The next morning, I slipped from under Ansel’s arm without disturbing him. I put more wood on the fire, then crept from the room.
Percy snorted at my approach but stood his ground. The water troughs in the stables were spring-fed, so the warhorse had plenty of water, and a bucket of grain had appeared overnight.
The knight must’ve been up for quite a while before finding my bedroom.
I carried the crates of books inside. I would shelve them later, but for now, I needed the handcart. I gathered some money—not royal marks this time—and my cloak, then set off for the nearby village.
As far as the villagers knew, I was a hermit who lived deep in the woods. Most of them thought I was a hedge witch, but my money was good, and I was polite, so they overlooked my eccentricities.
They had no idea what I really was, and I planned to keep it that way.
I bought enough food for two weeks, plus grain and hay for Percy. The stable master raised her eyebrows at the unusual request, but she sold me the feed anyway.
The knight would likely be healed enough to travel in another day or two, but I would donate the leftovers, so it wouldn’t go to waste.
I returned to the castle with my cart full of supplies. The knight was waiting for me by the front gate.
He looked over my shoulder, then frowned. Even though the gate was open, he wouldn’t be able to see anything beyond the castle’s outer wall.
“Where were you?” he demanded. Then, “Let me pull that.”
I waved him off. The cart was heavy, and it didn’t have any sort of clockwork-assist, despite what I often told curious merchants.
“You should be resting,” I murmured as I passed him.
“I’ve rested enough.”
That made me pause. I turned and let my magic trace over him. He wasn’t fully healed, but he was well on his way thanks to my power. He would okay to travel, at least for a short trip.
I suppressed a sigh. I’d been looking forward to company, strange as it was, but I wouldn’t keep him here when he wanted to go.
I pulled the cart back into motion. It would need to be stored under cover until I could deliver the food to nearby families. “Which village would you prefer?”
“Where would you like me to take you?”
He jerked in surprise. “You’re kicking me out? But I’m not healed.”
My brows drew together. “You just told me you’d rested enough.”
“And I have,” he agreed. “But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to leave.” The corner of his mouth pulled up into a grin. “After all, I haven’t seen your library, yet.”
He couldn’t know that asking to see a dragon’s hoard was intensely intimate, but my stomach fluttered anyway.
I stopped the cart next to the stable and batted Ansel’s hands away when he tried to grab the bale of hay. “I’ll get it. You recover.”
He shook his head. “I’m not going to let a lady haul supplies while I stand here.”
I sighed. He might know I was a dragon intellectually, but he didn’t really know what that meant. I turned and heaved the cart into the air, holding it over my head with ease. Ansel’s mouth dropped open in stunned surprise, and he took a half step back before catching himself.
I carefully set the cart down again so I wouldn’t have to see the fear in his eyes.
“That’s incredible,” he breathed. “How strong are you?” My gaze snapped back to him, but he continued without waiting for an answer. “You lifted a wagon full of gold, so you’re exceptionally strong in your dragon form. Are you as strong as a human? Wait, you can transform. Can I see you in dragon form? Are there more dragons? How many?”
I held up a hand to stop the deluge of questions. “You’re… you’re not afraid?” I asked.
He tilted his head, regarding me with a steady gaze. “Should I be?”
I lifted one shoulder. “Most humans are.”
“But should I be?” he asked again, softly.
“No. Not unless you’re going to attempt to kill me.”
He stepped closer, a tiny, secret smile on his face. “Then I have no reason to fear.”