“First,” he said, “Aslaug the Vainglorious has left his lair for the first time for four hundred years. Don’t know why. Don’t know what’s prodded him into action. But he’s up and about, and looking for trouble, I dare say.”
“Vainglorious,” said Twit. “A dragon. A fire-drake of the ancient days of yore. Big yellow eyes. Fiery breath. Green and black scales. Great wings, more massive that the sails of the barge that ferries the dead. All that and a ton of bricks.”
Caewen jerked her head back and looked up. “Is he around here?”
“No, no, no. He lives on the other side of the Deepwode. No trouble for us folk at all. Why, he’d be leagues and leagues away.”
“Don’t dragons fly?” said Dapplegrim, his voice a little arch.
“Ahem. But it is very far, and why would he come here? A place swarming with wizards. Seems dangerous, even if you are a dragon. So. If you will? Moving on. Two: the Niberlungr are in a rage because they think a magician has stolen something from them. Don’t know what, but they are going all about the fair stalls looking at lockboxes and chests and suchlike. So, the best guess is that whoever stole the thing, whatever it is, they couldn’t get it out of the chest it was in, so they took the whole chest.” A shrug. “What is inside? Who knows. But if some small hairy folks with long arms and big knotty hands want to look at your lockboxes, it’s best to let them do so. They have their ways of getting back at people who offend them. Third, and most marvellous, the oldest proclaimant of the Third Dynasty is missing and has not arrived for the Moot.” He paused, as if this momentous news should evoke some sort of reaction. Caewen just blinked, unsure what so say. She smiled, trying to look more apologetic than stupid. He continued with a sigh, “The three dynasties? They that have three representatives each on the Broadtable?” He paused. Sounding more exasperated, he said. “Oh dear. You don’t know anything, do you? I ought have taken the full piece of silver.” A deep breath in. “The governing council of the moot is called the Broadtable. They judge disputes, vote on punishments for the guilty and oversee the law of peace that holds here during the moot. There are nine proclaimants total; three proclaimants form the Dynasty of the Sun, three who serve the Night-Queen, and the final three are drawn from all the lesser, sundry parliaments: shadows, stones, waves, winds, wildwoods, that sort of thing. The Grand Old Lady of Embers, who was the representative of the Parliament of Flames has failed to arrive. Now, she could be late, or she could be dead. She’s been on the council a long time, and maybe one of the other lesser parliaments has decided they’d like their turn at having a seat? Such things have happened.”
After a pause, Caewen said, “Is that everything?”
“Is that everything? Is that everything? Look at the size of my sheets of parchment. I’ve told you more than I have written down.”
“Ah, but as I always say, don’t thank me, pay me. As you already have, I suppose that makes us even.” He was about to start ringing his bell again when there a tremendous tearing sound arose somewhere down the line of travellers. They all turned to look, startled. Twit visibly jumped. The wagon-cage with the drapery of cloth had trundled some distance down the road, but was still visible over the heads of the crowd. As they watched, it shuddered, then tilted and toppled to the left. Dull black bars of a cage were momentarily visible before they snapped and tore as the blanket fell away. A coiled, scaly shape unbent itself out of the cage and there arose a long, low shriek, like the noise of a bittern, only much louder and angrier.
“Oh dear,” said Twit. “Foolish git. I did wonder if that fellow had the beast locked up right. Looks to be, he did very certainly not have it locked up right.” He squinted. “Moor wurum, I reckon. Ah well.” Turning away from the sudden uproar of screams and panicked yells, he started ringing his cowbell. “Hear all about it! Wizards and magicians slaughtered by rampant moor wurum! As fresh as news can get.” He was walking up the line of travellers, away from the commotion. “Happening at this very moment. Here all about it! Murderous rampage by moor wurum! One silver for the full tale.”
“Come on!” said Caewen. She prodded at Dapple. “Well?”
“You want to get closer to that thing?”
“Yes.” She drew her sword. “Well, no,” she corrected herself, “but someone has to do something.” Her fingers turned slightly damp at the tips. Settling herself higher in the saddle, putting weight onto the stirrups, she tried to feel brave and mostly failed. Well, she thought, I might as well try to look and sound brave. “Yes. Charge. Now.”
“Alright.” They clattered off at a gallop. He shook a snort out of his nose. “It really is going to be a nuisance having to find someone else to buy me hay though. Hur.”