Heart of Gold

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4

The reward for slaying a dragon was substantial, and on top of that there was always the chance that the dragon itself had a horde, which the slayers of the dragon got first rights too. Meaning that Frank, Michael and their father had just acquired exactly as much gold as they and their horses could carry. The problem was that once Frank had picked himself up off the floor his embarrassment mingled with his anger and pain, and he spent the next few days ranting and raving about his useless brother. How he’d just betrayed the entire family! And while their father was unaffected, hoping that it would pass and that Frank would eventually calm down, Michael, the youngest, was starting to see sense in his eldest brother’s words. It was helped along by a few nights of solid drinking and once their father had gone to bed the two of them could really speak freely about what was going on in their minds.

“You know he’s never been right, not even as a child. I mean, I can remember thinking that once he went to that magic school, they’d sort him out. But he came back even worse, always thinking he was above the rest of us, better than everyone else. But you know what?”

Frank took a long drink while Michael sat quietly nodding along.

“I bet it’s the magic that’s got him. Something about that dragon egg is affecting his mind!”

Michael’s eyes lit up with the realisation.

“Yeah, yeah, you know, he always said dragons were pure magic or whatever, I bet you’re right. It’s changing the magic in him and making him act this way. I mean, remember his voice on the mountain?’

A shiver ran over Frank’s body as he remembered that first burst of anger from Jeff, and he wondered if he’d ever be able to forget it.

’I mean, I could feel something in it. Maybe that’s why dad is so keen to retire? I bet he got magiced by Jeff telling him too. It affected his mind too.”

Frank slammed his hand on the table in agreement.

“Fuck! That has to be why.”

They stared at each other for a few moments, thinking it over. Then Frank continued.

“Well then, you know what we need to do, don’t you?’

Michael looked on, slightly confused.

’We need to find Jeff and break that bloody egg before it can do any more damage. Then convince Jeff to undo whatever spells he’s cast on dad so that we can get back to doing what we were born to do, hunt dragons.”

Michael nodded enthusiastically as he listened, then said.

“But where do we start? He’s got days on us?”

“I bet he’s going to that precious magic school of his.”

An idea struck Michael like a slap to the face and his eyes widened.

“If that egg can affect Jeff this way, what happens when it gets to the magic school? What if it takes over all of their minds too?”

Frank’s eyes widened.

“Dragons infecting the mind of the most powerful mages in the world? We… we can’t let that happen; Jeff needs to be stopped before he kills us all.”

The shocking realisation had raised the volume of their voices and a few sellswords and soldiers at other tables had started to take notice of the conversation. Now with this latest revelation, they had all made eye contact and the highest-ranked among them spoke up.

“You guys for real about this? A dragon is trying to take over the minds of the mages in The School of Magic?”

Frank and Michael looked up a little surprised but their resolve held, and Frank took the lead.

“We think so, yes. It started with our brother. We think that a dragon egg has gotten into his mind and made him turn against our family, and now he’s run off with the thing. We want to help him, but we also know that if he gets to the magic school and the rest get infected with this monster’s poisonous thoughts, it could mean devastation and war, maybe even the end of the world as we know it.”

The listening crowd nodded along, accepting that, as dragon hunters, Frank and Michael had a deeper insight into how they operated. One of the older men picked up his sword and slapped it onto the table.

“I’m with you. If the world is at stake, we need to do something. Besides,’

A smile slipped across his face which showed off his missing teeth.

’I believe I saw your brother heading west just last night. He was with the lady Genevieve who used to live around here.”

Frank’s rage flared at the mention that Jeff was with a woman, feeling yet another of Jeff’s shadows cast him into the background.

“That settles it, west is the direction of the school. That must be where he’s going.’

Frank rose to his feet and lifted his drink.

’We need to do something; fate has brought us here to save the world from these monsters. I don’t know you men, but I can see honour in you. Muster your courage because from right now, every one of you, is a dragon hunter!”

The room erupted in cheers and Michael jumped up to stand next to his brother who was basking in the glory he’d always felt he deserved.

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