The Moon Coin: Egg-hunt (Part 2)

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Chapter Fourteen

Egg-hunt


Fires flickered throughout the camp, producing an oily black smoke that burned the eyes and clung thickly to the ground. Lily watched as the men and women stumbled about, dead on their feet, but struggling for one great purpose—to harvest the dragon.

At first, Arric would not let Lily wander. She spent the first hour following him around while he added wards around the entire camp. By his third casting, he had removed his robes, his face covered with a sheen of sweat. By the fifth, he had opened his shirt and rolled up his sleeves.

The other lunamancers prepared no wards, but they followed Arric on his rounds, worried expressions creasing their faces. At one point, they all gathered around him and did something like a laying on of hands. After that, he seemed better for a time, though they themselves looked much worse for the effort.

When Arric finished, he collapsed onto a pile of rags and fell into a fitful sleep. Boots, the bowman, took over Lily's care then. They climbed to the highest point in the camp, where he carefully laid out several quivers' worth of arrows. With one arrow notched in his bow but not drawn, he took up a keen watch.

Boots told Lily she could have the run of the camp as long as she remained within his sight, and the morning passed quickly. Lily was pleased to find she could help. There was much to do in this dragon-dismantling business. Not a single scrap was overlooked. The first and largest project was the hide, which dulled blades so quickly that a grinding wheel had been set up. The big stone wheel was cranked by hand in shifts and did not cease until nightfall.

They didn't use ordinary blades. The lunamancers took shifts standing next to the wheel, peerins drawn, working spell after spell into the dull blades until their tips glowed white hot, edged in blue. They cut from underneath, anywhere an opening had been made in the hide, but they could cut only a few inches at a time before returning to the grinding wheel for a new edge and more spells.

They cut the meat loose in great strips, and dried them over hastily erected drying racks in what had once been adjoining rooms. The floors there were black with ash and grease. Even the dripping fat was periodically scraped up and barreled. Quib took special care overseeing the entire process. There were tendons to be harvested, and he didn't want them damaged by the act of a hasty hand.

They cracked open the bare bones, removing and storing the marrow. They saved the claws and teeth; horns, tongue, and jaws; and the spines that jutted out like cat whiskers. At one point, Lily discovered Quib nearly crying at the state of the poor dragon's punctured eyes, but even there he salvaged the tough secondary membranes, along with every bit of colored iris he could find. All of the internal organs were placed in barrels and topped with brine, or dried, pulverized, and powdered. The blood was barreled, too. When they got to the dragon's heart, Quib finally broke down into heaving sobs: Tavin's cursed sword had cut it nearly in two. The emptied bones were buried in white hot embers until they were clean of tissue. Once cooled, they were stacked onto one of the waiting wagons. Lily spent her time serving bits of food and cups of water to the workers. She helped tend the fires, which burned all day, creating great clouds of greasy black smoke.

The afternoon passed quickly. Lunch was a small bowl of mildewed beans. Lily had a terrible time explaining to Quib what it meant to be a vegetarian. He kept saying things like, "Well, I could spare you a bit o' brains. They're not meat, right?" and "At least let me ladle on a good heapin' bit o' the grease, eh? No meat in that!" Twice, Lily had to grab his ladle and push it away from her bowl. "But how will you grow?" he asked.

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