A soft woman’s voice singing shook Alchemy from the light doze that he’d fallen into during his watch. He recalled Staghorn waking him to take his turn at watch after several hours of sleep. Stretching, he glanced over at Staghorn, the big Ursa had his soft black nose bent down to his fur-covered chest, snoring softly. Alchemy chuckled to himself recalling the man’s comments about Gavin’s snoring, but he had to admit that the Ursa’s were a lot softer than his friend’s.
Enticing song drew his attention back to voice outside their protected circle of stones. Alchemy dusted off his clothes and checked to make sure that his wand rested in his pocket before he slipped out of the rocks to find the source of the song.
Bright early-morning light blazed along the ridge of Manticore Hill, causing the Elf to shield his eyes while they adjusted. Once his vision cleared, Alchemy spotted movement up the side of the hill, not far away. He stood there waiting for something, or someone to move again. A blonde head popped up from behind one of the large boulders. An elegant Elvin woman walked through the rocks like she was looking for something while she sang her song.
Keeping a sharp eye out for manticores or other monsters, Alchemy headed up toward the woman. Maybe she knew something about what was going on here. He liked the way she moved with a grace that only an Elf had. She made the very agile Gotta look like a slug. Again she disappeared behind a rock as the wizard closed the distance between them.
Alchemy was almost to the rock when she stood up. The woman’s song ended abruptly when she spotted him standing nearby. She stared at him with huge moon-like violet eyes. Alchemy tried to remember if he’d ever seen eyes exactly that color before.
“Who are you?” she snapped, dropping the cloth bag she held and pulling a long dagger.
“You can call me, Alchemy.” He flashed her his most disarming smile. “I heard your lovely song and just had to come see if the person matched the voice.”
“What are you doing here?” she asked, still holding the dagger before her. “This is a very dangerous place.”
“I know of the dangers,” he laughed, taking a cautious step toward the woman. She had spunk, he liked spunk. He wondered how that spunk translated to other more intimate skills that didn’t involve holding him at knife point.
She shifted slightly, and the tight short blue skirt she wore rode up slightly on her shapely thigh. Alchemy tried to focus more on the knife in the woman’s hand and less on the muscular leg. He wanted to get the dagger out of her hands, but he wanted to feel those thighs wrapped around him more. Holding up his hands in a non threatening gesture, the wizard stepped closer to the woman.
She waved the dagger with a deadly look in her violet eyes. “But why are you here?”
Alchemy shrugged. “I wanted to see the manticores and maybe the dragon.”
“They’re over that way.” She pointed to the north.
“Ah yes, but you’re so much more beautiful than any of the monsters.” He smiled at her trying to appear harmless and friendly.
She blushed, it caused her pale skin to become a shade of pink that complemented her eyes perfectly. The blush went right up to the roots of her blonde hair. The effect caused Alchemy’s heart to pound in his chest.
“So Alchemy, do you talk to all the girls this way?” she asked, not lowering the dagger.
Alchemy’s smile broadened and he chuckled, feeling sure that he was beginning to chip away at her. “Only the beautiful ones that point daggers at me. Perhaps you would like to go with me to see the manticores?”
She looked thoughtfully at him over the edge of the dagger. “Maybe.”
Taking the final couple of steps that separated them, the wizard reached up and relieved her of the weapon. Her skin was soft and warm as his fingers closed about her hand. With a soft caress, he took hold of her elbow and tucked her arm in his. “So, let’s go see the monsters on the other side of the hill. I presume you and your dagger can protect us both, Miss…?”
“Dolce` Leeck.” She didn’t try to reclaim her arm from Alchemy and fell into step with him.
“Dolce`, that’s a sweet name. So what brings you out to Manticore Hill?” Alchemy turned his head so he could admire the way the sunlight played of her blonde hair.
“The scales from the manticore tails are very valuable. You know that alchemist will pay big bucks for them on the open market?”
“So you’re a collector?”
“Only in the summer, after they shed the scales. Sometimes up here I also find dragon scales. They are also very valuable.”
“So how do you tell when it’s summer around here? I thought it was warm all year around in the jungle.” Alchemy thought back to his one time collecting dragon scales. It was the event that led to him being recruited by the Fragrance Guild once he was a full wizard. He couldn’t see doing the dangerous job just for the money. If his master, Shamus the Magnificent, hadn’t needed a special incense made using the scales as a base, he would’ve left it well alone. To willing go into a dragon’s den in search of scales for the money, he wondered what Dolce`’s family did that they needed to risk her on such a craft.
“Oh, after the dry season comes the rainy season,” the Elf woman explained. “We’re almost finished with the dry season now. So, all the creatures with scales have shed them. It’s the perfect time to go out and collect. Also the neither the dragons nor the manticores are broody so it’s safer.”
Alchemy chuckled, remembering the furry of the broody dragon he and Delfinia had disturbed. Timing was everything.
An angry roar shattered the stillness of the morning. Alchemy looked up at the enraged manticore sailing down toward them. He could just make out the small green lump of the goblin on the monster’s back.