“Please tell me she’s joking.”
Umagorn doesn’t even bother to look up from where he’s hammering out a lump of metal, which – frankly – is insulting. Fen is too drunk to be ignored. She lowers herself onto the ground and leans precariously against the wall, knuckles white around a bottle of half-empty whisky.
“I will literally pay you to tell me this is just a really stupid prank,” she announces. Dylan ignores her, which is on par. “So much money. All of my money.”
“You mean about the dragon?” Umagorn says with what appears to be a startling lack of concern. The uncharacteristic beads of sweat that line his brow give him away. Even with the heat of the furnace, Umagorn has never been one to sweat. “’Fraid not.”
Fen groans and knocks back another swig. There’s already too much alcohol in her system, but she doesn’t know how to cope with this anymore without it. Sober Fen can go screw herself.
“Why?” she says. Pleads. “Why did you tell her about a dragon? A dragon? How is this going to end well?”
“I certainly wasn’t stupid enough to tell her,” Umagorn says. He drops his hammer to the ground and holds out his hand expectantly. Dylan pauses in whatever she’s tinkering away at on her workbench and hands him one of the many tools from where they’re mounted on the walls. “What do you take me for, a fool? She was spying on me. Again.”
Fen generously holds out her bottle of whisky for him. Umagorn gives the red-hot metal another jab, and then douses it into the water trough with a pair of his blackened tongs. There’s a hissing, and the air momentarily clouds with steam. Umagorn ambles over to take a mouthful, and then goes to re-heat the lump of metal in the forge.
“I shouldn’t be drinking and working,” he says. Dylan signs out something pointed and rude. “And don’t give me any of that, girl!”
“If he takes off his fingers, you can blame me,” Fen says generously. She’s in a generous mood. Or she’s hysterical. It’s one or the other.
“Always your fault,” Dylan signs out in agreement. Fen makes a face and drinks some more booze. She holds up the bottle to the light. She’s going to need more soon.
“That’s a lie and you know it,” Umagorn says. “It’s that girl’s fault.”
Fen lets the whisky fall to the ground and puts her face into her hands. “A dragon. She’s going to fight a dragon. She’s going to die this time.”
“You tried,” Umagorn says.
Fen looks down at the glass bottle, and then contemplates throwing it at his face.
“Don’t even think about it,” Dylan signs, her hands cutting through the air. Fen sighs.
“Obviously not hard enough,” she says. “She’s still going to fight a fucking dragon. Who were those idiots with her, anyway? Don’t they know not to enable her?”
“Who knows,” Umagorn says. He takes the metal out of the forge and goes back to hammering it, even though it isn’t nearly warm enough to do anything useful. His words come in-between the blows. “They wanted me to fix something. A sword. My father forged it.”
“And how does a dragon fit into all of this?”
“That’s a good question,” Umagorn says, grimacing. His next blow is loud enough to send ringing into Fen’s drunk ears. “They need some – a specialised kind of mithril. It needs to be breathed on by a white dragon.”
Fen sighs. On the way over to collect one of her tools, Dylan pats her on the head.
“This is getting ridiculous,” she says. “I can’t keep coming here every time she does something stupid. This is why I broke it off with her.”
“You are consuming a lot of alcohol lately,” Umagorn says. “I know that stuff is basically piss-water, but you don’t make that much money. Maybe you should consider cutting back.”
“Maybe when she decides to stop almost dying!”
Umagorn finishes with the now-unrecognisable lump of metal and starts putting his things away. Dylan firmly takes his tools away from him and ushers him towards where Fen is slumped.
“This always happens,” he complains, sitting down and stealing her whisky. “Do you know how many commissions I have to fulfil? And every time she comes over, I never get any real work done for the rest of the day.”
“Tell me about it,” Fen says, snatching the bottle back. It’s basically empty. “A dragon. A fucking dragon. Every time I see her, it just gets worse and worse. Maybe I should move. Somewhere tropical. It’d be less stressful. Less snow.”
“You hate mosquitos,” Umagorn says. “And you burn easily.”
“Damn, I do.”
They contemplate fairer weather and warmer climates together for a long while, staring at the opposite wall in silence. Dylan glances over at them several times and rolls her eyes.
“You can’t stop her,” she finally signs, when it becomes obvious they’re not going to do anything productive with this time. Fen has to squint to keep up with her hand movements, eyes unwilling to focus. “She’s powerful.”
“She’s stupid,” Fen says. “So stupid. The stupidest.”
“Okay, that’s enough for you,” Umagorn says, taking the bottle away from her. Fen makes a half-hearted attempt to get it back, but just ends up slumped over Umagorn’s shoulder. He tries to dislodge her, but she hands on. Like a limpet.
“What if she dies,” Fen says, voice impossibly small.
“She won’t,” Umagorn says.
Fen closes her eyes. “Please don’t lie to me.”
“I don’t know what we’ll do if that happens,” Umagorn says. “But I believe in her. She’s a tough girl.”
“She used to come home with so many bruises,” Fen says. She’s shaking. “All along her arms, her stomach, her thighs. I can still see them every time she talks to me. The last time, there was so much blood –”
“She’s tough,” Umagorn repeats. He stops trying to pry Fen off and starts rubbing a soothing line down her back. “She’s the toughest person I know.”
“She’s going to die,” Fen says. “She’s going to die, and I love her, but she won’t listen to me.”
“She won’t listen to anyone other than that angel of hers,” Umagorn says. “She’ll come back.”
Fen shakes her head.
“She promised to bring me souvenirs,” he says. “Dragon scales, if she can get them. I’ll give you one if you promise not to tell anyone. You like shiny things.”
“Dylan will know,” Fen says.
“Dylan won’t tell anyone,” Umagorn says. “Go to sleep, girl. You look half-dead.”
“You’re worrying about the wrong person,” Fen says. “I’m fine. I’m always fine. She’s the one who comes back with broken bones. And she’s smiling. She keeps smiling. Every time, she comes home – she came home – and she’s so proud of herself. Was so proud of herself. Is.”
“You’re drunk,” Umagorn says. “Go to sleep.”
“I’m going to wake up and she’s going to be dead,” Fen says. “I go to sleep, and she dies, and it’s going to happen. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve tried to tell her, but she doesn’t want to listen. Not to me. I’m not worth anything.”
“Sleep,” Umagorn says.
Fen doesn’t want to. Eventually, though, she does.