The Keeper and the Dragons - Cover

The Keeper and the Dragons

Copyright© 2023 by Charly Young

Chapter 3

Keeper House - Emory

Lachlan Quinn was feeling remarkably content. Lately, he’d been sleeping well. The night sweats and the sounds of the forsaken, sobbing children and wailing mothers that plagued his dreams for years were absent. His quest to fit in with regular people seemed to be succeeding.

A tall, lithe man, he appeared at first glance to be 25 years old, but a closer look would pick up a weariness behind his brilliant green eyes that belied his age. A thin white scar from his right eye to the bottom of his ear marred his craggy, model-handsome face.

It wasn’t the face of a man who smiled often.

A small brown hob named Rufus Daylily interrupted his musings of hope and gratitude by tapping on the kitchen window. The twelve-inch being’s bright brown eyes were peering in at him out from under an oversized cap of grey moss.

Quinn raised the window.

“Good morrow, Rufus Daylily,” he whistle-clicked in low alfar. “How goes your autumn morning?”

“The Vísdómur send me with a message, master.” The small hob’s normally cheerful face was grave. To be the bearer of a message from beings that he considered goddesses was the task of a lifetime. “They wish to see you at the evening’s moon-rise. They said you would know where.”

“What the hell do they want?” Quinn muttered. His excellent mood instantly evaporated. Whatever it was. It would not be good.


“No matter, Rufus Daylily,” he whistle-clicked. “Grateful I am for your service. Might be that I will be gone for a day or two. Would you tell Brownie Periwinkle or Mistress Sari if you see any outsiders creeping around Keeper House?” He reached into the cupboard over the refrigerator, fished out a small bag of M&M’s and tossed it to the being.

The brown hob caught the candy adroitly. The tiny being puffed up its chest, bowed and sang out, “I will do as you wish. Thank you, Master.” With a jaunty wave, the hob disappeared back into the Opari.

Quinn sighed and got back to his cooking. He wore a sand-colored t-shirt emblazoned with the words Devil Doc over a globe and anchor, faded jeans and well-worn Saucony running shoes. As he moved around the kitchen with a smooth, silent economy of movement, a wash of satisfaction filled him again. This was what a normal person did: fix breakfast for his family. He smiled, pleased at the thought.

In the last ten years, Lachlan Quinn had spent a lot of time figuring out how to think and act like a regular person. Given enough time, he hoped to turn into that person. He knew he was a sword trying to be a butter knife, no doubt an impossible task, but that didn’t stop him from trying. Regular people didn’t appreciate what a luxury the ordinary was.

So, this day, found him in the kitchen of Keeper House making waffles and scrambled eggs for two little girls who were coming off a weekend chocolate and popcorn binge with Sari and her cousins, nine of Opari’s Dryads. The noisy group had finished a Veronica Mars marathon and were now working their way through “The Gilmore Girls”. Cable television and movies-on-demand had hit the Opari Dryads like crack cocaine. They watched with utter fascination at what they were convinced was a magical window into the real world of the endlessly fascinating mundanes.

He frowned as his mind switched back to the Vísdómur, the three ancient troll women who had trained him down in the borderlands called the Murk. They were one more addition to a long line of beings that seemed to think they had a right to his time and attention. The last three months, the witches had attempted to drag him into Emory’s coven/shifter politics, with him kicking and screaming all the way.

His obsessive sense of responsibility had trapped him in Emory. Initially, he’d been on his way to a fishing vacation on the Big Hole River in Montana, planning to be there in time to catch the annual salmon fly hatch. He’d stopped in Emory, figuring he’d get his foster father’s bequest taken care of and be gone in a few days. The next thing he knew, things got complicated. Now he had an inheritance he didn’t want, a nine-year-old wolf-kin girl to take care of, and two covens of witches who intensely disliked him but seemed to think he should be available at their beck and call.

