Millicent glanced between the bags of baked sunflower seeds in each of her hands, sizing them up, trying to figure which was more deserved of her 2 silver pieces.
“What do you think, Hober,” she said, turning towards the sun parched dust where her sun had just been.
“Hober?” The Orc sniffed the air, quick after the scent of her child, while gathering wind for a bellow. Large for his age, leathery skin bright green, Hober should have been to spot among the weaker species around them. But this was the market. And Millicent wasted no time, becoming concerned.
“Hober!” She let all the wind out of her in a shout, causing a nearby elf, otherwise engrossed in the careful sampling of a cheese boutique, to cough large yellow chunks across the stand. A family of Bullywugs shuffled closer together, keeping an uneasy eye out. Millicent didn’t care; She wanted her son back, and she wanted him now.
She pushed away from the stand, forgetting about the sunflower seeds in each hand, and stepped into the river of people funneling in and out of the square. The tiefling manager of the shop tried to follow the angry bobbing of her head above the surging crowd, but couldn’t stray too far from the shop and instead retired back into the shade of his tent, curses heavy on every breath.
Hober was nowhere to be seen, and as the ebb of the populous continued to tug at the lengths of her skirt, a certain pattern started to emerge. The crowd was not just proving difficult to navigate, it was actually pushing against her. Millicent looked behind her, towards the docks, and saw that something seemed to be happening. A large mass had gathered at the end of the street, and they all seemed to be gazing upward, at something in the distance. Among them, a single, globular mass of a young Orc caught her eye.
“Hober!” she called out again, charging in a direct line from her son. Thick as the crowd was, few were able to successfully move from her way, and her path left a wake of moaning and complaining people of the smallish category.
“There you are,” she cried, the full grasp of her fingers clenching themselves around her son’s neck and hauling him onto the backs of his heels. “You could have been kidnapped.”
“Mom!” He said, clawing for oxygen, “who would have kidnapped me?”
“They couldn’t lift me, Mom,” said Hober, breaking free and then planting his feet into the cracked stone pavement. I’m too big.
“Then they’d kill you outright.”
The toothy smile which had been sitting on Hober’s face since he broke free began to narrow.
“You think Pliables would just kill me?”
“Why don’t you stay around and find out,” said Millicent, forcing a short laugh, and turned away.
Hober hesitated for a moment, wondering whether it was worth it to gamble with a mother’s instincts.
“Wait,” he called after her, “don’t you want to see them arrive?”
Millicent glanced back towards the docs, towards the docks of Canad, towards the empty masts and spars, idling before a barren sea.
“Nonsense,” Millicent said, making a quick grab again for her boy. “No one’s sailed across in months.” But even as she said this, for the second time, Millicent became aware of a certain difference in the crowd. They were all whispering, all pointing up.
Millicent dropped her hand from Hober’s shoulder and looked up into the sky. There it was, only a speck, now, but clear. And coming their way.
“Is it a bird?” She asked of her son.
“No,” said Hober, “I think it’s a passenger dragon.”
“No,” said a third voice.
Millicent looked over at the small human standing behind her. It was possible that he wasn’t small, actually, but as she towered over them unanimously, it was a little hard to tell. Hober looked on with a little less discretion, a little more visibly shocked. It was rare that a Human would volunteer themselves into conversation with an Orc, much less at this proximity. But this man was calm, and unconcerned.
He head was shaven clean, though a shadow of hair seemed to be growing in all around, and he wore the image of the Split Flag, bright upon his robed chest. From the bedazzled collar and hems, flecked with gold and silver, it was apparent that this was a man of wealth, but the skin around his face clung tight to his features, and bore a sickly, somewhat, green tint. Millicent was certainly no stranger to green skin, but this did not look like it was of the natural sort.
“No,” he repeated, ignoring the gaping mouth of the younger orc, “it’s a Hippogriff.”
He squinted into the sun, and then, unsatisfied with his vision, pulled a small looking glass to his eye. Under his pinched features, a slow smile began to pull up the corners of his mouth.
“And you know what?” The Man said, collapsing the looking glass sharply and thrusting it into a pocket, “I dare say I recognize it.”
The Man’s eyes traveled down, across Millicent, onto her son.
Hober did not have time to shut his mouth before realizing he was being spoken to, and therefore decided to leave it open so as to appear just casually slack-jawed.
“How would you like to make a couple hundred gold?”