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A Pirate's Foe

‘That is brilliant!’ said Umbilicus, chatting with a man he had bumped into at the market. They were in Jonquil’s capital, Tazetta, and as Brevis had promised, they were grocery shopping.

Captain Brandy initially went ahead to the market alone, leaving the rats to watch the ship. Brevis had insisted on taking Umbilicus to meet some of his old friends before they joined the Captain. By old, he meant grey and wrinkled. With Dira by his side, Brevis took Umbilicus to the parliament to meet said friends.

All of Brevis’ old friends were welcoming to Umbilicus and spoke to the young knight regarding Jonquil’s government in comparison to those on the continent. From trolls, like those that he had seen at on the previous island, to giants, elves, ogres, humans, and even a rogue male faerie, the politicians Umbilicus met were a physically diverse group; but they had the same values and prided themselves on being part of a nation that thrived on freedom and equal opportunity, and Umbilicus revelled in the atmosphere.

Having joined Captain Brandy at the market after the meet and greet, the young knight was busy talking to every person he met—and not about himself. He wanted to learn more about Jonquil and its ways. He was enthralled by the people’s stories—stories of overcoming obstacles in life, given at birth or otherwise. Umbilicus wanted the opportunities provided in the nation, and he wanted to succeed the way the Jonquilians did.

Captain Brandy and Brevis did not bother Umbilicus with the details of the grocery list. This time, Umbilicus did not want to know either. He was too engrossed with the conversations of his elders to look for what they needed. Thus, while the Captain and Brevis scurried around, scouring stores and stands, they left Umbilicus where he could watch, only returning to fetch him when they needed to move to the next area.

The trio returned from the market bogged down in supplies The Captain and Brevis carried large sacks and Dira even carried a few bags by mouth, but Umbilicus was the youngest and the freshest, so they unloaded most of the groceries on him.

‘Where are we heading next?’ asked Umbilicus, lugging along the heaps of groceries that dangled on his arms, barely able to see due to the stacked boxes he also carried.

‘We are visiting a cousin of mine,’ answered Brevis.

‘Really?’ said the Captain, arching a brow as they walked, ’Your cousin. Your common ancestor is so far back it isn’t funny. It’s been at least thirty-two generations.′

‘Family is family, no matter how distantly related,’ countered Brevis.

Umbilicus almost tripped in shock. ‘Does your cousin know you exist?’

’What matters is that I know she exists,′ Brevis retorted. ‘Her name’s Ilium and she’s a princess.’

The Captain laughed as they boarded the ship, passing the groceries to the rats for storage. ‘I’m certain Brevis would prefer you burrow a tree with her instead of Nelumbella.’

‘Oh, definitely,’ Brevis chuckled. ‘I do not actually remember what Ilium looks like. She is probably not as pretty as our Princess, but then I am biased.’

Reaching into a pouch, the Captain took out a coin. ‘They do show her on the penny though.’

Umbilicus took the coin and inspected the small head. When it came to the face, at least in the depiction, he had to agree. Nelumbella’s feet were still off-putting. ‘Where does she live?’ he inquired.

‘Remember that little island that only had a lighthouse?’ asked Captain Brandy.

Umbilicus nodded.

‘It isn’t a lighthouse.’

‘She lives there,’ explained Brevis. ‘It is the last fragment of the palace that once belonged to Jonquil’s monarchy. It used to be in Tazetta, but they moved it when the republic formed. Since her folks abandoned the country, it did not make sense to upkeep an entire palace.’

‘I thought Jonquil did not have a monarchy,’ said Umbilicus. No one he questioned had mentioned having a Princess.

‘They don’t,’ said Brevis. ‘She is more like a mascot.’

‘Is she the last noble?’ asked Umbilicus.

Brevis shrugged. ‘I suppose she is. I guess that makes her the Queen, but who knows. No one keeps tabs on her these days.’