He shook his head; his new life was strange and felt out of control and if the years spent in the Murk had taught him anything, it had taught the importance of control.

Quit whining. He muttered to himself. Improvise, adapt and overcome.

Quinn turned his attention to fixing breakfast while his mind reviewed his to-do list. He needed to find time to keep his promise and teach his niece Charlie how to do the maradona spin so she could kick a girl named Ivy’s butt at soccer. He also needed to find a witch-crafter willing to help Katrinka, his ward, grow into her potential for working with the magic.

And always hovering at the edge of his conscientiousness was the nagging fear that the Dökkálfar were sure to send another Drygioni assassin after him, or far worse, after Charlie and Katrinka. His gut twisted with an unaccustomed emotion—vulnerability. Until Katrinka and Charlie, he had experienced nothing like it before. It was all he could do to stop himself from merging with the Other, crossing the Opari to Alfheim and slaughtering Erendriel, the Dökkálfar Crown Prince and the Drygioni Brotherhood root and branch.

A strident voice interrupted his mental bitch-fest.

“That damnable creature is a positive menace. She needs to go. Right quick. My bed was soaking wet when I got in it last night. I had to sleep in a chair. You must do something about her.”

“Good morning to you, Mrs. Kangas-Chelan. Would you like a waffle?”

Katrinka’s aunt, Dorotea Kangas-Chelan, was an elderly wolf-kin with large green eyes and a runner’s leanness. For weeks, she had been in a running war with Mistress Periwinkle, the mistress of Keeper House’s brownies. She would never win, but that hadn’t stopped her from trying.

She stomped to the counter, grabbed the French Press, and poured a cup of his Blue Mountain coffee. When it came to his coffee and cooking, she had no problem adjusting to living there. Her problem came from the other adjustments that went with living at Keeper House—the Brownies who lived in the attic.

Quinn tried for reasonable. “Mistress Periwinkle and her family have cared for this house for centuries. I warned you not to mess with the cream and cookies that I had the girls set out. It’s a house tradition—a polite thank you. I did it every night as well, when I was their age.”

“Oh, piffle! Food left out attracts all sorts of vermin. You are far too lax about things. I’ve a good mind to leave and go back home. I know when I’m not welcome.”

She continued her rant, but Quinn tuned her out. He had heard it all before.

After Mrs. Kangas-Chelan shouldered her oversized purse and walked out, Quinn shook his head and returned to his list. He needed someone to properly invest all the money the old man had saddled him with. It didn’t belong to him, no matter what they’d told him, but now it was his responsibility—if or when the old man who was his foster father came back, he needed to look him in the eye and tell him he’d taken care of it. Also, he needed to get back to work. His tutors had taught him well—a man worked. Maybe Gus had something in the works.

He smiled. When he’d heard of the windfall, his best friend, Gus Hope, had immediately suggested they go shopping for a fishing boat. “A 19-foot Tracker Targa fishing boat would be perfect,” he said. “As an ‘investment,’” he’d said.

Quinn turned back to his waffle-making.

“Katrinka and Charlie, get a move on,” he called up the stairs. “You’re gonna be late for school.”

After putting out the wild strawberries and blueberries he’d picked yesterday during his run in the Opari, he set the table with the two unicorn glasses, one pink and one green. The girls each had their favorite. He smiled to himself that the girls’ idea of cute unicorns was a far cry from the antisocial, homicidal creatures he’d run into during his time in the Murk.

The girls, as usual, were lollygagging up in Katrinka’s room. Annie, his newfound foster sister, had threatened him with a serious ass kicking if the pair were late for school one more time on his watch. The problem was that without her firm hand around, the girls had quickly figured out that he’d let them get away with murder.

Charlie, his nine-year-old niece, walked into the kitchen with a mulish expression he knew all too well. It was identical to her mother’s at that age. Katrinka, the little wolf shifter, who had become his ward, marched behind her, the same determined look on her little face.

