I’m not bugging out on you in a bind this time, right? Give me some points for that.”
Frowning, Logan refused to accept her handshake. Instead, he rose to his feet and wrapped Nagi in a hug. His bristly stubble stung her neck, but Nagi allowed it all the same, returning the gesture somewhat weakly.
“Gonna miss ya, Ms. N,” Logan muttered.
“Sorry, Mr. L, but you gotta stop playin’ the thief,” she replied. “Go be a shitty prince again. Con people on a larger scale. Gotta think big in this business.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He kissed her on the cheek. “You’re such a cool player, Nagi. Take care of yourself.”
A few moments later Antonio joined them, his big arms enfolding them both. He laughed, burped, and laughed again. His presence made the already awkward moment so much more awkward. “Yez, care. Take care. And do not tell my brozer, ya? Hiz vixation vith you iz unhealzy vor everyvun. Bezt you vlee hiz embracez.”
Sliding away from the hugs, Nagi shuddered. “Yeah. Don’t worry about that. Won’t miss him one bit. That reminds me - give Libby a piece of advice, would ya?”
Quashing a sudden impulse to cry, Logan barked a short laugh instead. “Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“Castrate that horndog,” Nagi offered quietly as she slipped around a corner and out of sight. “Or get Dragomir to do it with his glowy stick of death. Traveller’ll never let up on her otherwise.”
Logan’s laugh became loud and long, and, at least in part, genuine. He joined Antonio in raising a toast to Nagi as she slipped out of Brickrite, gulping down a few mouthfuls of weak mead. The young prince hoped he would see her again some day. He never did.
The dragons arrived a few hours later, four fliers strong. Goranth, the diary’s ensorcelled dragon - and one so happy to remain as such that the rats could not drag it back under their yoke, much though they tried - joined their squadron. Goranth provided a meeting ground for Dragomir, and as the dragons winged the crew of the Dauphine away from Brickrite and into the early morning skies he used Goranth’s back to have one-on-one chats with his crew, learning as much as he could about the current situation. No one was happy to move from one dragon to another while still in flight, but the mighty lizards proved stable platforms.
Watching the ground pass far below, his initial fear of flying long gone, Logan picked at his seat. It was formed of tough scales, weirdly warped into a comfortable chair and poking out the back of a mauve dragon. The lizard’s massive fin, something some dragons had and some dragons didn’t, separated its passengers into two rows. Logan sat beside his father, who was chatting with Antonio about boxing techniques.
“Your ztance iz acceptable,” the orc explained, forming his hands into fists, “but you need to be more flexible. Boxing is lezz about rigidity zen it lookz, ya? Root yourzelf when nezezzary, zen move like ze vind when ze time comez to ztrike.”
Jeffrey punched the air a few times. “Uh… okay. I’ll try to keep that in mind. I was wondering, are there ever any kicks…?”
“Not in my boxing!” Antonio let slip a rare show of emotion, this genuine disgust. “Your fiztz are your veapunz! You uze your legz to get zem into place, to drive zem all ze harder into your opponent! Your legz are too valuable az toolz to be uzed az veapunz!”
“Okay, okay…” Jeffrey looked down at his legs rather sheepishly. “I was just wondering. Eesh.”
Logan scowled. For a while it had seemed as though the barriers separating father and son were, ever so slowly, dissolving. Logan had found himself disliking Jeffrey a little less each day. He didn’t profess to love the man, not beyond the obligatory love one has to have for a parent, but Jeffrey’s poor response to Dragomir’s refusal of looking for Daena… it hadn’t sat well with Logan. Nor had leaving the desert without finding a way to bring back his sister, a seeming sacrifice to Dragomir’s quest for… what?
Logan’s eyes lifted, away from the land, to look at Dragomir’s ride. Goranth’s back was formed into a wide, shallow pit, and Dragomir had stolen several pillows from Brickrite to sit on. Libby and Fynn were riding near the front of Goranth, between raised shoulder blades, their backs to Dragomir, talking to one another. Though he’d been having meetings with the crew of the Dauphine during most of the trip, Dragomir was currently alone, reading his diary. He looked absorbed; the diary, or what little Logan could see of its face, appeared utterly elated.
As if a diary that walks wasn’t weird enough. Logan propped his chin on his fist, studying Dragomir. Everything about the guy is so damned odd. Guess that’s why I liked ‘im in the first place. He wasn’t boring, not like everyone else in that stupid castle. He treated me like a person. Now, though… I wonder… wonder if his oddness is… too odd.
Logan looked to Fynn. Tall, imposing, innocent Fynn, apparently somehow infused with the same colour as the Non. Logan thought of Eve, one of the greatest walking weapons in the entire world. Logan thought of Grayson, and of the stories he’d been told about Dragomir’s horrid son. A son Logan had watched die, sliced in half by an all-Non platypus.
And now, he has a diary that can control animals. On its own. Logan’s eye twitched. What the hell is with this guy? And… maybe more importantly…
Logan inspected Dragomir. The older man was sitting cross-legged, diary raised to his face. His expression betrayed absolutely nothing of his emotions beyond utter absorption.
… why does it suddenly seem to matter so much, when I never cared before?