Chapter 6
Meeting Places
Farren leaned back with a sigh, pushing the plate with its load of quiche crumbs away from him. “Thank you,” he favoured Dragon Mom with his most winning smile. “That was wonderful.”

“You are very welcome, Dear.”  Dragon Mom smiled as she helped the plate on its way into the soapy water. “If you just wait a moment, I’ll finish putting together the things for you and Morena.  I’ve packed a few special things. You make sure that Morena gets her share; that girl just does not eat right. 

“I know,” Farren’s lips twisted in a lopsided grin. “But you know as well as I do that my lady is mightily stubborn.”

Dragon Mom shook her head and returned her attention to the variety of bundles arrayed on the counter in front of her.  Contented, his stomach happily full, Farren turned to watch Percy behind him batting a piece of Sushi across the dark floor. 

“Whatever you’ve got cooking smells mighty good.” The slow drawl wound its way across the kitchen, “Do you have room at your table for a traveller like myself?” 

With a hiss of scales, Dragon Mom turned to face the newcomer.  She looked him over carefully, taking in the worn cowboy boots, faded jeans, button-down and suitjacket. At length, her golden eyes meeting his without hesitation, she raised an eyebrow; “You’re new around here.”

Cramming a hand into his pocket, the man looked up at her, an uncertain grin tracing light lines around his mouth, “that I am.  That make me unwelcome?”

“No one,” Dragon Mom shook her head, “is unwelcome in my kitchen.  As long as you behave yourself, you will always find an open door and a good meal here. Now have a seat.”

“But,” Farren winked at the newcomer, “remember to behave yourself.  She won’t forget it if you don’t.”

“Dragons,” Dragon Mom opened a small door in the icebox, “never forget.”  Removing a Dove bar, she placed it in front of Farren. “Now,” she returned her scrutiny to the red-haired man slouching in the chair at the end of the long wooden table, “what would you like to eat?”

“Whatever you have.”  He shrugged dark shoulders, “you know best.”

Dragon Mom turned her attention to the stovetop, watching the guest from the corner of her eye, “do you have a name?”

The man at the end of the table raised a speculative eyebrow, “may be that I’m one of those cautious folks who doesn’t give out his name lightly.”

Snorting in derision, Dragon Mom lit a burner and balanced a small pan on the grille. 

“I’d be willing to bet that I already know your name.” Farren gazed quietly across the table.

“Oh?”  An auburn eyebrow arched.

“I believe you are the mysterious fellow to whom I am indebted.” Farren leaned forward, his black sleeve puddling on the table, “You match the description Morena gave me of a chap named Canis – Erick Canis – who helped her out of a spot of trouble with some Dead Warlocks and guided her to Fu Mar’s place.”

“Well,” the newcomer ran a hand through his hair, “I reckon you have my name – that name at least – and I did help your beautiful lady to Fu Mar’s.  Really, I’m surprised that you let a girl like that wander out in the streets by herself,” Farren’s eyes narrowed dangerously, but the stranger ploughed on, “I’m afraid, though, that I can’t take credit for the Dead Warlocks.  Your lady already had them well in hand by the time I got there.”

“I did not leave her to ‘wander out in the streets by herself’ as you so eloquently put it,” Farren’s voice dripped sarcasm, “I was out looking for her when you happened upon her. She was to arrive at Fu Mar’s but something played havoc with the spell I had set, and she was misdirected.  If you have any further comments, I’ll be glad to step outside to settle them.”

“Now, now.” Dragon Mom shook her head, setting a heavily loaded plate in front of Canis. “I do not think there’s a call for that.” 

Drawing a deep breath, Canis smiled, “Lamb cutlet. You certainly know my tastes, Ma’am.” 

Dragon Mom sniffed, resting hands on her hips. “Well, Mr. Canis. Your tastes are fairly well known. I’m not sure if I should feel privileged to have you in my kitchen or if I should hide the silverware.”

“Ma’am?” Canis looked up from his plate, an injured look puckering his forehead.

Chuckling, Dragon Mom shook her head, “Just enjoy your dinner. And know that if I find anything missing tomorrow morning, it’ll be you and not Farren that I’ll be blaming.” 

Canis opened his golden eyes wide, tossing Dragon Mom a look of innocence and injury before returning to his plate. “I could never steal from such a beautiful and generous creature.  My conscience would never let me rest.”

“Amateur.” Farren breathed under his breath, licking the last residue of the Dove bar from his fingers.

“In fact,” Canis started as though he had just had an epiphany. “Allow me to express my gratitude.”  Rising from his chair, he reached into his pocket and produced an amethyst almost two inches in diameter.  “A beautiful gem for a beautiful woman.”

Dragon Mom stared for a moment as though uncertain whether or not to accept the stone.  Slowly, she extended a hand and lifted the gem to the light.  “It’s beautiful.”

