Aden of Aden
Dumourl seemed annoyed, but he then took the blanket as he said, “Listen, Nick, I know what you could do. Do you have a bow or any ranged weapon?”
“The back of my weapon is a magic javelin. I will fight until my weapon is destroyed, then kill Belconosk with one final great throw.”
“Sounds good. Work on your throw, and go get us something to eat.”
Nick began dismantling his weapon while speaking of what type of animals might be moving about. He claimed that the dragon would often have him go out and hunt, and that he was a good hunter. I listened to him speak attempting to place his true intelligence. While he kept a quick and simple style of speech, I watched him act seeing a control that indicated a high intelligence. When Nick moved off to hunt, I looked to Dumourl wondering about his thoughts.
I asked, “You don’t think he will come back successful.”
“I don’t care,” the lizard person replied. “It should keep him away, which should allow me some time to rest. Scream if you need to.”
“I can fight. At least, I can hold a weapon. I never really practiced. Still, my father is only a knight, and we live in an unprotected community. Certain skills were taught.” Not really satisfied with my own words, I added, “I can also scream.”
“Listen, Aden, you don’t have to go with us. Take the horse and go to Davelda.”
“No. Everyone knows who I am. I go to Thiminy simply to start certain lessons, and suddenly everyone is referring to me as Aden of Aden. I go Queen Debbish, and those of her land, on a completely different world, know me as Aden of Aden. Now this young man and you know me as Aden of Aden. I am finding myself as the one person who does not know me. No. I’m going to find out what is so special about me.”
“You better watch it. You are going to end up making yourself special.”
I had to think on his words before asking, “Is that so bad?”
“Depends on what type of man you are looking for.”
“What type of woman are you looking for?”
“An immortal one. There are not that many peoples like me. Humans are everywhere, but lizard folk like me are rather rare. Centaurs like the one Lord Terish rides are even more rare, but not by much. Then to find an immortal one – well, if she is single and immortal I guess I will accept her even if she is ugly.”
That was not an answer I expected, so asked, “You’re immortal?”
“Yep. My father wanted to be, but failed. I managed it. It helps when your body renews itself dependably, but I am starting to realize that others are growing old. I go to my father’s grave occasionally and wonder if he is better off.”
I felt he needed an answer, so said, “I want a man who will tell me stories. I don’t mean lies, but tales. I guess it would help if he is active enough to learn new ones.”
“What about Nick?”
“I strangely believe he might be able to tell me who I am. I am who I am because of my mother, so I am interested in his mother.”
“Okay. I take that as agreement of our mission. Let me get some sleep, Aden of Aden. Scream if you need to.”
I sat and wished that I could speak to my mother. Thinking over what I would say to her, I found myself realizing that I was beyond her advice. She never spoke of other worlds. She really never talked about any place but those I knew. My mother would only be able to listen to what I said, and I felt dejected realizing that she would be no help.
What she wanted for me was to be happy. If she stressed anything to me, it was that she had not been happy with her first marriage. One advantage of growing up in a community far from any city was that you learned to do things on your own. You found things to do because complaining of being bored only had you assigned some minor duty. I discovered ways of entertaining me, and some of my happiest memories was having the time to do what I really wanted.
I turned from making a flute from a piece of wood to hear Nick say, “It’s okay, Aden of Aden.”
“I’m just Aden. You don’t even know my mother.”
He started working on further carving up an antelope as he said, “I’m not just going to call you by your name. Not until we have been introduced. Dame Aden really is not proper for such a young lady. You’re not a princess. I –“
Having an idea, I blurted out, “Yes. You can call me Princess. They call mother Princess. That would make me not Aden of Aden, but Aden of Princess, which you can simplify to simply Princess Aden.”
“They call your mother Princess?”
“Yes. She is a princess, and –“
Nick fell to his knees, and I felt cried for a time before asking, “You are going with us to my mother?”
Hoping to improve his attitude, I asked a question in return. “Do you love your mother?”
“I believe I do. I’m scared she thinks I hate my father, and maybe her. Belconosk failed there however. I might have been young, but I was old enough to understand what happened. I understand that he thought he was doing the best thing. Belconosk is who I hate. He knows it now, but I am hoping my mother still has hope for me as well.”
“You should not hate your parents.”
He turned to me to show a smile, then went back to work on the carcass while saying, “No. One should not hate their parents. I don’t, Princess Aden.” Dark emotions however started to reveal themselves as he said, “And they should not hate their children. Mother should not hate me. I need to see my mother and make certain she does not hate me.”
Again hoping to keep a more positive conversation, I asked, “Do you know your mother’s name? If I am Aden of Aden, who are you…”
My voice faded as I realized that Nick was not his name, but I was glad to hear him begin to answer anyway. “I am taking you to…” Softly, he said, “I can’t say. I remember, Princess Aden, but it has been years. I do not know how the years have treated her.”
