Dally swallowed the mouthful of eggs she was eating. “Yes.”
“Beware that, lassy,” he replied slowly. “If that’s what I think it is, ye best hope ye not see it again!”
“What is it?” she asked in a hushed tone.
“Somnus,” Ovidius whispered back. “The Nightmare Dragon. He appears to his victims slowly, manifesting hisself a bit more each time, until finally his full dreadfulness is revealed an’ the victim is no more!”
“Then how would anyone know about him if he kills anyone who sees him?”
“Anyone who sees him whole,” Ovidius corrected. “If ye see only part of him, yer safe. At least for a year, for he only comes ‘round harvest time.”
The bell on the door of the inn clanged as it opened, and a messenger appeared. He waved at Ovidius and approached Dally. “Note for you, Miss, from Ophelia.” He handed her the note, bowed, and left as quickly as he entered.
Dally opened the note and smiled. “My clothes are ready!”
Ovidius laughed. “Not one to tarry, that one! But make no mistake, she may be quick but she’s the best in the business!”
Dally smiled as she stood. “I bet she is. Thank you for breakfast! I’ll be back in a bit.” She left the inn and walked quickly up the street to the dress shop. As she opened the door, she heard voices from the back of the shop. One she recognized as Ophelia, the other…
“Ah, there is my lovely guest of honor!” Lorenzo said as he approached Dallyah with open arms. He placed both hands on her shoulders and kissed each of her cheeks lightly. “I hope you are ready for tomorrow night’s festivities!”
“Git yer paws off the lass, ye git,” Ophelia growled. “Don’t ye have a ball to organize?”
Lorenzo winked at Dallyah as he turned toward Ophelia. “Yes, my lady, thank you for reminding me.” He bowed deeply to the dressmaker, then to Dally, then practically skipped out the door to his waiting carriage.
“Git,” Ophelia said. “Good heart, that lad, but he’s such a git!”
Dally chuckled. “He certainly is…interesting.”
“Bah, enough about him! Let’s git you tryin’ on those gowns so you know what yer wearin’ tomorrow!”
Ophelia produced two dresses; one was a traditional ball gown with fitted top and belled bottom in royal blue, the other wine-colored gown was fitted to the hips, and the skirt came to just above her knees in the front and went to the floor in the back. Ophelia paired it with ballet flats of the same color that had ribbons that criss-crossed two thirds of the way up Dally’s calves.
“This is the one,” Dally said. “This color is just gorgeous!”
“As are you, my dear,” Ophelia said. “I’ll send one of me girls up to help you do yer hair, and I’ll send some jewels with her. Now, git this off so I can press it for ye for tomorrow.”
After trying on the almost two dozen other outfits made for her, which took the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon, Dally quickly changed and grabbed a few of the regular outfits Ophelia had made for her and headed back to the inn. The sun had begun to set, and the memory of red glowing eyes made Dally walk a little faster. As she began to cross the street in front of the inn, she heard noises coming from the dragon stable. She turned and started toward the doorway but stopped at the sight of an almost solid Somnus standing in front of the stable door. A large man emerged from the stable, dressed in riders’ gear. Dally went to call out, but saw that the rider had no face, just a skull surrounded by blue flames that came from the neck of his coat. The rider stared at her with soulless eyes while he mounted his dragon, then they both dissipated into nothing before her eyes.
Dally closed her eyes and collected herself. “Is it too much to ask for one night in this place where nothing weird happens?”