At the Hot Gates


The Dragon, the Blade
and the Thread ~ Prologue

The old man sat in the shadow of the city's towering walls gazing out into the fields beyond the bustle of the city. The path that ran along the wall had no traffic, and the only noise was the morning chatter of birds in the apple orchard across the path. He did not mind that the stone beneath him was bumpy. He knew he did not have long to wait. To while away the time, he idly flipped a silver coin from finger to finger along the back of his hand. It was an impressive trick and he smiled at how nimble he had become.

His head jerked up when he heard the sound he had been waiting for. He jumped to his feet and pressed himself into the deeper shadows of the wall's outcropping. He watched in silence as the great beast slowly lumbered into view. He could now clearly see that the dragon was losing the vigor that it once had, and looked tired even early in the day. He followed the movement in the dragon's eye as it scanned the spot where he stood, but showed no sign of having seen him. You are so sly, he chuckled to himself.

The old man looked up at the boy sitting on the dragon's neck. He was really too old to still be called a boy, although he had not yet grown to manhood. He was whistling to himself, lost in some reverie. He never noticed the old man hiding in the shadows. Never once had he even glanced in his direction. It's soon time to wake up from your daydreaming, the old man reflected. His hand reached for the handle of the dagger at his belt and his fingers followed the contours of the intricate design. He looked down at his other hand which still held the coin. With a quick flick of his wrist and a blur of fingers, the coin disappeared from sight, and the old man smiled.

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