“Why did you do it?” Salone gasped.
“I-I wanted something unique.” Accark voice trembled as he explained, but he didn’t dare to look away from Gale. “I was impatient and couldn’t find anything I felt strongly for. I saw a stone pearl at my friend’s place and it called out to me and I was so jealous I wanted one too…”
“You did it out of jealousy.” Gale mocked his words. “The hell?”
“I-I couldn’t find any on the market, but this guy at Krodes remembered a Wenalan, who sold them sometimes.”
Gale’s chest tightened, hearing there was actually one, who did it repeatedly. That explained why one or two eggs disappeared from the neighboring nests without trace. They’d kept watch, the youth of the nest, hoping to catch the culprit, but if it was an inside job, like Accark said, then he knew why they never had a chance.
“So I thought if I skipped the middle man and went straight to them and make a contract with them for the next…”
“You paid for my brother’s murder?” He hissed at the dragon.
“I paid in advance to ensure they kept their word! I-I didn’t know they’d take a healthy egg! It was naive, I know, but I thought I could wait. Accidents happen! It was never meant to be a live egg!”
“But a dead one would do? Are you justifying a grave robbery?” He demanded, revealing his fangs.
“I’m sorry! I knew it was wrong the moment I woke up the next day! I tried to get out of it! I went back to your place to break off the contract, but it was too late! They’d already given the egg to the goblins!” His tail was so tight around his legs that if he’d tried to move, he’d fall. “I was horrified! I didn’t want this! Gods, they kept apologizing because you took it and they promised to get it back to me and then I realized what they’d done, ‘cause it was too convenient and they looked too happy to be mourning and… I didn’t know it was you, but when I saw you and the egg on your table, I knew!”
“So you swindled yourself back in? Did you think I’d give it to you if I saw how good you were?”
“No! I-” He sucked in a ragged breath and his eyes finally gave. “I wanted to make it up to him. I know he’s dead, but I can’t help it! He is dead because of me and I can’t stop apologizing to him.”
Gale couldn’t think, rage blistering up in his chest as if he’d burnt his soul out through his skin. He remembered the dark dragon in the kitchen, his parents signing the contract, but there was nothing in that figure he could relate to Accark, the peachy softy in front of him. He’d given it no attention, figuring it was yet another job contract. But when he came back the next day to see the goblins return his little brother’s egg, which looked not shiny, but frozen, he’d screamed. His own parents had let their child die and all his father had to say for himself was “he is mine to do as I please”. He disowned his family right then and there. That night he packed his clothes, the tech he used for his job, stole the egg from the bedroom his parents slept in and taken off.
Damn stupid guileless greedy idiot!
“Gale-” Accark asked in a whisper, but Gale took a sharp step backwards, out of his reach.
He shook his head with a warning. Accark choked on whatever he planned to say next. Then he knew. He reached out and hooked his fingers into his collar, pulled him closer and hissed to his face. “You know what you gonna do now? I will not have my brother handed over to anyone, but if you want to show your face on this continent again, you fight for it! And then you rip up the contract! For if you don’t, I will fight you for my brother and we both know the outcome of that! You wanted him so bad, you were ready to kill for him, then kill for him!”
His eyes flew behind Gale, on Tribble and he let out an involuntary whine. Gale felt his rage melt away hearing the heartbreak in that high pinched desperate cry. Accark was no fighter, had never been. It was insane for him to accept the challenge and they knew it, including Tribble, whose low rolling of a laughter was turning the furball in his hands into tiny trembling heap. He let go and Accark fell back a notch. Accark’s eyes darted between him and Tribble, his nose pressed close to his chest in submission. He looked utterly small when he began unbuttoning his vest with shaky hands.
Gale caught movement on their side, Salone was still standing there, her face mortified. An odd panic took over where rage had been. He couldn’t imagine Accark partaking something so ugly. Being scammed into something like it, but not willingly participating. He was guilty, but not the criminal, he realized. He was suffering just as much as he was.
“This is where you leave, mam.” Gale told her calmly, but she shook her head. “Please.” He added quietly so their father wouldn’t hear. She glared at him, daring him to move her.
“It is insane to let him fight!” She hissed. “You signed him up for a death match!”
“I did nothing!” He wouldn’t have them turn it on him. “This is his fight over a treasure,” he spit the word with venom, “because he couldn’t shut up about it! Because he wanted to so impress the self-serving idiot over there, he thought of offering my brother on a plate! AGAIN!”
He realized he’d raised his voice, when it became clear there was dead silence around them. Tribble chuckled and it took everything in his power to keep from turning around and charge at him. It infuritated him and his fury only had one outlet at this point. Accark finished undressing, removing everything aside his pants. It went fast, he didn’t have anything more than his shirt, his vest and his belt. Meanwhile, Tribble was going through a similar process, patting each piece of his clothing clean as he set them on the pillows.
Why did he have to be so nice to him after he encountered them again? Couldn’t he just stay away? Why did he have to bring gifts to both of them? Why did he have to bring him plants from the forest, special sparkling crystals or figurines from the market? He would tell him about places he’d been to and then gone sad as if realizing he would never see those places. Then he’d hugged the post the egg was on, not touching it like he’d promised to Gale.
He knew what he’d done was wrong, but he couldn’t stop his eyes from wondering through the vast room, checking out every piece of furniture and decorations against ways they could be broken apart and used as weapons.
Why wasn’t he angry, he battled. He should be angry, devastated like he’d been years back during those first months on the run, but he was not. Instead he felt he’d signed Accark off to gallows with his words and the thought made him sick. Damn female for putting the idea in his head!