“How do you know where to take us?”
“Belconosk has not said anything about killing her. Really don’t know why not, but the fact he has not has given me hope. Also, I need to attempt it.”
I had to admit, “Yes. Even my father would agree to that. Considering the story of how he met my two mothers, he has become a rather cautious person. Still, he had a special smile when one of us children sought to take on a challenge.”
Nick turned in his work on the carcass to look at me as I told a story of my oldest brother. I remembered it well, as I was with mother when it happened. The way she would watch over Agrell sometimes bothered me, but in telling the tale I remembered how her first two boys died and of her simply being amazed that the son she gave to Father continued to live. Mother Mersidda did fuss at Father for allowing Agrell to do what he did, but my mother simply rushed to care for her son and assure that he would be healthy enough to try another stunt as he continued to grow. Nick laughed as he worked on the carcass, and I finished the story thinking he enjoyed it.
We both turned as the voice of Dumourl asked, “Okay, Nick, so why isn’t this dragon going after your mother?”
The young man replied, “Why would he do that? I hurt him. If he is angry from the pain, he will come after me. I however feel that he is worried. His plans did not turn as expected, and he always returns to his lair and seethes while thinking over what he will do.”
“That thing you called a weapon hurt him?”
“It and my armor are the things he could not hurt. He ate animals and people, but not all bones crunched and not all items were ruined. Those that survived is what I made my weapon and armor from.”
“Aden, can you cook?”
I did not want to be reduced to being a servant, but was interested in what Dumourl had in mind. “Yes.”
“Good. I am going to tend to my things and my horse.” The lizard person rose to rummage through his gear, then took out a ball of strange twine that he threw to Nick. “This should help you fix your weapon and armor. Aden, I’m not picky. Whatever you fix should be better than what I would.”
“I was taught to cook, but also to expect others to cook for me. What I cook is food that I want to eat. I am more than willing to make enough for others to share, but I cook for pleasure.”
“All I ask is the same mentality when I cook. Trust me, I will eat it, smile, and say, ‘Thank you.’” Dumourl then dropped the volume of his voice to admit to me, “I however will not trust Nick to cook for me.”
Father always lectured his children about accepting the role set for you due to circumstances. He had a number of stories about what he had to do because of his situation. One of those tales was nothing other than the one where he gained his two wives. While Nick had provided meat, there were some odd things about him. I had seen some of the things Dumourl kept to ease any hunger, and did not want to try them. Accepting the circumstance that I was trusted to cook, and would prefer to eat things in a certain manner, I set myself to fulfill the role as the cook.
My father’s parents were bakers, so cooking was something they knew well and enjoyed teaching. Having mothers from a completely different part of the world than Thiminy, I had learned a variety of recipes and cooking styles. In the small river valley I grew up in, most animals consumed were raised for that purpose. Even Fedrukin, which had a zoo, used their efforts to care for exotic animals to produce enough so that they would not have to eat certain local wildlife. I was actually pleased to see Nick cutting up an antelope, as it gave me a chance to cook a dish from my mother’s land that she claimed never came out right using deer from Thiminy.
It did take certain spices for me to cook the meat properly. Asking Dumourl about some things I had seen in his saddlebags, I found him to have a rather extensive set of flavorings. He claimed not to find the treasure that King Terish did, but made most of his money from recognizing certain blessings of one land that would be desired by others. Dumourl allowed me to use what spices I desired, although warned me not to waste them as if he needed something that was how he would probably obtain it.
The men did have things to keep them busy, so I was not rushed in my preparations. Nick helped me set up a spit over the fire. He then sat and worked with the cord given to him while speaking about all the pieces that made up his weapon. I listened as he spoke of enchantments, then allowed that I also knew of magic. It was part of growing up to find pleasure in working certain simple spells with most of the elders watching to see if a child truly had the mentality to manipulate the exotic forces. One of the lads of our blacksmith became good enough working with the arcane that he was sent across the mountains to a special school. The rest of us quickly lost the fascination with magic upon learning that the adults would not be taken by surprise by our tricks, but could even match us. The conversation allowed the time to pass, and as the men finished their tasks I was doing things to serve them a meal.
Hearing the men compliment me did not surprise me. Dumourl said that he would, and I suspected Nick had gone without a properly cooked meal for a long time. I liked the way the antelope came out, so I was pleased with the results. Finding the men work to finish the meat I had prepared, then help me clean up did surprise me in the manner of letting me know they were truly grateful.
Finally, all details were managed, and Dumourl said, “Alright, Nick, lead us to your mother.”
I had noticed that the young man had put on his armor and carried his weapon, although had allowed that he just had nothing else to do with them, but my face probably showed alarm when he admitted, “This might be dangerous.”
“That would not surprise me. What concerns me is that you actually know what you are doing.”
“Belconosk probably thinks I do not, but you will find that I do. This way.”
And the dragon is looking for them.