“Yes,” Farren eyed the stone suspiciously, “it is.  If it is what it seems.”

“Beg pardon?” Canis looked at him, eyebrows askew. 

“Well,” Farren pulled himself to his feet, “Morena told me that she’d lost a little something while she was with you.  A little something that she described as purple.” 

“Farren?” Dragon Mom looked at the silver-haired elf in confusion.

“May I?”  Farren extended a hand and, after a moment of reluctance, Dragon Mom dropped the gem in his palm. 

Canis scraped his plate and leaned back in his chair.  “And just what kind of two-bit trick are you going to pull?  I, of course, stand in awe of your fairy power, but I am a curious fellow.”

“Well,” Farren moved toward the stove, “Morena told me about a little purple creature named Berfert that she claimed could change his shape.  And, although you seem to have a low opinion of the way I treat my lady, I trust her.  Unfortunately, I don’t trust you, and since she seems to have lost this little purple creature in your immediate vicinity, I am sure that you will not mind if I clean this rock of yours with a little boiling water.”

Canis shrugged, “Whatever thrills you.”

Lifting the purple gem to eye level, Farren squinted at it distrustfully, “You want to come out and tell us your name, little guy?”

The amethyst made no response.

“If you’re not going to talk to me, I’m gonna have to give you that bath I just mentioned.”

The amethyst made no response.

Dragon Mom pursed her lips in disapproval; “You boys are taking this too far.  Farren, you give me back the amethyst, and take the rest of these provisions.  As for you, Mr. Canis, I suggest you either find a room for the night or be moving on.”

Ignoring Dragon Mom, Farren lifted the gem over the steam of the pot still boiling on the stove.

“You are going to burn yourself.” Dragon Mom shook her head.

Shrugging, Farren lowered his hand another inch, “heat doesn’t really bother me.  I had an aerosol can blow up in my hand once, and didn’t get burned.  This is nothing. And,” he felt the gem move in his hand, “I think I may be getting somewhere.”   He lowered his hand closer to the water, and was greeted by a shrill whistle.  Percy’s head appeared over the seat of the chair Farren had just vacated with a short bark.  “Interesting, eh?” Farren grinned at the seal.  “But you can’t eat him.”

Lifting his hand, he opened it palm up, displaying its contents.  “Well, well, well.” He bent his head closer to his hand, “And I assume you would be Berfert.”  The fuzzy purple object in his palm let out an indignant whuffle and proceeded to turn so that its small pink nose was facing away from Farren.

“Oh my,” Dragon Mom looked at the little creature, “a Glitch.  Wonders will never cease.  And what explanation do you have, Mr Canis?”  The kitchen remained silent, “Mr. Canis?”  Turning, she discovered herself addressing an empty chair.

Farren smiled wryly, “I think he let himself out.  So,” he swivelled his palm, “you’re Morena’s glitch.”

“I’m a glitch.”  The small purple creature declared proudly.  And I used to live here.  I lived in that can opener over there.”

Rolling her eyes, Dragon Mom nodded.  “That would explain why the silly thing never would open cans properly. But,” she levelled her best schoolmarm look on Berfert, “you’re not going to take up residence there again.  I just got that thing working.”

Berfert wriggled in Farren’s hand, tucking in his legs and nose and curling himself into a fuzzy purple ball.  “Well,” Farren contemplated the ball, “I guess I’ll take you with me.  Morena will be happy to see you again, and maybe you’ll end up being useful.” He shook his head, “I’ll never know why I do these things.”

“Because, dear,” Dragon Mom transferred the last of the packages from the counter to the satchel in her hand, “you’re in love.  And, if you’re wise, you wouldn’t trade that for the world.”

Grinning, Farren slipped Berfert into a pocket, “You’ll never know how right you are, Dragon Mom.”  He gathered up the satchel.  “Thank you so much.  We’ll let you know how everything goes. Don’t feed Percy too much sushi.”

“Percy?”  Dragon Mom’s golden eyes narrowed dangerously.

“We can’t take him with us,” Farren edged cautiously toward the door, “it wouldn’t be safe.  So we thought you’d watch him.  You are the Mom of the house.”

As though on cue, Percy wriggled out from beneath the table and rubbed his small, grey head against Dragon Mom’s leg.

“Well,” she sighed.

“Thanks again.” Farren grinned, “Anyone ever tell you you’re a natural mother?” And, swinging the satchel over his shoulder, he slipped out through the door into the garden.

In the silence of the kitchen, Percy and Dragon Mom regarded each other. “Ah well,” Dragon Mom leaned down to ruffle the seal pup’s fur, “you are cute. And,” she looked up at the door, “you can’t be any more mischievous than your owner.” 


Cabbages & Kings