Accark piled his clothes at his feet, where Salone immediately picked them up and flopping them, set them over her hands. His eyes never left his face and he waited until his father scoffed impatiently and Accark knew he had nowhere left to run. His shoulders slumped before he started walking.
As he was passing, Gale grabbed his arm for a moment and squeezed it hard to get his attention. “If you can’t win him, freeze him and I’ll take him down!” He whispered to his ear and realized his voice was trembling. Accark’s eyes widened, but aside a quick glance aside, he didn’t show if he’d understood. Gale gritted his teeth. “I mean it!” He let him go.
He needed him to understand he’d do it. There was no way he’d leave the egg to either of them, but he also knew his brother was already dead. There was nothing that would bring him back, but that did not mean Accark deserved to die. He’d paid for a broken egg, not for his parents to kill a healthy one. His parents were the guilty part here, he knew it, even if he was still angry at his idiotic friend. Didn’t quite justify him bargaining for an egg in the first place, but sure as hell didn’t give him a reason to watch the dragon die for this mistake today and through Tribble’s hands, whose morals were far lower than Accark’s. Maybe he’d been like Tribble once, but what he’d seen, he’d changed. And that changed version of his did not deserve to die.
It was clear from the beginning that Tribble didn’t take the fight seriously. Accark was much smaller, despite being taller than he was, but compared to his alpha father and his boss he hardly met them at their shoulders. His light fur didn’t help here either, but Gale sincerely hoped the leanness his dragon carried wasn’t from starving himself.
“Do not let him push you in the corner!” Gale grumbled under his breath. He was so tense, it physically hurt, but unless he disgraced Accark by shooting the bastard down himself, there was nothing he could do.
Salone turned her attention to him, he felt her eyes studying him, listening in on his every word and he grimaced, worrying his lower lip.
Tribble jerked ahead few times, taunting him as he circled the smaller dragon. He was grinning widely, his eyes completely locked in his. He kept dancing on his feet, showing off, twisting his arm and neck muscles, puffing his chest.
Accark’s tail had stopped clattering, Gale realized as his eyes turned on it. He watched how it wounded up, fixed a position like a taut bow, the scales closing up like flower closed its petals and formed a fierce looking spear. He did a quick turn, blocking Tribble’s joking touch to pat his head and launched it into his side.
Tribble hauled and pulled back. He checked his side for damage and was quite surprised to find one of Accark’s scales stuck in his left obliques. He touched the blood oozing out from the wound, not deep enough to cause inner bleeding, but profoundly painful with every move. His eyes went back to his opponent and his smile was suddenly replaced with furious grimace.
Accark tried to hold his ground, but couldn’t help it, when Tribble ran into him and drove him into the nearest pillar, his fingers curled around his neck. Accark groaned, but when he was lifted off the ground, he struggled. He found a decorative brim and latched onto it with his toes, halting his dragging. The second he stopped, he pressed his wings backwards, using them to push himself away from the wall, raised both his hands, locked them into a fist and brought them down on his right, breaking his hold. When he fell, he used the surprise moment and stabbed at his eyes. He was gone from the spot by the time Tribble could see enough to check his surroundings and he was disappointed.
The peach dragon didn’t wait, instead he gave another stab of his tail into the dragon’s backside, under the hipbone. But he miscalculated. His tail became stuck and after a loud whiny roar, Tribble turned and grabbed after him, slicing through his shoulder with his wide nails.
Accark yelped, but couldn’t free himself and a second four talons ripped into his side. Tribble held on and pulled, tearing his side.
Gale’s eyes turned on Accark’s father, who sat silently on his big pile of pillows and remained completely untouched by what was happening in front of him. Gale didn’t plan calling to him for help, but he hadn’t expected him to be completely cold while his son was being ripped in two. His hand moved back on the gun on his back, but Salone clicked her tongue and he glanced aside, seeing her quick shake of her head.
“Only the strongest of us can have the best pearls!” Tribble shouted, pulling their attention back on the fight.
Accark screamed, desperately trying to free himself. He fixed his attention on Tribble’s face and turned his scream into roar accompanied by fierce war grimace. His tail latched yanked free and he latched it around the arm holding his side. He pulled, using every muscle he hadn’t screaming from pain, and sank his side teeth into his forearm. Tribble let him go immediately, but his tail was still stuck and he landed badly on his back and head. Tribble grabbed the tail and used it against him, swinging him hard by his tail and into the same pillar he’d held him against earlier. For a moment he must have lost his consciousness, because he lost his balance the second he was released. His tail was still stuck though and after moment of pause he was lifted up once more and sent flying through the great hall. He crashed into a portamento with exquisite vase on top of it, which didn’t survive. Tribble followed his flight and was reaching after his tail again, when his mind cleared enough to see Tribble only few feet away.
He snatched a large piece of porcelain vase and sank it deep into Tribble’s forearm as he was yanked away from his place. After pained roar he was still captured, Tribble’s heavy knee landed on top of his chest and he began pounding in him as if there was no tomorrow. Tribble stood abruptly and pulled him to his feet. He dragged him back to the center of the room and continued hitting while Accark put on a meager excuse of a fight. He was getting tired and Gale was getting increasingly worried if he could continue this any further.
Accark’s paws touched his pouch and suddenly his eyes widened. He completely stopped, touching it for a second. He thought of the egg that was waiting in his bedroom back at the castle and imagined Tribble holding it. His insides went cold.
“You won’t have him!” His voice fell low. He reached out, pressed his paws on both sides of his neck and did what he knew best. He froze the water in his body. Not much, but enough to cause a heart failure.
Tribble pulled back, too quiet compared to his previous bravura. He winched, grabbing his chest and squeezed it hard before falling to his knees and then sank on the floor.