“Hello, I’m Constable Thaine Marr

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“What do you want?” Wenestra’s daughter, the dark-haired, dark-eyed
young beauty of the clan, was in the room.

“I’m told you need a place to hide. We have one.”

“Can we please just go somewhere else? I’m exhausted.”

The girl rolled her eyes. “Fine, stay. The chateau has a garden. Can you
drive?”

“I can drive,” the constable replied with his usual calm. “What do you
have in the garden?”

“Broomsticks. We have a fine selection.”

“What’s your full name?”

“Darlene.”

“I’m Constable Thaine Marr.” He extended his hand to her in the
traditional family greeting. “Darlene, this is Detective Sergeant Thaine
Marr.”

“Hi, I’ve heard a lot about you.” Darlene accepted his hand and shook
it, her long black eyelashes tickling his cheek. Her slender pale hand had
wet gold rings on each pinky finger and tiny diamond studs on her ring
hand. The diamond on her right ring finger sparkled against the deep blue
coat of her corset.

“So did I.”

“You two should get together and have coffee or a nice meal.”
Thaine’s eyes narrowed as he looked at her, her green-gold eyes flashing up
at him from beneath her hooded lashes.

“We should.” Darlene glanced over her shoulder at the two servants
awaiting their arrival. The old one was an old goat with a fat belly and a
fat mane of white hair that made him look like a lion in the style of Baron
Corsetti. The young one was the most beautiful man he had ever seen since
his family had fled the land of the Free Cities with the rest of the
Marquesans. “Who’s waiting for us at the palace?”

“The duchess, the princess, the queen, the queen mother, and the
grandfather of the queen. I think that’s it.”

“No. That’s not it. The earl and my father are here as well. They’re
waiting with the other elders.”

“Oh.” The constable seemed to be caught off guard. “Well, I guess
that’s it now. We’re ready to go.”

“We can go now, but I’m telling you I’m exhausted, not because I’m
fat, but because I have a headache.” Darlene gave him a withering look.
“There’s a lot to answer to for this.”

“I think we’ll go now. I think your headache is nothing more than a
head cold, and we can be on our way.”

The constable shook his hand, then his hand clenched around his pole axe.
Darlene saw that he was trembling. Her green eyes followed his movements
with alarm.

“Constable…Constable.” The young girl stopped walking and turned to see
her father’s hand clench upon his pole axe. Thaine’s face grew even redder
then the red of his face became crimson. He took a step forward towards the
old man with the lion’s head on his shoulders. With his pole axe cocked for
a killing blow, he said a soft, incantatory chant.

A great blue dragon, two and a half feet long and two feet wide,
seemed to materialize from the old man’s throat, to his chest, his head,
his shoulders, and his entire body. Its long tail whipped through the air,
its tail seemed to go straight up, as the dragon took a deep breath, filling
the air with thick foul smoke. The two men-at-arms holding their pole axes
behind them, let out a cry of alarm and grabbed their poles but it was no
use.

“We lost him.” Wenestra’s daughter gasped.

“We can’t lose him. He’s a dragon.”

“He’s a dragon.” The princess repeated in amazement, her green eyes
rolling with the excitement of seeing a creature she didn’t know, a
creature she didn’t know about, a creature she didn’t recognize.

“His name is Mael.” Wenestra smiled as she stood there in the
chateau’s great hallway, her eyes on her father, her brother, the old man
with the lion’s head. She had never seen such a creature nor heard such a
thing before. She tried to talk to him, but he had a dragon’s voice and
nothing else. His green eyes sparkled as he spoke.

“And what do you call it?” She looked up at him with amazement, her
blue eyes flashing up at him from beneath her hooded lashes.

“It is called Mael.” He smiled at her, his green eyes
sparkling. “Do you know when the dragon came?”

“No. No, I don’t know.” She moved away from him to sit on the great
armchair by her father. “It’s not until later that I know.”

“Mael is a powerful dragon. He will come soon, to claim us.” Her eyes
danced with excitement, her long black eyelashes fluttering with delight.

“He will kill us all.” Her father said, his mouth twisting in a
wistful smile.

“You’ll escape him. He’ll never come near you.”

“We will.” Father smiled, his green eyes twinkling.

Thaine and Darlene stared at the old man, at her father, at each other,
at each other with intense, unbreakable, unshakable, unyielding,
unbreakable, unshakable emotions.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“We will escape him,” she smiled, her green eyes
sparkling. “We will leave here and escape to the city of the Free Cities.”

“You can’t do that.” The constable stood his ground, his grey skin
going whiter then the snow on the mountain above.

“Why not?” It was the young girl’s turn to stare at him.

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