Drawful the Awful is the ongoing series/novel in progress following the pursuits of the dragon, Drawful, who is awful at being a dragon, and his “kidnapee” the Princess Brooke. The full series can be found here.
Haverly and Bob the alpaca reached the tavern outside the city when there was still dew shining on the grass, but the sun had climbed high enough in the sky that the shadows had shortened quite a bit.
Spotting the tavern in the distance where intel related that Drawful and the Princess had stopped for dinner, Haverly began talking through his plan with Bob.
“Okay Bob, I think we’ll at least be able to get some info on which way the two went. Because they couldn’t possibly be that silly to just go back to the dragon’s home outside Beckenworth.”
The alpaca made a noise that Haverly correctly interpreted as agreement. “So, I’ll need to gather information on which way they went, or if I’m unlucky, which way I might go to find information on where they went.”
Bob grunted approvingly. Haverly patted the alpaca’s neck and took a deep breath. “Feels good expanding from wizardry into errant knighthood.” Haverly took in the scenery of the lush field and hills in the distance. Who could say where he’d end up traveling on this quest? He pondered to himself excitedly.
“You know, this could very well take a long time. Perhaps Drawful and the Princess are in the woods or wilderness hiding.” Haverly pondered the number of stories he knew of dragons occupying caves, mountain aeries, or pits in the deep wild.
Bob the alpaca, for his part, straightened his neck resolutely, which earned him another admiring pat from Haverly. “Could be we don’t see a tavern again for some time, Bob.”
Bob the alpaca grunted again in resolve to accompany his friend on the journey, it earned him another affectionate pat and rub. “I’ll make sure you’re well fed and watered before we start in on it in earnest, you’ve been great already.”
Bob the alpaca trotted Haverly proudly up to the front door of the tavern, and when Haverly hopped off, allowed himself to be led to the trough where Haverly tied him so he could have a drink. “I’ll see about some oats and apples for you, Bob.”
Bob the alpaca took a breath from his drinking to grunt in appreciation (and also to ask Haverly to see about sugar cubes or a salt lick, but this request was lost on the wizard whose alpacese was limited).
Haverly braced himself, knowing full well the burly and hardened sorts that frequented taverns like this. He had to be frank with himself and admit that while his resolve and mettle to rescue Princess Brooke was stern, his experience and credentials as a warrior and adventurer were slim to none. Still, he hoped that he was not underestimating himself as a clever person. It would be a tremendous tragedy to spend one’s life believing they were clever when in fact the opposite were true, Haverly worried.
He took a deep breath and entered the tavern, hearing Bob the Alpaca give one last grunt regarding the sugar cubes, but the scene inside made Haverly’s jaw drop. Several of the tables were overturned, the place reeked of stale ale, spilled liquor and that curiously unpleasant musk of too many men sleeping in a closed space.
All around the room knights and other warriors, clerics, bards and the like were sleeping like the dead. At the bar, a pair of men groaned loudly. One of them shouted for Haverly to, “shut the door ye’ demon spawn!”
Haverly shut the door with care not to let it make a noise that might disturb the other campers at the bar. Whatever had happened after Drawful’s departure, had been a rare sort of rager. Haverly did scan the room to see if perhaps the dragon and Princess hadn’t left it at all, but there was no dragon or Princess, only men. Haverly found himself debating whether he should be relieved that the Princess had left whatever had caused this, or disappointed that it meant he had a chase still ahead of him.
“We’re not doing breakfast today.” The barkeep’s voice stirred Haverly from his evaluation of the room. It was racked with agony and the barkeep struggled to add. “Or lunch.” Haverly was about the speak but the bartender struggled out: “or dinner maybe.”
Haverly tiptoed over to the bar. “Sir, I’m wondering-”
“Stop yer yellin’!” the warrior patron who had been asleep near the barkeep commanded.
