“The dragons are back, milord.”
Zollstock raised his head and stood up. He was doing paper work in one of the storage rooms. For the past month, he had to avoid Mina for the sake of the castle’s integrity. He smiled and clapped the sentry on the shoulder. “Take me to them,” he said.
Tafel and Vur sat on Prika’s head. Vur wore black leather pants with Lust sheathed on his belt. Tafel had brown leather pants and boots along with a white woolen sweater that Lindyss knit for her. A third pair of horns sprout from her temples. They grew towards the back of her head, but curved downwards once they passed her ears.
They held each other’s hands as Zollstock and Mina came towards the gate from opposite directions.
“Tafel,” Mina said, “I’m so glad you’re okay.” She was wearing a white dress with purple embroidery decorating the edges.
“Come here and give your mother a hug,” Mina said and opened her arms.
Tafel shook her head and hugged Vur’s arm. “I don’t want to go home,” Tafel said. Mina’s face cramped. Zollstock started to sweat. Is the curse still not gone? he thought.
“Don’t say that, dear,” Zollstock said with a smile. “Your mother missed you very much. Come and give us a hug. Then you can tell us about everything that happened.”
“You won’t listen to me,” Tafel said and she hugged Vur tighter, “you never do. It’s always Tafel do this, or Tafel do that. I never get to do what I want to do.” Tears leaked from her eyes and she started to cry.
Mina glared at Zollstock and her horns pulsed with a faint red color. Zollstock gulped and his face paled.
“Tafel. Come here. Right now,” Zollstock said and pointed towards the ground in front of him.
Tafel shook her head and buried her face into Vur’s shoulder. Her body shook as she sobbed. Vur looked towards Sera.
“She doesn’t have to go, right Mom?” Vur asked. He ran his fingers through Tafel’s hair and combed it.
Smoke rose out of Sera’s nostrils as she sighed. “She has to,” Sera said. “We can’t keep the princess of a nation.”
Grimmy grinned. “You know, she won’t be the princess of a nation if the nation’s gone right?” he said with his teeth showing.
Mina and Zollstock paled and their stomachs sank.
“Grimmy!” Leila said and tugged his wing. “Don’t even joke about things like that in front of them.”
Grimmy laughed and looked at the two rulers. “I’m only playing around,” he said while swishing his tail. “You have such a nice looking city; it’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.” He yawned and showed off his teeth before smiling.
“Is that really necessary?” Vernon asked Grimmy.
“Of course. I’m just reminding them of their place in the food chain lest they get any stupid ideas,” Grimmy said and turned to the demons. “Uniting with the humans and building a garrison on the borders of our forest? If it weren’t for the patriarch’s orders…”
He smiled. “Just give me a reason to go to war.”
Zollstock and Mina fell to their knees and lowered their heads. “We would never think to do something that audacious. The garrison is only there to protect our lands from the undead,” Zollstock said. “Thank you for taking care of our daughter for the past month.”
Grimmy stared at the two for a moment then snorted and turned away.
Prika lowered her head until Vur and Tafel were level with the city wall. Vur and Tafel didn’t move.
“Go on,” Prika said and tilted her head towards the wall. Vur hugged Tafel and turned towards Sera.
She nodded once.
Vur lifted Tafel and walked onto the city wall. “Let’s go to the library, okay?” he asked. Tafel clutched his shoulders tighter. He jumped off the wall and headed towards the library.
Mina took in a deep breath and raised her head. “As a reward for taking care of our daughter, feel free to take as many books from the royal library as you want,” Mina said. Zollstock turned and looked at her.
“But once you’re done, please don’t come back,” she said. “The citizens are scared every time they see a dragon outside the city and our productivity drops. Further visits after this one will be treated as an act of aggression.” Her face was pale, but she stared into Sera’s eyes without flinching. Zollstock held his breath as Sera stared back at Mina. A few moments passed in silence.
“From one mother to another,” Mina said and lowered her head, “please.” She closed her eyes and waited.
Sera stared at her for a moment before nodding.
“I understand,” Sera said, “and Vur will not be allowed in the city?”
“Currently, only nobility or B rank and higher human adventurers are allowed in the border towns of our lands,” Mina said, “and these are just tentative steps towards peace. It is highly unlikely for any human to step foot in our capital in the foreseeable future.”
Prika sighed. “Poor Vur,” she said, “and Tafel.”
Sera turned her head towards Prika. “We’re not going to war for the sake of a rebellious child,” she said.
Prika nodded and sighed again. “I know,” she said. “It’s still sad though.”
The sun was setting and the sky was bathed in red.
The five dragons stood in the field outside the capital city with Vur standing on Sera’s head. Each dragon had a large leather bagged filled with books.
Tafel stood next to Mina and Zollstock on the city wall.
“Vur…” Leila said, “we’re not going to come back for a long time.”
“What? Why not?” Vur asked as he turned towards Leila.
“We’re not welcome here anymore,” she said. “Dragons shouldn’t mix with demons.”
“But what about Tafel?” Vur asked. “She’s my friend.”
Leila shook her head.
“I’m sorry,” Sera said as she spread her wings.
Vur jumped off of Sera’s head, but Prika caught him in her claws.
“Let me go,” he said and squirmed. His eyes started to glow, but they stopped and his eyes closed as he fell asleep.
“Sorry, Vur,” Grimmy said with glowing eyes, “can’t let you wreck the town, even if I want to also.”
Sera looked at Mina and nodded. Mina turned and said something to Tafel. Tafel stared up at Mina and then looked at Vur who was in Prika’s claws. She opened her mouth and shouted, but the dragons were too far away to hear what she said. She fell to her knees and cried as Zollstock rubbed her back.
The figures of the dragons became smaller and smaller until only five black specks could be seen in the sky.