‘You should marry her, Umbs,’ said the Captain. ‘You won’t have to wait for anyone to drop before you get the big crown.’

‘I am not after a crown,’ insisted Umbilicus, frowning, but then he frowned for another reason. ‘Why do I get the feeling this is not a simple family visit?’

‘Umbs, you should trust us more,’ said Brevis, feigning hurt.

Captain Brandy laughed and turned away from the bantering duo, squeaking at the rats. It was time for them to head out and collect the final items on the list.

The Fish House docked on Iliac’s Crest, a small and picturesque island with large pastures for cattle and sheep to graze. The sight was one Umbilicus was unable to admire. Ready to vomit, hunched over the side of the ship, Umbilicus felt sick, and not from the sea. Thankfully, the Captain and Brevis had not allowed him to eat since the morning.

‘A dragon?’ exclaimed Umbilicus. ‘That is what you have been keeping from me?’ He looked up and saw the tail of said dragon, sticking out of the cave within the hill, on which the tower fragment was situated.

Upon arriving, Brevis and Captain Brandy had explained to Umbilicus that Daffodil wanted a century’s supply of dragon’s meat. They claimed that slaying one large dragon was more convenient and easier than attempting to slay a few hundred small ones. In addition, according to Captain Brandy, the dragon was nearing the end of her life; thus, slaying her, rather than hundreds of young dragon pups, was more humane. But that didn’t mean she was not going to guard the island and eat any intruder.

‘I am too young to die,’ said Umbilicus, continuing to heave. He did not want to imagine how large the dragon was, but observing the length of her tail, he had a decent grasp of her size.

‘And charming,’ added Brevis, reapplying his pirate-kohl with the Captain for their final bout of pirating.

Umbilicus relaxed and turned around to face the pair. ‘So you do think that I am charming.’

‘No,’ Brevis replied nonchalantly, pocketing the pirate-kohl and mirror. ‘I am simply trying to sate your desire to be charming before you die.’

‘You are not going to let me die, are you?’ asked Umbilicus, panicking more than before. He looked to the waters and contemplated diving. ‘If she eats me, I will not be able to prove myself as a knight or as a charming man.’

Cookie sauntered over and squeaked.

‘He say’s not to worry, that he will protect you,’ said the Captain. Cutter swooped down in purple sparkling glory and squeaked as well. ‘—Cutter too,’ the Captain added.

‘You both are the best friends a man could ask for,’ said Umbilicus, hugging and nuzzling into the rat who had landed in his arms.

‘I told you rats are the best,’ said Captain Brandy.

Brevis huffed. He wanted to the chore done with. ‘Okay, enough of this man-rat love. We have a plan of action to discuss.’

‘Why did you not tell me about the dragon sooner?’ asked Umbilicus, cuddling Cutter.

‘You would have run away,’ said Brevis.

Umbilicus knew Brevis was right. If he had known sooner, he might have hidden at the Capital. Boarding the Fish House rarely seemed to be a safe action. Thinking the situation through, Umbilicus figured the dragon was not the worst. ‘I almost married faeries. Nothing is as scary as that,’ he said.

Cookie and Cutter squeaked in agreement.

‘Marriage truly is terrifying,’ Brevis concurred, a shiver running down his spine. ‘Consider yourself lucky, Captain.’

‘What do we need besides dragon’s meat?’ Umbilicus asked, recalling that Captain Brandy had said another item was needed,

‘We need hair,’ answered the Captain.

‘Hair?’ asked Umbilicus. They already had troll hair—or fur, depending on perspective. ‘Do you mean human hair?’

‘Yes,’ said the Captain, twiddling dreadlocks.

‘Ilium does not like to cut her hair,’ said Brevis. ‘It is her trademark.’

‘Does the grocery list specifically call for her hair?’ asked Umbilicus. They had a decent amount of human hair between the three of them, but the Captain was not entirely human.

