Earlie sat behind the Sheriff's desk. The woman in the black dress from the night before stood behind him.
"That's right," Earlie said. "I'm in charge until the Sheriff wakes up. Ain't none of the folks that got struck by lighting woken up yet except me. Guess I'm what you'd call resilent."
"Resilient," the woman behind him corrected.
"That's what I said," Earlie snapped, glancing at her. He turned back to Eddie, who sat next to Tim before the desk. "So, you here to turn yourself in?"
Eddie squirmed in his chair
"For what?" Tim asked.
"For escaping jail."
"I didn't break out," Eddie said. "That lady knight dragged me out. She fought off the wizard who attacked you."
"How you got out is not the issue. The fact is, you got out."
"But I'm not the one who's been kidnapping people. You must see that now."
"Sheriff called you a liar."
"My only crime is that I came to this town expecting a little courtesy."
Earlie's eyes narrowed. "You getting smart with me, boy?"
"I'm only saying you have no reason to keep me here."
Earlie studied him a moment longer. "Fine," he said, waving a hand. "Go. Get out of my town. You complicate things anyway. And if you see any other drifters on the road, tell them to stay away from here or they'll get worse than you got."
"Thank you, sir," Eddie said.
Earlie leaned forward. "So why are you still sitting there?"
"I'd like to take the little girl with me."
The woman behind Earlie gasped, putting a hand to her chest. Earlie scowled. "You can't do that."
"She's just a kid," Eddie said, also leaning forward. "It sounds like the people who want to take her will sacrifice her. Kill her. She's done nothing to—"
"She didn't have to do anything," Earlie interrupted. "We give up that kid to the dragon man, and we can go about our lives with no trouble."
"But the dragon riders are the ones who took the mayor," Tim said. "They took Max and Parson Drake. Who's to say they won't take everyone else."
Earlie put up a hand. He extended fingers as he listed off names. "The mayor. He's modest about his power, but he's a wizard. No question. He once fought off the Barton Gang single handedly. I saw it when I was a kid. That guy's got spark. Then there's Max." Earlie put up another finger. "Mayor's nephew. He's got spark too. I seen him doing repairs on his office. Lifted a beam three times his weight. Parson Drake? There's no secret he's got power over plants. You seen his garden?"
"What's your point?" Tim asked.
"My point is that the magic folk are gone. Them dragon people won't come back because they've got all the ones with spark."
"The Sheriff has a knack for spotting lies," Eddie pointed out. "Will they take her? And you—"
"Me?" Earlie leaned forward even more.
"Like you said, you're resilient. Maybe that's a knack too. They might take you."
Earlie grinned and sat back. "I'll take my chances and give them the girl. There ain't no downside. She ain't one of us."
"She's a little girl who's lost and alone," Eddie said. "Where's your decency?"
The woman in black stepped forward. "We have children here as young or younger," she said. "Their lives are just as precious. More precious, because they're loved."
"Are you serious?" Eddie cried.
She pointed at him. "Where's your decency, young man? Don't you care about our children?"
They glowered at each other.
Earlie waved a hand between them. "Listen, here's the facts, son. The girl is here. She's going to stay here until the dragon man comes. We're going to give him the girl, and they're going to fly away. As I understand it, the dragon man wants your friend too. So here's me being decent. I'm going to let you and your friend go. Go try to run from the bad men."
"Well can I at least talk to the girl?" Eddie began. "She's got no one, and—"
Earlie slammed his fist on the desk and stood up. "Go! Get out of this office. Get out of this town, now!"
* * *
The car remained beside the Sheriff's office where Bryce had left it the night before. Eddie drove Tim back to the lot behind the blacksmith's shop, earning suspicious glances from faces in each house's windows. Once in the lot, they sat in the car, drinking Mountain Sunrise, staring up at the huge wheel of barrels.
"What now?" Tim asked. "Are you going to leave?"
Eddie wondered what Bryce would do in this situation. Would he run, or would he save the girl? Bryce had saved Eddie on more than one occasion.