Haverly stopped and considered that his voice had been at a normal volume. Rather than surmising the hangover the warrior was suffering was that severe, he instantly worried that his whole life he had, in fact, been yelling rather than speaking at a reasonable volume.
“I’m here because I heard you guys had a great time last night.” Haverly whispered as delicately as he could.
“And we’re paying for it today.” The barkeep finally stood up and found a mug from behind the bar which he began to fill with water from one of the tankards.
“Is it true this got set off by a dragon?”
The warrior sat up and regarded Haverly with the weatherworn look of a warrior who has seen carnage and mayhem most foul. “Aye, a cursed beast.” The warrior’s visage and voice were both grizzled and hardened with a horror he had witnessed and suffered. “Emerged from the darkness, uncalled, unbeckoned, unexpected. With nary a moment hesitation, the beast slayed us wif ‘is kindness.”
Haverly looked at the barkeep who was drinking from the large mug of water as if his life depended on it. “Kindness?”
“Aye, did ye’ not hear me?” The warrior raised an eyebrow curiously.
“Is that,” Haverly looked at the barkeep and whispered, once the barkeep lowered the empty mug to refill it with more water. Haverly leaned over the bar and whispered: “is that warrior code for fire or something?”
“He bought the bar a round of drinks and it got the ball rolling,” the barkeep explained.
The per diem, Haverly recalled. “He bought everyone,”
“Aye!” The warrior lamented, “’e set us all off, like a powder keg.” His eyes shone with pain.
Haverly wondered if that was an approved use of the funds, but wasn’t sure if the King had signed a formal contract with Drawful. It may have been a handshake sort of deal. “So, you all let him go with the Princess?”
“Aye,” the warrior confirmed distantly in a hushed voice.
“Even knowing the bounty on him?” Haverly asked.
“Aye,” the warrior turned around and pointed around the room. “Me cleric and bard friends and I were ready to sic ‘em once we realized who ‘e was. But there’s a code of honor ‘bout these things mate.”
Haverly waited and the warrior explained as if it should have been obvious. “Ye’ never stab a man or a dragon who buys ye’ a pint. At leas’ not tha’ night.”
Haverly nodded and felt a twinge of fear. If these men had been after Drawful, seasoned warriors, he was suddenly at a disadvantage. Maybe his best bet would be to join up with them. He decided to come out with it and see how the warrior responded. “I’m seeking the dragon too.”
“Aye? Well give ‘im me thanks if ye’ find ‘im for the drink.”
“If I find him?”
“Aye, ye’ said yer af’er ‘im.” The warrior turned back to the bar and slumped forward.
“But, you are too?”
“Nae,” the warrior refuted wearily. “I ‘ave a hangover that could slay a golem. No way am I lookin’ to throw down wif a dragon. I think tha’ goes for all the lads ‘ere.”
At this, there was a rising tide of groans from all around the bar. Haverly jumped in fright at both the sudden swell of burly noise, as well as the surprise that everyone at the bar had been listening all along.
Haverly collected himself and smoothed his robes. “Can you help me then? Where did they go?”
“No clue. They slipped off when things were jus’ getting’ good. All I know is ‘e said somethin’ about a Sorceress, Pam was ‘er name.”
“The Sorceress Pam,” Haverly knew the name. He’d never met her, but he knew the Princess Brooke took classes in improvisational theater with the Sorceress. Besides that, Haverly also knew the Sorceress as the volunteer director of the Alabaster Kingdom’s seasonal community theater productions.
Haverly thanked the warrior and set out. As he opened the door, Bob the alpaca issued a loud honking sound seeing the wizard emerge empty handed. Haverly slapped his hand to his forehead and turned around in the doorway to the barkeep. “I was wondering if you have some apples, water and other supplies for a trip?”
The barkeep nodded and Haverly dug the coinage from his pocket. Bob the alpaca issued another loud bray behind him. The warrior heard, and through a tight grimace advised Haverly, “yer ‘paca is askin’ fer sugar cubes, friend.”