The Candle Maker
Once again, the Candle Maker proved correct.
I looked across the abyss. There, in the distance were the gates to the lost city. Even from this distance, I could see the massive wooden doors set in a perfect stone mantle.
I backed away from the edge and turned to wave the rest of my party forward. But they were nowhere to be seen. In their place, there was an old man. Unexpectedly, it was the old Candle Maker, his wizened face carrying a long thin beard trailing almost to the ground.
I asked him if he had seen the rest of my party: Bruce the Bold, Graham the Furrier and Ivan the Dentist. He said we didn't need them and that he had sent them back to the inn.
I felt a chill in the air. Plus some disappointment because they had all seemed keen on getting some of the gold (especially Ivan). I didn't want to disappoint any of them, and, importantly, they all said that they would help carry the gold.
The Candle Maker said tersely, "We only need two." He looked at me, "Fewer people to divide."
I tried to ignore the latent ambiguity in the last response and instead asked if the Candle Maker was going to be able to carry some gold as well. He shook his head. I asked, "So, what are you going to do?"
He took a step back and calmly tore the mask away from his face and stepped out of the shapeless tunic. Where once an old man had stood, there was a woman. She said, resting her hand on a sharp sword hanging by her side, "I am going to protect us."
I took a deep breath, wondering what I needed protection from.
I told myself: Stay calm. Everything is going to work out all right.
On the way home, Ivan drove. The others were unusually quiet, trying to ignore the Candle Maker, the empty sack she had on her lap and her sword (which was relatively large compared to the car and which was cutting small holes in everything it touched.)
Finally, Bruce chanced the question which all of them desperately wanted to ask. He opened his mouth, and the Candle Maker snarled, so he shut it. The snarl had ugly undertones.
She looked meaningfully at Bruce and she swore, “Someone left the gate to Ancora Tu open and one of the dragons got out.”
Bruce shook his head vigorously and tried to point at Graham, the Furrier. Graham was not a furrier, and didn't even know any furriers, but had picked up that name on account of his hair (and the friends he hung out with).
Bruce stuttered, "I went back to the pub and drank beer. Like you told me." He added, a second too late, "Miss."
The Candle Maker glared at him a bit longer, and he added, "Stang and the local bikies can vouch for me."
Surprising, this didn't seem to improve his position, which deteriorated a moment later when a couple of bikies pulled in behind the car.
Bruce pointed at Graham again, "Ask Graham! He didn't come to the pub."
Graham shrunk from the Candle Maker as she swung towards him. Still, it was a pretty small car, not much bigger than a motorbike, and the shrinking was more symbolic than practical.
Still, the pause gave Graham a chance to work out a story. But when the time came to blurt it out, the story went to pot, "I got lost. I followed you up the old steps for a bit, but ran out of breath and stopped in a big clearing. I waited for you to come back."
Graham shook his head and, after reaching up to adjust his hair so he could look out, reached down into his jacket. He said, "You all think I stole the gold. I can prove I did not. I have no gold! All I got was this."
They all turned to watch, including Ivan, who should have been driving the car.
Graham pulled out a large greenish-blue egg.
The Candle Maker gasped. A crack appeared on the surface of the egg, just as the car hit the gravel on the edge of the road.
Ivan slammed on the brakes, but the car slid off the road. The sword slid forward suddenly and buried itself deeply in the CD player on the dashboard of the car. The car screamed in agony, did an Olympic half turn and stopped hard against a very big tree.
There were beads of face sweat on Ivan, the Dentist. He was still not looking at the road.
Everyone in the car sat still for a moment. Graham’s hair fell back over his eyes. We all listened to the car’s audio system desperately trying to eject the sword.
Without apologizing for driving the car off the road, which would have been the polite and right thing to do in the circumstances, instead, Ivan pulled the keys out of the ignition. He jumped out of the car and disappeared into the ferns by the side of the road.
With a howl of anger, the Candle Maker shoved the others out of her way. She placed both her legs on the dashboard. With an angry face and muttering nasty things about dentists, she gripped the pommel of the sword. She strained to pull the sword from the dashboard.
The Candle Maker’s arm muscles bunched and glowed with sweat.
Helpfully, Bruce the Bold took the opportunity to suggest that Ivan may have left the gate to Ancora Tu open. The Candle Maker was groaning with the effort but took a moment to shoot him a glance which threatening to eat him.
Just then, Graham the Furrier gave a muffled shout. We all turned to look at him, or rather his hair. Even the Candle Maker stopped in mid-pull. Graham was holding the egg in front of where his eyes would normally have been, with both hands.
As we watched, the egg shuddered, and little cracks appeared all over the surface, a bit like when a stone hits your window screen. Suddenly, a bit fell off.
With a puff of smoke, a small beak poked out of the egg.