Vigil for a Dragon, pt 2

Every town has at least one man like Kallar.

Usually, but not always, he’s a big man, strong of arm and broad of shoulder. A smith, or a farmer, or more rarely, a hunter. A man of great solidity, simple but by no means stupid, who speaks rarely but with authority. He can be recognised at any town meeting in any town – he is the one who speaks last, and whose suggestion is adopted. (Indeed, in some of the more clever towns, town meetings consist of simply waiting until the man in question speaks, a process which is usually faster – and always quieter – than the more usual way of doing things.)

Kallar keeps an open mind about most things, but something about these strangers makes him uneasy. There’s something oddly… eager, about them. And so Kallar keeps his silence, and his vigil. The inn is a little more raucous than usual tonight, no doubt because of the strangers, but Kallar is content to sit at his normal table – on a side wall, pleasantly near both the fire and the bar, and not especially well lit – and watch them. They puzzle him.

They had started to arrive a week ago. One or two of them each day, until there were a baker’s dozen of them. None of them seemed to know each other, other than sometimes by reputation – and Kallar would swear some of them were surprised to see the others there. Still, they all sat together in the tavern, other than the minstrel who had made himself a comfortable place by the fire, and who was currently serenading the comeliest of the serving wenches.

Kallar sipped carefully at his hot mead, noting with approval that it was perfectly spiced. The strangers talked among themselves, mostly, although they were friendly enough when approached. Still, they would bear more watching, if only because Kallar couldn’t recall the last time this many strangers came to town in so short a period.

The storm outside rattled the shutters of the inn, and some of the people inside it flinched at the sound, but not Kallar. He knew that the worst they’d have to deal with tonight was a few lost shingle from the rooftops, perhaps a fallen tree. The dragon wouldn’t fly in weather like this,

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