The sun rose a few minutes before they reached the clearing where they could see the cabin. Trevan was thinking that it was about the same time of day as it was when they left the clearing yesterday morning. Had it been only one day? It seamed to him that it had been much longer than that. He saw smoke rising from the direction of the cabin. He wondered what his father was burning. Then he saw that the cabin had burned to the ground. He screamed, “Farther!” dropped everything and ran as fast as he could across the two hundred yards that separated him from the cabin.
As he got closer, he saw the charred remains of his father lying in the clearing beside the still smoldering cabin. His body was in the center of a circular area of scorched earth. He still held the burned remains of a crossbow in his black skeletal hands. Trevan knelt beside him. His eyes filled with tears and he cried. The next thing he knew the kobold was standing beside him. He had forgotten all about the kobold. Yeark had pulled Kaylan’s body up the hill and was still holding the litter.
“What happened here?” Trevan asked out loud, not really speaking to anyone, as he looked around.
“Mountain Fire Dragon attack,” said Yeark. “Humans call them Red Dragons. You are in the middle of a fire blast area, and over here are his tracks.”
Trevan wiped his eyes and walked over to look at what the kobold was pointing at. It took him a minute to realize exactly what he was looking at. It was a footprint in the dirt. A very large foot print. It had three large claws. It looked similar to a kobold print, but it was nearly three feet wide and over four feet long. Looking for more tracks, he found another area where there was both rear and front foot prints. It reminded Trevan of a cat’s tracks, the way his rear foot landed where its front foot had been. The front prints were smaller and more hand-like. He asked Yeark, “How do you know it was a Red Dragon?”
“The fire,” he said. “All dragons breathe some kind of destruction. The red dragon can breathe fire. Also the tracks. Every type of dragon leaves a distinct foot print. Notice the scale pattern along the outside edge or this print? Only the red dragon has such a foot.”
Trevan looked closely at the print. It’s a print he would never forget. “Are there other ways to tell what type of dragon was here?”
Yeark said, “Take a deep breath and tell me what you smell.”
Trevan said, “I smell the smoke from the fire. I smell burned flesh. And I smell, what is that? Is it sulfur?”
“Yes,” Yeark said. “I didn’t know if a human could smell it, but red dragons always smell of sulfur and the smell lingers for quite some time after they have gone. Especially if they have used their fire breath. Another clue is the dragon’s size. Red dragons are the largest of all dragons. This one was very big, as you can see from his tracks and his belly and tail prints. When dragons sit they leave prints of their belly and tail and at least one hand, which is what they call their front feet. You can see that he was sitting here when he attacked your father with his fire breath.”
Trevan began checking around the area to see what damage the dragon had done. The goat and chickens were gone. The woodshed was burned to the ground. The well was left untouched. Trevan drew a pale of water to drink and wash his face.
He then turned his attention to the cabin. It was a small one room log cabin. The roof was lying on the ground several yards away, broken but unburned. Two walls were still partially standing; the other two had completely burned away. Poking through the debris he asked, “Why would a dragon do this?”
Yeark said, “This isn’t normal behavior for a red dragon, but you can be sure he had a reason. Dragons are smarter than kobolds or humans. Perhaps he was after some treasure. Did you have a lot of gold or other valuables?”
“We only had a few coins that father kept in a leather pouch behind a loose stone in the fireplace,” Trevan said as he walked over to the remains of the fireplace. The fireplace had been knocked down and the bricks scattered. The coin pouch was missing. Then he realized that their clothes chest, food larder and everything else had been broken into and scattered before it had been burned. He noticed the kobold pull something out from the ashes of his father’s bed and slip it into his belt pocket. “Give me that!” Trevan said.
“I didn’t think you saw me take it,” Yeark said as he pulled a small silver chain from where he had poked it. He handed it to Trevan.
“You were going to steel this?” said Trevan.
“You would have thought the dragon took it,” said Yeark. “But you have it now, so it isn’t stolen.”
“It belonged to my mother,” Said Trevan. “Father was going to get her a locket for it, but never did. It’s the only thing he had left of hers”
“Then it isn’t even yours?” said Yeark. “You can’t steal something from the dead. Anything taken from the dead belongs to the one that finds it.”
“That’s not the way it works here,” said Trevan. “When someone dies, his possessions become the property of his next of kin.” Yeark looked puzzled. “I’ll make it simple for you. Anything that was my father’s or my brother’s . . . make that everything on this entire hilltop, now belongs to me, and if you steal anything from me I will consider it a breach of your promise to be my servant. A servant never steals from his master. Do you understand?”
“I never break a promise,” said Yeark.
“Then we understand each other,” said Trevan. “Let’s go bury my father and brother now.” He found two shovels. One was scorched, but still useable. The handle on the other one had burned about half way down. He gave the short one to the kobold and they took the bodies to where his mother was buried. It was about 500 feet from the cabin, under a large oak tree. Trevan noticed Yeark squinting and shielding his eyes from the sun as it was rising higher into the sky. Trevan said, “Is it true that kobolds can’t see in the daylight?”
“I can see,” said Yeark. “It’s just that in direct sunlight I can’t see so well, and if I am in it too long it hurts my eyes. I prefer to sleep in the day and do my work at night. I can see better at night. Kobolds can see in total darkness, like in the depths of one of our mines. There we can see up to about 60 feet. We can see as far as you can outside and of course we can see colors in the light.”
“You mean you can’t see colors in the dark”
“Of course not.”
Yeark was unfamiliar with this oversized digging tool, but Trevan was surprised at how good he was at using it to dig a rectangular grave with perfectly vertical sides.
They spent the rest of the day trying to clean up and organize what was left as best they could. Trevan made a temporary lean-to in the corner formed by the two remaining sides of the cabin to protect him from the weather. Yeark dug himself a hole in the floor in the opposite corner and covered it with a board.
Just before sundown they heard a faint voice calling from the direction of the road. Trevan ran out and saw what appeared to be a young boy approaching the cabin. He was dragging a large carpet bag behind him. Then the kobold ran up beside Trevan. He had Trevan’s crossbow. He fired it and the bolt struck the boy. He fell to the ground, lifeless.