back at Four Corners
Chris sat at a table outside the tavern, watching the villagers pass by with wary movements. He gave them his best scowl to send them on their way faster. They were all put out with Chris and the Hunters when he told them they hadn't killed the dragon. Mary especially was in a huff because he insisted on talking to Billy. This time he didn't let her put him off. He found out the boy had tried to tell everybody the dragon saved his life but no one would listen. He really got Mary's back up when he told her she should listen to her son more often and take him seriously in the future.
Another resident quietly walked by. Chris stared the man down until he hurried along. He wasn't too happy with them, either. They were all fired up like a lynch mob by the time the Hunters got back. They were ready to tear that dragon apart. He and the Hunters almost had a riot on their hands when he told them they let the dragon go. He'd seen the quiet terror in Ezra's eyes, thinking the people were going to fight the Hunters and take him away. Good thing Chris didn't tell them Ezra was the dragon. The Hunters decided that was something they didn't need to know--just in case Ezra chose to stay in the area or live in the village.
Some of the residents of Four Corners were horrified at the idea that they'd almost killed an innocent, sentient being. Ezra had been surprised to find that a few people--like the tavern owner, Inez Rocillos, and the mercantile owner, Mrs. Potter--had offered to make up gift baskets as a small way of apology to the 'poor dragon' in hopes that the Hunters could deliver them. Unfortunately, others didn't believe that the dragon had saved Billy at all. They thought the creature either lied through its teeth, or Chris and the others made the story up to cover the fact that they couldn't catch the dragon. Chris didn't really care what they thought. They'd done their jobs. Justice was served even if it didn't satisfy the villagers' idea of justice. He looked around at the other men seated with him--and the one dragon in human form. They were giving the passers-by dirty looks, too. It almost made him laugh, the way the townspeople scurried off. Almost.
Vin noticed Ezra being all quiet again. "So, Ezra. What are you gonna do now?"
The young dragon sighed. What was he going to do? Most of the residents of Four Corners didn't seem to relish the idea of having a dragon for a neighbor, even if they didn't know he was sitting right here among them already. He'd probably get blamed for everything that went wrong in the village anyway. He did not want a repeat of his previous dragonbane experience. Besides, did he truly want to live among the people who had so viciously assaulted and maligned him? No. Then what?
Perhaps he could stay in human form and move to another village. He'd gotten used to walking on two legs. The humans did consume some rather tasty dishes. And the beds! They were so soft and comfortable. He could heap a pile of blankets upon himself to keep warm and then place a down pillow beneath his head. In dragon form he'd be too big for such wonderful comforts.
Perhaps mother had been right in that regard. Maybe there were better ways for a dragon to live than in a hole in the ground. It did get terribly dark and lonely down their in his underground warren.
If he were going to live disguised as a human, he'd constantly have to be on his guard, though, so no one would suspect he wasn't as he appeared. And there were times... There were times when he had to be the dragon. Times when his skin crawled and felt so foreign to him that he had to be the dragon again. Being human was so small, so strange, so unbalanced. He actually enjoyed meandering through the woods on his four legs or scratching his back against a rough tree or lounging on a nice warm rock in the sun after a bath.
"Ezra? You okay?"
"Hm? Oh, I'm fine. I was merely pondering your question." An image suddenly came to his mind--a bright blue castle shimmering in the sun. There was a voice like warm winds. "You are needed, Little One. Come to me."
Ezra knew what he wanted to do. "I'm leaving Four Corners. There's nothing for me here. I have only a few things to pack and...I..." He cleared his throat, unsure how the others would react to his request. "Perhaps I could...accompany you to Itreya Proper--if that's acceptable, of course. I would really like to see this great city you spoke of so highly." And the blue castle.
JD was practically out of his seat. He would get to talk to Ezra about dragon stuff all the way to the capitol! "That would be great! Wouldn't it, guys?"
Chris gritted his teeth, thinking of a week on the trail with a talkative JD and and irritating Ezra. "Lovely."
JD was about to say something else when he was stopped by the sudden change in Ezra's appearance. He didn't know dragons could do that! "Ezra. Why are you glowing blue?"
Ezra glanced down at himself with worry only to find nothing out of order. "Is this a human joke I don't understand? I'm clearly not glowing blue or any other color."
"You can't see it?"