‘It calls for twelve feet of continuous straight blonde hair,’ explained Brevis. The grocery list did not specifically request for Princess Ilium’s hair, but it might as well have. ‘Princess Ilium is the only known person with hair like that. Actually, her hair is reportedly twelve and a half feet long, which is great. She won’t have to be bald after we harvest it.’

‘I would have volunteered my own if it were longer and wasn’t dreadlocked,’ mused the Captain.

And dirty, Umbilicus silently added.

‘You know, Umbs, we could have used yours, but it is too short. If you had grown it out, we would not have to go through all this trouble,’ said Brevis.

‘I see,’ said Umbilicus. Cultivating hair was more complex than he thought. ‘This is not purely about the dragon.’

‘Yes, it is,’ the Captain snapped. ‘Blasted thing once tried to make me a patch-eyed pirate.’

Umbilicus raised a brow.

‘They had a bad first encounter,’ said Brevis. ‘The Captain actually ruined the relationship the dragon and I had. We were quite cordial with one another. I met her when my brother first sent me here to represent him. Then she found out I was friends with the Captain. What happened next was not pretty. They made me choose a side. Needless to say, I chose the Captain, and she tried to eat me.’

Umbilicus gasped. The dragon had tried to eat her friend due to a silly dispute.

‘Are you trying to take her side?’ asked Captain Brandy, ready to draw a sword on Brevis if he showed any liking towards the dragon.

‘No, of course not,’ said Brevis, raising his hands timidly and offering a smile. ‘We should discuss how we are going to take down that blasted thing,’

Although suspicious of Brevis’ intentions, Captain Brandy agreed, and the crew plotted the defeat of the evil beast that once almost sentenced the Captain to a life with an eye patch.

The Captain, Brevis, Umbilicus, Dira, Cookie, and Cutter travelled on foot along the coast, leaving the Fish House in the care of the remaining rats, hoping that the dragon would be too distracted by the presence of the ship to notice them.

On the opposite side of the island, they arrived at another entrance to the dragon’s lair. In contrast to where Umbilicus had seen the dragon’s tail, this opening was small, raised, resembled a window, and seemed totally unthreatening. It looked new, as if an accident had caused its existence. Curious, Umbilicus inquired about its history, but both the Captain and Brevis dismissed him with an innocent air.

Cutter lifted Cookie, and they fluttered inside. Hidden in darkness, the rats scoured the cave. Although, Cutter was a bit too twinkly and bright in colour to remain perfectly camouflaged.

The Captain, Brevis, Dira, and Umbilicus watched from outside, peering through the window. They were barely able to see the rats, but they heard little pattering footsteps and a hiss. Burgundy scales swept across the opening, obstructing their view. The dragon vanished, and the cave became silent. Then the pattering returned but fainter than before. The dragon swept across again, investigating the source of the sound.

Dira crawled in, followed by Brevis, Umbilicus, and then Captain Brandy. Immediately, the moment the Captain’s dainty elf foot entered, the dragon’s head snapped towards them, recognizing the Captain’s smell. The dragon’s red eyes pierced her prey as they stood under the spotlight created by the opening. She charged forward; and the crew rushed to the shadows, concealing themselves in the darkness. Blinded by rage, the heavy dragon did not stop. She crashed into the already delicate and damaged wall.

The side of the lair collapsed, and crumbling rocks fell onto the dragon. No longer did the cave keep the crew hidden. The cave was completely lit by an opening larger than the main entrance.

Umbilicus assumed the dragon was dead, that their challenge would be unearthing the corpse, but the rocks rumbled.

Beneath the debris, the dragon spread her wings and emerged. She was a grand beast; her narrow body spanned as long as the Fish House, and her wings were so broad and shapely that winged creature of all kinds would be envious. Unharmed, and unfazed, she faced the Captain. ‘So we meet again,’ hissed the dragon.

‘I have come to take your life, Ossis,’ Captain Brandy said in dragon’s tongue.

