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“Fekoa! Come look at this!” Fekoa was quite sure, based on past experience, that she had no interest in what Riuhl had found, but sighed and set aside the latest issue of The Goldenmage Assembly Journal of Intriguing Magical Discoveries. Iliya’s analysis of how the latest Dragonhaven Island discoveries were transforming both architecture and magic study would just have to wait. She levitated a few large rolls of paper on her way out, because she knew she was probably going to need them.

Sure enough, Riuhl had caught yet another knight. Grimcatch the Pillager had left for more prosperous lands ages ago, but the humans were apparently too dense to realize that. Fekoa knew she should probably just put up a sign, but one, nobody would believe it, and two, her mate would be so disappointed if the supply of knights dried up.

This one was young, judging by the part of his face she could see through his raised faceplate, and rather scrawny. Knights just weren’t what they used to be. He was also either worryingly calm or petrified with terror, given that Riuhl had him suspended in mid-air in a magical bubble and he wasn’t trying to hack his way out with a sword. Fekoa was quite proud of that spell, developed to spare any captured knights the indignity of having Riuhl sit on them to keep them still. The knight also hadn’t reacted to the sight of Fekoa, but then magi dragons did have a slightly less fearsome reputation now than they once did, perhaps because of places like Dragontown.

“Fekoa, just look! Can you believe it? He’s wearing an original Dragonbane. A Dragonbane. I didn’t think any of them had survived the combined efforts of the arcana dragons.”

“Grandfather left it to me in his will,” said the knight, his voice wavering and nearly inaudible. “Almost got the cursed necklace instead.”

Riuhl ignored him. “Just look at the detailing! The patina! The condition! Why, it looks like he bought it this morning.”

“Thanks,” the knight murmured. “Special polish. Don’t know what’s in it.”

“Built to last, this stuff. They just don’t make armor of this quality anymore. Why, a plated colossus could chew on it and barely leave a scratch.”

“Grandfather said a fever wyvern tried to sting him once. Then a lumina tried to steal his helmet. Never met a plated colossus, though.”

Fekoa let Riuhl ramble on for a few minutes before she interrupted. “Riuhl, it’s a hot day. Let me get my impressions before he cooks in his own armor.” Or died from boredom or heart failure. Riuhl could, she had learned, go on for hours about armor if allowed to, much as Fekoa herself could launch into a lecture about spell variations that would do the Goldenmage Assembly proud. Riuhl did finally stop talking, possibly because the armor would lose some of its value with a dead knight in it. With a nod, Riuhl sent the knight’s bubble down to the ground.

Fekoa looked at the knight. “Now, stand up straight, arms out, faceplate down. Take a deep breath and hold it.” She didn’t smile. Humans only appreciated the baring of teeth from other humans.

Once the knight had obeyed her instructions, Fekoa made the bubble contract around him until it perfectly outlined his armor. A flick of her claws made the top layers of the bubble peel off the knight and onto the papers now hovering around him, leaving exact impressions of the knight’s armor wherever they landed. Another flick of her claws sent the papers scattering around to dry and the bubble back to its original size. “Now, you may relax,” she told the knight, who immediately collapsed.

Over the next few minutes, Fekoa paced around, carefully watching the hanging paper rolls as they dried. Riuhl waited nearby, mostly hiding her impatience. The knight sat quietly, perhaps hoping they would forget about him until he found a way to escape. “Oh, good,” Fekoa said at last. “They’re not blurry. I used to need to do this five or six times to get a decent impression.” The knight flinched.

Fekoa brought a piece of paper over for the knight to see. “See? It looks just like you.” Or just like his helmet, anyway. The process was something like the human trick of capturing an engraving on paper by spreading paper over it and rubbing the paper with charcoal, but not really. Far more precise, for one – like capturing an exact replica of a thing on a piece of paper. The knight nodded, though possibly just out of politeness.

“Now, I’ll teleport you back,” Fekoa began, then stopped. Riuhl was staring at her sadly. “What? Did I miss a spot?”

“Can’t I even have one glove?”

Fekoa sighed. “She means a replica, not your actual glove,” she reassured the knight. “Don’t worry. It’s not as bad as the first part. I’ll just need you to hold your hand out so I can make a mold.” The knight agreed to both gloves and both boots. Fekoa suspected he would have agreed to a mold of his helmet while it was still on his head if it meant he could go free.

“You know, I used to do this instead of the bubble,” Fekoa said as she worked. “The replicas were so unwieldy, though – all in one solid piece and no way to make them hollow. That, and I always felt that I had to keep the molds as well as the replicas.” Or Riuhl had, which made no difference to the state of the cave. Even with Fekoa’s best efforts to keep the cave tidy (and, to be fair, it was hardly all her mate’s clutter), one could hardly spread one’s wings without knocking something over. The knight nodded and made politely interested noises, though Fekoa suspected that he was trying not to offend Riuhl. Her mate kept prowling around and poking her nose so close to the knight that Fekoa would have been petrified in his place, and she knew Riuhl was mostly harmless.

Finally, Fekoa intervened again. “Now, Riuhl, you really must tear yourself away. He’ll have friends worrying about him.” Riuhl nodded, looking sad. “I’ll scout out where you left your horse, since I doubt you walked here, so I can teleport you there,” Fekoa told the knight. “You can stand being teleported, right?” The knight nodded.

The camp wasn’t hard to find, so Fekoa soon had the knight back where he belonged. He had, thankfully, been teleported enough to develop the necessary strong stomach, though Fekoa had kept him pointed away from her just in case. “I do apologize for my mate,” she said. “Riuhl’s harmless, really, as long as you’re not trying to harm her. I mean, she did take whole suits of armor before I came along, but she never hurt the knight.

“Thank you for intervening,” said the knight. “How can I ever repay you?”

“Tell everyone you meet that Grimcatch moved and the new inhabitants only hoard armor and books of magical theory. Now, shoo, before Riuhl changes her mind and decides that she wants your helmet for a souvenir.”

The next knight didn’t show up for a few months – long enough for Riuhl to get so despondent that Fekoa had started considering how to kidnap a knight to cheer her up. Once in the bubble, the knight rummaged through a bag and brought out a couple of books. “I bring treasures for your hoard,” he announced. For Riuhl, he had an armor guide lavishly illustrated with detailed drawings. For Fekoa, he had a collection of essays by a human wizard she wasn’t familiar with. “In exchange, I hope you might be inclined to share some of your expert knowledge. I would greatly appreciate some advice on what I should be looking for in new armor and, um, perhaps an appraisal of the armor I’m currently wearing. If you would be so kind, I mean.”