“His armor sparkled in the firelight, the firelight of them uncounted fires old Mangler had spat about his cave in trying to burn up our hero. A dragon's golden firelight very like this very same we sit about, friends,” said the bard, grinning his yellow teeth and swinging wide his arms.
A fast learner, this bard. He had boasted so in the rain by the shrine at the crossroads, by the headless little Christ, when he and Hero shook hands on the deal. “Remembering’s but one of me talents,” said Yellow-teeth.
Around the bonfire before their caravans, the drunken traders rocked on their backsides, laughed into the sparking pyre, and tossed their monstrous shadows over the surrounding forest. The plump one by the bard’s hip caught his spade of a hand: she tugged it round her shoulder, close as her coarse shawl, and let it go. The hand ran down her back to her armpit and returned. The old hero saw it. Across the fire, out of his sparkling armour and lounging on a red cushion that might have come from the far end of the world to cushion his old bony backside, he but blinked his waxy eyes, and not once let up his gnawing around the burnt joint they had given him.
“Sparkled!” trilled the plump girl, her voice like springtime over this night of noise, and both her hands keeping the bard’s hand upon her round shoulder. “After he blinded the dragon. Go on, then.”
Sparkled!, barked I then. As I had barked, uncounted noisy nights and tellings before this.
The old hero, deaf as well as blind all these years on the road, he gnawed his joint.
There was never a Mangler the dragon in his cave full of gold. But small wars and unfair fights, is all. Was not HIS armour that sparkled, girl. Was mine! Mail and boiled hide – and none of it sparkled. He called me friend. Swung the beer pot and smashed my skull while I slept. Long ago. Here I stay, waiting on his broken sleep, when he sees and hears me. It is my only justice.
The laughter stopped around the popping flames. Faces twisted merry turned and teary eyes blinked. All plainly waited for more of this hero’s story.
I saw it then. Truly, Yellow-teeth had more talent to him than just a bard’s good memory!
“Your hand,” said the girl, her eyes bright, and both her hands prying at his talon clenching her shoulder. “You’re hurting me.”