The cold wind blew sharp around us. I heard the dragon move and kept my eyes closed, waiting --
Waiting. . . .
The sounds the dragon made were not as loud now. The wind died and the cold lessened. I shivered and slowly lifted my head to see the dragon disappearing into the snow.
He hadn't killed me.
I looked at where Davis and Maggie stood, staring at the dragon and apparently as surprised to still be alive.
"What happened?" I asked softly, half afraid to draw attention.
"Time to go." Davis tapped Maggie's arm. "Time to go quickly."
"Yes," she agreed. Her voice sounded soft and hallow, as though she were not really thinking about the words.
Davis caught me by the arm, pulling me to my feet. I hadn't thought about Edmond until then. He shifted under my shirt and stuck his head out the collar.
"Is he gone? Can we go somewhere warm now?"
"If the dragon had killed me, Edmond might have been hurt," I said aloud. My voice sounded too high and I was shaking, though more with reaction than cold now. "I'm sorry Edmond. I didn't even think about you. I --"
"Why would the dragon kill you?" Edmond said, startled.
"You didn't -- didn't you hear what he said?" I asked. We were starting to walk away, though I kept looking over my shoulder and nearly tripping. "He showed us when I came into Elsewhere. He said the wrong must be righted."
"Yes?" Edmond said, and still sounded confused.
"I thought --"
"What makes you think you are the one in the wrong?" Edmond asked. He twisted his head, looking around at the other two. "You don't get it."
"No, we don't," Maggie said, looking at him now. She seemed a little more aware. I hoped we were soon going to be out of North Street. "What did you see that we didn't?"
"We saw the same scene. Who was the one doing something wrong there?"
"I had killed his son--" I began. "That must mean I did wrong --"
"No. You killed the creature that had taken over his son," Maggie said. Her voice sounded stronger, more assured. "You saved them, even if they don't know it. But Sheriff Creston -- he tried to kill you for his own reasons. He was the one in the wrong."
"But he isn't the one in Elsewhere," I protested. "The dragon --"
"The dragon didn't kill you. He was perfectly capable to killing us all," Edmond said. He sounded oddly calm when I was still trying to deal with the idea that I had even met a dragon, let alone survived it. "He didn't. We are not the problem, but we are sent out to make it right."
"But Creston isn't here!" I protested.
"He was," Edmond reminded me. "What makes you think he didn't come back after the wolves chased him off.
I stopped and thought about it. I knew the Creston family -- everyone in town had since he was Sheriff. His wife had filed for divorce last year and moved away. Tom and the sheriff had lived alone. He'd gotten bad-tempered; everyone said so. But we were a small town and there wasn't much in terms of crime.
But I had also heard that he wasn't going to be re-elected next year.
I had killed his son.
Maybe he didn't have any reason not to come back and hunt me.
I had barely noticed that the snow was less underfoot, but when I looked up, I could see the edge of North Street and the warmth beyond. Even with my mind still in turmoil, something primeval called to me in seeing that warmth. I walked faster, moving from the cold ghostly snow, through a slight edge of fog, and then out into the warmth.
I got Edmond out from under my shirt with only a couple more scratches, but he was happy to be down on the ground and gave an exaggerated stretch of the type only cats can do. By then Davis and Maggie had come out as well and we stood basking in the sun while snow changed to water and dripped from us. There was a fountain not far away, a few others gathered there, though the moved off when we went closer.
"What are they worried about?" Davis asked.
"Dragon," Edmond replied. "We reek of dragon magic right now. It'll wear off eventually."
Maggie nodded and sat down on the edge of the fountain. She looked exhausted. This had been as hard a few days on her as it had on me, in fact. Davis looked bothered, but I couldn't decide what about just now. We had survived. If Edmond was right, I wasn't the real problem.
But then again, why did the dragon call us in there, if not to kill me?
"We have just been given a job, haven't we?" I said.
"Yes," Davis replied. He finally sat on the edge of the fountain, there by Maggie. "If the dragon wasn't calling us to deal with the problem himself, then he clearly means for us to handle it."
"Because Creston followed me in," I said.
"Because you and Maggie both are related to the place from which Creston came," Davis added. "It's not a single, simple answer, Mark. You were already acting in favor of Elsewhere when you killed the beast."
"True," Maggie said. She frowned this time. "I've never heard of that happening before. I didn't know it could work on humans."
"It can't," Edmond said. "But then Mark isn't all human, so --"
"What?" I squeaked.
Edmond looked up at me and shook his head. "Tell me you knew."
"He didn't," Davis answered. "But I did when I treated him."
"But -- but --" I said.
"Oh! His father!" Maggie all but shouted.
"And now we need to find out who is father is," Davis added. "Because I get the feeling not knowing is going to be dangerous."
I stared in dumb disbelief.
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