“Uncle Lan, we’re not going to school anymore. We’re going to stay here at Keeper House and let the sprites and dryads teach us stuff. They said they would.”

Well, this was new.

“You have to go to school,” Quinn said reasonably. “If you don’t, the cops will come and haul you off to the slammer. And there ain’t no world-famous sour cream waffles for little girls in the slammer.”

“We don’t like school. Everybody’s mean to us. They’ve been making fun of my hair and the girls hate Trinka.”

“What was wrong with your hair? I thought I braided it pretty good.”

“Stupid Judy Jenkins said I looked like Billy Goat Gruff. Aunt Dorothea promised to braid it for me this morning, but she got mad at Mrs. Periwinkle and forgot.”

“Okay,” Quinn said, trying to stave off the inevitable. “I’ll call Susanne down at the Salon and see if she can do an emergency braiding.”

Who knew braiding hair was something an uncle had to master?

“K,” said Miss Pouty face, the drama queen.

Quinn breathed a sigh of relief. Tears from the various females in his life were like kryptonite. Unfortunately, these two were all aware of their superpowers and used them way too willy-nillyish to his way of thinking.

“We’re still not GOING,” she screeched.

“Charlie, we don’t have time for this...” He tried to preempt her.

Molly, Charlie’s golden retriever, perked her ears.

“You’re not the boss of us. We’re not going anywhere. And besides, we want waffles, not stupid oatmeal.”

“That’s what I was fixing,” he answered with equal volume. “But now maybe I’ll change my mind. Maybe now you’ll have cold, sticky gruel!”

“Oh no,” Charlie squealed, “Trinka, he’s turned into a monster. Run for your life.”

What had begun as a sort of play relief from the traumatic kidnapping the girls went through months ago had developed into a morning game when he was babysitting.

Thus, the tardy slips.

Quinn roared... “I think I will have me a couple of little girls for my breakfast.”

He lunged for Katrinka, but she was too quick.

“Save me, save me, Charlie,” she squealed. “Oh, won’t someone save me?”

Both girls dashed out the sliding patio doors and into the yard, with Molly barking joyfully behind them.

Quinn, monster-hulking, arms outstretched, raced after them.

Molly’s barking changed as she ran around the corner of the house.

A small boy with a spectacular black eye stood at the front door.

“What are you doing here?” Katrinka demanded.

The girls, noses in the air, brushed by him and went into the house, slamming the door behind them and leaving both males on the porch, mouths agape, looking at each other.

Quinn shook himself, straightened up and stuck out his hand. “I’m Lachlan. Who might you be?”

The boy eyed the door and shook Quinn’s hand. “I’m Tommy Anders. I know your daughters from school. I live on the farm down the road.”

“My nieces,” Quinn corrected. “What happened to your eye?”

The eye was epic. He looked like a gap-toothed boy in a Norman Rockwell painting.

“Trinka don’t like nobody making fun of Charlie’s name. She especially don’t like nobody calling her Chuckie. She punched me right in the eye. My Mom says I gotta say I’m sorry.”

“Okaayy,” Quinn said. “Why didn’t you just wait till you got to school?”

The boy looked at him like he was an idiot. “They always got girls hanging around ‘em. You never talk to girls in groups.”

Words of wisdom, Quinn thought.

“Want some waffles?”

“You make waffles?” He asked, doubt clear on his face.

“Not to brag, but I make the world’s greatest waffles. Today, I got fresh blueberries and strawberries to put in them. People come from all around, even as far away as Bulgaria, to taste my waffles.” Quinn motioned him into the house.

“Girls, we have a guest for breakfast. Set the fine china.”

Tommy got a cool reception in the kitchen, but he didn’t seem all that concerned. He looked at Charlie.

“I’m sorry I made fun of your name. Where’d you learn to fight like that, Trinka? You guys shouldn’t pay no attention to that dumb Judy and her friends. She’s stupid.”

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