The anger radiating from Arabella spiked as Frill sat down. With a flick of her wrist, she sent the two potion bottles she’d recovered from Kilhgarrah tumbling across the tabletop. Frill stopped one with his right hand. The other slowly rolled in a circle, it’s oily contents sloshing gently inside.
“Don’t you ever put my team in danger like that again.” Arabella hissed. Her hand shook almost imperceptibly. She took a deep drag on her cigarette.
Frill recovered quickly. “I hate him.”
“I don’t care, " Arabella replied, blowing smoke at him. “He’s part of my team. Your stunt could have gotten him and my whole team killed. You ever do that again there will be consequences.”
“Do you even know what he is?” Frill asked, his voice tinged with disbelief.
“Of course I do,” Arabella returned, perhaps too quickly.
“Have you seen what color he is?” Frill’s anger was apparent. His words hung in the air accusingly.
Arabella leaned back. She took a second long pull on her cigarette, held in the smoke for a breath as if considering something, then let it drain slowly from her lungs.
“I don’t care” she repeated softly this time. She leaned forward over the table to catch Frill’s gaze over the tops of her darkly tinted lenses. “What you are doesn’t dictate you who you are.” She paused and sat back. “If anything, I am proof of that.”
Frill glared at her. The awkward silence stretched on.
Finally Arabella sighed and shifted the topic. "So, do you want to know what my team learned about this so-called “master” in the Descent?"
A couple of hours, a few bottles of wine and many cigarettes later, Arabella slipped out of the bar and with a quick spell into the guise of a toothless old crone. She made her way home through the sometimes dangerous streets of the Flats. Thanks to her disguise, she was largely ignored. That was good since she was lost in thought. As was her habit when in such moods, she started talking to me. I guess she felt that was better than talking to herself.
“It was a near thing in the Descent….Max was basically dead, and Sven and I were not far behind. If Narni hadn’t gotten a hold of that magical rod, we might have all died down there.” She took a deep breath. “You know what Nicholas?”
“What?” I replied, poking my head out of her sleeve.
She stopped dead in her tracks.
“What?” she echoed incredulously, staring at me.
“Chicken butt!” I snickered. “Gotcha good that time. Hissss…”
“You talk?” she said again, ignoring my admittedly juvenile joke. Her eyes widened behind her glasses.
I paused. She’d understood me? This was new.
“Uh…I guess so…”, I ventured. “You never understood me before…”
“All you ever did before was hiss and stick out your tongue occasionally”, she replied. “Now, you’re forming full sentences…”
If I’d had shoulders, I would have shrugged. “What can I say, maybe you’re just finally listening to me.”
We stared at each other for a bit, absorbing this new development in our relationship. Finally, I broke the silence. “You were saying…something about almost dying?”
She shook her head. Then resumed walking. And talking…
“Yeah…I guess, I realized I think of the horde, moronic as they can be, almost like they were part of my real family.”
“I suppose after all you’ve been through with them they kind of are, aren’t they? Kind of like Corris,” I paused, waiting. “Or me, right?” I paused again.
“Of course! Yeah…you, Corris, yeah. I just never thought of them like that before. It surprised me.”
“Hiss. So now what?”
“Well, you heard Frill. Now that I’ve told him everything we learned about the master, he’s agreed to get us a guide to Giles’ hide out. We really need to end that guy.”
“Hiss. No argument here. Rats give me the creeps. They don’t even taste that good. Mice taste better any day…”
“Yeah…and hopefully with some of the cash we recovered I can help the team be better prepared for whatever we are going to face. Giles has been amassing power for a while, so it certainly won’t be easy.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” I reminded her helpfully.
“Yeah…you’re right,” she said. “I need to have a talk with Kilhgarrah.”
“I gotta say, hiss, it is pretty cool that he is turning into a dragon, even if it is a green.”
“Assuming that’s what’s happening, yeah.”
“What do you mean? It sounded like you knew…”
Arabella grinned at me. I was glad the disguise didn’t include smell…with that many rotten teeth her breath would have been awful.
“I knew something was up with him…but I’ve been busy and haven’t tracked down the details yet. I couldn’t let Frill know that though could I?”
“I suppose not,” I said. “So how do we find out what’s really going on?”
“Ask him I guess. If he doesn’t know or doesn’t want to share then we figure it out on our own…probably have to do some research…”
“Who do we know at the library?” I asked.
“Nobody yet…guess I’d better get on that…”