Chapter 38: Smugglers

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The hood of my emerald green cloak covered a large part of my face, yet many people still turned their heads to look at me. I couldn't blame them; the cloak's fabric was of an exceptionally good quality and its color stood out among the blacks, grays and browns that painted the streets. For that very reason, Ellie blended in more easily with her dark brown cloak, even without taking into account that she was little more than half my length. Behind us, two rebels leaned against the wall of an apothecary, pretending to mind their own business. The sweet smell of the herbs they smoked in their long pipes tempered the stench of the gutter that divided the street in two.

A soft moan pinched my ears and I shifted my position to hide the wriggling movements of my cloak from curious citizens. Ellie showed great interest in a wedding dress displayed in the shop window in front of us, and I could see the tailor inside casting suspicious glances at us. The glass reflected the orange in my irises as I made them light up and he quickly turned away, shuddering. I grinned.

"Don't you think this would be the perfect dress for your wedding, love?" Ellie said, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes when our gazes met in the window. The smile on my face vanished and I gave her a furious glare, which elicited a chuckle from her.

The whining coming from the area around my right shoulder intensified and I peeked under the collar of my cloak. Two wide, yellow eyes stared back at me, bored and confused. "Just a bit longer," I whispered, my voice soothing. "You'll get your chance to stir things up soon enough." Jaeger snorted, but his head disappeared back under the cloak. I directed my gaze to the right, to the place where five carriages would turn into the street in a few more minutes.

The clacking sound of hooves walking on the cobbled streets cut through the noise of daily life in the city, growing louder with every breath I took. Ellie's head slowly turned to the side, but she stayed where she was. Nothing about her posture, save for the thin line that was her mouth, betrayed that she was waiting for something. The men on the other side of the street still had the same bored looks on their faces, as though they wouldn't care at all if the world blew up this instant.

At last, the first carriage came around the corner. Two more followed in its wake, all three of them driven by men whose faces were unknown to me. However, when the fourth carriage rolled into the street, I recognized Sterling's brown curls dancing in the breeze. Without taking my eyes off the vehicles, I unbuttoned my cloak, although I made sure to hide Jaeger from sight just a few seconds longer. Looking down, I gave a short nod to the Dragon. "Fly. Go play."

Jaeger spread his leathery, black wings and growled. Using his hind legs to push himself off my shoulder, he jumped into open air and used his wings to float toward the middle of the street, landing directly in front of Sterling's carriage. His little nostrils flared as he took in his environment with youthful curiosity, and Sterling almost fell off his carriage in his haste to pull in the reins to avoid riding over him. The expression in the young Dragon's eyes wasn't aggressive nor hostile, yet a woman standing a few feet away from me started screaming the moment she noticed him.

Total chaos erupted in the street. Some citizens fled into the shops in an attempt to put as much distance as possible between themselves and this mythical, dangerous creature; others merely stumbled backward and gawked at the Dragon, their mouths dropping open until their chins were barely visible anymore.

Amidst the tumult, my eyes glided to the two rebels who had accompanied Ellie and me. They had slipped into a niche in one of the buildings, where Larry was already awaiting them. The Dwarf looked tired; he probably hadn't gotten much sleep since he'd had to spend the entire night guarding the bombs we had hidden in the niche, pretending to be a drunk sleeping it off. As I watched, Ellie sneaked around the back of Sterling's carriage and climbed onto it, just as the first rebel handed Larry a barrel to carry. William, the rebel who drove the last carriage in the line, made sure to park his vehicle in such a way that the Dwarfs were shielded from the rest of the street while they worked.

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