It soon became clear that the dragons were in a killing frenzy, sot Paul and Demetri left as fast as they could.
it took a full four hours to reach Tammycus. There were barracks there, empty ones. No soldiers were in the city, probably because it was attacked by dragons every now and then. The people of Tammycus had shelters in which to hide when dragons flew over. No soldiers were watching for the sparkling hilt of the magic sword among the drab.
But Tammycus had two sections. The first out ring was where ordinary people lived, peasants, people just visiting. The inner, and considerably smaller, ring was the original part of the town. It had started as a single mansion, surrounded by beautiful gardens. More rich people built homes around it, then not-rich-people did, too. Voila, a town.
The inns in the inner circle were wonderful, and very expensive. Neither Paul nor Demetri had any money, so they went looking in the outer circle. Here, everything was free. Mostly. The sky was gray and it looked like rain. Paul spotted a tiny inn along the street. A small sign swung from a stick protruding from the front, so dirty, it couldn’t be read.
Demetri stepped inside, and promptly ran into a tall, weatherbeaten man on his way out. “Watch it,” the man growled.
“Who is the owner?” Paul cut in before Demetri could make a scathing remark.
“Ain’t one. Someone builds the place out of scrap lumber, and folks come and go as they please.” He laughed to himself. “Mind you, no one has been too pleased with it, though.”
“Heh,” Demetri managed to say. This guy was getting on his nerves a bit. Why is he staring at me like that? Demetri wondered. Is he looking at the sword..? He and Paul hastened up a short ladder to what looked like a hay loft with an ancient mattress in it. The mattress was so full of lice and dirt one could actually see the things crawling in it. Every once in a while, a mouse would stick its head out.
Demetri decided to sleep on the floor. It was cleaner. Paul agreed.
It rained that night, and Demetri discovered that the roof was more empty space than wood.
“We might as well sleep outside,” he told Paul, who was wringing water out of his shirt. Paul nodded, and reached into his travel bag. A corner of canvas emerged; he had a tent.
So they left the inn and found a tree just outside of Tammycus. Demetri hung the canvas over a branch and weighed the corners down with rocks. When they crawled inside, they discovered that the canvas was waterproof.
“Beats sleeping at the inn,” Paul snickered. “No lice, no water,no rotting floorboards.”
The next day, they went back to Tammycus and got directions to Dykus. Demetri insisted on getting horses once he learned how far it was. So Paul insisted they raid the Dragon Fountain in the center of the inner circle of town.
When they did get the horses, they both had quite a bit of silver crowns between them, so they got the fastest horses available, which also happened to be the glossiest, and the blackest in color.
It wasn’t very long before Paul sighted Dykus in the distance.
“We should get there by midday,” he shouted to Demetri over the thudding of hooves on earth and the rush of air currents. His prediction came true.
Once they were actually in town, the temple wasn’t hard to find. It was the largest building in town, and was the one that looked like the most work had been put into it.
Strangely, the streets were deserted. In most towns, midday was the busiest time, yet here, it seemed, people remained inside at noon. Demetri saw barracks behind his goal and shuddered. Ugh. Soldiers. He hoped they were indoors, too.
Nearing the temple, Demetri felt excited. Could this be the end of his not-so-long and not-so-terrible quest? The horses’ hooves clattered eerily loud in the empty streets.
When they reached the stone steps leading up to the great, carved oak doors beneath the archway, Demetri leapt off his horse and dashed up to the ornate double doors. Paul hesitated.
“It’s so quiet,” Paul muttered. “Too quiet. It could be a trap.”
“Oh, sure,” Demetri scoffed. “How could anyone in the world know we’re here?”
Paul slid off his horse and traipsed up the steps to join his friend by the entrance. “Maybe they have spies,” he pointed out.
“I doubt it” was the positive reply, and he pulled open the doors.
He stood face to face with Captain Reecus, who was standing at the head of an entire platoon of soldiers. Reecus had ordered all the townspeople to remain inside, and had been lying in wait for Demetri. He had heard their every word.
“Indeed we do,” he said with a nasty grin. “Spies everywhere.” The soldier on his left put on an equally nasty grin. Demetri suddenly recognized him as the man he had run into in Tammycus.
The temple was completely packed with soldiers. Paul spun around, only to find that more soldiers had filed around from behind the building and captured their horses. Demetri drew the sword.
“Fight, and we kill you,” Reecus snarled. “Hand it over peacefully, and we’ll let you live.”
Demetri pretended to think it over, then held out the sword to the captain, hilt first. Reecus reached for it with a greedy gleam in his eye. Demetri waited until the last second, then spun the sword around and ran the captain through. Reecus adopted a thoroughly surprise look, and fell without a sound.
Demetri yanked the sword from the captain’s corpse and readied himself to fight the onslaught of soldiers.
Although both Paul and Demetri fought madly, they were horribly outnumbered, ten billion to one. (Only kidding. Not really that much.)
Someone poleaxed Demetri in the back of the head with a poleaxe, and jerked the sword from his grasp.
That was the last thing he was aware of.