‘Have you not come to be devoured by me, Brandywine?’ asked the dragon. ‘If you allow me to sample that lovely eye of yours, I will leave the rest of your body.’

Appalled, Captain Brandy covered the eye the dragon wanted to eat, hiding it from her hungry view. ‘You are sick. The only devouring that is going to happen is going to happen once I slay you and have you cooked.’

The dragon dashed forward, mouth open, both to roar and take a bite out of the Captain. The crew bolted.

Looking up, Umbilicus saw the two rats. Cutter had placed Cookie on a ledge above. As the dragon rushed past the ledge, Cookie leapt and landed on the dragon’s head, sliding down to her back. Cookie held onto the dragon, scrapping off scales with his sword in the process. The dragon attempted to fling off the itch, but the Cookie was refused to let go. Roaring, the dragon shook vigorously. The giant rat did not have the weight to steady himself firmly on the dragon and was flung off. Cookie scampered away, hiding in a crevice within the cave.

The dragon curved her slender frame, seeking the rat. ′I will eat your crew first, Brandywine,′ she said.

Cutter swept towards the dragon and kicked her head. Having garnered the dragon’s attention, Cutter flew out through the recently enlarged opening. The dragon followed the rat, and they shot into the sky. Brevis, Umbilicus, and Captain Brandy hurried after and drew their swords. Sniffing, Dira sought Cookie out to inform the rat it was safe, and they too exited the cave.

Cutter’s fluffy purple body landed on the beach with a thump, rolling on the sand. The dragon had clawed him down, and his little giant rat body was more cut than before. The dragon’s feet gently touched the ground. Ready for her first meal of the day, she approached the rat, but a pain shot through the dragon, stopping her in her tracks. Wailing, the dragon twisted in agony. Swivelling her neck to locate the source of her pain, she saw the tip of her tail pierced into the earth by a sword with Brevis’ hand on the hilt.

The dragon roared as she was reminded of his betrayal. Flicking her tail, the dragon freed herself, but sacrificed the end of her appendage. Brevis pulled his sword from the ground and parried back as she attempted to bash his him with the remainder of the limb.

Cookie dashed past the dragon to Cutter. Captain Brandy squeaked to Cookie, and then hissed at the dragon, distracting her. Cookie nudged Cutter onto his back for transportation. On all fours, Cookie retreated with Cutter to the Fish House

Standing alone by the cave, Umbilicus saw the dragon nearing the Captain, who was sprinting across the beach. Umbilicus looked to Brevis and nodded. Brevis mounted Dira, and the three went after the bickering mutt and dragon.

Pouncing, the dragon caught the Captain beneath her claws. ‘I will eat your eye first, Brandywine,’ she said, sniffing her meal.

’Beast!′ cried the Captain, spitting at her face, “Humans are friends! Only sick faeries eat us!′

‘You are not human,’ the dragon replied. ‘You are a friend stealing elf!’

‘Ladies, please calm down,’ said Brevis, leaping off his wolf. The two snapped their heads towards him, narrowing their vision at the intruder. ‘I am not worth fighting over.’

The Captain made a snide remark, and the dragon hissed. Their quarrel had begun far before either had met him.

Groaning, the dragon arched her back and released Captain Brandy. From behind, Umbilicus had slashed her. Twisting her body, the dragon whipped her tail. Swept into the sand, Umbilicus lost his weapon. The dragon decided to eat the pretty blond human.

Brevis moved to help Umbilicus, but Captain Brandy stopped him. ‘Unless she breaks all my bones, this is between me and her,’ said the Captain.

The dragon prepared to eat Umbilicus as Captain Brandy stalked forward to strike. Before either touched their prey, a pack of rats came forth with the intent of vengeance. Swarming, the rats crawled onto the dragon, each carrying a little shield in addition to the usual sword they carried. The dragon flung her body recklessly, attempting to shake off the rodents, but the rats were firm with their grip, holding to her scales, pulling at her flesh. A few of the rats fell to the ground, and the dragon breathed fire at them. The fallen rats raised their shields, but the ends of their grey fur were singed.