"I'm not leaving here without the girl," he said.
"Good," Tim said, taking a sip of soda. He burped with satisfaction.
"Why do you want to help me?" Eddie asked. "I can't bring you anything but trouble."
"I'd like to learn more about that dragon rider and his king. I wish that knight lady would have asked him more questions. It was fascinating."
"So what should I do?" Eddie asked. "How do I stop someone who can shoot lightning out of his hands?"
"You identify his weaknesses and exploit them."
"What weaknesses? He's got a dragon for a bodyguard. Not that he needs one."
"That woman bested him."
"Yeah, but she's got ninja skills."
"We saw him defeated. He's not all-powerful. There's something we can do. Now, since you know so much about everyone and everything, there must be something in that brain of yours that can tell us more about him."
"I don't know anything about Ord adepts."
Tim stared at him. He took a sip of soda.
"What?" Eddie said.
"You said 'Ord adept'."
"Yeah, so? That's what he is."
"I heard the whole conversation you translated for the two of them last night. Not once did he say he was an Ord adept."
"He said 'adept'. He said it in jail before we came outside."
"Did he say 'Ord'?"
Eddie stared. He thought back. Where had he heard the name 'Ord'?
"It's what he is," Eddie said. "That's all. He's an Ord. That's the name of his... race? Culture? I'm not sure."
"It's a start. What else can you remember?"
"If it's in your memory, you can draw it out."
"I don't like to remember things."
"You don't have to remember everything. Look, close your eyes."
Eddie glared at him, but when Tim waited, Eddie complied. He sat back in his seat and closed his eyes.
"Now, don't try to think about what you don't remember."
"Then what's the point?" Eddie griped.
"Relax. Think about what you already know about the Ord adept. He shoots lightning from his hands."
"He sometimes whispers when he does it," Eddie supplied. "Like he's casting a spell."
"That's not uncommon for a wizard. What else?"
"He smelled like... um... licorice. I smelled it when he hit me in jail."
"He didn't hit me. He slapped me. There was something in his palm. A..."
Tim didn't interrupt.
"A ring. A metallic ring. The Ord have them. They use them to focus their power. It's a platinum and iridium alloy. I don't know how I know that, but..."
"It's common for a wizard to have a talisman, something they use to focus their powers. Certain alloys or organic compounds are especially helpful for focusing certain kinds of magic."
"Like a wand or a staff?"
"Exactly. And when you think about it, the palm is the perfect place for such a talisman. The wizard can channel his power down his arm into his palm." Tim made a satisfied grunt. "Good. What else can you remember?"
Eddie frowned. He tried to remember. Competing thoughts flooded his mind. "I remember there's a place in France where the ladies—"
"Don't get distracted," Tim urged. "This isn't an exercise where you force your memories. Think about the man you saw last night and see what knowledge comes with the memory."
Eddie fixed his thoughts on the man who had attacked them. His teeth were sharp, almost canine. He had a cruel sneer. His eyes were all black, shining in the dark, and... in the dark...
"They don't like sunlight," Eddie said. "They don't like to come out during the day. They've spent generations underground after some kind of disaster on the surface, and now they worship the night. Not exactly evil as a people, but they prefer darkness to light. They... they're actually a decent sort of folk. They established Cavaheim as..."
"As what?" Tim asked.
"I... I'm not sure."
"Well, keep that in mind. Perhaps something will occur to you. In the meantime, we've figured out weaknesses we can exploit?"
"Bright light and a reliance on the ring talisman on his palm."
"We can shine a flashlight in his face. It doesn't mean we can get close enough to remove the ring. And even if we could, it doesn't mean he's powerless." Eddie thought back to his weak ploy against the troll with his vinegar concoction.
"It's a start. As it happens, I might have a way we can protect ourselves from the wizard's magic."
Eddie turned to him. "Really? What?"
Tim frowned. "It won't be easy to get to," he said. "We're going to break into the mayor's mansion."