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The Trouble with Willoe (Dragon Tails)

This Dragon Tail is related to the first chapter, Cousins, in Fire of the Covenant. It was going to be included in the Cousins’ chapter or broken and placed separately before and after the Cousins’ chapter. I left it out of the book (though not sure why), but thought you might want to read it now. I think it helps to better understand Willoe and her relationships with Rowyn and Casandra, along with her Uncle Brom and also her Grandfather, the King.

The sound of boots echoed on the stone floor, and Willoe look up as her twin, Rowyn, approached. A solution to her problem struck Willoe. She put on the sweetest smile she could muster.

“Row, I was just looking for you.”

“Hello Wil, I was in the library” He smiled, as much as his dour personality allowed. In face and frame, they were almost identical, same flaming curly red hair and bright green eyes, and just of average height for twelve-year olds. Gender and personality was a different story.

“I should have guessed.” She frowned and lowered her head, just enough, but still making sure he could see her eyes. “Uncle Brom is expecting me for a historical lesson, but Casandra needs my help.”

“Just tell him, he will understand.” Rowyn tilted his head.

“Casandra wants it kept a secret.” She leaned closer and whispered, looking from side-to-side.

Rowyn paused for a moment, then said, “Don’t tell him what you have to do.” His lips twisted as he pulled back a little and titled his head to the other side.

“You know our Uncle; he won’t give up until he gets it out of me.” She lifted her head a little, with the hint of a smile. “But if you took my place, he would never know. “ She pouted. “It would really mean a lot to Casandra.”

“I can’t do it.” Rowyn’s eyes went wide.

The click of boots sounded from down the hallway, around a corner. She would have to hurry.

“Of course you can.” She swiftly removed her cloak and put it over his shoulders, pulling it closed. “His apartments are always cold; you can leave the hood up. We sound enough alike that he won’t know.“ At twelve, his voice had not changed yet. Then she looked to make sure no one saw before stepping away.

“I—“

“Casandra and I are indebted to you.” She said over her shoulder as she hurried up the hallway. It had taken her all morning to convince her eleven-year-old cousin, Casandra, to sneak out of the castle. With Protector Dougal believing Willoe was in lessons; they would have a couple of turns of the sandglass before she was missed. More than enough time to explore some of the city without Protector Dougal in tow.

***

Returning to the castle, Willoe was exhausted and just wanted to go to Casandra’s and her apartment. It had been quite an adventure for Casandra and her, until they came across the Trader and his guards. If Protector Dougal had not come along and scared off the trader guards, she would instead be visiting the Healer or worse, dead from the stable tine wielded by Little Guard.

A Page approached and bowed to Willoe. Rising he looked at Willoe, and the disgust upon his face was evident, but he quickly reverted to the neutral expression common among the Pages. She realized she must look like she had just come from a farm. Straw still stuck out from her hair and many other places.

“The King requires you attend him in His Solar.”

“Do you know why?” She hoped for a bath, while her handmaiden, Dilys, brought up a platter from the kitchens.

“I cannot say.” The Page frowned as if she shouldn’t be asking him. “I was in another room. The King screamed that He wanted you without delay. He repeated it twice.” He didn’t wait to be questioned further and bowed, then left.

The way the Page emphasized ‘scream’ told Willoe that the King must have heard that she had helped a cut-purse escape from the Trader. He would be furious and in that mood, Grandfather would not want to hear her side of it.

***

She stood in front of the door and tried to straighten out her dress, a hopeless attempt, as a Page stepped through the doorway to announce her to the King.

“Grandfather.” She bowed, as she entered the King’s Solar. A whiff of smoke, from the hearth, contrasted with the spicy scent of the room’s cherry wood paneling.

He sat at his desk reading, but glared up at her, then back at the scroll. “A trader complained to the Captain of the Guardsmen that you prevented the trader from seizing a cut-purse that had stolen his goods.”

“I didn’t—“ She blurted then brought both hands up to her mouth… too late.

The King’s fingers clenched around the scroll, and Willoe could hear what almost sounded like a low growl from her grandfather. He looked up, his face crimson and his jaw clenched.

“Don’t lie to me!”

It seemed like she wasn’t going to be able to hide the fact and resigned herself to a confession, when the Page stepped in again.

“Prince Brom your Majesty.”

Before her grandfather could answer, the door opened wider and Uncle Brom entered. He stepped up next to Willoe, her chin only coming up to this chest, and he looked down at her. “Didn’t I tell you to return right after you retrieved the book from your apartment.” His voice was a little harsh; which was strange for her mild-mannered uncle. In response to Willoe’s shocked expression, Uncle Brom turned slightly so grandfather couldn’t see, smiled and whispered, “Keep quiet.”

“The girl was down in the city causing problems… again.” The King shifted his eyes from Uncle Brom to her.

Unlce Brom turned so he faced his father. “Ahh, yes. Rowyn came and told me about that.” He shook his head as if in disbelief. “A peasant girl, in league with the cut-purse, was dressed in a cape like Willoe and Casandra’s. A common ploy. They wear a noble’s cloak to get closer to their victims. A trick you would think beyond a peasant’s ability.”

“But the trader?” Her grandfather’s bushy eyebrows knitted.

“Trying to recover his loses from the realm… I suppose” Uncle Brom shook his head again. “Merchants will do anything for a golden dragon or two.”

“I—“ The King started, but seemed to change his mind. “Mattick,” He called out for one of his Pages. “We will see if this trader still wants to lie to his King after a time with the Gaoler.”

“I apologize Sire.” Willoe thought Uncle Brom really did look apologetic. “On my way here, I came across the Captain of the Guardsmen, and I told the captain to send the trader away. “

“You did what?” The King stood and pressed both fists on the desktop as he leaned forward.

“I told him about the peasant girl and that the trader had no claim.” Uncle Brom shrugged, the serious expression partially hidden by his straggly beard. With his hair in disarray, normal for her uncle, he looked like he had just risen from a night’s sleep. “I saw no point in letting the trader stay and waste any more of Your Majesty’s time.”

“Sire.” Mattick came into from another room in the apartment.

Willoe’s grandfather just shook his head with eyes closed. Still leaning on the desk he turned his head to look at the Page. “Go back to your work.” Then he faced Uncle Brom and Willoe once again.

The Page frowned behind the King’s back then left the room to return to his tasks.

“And you two.” He glared at Uncle Brom. “Leave me.” He dropped back into his chair rubbing his temple with eyes closed.

“Sire.” Uncle Brom bowed, as did Willoe, even though the King was not watching, then they both left.

Willoe couldn’t believe her luck. Uncle Brom’s arrival couldn’t have been better planned.

“I am sorry Uncle, that I was delayed getting back to my lessons.” She didn’t know which book she was supposed to retrieve, but thought she could come up with a good excuse.

“You should remember something in the future.” Uncle Brom put a hand on her shoulder as they walked down the steps in the tower.

She looked up with a smile.

He looked down, and his smile faded. “Rowyn loves his studies and is by far a much better scholar than you, especially as you see no point in delving into the past. And as you know, he gets extremely involved when we talk about a subject he enjoys.”

She had to agree he was much better at anything related to books. It was one of the few times he seemed to come alive. Suddenly, she remembered Rowyn had come with her newly met cousin, Casandra’s older brother Aeron, and Protector Dougal to rescue her in the city. Her lesson with Uncle Brom would have ended long before now. She gritted her teeth. She was going to kill Rowyn when she saw him.

He gripped her shoulder tighter. “Especially in history, his favorite subject.”

To see more of Willoe, Rowyn, and their family, pick up the first book in the Dragon-Called series, Fire of the Covenant:

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