Umbilicus straightened himself and ran to Brevis’ side. ‘What do we do now?’ he asked.

‘We wait,’ answered Brevis.

Umbilicus, Brevis, and Dira stood, watching the outcomes of the match unfold before them.

The Captain fought like the rats, clinging on and viscously hacking at the dragon. Frustrated, the dragon propelled into the sky, somersaulting in the air. The Captain and the rats became more aggressive as the dragon took flight. Hunks of scales and tuffs of grey fluff fell to the ground. Roaring, the dragon dropped, diving onto the beach. The sand spread, rippling as the dragon made contact. For a moment, it seemed to be over; but the dragon moved, rolling on the crew, attempting to crush them with her superior weight.

The dragon rose, and bodies fell from her frame. Umbilicus stepped forward, but Brevis held out an arm, keeping the knight back. ‘They have nimble bones,’ said Brevis. ‘Elves have skeletons just as adept as rodents. They make great thieves when they want to be.’ He had seen the Captain escape from literally tighter situations.

The rats wiggled. Slowly, each one stood along with the Captain and flocked to the dragon. Flying up, the dragon repeated the process. This time, the crew was prepared. As the dragon dove, intending to crush the rats on impact, the critters migrated up the dragon and jumped before the dragon touched the earth. Seeing their attempt to escape, the dragon let out a breath of fire. The rats raised their shields, evading the fire.

Captain Brandy squeaked out orders, and the rats split into groups, rotating as they attacked the dragon from every direction. The dragon recklessly whipped her tail and shot fire. Brevis, Dira, and Umbilicus hid behind the cave’s rubble. Her fire covered the beach.

‘Shouldn’t we help them?’ cried Umbilicus, distressed for his furry little friends. Too many rats were flung, battered, and singed.

‘We cannot,’ said Brevis. ‘The Captain does not want us to interfere. This is between them. We will only take action if they cannot manage.’

Captain Brandy surveyed the situation, sidestepping the dragon’s stomping claws. From below, the Captain saw the opportunity they had been waiting for. The Captain ran, leaping over the dragon’s tail, ducking beneath her fire, and dipping when reaching the goal. Looking up, Captain Brandy saw buttery cream flesh. Swiftly, the Captain’s sword pierced through her heart.

As the dragon’s stance wavered, Captain Brandy rushed out from beneath, leaving the sword imbedded. The dragon groaned and collapsed onto the sand. Scampering off, the rats sheathed their swords and dropped their shields in relief. Without a squeak, they stood, watching as life left the body. Brevis, Dira, and Umbilicus came forward, inspecting the corpse. ‘You killed her,’ Brevis said softly.

Captain Brandy let out a breath. ‘It was about time she dropped.’

Brevis congratulated his friend and gave a weak chuckle. ‘How do you suppose we get this onto the ship? Are you certain it will not sink us?’

‘If we take only the parts we need, it won’t be so bad,’ said the Captain.

‘Alright,’ said Brevis, scratching his head as he contemplated where to start. From head to tail, Daffy would want a part.

‘Why don’t you give us a list of useable dragon parts, take Umbs, and go on ahead?’ suggested the Captain. ‘We’ll prepare the dragon for travel.’

‘Are you sure?’ asked Brevis, not wanting to leave Captain Brandy alone with the large task.

The Captain gestured at the proud crew. ‘I have a swarm of rats.’ Squeaking in unison, the rats drew their swords, ready to butcher the dragon.

A rat named Sprinkles, who was known to do the accounting for the Fish House, came forth, pulled out pad of paper and a pen, which she kept in a knapsack, and handed the items to Brevis. He sat down on the beach, drawing a quick diagram of the dragon with the key parts labelled, creating instructions for the crew to follow. When he finished, he handed the picture to Captain Brandy.

