I remember Grandmother telling the story of Engelard, the monarch who generations ago had slain the dragon of Pumn Overhang. It had actually been one of my favorite bed time stories. A dragon attacked Athdyn, a common courageous man rallied the people, and with an army of militia, slayed the dragon. The people so grateful that the dragon was dead, crowned Engelard king. Pumn Overhang was a massive cave system to the west. Though we’d headed north from Blomuset, we would be heading west now. There were no towns between Prachull and Pumn Overhang.
Raziel left the room without any more words, but not before leaving my pack on the floor. I removed my blanket and tried to make a bed on the floor near the stove. The room was not cold, and I only made a small fire. I was used to sleeping on the floor, I would let Raziel have the bed. I didn’t bother to wait for him to come back. My dinner was an apple and some hard bread, just enough to make my stomach stop growling. I had no money so I did not bother with trying to get a meal in the tavern, and I did not want to see Galienne again. I didn’t want to be reminded of how she kissed Raziel. I lay down next to the stove, covered myself with my overcloak and tried to sleep.
I fought with my attacker the moment his hand clamped over my mouth, stifling my scream. When my vision adjusted I stopped struggling. Ezekiel! He looked good, not weak or pale, but once again that prime example of Nightsorrow handsomeness. He placed a finger to his lips and I nodded. Ezekiel removed his hand from my mouth and I hugged him.
“You’re alright,” I whispered. He smiled and I blushed, I was dirty, unkempt, my hair had fallen loose from its bun and probably hung around my face like a rat’s nest.
“Thanks to you,” he replied.
“What are you doing here?”
“Rescuing you,” he stated and I sighed. I wasn’t ready to tell him that I was going to meet the dragon as penance for cursing Raziel and hurting those he held dear.
“You can’t,” I replied. “I need to do this.” I hoped he would accept. I glanced to the bed, surprised that Raziel hadn’t woke at our whispering, but the bed was empty, unslept in. “Where is Raziel?” I asked before Ezekiel could protest.
“With Galienne,” he answered, and I felt myself grow angry. I looked at the handsome face of Ezekiel, his kind blue eyes. I was happy to see him, but even in his presence my thoughts turned to his brother.
“Let’s go, the faster I get to the dragon, the faster we can save your father, Ezekiel,” my voice was even and firm, and I was resolved to do this.
“There is no changing your mind?” Ezekiel asked.
I wasn’t prepared to discover what Raziel was doing with Galienne. Ezekiel led me through the tavern, now dark and seeming empty, expertly. He knew his way around, he’d been here before. He stopped at a door under the stairs that had led to the rooms. He removed something that appeared to be a thin knife, and inserted it into the keyhole. There was a click, and though the door was opened slowly, a black form burst out of the room, tackling Ezekiel squarely. The form and Ezekiel rolled, I could hear the grunts and sound of blows being blocked.
The yellow glow of a lantern exited the room, followed by Galienne with a sheet wrapped around her. Her hair was out of its braids and fell around her bare shoulders. I was pretty certain her only clothing was the sheet. The light illuminated Ezekiel and his attacker. It was Raziel, dressed only in pants. Ezekiel, seeing Raziel, tried to stop fighting, but Raziel continued to rain blows on his smaller brother.
“Roz!” Ezekiel shouted his brother’s name after kicking him off. Raziel seemed possessed, not himself, well he seemed his angry self, but it wasn’t like Raziel to attack Ezekiel just for catching him obviously in bed with Galienne. Ezekiel finally landed a hard blow on Raziel’s jaw and the larger man shook his head, as if clearing it.
“Zeke?” Raziel asked quietly, from his brother to his own hands, curled into fists. Ezekiel nodded and Raziel’s tensed body relaxed.
“Zeke!” Galienne greeted and like Raziel she threw her arms around him, and kissed him, but this was much chaster, like a sister greeting a brother she hadn’t seen in a long time. Raziel returned to Galienne’s room, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was the perfect specimen of what a fairy tale prince should look like, well minus the scar that ended just before his chest. A smattering of black hair covered his chest, with muscles that moved fluidly under the tanned skin. His appearance was marred by the black cracks. I brought a hand to my mouth, the salve did not seem to have done anything to stop the flow of the venom. It had moved up his arm, across his shoulder, and now his chest, moving towards his heart. What seemed odd was no one else noticed this. Why had Galienne or Ezekiel not asked what ailed Raziel? Was I the only one who saw the… corruption… The word came to mind and I realized that was what is was, not just spider venom. Corruption.