Jade Leaf

Chapter 24

One moment he was a customer, the next a threat.

No one took notice as he got up from his seat and passed by Henry who was on his way back to his table in the corner. An arm darted out, turned Henry, and the man pressed a gun to the hatchling's head.

Henry froze.

"Hey! Dragon!" the man called gleefully. "Look what I've got!"

Stephan turned his attention from the counter to them and his eyes widened. "Henry."

The human grinned. "Give me your hoard and I'll let him go."

"Stephan? Is something-" Nora stopped on the ramp into the tea shop, staring at the human threatening the life of her hatchling.

"Hers, too," he said, tightening his arm around the wide-eyed Henry.

"My what?" Nora asked, frowning.

"Your hoard," Stephan said, not taking his eyes away from the man.

Nora raised an eyebrow. "You," she said, looking the man in the eyes, "want Stephan and I to give you our hoards and then you will leave with our hatchlings unharmed?"

"Yes."

Nora shrugged. "Okay."

The arm loosened around Henry and the young dragon stumbled forward.

"Henry, come here," Nora said, her voice low and calm. Her smallest hatchling ran over and hit her side hard enough to knock her back a step. He buried his face in her chest and his arms around her waist shook.

The man had thudded to the floor, eyes open and staring. The gun gently landed on the front counter by Stephan as Nora let it go.

A thin trickle of blood ran down the human's face.

"Anyone else?" Nora asked. Her eyes parted from the sight on the floor and she turned her head to look at the rest of the tea shop. There were a few faint head shakes.

She looked down at her hatchling. "Henry," she said gently. "He's dead. He's not going to hurt you. You can look."

A few moments of coaxing later, Henry slowly turned to look. The man was on the floor with... Henry swallowed.

Nora rubbed his back reassuringly. "You don't ever have to be afraid of humans while your dad and I are here. I would have given him my hoard if I had to." She bent and kissed his hair.

Tim cautiously came out of the back. "Is it safe?"

Stephan nodded. "Yes. Thomas, would you call the police, please?" He started around the counter. "Everyone, please stay to give statements. Tea will be served in a moment."

"Tim?" Nora said, glancing over. "I'm sorry about your knife."

Tim frowned and Thomas pointed to the body. Tim looked at the knife. The knife buried to the hilt in another human's brain.

"That's fine," he said weakly. Then a hand went over his mouth and he ran into the back.

"Yes, that's right. The Jade Leaf tea shop." Thomas paused. "No, it's a human body this time. Yeah. No dragons."

MMM

The same two police officers as before arrived. One started to take names and the other headed for Nora and Stephan. Henry was still attacked to her side like a limpet.

"Good afternoon," Officer Maxwell said, nodding to them. "Has the body been disturbed?"

"No," Stephan said. "That's where he fell."

The officer glanced at the body and proceeded to call for someone else to take pictures. He finished his call. "Can you tell me what happened?"

After the events were recalled, he looked at the body again. "If you took the gun away, why didn't you hit him with something or do a spell instead of killing him?"

Nora's eyes widened and she pressed her left hand to her chest. "I don't know, officer. I guess I wasn't thinking straight. The shock of seeing someone trying to kill my hatchling would do that."

Officer Maxwell nodded. "That would be why you didn't give him part of your hoard and let us catch him." He shrugged and put his recorder away. "People do funny things sometimes. Art you going to be available for comment?"

"Yes. Though, we're going to close the stores for the rest of the day when you're done." Stephan glanced at the door to the kitchen where Gail and Jazz were with Tim.

"We'll try to be quick."

MMM

The evening found them in a clearing outside the city. Two enormous dragon bodies, one slightly smaller than the other, with three small hatchling dragons sleeping between them.

/I won't be subject to the human laws for protecting them./

/I wouldn't ask you to./

Nora nestled closer to the small bodies. /I've left the shop to Tiffany if we ever have to leave./

/I've done the same for Tim and Thomas./

With those smug thoughts and the promise of living underwater should the need arise, the two adults followed their hatchlings into sleep.