‘Seems easy enough,’ said the Captain, reading the image. ‘You better get going. We’ll be done in no time.’

Leaving Dira to help the crew with the dragon, Brevis and Umbilicus headed into the cave. The Captain’s commanding squeaks became fainter with distance.

‘Will there be any more foes to face?’ Umbilicus asked anxiously.

‘Not any living ones,’ said Brevis.

Umbilicus was horrified, thinking they would be attempting to stake a vampire, but his fears quickly disappeared when they reached a door.

‘I hate picking locks,’ grumbled Brevis. ‘They are my arch-nemesis.’

Relieved, Umbilicus laughed nervously. ‘Why do you hate locks?’ asked Umbilicus.

‘Blasted things are always keeping Princes and Princesses in,’ replied Brevis, mumbling and taking out a lock pick he always kept handy. He had plenty of practice as a child during the one year when his father thought confining him was a good method of discipline. Thankfully, the old king gave up imprisoning his younger son when he realized that Brevis was untameable.

With little to no wait, they were through.

Walked upon once a month, when a person came to deliver Princess Ilium’s necessities and goods, the stairs were dusty. Umbilicus noticed that a key was needed from the inside as well.

Ascending the long flight of spiralling stairs, they saw several doors. Out of curiosity, Umbilicus tried to open a few, but none worked. Once, when the palace had been whole, rather than being dead ends, the doors led to other corridors. The door at the top was the only remaining functioning door, save for the one at the bottom, and past it was where the Princess lived.

Reaching the end of the stairway, Brevis had another lock to pick. He did so as silently as possible, not wanting to alert the Princess. When he opened the door, it creaked, but they remained unnoticed. Princess Ilium was singing and talking to birds, dancing around the room. Umbilicus thought she was mad from isolation. She was not an elf. Her dress was also more frivolous than the most senseless ball gowns and suits in Tarsus. As long as she was happy, he reasoned.

The two men walked in and stood to the side, waiting for her to stop and realize their presence, but she continued as she was, seemingly in disbelief that anyone would enter her tower. Although tempted to provoke some sort of reaction, the men sat on the sofa, waiting for her acknowledgement.

Several minutes passed, and Umbilicus grew impatient. Although he spoke less, he was unused to such long silences, especially when Brevis was next to him. ‘Excuse me, Princess. You have an audience. I am Sir Umbilicus, and this is Brevis of Tarsus,’ said Umbilicus, frustrated.

‘Do you have to be so proper?’ asked Brevis.

Princess Ilium stopped whirling and twirling. She stared at them as if they were ghosts.

The picture of her on the coin must have been made before she was left in the tower, thought Umbilicus. She was much older, and much more haggish, than the way she was depicted. Her hair well was not kept well either, covering half of her face.

Finally comprehending the people before her, she inquired, ‘What are you doing in my palace?’ They were not her usual delivery people. The people who tended to her were consistently finely dressed and did not have racoon eyes.

Brevis and Umbilicus rose from their seats. ‘We are here to visit,’ replied Brevis, stating the obvious.

She scowled. ‘Commoners are not allowed!’

Brevis sighed. ‘If it means you do not scream, I will admit that I am a prince.’ He elbowed Umbilicus. The knight crept around Princess Ilium.

‘Really,’ she said, sceptical of his claim. She carefully stepped closer to the man. ‘Aren’t you a bit too old and rough to be a prince? Where is your crown?’

Brevis twitched at her comment. She looked older than he did; and despite not being the princeliest fellow, he liked to think he was still more attractive than she was. If status were determined by appearance, she would have been locked away and treated like a criminal. ‘Although I was not the one who slew Ossis, a dragon is rather difficult to manage with a hunk of metal on your head,’ he said, more defensively than he intended. ‘And I am not old. I am well worn.’