By this time the others had turned to stare at him as well. There was a faint blue glow around Ezra. It would get stronger the closer he got to the capitol. Vin just shook his head. Things were going to get real interesting. He gave Chris a sneaky look the leader didn't appreciate. "So, Ez. You sure you don't want to go thatta way, maybe, to Seaward? Or maybe visit the Tenereth Mountains over yonder?"
Ezra shook his head. "No. I'm quite sure I want to see Itreya. It's sounding more appealing by the moment."
"And which way you figure that might be?"
Ezra hesitated but a fraction of a moment before he pointed south towards Itreya Proper. "That way." He was sure of it, even though he'd never known where it was. That's the direction he wanted to go.
Ezra actually started to get up and head that way before Josiah gently grabbed his arm, an amused glint in his eyes. "You might want to pack your things first."
"Oh, yes. That would be sensible, wouldn't it?"
Buck was grinning like a fool now. "Congratulations, Ez. Looks like you've been Called."
"WHAT?! I...I don't understand."
Josiah patted his shoulder. "You've been Called. You can't see the glow because the one getting Called never does. But everyone around you can see it plain as day. You don't have to go if you don't want to, Son. It's more like a request than a command. If you ignore that pull you feel right now, it will go away in a few days and you can do whatever you like. Or you can answer it and follow it back to Itreya Proper--and to your destiny. Join us, Son."
"But...but there must be some sort of mistake. I'm not even human!"
Buck just slapped him on the back with a snort. "That's okay. I'm pretty sure I ain't 100% percent human myself. And don't tell anybody, but I think ol' Chris here must be part dwarf. That's why he's so grumpy all the time."
"Shut up, Buck." Chris took a long swig of his ale. A dragon Hunter. Apparently, Itreya had a sense of humor.
Vin didn't look up, his eyes were fixed on his drink. "Never knew my pa. Ma died when I was pretty young. We were hill folk. Lots more non-humans running around them hills than humans. Figure my pa coulda been anything."
Josiah was happy at the turn of events. Now he'd have the chance to get to know Ezra better. That is if the young dragon accepted the Calling. "You should read the Hunter Chronicles in the castle archives, Ezra. There are stories in there going back almost a thousand years. You'll find more than a few references to non-human Hunters. My personal favorite was Hogar Bloody Hand. He was a dwarf but Itreya gifted him with super strength somewhat like mine."
Buck had a wistful look on his face. "Don't forget Shinzai Silverhouse. I've seen drawings of her and she was one fine woman--even with those extra arms. Just think about the good loving you'd get from a woman with four arms!"
Vin grinned slying, egging Buck on. "And what about them elven twins?"
"Ylyna and Yrya na'Uriel? Talk about doubling your pleasure!"
"Wouldn't want to tangle with them, though. Mighty fierce swordfighters with super fast moves."
Buck smirked. "Wouldn't have minded seeing some of those moves."
Josiah shook his head. Leave it to Buck to only remember the non-human women. "Nathan, you might find it interesting to read about a unique countryman of yours who became a Hunter."
Nathan hadn't really had time to read the Chronicles yet. "I'm not the first Kandigaran?"
"Oh, no. There have been several. Our most notable one was Ulurulo-ul, the desert wraith."
"A desert wraith? But they're real flighty and they don't take much to people."
"Something made it accept the Call. It was one of the greatest Hunters during the reign of Queen Matilde Prosper--our own King Michael's great aunt and predecessor."
JD thought that all sounded incredible. A whole bunch of books all about the exciting adventures of the Hunters throughout history. He couldn't wait to get back to the castle and get started!
Buck saluted Ezra with his mug. "You'll fit right in."
Ez listened dumbfounded, looking back and forth from one man to another. They were all laughing and joking. The idea that he had apparently been Called didn't seem to bother them at all. His gaze fell on Chris who gave him a sardonic little grin. Even their fearsome leader didn't seem to mind too much.
It didn't matter that he was a dragon. They wanted him anyway. Ezra wanted to be wanted. And he desired more than anything to learn what it meant to have friends. For the first time in a long time he had something to look forward to. "If you gentlemen would assist me, I could finish my packing all the sooner and we can be on our way."
"Well, alright. Let's go!"
As they got up from the table, Vin and Chris lagged behind. "So, Chris. You think we should tell these folks that their dragon's moving on?"
Chris looked around, seeing some of the angry villagers staring at them. "Nope. Let them stew for a bit. Maybe I'll send them a message in a few weeks."
The two exchanged evil looks before heading on up to Ezra's room to help him pack.