The Princess froze in panic. Her dragon was dead. ‘Who will keep out the commoners?’ she exclaimed. ’You are a commoner, aren’t you? A man like you could never be a prince. You have come to pillage my palace.′

Umbilicus was unable to stand the nonsense Princess Ilium was spewing any longer. Brevis was a far better prince than she was a princess. Sneaking up from behind, Umbilicus said, ‘I am sorry, Princess. But hair—it grows back.’ He took a small blade, and before the princess could react, he grabbed her hair and cut it, leaving her with hair shorter than Brevis’. He had taken a bit more than twelve feet.

‘You cut my hair?’ she yelled, snapping around to the culprit.

‘Yes, I did,’ replied the Umbilicus, smiling.

She grabbed at what remained of her hair. Breaking down in hysteria, tears ran down her face. ‘You’ve ruined me! You beast! You disgusting commoner! You should be thrown in the dungeons and hung at the gallows!’ She called for the guards as if the monarchy still ruled over Jonquil—as if she lived in a whole palace. She continued crying for their death, pointing at the intruders.

The door creaked open, and the three humans turned to see who had entered.

‘Good,’ cried Princess Ilium. ‘You’ve brought a guard dog with you. Take them away and have them burned to death!’

Captain Brandy stood with Dira and stared at her blankly, not expecting the Princess to be that mad. ‘No thank you. I haven’t had a pleasant experience with fire today. I would prefer if we didn’t do anything fire related for a long time. Water is so much nicer.’ Dira barked and the Captain added, ‘Also, she’s not a dog; she’s a wolf.’

‘They’re evil!’ she shrieked. ‘If you won’t take them, what will I do?’

‘Just because they’re wearing pirate-kohl does not mean they’re bad people,’ defended the Captain. ‘For you information, they both work for the King.’ Glancing past the Princess to Umbilicus, the Captain asked. ‘Are we done here?’

Umbilicus held up the hair. Captain Brandy gave him a proud look of approval.

‘Let’s get our jolly little humbums out of this tower,’ said the Captain.

Before they could leave, Princess Ilium screeched, realizing her supposed guard was drenched in what she assumed to be dragon’s blood. ‘You butchered my dragon?’

‘Yes, I did,’ admitted Captain Brandy.

‘Monsters!’ she exclaimed. ‘You slay my pet, take my identity, and now you are conspiring to abandon me?’

‘First of all,’ said the Captain. ’You’re up here, and she was down there. I doubt you ever interacted with your pet. I don’t believe that makes her your pet. Did you feed or walk her? No, you did not. Any decent pet owner would have wedged out the eye of the elf-human their dragon wanted to eat and fed it to her, but I still have both eyes.′

Dira barked in agreement. Whenever she was hungry, Brevis fed her.

Princess Ilium softened her approach. ‘To leave a helpless fair maiden in a tower is wrong and cruel,’ she said sweetly, batting her lashes. ’Oh, won’t you help a damsel in distress.

Umbilicus scooted over to Brevis and whispered, ‘She’s mad.’ Brevis nodded and helped Umbilicus coil the hair for travel.

‘Let’s go,’ Captain Brandy mouthed.

Unashamed, Umbilicus said, ‘Right behind you,’ and headed for the exit. Captain Brandy held the door open for Brevis, Umbilicus, and Dira.

As the Captain moved to leave, the Princess yelled, ‘Please, rescue me from this tower.’

Captain Brandy’s head titled, unsure whether or not if taking her would be a wise choice. The Princess had a full pantry and the supplies needed to survive; and when the month turned over, her deliveryman would come by to check on her, bringing along more goods; but she was obviously lonely. However, considering the rats who had been injured by the dragon, especially Cutter, the Captain dismissed the idea of helping the Princess and came up with an excuse. ‘No girls allowed on the ship!’ proclaimed the Captain.

Refusing to look back, Captain Brandy vamoosed from the room and hurried down the tower. Shutting both doors, the Captain hoped Princess Ilium would not follow.

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